"Pray for me, . . . that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains," is the earnest request of Paul to the community in Ephesus (Ephesians 6:20). Typically an ambassador lives in an embassy. When you enter a U.S. embassy anywhere in the world you are on U.S. soil. American citizens can seek asylum there.
Ambassador Paul, who represented the Kingdom of God, was not living in an embassy however. In fact, he was living in a prison under Roman guard. Still he knew that he was an ambassador for Christ. You might say he carried his "embassy" with him. Wherever he was, there was Christ, there was the Kingdom of God.
It is the same for us as Christian ambassadors. Wherever we are, there is Christ, there is the Kingdom of God. Wherever we live is the embassy of the Kingdom of God. Whenever people enter our home, they are on the soil of the Kingdom of God.
For Reflection: Do I realize that I carry Christ and the Kingdom wherever I go? Do I always act like I carry Christ with me? What kind of shape is my embassy in? If the King were to visit, would I be proud to welcome him in?
Let us pray. Jesus, we pray for all those who are serving as your ambassadors where it is dangerous to do so. We ask that they confidently proclaim your name even though they may be serving you in chains. We trust that they will still be able to share your message of reconciliation and peace.
Another of our titles, if we want to call them that, is "heirs of God" and "co-heirs with Christ." (See Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 1:5.) We are heirs because we are sons (daughters) of God our Father. There is perhaps no greater designation than to be called a child of God because of the ramifications. Children grow up with their parents and take on their mannerisms and habits. Children benefit from the education and other things that parents provide because parents want their children to succeed in life. They benefit from their parents' place in society. Children inherit from their parents when the parents die.
God, as our Father, wants and provides the same for us and even more so because He is God. God made us in his image and likeness. We can, through the example of Jesus and applying the Word of God to our lives, grow up to be like him. Because of natural parents, we might say of someone, "She has her father's eyes and his smile." How much greater the compliment if we can say, "She has her Father's eyes and smile, his compassion and love of others." Or, "He has learned patience and self-control."
As children of God we hold a certain place in society. After all, our Father is the Supreme Godhead, Creator and Ruler of the Universe. If we know who He is, then we should know who we are. We can brag on our Father and bring people to meet him. People might look to us to be leaders and to grant favors which we would be able to offer through exercise of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
As children of the Father, co-heirs with Christ, we inherit all that he has. Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18) and he passed it on to his disciples. He said we could drive out demons, speak in new tongues, and heal the sick. And we will inherit the Kingdom. At the end He will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, enter into my joy (cf. Matthew 25:23).
That's what it means to be an heir.
"I brought you into this world and I can take you out," we sometimes hear as a threat from a father to a wayward son. I think there is an application for that thought in the spiritual world.
As we continue to pray for persecuted Christians around the world, I have still been reflecting on the fact that the Christian enemy is not flesh and blood but the powers and spirits of darkness in this realm and in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And our weapon against these spiritual forces is the word (the sword of the Spirit, the word of God).
God created everything in this world and in the spiritual realm by his word. His words, "let there be . . . ", took effect and accomplished what they were sent to do, including the creation of the angels. So the spiritual powers of darkness (fallen angels) were created by God - not for evil, of course, but for good. After creation, God continued to speak words to his people, but they didn't listen all that well. So he sent The Word, his Son. The Son spoke his words, but the people didn't listen all that well, until the Son shed his blood and said, "It is finished."
Those who did listen wrote down the word of God which we have with us today. And this written word, which came from the flesh-and-blood Word, to the people created by the spoken word, we learn so that we can overcome the spiritual forces in the world and in the heavenly places by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The lamb's work is done (it is finished!) and our work is to speak the word of our testimony.
The word of our testimony is the Word of God (Jesus), the word of God (Scripture) and the words that tell what God has done for us personally. What was created by a word of God we have been empowered to overcome (or take out) by a word from us. In our war on the spirits and powers of darkness, our weapon is the word. The evil spirits don't have the Word on their side, we do. Let us speak to the evil spirits, the powers of darkness, and overcome them with the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
Let us declare. Spirits of war, hatred, murder, genocide, you were defeated by the blood of the Lamb. That same blood was shed for me so that I might be washed clean and set free from my sins. Furthermore, Jesus is my Lord. He has given me abundant life. He has justified me and made me righteous in his sight. By God's Word and by my word you are cast down. You have no more power in this world. You are defeated. The captives are set free.
As we pray and fast today for persecuted Christians around the world, the song "O Holy Night" was going around in my mind. I thought that was really strange - a Christmas carol playing in my head while praying against persecution. So I looked up the words. The third verse and chorus, which I don't ever recall hearing, are as follows (according to Wikipedia).
Truly He taught us to love one another;
Today let us remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of evil and the ruling spirits of murder, hatred, slavery, persecution and oppression (Ephesians 6:12-13). We do not seek revenge or retribution.
Let us pray. Jesus, we place ourselves within your hedge of protection as a surrounding barrier and we put ourselves under your wing. We stand today with those who are too weak to stand, in too much pain or fear to utter a prayer. And we command the powers of darkness to be dispelled by the light of Christ. We tear down the strongholds of murder, hatred, slavery, and persecution. We break the chains of those who are enslaved. We declare for all the world to hear that "Jesus Christ is Lord."
This standing that we are to do in chapter 6 of Paul's encouragement to the Ephesians is one of holding our ground because the battle has already been won by Christ. Christ defeated the enemy so we are holding onto the ground he has already won. As Paul says elsewhere (Romans 8:37) we are more than conquerors. When we stand with Christ we are overcomers.
As has been pointed out by many authors over the years, the armor we are to put on is defensive, not offensive. We don't need to take the ground, we need only to hold it.
For Reflection: Since Christ has already won the battle, defeated the enemy, we should be praising and thanking him for that. We need not ask him to win the battle for us, it is already won. Let us stand in strength, serenity and confidence.
Let us pray. We thank you, Jesus, for having already won the battle. We praise you for your victory over every enemy. We praise you for your victory over temptation, sin and even death. We stand with you as victors, overcomers and conquerors.
Sit, walk, build, imitate, love, submit. What is next in Paul's exhortation to the church in Ephesus? Stand. Yet we cannot move into the standing position if we do not progress through the earlier ones. And whereas walking comes out of sitting in the heavenly realms with Christ, so does standing. Sitting is our place of rest and nourishment. Sitting is our grounding. We must be grounded and rooted in Christ and what he has done for us before we endeavor to do anything with him. We cannot do anything for Christ, but we can do many things with him who strengthens us and enables us to fulfill our calling, our destiny to help establish the kingdom of God on earth.
It is sitting and then walking, imitating, loving and submitting that enable us to be "strong in the Lord" and to "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-11) so that we can stand. We construct our own set of armor while sitting and walking. We each have our own belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Our belt of truth may be stronger than someone else's, but their shield of faith may be stronger than ours. Together we are one body of Christ equipped with the strongest armor to stand against the enemy. It is important not to stand alone, but to stand as one with the body of Christ.
For Reflection: Am I sitting with Christ? Am I walking with him? Am I standing with Christ and with his body, or am I standing alone?
Let us pray. God, you are my refuge and strength. I sit with you, I walk with you, I stand with you.
Now let's tackle the verses with which so many people have a problem. "Wives submit to your husbands" and "Husbands, love your wives" have caused much grief for wives who misinterpret them and husbands who can't live up to them (Ephesians 5:22, 25). Both commands are compared to how Christ relates to the church. Since Christ is the head of the church, the church, as the body of Christ, submits to the head. Christ loved the church enough to give his very life for her.
These verses (5:22-33) are all of a piece. We can't separate one from another. The burden would seem to be heavier on the husband than the wife. The husband is to give himself up for his wife, to love her as he loves himself, to present the word of God to her, to help her become holy and blameless before God, just as he does for himself because in marriage the two have become one.
Paul is, of course, speaking to two Christians married to one another. Then, if the husband does all of this, the wife need only respect and submit. She is not even, in this case, told to love her husband. Yet we know we are to love all people. A husband who can do all of the above is never abusive to his wife, nor demeaning. A wife, whose husband is this good, would never lose respect for him or have a need to nag. Will they argue sometimes or disagree about what is best for their union, their body? Yes.
I'm reminded of a book I read recently which touched on the Civil War in the United States. I was constantly amazed at how far President Lincoln would go to maintain the union, the marriage if you will, among the states. He was tolerant of dissent and disagreement even among his cabinet as long as the goal was to save the union.
For Reflection: If you are married, how strong is your union? What can be done to make it stronger? If unmarried, is there anyone who helps you grow in the body of Christ? How can you honor that person?
Let us pray. God of mercy and love, unite your body more closely to you so that no part, no molecule, may go astray. Unite me more closely to you.
Increase my love for my spouse. Increase my spouse's love for me. Unite us more as one in being with you.
Now we come to that hated word: submit. People today do not like the thought of submitting to someone else. So let's face it and see what it says.
First, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21). People who are submitted to Christ, who reverence the Lord, should be able to submit to one another. In all kinds of relationships decisions need to be made. Sometimes all parties agree, sometimes they don't, and one party goes along with the other's decision. The level of submission required depends on the importance of the decision.
One common place that Christians live this out is in their local church congregation. How much talk (gossip) goes on over church decisions? Let's be honest. Lots of decisions are rehashed for months and years. This does nothing to build up the body of Christ, and, in fact, tears it down and ruins our witness. We must learn to use discernment about what matters are really important enough to have a public disagreement about.
For Reflection: We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Christ first love us. He loved us when we were not submitted to him. If he can do that, can we not love others who love him and submit to others who submit to him?
Let us pray. Jesus, you loved me even when I had no knowledge of you. You submitted your life to the cross for me before I was born. Help me to submit my life to you. Grant me discernment about submitting to others out of reverence for you.
Sit, walk, build, put off, put on. What's next?
In our brief review of Paul's letter to the Ephesian church, we have come across these command verbs. We are to sit with Christ in the heavenly places. This is a time of resting in Him and learning who He is and who we are. When we have done this, we are to walk in the ways Christ has shown us. We are to build one another up into the mature body of Christ. Then put off our old ways, and put on the new ways of Christ.
So what is next? Imitate God. Paul writes, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1-2). We learn that we are dearly loved children when we sit in the place of rest with him and learn his ways. When we sit with him in the heavenly places, we observe the ways of the kingdom of God. Since Jesus and the Father are one, when we learn the ways of Jesus, we learn the ways of the Father (and the Holy Spirit). That is how we learn what is to be imitated. Children learn by imitating their parents.
Even Paul did not begin his apostolic life by going out right away to do things. He began by learning about Jesus and learning new ways of living and loving. He began from that place of rest in Christ before he began to preach. Although he began with "the big reveal", he had to learn to walk all over again. He had to learn to build rather than tear down. He had to put off his old ways before he could put on the new. He had to learn to imitate God when he himself had not seen Jesus in his earthly life.
For Reflection: There are many ways to learn to imitate God: reading and studying the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, walking with others who are more mature than we are. And, if we belong to a sacramental church, availing ourselves of the sacraments.
Let us pray. Jesus, we know that you do not leave us adrift when it comes to learning how to follow you. Help us, your beloved children, to grow more like you every day. What do you want me to grow in today?
As we grow in maturity in Christ there are things we must "put off" according to Paul. Since Paul is fond of lists, let us list here the things we are to put off: your old self, deceitful desires, falsehood, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking, darkness, drunkenness (Ephesians 4:17 - 5:20).
Paul gives, of course, another list of what we are to "put on": our new self, righteousness, holiness, truth, wholesome talk (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs), kindness, goodness, compassion, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving, light, understanding, the Spirit.
Many of these have to do with our words, what we say to one another. As James says in his letter, if we control the tongue we control the entire person (James 3:1-12). If we change the way we speak, we will change the way we act.
For Reflection: If we don't find ourselves more in the second list from Ephesians than the first, can we find a way to immerse ourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs?
Let us pray. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly. . . . I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth . . . . (Psalm 40: 9-10).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.