The life of faith is a battle—a spiritual struggle not against “flesh and blood” but against the forces of darkness. (Sound creepy…or primitive? Let’s keep talking!) This new perspective changes everything: the way we wrestle to believe, the way we pray, the way we relate to one another in community.
The gospel—the story of God’s self-sacrificing, self-submitting love—changes our relationships. According to Ephesians 5 and 6, it turns church members, and husbands and wives, and parents and children into self-submitting servants of one another. Now, the apostle Paul does the same for employers and employees—as he addressing “slaves” and “masters” in the Ephesian church. (What? Slaves? Why doesn’t this passage call slaves to rise up against their owners? Or explicitly command Christians slave owners to free their slaves immediately? ) With the person of Christ as our model, the apostle plants seeds of radical social change, then fertilizes the fruit of our faithful work.
In modern American life, we’ve made parenting an intensely private affair. In Scripture, growing as a child—and growing as a parent—is meant to happen in Christian community, together. The gospel not only gives us practical wisdom for parenting, but also the grace to do it. But what are we supposed to do? Why? How? This passage begins to answers some of our questions.
Our relationships are often infected with selfishness and power struggles. The relationship where this sometimes happens most and worst? Marriage. The apostle Paul explains how the grace of God transforms the way husbands and wives relate to one another.
For better or worse, like it or not, children imitate their parents. It’s in their nature to do so. It’s a humbling reality for a flawed parent. But, what if a child’s daddy were flawless? We’d enthusiastically encourage imitation. Which is exactly what the apostle Paul does for those who are God’s “dearly loved children.” Copy God! Imitate him! Especially in the way that he loved—dying and giving himself up for us. What does sacrificial love look like for us? Let’s take a look.
Change is inevitable, if you’re talking about hometown friends telling you on Facebook, “You don’t look anything like you used to!” But spiritual change? There’s nothing inevitable or automatic about it. It requires the grace and power of God. The apostle Paul tells about how we change — from our old selves, broken and marred by sin, to our new and true selves, recreated in Christ to become more like Christ.
Infants grow from immaturity to maturity. So do church communities. At least, they should. The apostle Paul points us to some marks of maturity when communities grow in Christ.
It’s almost spring, a season of life and growth. So maybe it’s timely that we ponder Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians’ spiritual growth. He prays that we would grow deeply (not superficially), grow communally (not individually), and grow expectantly (not cynically). By God’s grace, we can.
The apostle Paul is writing about his personal calling to non-Jews (Gentiles) like the Ephesians. And he describes his life and ministry as being wrapped around a “mystery.” What does he mean? We learn about the “mystery” of reconciliation, of grace, of the church, and suffering.
“Can we all get along?” The apostle Paul draws the Ephesian church’s attention to the problem of racial division—and the power of Jesus’ barrier-breaking blood. But it’s not just an Ephesian problem, or an ancient problem, or a societal problem, is it? As one author recently put it, “The great tragedy today is not so much that our society is still divided along racial, cultural, and class lines, but that God’s people, the church, are even more deeply divided.” We need reconciling grace for today, for the church, for Grace Meridian Hill.