The letter to the believers in Ephesus is a special one. There is a huge difference between this letter and the previous one, the letter to the Galatians, really the difference between heaven and earth. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul had to point out to the Galatian believers in an almost cool and sober manner, their deviation from the truth of the gospel. Although, you can certainly read between the lines his great compassion and emotional involvement with them.
Considering what was at stake, Paul warned them how much they were risking to be robbed from every blessing and even fall from grace (Gal 5:44You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.). By accepting the law again in their life, the believers in Galatia gave room again to the ‘elemental things of the world’ (Gal 4:3,9b3So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?).
How totally different is the content of the letter to the Ephesians. This letter shows you as a Christian:
1. what your real blessings are,
2. where to find them and
3. where they come from.
By reading this letter you discover that the blessings of the Christian
1. are spiritual,
2. are found in heaven and
3. originally come from the heart of God.
However, in this letter you will not only find the blessing for the individual Christian. All believers together are the church and also the church as a whole has received tremendous blessings. Paul also writes a lot about the height and the depth of these blessings in this letter. It is because of her connection with her glorified Head in heaven, Jesus Christ, that the church receives these blessings. In Ephesians 3 the apostle calls this connection a “mystery”.
A comparison with the letter to the Romans clarifies still more what the issue is of this letter to the Ephesians. In the last mentioned letter, written around the year 62 when Paul was a prisoner in Rome, he writes about how he defines it in Romans 16 “the revelation of the mystery” (Rom 16:2323Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. <).
In the letter to the Romans Paul could not expand further on this, but he indeed wanted to mention that there was more than righteousness by faith, about which he wrote in detail to the Roman believers. That’s why he lightly touched on the mystery before he ended his letter to them. But in his letter to the Ephesians he writes in detail about the mystery.
To point at a subject briefly in one letter and circumstantiate it in another has to do with the special purpose each of these letters has. The letter to the Romans teaches us what God has done to meet us in our misery in which we were living due to sin and because of our sins. In that letter man in his need is centered. The letter to the Ephesians shows us the heart of God. In that letter God is centered with His plan and His desire to bless us without any motive that has to do with man or man in his need.
If you read and reread this letter you will be more and more impressed by the greatness of God’s heart. Nobody else than God alone could think of blessing sinners – who were spiritually dead, living at the same time rebellious against Him (Eph 2:1-21And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,2in 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.) – with enormous riches, instead of devouring them by His righteousness and holiness. One of those riches is that we have put on the new man “which according to God is created in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:2424and put on the new self [lit man], which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Darby translation). That is totally different than being devoured by His righteousness and holiness!
The following example might be helpful to illustrate what this letter tells us about God. A rich man could do a favor to a poor street-boy if he paid the fine for the crime he has committed. That would be very kind of that man. Due to this kindness the boy also escapes the punishment for not paying the fine. The kindness of this man would go further if he would give this boy the opportunity to an education in order to liberate him from ignorance. If the man would also provide his livelihood the boy would no longer be poor. That all would be kindness in view of the misery the boy lived in.
But, if the man would adopt the boy as a son and therefore have him close to him and provide the boy with wealth and influence, it would have nothing to do at all with the misery the boy lived in. That would only show the nature and the mind of the rich man, and what he enjoys himself.
That is indeed how God is presented in the letter to the Ephesians. Everything in this letter comes from God, from His thoughts and counsels. What man needs or would like to have is entirely not the issue. There is one more picture that illustrates what the letter to the Ephesians teaches us. You can find this picture in the Old Testament, in the journey of Israel from Egypt through the desert to the promised land, Canaan. In the book of Exodus you see the ‘picture’ of what the letter to the Romans teaches us. In Egypt the people of God are in bondage and are being delivered from that after keeping the Passover. That deliverance you find back in the letter to the Romans. There a man is presented to us who is living in the bondage of sin and is being saved from that through the blood and the cross of Jesus Christ.
After the Passover the people depart from Egypt and arrive in the desert through the Red Sea. There the people get the tabernacle, wherein God lives amongst His people. They can also get sacrifice services by which they are able to approach God and remain connected to Him. This is being described in the book of Leviticus. After Leviticus comes Numbers where the journey through the desert is being described and the means God provides for that journey. The pictures of Leviticus you can find in the New Testament, in the teachings of the letter to the Hebrews and the pictures of Numbers you find back in the two letters to the Corinthians.
Before the people enter the promised land, they camped for a certain time in the plains of Moab. That is where Moses held his big speech. You find that in the book of Deuteronomy. In the first chapters of that book he gives a review, but after that he looks forward, to everything that was awaiting the people in the promised land. In the New Testament you then arrive at the letter to the Philippians. That letter is about the Christian who is still yet on earth, but his whole heart focused on heaven.
After the book of Deuteronomy comes the book of Joshua. The people have passed over the Jordan and entered Canaan. In the New Testament you find this in the letter to the Ephesians. Just like Israel had to take possession of the land that God gave, you are being taught through the letter to the Ephesians to take possession of what your spiritual property is in the heavenly places.
All the blessings that are presented in this letter have been given to you in Christ. However, only when you have taken them in possession by yourself spiritually, with your heart, will you be able to say that they have really become your spiritual property. We can only say that a truth has become our spiritual property when not only have we given that truth a place in our heart, but when we have worshipped God for that truth. That is just what God desires according to the truths in the letter you now have before you.