Monthly Archives: May 2018

Letter to the Ephesians

Commonly known as one of four Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), the letter to the Ephesians was written by Apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment). Having written three of the four letters (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)  around the same time (AD 60–61), Paul had Tychicu hand deliver the letters accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12).

Unlike 2 Second Corinthians or Galatians where Paul added personal touches about his own life or that of the recipients, the letter to the Ephesians stands out as being more formal. Rather than responding to a theological or moral dilemma, the heart of this letter focuses on what it means to be a Christian… both in faith and in practice … regardless of what is going on in the world.

Paul divided his letter into two main parts consisting of three chapters each, or six chapters in total.

The first three chapters focus on faith, discussing the spiritual riches believers possess in Christ:

  • The gift of undeserving grace from God our Father, making salvation possible.
  • The gift of redemption from God the Son, Jesus Christ whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, makes reconciliation and a closer relationship with God our Father possible.
  • The gift of wisdom and guidance from God the Holy Spirit during our spiritual walk, enlightening our heart, mind, and spirt, making a Christ-centered life possible.

The last three chapters provide instructions for living a Christ-centered life. Following Jesus’ footsteps, we are asked to serve the needs of others out of our love and reverence for Christ, with the goal of preserving unity, love, harmony, and victory in all our relationships:

  • Called to walk in unity, we are asked to preserve unity of the Spirit by maintaining a proper attitude and edifying the body of Christ with the grace God has given us.
  • Called to walk in love, we are asked to live a life demonstrating our love for God and for others while living a life as children of light and wisdom.
  • We are called to walk in harmony, preserving harmony in relationships beginning with those who are in our household, with guidelines for maintaining a healthy relationship among husbands and wives; parents and children; and masters and servants.
  • We are called to walk in victory. Equipped with the whole armor of God, we are asked to stand strong in the power of the Lord.

Discussing a wide range of moral and ethical behaviors, the letter to the Ephesians is a powerful “how to” guide designed to help us live a Christ-centered life according to God’s purpose for us. As we continue to grow in faith, complacency often sets in with temptations quickly sidelining us for a time. This letter is an extraordinary gift from Apostle Paul to help us stay on course.

What is one way in which you can live a more Christ-like life?

Epistle to the Galatians

Paul addressed the early Christian communities in Galatia in the ninth book of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Galatian. Composed around 49 AD prior to the Jerusalem Council in 50 AD, some scholars suggest that this may have been Paul’s first letter. The purpose of it was to address the controversy that arose between the Jewish and Gentile Christians as to whether the Mosaic Law was to be observed. While Jewish Galatians strictly observed the Law, Paul argued that Gentile Galatians did not need to adhere to its tenets, particularly circumcision, in light of the New Covenant that was established with Jesus Christ.

Divided into six chapters, Pauls’ letter begins Chapter 1 by delivering a testimony to the Galatians about how he had received the authentic Gospel message from the Holy Spirit who now lives within him. Warning them not to believe false doctrines, Paul states that he is empowered as an Apostle to serve as Christ’s ambassador. In Chapter 2, Paul defends the Gospel, explaining that as a result of the New Covenant with Jesus Christ, there is no longer a need to observe the Mosaic Law.

In Chapters 3 through 5:12, Paul clarifies the New Covenant, declaring that salvation cannot be assured solely by observing the letter of the Law (performing good works). In God’s eyes, salvation is assured by believing in Him, seeking His undeserved grace, and demonstrating through our actions that we are now living a redeemed, righteous life (faith). Rather than abandoning the Law, Paul encourages us to live by the spirit of the Law, using it as a learning tool on how to live a righteous life (Galatians 3:24). Saying we are imperfect, we all have broken many of the laws over time. While we are incapable of strictly obeying all 613 laws, there is still much we can learn from them (Galatians 5:3).

In Chapters 5:13 through 6, Paul continues on this theme, explaining that as a result of the Last Supper and Jesus Christ’s subsequent death, a New Covenant has been established. Whoever believes in Christ and seeks His gift of undeserving grace, the veil separating us from God has been lifted with salvation assured (2 Corinthians 3:16). By having faith in Christ, we are now free from the Law that once enslaved us (Galatians 5:1‭-‬4)

Through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are rewarded with the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit. Residing within us, the Holy Spirit guides us on our spiritual journey, helping us to follow a righteous path and assuring God’s acceptance (Galatians 5:5‭-‬6). As we choose to listen and act on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we are less apt to give into our selfish desires and are more likely live a loving, peaceful Christ-like life (Galatians 5:16, 22-25). As one of Jesus’ disciple, Paul encourages us to share this gift and our new life, guiding friends, family, and others towards a righteous path, but warns us not to be tempted by ways of the world that may cause us to stay from our own path (Galatians 6:1‭-‬2).

In closing the letter, Paul reiterates that it does not matter how strictly we observe the Law. What is important is that we become a new person as a result of having faith in and following God as one of His true people. By following this one rule, God rewards us with undeserved grace and blesses us with peace.

Today as I write this, I realize that we are not unlike the Galatians of long ago with the debate continuing among religious denominations as to what constitutes salvation…faith or good works. Central to this discussion is whether the promised New Covenant as instituted at the Last Supper and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus Christ fulfills Old Testament prophesy (Jeremiah 31:31–34). Its fulfillment is substantiated further in the New Testament’s Book of Hebrews, specifically Chapter 8:6-13, which will be discussed in a future post.

Where do you stand? Do you believe in living by the letter of the Law (good works) or by Spirit of the Law (faith)? Why?