The history of Christianity would be much impoverished were its stories of jails and incarcerations removed. Had Satans fury not been hurled against us, we would not have the stories of Daniel in the Lions den, and the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. Had Potiphar not cast Joseph into jail, Jacobs family would have perished in Canaans famine. Our precious Lord, by a criminals death, took away the sin of the world.
In Bedford jail, John Bunyan wrote Pilgrims Progress. From prison, Samuel Rutherfords letters went forth. Charles Colson blessed our generation from a modern prison. Often could we echo to our tormenters the words of Joseph, Ye thought evil against me but God meant it unto good (GN 5020).
Ephesians is another blessing from a prison-sanctuary. In jail at Rome, Paul was an ambassador in bonds (620). Uncertain as to whether his imprisonment will end in death or release, he begins to weigh life in light of eternity. Having no need to rush, with plenty of time to think, Paul was able to reflect on what really matters in life.
The year was about 61 A.D., a terrible time. In the suppression of a revolt in Britain, 70,000 Romans and 80,000 Britons were slain. The same year, a Roman senator was murdered by one of his slaves. As punishment, 400 slaves were put to death. The world at war, human life cheap–it was an era much like ours.
The world was in chaos, but Paul was serene. Taking pen in hand, he began to write what would be his most dignified book.
Ephesians is the Queen of Pauls epistles. Coleridge called it the divinest composition of man. When John Knox was dying, the book most often read to him was Calvins Sermons on the Letter to the Ephesians.
The book divides itself into two sections. Chapters 1-3 deal with doctrine chapters 4-6 with duty. The latter section can be subdivided into our dealings with the world (41-69), and our warfare against Satan (610-24). Ephesians helps us better understand our relationship to God, the world, and Satan.
Watchman Nee outlined Ephesians, using a key word from each of the three sections Sit (26), Walk (41), Stand (611). Sit–let us first of all realize our position in Christ. We are far richer than we realize. We appropriate very little of what is ours, and need to enter into full possession of our inheritance. Walk–our lifestyle is watched by the world. Let us live a life worthy of our high calling. Stand–Satan hurls his forces against us, but we can withstand every assault.
As we begin our study of Ephesians, let us not be primarily concerned with how we will deal with it. Instead, ponder what it will do to us. Lord, use Ephesians to change our lives.
Ephesians 11a Paul. . .
The Bible is a divine book. The very fact it was written by men is astounding. Of even greater amazement is that this particular man contributed to holy writ. He who consented to the death of Stephen has his name at the beginning of thirteen books in the New Testament. Paul–the very appearance of his name as a writer of Scripture is a monument to grace.
The writers given name was Saul. He was a Benjamite, named for King Saul, the tallest of his tribe. Saul of Tarsus eventually became better known for his Latin name, Paul, which means small. Though named for a tall king, Saul was short.
Ephesians 11b . . .an apostle. . .
Apostle means one sent forth, or despatched. The word was used officially to refer to an ambassador or envoy. The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews, had men who carried their messages to Jews at large. These couriers were called apostles.
The early church used apostle as a technical term for the men God uniquely chose to be His first and primary envoys of the Gospel. The Apostles were the foundation layer of the Church. They and their immediate disciples wrote the New Testament.
Paul was different from the other Apostles. He was not one of the original twelve. He was called later, and given a special assignment, He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles (AC 915). When these words were spoken, gods in Asia, Europe, and Africa screamed. They were doomed. Jupiter felt a pain shoot through his chest Mercury tripped in flight.
When God commissioned Saul to go to the Gentiles, our ancestors were in the Black Forest worshipping a goat god, our progenitors in Britain were offering children as sacrifices, others were eating babies hearts and drinking blood to pacify angry gods. God was tired of children dying, and sent Paul to stop it.
The remainder of his life, Paul was driven by a compulsion to tell the Gospel to all men. Each new acquaintance was a prospect, an opportunity to spread the Gospel. He was on a mission to tell every Gentile in the world about his master. . .
Ephesians 11c . . .of Jesus Christ. . .
An apostle belonged to someone else. Having no authority of his own, he only represented the one who commissioned him. Paul gave up fame, the respect of friends, and a blossoming career to become an errand-boy for Jesus Christ.
The first question Paul asked after he hit the ground near Damascus, was Who art thou, Lord Paul instantly realized he belonged lock, stock, and barrel to another. All he needed to know was the name of his new owner. The Lord responded, I am Jesus, a name Paul cherished the rest of his life.
Being an apostle humbled Paul. To realize one has no authority or power of his own increases dependence on the source of power. Paul spent the rest of his life close to Jesus.
Ephesians 11d . . .by the will of God,. . .
Being an apostle was not a decision Paul made on his own. He did not decide this was a good way to spend his life. He was under the sway of forces originating above and beyond himself.
There is no pride here, just sheer amazement. It was a wonder to Paul he was chosen. Only a miracle could have made Pharisee Saul an Apostle Paul. There is never any room for boasting. All is based on the will of God. He alone deserves praise.
Ephesians 11e . . .to the saints. . .
Saints is a word we will never be able to retrieve. It is usually used to describe super-heroes of the faith, but in the Bible refers to all believers. Every Christian is a saint.
Ephesians was not written to exceptional people. It was directed not to scholars, theologians, or teachers, but to ordinary Gentile church members. What Paul said to the Ephesians applies to ordinary folks, to you and me.
To be called a saint is a privilege every Christian enjoys. To be set apart as a special treasure to God is an honor, especially for Gentiles. Jews had for centuries viewed themselves as Gods special people. Calling pagan-born believers saints was mind-boggling. Hebrew detractors considered it a rape of sacred vocabulary (Hughes). Too good to be true but true anyway. God lifted us Gentiles up and made us part of His family.
Ephesians 11f . . .which are at Ephesus,. . .
Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia, sat on the west coast of modern Turkey, 200 miles east of Athens, across the Aegean. Today the ruins of Ephesus are seven miles from the sea. Reckless deforestation choked the citys harbor with topsoil.
Even in Pauls day, Ephesus was having trouble with its harbor, but the city was still the highway into Asia from Rome and Greece. The city thrived on tourism. Multitudes from every corner of the globe traveled to Ephesus to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the temple to Diana (Greek Artemis), twin of Apollo, daughter of Jupiter. Demetrius the silversmith was not exaggerating when he said all Asia and the world (AC 1927) adored and revered Diana of the Ephesians.
After Alexander the Great took control of Ephesus at age 22, he began contributing huge sums to reconstruct the temple. The conqueror felt a kindred spirit with the temple it had burned the very night he was born in distant Macedon.
The structure, which took 220 years to complete, was four times larger than Athens Parthenon. Its foundation measured 377 by 180 feet 106 columns, each over forty feet high, graced the building. The structure was completely marble, except for its tile-covered roof. At the heart of the shrine, hidden by curtains, stood an image of Diana which reputedly fell from the sky.
This den of sin, the throne of iniquity, the headquarters of Satan, became a target of the Apostle Paul. In the abode of Jupiters own daughter, Paul kicked Satan, and kicked him hard.
Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (AC 1819), while hastening to Jerusalem. Paul could not tarry in Ephesus, but as he walked through the pagan city, he realized its potential as a center of vast influence. Traffic in and out of the city never stopped. Paul could not stay, but did ask his traveling companions, Aquila and Priscilla, to remain in the city. Their stay was providential, for Apollos soon came to town and received from them further instruction in the ways of God.
When Paul returned to Ephesus, he stayed some three years, more time than he spent in any other city. Pauls work in Ephesus may have been the greatest local church ministry in history.
He started with twelve men who knew only the baptism of John the Baptist (AC 193). After their conversion, he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months (AC 198). When the Jews rejected him, he taught in a school daily for two years (AC 199-10). Preaching the kingdom of God (AC 2025), Paul ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (AC 2031). He taught publicly, and from house to house (AC 2020). Writing from Ephesus, he said, A great door and effectual is opened unto me (1 Cor. 169).
From this capital city, news of the Gospel spread throughout all the province, so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks (AC 1910).
After Paul departed, believers continued to pound the evil spiritual forces centered in Ephesus. Timothy came to serve as pastor (1 TM 13). John the Beloved spent his final years of ministry here, influencing Polycarp and Ignatius. The Gospel of John, and his epistles, were probably written at Ephesus. Revelation was written on Patmos, sixty miles off the Ephesian coast.
Ephesus, a bastion of evil, yielded to the relentless Christian attacks. The city became a great center of Christianity and hosted a major church council as late as 431 A.D. Ephesus is now remembered, not for its magnificent pagan temple, but because of a letter bearing its name.
Ephesians 11g . . .and to the faithful. . .
Saint denotes privilege, and privilege brings responsibility. Even in a godless city like Ephesus, people set apart must act like the One who set them apart.
Outward righteousness is Gods stamp on an individual, His mark by which He says, This person belongs to Me. We write our names on our possessions God also labels His property, and the name He uses is the likeness of His own character.
Ephesians 11h . . .in Christ Jesus. . .
Every Christian has two addresses–one on earth, and one in heaven. We reside here, but live there. We are joined to Jesus, united with Him. As a root is in the soil, a branch in the vine, the Christians life is in Christ. We seek all livelihood and nourishment from Jesus. We may be surrounded by sin, but we are rooted in Christ. He is the saints natural resting place.