Written by: Joe Joynson
The Church at Ephesus was visited by the Apostle Paul, and on one visit it is believed that he spent as much as 2 to 3 years there. It is believed by some that he felt the church was important to the spread of the gospel, as it was a population center, known as a monument of trade, learning, and religion. Paul is believed to have wrote a letter to the church known as the book of Ephesians in the New Testament, just 6 short chapters. While the letter includes instruction for worship, it also includes instructions for a life of faith that are antiquated and inappropriate for today’s church and society. I won’t attempt to resolve or discuss them here. Both the Christian church and society have evolved but I consider Paul’s letter in it’s entirety to be realistic, practical, and appropriate for the time. In his letter Paul empowered the members of the church, letting them know their faith gave them strength and tools for success. The city of Ephesus was occupied by the Romans at the time. Roman soldiers were a symbol of strength, authority, and oppression for them. In his letter Paul attempted to put the members of the church on equal footing with them and the equipment needed to face evil solely by the virtue of their faith.
The below comments reflect only my beliefs:
Ephesians 1:11 ~ In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will
Paul’s intent was to instill reassurance that God had not only chosen them, but has a plan for them. He knew that they were likely to befall pain, obstacles, and tragedy and wanted to bring them peace through faith.
Ephesians 3:16 ~ I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being
Paul’s statement lets the members know that God’s strength is available to them and he wants them to find it, providing them hope in the face of adversity.
Ephesians 4:1-2 ~ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (2) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.)
Paul implores they live a moral life and provides instructions for behavior that are a cornerstone of a life of faith even to this day. It influenced the evolution of today’s Christian church, and (arguably to some), the evolution of some modern societies.
Ephesians 4:11-13 ~ So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, (12) to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (13) until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Paul empowers the leaders of the church and gives them the authority and confidence that they need to act on behalf of Christ, as Paul was by Christ himself. It also provides the leaders of the goal of their work, recruit members until all are one in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 ~ Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Being kind and compassionate is a cornerstone of a life of faith. I believe that adhering to The Golden Rule “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (KJV) will encompass these and the ones in 4:2 plus other instructions elsewhere in the bible.
Ephesians 5:8-13 ~ For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light(9)(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)(10) and find out what pleases the Lord.(11) Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (12)It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. (13)But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.
Paul fully states their acceptance into the church and what they are as a member of the church, a light in the midst of darkness. Light and darkness are common metaphors for good and evil used frequently through history, another metaphor used at least in Christianity is lost and found, to exist as light or to be found is to be under the instruction and service of the church obtaining salvation and ever lasting life. He implores them to keep to a life of faith and grace and not falter. Paul further implies to them that the evolution of their life of grace is not complete and they should continue to seek the grace that comes with salvation. To expose the “fruitless deeds of darkness to light” is to minister to others by spreading the word and teaching by example, leading to others becoming members of the congregation an one in Christ, achieving the church’s charged goal of spreading The Good News, allowing others that are good to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Ephesians 6:10-18 ~ Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.(11)Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.(12)For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (13)Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.(14)Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, (15)and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.(16)In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.(17)Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.(18)And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
In 6:10 Paul encourages the congregation to find the strength of their faith.
In 6:11 Paul instructs them to prepare them for the ongoing war with evil.
In 6:12 he defines the enemy they are to face that includes not only the evil they know but the evil they cannot and assures them that evil in all forms does indeed exist.
In 6:13 Paul does not sugarcoat the human condition. He makes it clear that it is not if but when they will face the forces of evil. He instructs them to arm themselves as the occupying Roman soldiers do. They are the symbol of the strength, authority, and prowess in battle with which the members are most familiar. He places them on equal ground with the Romans. Instilling them with the confidence to face the spiritual challenges they may face as well. He gives them the knowledge that they may not win, but being properly armed, they will have the strength to stand steadfast in battle by faith, even to the end obtaining salvation.
In 6:14 he tells them to keep ranks in battle and begins to define the armor they possess and equating them to the beliefs and virtues of the Christian religion.
The belt of truth in 6:14 relates to God himself. Jesus in John 14:6 states partially that “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, and partially in John 8:32 (KJV) “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make ye free”. I interpret it as knowing God will make you free from sin, making you pure of heart in the face of battle. In regard to the breastplate of righteousness, in Romans 3:22 it states partially “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”, or your faith will protect you.
In 6:15, I think this means that you are fully prepared through the study of scripture and their faith.
In 6:16 the shield of faith is an additional affirmation again that your faith will protect you, the Romans were well known for the strategic use of shields in battle.
In 6:17 the helmet of salvation, protection of the head is vital in battle. In Exodus 15:2 with which they were likely familiar, it states in part that “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation”. I believe it to be an affirmation that faith in God will provide for protection of and embolden one to stand fast in the battle of good and evil. The sword of the spirit invokes the power of God the Creator to be your weapon in the battle. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. The congregation would also be familiar with for example the Ark of the Covenant and the Battle of Jericho in which God provided the formidable weapon of battle, knowing that they had the same sort of weapon would also embolden them.
In 6:18 Paul instructs them to remain in constant communication with God, asking not only to have their needs blessed but also the needs of others. Prayer and meditation have been known to have a calming effect on the processes of the brain.
Perhaps C.S. Lewis was thinking of the lesson of the book of Ephesians when he said: “God, who foresaw your tribulations, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”
The battle between good and evil exists in the world and within oneself, that is undeniable. Christianity is not the only religion to attempt to address this struggle and attempt to bring peace to it’s followers in the face of adversity. It cannot be proven that the Apostle Paul wrote the letter to Ephesians and who am I to attempt to know in absolute certainty who, what, even if God exists, if my beliefs are the correct ones or to impose them on others. While I choose to believe based on my faith and experience, the existence of God cannot be proven scientifically but maybe faith is the point. In my studies of Christianity and other religions as well as discussions with people of other faiths, facing the human condition bravely in a state of grace seeking inner peace in fellowship with others is a common theme. Perhaps God made himself known to people around the globe in a manner that was best suited to prepare all people for his ultimate plan.
In the end if your beliefs or non-beliefs bring you inner peace, grace, love of yourself and of all others, happiness, in the absence of hate from a position of strength if only in this life, does it really matter what you believe or dis-believe? Perhaps a happy existence in peace, grace, and love is God’s ultimate plan for us all. If it should be that God does not exist, I consider it a proper goal.
*Unless otherwise noted, scripture is from the NIV version of the Christian Bible