When the Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Ephesus, he wanted to strengthen their unity as a church. Ephesus was an important part of his God-inspired strategy for evangelizing the Roman province of Asia. He had invested over three years of ministry there, establishing their church as a hub for training leaders and planting other churches far and wide. If the church at Ephesus was going to fulfill its mission, the believers there would have to work together with uncommon unity.
In this chapter Paul encourages unity by focusing on the testimony that every believer shares, our common story of being saved by grace. Every believer can look back to a time when we were lost in sin, following the crowd down the highway to hell (Matthew 7:13), under the domination of Satan. We were slaves to our cravings and desires and we didn’t know that we were living in rebellion against God and earning His wrath (v.2-3). Nor did we know how much God was loving us and mercifully planning our rescue from sin — in spite of the fact that we weren’t loving Him back. Had we wanted to be right with Him, there is no way we could have forgiven our own sins and covered our own wickedness. His grace (undeserved loving-kindness) was our only hope. But when we responded to His gracious offer of new life in Christ by trusting in Him, He saved us and recreated us to serve Him!
That story, shared by every believer, is the great equalizer in the church. It unites every believer and puts us all on level ground as brothers and sisters in Christ, recovering sinners who have been saved by grace.
As a Jewish rabbi, no one knew better than Paul how Jews felt about Gentiles (v.11, a term that basically means all non-Jews, including the believers in Ephesus). Not only did Jews dislike and look down on Gentiles as unclean heathens, but there was also a tone of hostility in the way they thought about them and treated them. Paul made it clear that in Christ, believers with Jewish backgrounds and believers with Gentile backgrounds were covered by the same grace, brought together by the same cross (v.16), indwelled by the same Spirit (v.22), and part of the same family — the church (v.19-21).
Those factors that unite believers are greater than any factors that may divide us, like race, preferences, or generations. Let’s celebrate the diversity of our backgrounds but leverage our unity in Christ to accomplish the mission He has given us. Amen?