Ephesians stands alone among the letters of instruction and encouragement written to the church of the 1st century. As with all the letter that Paul wrote while imprisoned in Rome, it would be read by several congregations.
No doubt, though, Paul a special relationship with the Ephesus and spent over two years with the church before his imprisonment working, teaching and loving that church.
But it is the message of the letter that is our concern.
Ephesians is not only a message to the church, but it is the defining letter that prescribes God’s purpose for the church…
– His calling to the church.
– His love of the church.
– His marching orders for His church.
Paul presents the church in all her glory as the Bride of Christ, “without spot, without wrinkle, without any such thing! Holy and blameless!”
There are more than a few theologies and thinkers that consider the letter to the Ephesians as a prophetic portrait of the end-times church, in other words, what the church must become.
Over the coming weeks, I will give to you a wealth of background, history, and context concerning Ephesus.
For example, it is one of the “prison epistles.”
– Written by Paul while imprisoned in Rome about 60 A.D.
– It was one of four written to churches in the Roman empire.
But more importantly is the context that Ephesians fits the church today.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
– We are living in unprecedented times.
– The report are true…thousands of Christians are being martyred around the world.
– A deep deception is falling on the elect who have forgotten holiness and righteous living and have chosen to believe that ease of life and prosperity translate to God’s favor.
But in the words of a famous preacher from another day-
“There’s going to be a payday someday.”
The church has exchanged:
– God’s corporate vision and destiny for individual comfort and security.
– The call to glorify God and serve humanity for self-fulfillment and happiness.
– Biblical stewardship and sacrifice for personal prosperity.
– Risking all for the sake of the Kingdom for stability and comfort.
– A biblical emphasis of equipping and releasing for a cafeteria church with one stop shopping to get your needs met.
– The pursuit of God for a culture of entertainment.
– A lifestyle of humility, worship, community, and Christ following for services in a building that scratches my itch.
There is an old illustration that you may have heard to describe how to recognize counterfeit money, and it is true.
Federal agents don’t learn how to spot counterfeits by studying the counterfeits. They learn by studying genuine bills until they master the look and feel of the real thing. Then, when they see the bogus, they recognize it.
The approach to distinguish the real thing is summarized in a phrase, “touch, tilt, look at, look through.”
– Feel it – if it feels waxy, it’s fake.
– Tilt it – if the hologram shows as a rainbow of colors, it is real.
– Look at – the devil is in the details of bogus bills.
– Look through – the water mark feature can be seen in the light.
So what does the church look like? Held up to the book of Ephesians, what will be the final decision on that day?
This study will be “looking at the real thing” so the counterfeit can be discerned.
We are starting in an unusual place:
Read Rev. 2:2-7
It is now maybe 20 years or 30 years after Paul wrote his God-breathed words to the church of Ephesus. The church has held the standards through many trials…
– Removed false teachers.
– Removed evil men who infiltrated
– Discerned the many who wanted control of the church.
They became known in the halls of heaven as the church of perseverance, steadfastness, and stick-to-it ‘ness!
But, like a marriage that had become dispassionate, this Bride of Christ has turned from her heart’s desire as well.
It happens, you know…
– Things that once kept you close became second to the immediate of kids, bills, and jobs.
– You still love one another, but instead of vacations together, you vacation apart.
– Instead of one checkbook, there are two and maybe a credit card that is kept secret too.
– You have your friends and my friends instead of our friends.
Life becomes mundane…But at least you still love one another!
And Jesus says, “Remember! Repent! And do those same things you did many years ago!”
– Remember when all you wanted to do was learn from Him and about Him?
– Remember when you would talk to anyone about Him?
– Remember when sin was sin, not “freedom” or “liberty”or “escaping bondage?”
– Remember when the Bible was just true, and you read it and did it?
vs. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Jesus comes back and says, “This is good too.”
One thing about the devil, he’s not very creative but uses the same deceptions over and over.
– Threw off holy living
– Paid no attention to self-control, moral living, or living a life that was an example of Christ likeness
God said He hated their behavior. Hated!
In the church today, holy living is being excused away.
Read Eph. 1:2-12
The beginning of Ephesians begins with us.
And by looking at the real deal in the book of Ephesians, we will be challenged to change and become that “without spot or wrinkle” bride.
How do we begin? Let’s obey the words of Jesus.
– Return to your first love
– By doing the deeds you did at first