1. An Introduction To Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1-3)Related Media
A number of years ago, a madman, called Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait, bringing death and destruction. Knowing it would be next on Saddam’s hit list, Saudi Arabia called Washington and asked for help. On that occasion, President Bush was at his best. He picked up the phone and called England, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, and many other countries and built the famed coalition.
Men and women from different backgrounds, races, classes, cultures, and personalities all gathered in the Gulf with one focused agenda – to serve notice on this madman, demanding that he not take more territory and that he relinquish the territory already taken. The coalition was to inform him his days of rule in the Gulf were over.
Another mad person in history is called the Devil, against whom God, too, has built a coalition to wage war – it’s called the church. If we’re going to be a vibrant, successful force for God in the world, and if we’re going to have victory over the prince of the power of the air, then the church is going to have to function as an allied coalition.
When there is a common goal based on a common authority to set forth a common agenda, then we can have a common success. God has created one body made up of different persons, all of whom have received a common call from God in Christ.1
This is what the epistle to the Ephesians is all about - the unity of the church, a coalition of people with different religious, racial, and social backgrounds into one body to live as a powerful force for God in the world.
Paul calls the church a “mystery” (1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). That’s why we have titled this series, “United We Stand: The Mystery of the Church.” The church was a mystery because it could not be conceived how God, in and through Christ Jesus, could create one body, the church, to form a new people of God in which both Jews and Gentiles stand united.
For Paul, the “mystery” of the church is breathtaking. He is rejoicing as he tries to express the mysterious unity that God has effected in the church through Christ and the spiritual blessings that are ours as a result - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (1:3).
Notice that our spiritual blessings have their source in God the Father and flow down to us through the Lord Jesus Christ 2 As we study this epistle together, you will see repeatedly its thoroughly trinitarian structure.
Paul is bursting with adoration to God for our spiritual blessings, so much so that he writes the entire first section (1:3-14) in one unstructured sentence which “rolls on like a snowball tumbling down the hill, picking up volume as it descends.” 3 Wave after wave of praise comes crashing onto the shore of his heart. You can hear the crack of gun fire as volley after volley reaches its target.
Christians are prone to talk about their differences. This series in Ephesians will talk about what we have in common. The church is a united community. Together we have:
I. A United Position in Christ (1:3-3:21)
1. Our United Blessings in Christ (1:4-14)
a) The blessing of our election (1:4)
b) The blessing of our predestination (1:5-6)
c) The blessing of our redemption (1:7-10)
d) The blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14)
e) Prayer #1: Prayer for spiritual enlightenment (1:15-23)
2. Our United Transformation in Christ (2:1-10)
a) Before we knew Christ, we were condemned to spiritual death (2:1-3)
b) When we know Christ, we are transformed to spiritual life (2:4-10)
3. Our United Relationship in Christ (2:11-3:21)
a) The mystery of our united relationship has been accomplished (2:11-22)
- A distant relationship is made near (2:11-13)
- A hostile relationship is made peaceful (2:14-18)
- A foreign relationship is made familiar (2:19-22)
b) The mystery of our united relationship has been revealed (3:1-13)
- The revelation of the mystery of Christ (3:1-6)
- The declaration of the mystery of Christ (3:7-13)
c) Prayer #2: Prayer for spiritual empowerment (3:14-21)
II. A United Practice in Christ (4:1-6:24)
1. Walking Together In Unity (4:1-6)
a) It’s demanded by our common calling (4:1)
b) It’s displayed in our common character (4:2-3)
c) It’s driven by our common confession (4:4-6)
2. Growing Together In Maturity (4:7-16)
a) Growing together in maturity through Christ’s servants (4:7-11)
b) Growing together in maturity for Christ’s service (4:12)
c) Growing together in maturity in Christ’s likeness (4:13-16)
3. Pursuing Purity Together (4:17-5:21)
a) Contrasting principles of living (4:17-24)
- Don’t live like the ungodly in corruption that stems from deceit (4:17-19)
- Live like Jesus in purity that stems from the truth (4:20-24)
b) Contrasting practices of living (4:25-32)
- Speaking truth not lies (4:25)
- Exercising self-control not anger (4:26-27)
- Working not stealing (4:28)
- Speaking constructively not destructively (4:29-30)
- Showing kindness not animosity (4:31-32)
c) Contrasting programs for living (5:1-21)
- Live a God-centred life not a self-centred life (5:1-7)
- Live as light not darkness (5:8-14)
- Live carefully not recklessly (5:15-21)
4. Living Together In Harmony (5:22-6:9)
a) Harmony of husbands and wives (5:22-33)
b) Harmony of children and parents (6:1-4)
c) Harmony of servants and masters (6:5-9)
5. Standing Together In Victory (6:10-20)
a) The power and provision for spiritual battles (6:10-13)
b) Preparation for spiritual battles (6:14-17)
c) Perseverance in spiritual battles (6:18-20)
God has effected all of this “in Christ.” In Him, we are chosen (4), redeemed (7), made heirs (11), brought to faith (13a), and sealed (13-14). And all of this flows from God's eternal will (5,11), the riches of his grace (7), and his good pleasure (9). It is God’s will to form a new people in Christ into one body, the church. What once would have been considered impossible (hence, a “mystery”), God has done in Christ. He has united together in one body all the people of faith, both Jew and Gentile.
The epistle begins with this magnificent statement of our blessings:
1. The source of our blessings is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (3a)
2. The scope of our blessings is “every spiritual blessing” (3b)
3. The sphere of our blessings is the “heavenly places in Christ” (3c)
Our spiritual blessings originate in heavenly places (1:3), that place where Christ sits at God’s right hand; that place of eternal relationship between believers and Christ (2:6). And these spiritual blessings come down to us on earth (See 4:8; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1). They are in Christ (a phrase that Paul’s uses 10 times in this paragraph) in that we receive the benefit of them because of our position in him.
My proposition to you is that “Our only appropriate response to God for his blessings is to praise him with all our hearts for what we have in common in Christ.”
1 Tony Evans, Preaching Today, Tape 189.
2 Cf. William Hendriksen, The Epistle to the Ephesians, New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 73.
3 Hendriksen, 72.