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Ephesians: A Life-Changing Letter, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
September 11, 2020 7:05 am

Ephesians: A Life-Changing Letter, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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September 11, 2020 7:05 am

Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians

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Chuck Swindoll on Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

I'm saying you just read it once a week, but before long you will not need it framed on your wall and you'll have it framed in your mind. Before long you will find the decisions being made will be filtered through truths out of Ephesians. Before long struggles you have been wrestling with will begin to be solved through the truths of the letter to the Ephesians, and it will no longer be print on a page, it will be a letter written on your heart. Imagine receiving a handwritten letter at your address with a salutation from the Apostle Paul, followed by a few personal thoughts and his signature inscribed at the close.

It's likely his letter would command your complete attention, am I right? Today on Insight for Living, we're launching our next study, and this time it's in Paul's emotion-filled letter to the Ephesians. Chuck Swindoll invites us to join him on a journey of discovery as we open this ancient letter to see what God is teaching us for today.

To begin, Chuck starts with an insightful overview of the complete book. Since we are beginning a study through the letter of Ephesians, or really the letter to the Ephesians, it seemed appropriate that I select a few verses here and there, almost at random from the letter itself, though they do tie together in a threaded theme, as we will see later. So turn, if you will, in the New Testament to this letter Paul wrote to the Ephesians. Want to read a few verses from it, and then we will have some prayer and then a message.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 2, look at verse 1, please. And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them, we too, all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved, and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Over to chapter 4, verse 1, take note of what Paul calls himself.

You'll understand that better in a few moments. Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Chapter 5, again, verse 1, therefore be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us, loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. And then using Paul's word, chapter 6, verse 10, finally, finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the wars, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Last two verses, peace be to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.

Leave your Bible open right there in your lap, and just bow with me in prayer. How precious is your word to us, our Father. The older we get, the more we realize its value. We thank you for its precepts, clearly delineated and purposefully defined to give us direction in a world that's lost its way. Thank you also for principles that with wisdom may be applied even in the 21st century, when it seems as though the standard has gotten pretty fuzzy, and the future for many seems intimidating, fearful. We're grateful, Lord, that the entrance of your word gives light. It means a lot to us because there's an enormous amount of darkness about us. And we want to live on the bright side, the light side of life. We want to be able to enjoy what you have for us rather than endure our circumstances. We want to see the beauty of your purposes and how it all fits together into a divinely designed plan that makes great sense to you, and we rest our case there, even though it may not make sense to us. Thank you, Father, in advance for the way you will speak to us through this letter in the weeks and the months ahead. May we realize it is relevant.

My task is not to make it that way, you have written it that way. It addresses the needs of our lives. It talks about where we live and how we are to live there.

It deals in clearly stated words what life is about, and we do need that. At the same time, Lord, we realize that you're a God of enormous mercy and compassion and grace, and you dealt with us that way before we knew you, and you're dealing that way with people in this very audience who have yet to come to know you in a personal way. May this letter have its magnetic appeal in their lives as the print on the page becomes the living Word in their hearts, and they bow in submission to the glory of God the Father, who has made them for this purpose. We have learned through your Word that it is more blessed to give than receive.

That's not a human cliché. That's a divinely given principle for life, and we find pleasure, therefore, in releasing from the substance you provided through our wage, through the commission we make in sales, through the provision you have allowed us to enjoy in the abundance of investments that have gone well, and from even the savings you have directed us to pull away and to give to you. We give, Lord, today with great delight and enormous pleasure, knowing that there are eternal dimensions in these gifts, but we give first ourselves to you. We do so full of gratitude in the name of Jesus, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

We give and we pray, God's people said. There are times we have been sent a letter that is so good we say to a friend or our partner in life, you know, I need to frame this letter. That's good enough to be framed. As a matter of fact, I have had a couple or three of my letters framed by other people, and I didn't know when I wrote them they were going to be framed, and I'd be visiting them in their home and they're showing me through their place, and I get to the hallway and they say, as they look over at this small frame and this letter, and I see my signature and I think, oh man, did I spell everything right when I wrote that? You know how you are when you see one of your letters and you didn't know it was going to be for everybody to read. Ephesians is one of those God-framed letters for all time. Had we been living in the first century, we would have fought immediately upon reading it. Now this one ought to be framed. This one belongs in front of our home or in front of our faces for the rest of our days.

This is one of those we don't want to ever forget. After all, it was written by a man who was unforgettable. Paul who wrote more of these letters for the New Testament than anyone else.

Paul who lived a life of enormous sacrifice and commitment, though he began later in life, later than many, later than most of us. But there was something about the spirits working in Paul's pen that directed his thoughts into those areas of greatest need and scratched the deepest itches in the human life. This letter to the Ephesians, not only is it doctrinally a vital link to us in our faith, giving us a foundation for believing that which is important, but it is full of practical advice as we're going to learn in the weeks and the months ahead. Information that will help us not only at work and in the social realm of our lives, but at home and in private. It talks about things that matter, and it won't be long before you say, not only do I wish I could have the letter framed, I would like to take that one verse and make it my verse for life.

It's just that good. But believe me, it didn't find its origin in a context of enjoyment and contentment. The cradle of this letter rocked in a time of enormous struggle.

Just go right to the top of the world. It was in the time of the Roman Empire's greatest days, and the leader was Nero. Even though you don't know a lot about Nero, many of you, some of you may know a great deal.

He began his reign, and it was that, in 54, and he reigned until 68. Probably only Domitian, the emperor, was worse than Nero. His kingdom was evil to the core. He was a killing machine, and especially took delight in killing Christians. Anyone who would not bow the knee to Nero deserved to die, and Christians were notorious for bowing their knee to Kyrios, Jehovah God. And as Nero learned more and more of that, he took great delight in extreme measures of persecution. And as most of you are aware, even on occasion, the bodies of Christians lit the Colosseum, and the bodies were torn from limb to limb by animals as part of the entertainment of the pagan world under Nero's rule.

It's in that kind of context. Paul wrote Ephesians around 60, 61, 62 in the first century. And if you know Nero's life, you know that he really went mad toward the end of his life. And in this maddening state of affairs, the apostle found believers not only struggling and battling for survival, but scattered away from home, not knowing often where they would lay their head, living in dens and caves of the earth, and sometime in little clusters here and there. You'll notice in this first verse of Ephesians an interesting statement. Paul, who is the writer, calling himself an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to the saints. So it's written by Paul to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus. See the words at Ephesus. Some scholars inform us that there are a few of the good Greek manuscripts that don't include the words at Ephesus, leading many who are serious about their study of the New Testament to believe that this letter wasn't limited to Ephesians. It was cyclical in nature, meaning that it made the rounds from one church to another, probably coming first to Ephesus, but not stopping there, since it is written to all the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Let me give you a little hint as to where the letter may have wound up. Turn to Colossians, a couple of books to the right, a little further on in your Bible, chapter 4, Colossians 4, verse 16. We've got the letter to the Ephesians before us, and we've turned to the letter to the people living in Colossae who had become followers of Jesus, followers of the way. Paul, in writing them in verse 16 of chapter 4 of Colossians, referring to this letter Colossians, when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans, yet another place in western Turkey called in those days Asia. So we have Ephesus, and Colossae, and now Laodicea, have this letter read to the church of the Laodiceans, and you, for your part, read my letter that is coming from Laodicea.

Maybe you've never stopped to look at that before. It's a minor detail, but I suggest it's a hint that the letter to the Ephesians was making its cycle, making its rounds, and it had perhaps been to the Ephesians and made its way to Laodicea and was now on its way to Colossae. Paul said, read that letter that the Laodiceans are sending you from their town and from their church, their gathering. Back to Ephesians chapter 1. Not only is it a cyclical letter, it is a letter of enormous significance.

This is nothing new, I'm not making a sudden discovery in this 21st century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it the Queen of the Epistles, the divinest composition of man. When John Knox was dying, he had read to him most often the sermons of John Calvin written on the letter to the Ephesians.

It knocks that kind of comfort. John Stott points out, many have been brought to faith and stirred to good works by its message. And then in Stott fashion, he turns in history to a man whose life was changed by the letter to the Ephesians. One you may not have studied, nor have I, named Dr. John MacKay, former president of Princeton Theological Seminary, who said in his book, to this book I owe my life, went on to explain in July of 1903, as a lad of 14, he experienced through reading Ephesians what he called, and I quote again, a boyish rapture in the highland hills. And I made a passionate protestation to Jesus Christ among the rocks in the starlight.

Isn't that beautiful? At the age of 14, while reading the letter to the Ephesians, the light dawned on me in the starlight of the rocks. Here is his own account of what happened as a result. I saw a new world, everything was new. I had a new outlook, new experiences, new attitudes to other people. I loved God. Jesus Christ became the center of everything.

I had been quickened, I was really alive. At an adult age and following his education, he never lost fascination with the letter to the Ephesians. Okay when invited to deliver the Crowell lectures in Edinburgh University in January of 1948, chose this letter as his topic. In this letter he refers to Ephesians as the greatest, the maturest, and for our time the most relevant of all Paul's works, for here, his words again, here is the distilled essence of the Christian religion, the distilled essence of the Christian religion. I will say to you without hesitation that if you are not a student of the letter to the Ephesians, you have missed something important in your instruction to live the Christian life. Not only have you missed an enormous foundation for the life, which is a doctrinal in nature, but you have missed an enormous amount of direction in the horizontal plane of living that life from day to day.

Ephesians offers both and it offers it in big gulps. This isn't bedside reading. This is reading for the serious student of the word of God and I'm going to be so serious as to say here that I would like for you to read it once a week for as long as we are engaged in the study of it. That sound fanatical or what?

Some of you are smiling back to me like, get a life, are you kidding? Do it. When I was a student at Dallas Seminary back when the earth's crust was cooling, I remember one of our great Bible teachers teaching us for two weeks through this particular letter said I want you to read this every day, every day. He said you will discover at the end of two weeks that by the end of the day, that last day, you will be able on your own to think your way through this letter without looking. You will also notice by the beginning of the third week, your Bible will automatically open to the letter that you've been reading every day. I'm saying you just read it once a week.

Yes, there are six chapters. Yes, it will take 15, maybe 20 minutes of your time. It will take less time the more familiar you get with it. But before long, you will not need it framed on your wall. You'll have it framed in your mind and you will begin to do what I call one of the greatest Christian activities you can do and that is think God's thoughts after him. Before long, you will find the decisions being made will be filtered through truths out of Ephesians. Before long, struggles you have been wrestling with will begin to be solved through the truths of the letter to the Ephesians and it will no longer be print on a page. It will be a letter written on your heart. In his opening message, Chuck Swindoll gives us a bird's eye view of Paul's letter to the Ephesians and we're calling this series, Becoming a People of Grace.

Please stay with us because Chuck will offer a final teaching point in just a moment. To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at At Insight for Living, it's our prayer that this series will inspire you to become God's agent of grace in a world that's starving for a touch of kindness.

Today is September 11th and in the United States, we'll never forget the horrific invasion nineteen years ago this morning that altered our sense of security forever and sent shock waves around the world as well. It's all the more reason to instill these biblical principles in our lives so that Paul's message to the Ephesians becomes a way of life. Along these lines, Chuck has written a helpful book on a similar theme. It's called Encourage Me, Caring Words for Heavy Hearts.

This book not only speaks to those of us who need a lift, but it's also a great book to give away as an act of kindness to others in need. You can purchase a copy of Encourage Me right now by going to slash offer. Or call us if you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. On Sunday morning, remember you can join the online worship service at Stonebriar Community Church. Just log on to your Facebook account and search for Pastor Chuck Swindoll. You'll find a link to our live feed there. Or stream the service directly from slash Sundays. And thanks for bearing in mind that this nonprofit ministry is reliant on generous listeners like you. To give a donation today, call us if you're listening in the United States, dial 1-800-772-8888. Or go online to Even though Paul's letter to the Ephesians was written in the first century, Ephesus is a city we can see today.

Here's Chuck Swindoll. Ephesus, you can still visit the city. Cynthia and I were privileged with a few friends of ours on a trip we made in 1999 to go to westernmost Turkey along with a trip across the Aegean over into Macedonia and the ancient sites of Greece and to see the sites. No place was more impressive than Ephesus. The marble columns that have now been brought back to their vertical position, having been leveled by earthquakes, are some of the most impressive scenes you will ever witness.

The structures are breathtaking. There is more marble now in that city than any city I have ever visited, including the city of Athens. In Ephesus, it is a city of marble. The streets are marble. The chariot ruts cut into the marble for the chariots. It even has speed bumps.

Are you ready? That's for the adolescent chariot riders, I'm sure, back in the first century and before. There is no city quite like Ephesus. Its background holds me and captures my thought as I walk the streets and can hear from the great theater, theatron it's called in Acts 19-29, the theatron where Paul was. He literally saw and was in the same theater that seats 24,000 people built of marble blocks and tiers and sections.

We were there. And you're never quite the same Ephesus. Join us again when Chuck Swindoll's study in Ephesians continues, Monday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Ephesians, a life-changing letter, was copyrighted in 2000, 2001, and 2009, and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2009 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-16 00:00:16 / 2024-03-16 00:09:17 / 9

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