1 1 I, Paul, am under God's plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful Christians in Ephesus. 2 I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. The God of Glory
Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. 4 Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. 5 Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) 6 He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. 7 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people - free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! 8 He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9 letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10 a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. 11 It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, 12 part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. 13 It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free - signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. 14 This signet from God is the first installment on what's coming, a reminder that we'll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
Prayer for Knowledge and Understanding
15 That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the Christians, 16 I couldn't stop thanking God for you - every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. 17 But I do more than thank. I ask - ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory - to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, 18 your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, 19 oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him - endless energy, boundless strength! 20 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, 21 in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. 22 He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. 23 The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Saved by Grace
2 1 It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. 2 You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. 3 We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.
4 Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, 5 he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! 6 Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. 7 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8 Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! 9 We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! 10 No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
One New Man in Christ
11 But don't take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God's ways 12 had no idea of any of this, didn't know the first thing about the way God works, hadn't the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God's covenants and promises in Israel, hadn't a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. 13 Now because of Christ - dying that death, shedding that blood - you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.
14 The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. 15 He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. 16 Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. 17 Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. 18 He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. 19 That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all - irrespective of how we got here - in what he is building. 20 He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone 21 that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day - a holy temple built by God, 22 all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Paul's Ministry to the Gentiles
3 1 This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. 2 I take it that you're familiar with the part I was given in God's plan for including everybody. 3 I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief. 4 As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. 5 None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. 6 The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board. 7 This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. 8 When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. 9 My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. 10 Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! 11 All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. 12 When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. 13 So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
Prayer for Love Which Surpasses Knowledge
14 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, 15 this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. 16 I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit - not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength - 17 that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, 18 you'll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! 19 Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 20 God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 21 Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!