The Book of Ephesians

God's Story in Scripture  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:33
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Unlike many of the other epistles, here in the letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul does not seem to be addressing any specific concerns. In the first three chapters he teaches about how God united us with Him through Jesus Christ. In the last three chapters, Paul talks about how that vertical unity is lived out in the church, at home, and in the marketplace. He also points to the opposition we will face because of that unity.


There is a lot of talk about unity these days - political, national, racial, ecclesiastical (or church). Even Jeep tried to get in on the action at the Superbowl in an attempt to make a statement and draw us together. There is certainly a lot of chatter about whether or not they were successful.
Jesus also talked about unity. In fact it was a major part of his prayer in John 17 - on the night before he was crucified. In fact, his prayer for unity is a prayer for us.
John 17:20–24 ESV
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Today, as we dive into the book of Ephesians, I think that we’ll get to see that God answered that prayer with the Gospel. In the gospel we get experience unity with God and with each other.

Introducing Ephesians

Ephesus was a wealthy town on the coast of the Aegean sea. The temple to Artemis, one of the “Seven wonders of the ancient world” was a significant attraction and point of pride for the pagan Ephesians (ESVSB).
Paul spent about a year and a half in Ephesus. You can read about some of his time there in Acts 19-20. It seems that he had a great deal of concern for them as he not only spent time with them and wrote this letter to them, but he also encouraged Timothy to remain and help the church to grow in health.
Some have suggested that the letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written close to the same time and delivered by the same person - Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). The geographic proximity of the cities to each other and the similarities between the letters of Ephesians and Colossians reinforce this theory. In fact, Ephesians and Colossians are sometimes called twin epistles because of their similar structure and topics.
Unlike many of the other epistles, Ephesians doesn’t seem to be written in response to a particular problem. The sharpness of Galatians is contrasted by the encouragement we see in Ephesians. But, as we consider the book of Ephesians, we’ll get to see this theme of unity and how the Gospel unites us with God in the first three chapters and how the gospel lived out unites us with each other in the last three chapters.
So, much of the New Testament is made up of the gospel - God’s story of redemption through Jesus Christ - and how that is to be lived out in the churches. We get to see that all together here in the book of Ephesians.

The gospel unites us with God (Eph. 1-3)

We saw in the OT how God’s people would stray and God would restore them. In the opening verses of Ephesians, Paul helps us to see how in the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit - God has unified us with himself.
Paul shares with the Ephesians a beautiful poem or blessing that illustrates this - Eph. 1:3-14. In this poem, we get to see how each part of the trinity is an instrument in our reunion with God, in our reconciliation, in the overall plan of God.
In this poem, Paul begins by showing us how we are blessed by...

God the Father (Eph. 1:3-6)

He chose us to be holy and blameless before him
He decided who would be a part of his family
He made a way for us to be accepted/adopted because of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:3–6 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

God the Son - Jesus (Eph. 1:7-12)

redeemed us
forgave us
revealed God’s redemptive plan for the world
received us as an inheritance
Ephesians 1:7–12 ESV
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

God the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14)

sealed us with God for eternity
is the down-payment (guarantee) of our eternal inheritance
Ephesians 1:13–14 ESV
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
When you look at all of this, it is quite a thing to consider all that God has done on our behalf, for our benefit, for our blessing. It is God who is working reconciling us.
In Chapter 2, we get to see this a bit more fully as God saw us in the deadness of our sin and out of an abundance of love redeemed us - made us alive with Christ and gave us a work to do.
He not only redeemed us, but he began to establish something new. Some would call this a new humanity (The Bible Project). This group of redeemed people will cross ethnic lines - all of us get to be brought near to God through Jesus.
Ephesians 2:13–16 ESV
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Because of our unity with God through Jesus Christ - there should no longer be dissension among us. The hostilities that divided us in our sin, become beautiful marks of our unity in Christ.
Paul uses three metaphors to describe this new multi-ethnic humanity:
a body (2:16) - a living organism made up of a variety of different parts - all working together for the health of the body
a household (2:19) - a collection of different pieces that are brought together from different places to be constructed into a whole
holy temple (2:21) - a structure that is built together in order to bring glory to God.
If we were to take time to reflect on how the church, how this new multi-ethnic community reflects those metaphors, we would be in awe of the wisdom of God. In fact, in chapter 4 Paul talks about that diversity and unity - but we’ll get to that in a moment.
In chapter 3, Paul talks about the the way that God has called him and used him to reveal the mysteries of His divine plan. You see, the church is not God’s plan B - it has always been his intention. In fact Paul writes...
Ephesians 3:8–12 ESV
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
It certainly seems like God’s plan all along is that people from every nation, tribe, and tongue would be aligned with him. The church becomes the manifestation of that plan.
When we gather, when we worship, when we do life together - we display the glory and the wisdom of God. We were dead when we were called - now the salvation that we have through Jesus Christ and the life that has been breathed into us by the Spirit of God - unites us together with him. We had nothing to offer, nothing to stand on, nothing to make us desirable.
Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
In these first three chapters, Paul is reminding us of the truths of how God has worked in the past and explaining indicatives of the people of God and how the Gospel unites us with God.
In the next three chapters, Paul helps us to see that...

The gospel lived out unites with each other (Eph. 4-6)

It’s one thing for us to sit in our salvation and relish it. We can rejoice in all that we have and think about how blessed we are. But God intends for there to be a “so what” to our salvation. I’m saved…so what! Now I get to live that out. You see, we are not made for holy huddles, but for life in the world, for life with each other, we get to display the manifold wisdom of God to the world (Eph. 3:10) - by living out the gospel in every part of our life - in the church, at home, and in the marketplace, expecting that we will encounter opposition.

Living out the gospel in the church (Eph. 4:1-5:21)

Have you ever noticed that every group, or club, or association has some identifying marker? The PTA for the elementary schools looks and acts a bit differently than the PTA for the middle and high schools. People who are members of the Kiwanis or the Oddfellows or Quilting Club or a Motocycle group might come from different parts of society, but as a group they talk and act in ways that help them fulfill their mission.
What differs us (the church) from any social club is that we because we have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, we get to be on display - to display the manifold wisdom of God (3:10).
The other day, Zoe and I were watching a show where a group of villains were all marked by a small tattoo on their foot. It was something that identified them as being a part of this secret society. In this big section, Paul talks a lot about what life with each other should look like - some things that should mark the church. He essentially tells us that we should be...

Marked by Love

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew talked about how we love because we have received love from God. This agape or selfless love looks to the interests of others. Love is the calling card of Jesus’ people - or at least it should be. You see, Jesus even said that we should love God with all that we are and love our neighbors (Mt. 22:37-39). He then even encouraged his disciples in John 13:34 that we are to love one another. Paul states here in Ephesians that we should...
bear with one another in love (4:2)
speak the truth in love (4:15)
be built up together in love (4:16)
walk in love (5:1)
in addition to being marked by love, Paul states that the church should be identified by a...

Diversity of Gifts (Eph. 4:11-16)

God has blessed each of us with different spiritual gifts, different abilities for the strengthening and edification of the church. In this passage, Paul speaks specifically of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds/pastors and teachers and how these specific gifts have been given to the church for fostering maturing and unity. His limited list does not entail all of the ways that God has given us a diversity of gifts. I love how we get to see that on display.
When you consider how people like Carol, Jackie, Margaret, Reneta, Lynda, Michele, Tom, and Sue (among others) all display administrative gifts - the church is strengthened because they used those gifts.
I love getting to see how Brian (OB1), Gabriel, Dan, Rick, Zech, Carolyn, Carl, Steve, and Don demonstrate gifts of service in the ways that they often quietly make stuff happen behind the scenes.
We all get to benefit with Joyce, Jackie, Sue, Robin, Michelle, Sandy and others use their gifts of hospitality.
God has gifted some with wisdom, others with mercy and compassion, others with teaching abilities, others with leadership gifts. God has gifted us all in some way for his glory and for the edification of his church. - the question is, are we using those gifts?
I know the pandemic is messing up some of that right now.
Because we’ve all been gifted differently, Paul also admonishes us toward

Mutual Submission (5:21)

None of us have a lock on things. We all get to participate according to our giftedness. We also get to make room and willingly submit to each other in order to allow others’ gifts to come out. (i.e. Art Camp organization, planning, leadership)
Finally, in the church we also have to recognize that there is...

A New Way of Living

We get the joy of putting off our old selves and putting on new life in Christ. We get to...
put off/put on:
drunkenness/God’s Spirit
(wording from the Bible Project video)
Living out the gospel in the church is a big part of what Paul is urging the Ephesians to do. But notice that in order for us to truly live this out, we have to be together - we have to be united with one another, we have to be joined together in some way. I’m grateful that we have the technology to stream the services. I’m grateful for the way that God has allowed us to virtually gather. But for those watching at home, let me encourage you to have a mindset of discomfort at home. Long for that time to be back together. Yearn for the opportunity to use your gifts with the rest of the body of Christ here.
If you’re watching and you’re not close to Poolesville - maybe in another state - maybe in a town that is too far away to make ministry here reasonable, I’m grateful that you’ve joined in - but there is a congregation of people close by that need you - they need you to use your gifts, they need you in person to be the body of Christ, and I would content - you need them.
This week, the elders began reading the book One Assembly by Jonathan Leeman. In the early pages of the book, Jonathan uses the analogy of a sports team - a basketball team - to describe the church. We could all join a team, wear the uniform, even sing the song of the team - but if we never gather to practice or to play a game - are we really a team? The same is true for the church - we can’t clearly display the manifold wisdom of God unless we gather at some point.
When we have experienced the unifying work of the Gospel in our lives, we get to live it out in the church. But Paul also helps us to see how we unity comes through...

Living out the gospel at home (Eph. 5:22-6:4)

There are some who look at Paul’s teaching here about husbands and wives as being archaic and backwards, but in their society, this was a radical shift. In a time when women were considered as slightly better than slaves, a marriage based on love and mutual submission would have been HUGE. Let’s read a bit of this in context:
Ephesians 5:21–24 ESV
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
In many ways, the encouragement to mutually submit to one another marks the beginning of a section - in marriage, children to parents, and slaves to masters.
But notice, he doesn’t encourage submission because he is a chauvinist. He does it because it mirrors the church’s relationship with Christ.
For husbands, the wife’s role of submission is not a license to abuse or to rule - remember - this is all under the heading of mutually submitting to one another.
To husbands, Paul writes:
Ephesians 5:25–28 ESV
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Paul is not urging an erotic or romantic or a brotherly love. He is specifically referencing the kind of love that God has for us - selfless, sacrificial love. Jesus loved us by dying for us.
Husbands, when was the last time you and I died to our wants and desires for our wives? When was the last time that we sacrificed our preferences for her edification or encouragement? I believe that loving our wives the way that Christ loved the church is a daily, sacrificial privilege.
Look at the wisdom of God in that! Imagine how much different the families of our world would be if we truly lived this out.
Paul summarizes his thoughts in verse 33
Ephesians 5:33 ESV
However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
But the husband and wife relationship is not the only place in the home where unity happens when the gospel is lived out. Paul urges children to obey parents and for fathers specifically to not provoke their children to anger or frustration.
Unity also gets produced in our lives as we are...

Living out the gospel in the marketplace (Eph. 6:5-9)

Here Paul specifically talks about slaves and masters. These are people who are in two completely different parts of society, but get to rub shoulders from time to time. Paul urges slaves or servants - or we might even say - employees - to be obedient to supervisors, and to work as to the Lord - working to please God. We might even look at work as an act of worship.
For masters or employers, Paul urges a graciousness - he urges them to stop threatening.
(story about being overseas and seeing how people from certain cultures get the undesirable jobs and are treated as undesirables by the locals - but treated with dignity by Christians).
Imagine what it would look like for Christians to be known as the best at what we do - the best engineers, contractors, teachers, scientists, musicians, nurses, civil servants, architects, artists, doctors, managers. Our diligent work becomes an act of worship to God. People step up and notice and begin to ask why we work so well, maybe even why we would put up with so much? For the glory of God - because God has done so much for us.
While there is so much good that can happen when we live out the gospel in the church, at home and in the marketplace, we have to...

Expect opposition (Eph. 6:10-20)

As much as God has done for humanity, the message of the gospel is still offensive because in order to receive the gospel, people have to admit some harsh realities about their spiritual condition before God - their need of salvation. Satan does not want us to live out the gospel. He does not want us to shine the light of Christ in the dark places of the world. He works in a variety of ways to keep us from being effective in our witness.
We talked at length in October and November about the spiritual warfare that we experience. The war is real. Our enemies are unseen. God has given us all that we need to wage this war - for his glory.

Closing thoughts

(summary, closing story?)
(old self/new self
markers in society
at home - Christian marriage
at work - ethic
Think about it like this, if in my old life I was marked by all of those old self attributes - lying, being angry, being promiscuous - and then I come to faith in Jesus Christ and through the conviction of the Spirit and in the influence of the church I begin exhibit these new self qualities.
Memory Verse:
Ephesians 4:1–3 ESV
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Crossway Bibles. The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008.
deSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Dever, Mark the Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005
Gromacki, Robert G. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1974.
Leeman, Jonathan. One Assembly: Rethinking the Multisite & Multiservice Church Models, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2020.
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