The past six months, my Sunday School class has walked through Ephesians. I would like to share the five portions that have influenced me the most during this study. I pray that they likewise stir your affections for Christ.
My whole salvation experience is in reference to Christ (1:3).
Ephesians opens with a wonderful articulation of how God has blessed the saints. He elected (v.4), predestined (v.5), redeemed (v.7), awakens (v.9), and seals (v.13) every saint. Yet the most striking characteristic of vv.3-14 is that eleven times Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” (or an equivalent construction, ex. “in Him”). In fact, not one blessing a saint enjoys is outside the context of Christ. Everything God does for His people is in reference to His Son. I have seen here that my whole salvation experience (not just justification) is in reference to Christ.
Routine reflection on pre-conversion depravity is appropriate (2:12).
In light of God’s eternal purpose of salvation (1:1-23) and its application to us in time (2:1-10), there is a contrast in every believer’s life: pre-conversion and post-conversion. Every saint can sing with Newton, “I once was lost but now I’m found,” (emphasis mine). We may be inclined to think that after experiencing God’s grace it is sinful to ponder our lives before such grace, but Paul suggests just the opposite. We are to bear in mind our days of hopelessness apart from Christ, in order that the gospel be made precious to us and self-righteousness be driven out. I have seen here that a regular reflection on my pre-conversion depravity is appropriate and healthy.
History serves the gospel (3:6).
It is common opinion that the good news of Christ has been God’s response to the Fall of Adam. In this construction, the gospel serves history in that Christ crucified was a redirection God made in light of previous events. However, Ephesians asserts in nearly every chapter that Christ crucified was actually God’s purpose all along: that pre-creation He chose to save certain individuals in Christ (1:4), and that as history has progressed nothing has changed (3:6). The gospel is not God’s reaction to the Fall. Rather, God’s intention in history has always been Christ crucified, such that every event of earth has been sovereignly fitted to contribute to His glorious end. I have seen here that history serves God’s glory in the gospel.
The church is organic but not self-sustaining (4:16).
Communion in a local congregation is usually considered optional or “for fellowship sake” at best. Ephesians does not allow us to reasonably believe such things. Christ’s bride-to-be is invisibly united by His work (4:4-6) and must manifest this visibly (4:1-3). The body of Christ grows just as a body (4:16). As individual members exercise their spiritual gifts in sanctification, the corporate body is then further sanctified: corporate sanctification follows from individual sanctification. While this ‘organic’ growth of the corporate body is truly remarkable, Paul does not allow us to believe that the church is self-sufficient. The energy by which the body grows is clearly given by Christ: “Christ, from whom the whole body…causes the growth of the body,” (v.16). I have seen here that the church is organic but by no means self-sustaining.
Perseverance requires prayerfully lifting all things to God (6:18).
The believer’s earthly life is spent in the context of a world drenched in sin and depravity. How might one stand firm against those forces that oppose God so violently? Clearly, by depending upon the arm of God. The first six portions of armor are commonly reflected upon (6:10-17), but we must not neglect the seventh: prayer (v.18). Prayer is from a human perspective effective: a means ordained by God to accomplish His purposes in history. Prayer is also a grand sanctifier of our hearts, as it keeps our will in proper reference to God’s sovereign, perfect will (ex. Christ in the garden, Matt. 26). I have seen here that I should not expect to stand firm in any struggle that I do not lift to God in prayer.