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New Testament Survey

Ephesians



LOOKING AHEAD TO . . .

Ephesians

Key Verse(s):

Key Chapter(s):

Key Word(s) or Concept(s)

Consider:

            What blessings have you received from Christ?

            What armor do you put on each day to fight with Satan?

            How do you put it on?

            Are you one with the body of Christ?

Suggested Reading beyond the Key Chapter(s):

Ephesians

If Romans is Paul’s crowning achievement of theological statement, the epistle to the Ephesians may be the jewels on the crown. This letter is a close second in importance with its rich mix of theology. In this epistle the Church receives a new emphasis. God’s glory, power, mercy, and Spirit all play a prominent role in this letter. The position of the believer in Christ is likewise highlighted, along with other issues.

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Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon are collectively referred to as the Prison Epistles. Paul writes these four letters during his first imprisonment in Rome, A.D. 60/62. This is the imprisonment which ends the book of Acts. This epistle is included with this group because of the close association to Colossians-Philemon and the probability both Ephesians and Colossians were delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9). It should be further noted that this letter does not mention or hint at Paul’s release. Philippians (1:19-26) and Philemon (22) provide such a hint. This suggests that Ephesians is written early in the imprisonment. Each of the letters refers to the imprisonment strengthening the relationship of Paul to Christ (Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Phil 1:7, 13; Col 4:10, 18: Philemon 1, 9, 10).

Theme and Purpose

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Ephesians 1:3

Unlike most of Paul’s other letters, this one expresses no critical problem in the church. It is, rather, a letter of encouragement and theological presentation. Many believe that Paul’s imprisonment gave him the opportunity to reflect upon God’s message and to develop in written form his Christology. This includes a discussion of the privileges enjoyed by the believers in Christ. This encouragement takes the form of an emphasis on the application of the “love” the church needs to have for each other in view of God’s love for the church. The first half of the book is a statement of God’s love for the church, with the second half of the epistle being the application for the church to abide by because of God’s outpouring of love.

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Christology is the study and formulation of the doctrine of Christ. It is, by its nature, also a study of the Godhead. The Trinitarian discussion is clearly also a Christological discourse as well. Such a study involves not only the true Deity and genuine humanity of Christ, but also the relationship of His two natures and the relationship of Christ to the Godhead.

There is also an emphasis on unity here, the “one accord” of Acts. The church should abide in unity because the individual members of the church should all be living and abiding in Christ. This unity shines through in obedience to God, in love to God and to each other, and through the battles of spiritual warfare each believer faces.

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Notwithstanding the difficulty one may have in understanding how Jesus can be fully God and fully man, both at the same time, the doctrine of the Trinity is harder on the mind. It is a doctrine which is acceptable but not explainable. The word Trinity is not found in Scripture. It is used, however, to express the doctrine of the unity of a God who is One but subsists as three distinct Persons. The best example I can provide is that of water – the same chemical substance may be ice, liquid, or vapor. It is all the same essence, but it exists as three separate “persons.” The statements of this doctrine are:

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The Trinity is inferred in the Old Testament, but not as clearly as in the New. Matthew 28:19 is the clearest statement of this doctrine, but there are plenty of examples of the Trinity in Scripture if one wants to take the time to study this concept in more detail. To the believer, the Trinity is important because it means God may be revealed to us in a form we can understand. This revelation can be communicated to us so we can share with God. And, the Trinity forms the basis of true fellowship with God.

Ephesus

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Ephesus was a leading center in the Roman Empire, a merchant capital full of paganism. Acts records two visits by Paul to the city, once on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-22) and the other an extended stay as part of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:31). Luke’s history records several amazing occurrences in the city during this extend stay:

  • A substantial number of disciples of John the Baptist were baptized (Acts 19:1-7)
  • Paul was privileged to debate in the hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10)
  • Unusual miracles were performed by Paul (Acts 19:11-12) . . .
  • As well as exorcisms (Acts 19:13-16)
  • Sorcerers were converted (Acts 19:17-20)
  • There was a riot in the city (Acts 19:23-41)
  • Paul’s farewell address took place not in Ephesus but in the town of Miletus (Acts 20:13-34)

Audience

Modern criticism of the letter focuses on the audience. Most likely, this letter, like Galatians (Gal 1:2), was designed to be a circular letter. A circular letter is nothing more than a letter intended to be shared by a number of churches. Some older manuscripts omit the words “in Ephesus” suggesting a more general audience was involved. Further, the letter does not possess the personal tone of many of the other Pauline church letters. This may be the result of Paul writing to a church which had no particular problems. Paul’s love for the church is there, but the letter develops into more of a sermon than into a personal plea for the correction of problems. This would naturally change the tone of the letter.

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Criticism is the term used to describe the study of Scripture. Lower criticism is what we have been doing, learning about the setting, date, and authorship of the books of the New Testament. Our approach is based upon the understanding that Scripture is the Word of God and is given by His inspiration. This means the original manuscripts were 100% accurate. Higher criticism, on the other hand, is the description given to the study of Scripture which ultimately denies events such as miracles, inspiration, and the supremacy of God and Christ. While lower criticism may properly question things like dates and authorship, it does not contradict God’s Word. Higher criticism will frequently contradict the Word.

While modern criticism questions Paul’s authorship, the epistle clearly reflects Paul’s view of theology. If it were written as a statement of doctrine rather than as a letter addressing a given problem, Paul most likely wrote it with the thought of circulation in mind. This is further emphasized by the fact it is written from prison. If this letter was written early in Paul’s imprisonment, the Apostle probably intended the letter to be circulated for he did not know if he would ever visit the churches again. The letter was written to the Ephesians, with the intent that all of the churches share in its teachings.

Special Considerations

The letter, as indicated above, breaks down into two convenient parts. Chapters 1-3 cover the believer’s heavenly calling while chapters 4-6 cover the believer’s earthly conduct. In particular, the issue of the real battle the believer faces in his daily walk is covered in the last chapter.

Jesus Christ is viewed as the Head of the body of believers (1:22, 23). Since the believers are His body, they share in His spiritual blessings (1:3; 2:11-22). As such, the eternal purpose of God is summed up in Christ (1:3-12). Because of this, the believer is to know, absorb, and live Christ (1:18-23; 3:14-21; 4:1). The phrases “in Christ” or “with Christ” occur some 35 times in this single book demonstrating the key importance of this doctrine. It is this concept which should guide the earthly conduct of the believer.

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Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Ephesians 1:5
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Adoption is a practice taken from Roman law and means placing a person into a family with the same status as a natural born child. Paul says that we become members of God’s family by adoption (here and Gal 4:5). This adoption is possible because of the redeeming work of Christ (Gal 4:4, 5). The adopted son of God possesses all the rights of the family -- access to the Father (Rom. 8:15), sharing with Christ in the divine inheritance (Rom. 8:17), and the future complete release from the entire presence of bondage (Rom 8:21ff). The Spirit of God is the instrument (Rom. 8:14) of this adoption and His indwelling is the consequence of this adoption (Gal. 4:6). Although Paul is the only New Testament writer to use this term, the idea of adoption is implicit in John’s concept of ‘becoming a son’ (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1-2), in parable of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:19ff.), and in Christ’s use of “Father” in His referring to God (Mt. 5:16; 6:9; Lk. 12:32).

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The church is a body (1:22, 23; 2:16). This theme is also presented in more detail by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. As a body, it is subject to the Headship of Christ, but it is also the household of God (2:19). The church is the Bride of Christ, a divine mystery from times past (3:3, 6; 5:21-33). In these teachings, Paul mixes the concepts of marriage and the church to demonstrate the sacred unity of each and the need for structure to operate within each.

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The real mystery of the church is the integration of Jews and Gentiles into one unified body (2:14-18; 3:3, 6). While it is clear from the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:3) and the words of the prophets (Isa 11:10; 42:6; 60:3) that the Gentiles would receive salvation from God, the idea of this mixed body is never considered in Scripture until the New Testament.

At the same time, the stage for this unity is set by the concept of “oneness.” There is unity in the Spirit as all are united.

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4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Ephesians 4:4-6

This unity sets the stage for the presentation of the picture of the church and marriage by commanding the overriding duty of all which is governed by love.

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Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
Ephesians 5:21

Such submission is possible because Paul views the true walk of a believer as being one led by God.

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And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Ephesians 5:18

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Lastly, Paul warns of the true battle of life, that of spirits. Satan versus God. Paul’s advice is not to tackle the Devil on our own, for this is a lost cause. Rather we are to rely upon Christ by putting on the full armor of God (6:10-18). Just as God fought the earthly battles of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament, so, too, will He fight our spiritual battles, if only we will allow Him to do so. It is only with God’s battle gear that we may be warriors of the world!

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Many people today want to treat Satan and hell as allegories or myths, but Scripture attests their reality. The name Satan occurs 55 times in the Bible. This does not include any of his other titles. The Hebrew word translated “Satan” means adversary or accuser. He is the constant enemy of God being described as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). His fall from Grace is described in Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28:12-15, 17. He is also called “the dragon,” “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30); “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2); “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4); “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2), and is a “murder from the beginning . . . a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). He is frequently referred to as the “devil” in God’s Word. He has the power of death, not as lord of death, but rather as executioner (Job 1, 2; Heb 2:14). Scripture assures us we may know our enemy (2 Cor 2:11) and we can defeat him with the Word of God (Matt 4:4) by daily putting on the armor of God.

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Outline

I.         Greeting - 1:1-2

II.        Spiritual blessings in Christ - 1:3-14

III.       Wisdom and knowledge prayed for - 1:15-23

IV.      A new life with Christ - 2:1-10

V.        Household of God - 2:11-22

VI.      Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles - 3:1-13

VII.     The Spirit gives strength - 3:14-21

VIII.    The Spirit gives unity - 4:1-16

IX.      Old life and new life contrasted - 4:17-32

X.        Life in and out of the Spirit - 5:1-20

XI.      Family and church - 5:21-6:9

XII.     Armor of God - 6:10-20

XIII.    Benediction - 6:21-24

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Paul’s command is to put on God’s armor daily.

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10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Ephesians 6:10-11
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How do you accomplish putting on this armor?

Can you identify five possessions we have in Christ?

 

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