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Thursday
November 15th, 2018

gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

Fragments of early biblical texts give clues as to how they were written. Josh and Sean McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict) wrote of the process: Papyrus, parchment or vellum sheets were painstakingly made from plants or animal skins. Words were formed with quills or reeds dipped in ink derived from charcoal, gum and water. The sheets were sewn together to make scrolls or stitched on the sides to create early ‘books’ called codices. What a marvel that, thousands of years later, we have intact Bibles that contain these early writing treasures. 

As I began a study of Ephesians – called a Pauline Epistle and written to a church near the Caspian Sea - I decided to figuratively take apart, organize by subject, and reassemble it. For someone who fancies himself a concrete sequential thinker, exercises like that help promote understanding. I hope you’ll indulge me as we begin looking at the book of Ephesians in this way. The subjects will be capitalized below for emphasis. 

The first portion is Ephesians chapter 1, plus the first ten verses of chapter 2. Scholars have varying theories, but the traditional view is that the writer was Saul from Tarsus in modern-day Turkey. He was born a Jew, studied under the renowned teacher Gamaliel, and became a Pharisee. He also had a “blue-collar” job as a tent maker which provided funding for his travels around the known world. His conversion on the road to Damascus had been dramatic - with accounts found in Acts chapters 9, 22 and 26 – and complete, as he joined the early followers of Jesus and became known as Paul the apostle. 

Ephesians begins with a GREETING, identifying Paul as an apostle of Christ Jesus, and the ones whom he was writing as saints, or holy ones, those who lived faithful lives. Though it was historical, it’s also contemporary, so Christian believers today are known as saints (which makes many of us nervous). The text is peppered throughout with references to BLESSINGS: salvation, grace and peace, holiness, forgiveness, faith, love, life, an inheritance, and the promise of resurrection and eternity with Jesus. When Paul wrote of baptism, it denoted a saturation, filled to overflowing, which describes how blessings “in Christ” infuse his letter. 

The SOURCE of the blessings was “God our Father” which is mentioned more than twenty times, and “in Christ Jesus” which appears at least thirteen times. Paul knew, and any of us who has experienced conversion, that life in Christ is different. Being born to Christian parents, growing up in a church, studying under a great teacher, won’t bring about that type of change. We become ambassadors: we speak of what God has done for us, and challenge others “in Christ” to what they can become and do. 

The MEANS for becoming a believer are possible only because of God’s grace: Jesus’ blood was shed, He was raised from the dead, seated at the right hand of God, given authority over all things and is the head of the church, which is his body. This is the Gospel in a nutshell. 

The REASON for all this is God’s love. He chose us, has kind intentions toward us, and has a purpose for each life. As a skinny kid in Phys Ed, often chosen last, this gives tremendous hope and comfort! 

The RESULT of God’s love is that anyone who accepts His grace also becomes an apostle – a saint – a holy one. We are to be the “hope of the world” and bring good works to others. We’re redeemed. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit and the pledge of an inheritance that lasts forever. He takes me from what I am potentially and works within to make me what I can be practically. 

I used a word processor to sort and color-code notes for this letter. It is powerful to envision the original writer sitting with quill and parchment, writing these words directly to us: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

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