Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The story of how Paul came to the city of Ephesus is really interesting. You can go read about it in Acts chapter 19. Ephesus was a huge city. It was the epicenter of worship for most of the Greek and Roman gods. For over two years, Paul had a really effective missionary presence there. Lots of people became followers of Jesus. Years later, after being imprisoned by the Romans, Paul wrote this letter. The movement of thought in the letter divides into two really clear halves. In the first half, Paul is exploring the story of the gospel, how all history came to its climax, and Jesus, and in his creation of this multi-ethnic community of his followers. The second half of the letter is linked to the first by the word “therefore”. Here Paul explores how the gospel story should affect how we live every part of our life story, personally, in our neighborhoods and communities and in our families. So let’s dive in and we can see how Paul develops all of this. Chapter 1 opens with a beautiful Jewish style poem where Paul praises God the Father for the amazing things that he has done in Christ Jesus. From eternity past, the father has purposed to choose and bless a covenant people. Think here the family of Abraham and Genesis chapter 12 verses 1-3. Through Jesus now, anyone can be adopted into that family. Jesus’s death covers our worst sins, our worse failures. In Jesus, we find God’s grace. In fact, Paul says that grace has opened up a whole new way for us to understand every part of our lives. He says, in chapter 1 verse 10, that God’s purpose was to unify all things in heaven and on earth under Christ which is a title that means Messiah. God’s plan was always to have a huge family of restored human beings who are unified in Jesus the Messiah. This divine purpose became clear, Paul says, when we were first made into that family. Here he is referring to ethnic Jews in the family of Abraham. But then Paul talks about how you, and here he means non-Jews, you all heard about Jesus and the salvation through him. and you were also brought into this family by the work of the Holy Spirit. Here he is referring to the events told in the stories of Acts about how God’s Spirit brought together Jew and non-Jew into one family in Jesus. It is just like God promised to Abraham long ago. Notice how in this poem Paul begins by talking about God the Father but then about Jesus the Son and then, here the end, about the Spirit. All three work together. As Paul tells the story of the gospel. It is really cool. After the poem, Paul responds with a prayer. He prays that these followers of Jesus would not just know about, but personally experience, the power of the gospel, that they would be energized by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and placed him as the exalted head of the whole world. In chapter 2, Paul goes back and elaborates on some key ideas from the poem in chapter one, especially God’s grace and this new multi-ethnic family of Jesus He begins by retelling the story of how these non-Jewish Christians came to know Jesus. Before hearing about Jesus they were physically alive but they were spiritually dead. They were trapped in a purposeless life of selfishness and sin. They were deceived by dark, spiritual forces of evil. But, amazingly, God in his great love and mercy, he saved them. He forgave all of their sins and he joined their lives to Jesus’ resurrection life. He brought them back to life, too. So now, having been created as new human beings through Jesus, they have the joy of discovering all of the new calling and purposes and tasks that God has set before them. Not only have they been shown God’s grace, they have also been invited into a new family. Before hearing about Jesus, these non-Jewish people were not just cut off from God, they were cut off from his covenant people, the family of Abraham, and for a really practical reason. The commands of the Sinai covenant formed like a boundary line around the family. They were like a barrier that kept most non-Jewish people away. But in Jesus, the laws of the Torah have been fulfilled and the barrier is removed. The two ethnic groups have become, as Paul puts it, “A new unified humanity that can live together in peace.” Paul goes on in chapter 3 to marvel at the unique role that he got to have in spreading this good news to non-Jewish people. Even though he is in prison, he is thanking God for the chance he has had to see this covenant family grow so huge. So Paul closes the first half of the letter with another prayer. This time he prays that Jesus’ followers would be strengthened by God’s Spirit to simply grasp and comprehend the love that Christ has for his people. The second half of the letter begins with Paul shifting gears. He starts challenging the reader to respond to the Gospel story by how they live their own life story. He starts in chapter 4 with just the everyday life of the church. The church is a big family with lots of different kinds of people. But he emphasizes that they are one. One is a key word in this chapter. They are one body that is unified by one Spirit. They have one Lord with one faith. They have one baptism. They believe in one God. It is a lot of unity. However, Paul says unity is not the same thing as uniformity. He goes on to explore how Jesus’ new family consists of lots of very different kinds of people but they are all empowered by the one Holy Spirit, each using their unique talents and passions to serve and to love each other, and to build up the church. Here he uses two really cool metaphors. One is building up the church as a new temple. The second is that they are all becoming a new humanity with Jesus as the head. This new humanity is a metaphor he is then going to run with for the next couple chapters. Paul challenges every Christian to take off their old humanity like a set of old clothes and to put on their new humanity in which the image of God is being restored. He then goes on into this long section where he compares this new and old humanity. Instead of lying, new humans speak truth. Instead of harboring, anger they peacefully resolve their conflicts. Instead of stealing, new humans are generous. Instead of gossiping, they encourage people with their words. Instead of getting revenge, new humans forgive. Instead of gratifying every sexual impulse new humans cultivate self control of their bodily desires. Instead of getting drunk, new humans come under the influence of God’s Spirit. He spells out what that influence looks like in four different ways. The first two have to do with singing. Singing together but also singing alone. This is really interesting that the first thing that Paul thinks of about how the Spirit works in the lives of Jesus’ people is singing and music. The third sign of the Spirit’s influence is being thankful for everything. And the fourth is that the Spirit will compel Jesus’ followers to put themselves underneath others and to elevate others as more important than themselves. Paul actually expands on this fourth point by showing how it works in Christian marriage. You have a wife who follows Jesus. She is called to respect and allow her husband to become responsible for her. The husband is called to love his wife and to use his responsibility to lay down his selfish agenda to prioritize his wife’s well-being above his own. Paul says it is this kind of marriage that is actually reenacting the gospel story. The husband’s actions mimic Jesus and his love and self-sacrifice. The wise actions mimic the church which allows Jesus to love her and to make her new. Paul then applies the same idea to children and parents as well as slaves and masters. Paul closes out the letter by reminding these Christians of the reality of spiritual evil. These are beings and forces that will try to undermine the unity of Jesus’ people and to compromise their new humanity. So Paul challenges them to stand firm and to put on this metaphorical set of body armor which he describes in detail. Paul has drawn all of these pieces of body armor from the book of Isaiah and how Isaiah depicted the messianic king. Now, as the Messiah’s followers, we need to make the Messiah’s attributes our own, since we make up Jesus’ body. Practically I think Paul means for Christians to begin to form habits, proactively using prayer, the Scriptures and our relationships with each other to help us grow and mature as followers of Jesus. That is the letter to the Ephesians Very powerful. It is where Paul summarizes the whole gospel story and how it should reshape every part of our life story.