Ephesians Intro (audio file for download)
This week we are beginning a study of the book of Ephesians. We looked at verses 3-10 for several weeks as we studied the essentials of the faith, but now we are going to study this book in the “normal” way, going through it several verses at a time, attempting to learn what God has for us in this book, and apply that truth to our lives.
Before we get into it in full, lets look a little bit at the background of the book.
The apostle Paul wrote this book, most likely around A.D. 62, when Paul was in prison in Rome. If you want to read about what Paul was up to when he wrote this is Acts 28.
He is writing thjs letter to the Christians in the important port city of Ephesus. He planted this church and he knows many of the people he is writing to. This was a city bursting with culture and wealth. It was a city that Paul had visited in Acts 19. Around the time paul wrote this letter, the city housed a theater that seated close to 20,000 people, a large gymnasium, athletic field and stadium. Lots of culture, lots of entertainment. It also housed the temple to Artemus, which is also one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There was a lot of stuff going on. There were some very wealthy and affluent people, as you might expect in a port city where lots of commerce and trade were taking place. There was also a lot of exchange of ideas as well including a great deal of fascination with the occult, which is why Paul addresses it in the popular passage in the sixth chapter.
The flow of this letter is fairly straight forward. it has a salutation, thanksgiving, exposition, exhortation, and closing. There are two main themes of the letter, and those are Christ reconciling all things to himself and God, and Christ has united people from all nations to himself and to one another in His Church.
Essentially, this letter is a reminder to he people of this city, and to us as well, reminding us of who we are “in Christ” In essence, this book is about our identity.
So as we get into the book, lets look at the first thing Paul says in this book. first he says who he is, and second, he tells them who they are.
Let’s read the text.
Before we get going in this book, let me ask you a question. What is your identity? Who are you? How do you identify yourself? Most of us have had our designations change over the course of our lives. When you were young you were the cute one or the chubby one, or the funny one. Some type of designation from other people based on appearance or personality. When you get a little older, you start to have some control over how people see you and what your identity is. When I was growing up, you were a prep, or a skater, or a head, a jock, or some other inappropriate words. Most of that, if not all, was based on what you did, but was distinguished by how you dressed. Then if you went off to college, you had this entirely new opportunity to redefine who you were. You could shed the identities of your high school years, and become whoever you wanted to be, for a time anyway. Then when you begin to work…. When you get married… when you have kids… When the kids move away…when you retire…
Here is the thing, most of us who have found our identity in something we do, or posses, or a role that we fill, are placing our identity in something that can be lost in a moment. This is not a new thing either.
Ever since the beginning of time, our world has been in an identity crisis.
People don’t know who they are. Even if you look back at Genesis, when God says that he created people in His image. We are made in the likeness of God, and then the serpent comes and says that if you eat of the fruit, you can be “like” God. Do you see what happened there, God told them who they were and they forgot.
So, just like them, we who have a sin nature are prone to forget, and prone to doubt who God says we are.
Here is the big idea for this book; you can only have one of two biblical identities: you are in Adam, or in Christ.
If you are in Adam, you have a man made identity. You are looking to external sources for your identity.
It could be your past..something great, or terrible that you have done…or even something that someone of importance said you were that has followed you all your life.
It could be your present…something that you are doing now…
Or your future…something you intend to do…
All of those designations, even if they are good, can be taken away in a moment, then who are you. Furthermore if they are not in something eternal, they lead to death. Because at their core, they place you in the driver seat of your life. That is the root of Adam and Eve’s sin. Think about it, what they did wasn’t that big a deal was it? They ate a piece of fruit. Big deal, that act wasn’t as bad as what it represented thought. In that act they were claiming to know better than the God who had created them, and were moving their affections from Hm, to themselves. That is at the core of their sin, and at the core of having an identity in Adam, or the flesh. At its core is the desire to be worshipped, instead of be an instrument of worship.
So, here is the good news…
If you are in Christ, you have a God made identity.
God made Paul an apostle. Do you know who Paul was? Paul was a religious zealot, he had permission to seek out and kill Christians, and was met by Jesus on the Damascus road. Paul had persecuted Christians, and even approved of the stoning of an early church leader named Steven.
God Made us Saints in Christ
If you are in Christ, you are not known by your good works, or your sin, you are known by Christ’s righteousness.
God gives us Grace, and peace