Summary: First in a series from the Book of Ephesians. As belivers, we are set apart for salvation, service and spiritual blessings.
This morning, we’re going to embark on some basic training. For many of you who have served in our military, the concept is not a new one. Every branch of our military has some form of basic training that new recruits must complete before they are ready for duty. The todaysmilitary.com website describes the process like this:
Basic Training—officially called Initial-entry Training—prepares recruits for all elements of service: physical, mental, and emotional. It gives service people the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of them for the duration of their tour.
Well, today, we’re going to begin our spiritual boot camp. And our purpose is much the same as military training. It will give us the basic tools necessary to perform the roles that will be asked of us for the duration of our tour. Because just like our men and women of our Armed Forces must be prepared for battle, we, too, must be prepared for a spiritual battle.
Our training manual for this process is going to be Paul’s letter that he wrote to the church in Ephesus nearly 2,000 years ago. But it’s a great training manual because it still is as useful to us today as it was when it was first written.
Paul probably wrote this letter from his prison cell in Rome in about AD 62. As we’ll see, he writes primarily to the believers there, many of whom had become followers of Jesus Christ as the result of one or more of Paul’s previous trips there.
His first trip to Ephesus was a brief stop on his way to Antioch in Syria:
They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, "I will come back if it is God’s will." Then he set sail from Ephesus.
Acts 18:19-21 (NIV)
After traveling to Antioch, Paul visited some of the churches that he had earlier established in Galatia and Phrygia on his way back to Ephesus. Upon his return, Paul made Ephesus the home base for his missionary activities for 2-1/2 to 3 years. Several events from Paul’s stay there are recorded in Acts 19.
Paul’s’ preaching there in Ephesus led to a riot when it threatened the local silversmith business, which was dependent on the production of miniature silver replicas of the Temple of the Greek goddess Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. So Paul fled the city.
Since Paul had stayed in Ephesus longer than any other place during his missionary journeys, it’s not surprising that once he is imprisoned in Rome that he is concerned about the believers there. So he sits down and writes a letter that can serve as a basic training manual for the followers of Jesus Christ, not just in Ephesus, but in that entire region. And his letter continues to serve that purpose for believers all over the world nearly 2,000 years later.
The letter itself contains two clearly distinct sections:
• Chapters 1-3 primarily contain doctrine. In these chapters Paul recounts all the spiritual blessings that we have as a result of God’s work in our lives. The focus in these chapters is on what God has done for us.
• Chapters 4-6 primarily contain practical principles about how to live out our faith hereon this earth. The focus in these chapters is on how we are to serve God in our daily lives.
One commentary that I read this week [Divide the Word Ministries], described Paul’s letter in terms of a spiritual checkbook:
• Chapters 1-3 describe the great riches that God has deposited into our account. Those deposits made by God are too infinitely large to be counted but they are simple enough to understand and use.
• Chapters 4-6 describe how we can withdraw those riches from our account.
As part of our basic training, I’m encouraging all of us to work at memorizing the entire Book of Ephesians as we work through this training manual together. I know that many of us, me included, don’t really like to memorize. So we come up with all kinds of excuses about why we can’t memorize. For many of us our excuse is that we’re getting older and it’s just harder to remember things.
I was reading just this week about three elderly men who went to the doctor’s office for a memory test. The doctor asked the first man, "What is three times three?" "274," was his reply. The doctor rolled his eyes and looked up at the ceiling, and said to the second man, "It’s your turn. What is three times three?" "Tuesday," replied the second man. The doctor shook his head sadly, then asked the third man, "Okay, your turn. What’s three times three?" "Nine," said the third man. "That’s great!" said the doctor. "How did you get that?" "Simple," he said, "just subtract 274 from Tuesday."