Many people who purchase a home decide to make a down payment toward the home. This is a way of communicating to the bank that they are trustworthy and intend to fulfill their pledge to pay for the home.
Today, archeologists and historians have discovered business documents from the ancient Greco-Romans world that are very similar. A deposit was made as part of an agreement. The first installment was a way to guarantee that the transaction would be fulfilled.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses this language regarding the Holy Spirit. Having already written that God gave us the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit has sealed us, he continues by writing that the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance… (Ephesians 1:14). It was a legal term used to communicate to Christians that yes, there is an eternal reward coming for you, and I’m going to give you a deposit to guarantee that I (God) will see fulfill my vow with you.
This follows the story of God all throughout the Bible. He will ensure that His people are restored unto Him.
How well do you live with the confidence that God has blessed you and guarantees your eternal inheritance with Him?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the readings throughout this week have been a truly awesome reminder that You have blessed me immensely, yet the best is yet to come. Today, I simply pray that I will continue to understand and fulfill the purpose You have for my life here on earth. May I reflect Your love and kindness well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
You’ve likely seen a movie or tv show in which a king, queen, military general, or some other person of importance sends a letter and seals the letter by pressing a specific ring into wax. This was done to authenticate the letter. It was done to prove to the recipient that this letter truly does come from a person of authority. The contents of the message have great value and should be trusted.
Ephesians 1:13b (NIV) reads, When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…
For those who have professed faith and trust in Christ, this verse has significant meaning and symbolism for us. From a symbolic perspective, it says that God has sealed you with the Holy Spirit. The ESV Study Bible says, this “can mean either that the Holy Spirit protects and preserves Christians until they reach their inheritance (see 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; 1 Pet. 1:5; Rev. 7:2–3) or that he “certifies” the authenticity of their acceptance by God as being genuine—they bear the “royal seal” (see John 3:33; Acts 10:44, 47). The first interpretation seems best here, though both ideas are biblically true.”
In your own words, what would you say it means that you have been marked with a seal (Ephesians 1:13)?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today I am simply grateful for the reminder that You have given me Your Spirit to live within me. As a result, You are with me in all times and in all situations. The profound truth of this leads me to be in awe of Your majesty and strength. Who am I, that the Creator of all things desires to be with me at all times and in all situations? I am somebody You truly love. I am Your child. I am Your friend. May I rest in these truths today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
There are some words or phrases that are more common in the Scriptures than they are in our culture. For example, when is the last time you heard a Super Bowl MVP say, “I just want to glory in our victory here today?” It just isn’t too common of a phrase…to ‘glory’ in something.
Even though we may not use this phrase often, we all glory in something. In other words, we all choose to express joy or pleasure toward something. We may glory in a new car, a new job, or even a relationship. And it’s good to celebrate and express joy toward things that are bring us pleasure.
But above all, we need to be purposeful to glory in God. To worship Him with sincerity and gratitude for His goodness and grace. To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for bringing us back into a right relationship with Him.
1 Corinthians 3:21 encourages us not to boast (or glory) in a person or a leader. Instead, we are to glory in God.
Psalm 29:2 reads, Honor the LORD for the glory of his name.
Do you find it easy or difficult to glory in God? Why or why not?
What is a practical way you can grow in expressing your joy and gratitude toward God?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today’s reading has been a reminder that I am able to express joy and gratitude toward You at all times. Even though my circumstances may be challenging, You have still brought me into right relationship with You and it brings You joy to have done so. As such, it should bring me joy to return praise and honor to You. May I be intentional to rejoice in You today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Have you ever experienced a challenging situation and wondered, Does God really have a plan for this?
You’re certainly not alone. We all experience confusion, doubts, angst, and even fear. So when difficult circumstances come our way, it’s natural to wonder if God really has a plan.
But the Scriptures regularly remind us that God is sovereign. This means that He and He alone is in full control. While we have free will and can make our own decisions, He is still in control of a grand plan.
Ephesians 1:11 reads, Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
Read that last line again slowly: …he makes everything work out according to his plan.
Today, take two or three opportunities to pause and reflect on the truth that God has a plan and He will fulfill it.
On a scale of 1-10, what is your level of confidence that everything will work out according to God’s plan?
Today, take two or three opportunities to pause and reflect on the truth that God has a plan and He will fulfill it.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I confess that I often want to feel like I have full control over my circumstances, but today I am reminded that there is a lot that happens in life that falls outside of my control. Nevertheless, You continue to ensure that everything works out according to Your plan. This is a great mystery! But it’s a mystery I can rest in because I can trust that You are in control. Help me to rest in this truth today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Think about it: What is a word or phrase in our culture that may also show up in the Bible but with a very different meaning? In truth, there are a lot of them. Our culture may define love one way but the Scriptures provide a deeper understanding. Our culture may define peace as the absence of conflict but the Scriptures may provide a much richer understanding. Similarly, our culture may define freedom in one way but the Scriptures define it differently.
As noted earlier in the week, this is why it’s important to not read the Scriptures, but to allow the Scriptures to read you. If we read God’s Word through the lens of our culture, we may walk away with an incorrect understanding of what God is communicating. But when we allow the Scriptures to read us and transform us, it helps us to see God, ourselves, and others as they really are. It helps us to see our lives and the world we live in through the lens of the kingdom of God. It helps us remember these words from James Bryan Smith: “I am a child of God, one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in the strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God, the kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.”
What are some ways in which Paul had a Kingdom of God mindset and not a cultural one?
What are some ways in which you’re growing in having a Kingdom of God mindset towards how you see the world?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I recognize that each and every day I am inundated with messages from within my culture. Yet I also recognize that Your Word was written for all people in all cultures. Continue to help me see the world as You do, and to live in such a way that others are amazed by the ongoing hope I have in You. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Have you ever had the thought, I look forward to the day I’m with God in heaven, because then I won’t have to deal with all of life’s challenges and the brokenness in this world.
This idea isn’t an uncommon one. We live in a broken world, full of broken and hurting people. While we do have moments of experiencing joy we also experience pain, sorrow, and fear. So it’s natural to look forward to the day when we will no longer experience the brokenness of this world.
Unfortunately, this mindset can also lead us to believing that God has provided us some spiritual blessings now and that He will provide the rest of them when we die. But this isn’t what the Scriptures tell us.
In Ephesians 1:3 we read, All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
It’s right there in the text. We haven’t received some spiritual blessings. We’ve received all of them. We can either have all of them, or none of them. There is no in between.
In Ephesians 1:3, Paul notes that “…God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.” Take a few minutes to write down the spiritual blessings he mentions from verse 3 through verse 14.
We can either have “every spiritual blessing” or none at all. How ought the truth that you have received every spiritual blessing impact you throughout each day?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, today I am grateful for the reminder that you have lavished me with every spiritual blessing. Not some of them, but all of them. May this truth continually change me and transform how I see you, myself, and others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
When reading the Scriptures, it’s important to understand the culture and the context of what you’re reading. As difficult as it may be, it’s important to try understand Ephesians in the same way the people who first heard it would’ve understood it. The who-what-when-where-why questions (who were the Ephesians, what was it like living there at that time, etc.) provide valuable insight that really help the text come to life.
But as followers of Jesus, we must not allow our study of the Scriptures to only be about gathering information. Instead, it’s primarily about transformation. When engaging with the text, you’re not just trying to understand the meaning of the text. Instead, the ultimate goal is to allow the Scriptures to impact your life, molding and shaping you into the person God has created you to be.
Main Idea: Reading the Scriptures is good. But allowing the Scriptures to read you is better.
As you read today, allow God’s Word to read you. Do you have any unhealthy thoughts about God, yourself, or others that go against the truths of the Scriptures?
What is one (or more) unhealthy thought you may have about God, yourself, or others?
What truths from today’s reading speak against these unhealthy thoughts?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as I enter into this new study on the Book of Ephesians, I simply pray that Your Word will impact my life in deep ways. May You continue to transform into the person You have created me to be. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Many major cities around the world have some kind of icon that comes to mind when you think about them. New York has the Statue of Liberty, London has Big Ben, and Sidney is well-known for its Opera House.
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter, the city of Ephesus was well-known for a large statue built for the goddess Artemis. It was such a popular icon that thousands of travelers would flock to Ephesus for an opportunity to see it.
But Paul recognized that this statue was not merely a cultural symbol but a deeply religious one. As such, he focusses much of the letter on the grace of God, strongly encouraging the Christians in Ephesus to remain grounded in true gospel principles.
Interestingly, Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. While he probably wasn’t denied the opportunity to have visitors pray for him, he probably been beaten and had experienced harsh living conditions. Nevertheless, he doesn’t allow his living conditions to deter him from remaining focused on the gospel.
READING & PRAYERS:
Today, take the opportunity to read the Introduction to Ephesians in the Study Bible of your choice. Some recommendations include the Life Application Study Bible, NIV Zondervan Study Bible, ESV Study Bible, among others. I’ve provided the links for two different introductions to Ephesians available online below.
(Note: If interested, read Acts 19:1-41 to get a better understanding of how deeply ingrained the worship of Artemis was in Ephesus.)
What are some of the major themes that will come up as you read and study through the Book of Ephesians?
Why do you think these themes were so important to Paul?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as I enter in a New Year, I simply pray that all throughout this year, no matter what circumstances I may encounter, that I will come to more fully know You and reflect Your goodness upon the world around me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.