By Rev Dr Clive Chin
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is one of his most formal letters, because it deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice—regardless of any particular problem in the community.
Paul divided his letter into two clear halves. He applies the truths of the first, which makes possible the actions and lifestyle of the second. Paul spent the first three chapters of the letter discussing God’s creation of a holy community by his gift of grace in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The members of this community have been chosen by God through the work of Christ, adopted as children of God. All people with this faith—Jews and Gentiles alike—were dead in their transgressions and sins but have been made alive because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
While Paul was not responding to a particular theological or moral problem, he wrote to warn of potential problems by encouraging the Ephesians to cultivate their faith. The central message is clear—God chose the church before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and made known to it his plan of uniting all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). Central to this plan is the unity of the church, a unity in which vertical reconciliation to God (Eph. 2:1-10) forms the basis of horizontal reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-22).
As a result of the spiritual realities Christians accept by their faith in God, several practices should follow in their relationships within the church, in the home, and in the world. The book of Ephesians focuses on a wide range of moral and ethical behaviours, designed to ensure believers are living up to our heavenly calling. The latter half of Ephesians makes clear that spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others. Our Christian “walk” is to be characterised by unity, holiness, love, wisdom, and perseverance in spiritual warfare.
A common blind spot for evangelical Christians is to overlook the central importance of the church, emphasising individual salvation more than the saved community. Yet no one can come away from a careful reading of Ephesians with a privatised gospel. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians clearly sets forth God’s eternal purpose to create the church—God’s new community.