Paul’s first letter from Rome is to his old friends in Ephesus, where (along with Corinth) he seems to have been most involved in local church life. Is this a standard, ‘Hey, you may have heard some crazy stories about me lately, but I wanted to let you know that I’m fine. By the way, Rome is amazing,’ kind of letter? Not so much.
Ephesians is one of the most revered books of the Bible because of its upbeat tone, its memorable verses, its colorful imagery (eg., the armor of the faith)*, and its practical advice on Christian living.
Paul expounds two main themes in this letter:
- The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reconciled all of creation to God, undoing the work of the Fall.
- This reconciliation necessarily results in unity, both within the church and between the church and Jesus.
Note, there, the connection between reconciliation (setting things back to right) and unity. The implication is strongly that our original purpose, and the original purpose of all of creation, was in unity and cohesion in glorifying God.
I won’t go into them too much this time around since I want to look at this book more closely in the future, but it’s safe to consider Eph 2:8-9 as essentially the thesis statement of Paul’s ministry:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You could teach courses solely on these two verses. There is so much loaded language here (grace, faith, gift, works), none of which I am going to unpack today. If I don’t leave you wanting more, you’ll never come back!
* Has the modern, American church found a way to make money off of this imagery?
Why, yes. Yes, it has.
I am reminded of Richard Halverson’s quote:
In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution. Next it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And finally it moved to America where it became an enterprise.