Ephesians 4:26-27 says, ‘“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.’
The word “devil” only occurs again in this letter in 6:11 in the context of spiritual warfare against the “powers”. Paul, the author of Ephesians, believed that the “powers” were closely associated with the “devil”. Although the believers had been raised with Christ and seated in the heavenlies (2:6) they were still engaged in a struggle with the “powers” (6:12). 4:26-27 provides an example of one of the devil’s strategies (6:11) and how this warfare was to be fought against by believers.
A lot is said about power these days. Power evangelism. “Powerful” church services. There is even a power-Bible. Is praying for power wrong for Christians? Does it conjure up images of witches and warlocks mixing potions and reciting spells, while requesting power from some evil, occultic being? Is prayer for power legitimate and biblical?
I often get very discouraged by the racist views expressed on so many news and social media sites. It seems that some (sad) people are hell-bent in making any and every issue about the amount of pigmentation of another’s skin. Sadly racism is also sometimes seen in the church; this was especially true of the apartheid years in South Africa. The Bible teaches that there is only one race, the human race. We are all descendants of Adam and Eve.
Within this “brotherhood” of humanity, we have different languages, and cultures, and ethnicities; but only one race. The New Testament tells us that God has acted in Jesus to call people from all nations to be part of His kingdom. The church, being the geographical outposts of the kingdom all around the world, must be demonstrating to the physical and spiritual world the death of racism. The apostle Paul reminds us of this in last half of Ephesians 2 and makes a startling statement in 3:10.
In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul describes the Ephesian believers’ hopeless condition before they had come to experience the power of God in Christ Jesus which had transformed their lives – this of course is true for all believers. According to the Paul they were (spiritually) “dead”, which figuratively describes the state of being lost or under the dominion of death and also denotes an inability to communicate with the living God.
This condition was due to their “transgression and sins” and therefore the recipients needed to be made “alive” (2:5) in Christ. Ephesians 2:1-10 can therefore be described as a continuation and application of the theme of the power of God’s actions in Christ. Before God had made the believers alive in Christ, the believers were influenced by the environment (“the age of this world”, 2:2), by a supernaturally powerful opponent (“the ruler of the realm of the air”, 2:2) and by an inner inclination towards evil (“in the desires of our flesh”, 2:3). Of particular interest to my series of posts is the second influence mentioned above.
A key figure in the Xhosa tradition is the imbongi or praise singer. The praise singers traditionally live close to the chief’s “great place” (the cultural and political focus of his activity); they accompany the chief on important occasions – a praise singer preceded Nelson Mandela at his Presidential inauguration in 1994. The praise songs generally give tribute to and acclaim to the actions and adventures of chiefs and ancestors. The apostle Paul ended his prayer in Ephesians chapter one with a kind of praise-song.
Ephesians ch. 1 has a great prayer for Christians in Africa, especially considering our backdrop of African Traditional Religions with their strong belief in spirits, spiritual powers and the influence of the ancestors.
Thankful for your faith
(15) For this reason I also having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and the love towards all the saints, (16) I never cease giving thanks for you. (Ephesians 1:15-16)
Paul began his prayer by thanking God for his readers – the Christians in Ephesus. In Ephesus it was not unusual for families to offer public thanks to the Greek goddess Artemis, such as dedications inscribed in stone. In 1:15-23 Paul wanted to publicly thank his God. The reason Paul thanked God refers back to 1:3-14, especially 1:13-14, where the eulogy was applied to Gentile believers who were now in Christ and on an equal footing with Jewish believers. Paul had good reason to thank God for his work in the believers’ lives, especially because the Ephesians had heard and believed the gospel and were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The phrase “having heard of your faith” explains why Paul was giving thanks and. The brevity of this thanksgiving report may give credence to the theory that this was a circular letter intended to various home churches. It should be remembered that Paul had not been in Ephesus for a few years and there were most likely many new converts whom he did not know personally. The recipients’ faith was “in the Lord Jesus”. Their faith was originally in Artemis, but now it was in the Lord Jesus.
Christians with an African Traditional Religion background may wonder from time to time if Jesus is enough. Can Jesus protect me from a curse invoked by an angry neighbour? My sins may be forgiven at the cross, but can Jesus protect me from angry spirits? Christians from a more “western” background may have similar thoughts. Is Jesus enough or should I consult the horoscope just in case the stars aren’t alligned? I have Jesus, but everyone’s been telling me about this new book about finding the true spiritual path. Ephesians 1:3 says,
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
In recent years scholars have taken more seriously the influence of Jesus of Nazareth on the apostle Paul’s thinking. You might think this connection was obvious, but in the world of “biblical” scholarship nothing is obvious. Evangelical scholars contend that the greatest change in Paul’s thinking was brought about as a consequence of Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul’s conversion took place after he saw Jesus who “appeared” to him on the road to Damascus (1 Corinthians 9:1, 15:8). Paul describes his conversion as a revelation of Jesus the Messiah (Galatians 1:12). The risen and exalted one appeared to Paul accompanied by the radiance of his glory. Paul was convinced that Christ Jesus was YHWH’s (LORD’s) promised Messiah who would inaugurate the long-awaited kingdom of God. Paul did not abandon his monotheism when he became a follower of Jesus; rather Paul’s monotheism was “recast to include Jesus within the divine identity”. Paul resolutely maintained that the one God had revealed himself in Jesus.