What does it say?

We learned a bit about the background of Ephesians in yesterday’s reading of Colossians and Philemon, companion books to Ephesians. An unusual feature of Ephesians is that it does not begin and end with the usual personal greetings. Only at the end does Paul mention that he is sending this letter through Tychicus. Some think this indicates that Paul intends an even greater audience than Ephesus alone.

As we have seen, Paul normally divides his letters into two parts – doctrine and application. In Ephesians 1-3 Paul dives right into the doctrine of election, salvation by grace alone through faith and of the oneness we enjoy in Christ no matter what our background may be. This unity of the body of Christ is the mystery that God has revealed to him and is the focus of these first three chapters.

The practical part of the letter is how this oneness in Christ ought to affect our daily life (Eph 4-6). Paul teaches how God has gifted the church with leaders to equip all for the work of the ministry and for building up the church. This is the practical outgrowth of our unity. Because of these truths, our lives should reflect God’s love and light in all we do. Our oneness in Christ also affects all of our earthly relationships with spouses, children and in the workplace. The letter concludes with practical instruction to prevail in the spiritual warfare around us.

What does it mean?

Behind the teaching of oneness in Christ is the reality that the great majority of believers in Ephesus are Gentiles that tend to look down on Jewish believers. Paul is teaching that all of us in Christ, regardless of ethnic background, are one and to be treated as such with all love and respect in the body of Christ. This is not to say that we ignore or shed our background, customs and traditions, only that we recognize that we all share equal footing in Christ.

The section in Ephesians 4:11-16 is one of the most important in the New Testament about the operation and function of the church. The practical application of Christian unity to relationships and the section on spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-20) are among the most practical in the Bible.

How will I respond?

What is the most practical and important lesson for me today in the book of Ephesians and how will I make immediate application of this to my life?