EPHESIANS: INTRODUCTION AND THE COSMIC CHRIST
These are my notes for teaching the online Bible study at the Cornerstone Church on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Ephesians has a special place in my life. I love this letter for a number of reasons. I've memorized more verses in Ephesians than anywhere else. Its content created my foundational faith convictions - this is what I believe. My very first sermon was in Ephesians 2 - a really bad sermon, but still a milestone :) I hope by the end of this series, you'll love Ephesians.
Here is some basic introductory information that will help us get a grip on the message of Ephesians. Four fast facts:
It was written by the apostle Paul at the same time as he wrote Colossians, sometime around 62 AD, while he was jailed in Rome (Acts 28).
It was a circular letter, written to many churches in Asia Minor (Turkey), but eventually given the name Ephesians because Ephesus was the most important city in the province.
Its major theme is "cosmic reconciliation in Christ." It's a revelation of God's plan to bring all things under one leader: Christ.
It is like a manifesto for the church, written to describe its origins, its identity, its conduct, and its purpose. I believe every follower of Jesus should get very familiar with one Gospel and one Epistle - Ephesians is my go-to epistle.
EPHESIANS: THE COSMIC CHRIST
The Central Theme of Ephesians: Christ
The central theme of Ephesians is the reconciliation and unity God has planned in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source and head of the global church, which is a unity of diverse people reconciled to God and each other by Christ and his Cross.
The Cosmic Christ Presented and Described:
Christ brings all of history to completion.
Ephesians 1:8-10 With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Ephesians 3:11 ... according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Christ is seated at the right hand of God, exalted above all spiritual powers, and is the authoritative head over everything.
Ephesians 1:19-23 That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Christ possesses “boundless riches” (3:8)
Ephesians 3:8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ ...
Reconciliation in Christ
He has reconciled the members of his Church to God and to each other. In particular, he has brought Jew and Gentile together as one new humanity. Read Ephesians 2:11-22.
The Cross of Christ is the basis for redemption and reconciliation.
Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8 that he lavished on us.
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Ephesians 2:15-16 His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Ephesians 2:17-18 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Ephesians 5:2 ... and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:25-26 Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy ...
God's Blessings and Purpose "IN" Christ
The church is God's holy people, who are identified as the faithful IN Christ.
Ephesians 1:1 To God's holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus
"IN" Christ is a term pointing to our former situation in which we were IN Adam along with all the negative associations, such as sin, death, and alienation (Romans 5:12-21). Now, in Christ, we receive all spiritual blessings - love, life, forgiveness, freedom, etc. We are united to Christ and the power and benefits that flow from his life and work (death, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost, intercession). Ephesians 1 is filled with IN Christ language. Read Ephesians 1:1-14
The creation and redemption of the cosmos is also IN Christ.
Ephesians 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed IN Christ ...
Ephesians 3:11 ... according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished IN Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Church belongs to Christ
In Ephesians the term church refers not to local churches but to the global church in all places at all times. We'll look at the connection between Christ and his church in another study.
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO JESUS CHRIST
Stay focused on and rooted in Jesus Christ. The foundation and core of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. There is always a "centrifugal pull" away from simple faith in Jesus to spending time and attention on a thousand other religious things that seem very important but may well be distractions. A healthy and enduring faith-life only flows from our conscious union with and adoration of Jesus. Therefore ...
Spend time daily and throughout the day on spiritual practices that re-focus everything on Jesus Christ. Develop spiritual habits that restore and strengthen your devotion to Jesus himself - not to doctrines, good works, music, study, or all the other good things that may distract us from Jesus himself.
Prioritize the contemplation of Jesus at the beginning of each day. Stay by his side. How? Daily readings in the Gospels. Colossians 1:15-20. Philippians 2:5-11. Sit at his feet and learn from him. The One Minute Pause app can help. Icons can help. Focused participation in Holy Communion. Prayer to Jesus helps. Contemplating his love in our lives, specifically as revealed in the humility of the Incarnation and in his sufferings on the Cross.