First century Ephesus was a commercial, religious, and cultural powerhouse, but its man-centered nature made it a place of great exploitation, idolatry, and debauchery. To His beleaguered church in Ephesus, God sent word of His amazing grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the Son whom He loves, He was establishing, uniting, and transforming His people- a work that He continues to this day!
The doctrine of election, or predestination, is highly controversial. Surrounded by misunderstanding on one side and resistance on the other, it often remains an unpolished jewel in the crown of Christian theology. But Paul was not ashamed of the sovereign grace of God. It was the foundation of his eternal life, hope, and praise, and it may be ours as well through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34). But we have been set free, or redeemed, from sin and death through the payment of a price-the very blood of Christ. We now stand forgiven according to the lavish grace of God who not only sets us free, but reveals how He is bringing all things together under the Lordship of Christ. Jesus is the organizing principle of the universe, and He is able to free completely those who look to Him for grace.
God the Holy Spirit is often the most misunderstood Person of the Trinity. Either glamorized or ignored, His primary work of drawing us to Christ is often forgotten. But the Holy Spirit is the unbreakable, unifying, confirming, and anticipatory seal of our salvation. He is the evidence of what is already ours in Christ, and the guarantee of what is yet to come. He comforts our hearts and guides our lives as we live in the grace of God from whom all blessings flow.
There are a virtually limitless number of things to pray and strive for in the Christian life. All of them have value, but when writing to the Ephesians Paul said his top concern was that they would know God better. How can we pray for others to know God better? How can we know Him better ourselves? God’s word teaches us how to know Him better through the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We see in many of Paul’s epistles that he regularly prays for the churches he planted in his missionary journeys. These inspired prayers are helpful templates for our own prayer lives. In the opening chapter of Ephesians, we see that the apostle not only gives thanks to the Lord for the Ephesians’ faith and love, but that he prays for their assurance, that they would not doubt or waiver in their understanding that God is at work in Christ in the world, no matter what it looks like from our perspective.
The discouraged, poor, and weak Christians in Ephesus needed to be reminded of the hope, riches, and power that were theirs in Christ. In particular, they needed to be assured of the power of their resurrected, triumphant Lord who rules His Church as its invincible King and Head. Beleaguered Christians today still need to hear of our invincible Lord and the power He continues to exert through His body, the Church.
Few topics seem more unpleasant than the wrath of God. Some people deny it entirely, suggesting a God of love cannot have wrath. Others seek to downplay or soften it. Most simply ignore it despite hundreds of biblical references. But as D.A. Carson says, “A wrath-less god does not make him more attractive. It makes him morally indifferent.” God’s holiness demands judgment against sin and without wrath Christ died for nothing. It is precisely because we were once objects of God’s wrath that God’s grace to us in Christ is such good news.
“But God” are two of the most important words we could ever hear. We were dead in our transgressions and sins, justly deserving His wrath and curse, but God made us alive with Christ by grace. Further, He has not only shown us His mercy, kindness, and love once, but keeps showing it to us every moment of every day. Whenever we find ourselves lost and undone, there is a “but God” moment He uses for His glory and our good. Best of all, in the ages to come we will see that we have only just begun to fathom the depth of His love for us in Christ.