Sunday, August 14, 2016

Paul's Epistles - Ephesians - Part 1: Introduction

Paul's Epistles - Ephesians - Part 1:
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

In Paul’s 35 years of ministry, since his conversion in Damascus, we have recorded in the Holy Bible many of his epistles, or letters.

Paul’s first journey took place from 33AD (the year of his conversion), through 46AD, leaving Damascus in 38AD.

Paul’s 2nd journey began in 50AD, four years later; during this time he wrote 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, and Galatians, with his second journey ending in 54AD.

Paul’s 3rd journey began in 55AD and lasted until 58AD where he found himself imprisoned in Judea from 58-60AD. During his 3rd journey Paul wrote 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and Romans. We have no record of writings from Paul during his prison time between 58-60AD in Judea.

After his release from Judea, Paul traveled on his voyage to Rome from 60-61AD, writing Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, and finding himself in a Roman prison in 63AD.

Released soon after his incarceration, Paul then writes the epistles Hebrews, 1st Timothy, Titus and his final letter before his death 2 Timothy, which was written from a Roman prison he was placed in during 66-68AD.

Though the bible does not tell us when or how Paul died, it is believed by scholars that he was beheaded in 68AD in May or June.

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Greetings and Introduction to the Church in Ephesus

The message of this epistle to the church is “The Church, The Body of Christ”.

1.      Paul founded the church in Ephesus on his first visit to the city in 54AD.
a.      His stay was short because he had a commitment to keep in Jerusalem

b.     After his journey back from Jerusalem, Paul stayed with the Church in Ephesus for three years.
                                                             i.      Three years of whole-hearted intensely active service
                                                          ii.      Acts 19:8-10
                                                       iii.      Acts 20:31

2.      Ephesians was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome
a.      This was 10 years after he established the church

3.      Romans and Galatians are 2 of Paul’s epistles that focus on justification, as Ephesians and Colossians focus more on the Church.
a.      Though Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians during the same time, Ephesians emphasizes the Church as the Body of Christ, while Colossians Christ as the Head of the Church

4.      There are three distinct images of the Church of Christ portrayed in Ephesians;
a.      The Temple 2:21, 22
b.     Human Body 1:22, 23; 4:15
c.      The Bride 5:25-32

Ephesians is broken into two major themes;

1.      First Theme
a.      Greetings 1:1-2
b.     Blessings 1:3-14
c.      Prayer 1:15-21
d.     Christ the Head 1:22-23
e.      How we fit in 2:1-10
f.       Blessed association with membership in Christ 2:11-22
g.      Gentiles 3

2.      Second Theme
a.      Unity in His Body 4:1-3
b.     Unifying powers of the Body 4:4-6
c.      Edifying of His Body 4:7-16
d.     Duties of members 4:17 – 5

The church of Ephesus was one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation.

1.      Ephesus
2.      Smyrna
3.      Pergamum
4.      Thyatira
5.      Sardis
6.      Philadelphia
7.      Laodicea

The characteristics of Ephesus as mentioned by Jesus to John in Revelation 2:1-7, the church having labored hard and not fainted, and separated themselves from the wicked, however, they were admonished for having forsaken its first love. Revelation 2:4

Their first love being their zeal and passion they first embraced their salvation as they realized they loved Christ because He first loved them. 1 John 4:19.

They were alive in Christ, but because of sins and transgressions, they had become dead.

Jesus did commend them on their many good works and working hard. They tested teachers to ensure they were real, they endured hardship and persevered without growing weary.

But they lost their warmth and zeal for Christ, and when that happened, they began to “go through the motions” of good works which were no longer motivated by love of and for Christ, but by the works themselves.

What was once a love relationship cooled into a religion.

Their passion for Him became little more than orthodoxy.

Surrounded by Paganism and false teachers, the Ephesian church had ample opportunity to correct false doctrine and confront heretical teachers.

If they did so for any reason other than love for Christ and a passion for His truth, however, they would have lost their way. Instead of pursuing Christ with the devotion they once showed, much like a bride who follows her groom “through the desert” (Jeremiah 2:2), the Ephesians were in danger of falling away from Christ completely.

This is why He warns those who have “ears to hear” to prove the reality of their salvation by returning to Him and rekindling the love that had begun to cool. No doubt there were among the Ephesians those whose profession was false and whose hearing had become dulled. He warns the rest not to follow them, but to repent and return to Him with the passion they once had for Him.

CONCLUSION - We face the same challenges in the twenty-first century.

There are few churches that aren’t subject to, and in danger of, a certain amount of false teaching.

But Jesus calls us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and to not let the frustration of false teaching overpower the love of Christ in us (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Our first love is the love Christ gives us for God and each other. We should be zealous for the truth, but that zeal should be tempered so that we are always “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

Next week we will look at Paul’s Blessings to the Ephesian Church

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