- Lesson 9 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Living in the Spirit” focuses on Ephesians 1:13-14.
Sometimes we cannot see or feel God’s presence. Perhaps it’s our sins clouding our vision, or other times, it’s unexplainable. We just feel alone. We just feel God is not there or God doesn’t care. However, when our best Christian self reemerges, we realize that God always has been there. We may have been on a different trip for a while, but God never leaves us alone. Through the Holy Spirit, we can have a daily awareness of God in the soul of our human experience.
We may come into the church one-at-a-time, but immediately we are part of a group, the Body of Christ. When Paul wrote, “You also were included,” who was he addressing? Obviously, it was a group of Christians living in the area of Ephesus, located geographically in modern-day Turkey. It was a thriving city, diverse in population as well as in religious options.
Paul did not start the church in Ephesus. Christians already were there, perhaps as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and the subsequent scattering of 3,000 new Christians. Read about Paul’s two-year experience with the Ephesians in Acts 19.
Who is included?
While with the Ephesians, Paul helped them with the basics of the Christian faith, including the Holy Spirit. Paul’s early connection point with them was through Jewish converts, but soon Gentiles (non-Jewish persons) were converted. That led to conflicts with Jews as well as with public officials. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he emphasized that “you” included both persons of Jewish and non-Jewish (known as Gentiles) backgrounds. Paul knew that each was “in Christ.”
In Acts, the early church struggled with “who can be saved?” Was the Christian movement for Jews only? They came to understand that the Great Commission was for both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:34). The next question was “with whom do saved people associate?” That was a struggle, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, people realized that the Body of Christ was for both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 11:18). It took a while, but the early church realized that as God’s children, we have no choice about who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that all should associate lovingly with each other.
We still struggle with associations. Some continue to see “we and them,” making unchristian distinctions among Christians. The distinctions may be racial, socio-economic, generational, gender-based, denominational, or even theological. We still struggle with “you also are included” and especially “I include you, too.”
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
To learn more about BaptistWay Press and the Connect360 Bible study series, or to order materials, click here.