The bible book of Ephesians is the focus of the Cape Town 2010 devotionals. Here is my contribution to that conversation.
I once heard the story of an American general (apparently the only one) that was made POW during World War II. He was imprisoned in a Japanese camp in Mongolia, far away from everything. At some point, the war was over – but this news did not reach the prisoners, so the Japanese kept on treating them as if it was not. The general underwent these humiliating treatments as good as he could without much resistence. When the news finally came through the fences and was whispered into the ears of the American general, he did respond to it immediately: he got on his feet, straightened his back, pulled his head up, and walked out of the camp – without any of his oppressors hindering him. They simply understood that the truth had come to the general – and they could no longer play their false game.
In a sense, this is what Ephesians is about. The truth is out there, the mystery revealed: the war is over, God has accomplished his purposes. People can start a new life now! The only thing that is needed is to hear the truth and to start live according to it. And the truth, the way and the life come together in one divine person: Jesus Christ!
Taking a closer look
When digging in the actual text of this bible book, it is not that easy to summarize what Ephesians is about. Or, to put it better: it is not that easy to summarize what the book is NOT about! It actually contains both very deep and practical insights, it’s about God, Christ and the Spirit; about the individual believer as well as the Church; it talks about mysteries and revelations… the width and depth of the book is simply stunning. Yet, there is something very simple about the overarching theme: it’s all about Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and the end (literally of the book), and everything in between is either a description of Him or an example from Him. And guess what – the exact center of the book (chapter 3:10) is actually a very good summary of it all:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God
should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The writer, Paul, knew how to write a good piece of text, and that is what he did here. See how he follows the structure of God’s big story with mankind. It starts with an (incredibly powerful) acknowledgement that God is the creator and everything lives and breathes because of Him (chapter 1). Then it shows how we (human beings) stepped out of Gods plan for us, tried to live on our own but miserably failed (chapter 2). Introduce Jesus Christ: the solution for this problem; his death and resurrection brought peace and restored life in us (chapter 3). But the story is not over: now we do not just have a new life for ourselves, we even have been made part of Gods plan to bring peace to the entire creation (both on earth and in heaven!) by living out his life as one body together (chapter 4). This means: doing the walk and talk of Jesus – in harmony, humility and honesty on earth (chapter 5), and with authority, strength and boldness in heaven (chapter 6).
We can also visualise the structure in a slightly different way so it reveals even more of the intelligent structure:
Chapter 1: our position in Christ: we in Him
Chapter 2: Our behaviour before we knew God
Chapter 3: Christ’s body of flesh and blood brings peace to the world
Chapter 3: Gods purposes are fullfilled in and through Christ Jesus
Chapter 4: Christ’s body in spirit (the church) brings peace to heaven and earth
Chapter 5: Our behaviour after now that we know God
Chapter 6: our position in Christ: he in us
Again, the pivotal of this all is the person of Jesus Christ. Everything relates to Him. Chapter one repeatedly tells: IN HIM we… and in the verse mentioned above we read that the eternal purpose of God was accomplished through Jesus. Amazing!
I do hope and pray that I together with the 4.200 evangelical leaders in Cape Town next week will be even more ‘rooted and established in love, and that we may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.’
For further reading: over the years, I did preach quite a bit from this book. Download the outlines (in Dutch) here:
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