“You who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Paul expresses this incredible encouragement in Ephesians 2:13 and makes it clear that it is through the blood of Christ and no other action made by us that has brought us near to God. But Paul doesn’t share this strictly as encouragement. In fact, Paul’s purpose in sharing this is as a challenge. A challenge to be unified. A challenge for the Jews who call Abraham their father to unify with people they wouldn’t have shared a meal with before. Looking at the political climate, the hatred inspired by racial and gender inequality, the frustration between groups of people that can’t agree, and the judgement being cast everywhere I look, helps me better understand the challenges and division experienced by the early church. Paul urged for unity in spite of this division and we, as Christians in America, are a fruit of his labor. How can we draw closer to each other today? Who is someone different from me that I could reach out to this week? How can I pursue peace? How can I set my frustration aside in worship? How can I remember that “through [Jesus] we [all] have access to the Father by one Spirit”?
I grew up going to church but, as many of you know, it wasn’t till college that I felt like I began to strive for a relationship with God. I began to experience His presence in my life, I longed to spend time in the word, I woke up even earlier than necessary to spend time in prayer, in fact my whole day was devoted to prayer, I memorized scripture while walking to class. I began to feel what Paul describes in Ephesians 2:1-10 the idea that I have been made “alive in Christ even when (I was) dead in transgressions”. I began to understand I had been “saved by grace” and my life began to change. Radically. But it didn’t end with me doing things for myself. Paul challenges the church to take this newfound freedom and saving grace and let it drive us to “do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” My life was changed and it led me on a path to giving my everything in order for God to use me to change the lives of everyone I was in contact with. My free-dom led me to action. I continue to remind myself of this truth and work to live into it. Join me in changing this world through the saving grace and freedom found in Christ!
My wife’s grandmother told me a few weeks ago that she’s been praying for my Uncle who is not a Christian. I was blown away! Knowing she was lifting up my family in prayer and desired for him to know God was incredibly meaningful to me. I then found out she consistently prays for MANY MANY people who don’t know Christ yet. This is a discipline that I want to develop in my own life and would encourage any Christian to take up. As we look at Ephesians 2:15-23 Paul takes this a step further by sharing how he has “not stopped giving thanks” and praying for the church in Ephesus. Paul shares that he’s praying for God to give them “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation” and “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” all to know God better and understand the incredible gift of grace and inheritance we have been promised. It makes sense to pray for those who don’t know Christ to come to know him but I want to challenge us today to be praying that WE and our church family could continuously know and understand God better. For as we grow to know Him better we will grow to be more like Him.
I remember there was a year or two as a child that I used to sit in church and think about sin and death. I would ask forgiveness for all the unnamed sins I’d committed without knowing it and sometimes I would accidently think something wrong or even utter a bad word in my head and immediately ask forgiveness and wonder if I would be condemned by God if I said one of those bad words right before dying in a car crash. I think I understood forgiveness but I didn’t understand grace very well. Look at Ephesians 1:3-14. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, chosen before creation to be holy and blameless. We have been adopted by God as sons and daughters, given complete access to His glorious grace, redemption through his blood, forgiveness, and even wisdom and understanding. We have been given the Holy Spirit God promised us which GUARANTEES our inheritance. The grace of God is HUGE! Way bigger than my worries and fears and concerns. Way bigger than my legalistic attempts to earn forgiveness. God has made incredible promises to those who believe and accept Christ as their Savior.
Paul wrote a ton of incredible letters that helped form and disciple the early church. It’s incredible to me how in tune Paul was with the Holy Spirit that the knowledge he shared continues to be so relevant, practical, and impossibly wise today. I guess that’s why we revere it as part of the God-breathed Holy Scriptures we use today to form our faith. One of my favorite letters is Ephesians and we’ll be exploring it over the coming weeks. Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus which he helped plant. He begins his letter by sharing the incredible grace of God that unifies us all as the family of Christ. This incredible message fulfills the promise God made to Abraham way back in Genesis 12! How awesome is that? After encouraging us Paul moves on to give us a few specific challenges in relation to this unity we have under Christ that inspires us to become more like Christ and to uphold our commitments and responsibilities. He ends the letter with the incredible metaphor we know so well as “The Armor of God” I’m looking forward to exploring this book with you and seeing how Paul describes and shares the Gospel and shows how it should change our lives!