From Duty to Delight
“1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:1-14 NIV
When Gracie was younger, she would often jump in my lap and say, “Daddy, tell me a story.” Of course as a dad, I loved to tell Gracie stories. Somehow during my telling of the story, Gracie would somehow be intertwined in it and become an intricate part of it. It’s not just the story she would hear. She would be able to see herself in the story.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul is going to start by telling us a story – the story of God. As we listen to Paul tell of the story of God, we, like Gracie, can find ourselves becoming a part of it!
The churches in Asia Minor was in a period of difficulty as outside influencers were putting pressure on Gentile (non-Jewish) believers to conform to Jewish identity markers (such as circumcision, dietary laws, and their religious calendar). Others in the region were discouraged and distressed by the magic and power of the demonic things going on around them. As Paul sat in prison, he thought about the splendor of Jesus Christ, praises God, and urges believers to stand boldly in Christ because when they stand in Christ, they would be overcome the powers that they struggled against.
Gordon Fee observes three main concerns of Paul that dominates the letter:
1 – The Gentile mission
2 – Christ’s victory over “the powers.”
3 – Maintaining the “unity of the Spirit”
The book of Ephesians, in my view, can be seen in two main parts – the first part (Chapters 1-3) gives us a picture of our identity in Christ. The second part (Chapters 4-6) offers practical insights into Christian living.
Sadly, what happens too often is that we breeze through Chapters 1, 2, and 3, in order to get to the practical stuff for Christian living in chapters 4, 5, and 6. The second half of Ephesians can be quite burdensome and overwhelming if we don’t see it in light of our identity in Christ.
We’ll get to some practical instructions in chapters 4-6, but we must not gloss over chapters 1-3. We’ll learn practical insights for Christian living, but let’s enjoy soaking in our identity in Christ first. Perhaps if we take the time to bask in the grace of God to understand our identity in Christ, following, serving, giving, and living as a believer will be less of a burden and more of a blessing.
Maybe if we sit back and enjoy the story of God in chapters 1-3 FIRST, the burdens of chapters 4-6, will be less of a duty and more of a delight.
Lord You have my attention. Open my heart to capture Yours in the book of Ephesians. In Christ I pray, amen.