We are wrapping up our Old Testament focus and heading into the Epistle of Ephesians. What is an Epistle (The T is silent.)? Epistle is a fancy way to say letter. After Jesus’ death and resurrection Paul traveled the Roman Empire, teaching the Jews that the long promised Messiah had come. The Old Covenant with God has been fulfilled, and a New Covenant sealed in Christ’s blood has been formed.
Paul would stay in these communities and teach at the synagogue (if he was permitted) or work from people’s homes who believed this message. Paul would typically remain in the area until a group of people had formed with local leadership and promised to continue sharing this Good News with the community. After Paul left, these new leaders and “Christians” would encounter all types of successes and failures. They would contact Paul for support or help or simply to celebrate what God was doing amongst them.
Paul would communicate back to the churches with answers to their questions, encouragement for their work in the Lord and continued teaching about what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. Occasionally these letters were saved and shared over and over again or copied and given to other churches so they could hear from the Apostle Paul as well.
For the next seven weeks we will be reading through Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. Ephesians begins by reminding the people that they have been adopted by God, through Baptism, into Christ. He then encourages them to live rooted in that adoption as God’s holy children. He inspires them to unity of work and unity of faith. Paul teaches that Christ died not just for the Jews, or the Church, but for the Gentiles, unbelievers outside the Church. Finally He inspires them that living in Christ will make them better husbands, wives, children, parents, managers, co-workers, neighbors and friends.
This is the type of encouragement we all need today. The world tries to tell us we are lacking, we are misguided and we need to change or conform to meet some arbitrary standard that quite honestly keeps changing. God teaches us through Ephesians that we can have joy today when we trust who God is and what He did for us. Rooted in that faith we can be a blessing to others instead of being another voice that tells them what they lack. When we focus on what we have and who we are, we come alive in Christ Jesus, come alive as an individual and come alive as a people working together to bring Good News to the whole world.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16