Have you ever wished you could win a lottery? Or inherit a great fortune? We all have indulged in fantasies of one kind or another. And yet, we have already won an inheritance that is beyond our comprehension! An inheritance that transcends any quantitative measurement.
In fact, it was set aside for us before the world began! 1 Highlighting our inheritance is the ambitious goal of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. It is regarded by many as the loftiest pinnacle of the New Testament, and yet it is also a practical manual for personal combat.
It is certainly a remarkable letter. It specifically highlights that we live in four - not three - dimensions.2 And it also defines the very purpose of God is this entire cosmic drama. 3 All of us should be aware of the secret to our salvation:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [even] it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. -Ephesians 2:8, 9
But few of us notice what God's motivation in all this is, noted in the preceding verse:
That in the ages [yet] to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:7
However, like any good adventure, there is a resourceful adversary that is aggressively attempting to rob you of your treasure. Yet, what distinguishes a fearful threat from an exhilarating adventure is the assurance that the ultimate victory is, indeed, ours!
But we need to prepare ourselves for the adventure we are plunged into. Paul's lofty letter to the Ephesians is also a book about war and warfare. We are expected to be soldiers, taking the offense. (Although we often feel more like prisoners of war!)
Twice Paul warns us to "Put on the whole armor of God." (Not just our convenient favorites: all the necessary elements!) To do that we need to know what they are and be prepared and trained in the use of them. They are detailed in his letter,4 and they are absolutely essential for the adventure we are engaged in.
Yes, it is a book about warfare. And we are not only already engaged in it; we are surrounded in enemy territory! What kinds of battles can we expect? Paul warned us that,
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.-Ephesians 6:12
Upon Paul's return from his third missionary journey, he met with the elders of the church at Ephesus and warned them about the dangers they would be facing:5
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. -Acts 20:29-31
Have you ever met any of these? Or watched them on television? This prophecy came painfully true among the early Church with the subsequent rise of Gnosticism, precisely the same sinister threats that prevail in our society today! Our adversaries are not limited to the spooky demons pictured in a Peretti novel. They include some who wear three-piece suits, carry briefcases with cellular phones, who speak excellent English, and network effectively - revising history, attacking the family and our Godly heritage, promoting all manner of perversions, and even denying the very existence of truth.
[The Apostle John's three epistles also deal with this same situation and are, thus, also uniquely appropriate to our present day.]
The letter to the Ephesians is parallel, in many ways, to the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament: it is a book about conquest, of "crossing over" and taking possession of what God has committed to us. It focuses on the predestined inheritance of a chosen people,6 our victory under our divinely appointed leader,7 and gaining victory through faith.8 (By law, Israel could never have become entitled to Canaan.9 )
Ephesians is a book about victory and fulfillment: not just deliverance from Egypt (the world), but to the Promised Land.10
The letter to the Ephesians is a clarion call to action. It is urgent and exhilarating. It clearly fits our times. Enjoy!
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