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Thursday, September 6 2012

The Epistles: Ephesians

Studies in this complete Epistles series:
What Is An Epistle? Luke Acts Romans First Corinthians
Second Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
First Thessalonians Second Thessalonians First Timothy Second Timothy Titus
Philemon Hebrews James First Peter Second Peter
First John Second John Third John Jude Revelation


In the first century AD, Ephesus was a major city of Asia Minor, as Turkey was then known. Although then under the occupation of the Roman Empire (see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars), the city remained very much influenced by the earlier Greek Empire (see A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids). Ephesus was most famous at that time for the temple of the idol Diana, as the Romans called it (it was known to the Greeks as Artemis), as well as the great theater (the ruins of which are shown in the photograph below).

The apostle Paul visited Ephesus during his missionary journeys. Despite the opposition (including a riot that started in response to his calling the idol Diana a worthless thing; see Acts 19:23-41), believers were made in the city. It was to those "saints which are at Ephesus" that Paul addressed his epistle to the Ephesians.

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

"1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God [see The Passed Over Pharisees and Straight Street], to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ [see Who Is The LORD?]." (Ephesians 1:1-2 KJV)

Many have debated "predestination," however it should be kept firmly in mind that no one is saved until they are saved e.g. "10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22 KJV). God's knowing ahead of time who will be saved does not in itself get them saved (see Christ Died For Repentant Sinners and What Was The Lesson Of John 3:16?).

"1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself [see The Church: Mission Accomplished], according to the good pleasure of his will, 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance [see What Was The Lesson Of John 3:16?], being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:3-14 KJV)

Overall, the Christians of Ephesus held strong in their faith and obedience to the LORD. That fidelity can be attested by another epistle, written about thirty years later by the apostle John, as dictated to him by Jesus Christ ("1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: ... 1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea" Revelation 1:1,11 KJV). Although no doubt greatly troubled by Satan, they "for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted."

Seven 7 Churches of Asia

"2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;

These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks [see Lampstands Or Candlesticks?]; 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars [see The Messiah's Warning About Christian Charlatans]: 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.

2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works [see Works Means Obedience]; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Alpha and Omega], which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:1-7 KJV)

Paul was a Jew and an academic Pharisee, but the LORD sent him to preach mostly to "Gentiles." The Gospel began with a man who would be called a Gentile today, Abraham, which made Paul's ministry a full-circle to where it began. Even in the matter of circumcision, righteous Abraham lived his life as both (see Circumcision).

"2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Israel and Judah], and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 2:16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross [see Nisan 14: The Sacrifice Of The Lamb Of God], having slain the enmity thereby: 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 2:18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

2:19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 2:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit [see Mansions]." (Ephesians 2:11-22 KJV)

"Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages"

Paul seemed very joyous with the Ephesians. He prayed that they would be strengthened even further (a prayer that was obviously answered, as attested by the apostle John thirty years later, as we read above).

Ephesus

"3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man [see Written In The Heart Of Our Tabernacles]; 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages [see The Church In The Kingdom Of God], world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:13-21 KJV)

As he did in all of his other epistles to Gentiles, he never made them feel less for being who the LORD created them - while emphasizing that everyone is responsible to and before the LORD. He admonished them to "henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind," just as he warned Jews of the same (i.e. "1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" Romans 1:16 KJV).

"4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk [see What Did The Messiah Say About Gentiles?], in the vanity of their mind, 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 4:19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

4:20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 4:21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 4:27 Neither give place to the devil. 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:17-32 KJV)

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil"

Some present-day "feminists" have criticized Paul for his statement "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord," however the full context of the statement began with "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God," while the entire point was "the bride of Christ," the Church of God, composed of men and women. For those who bother to read his entire statement, Paul said, of it all, "I speak concerning Christ and the church" (see Brides From Their Sides).

The Ancient Theater at Ephesus

"5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 5:33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Ephesians 5:21-33 KJV)

The famous "armour of God" teaching is found in Paul's epistle to the Ephesians.

"6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil [see Who's Hiding On Your Wall?]. 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 6:20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:10-20 KJV)

Fact Finder: As a matter of prophetic symbolism, where is the church of "Ephesus" today?
See Where Are The Seven Churches Of Revelation Today?


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This Day In History, September 6

394: Theodosius became the sole ruler of the East and West Roman empires after defeating Eugenius at the Battle of the River Frigidus. After he died however, the Roman empire again divided - as illustrated in the two legs of the great prophetic statue seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2:31-25 (see Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and What Is The Mark Of The Beast?).

1522: One of the five ships that set out in Ferdinand Magellan's voyage around the world returned to Spain. Only 15 of the original 265 men that set out survived. Magellan was killed by natives in the Philippines.

1620: The "Pilgrims" left Plymouth, England, bound for the New World.

1898: Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands was coronated.

1901: U.S. President William McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. He died a week later.

1914: During the First World War, the first Battle of the Marne began along a 500 kilometer (300 mile) front when the French launched a counter-offensive against the German advance.

1941: The Nazi government issued an order that all Jews in Germany were to wear a yellow Star of David at all times in public.

1945: Amidst surrendered Japanese forces, Russian forces brought about the proclamation of The Korean People's Republic (North Korea). To avoid a power vacuum in the south, the U.S. ordered the surrendered Japanese military command to maintain authority until U.S. forces arrived, which they did 2 days later.

1948: Princess Juliana became Queen of The Netherlands following her mother's (Queen Wilhelmina) abdication.

1949: Howard Unruh, a former U.S. Army sharpshooter during the Second World War (1939-1945, the U.S. entered in December 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked), killed 13 people in Camden, New Jersey. He is regarded as the first U.S. single-episode mass murderer.

1970: Palestinian terrorists hijacked four airliners traveling to New York from Europe. One Pan Am Jumbo was blown up the next day in Cairo, and two Boeing 707s which landed at Dawson's field in Jordan were blown up on September 12. The fourth plane landed in London.

1977: Leslie MacFarlane died at age 74. The Canadian author from Whitby, Ontario (near Toronto) wrote the first 20 books of the popular "Hardy Boys" series.

1977: Highway signs across Canada were converted to metric. As of 2010, the U.S. is the only country that still uses the old system of pounds, miles and fractions (e.g. writing 9/10 instead of .9).

1991: After 67 years as Leningrad, the name St. Petersburg was restored to the Russian city.

1997: The funeral of Princess Diana. Great numbers of people lined the streets of London to view the procession, and hundreds of millions of people around the world watched on television. One of the biggest funerals in human history. She was later that day buried on the Spencer family property in the Northamptonshire countryside.



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