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LETTERS OF ST. PAUL: Ephesians

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4: 30-32

In the creed Christians affirm that they believe that the church is “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” This passage from Ephesians is a good example of what it means to be holy. Being holy is not being boring or sad or even a “holy roller.” Holiness is wholeness and the road to holiness may be long, but the directions are simple. Don’t argue, don’t insult, don’t quarrel. Be kind and be mutually understanding and forgiving. In trying to do these things, we show that we have been marked by the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul spent a lot of time working and preaching in Ephesus in Asia Minor. But Ephesians is considered to have actually been written by a colleague or follower of Paul’s because it lacks the personal or familiar quality one would expect him to have with the people he knew in Ephesus. Although referred to as the letter to the Ephesians, you’ll notice that it lacks things you would normally find in a letter–news, personal message, intimacy. It really is more of an address to the worldwide church. Ephesians, nonetheless, deals with a lot of significant stuff in the life of the church–then and now.

Ephesians is like a feature story in a magazine about a Fortune 500 company, explaining the major components of what the company stands for. Ephesians reflects on salvation, church unity and mission, as well as the daily routine of Christians. As to the church being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, Ephesians unveils these themes as a modern day organization expresses its mission statement. Ephesians was probably written after Colossians as it borrows generously from that letter. It expands on Colossians’ theme of God’s plan being understood only as it is revealed over time to human beings. Understanding this is key because it recognizes that God’s plan and revelation are ongoing. This is a distinctive mark of Catholic Christianity and mainline Protestant Christianity–scripture is the living Word of God, inspired by God with its meaning understood in light of human experience, not simply literal words on a page.

Ephesians is one of the deutero-Pauline letters.

 
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