Five Ways to Preach the Gospel From Ephesians
Every book of the Bible invites us to use different stories, language, themes, and metaphor to describe the good news of what God has done in Jesus. If you’re a youth pastor or a small group leader, here are five ways to talk about Jesus through the book of Ephesians.
From the creation of the world, God has chosen to work through families. Salvation was promised through the family of Eve (Genesis 3:15). Blessing was promised through the family of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Kingship was promised through the family of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). God has always worked through the bloodlines of families, but in the Old Testament that bloodline was Jewish.
And in Christ, the family of Eve, the family of Abraham, and the family of David, all meet a promised Son, Jesus, who will save, bless, and rule the world. But Jesus saves all people because Jesus creates a new family—not of a particular bloodline but from all nations. This is why Jesus’ genealogies are careful to point out the Gentiles in his family tree (Matthew 1:5).
In Christ, everyone can be adopted into God’s family, God’s blessing, and God’s Kingdom (Ephesians 1:12-13). All the blessings God’s people hoped for in the Old Testament are poured out in Christ and for all. Anyone not a part of God’s family can be adopted as sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:5). Jesus makes it so that neither our bloodline nor family origin can prevent us from knowing the depths of the love of God in him.
In a world filled with divisions in class, race, and gender, Paul points us to God’s mysterious plan for unity (Ephesians 3:6). While the world wants to divide its people, the Spirit in Christ unifies all people. In Christ, there is only one nation, without borders, consisting of people from all tribes, tongues, and languages (Revelation 7:9). All people, whether slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile, are unified into one household, under one Father of all (Ephesians 3:15).
And by God’s Spirit the power to unite a divided world now lives in us. As Paul says elsewhere, we are now ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). We are Spirit-empowered agents of unity in a world divided. In Christ, God has brought salvation to all, and now we’re filled with that same reconciling power, partnering with God to see the world united under him.
At creation, mankind was made to live with God and choose the things of God—that which is righteous and holy (Genesis 2:15-16). Yet, sadly, our first parents chose to turn from the things of God and so clothe humanity in sin (Genesis 3:6). So now, as offspring of Adam, we’re born with a nature that is prone to sin, unable to choose the things of God (Romans 6:20).
Since the fall, we have not been truly human. So we need to be made new, to be given a new nature, and to be recreated. It is only through being made new that we can return to how we were created and have the power to choose the things of God, such as kindness, compassion, and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32).
But the good news is that because Jesus willingly laid down his life for us, we can now lay down our old life too. The life marked by sin has been nailed to the cross, and Jesus’ righteous life has been given to us in exchange (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are now new creations. We are new humans with a new nature. Because of Jesus, we can put off our old self and once again live a life that chooses the things of God. Because of Jesus you have a new nature, freed from sin and empowered to live a life worthy of the unity and salvation bought for you by our Savior.
GRACE TO OBEY
Often, when we read commands like “stop lusting” and “be united” we feel guilty for not living up to them. So after taking stock of our failures for the day, we promise that tomorrow we will try harder and be better. But tomorrow comes—and the moral progress we hope for is short-lived. We beat ourselves up again and try harder the next day. But Paul has no interest in motivating you with guilt and shame. Paul instead motivates us with the grace, forgiveness, and sacrifice Jesus has given us while we were still sinners.
This is why Paul only gives us commands in the context of what Jesus has done. We can walk in love because Christ loved us and gave himself up for us first (Ephesians 5:2). We can live as children of the light because while we were once darkness, now we are light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8). Paul knows what he commands is only possible when we see Jesus doing for us what we struggle to do for others.
None of us are as wise, loving, or humble as we should be, but thank God we have a Savior who is for us! Cast your eyes on Jesus and his love, wisdom, and humility! He has not only saved you but he will also perfect you into the loving and humble person he has called you to be (Hebrews 12:1).
THE DEFEAT OF THE POWERS
Our battle is primarily spiritual, and it’s primarily fought by God. Jesus has already defeated the powers on the cross and we freely walk in his victory. Even the armor Paul tells us to put on, was first worn by God. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet tells us that a coming Savior will fight on behalf of his people clothed with the very same armor Paul describes (Isaiah 59:16-17). The Savior that Isaiah prophesied is Jesus! Jesus puts on the armor as he fights for our salvation on the cross. He skewers our sin with his sword, and his faithfulness will never allow death to overthrow us again. In his resurrection, Jesus becomes our armor. In Jesus, the battle is already won and the weapons that have already defeated our enemy are ours to wear. Our call is to put on Jesus, who is our armor, and walk in his victory.
And in his mercy, has seated us with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5). We have authority and power over the darkness that’s left creeping on the earth. Yes, our life is a battle, but we’re on the winning side. Our enemy has been crushed. His weapons are flaming, but feeble, for those in Jesus. So remember that your battle is a spiritual one. Your greatest enemy isn’t your boss, your spouse, or your prison guard. The powers of darkness want to use your situation to see you fall, but remember that Jesus has fought for you and won. Jesus now covers you in his own armor, and by his Spirit you will withstand these evil days.