"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."
We will be spending the next several weeks studying the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Epheseus.
In Ephesians 1:1-14, the apostle Paul exhorts believers to continue in the faith, detailing all that we have in Christ as believers. To get a little more context of why he wrote this letter, you would have to go back to the Book of Acts 18:18-21;19.
Disciples in the region, perhaps the fruit of Apollos or Aquilla and Priscilla who were fellow tent makers and missionaries along with Paul on his first missionary journey to the area. Paul’s encouragement to these disciples reflects the love and protection of our good shepherd.
A Little History
Ephesus was a bustling multi-cultural cosmopolitan, full of opportunity, and trade. As a major port city and an important location in Asia minor, cultures from all over the ancient world, Greeks, Romans, and even a Jewish population represented the populace. Believers in the area would have experienced a culture that went against Christianity, bent on the betterment of self and spirituality. Because Christianity was not a religion that was widely accepted, believers would have a hard time interacting in daily tasks, as they would be considered outcasts.
The temple of Diana, or “Artemis of the Ephesians” was the central center of worship. Pilgrims and those who would trade goods throughout the empire paid homage by their worship of the false god. Many of those who made the pilgrimage were apart of the “Artemis Cult” following. Polytheism was the norm, along with spiritualism and like today, anyone claiming to know the only way of salvation, would be met with persecution.
Not of this world
The truth is, we don’t fit in. And like the disciples in Ephesus, we are not of this world. Jesus promised that following Him would cost us everything, but it is worth it. We don’t have to fit in, or strive for a position to be a part of the culture. As Christians, when we are ostracized for not being inclusive or accepting of behavior and lifestyles that go against God’s Word, we will feel the pressure to compromise and bend under the weight of the culture.
But we as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are to take up our cross to follow Him. In the midst of emence pressure of cultural norms, let us hold on to the hope of our salvation, we have a far greater position.
A Divine and Heavenly Position
"We are adopted into the family of God
Believers have been adopted into the family of God; not by our own will, nor the will of man, but the will of God and this to the glory of God.
Paul in Ephesians 1:11, states that in Christ, “We” have obtained an inheritance. The pronoun “we” here is speaking about Paul himself and all Jewish Christians, who have received the inheritance as promised to them because of faith in Christ.
In the following verses of Ephesians 1:13-14, he states “you” also when you believed, has received salvation, and have become the children of God (see John 1:12).
Adoption means we have received the benefits that all who have salvation in Christ receive.
Can you see the beauty of how the thread of salvation weaves together the church of Jesus Christ? Both Jews and Gentiles as one “new man” born again to a living hope, ready to receive the promise guranteed by God Himself sealing us with his precious Holy Spirit.
This is good news. No longer was the Jew to view himself separate from the Gentile, and vise versa. The Gentile is no longer a stranger and foreigner to the covenants of promise. Both are now one as the body of Christ, and in the fellowship of the Spirit.
Stay the course
Individualism, heretical doctrine, religious pluralism, paganism and occult intrigue all offered a platter of false knowledge and freedom to the believers in Ephesus, but Paul recognized this. The believers, whether Jew or Gentile, needed a reminder of their heavenly position in Christ, and not just within their prespective backgrounds, but as one body in Christ.
As believers, we will face times of persecution and hardship, and though we may not live in ancient Rome, or have the exact experience of the brothers and sisters who have gone home before us, we all feel the pressures of living in a culture that is adverse to Christianity. Being on the “outside” because of our faith in Christ isn’t always kosher, we are humans afterall, creatures with feelings and emotions. But we don’t have to be consumed with trying to fit into a family or social status quo that is outright against God.
The opportunity to compromise is prevalent, and many have already succumbed to the false idea that success is found in the “American dream”, giving in to the cultural norms of our modern society.
Just remember, we have so much more found in Christ.
We were once enemies, but now have an inheritance as sons and daughters in the family of God in Christ.