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 5:4). By accepting the law again in their life, the believers in Galatia gave room again to the “elemental things of the world” (Gal 4:3,9b).
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. have their origin in the heart of God.
However, in this letter you will not only find the blessing for the individual Christian. The believers together make up the church and the church as a whole has also received tremendous blessings. Paul also writes a lot about the height and the depth of these blessings in this letter. It is because of its connection with its glorified Head in heaven, Jesus Christ, that the church receives these blessings. In Ephesians 3 the apostle calls this connection a “mystery” (Eph 3:3,9).
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 in captivity in Rome, he writes about what he calls in Romans 16 “the revelation of the mystery” (Rom 16:25).
In the letter to the Romans Paul could not elaborate 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 purpose, 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 2:1-2) – with enormous riches, instead of consuming 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 4:24 Darby Translation). This is totally different than being consumed 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 wilderness 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 leave Egypt and come in the wilderness through the Red Sea. There the people get the tabernacle, wherein God dwells amongst His people. They are also given a sacrificial service through which they can draw near to God and remain connected to Him. This is being described in the book of Leviticus. After Leviticus comes Numbers where the journey through the wilderness is being described and the means God provides for that journey. The pictures of the book of Leviticus you can find in the New Testament, in the teachings of the letter to the Hebrews and the pictures of the book 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, thereafter he looks forward, to everything that was awaiting the people in the promised land. In the New Testament you then come to the letter to the Philippians. That letter is about the Christian who is still yet on earth, but his whole heart is focused on heaven.
After the book of Deuteronomy comes the book of Joshua. The people went through the Jordan and entered the land of Canaan. In the New Testament you find this in the letter to the Ephesians. Just as Israel had to take possession of the land that God gave, you are being taught in the letter to the Ephesians to take possession of what your spiritual property is in the heavenly places.
All 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 we have given that truth a place in our heart, but when we have worshiped God for that truth. That is just what God desires according to the truths in the letter you now have before you.