I think a lot of people are a bit intimidated by reading the Bible. A lot of passages can be confusing or unclear to us and sadly, many people have intentionally twisted the words of the Bible to prop up their own agenda. This causes some to avoid reading the Bible.
However, the Bible is something every Christian should read because it is filled with wisdom and guidance, particularly in the New Testament, that we all need. One such valuable lesson, is Ephesians, the tenth book of the New Testament.
Before reading Ephesians, some context will be helpful. It relates to the city of Ephesus, which was near Rome and was known to be a somewhat chaotic city, filled with idolatry and paganism. The city was home to two notable structures of the day, notably a huge theater that is reported to have held up to 50,000 people, as well as the Greek temple, Artemis. Its important to have this short overview of the city, as the teachings of the Apostle Paul to those about to enter, is very relevant to our world today
Ephesians 1-4 (New International Version)
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it a says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Instructions for Christian Living
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
There are so many precious lessons and insights in Ephesians. What can we take away from this Bible passage overall? In essence, Paul is cautioning about Ephesus — which as with many things in the Bible, is a sort of metaphor. Ephesus is a literal and physical place and what goes on within the city, is really reflective of the world in general — a world filled with temptations, tests, traps, dangers and evil. Before one enters Ephesus, one must be on guard…ready to defend themselves against the evils that will tempt men. Given our state of the world, this is why Ephesus is an especially vital message for us all. So some things that we glean from Ephesians include:
Live a life worthy of the incredible sacrifice Christ made for us. Honor and remember that sacrifice by leading a good, clean life and nurture our soul, since it that is who we really are. Christ’s sacrifice was for each and every one of us, so the message applies to all of God’s children. Life can be harsh and that can lead to temptations that take us into the physical world, so always be on guard.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Don’t let the ills and vices of the physical world, such as in Ephesus and in our world today, turn us into harsh, cold, selfish people. Christ died for our sins, but He also filled us with grace, so we should not waste that grace — Christ paid the price for our sins, so the very least we can do is to learn His teachings, be kind, gentle and humble, living the life we are meant to live.
Be unified in Christ. We are pulled in two directions: the physical world, which we can feel, hear, touch, smell, and the spiritual, which is much more precious and powerful, but not something we can always see. We can’t let ourselves be pulled in too many directions and the physical world will try to get you over to its side, but resist. We are one in Christ and mustn’t not let our petty differences ever get in the way of that. In other words, we’re being cautioned to reject the chaos and divisiveness of this world, by fortifying our faith and spiritual life by the unity that Christ brings us.
The Bible is filled with teachings and guidance on how to live and while their message may not always be clear to us, there are values and virtues that are just plain obvious: as Christians, we are meant to be kind, calm, grateful, generous, forgiving and faithful. After all, there is no one or anything more powerful than God, so why would we ever let the chaos, divisiveness and wickedness of the physical world bother us?
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” – Jeremiah 29:11-12