Introduction to Ephesians

By James M. Rochford

Authorship of Ephesians

Critical scholars challenge Paul’s authorship (i.e. Pauline authorship). In fact, many critical scholars hold that this letter was written by a number of Paul’s disciples after his death. Conservative scholar Craig Blomberg writes, “The most common theory among scholars today is that a disciple of Paul, perhaps up to a generation after his life, wrote a pseudononymous letter in his name.”[1] We hold to Pauline authorship because it fits with both (1) internal and (2) external evidence:

Internal evidence for Pauline authorship. Unless we have sufficient reasons to think otherwise, then we should take this ancient letter as we would any other—on face value. The letter itself claims to be written by Paul (Eph. 1:1; 3:1), and we do not find good arguments to think otherwise. Moreover, in the letter, Paul calls himself “the least of all saints.” Wood asks, “Is it conceivable that an admirer of Paul, writing in his name to enhance his reputation in the late-first-century church, would ascribe such a self-demoting confession to him?”[2]

External evidence for Pauline authorship. Ephesians is listed in the earliest canonical lists as attributed to Paul. For instance, the heretic Marcion (AD 140) includes the letter, though he titles it the letter to the “Laodiceans.” The book is also listed in the Muratorian Canon (AD 180). Furthermore, various church fathers cite portions of the book as Scripture or allude to it. Wood writes, “There are also distinct echoes of Ephesians in Clement of Rome, Hermas, Barnabas, Ignatius, and Polycarp and more obvious references in Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.”[3] He adds, “Since Clement of Rome reflected its language when he wrote to Corinth in AD 95, it is likely that this attestation runs back to the first century.”[4] In fact, historically, no one questioned Paul’s authorship until the beginning of the nineteenth century,[5] or maybe as early as 1792.[6]

Counterargument: Language differences

Critics argue that the language, vocabulary, and style of Ephesians are very different than Paul’s other letters. For instance, 41 words appear nowhere else in the NT, and 84 words do not appear anywhere in Paul’s writing.[7] However, a number of factors can account for this dissimilarity of language:

First, Paul wrote this letter from prison (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). A letter written from prison would probably sound different than a letter written from home.[8]

Second, Paul wrote this letter later in life. Writing at age 30 would be different than writing at age 50. Personally, we fully expect to write differently now than when we write at age 50. Even year to year our writing style changes with time.

Third, Paul intended this letter to be circular. Contrary to common belief, Ephesians was not written to the church in Ephesus (see below under “Audience”). Instead, this was a circular letter, meant to be copied and passed around the churches in Asia Minor. When we write personal letters, we might use certain language. But, when we write informal letters, we might use different language.

Therefore, for these reasons, it doesn’t seem odd at all that Ephesians would contain different language than Paul’s other letters. Stott concludes, “Why should we expect such an original mind as Paul’s to stay within the confines of a limited vocabulary and an inflexible style? Different themes require different words, and changed circumstances create a changed atmosphere.”[9]

Interestingly, other critics argue that Ephesians cannot be written by Paul because it depends too much on the book of Colossians (whose authenticity is rarely questioned). This seems like a case of mutually competing claims: Is Ephesians too different from Paul’s other writings or too similar? The critics cannot have it both ways.

Audience: To Whom was Paul Writing?

Paul most likely wrote Ephesians to be a circular letter—not a specific one. A later scribe most likely added the words: “To the saints who are at Ephesus…” There are a number of reasons why conservative scholars believe this:

First, the earliest manuscripts do not contain the words “who are at Ephesus.” In the earliest manuscripts, we read: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1).[10] This phrase (“who are at Ephesus…”) is absent from the Chester Beatty papyrus (AD 200), Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus.[11]

Second, Paul had a very personal relationship with the Ephesian church, but he uses very impersonal language in this letter. Paul spent three years with the Ephesians, and he built an intimate relationship with them (Acts 19-20). In fact, when Paul left this church, they wept over him (Acts 20:36-38). However, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul uses really impersonal language. We would expect him to dote over this church (compare with 1 Thessalonians), but he doesn’t:

(Eph. 6:23) Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Compare this with Paul’s conclusion to the Romans. In Romans, Paul identifies no fewer than 26 people by name. In Ephesians, he doesn’t identify anyone! Paul had never even been to Rome, and he still addressed people by name.

(Eph. 4:14) As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.

Here, Paul alludes to false teachers, but nothing specific.

(Eph. 1:15) For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.

Paul had “heard” about their faith, rather than “seen” it. This is odd language for a man who had spent three years in this church.

(Eph. 3:2) If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you.

Paul wasn’t even sure that they had even heard of his ministry! How would this be possible, if he had led a church there for three years?

(Eph. 4:21) If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.

Paul seems to be assuming their faith in Christ, but this statement falls short of personal knowledge of their faith. Wood writes, “Paul had remained in Ephesus for no less than three years. Could he have written like this to the Christians there?”[12]

Third, Colossians seems to be have been written at the same time as Ephesians, and Colossians might make reference to Ephesians being a circular letter. In fact, both letters contain the exact same words in the Greek language:

(Eph. 6:21-22) Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.

(Col. 4:7-8) Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8 For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.

Later in Colossians, Paul writes, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16). What is this letter that Paul wrote to the Laodiceans? It’s possible that Ephesians was originally addressed to the Laodiceans,[13] or that they were the first to read this circular letter. Under this view then, Paul wrote this letter for all of the churches in Asia Minor, and it was supposed to be passed around (Col. 4:16). Wood writes, “Ephesians is a letter intended to be read by Christians living in the Roman province of Asia, of which Ephesus was the capital. It was not addressed to any particular local congregation, but to all. From Ephesus it was circulated throughout the churches of proconsular Asia, no doubt by means of a courier who may have been Tychicus.”[14]

That being said, there are elements in the letter that fit with a historical setting in Ephesus. Blomberg writes,

[Ephesus was] a booming city and a key coastal port in Asia Minor, it was the home of Dionysiac cults, Artemis worship, a major library, indoor and outdoor theaters, marble streets in the city center complete with outdoor lamplighting, state-of-the-art Roman bathhouses, spas, a gymnasium, and an athletic stadium.[15]

The emphasis in Ephesians on Jesus’ Lordship over the demonic would fit with what we know of Ephesus (cf. Eph. 6:10-18 with Acts 19:19). These people were polluted with demonic, idol worship. Therefore, this fits with the time period as well.

Date: When was this letter written?

Ephesians was probably written around the same time as Colossians. Both letters are very similar in structure and language (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7), and both are delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-8).[16] Gundry notes, “The indication that by word of mouth Tychicus will add further details about Paul’s circumstances implies that Tychicus will carry both letters at once to their destinations.”[17] Moreover, both letters mention household values (Eph. 5:22-6:9; Col. 3:18-4:1).

For these reasons, Blomberg concludes, “Ephesians would have been written and sent out at the same time with Tychicus and Onesimus as those other two Prison Epistles, in 60 or 61, by Paul from Rome while he remained under house arrest there.”[18] Since Wood sees the origin of the letter as coming from the Roman imprisonment (rather than Ephesus or Caesarea), he dates the book to AD 63.[19]

Key Themes in Ephesians

Ephesians 1-3 contains virtually no imperatives!—only indicatives. (The only exception to this would be Ephesians 2:11 where Paul tells us to “remember” our old life before meeting Christ). If God were to speak to us personally, we might expect him to give a long list of imperatives for us to follow. Yet, in Ephesians, we see that God begins with all that he has done through Jesus Christ, rather than what we should do.

There is a high emphasis on Jesus’ power over the occult and demonic forces in this letter. This makes sense of the high level of occult activity in Ephesus (Acts 19:19).

Paul uses three images for the church: the body, the building, and the bride. It’s an interesting study and discussion to unpack what each of these means.

Commentary on Ephesians

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Ephesians 1 (The riches “In Christ”)

 

The new identity “in Christ”

(1:1) “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Remember that the earliest manuscripts do not include “who are at Ephesus.” This is most likely a circular letter. Paul writes it to Christians to get them grounded in the fundamentals of Christian faith and practice.

Even in the first verse, Paul is already using the prepositional phrase “in Christ.”

(1:2) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1:3) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” This sentence in Greek is one continual run on sentence (vv.3-14).[20] Once Paul started talking about the grace of God, he couldn’t stop!

God has “blessed us.” Eu means “good” and logeo means “to speak.” Thus if we were breaking down this word into parts (which can sometimes render too literal of a meaning; e.g. “milkshake” or “butterfly”), we would say that God “speaks well of us.” God views us in the same light as he views Jesus, because we have been placed into Christ (“in Christ”). We might feel like a failure, but we need to remember that God loves us and is pleased with us—just as he loves and is pleased with his Son: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:16).

We have “every spiritual blessing” in Christ. We are chosen (v.4), adopted (v.5), redeemed (v.7), given revelation about the end of history (v.9-10), and sealed with the Holy Spirit (v.13-14). Everything in this section is past tense completed. That is, everything has already been given to us.

These blessings are found “in the heavenly places” (cf. Eph. 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). They are given to us by being identified with Christ, and being “in Christ.” Paul uses the expression “in him,” “in Christ,” or “in the Beloved” eleven times in this small section. Charles Hodge writes, “No doctrine of the Bible, relating to the plan of salvation, is more plainly taught or more wide reaching than that which concerns the union between Christ and his people.”[21] Klyne Snodgrass writes, “‘In Christ’ and related expressions… are among the most important components of Paul’s theology. Every element in Paul’s teachings flows from his understanding about our union with Christ.”[22] In Paul’s letters, he refers to this truth at least 126 times (in the sense of our identity with Christ):

  • “in Christ” occurs 82 times.
  • “in Him” occurs 20 times.
  • “with Christ” occurs 12 times.
  • “with Him” occurs 12 times.

John Stott writes that these truths anchored Paul as he battled with his current house arrest:

Though his wrist was chained and his body was confined, his heart and mind inhabited eternity. He peered back ‘before the foundation of the world’ (verse 4) and on to ‘the fullness of time’ (verse 10), and grasped hold of what ‘we have’ now (verse 7) and ought to ‘be’ now (verse 4) in the light of those two eternities. As for us, how blinkered is our vision in comparison with his, how small is our mind, how narrow are our horizons! Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation with our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and future perfection.[23]

We should not ask God to give us these particular blessings, because he already has! Instead, we should thank God for what he already has given us in Christ. It takes faith to believe that this is the way that things actually are. Paul says that these things are “unseen” (Col. 4:18; cf. Heb. 11:1). Paul later calls on believers to set our minds on these things above (Col. 3:1-4). We are supposed to meditate and think about our identity in Christ regularly.

(1:4) “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” God set up his plan to rescue us before creation. We are not chosen in a Calvinistic sense. We are chosen “in Him.” How was Jesus chosen (Lk. 9:35)? Was he one of many Messiahs? Of course not. Since Christ was God’s “holy and blameless” Messiah, we inherit this quality by being “in Him.” When God looks at us, he sees us as “holy” and “blameless,” just as he sees his Son.

(Eph. 1:4) Does this passage teach that some people are “chosen” for heaven and others are “chosen” for hell?

(1:5) “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…” Again, our predestination is found “through Jesus.” If we are “in Christ,” then we are predestined to be adopted as his sons, just as Jesus was predestined. For material on this blessing of being “adopted” by God, see our earlier article, “From Slaves to Sons: The Fatherhood of God and Spiritual Adoption.”

(Eph. 1:5) Does this verse teach that some are “predestined” for heaven and others for hell? (see also verse 11 and 2 Thess. 2:13)

“…according to the kind intention of His will…” God worked this entire plan because of his kindness. We deserve nothing from God. If he hadn’t initiated this rescue plan through Christ, we would have none of these promises and privileges.

(1:6) “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” The NLT interprets this as an imperative (“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us”). But the term “praise” is a noun in the Greek—not a verb. This isn’t an imperative (i.e. something we do), but rather, this is the result of what God has done.

(1:7) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” Salvation doesn’t cost us anything; it cost God an incredible price: his blood. Wood notes that the verb tense is continuous: “We have and are still having.”[24]

We don’t use the term “redemption” much anymore—maybe only to say that “I redeemed a lottery ticket.” The Greek term (apolytrosin) means “to release from painful interrogation” or “from a captive condition” (BDAG). The root word (apoluo) means “to grant acquittal, set free, release, pardon” (BDAG).

“Forgiveness” (aphesin) means “the act of freeing and liberating something that confines us, release” or “the act of freeing from an obligation, guilt, or punishment, pardon, cancellation” (BDAG). We have been released from guilt.

The concept of understanding the “riches of His grace” comes up throughout the rest of the book. While we might understand this propositionally, it takes faith, prayer, and revelation to understand this personally (Eph. 1:18; 2:7; 3:8; 3:16). We will plunge the depths of God’s grace for all of eternity.

(1:8) “…which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…” The term “lavished” (eperisseusen) means “to be in abundance or abound” (BDAG). God has given us far more than we need. There is no deficit in his grace toward us.

Along with forgiveness, he has given us “wisdom and insight.” We have been brought into the family as sons (v.5) and God doesn’t leave his sons in the dark.

(1:9) “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him…” Just as God made us his “sons” by the “kind intention of his will” (v.5), so too he revealed his will to us by “His kind intention.” Wood writes, “In the rest of Ephesians the content of the plan is more fully elaborated. Here the apostle restricts himself to a brief summary.”[25] Paul brings up the “mystery” of God’s plan later in the letter (Eph. 3:3-4, 9, 5:32; 6:19).

(1:10) “…with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” God has revealed that history will not fizzle out or go on forever. History will culminate in the return of Christ’s rule on Earth. Wood writes, “The mission of Christ extends beyond the human race and assumes cosmic dimensions.”[26] The universe is currently torn apart by sin and death, but Christ’s work on the Cross and his “rule” at his Second Coming will mend our fractured universe.

(Eph. 1:10) Will God save everyone in the end?

(1:11) “In Him, also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will…” Calvinists understand this passage to refer to divine determinism. After all, Paul writes that God “predestined” our inheritance, who works “all things according to the counsel of his will.” However, we would point out that this does not necessarily follow. After all, God’s “purpose” and the “counsel of his will” could include human freewill, if God so desired. We would be going beyond the scope of the text to claim that the “counsel of his will” does not include free moral agency. In other words, how do we know that God didn’t include freewill in his purpose and will? We cannot assume what we are trying to prove.

(1:12) “…to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” Wood understands verses 1-11 to refer to all believers. Here, verse 12 refers to Jewish believers (“we who were the first to hope in Christ”). The following verses are addressed to Gentile believers (“In Him, you also…”).[27] It goes without saying that all of the promises of Ephesians 1:1-12 apply to Jews and Gentiles alike, because Paul writes “you also…” Paul switches from we to “you” in Ephesians 3:1 as well.

(1:13) “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…” Believers receive the Holy Spirit at the moment we come to Christ. At this moment, we are “sealed” (esphragisthete). This word is used of the seal of Daniel’s tomb in the Septuagint (Dan. 6:18) and Jesus’ tomb (Mt. 27:66). Blomberg writes, “Believers are ‘sealed,’ just like an official scroll was kept rolled up by wax insignia joining its two ends together.”[28] Schippers writes,

When used with documents (wills, deeds of sale, etc.) the seal served as a signature to authorize what was written there. Things sealed were at the disposal of the possessor of the seal. This applied not only to private persons, but also particularly to the authorities of a city and to kings. The seal symbolized their authority… It has a legal use: by means of a seal a document (e.g. a marriage contract, Tob. 7:14; or a deed of sale, Jer. 39:10f., 44 [32:10f., 44]) is made valid. All who affix their seals to a document are bound to abide by its contents (Neh. 10:1). To give one’s seal to another implies the transference of authority and power (Gen. 41:42; 1 Ki. 20:8 or LXX 1 Ki 21:8; Est. 3:10; 8:8, 10).[29]

(1:14) “[The Holy Spirit] is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The “pledge” (arrabon) is like a down payment or upfront deposit on something we plan on paying for. Becker writes,

A legal concept from the language of business and trade. It is found only rarely (Isaeus, Aristotle and later grammarians such as Suidas) and means: (1) an installment, with which a man secures a legal claim upon a thing as yet unpaid for; (2) an earnest, an advance payment, by which a contract becomes valid in law; (3) in one passage (Gen. 38:17ff.) a pledge. In each case it is a matter of payment by which the person concerned undertakes to give further payment to the recipient.[30]

Craig Blomberg writes, “Just as individuals who buy something expensive may pay only a portion of its cost ‘up front’ as a pledge that they will supply the rest at a later date… In modern Greek the word can refer to an engagement ring.”[31] Again, the concept of using this in terms of an engagement ring is its modern usage—not its ancient use.

Application

Many of these insights were generously taken from Gary Delashmutt’s teaching notes on Ephesians 1 found here.

Many Christians do not have the joy of the Lord (Phil. 4:4-7), because they do not focus on the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5-6). Paul’s secret to “not losing heart” was “fixing [his] eyes on the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

This might describe you. Maybe you don’t have the joy, peace, and encouragement of Christ. Maybe you’re just as discouraged, angry, anxious, and negative as everyone else. This comes from setting your mind and affections on temporary things.

The question is not, “Do you know these things?” The question is, “Do you dwell and focus on these things?”

Do you think about this rich inheritance at the first sign of trouble? Is it your knee-jerk reaction in times of difficulty?

Are these things becoming more and more the great treasure of your life, so that even when things are going well you enjoy these things even more than your good circumstances?

Delashmutt suggests that we pray through this passage three times a day. Tell God what this means to you. Tell God where you would be without these truths.

Discussion questions

If God has already blessed us with “every spiritual blessing” (v.3), does this mean that we shouldn’t pray and petition for more?

Many believers relate to God like slaves, rather than like sons (v.5). What are some of the similarities and differences between relating to God as slaves versus sons?

Why is security so important in our relationship with God (vv.13-14)? Compare and contrast what it would look like to follow Christ if you didn’t have this sort of security. What would change (e.g. motives, actions, emotions)?

Enjoying intimacy with God

Paul prays that these believers would know and enjoy the blessings that they have been given. This must mean that it’s possible (and likely) that Christians can fail to enjoy the blessings that they have “in Christ.” It must be possible for a Christian to have these positional truths without having this conditional understanding. Otherwise, Paul never would have prayed this.

Paul prays for these believers that they would be able to have intimacy with God, assuming that “knowledge” refers to intimacy (like “knowing” your spouse). In verse 17, he writes, “May [God] give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Paul already explained the propositional knowledge in vv.3-14. Here, he must be referring to personal experience.

(1:15) “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints…” Notice that their faith in Jesus led to their love for Jesus’ people.

(1:16) “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers…” Paul prayed for the Ephesian church constantly. He also prayed and gave thanks for the Roman church (Rom. 1:8), the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:4), the Philippian church (Phil. 1:3), the Colossian church (Col. 1:3), and the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3). If Paul was really praying for all of these groups, he must have really been praying constantly! How did he do this?! Did he pray while he was making tents all day? Did he pray while he was walking and travelling? Elsewhere, Paul tells us to pray “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

(1:17) “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” NIV translates this as, “May [God] give you the Spirit (pneuma) of wisdom and revelation…” Paul has already acknowledged that they have the Holy Spirit (v.13-14). Here, he is saying that they would have a spirit of revelation from God. Since pneuma lacks the article, this could be taken in this way. However, the gift of revelation shouldn’t be separated from the giver of this revelation (i.e. the Holy Spirit).

Even though these believers have these great gifts in their new identity “in Christ,” they do not understand this to the extent that they should. Paul prays for a deeper understanding for them. He prays that God would open up their hearts to really see what it means that they are “in Christ.”

(1:18) “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” The term “enlightened” (pephotismenous) refers to God’s revelation for people—specifically believers in this context. This shows us that some Christians can know these truths propositionally, but not really acknowledge or believe in them personally.

“so that you will know what is the hope of His calling…” Our “hope” is in heaven (Col. 1:5), Christ being in us (Col. 1:27), and Jesus’ return (Titus 2:13). To focus on our hope must mean to focus on eternity with God (Col. 3:1-3). This would include focusing our thoughts, emotions, and investment on eternity. As we reflect on what heaven will be like, we reach moments where we realize, “I am actually going to be there.” This revelation can come through the normal way of sitting in front of the word of God. It can also be a spiritual experience where God makes this reality clear to us in prayer and biblical meditation.

“…what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” This refers to what God has already given us—namely the Holy Spirit in verse 14, which is a pledge of our “inheritance.”

(1:19) “…and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…” This could refer to God’s power in our lives for spiritual growth. Or it could refer to God’s power to use us in affecting others. Or, it could be both! The gospel is the power of the gospel “to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16-17).

(1:20) “which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…” The “hope,” the “riches,” and the “power” of God were all released at the resurrection of Christ. A transaction took place in the heavenly realm when Jesus rose, releasing hope, grace, power, and riches to people who trust in him.

(1:21) “…far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…” This list corresponds roughly to the list given in Colossians 1:16 (“thrones… dominions… rulers… authorities”).

“…and every name that is named…” God exalted Jesus’ name above any other name (Phil. 2:5-11).

“…not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Paul will elaborate on this more in Ephesians 2:7.

(1:22) “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church…” This is a citation of Psalm 8:6. It is quoted elsewhere by Paul (1 Cor. 15:27) and the author to the Hebrews (Heb. 2:6-9). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul links this passage with Psalm 110:1, where it is Christ’s enemies who will be his “footstool” (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Christ is currently ruling from heaven, but he will rule on Earth in the future (Ps. 2).

Regarding Christ’s power over the angels, Wood writes, “Angels were thought to control human destiny, but Paul sees Christ as controlling them with absolute authority because he is infinitely superior.”[32]

If everything in creation is under Jesus’ feet, and the church is identified with Jesus, then “all things” are beneath us, the Church (!!).

(1:23) “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

(Eph. 1:23) Is Jesus incomplete without the church?

Discussion Questions

What is the difference between knowing about God and knowing God personally as verse 17 suggests? Are these concepts mutually exclusive?

What barriers stop believers from focusing on heaven and the “hope of our calling” (v.18)?

What happens when we try to follow Christ out of our own self-effort, rather than God’s power? (v.19) How might we counsel a fellow believer who was serving Christ out of self-effort? How might we be able to identify this?

Ephesians 2 (Personal and corporate salvation)

 

Personal salvation

Paul compares and contrasts what we are by nature, and what we can become by grace.

(2:1) “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…” This is a highly condensed summary of Paul’s argument in Romans 1-3. First, Paul says that the Gentiles are condemned (you were dead,” v.1), then he says that the Jews are condemned (we all once lived in the passion of our flesh,” v.3). Finally, he concludes that all of humanity is under God’s wrath (“were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” v.3).

(Eph. 2:1, 5) Does this verse support the Calvinist doctrine of total inability?

(2:2) “You formerly walked according to the course of this world…” The “world” refers to the world-system (kosmos) created by Satan to lure people away from God and eternal things (see our earlier article “The World-System”).

“…according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Satan is the “unholy spirit” who is “working” (energountos) contrary to how the Holy Spirit is “working” (energountos, 1:19-20).

The “power of the air” is likely a metaphorical reference to “the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

(2:3) “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” The problem with us was our sin “nature” (v.3). We deserved judgment from God (see comments on Rom. 5:12, 14).

(2:4) “But God…” These are two powerful words! God interrupted this process set in motion by Satan, sin, and death, intervening through the person of Christ to rescue us from this horrific fate.

“God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…” God changed us in our nature—from dead to alive. This was purely based on his “mercy” and “love” for us. This word “mercy” (Greek eleos) is the word that the Septuagint used for translating the Hebrew hesed (“loyal love”). Perhaps Paul is harkening back to the great “lovingkindness” of God.

The term “rich” (plousios) usually refers to a rich or wealthy person (BDAG). God isn’t just merciful, but he has a wealth of mercy.

(2:5) “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Notice that Paul speaks about our rebirth as a past event. This is something that is already done. We don’t need to keep praying for God to make us alive… We are already alive “with Christ.”

(2:6) “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Not only are we made alive, but we are seated in honor and privilege next to Christ. We aren’t just brought from a negative state to “zero.” Instead, we move from disgraced sinners to become honored sons—like Christ. To use an illustration, it’s like we went into war but deserted our country out of cowardice, and we defected to the other side, betraying everyone around us. Yet, instead of getting the death penalty (what we deserved), we received the “purple heart” on our lapel when we came home!

While this is already true of us, our role is to “set our minds on things above” (cf. Col. 3:1-4).

(2:7) “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Why did God do this? So that, he could show us off as trophies of his grace for the ages to come. The word for “show” (endeixetai) is the Greek word used for demonstrate or display (2 Cor. 8:24). The gracious rescue of human beings will have cosmic effects. Wood writes, “This eschatological dimension implies that it will be for the benefit of angels as well as men.”[33]

(2:8-9) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The process of salvation (past tense) is by grace, through the means of faith, and apart from works. None of us deserve it.

Note that it isn’t our faith that saves us. Instead, God’s grace saves us, but this is accessed through faith.

(Eph. 2:8) Is “faith” the gift of God or is “grace” the gift of God?

(2:10) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” We are God’s “workmanship” (poiema). This is the word from which we get our English term “poetry.” Therefore, we are not just a work, but a work of art. Like a proud Artist, God wants to show us off (v.7). This word is used in Romans 1:20 to describe God’s artistry in creation, which reveals something about himself (“through what has been made”). John Stott writes, “Towards the end of my time as a theological student at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, the Rev. Paul Gibson retired as Principal, and a portrait of him was unveiled. In expressing his thanks, he paid a well-deserved compliment to the artist. He said that in future he believed people looking at the picture would ask not ‘Who is that man?’ but rather ‘Who painted that portrait?’ Now in our case God has displayed more than skill. A patient after a major operation is a living testimony to his surgeon’s skill, and a condemned man after a reprieve to his sovereign’s mercy. We are both—exhibits of God’s skill and trophies of his grace.”[34]

We often hate aspects of who we are, but we need to trust that God is shaping and molding us. While we can’t see this at the time, we will see it ultimately at our glorification.

These “good works” are not determined. The Greek here is in the subjunctive mood, showing the possibility of these not coming to fruition. We cannot sit back passively and expect God to perform these good works. Our role is to seek, believe, and receive from our new identity “in Christ.”

Discussion Questions

Many people take issue with the fact that humans are born as “children of wrath” (v.3). Respond to the following objection from atheistic philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: “Almost everyone agrees that group punishment is barbaric. You should not be punished for what your father or your state’s governor did, especially if they did it before you were born. Why not? Because their acts were beyond your control, and it is unfair to punish people for what they cannot control. This widely accepted principle of justice would be violated by punishing babies for original sin.”[35]

What would happen in a church if they began slipping back into works-based righteousness? What have you observed in groups like this?

Verse 10 is also a part of our identity when we meet Christ. How would it affect our Christian life if we never understood that God had a plan for us after meeting Christ?

Corporate salvation

Paul now shifts his focus to show the corporate dimension of our new identity. The first half of chapter 2 refers to our peace with God. The second half of chapter 2 refers to our peace with one another.

Historically, Jews and Gentiles were hostile toward one another. But because of the work of the Cross, we are not sociologically and racially unified through our corporate identity in Christ. This was not the primary purpose of the Cross (which indeed was substitutionary atonement), but the corporate dimension is an overflowing and highly important application of the Cross.

(2:11) “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—” Paul opens this section with the term “Therefore…” This refers back to verses 1-10, which in Greek is one sentence.

Gentiles (non-Jews) were literally called by the racist nickname “uncircumcision” or more literally “foreskin” (akrobustia).[36]

(2:12) “remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Before explaining the new standing of Gentiles “in Christ,” Paul encourages them to “remember” what they used to be:

(1) “Separate from Christ.” The Gentiles had heard nothing about the coming Messiah. They weren’t expecting a Savior to come.

(2) “Excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.” The NIV renders this as the Gentiles having no “citizenship” (politeia) in Israel. This could also refer to the legal covenant of having the laws of Israel.[37]

(3) “Strangers to the covenants of promise.” They didn’t have the Abrahamic or Davidic covenants from God—even though these covenants had implications for the Gentiles (Gen. 12:3).

(4) “Having no hope and without God in the world.” Note how our “hope” in life is connecting directly with God’s existence. “Without God” is the Greek word atheos.

(2:13) “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Again Paul interrupts this despairing fate with the two profound words, “But now…” God intervened to bring them “near” to Christ (Isa. 57:19). Wood writes, “‘Far away’ (makran) and ‘near’ (engys) are Hebrew expressions to describe the position of Gentiles and Jews. The original reference related to distance from Jerusalem.”[38]

(2:14) “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” Jesus himself is the (ontological) reason for our peace. Without him, our preaching and teaching would be useless (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19).

Gentiles were excluded from the Temple. Josephus (a famous first century historian) used these words “barrier” and “dividing wall” to describe the wall which separated the Gentiles from coming into the Temple.[39] Josephus wrote that the temple was “encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription which forbade any foreigner [Gentile] to go in under pain of death.”[40] Elsewhere he writes, “No foreigner should go within that sanctuary.”[41] Jewish believers knew that God was near to them (Deut. 4:7), but now, Paul writes that God is near to all people by virtue of the Cross.

Of course, in AD 70, this dividing wall was physically destroyed by the Romans. Here Paul argues that the death and resurrection of Jesus spiritually destroyed this barrier in AD 33.

(2:15) “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace…” It isn’t that the law is “abolished” in the sense that it is annihilated or non-existent. The term katargeo means “to cause something to lose its power or effectiveness, invalidate, make powerless” (BDAG). Because of Jesus, we are released from the power of the law (cf. Rom. 7:6 where the same word is used).

The focus here is between social groups—the Jews and Gentiles. We are not separate human races, but rather one race “in Christ.”

(2:16) “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” Racial reconciliation is now possible through our corporate identity. I can’t hate my brother for being a different race, social class, etc. I can’t exclude or hate someone whom Christ includes and loves. Such a thought is fundamentally inconsistent with my new identity in Christ.

(2:17) “And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near…” Those who were “far away” are the Gentiles, according to verse 13. Those who are “near” are presumably Jewish believers.

How did Jesus preach to all of these people? One interpretation is that he personally did this during his earthly ministry, but this doesn’t seem likely. Instead, Jesus preaches to the world through the Holy Spirit and his Body (i.e. believers).

(2:18) “for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” We can’t look down on other races or groups. All people have equal access to God.

Notice that all three members of the Trinity are mentioned in this verse. Wood comments, “The trinitarian implications of this verse are obvious.”[42]

Concrete application

(2:19) “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household…” The Gentiles went from “strangers” to “fellow citizens.” They went from “strangers” to “saints.” They went from “aliens” to “[members] of God’s household.” The Gentiles formerly had no rights in God’s kingdom or family. Now they are fellow heirs and on the same footing as anyone else.

(2:20) “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone…” Paul calls Jesus the foundation elsewhere (1 Cor. 3:11). Wood writes, “[The cornerstone] covered a right angle joining two walls, as Sir Henry Layard found, for example, when excavating Nineveh. Often the royal name was inscribed on it. In the East it was considered to be even more important than the foundation.”[43]

(2:21) “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord…” Believers have replaced the Temple. Wood writes, “The word used for temple is not hieron, which includes the entire precincts, but naos, the inner shrine. The temple image is applied in the NT both to the individual and the church. For three hundred years Christians had no buildings of their own. The true temple is the whole church.”[44]

“…being fitted together…” This is in the passive voice. As the Master Architect, God is fitting us together as he sees fit.

If the OT Temple has been replaced, how much more have the Pagan temples of Artemis been replaced?

(2:22) “in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” The new Temple is not segregated like the old one. We are being built “together” to form a new temple.

Discussion Questions

Why does Paul compare the church to a citizenship—rather than being an illegal alien? (v.19) What similarities do you see between our relationship with God and being a political citizen of a country?

Why does Paul compare the church to a family?—rather than just a group of people? (v.19) What similarities do you see between our relationship with God and being a member of a family? How are these concepts similar? Where does the analogy break down?

Why does Paul compare the church to a temple? (vv.21-22) In what ways is the church similar to the OT Temple? In what ways does the metaphor break down?

Rhetorical questions

Very few people would admit to being racist, but honestly ask yourself:

Do I talk more about my race than I talk about my identity as a Christian?

Do I subtly separate from others based on their race? Do I fail to initiate with others because of our differences in race?

Ephesians 3 (The mystery revealed)

Paul opens this section by writing the he is being incarcerated for the Gentiles (3:1), and closes this section the same way (3:13). In the middle, Paul argues that this mystery has cosmic consequences—even among the angelic order. Paul’s ministry is tied in with God’s cosmic plan.

(3:1) “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” Imagine getting a phone call from a friend who keeps talking about how great things are going in his marriage, his family, and his job. Then at the end of the phone call, he says, “Oh yeah, and can you offer me some bail money? I’m in the county lockup.” Something similar is happening here with Paul. After a long explanation of the riches of being “in Christ,” Paul tells his readers where he’s sitting while writing: prison!

Paul starts his letter focusing on his position, but here, he begins to reflect on his condition. Paul is modeling for us what it looks like to dwell on our new identity “in Christ.”

Paul willingly allowed himself to be taken prisoner so that he could reach the Gentiles for Christ. Paul is trying to comfort his audience. He is trying to explain that he is locked up in prison, but everything is okay. How does he comfort his audience?

Under the sovereignty of God, Paul viewed himself as Jesus Christ’s prisoner—not Satan’s prisoner or Emperor Nero’s prisoner. If Paul was in prison, it was for the sake of Jesus Christ. Nothing was spinning out of control.

In Acts 21-22, we learn that Paul was imprisoned because of defending the Gentiles. Paul not only believed in the dividing wall being torn down (Eph. 2:14ff), but he was locked up because of it! What an emphatic statement that we probably would simply gloss over.

This is a sentence fragment. Paul includes a noun, but no verb.[45] Inerrancy allows for grammatical errors like this. Grammar doesn’t apply to inerrancy because poor grammar does not invalidate the truth of a person’s message. For instance, imagine if old Bill from Tennessee testified in a court of law, saying this, “That man ain’t the murderer! I done saw him on the other side of town… He was by mine whiskey still, dag nabbit!” No one could find him guilty of perjury simply because his grammar leaves something to be desired. Moreover, grammatical rules are often somewhat subjective, so this really shouldn’t be a defeater of inerrancy.

(3:2) “if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you…” The grace of God relates to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, which he considered a stewardship. God graciously entrusted him with this ministry.

(3:3) “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.” When Paul writes, “I wrote before in brief,” he is probably referring to the previous chapter where the Gentiles are included in the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22).  Later, he will mention that the Gentiles being included in the people of God is the “mystery” to which he is referring (v.6).

(3:4) “By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ…” This is a good passage for perspicuity: the average person can read what Paul wrote and “understand” it—even this deep “mystery” revealed in Christ.

(3:5) “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit…” The mystery was not revealed in the OT. It is new revelation. It was “hidden for ages” (v.9).

(3:6) “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…” This can’t be the complete extent of the mystery (Jew-Gentile relations), because this sort of thing was revealed in the OT (Gen. 12:2-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Ex. 9:16; Josh. 4:24; 1 Kings 8:41-43; Ps. 72:17; Jer. 4:2; Zech. 8:13; Ezek. 36:22-23; Is. 19:24-25; 37:20; 45:22-23; 52:10; 66:18-19). Jew-Gentile unity is one aspect of the mystery hidden, but another could be the death of the Messiah (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).

(3:7) “of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” What were Paul credentials for ministry? These were based (1) on God’s grace and (2) on God’s power (cf. Eph. 1:19-20). John Stott writes, “Once we are sure that the gospel is both truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us.”[46]

(3:8) “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ…” Jewish people looked down on Gentiles for being “sinners.” Here Paul calls himself the worst of all sinners. Then he writes that the worst of sinners is now supposed to preach to the worst of “sinners” (i.e. the Gentiles).

(3:9) “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things…” This language harkens back to Paul’s earlier statement: “He made known to us the mystery of His will… with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times” (Eph. 1:9-10). God kept this mystery hidden from the beginning of creation.

This coupling of “light” and “mystery” with God’s creation could be an indirect attack against proto-Gnosticism, which held that the “secret knowledge” did not belong to the Creator God. Wood writes, “‘God, who created all things’ may be directed against heretical teachers in Asia who anticipated the Gnostic dichotomy between creation and redemption, ascribing the former to subordinate agencies.”[47]

(3:10) “so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Paul isn’t the only one who will reveal this mystery which was hidden. The entire “church” will shout this from the roof tops. Specifically, God will communicate through the church to the angelic realm. This is one of the reasons that the “mystery” seems to extend beyond merely Jewish and Gentile relations. It has a cosmic scope.

(3:11) “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord…” God’s eternal purposes are centered “in Christ.”

(3:12) “in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.” This is not merely abstract theology. When we realize the incredible plan of God, it reminds us of the bold access we have to come into God’s presence (cf. Eph. 2:18).

“Boldness” (parrēsia) means “openness to the public” or “a state of boldness and confidence, courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank” (BDAG). This final definition (“especially in the presence of persons of high rank”) is particularly apropos in view of Paul being on trial in front of the authorities.

“Confidence” (pepoithēsis) means “a state of certainty about something to the extent of placing reliance on, trust, confidence” or “assurance about an outcome, confidence” (BDAG). Paul’s confidence was in the fact that he could come into God’s presence through faith.

(3:13) “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.” The suffering or “tribulations” that these believers were dealing with connect with Paul’s own suffering in prison (Eph. 3:1).

Discussion Questions

Is it deceitful that God would allow mysteries or keep secrets from us?

After studying the subject “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?” we learn that God kept his plan about Jesus’ redemption a secret from everyone—even Satan. Is this just abstract theology? In what way might this help believers as we understand God’s mysterious plan that was revealed through the Cross?

Paul’s prayer

Paul prays (again) that they would understand the depth of God’s love (cf. Eph. 1:18-20). Note Paul’s mention of the three persons of the Trinity in his prayer: the Holy Spirit (v.16), the Son (v.17), and the Father (v.19).[48]

(3:14) “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…” Paul picks up where he left off in verse 1 (“For this reason…”).

Paul bowed in prayer. This outwardly shows an act of humility, respect, and dependence before God. Christians are not commanded to bow when they pray. This is only Paul’s example—not an imperative. Paul taught us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), which must mean that we can’t be bowing at all times. Note that elsewhere, people would stand when they prayed (Lk. 18:11-13).

(3:15) “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name…” Paul has already explained that Jews and Gentiles are one giant family “in Christ” (Eph. 2:18-19). Here, he adds that the family of believers is not just on Earth, but also those who have gone to be with the Lord in heaven.

(3:16) “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…” The “riches” must refer to the riches of his grace and mercy—mentioned earlier (Eph. 1:18; 2:4, 7).

To be “strengthened” is the opposite (in the Greek language) from being “discouraged” in verse 13.[49]

This strengthening occurs in the “inner being” which is in contrast to the “outer man” (2 Cor. 4:16) that is decaying. God wants inner transformation—not merely external behavioral change.

(3:17) “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love…” The term “to dwell” (katoikesai) is in the present continuous sense—that is, an ongoing dwelling of the heart. Many believers walk around with Christ in their heart without allowing him to change their lives (Rev. 3:20). As we allow Christ to make his home in our heart, this leads to stability “being rooted and grounded in love” (Col. 2:7).

To be “established” (tethemeliomenoi) is the language of building a structure “to provide a base for some material object or structure, lay a foundation, found” or “to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen” (BDAG). The God’s love serves as our foundation in life. As we draw strength from his love, we become more stable.

We gain this strengthening and stability “through faith.” Faith is the instrument that connects us with the power of God. Our role is to actively trust in the love and security of Christ.

(3:18) “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth…” We need to learn about God’s love “with all the saints.” This smacks against the concept of “lone ranger” Christianity. We need community and unity.

To “comprehend” (katalabesthai) means “to make something one’s own, win, attain, or to ‘come into possession of an inheritance” (BDAG). We are given this inheritance; now we need to access it and own it through faith.

(3:19) “and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Christ’s love is beyond reason—not against reason. Paul must be referring to an experiential knowledge of Christ.

(3:20) “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…” This prayer might seem impossible. Yet Paul closes the prayer by acknowledging the raw omnipotence of God. Consider what this means as we sit before God in prayer: He is able to answer anything. We don’t pray too much, but too little. We don’t ask for too much, but too little.

(3:21) “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” God gets all of the glory for his incredible work through the Church.

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 15, compare and contrast praying to God as our owner or boss versus praying to God as our Father.

Based on verse 16, compare and contrast inner change and external behavioral change. How are they different? How are they similar?

Compare and contrast experiential knowledge and propositional knowledge. How are these different? How are they similar?

Ephesians 4 (The Body of Christ)

Before we move into chapters 4 through 6, remember that Paul has given virtually no imperatives so far. The only imperative we have read is to “remember” our former way of life (2:12). Chapters 4 through 6 are riddled with imperatives, but these are based on the indicatives of chapters 1 through 3.

If God came and spoke to you in a dream, what would you expect him to say? Many people expect that he would begin by barking orders. But not the God of the Bible! He would begin talking about what he has done for you and how much he loves you. These imperatives only make sense in light of the first half of the book.

(4:1) “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” Paul didn’t believe he was a prisoner of Rome, a prisoner of Satan, or a prisoner of his enemies. If he was chained to a Roman guard, then the chains belonged to the “Lord.” Earlier he called himself a “prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:1).

With the exception of a brief imperative in 2:12, here is the first imperative in the entire book. If all of this is true of us who are “in Christ,” we should live consistently with what’s true.

Unity in the Body of Christ

(4:2) “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…” After making a strong call for believers to walk worthy of their calling, the first attribute Paul mentions is “humility.” Andrew Murray calls this the chief virtue of the Christian life, and it’s interesting that Paul opens with this here. (For more on this subject, see our earlier article “Humility”.)

Gentleness (praytes) refers to “the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance” (BDAG). It can also refer to the concept of self-restraint in our power or strength. Brown writes, “Words from the praÿs group are used of… [tamed] animals.”[50] Jesus had this quality—thus, it cannot refer to weakness. Boice writes, “Gentleness (prautēs) describes the person who is so much in control of himself that he is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.”[51] John Stott writes, “The word was also used of domesticated animals. So ‘meekness’ is not a synonym for ‘weakness’. On the contrary, it is the gentleness of the strong, whose strength is under control. It is the quality of a strong personality who is nevertheless master of himself and the servant of others.”[52]

Patience (makrothymia) can be defined as the “state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome, patience, steadfastness, endurance” (BDAG). It can refer to the preparation of battle. Brown writes, “Being strictly military terms, the various words are readily used as metaphors in connection with the battles of life.”[53] This is the ability to wait on God before the battle and not hit the panic button. This refers to waiting on God “in season or out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2).

“Showing tolerance” (anechomenoi) means “to endure with tolerance, endure, bear with” or “to undergo something onerous or troublesome without giving in, endure” (BDAG). Serving sinful people (like ourselves!) is hard work! Yet this command does not mean to merely tolerate someone, but to go even further: “Showing tolerance for another in love.” God doesn’t merely tolerate us; he loves us. As my friend Gary Delashmutt often says, “Love your fellow believer until you feel affection for them.” C.S. Lewis wrote, “The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”[54]

Jesus is the ultimate example of these virtues. He lived a servant’s life, washing dirty feet, leaving his throne in heaven, and dying the death of a traitor—being crucified naked on a Cross.

(4:3) “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” We aren’t told to create unity. Instead, our collective and corporate identity is “in Christ” (Eph. 2:13-18). So we are told to “preserve” what is already true of us. This term (terēo) means “to retain in custody, keep watch over, guard” or “to cause a state, condition, or activity to continue, keep, hold, reserve, preserve” (BDAG). While the immediate application is between hostile racism (i.e. Jews and Gentiles), how much more should believers resolve their minor differences between friends?

How do we preserve unity? We do so based on the qualities listed in verse 2 (e.g. humility, gentleness, patience, showing tolerance in love, etc.). This is probably what Paul has in mind when he refers to “the bond of peace.”

To be “diligent” (spoudazontes) refers to being “in a hurry” or “to be especially conscientious in discharging an obligation, be zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious” (BDAG).

(4:4) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling…” The reason why we have unity is because we are all a part of the same “Body” of Christ and all have the same “Spirit” and the same “hope.”

(4:5) “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” Here are more reasons why we are unified: we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Is this water baptism or spiritual baptism into Christ? The text simply doesn’t say. That is, it doesn’t give the referent into which we are baptized. It is strange that if Paul had water baptism in mind that he wouldn’t also mention the Lord’s Supper. Either way, Wood is right in noting, “Baptism is one because it makes one. It provides the evidence that all Christians, without discrimination as to color, race, sex, age, or class, share the grace of Christ.”[55]

(4:6) “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” This shows the transcendence of God (“over all”), the sovereignty of God (“through all”), and the imminence of God (“in all”).

Note the three members of the Trinity in verses 4-6.

Body Life

(4:7) “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Christ has given grace to different members in the context of ministry (see verse 11 and following). “Each” individual believer has a gift that Christ has given to them for the purpose of serving him.

(4:8) “Therefore it says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.’” We deal with the theological questions regarding this citation of Psalm 68 below. However, the main point of this passage is that Jesus has passed out gifts to his people after his victory on the Cross.

(Eph. 4:8) Does Paul accurately quote Psalm 68:18?

(4:9-10) “(Now this expression, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)”

(Eph. 4:9-10) What does it mean that Christ “descended into the lower parts of the earth”?

(4:11) “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…” God has gifted the Body of Christ differently, and we shouldn’t be jealous of one another’s gifts. After all, we don’t wake up jealous of God’s gift of the sun. We just appreciate it and get warmed by it. Similarly, when others have greater gifts than ourselves, we need to learn to give thanks for them, rather than having jealousy.

Rather than viewing these gifts as being given for us, Paul seems to be saying that God gave these gifts for the church. That is, he gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Learn to thank God for the people he has gifted to serve the church.

Philip was so gifted in evangelism that he is simply called “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8).

“Pastors and teachers” are “grouped together in such a way as to suggest that the two roles are regarded as complementary and often coordinated in the same person.”[56]

(4:12) “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” It is unbiblical to think that the pastor does all of the ministry in the church. The role of the leadership in the church is to “equip the saints” to do the ministry. The word for “equip” (katartismon) is similar to the training pursued by artists or tradesmen. The gospels use this term to refer to mending fishing nets (Mt. 4:21; Mk. 1:19). God is the ultimate equipper (Heb. 13:21; 1 Pet. 5:10), and he does this through Scripture (2 Tim. 3:17). The goal of equipping is to build up the Body of Christ. Stott writes, “Here is incontrovertible evidence that the New Testament envisages ministry not as the prerogative of a clerical élite but as the privileged calling of all the people of God. Thank God that in our generation this biblical vision of an ‘every-member ministry’ is taking a firm hold in the church.”[57]

Chuck Smith states that this was a key passage in the building of his ministry. We should build up the believers at our fellowship—even if there are only two people there. He says, “The numbers in the church are less important than the quality of the Word being taught.” (see Chuck Smith, “Requirements of a Servant”—sermon)

(4:13) “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Note that we already have unity with other believers (v.3), but we do not have unity in faith here. This is a vision for the church to pursue.

It doesn’t matter if my spiritual gifts and ministry are doing well if the rest of the Body of Christ is crumbling. We “all” need to strive together. Instead of thinking about me, I need to think about we.

(4:14) “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…” Paul contrasts the maturity of adulthood in verse 13 with the immaturity of childhood in this verse.

An integral part of spiritual maturity is to be stable in our doctrine, knowing truth from falsehood. The effect of false doctrine is that we are “tossed here and there” (peripheromenoi) which is also used in Hebrews 13:9 to refer to the effects of false doctrine. It literally means to be “swung around.”[58]

False teachers are not ignorant in their teaching. They are filled with “cunning” and “deceitful scheming.”

(Eph. 4:14) Should we become like children or not?

(4:15) “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” The way to identify a mature believer who has “grown up” is whether or not they “speak the truth in love.” Not only do they know the “truth” from being equipped (v.13), but they also have developed character and ministry skills to adequately “love” others with the truth that they know.

(4:16) “from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” While we might spend a lot of time on building up the quality of the Body of Christ (v.13), the goal is for the Body of Christ to grow in quantity as well. The two are integrally connected.

The “proper working” (epichorēgia) is where we get our term choreography. The Body of Christ needs to work together as a unit.

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 2, what does it look like to tolerate a person versus actively love them?

Based on verse 3, compare and contrast unity in a social club versus the unity we have in Christ. How are they similar? How are they different?

What are creative ways that we might preserve the unity we have in Christ?

We see several key components to biblical community: (1) leadership, (2) equipping, (3) truth, and (4) love. Draw these in four quadrants on the board: “What would happen if we only had three out of the four of these essentials?”

What is our role in developing each of these key components to biblical community? What is God’s role?

How to walk AWAY from God

(4:17) “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind…” It’s possible to be a Christian, but not walk with Christ. The term “futility” (mataiotes) refers to a “state of being without use or value, emptiness, futility, purposelessness, transitoriness” (BDAG). Elsewhere, Paul writes, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21). Once we remove the Creator of the world from our worldview, we also remove the answers to many key aspects of life (e.g. meaning, purpose, moral values, etc.).

(4:18) “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart…” Those who don’t know Christ cannot say that they are “ignorant” in the modern sense—meaning they simply lack the adequate information. Paul writes elsewhere that humans “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). Thus the problem isn’t a lack of knowledge, but a suppression of it. The reason they are ignorant is because of the “hardness of their heart” and their suppression of truth.

The term “hardening” (pōrōsis) is “state or condition of complete lack of understanding, dullness, insensibility, obstinacy” (BDAG). Wood writes, “It is used medically to denote the callus formed when a bone has been fractured and reset. Such a callus is even harder than the bone itself.”[59]

(4:19) “and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” When we divorce ourselves from God, we experience the pain and despair of living apart from him. Just like callouses might form on the worn hands of a construction worker, Paul says that our own hearts can become “callous.” We all know what it’s like to develop callouses on our fingers. Callouses dull the skin to sensation over time (e.g. a guitar player gets callouses on his fingertips). Such a thing can happen to your heart! By continually rejecting God, we can build up an insensitivity to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Just as verse 18 reflects Romans 1:18-23, so too verse 19 reflects Paul’s repeated statement that God “gave them over” to their own desires (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

Because the person without God feels empty, they thirst for sensual experiences and an ever increasing need to fill the void. The term “greed” (pleonexia) comes from the root words pleon (“more”) and echo (“to have”). Brown writes, “Greek writers did not confine their use of these words merely to the desire for more material possessions. In the earliest instance of it, pleonexia denotes immoral lust for power (Herodotus, 7, 149). In Thucydides (3, 82) it is, together with philotimia (ambition), the decisive force in human action and the progress of history. In Plato pleonekteō means both to surpass someone in a just action and also to defraud. The noun is used by Plato and Aristotle always negatively in the sense of desire and covetousness, including sexual desire.”[60]

Discussion Questions

How would you be able to identify if someone was suffering from a hardened heart? What warning signs would you see before this process took an effect on a person?

How to walk WITH God

(4:20) “But you did not learn Christ in this way…” Paul contrasts this entire worldview and way of life with the Christian world and life view.

(4:21) “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus…” This is a first-class conditional in Greek.[61] Paul is literally writing, “If—and I’m assuming for the sake of argument—you have heard Him.”

The terms “learn” (v.20) and “taught” (v.21) implies Christian discipleship. What were they taught? Moral behavior management? New spiritual disciplines? In the following verses, Paul writes that they were taught about their old and new identity “in Christ.”

(4:22-24) “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” This passage is parallel to Paul’s excursus in Romans 6-8. If sin starts in the mind, then it needs to be changed in the mind. We can’t jump to changing behavior. We need to remember our new identity and have a change of thinking before acting. As we reflect on our new life in Christ, we can fill that empty void and start to live for others.

Note how the new identity (vv.22-24) now relates to a change of life (vv.25-32)

(4:25) “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” Paul is probably quoting Zechariah 8:16. The reason that we shouldn’t lie is (1) lying is fundamentally inconsistent with the “truth” found in Jesus (v.21) and (2) lying is inconsistent with being “members of one another.” He doesn’t base his argument on individual identity, but corporate identity. Unity in the Body of Christ is more important than my ego. Lying breaks down trust, which breaks down the community.

(4:26) “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…” Paul cites Psalm 4:4. Here, he shows that there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous anger. It’s possible (in fact commanded) to “be angry.” (For more on this topic, see our earlier article “Anger”).

(4:27) “and do not give the devil an opportunity…” How does anger give Satan an “opportunity”? When we are embroiled with bitterness (internally) or lashing out at one another (externally), Satan can cause division or mistrust to fester. Elsewhere, Paul states that one of Satan’s “schemes” is to capitalize on situations where we refuse to forgive (cf. 2 Cor. 2:10-11).

(4:28) “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” The reason that we should work hard is so that we can become a giver. Sluggards think of meeting their own needs, sometimes through stealing and other times through mooching off of the Body of Christ. They need to learn to work, so they can become givers to the true needy.

(4:29) “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The term “unwholesome” (sapros) was used of rotten trees (Mt. 7:17-18), rotten fruit (Mt. 12:33), and rotten fish (Mt. 13:48). BDAG defines sapros as “bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful, bad, evil, unwholesome.” Proverbs says, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18).

When we fall prey to unwholesome speech, often we are missing an opportunity to build someone up (cf. Jas. 3:1-13). This would come to bear on those who constantly jabber, joke around, and make small talk, but never think to edify those around them. Wood remarks, “In connection with ‘talk’ (logos), it may signify not simply bad language but malicious gossip and slander. Anything that injures others and sparks dissension is covered by the expression.”[62]

(4:30) “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” In this context, grieving the Holy Spirit refers to disunity in Christian community. Note that we can “grieve” the Holy Spirit, but we are still “sealed” with the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). This shouldn’t lead us into a state of guilt. The Holy Spirit isn’t grieved for His own sake, but for our sakes, because we aren’t experiencing the full life that God has for us.

(4:31) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Here are some of the most negative aspects of the old self:

“Bitterness” (pikria) can refer to a bitter taste (as the word is also used in English), but in this context it means “bitter in an affective sense, bitterness, animosity, anger, harshness” (BDAG). Aristotle used the term to refer to people who are “hard to be reconciled” (Nicomachean Ethics 4.11).[63]

“Wrath” (thymos) refers to an “intense expression of the inner self, frequently expressed as strong desire, passion, passionate longing” (BDAG; see Rev. 14:8 “passion”). Here it is used of “a state of intense displeasure, anger, wrath, rage, indignation” (BDAG).

“Anger” (orgē) means a “state of relatively strong displeasure, with focus on the emotional aspect” (BDAG). Jesus showed anger (Mk. 3:5), as does God (Heb. 3:11; Rom. 12:19). Scripture teaches us to be “slow to anger” (Jas. 1:19), or as Paul put it earlier to “be angry, but do not sin” (v.26). (Again, see our earlier article “Anger”).

“Clamor” (kraugē) is translated “harsh words” (NLT) or “brawling” (NIV). It is defined as “a loud cry or call” or “literally a shout” (BDAG; see Acts 23:9). This would refer to shouting matches or raising your voice at others in an unrighteous way—probably to intimidate, scare, or punish a person with a loud display of anger.

“Slander” (blasphēmia) refers to “speech that denigrates or defames, reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander” (BDAG).

“Malice” (kakia) is “the quality or state of wickedness, baseness, depravity, wickedness, vice” or “a mean-spirited or vicious attitude or disposition, malice, ill-will, malignity” (BDAG).

(4:32) “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Here are the positive aspects of the new self.

“Kind” (chrēstos) has a broad semantic range. It can be translated as “kind, loving, benevolent” (BDAG). It is translated as “easy” when Jesus teaches that his “yoke is easy” but his burden is light (Mt. 11:30).

“Tender-hearted” (eusplagchnos) is to have “tender feelings for someone, compassionate” (BDAG).

“Forgiving” (charizomai) means “to give freely as a favor, give graciously” (BDAG; see Rom. 8:32). It is also rendered “to cancel a sum of money that is owed, cancel” or “to show oneself gracious by forgiving wrongdoing, forgive, pardon” (BDAG). The same word is used of how God has forgiven us in this same verse.

The solution to the overt sin in verse 31 is not to make people “nicer.” The solution is learning how to be kind, forgiving, and compassionate—actively loving the people around us.

Discussion question

Based on verse 25, how would you counsel a fellow believer who was a compulsive liar? What would you share that might help them grow in this area?

Based on verse 26, what is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger? What are some examples of righteous anger? What is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger?

Based on verse 27, in what way do you think Satan might use unrighteous anger in Christian community?

Based on verse 28, compare and contrast the mindset of a person who is living to take versus living to give to others. What are subtle ways that we might identify these mindsets in someone’s life?

Ephesians 5 (Imitating God)

(5:1) “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children…” What is the basis for imitating God? The basis is our new identity, having been changed from children of wrath (Eph. 2:1) to children of God.

(5:2) “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” What is the basis for loving others? The basis is that Christ loved us first (“…just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…”).

What type of love is Paul describing? He is referring to nothing less than sacrificial love, because he uses Jesus’ sacrificial death as the indicative.

Since the death of Jesus is pictured as a “fragrant aroma,” this must mean that God accepted his substitutionary death for us.

(5:3) “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…” The combined words “immorality” (Greek porneia) and “impurity” (Greek “akatharsia”) cover every type of immorality. John Stott writes, “The Greek words for fornication (porneia) and impurity (akatharsia) together cover every kind of sexual sin, in other words all sexual intercourse outside its God-ordained context of a loving marriage.”[64]

“Greed” (pleonexia) comes from the root words pleon (“more”) and echo (“to have”). Brown writes, “Greek writers did not confine their use of these words merely to the desire for more material possessions. In the earliest instance of it, pleonexia denotes immoral lust for power (Herodotus, 7, 149). In Thucydides (3, 82) it is, together with philotimia (ambition), the decisive force in human action and the progress of history. In Plato pleonekteō means both to surpass someone in a just action and also to defraud. The noun is used by Plato and Aristotle always negatively in the sense of desire and covetousness, including sexual desire.”[65]

When he writes that these should not be “named,” it means that these aren’t “fitting” (NET) or “have no place” (NIV) with the new identity. After all, God doesn’t engage in such things, and we’re children of God (v.1). Wood notes that sexual immorality “was tolerated in the permissive pagan society of Paul’s day.”[66] Paul is being countercultural in calling for this.

(5:4) “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” This pertains to our language with others:

“Filthiness” (aischrotēs) is the only usage of this term in the NT. It refers to “behavior that flouts social and moral standards, shamefulness, obscenity” (BDAG).

“Silly talk” (mōrologia) comes from the Greek word mōros, which means “foolish, stupid” (BDAG). This is the only time mōrologia is used in the NT, as well. It refers to “stupid chatter or silly twaddle.”[67]

“Coarse jesting” (eutrapelia) is also the only usage of this word in the NT. This word is not always meant in the negative sense. It is usually used in a positive sense: “mostly in a good sense: ‘wittiness’, ‘facetiousness’” (BDAG). In a negative sense, it means jokes that are vulgar—often involving sex. The NEB translates this as “flippant talk.” This would refer to constant sarcasm. “Sarcasm” from the Greek literally means to “to tear flesh” or “strip flesh.”

The new identity in practical life

(Eph. 5:5-6) Is Paul teaching works here?

(5:5) “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Non-believers (i.e. those who lack a new identity in Christ) will never inherit the kingdom.

(5:6) “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Notice the present tense. God’s wrath currently comes down on unbelievers, because he “gave them over” (Rom. 1:24-28) or “have given themselves over” (Eph. 4:18) to an empty and damaging way of life.

(5:7) “Therefore do not be partakers with them…” Why would we partake with non-believers if we know where that leads for them? Their lifestyle leads to God’s passive wrath (i.e. giving them over). Why would we want to follow them down this path?

(5:8) “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light…” Without our new identity, we deserve God’s judgment. Since we have been transferred to a new identity (cf. Col. 1:13), we are a new creation and shouldn’t live apart from God anymore. We should line up our lives with who we already are “in Christ.”

(5:9) “(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)” This is similar to 1 Thessalonians 5:5. Here, Paul defines what “light” looks like. He doesn’t want to be misunderstood (by proto-Gnostic teachers). “Light” doesn’t result in licentiousness or asceticism (as Gnosticism taught). Instead, God’s revelation results in love, goodness, etc.

(5:10) “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” This could refer to discovering God’s will for our lives, which Paul mentions later (vv.15-17). Wood writes, “Those who live as ‘children of light’ …will be continually endeavoring to ascertain what is the will of God in every situation so that all they do may satisfy him.”[68]

(5:11, 13) “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them… But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” To “expose” (elenchete) means “to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth” or “to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince someone of something point something out to someone (BDAG). It can also be used in the sense of reproof or rebuke (2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Tim. 5:20). We expose false beliefs and sin through our lifestyle of love, worldview analysis, persuasion, sharing our faith, etc. This does not refer to picketing non-Christians. Instead, it refers to exposing darkness by letting in the light of a changed mind and life.

Paul could also be arguing that because believers have been changed and transformed by God that this could serve as an example to the non-believer.[69] Verse 14 is a call for the non-believer to receive the light of Christ also.

(5:12) “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” Fitting with his theme above about filthy language, there are some acts that are inappropriate to even speak about.

(5:14) “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Paul is not citing any direct OT Scripture here—though it may be an allusion to passages from Isaiah 9:2; 26:19; 51:17; 52:1; 60:1.

(5:15) “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise…” The expression “be careful” can also be rendered “look carefully at how you walk.” This implies that we’re taking time to reflect on our lives, and asking the hard questions, “Am I being wise with my time, talents, and treasures? Am I investing wisely?”

While big decisions aren’t always in Scripture (e.g. dating, marriage, career, investments, etc.), we have a biblical imperative to be wise in these areas. We only have one shot to make it count for eternity, so we shouldn’t waste our time.

(5:16) “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” How does “making the most of our time” relate to the fact that “the days are evil”? Paul must be warning us that we are surrounded by the world system which is vying for our attention and affections. We face a tacit and continuous pull toward temporary and transitory pursuits.

(5:17) “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Since the issue of wisdom is not explicitly taught with big decisions (e.g. marriage, career, investments), Paul doesn’t seem to be thinking of God’s explicit moral will (e.g. adultery is wrong, murder is wrong). He must be thinking of God’s implicit will in the grey areas of life.

(5:18) “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…” Drunkenness is mutually exclusive with being filled with the Spirit. As we are filled with the Spirit and being fulfilled with him, we don’t feel the need to turn to drunkenness. Interestingly, Wood points out, “On the day of Pentecost the effect of such an experience was mistaken for drunkenness.”[70] Being filled with the Spirit has an ecstatic effect on the believer. By this, we do not mean irrational or bizarre behavior. Instead, we mean that believers experience a lifting of their spirit when they are filled with the Spirit.

This doesn’t refer to being sealed with the Spirit, but being filled with him. This is an ongoing and daily opportunity.

How do we get filled with the Spirit? The following verses may explain this…

(5:19) “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…” Speaking the psalms to one another can fill us with the Spirit. In this case, Paul wants us to sing in our own hearts to God. This can fill us with the Spirit.

(5:20) “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…” Giving thanks to God fills us with his Spirit (see “The Lost Virtue of Gratitude”). Even after a few minutes of giving thanks, we experience our spirits are lifted and our soul experiences God’s peace (Phil. 4:6).

(5:21) “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” This participle (“submitting to one another” ESV) seems to show how to be filled with the Spirit. When we develop a Christ-like attitude of servanthood and humility to others, God fills us with his Spirit. It’s funny how serving others in love can lift our spirits and change our emotions and subjective feelings.

Since the content of this passage is so similar to verse 22 and following about marriage, scholars debate if this passage looks backward or forward.[71] Commentators sometimes call these “Janus verses” based on the Roman god Janus who had two faces: one looking backward and one looking forward. Thus verse 21 could look both backward to being “filled with the Spirit” (v.18) and forward to the humble attitude needed in marriage, work, and home life. Without the filling of the Spirit, how can we have the attitudes and behaviors Paul describes regarding marriage, work, and home life?

Marriage

Christian marriage counselors sometimes refer to these sections as “mail” written to different people. Here, Paul is writing to wives, and later, he writes to husbands. But we shouldn’t “read each other’s mail.” That is, wives need to take to heart what is written to them, and husbands should take to heart what was written to them too. We shouldn’t use these passages against each other, but strive to do our part in making marriage work.

(5:22) “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” The words “be subject” are not in the Greek. Commentators (rightly) infer these words from the previous verse, where we are supposed to “be subject to one another,” as well as verse 24, where the term is explicitly used. Any teaching on the authority of a husband in the home should be understood through the lens of mutual submission and humility (v.21).

Note that this submission to her husband’s leadership is voluntary. For one, it is voluntary in whom she chooses to marry. Secondly, this is the daily decision of a wife to listen to and respect her husband’s initiative. As a wife, will you voluntarily choose to submit to your husband’s sacrificial leadership? Will you respond to his (imperfect) efforts to initiate love and spiritual conversation?

(5:23) “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” Paul compares marriage to Jesus’ love for the Church. Wood writes, “The marriage relationship is now set out as being a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church. This is to raise it to an unimaginably lofty level… Marriage is thus interpreted in the sublimest terms. It is compared with the marriage of the Lamb to his bride.”[72]

(5:24) “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” This would mean to “respect” her husband’s leadership and initiation (v.33).

(Eph. 5:22-24) Was Paul a sexist pig? (links to “Christianity and Women”)

In Greco-Roman societies, this epistle would end right here. As Wood writes, “In Greco-Roman society it was recognized that wives had obligations to their husbands, but not vice versa.”[73] But Paul now turns to husbands to share their role in the home…

(5:25) “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Husbands take their example from Christ. If necessary, the husband is even supposed to die for his wife. Since the husband and wife are one flesh, loving your spouse is like loving yourself. Think of how much time we spend thinking about ourselves—this is how we’re supposed to love our wife (v.28, 33).

Husbands are supposed to “love” (agapate) their wives and lead the home as servant-leaders—like Christ led. One of the biggest complaints in marriage counseling is that wives are frustrated with their husbands’ lack of initiation and servant-leadership in the household.

Elsewhere, Paul writes that husbands “should not be harsh” with their wives (Col. 3:19 NIV).

(5:26) “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…” Jesus sanctified us through baptism and his word. In this passage, Paul is using the term sanctification to refer to Jesus’ role—not ours.

(5:27) “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” This looks back to Jesus’ work in making the church “holy and blameless” (Eph. 1:4). Again, this isn’t something that we do, but something he has done for us.

(5:28) “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself…” This interconnectedness of the husband and wife makes sense because (1) Genesis 2:24 speaks of the two becoming “one flesh,” and (2) believers are all members of one body “in Christ.” Again, Wood contrasts this with the Greco-Roman society: “She is not to be treated as a piece of property, as was the custom in Paul’s day. She is to be regarded as an extension of a man’s own personality and so part of himself.”[74]

(5:29-30) “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.” Paul directs husbands to look at the example of Jesus, who loves and nourishes the Body of Christ.

(5:31) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Paul cites Genesis 2:24.

(5:32) “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Paul understands that the picture of marriage in some mysterious way reflects the love of Christ for his Church. When people enter the Body of Christ, they are supposed to see the love of God (Jn. 13:33-34; 17:21, 23). Likewise, Christian marriages are supposed to reflect God’s love to the world.

F.F. Bruce understands this “mystery” in this way: “The formation of Eve to be Adam’s companion is seen to prefigure the creation of the church to be the bride of Christ. This seems to be the deep ‘mystery’ contained in the text, which remains a mystery no longer to those who have received its interpretation.”[75]

(5:33) “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” Is there significance to the fact that wives are supposed to show respect, while husbands are supposed to show love? Is there a difference in how we are created that we benefit from the one more than the other? Or perhaps, does each spouse have more of a felt-need for one rather than the other?

Discussion Questions

Based on verse 10: “How is it possible to please the Lord if we are already pleasing to him in our new identity? How does this fit with the notion that God loves us unconditionally in Christ?”

Young adults still want a successful marriage, but less are getting married. What might be some reasons for this phenomenon?

The Huffington Post recently (2014) published an online article called, “Ten Reasons It’s Totally Fine To Never Get Married.” Here are a few of the reasons listed:

  1. Marriage [is] an outdated institution.
  2. Can put your friendships at risk.
  3. Relying on one individual for every emotional need.
  4. Requires a serious commitment of time and energy.
  5. Plenty of marriages… end up in a divorce.
  6. [A good alternative is] a civil union.

Which statements do you think Christians can agree on? Which do you disagree with? Why?

What are some ways to get prepared for marriage, if we’re single?

Ephesians 6 (Children and Slaves)

 

Parents and children

(6:1) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” This refers to “children” (BDAG), not grown adults. Women give birth to children (1 Tim. 2:15; cf. 5:14), so little children must be in view. It can be translated as “descendants,” but context must inform our interpretation.

Wood notes, “It is interesting that Paul addresses children directly.”[76] Children were able to hear the Word of God and respond to it. This also shows that children are valuable—especially if they are being directly addressed.

Colossians 3:20 adds that children should be obedient “in everything.”

The children are not supposed to only listen to their fathers, but to both their “parents.”

“In the Lord” must speak to the teaching of the Lord Jesus. In other words, children shouldn’t submit if their parents are asking them to disobey a direct teaching of the Bible (e.g. violence, stealing, etc.).

(6:2-3) “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” Paul cites the 5th commandment (Ex. 2012; Deut. 5:16).

“Honor” (tima) means “to set a price on, estimate, value” or “to show high regard for, honor, revere” (BDAG). This teaches us to value the relationship with our parents—even though they are sinful—and to honor them wherever we can.

When Paul refers to the “first commandment,” this doesn’t mean that this is the first one listed (it’s actually the fifth—not the first). Instead, Paul is saying, “This is the first commandment that also has a promise attached to it.” In the Ten Commandments, this passage is the first one to specifically tell us “that it may be well with you” (v.3). In other words, the reason why we should submit to authority in the home is because it is good for us. God will show “lovingkindness” to those who “keep [His] commandments” (Deut. 5:10).

(6:4) “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The term “provoke” (NASB) or “exasperate” (NIV) is paraorgizete. It comes from the root orge which means “anger.” It is used in Ephesians 4:26 to refer to anger that leads to giving Satan a foothold. While fathers have delegated authority in the home, they’re commanded to be gentle. Wood notes, “In a society where the father’s authority (patria potestas) was absolute, this represented a revolutionary concept.”[77]

“Bring them up” (ektrephete) means “to provide food, nourish” as well as “to bring up from childhood, rear, bring up” (BDAG). This implies providing for them both physically and spiritually.

“Discipline” (paideia) means “the act of providing guidance for responsible living, upbringing, training, instruction… discipline, correction” (BDAG). A Christian father’s discipline is not one of “anger” or “exasperation,” but a form of love.

“Instruction” (nouthesia) comes from the root words nous (“mind”) and tithēmi (“put”). It can be defined as “counsel about avoidance or cessation of an improper course of conduct, admonition, instruction” (BDAG). Christian fathers should put the truth of God on their children’s minds, direct them, correct them, and encourage them. This is all done in love for the child.

Discussion Questions

Why would obeying parents be good for us and the family unit?

Are there ever times when we would be obligated not to obey our parents?

What are some ways to prepare for parenting, if you’re not a parent yet?

Slaves and masters

(6:5) “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.” See “The Bible and Slavery.”

(6:6) “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” “Eyeservice” refers to “working hard only when their master is watching them.”[78] Wood also notes that most slaves had no reason to work hard, because they owned none of the property or the profits. This imperative would have been a way to show that these Christian slaves were distinct, working hard for those in charge of them, while other slaves dragged their feet. For modern application, this would apply to Christian workers making a concerted effort in the workplace to serve well in their roles.

The purpose is not to be “man pleasers,” being workaholics for the sake of the work or success. Instead, the point is to have a good witness, hopefully leading those in authority to faith in Christ. Wood writes, “The double reference to Christ is all the more relevant in the light of our Lord’s own servanthood. He himself took the form of a slave and performed the menial task of washing his disciples’ feet. As servants of the one who became the servant of men, Christian slaves will enthusiastically (ek psychēs) embrace the known will of God in this respect.”[79]

(6:7) “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Slavery would feel like a completely hopeless and meaningless existence. Paul notes that God is watching their labor of love to reach their masters, and he will personally reward them (v.8).

(6:8) “knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.” In a world where slaves received nothing for their labor, here Paul shows that slaves will be richly compensated by God himself. Moreover, both “slaves and free” will be evaluated by the Lord. This would have been a countercultural concept in the first century.

(6:9) “And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” There probably weren’t a lot of Christian slave masters in the first-century, but there must have been some (e.g. Philemon). Otherwise, why would Paul include this?

Paul targets the hearts of the slave masters. Rather than calling for abolition directly, he calls for empathy, fairness, and love. He also places them on the same footing as the slaves who have the same “Master” in heaven.

Spiritual warfare

Paul gives several instructions for battling Satan in Ephesians 6. Paul was chained to a Roman guard when he wrote this letter. So it shouldn’t surprise us that he would use the Roman soldier as his illustration for spiritual warfare:

(6:10) “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” We can’t battle Satan out of our own power. The expression (“be strong”) is actually passive—not active. It could be better rendered “let yourself be strengthened.”[80]

(6:11) “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Paul was chained to a Roman guard when he wrote this letter, so he may have gotten his idea on this section by looking at this Roman soldier sitting next to him. Though, Wood notes that “it is not altogether certain that such a custodian would have been in full battle dress.”[81] All the same, Paul probably had a lot of time to talk to the Roman guards about their service and warfare.

Note that we need the “full armor,” not just some of it. McCallum writes, “If we have some pieces in place, that’s good. But our enemy is plenty smart enough to see which pieces are missing and strike there.”[82]

“Stand” (stēte) is a “military term for holding on to a position.”[83]

The term for “schemes” is methodeias (or “methods” of the Devil; cf. Eph. 4:14).

(6:12) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Various names for demons are given here:

“Rulers” (archoi) were defeated by Jesus (Eph. 4:9).

“Powers” (kosmokrators) was a term that “occurs frequently in classical and rabbinical literature. It denotes one who aspires to world control. It was attached to savior gods in the ethnic religions and identified with the sun.”[84]

“Spiritual forces of wickedness” (ta pneumatika tēs ponerias) refers to the “language of contemporary astrology in which the heavenly bodies were regarded as the abode of demons who held human lives in their grip. Pagans had no option but to resign themselves to an unalterable destiny. But Christians can fight against such malign influences.”[85]

“In the heavenly realms” (hoi epouranioi) could refer back to “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).

(Eph. 6:12) Are the rulers and authorities human institutions or demonic institutions?

(6:13) “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” The “evil day” could look back to the fact that “the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

(6:14) “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth…” Paul cites Isaiah 11:5 and 59:17, which in context refer to the Messiah’s armor or Yahweh’s armor. Could it be that because we are “in Christ” that we gain Jesus’ armor? After all, we find truth in Jesus (Eph. 4:21), why not his spiritual armor as well?

The belt in Roman armor served as the “jock strap” that would hold all of the other armor and weapons together. God’s truth is central to our battle with Satan. If we rest in our own abilities or competence, we will surely lose an argument with him.

Most Christians are woefully ignorant of the Bible—our foundation for battling the evil one. Barna studied how many Christians hold to a Christian worldview.[86] He defined a biblical worldview in this way:

The definition requires someone to believe that absolute moral truth exists; that the source of moral truth is the Bible; that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches; that eternal spiritual salvation cannot be earned; that Jesus lived a sinless life on earth; that every person has a responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others; that Satan is a living force, not just a symbol of evil; and that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful maker of the universe who still rules that creation today.

He found that only 5% of Americans held to a biblical worldview!

“…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” The breastplate protected the Roman soldier from a death blow from the enemy. Some commentators believe that this is our righteousness that we should display.[87] However, this is the worst way we could battle Satan! Satan relishes in our desire to defend ourselves based on our own righteousness, because we are fallen and he can find innumerable chinks in such an armor. Instead, Paul writes, “Be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Phil. 3:9; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). McCallum writes, “When Christians take their seat with Christ, not based on their own good works, Satan loses his most potent weapon: accusation.”[88] We agree with Wood who writes, “The Christian’s protection is not to be sought in any works of his own but only in what Christ has done for him and in him.”[89] Finally, Merrill Unger writes, “The evil one delights to see a saint become occupied with what he is or does in himself rather than with what he is or does in his position in Christ. This is tantamount to leaving the protection of the mighty fortress God has provided in Christ for the perils of the unprotected open field… It is the omnipotent power of God that Satan dreads, and that power only becomes available to the believer as he counts on what Christ has done for him and is waiting to do through him in response to his faith.”[90]

(6:15) “…and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…” Josephus describes the shoes of Romans soldiers as being “full of thick and sharp nails” (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.1.85). Roman soldiers needed strong traction and good shoes in battle. If you slipped during a fight, you would become vulnerable to be trampled or stabbed.

The “gospel of peace” might refer to our message for others. Jesus said that believers should remain on the offensive—not the defensive (Mt. 16:18). It could also refer to the peace that we have with God through Christ. Perhaps, both understandings are in view.

(6:16) “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” The Roman shield “consisted of two layers of wood glued together, covered with linen and hide, and bound with iron. Soldiers often fought side by side with a solid wall (testudo) of shields. But even a single-handed combatant found himself sufficiently protected. After the siege of Dyrachium, Sceva counted no less than 220 darts sticking into his shield.”[91] This is probably not a separate piece of armor, but our trust in the armor we have. The word “faith” is synonymous with “trust.” As we recite the great truths of Scripture, we need to exert personal trust in the fact that these are true. While we might feel one way, we need to remember what is actually true of us.

Regarding the “flaming arrows,” Wood writes, “Herodotus described how cane darts… were dipped in pitch and then ignited. Octavius used such arrows against Antony’s fleet at Actium and they were not unknown in OT times. The reference is not, as some have surmised, to poisoned darts producing fever.”[92]

Note that believers do not merely deflect the arrows through faith, but they “extinguish” them.[93] This must refer to refuting Satan’s accusations toward us, others, or God.

It’s hard for us to discern true “faith” in others, but Satan can see directly through unbelief or phony trust in God, as he did with the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16).

(6:17) “And take the helmet of salvation…” Again, Paul cites Isaiah 59:17 to show that Yahweh wore (wears) this helmet. Going along with the notion of our position in Christ, we need to rest in God’s love for us—not our moral perfection. This involves declaring the great truths of justification and security in Christ to God, to Satan, and to ourselves (Rom. 8:31-33). We need to outwardly and verbally express the confidence of our salvation (1 Jn. 5:13).

“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Paul says that the sword of the Spirit “is the word of God.” This would refer to knowing Scripture, memorizing key Scriptures, and reciting them and believing in them (Mt. 4:4). McCallum writes, “If Christian history teaches us anything, it’s that Satan is desperate to keep us away from the Bible, or at least to undermine our confidence in it. Wouldn’t you, if you were him? What an awesome accomplishment! Success in this area would mean getting those who are supposed to attack his kingdom to enter battle without their swords!”[94]

(6:18) “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” Here prayer refers outward to others (“petition for all the saints… that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth”). This refers to getting believers grounded and rooted and for sharing the message of Christ (vv.19-20).

(6:19) “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” Paul needed prayer. How often do we ask others to pray for us? Why would we hesitate?

Note that Paul doesn’t ask that they would pray for non-Christians (though other passages certainly teach this; cf. 1 Tim. 2:1ff). Instead, he asks them to pray for him—that he would have the right words to share when he opens his mouth.

“Boldness” (en parrhēsia) implies that Paul struggled with fear; otherwise, he never would’ve asked for this. In fact, he prays for this twice (v.20).

(6:20) “for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ambassadors usually had diplomatic immunity. Paul ironically notes that he is an “ambassador in chains.”

“In chains” is actually singular. It probably refers to the chain connecting him with his guard (cf. Acts 28:20).

Conclusion

(6:21-22) “But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” This is almost a word-for-word duplication of Colossians 4:7-8. Paul sent Tychicus probably because these believers were worried for him. That’s why Tychicus would “comfort [their] hearts.”

(6:23) “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This summarizes the main themes that Paul wrote in Ephesians: peace with God and fellow believers, love, and faith.

(6:24) “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” The old self is “being corrupted” (Eph. 4:22), but Jesus loves us with “an incorruptible love.”

Discussion questions

Why does Paul compare his work of evangelism to being an ambassador? In what ways are Christian “ambassadors” and political “ambassadors” similar? In what ways are they different?

[1] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 304.

[2] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 47). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[3] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[4] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[5] John Stott writes, “The Pauline authorship of Ephesians was universally accepted from the first century until the beginning of the nineteenth.” John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 16-17.

[6] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[7] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 304.

[8] Wood explains that Paul may have written from prison in (1) Rome, (2) Ephesus, or (3) Caesarea. However, he follows the traditional view that Paul wrote from Rome. Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[9] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 17.

[10] Gundry writes, “The phrase ‘in Ephesus,’ which refers to the locale of the addresses (1:1), is missing in the most ancient manuscripts. Thus Paul omits the geographical location of the addresses altogether.” Gundry, Robert Horton. A Survey of the New Testament. 4th Edition ed. [Grand Rapids]: Zondervan Pub. House, 2003. 422.

John Stott writes, “The words ‘at Ephesus’ are not to be found, however, in the earliest Pauline papyrus (Chester Beatty 46) which dates from the second century. Origen in the third century did not know them, and they are absent from the great fourth-century Vatican and Sinaitic codices. The matter is further complicated by the fact that Marcion in the middle of the second century referred to Ephesians as having been addressed ‘to the Laodiceans’. Since Paul himself directed the Colossians both to see that his letter to them be read ‘in the church of the Laodiceans’ and that they themselves ‘read also the letter from Laodicea’, some have thought that this so-called ‘letter from Laodicea’ was in fact our ‘Ephesians’, and that he was instructing the churches to exchange the two letters which they had received from him. Certainly Tychicus was the bearer of the two letters.” John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 23-24.

[11] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[12] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 10). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[13] This was originally suggested by Marcion. However, be wary, because Marcion was a heretic! Also, there are no early manuscripts which indicate that this letter was written to the Laodiceans. Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 304.

[14] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[15] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 306.

[16] In the Greek, these 32 consecutive words are exactly the same. Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 304.

[17] Gundry, Robert Horton. A Survey of the New Testament. 4th Edition ed. [Grand Rapids]: Zondervan Pub. House, 2003. 421.

[18] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 307.

[19] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[20] Craig Blomberg writes, “In the Greek, these twelve verses actually form one long, uninterrupted sentence.” Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 308.

[21] Systematic Theology (Vol. 2:250).

[22] Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 47.

[23] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 44.

[24] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 25). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[25] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 26). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[26] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 26). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[27] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 26). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[28] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 309.

[29] Schippers, R. (1986). Seal. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 497-498.

[30] Becker, O. Gift, Pledge, Corban. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 39-40.

[31] Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos: an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006. 309. See also the footnote at the bottom of the page.

[32] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 35). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[34] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 82.

[35] Craig, William Lane., and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. God?: a Debate between a Christian and an Atheist. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 90.

[36] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 38). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[37] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 39). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[38] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 39). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 40). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[40] Josephus Antiquities XV.11.5.

[41] Josephus Wars of the Jews V. 5. 2.

[42] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 41). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 42). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[44] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 42). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[45] Wood considers verses 2-13 a parenthesis in Paul writing. The verb picks up again in verse 14 (“I kneel”). Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 44). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[46] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 121.

[47] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 47). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[48] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 50). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[49] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 51). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[50] Brown, C. Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 256.

[51] Boice, J. M. Galatians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 10: Romans through Galatians (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1976. 499.

[52] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 149.

[53] Brown, C. Vol. 2: New international dictionary of New Testament theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 764.

[54] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, HarperCollins, 2009), 131.

[55] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 56). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[56] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 58). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[57] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 167.

[58] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 59). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[59] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 61). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[60] Brown, C. (1986). New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 1, p. 137). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[61] We recognize first-class conditional clauses by the helping word “if” (Greek ei) followed by a main verb in the indicative mood (in any tense). The NASB usually translates these conditions with the English rendering “If indeed…”

[62] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 65). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[63] Cited in Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 65). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[64] John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 191.

[65] Brown, C. (1986). New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 1, p. 137). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[66] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 68). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[67] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 68). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[68] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[69] J.B. Phillips understands this passage in this way. Cited in Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 70). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[70] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 72). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[71] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 75). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[72] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 75). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[73] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 76). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[74] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 77). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[75] Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (p. 395). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[76] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 80). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[77] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 81). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[78] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 83). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[79] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 83). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[80] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 85). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[81] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[82] McCallum, Dennis. Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009. 120.

[83] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[84] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[85] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[86] Barna Group, “Most Adults Feel Accepted by God, But Lack a Biblical Worldview.” August 9, 2005.

[87] For instance, Lordship theologian John MacArthur writes, “The weapons of warfare can be summarized in one word: Obedience.” John MacArthur, How to Meet the Enemy (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), 69. Likewise, dispensational interpreters Walvoord and Zuck write, “The breastplate of righteousness refers not to justification, obtained at conversion (Rom. 3:24; 4:5), but to the sanctifying righteousness of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30) practiced in a believer’s life… righteous living (Rom. 6:13; 14:17) guards a believer’s heart against the assaults of the devil.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Vol. 2 [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983], p. 643.

[88] McCallum, Dennis. Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009. 124.

[89] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 87). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[90] Unger, Merrill. What Demons Can Do to Saints. Moody Publishers: Chicago. 1991. 18.

[91] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[92] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[93] Wood, A. S. (1981). Ephesians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon (Vol. 11, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[94] McCallum, Dennis. Satan and His Kingdom: What the Bible Says and How It Matters to You. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2009. 128.