Encountering evil

The New Testament contains over 2500 allusions and quotations from the Old Testament. The bottomline is the New Testament writers seem to expect us to know the Old Testament well.

Such an understanding is repeatedly rewarded. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is no exception. In this letter the apostle describes God’s foray into overcoming evil and how we are to be at work serving our Lord in a dark world. Before we consider what Paul wrote, let’s take a look at part of this letter’s background Continue reading “Encountering evil”

The battle belongs to the Lord again

Throughout history God’s people have derived courage, comfort and strength from knowing the battle belongs to the Lord. David confronted Goliath. King Jehoshaphat and the men of Judah marched out against a vast army.

Today Christians encourage each other in song singing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” If we allow the armor of God metaphor in Ephesians 6 to suggest a spiritual battle background lying behind the Ephesian letter, another reassurance of God’s victory comes into view.
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The chosen in Christ

Paul’s words in Ephesians 1 are clear. Nevertheless, a story about a letter can perhaps provide a fresh appreciation for his message and what it means for us.

Although I certainly did not graduate with a degree in chemistry and chances are you have not either, let’s pretend we did. Now imagine receiving a letter from our alma mater’s chemistry chairperson: “The president of our university chose us in chemistry before our chemistry program ever began to be educated and prepared for employment.” Continue reading “The chosen in Christ”

How to be blessed by a study of Ephesians

The Epistle to the Ephesians is filled with great teachings about the church, grace, redemption, holiness, unity and more. Yet, to really get the most out of the epistle, we must slow down and notice the small words. There we will find buried treasure.

It’s easy to go too fast when we study the Bible, hoping to catch the major principles. But, we can look at the first chapter of Ephesians and learn the error of our ways. Paul is very precise as a writer and each word is loaded with power. Continue reading “How to be blessed by a study of Ephesians”

Church appreciation 101

Almost a decade ago a truck driver leaned on his dolly at my front door. In the midst of moving boxes into our house a short conversation ensued. “No, I don’t go to church anywhere. I don’t think that’s necessary. I might not be a saint, but I am OK with God.”

The apostle Paul, however, offers an entirely different view in Ephesians.  He would counsel us that spiritually independent free spirits are not in the stream of what God is doing in this world.

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An audacious plan

by Barry Newton

Oil and water, the Hatfields and the McCoys, opera and rap; some combinations just conjure up incompatible images. Yet, scripture would suggest such differences are multiple magnitudes less than the irreconcilability of God and evil. Can there be any greater diametrically opposed forces?

It is precisely because of this incompatibility that God’s eternal plan appears so audacious. While people might like to imagine themselves on a good footing with God, evil forces persistently corrupt humanity, bringing spiritual death and placing people under God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Therefore, God’s plan to organize under Christ the things in heaven and the things on earth is nothing short of incredible (Ephesians 1:9-10). Continue reading “An audacious plan”

Wasted ink?

by Barry Newton

We Americans thrive on practical checklists and how-to guides. Keep it simple. Make it practical. Cut to the chase. These ubiquitous phrases provide proverbial guidance for weeding out the immaterial from the valuable.

Are biblically literate Americans tempted to rush through or even skip over the first three chapters of Ephesians to arrive at the really good part—the practical advice on Christian living? Except for a few proof texts, might some Christians functionally treat the early chapters like wasted ink?

How might Paul respond to such thinking? Continue reading “Wasted ink?”

Unity: but why can’t we?


Christian unity faces a very straightforward question capable of either promoting or tearing at oneness. What question wields such power? “But why can’t we __________?”

If used to empower unity, the form this question simply needs to ask is: “But why can’t we just follow God’s teaching for the church instead of embracing human tradition and ideas?”

More commonly, however, we might encounter a different version of this question. This alternate version could be built upon noble intentions to solve a perceived problem. “But why can’t we ____________? I think this would be so good.”

Continue reading “Unity: but why can’t we?”