For an introduction to this series, click here.
Ephesians is full of these wonderful riffs, where Paul just gets started on a topic and can't stop. The first few verses of Chapter 2 are a good example:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (2:1-7)
This is of course very rich, but it is hard to know where to start. I think it is important for us as Christians, especially those like me who lived a sort of "Christian" (in the very generic sense) life since day one, to recognize how far we had to come in order to be saved. It is thrilling to hear the stories of someone who was way out there in sin and the Lord saved them, but an unsaved kid growing up in church is just as much a sinner and just as much an enemy of God as the outwardly wicked person.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (2:8-10)
This is an important passage of scripture about the nature of salvation. The most important thing we need to learn is that the whole of salvation is a gift of God. Even our faith is a gift. The problem is that we don't see it that way when we are in the process. It seems to us that we are being persuaded and that we are the ones reaching for God. But our feelings and memories don't change the facts clearly laid out in Scripture. I still don't understand it all, but "this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" is a very clear statement. No one will get to heaven and be able to claim any credit for making "the right choice."
"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." (2:11-18)
The relationship between Jews and Gentiles was an important issue in the early church, and Paul addresses it here once again. One very important thing to point out is that Paul states very clearly that Jesus "abolish(ed) the law of commandments expressed in ordinances." I know this is not a very popular position, but verses like this make it clear that we as Christians are under no obligation to obey any of Moses' Law. You will not find anywhere in either the Old or New Testament where the "ceremonial law" is separate from the "judicial law" or whatever.
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (2:19-22, ESV)
This verse clearly disproves the notion that there is no mention in the Bible of a universal body of believers. There clearly is a body of Christ made up of all believers, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. God is at work building His church. We are merely privileged to be a part of it. Of course we must avoid the opposite extreme of putting all of our trust in a church hierarchical authority. You won't find that in the Bible, either. Not saying a denominational system is bad, but I can't find where God gave us any clear instructions for how to organize the church. God is capable on His own, and He can use all sorts of methods.