I was cleaning out my car the day after my Senior prom when I found it under the seat. I pulled it out and there it was, a pretty purple purse with dainty little straps. As I looked at it, I thought of the radiant young lady, prettier than ever in her beautiful prom dress, who had carried that purse only the night before. I smiled to myself. Certainly with all the excitement of the day I could understand her being scatter-brained enough to forget it there! I would have to take it to her the next Monday when school started.

But then a horrible thought came to my mind. I could just imagine myself, Nathan C. Johnson, high school senior, walking into school with a dainty little purple purse on my arm! As any of you who went to high school can imagine, this would not be a good thing for yours truly. But I HAD to take it to her. I mean, I would go to great lengths for this girl, so I certainly wasn’t going to stop short of returning her purse to her!

I pursed my lips in thought, and then an idea came to me. Of course! My school bag! I carried it into school every day. I could fit that dainty little purse in my bag easily, walk into school like normal, and then take it out to give it to her! Of course, I would have to remember that it was in there, and not treat my bag with my usual careless abandon…nasty memories of my mom’s corningware pot came to mind, which met a horrible death when I tossed my bag carelessly into my locker. But I would make sure not to forget…how could I forget, when I’d be thinking about her every minute?…and my plan should work out fine.

So that’s what I did. That next Monday morning upon arriving at school, I deftly pulled the dainty purple purse out from under my seat, zipped open my bag, and carefully placed the purse within it. Then, zipping my bag shut and climbing out of my car, I strolled into school like normal.

A pretty young lady was standing at the end of the hall…she may have been waiting for me, although I didn’t stop to think about it at the time. I walked right up to her and asked, “Hi! Did you forget anything in my car last Friday night?”

“Yes, my purse,” she replied. “Is it still there?” she asked, noticing that I wasn’t carrying it in my hands.

“Nope, I have it right here,” I replied smugly, zipping open my bag and producing the purse, which was sitting on top of my books as pretty as you please, still with the dainty purple straps wrapped around it like when I had carefully placed it there. I handed it to her.

“Thanks,” she said, and, rather embarrassed at her forgetfulness, turned and hurried down the hall towards her locker. I smiled to myself, and, feeling very pleased, I headed back for my locker to drop off my bag and get the books for my next class.

The next day I got a surprise. I was walking into school when what to my wondering eyes should appear but one of my good friends sneaking into school in a very embarrassed manner and carrying a stylish black purse awkwardly in one hand! A grin quickly spread across my face as I saw an opportunity to tease my buddy. I hurried over to him. “Hey, man!” I bellowing, grinning from ear to ear now, “Nice purse!”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, looking away. “My girlfriend forgot it in my car last Friday.”

“My girlfriend forgot her purse in my car, too,” I answered.

“Oh,” he said, looking up and acting interested at the possibility of someone to commiserate with. “Do you have it with you?”

“I gave it back to her yesterday,” I replied. “I carried it in my school bag so I wouldn’t have to walk into school carrying a purse.”

“Oh,” he answered, sounding slightly disappointed. Then, after a moment, he blurted out, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

That’s pretty much how I felt at one point during one of my last years of college as I considered the book of Ephesians. You see, I had grown up in dispensational circles, so I had constantly been hearing about how important the book of Ephesians is. Ephesian truth is spoken of with great reverence, and Ephesians is spoken of significantly as containing truth for us today. But somehow this never seemed to click with me. I had studied the dispensational boundary line and had learned that many of the books of the New Testament were written after the new dispensation began at Acts 28:28. Seven of the books of Paul were written after that time, in fact…the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Then there were the gospels and the book of Acts, which while they are history books speaking about past dispensations, yet all of which may have been written during the time period of the dispensation of grace. Even some of the general epistles may have been written after Acts 28:28, according to some. So, if all these books were written during our dispensation, then what could be special about Ephesians?

I considered this problem and tried to come to some sort of conclusion as to why Ephesians might be so special. I knew many important doctrinal statements are made in Ephesians, but this is true of many other books of the New Testament. Perhaps, I decided, dispensationalists were just getting wrapped up in this book because of its support of dispensational teaching and thus had overemphasized its importance.

It wasn’t until I was discussing the issue of the Acts period with a friend that I finally realized the significance of Ephesians. He and I were discussing the purpose of God during the Acts period, and I was explaining to him that, whatever it was, His purpose now is definitely a far different one. And that change took place at Acts 28:28, at which time God started working on a new purpose, far different from the purpose toward which He was working in the Acts period.

Then he asked me the very question that I had been struggling with for some time. Where in the Scripture does it state this new purpose? It is all well and good to say that there is a new purpose, but where in the Bible is this new purpose given? After all, the purpose in the Acts period was clearly stated, as God told His people in Mark 16 to “preach the gospel to every creature.” If this is no longer His purpose, then where does it state the new one?

I flinched at this question, as this was a problem I’d been worrying about for some time. The mission statement, if not the statement of purpose, of the Acts period is obvious, and is given in Mark 16:15-20. But where is such a statement of purpose given for the new dispensation? The purpose of God to bring in the Kingdom during the Acts period is plain, but where is a new and different purpose stated? I did not yet feel as if I had an adequate answer to this question.

Then, suddenly, it came to me. Of course! There is a place in the Scripture which speaks of God’s present purpose…in fact, there is a whole book written to make that purpose clear. The book of Ephesians! That is where the new purpose is laid forth. That is where the so-called “great commission” which was the guiding principle of the Acts period was replaced with God’s current instructions to the believer. There is no passage which replaces the commandment given in Mark…there is a whole book. Why didn’t I think of that before?

I suppose I felt kind of like my friend must have felt when the obvious answer to his purse-carrying dilemma was presented to him as he walked into high school with a stylish black purse on his arm. I had been reading and studying and living around dispensationalism all my life and I had only then grasped the place and purpose of Ephesians? It certainly seemed that I should have thought of this before my early twenties! But at the same time, I felt it was not my place to bemoan what was hidden to me in the past, but rather to rejoice in what was now clear to me in the present.

Yes, the book of Ephesians is THE book written to explain the present purpose and work of God today. One would search in vain in the gospels for any instructions to this effect. Those who try to base their present day Christianity on the book of Acts will ultimately fail. Those who look to the writings of Paul such as Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, I Thessalonians, or II Thessalonians will find that not a hint of His present purpose is mentioned in them. Those who peruse the general epistles will find no instruction with this in mind. Nor will a study of the book of Revelation bring one to an understanding of what God is trying to accomplish today. Even some of the books I listed above as being written by Paul during our present dispensation do not have all that much to say to help us in trying to understand God’s current works. Only the book of Ephesians was written to tell us what it is that God is doing today, and only this book will help us ultimately understand God’s current purpose and our place in it. Indeed, if it were not for this book, we would be forever lost when trying to understand and conform to what God is doing today. The later books of Paul would be indecipherable, and the difference between believers today and those in the Acts period would be near inexplicable. This is what the book of Ephesians does for us: it solves what would otherwise be unknowable mysteries. This is why it is so important. Why didn’t I think of that before?

It would be a disservice to the book of Colossians not to mention it here. Just as the book of Ephesians was written to explain God’s present purpose, so the book of Colossians was written to explain Ephesians. Ephesians is very complicated, and many of the truths there are very hard to understand. Colossians reiterates them to us in a slightly different way, giving us some practical applications of those great truths at the same time, so that we can come to a better understanding and appreciation of those difficult revelations. This is why Ephesians and Colossians are so often talked about as companion books in dispensational circles.

Ephesians explains to us God’s present purpose and how it differs from that in the Acts period. Colossians explains the truths of Ephesians to us and how they work out practically in some situations. But what of the other books written by Paul during the period between the end of the Acts period and his own death? Well, Philippians was written to believers who had come to Christ in the Acts period, and now found themselves living in the dispensation of grace with all of their miraculous powers taken away and the hope of the kingdom postponed for untold centuries. As you can imagine this was not a very easy pill for them to swallow, so Paul comforts them in this book and encourages them to be willing to accept their new, humble position even as he, Paul, had accepted the cessation of his own miraculous powers, and most of all as Christ had given up the glory of the Son and had taken upon Himself the humble station of a man. The books of I Timothy and Titus were written to men who were God-appointed leaders during the Acts period, but who now found themselves trying to maintain their leadership over their people without the constant aid of the Holy Spirit which they had had in that previous time. The book of Philemon was written for the specific purpose of helping Onesimus, but also is an example to us today of how believers in the dispensation of grace should treat one another, and even of how God treats us in this time. And the book of II Timothy was written as Paul’s death approached, and explained in the last book of the Bible written how believers were to behave once all the God-appointed leaders had passed off the scene and many centuries wiped clean from all but Scripture the influence that they had had. It also speaks in some detail of how things will be at the end of the dispensation of grace, and what we can expect to happen next. As such, it should perhaps be included with the books of Ephesians and Colossians as being the only books which are almost directly applicable in every respect to believers today and which explain to us how our lives should be lived in the dispensation of grace.

So you see that Ephesians, along with its companion book of Colossians, is very unique. Its importance cannot be overemphasized, and dispensationalists are quite right to speak of it with reverence as being an extremely important book. It is the Book of God’s Present Purpose, and a true understanding of dispensational teaching would be impossible without it. It is the book that was written to explain to us what God is now doing and why, and we would have no clue as to what His present work is without it. Indeed it stands out in the Bible beside John and Romans as perhaps one of the three most important books for a believer to know, understand, and apply to his Christian life and walk. I have just one question left. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Advertisements