Christmas in January: Gift Unwrapping Secrets From A Prison Inmate – Part 1
January 3, 2021

The Perpetual Christmas of the Believer

  • This series is about the book of Ephesians.
  • Christmas is in the title because, for a follower of Christ, Christmas is actually every day.
    • Psalm 118:24
    • Lamentations 3:22-23
  • These are Old Testament passages, but they are even more fully realized in Christ, who is the consummation of all the principles, promises, and prophesies of Scripture.
  • Christ is literally a gift and Ephesians tells us just how precious this gift is.
  • Jesus is the gift that gives all other gifts .

Spiritual Sight as the Gift the Keeps on Giving

  • Like most other gifts, an unwrapping process is needed before enjoying it.
  • However, in this case, the wrapping paper is not around the gift, but around our eyes.
  • Accessing the gift that Jesus is requires that our spiritual eyes be . (Ephesians 1:16-18)
  • Paul knows this first-hand.
  • He was a man who was physically blinded when He had an encounter with Jesus.
  • However, the physical blindness was symbolic of his spiritual blindness.
    • Acts 9:3-5
    • Acts 9:8-9
    • Acts 9:17-18
    • The scales that fell from his eyes represent the barriers that must leave our eyes to see Jesus .

Some Background on Ephesians

  • Some of what Paul discovers as he draws closer to Christ are in his letter to the Ephesians.
  • The letter to Ephesians is written to the church of Ephesus.
  • Ephesus is on the coast of modern-day Turkey, but at the time, was “the most important Greek city in [what was then called] Asia Minor” (“Ephesus, Ancient City, Turkey”
  • Under Roman rule, it was critically important economically and politically. Think about a coastal cosmopolitan, multiracial city like Los Angeles or New York.
  • Paul started a church in Ephesus at around 53 AD. (Allen Par, “[NEW BOOK STUDY] Background to the Book of Ephesians! “The Beat,”
  • He started the church when on his way back home from the second of three missionary journeys, which Luke records in the book of Acts. (Allen Par, “[NEW BOOK STUDY] Background to the Book of Ephesians! “The Beat,”
  • During his third missionary journey, he goes back to Ephesus and spends three years leading the church and pouring himself spiritually into the people (Acts 20:31) (Allen Par, “[NEW BOOK STUDY] Background to the Book of Ephesians! “The Beat,”
  • At the conclusion of those three years, he establishes Timothy as pastor of the church (I Timothy 1:3)(Allen Par, “[NEW BOOK STUDY] Background to the Book of Ephesians! “The Beat,”

Ephesians as a Compact Handbook on the Christian Life

  • One theologian describes Ephesians as “one of the most influential documents in the Christian church” (Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: Exegetical Commentary, BakerAcademic: Grand Rapids, 2002, p. 707).
  • This is because, among other reasons, it so neatly, compactly, clearly and profoundly presents what it means to be a Christian.
  • Unlike, many of the other letters Paul writes, Ephesians was not composed primarily to address problems in the local church.
  • While it addresses a handful of local matters, it mainly gives a clear picture of what a life in Christ looks like.
  • It’s written so plainly that you can be deceived by its brevity and presumed simplicity.
  • Though only six chapters, spiritually speaking, it is several layers deep.

Paul Writes Ephesians Under Significant Stress

  • In fact, if you didn’t know Paul wrote the letter, you might think it was penned by a seminary-educated theologian sitting comfortably in a home office.
  • However, Paul’s circumstances were quite the opposite. He writes this letter from prison.
  • All of the glorious praise heaped on Christ and all of the pontifications on how lavishly blessed we are in Christ come from a man sitting in a prison cell.
  • Ephesians is one of five letters Paul writes from prison. The other four are Colossians, Philippians, Philemon and 2 Timothy.
  • Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon are commonly labeled the “prison” epistles.
  • While Paul writes 2 Timothy from prison, the location of the writing is different from where he writes the other prison letters.
  • Because 2 Timothy is written to Timothy, it is often grouped with I Timothy and Titus. The three letters are commonly labeled the “pastoral” epistles.
  • In all of the letters he writes from prison, Paul documents things that you would not anticipate coming from someone living under such stressful conditions:
    • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” he wrote to the Ephesian church.
    • “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice” he wrote to the Philippian church.
    • “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” he wrote to the Colossian church.
    • “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers” he wrote to Philemon.
    • “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” he wrote to Timothy.
  • These are startling statements, especially considering that his problems weren’t just that he was in prison.

  • His whole Christian life was filled with turmoil.
    • 2 Corinthians 11:24-29
    • Acts 14:19-20
    • Acts 16:22-24
    • Acts 16:35-39
    • Acts 22:22-29
  • How is it that a man who went through all of this could write such encouraging words?
  • What was it that he found in Christ that made it possible for him to comfort us while he needed comfort himself?

Paul’s Sufferings Put Our Suffering in Perspective

  • We have a tendency to view the suffering and loss of loved ones as things that are happening to us.
  • The reality is that while the experiences of loved ones affect us, our loved ones are really living out their experiences.
  • While you can believe God for someone else’s healing (there’s biblical evidence or this), there are limits to what you can do for someone else spiritually.
  • This is because ultimately you cannot control someone else’s —that would be witchcraft.
  • You can influence other people through prayer, but they must walk their own .
  • Sometimes you need to know that you did your job to pray for them.
  • While God could give you more details about your loved one’s situation, you may not be ready for that knowledge.
  • Those matters may be better left to a discussion with Jesus personally in the world to come.
  • We are never privy to all the variables affecting other people’s lives.
  • This includes their choices, their habits, their attitudes, their tendencies, their friend group, their media influences, their beliefs, their relationships with God (or lack thereof), the unique opportunities the enemy has to attack them for one reason or another (I Peter 5:8-9)

  • You don’t have to be a “bad” person to be attacked by the enemy. Satan only needs .
  • However, even when we are ambushed by the devil, the Christ in us always has a response. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
  • Some things God just can’t tell you. You first have to .
  • The kind of insight you’re looking for may require you to .
  • That maturity is found in Christ, drawing closer to Him, not away from Him because you’re hurt. 
  • You don’t have to abandon your to draw close to Jesus.
  • Bring your tears with you. He collects them. (Psalm 56)
  • Paul was under constant struggle, but what did God create out of His struggle? Two thirds of the New Testament.
  • What does God want to out of your pain?


© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2021

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