For the past 4 years I have systematically (if slowly) been working my way through the entire Bible, book by book, in order to read the book, and then write at least 1,000 words about the book and my questions, concerns, and insights about the book. It’s probably something I could do perpetually for the rest of my life and even so, I’d still have plenty of depth yet to go on each book. But so far for me the big take away is definitely just how singular the message is from front to back. Just how much is in here about the unimaginably amazing love that God has for you today. I’ve just been blown away by how strong this one theme comes through.
I am fairly excited that we have finally arrived at Ephesians. Why is that Taylor? Great question random interwebs reader. Why? Well that is because two of my favorite characters in the Bible play a huge role in this book. And if you were to stop a random person on the street and asked them who their favorite characters are in the Bible, I guarantee you… GUARANTEE you, that even if you asked 10,000 people, not a single person would answer that one of these two people are their favorites. Promise. Just won’t happen. I’m just weird that way. But we’ll get to these fantastic individuals in a minute. We need to kick off the book by telling a story about a guy named Saul, Saul/Paul, that was the author of our book, Ephesians.
Who is this Saul/Paul Guy Anyway?
Saul was a Benjamite, which means he was from the Israeli tribe of Benjamin. (You probably don’t want to know this, but right now I’m vetoing that, and telling you that you do.) The tribes of Benjamin and Judah are the only two non lost tribes of Israel. The other ten were part of the northern kingdom at the time and were carried off to Assyria in 721 BC, and the Assyrians general policy with captured peoples, they were deported to other regions of the Assyrian empire and never returned. And on top of that assimilation, when the two remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin were captured and deported to Babylonia by the Babylonians (come on, that’s fun to say) by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC (see Ezekiel 37 if you want to know more) they probably picked up stragglers from the other lost tribes. So it got complicated and the ten tribes poofed out of existence. There are even tons of myths and legends about these lost ten tribes within the Jewish world. I mean, the other two tribes did it when the Persians attacked the Babylonians and Judah and Benjamin returned… so why wouldn’t the other ten? Eventually there was a cool legend that claimed that the Lost Tribes are situated beyond a mythical impassable river of “Sambatyon” that flows six days of the week and halts on the sabbath. But I digress. So Saul was a Benjamite. Got it. 2 remaining. Got it.
Then Saul became an amazing rabbi of the day, after studying under Gamaliel, and was a member of the ruling Jewish council in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin. It is clearly stated throughout Acts that Saul was passionately hateful towards those that followed the Way. Saul wrote about himself and his previous life in Galations: “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (As Christians were called at the time.) Eventually he had an amazing conversion experience that was detailed in Acts 9. Light, booming voice, Saul Saul why do you persecute me? Scales on his eyes. God talks to Ananias, tells him to go meet with Saul, Ananias tells God politely, yet resolutely, ABSOLUTELY NOT. But God had different plans. Saul is healed, becomes Paul and becomes of the most prolific writers of the New Testament.
Talk about a conversion experience. He was actively killing Jews. Hated their belief in this Jesus as The Christ. I mean, it made zero sense. Christ was to come as a warrior, and as a King, not as some pauper, killed on a cross. This didn’t add up. But he was so devout. So active in his faith for “God”. So he sought out the members of the way and actively had them killed by stoning. And yet God intervenes on Saul’s behalf. It makes no sense that God would want to use Saul, and yet He did. He actively sought out Saul and told him what the what was. Right? He gave Saul grace… and Saul became Paul as a result.
Are You Too Far Gone?
I write these to reach out to people that normally wouldn’t give a crap about God, or the Bible, or about Christianity. I’m not writing for Christians. I don’t care if they dig them. I’m writing for the Atheists that just can’t make sense of it all. I’m writing to the gnostics that think god an impersonal clockmaker, that just seem spent on life. To the Hindu that hurts and wonders if maybe they’ve missed it somehow. To the Taoist that wonders if the Yin and Yang are spiraling out of control. To the Mormon the Scientologist, to the apathetic and the nothings out there… I’m OK looking stupid to many. My hope is that the right one, maybe you, would see these scribblings and reflect. Do you think that you are too far gone? Are you killing Christians … metaphorically, of course. (Trust me, on Reddit I’ve seen many a Christian slaughtered for giggles in the comments. On Youtube the Christian slaughter is still live and well. Metaphorical or not. Heck, even here occasionally I get trashed for my belief.)
Are you too far gone for God? Nothing is too far gone for God. And actually, God revels, DELIGHTS in doing the impossible. He dances in the ashes of individual’s lives, and takes joy in making saplings grow in salted soil. He can save you. Stop thinking of the worn and tired Christian speak of “being saved”. Be SAVED. Let God save you. On my right arm I have the tattoo, in Latin, “Out of the depths I cry out to God.” From Psalm 130, to remind me where I was, and my need for salvation every single day. Saul was way way too far gone for God to save him. But God saved him anyway. Christ said that He came to seek out, to find, and to save those that are lost.
So Which Characters of the Bible Are My Favorite?
As I mentioned up top, my two favorite characters of the Bible are highlighted here in Ephesians. Did you guess? Yeah no, not them, nope, not them. WRONG! No. no no no and nope. I can say no, over and over again with the utmost confidence. Because I’m betting even 20% of well read Christians don’t even reading about them before. My two favorite characters?
Priscilla and Aquila.
WHO? Right. Priscilla was a Jewess living in Rome. And she married Aquila, a non-Jew? Roman? I don’t know. But they lived in Rome, until 41 AD. At which point, Claudius, the emperor of Rome, expelled all the Jews. And so Priscilla and Aquila fled Rome, and they headed to Corinth. During which time, one day in their shop, they ran into a strange, fervent guy named Paul who probably enquired about work, as he too was a tentmaker. And in the process of their introduction, he told them a story about a man named Jesus that forever changed their lives. Priscilla and Aquila most assuredly invited this crazy man back to the house, where they invited him to stay. For over 2 years.
And it was during those three years with Paul that the three of them started the Church in Corinth. And after that, the three of them traveled together to Syria, and then on to Ephesus (modern day Turkey). And from there Paul continued on without them. But they happened to meet a spit fire of a Christian teacher named Apollos. Now, Apollos didn’t actually know a ton, and what he did know, was mostly wrong. Specifically he only knew about the idea of Baptism, but not that of Pentacost, and what happened that particular day, and what it meant. So Priscilla and Aquila trained him, taught him, and guided him. Later when Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians he sent his greetings to his co-founders and friends, Priscilla and Aquila. And then in 53 AD, Priscilla and Aquila headed back to Rome because the mandatory exile for all Jews had been lifted. Claudius was dead. How do we know? Because in Romans, when Paul wrote to the church there? He sent his greetings to his two old friends… and apparently they had done fairly well for themselves with their tent business because the church in Rome was now operating out of their home.
And do you notice something strange about this, “Priscilla and Aquila”? The wife being mentioned first? What the heck is that about? Yeah, Priscilla was probably a steel toed boot stomper. If you look at the six times the couple are mentioned in the New Testament, three times they are mentioned as”Priscilla and Aquila” and three times it was “Aquila and Priscilla”. Just think of it, how many times did anyone mention wives at all… like that they even had one? Hardly ever. But here we have Priscilla mentioned first? It is a fact that she had to have been full tilt.
I even have a well documented theory that Priscilla wrote the book of Hebrews. (WHAT THE WHAT?!? A WOMAN?!? Yeah, I think a woman wrote a book of the Bible, and I think the early church fathers not only knew it, but were totally cool with it.) Regardless, for me to even be able to surmise this idea, she had to have been amazing. They planted Ephesus and it was firmly established by Paul in his third missionary journey (Acts 19). Not only that but they were with Paul when he planted the church in Corinth. Apollos? He was a one of the early church leaders. But yeah, they came along side him, corrected him, taught him from their time with Paul. And sent him off to change the world.
Oh Right, Ephesians
The newborn church at Ephesus was started by our super hero, Paul. But he was only there a short while and he handed the work off to Priscilla and Aquila. He then came back a year later to find that they only knew about John’s baptism, and not the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And so Paul spent his time there giving the people of the church of Ephesus a clearer picture of the grace that they had been given through Jesus. Which is what Paul talks about in his first three chapters of the book. That they have been chosen by God through Christ, and that they have been adopted as heirs of God. That both Jews and Gentiles, were dead in their sin, but that they have been made alive in Christ through God’s work on the cross.
And throughout the rest of the book, Paul calls them on to maturity. To put away the sins of their past. Calls them to a life of calling and a life devoid of deceit and other imperfections. Take this passage from chapter 4 that I have cleaned up and made a bit more modern. The Taylor Holmes Translation if you will: “Listen to what God would say to you, that you shouldn’t walk like others do… completely lost in their thinking and futile in their understanding, worse – separated from God by sheer ignorance, no – worse, by the hardness of their hearts.It is their hard hearts that causes them to surrender to sensuality, and greediness. These are not our ends… the Truth through Christ is so much different than that. You have put aside your former selves, having been corrupted in lusts of deceit. Instead, you have been totally made new by the Spirit in your mind, putting on the new self, which is like God, made in righteousness, and holiness!”
Paul was just encouraging the church there to mature in Christ. To not walk as other unbelievers walked. To put aside lies, deceit, sexual sin, hate. He was calling the church to a life of holiness. But what has that got to do with you today? Well, that depends, if you aren’t a Christian, I would ask one question, how is that working out for you? That was not meant with malice, but real curiosity. Is it going ok? We are surrounded by death. (Yet another school shooting in Florida just occurred.) Not just violent death, but cancer, illness, old age… all ending in death. This life is almost characterized by its negative as opposed to its positive. I am a huge Hobbesian fan, the philosopher… not the cartoon character he was named after, thank you! hahah. Leviathan being his seminal work, wherein he argued that life was, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He goes on to argue that the solution is the creation of the Leviathan, or the strong ruler that society places all their trust and faith in. A ruler that can decide the good of the whole. And while I don’t believe in his solution to the problem, I believe that he has stated the problem perfectly. Life is cold, its nasty, its brutish, and oh so horribly short.
So what do we Do? Paul, heck, even Pricilla in Hebrews, is abundantly clear. Christ – or God in human form – came to earth to take on your sins and to pay the debt you could not pay. He died a sacrificial death for you. And all that is required to receive this amazing gift from the creator of the universe is to believe. The path is clear for what Ephesians is calling the non-christian to, and that is belief. For the Christian? it calls us to maturity in Christ. To continue putting on the grace that we have been given. To drop the life that this world says is important. Money. Sexual sins. Deceit. And to walk in the light of the truth of what we’ve been given.
The Biblionomicron Project
I started this project 49 books ago. It was a whim. I’d read each book. Write about how it impacted me. Whatever. But 75% done, and 80,000 words later, it has had a significant impact on my life. So many people believe that the Bible is full of inconsistencies and untruths. That it is crafted out of deceit. But I’ve realized that that is a world that can’t handle the truth that is there. That there is a God, that loves them, and that would prefer to be in relationship with them. Who died to secure a way of relationship with them. This message is clear from Genesis all the way through. The message is startlingly clear. God loves you. Ephesians is just another book that reaffirms that message. Sure, it was written to an early church. But it was also written to you. It was written to call you out of darkness and into the light. The question is? Will you walk into that light?
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