This twin epistle of Ephesians, and one of the four prison epistles, repeats several recurring themes in that letter. It focuses on Christ as the Cornerstone of his church, where church is not a building but a body of people indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Paul urges all believers to be rooted in Christ, living our daily lives –at home, at work and at play – with him foremost in everything. To do anything else is inconsistent, and would be choosing to live our lives without him, completely ignoring this amazing gift.
Just as in the entire world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, so it has also been bearing fruit and growing among you from the first day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth. (1:6)
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13-14)
The Son was there before anything was made. And all things continue because of him. He is the head of the body, which is the church. He is the beginning of everything else. And he is the first among all who will be raised from death. So in everything he is most important. God was pleased for all of himself to live in the Son. (1:15-19)
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. (1:21-22)
God decided to let his people know just how rich and glorious that truth is. That secret truth, which is for all people, is that Christ lives in you, his people. He is our hope for glory. (1:27)
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (2:3)
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (2:9-10)
In Christ you had a different kind of circumcision, one that was not done by human hands. That is, you were made free from the power of your sinful self. That is the kind of circumcision Christ does. (2:11)
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (2:12-14)
Our relationship with Christ has given us the freedom to choose. We no longer are chained to our former, unfruitful lives of being run by our opinions and feelings. If we cling to the Spirit, we are assured, not of a pain-free life, but of the constant accompaniment that leads to discernment, hope, wisdom, correction, mercy, everlasting love and life, and peace beyond comprehension. It will lead to our true colors as we mature in our identity in Christ. (For more on our true colors in Christ, see God is Revealing Our True Colors on In My Father’s House by Mel Wild.)
But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. (1:23)
Don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services or holy days [or head coverings or tattoos or what to wear to church – my addition]. (2:16)
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they are of no value in conquering a person’s evil desires. (2:20-23)
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (3:1-2) [More on this in two weeks on Philippians.]
Therefore, put to death whatever is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry. (3:5)
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (3:8)
I can’t help but point out that nearly every time Paul mentions sexual immorality, he also remarks upon covetousness and filthy language. He doesn’t single out one as more egregious than the other, but links them together as equal forms of idolatry. It seems we should take note.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (3:12-13)
Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (3:14)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (3:15)
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (3:18-21) [For more on this, see Ephesians 2]
Servants, obey those who are your earthly masters; whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Masters, treat your servants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. (3:22-23, 4:1)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (4:2)
Use your heads as you live and work among unbelievers. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down or cut them off. (4:5-6)
You see, none of this comes down to whether we get or don’t get tattoos; whether we’re Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, or Pentecostal; whether we believe in a rapture or believe heaven is coming to earth.
It all comes down to whether we believe in the gospel of Jesus and walk it out in our daily lives. He came to earth in the form of God to redeem all of creation. He preached repentance, love and mercy, forgave our sins, saved us by dying on the cross, rose again to conquer death, returned to the Father and sits by His side. With the free gift of grace He abides in us through the Holy Spirit until He returns to us again.