Ephesians: God's riches come with great responsibility
Over the last two months we have been looking at the book of Ephesians during our Sunday morning services. It was an exciting time of studying God's Word and growing in our faith. I just wanted to take a few minutes and share some of the insights that God revealed to us during this journey.
One of the first things we heard is that God had put a plan in place for us even before he created the earth. He chose us and blessed us and set aside an inheritance for us that is available to us through the work of Jesus on the cross. Then as if that was not enough He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guarantor of that inheritance. This is an amazing truth and contradicts what the world would like us to believe that our lives are a random act of nature with no real purpose.
Paul went on to pray that they would understand the riches of that inheritance and to realize that all power and dominion had been given to Christ and all things have been put under the feet of Christ who is the head of the Church. As Christians we have such a rich inheritance in Christ and Paul's desire is that we would begin to understand the magnitude of that inheritance not only in the age to come, but also here and now.
We also learned that those who know Christ were once dead in their sins, but have now been made alive in Christ. This was a free gift of grace and was not made possible by works, but brings with it a responsibility to fulfill the good works that God prepared for us in Christ before we found Him. The amazing thing is that God created good works that he desired for us to do even before we were in relationship with Him. This speaks of the plans and purposes of God for our lives. If you desire to lead a full life you need to walk in relationship with God so that you can fulfill the plans He has for you.
Paul talked about how those who were once strangers or foreigners to God and outside of the law have now been drawn into relationship with him by the blood of Christ who brings peace between Jew and gentile causing us to be joined together into a place for the Spirit of God to dwell. Paul continues to talk about this great mystery of how the work of Christ has allowed the gentiles to be heirs to the inheritance that was promised to the descendants of Abraham and how this mystery had been revealed first to the prophets and now to the apostles. That we as His church would become showpieces of God's wisdom to principalities and powers in heavenly places. Paul's desire was that we would come to know the depth of God's love and be filled with the fullness of God.
In chapter four Paul speaks of the need for unity within the body of Christ for it to function properly. He speaks of working together and allowing God to use our giftings to bring about maturity in ourselves and the body of Christ so that we would not be tossed back and forth by every new doctrine or teaching that arises. He indicates that the body of Christ must work together to be effective for Christ and that it is like our natural body with many different parts working together for good.
Paul then switches to practical instructions for living. He tells us to get rid of the old man and put on the new man. He says to stop lying and start being honest, when you get angry do not sin, stop stealing and start working so you can help those who are in need, encourage others, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Also we are to get rid of bitterness, anger, evil intent, clamour and instead to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving of one another. He speaks of walking in love and light and wisdom. He states that we are not to be drunk, but rather we are to be filled with the Spirit of God and speak to each other in songs, hymns and spiritual songs.
Paul closes this section on Holy living with one of his great themes that runs throughout his teachings. He says to give thanks in all things through Christ. This is pretty amazing seeing that he was in prison at the time of writing this letter and he still encouraged the believers to give thanks. How many of us when we find ourselves in a difficult situation are willing to give God thanks. Paul's theme is this, whether I have little or if I have much, whether in sickness or in health, whether free or in prison, I give thanks to God knowing that all things work together for good for those who trust in God.
Paul continued this theme of practical living by speaking about relationships. First he addressed marriage and talked about the relationship between a husband and wife. He said wives submit to your husbands as unto the Lord. Some have taken this to mean that the wife must do whatever the husband tells her, but this would not be scriptural. The Bible is very clear that each of us has been given free choice and that includes the wife. So many have focused solely on the role of the wife in this conversation that they have missed the great role of the husband to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and laid down His life for us. See the man's responsibility in the marriage is to show sacrificial love and to please his wife as if he was trying to please himself. Can you imagine if we as husbands loved our wives this way, how much easier we would make it for them to follow us. The reality is that many of us are self-centered in our relationship when in reality God has called us to be other centered. Paul breaks it down at the end by saying this Husbands love your wives and wives show respect for your husbands.
Next Paul addressed the parent child relationship and he made it a two way street here once again. He said children obey and honour your parents as this is the right thing to do. Those who do this are blessed with the promise of a long life. Also He commanded fathers to not provoke their children to wrath, but rather to train them and raise them in the fear of the Lord.
The final relationship that Paul addressed was that between worker and employer. He challenged those who worked for others to work as if they were working for the Lord and not just to please their boss or others. In fact those who are good workers and do their work for God and not just to please men will receive a reward from God. He also instructed those who employed others to treat them right and not to threaten and abuse those who worked for them because God was an impartial judge who will one day judge both.
I find it very interesting how Paul closes this letter off after encouraging the believers to know what Christ has done for us and how we are to live in light of that. Paul closes this letter of with a call to be prepared for battle. It is like Paul is saying you know in-spite of all these good things God has for you get ready because the enemy will try and keep you from enjoying what God has for you and if your not careful he will cause you to fall so in light of that put on the full armour of God that you can stand in that day. Wrap yourself in truth so the lies cannot destroy you, live in righteousness so the enemy cannot hurt you, know the gospel of peace so that you can walk in confidence, live by faith or believe the word of God so the enemies attacks can be quenched, remember your salvation is sure so that the enemy cannot attack your mind with doubt, take up the sword of the spirit which is the word of God, and keep in prayer or communion with God so that you may be alert and ready when the enemy tries to knock you down.
This study on the riches of Christ and the responsibilities that we as Christians carry as a result of the work of Christ has been an encouraging journey for us as a body. I hope that if you read this that you will take some time to find out what it truly means to be a Christian and the inheritance that God has set aside for each one who follows after Him.
May God richly bless you