Analogies of the Church

Ephesians 2.18

Having shown that God has brought saved Jews and Gentiles into one church, Paul presents the church’s character. First, her citizenship and privileges, secondly, her family ties, thirdly her doctrinal foundation, fourthly, her unworldly saved beauty, and her sensitivity to the Spirit.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is one of the crowning epistles of the New Testament.

Ephesus was in modern-day Turkey – a large, wealthy coastal city situated on vital trade routes. It was famous for its enormous Temple of Artemis (or Temple of Diana) – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul resided there for two years and the gospel made tremendous progress. Converted magicians voluntarily burned their books and idolaters destroyed their idols – to the extent that silversmiths grew alarmed at the loss of trade, so great was the advance of the gospel.

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church from a Roman prison in around 60AD. It is a testimony to their enduring faith in resisting tremendous powers and pressures.

If you had a trade, you had to belong to a trade guild, and attendance at its feasts to idols was compulsory. Christians would not attend and thus dismissed from their trade, having to take up menial work to make ends meet. Then there was Greek philosophy, Ephesus being a great seat of learning; Christians resisted it and were regarded as fools. They also had to resist the immense affluence of Ephesus, living simple, charitable lifestyles. Thankfully Paul could rejoice that their faith withstood these pressures and temptations; through this they magnified Christ and made Him known in extensive witness.

Ephesians is wonderful in its structure. The first part of it is doctrinal, with tremendous teaching about grace. Then the second part is application for Christians. So it has perfect balance.

It gives probably the fullest picture in the New Testament of the church, using a variety of powerful metaphors about both the universal and local church. It says much about the roles of the members of the triune God, and it teaches us about grace – human depravity, God’s predestination and election, the irresistible nature of grace, and the perseverance of saints.

It reveals God’s plan for the universal church: converted Jews and Gentiles equal in Christ Jesus. It teaches us about Christian marriage and the duties of husbands, wives, and children within the family, and it sets standards for believing servants and masters.

Then this epistle says much about the Christian warfare and the devil’s methods in trying to bring us down. Here is precious, priceless instruction on how to be alert and conduct ourselves in that warfare.

No wonder, then, that the great reformer John Calvin called Ephesians a ‘golden’ letter.

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