Living your best life
A study on Ephesians
With Peter Veysie
George Methodist Church
28th July 2019
8am and 10am
Background to the book of Ephesians and overview.
Author, Date, and Recipients
The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the churches in Ephesus and the surrounding region c. a.d. 62 while imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28). During this time he also wrote Colossians and Philemon. All three letters were sent with Tychicus and Onesimus.
There are three main themes of Ephesians:
- Christ has reconciled all creation to Himself and to God;
- Christ has united people from all nations to Himself and to one another in His church; and
- Christians must live as new people.
Ephesians offers general instruction in the truths of God’s redemptive work in Christ; the unity of the church among diverse peoples; and proper conduct in the church, the home, and the world.
All people are by nature spiritually dead. They disobey God’s law and are ruled by worldly things (1:7; 2:1–3, 5, 11–12).
God predestined his people to redemption and holiness in Christ (1:3–14; 2:4, 8–9). God’s rich mercy in Christ has saved us. This free gift is by grace through faith alone (1:7–8; 2:4–14).
Jesus’ saving work was part of redeeming a fallen creation for God. For this He deserves glory, honor, and authority in this age and the next (1:15–23; 3:1–13). Jesus unites Jews and Gentiles into his one body, the church, as a new creation (1:23; 2:10–22; 3:1–21; 4:1–6).
Christ’s people are saved to new lives of holiness in thought, word, and deed. They must reject their old, sinful lifestyles (4:1–3, 17–32; 5:1–20). Holiness in life includes submission to proper authorities, in home and family life, and those in authority must care for those in submission to them (5:21–6:9). Jesus has given powerful gifts to his church. These bring unity, maturity, and defense against the devil and his allies (4:7–16; 6:10–19).
- Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, 1a
Paul always addresses himself firstly by his name and then by his function – sent one. I wonder if we would be better off in the church without titles? I am Peter and my function is a minister/servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 1b
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul always greets the ones he writes to with great affirmation and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
Praise and blessing is a wonderful place to start this letter and to introduce us to living your best life.
If we are to make a good start it needs some real positivity. We cannot think that our lives will be blessed if we ourselves are not the vessel of blessing. We need to know that so much of this has come from being in relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
All blessings, positivity, affirmation comes from Him and is directed to us and to others.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
- 3. Chosen for a cause.
For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.
I think this is such a wonderful and reassuring truth that God does not make a mistake with any human being and His heart is that we are chosen by Him before the creation of the world. This choosing is to be holy and blameless in His sight. It’s His desire to shape us into more of His likeness and this is living our best life when we are more Christ-like and less like the world in all of our actions – spiritual discipline, social responsibility, and working excellence. Three-fold which includes a deep commitment to family and friends which we will get to later in the book.
- Rites of a first born son for all – both male and female Jews and gentiles.
In love, He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us.
This links to the previous word but I believe that predestination is not for an exclusive some but for all. The choice is ours as to whether we can be partners with almighty God or not. Many choose not to be but that does not mean that they are not predestined for good. I often see the most terrible human beings and think ‘if only they could realise their true goodness and become partners with Christ.’
- The mystery is that this is not only for Jews but also for gentiles. The Lord spoke so clearly through scripture that this was His will.
With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined, according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.
The Law not only makes place for Gentiles, but many years later God speaks to Isaiah saying: “Foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, to love the name of the LORD , and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The Sovereign LORD declares – He who gathers the exiles of Israel: “I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:6-8).
These are very clear words that leave no room for interpretation. God wants a house of prayer for all nations, gathering others to the Israelites, besides those foreigners already gathered to them. He never stopped gathering Gentiles, and He will never do.
Let’s consider some of the examples of Gentiles that were included into Israel in the Old Testament:
Joshua leads the people of God across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Thanks to one woman, a prostitute named Rahab, the city of Jericho is taken. Rahab not only protects the Hebrew spies from her own people, but she confesses the Lord with her mouth, saying, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you … the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:9, 11). Rahab was heroine. She joined the people of Israel, and the Lord honored her beyond what she could have dreamed. Because of her confession and demonstrated love for God, she was included in the genealogy of the very Messiah Himself (see Matthew 1:5).
The book of Ruth records the story of Ruth and Naomi. Naomi was an Israelite whose husband and sons died in the foreign land of Moab. Both her sons had married Moabite women, and while one of their wives stayed in Moab, the other – Ruth – followed Naomi back to the land of Judah. Not only that, but following Hebrew customs, she married the kinsman redeemer Boaz (whose mother was Rahab) and was not only given a whole book in the Bible, but became the ancestor of Christ (see Matthew 1:5).
The whole book of Jonah is dedicated to the salvation of a Gentile city – the people of Nineveh. God is not only concerned with His people Israel, but He decides to act because of the wickedness of Nineveh. He does not simply destroy the city, but because of His great mercy He decides to warn them and give them an opportunity to repent. Jonah, His chosen mouthpiece, is well aware of God’s character and refuses to go to Israel’s enemies. God could have let Jonah go, executing the planned judgment, saying, “I tried”, as many of us would have done. However, Jonah’s life was nearly lost, but God preserved him until he finally gave in and obeyed. And against all odds, one of the most wicked group of people truly repented and was spared – for the time being. Jonah is a great testimony of God’s love for all people, and should be an encouragement to us Gentiles, that He reached us and that we are to reach others, even the worst enemies of God.
We have seen that God has included Gentiles in His kingdom in all generations, from the very beginning to this day, and in the days to come, as John describes, “I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9) (emphasis mine). His invitation today is the same as has ever been: let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).
- To live your best life you need to live in thanksgiving and Prayer
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 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. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.
We need to realise seriously, that if we are living our best our life it is for others and we need to consider the importance of remembering that we have been chosen to serve by the Lord, that we have been predestined for good things that He has already set for us to do and we need to be wide awake each day to the Holy Spirit’s tapping as to what we should be doing. The call from the Lord is inclusive of everyone and yet He still gives us free choice to choose to love Him back. Our work is to share the good news of this invitation and finally let’s never stop praying affirming and encouraging others so that they too can live their best lives.