Ephesus was a centre for the worship of Artemis considered to be the Queen of heaven. The Ephesians were surrounded by competing deities. High in their consciousness was an awareness of spiritual evil forces. Jesus himself demonstrated his authority over them during his ministry. An awareness of the impact of spiritual evil forces is found throughout the New Testament. James writes, ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you.’ James 4.7 Peter says, ‘Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8Paul later in Ephesians warns, ‘Give no opportunity to the devil.’ v 4:27 The activity of spiritual evil forces does not negate personal responsibility for one’s behaviour. James explains, ‘But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.’ James 1:14 The Ephesians then needed to be reminded that Christ is high above all other authorities whatever those opposing him may call upon, whether they were Greek or Roman gods, magicians, state authorities or even mob rule. We might add the media, rich companies, political lobby groups, religious extremists. God the Father has given him (Christ) supreme authority, ‘Far above rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ v21 Additionally God has connected the church so intimately to Christ that the church is described as the body of Christ. We the church are then beneficiaries of Christ’s rule in heavenly places. Do we recognise our role as part of the body of Christ to oppose evil through prayer and the gospel for the good of others?
At The Name of Jesus – Amber Trent | Christ For The Nations Worship
When reflecting on the greatness of God’s power we can rightly consider the wonders of creation or dramatic miracles such as the holding back of the Red Sea. But what does it mean when Paul writes of the, ‘immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe’? Are we about to be blown off our feet? He is speaking of resurrection power. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is the power to overcome the power of sin in our lives and to conquer death. We know from our personal experience how powerless we are to overcome sin from will power alone. Our will is to sin even when we know it is wrong in God’s sight. Elsewhere Paul speaks of his own internal battle with his will to sin following his conversion. Prior to that Paul was set on a dedicated path of sin believing the sin he was pursuing was in fact righteousness. While Paul’s sin was a direct hostility to Christ and his followers the same principle applies to all prior to trusting in Jesus. The natural inclination of humanity is to make ourselves our God and in that way we reject him. Jesus repeatedly warned his followers and the crowd about this. He warned about setting wealth, pride, race and status as one’s God. We repeatedly see the harm worked out in contemporary life and history as the pursuit of these become the goals of the rich and powerful. The apostles in their letters warned the church to not let such world views creep into church life and those warnings are as necessary now as then. Paul in 1 Timothy cautions, ‘But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.’ 1 Timothy 6:9 How then is it possible to live a God pleasing life enjoying a relationship with him? Only through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead also working in our lives. The understanding of this is beyond a mental acknowledgement, it is the work of the Spirit within us.
Hope can be undervalued in the modern western church when compared to love and faith. This may be because for many life is comfortable, health care is readily available, a financial safety net is provided by the state and most people do not live in physical fear. Advertising encourages us to trust in a host of products and lifestyle choices all of which have an overblown and temporary benefit. We know that hopelessness opens the door to depression and a range of mental illnesses. Hopelessness will also impact on our physical health and removes purpose in life. What do you place your hope in and how trustworthy is the promise of that hope? Ephesus was a hard place to be a Christian, to be a Christian in Ephesus meant you belonged to a minority and were subject to a wide range of discrimination and threats. When we experience significant problems and threats whether financial, health, discrimination or physical danger a certain hope becomes highly valued. At some time in our life we will face such situations and then having a confident hope will maintain our faith and relationship with God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Christian our confidence does not rest in our ability to have hope but in God’s promise and capacity to fulfil his promise. It is God who has called us, he loves us, he wants us and we are his inheritance. In verse 18 it is the saints’ future hope and God’s inheritance. “God looks forward to enjoying forever the people he has saved.” (ESV Global Study Bible p1663) The Spirit wants to enlighten the eyes of our heart now to the hope we have so that we are prepared when challenges arise.
The letter to the Ephesians nine times expresses the Trinitarian nature of God all of which reveal an aspect of how this blesses each Christian and local church. The whole Trinity is engaged in our salvation and continuing relationship with God. Here Paul prays that the Ephesian Church will gain a deep spiritual understanding of God that has two aspects. Both are gained through the Holy Spirit, it is a matter of revelation, in other words the opening of our spiritual eyes by the Spirit of God. God the Father is the giver, he is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gift is the person of God in the form of his Spirit. He then enables us to know and understand the Father and the Son but also provides us with wisdom in knowing how our relationship with God works out in our lives. Before we rush out to work for Christ we need to know him in ever greater depth. Recently I was part of a discussion which centred around whether accounts of emotional experiences related to the Holy Spirit were helpful and did this either encourage of put others off of asking God the Father to be filled with the Spirit. Paul does not speak in such terms, the Spirit is the revealer of God and his wisdom. In those terms it is good that all of us seek to be filled with him.
(References to the Trinity in Ephesians: 1:3, 1:11-13, 1:17, 2:18, 2:22, 3:2-5, 3:14-17, 4:4-6, 5:18-20.)
When Paul writes, ‘I do not cease to give thanks’ he reveals his personal devotional life. Paul was the founding apostle of the Ephesian Church (Acts 18), now separated by time and distance, imprisoned in Rome, he still prays daily for their growth in Christ. By now the church membership will have changed, some will have died, others moved on and new people would have come to faith but Paul still holds them dearly in his heart. Paul had many personal worries with his case coming before Cesar, his life in the balance and so many churches in need of his counsel. He had arrived in Rome under guard and now he was daily concerned with revealing Christ to his jailors and all who came to visit him. There were many pressures and reasons for Paul to have moved on in his prayer life and not have time to constantly fit in the Ephesian church. So much of his ministry to the wider church was to correct errors in faith and practice that had crept in through sin and the evil one and yet his prayer was not dominated by requests and personal need. He had time to regularly remember the saints with a thankful heart. The Ephesians’ faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for each other caused him to praise God. Do we allow sufficient time before the Lord to give thanks for those Christians we have known? Are we so consumed with need that we forget to rejoice in the Lord? Are we openly, genuinely, glad for others even when our own circumstances are highly challenging? The Lord’s love is faithful and generous.