Verses 1–6 make clear the way that Paul expected the Ephesians to relate to one another. If Paul had begun the letter with this, the Ephesians might not have wanted to read the rest of the letter. Instead, Paul focuses in the first half of the letter on things that were a bit easier to accept: the love of God and unity in the body of Messiah. He begins this part of the letter with a reminder of the eternal love of God before focusing on the desired behavior in our life as a result of receiving the love of God in order to fulfill their destiny as believers which is to grow in an understanding of His great love for us, and to receive His love into our lives.
It is possible to be “messianic” without the Messiah. Sometimes people try to be “believers” on the outside and so feel good about themselves even though we aren’t actually walking with the Lord in our hearts. In our lives there is a motive for every thing that we do, even faith in God. There are two possible reasons for choosing to be a “believer”:
- From a heart that is captivated by the love of Yeshua, as a natural response to his love for us.
- To fulfill some physical or emotional need that other people calling themselves “believers” help us to fulfill when we claim to be a “believer”.
Spiritual reality — a paradox? There is an entire spiritual reality that we cannot see but that influences our lives from moment to moment. There are things that impact the spiritual influences in our life and that come against the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The evidence of these spiritual influences can be seen in challenges being considerate of others, difficulty staying pure, a lack of confidence and more…
Paul was with the Ephesians when they came to faith. Afterwards, the Jewish and gentile believers found themselves somewhat at odds with one another. Instead of telling the Ephesians that they have problems they need to address, he focuses on reminding them of the things that brought them to faith in the first place: The grace they received. Paul explains that when we depend on our own strength, we don’t get as filled with the love of God and our ability to overcome spiritual obstacles decreases. The love of God fills us even beyond what our own efforts can accomplish and as it is poured into us, we are empowered to pour it also out into others around us. We love more effectively when we are actively receiving the love of God in our life. The love of God isn’t something that is only active when we are doing ministry but rather something we can receive moment to moment to a point that we are flowing with the love of God towards those around us.
In Ephesians 3, we saw that the glory of God is displayed in the congregation of believers. How we relate to one another within the community of believers is important because it should represent the glory of God. The love of God should especially be apparent in our relations with other believers. The Ephesians were struggling to be unified as believers because of the challenge of building relationship between the Jews and gentiles of the congregation. The Ephesians didn’t grasp the importance of loving one another even when it means leaving your comfort zone. Even today, it is easy for us to choose fun and comfort above truly growing in love and unity with others in the body of Messiah. This is understandable since it is all too easy in a family atmosphere to grow lax in our efforts to actively pour love into the other members of the family when it is not comfortable or fun. Kids often forget that their parents are people, just like them, who have emotional needs and daily stressors. In the body of Messiah, it is all too easy to stick to talking only with people who we already know and to avoid people who challenge us. When we are filled with the love of God, we are able to love without conditioning our love on our circumstances. Before going to the cross, Yeshua in anguish sweat blood and expressed a longing for things to be different than they were and for his suffering to go away and yet, despite the suffering, he carried out the perfect act of love by which we all have been reconciled to God. This is a love that doesn’t depend on comfort or any other circumstances. True love doesn’t hinge on feelings or circumstance.
Chapter 4 begins with a word of caution: I…implore you (NASB; I… beseech you [KJV]). If we can’t love others despite circumstances and emotions, we are not filled with the love of God and it is this condition of the heart that Paul addresses with such strong words.
The reality in which we find often ourselves as did the Ephesians is one in which it’s easier to put up barriers between us and those who rub us the wrong way in order to protect our comfort. Many “believers” have used theological differences, or social issues and the like as an excuse for why they don’t love others around them. The ideal as believers, however, as seen in Ephesians 4:1–6 is to pursue unity with other believers in the love of God: one body, on spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. All this to give glory to God in the midst of the congregation.