Having completed our adventure in Ecclesiastes yesterday, a new adventure beckons: Ephesians. It has been some time since I have written here about this amazing letter… and it’s about time to go through it in detail.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was probably written sometime between 58 and 60 AD and closely parallels Colossians. It is both encouraging and challenging, for it paints a picture of a victorious Christian life that might at first seem too difficult for us to achieve, yet viewing it carefully we will find some hints that show us it is more attainable than we might have thought at first glance.
The major themes of the letter are glorious indeed; that we are saved by grace through faith; everything follows from this premise. That we cannot earn our salvation is another of the letter’s themes, and following from this we reach the climax of the letter in the theme that we are not only saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but that we are saved by grace for a purpose, and that purpose is that God would work to build His Kingdom through us. This is precisely why I asserted that even though it may seem at first glance that Paul is setting out a standard that we cannot reach, since God is working through us, what was unreachable at first becomes attainable.
To set all of this out, Paul has divided the letter into two main sections. The first begins at 1:1 and continues through 3:21 and deals with God’s plan for salvation. Then, beginning with 4:1 and continuing through the end, Paul describes our response to salvation.
I ran across something interesting as I was doing a little checking to be sure I remembered this outline correctly. I looked at a couple of commentaries and I saw two different ways to describe this second section. One of them is what I have written here, that it is our response to salvation. The other commentator called it our responsibility, rather than our response. At first, this may not seem like a big difference, and in one way it really isn’t, after all if we perceive a responsibility we would want to respond. Yet this implies a duty or an obligation, and while this may be true, and I wouldn’t argue against it, it has a subtle tinge of legalism implicit in the thought. Contrast that idea with our response to salvation; this is quite a different outlook, even though it may not be obvious at first. We have received salvation as God’s free gift, so we respond to this gift gratefully and alter our lives, so that God may work in and through us. Doesn’t this sound like love in action to you? Whatever changes that may take place in a Christian’s life as a result of their receiving salvation should come from our love of God and of others, rather than merely as a duty required by some sort of regulation, and when this is the case, change becomes not only possible but it becomes inevitable.
I am really looking forward to our latest journey which will begin next time.