February 15, 2018
We know who the letter is from: Paul, and we know Paul is writing “from God,” as he is being “carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
So who is the letter to? We most often refer to Paul’s letters according to whom they are written. In this case, the common parlance would be, “Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.” It’s exactly wrong. Paul is not writing to the Ephesians any more than he was writing to the Colossians or the Thessalonians or the Galatians or the Romans (or the Americans, for that matter.) Go back and check it for yourself in today’s text.
I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
Paul is not writing an open letter to the citizens of Ephesus. This is not meant to be read in the town square or etched onto the walls of city hall. It’s arguable that Paul is not even writing to Christians, in the loose way we throw the term about today. Paul writes to a very particular and distinctive subset of people. He calls them God’s holy people in Ephesus. These are the baptized ones, the ones who have “come out” and publicly identified themselves as Christians via their baptism. But wait, there’s more. The circle gets smaller. He writes to God’s holy people in Ephesus, and here’s the kicker—who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.
I may be pushing the text a shade here, but it strikes me that Paul writes to a circle within a circle within a circle. Live in Ephesus? Check. Part of the church in Ephesus? Check. Faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Hmmmmmm.
If I’m honest, there were long seasons of my life when I could check the God’s holy people in “Arkansas” box, but was not standing in the “who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus” circle. You too? And then there was a significant season of my life wherein I would step into and out of the “faithful followers” circle. It depended on who I was with or the way I wanted to be perceived or the lifestyle I wanted to lead. I wanted to be a “reasonable” Christian.
Then, by the mercy of God, I woke up to the grace of God. Finally, I began to actually know the one whom prior I had only known about. There is a difference between following the followers of Jesus (i.e. which can look a lot like showing up for church and doing church stuff) and following Jesus himself.
The point of all this is to ask the hard question: are you stuck in reasonable Christianity, which can be very faithful to the “motions” of it all? Or have you stepped over the line in a more definitive fashion into real Christianity and signed your life over to Jesus and the awakening movement of the Gospel. Let’s be clear. This is not about measuring one’s commitment or religious activity. Real Christianity is about belonging exclusively and entirely to Jesus—simply, totally, gloriously.
Bringing it full circle, the Bible was not written for the Ephesians (or the world for that matter) but so the followers of Jesus in Ephesus could become so irresistibly like Jesus the world would follow him too.
LENTEN INSIGHT: The big question for Lent is not what you are “giving up,” but how might the mystery and miracle of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ become more actualized in your every day life.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, the royal way of the holy Cross became associated with giving up coffee or candy for a few weeks of our lives each year. Come on Church! It’s time to wake up. We can do better. Just saying.
Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who is both patient with us and persistent. Allay our fears of surrendering everything to him. I want more of the real life. I know it will mean letting go of the old. Help me sort that. We pray in Jesus name, amen.
- Which circle are you standing in? Reasonable faith? Faithful Follower?
- What might it mean to deepen your surrender to Jesus? How would you signal that to him in a meaningful way?
- What scares you about going “all-in” with Jesus?
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.