To our beloved friends and Chasing Heatherwood Family,
I'm so excited to share insights from this wonderful epistle with you all.
Theologian W.O. Carver, called the book of Ephesians, "the greatest piece of writing in all history". I myself would say it's the most clear text on the realities Christians face as well as a guide to our conduct, unlike any other. In order to gain the full richness of this book, it is important to understand the world we live in today. It also helps to have some information about the author and cultural background of this writing.
There is a powerful form of confusion and diluting the power of the Gospel at work in our world. We are confronted by fear, persecution, false teaching, and a culture that has abandoned God. The early church faced these same challenges, and through the encouragement and instruction of the apostle Paul, the church endured and grew, to give us the history and heritage we enjoy today.
The apostle Paul, who wrote more books of the Bible than any other person, is the author of this book. Paul is widely celebrated as a great hero of faith and perseverance. He is considered by many to be the most important person in the history of Christianity, second, of course, to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Originally known as, Saul of Tarsus, he was probably born in about 4 B.C. He was, according to his own words, "A Jew among Jews." He was taught and trained in rabbinical teachings by Gamaliel, who was regarded as the greatest teacher of the Torah during that time period. Gamaliel is quoted in the book of Acts, advising the Pharisees and High Priests to leave the Christians alone. In his mind, if the Christians were a false cult, they would fade into obscurity. However, if they were doing the will of God, they would be fighting against the God they claimed to know and follow.
Paul was a fervent and ferociously devoted member of the Jewish religious order known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of lay persons and scribes that believed that the Torah had a two-fold form of revelation, both in the written Scriptures and the oral traditions of the Jewish people. They were highly progressive in the evolution of the Law, in that they believed that man must use clear and sound reason to apply the Torah to the issues of the day. This in and of itself is not what brought them into conflict with Jesus and the early church.
The Pharisees believed that strict adherence to the Law of Moses was the only way to ensure righteousness. Their piety was hollow in the sense that they looked down on others who did not "keep the Law" as perfectly as they imagined they themselves did. They also did nothing to help the sick or the poor, but rather, shamed and ridiculed them for their poverty or illness being a result of sin.
The Gospel Jesus preached would have exposed the Pharisees for the cowards and frauds they were. Jesus was not afraid of them and was not gentle in dealing with their hypocrisy either. This group was repeatedly embarrassed by the gentle and forgiving nature of Christ, as well as His ability to answer their questions and escape their logic traps with ease. They found themselves impotent to stop the rapid growth of the early Church following the Resurrection.
Enter Saul of Tarsus. This young man was given free reign to arrest, torture, and murder Christians by the ruling body of Israel, the Sanhedrin. Saul was greatly feared by Christians as he was particularly effective in hunting them down. Of course Jesus, would have the final word as to what the mission of Saul's life was to be.
Many if not all Christians are familiar with Saul's confrontation with the risen Jesus. He was struck blind and required the obedience and kindness one of a Christian, to have his sight restored. One of the most interesting things to note, is that Paul's passion for the Law would be harnessed by Jesus, to transform him into the greatest voice of grace the world has ever known.
The Book of Ephesians is written to the church in Ephesus, which today, is in modern day Turkey. Ephesus in the first century was known as "The gateway to Asia." It was a thriving bustling metropolis of culture and trade. The spirit of the city was dominated by the pagan worship in the Temple of Diana. It is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Temple prostitution, sexual immorality, homosexuality, witchcraft, sorcery, were just the beginnings of the satanic stranglehold facing the early Christians in Ephesus.
Paul's letter has six chapters. The book can be broken down into two parts. The first three chapters of the book are written in indicative terms. This means it is setting a foundation in the Gospel and the reality of our position, our power, and our provision in Jesus. The second three chapters have more of an imperative tone. This means that the ideas and conduct expressed by a Christian, should flow from the reality illustrated in the first half. Ephesians gives us a foundation of identity and position, and then tells us how to walk out our salvation in our behavior and attitudes.
There is so much more I could say in this case, but I encourage you to always study the cultural and historical context of each book of the Bible, to be able to enjoy it as fully as Our Father intended. Next week, we'll engage the text directly and get a clear view of where we are positioned in the universe, and what is available to us.
Thank you so much for your prayers, your faith, and your support,