Summary: One of the clearest statements contained within Scripture, regarding the purpose and goal of Christian faith, is this passage: “Imitate God… in everything you do. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.”
Scripture Text: Ephesians 5.1-2, NLT
When we listen to a passage - like Ephesians 5 - …we should imagine ourselves sitting in someone’s living-room ~ …or sitting on the back-porch of a friend’s house ~ …and listening to our pastor reading from a letter… …a letter written by someone we trust; …someone who used-to live among us, …but has since moved-away to work somewhere else. You can think of someone like-that, can’t you!?!
The New Testament book of Ephesians was a letter like-that… …a letter written by Paul; …a letter written to the Christians who lived and worshiped in the great city of Ephesus. These-people knew Paul… Paul used-to-live among them. In fact, if you want to read about their time-together, …look at the book of Acts, …in chapters 19 and 20. He served as their pastor for over two years. And during his time there, …an amazing number of things happened. Paul preached in the synagogue ~ …until he got-kicked-out! Then he preached in the city ~ …until there got to be so-much-interest and curiosity that he went to a place called “the lecture hall of Tyrannus”~ …and people from all over came to hear Paul preach and lead discussion-groups. People were healed through Paul’s ministry; …and others were freed from the control of evil-powers. The time-when Paul was in Ephesus was a terrific time for the growing-church-there! And the kingdom of God made-strong-advances against the kingdom of darkness.
Have you ever heard the story of the “seven sons of Sceva”? Well, it happened in Ephesus! The chief priest was Sceva; …he had seven sons; …and these seven-sons fancied-themselves as able to deliver people from demon-possession. When they saw how God blessed Paul’s ministry, …they started imitating his-methods. Whenever they performed an exorcism, …they would say something-like:
“In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”
Apparently, they’d seen Paul do this-kinda-thing ~ “…in the name of Jesus” ~ …so, they thought they’d give-it-a-whirl!
I don’t know how-successful they were, …but, as the story is told in Acts 19, it sounds-as-though they did-experience some-success in freeing some-people from the power of evil-spirits. And-so, Paul’s reputation grew! And there was great-interest in his-preaching and his-lectures, …and in-having-him pray for the sick, …and his ability to free hearts-and-minds that were held-captive by evil.
People knew Paul. They knew about Paul. He was somebody that-people wanted to be with, …or-at-least, be associated with.
But-one-day, …a funny-thing-happened with those seven-sons-of-Sceva. They said what-they-thought were magic-words over a person who was all-bound-up by some evil-spirit. But, when they said, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out…” ~ …when they said those words, …the evil-spirit answered-them! ! ! And do you know what the evil spirit said?...
The spirit said:
“Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19.15)
And-then the man (who was under the control of this-spirit), …he jumped-on the seven-sons-of-Sceva and put-such-a-whoppin’ on them that they fled the house, battered-and-bruised – …clothes ripped-and-torn ~ and they were shakin’ in their boots!
It’s an amazing story! ~ But-ya-know. …when word got-out about-that, …people in Ephesus were amazed! Acts says that people were “seized with fear” ~ …and-that the name of Jesus was held in high-regard!
The problem with the seven-sons-of-Sceva was not that they were trying to deliver people from the power of the enemy; …the problem was not that they believed Jesus’ name was powerful; …and the problem was not that they recognized the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry. The problem was: they had no personal-knowledge of Jesus! It was all heresay; …they didn’t have a personal-relationship with the Lord. The knew-of Paul’s ministry; …as-a-matter-of-fact, …they imitated Paul ~ …using his-words and following his-methods; …but, they had no personal-knowledge of Jesus, for-themselves! They simply used His name like a magic-word, …like “abracadabra” or “open sesame”! They’d heard Paul use Jesus’ name; …but they didn’t know Him for-themselves! They just knew about Jesus through Paul’s preaching and ministry.
Can you imagine the kind of reputation that Paul had among the Christians in the Ephesian-church!?! He was like-a-rock-star!, …an MVP!, …voted, “Most-likely to succeed in life”!
Now… As you imagine 2,000-years-ago, sitting in the living-room, …or in lawn-chairs on the back-patio of one of your Christian-friend’s-home, …think about how your heart would be lifted when your pastor got everybody’s attention and said: “Our dear-brother, Paul, has sent us a letter!”
Everybody would perk-up; …they’d sit on the edge-of-their-seats. They’d remember the whole-thing with the seven-sons-of-Sceva, …or they’d recollect sitting in the town lecture-hall and listening to Paul debate with people who thought-they-knew-better. The church-folk had great-admiration and respect for Paul. And they’d wanna listen-closely to what Paul had written.
Maybe there’s a pastor from your past that you hold great-esteem-for; …someone whose-ministry was blessed in wonderful-ways; …someone who had a dramatic-impact on your walk-with-the-Lord, …or who-was-instrumental in your coming-to-faith in the first-place. How would you react if I announced that we’d gotten a letter from him?... You’d tune-in, …you’d pay-attention, …you’d set-aside the coloring-books or the checkbook, …because you’d wanna hang-on-every-word!