Paul had worked with the church in Ephesus for over three years and he knew their struggles and their shortcomings. But unlike other churches that he had written to, the Church in Ephesus was not fighting any conflicts or false teaching. He wanted to remind them of some of the essentials of being the kind of believers that would produce the fruit of Christ’s love. Maybe Paul was expressing his goodbye words to the people he had lived with, worked with, and loved. He wished to give them his final words or, as we call it, the benediction. A benediction is also a blessing or well-wish. He, therefore, wrote to them to lift the following that also can inform us about our faith journey:
1. To strengthen them: We are strengthened by the power of Christ that dwells in our hearts through faith. Paul, in his writing to the church, is inviting the believers to pray that the church be united as one. The world is faced with all kinds of divisions. There are hatred and bitter conflicts. Nations are against nations, neighbors hating their neighbors racism and all kinds of ‘isms.” The church needs to step up and tell the world about Christ’s love and his mercy. The church can’t do that until its members are willing to come together in fellowship to experience the limitless love of Christ. It was John Wesley, the found of Methodism, who once said, “God knows nothing of solitary religion. No man,” he said, “ever went to heaven alone. The church may have its faults; church members may be very far from what they ought to be, but in the fellowship of the church we find the love of God.” (The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay – Westminster, John Know Press, 2002. p. 153). If the Church (you and me) is divided from within, it becomes weak. Our strength on the journey comes from the Lord. We draw strength by staying connected to the vine. We draw strength to be recharged by His word. We get strength by being connected to one another as believers. We have to drink from the cup of salvation and stand firm on Christ, the solid rock.
2. To encourage them: We get rooted and grounded in love. You can never be lost in this kind of love. God’s love is immeasurable and inexhaustible. It was Paul, writing to the Church in Rome in the midst of Christian persecution: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angels or rulers, not things present nor things to come, not powers nor height nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). Paul, once again, is reminding us of God’s faithfulness, by which we are so rooted and encouraged: a) We are encouraged by God helping us to discern what is right and what is wrong. He gives us that wisdom that would keep our life pure and safe; b) He gives us the conscience that keeps us sensitive and on alert; c) He gives us the will, strong enough to back our knowledge and carry his intentions.
3. Jesus’ love: Paul speaks of Jesus’ love with an image of the cross in mind. He uses the four corners of the cross that can also be seen as the four corners of the earth (north, south, east and west or wide, long, high or deep). We have to remind ourselves once again that Paul’s experience with the Ephesus Church is unique. Unlike other churches where he dealt with conflicts in the membership and heresies that were being taught, here Paul was trying to build the church from all corners of love. He wanted them to learn of God’s love from the four corners. ( it reminds us of the song that we sing that Jesus’ love is so wonderful – Jesus’ love is so high that you can’t get over it, so wide that you can’t get around it, and so deep that you can’t get under it, so wonderful love).
- God’s love – wide: This love covers the breadth of our experience and then moves to the world. It includes all individuals of every kind, in every age of the world.
- God’s love – long: This love continues to the length of our lives. His love will go to all the lengths. His love even accepted the cross.
- God’s love – high: This love rises to the height of our celebration and elation. He still loves us in heaven. No one is outside the love of Christ and no one is beyond his reach.
- God’s love – deep: This love reaches the depth of our discouragement and despair, and even to experience death.
William Barclay writes of a story told by H.L. Gee, “It was a short story writer, H.L. Gee, who tells of a little boy whose father was promoted to the exalted rank of a brigadier. When the little boy heard the news, he was silent for a moment and said: ‘Do you think he would mind if I still call him Daddy?'” Because of our Christian faith we have unrestricted access to the presence of God and we can call him Daddy. What a benediction for us, the people of faith.