“Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6:23-24).
This benediction, or prayer of blessing, ends the book of Ephesians. Earlier in the chapter, the Apostle Paul had encouraged Ephesian Christians to stay alert and to pray, incorporating prayer into their spiritual armor. Now he prays for them, requesting that they will know peace and will receive love with faith God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ.
Conflict had followed the introduction of the gospel to Ephesus. When Paul had preached in the synagogue for three months, a group from within the synagogue objected and publicly maligned the Way, or Christianity (Acts 19:8-9). Later, a group of craftsmen instigated a riot against the disciples of Jesus; Paul’s preaching had converted so many that the craftsmen’s idol-making business had decreased noticeably (Acts 19:23ff). So Paul’s prayer for peace fits the congregation’s historical context.
The mention of faith recognizes that patience and perseverance will equip the disciples to overcome local opposition. The double petition for love cries out for attention. Paul’s petition on their behalf requests faith accompanying love. Then Paul follows that petition with a blessing for those “who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Love sometimes fades when tested. Love-motivated obedience may degenerate into task-focused obedience. This concluding petition and blessing present an intriguing comparison with Jesus’ words to the same church in Revelation chapter two. First, the Lord says, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3). The opposition continued; the church remained faithful despite it. Faith had endured. However, then the Lord says, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). Somehow the Ephesian had maintained faithful obedience, but had lost the necessary foundation of love.
Paul models his earlier exhortation for the Ephesian saints “always to keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). He prays that the church will know peace, and that God will strengthen their faith and love. The letter from Jesus to the same church that is recorded in Revelation chapter 2 suggests that the church remained strong in faith under trial, but lost its love. This warning to a mature congregation alerts us to the importance of love in obeying Christ. May we obey Christ with an undying love.
O God our Father, As you encircle us with your love, so may we love you and one another. Grant us peace and love with faith. We pray that we will maintain faith when tested, as did the Ephesians, but also we pray that we may grow in love even when under attack. In Jesus’ name, Amen.