In the previous blog I introduced this powerful book of Ephesians. Now it is time to set down and unpack it. Some Bible scholars say Ephesians is the gospel and guide to spiritual growth compacted into six chapters. In order to understand this book completely, I think we must keep in mind the society at the time of its authorship. Morality was low, and the worship of Diana (Artemis) and the Isis cult were beginning to replace the age old worship of the gods. The people had become superstitious and had been deeply involved with the occult and mysticism.
Together, this things had effected and crept into daily life of the early Christian church. In the book of Ephesians, Paul isn’t addressing one central issue, he is encouraging believers to grow and mature together, Jew and Christian, side by side.
Pillars of the Church in Ephesus
Ephesians 1 coincides with the events in Acts 16. Here we learn that Aquila and Priscilla are the pillars of the church that Paul planted in Ephesus. The church was probably tiny and gathered in the home of Aquila and Priscilla.
In A.D. 54, after beginning his third missionary journey, Paul returned to Ephesus. Altogether, Paul spent about three years in Ephesus, having a huge impact on both Jew and Gentile in the city. The location was ideal for spreading the gospel, because of where it sat on the trade route, bringing people from all over. During Paul’s three years there, he would have been able to testify to people from different cultures who would have taken the gospel back with them planting seeds in their own countries.
The Foreknowledge of God
The Book of Ephesians starts off by telling us that God predestined us through omniscience. God had foresight knowing the free will choices men would make allowing Him to make predestinate choices. This foreknowledge of God permitted Him to set us apart before the foundation of the world to allow us to be “conformed to the image of His Son.”
The incarnation, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus play a significant role in this. Through a perfect life, Christ was allowed to take our place on the Cross, redeeming us. Redemption wasn’t free. Christ bought us with His own life, and set us free from bondage! This was the whole point in His coming down to us.
This grace so wonderfully bestowed on us provokes love and eternal commitment from us who choose to go on this journey with Christ, and to pick up our own crosses and follow Him. Along the way, as we grow, more and more wisdom is instilled in us if we have done the hard prep work and been diligent in growing in discipline.
Paul speaks in Ephesian 1:13 about being sealed by the Holy Spirit. What does this mean?
Through our connection with Christ, we are baptized into Christ (see also Acts 2:38, 5:32 and II Corinthians 1:22) via the Holy Spirit. This seal is simply a stamp of ownership, and it is similar to the seal of ownership for the Jews with circumcision. But circumcision is no longer necessary. Now we have the stamp of the Holy Spirit, which not only sets us apart, making us visible to God, but is a promise. This stamp signifies to us that we have a deposit, and that deposit is the Holy Spirit. When Christ comes again, we will receive our payment, or our just salary, in full.
This fact is hard for me to get my head around, that fact that the Almighty will give me my full reward, or payment, when He returns, as if He was indebted to me! This is His mercy, giving me what I don’t deserve. This is one facet of the mighty plan of God through His Son and Spirit.
In verse 18, Paul speaks of “ The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” What is special about this? A better interpretation of eyes of your “understanding” might be eyes of your “heart.” In antiquity, the heart was the considered the center of man, or the seat of understanding. This seat held our desires and emotions, our words, and actions. The heart was where the rules of conduct originated.
This is important, because the culture in and around Ephesus was heavily influenced by faith in the Mother of Heaven, Diana, and the occult. If these things were in their heart, their center, they would be acted out in their words and deeds, and ultimately own them. Very, very dangerous.
God redeemed us through His Son, and placed His Holy Spirit within us to seal us, preserve us, for a better day. He gave us partial payment with the promise that we will receive full payment when His Son comes back to claim us, taking us to our new home. All of this didn’t cost us a thing. We remain here laboring in His vineyard because we love, trust and hope in Him. If you hear His calling, recognize He saw you from afar, knew the choices you would make in this life, drew near enough to you so you could hear Him, and reached out to you. If you reach up to Him, in response, He will stamp you and guide you and give you the grace you need for the rest of your journey. This is the hope of the calling. Grace and Peace.
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…