Do you think of your glass as half empty? Do you feel like there’s never enough? If you do, don’t feel too bad – this is human nature. But there is good news!
In the book of Ephesians, Paul turns our natural mindset on its head and instead magnifies the God who graciously fills our cups to overflowing and supplies us with more than we could possibly imagine in Christ. The book is like a treasure trove full of mysterious riches which have been given to us freely and with the greatest love the world has ever known.
Who Wrote Ephesians and Who Was it Written For?
We are told in the first verse of Ephesians that it was written by “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (1:1). This book is an epistle, meaning it is a letter, and Paul wrote this particular letter while in prison in Rome. He sent it to the church in Ephesus (a city which is now part of modern-day Turkey), where he had spent three years in fruitful ministry, speaking boldly, leading daily discussions, doing extraordinary miracles by the power of God (Acts 19).
Paul eventually left them to continue ministry elsewhere, but it seems the Ephesian elders of the church were very dear to him, as he stopped by to see them on his way to certain persecution, encouraging them and praying with them and exchanging tearful goodbyes in a poignant scene captured in Acts 20:13-38. The letter to the Ephesians was sent by way of Paul’s co-worker Tychicus, whose purpose in visiting Ephesus was “for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts” (Eph. 6:22).
What Was the Purpose of the Letter?
Paul’s goals in writing the letter were general encouragement. He seeks to articulate “the mystery” of the gospel which has now been revealed (Eph. 3:1-13). He uses vivid imagery, lofty language, stark contrasts, Old Testament allusions and powerful recorded prayers to try to convey “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:18).
His desire is that his readers would truly “grasp” and “know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
4 Lessons from Ephesians
There are numerous lessons that can be gleaned from this short New Testament book. Four overarching themes emerge:
1. We Have Been Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ
Paul plumbs the depths and leaps for the heights of language in his efforts to convey the amazing “riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Eph. 1:8). Indeed, God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Paul is trying to impress upon us that God and his blessings are greater than we can even comprehend; that’s why the gospel is described as a beautiful mystery that can’t be solved but can and should be savored.
He speaks of “the immeasurable greatness of [God’s] power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19). He prays for the Ephesians “to [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Paul asks God that believers would somehow “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19).
There is a theme of “the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:20) in Ephesians when talking about God and his blessings. Paul talks of God’s “glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6), the “boundless riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8), whose love is “wide and long and high and deep” (Eph. 3:18) and whose people are described as “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1:23).
There is nothing God has withheld. There is nothing we lack. So much of what we have been given can be accessed in the here and now – daily strength and power for living – but even that which we cannot yet access in this fallen world and in this mortal life has been made certain through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who acts as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:14).
2. The Gospel Is a Matter of Life and Death
Paul pulls no punches: “‘As for you,’ he says, ‘You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’” (Ephesians 2:1-2).
There is a glorious word in verse four, however: “But…”
Throughout the book of Ephesians, the impact of the Gospel is expressed in similarly stark contrasts. Gentiles once were “excluded…foreigners…without hope and without God…but now” they have been “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13).
The “hostility” between different groups becomes “peace” through the reconciliation of Jesus’ blood (Eph. 2:14, 16). The Gospel allows “infants” to “grow…to become mature” (Eph. 4:14-15). The “old self” is as different from the “new self” (Eph. 5:22-24) as “darkness” is from “light” (Eph. 5:8).
3. Our Walk with God Is of Utmost Importance
In light of the incredible spiritual blessings given by God and the new life we have in Christ, Paul urges believers to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” to “walk in love” (Eph. 5:1), and to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
The term “walk” has a mundane quality that brings to mind our everyday interactions. In line with this, Paul offers counsel for what walking worthily, lovingly, and wisely looks like in the context of family and work and church dynamics (Eph. 5:15-6:9). The Gospel is not just a lofty philosophical idea – it has real-life implications for our daily rounds.
4. God Gives Us Strength for the Battle We Face
Lastly, believers are urged to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10). We have access to “the full armor of God” so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). Moreover, we have access to God Himself through prayer at all times, and Paul encourages us to pray for ourselves, each other, and for those who are declaring the “mystery of the Gospel” as “spiritual ambassadors” around the world (Eph. 6:18-20).
The old hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” comes to mind when reading through the book of Ephesians.
“All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,
great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”
Indeed, we have been brought from death to life and given everything we need for the daily relationships and responsibilities we have and the spiritual battles we face. As we walk through this world, we do not walk alone. We are fully resourced and indwelt by the glorious God whom Paul seeks to glorify in this letter:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).