Paul had previously spent three years in Ephesus, a time which we can read about in Acts 19. He spends a lot of time persuasively arguing for the gospel, and establishes the church there. After a tearful goodbye in chapter 20, the Ephesian elders are not expecting to see Paul again. Years later, during his first stint in prison, Paul writes back to the Ephesian church. This is what we read in the book of Ephesians.
Paul begins by spelling out the glory and goodness of the gospel, and the rich beauty of the hope we have been given in Christ. And this gift of life and saving grace is not just for the Jewish community, the descendants of Abraham and keepers of the law, but this is an offer extended to all.
This brings us to the primary theme of the letter: unity. Paul celebrates that Jews and Gentiles are unified in Christ. The diversity of the ever-growing church family is not a barrier, but a strength. The expanding family of believers are brought near to God in the same way. Jesus brings peace by making ‘one new humanity out of the two’. Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God as heirs together and are hostile to each other no more.
This one united humanity has Christ as its chief cornerstone. Humanity united in body, Spirit and hope, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.
So what does all this oneness look like? Humble, gentle, patient and bearing with one another in love – it looks like the fruits of the Spirit in action. As we grow in maturity in our faith, we begin to look more like him. Similar to how spending time with people causes us to pick up their words or mannerisms, in doing life with God day by day, the Holy Spirit transforms us into His likeness.
The calls to be a united church and grow in our spiritual maturity are calls we need to hear. The social barriers between us might not be the same as they were in the first century, but refusing to surrender to them is just as important now as ever. What unites us in Christ is stronger and more powerful than anything that separates us – let’s be ready to hear this truth in the context of our friends and family, our city, and our global church community in Christ.