Now to him… (Eph. 3:20–21)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

Now to him… | Eph. 3:20–21

The core of the first half of Ephesians, as we have already seen a few days ago, is made up of three salvation stories that Paul strings together in 2:1–10, 11–22 and 3:1–13, to ground his readers’ understanding of themselves and their understanding of their present circumstances in the story of what God has done for them. But those salvation stories do not make up the totality of Ephesians 1–3: wrapped around them are concentric layers of prayer and doxology (i.e. praise):

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That he may strengthen you with power (Eph. 3:14–19)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

That he may strengthen you with power | Eph. 3:14–19

Yesterday our focus was on the reason Paul gives for why he prays. Today our focus is on what he says to the Ephesians about the content of his prayers.

Two themes in particular stand out within this second prayer-report that Paul includes within the first half of Ephesians (the first is in 1:15–23). Both of them focus not on his readers’ outward circumstances (though of course it’s not wrong to pray about those things) but on their inward, spiritual strength and understanding. They are not prayers that his readers will be prosperous and comfortable, that things will go smoothly for them, that they will get everything that they want; both of them are prayers that they will be strong and secure in their relationship with God—ever stronger and ever deeper.

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For this reason… (Eph. 2:15, 3:1, 14)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

For this reason… | Eph. 2:15, 3:1, 14

Today we focus on just one phrase, “For this reason…”, repeated by Paul three times in the first three chapters of the letter, as a kind of introduction to the prayers that he prays for the Ephesians.

Before you turn to Ephesians to explore what Paul says about his reasons for prayer, it would be worth taking a moment or two to ponder your own: if you had to give a reason for what you pray, and for why you pray for the things that you pray for, what would it be?

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Your story—from mystery to revelation (Eph. 3:1–13)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

Your story—from mystery to revelation | Eph. 3:1-13

Our passage today (Eph. 3:1–13) is the last of the three salvation-stories that Paul includes within this central section of the first half of the letter. Each of the stories has a particular focus and is told with a particular purpose. This story, like the two stories of the previous chapter, is built as a once/now contrast. Unlike the others, however, it is a story that begins with a focus not on the Ephesians but on Paul, and on the stories of his sufferings as a prisoner for the gospel that will have reached the Ephesians and might have unsettled or dismayed them. The story that Paul goes on to remind them of is thus a story about the privilege and purpose of being an instrument of God’s revelation; it is a story that helps them make sense of his own sufferings, and reminds them of the part that they also have to play in the revealing of the saving wisdom of God.

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Your story—from far to near (Eph. 2:11–22)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

Your story—from far to near | Eph. 2:11-22

Yesterday’s passage (Eph. 2:1–11) was the first of three salvation-stories that Paul tells within this central section of the first half of the letter: a story about the dead being brought to life. Today’s passage is the second of those three stories: a story about the far-off being brought near.

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Your story—from death to life (Eph. 2:1–11)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

Your story—from death to life | Eph. 2:1-11

How do we learn who we are? A big part of the process is the stories that we’re told and retell to each other. As the people of God, in the Old Testament and the New, telling and retelling the story of salvation is fundamental to how we learn our identity and help each other to keep a strong sense of who we are alive in our memory and imagination. For Paul writing to the Ephesians with the purpose of building them up in their sense of identity as God’s people, telling the story of salvation becomes the core business of the first half of the letter. Already in the doxology of 1:3–14, Paul has strung together a story of sorts in the catalogue of blessings for which he offers up praises to God. Now, in the central paragraphs of the letter’s first half (2:1–10, 11 –22; 3:1 –14), he strings together three once-now stories, all of which focus on reminding his Gentile Christian readers about the story of how they came to be who they are.

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In order that you may know (Eph. 1:15–23)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

In order that you may know | Eph. 1:15–23

How should we pray for one another (and for ourselves) in the light of the things Paul has been writing about in verses 3–14? If God is the one who is in control of the universe; if he is the one who works out everything in accordance with his will; if he is the God who has blessed us already with every spiritual blessing in Christ, then how does that affect the way we pray for one another when we come to him in prayer? How do you pray for person who already has everything?

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And you also (Eph. 1:11–14)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

And you also | Eph. 1:11–14

As we saw yesterday, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins (after the initial greeting in verses 1–2) with a doxology—a psalm of praise that blesses God for all the gracious, saving things that he has done for Paul and the readers. At one level, as we saw, it is a kind of catalogue of blessings—a list of all the things that we have received in Christ, for which we can offer him our praise and thanks. At another level it is also a story, that stretches from eternity past (verse 3) to the day when “the times reach their fulfilment” (verse 10).

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Beginning with a blessing (Eph 1:1-10)

We continue in our two week series through Ephesians 1–3, with guest writer Dr. David Starling.

Beginning with a Blessing | Eph. 1:1–10

You can tell a lot about a letter from the way it begins: Paul’s letter-openings are never just conventional throat-clearing, warming up his voice (and warming up the audience) before he gets into the things that really matter. In every letter, the opening paragraphs are already aimed at accomplishing something—setting the tone and anticipating the issues that the rest of the letter will deal with.

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Introducing Ephesians

As we study the first three chapters of Ephesians over the next two weeks, our guest writer is Dr. David Starling. David teaches New Testament with me at Morling College and is head of Bible & Theology. He used to be the senior pastor at Petersham Baptist Church in Sydney, and is the author of UnCorinthian Leadership.

The Ephesians and Us | Eph 1:1 and Acts 19

As a general rule, it helps to know something about the people a New Testament letter was written to when we set about the task of interpreting and applying its contents. If we want to understand and apply the things Paul writes in 1-2 Corinthians, for example, it makes sense that we try and piece together a picture of what was going on for the Christians in Corinth, as the context into which Paul writes the things that he does within the letters that he sends to them. Same for Philippi and the Philippians, Galatia and the Galatians, and so on.

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