Hello, TYM! Sorry for the delay in following up with this. I was hoping to have a bit more regularity with these, but I don’t know if I will be able to keep a set schedule at this point. I will still continue writing them as I can.
To recap, in week 1 we discussed the story of Paul’s visits to Ephesus as outlined in Acts. Then in week 2, we discussed the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Jeff focused the discussion on spiritual gifts which eventually transitioned into us ending with the references to predestination and what that meant. Week 3’s notes are available to review, but I briefly outlined God’s long-running plan for humanity and how those outside of the Isrealite nation were cast aside but eventually would be grafted back into God’s blessings through Christ.
With this idea, Paul transitions into a prayer for the Ephesians which I’ll get deeper into next time. But before looking at the prayer, I want to take a look at what Paul has heard about them that then plays a role in his prayer for them. So I’m only going to talk about one verse in this lesson, but I want to really unpack this because there’s a lot here to dwell on.
Teaching Text: Ephesians 1:15
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Paul mentions hearing of the Ephesians’ faith and love. We are not given specific details about what he had heard, but the fact that Paul had heard about them indicates that their faith and love were on display in some way. So let’s look at both and think about what faith and love on display looks like for us.
Your Faith in the Lord Jesus
First, it’s worth noting that the faith described is “in the Lord Jesus.” This isn’t a wispy faith that has no direction. Oftentimes in the culture of the world, we are told to cultivate faith in ourselves, faith in political or philosophical ideals, or faith in other people. This faith, or complete trust and confidence, in the worldly and fallen lead to a loss of hope. What does faith in the Lord Jesus look like?
Let’s look at how it is described. The writer of Hebrews give us this at the beginning of chapter 11:
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 11:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Assurance and conviction are strong words. When you are assured or convicted of something, that becomes the truth. You cannot be swayed from it. This assurance and conviction however is in something we cannot see with our physical eyes, but we are so sure of the Lord Jesus, that it moves us to action. Faith in Jesus is paired with action. The way we move forward, the decisions we make, the actions we take are all going to stem from our level of faith. Greater faith will embolden us.
Let’s look back at the previous chapter of Hebrews. I encourage you to read through that, but look how faith changes us: we can draw near to God (v22), we can be unwavering in our confession about hope in God (v23), we strive to work together towards love and good deeds (v24), we encourage one another (v25), we stop sinning deliberately (v26), we endure struggles and sufferings (v32), and we know we are heading towards a reward (v35).
Faith in the Lord Jesus is life-changing. What does the Lord Jesus himself say to us about faith? In Mark 11:22-24, he says this:
22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 11:22–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
What a great promise! However, it is admittedly a bit overwhelming to think that we are told this and yet we don’t see anyone walking around commanding mountains to jump into the sea, even those we would consider “giants of faith” in our own lives. This is a difficult passage to work through, but one of the things I believe we can glean from this is that we will always be working on growing our faith. That’s why one of my favorite interactions in the Bible comes just two chapters earlier than this, in Mark 9:24, when the man with the demon-possessed son said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Let me state a caveat that our actions don’t necessarily have to be big. Great faith may mean small actions, but perhaps they are small actions that can only happen with great faith. In Luke 8:43-48, we get this great “sidebar” story about a woman with an ailment who touched just the clothes Jesus was wearing and was healed.
43 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 8:43–48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Jesus extols her for her faith and says that is why she is well. The action itself of just touching his clothes was small, but she overcame social stigmas in being a woman (in that time, women were considered less than men) and unclean and facing possible shame at entering this situation. Her faith in Jesus emboldened her to take this small action, and yet we hear of her even today.
Your Love Toward All the Saints
One of the greatest passages that talks about what love looks like is found in 1 Corinthians 13. There are several words in the Greek that English turns into the word “love.” In 1 Corinthians, the Greek word used is agape and this passage gives the best definition for what agape means.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 13:1–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Perhaps one of the best ways to describe agape is in stating what it is not: selfishness. The love referenced in Ephesians 1:15 and talked about in 1 Corinthians 13 is a selfless and sacrificial love best displayed by the life of Jesus.
You might have noticed that 1 Corinthians 13 also references faith. The first few sentences list out actions and in verse 2, Paul says, “if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” If our actions seek to elevate our own status and our own earthly rewards, we are motivated for the wrong reasons. What is motivating our actions?
- With love, we are not valuing mission over people; we are patient and kind.
- With love, we are not seeking the credit or acclaim; we do not envy or boast.
- With love, we are not placing our worth higher than that of someone else; we are not arrogant or rude.
- With love, we are open to the ideas and involvement of others; we do not insist on our own way.
- With love, we seek to understand others and see their side of things; we are not irritable or resentful.
- With love, we celebrate the right things; we do not rejoice at wrongdoing and instead rejoice in truth.
- With love, we don’t treat people as disposable; we bear, believe, hope and endure all things.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love will always exist. Even faith and hope will fade away once the Kingdom is fully realized.
So from a practical point of view, what might have Paul heard about in regards to how the Ephesians were displaying their faith and love? Let me encourage you to read through Romans 12:9-21. I think there’s a great list of actions that could constitute what Paul might have heard about. Living and acting like these verses is true faith and love on display.
(Final side note: Ephesians 1:15 is very similar to the beginning of Colossians. Take a look at Colossians 1:3-5, too. Paul kept up with the churches he worked to grow and there’s a consistency in his teachings to them.)
Hopefully I don’t take as long to follow up this time as I did last time. There’s still lots of great stuff to come in Ephesians. We haven’t even finished chapter 1!