Category Archives: Ephesians

Ephesians Wrap-Up

I noticed at some point (beginning of chapter six, I think) that the phrase “In union with Him” recurs several times during Ephesians.  Which makes sense, because Ephesians is largely a “now what?” book: it covers the things that happen to us and the things that we should be doing, now that we are in union with Him.

In union with Him…

…we are set free (1:7)

…we are created for a life of good actions which God has planned for us (2:10)

…we are held together and growing as a community into a dwelling-place for God (2:21-22)

…we are all heirs in God’s promises (3:6)

…we have boldness and confidence when we approach God (3:12)

…we no longer use sterile ways of thinking (4:17)

…we are to obey our parents and other authorities (6:1)

…we grow powerful in the Lord’s mighty strength (6:10)

In union with the Lord, our identity changes first.  We are free of sin, and given a new life and a new calling.

The next thing to change is our relationships.  God moves us to live in community, to glorify Him together.  God uses the strengths and weaknesses and giftings of each person together, so that we no longer have to rely on our own abilities but have others to support us.  We are not only free, but we are also family.

Then our thinking changes.  We gain confidence and creativity and love for others.  We learn what the truth looks like, and our words and actions create life.

And finally (finally!) our actions reflect our faith – we learn love for others and humility that makes it easier to submit to authority and put others first.  We rely on God’s power and not our own.

Union with God is not to be taken lightly.  It sweeps through and changes more than we realize.  But it’s also a process, and some of the most visible signs are the ones that happen last.  The presence of sin doesn’t mean the process isn’t happening.  Making a mistake doesn’t change my identity, or my place in the community.  It just means I’m not there yet.

Thankfully, God is there already.  And He’s still holding my hand and lifting me higher.

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Ephesians 6:21-24

Scripture: verse 24

Grace be to all who love our Lord Yeshua the Messiah with undying love.

Observation: This is Paul’s final salutation, as he prays for God to bless us.  What caught my eye was the phrase “undying love.”

We talk a lot about how Gods love for us is perfect and endless and infinite.  We can’t offer God perfect love, but we can offer undying love.  We can choose to be faithful.

Elsewhere in the Bible it talks about people whose love has grown cold, through indifference to God and selfishness or fear of man or both.  And obviously we are fallen humans and our love for God will not be perfect all the time.  But we can choose to make God our priority, and to keep our love for Him alive.

At the ladies’ meeting yesterday, we talked a lot about shame.  But shame only makes sense when we forget the facts of the matter.  The fact that other people don’t like God says far more about them than it says about God.

The fact is, God is amazing.  Powerful and wise and loving and perfect.  Our love dies when we forget that.

Application: Remember who God is.  Turn to Him for comfort when things are difficult, instead of rejecting Him in anger.  Ask Him to show the truth of the situation.  Because He will.

Prayer:  God, I thank you that your truth is beautiful.  I thank you that you are making all things perfect in their time.  Please help me to see your beauty, even when I’m tired or distressed.  Amen.

Ephesians 6:16-20

Scripture: verse 16

Always carry the shield of trust, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the Evil One.

Observation: The shield of trust (also translated the shield of faith) is one of the tools we are given for spiritual warfare.

What are we supposed to trust in?  That God is who He says He is.  That He’s made us perfect, as He says He has.  That He will guide us and protect us and give us peace.

The only reason to use flaming arrows is that you are aiming them at something flammable.  Satan doesn’t just lie to us – he uses lies that will connect with the doubts and fears we already have, hoping to provoke further destruction.

If we trust God, then Satan’s arrows will be stopped in their tracks.  They can’t hurt us if they hit against our faith in God instead of our doubts in ourselves.  So we need to practice making our faith bigger than our doubts.

Application:  Trust God.  Read about what He has done and is doing, and choose to believe Him.  Acknowledge that He can see farther and clearer than you can, so if what He says contradicts the evidence of your own eyes – He’s probably right.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for making me your daughter.  Thank you for declaring that I am beautiful and righteous and perfect, even if I don’t see it that way.  Help me to trust your evaluation of the facts over my own.  Amen.

Ephesians 6:11-15

Scripture: the first parts of verses 11 and 13

Use all the armor and weaponry that God provides

So take up every piece of war equipment God provides

Observation: When God repeats Himself, it means He wants us to pay attention.  Actually, that’s generally true of people as well, though people may repeat themselves without meaning to.  The point is, this is important.

Paul goes on to list the spiritual war equipment we have: truth, righteousness, the Good News of peace, trust, deliverance (salvation), and the Word of God.  And most of us are good at clinging to one or two or even most of those.  But in the spiritual world, just having a hammer doesn’t turn everything into a nail.  We need to make sure we’re using all of them, or we’re only half-protected.

As Jayne Cobb said, when asked how many weapons he was bringing, “I just get excitable as to choice- like to have my options open.”  Our options should be open.

Application: Turn God and to the weapons He’s given us when you are scared, or tired, or sad, or well.  Know what they are and be prepared to use them.

Prayer: Father, thank you for providing for my defense.  Thank you for giving me your help when I am attacked.  Please help me to learn to use them and use them well – especially readiness with the good news of peace, because I think I’m not so good at that one.  Please make your truth and righteousness a shield for my family as well, especially for my daughters who are too young to fight for themselves.  Bless us and shield us.  Amen.

Ephesians 6:6-10

Scripture: from verse 9

Remember that in heaven both you and they have the same Master, and He has no favorites.

Observation: This is part of Paul’s advice to slave owners: treat your slaves well and respectfully, because in God’s eyes you’re no better than them.  Thankfully we no longer have slavery in most of the world, but this is far from irrelevant.

This sums up the core of how believing communities and relationships should function.  God knows me and God loves me.  God also knows and loves my husband, my sister, my neighbor, my rabbi, and even the woman who keeps implying that I need to do a better job of keeping Beauty’s curls under control.

So I can share my heart, confident that God will protect me.  (Of course, sometimes He protects me by letting me know I shouldn’t share my heart.  It’s not like my brain is turned off.)  And I can extend grace to people who annoy me, because I know that God loves them and He is fitting them into where they need to be.  And I don’t have to fix people, because God has already planned out their trajectory.

If I use on God’s wisdom, I don’t have to rely on my own.  Considering how flawed I am, that’s a relief.

Application:  Treat others with respect and love.  At the End of the Day, we’re all just people.  And God loves us.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for seeing our hearts and not just our appearance and our actions.  Thank you for taking the time to know me.  Thank you for not having favorites but for meeting each of us where we are.  Amen.

Ephesians 6:1-5

Scripture: verse 1

Children, what you should do in union with the Lord is obey your parents, for this is right.

Observation:  Having spent half a chapter explaining how our new identity in Messiah should be reflected in marriage, Paul goes on to discuss how it changes other relationships, including parent-child and owner-slave.

When I was little, I was apparently fairly resistant to most of the normal forms of discipline, so my mom would sit me down and explain, quite rationally, that God had created communities to work a certain way for the benefit of everyone who participated and that children obeying their parents was part of how authority worked.  Apparently, it worked.

We are called to obey authority in unity with the Lord.  Our new identity – being one flesh with Messiah – does not take us out of community or out of normal human relationships.  Instead, unity with Messiah helps us to fit into community more strongly than ever.  We become a pillar of strength for the people around us, by doing our job and fulfilling our calling.

Being with God doesn’t mean ignoring humans.  It means taking people more seriously than ever, because they are also part of God’s body.

Application:  Obey authority.  Support the community.  Dedicate time and energy to pursuing relationships with others.  Enter your calling in unity with the Lord.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for calling me to be where I am.  Thank you for making me a wife and mother and daughter and sister and friend.  Help me to take those relationships seriously, and to reach out with love towards those who need it.  Amen.

Ephesians 5:31-33

Scripture: from verse 31

…and the two will become one flesh.

Observation:  Paul is quoting Genesis 2 here, speaking of a husband and wife coming together.  He goes on to say that this is true on two levels: it’s true of individual couples, and it also described a “profound mystery” concerning Messiah and the believers.  (There’s one of those places that God’s word is fractal: the little pictures look just like the big pictures.)

But I was thinking about one flesh.  Flesh isn’t an amorphous material.  It isn’t like clay or bread dough that can be split up and recombined without anyone noticing.  Flesh means blood vessels, and muscles and tendons and bones, and nerves and lymph nodes and glands.

So two becoming one isn’t just about emotions or sex or other easy ways of joining.  It means joining structures, so that each supports and extends the movements of the other.  It means joining circulatory systems, so that oxygen and energy and sickness and healing flow back and forth.  Even your proprioceptive sense (the sense that tells you where your body is, allowing you to do things like clap your hands with your eyes closed) and your limbic system (the part of your brain that runs emotions and memory and things) can apply to two people instead of just one.

And that’s what God wants to have with us.  Messiah’s lifeblood, flowing through our bodies.  Messiah’s power supporting our steps.  His desires becoming ours, and ours becoming His.

Yeshua wants to give us the desires of our hearts.  He wants to be one flesh with us.

Application: Become one flesh with Yeshua.  I’m not really sure how that works with Yeshua, but I know some of how it works in marriage: your spend time together and learn each other and respect and love each other.  So spend time with Yeshua and learn about Him – and be open and honest so He can learn you.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for offering to be one flesh with us.  You could have offered to be our master, or our father, or our owner, and been entirely within your rights – you owe us nothing.  But you offered to be one flesh.  You offered unity.  Help me believe that.  Amen.

Ephesians 5:26-30

Scripture: verses 29 and 30

Why, no one ever hated his own flesh!  On the contrary, he feeds it well and takes care of it, just as the Messiah does the Messianic Community, because we are parts of His body.

Observation: The context here is that of marriage: husbands take care of their wives because the husband and wife are one flesh, so caring for her is like caring for himself.  And indeed, ignoring or mistreating one’s spouse is generally an excellent example of shooting yourself in the foot.  But what caught my eye is the assertion that no one ever hated his own body.

As a teenager, I used to shave my legs dry, when I consented to shave them at all.  No shaving cream, no soap, not even water.  And yes, I got terrible razor burn.  My memories of shaving are mostly of embarrassment – embarrassment over having leg hair, embarrassment over not having shaved, embarrassment over having to ask to have the bathroom to myself, embarrassment over the time it took.  So I snuck upstairs when people were doing other things and shaved as quickly as I could, usually with somebody else’s razor because I hadn’t admitted I needed one.  (I probably owe my sisters an apology for that one, come to think of it!)

And I’m not sure what exactly was going on in my head, but clearly something was.  Somehow I’d gotten the idea that taking care of myself was wasteful.  So I didn’t.  Not in scary dangerous ways – I never struggled with eating disorders or anything of that sort – but in little ways.

But Messiah takes care of His body.  He takes care of me.  And He wants me to take care of myself.  He made me, and I am not a waste.

Application:  You aren’t a waste either.  Your body, your emotions, your ideas – God made them and God loves them.  It’s okay to use your resources to care for yourself.

Prayer:  Messiah, thank you for caring for me.  Thank you for making me the way I am and for loving me enough to die for me.  Help me to move with confidence in your love.  Amen.

Ephesians 5:21-25

Scripture: from verse 23

…the Messiah, as head of the Messianic Community, is Himself the one who keeps the body safe.

Observation:  You may have noticed there’s some words I really like.  Rest.  Made perfect.  Light.  Safe.

I like safe.  I dealt with a lot of anxiety growing up (still do, a little) and safe was nice.  Safe meant not having to explain myself or defend myself.  Safe meant that I knew the rules, and they wouldn’t change on me or suddenly loom in my path.  (I’m still dealing with the realization, a few weeks ago, that the social guidelines I’d been taught for one particular situation were wrong and I may have badly hurt people in the past.  I don’t feel any guilt over it, as I didn’t know, it still makes me a little sad.)  Safe means I have answers, or know where to get answers, and if I ask questions people won’t look at me like I’m clueless.  (I probably am clueless, but I still don’t like that look!)  Safe means someone to take care of me and comfort me and make me tea.

And Messiah is keeping His body safe.  He protects His community.  He protects me.

Those who are paying attention will realize that this is in the middle of the whole hierarchical-marriage passage.  Personally I tend to ignore that debate, since each couple is different and different things seem to work for different couples – as long as both of them treat the other with sacrificial love, everything will be fine.

But while I don’t feel any particular onus to submit to my husband, a lot of people think that we have a hierarchical marriage.  The reason for that is that Hero and I keep each other safe.  There are a number of areas where one of us is better equipped to navigate than the other, and because we trust each other and respect each others’ strengths, we can allow each other to take the lead.  Hero’s strengths are a little more public-sphere than mine, so people think we have a hierarchical marriage.  But really we just do what’s safe.  Because it’s comfortable.

Messiah, on the other hand, has infinite knowledge and experience.  He isn’t just good at navigating odds and managing outcomes in uncertain situations – He actually knows what will happen.  He deserves our trust and respect in every area of life.  Because that’s how we stay safe.

Application:  Messiah is our safety.  Trust Him.  Doing what He says may not always be pleasant, but in the long run it is best for you.

Prayer:  Yeshua, thank you for being there to keep me safe.  Thank you for providing what I need – right down to the cup of hot tea – exactly when you know I need it.  Help me to trust that you know what you’re doing.  Amen.

Ephesians 5:16-20

Scripture: verse 17

So don’t be foolish, but try to understand what the will of the Lord is.

Observation: We can’t afford to be foolish – we have little enough time and energy as it is.  We can’t waste it feeding darkness and emptiness.

During the conference I was at recently, two verses kept coming to me.  The first was Hebrews 4, which is about the need to trust God’s grace and choose to enter His rest.  The other was Psalm 90:12, which says “Teach us to number our days, that we may become wise.”  I was struggling to connect them (on the assumption that God intended them to be connected) and I think this verse is the third part of that puzzle.

Our time and our energy and our abilities are limited.  Since they are limited, we have to use them efficiently, which means allowing God to determine how they are to be used.  And His will is that we trust His grace and allow Him to shape us and teach us to love Him and love others.  He is making us fitly framed for Him and for each other, creating something beautiful.

Application: Go with the flow – the God flow, anyway.  Serve God, love others, and rest.

Prayer: Teach me to number my days, Father.  Teach me to use what you have given me wisely, and to trust you to compensate for my failures.  Thank you that you have a plan for me, that I will not be wasted or overlooked.  Amen.