Introduction to Ephesians
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
- Paul’s Letters Often Have Similar Sections
- Letters are personal
Ephesians has some unique qualities as a letter of St. Paul to the “church” at Ephesus. These unique qualities make it more accessible to a reader in the 21st century.
- It is less personal than any of his other letters. (It does not have the mentions of personal issues in a particular church that most of Paul’s letters do.)
- Connected to #1 it speaks more generally about the Christian faith.
- It deals with more foundational issues, and less minutiae.
- It is closely connected to the Epistle to the Colossians (approximately 1/3 of it is the same). As a result of this some have theorized the Colossians and Ephesians were written at nearly the same time for similar if not the same reason. Colossians more specifically for a singular church and Ephesians more generally for the church at large. This idea is attractive to me.
- Logical patterns of Paul
Paul’s letters, and this is especially true of his more general letters (Romans and Ephesians) follow an instructional pattern. This is very important for understanding and useful for teaching as well. That pattern is an emphasis first upon information or the indicative. Then secondarily, Paul shifts to exhortation, or the imperative. First there is information that you need to know, you can call it orthodoxy. Then there are actions that you are called to as a result, you can call that orthopraxy. What you know, what you are to do in that light of that knowledge. For Ephesians and Romans, these sections are clearly delineated. The break in Romans is at chapter 12. The break in Ephesians is at chapter 4.
So, when outlining the book of Ephesians, begin by dividing the book at Chapter 4:1
The First section of Ephesians then deals with Christian orthodoxy. What are we to believe is true about God and us, and what does it matter?
The Second half of the book deals with how we are to live in the light of the truths explained. And the implications relate most directly to our relationships with others.
- An Outline of Ephesians
Outline of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians
- Introduction v.1-2 Paul, Jesus, God, Ephesus, in Jesus Christ, Grace, Peace, from God, Jesus
- 1:3-3:21 The Plans of God Revealed
The Grace of God accomplished in Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection
- 1:3-14 Praise to God for His great Blessings for people
- 1:15-23 Prayers for God’s people in light of their faith
- 2:1-10 Jesus’s work in people makes them work
- 2:11-22 Jesus’ work in people gives them a new identity
- 3:1-13 God has chosen Paul to explain the work of God to the Gentiles
- 3:14-21 Praise to God and Prayers for people to truly grasp the goodness and love of God for them
III. 4:1-6:20 Living a life worthy of God’s work in us
United by the indwelling Holy Spirit (God with us)
- 4:1-10 Be peacefully united with all who are in Christ
- 4:11-16 United in growing, not in our gifting
- 4:17-5:4 United in a new life pursuits
- 4:17-24 United in a new way to process life
- 4:25-28 Do not live on deception, anger and theft. Speak the truth and be a giver
- 4:31-5:2 Choose love and cooperation over malice and competition
- 5:3-4 (4:29-30) Our words and desires are to reflect life from God
- United in careful Holy Spirit empowered living 5:5-20
- The Power of the Holy Spirit in Families 5:21-6:4
- The Power of the Holy Spirit at work 6:5-9
- Final exhortation to endure 6:10-18
- Pray for me 6:18-20
- Closing 6:21-24 Tychicus, Lord, information, Peace, Love, God, Jesus, Grace to all who love Jesus!
- Every passage has a context
The fundamental question for understanding all literature, is “What does the author intend for the readers to understand?”
This is why in chapter 2 it is so important to bring up the unity of believers, Jew and Gentile. The concept of mystery reflected as a result of the nature of Jesus’ ministry and the consequent ingathering of Gentiles is a part of this.
Paul’s personal context is also helpful to keep in mind. His conversion experience colors some of the things that he says about himself, for instance in chapter 3:1-13
What a passage means to the original audience IS its primary meaning.
Well, I feel it means this to me. Ok, it may have application to your life, but you do not get to be the autonomous interpreter of what an author intends to communicate.
So we read the whole. And we read other works of the same author, and we read things the author read as well. This is why theologians often say that we should allow the Bible to interpret the Bible. It is also why I personally allow Jesus Christ to be the lens through which I interpret the Old Testament.
And it is why Paul says in Ephesians 2: 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
- You will have to work to understand the context
III. Grace and Peace to You
From God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit empowers this
- The importance of Grace is something that God does for us that we do not deserve. With reference to the Christian faith, grace relates to the work of Jesus Christ on behalf of people that is offered to them if they will trust Him.
Is there a need for grace? The Christian faith indicates that there is a profound human need for grace. Grace for what? Well, for wise living. Grace for living the best life possible. I believe this is the arc of the entire Biblical narrative. Now, we can cheat and go to a passage like Matt 7 where at the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says that whoever hears His words and puts them into practice will live in a manner that will allow them to overcome the tragedies of life. (Which is what faith is for right?) Without the difficulties of life, there is no need for faith in God.
Where do the difficulties come from? From bad human behavior. This is known as sin. Genesis 1 creation account: Is organized along these lines. God created everything and it is declared to be good. Why that repeated refrain? Well, if there is a God, and there seems an abundance of evil in the world, what is the source of that evil? Is God the source of evil? Genesis is written to a small ethnic minority in Egypt who have been slaves for generations. How can God be good and these chaotic things happen?
Well, Genesis 2 gives us more information. This is a closer inspection of creation from the perspective of the purpose of humankind. We are meant to live in a cooperative relationship with each other, in family groups. We are meant to live in cooperation with our environment and with our work. Purposeful work, good relationships marked by mutual service and cooperation. This is God’s good plan. It’s a long way from slavery, domination and murder. How did the bad stuff happen?
Well, Genesis 3. Adam and Eve choose to live apart from God’s revealed wisdom. And sin unleashes its terrible cursing power on the marriage, the wider family (chapter 4 Cain kills Able).
In chapter 4 we have the descendants of Cain and we come to Lamech. Lamech is murderous and proud of it. His children are identified by their personal abilities, not their character and faith and the world is in a freefalling spiral as a result of the consequences of sin. God destroys the world as a result and in many ways it starts all over again.
Grace is God’s working on behalf of people to deliver them from their sinful self destructiveness.
The angels appeared to shepherds in the field:
“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Jesus is a Savior. How does He save people?
- By reconciling them to God. Our sin separates us from God, it deadens our spiritual sensibilities. Jesus gives us forgiveness.
Jesus also teaches us how to live in a manner that leads us to a life blessed by God.
- Peace is the result of grace
Peace is a very old term and concept.
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Peace in Hebrew is shalom. Shalom is more than the absence of conflict. Shalom is the satisfaction of a life full of meaning, purpose and impact for good. Jesus says in John 10:10 I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.
So, Paul writes that he has come as an agent of God and Jesus Christ to help folks to receive grace from God and experience the peace of God as a result. It is as true for us as it is for them.
Grace and Peace to you all today! From God our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!