Skip to content

Lift Your Eyes: Introducing Ephesians

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Lionel Windsor
Lionel Windsor lectures in New Testament at Moore College, Sydney.

Our family lived for several years in Durham, in the north east of England. One day, through my son’s primary school, we were offered some cheap tickets to see a Premier League football match in nearby Sunderland. Since we’d never seen a Premier League game, my son and I decided it would be great to go. I knew that our neighbour Patrick, who’d grown up in Durham, was a huge football fan. So I asked Patrick if he had any advice for us on the best way to get ourselves to the match. Patrick told me there was a bus to the game that stopped right outside our house. The day arrived, and my son and I hopped on the bus with Patrick.

But there was a surprise in store for us. The bus was, in fact, the Sunderland supporters’ bus! So as soon as we got on, we realised we had to make a decision. Were we going to support Sunderland, or their opponents Wigan Athletic? You can probably guess our decision: we very swiftly and decisively became Sunderland supporters! We rode to the match as Sunderland supporters; we bought the Sunderland supporters’ scarf; we cheered and groaned at the match as Sunderland supporters; and on the bus home, after a disappointing one-all draw, we joined in with the misery and regret of Sunderland supporters. We hadn’t planned to spend the day as die-hard Sunderland supporters. But hey, we were on the bus.

In the bus

Something similar might be true for you when it comes to the whole Christian thing. Maybe you’ve hopped on the ‘Christian bus’, so to speak. Maybe you’ve become a Christian recently. Maybe you’ve grown up as a Christian all your life. Maybe you’re still investigating what it’s all about. Or maybe you’re even one of the bus drivers—someone involved in Christian ministry or leadership in some way. Whoever you are, you might be feeling that things aren’t quite playing out as you were expecting when you hopped on. Maybe you’re confused about the things that you’re learning from the Bible. Maybe you’re suffering and you don’t know how that could possibly fit in to God’s plan. Maybe it’s all becoming a bit bland or boring. Maybe you’re seeing the sin of other Christians and becoming disillusioned. Maybe you’re disappointed by people at church. Maybe you’re feeling the weight of opposition from people around you: the snide remarks, the hatred, or worse. Maybe you feel the tide of the world is against you, and you’re wondering if it’s all worth it anyway.

Don’t lose heart!

Lift Your Eyes

In the early 60s AD, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter called Ephesians to believers in Jesus who were in danger of losing heart (Ephesians 3:13). Paul was the great early missionary of Jesus Christ, the one who, along with a team of co-workers, had spread the message about Jesus (the “gospel”) throughout the eastern part of the Roman Empire. But when Paul wrote his letter, he was in prison in Rome. He’d been chained up because powerful people opposed his gospel. At this point, he’d already been held captive for several years. The authorities seemed to have won. And for many of the people who’d heard and believed the gospel that Paul and others had proclaimed and taught, it would certainly have looked like things weren’t going to plan. So Paul penned this letter from his imprisonment, to these believers in and around Ephesus (in the Roman Province of Asia, which is modern day Turkey), to encourage them. And what he said to them is indeed vastly encouraging, and still speaks powerfully today.

The central message of Ephesians is that the God of the universe has an amazing plan, and that plan is being put into effect through the preaching of the gospel.

God’s multi-dimensional plan

What is God’s plan? It is all focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s dearly-loved Son, who came into the world, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. Christ is powerful—more powerful than any earthly powers or even cosmic powers. Christ is active, through his Holy Spirit, bringing people to trust in him and to live for him as the gospel is proclaimed and heard. And God’s ultimate plan is that everything—everything in the universe—will be “summed up” in Christ (Ephesians 1:10).

Sunrise at the beach

This divine plan involves multiple dimensions. There’s a personal dimension, as God lifts up individual sinners like us who would otherwise be facing God’s judgment, and makes us his dearly loved children. There’s a knowledge dimension, as God reveals his plans to his people through foundational missionaries (“apostles”) like Paul. There’s a time dimension, since God’s plan spans from before the beginning of creation through to the end of the world. There’s an international dimension, as God’s plan involves seeing people from all nations—beginning with those who come from his ancient people Israel—coming to trust in Jesus Christ. There’s a social dimension, as diverse individuals are united in love. And there’s a cosmic dimension, as even the spiritual powers are caught up in this great plan.

God’s plan involves the preaching of the gospel

Paul insists that God is working out this plan through the preaching of the gospel. As people like Paul (and many others) speak about Jesus, and as those who hear come to trust Jesus and put their lives into his hands, God is actually bringing about his multi-dimensional plan. Individual sinners are being forgiven, rescued from judgment, restored, raised up and made into God’s children. People are learning and growing and changing. Relationships are being mended; hostility is being broken down; hope is dawning; and even the cosmic powers are watching. This truth helps to make sense of the things that might discourage us: whether it’s our own struggles with sin, with hardship and difficulty or the opposition and hostility from the world around us. These spiritual struggles are real, and yet still Jesus Christ is in charge of it all. He is actively working in even your current situation to bring about his cosmic plan. So we can and should continue to listen to that gospel of Jesus Christ: to believe it, live it, and speak it to others in love.

Ephesians will lift your eyes

When you face discouragement or suffering or opposition, it’s easy to react in a negative way, isn’t it? You could adopt a victim mentality, or a siege mentality; you could shut down, hunker down, close your eyes and hope it all goes away. What does Paul do for his readers in the face of discouragement?

Reflecting a city skyline

Firstly, he reminds them of the truth, and secondly, he prays for them. He knows that through the gospel, God has brought light to the “eyes of their hearts” (Ephesians 1:18). He wants God to enable them to see the hope that is theirs, to raise their sights—in other words, to lift their eyes. Then, though their struggle is still very real, they will be able to “stand” in the midst of that struggle (Ephesians 6:11–14). This is what Ephesians does for us too. As you read Ephesians, it is my prayer that Paul’s letter will lift your eyes, raise your sights, and help you to stand.

Over the coming months, I’ll be writing about seventy reflections, covering every sentence in Ephesians. In each reflection, I’ll take a short portion from the letter, provide a translation, describe what it’s saying, and reflect on what it means for our lives and our relationships with others. I won’t be going into detail justifying every statement I make about Ephesians. If you’re interested in the reasons I say what I say, and want to chase it up further with technical details, you might like to check out another book I’ve written that provides a detailed argument about what I understand Ephesians to be all about.

As I write, I’m praying that Ephesians will humble you, encourage you, give you a deep sense of security in Jesus Christ, inspire you, and strengthen you. I’m praying that it will equip you and enthuse you to play your own part in God’s great plan through the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m praying that you will see how big this plan is—bigger than you, bigger than your church, bigger than your ministry. I pray that your eyes will be lifted beyond your own dreams to God’s multidimensional purposes through the gospel: the personal dimension, the time dimension, the international dimension, the social dimension and the cosmic dimension. And I’m praying that this might even change the direction of your life: that there may be radical changes as you consider how you might give every part of your life over to prayerfully “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

For reflection

What do you find hard or discouraging about the Christian life?

What truths from Ephesians might help to lift your eyes and help you to stand?

Audio podcast

Want more?

This post is part of a series of ~70 reflections covering every sentence in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. You can see all the posts so far, and subscribe to receive updates via email, audio podcast, and social media, by following this link.

The academic details behind these reflections

Reading Ephesians & Colossians After Supersessionism: Christ's Mission through Israel to the Nations

In this series, I don’t go into detail justifying every statement I make about the background and meaning of Ephesians. I’ve done that elsewhere. If you’re interested in the reasons I say what I say here, and want to chase it up further with lots of ancient Greek, technical stuff, and footnotes, check out my book Reading Ephesians and Colossians After Supersessionism: Christ’s Mission through Israel to the Nations.

Published inEphesiansLift Your Eyes

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Recent blog posts

  • The Shambles, York, UKBuilt together (Ephesians 2:20–22)
    Is every church on its own? How are Christian believers connected with other believers with whom we don’t meet regularly: in our region, nation, and world?
  • “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves…” (Luke 23:28)
    Why do Christians lament? Sometimes we lament out of sympathy, but sometimes we weep for ourselves. This is the kind of lament that Jesus calls for here.
  • Busts in Vatican Museum, RomeNo second-class Christians (Ephesians 2:19)
    Even if we don’t say it out loud, we can often act as if there are different classes of Christians. But the gospel teaches us there are no second-class Christians.
  • Photo by Larm Rmah on UnsplashChrist the missionary (Ephesians 2:17–18)
    Christ is a missionary. Christ does stranger evangelism. Christ preaches to the choir. Christ crosses cultures. Christ brings peace. So says the Apostle Paul. What does he mean?
  • Fragment of the Berlin WallChrist the wall breaker (Ephesians 2:14–16)
    In this broken and rebellious world, our healthy boundaries often become hostile walls. But the cross of Christ breaks down walls and brings reconciliation.
  • Photo by John Tyson on UnsplashThe blood that brings us close (Ephesians 2:11–13)
    Despite our best desires and efforts, we humans are not very good at living up close with others. This has become devastatingly obvious in the recent Christchurch shootings. Yet in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks about a conflict that really was healed. This passage is about a real closeness that all believers in Christ must remember: a closeness that is fundamental to our identity.
  • Photo by foundinbklyn on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)Good works and salvation: What’s the connection? (Ephesians 2:8–10)
    A joke letter from an Australian church offering its financial donors priority access to heaven raises questions for all of us. Do our good deeds give us access to heaven? Or are our good deeds irrelevant? Where do our good deeds fit when it comes to salvation?
  • Security Threat. Photo by Andrew Neel on UnsplashA question of security (Ephesians 2:6–7)
    As I write this, New Zealand is shocked and grieving. My own nation Australia is shocked and grieving too, along with them. But news stories about terror attacks and shootings in our world are far too common, aren’t they? And whenever we hear of them, they bring to mind all sorts of questions. One of them is the question of security. As we grieve for the victims, we also think a little about ourselves. We wonder whether some day we too might be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a seemingly random attack happens. It’s unsettling. It’s not just a matter of national security; it’s also a matter of our own personal security. Paul is talking in Ephesians 2:6–7 about a security that belongs to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. It’s not a guarantee of perfect national security or job security or financial security or security in relationships and health. Nor is it a guarantee that we will always feel perfectly secure. But it is still a real security, more unshakeable and deep-rooted than any other kind of security could be. So what is this security, and where does it come from?
  • Walking past a telephone booth in OxfordThis love (Ephesians 2:4–5)
    “God loves you”: if I say just those three words, you may not hear what I want you to hear. This is because of a communication problem that arises whenever Christians try to talk about biblical concept of God’s “love”. When we say “love” we mean one thing—something wonderful and life-changing. But the word means quite different things to many English speakers. For example, the word “love” often means “strong desire”. So if I say “God loves you” then it might sound like I’m saying “God has strong feelings for you”. Another, increasingly common, understanding of “love” is the idea of “unconditional approval”. In this view, the way to “love” somebody is to affirm and approve of everything they do. So if I don’t approve of your actions and actively affirm everything you do, then by definition I’m not “loving” you (in fact, by definition I’m “hating” you). On this common definition of “love”, if I say “God loves you” then it might sound like I’m saying “God affirms everything about you and your actions”. But that’s not what the Bible means by God’s “love” either. Given this communication problem, how can I best explain the idea of God’s “love”? Well, it’s not actually that hard. The best way is to see how the word works when the Bible uses it. In Ephesians 2:4–5, Paul uses the word “love”. But he doesn’t just say “God loves you”. He explains and spells out what that love means. And he helps us to see what God’s love really means, and how amazing it is.
  • Entering a tomb in PompeiiWe too: the offenders (Ephesians 2:3)
    Judgmentalism. It’s a bigger problem than we think. Judgmentalism is certainly a danger for God’s people. That’s because God’s people have God’s word. God’s word helps God’s people to see how wonderful God is, and how terrible humanity is in comparison. But Ephesians 2:3 contains two highly significant, emphatic words: “we too”. We too, says Paul, were the offenders. We, too, were the disobedient. These words aren’t talking about all those horrible people “out there”. They’re talking about God’s people. And it’s something we, too, need to hear. These words tell us something incredibly important—something that we ignore at our peril.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor