Category Archives: Ephesians

Greek Gods in the NT

[Text: mostly Acts 16-19]

Context matters, when we’re reading the New Testament.

In fact, if we ignore the history and geography and worldviews that are the larger settings of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, we’re likely to miss some of the main threads of the story, and the main concerns of the writers.

If we’re reading the Gospels, for example, it’s important to be familiar with Old Testament norms and rules, as well as with the culture of Second Temple Judaism1 under Roman occupation.2 In Acts, as the story of the early church moves beyond the boundaries of Palestine and out into the wider Greco-Roman world, we need another kind of background knowledge.  Surprisingly enough, you may have learned some of it in the sixth grade!

It’s funny to think, but there are actually some Greek gods and goddesses walking around in the NT.  Well, maybe not the gods themselves; but their memory is alive, especially among the country people, and the idea of these ancient deities permeates the first-century Mediterranean world.  The early Jewish-Christian missionaries, emerging from Jerusalem and Judea into “the ends of the earth,” would have encountered the influence of the Greek gods on architecture, economics, philosophy, and even language itself.  So as readers who must look back on a time that was long ago and far away, we should expect to find evidence of Greek polytheism sprinkled through these Christian writings.  Time to brush up on our Greek myths!

In this post I want to give you a little tour of the NT’s museum of Greek gods.  Just where do they show up, and who are these divine characters when they’re at home?

As a little background first of all, let me note that while the world Peter and Paul traveled through was presently owned and controlled by the Romans, these military-minded empire-builders were mostly content to piggyback on the language, art, and legends of the Greeks they had conquered.3 Greek culture was so pervasive, even outside the land of Greece itself, that everyday Greek was the lingua franca of the known world.4 This is, in fact, the original language of our NT books.  So that’s how come the polytheistic culture of the day finds its way into the Christian Bible.

Sometimes in the NT a person’s name will preserve the cultural memory of a myth.  Apollos, the eloquent Alexandrian evangelist, was aptly named by his parents: Apollo, who alone among the gods retains his Greek name in the Romans’ divine lineup, presided over the realms of knowledge, lyrics, and oracles.  In Athens, a man named Dionysius rose above his unfortunate handle (he was named for Dionysus, god of wine parties and madness) to follow Paul in faith.  And one of the friends Paul greets by name at the end of Romans is Hermes, who must have endured in his life a lot of ribbing about winged sandals and talking too much.

Luke reports (with some delight, I think) that one time Paul himself was mistaken for this smooth-tongued messenger of the gods.  This happened in the mountainous region of Asia Minor called Lystra, truly a back-country town where pagan religion was flavored more with superstition than with the sophisticated philosophy of a place like Athens. The people of Lystra spoke their own language, Lycaonian, and as you can see on the map below they were not geographically Greek, either.  But Greek influence was evidently pervasive:  when Paul the preacher and Barnabas his quieter companion worked an orthopedic miracle, the people immediately decided they were gods walking around in the flesh—Hermes and Zeus, to be exact.  Luke makes sure we know that Paul was thought to be Hermes “because he was the chief speaker.”

The goddess Artemis5 gets a lot of attention in one chapter of Acts, as the gospel of Jesus begins to affect even the economics of a city.  Demetrius, an Ephesian silversmith who specialized in idols of the goddess, recognizes the threat of this powerful new monotheistic religion in a region dominated by Artemis’s temple and the consequent tourist trade.  He gathers his guild and makes a public scene to oppose Paul’s message that “gods made with hands are not gods,” ending up with a crowd in the city’s open-air theatre shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” for two hours. Though the motivation behind the demonstration was originally financial, Demetrius knew what buttons to push to rile up the passions of the local populace.  Nobody was going to displace their beloved goddess of the hunt.

Ephesus is still not quite geographically Greek, though it is across the Aegean from Achaia, the island home of the original Greek city-states.  Here we find Athens, named, of course, for the gray-eyed Athena,6 goddess of reason, arts, and literature.  When Luke narrates Paul’s visit to this city he notes that “all the Athenians7 and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new,” aptly reflecting the interests of their city’s patron goddess.

Notice that Paul is brought by the curious crowd to the Areopagus, literally “the rock of Ares” – where the god of war was supposedly tried for the murder of Poseidon’s son – to discourse more fully on the “foreign gods” that he was preaching.  If you have heard of apologetics-oriented churches or ministries that call themselves “Mars Hill,” they take their name from Paul’s apologetic moment on this rocky outcropping (though they give it a Roman twist).

One more story to round out this panoply of Greek deities. This one is hidden in the language of the NT, like an “Easter egg” in a computer game.  When you read in Acts 16 about a slave girl with a “spirit of divination” (ESV) who persistently announced Paul’s divine credentials, what you don’t realize is that the unique word used to name her particular experience of possession is pythōna—which looks a lot like a word you know in English. There’s a story behind the use of this word to diagnose demonic divination: first, there’s the legend of Apollo’s struggle with the monstrous Python at Delphi; then later its association with the place of the Oracle connected the word with the idea of soothsaying.8 That the name of Jesus quieted that serpent’s tongue is significant on all kinds of levels.

By the time of Jesus and Paul, the gods and goddesses of the Greeks had retreated, as it were, into the imaginations of the country folk, where they still enjoyed a lively presence and devotion.  To the philosophers and scholars of the cities, the deities had become mere handles for abstract concepts, or figures in famous epics; to the metalworkers and other craftsmen, they had become a source of income.  And to a mob in an open-air theatre, idolatry had merged with political identity:  “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

It was this world that Paul and his fellows traveled, making their way down the Roman roads and through the Greek superstitions and philosophies that they found along their path to declare something still unknown to many of their listeners: “we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man…”

The time was ripe for a changing of the gods.

Map of Greek Gods in NT

Postscript:  After posting this I realized I had forgotten to mention Castor and Pollux, better known to us as the constellation Gemini (the Twins).  See what you can find out about their story, and then try to track down their cameo in the NT.  Can you also recognize any significance in their intersection with the Christian story?

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All quotations from the Bible are taken from the ESV.

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1The “Second Temple Period” is the name scholars give to the stretch of time that lasted from the initial rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem (finished around 516 B.C.) to its destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D.  This time period overlaps the end of the OT (think about the rebuilding narratives in Ezra and Nehemiah, for example) and all (or almost all?) of the NT.  Then there are many centuries in between those bookending dates during which Herod the Great invested in some dramatic refurbishing, and various empires competed for control of the area.  It’s worth some research to learn more, because this is the history that most immediately informs Jesus’ context in Roman-occupied Palestine.

2The Roman General Pompey conquered the region in 63 B.C.  The Roman Empire per se started a little before Jesus’ birth, with Caesar Augustus declaring himself in 27 A.D.

3The Romans did coin their own deities at times, rather than just renaming those belonging to their more mythologically accomplished Greek neighbors.  But Roman-origin deities, like their creators, are less about good storytelling and tend more toward the political and partisan (e.g., the Caesars, and concepts like Victory, Liberty, and even the city of Rome itself).

4Thanks to Alexander the Great, the hotshot Macedonian general whose personal tutor was Aristotle.  He lived and conquered about 300 years before Rome became an Empire.

5Artemis is rendered Diana in the KJV and NKJV, which is a strange choice because it means there’s a double translation going on here—Diana is her Roman name, but the people spoke Greek in Ephesus.  You can read about this story in Acts 19.

6Homer, anyone?  You can read about Paul’s trip to Athens in Acts 17.

7Luke is using hyperbole.  He was probably sensitive enough to notice that the only Athenians with time on their hands for conversation about ideas were wealthy men.

8The word is used at Acts 16:16. You can read the legend of Apollo and the Python here. My interest is purely in the historical context of this word and how this intersects Paul’s missionary activity; other Christians have apparently adduced from this idiomatic allusion diagnostic information about possession and the spirit world.

 

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What Are You Studying?

Pastors, teachers, and other students of God’s Word, you might enjoy supplementing your studies with some unique and accessible commentary.  My Bible Journal posts have followed the haphazard course of my own studies recently, largely focused on the New Testament.  Here’s an attempt to organize my offerings for you.  Please pass these links on to others if you think they would be helpful!

Remember, you can follow the Bible Journal on Twitter @GrassRootsTheo, or sign up for email notifications (see the button below).

Bible Journal entries are listed below under the relevant books or sections of the Bible.  Find a match with what you are studying, and read along!

**GENERAL BIBLE STUDY TOOLKIT**

Bible Study Strategies (Audio)

Genre Judgment Calls

Pickup Theology

Redemptive-Historical Reading

Self-Evaluation Tool

A Friendly Intro to Biblical Theology

 

** OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY**

Christ in the OT

The Messiah in the OT

**GENERAL NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY**

Christ in the NT

Christ Jesus Our Lord

Invitational Imperatives (various Epistles)

Providing Perspective (various Epistles)

**GOSPELS**

General Gospels

Eyewitnesses to a Transfiguration

Mapping the Parables

On the Unforgivable Sin

Prompted Parables

Prophetic Puzzle Pieces

Samaritan Stories

“Shhh – don’t tell!”

Mark

Mark is Longer

Luke

Death Meets Life at the Gates of Nain

“Follow, Fast!”

The Cost of Salt

John

Curious Questions (Woman at the Well)

Naming Names

**ACTS**

Paul the Governed (see also Romans)

Prison Diary (Acts 16)

Greek Gods in the NT (Acts 16-19)

Take-Aways from Philippi (Acts 16)

Rome Meets Paul

Before Speaking, Listen (Acts 17)

 **PAUL’S EPISTLES**

Mutual Autobiography

What Paul Said About Jesus (Comprehensive Chart)

Paul on Jesus, Part 1 (The Lord of Time)

Paul on Jesus, Part 2 (History, Salvation, Obedience)

Paul on Jesus, Part 3 (Benefits & Realities)

Romans

Chronology and Meaning (see also James & Galatians)

Paul the Governed (see also Acts)

The Metaphysical Situation (see also 1-2 Corinthians)

1-2 Corinthians

Fortune Cookies

Pickup Theology

Riff on 1 Cor. 13

The Metaphysical Situation (see also Romans)

Theo-logic

Examining Ourselves

 Galatians

A Tale of Two Jerusalems

Chronology and Meaning (see also James & Romans)

In Step with the Spirit

Ephesians

Military Mnemonics

Philippians

Providing Perspective

Philemon

The Mouse that Roared

**NON-PAULINE EPISTLES**

James

Chronology and Meaning (see also Galatians & Romans)

A Topical Concordance of James (includes link to pdf resource)

1 Peter

Providing Perspective

123 John

Euphemistic Faith

**REVELATION**

Hang On ‘Cause Jesus Wins

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Chronological Contexts and Multiple Meanings

[Texts:  James, Romans, Ephesians, Galatians]

As you may have noticed, James’s letter is not easy to reconcile with Paul’s teaching on faith apart from works.  On the face of it, James seems to be saying that we do good works in order to be saved, which scrambles our brains if we also know Paul’s firm lines about nobody being able to boast about their efforts toward salvation.  Why does James seem to promote opportunities for boasting?  Is there any way to reconcile these two writers?

Here are three thoughts to pack along as you read James’s little letter with Paul leaning over your shoulder.  One thought has to do with time, and the other two focus on a couple key vocabulary words.

First, about timing:  although James’s letter follows the epistles of Paul in our New Testaments, it was actually written much earlier.* This James was not one of the Twelve (that James was murdered by Herod early on; see Acts 12), but he was a significant figure among the leaders in the Jerusalem church, which was kind of the Command Central of the Jesus movement at the outset.

As events transpired in those early days and as news of conversions began rolling in from unexpected corners of the Empire, James mediated a theological conference/strategic planning meeting in Jerusalem to figure out how to accommodate the many new Gentile believers.  Just about everybody at the start of this Messianic movement was steeped in Jewish categories of thought, which logically led many of them to assume the continuing and universal necessity of Jewish works of the law (such as circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath-keeping).

The ministry to the Gentiles challenged these assumptions, though, as it became unavoidably apparent that the Holy Spirit was already at work in these converts entirely apart from Jewish law-keeping.  At the James-led Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), the Jewish church leaders officially conceded the point.  Paul would later expound on the theological significance of it all, especially in his letters to the Galatians, the Romans and the Ephesians.  But prior to both the Council and Paul’s theological explanations came the epistle of James to the scattered Jewish believers in Jesus.

So this is the historical and theological context of James’s message that “faith without works is dead.”  Knowing this order of events helps us keep James’s thoughts, and even his vocabulary, in proper perspective.  Specifically, two words that both James and Paul use, justification and works, aptly illustrate the difference between their respective contexts.

When James writes, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” he seems to be contradicting Paul’s unequivocal statement in Romans that “by works of the law no man will be justified.”  But when James wrote his letter, he (and the Jewish church) had not yet wrestled formally with the reality and implications of Gentiles entering into the people of God sans Jewish particulars.  His words describe the vindication or verifying of faith by compassionate deeds,  for in this way one’s faith is justified—that is, confirmed—by one’s actions.

On Paul’s part, in his (post-Council) letters to the Romans and Galatians, both of which are theological exposés of wrong assumptions about Jewish priorities, the word justification evokes a courtroom scene in which judicial action acquits or condemns the accused.  In such a setting, Paul says, those all-important Jewish “works of the law” do not amount to guaranteed favor with the Judge.

In sum, Paul’s concern is different from James’s, and so he uses these two terms differently.  For Paul, justification has to do with acquittal before the Judge (rather than confirmation of the reality of one’s faith, as in James), and works are narrowly considered as the special obligations placed on Jews under the law (rather than merely compassionate actions).  To put it even more simply, for Paul the words have a specialized, religious significance, while James intends them to convey everyday realities.

Making this chronological and theological distinction between James’s and Paul’s use of these two terms may help put some contemporary Christian teaching into perspective as well.  If you have ever been baffled by the characteristic Reformed portrayal of Christians erring by “trying to earn God’s favor” through their deeds, recall that the Reformers who rediscovered Justification By Faith in the sixteenth century were writing and thinking in the midst of a Roman Catholic context.  In close imitation of Jewish law, Roman Catholic religion was full of do’s and don’t’s and specific demands that a truly religious person must fulfill to obtain (and maintain!) God’s favor.

In a Protestant context today, this ritualistic error feels remote, and thus this refrain about the danger of trying to “earn God’s favor” seems out of place when the “works” in view are deeds of compassion.  But perhaps the critique comes home more personally whenever we notice that we’ve fallen into “magical thinking” about religious practices, whereby our Christian rituals (prayers, communion, liturgy – or listening to Christian radio, or having our daily Quiet Time) have gained a good-luck-charm status.  (“If I do this just right – or enough times – then I’ll get my wish!”)

We should not, however, confuse the warning against vain effort in religious “works” with a caution against exerting ourselves in the just and compassionate deeds we’ve been called to do.*  As James insists, living faith actually requires some work to show it is alive.

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*Notice, by the way, that this means that the NT letters are arranged in groups by author—i.e., Paul, followed by Not-Paul—and then by size and order within these groups.  You have to do a little more digging before you figure out their historical chronology.

*Granted, “deeds of compassion” can sometimes become our religious good-luck charms, too.  But I think the analogy of manipulating God’s favor through our ritualistic spiritual exercises fits Paul’s meaning most closely.

References to “boasting,” “justification,” and “works/works of the law” come from Ephesians 2, Galatians 2-3, Romans 3, and James 2.

Approximate dates of relevant events: Epistle of James, early 40s AD  —   Jerusalem Council, c.49 AD  —  Epistle to the Galatians, early 50s  —  Epistle to the Romans, c.57AD.  Think about how different the theological and church context is in each case, despite the proximity of these dates!

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Paul on Jesus: Part Three

[Texts:  Paul’s life and letters]

To wrap up my summaries of Paul’s teaching on Jesus (Part One and Part Two having covered History, Salvation, and Obedience), I’d like to focus on the Benefits delivered to believers in Christ and the new Realities of our spiritual location “in Christ.”  My comprehensive chart of what Paul had to say about Jesus can be accessed here, if you’d like to see these ideas in more detail.

On my chart, I am calling “Benefits” those things that are presently in our possession through faith in Jesus, as well as those things that are promised to us in the future (but are no less certainly ours!).* For the most part, these are intangibles; yet even as the bread and drink of Communion are physical reminders of a real but untouchably distant historical event, so are our physical bodies reminders of the real, material future blessings of resurrected life in the New Heavens and New Earth.  In other words, all that we are unable to experience with our senses now will one day be thoroughly realized in our bodies, relationships, and world.

Some of the invisible Benefits belonging to believers are improvements on the old order of things, as set out in the Hebrew Scriptures:  freedom from the law of sin and death; inclusion, if we are Gentiles, in the promises and family of the great patriarch Abraham; access to God in the first place.*  Other Benefits trump the oldest enemy of every human being, Death itself: for in Christ, Paul assures us, we have already died and been made alive with never-ending life; and though we will die physically, we shall yet hope to live again in our resurrected bodies.

Still other Benefits explain our present situation, however contrary to evidence these truths may seem:  we are adopted children of God; we are gifted by God for service and with the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit; and we have the blessings of comfort, joy and encouragement in Christ.  Truly, as Paul says himself, we by Christ’s poverty have become rich.

Finally, the Benefits of life in Christ include our salvation from judgment and extend to the formation of our characters into his likeness.  Righteousness and holiness, flowing from our deliverance from the power of sin, law, and death, will increasingly mark the people of God.  And in all of our challenges and changes, we are guaranteed to find ourselves safe in the love of our Father God.

Knowing these Benefits is the key to bearing the Realities of the Christian life, which, Paul does not hesitate to admit, will often be painful and sorrowful in our broken world.  Those believers whose political and social settings most closely resemble Paul’s own will best be able to appreciate the power of these truths for the shouldering of suffering.

While some of the Realities that I have listed on my chart rather cross over into the Benefits category (e.g., belonging to Christ, having already been buried and raised with him, being members together of his body), other Realities do not feel like Benefits at all.  Our close identification with our Lord, both individually and collectively, opens for us the possibility of suffering, an experience that Paul knew only too well.  He recognized in his imprisonment, maltreatment and hardships the fulfillment of a prophecy once made about him by the Lord himself:  “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name,” and he identified the same in the lives of his friends:  “For the sake of Christ you not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

It’s the phrase “for his sake” that puts the Realities in perspective.  Since for our sake Jesus was condemned, bringing into being the Benefits that Paul celebrates, our temporary sufferings for his sake can be borne in grateful response and the confident hope of receiving unshakeable life at the end of our story.  Without this perspective, no believer over the whole course of Christian history could have withstood the cruel persecutions devised by the world. By God’s grace, Paul’s life and letters provide us with a verbal picture of the noble soldier who bears all for the sake of his Commander in Chief.  Let’s learn from him, and keep on standing firm.

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*It would actually make just as much sense to call these Benefits “Realities” of the Christian life; but here I’ve used the “Reality” category to collect those things that we experience in this life because we are believers, as well as for a few more invisible and intangible implications of belonging to Christ.

*I’m not going to give you the verse references in this post!  If I did, your eyes would skim these paragraphs and you wouldn’t really read these amazing statements.  (Am I not right?)  You see if you can remember the specific verses that I’m referring to.  If you can’t, look up these ideas under the Benefits and Realities categories on my chart “What Paul Said About Jesus.”

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Military Mnemonics

[Text: Ephesians, with a riff on 6:10-18]

Like the famous “Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians, Paul’s “Armor of God” passage in his letter to the Ephesians stands out and often stands apart from the rest of the epistle in our minds.  But what if Paul is strategically summarizing in these spots, rather than offering something stand-alone and new?  We would need to read these familiar words with a conscious concentration on their contexts, if so.

I’ve written already on the way 1 Corinthians 13 revisits the themes from that whole letter.  What if Ephesians 6:10-18 is similarly situated to recall to the readers’ minds the things Paul has been saying all along?  If that’s the case, then we should consider this outstanding passage, too, to be related to the whole letter as a mnemonic device, much like one of Jesus’ parables in its compact structure and concrete imagery.  Big ideas will be remembered best if packaged small:  think bumper stickers, sound-bytes, and proverbs!

Here, then, is an attempt to sketch Paul’s intention for these “Military Mnemonics,” which I suggest represents a strategic rhetorical decision that captures his letter’s major themes for the reader or listener to mull over later.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

               I pray that you will know what is the immeasurable power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might! …And I pray that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.  …God is able to do abundantly more than we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

               You used to follow the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.  …Give no opportunity to the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

               Christ has been seated above all rule and authority and power and dominion.  …Through the church the manifold wisdom of God is now made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  …At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

               Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. …The Lord has given leaders to the church to help equip the saints for ministry, so that together we will grow into mature manhood, to the measure of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…

               In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, believed in him. …I pray that God would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened. …This grace was given me, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.  …May you know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. …Then we won’t be deceived, but speaking the truth in love, will grow up into Christ. …You were taught the truth that is in Jesus, so don’t go back to walking like the Gentiles. …Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor. …For the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.

…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

               We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. …For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. …I therefore urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received. …Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. …Try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. …Do the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.

…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

               For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility. …And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. …Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given me by the working of his power…to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. ….Pray also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you  an extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…

               When you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit .…I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus!  …For by grace you have been saved through faith. …We have boldness and confident access to the Father in Christ Jesus, through our faith in him.  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. …May God strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

…and take the helmet of salvation…

               God the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. …In love he predestined us for adoption as sons, and in Christ we have redemption and forgiveness. …The Spirit was given to us as a seal, promising our inheritance!  …You have been saved by grace, and raised up, and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.  …You are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God.

…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

[Rather than citing specific verses, here I would point to Paul’s authority as an apostle to deliver God’s thoughts to the believers.  In Ephesians, this is expressed in his frequent assertions of the divine revelation given to him that clarified the profound mysteries of God’s plan for redemption.  Like the “belt of truth” and the “shield of faith,” then, the “sword of the Spirit” mainly comprises the revealed content that Christians are instructed to believe.]

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

               I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power…Be filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. …Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me.

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Biblical quotations are taken from the ESV, though I have paraphrased some of these verses. This is also a quiz for students of Ephesians: do you recognize where in the letter these ideas are located?  If you don’t know Ephesians that well or you’re too busy to figure it out, here is the cheat sheet.

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