Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Ephesians 1

(1-2) Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus while he was in prison for preaching the gospel. Paul reminded the Ephesian church to be at peace because I was their Father. I am your Father too and I want you to know me through Paul’s words.

(3-10) Paul’s excitement about the gospel was immediately evident. In fact, he was so excited that this first part of Ephesians is just one long, run-on sentence. I love that he skipped the punctuation because it reminds me of children who talk non-stop about all the things they love.

Together with my Son and my Spirit, I have blessed you much more than you could ever imagine. In fact, I have blessed you with “every spiritual blessing.” Right now, you cannot fully understand what that means, but someday you will. Beloved, hear me: I chose you.  Long before your parents ever even thought of you, I named you and said, “This is my precious child.” You are holy and blameless through the blood of Jesus. I adopted you into my family and I love you with an everlasting love, which was my plan from the beginning.  When Jesus willingly went to the cross and shed his blood for you, he restored right relationship with me. He forgave all your sins, past, present, and future. His graciousness is immeasurable and unimaginable. It would be as if you were a starving man and needed a crust of bread, but I prepared an abundant feast of the finest delicacies! My love is lavish and all-wise. My Son has revealed some of our plans and purposes to you, plans that involved him, but not just him, all creation. Eventually, child, you will see that everything in heaven and on earth makes perfect sense in him!

(11-14) Long ago, I chose you for an inheritance beyond measure. It was always my intention to welcome you as my child, and because I am God, there is nothing that I cannot accomplish for my glory. When you heard and believed the good news, you were sealed by my Spirit, who guarantees that I will never leave you and that my promises to you will never fail.

(15-23) It is clear that your faith in me is strong and that you love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul prayed for the faith and love of believers all over the world. One of his prayers was that you would be wise about who I am. Faith is not merely head knowledge, but true intimacy. I want you to have a growing vision of what hope in me means. Allow your soul to expand so you can take in more of my beauty. Understand that my power is so much greater than anything you can muster. When I do something, it is done. Remember, one of the greatest things I have done was giving you a new life in my Son who is sitting with me now in heaven’s throne room where we reign with perfect authority. There is no one greater. Remember also that my Son is also the head of the church.

Ephesians 2

(1-3) Living in sin is living from your false self. It is living in deception and self-centeredness. The Satan has a stronghold on people who are committed disobedience and self-centeredness. In sin, you feed your own passions and lusts, which is not in right relationship with me. Everyone who rejects my way of love invites painful separation from me.

(4-10) Even though I hate sin with a white-hot passion, I am also more merciful than you can imagine. Because I am Love, my love washed over you when you were dead in sin. My love not only cleanses, it also gives new life in my Son. You are restored by my graciousness toward you. In baptism, you went down into the water as a corpse and were raised to a brand-new life with my Son that can never be taken away. Whether your current circumstances are good or bad, things are immeasurably better in relationship with the Trinity. Child, pay attention: there is nothing you did or did not do that restored our relationship. It was all because of my grace. You are my child because I am gracious, not because you are good. Never forget my grace and do not brag that your saved because of something good in you. I saved you in your mess. I am in the process of buffing off your rough edges so that you will become more like my Son and grow in your ability to love others well.

(11-13) Do not forget, at one time you had no fellowship with Christ and no community with believers. Not only that, you had no idea what amazing promises I held for you. What a hopeless place to be! But with Jesus, there is hope. Because of what he did on the cross, you are no longer alone on the outside looking in. Through the physical breaking of his body on the cross, his spiritual body—the church—is healed. All believers everywhere are joined with one another in Jesus.

(14-17) You no longer need to live with anger, frustration, or hostility. There is no place for spiritual pride because it is not where you came from or what you have done that makes you right with me, but what Jesus did. He came to restore wholeness and bring shalom. My desire for everyone is my peace and wholeness. Jesus has already given you a garment of peace; Wear it.

(18-22) You are free to talk to me anytime you want. You do not have to go through special ceremonies. You are not a stranger to me, you are my child, an essential part of my family. Our family has been growing for a long time. For thousands of years men and women have been inviting people to know my Son. Anyone who wishes may enter. Everything that happens in my family, every part of who you are, happens because of Jesus. When you live in step with him and when you seek his peace, you are creating a dwelling place for my Spirit.

Ephesians 3

(1-6) I made it Paul’s special mission to bring the message of my grace to those who were outside the Hebrew community. I literally knocked him off his feet when I revealed this message to him.[1] Once my Son got ahold of him, Paul never again backed down from boldly proclaiming the good news. In fact, he wrote this letter when he was in prison for preaching my word. I gave Paul a special insight into the mysteries of my Son. In the past, I gave glimpses of grace to my followers, but with Paul and the other apostles, my Spirit showed them the whole plan, a plan for inclusion. In my Son, everyone is welcome regardless of race or background. Whoever wishes to drink from the fountain of my grace is freely invited.

(7-9) Paul proclaimed the gift of grace to as many people as he could. He counted it an undeserved privilege to good news with outsiders. Indeed, my choice of Paul was a remarkable display of my ability to use anyone. He hated everything about Christianity, yet he became one of my greatest missionaries. I blinded him in order to give him new eyes to see the richness of Christ. Because of my Spirit in him, Paul was able to reveal the mysteries of my grace to multitudes around the Mediterranean. Allowing people to see how glorious and complete my grace is has always been my plan, from the beginning of creation.

(10-13) Paul was one of my first church planters. He preached the wisdom of my kingdom in many ways and planted churches so that my plan could be known not only on earth, but even to my angels who glorify me with this knowledge. This was my plan before I ever even said, “Let there be light” on that first day.[2] In my Son, you should never hesitate to come and talk with me. I always hear your prayers, so pray boldly and confidently. Even though Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter, he knew that his suffering was a part of my plan.

(14) In the next bit of Paul’s writing, you can feel his passion. He had been reveling in my gracious plan to restore humanity when he fell to his knees in prayer. Oh, how I love the passionate prayers of my saints! Hear what I am saying through Paul:

(15-19) In me everyone has an identity. You are who you are because I AM who I AM. Because I am gracious, have faith that you can be strengthened by my Spirit whom I send to dwell in you. Even your faith is one of the many gifts of my grace. In my Son, you have everything you need. In his love, I have planted you exactly where I want you to be. I have given you my Spirit so that you can begin to see how high, how wide, how deep, and how vast my love is for you. My grace has broken your heart wide open to know the love of my Son which is infinitely greater than anything you could possibly imagine. By the blood of my Son, and by the indwelling power of my Spirit, I have infused every cell in your body with my fullness.

(20-21) Child, do not lose sight of this truth: both my power and my love are limitless. I am able to do much more than you could ever possibly imagine. Your prayers are not too bold, but too weak. There is nothing that thwarts my plan. I will empower my people and my church to glorify me forever and ever.

Ephesians 4

(1-6) In light of the gifts I give you, live in a way that reflects who you are. When you begin to understand the full impact of my grace, you will desire to live humbly, gently, and patiently. You will be willing to put up with a lot of nonsense from others. You will not be so quick to argue because you will want to display my peace. The way you relate to people will reflect my Spirit within you.

(7-14) Even though my Spirit has gifted my children in vastly different ways, all believers are unified by the grace of my Son. I am everyone’s Father.  Even though I have given you different gifts than I have given others, you are no less valuable. I have given you exactly what you need to accomplish my purposes in you. I give some of my children tongues of gold, some the wisdom of the ages, and some the ability join others in their pain. I gave everyone different gifts so that together, empowered by my Spirit, you will be equipped to do everything necessary for strengthening my body, the church. When gifts are used rightly and humbly, relationships are strengthened, both with me and with one another. My Spirit is shaping you into the image of my Son, yet he honors your individuality. I did not create people to be the same. No, every single person is a gloriously unique work of art. As you learn to rest in your true self in me, you will not feel such a pull to run in ten thousand directions trying to find me through clever, and at times dishonest, people.

(15-16) I have called you to speak both truth and love. If you rely on your wisdom alone, you will find this to be an impossible task. You will be judgmental or spineless. It is only by my Spirit that you can speak both truth and love. If you want to become mature, do not stop listening to my Spirit. Remember, my will is accomplished in community. When everyone is working together to make the best use of the gifts I have given, the church grows stronger and more loving.

(17-19) Stop chasing after worldly ideals. Too many people pride themselves on their reasoning, but their thoughts are futile. Their minds are dark and twisted and they cannot see truth. They fail to see me even though I am evident everywhere. Their hearts are hard toward me and in their ignorance, they refuse to come to me. Rather than praising my magnificent beauty, they are greedy and self-centered. There is nothing vile they will not do.

(20-24) But when my grace beckoned you, I began to show you a different way to live. I taught you that truth and life are found in the manner of my Son, not by following the ways of the world. I taught you other-centeredness, not self-centeredness.

Pleasure pursued in me
is pleasure found indeed!

It is what my servant John Piper calls “Christian hedonism.”[3] Some people think that I am a cosmic killjoy, opposed to anything pleasurable, but what you fail to realize is that pleasure found in me is infinitely greater than any earthly thing. In his book The Weight of Glory, my servant C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”[4]

Before I saved you, you were a different person, living for your own pleasure. Your thinking was corrupt, but you are not that person anymore. In my eyes, you are wholly different, so live that way. Put away old worldly desires and clothe yourself in my Son’s purity, remembering that my Spirit dwells in you.

(25-27) No more deception. Just speak honestly with one another. There is no need to lie to each other. I know that you will still get angry sometimes; anger is an appropriate response to things opposed to my will, but when you do get angry, remember my Spirit in you. Another person’s unrighteousness is not about you. Do not hold a grudge. When you have something against another person, clear the air quickly. Toxic anger is a cancer; do not let it grow. Honest words, spoken lovingly are one of the principal marks of my children.

 (28) No more dishonest practices either. Do not take a little bit more for yourself or cheat another for your own gain. Instead, work honestly and work hard. Then keep a little extra around to help when others come up short.

 (29-32) Be careful in what you say. My servant James called the tongue “a restless evil.”[5] It should be obvious that I do not want you to lie nor sin when you are angry, but I want you to go even farther. When you choose to speak, and speaking is always a choice, build others up. Listen for the whisper of my Spirit, who will give you words that are grace filled and life giving. When you choose to speak out of bitterness and anger, when you belittle or misrepresent others, when you seek to destroy another person’s character, and even sometimes even when you are sarcastic, you grieve my Spirit, who lives in you and encourages you to model your life and words after my Son. Instead, speak kindly and gently. Be quick to forgive others just like I forgave you.

Ephesians 5

(1-2) Do you know how children imitate their parents? I want you to do that with me. I am your Father and I want you to become more like Jesus, practicing sacrificial love.

(3-7) Be cautious about worldly desires: material possessions, sexual immorality, and anything else that makes you impure. Keep your mind and your words centered on wholeness. You have been made pure by the blood of my Son so focusing on impurity does not even make sense with who you are. No dirty jokes, sexual innuendo, or stupidity—those things do not even fit with who you are now. If you are not sure what to say, give thanks. If you continue living for sex, money, or impurity, you have not understood your inheritance. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. It is these evil impurities that stir my anger because that is not who you are. Apart from Jesus, there is no hope of escape.

(8-11) Do not live in darkness. I am Light. Ignite a torch of goodness and truth and shine my light for all the world to see. Use the light to guide your way to understanding what pleases me. Let my light shine in the darkness. Let its pure radiance reveal the evil of everything that is opposed to love.

(12-14) There are things that people do in in the darkness that are so awful, it is shameful to even talk about them, much less joke about them, but the light of my Son exposes darkness making space for truth. Where Christ shines his light, life enters.

(15-17) You always have choices for how to live, so choose carefully. Pick Christ’s wisdom and not worldly folly. Every day, evil knocks at your door so pay attention to the moment. It is foolish to think, “Well I can hang out in the darkness during the week and in the light on Sundays.” In every moment, seek to know and follow my will. Try to be like my servant Brother Lawrence who sought to “practice the presence of God” in all things.[6]

(18-20) Avoid getting drunk, which is self-centered indulgence. If you want to get drunk, get drunk on my Spirit who dwells in you. Sing loudly with all your heart. Both alcohol and my Spirit can lead to exuberance, but only one brings me glory. And do not ever stop giving thanks for everything, not just for Jesus, but for rocks to stand on and trees to climb and poetry to read and sunsets to take your breath away.

(21) As a Christian, out of reverence for what Jesus did for you, practice other-centeredness in all that you do.

(22-24) Sometimes, people get upset about what Paul wrote next: “Wives, submit to your own husbands.” Some people twist these words, believing they grant men permission to control, abuse, or think that I am suggesting that wives are inferior to their husbands. Not at all! In verse 21, I told everyone who calls themselves a Christian to practice mutual submission and other centeredness, which is the way of Jesus. It is true that husbands and wives often serve different roles. I want men to love and lead sacrificially in the same way my Son loves and leads, so look to Jesus as a picture of mutual submission.

(25-27) Husband, listen: Love your wife. Do not seek to control her, dominate her, or abuse her. Love her like my Son loves you. He left the perfection of heaven to enter your mess in order to make you holy and pure by his word. Your words may be life giving or toxic. In my Son, believers are made perfect. He sacrificed himself and washed all believers completely not just for individual salvation, but to make his church the most beautiful bride in history. Love your wife in such way that your words purify her and reveal her beauty.

(28-33) Love those in your care like you love yourself. When you care for others, you care for yourself. You never fail to attend to your own needs; You eat, sleep, rest, and celebrate. In the same way that Jesus loves his church by caring for all her needs, practice caring for your spouse physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. You are, after all, a part of one another. Remember what I said in Genesis: when a man and a woman get married, they become one.[7] Jesus is one with the church and you are one with each other.

Love one another completely.
Respect one another fully.

Ephesians 6

(1-4) The fifth commandment is to “honor your father and mother.”[8] It is good for children to listen respectfully to their parents because it leads to a good and prosperous life, though I want parents to treat their children mercifully. If you have children, do not set out to irritate them; instead, teach them to become my disciples by modeling the love of Jesus.

(5-8) As a worker, treat your boss with respect, reminding yourself that you are working for me. Work hard regardless of whether your boss is watching. Hard work has been a gift from the beginning. Remember that you are serving me when you work from your heart.

(9) If you are supervising people, do not be overbearing or pretend that you are better than your workers. You all serve Christ equally.

(10-12) Be strong! Prepare yourself to do battle with sin and evil, planning to use every gift I have given you. You can only stand against evil when you depend upon me. I have called you to fight evil, not other people. Evil’s power grows in darkness and deception, but the blood of my Son has overcome the darkness and one day, everything will be restored to light, but for now, do not the power of evil.

(13-20) So suit up. Put on heavenly armor so that you will survive the battle. Wear my truth around your waist—truth that reminds you that you are my child. Live righteously. Righteousness in me protects the most vital parts of you. Let your feet eagerly carry you to tell others about my Son and the peace he brings. Grab hold of the shield of faith and hold on tightly. Times may come when it gets heavy but keep holding it up. Faith in me protects you from giving into doubts about my goodness. Wear your salvation upon your head. Without the head, no one lives physically and without my Son, no one lives eternally. Finally, pick up your sword, which is my word. Pay attention. Pray my word. Ask me for what you need for yourself and for all believers. Boldly proclaim the good news. Like Paul you are my ambassador. You represent me whether you are in prison or sitting on your couch at home.

(21-22) Do not just share the good news with non-believers; remind other believers of what I am doing in the world. Testimonies encourage. Paul shared his story with another beloved saint, Tychicus who carried the word to others for their encouragement.

(23-24) Finally,

let my peace calm your mind,
let my love warm your heart,
let my grace guide your steps,
and never forget that, in me,
love is incorruptible.

[1] Acts 9.

[2] Genesis 1:3

[3] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Press, 1986).

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper One, 1949), 26.

[5] James 3:8.

[6] Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (New York: Doubleday, 1977).

[7] Genesis 2:24.

[8] Exodus 20:12.