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  • In the first two chapters, Paul is setting the stage for these upcoming words, telling the Jews and the Gentiles they are no longer to be separated by the old laws, but to be united in the blood of Christ, who is the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind. I imagine this was very difficult for many Jews to accept, since they were the children of Abraham and Moses and had been raised for generations to remain separate from the Gentiles or non-believers.

    But this would also be difficult for the Ephesians, who had been converted out of paganism and polytheistic beliefs. As pagans, they had participated in rituals that included acts today considered as pornographic and criminal. Virgins were sacrificed, and tithes to the gods were demanded, no matter how those tithes were obtained.

    The new converts have foresworn their old ways, and are attempting to live holy lives, as they were taught by Paul. Being new to the faith, they are often in need of specific instructions in Christian living, and their Jewish counterparts, the Jews who have converted, are afraid their pagan ways will infiltrate their traditional separation. So Paul tells the Jews of Ephesus they must not fear the evil, but set the example of the good, then tells the converts how they are expected to live.

    3 Now this is the reason I was told to preach to the Gentiles, You remember the story of how I came to be an apostle, how I was stopped by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus and instructed to serve in this manner.

    Jesus revealed to me the secret of God's plan, just as he revealed it to the apostles and prophets through the Holy Spirit: all men, Jew and Gentile, are joint heirs in the salvation to eternal life through the shed blood of Christ Jesus.

    I was given this ministry according to God's grace even though I am the least of all the apostles, a sinner undeserving of this grace and mercy. I was sent out to preach the good news of Christ to the Gentiles, so they would also know of his free gift of salvation, and they would understand the mystery of God's plan. For when God, through Jesus, created all things, he loved them all, without exception, and intended then to be with him.

    God's ultimate purpose is still unknown, but his intent is clear and revealed for all to see. The gospel of Jesus is now being given to every man in every nation; that we now have immediate and unfettered access to God through the Holy Spirit which is received by us in the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice.

    I am sure you have heard of my trials and the events that have brought me to Rome to await the decision of Caesar, but have no fear. Instead, rejoice in the knowledge that I am faithful to the Lord, Jesus, the Christ and King of all things, and that my witness encourages your faith and strength. For in the salvation of Jesus Christ is all mankind redeemed as one family, so that he might give you the strength you need to endure in the faith, and that the Spirit will continue to dwell in you.

    For you are filled with that same Spirit which revealed to the saints the truth; that the love of Christ which is beyond human comprehension, was given to us so that every man can know God. And it is for this reason we give praise to Jesus who is able to give us life abundantly beyond our wildest dreams, asking only that we walk in the Spirit he has given us when we accept the shed blood of his sacrifice. To Jesus be all glory and power and might for all eternity and beyond. Amen.

    So it is for this reason that I, Paul, the prisoner and servant of the Lord, Jesus, encourage you to walk steadily in the path which you have been shown. You are blessed by God through his gift of Christ, and must not be angry or terse or impatient with those who have not yet received the truth. Continue in love and humility, be patient and kind, and above all open the doors of your heart to those who love Christ, keeping the unity of the family of God as one.

    Remember, there is only one body and one spirit, the one who even now calls you to rise above the earthly temptations of your former lives to serve God.

    “One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

    And each of us is given grace according to our willingness to follow the Spirit in our daily lives. Jesus himself promised this when he rose into heaven, that he had conquered death and would send the gift of the Holy Spirit to men. So great was his power that he first descended into the underworld to carry the news of salvation to those who were in the bondage of death, and then arose into heaven, so all of creation would know the power of his majesty.

    Some of us are called to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and preachers. This is for the perfecting of the church and encouragement of the body of Christ, which is the body of believers. For the goal of Christ is the unity of the faith and the knowledge of true identity of Jesus, who lived a sinless life and was the personification of God.

    So we are called to leave childhood behind us, no longer swaying to and fro with every whisper of a new revelation which is not true, no longer listening to the lies of the past offered by evil men intent on stuffing their own pockets and deceiving the people. We are called to remain faithful to the truth, and to live our lives according to the example set for us by the Lord, Jesus.

    For in his example is the glue that binds together the body of Christ, so that every gift of the Spirit is coordinated with every other, creating a strong and vibrant body to do the work of the Spirit and strengthen us in love.

    So do not walk in the darkness of your former lives, blind to the truth and alienated from the body of Christ, for that is returning to the ignorance you were brought out of. If you live like that, you will return to the lusts and temptations of the past and be unable to witness to the grace and mercy of God, who has redeemed you from death.

    That was not the example of Christ, who taught you to walk after him, being honest with all, respecting the laws of man and embracing the love of the Lord. So be renewed in your faith and your mind to walk as he walked, no longer lying to anyone, but being truthful with everyone. For we are one body to the non-believers, and what they see from one they believe from all.

    If you are angry, do not sin, but do not let that anger stay in you. Do not become violent or impatient with others. Do not steal, but do honest work so you can take care of yourself and your family and even have some to share if the need arises.

    Do not mislead or gossip about your neighbor, but be honest and truthful in all your communications with others. Speak when you can about the good things in your life and encourage others to see the positive things when you can.

    Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, for he is the source of your redemption and your witness to the mercy and grace of God until the day of redemption.

    “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”

    Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.

    Do not return to your old ways.

    Although there is some question among scholars as to the authenticity of this letter (whether it was written by Paul or by an imitator using Paul's style), it is clearly the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to the divinity of Christ and the necessity of living a Christian life.

    The first part of these two chapters is clear; There is no longer a separation between Jew and Gentile in the faith. Paul is urging the Jews to welcome the new believers as equals, and to set the example of holiness by staying faithful to the precepts taught in the Old Testament and the New. Remember, in Matthew, Jesus has said the law is in full effect until all prophecies were done. Upon his crucifixion, restraints were removed from the old Leviticus regulations, but the laws of Moses (the Ten Commandments) were still in effect.

    In the second half, Paul begins a session of instructions he will continue in chapters 5&6 on living a Christian life. He encourages the converted pagans to live as Christians and not return to the pagan rituals and lifestyle that condemned them in the eyes of God.

    Even today, it is difficult to walk a Christian life. There are so many distractions in our world, so many other avenues, and so many men and women who are making what appear to be a sound argument against the principles of Christian living. A day or two ago, I saw in my news feed an article stating monogamy was unnatural. And I won't even get into the on-going battle over abortion. And these are just two of the many efforts to undermine Christianity in the world today.

    But isn't it funny how, despite literally thousands of attempts over centuries to destroy it, Christianity has survived. In the introduction to the Pauline epistles by Wayne A. Meeks, he notes that Christianity was hardly conspicuous (1) and that an impartial observer might have chosen Mithraism as the practice which would eventually become the official religion of the Roman Empire. If you have to look it up, don't be embarrassed, so did I. For the claim of Meeks that this was once the “front runner” for the faith to sweep the people, I find it fascinating that so little of it survives.

    Must have something to do with faith.

    Chapters 5 & 6 to follow.


    1 - The Writings of St. Paul, edited by Wayne A. Meeks, copyright 1972 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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