The Church: The Body of Christ-Preaching Through Ephesians
by Dr. Alvin A. Cleveland Sr.
Stratton Press

"The basic theme of Ephesians is the church, the Body of Christ."

The biblical book of Ephesians, written from prison by the apostle Paul, was targeted at a specific group but contains timeless wisdom for all peoples. Pastor and professor Cleveland presents fifteen powerful sermons that move through these letters, revealing their inner meaning. He first emphasizes the context: Paul communicated Christ's purpose to people struggling to "turn from idolatry to a saving faith in Jesus." The letters convey Christ's role in salvation and as God's equal who can help to direct religious conversion and righteous life. Many aspects of ordinary life are explored: the role of man and woman in a marriage; the dangers of lust; the "born again" experience; the respect children should pay to parents; the particular needs of black Christians; and the threat of "devils" within congregations who stir anger and incite evil deeds. Above all is the saving grace of Jesus, who can guide followers to construct a firm foundation of understanding and carry the shield of faith.

Cleveland is a highly educated practitioner of his Christian beliefs, holding such honors as first black chaplain for the Alabama Army National Guard and president of Selma University. His diligent reading of the book of Ephesians has led him to a broader view of Paul's purpose in composing his letters to new converts. Cleveland successfully combines this view within his sermons, along with personal experience and inspiration. He offers humorous examples and profound metaphors addressing such thorny issues as the struggles of a new convert falling into sin before managing to repent fully, which he compares to setting out on a trip, losing one's way, but, with good intention, heading again on the right course. Cleveland's collection offers contemplative pathways and practical steps for aspiring Christians to ponder and incorporate into their spiritual strivings.

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