Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Project 4:4--Day Three Hundred Forty-Nine

Day Three Hundred Forty-Nine, Ephesians

This is another of Paul's prison letters, written while he was under house arrest in Rome.  That's not too difficult to believe, because there are parts of it that are structured very similarly to Colossians, but we'll get to that in a bit.  I do think it's worth noting that, as opposed to Colossians which is believed to have been sent to people that have not met Paul, this letter went to Ephesus, where Paul had lived and worked for quite some time.

I love how Paul starts out this letter, as he just jumps right in, talking about God's wonderful grace.  He almost bombards the people with the blessings they have received in Christ.  In a Beth Moore study I did last year, she very quickly pointed out six facts just to be gained from the first few verses:  as Christians we are "blessed, chosen, accepted, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven!"  Indeed, Paul writes, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."

Paul also tells the people that they have been given the Holy Spirit as a deposit to guarantee God's promise of redemption.  "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance..."  (Can I just say that God keeps His promises.  Always.  Amen?)

Paul explains a little bit more to the people about what this actually means for them.  They have passed from death to life, and God has given them a purpose in life.  "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Paul talks to the Ephesians about the importance of unity, again with the body metaphor.  Then he gets into what is kind-of a twin passage to what he wrote in the letter to the Colossians.  He tells them about what kinds of sinful behavior to avoid.  Then he tells them, rather, how to "be made new in the attitude of your minds" (sounds similar to "set your minds on things above") and he talks to them about the importance of walking in the light.  There is one little extra in this letter, as he tells them to "be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Paul's letter to the Ephesians ends uniquely enough, however, with a warning to the people about spiritual warfare and  how they should be prepared to fight with the armor of God.  That passage is worth sharing here:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

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