Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LIVING IN EPHESUS

Before I go on to discussing chapter 2 in the book of Ephesians, let me give you a little background on the city of Ephesus. When the Apostle Paul started the church in Ephesus and at the time of his writing the letter to the Ephesians, the city of Ephesus was a metropolis surrounded by 230 independent communities within the Roman province of Asia.  The harbor of Ephesus was one of the main routes to the eastern empire and the metropolis of Ephesus had few equals.  It ranked with Rome and Corinth and Antioch and Alexandria.

Paul was under house detention in Rome at the time of this writing, but enjoyed the privileges of many visitors.  Many, including representatives from the Jewish community, came to him inquiring about Christianity.  He received visitors from many of the churches he started all wanting instruction and direction regarding problems that had arisen among their congregations.  Although still so new, Christianity was quickly gaining ground.  These new believers and new churches did not hold in their possession the entire word of God as we have it today.  They clung to words of instruction and direction given to them by letters written by the apostle and circulated them from church to church.  As easy as it is for us today to go to the Word and find truth and food for our hungry souls we still get messed up in the way we think and act. You can imagine how difficult it was for these new congregations to stay on the right track having only, in many cases, the remembrance of what the apostle Paul had to say to them from God's heart.

One of the most important aspects of the letter to the Ephesians is its call to unity.  A hymn of unity, one might say.  God's ultimate purpose is "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (1:10)  And, Jesus has been appointed "head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (1:22-23)  Unity was highly sought after in the first century A.D.  The Roman Empire believed they were achieving unity due to the fact that much of the Mediterranean world was unified under its rule.  Because of this fact, they had visions of a universal commonwealth. The philosophers of the day were recognizing an order to the universe and many of the popular cults were offering a sense a oneness in their religious practices.  They were a little obsessed with unity and Paul was trying to teach them that only through Christ, the supreme Head, and through His Lordship will true and lasting unity be found.  All of this is very familiar to us today. Yes?

Through this letter, Paul's desire is to take this group of people, and anyone else who finds this letter, beyond the daily mishaps of church life and beyond the day to day struggle of sin. In this letter, he doesn't deal with particular sins or correct wrong thinking or expose false teaching. Paul's desire is to transcend the every day battles of sin and and to rise above the argument of whether the Church had the right to exist.  It's like he caught a vision of the true body of Christ and the fellowship that is to be among us and how we are to exist in a hostile world. He also caught a vision of reconciliation between the entire universe and Christ. In essence, the apostle wants his readers to rise above and go deeper. Only in true submission to the Head of all things will we find true unity. Only in recognizing the One who is Lord, this one Lord over all who gave us incredible gifts to live well and right, will we overcome the every day struggle of sin. We cannot live as an island but, instead, we must live and function within this body which belongs to Christ, is made up of Christ, is held together by Christ, is filled up with Christ and filled by Christ.  In so doing we understand who we really are.

Rising above and going deeper,
Kerry

2 comments:

sweetannieskitchenblog said...

This is good. I love the reminder that we are to live and function within the body. For me, it's sort of amazing how no longer working in a church this can easily be forgotten.

Swwet J said...

I liked the insights on unity and how even today, maybe especially today, the futile struggle to find it without Christ continues.