Father, give me strength so that Christ can live richly in me today through my attitudes and actions. Help me understand how great Your love is for me and for all disciples of Jesus everywhere. Help me to live in humility and submission with other disciples, and help us to love and forgive one another. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Ephesians 3-4
Ephesians 3:1–13 Christ’s ascension was the game-changer for God’s plan. The realization that God’s “mystery” had been unveiled through Christ led Paul in Ephesians both to pray (1:15) and take action (3:1). So Paul begins Ephesians 3 by describing how his life was an instrument in God’s plan of redemption and restoration. Paul aligned his life with God’s agenda to bring the good news to all peoples who were “fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6). The church that has been created by this preaching of the good news confounds the heavenly enemies of Christ as God’s wisdom is displayed through her unity (3:10).
Ephesians 3:14–21 This led Paul to write another prayer for the believers in Ephesus. His prayer centered on two requests for the church: strength through the Spirit and knowledge of the extent of Christ’s love. For believers, this knowledge becomes corporately accessible as believers are “rooted and grounded in love.” But in one sense, this love always remains incomplete because there are always more dimensions to explore.
This love of Christ “surpasses knowledge” (3:19) but God is able to “do far more than we ask or think” (3:20) so that it may bring Him glory. May our churches be filled with the “fullness of God.”
Ephesians 4:1–16 The tone of the book changes in the last half of the book. Now that the mystery has been unveiled (Ephesians 1–3), it’s time for it to be unleashed into a world that desperately needs to see it lived out in our churches (Ephesians 4–6). To preserve the unity Christ has created in the church, Christians must walk worthily, according to the calling outlined in the book’s first three chapters.
We protect unity by pursuing proper heart attitudes like humility and gentleness (4:2–3) and by recalling our identity that God Himself has acted to establish (4:4–6). Notice the “assumed” commonalities of the church: faith, baptism, hope, and calling. What’s more, further dimensions of unity are possible because, even now, the ascended and glorified Christ is using His limitless resources to fuel the church’s growth on earth. This means each member has been gifted to help the church grow as they “speak the truth in love” to one another and use their gifts in service (4:7, 4:14–16).
Ephesians 4:17–32 The transformation Christ brought involves a radical shift away from former ways of thinking and darkened understandings. In response to this, Christ now seeks to enlist people in proper service (4:17–19). Christians have been freed from dungeons of deceit and are being recreated in God’s likeness, in “true righteousness and holiness” (4:24). This new self puts off deceit (4:25), unrighteous anger (4:26), greed, stealing (4:28), unwholesome speech (4:29), and every manner of harsh heart attitudes that threaten relationships in the church (4:31).
Christians are indwelt by the Spirit and live together in the shadow of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Because of this, Paul wrote, they must be kind and quick to forgive. The “me” that once dominated has been replaced by the “we” of the church. Service to others has replaced enlisting others to serve us.
The message is out, and the world needs to hear. Paul had been entrusted with bringing this news to the nations. What’s more, our peace-creating Christ has transformed our local churches. So we must walk in unity, unleashing the power of the mystery into a world of enmity and division.
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Like Paul, some of us may be involved on the frontiers of gospel ministry. Some of us may have a different role, but all of us must ask this question: How is my life aligned with God’s agenda to bring good news to the world? Where am I particularly fueling His mission on the edges and in our local churches? This won’t be easy, but it was a non-negotiable for Paul, even to the point of embracing suffering (3:12b) and becoming a prisoner (3:1, 4:1). What can we sacrifice in order to bring the gospel to the nations, to our neighbors, and to our church family?
- Prayer oriented Paul to the limitless resources of strength and the depth of Christ’s love for the church. He included two prayers in this short letter (1:15–23; 3:14–21) that work as a useful model for us. Using Paul’s prayers as a guide, reach out to a fellow member of your church and pray with them for your church.
- Are you eager about maintaining the unity of your church? There may be believers who need encouragement in your life. Take some time and consider specific ways you can encourage them this week and do it.
- Find an unreached people group with whom your church has a relationship, and engage someone who works with that group. Ask that individual or family for specific prayer requests. Learn about the people group and the family, and meet together with some believers to pray for them specifically.