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There's a Bigger Picture

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Message of the Book of Ephesians

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Introduction

Theme: There’s a bigger picture to life that we cannot escape and must see. God has an all-encompassing plan to unite all things in Christ.

Introductory Matter to the Book

Author: Paul wrote the book (1:1)
This was the accepted position until the 1800’s, when many started doubting or rejecting Pauline authorship.
Date
Early 60’s A.D.
Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, when he was under house arrest
During this imprisonment it seems Paul wrote his prison epistles, which included Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon
Recipients
Some of the oldest manuscripts are missing the phrase “in Ephesus”
Apparently, those manuscripts still title the book as being to the Ephesians
Many manuscripts do contain the phrase
No alternate destination is given, and the phrasing would be awkward if not impossible in the Greek if the destination city was just left out
So it seems best to believe that this book was indeed addressed to the saints in Ephesus
Occasion
Paul had visited Ephesus on two occasions during his missionary travels
Short visit during the 2nd Missionary Journey mentioned in
Longer visit, over 2 years, during the 3rd missionary journey mentioned in .
Paul also called the Ephesian elders to him as he made his way to Jerusalem and his coming arrest
Called them from Miletus, another port city
The meeting is recorded in , and it was very emotional
After Paul is arrested, and as he is imprisoned in Caesarea for a couple years and then Rome for two years as well (), he seems to slow down finally, and his writing from prison yields at least the four prison epistles that we have today.
City Background
Paul, Apollos, Timothy, and John all spent time in this city
When Paul wrote the book, only Rome and Alexandria were bigger cities within the Roman empire
Population estimated to be around 200,000
Primary city in the richest region of the empire
Pluralistic—people there worshipped many gods—but the goddess Artemis held a special, exalted position
records the uproar that came in the city when Demetrius, a silversmith, stirred the people up because of Paul’s activities
The crowd ends up chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for 2 hours in their theater. [insert picture of theater?]
The temple of Artemis was included among of the seven wonders of the ancient world. [insert slide of temple?]

Main Themes of the Book

“Uniting things in heaven and things on earth”
This was probably a truth that was difficult for the Ephesian believers to visualize
“Twice every week, a procession was help in which adherents paraded her statues, marching from the temple, through the Magnesian Gate, through the whole city, out the Coressian Gate, and back to the temple” (Arnold, 31)
“Up to fifty other gods and goddesses were worshiped” (Arnold 33)
This area seemed to have been consumed with the spiritual realm
Acts 19:18–20 ESV
Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
They needed strong leadership and solid teaching from Paul about the spiritual realm
Acts 19:18–20 ESV
Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
Jesus has been seated at the Father’s right hand, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion...” 1:20-21
The believers had once served the prince of the power of the air (2:1) before God showed His rich mercy and great love to them, bringing salvation (2:4-5)
The believers are now “…being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22)
God chose to reveal a mystery through Paul “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (3:10)
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Paul challenged them not to become partners with the sons of disobedience,
Ephesians 3:20
Ephesians 5:8 ESV
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Ephesians 6:10–13 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6:16 ESV
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
Ephesians 6:16 ESV
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
Application:
Is it not difficult today to visualize a world that is united in Christ Jesus?
Recent trip to Toledo
Much different than Kansas!
Feel out of place—took the van, raining, learning a new city, pace of city life
We are seeking a city whose builder and maker is God
Some of you live in a world where every day you experience clear reminders that many people in this world do not recognize Jesus as Lord
Perhaps some of you don’t even do so
Too many millions of people in our own nation carefully worship on Sunday, but they worship false gods
In the sports realm, on location or at home
Many continue to serve the prince of the power of the air
Imagine with me for a moment though what the world will be like when all things have been brought together and united in Jesus Christ our Lord!
We cannot and must not fail to see the importance of the church within the Father’s plan to unite all things in Christ—this is part of the bigger picture!
The church is described in the book as the body of Christ and a holy temple, and in chapter 5 Paul explains that the husband and wife relationship refers to Christ and the church.
— through the death of Christ, God is creating in Christ one new man in the place of two—fellow citizens of the household of God instead of distinct Jews and Gentiles
This is not to say that nationalities do not matter, but it does show how grand God’s plan truly is for uniting all things in Christ
goes on to say...
Ephesians 4:4–6 ESV
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The church is to be a visible picture of how powerful God is and how grand His ultimate plan for the world truly is, as says,
Ephesians 3:10 ESV
so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
It is interesting to note that in Ephesians, Paul seems to use the term “church” on a much bigger scale than in other places, so that often and if not always the term is speaking of the universal church, not simply a local congregation
Ephesians 3:10 ESV
so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
The universal church is to broadcast through its very existence the wisdom of God
This leads into the next major theme to highlight—“in Christ”
“In Christ”
“The expression ‘in Christ’ and its parallels occur thirty-six times in the Book of Ephesians, and if the other similar expressions listed below are included, the total is thirty-nine times” (Hoehner 173)
“This expression, which Paul uses thirty-four times in Ephesians in its various forms, is Paul’s definition of what it truly means to be a Christians” (Arnold 498)
What was the identity of the Ephesian believers before salvation?
dead in their trespasses and sins (2:1)
followers of the prince of the power of the air (2:2)
children of wrath (2:3)
the Gentiles—no hope and without God in the world (3:12)
“…at one time you were darkness” (5:8)
What was their identity as followers of Christ?
Consider the following list of descriptors: alive with Christ, saved, a new creation, brought near to God, given access to God, profoundly loved, God’s possession, sealed as God’s property, God’s inheritance, God’s heirs, adopted by God, beloved children, members of God’s kingdom, chosen by God, predestined by God, called by God, redeemed, forgiven, sanctified, cleansed, saints, part of the corporate body of Christ, members of the household of God, part of the new holy temple that God is building, possessors of the Holy Spirit, a dwelling place for Christ, a workmanship of God, light, and servants of Christ (Arnold, 499-500)
Application: what is your identity? People will try to place many upon you, and perhaps you have latched onto some of them. We must not let any descriptor come before the term “Christian”
Abandoned, abused, or neglected
Single, divorced, married, or remarried
Learning disability or a physical disability
In poor health or extremely fit
Avid sports fan or consuming hobby
Difficult or prestigious job or stay-at-home mom
Public, Christian, or home school education
Poor or rich
And we could go on and on and on
Who are we? Our first and primary identity must be, “I am a follower of Christ!”
“Grace and peace”
“Grace and peace”
“In Christ”
The book begins and ends with Paul speaking of grace and peace (1:2; 6:23-24)
Grace
We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ according to the riches of God’s grace (1:7), and in the coming ages God will “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (2:7)
It is by grace that we have been saved (2:5)
Paul was made a minister “according to the gift of God’s grace” (3:7) and...
Christ gives to each believer grace for the sake of the body of Christ in 4:7
Within the church, words that edify others give grace to those who hear (4:29)
Peace
“For he himself is our peace...” (2:14) He makes peace between the Jews and Gentiles (2:15) and He preached peace to both as well (2:17)
The believers are to be “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3) and they are to be equipped with “the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6:15)
Application for both grace and peace
As believers, both grace and peace are gifts that we have received from God, but more than that, we now have the privilege of bringing grace and peace to others.
As a church member, you can speak in such a way to others here that you are giving grace to them—not salvation, but words that uplift and strengthen others
As a believer, you can bring this message to others to show them the peace that can be theirs through Jesus Christ
In other words, neither grace nor peace are to stop with you! There’s a bigger picture...

Outline of Ephesians

Key Verses: 1:9-10
Theme: There’s a bigger picture to life that we cannot escape and must see. God has an all-encompassing plan to unite all things in Christ.

Transition: Let’s look at four main divisions of the book and see how Paul is seeking to help these believers see the bigger picture of their salvation.
There’s a bigger picture...
Of God’s work of salvation (1:1-2:10)
“to the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6) “to the praise of his glory” (1:12) and “to the praise of his glory” (1:14)
Christ is over all, including the church (1:19-23)
God saves so that His people can then serve Him, producing good works (2:10)
Of God’s work among the nations (2:11-3:21)
The previous distinction between Jews and Gentiles had been obvious to all (2:11-12)
Christ brought reconciliation and an end to the hostility, creating fellow citizens out of people who were previously enemies (2:16, 19)
The Spirit is building from believers a holy temple to the Lord (2:21-22)
This new group of people, called the church, is then God’s vehicle on earth that can declare to the things in heaven, through its very existence, the manifold wisdom of God. (3:8-10)
This was God’s plan in eternity past (3:11)
All of this helps explain Paul’s prayer in 3:20-21 perhaps a little better.
While millions of people wrestle through the difficulty of race relations, the church should be an oasis of peace, where the powerful work of God within us does what others can scarcely comprehend—bring unity.
Of church life (4:1-5:21)
This unity, however, is not to be at the expense of holiness or truth, as the next section of Ephesians makes clear.
Those who are eager to emphasize 4:3 cannot do so to the neglect of verses 4-6.
Christ prepares some for leadership within the church (4:7, 11) but it is for the sake of equipping the believers for the work of ministry so that the body can grow together towards maturity
Note, the goal is not simply personal maturity
Note also that maturity as presented is only possible by an active, obedience church family building itself up—there’s a bigger picture than simply stopping at personal salvation and growth!
4:25 is within the context of having learned Christ (4:20) and now putting that knowledge into speech—”speak the truth with his neighbor”
Even the challenge to forgive each other is based upon the great truth of God’s forgiveness of us (4:32)
Just as Christ’s life was an offering to God given out of love for His church (5:2), believers are to walk in love (5:2)
This walk is to be characterized by lives filled with the Spirit, church-wide worship, and thanksgiving (5:17-20)
Of relationships (5:22-6:24)
Whether addressing husbands and wives, parents and children, or masters and servants, Paul points the believers to Christ.
He then explains that, although the believer’s battle is ultimately a spiritual battle, the things on earth do not have to be subject to all the spiritual realm.
By being strong in the Lord, the believer can stand firm (6:13)
However, this battle is fierce, so prayer is essential, especially as the believers must continue proclaiming the gospel, some even in hard situations (6:18-20)
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