Pretend you are a new Christian, in a group of fervent new believers. You have just received a letter, from a famous missionary, whose faith is so strong that he has been jailed for it. To get an idea of what this letter would have sounded like to the Ephesians, read it in a paraphrased version, like the Message. Remember that they received it not as an ancient tome, but as a letter written in their own contemporary vernacular.
I do not recommend the Message for regular Bible study, as any paraphrase is just a man’s interpretation of God’s Word. It is best to study from a translation, rather than a paraphrase. But a paraphrase is a good means to preview a book of the Bible before studying it, to get a fresh perspective.
Ephesians is a letter written by Paul from jail, to the Christians in Ephesus. They were new Christians, not well-versed in the Jewish faith that Jesus came from. Paul sent this letter to encourage them in their new walk, to remind them that they were separate from the world because of God’s great mercy and grace, and to exhort them in how they ought to behave as Christians living in an idolatrous culture.
Pretend you are a new Christian in Ephesus, and this is the letter your church has just received from a pastor jailed for his faith. Imagine the excitement at receiving such a letter, the weight you would give to the words written by a man whose faith is fervent enough to be jailed for. Read it in its entirety, as you would any other letter. Or listen to a dramatized reading:
Did you hear Ephesians in a new way? Was it encouraging?
This letter is one of encouragement. Paul writes to inspire us with the enormity of what God has already done for us, and what our hope is for the future -a praising and glorious life, carrying out a purpose that God has laid out for us.
So many people search for the meaning of life, filling their time with a pursuit of worldly goals, or seeking pleasures, or becoming skilled at hobbies. But for what? Endless busy-ness, self-glorification. But we, as Christians, already know the meaning of life! We, who were once enmired in the busy-ness of our own meaningless pursuits, now have a greater pursuit. We now pursue the work God has for us, for His glory!
We have the incredible gift of the Spirit of God within us, and Paul inspires us to act like it. We have been set free from our sins, so that we can walk in that freedom. Love others as you are loved. Forgive one another as you have been forgiven. Step away from the trap of your former life.
How do we do this? How do we walk in this new life? With love. Love your spouse, as Christ loves you. Honour your parents. Treat your children with patience. Work hard for your employer. Treat your employees with respect.
This is a spiritual battle you are engaging in, and it will last for the rest of your life. So be prepared to stand against evil. Prepare yourself by knowing the word of God. Pray for God’s help in the battle against sin. Pray for God’s help for your brothers and sisters. And pray for God’s help for your pastors and spiritual leaders.
Ephesians is a book of encouragement to action. From Paul’s common-sense exhortions to how to practically love your family and community, to his rousing depiction of how to pray and study in preparation for spiritual warfare, this letter provides an inspiring guide to guide your daily walk as a Christian.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.Ephesians 6:18