Summary: Many of us don’t realize that when we are born, and as we are raised, we are imprinted with a value set that comes from this age. It makes it impossible to think clearly about how the universe really operates. But in Jesus, there finally is clarity.
It’s really encouraging when you get good news about something, isn’t it? The Apostle Paul has gotten some really good news about the people living in Ephesus. The gospel first reached Ephesus in Acts 19. The people he met had been baptized into John’s baptism. They had incomplete knowledge about Jesus and His salvation. Paul stayed there and preached in the synagogue for three months, then when the Jews became hardened, he moved and rented a lecture hall. He stayed there two more years. Ephesus became a sort of central location where people from all over Asia Minor could come and understand about the gospel.
But Ephesus was not a very safe place. Demonic forces were at work, powerful forces. It was here that the “Seven sons of Sceva” got beat up by a demon when they tried to throw him out. “I know Jesus,” the demon said, “and I recognize Paul—but who are you?”
Ephesus was also a seat of idol worship—specifically Artemis, the “Great Mother”. The temple there was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A riot broke out in Ephesus after one of the silversmiths who made idols for Artemis, or Diana, saw his business suffer after many people began to fear God more than Artemis and they brought and burned their magic books. Just the books alone were worth 50,000 pieces of silver (a single piece was worth a day’s wage).
Despite the struggle that existed between the dawning light of the gospel and the oppressive darkness of idol worship and the presence of demons—the Ephesians were growing. This sets up verses 15 and following of Chapter 1. Today we’re going to tackle 15-19—but in a real way, much of the rest of the book deals with this struggle between light and dark, good and evil—a struggle you and I have on a daily basis in the visible and invisible worlds.
“This is why” – Paul is referring here to the previous verses of 3-14. Because God has done such a wonderful thing in creating new life in us, adopting us, and conforming us to His image, and has made us His inheritance—because of this incredible thing, when Paul hears of their growth, he is overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
Specifically Paul had heard two things about the Ephesians: belief and love. These two ideas are central to what God is about: love God, love others. In Luke 10:27 a scribe correctly sumed up the law “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
This is the sign of a growing Christian—more and more trust in Jesus (“faith”) and more and more selfless love for one another.
How’s that going in your life? Do you find yourself growing cold in your relationship with Jesus? Do you have a harder and harder time trusting Him? And how about others—especially those who rub you the wrong way? Do you find yourself showing kindness or showing irritation?