Today and tomorrow we’ll be reading from Paul’s letter to the
Ephesians. By way of introduction to the book you should know that Ephesus was a major seaport in the ancient world, the end of many trade routes from the east to the Mediterranean Sea. It sat on the Meander River, which was very slow, twisty, and meandering river — from which we get the word “meander”. The city was the site of the world famous Temple of Diana, one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. Moreover, it was the place of one of the largest libraries in the world, pictured here.
And it was one of Paul’s more successful mission efforts. His preaching of the Gospel prompted the burning of magic books and the famous riot in Ephesus’ theater.
There even seems to have been a successful expansion and evolution of Paul’s missionary activity, some of the churches of Asia seem to have been established by emissaries from Paul from Ephesus. With as much time as Paul had spent in Ephesus, he had a very clear view of things that they needed to hear: encouragement to unity and specific teaching on how to live the Christian life. With this in the background, let’s dive in…
In Christ — Eph. 1:3ff
Throughout the whole book of Ephesians you’ll notice a recurring phrase: “in Christ”, “in Him”, “in the Beloved” etc. And it all starts with chapter 1:3 in which we discover that every spiritual blessing is “in Christ”; which conversely tells us that no spiritual blessings are found outside of Christ. Paul’s list in chapter 1 is lengthy and sometimes takes a bit of thought to penetrate; but it is well worthy the effort, because this is a really important Christian understanding to have. And it begs the question, “How do ‘get in’?” To cut to the chase on this question, let me point to Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
The new Temple of God — Eph. 2:21
Speaking from the view point of Gentile, chapter 2 is a wonderful, panoramic explanation of where we’ve been, what the Lord has done for us, where we stand now as part of the covenant, and even thrills us with the fact that we are part of God’s new Temple — the house and household of God! Paul uses this imagery earlier in 1 Corinthians 3 when he rebukes the church there about their division and the seriousness of destroying the Temple of God! It needs to inspire us, even today, to put aside our opinions, our personal tastes, our pride, our selfishness, our competition, and our ambitions that can and often do divide the church.
Imagine the size of the love of Christ — Eph. 3:17-19
Remember the game children play with their parents: “I love you this much,” with arms open wide to try to imagine the size of our love. Here Paul challenges our imagination with the dimensions of Christ’s love for us.
How broad — Christ’s love is wide enough to include the black and white, the smart and the not smart, the city-dweller and the country boy, the lame and the whole, the slow and the fast, the tall and the short, the educated and the uneducated, the rich and the poor, the Jew and the Gentile, men and women, old and young, the good and the sinner, and everyone else. “For God so love the world…”
How long — Christ’s love reaches beyond the beginning of the world, being the Lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world. His love continued through history, which is really the outcome of God’s larger aim to redeem the world. His love continued through His Incarnation, His Ministry, His Passion, His Crucifixion, and His Resurrection. It continues as He rules His Kingdom, the church. And His love will continue through the end of time and beyond into eternity the only one of the three great Christian pillar: faith, hope, and love, that will last beyond this world. Christ’s love is long!
How deep — Christ’s love is so great that there is nothing too humble, too lowly for Him to do. While the apostles were jockeying to avoid the humiliating task of washing everyone else’s feet, Jesus took off His cloak, tied a towel around His waist, filled the basin, and began to wash His own disciples feet — including Judas’ feet. But that was just a token of His great humility — Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
How high — His was the highest love imaginable, a love that chose to do good for enemies, a love that would redeem and woo back a wayward wife (see the parable/story of Hosea and Gomer), a love that would reclaim a persecutor like Paul, a love that would ask, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Christ’s sort of love is not motivated by passions that fade away, or familial ties, or sexual love, or friendship.
May our love for one another be such a love as Christ’s (John 13:34,35).
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.