Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Dec 15, Eph 1-6

Today's readings are Eph 1-6. Tomorrow's are Php 1-4.

There are two primary themes in Paul's letter to the Ephesians: (1) Christ has reconciled all creation to Himself and to God. (2) Christ has united people of all nations unto Himself and each other. It was written arond 60 AD. It shows that the new church is beginning to mature in its doctrine and theology but will struggle with outside influences. Nonetheless, the teaching is deep and rich, intended for a congregation that may have its challenges but is growing spiritually. 

Ephesus was a huge and incredibly prosperous port city dominated by temples to a vast variety of gods. The city struggled with mysticism, magic and the occult. Paul's letter established Christ's supremacy over all things and God's sovereign authority over not just creation but all things in this age and the next. Apparently, the church at Ephesus needed to be reminded of their allegiance to an all-powerful God and their union with Him and each other through Christ. The draw on them to worship other gods was formidable. They lived in a culture that minimized the one true God by offering a multitude of alternatives.

Main Street in Ephesus is dominated by a variety of temples and meeting places
Paul starts out by establishing that all blessings come through Christ through whom we are saved by grace through faith. Our hope is in Him and we are helpless without Him. In Him, also, we are united with all types of people. This is a mystery revealed in Christ, namely the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles. This should be a blessing for God’s people in Ephesus who may feel pulled in a variety of directions and become divided by a culture that teaches many and diverse spiritual paths. Christ is the only one way toward a relationship with God. He brings unity (Eph 1-3).

In Eph 4, we see that God has given various spiritual gifts. These gifts are for the edification of the body. But, they’re also a testimony to our unity. Everyone has, at least, one. Christians should lead lifestyles that are marked by edification of each other and holiness. The primary way they express their unity is by becoming imitators of Christ.

Eph 5 tells us we have new life in His love and should put the things of our old life behind us. The evidence of our new lives will show up in how we submit one to another. The marriage relationship is a primary example of what this submission looks like, it being a model of the relationship Christ has with His church. There is structure in marriage. But it is a structure of equals with each called to serve the other. The husband is the head. But both husband and wife are to treat each other as more important than themselves. So it is with the church. The church is a witness to the world of the unity we have in Christ.

In Eph 6, we see the same principles apply to children and parents, slaves and masters. In other words, these principles for living permeate every area of our lives.

The last half of Eph 6 is the familiar "Armor of God" passage. Many people see this as a passage about spiritual warfare. In truth, the only active part we are encouraged to play is to "stand firm." The passage is actually about becoming more like Christ to more effectively live in and work out the unity mentioned in the previous chapters. We're told to "put on and keep putting on" (the verbs imply continuous action) truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and unceasing prayer, all to resist the evil that would drag us back into our previous lifestyles and ruin our testimonies.

This is a powerful letter encouraging the church to walk in the unity they have in Christ as a mark of the all-powerful God who sits in sovereign authority over all things.

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