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Christmas In January: Gift Unwrapping Secrets From A Prison Inmate – Part 2
Archived – January 10, 2021

Christmas In January: Gift Unwrapping Secrets From A Prison Inmate – Part 2

January 10, 2021


  • Last week we introduced our series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
  • We titled it “Christmas in January” because the letter highlights the gift that Jesus is in January and every day of the year.
  • A true Christian knows that Christmas is actually every day.
  • The subtitle is “Gift Unwrapping Secrets from A Prison Inmate” because Paul is in prison while he writes the letter.
  • In one of the most undesirable places imaginable, Paul helps us “unwrap” the supernatural gift we have in Christ.
  • However, what is clear very early in the letter is that the wrapping paper is not around the gift, but around our eyes.
  • Accessing the gift that Jesus is requires that our spiritual eyes be .

Seeing the Big Picture in Ephesians

  • Like most other books of the Bible, many of us only read small excerpts of them, but never look at them in their entirety.
  • Before we look at the finer points of Ephesians, let’s consider some of its big ideas.

A Letter in Two Parts

Ephesians has six chapters that we can think about in two parts, three chapter’s each.

Faith and Conduct

  • The first three chapters focus on what we .
  • The second three chapters focus on how we .

Identity and Action

  • The first three chapters focus on we are.
  • The second three chapters focus on we do.

Power and Decision-Making

  • The first three chapters focus on God’s .
  • The second three chapters focus on our .

Two Locations

  • The first three chapters focus on our status in .
  • The second three chapters focus on our status in the .

Two Identities

  • The first three chapters focus on who we in .
  • The second three chapters focus on who are in the .

Three Metaphors

  • Sitting
  • Walking
  • Standing

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:1

  • Why did God choose Paul?
  • Paul’s made him someone most of us would ever choose to be an apostle.
  • I Timothy 1:15
  • I Corinthians 15:9-10
  • Paul wrestles with the fact that he’s adopted, but is also reassured by what is revealed to him by Jesus.

Ephesians 1:2 

The Significance of the Father

  • This is a common greeting from Paul
  • The word “Father” is incredibly important.


How the Father Matters Theologically, Historically, Culturally and Legally

  • Theologically: The Father is the source of grace and peace, which He shares with us through His Son Jesus
      • Jesus is the ambassador of the Father.
      • We see the Father through Jesus.
  • Culturally, Legally and Historically: In Rome, the Father was the legal and cultural center of the family.
      • A paterfamilias is the male head of a family or household.

Family as Property

    • “The family constituted the basic structural framework of Roman society. The Latin term familia means, essentially, household. It can refer to both persons and things. It encompasses all persons who are under the power of a single head (the paterfamilias), and, in a broader sense, all relatives connected by blood or marriage. In a still broader sense, the Roman family encompassed all personal property, including slaves and physical objects.” (Rafael Domingo, “The Family in Ancient Roman Law”, Research Gate, file:///Users/joshuas36/Downloads/TheFamilyinAncientRomanLaw.pdf)
    • “Families were dominated by men. At the head of the Roman family life was the oldest male, called the ‘paterfamilies,’ or “father of the family.’ He looked after the family’s business affairs and property and could perform religious rites on their behalf.
    • “The paterfamilias had absolute rule over his household and children. If they angered him, he had the legal right to disown his children, sell them in to slavery or even kill them.
    • “Only the paterfamilias could own property: whatever their age, until their father died, his sons only received an allowance, or peliculum, to manage their own households.
    • “Sons were important, because Romans put a lot of value on continuing the family name. If a father had no sons, then he could adopt one – often a nephew – to make sure that the family line would not die out.”(“The Roman Empire in the First Century,” https://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/family.html)

The Power of Adoption

    • In ancient Rome, adoption was not a sign of second-class citizenship, but of first-class family privileges.
      • In ancient Rome, adoption generally meant you were elevating your status.
      • This is because the biological relationship was far less important than the legal one.
      • “When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed.” (William Barclay, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/ephesians-1.html)

The Power of Inheritance

    • Because the family and household were property, they were also inheritance.
    • They were an inheritance of two entities: the paterfamilias and the heir.
    • There were various kinds of ways to divide up an inheritance legally.
    • However, to maximize the longevity of one’s legacy, it was best to give the inheritance to a single heir, always a son.

In Sum,

  • The first chapter of Ephesians introduces us to our heavenly paterfamilias.
  • We are adopted into the family and are now legal co-heirs with the favored Son, Jesus.
  • We share the status of the favored Son.
  • We rule and reign with our big brother Jesus in heavenly places.
  • Not only have we received an inheritance, but we are the inheritance of our heavenly paterfamilias and big brother Jesus.
  • Our Heavenly Father is an example of fatherhood for all earthly paterfamilias.
  • Our Heavenly Father is an alternative father for all who are abused by earthly paterfamilias.

© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2021

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