Lift Your Eyes

Reading Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21–24)

Reading Time: 10 minutes

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

This is the 70th—and final—post in Lift Your Eyes, a series of reflections covering every sentence in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. We’ve now come to Paul’s closing greeting. This greeting tells us a lot about the circumstances of the letter and summarises some of its key themes. So this final reflection is a good opportunity to look back over Ephesians, to summarise what it’s all about, and to remember why it’s worth taking the time to read and reflect on this amazing letter.

First, a note on Lift Your Eyes itself. I’m offering this series of 70 reflections for free—in both text and audio podcast format—to anyone who wants to spend time diving in and learning from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The reflections are a little more in-depth than the average devotional, but still they’re designed to be accessible and readable by the average person. Here are some of the ways you might be able to use the series:

  • Make a plan to read or listen to one reflection per day (or every two days, or once a week, or whatever suits you), and use the questions at the end as a basis for reflection and prayer. This would take 10–20 minutes each time. You can bookmark the main page which has links to all the posts in order.
  • Subscribe to the entire podcast (using the podcast player of your choice), so you can listen to an episode as you travel or commute. Each podcast episode is about 15 minutes long.
  • Use the posts and questions in a weekly Bible study or discussion group.
  • Share individual posts with friends on social media if you think they’re relevant.
  • If you’re a Bible teacher, use the posts to get ideas for teaching Ephesians.
  • Also, if you’re a Bible teacher, share the posts for people to read in parallel with your own series on Ephesians.
  • Encourage others involved in your church or ministry to do any of the above.
  • Keep the link as a reference in case you’d like to do any of the above in the future.
Lift Your Eyes: Reflections on Ephesians

Now let’s look at the final words of Ephesians to see what we can learn about the letter and its value for us:

So that you may also know about my circumstances and what I am doing, Tychicus will make everything known to you. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very reason: that you might know our news and that he might encourage your hearts. Peace to the brothers and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ, in immortality.

Ephesians 6:21–24

Ephesians is personal

This closing greeting helps us to see that Ephesians is personal. Paul’s letter is not simply a theoretical treatise about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is writing to real people so that they might have fellowship in the gospel. He has told them that he is praying for them, and he has asked them to pray for him, especially that he would keep proclaiming the gospel despite his imprisonment. And now, he says that he wants his readers to know how he is going and what he is doing. Paul hasn’t described all the minute details of his life and circumstances in his letter. Rather, he plans for Tychicus, the bearer of the letter, to fill in the details in person. Tychicus was somebody who was well qualified to do this: he came from the same region as Paul’s readers: the Roman Province of Asia, which is modern-day Turkey (see Acts 20:4). He was also one of Paul’s co-workers. He accompanied Paul on some of his journeys (see Acts 20:3–6). He was sent by Paul on other important tasks at various times (see Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12). That’s why here in Ephesians, Paul describes Tychicus as a “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord”. His specific job right now as a “minister” is to bring the message of the letter and the news of Paul’s circumstances to these believers in Asia.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Tychicus, in other words, is a trusted and trustworthy co-worker, in gospel fellowship with Paul, whose task is to share that gospel fellowship with others and to encourage their hearts. This all shows us that Ephesians is written for real people, to encourage them to grow in their love of Christ and of one another, and to express authentic gospel fellowship. So as you read Ephesians, it’s worth asking yourself: how does this letter encourage you to grow in love and gospel fellowship with others?

Ephesians lifts your eyes

This final greeting in Ephesians is very similar to the greeting in another of Paul’s letters: Colossians 4:7–8. It’s likely Paul wrote both letters around the same time, while he was in a Roman prison. In Colossians, Paul is quite specific in his greetings. In Ephesians, however, Paul’s greetings are much more general, and the issues he discusses are also far broader. It’s likely that Ephesians was written not just for one group of believers in the city of Ephesus, but for believers all over the Roman Province of Asia, and that included Ephesus (for more on this, see the discussion of Ephesians 1:1).

Why did Paul write this letter? As we saw in the opening post in this series:

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… to encourage them. And what he said to them is indeed vastly encouraging, and still speaks powerfully today.

How does Paul encourage these believers? He doesn’t dwell on his own imprisonment (though he doesn’t deny its reality). Rather, he encourages his readers to lift their eyes to dwell on the wonder of God’s great purposes. He reminds them that the God of the universe has a great and unstoppable plan to sum up all things in Christ. This plan has multiple dimensions: personal, knowledge, time, international, social, and cosmic. The plan is now being put into effect through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And Paul’s readers—who have heard that gospel message and believed it—are themselves intimately involved in that plan. Paul wants to encourage them to lift their eyes to see this plan, and to see their place within it.

So Ephesians is there to lift your eyes! It’s there to encourage you to dwell on wonderful things—things you might not naturally consider when facing daily struggles “on the ground”. It’s there to expand your horizons. That’s why Paul describes things that at first glance might not seem directly relevant to your daily life: things like heavenly blessings, spiritual powers, ancient Jews and Gentiles, worldwide unity, and future glory. He also engages in profound and mind-bending theology in the letter. Even those few short words in the final greeting, “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”, are packed with theology, reminding us of the unity of the Father and the Son. Ephesians is, in fact, about God before it is about you. It magnifies your vision beyond yourself. And yet, the more your vision is magnified and your horizons are expanded, the more you see that this letter is, in fact, deeply relevant to your daily struggles and life “on the ground”.

Ephesians is deeply relevant

Why is Ephesians so relevant? Because it is not just about the amazing things God has done “out there”—it is about the amazing things God has done for us! Paul reminds his readers of these things when he says, “Peace to the brothers and love with faith”. This sentence is full of significant words that remind us of key things Paul has been speaking about throughout his letter.

“Peace” is an important theme in Ephesians. It can be seen, for example, in Ephesians 2:14–18. Christ is the wall breaker: by his death on the cross, he has brought reconciliation between people, and reconciliation with God. He has rescued both Israel and the nations from sin and judgment, and made both Jewish and Gentile believers “holy”. And Christ, through his apostles, is also the missionary of peace: as this gospel of salvation is preached throughout the world, people are reconciled to God and to one another.

Sun over city

“Love” is also a fundamental theme in Ephesians. The foundational “love” Paul talks about is God’s love for us. This is a love that comes from the God who is rich in mercy, who does not give us what we deserve but who has blessed us richly even though we are unworthy. It’s a love shown in action, a love shown to us who were unlovely, and a love that transforms us and makes us new. And it’s a love that is shown, most of all, in the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. God’s love for us comes first in Ephesians. Moreover, as we will see in a moment, God’s love for us transforms us to love others too.

“Faith”, too, is central in Ephesians. Faith is about believing, trusting, and depending. God’s love comes to those who trust in him by believing in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection. And so “by faith” Christ dwells in our hearts—we who have been rooted and founded in God’s love for us through Christ. As we hear this life-changing message, and as we lift our eyes to him, we have strength and security and hope. Through the gospel, God’s Spirit is at work to strengthen us, even in circumstances that seem weak and hard.

All of this is by “grace”. The word “grace” means “gift”. And grace permeates Paul’s letter. When he uses the word “grace”, Paul is speaking primarily about the amazing gift of salvation that God has given us in Christ—the wonderful blessings we have in him. This is a grace that doesn’t come from our works or worthiness, but it produces works in our lives—works that God grants us to do for his sake.

This God

Ephesians is designed to produce a response

That’s why Ephesians is designed to produce a response in us. We can’t truly grasp the message of Ephesians without being moved to respond to God’s grace and love for us. And the response Paul singles out at the end of his letter is love with hope: he speaks of “all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ, in immortality”.

“Love” is central to the Christian life as Paul describes it in Ephesians chapters 4–6. As we believe and trust in God’s great love for us, we are encouraged and equipped to love others. We are to live our lives “putting up with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2); we are to grow together by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15); we are to “become imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us” (Ephesians 5:1–2); and furthermore, Christ’s love for the church is to be the model for a husband’s self-giving love for his wife (Ephesians 5:25–33).

Feet walking on cobbles

Finally, this love has a future, eternal dimension. It involves “immortality”. God’s gracious gift of salvation is something that goes on forever: beyond Paul’s circumstances, beyond our own hardships and discouragement, and even beyond death. So Paul finishes his letter with a reminder of our great and glorious hope: the hope of everlasting life. We are looking forward to new resurrection bodies, not subject to death or decay, but living forever. And for now, the Holy Spirit is our security: “the first instalment of our inheritance, guaranteeing that God will redeem his possession, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14).

So how are we to read Ephesians? We should remember that it’s personal, so it should encourage us to grow in love and gospel fellowship with others. We should remember that it expands our horizons and lifts our eyes to God’s great plans and purposes through his Son Jesus Christ. And yet, it’s deeply relevant, because it speaks to us of what God has done for us. Because of that, we should expect it to produce a response in us: a response of faith, love, and hope for our glorious future.

For reflection

Reflect on what you have read from Ephesians, or make a plan to read Ephesians soon. Ask yourself:

How does Ephesians encourage me to grow in love and gospel fellowship with others?

How does Ephesians expand my horizons and lift my eyes to God and his great purposes through Jesus Christ?

How can I rejoice in what God has done for me, personally, through Jesus Christ?

How does Ephesians increase my hope for the future?

Audio podcast

Want more?

This post is part of a series of 70 reflections covering every sentence in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It’s also available in audio podcast format. You can see all the posts in the series, and connect to the audio podcast using the platform of your choice, 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.