PAUL'S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS (Introduction)
Time for a bit of a shock. Brace yourself!
Most of us are used to talking about our ‘Walk With The Lord’, by which we mean our personal spiritual life. Reading the Bible, praying, being guided, and generally trying to live our life to please God. We may not feel we're very good at it, but it's what our lives are about as Christians, and the very phrase itself makes it clear that we feel we're going somewhere, God is with us and, as Lord of our lives, He's leading the way.
Although we may often feel dissatisfied with the way we ‘Walk With The Lord’, nonetheless, our personal spiritual life is a matter of great importance to us. At our best, because we want to please God, but at the very least, because we want help to cope with the harsh realities of life as they come along.
It'll come as a bit of a shock, then, to be told that the primary concern of the Bible, including the New Testament, is not with the personal spiritual lives of individual Christians!
THE BIG BURDEN OF THE BIBLE
Now, don't get me wrong! It's God's intention that we should have grown, effective and obedient personal spiritual lives, and there's a great deal in Scripture whose purpose is to feed us and make us spiritually strong.
But the Big Burden of the Bible is that the people of God should be a growing, effective and obedient BODY of believers. In other words, the Bible's primary concern is with our CORPORATE spiritual life - our BODY LIFE as a Church!
Paul's letter to the Ephesians reflects this Big Burden particularly well. It has much in it that's intended to make our personal lives strong, but it's quite clear when you read the whole letter, that God's purpose in creating us, choosing us, redeeming us and making us strong, is to build us into the BODY of a local church, so that the local church AS A BODY can serve Him and be used by Him to extend the Kingdom of God.
And actually, this is even more challenging than it first appears...
We've got used to talking about a BODY of people or a BODY of believers because it's become part of our language, and we tend to think that Paul meant what we mean by it: a group of people working together. But Paul was using the human body as his visual aid, and he teaches us that we should be living our church life as if we were individual parts of a human body, and that involves us in being completely ‘one’ (Eph.4.3-4) and in living in complete submission to one another (Eph.5.21).
A MODEL FOR CHURCH LIFE
Without the rest of the body, a hand isn't just lonely and slightly less effective than it might be. It's useless! Frankly, if we're not part of a local body of believers in this human body way, as God intends us to be, we are also pretty useless.
Unfortunately, most Christians - ministers and leaders included - have thought largely in individual terms for so long, that most churches are set up as a group of individuals working together, instead of being like a human body in its ‘oneness’ and mutual submission. And this is probably why so many churches - even so-called ‘lively’ ones - are to varying degrees, useless in extending the Kingdom of God.
We have a tremendous amount to learn from Paul's letter to the Ephesians about our corporate and personal spiritual lives. As we'll see a little later, it's a well organised and well-structured document because it was probably written as a circular letter to a number of churches - we have copies of it with the names of other churches in the first verse.
It seems likely that Paul intended this letter as a ‘Book of Common Teaching’ applicable to all churches - so let's take it to heart, and model ourselves and our churches on it. These nine brief studies are intended to help us to do just that...
THE GOSPEL FOR THE LOCAL CHURCH
Nine Studies in Ephesians
1. THE BIG PICTURE (Eph.1.1-14) Click here
2. THE BIG PRAYER (Eph.1.15-23). Click here
3. THE BIG MIRACLE (Eph.2.1-10). Click here
4. THE BIG PEACE (Eph.2.11-22). Click here
5. THE BIG TESTIMONY (Eph.3.1-21). Click here
6. THE BIG POINT (Eph.4.1-16). Click here
7. THE ARMOURED CHURCH - TRUTH (Eph.4.17-28 and 6.10-20). Click here
8. THE ARMOURED CHURCH - RIGHTEOUSNESS (Eph.4.29 - 5.21 and 6.10-20). Click here
9. THE ARMOURED CHURCH - THE GOSPEL OF PEACE (Eph.5.21 - 6.9 and 6.10-20). Click here
Rev Stuart Kimber
(Photo: Benjamin Finley on Unsplash)