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Ephesians: A Life-Changing Letter, Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
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September 14, 2020 7:05 am

Ephesians: A Life-Changing Letter, Part 2

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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September 14, 2020 7:05 am

Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians

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Paul, while detained by authorities, wrote several New Testament books. Do you know that while he is here for these two years in Rome, Paul wrote four letters that have come to be known as the Prison Epistles? He led people to Christ.

He met people who came to Rome and found him. Furthermore, he wrote these four letters. He even calls himself in Ephesians 6-20 an ambassador in chains. The apostle sees himself not as a victim of terrible circumstances, but as an ambassador for Christ in chains. While an ambassador in chains, Paul wrote four New Testament letters. And the one we're looking at right now is Ephesians. Welcome to this Monday edition of Insight for Living. As Chuck Swindoll rolls out another practical book study, he's deliberately chosen Paul's letter to the Ephesians because the apostle clearly reinforces the magnificent power of God's grace.

If ever our culture needed a taste of kindness, it's right now. The title of this series is Becoming a People of Grace, and Chuck titled this opening message in the series, Ephesians, a Life-Changing Letter. 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 four, Colossians chapter, verse 16. 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 one. 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. Unlike Corinth, unlike Athens, unlike Philippi, Ephesus was unique in that it held the great and grand temple of Diana, the temple being one of the seven wonders, ancient wonders of the world. That dates back, according to several of my sources, to the ancient days of 550 BC. She is called the goddess mother of everything.

A city of enormous superstition where so much revolved around Diana or Artemis, as she is called in the scriptures. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I tend to do that when I get excited. Go back from Ephesus or Ephesians to Acts chapter 18. Let's take a quick journey. And I'm going to do something that's going to make a few of you smile and roll your eyes.

Once you find Acts chapter 18, I want you to go to the most unused portion of your Bible. The maps. I can hear some of you. How pedantic can you get? Well, more than that if you stay with me.

I'll get really pedantic before this study is over. Get Acts 18 before you, hold your place, and go back to the missionary journeys of Paul. If you have a Bible that has no maps, this week you're going to buy a new Bible. You need a Bible with maps. Otherwise, you're just playing at this thing called faith. Get your map open to the missionary journeys of Paul.

Turn away from Acts 18 for a moment. You will see that the map has a legend that traces the journeys of Paul in various colors. He took three journeys that were voluntary, and he took one journey that was involuntary, the last one he took to Rome.

But we're concerned about the second and third journeys. Locate the legend, the color for the journey in his second journey, which actually began in Antioch, our right side of your map. You trace your way across Asia, which today is the country of Turkey. You go as far as you can go to the west, and you arrive at Troas. If you go beyond Troas, you get wet, because that's the Aegean Sea. Today, it's been what they call silted up, so Troas is a bit of distance from the ocean or from the sea, but in those days, it was right on it. Travel across Troas, and you come to the ancient country of Macedonia, Neapolis, Philippi. Those places are still there. I've been there.

Some of you have as well. You come down Philippi. You reach Athens. That's covered in Acts 17. Paul goes there without much result.

No church was ever founded by Paul in Athens. You then get to Corinth. See Corinth? Right there at that little narrow isthmus.

Hold your place at the map. Go to Acts 18. This gets fascinating, at least to me. You can listen in while I'm fascinated with the study of this.

I find it extremely interesting. Acts 18, verse 1, after these things, meaning Athens, that's chapter 17. After Athens, he left and went to Corinth. He found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontius, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla. Fascinating couple.

Wish we had longer with Aquila and Priscilla, but they are tent makers. Because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome, he came to them. So see, they're scattered. This is before the days of Nero.

You got it? Claudius is ruling. He's driven them from Rome, their home, and they have come to Corinth. It's a commercial city, probably a lot of tents needed there. They're made tents together, and Paul lived with them. See verse 3, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for they were by trade, tent makers. Look across the page at verse 18. He stays in Corinth about 18 months. Having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren.

We're at 1818 of Acts. And we put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. Verse 19, they came to Ephesus. Hold your place, back to the map.

This is how it works. From Cenchrea, which is the seacoast city, the port, they go back across the Aegean, due east, there's our city, the city of Ephesus. Located? Okay, back to Acts chapter 18. They came to Ephesus.

Please observe something very important. He left them there. Who's them?

Aquila and Priscilla. So literally, technically, this couple founded the church. They laid the first blocks of the foundation of that church, and Paul's leaving them there. But observe, he didn't just scoot out of town right away. Not Paul. He himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

This is interesting. Sunagoge is translated synagogue. It's really transliterated from the Greek sunagoge. It has in mind an assembly of Jews. They're meeting there.

They're lost, but they're Jews. And Paul presents himself among them and begins to teach the teachings of Jesus, Messiah, in this Ephesian sunagoge. And something happens.

We're going to read of it together. He begins teaching. He entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he didn't consent.

So this group seemed open to his teaching. Taking leave of them, not only the people in the synagogue, but Aquila and Priscilla, he said, I will return to you again if God wills. And he set sail from Ephesus.

Go back to your map. He leaves Ephesus, goes back to sea, goes down in this journey across the northeastern corner of the Mediterranean, back ultimately to Jerusalem, Caesarea and then Jerusalem, and then back up to Antioch. See Antioch, that's home base, from which he begins the third journey. On this third journey he goes back to Ephesus.

You'll see that trace there. And you'll read it in chapter 19 of Acts, verse 1. Good for you.

You're turning back and forth, or some of you are saying, honey, you do all the turning. I'll just pray for you while you're in the middle of the study. I want all of you to journey with me through this. Look at verse 1, chapter 19. It happened while Apollos was at Corinth.

We've already been there, so we know where that is. Paul passed through the upper country and came, we would say came back to Ephesus, and found some disciples. Now how could there be disciples if Paul had left? Aquila and Priscilla had evangelized. This couple was involved in probably home studies or studies at the synagogue, evangelistic efforts. They had begun to lead people to Christ, though there were now disciples. And Paul came back and must have been thrilled to see the fruit of Aquila and Priscilla's labors.

Now watch. He said to them, did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? They said to him, no, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit. This is brand new territory. The theology has not even been shaped in the minds of these people of Ephesus. So we'll not get into all of that.

I know some of you would love to have answers for that. We won't go there. Look at verse 8 of chapter 19. He entered the synagogue. He's been there before, but this is now the third journey.

He enters the synagogue. He continued to speak boldly for three months. Well, he was a guest preacher first and they kind of liked him, but now he stayed around for three months and they don't like him. He spoke out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God, when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the way.

Notice that. Christians were first in the first century called followers of the way. Remember Jesus' words in John 14.6, I am the way, the truth, and the life that came to be known as the teaching of Jesus. People who followed Jesus were people of the way. And these people spoke evil of this faith in Jesus.

They did it before the people and so he withdrew from them, took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. That's an interesting subject by itself. My mind is going 30,000 miles an hour. I got more stuff than I can ever dump on you, and I'm trying to hold back here.

The school of Tyrannus, that's another subject. I'm fascinated by stuff like that. This took place for two years. Look at that.

Two years! You say, well Chuck, lighten up. Preachers stay years at church. Paul didn't. He stayed in Ephesus longer than any other place he served.

That tells you something about priority, doesn't it? That tells you something about the significance of the Ephesian ministry and the letter he wrote. He stayed two years. He stayed more than that because we got three months mentioned on the front end. He stayed longer after this. It's believed he stayed about three in all, so that all who lived in Turkey, all who lived in Asia, heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul. It's a remarkable story. Now jump to Acts 28.

Everything in here is just magnetic. It just begs you to stay longer and to look deeper, but let's don't do that. We want to get kind of a handle on the letter to the Ephesians. Look at verse 30, Acts 28, 30.

When you find that, go back to your maps. Look at the last journey. This is the involuntary journey. Paul is taken under arrest in Jerusalem at the end of the third missionary journey, and they discovered that he is a citizen of Rome. He says, I claim my rights as a Roman citizen. I demand an audience before the authorities of Rome and an audience he got.

So they took him across the sea, across the Mediterranean, went through a shipwreck, found his way all the way up. See Rome? That's where we are when we read Acts 28, 30, and 31. We're all the way to Rome. Paul's an older man.

It's now about 60, 80, 60. Look at Acts 28, 30. This is what happened to him. He stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness unhindered.

Was that great or what? He is under house arrest, which means a Roman soldier is stationed right beside him. Paul can't escape.

The soldier can't escape. I love audiences like that. It's called a captive audience. Just give them the gospel. Just give them the gospel.

They can't leave. He's on duty. And so he'd lead these soldiers to Christ, and he writes to the Philippians, and he says, well, there's a whole group of people in Caesar's household who have heard because of these soldiers. Well, while there, he's taking people, meeting them, and he's also writing. Do you know that while he is here for these two years in Rome, he wrote four letters that have come to be known as the prison epistles?

Don't think of prison like bars and keys and locks and all that. His prison was his own house. He couldn't escape because he was waiting for an audience before the Roman authorities, but he made good use of his time. He led people to Christ. He met people who came to Rome and found him. Furthermore, he wrote these four letters.

Get them down. Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians. They're called the prison letters. Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. That explains why Paul writes as he does in the letter to the Ephesians, I, the prisoner of the Lord Jesus Christ. He even calls himself in Ephesians 6, 20, an ambassador in chains. What does that mean?

Now you know. While he is chained to the Roman soldier, as it were, the apostle sees himself not as a victim of terrible circumstances, but as an ambassador for Christ in chains. Is that wonderful?

Is that a great attitude? Charles Ryrie writes this, knowing that they could not get a verdict of guilty, his accusers probably never showed up and therefore lost the case by default. Paul would then have been released, meaning released from the house arrest. He would have been released and become free to engage in the ministry reflected in the pastoral epistles before being re-arrested and finally martyred.

What does that mean? It means at the end of his house arrest, the case just wasn't heard. It was excused. He was relieved of this house arrest, and from about 62 or 3 until 67, 68, the time of his death, he lived freely and openly and finally brought back to Rome, put in a member time prison where he did, in fact, suffer beheading under Nero. Before Nero's death, he took delight, I'm sure, in seeing to the death of Paul. We've come quite a ways, haven't we?

From the days when people honored and worshiped folks named Caesar, and now we've come to the place where we name our dogs Caesar and our sons Paul. What a change of circumstances. This great apostle, while under house arrest, writes the letter today known as the letter to the Ephesians. Enough of the maps.

Now the letter. What a center of interest there was at Ephesus. What an impressive edifice were those 127 marble columns surrounding Diana's temple, the goddess, the mother goddess. Much of the worship was obscene and profane. There were hundreds of priests and priestesses who did nothing but lead people in the vile worship of Diana, which comes out in the study of Acts, as you see, and there was this enormous battle for who was an authority. As Paul presents, Christ is the authority, and the people claim Diana as the one who has come from heaven as the pagan goddess of the people.

What a ministry he had there. Now the letter. We've given you a chart. The chart is not inspired, because it's written by me, and so it has all the possible mistakes that any human could make. I hope there are not mistakes, but perhaps you would see the letter another way than I see it, but let me tell you why I chart. Look up. All of you are okay with the chart. It's kind of like looking at a map while you're driving. I think we're going to take a right down here. It's going to be a problem. So let's not look at the chart.

Let me tell you why I gave you a chart. When we have moved to large cities and we weren't familiar with the cities, we always followed a simple rule we learned from a friend, a longtime friend of our family. Take the time for a day or two to study the city. If it's a city of freeways, learn the freeway system.

If it's a city of winding roads that have been turned into roads, then learn those roads and the layout. When we lived in Boston, I made a visit for a full afternoon to the top story of the Prudential Building. In those days, it was the tallest building in downtown Boston. I saw Logan Airport over to this side. I could see all the way down almost to the Cape, the end of the Cape, Storrow Drive, Route 128, Cambridge. I saw down into where MIT was and Harvard. I saw Watertown and Waltham and places beyond. And I got a layout of the city.

Later, after moving from Texas, we came to Southern California, the megalopolis of Los Angeles, which is enough to frighten anybody if you don't know the system. And some friend of mine gave me a big fold-out freeway map. He said, study the freeways, and you won't get lost.

And he was right. I studied them, and I learned the San Diego freeway goes from here to there. The Santa Ana freeway leads here. The Pasadena freeway is here for this reason. If you take the Pasadena to the Santa Ana and join up at the Orange and get to the Newport, you get all the way to the coast.

It sounds like nonsense to you, but it's survival if you live there and you learn the system by seeing the overview of the big picture and you're not intimidated to drive in a big city. That's what a chart is all about. The letter to the Ephesians, these six chapters full of great theological terms, would frighten and intimidate you unless you could see the whole letter in one sitting.

That's what this chart provides. I call it a life-changing letter. Look closely. It begins with the believer's position in Christ. That's three full chapters that turn our attention heavenward.

I think of it as the vertical part of the letter to the Ephesians. I've studied this letter, as some of you have, and every time I think of any part of chapters one, two, or three, I think of an arrow pointing toward heaven and that same arrow pointing back to earth. It focuses on God. What God has done for us, chapter one. What Christ has done in us, chapter two. The whole story of the mystery of the body of Christ, chapter three. God's work in and among Jew and Gentile alike bringing us together into one body which became Paul's message to Jew and Gentile alike, especially Gentile, because the Jews rejected it.

The grand message of the mystery was that God has a family he's putting together and in grace he is bringing us into this one family in Christ under God to be lived for his glory and ultimately in his eternity. All of this background information Chuck Swindoll is giving us will help immensely as we study the book of Ephesians together and we hope you're taking advantage of the study notes posted online. They'll help you follow along with the teachings every day and you can take personal notes as well. You'll find the Searching the Scriptures study notes at insightworld.org slash studies. And then I'll draw your attention to another free resource from Insight for Living Ministries. Chuck has written a devotional for you every day and we have a growing list of friends around the world who are taking advantage of this daily dose of biblical encouragement from Chuck.

To subscribe to the free daily devotional just follow the instructions at insight.org. Now these resources are made possible in part through voluntary donations from friends like you and our monthly companions. Recently a listener in Alabama wrote us and said pastor I've been listening to you for almost 40 years. I'm a student of the Bible and I profited greatly from a number of the resources provided by your ministry. God has blessed me so much from your methods of making the Bible practical and come alive.

I'm now 69 years old and still learning more and more. And while I have contributed a bit to your ministry at times I believe it's time to make monthly contributions so that others may hear your teachings and be drawn to the Lord. Well monthly companions like this one from Alabama are helping provide Chuck's teaching on radio and the free resources we make available to a global audience. To become a monthly companion right now or to give a one time donation call us if you're listening in the United States dial 1-800-772-8888.

That's 1-800-772-8888. Or you can also give online at insight.org. And thank you for your generous support of Insight for Living Ministries.

I'm Dave Spiker. Join us again tomorrow when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Becoming a People of Grace right here 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 / 2024-03-14 17:31:55 / 2024-03-14 17:41:39 / 10

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