EPHESIANS: VERSE BY VERSE
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 1:15a “Wherefore I also, after I heard. . .”
Paul had received a favorable dispatch from Ephesus. Though in jail, he was praising, not pouting; grateful, not grumbling.
The best news a minister hears is good news about his people’s spiritual condition. Paul “heard” this very type of joyous tidings while in jail. The blessings described in verses 3-14 were producing visible results in the lives of the Ephesian Christians, “wherefore” the Apostle will now give thanks to God.
Eph. 1:15b “. . .of your faith in the Lord Jesus,. . .”
The Christians in Ephesus had trusted in Christ for justification, and were continuing to trust in Him for sanctification. Ongoing faith was so obvious in their lives that saints throughout the Roman world were talking about it.
A believer, by definition, is one whose life is characterized by belief. Our faith in Jesus is absolute. We place no trust in self. Believers have no confidence in the flesh, but are not dismayed. They instead exhibit a meek, child-like spirit, knowing sufficient power is found in God. We lean wholly on Him, staying constant in prayer.
This sense of absolute dependence upon God is ever a true mark of a Christian. Anticipating Ananias’ objection about being sent to Saul of Tarsus, the Lord provided evidence of Saul’s conversion by saying, “Behold, he prayeth” (AC 9:11). Earnest, fervent prayer was the token of a new birth, the proof of a heart leaning on God in faith.
Like newly converted Saul, the Ephesian believers also were not ashamed of confessing personal weakness. They were not embarrassed to admit reliance upon Jesus for strength.
In the midst of life’s howling storms, believers lean on Jesus with a spirit of quietude and repose. Some naturalists once wanted to study a type of wild flower which grew only on the side of a dangerous gorge in the Scottish Highlands. They offered a boy a generous sum to descend by rope, and gather a few specimen.
Pondering the money and the danger, he replied, “I will go if my father will hold the rope.” When his dad complied, the lad fearlessly descended the cliff and brought back the flowers.
This bespeaks the confidence we ought to display toward our Lord. Life looks treacherous, but we can face it with peace because we know “Father holds the rope.” We should have the calm displayed by a little bird beneath its parent’s wing, and by a baby at its mother’s breast. We need to exhibit a confidence which causes others to “sit up and take notice,” and prompts them to talk about it, thereby bringing glory to the Father.
Eph. 1:15c “. . .and love unto all the saints,. . .”
As this epistle will later reveal, the Ephesian Christians were not perfect. They had faults, but loved each other anyway.
We are often too quick to censor and condemn one another. We forget we are to love “all the saints.” Christian love is indiscriminate. It does not pick and choose who it will love, but extends to all Christians always, however cantankerous they are.
In regeneration, we are armed with prejudice against vices and supplied with hatred for sins. Unfortunately, our Christian growth is sometimes stunted at this point. As Rev. Jonathan Swift said, “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
God expects better of us. We are to love one another with a love which is more than emotion, a love which manifests itself in a self-sacrificing spirit by deeds of kindness and lowly service.
In the kingdom, none is exalted higher in position than any other. The disciples tried to vaunt themselves above each other, but Jesus showed them the proper attitude to have by washing their feet. We are equals, brothers, sisters, a family.
A proper understanding of this truth made possible the marriage of Matthew Henry’s parents. The great Commentator’s mother was of noble birth, but his father was a commoner. The young lady became a Christian and fell in love with fellow believer, Philip Henry.
Her parents opposed the romance, and demanded of her, “This man Philip Henry, where has he come from?”
She nobly replied, “I don’t know where he has come from, but I know where he is going.”
We love fellow saints because we know where they are going. We are marching to Zion together, side by side on equal footing. We share the same home, and belong to the same family. Having the same Father, we dare not refuse to accept one whom He has ac-cepted.
God is love, and where He is, love is. When you love the saints, demonstrate self-sacrificing love for others, or love the unlovely, you see God in your own heart.
Eph. 1:16a “. . .cease not. . .”
Paul prayed regularly. His letters reveal a man constantly talking with Jesus. Every circumstance awakened prayer in him.
Never say you are too busy to pray. For a Christian, such an attitude is impossible. For a believer to claim to be too busy to pray is as irrational a statement as a natural man saying he is too busy to breathe. It is totally unacceptable, and reveals ignorance of the most elementary ABCs of being a Christian.
Jesus was the busiest of all men. People sought Him from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes even in the night. Time for prayer was hard to find, but Jesus created opportunities to pray. He often prayed at unusual times, including “a great while before day” (MK 1:35), and even “all night” (LK 6:12).
Pray! Never let this Holy of Holies in your heart collect spider webs. Prayer should be breath to your soul, an instinct.
When told he had less than thirty minutes to live, Dr. Bacchus, saintly President of Hamilton College, immediately thought of prayer, and said, “Take me out of my bed, and place me upon my knees; let me spend that time in calling upon God for the salvation of the world.” Like Livingstone, he died upon his knees in prayer. Would we have responded similarly? Do we deem prayer our lifeblood?
Eph. 1:16b “. . .to give thanks for you,. . .”
Before interceding for the Ephesians, Paul gave thanks for them. This pattern regularly recurs in his prayers, reminding us we can truly intercede only for those for whom we are truly grateful. Envy destroys the ability to intercede effectively.
Let us search our hearts. Do we praise God when others are blessed? Are we glad when things go well with other brothers and sisters in Christ? May we never be numbered among the many who are made miserable by the good fortune of others.
Eph. 1:16c “. . .making mention of you in my prayers;. . .”
Paul the Apostle was an intercessor. He prayed regularly for churches at Rome (RM 1:9), Corinth (1 C 1:4), Ephesus, Philippi (PH 1:4), Colossae (CL 1:3), and Thessalonica (1 TH 1:2).
Israel’s High Priest wore a breastplate upon which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes. When Paul knelt to pray, names of believers around the world were engraved on his heart.
It is difficult to say whether a minister does more good for his people by praying or preaching. A Shepherd must do both for the sheep. Samuel taught Israel, but also knew if he did not pray for them it would be counted unto him as sin (1 SM 12:23).
Intercede for one another. Offer thanks for each other and then plead with the Almighty for one another. Thank God for what He has done, and then ask Him to do more.
Thanksgiving and petition are both necessary. Thanksgiving looks to the past, to the foundation already laid. Supplication looks to the future, to the superstructure under construction.
The spiritual blessings God lays up for us in abundance have to be fetched in by prayer. Praying for strength and blessing is a never ending process.
Even the best of Christians need to be prayed for. When our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing well, pray for God to give them even more of His blessings.
Paul knew the Ephesians were on the right track, but did not become indifferent or lethargic. However high we see our fellow believers go, let us pray they will go even higher.
On earth, no believer ever “arrives.” Never think you or anyone else is immune to a terrible fall. Paul himself expressed concern about the possibility of becoming a castaway (1 C 9:27).
The Ephesians faltered. A generation later, when John wrote Revelation, Jesus said of the Ephesians, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (RV 2:4).
Let us never give Satan a victory by default. Intercede. Pray for one another. I beseech thee, pray for me.