First century Ephesus was a commercial, religious, and cultural power. Being the fifth largest city in the Roman Empire, it boasted some of the largest markets, temples, and theaters in the ancient world. But its man-centered nature made it a place of great exploitation, idolatry, and debauchery.
Yet, within this pagan city God was building His church: a church established, united, and transformed by Christ. God is still building his church in the midst of unbelief, and we will study His word to see how all who look to Him in faith may stand and serve triumphantly through the grace of our triumphant Savior.
Paul didn’t hide the hard truth that we don’t merely live in a darkened world, or do darkened things, but that we are darkened people due to the curse of the fall. Our hearts are blackened as a result of Adam’s sin. The good news is that Jesus, the light of the world, can not only rescue us from our former life of darkness, but enable us to live as His radiant disciples in a world desperately in need of His grace.
Every believer has been fully cleansed from the penalty of sin through the blood of Christ, but purification from its residual effects is an ongoing process. How can a Christian grow in purity in the midst of an impure world? God’s word provides the answer though the grace of our immaculate Savior.
God spoke and the world came into existence. Jesus spoke and Lazarus arose from the dead. The Holy Spirit spoke and Paul became an international missionary. Words matter. They have the power to glorify God or deny Him, to serve others or cause them harm. Sadly, our words often tear down rather than build up. Paul shows us how to put aside the useless words of our old nature in favor of life-giving words that speak of our Savior.
The phrase “reformed and always reforming” has been used to justify many unbiblical practices in the church, as if every human innovation is in keeping with the spirit of the Reformation. Its true meaning is found in Ephesians 4: that having been saved by grace we pursue a life that is constantly being reshaped by the word of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than blazing a trail to some undiscovered frontier, we actually return from our corruption to the likeness of the One who set us free.
We were born again in Christ but never meant to remain infants. God intends for us to grow to maturity as we serve one another in love. But how do we grow in spiritual maturity? Through God’s enduring word that leads us to our glorious Head, Jesus Christ.
In His wisdom, Christ builds His unified Church by bestowing a diversity of gifts. He equips each of His people with specific gifts so that we might serve one another and make His glory known. He grants us His power, in a plurality of ways, so that we might advance His purposes in a world desperately in need of His grace.
After reviewing all the great doctrines of the faith, the very first exhortation Paul makes to the Ephesians is to preserve the unity of the Church. With practical guidance and biblical footing, he shows how and why to seek this goal-a goal we seek as well through the grace of Jesus Christ.
The doxology we sing on Sunday morning is not intended to be a solitary event but the beginning of an entire week of giving praise to God. The words we sing together as His church propel us into a week filled with many moments of stopping to praise Him. But how should we do this? The apostle Paul provides an inspired example of how to stop and give glory to the One who has given us all things through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ.
In the Bible, the heart is not just the source of our emotions. It is the command center of our entire being that directs all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Among many important things to pray for, Paul understood that praying for the hearts of his hearers was his greatest pastoral priority. Only hearts that are increasingly transformed by the indwelling love of Christ will grow, serve, and multiply as God intends. God calls us to know the depth of His love for us in Christ and to pray that others might know it as well.
There were many “mystery religions” in Paul’s day that claimed to have secret knowledge available only to a select few. Their job was to keep hidden what they had learned. Paul said his job was to make known the revelation of Jesus Christ as broadly and clearly as possible. Such is the commission of every believer who has known the grace of Christ: to not only know Him but to make Him known!