Introduction to Ephesians
Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church.
The letter opens with a sequence of statements about God’s blessings, which are interspersed with a remarkable variety of expressions drawing attention to God’s wisdom, forethought and purpose. Paul emphasizes that we have been saved, not only for our personal benefit, but also to bring praise and glory to God. The climax of God’s purpose, “when the times will have reached their fulfillment,” is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ (1:10). It is crucially important that Christians realize this, so in 1:15–23 Paul prays for their understanding (a second prayer occurs in 3:14–21).
Having explained God’s great goals for the church, Paul proceeds to show the steps toward their fulfillment. First, God has reconciled individuals to himself as an act of grace (2:1–10). Second, God has reconciled these saved individuals to each other, Christ having broken down the barriers through his own death (2:11–22). But God has done something even beyond this: He has united these reconciled individuals in one body, the church. This is a “mystery” not fully known until it was revealed to Paul (3:1–6). Now Paul is able to state even more clearly what God has intended for the church, namely, that it be the means by which he displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:7–13). It is clear through the repetition of “heavenly realms” (1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) that Christian existence is not merely on an earthly plane. It receives its meaning and significance from heaven, where Christ is exalted at the right hand of God (1:20).
Nevertheless, that life is lived out on earth, where the practical daily life of the believer continues to work out the purposes of God. The ascended Lord gave “gifts” to the members of his church to enable them to minister to one another and so promote unity and maturity (4:1–16). The unity of the church under the headship of Christ foreshadows the uniting of “all things in heaven and on earth” under Christ (1:10). The new life of purity and mutual deference stands in contrast to the old way of life without Christ (4:17—6:9). Those who are “strong in the Lord” have victory over the evil one in the great spiritual conflict, especially through the power of prayer (6:10–20; see note on 1:3).
- Ephesians 1 (spiritual blessings in Christ)
- Ephesians 2a (we are God’s handiwork)
- Ephesians 2b (one new humanity created in Jesus Christ)
- Ephesians 3a (the mystery of Christ)
- Ephesians 3b (the love of Christ)
- Ephesians 4a (unity and diversity in the body of Christ)
- Ephesians 4b (new life in Jesus Christ as children of light)
- Ephesians 5a (follow God’s example)
- Ephesians 5b (principles of house church)
- Ephesians 6a (christian’s family and social relationships)
- Ephesians 6b (the armor of God)