Recently, I have been drawn into studying and meditating on the Book (commonly called) Ephesians. I have always loved this particular book of the Bible because I think it, along with a multitude of much wiser men than me, contains Paul’s highest revelation concerning the Body of Christ.
Some of the significant things that have clicked for me in studying through Ephesians this time around are as follows:
1. Ephesians wasn’t just written to the saints at Ephesus. In most and, perhaps, the best original manuscripts the text actually reads, “to the saints at (_______)” There is a blank there. Many scholars believe that “Ephesians” is actually an encyclical letter that was intended, and did indeed, circulate between the churches located in the region of Asia.
This makes sense given the content of the letter being at such a high level of revelation and given the fact that Paul spent between 3-4 years working in the region; not just the city of Ephesus.
Also, in Paul’s other letters there are always direct salutations/greetings to specific individuals. Despite his familiarity and intimacy with the Ephesian elders (read Acts 20), he offers no greetings to any specific individuals.
Another element found in Paul’s other letters is addressing particular issues and/or controversies that existed in respective assemblies. In the Book commonly called Ephesians, we do not see any such issues presented and addressed.
What we do read, however, is an incredible depth of revelation concerning God’s eternal purposes and how the Body of Christ is to function in order to fulfill those purposes.
Understanding that this letter was written by Paul to the region of Asia, rather than just the Ephesian believers, has opened up an incredible insight for me. As I read through the messages of Christ to the seven churches in Asia found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, I see corresponding themes and connections between the revelation/instruction given by Paul in his original letter and the revelation given to John. There are some deep, rich, powerful truths that can be extracted from investigating that connection. I won’t take time to go into here on the blog. If interested, you might want to mosey on over and listen to the teachings on The Forerunner Ministry website.
2. Paul wrote the letter to the Colossian believers as a companion to the Ephesians letter. Both letters were written around the same time towards the end of his third apostolic tour and during his imprisonment in Rome. Both letters were delivered by the same brother name Tychicus.
In Colossians, we see Christ presented and revealed as the Supreme, Preeminent Head of the Church, while Ephesians speaks regarding the Body of which He is the Head. When Ephesians 4:11 is read, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers”, immediately our minds should refer to the revelation contained in the Colossae letter, for example Colossians 1:18/2:19.
Also, at the end of Colossians (4:16), Paul encourages the Colossian saints to read the letter sent to the Laodiceans and allow their letter to be read by the Laodicean believers. There is no other reference or any historical evidence that there was ever a “Laodicean” letter written/sent by Paul. Colossae was only 11 miles from Laodicea. Perhaps, Paul was referencing the letter commonly called Ephesians that was circulating through the churches of Asia.
Regardless, the revelation contained in Colossians of Christ as the Head of the Church and the revelation of the Church of which He is the Head contained in Ephesians are directly connected and reap a great reward when they are read/studied with such an understanding.
3. In the earliest writings of Paul’s apostolic ministry, such as Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Galatians, the emphasis of “Christ in you” and all that it means is exemplified. While, in his later writings such as the Colossians/Ephesians letters we discover “you in Christ” and the significant import of that revelation.
Yes, I know that the actual words “Christ in you the hope of glory” are actually found in Colossians. But, if you will go and read the context, you will discover that Paul uses that phrase as a segue to say, “Him we preach…..that we may PRESENT EVERY MAN PERFECT IN CHRIST.”
I’ve always known that Christianity, if you will forgive the crude analogy, is not an individual sport. “Christ in you” is an individual thing. Your relationship with God through Christ is uniquely and individually yours. Every believer must come to a personal confession and walk with Christ.
But, what Father desires us to understand is that by His design, Christianity is a team sport! What He is truly after is the corporate expression of the One New Man, Christ Jesus. So, when you begin to see the “you in Christ” as represented in Colossians/Ephesians, you begin to realize that the fullness of function and impact of a believer’s faith is to be through the corporate expression; not as a spiritual lone ranger.
Even further, the fullness of Christ comes to the individual through the corporate. I can guarantee you that there are some things in your life that will only be overthrown, dealt with and conquered by being associated with an accurate corporate expression of Christ. Those sins that are constantly recycled, the obstacles that continuously keep advancement from occurring, the things that only you know what they are………….they will only be effectively handled when submitted to an effectively functioning corporate expression. The depth of love that is freeing, the liberty to bring fullness of function in gifts/grace and coming to KNOW Him in unfathomable ways will only occur when in proper submission and fellowship with a healthy corporate Body.
I speak this to you from personal experience.
The epitome of this truth can be found in Ephesians 1:23. Allow me to offer an edited snippet of The Message’s translation:
God raised Christ from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe…..no name and no power are exempt from his rule. He is in charge of it all and has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
The further I dive into the book commonly called Ephesians, the more I am seeing that it is time for the Body to come together and mature. There is much work to be done but, Praise God!, He is doing it. My prayer is that those with ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church will not only hear but respond accordingly.
Keep your peace!