Introduction to Ephesians

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By James M. Rochford

If God were to appear to you tonight, what would you expect him to say? Perhaps you’d expect him to have a long list of commands or imperatives for you. At the very least, you would expect Him to share what you’re doing wrong. And yet, in Ephesians, we discover an entirely different picture: God begins with what he has done, rather than what we should do. Ephesians 1-3 hardly contain any imperatives (with the sole exception of Eph. 2:11-12). Instead, Paul focuses on our identity “in Christ,” which is the central theme of this letter. This leads into the various applications of this identity. It affects:

  • Our meaning and purpose in life (Eph. 2:10).
  • How we love people of other races and ethnicities (Eph. 2:11-22).
  • The way we approach God with boldness, rather than fear (Eph. 3:12-21).
  • Our mission as a church (Eph. 4:1-16).
  • How we transform in key ethical ways (Eph. 4:25-5:21).
  • The way we approach marriage (Eph. 5:22-33) and family (Eph. 6:1-4).
  • Our value of human life and human dignity (Eph. 6:5-9).
  • How we fight in spiritual war (Eph. 6:10-18).

Our view of our own identity transforms everything. This is at the heart of Ephesians.

Table of Contents

Authorship of Ephesians. 2

Audience: To Whom was Paul Writing?. 7

Date: When was this letter written?. 9

How to use this commentary well 9

Consulted Commentaries. 10

Commentary on Ephesians. 11

Ephesians 1 12

Ephesians 2. 26

Ephesians 3. 34

Ephesians 4. 41

Ephesians 5. 54

Ephesians 6. 65

Authorship of Ephesians

Critical scholars argue that Paul didn’t actually write Ephesians. Instead, critics of Pauline authorship hold that one of Paul’s disciples forged the letter after his death.[1] This, of course, would mean that the author was a hypocrite when he tells his readers to “speak truth” (Eph. 4:15, 25) and to avoid “deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). The forger would also be asking his audience to pray for a dead man (Eph. 6:19), because Paul would’ve already been deceased according to this theory. Finally, this would also implicate Tychicus as a co-conspirator because he was the letter-carrier (Eph. 6:21-22).

We reject this view, and hold that Paul wrote this letter. This view carries the strongest support from both the (1) internal evidence and (2) external evidence.

(1) Internal evidence for Pauline authorship

Unless we have sufficient reasons to think otherwise, 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), so the burden of proof rests with the person who suggests otherwise. It would be quite odd for a forger to write that he is “the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8). 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]

(2) External evidence for Pauline authorship

Ephesians was quoted by the Christian community very early, and it was accepted as an authentic letter from Paul very early on.

  • Clement of Rome (AD 95) cited Ephesians 4:4-6 (1 Clem. 46:6) Ephesians 1:17-18 (1 Clem. 59:3).
  • Ignatius (AD 108) alludes to Ephesians 5:1-2 (To the Ephesians 1:1-2) and Ephesians 6:11-17 (To Polycarp2).
  • Polycarp (AD 130) cites Ephesians 4:26 as “Scripture” (To the Philippians1). This makes Ephesians “the first NT book to be called Scripture by the early church fathers.”[3]
  • Marcion (AD 140), who was an early heretic, includes the letter in his canon, though he titled it the letter to the “Laodiceans.”[4]
  • The Muratorian Canon (AD 170) includes Ephesians as Scripture.
  • Irenaeus (AD 180) repeatedly quoted from Ephesians.[5]
  • Clement of Alexandria (AD 200)[6] and Tertullian (AD 200)[7] both understood the letter to have been written by Paul.

In fact, Ephesians was accepted as coming from the apostle Paul for seventeen centuries. It took until 1792 before we find any recorded author doubting the authenticity of this letter.[8] Before this time, “scholars were almost unanimously in favor of Pauline authorship.”[9] This is simply a mountain of external evidence in support of Pauline authorship and authenticity.[10] Even critics of the authenticity of this letter admit this fact. One critical scholar writes, “The external evidence is wholly on the side of those who maintain Pauline authorship. Among all the early writers of the Christian Church there is never the slightest hint that questions it. Moreover, the epistle seems to be known and quoted as Paul’s as early as any of the other Pauline epistles. One of the most difficult tasks for those who reject the tradition of Pauline authorship is to find a satisfactory explanation of this acknowledged fact.”[11]

Consequently, critics need to argue from a different basis. They typically offer two central arguments against the authenticity of Ephesians.

ARGUMENT #1. The language, vocabulary, and style are so different in Ephesians that this letter couldn’t have been written by Paul

Ephesians contains 2429 total words with a total vocabulary of 530 words. Out of these totals, 41 words appear nowhere else in the NT, and 84 words do not appear anywhere else in Paul’s writing.[12] From this, critics charge that this couldn’t have been written by Paul because the vocabulary is too different from Paul’s other written work. Yet, a number of factors can account for this dissimilarity of language:

First, this sample size is too small to create a strong statistical argument. One statistician argues that that we need at 10,000-word samples in order to compare the similarity of language between authors.[13] Yet none of Paul’s letters are this big: Romans (7094 words), 1 Corinthians (6807 words), 2 Corinthians (4448 words), and Ephesians (2429 words).[14]

Second, critics accept Galatians—even though it possesses nearly identical statistics. Galatians has a total of 2220 words (rather than 2429 in Ephesians) with a total vocabulary of 526 words (rather than 530). Galatians contains 35 unique words to Paul (rather than 41) and 90 unique words to the NT (rather than 84). Hoehner rightly observes that the vocabulary in “both Ephesians and Galatians are almost identical even though Galatians is about 10 percent shorter. Yet would this demonstrate that Paul did not write Galatians? Most agree that it does not.”[15] To be clear, some of the unique words in Ephesians are far from obscure. For instance, Paul uses the term “devil” (diabolos, Eph. 4:27; 6:11), which is found throughout the NT. Can we seriously count this as line of evidence against Paul as the author? After all, every universally accepted letter of Paul contains unique words as well (i.e. hapax legomena). Indeed, critical scholar P.N. Harrison states that Ephesians contains the same amount of unique words as the other epistles of Paul.[16]

Critics state that Ephesians contains the greatest number of run-on sentences in any of Paul’s letters. However, we can turn this argument on its head once again. Galatians contains the shortest, “punchy” sentences of any NT epistle. But no critic sees this as evidence that Galatians was written by a forger. But if long, run-on sentences disqualify Ephesians as authentic, then do short sentences render Galatians inauthentic? The critic cannot have it both ways.

Third, 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.

Fourth, Paul wrote this letter later in life. Writing at age 30 would be different than writing at age 50. Year to year, our writing style changes.

Fifth, Paul intended this letter to be circular. We hold that Ephesians was not written to the church in Ephesus (see below under “Audience”). Instead, this was a circular letter that was 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 will likely use different language, vocabulary, and style.

Conclusion. It doesn’t at all seem odd 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.”[17] Another author asks, “Which is more likely—that an imitator of Paul in the first century composed a writing ninety or ninety-five per cent in accordance with Paul’s style or that Paul himself wrote a letter diverging five or ten per cent from his usual style?”[18] If Ephesians was not written by Paul, then it must have been written by “someone equal or superior to him.”[19]

ARGUMENT #2: Ephesians has too many parallels with Colossians.

Some critics of the authenticity of Ephesians (like Andrew T. Lincoln[20]) argue that Ephesians couldn’t have been written by Paul because it depends too much on Colossians (whose authenticity is rarely questioned). It is argued that a forger copied content from Colossians to make Ephesians sound authentic. While Ephesians has some overlap with Paul’s other letters, there are many similarities between Ephesians and Colossians. One scholar asserts that 26.5% of Ephesians is parallel to Colossians.[21] At the very least, several concepts are addressed side-by-side in these two letters:

Ephesians

Subject

Colossians

Eph. 4:17ff

Putting off the old self Col. 3:5ff
Eph. 5:15-20 Thanksgiving

Col. 3:16-17; 4:5-6

Eph. 5:22-6:9

Household codes Col. 3:18-4:1
Eph. 6:18-20 Request for prayer

Col. 4:3-4

Eph. 3:1-13

The “mystery” of the gospel Col. 1:23-29
Eph. 1:23; 3:9; 4:13 Fullness of God

Col. 1:19; 2:9

Eph. 2:12; 4:18

Alienation Col. 1:21
Eph. 5:16 Using time wisely

Col. 4:5

Eph. 3:17

Rooted in Christ Col. 2:7
Eph. 1:13 The word of truth

Col. 1:5

Eph. 4:32

Forgiveness Col. 3:13
Eph. 6:21-22 Tychicus

Col. 4:7-8

Yet, we can make a number of responses to this objection as well:

First, the similarity of the vocabulary is due to repetition of common Greek words. Only 246 words are shared between Ephesians (2429 total words) and Colossians (1574 total words). Many of these words are prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, and proper nouns like “God” and “Christ.”[22]

Second, Ephesians and Colossians do not share a considerable amount of unique vocabulary. These letters only share 21 words that are unique to Paul and only 11 words that are unique to the NT. If a forger wrote Ephesians, “far more verbal correspondence would exist between the two epistles, especially when much of the content is similar.”[23]

Third, Ephesians and Colossians were written to the same general region facing the same general problems. This would surely explain why many of the same themes and motifs arise in both letters.

Fourth, this objection is at odds with the earlier objection above. Critics don’t seem to be aware of the fact that they want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they argue that Ephesians is too different from Paul’s other writings to be genuine, but on the other hand, Ephesians is too similar to Colossians to be genuine. Which is it? These are not formal contradictions, but they are mutually competing claims.

Conclusion

The internal and external evidence favor the historical view that Paul authored this letter. For a more robust study, read the late Harold Hoehner’s masterful defense of Pauline authorship in his technical commentary on Ephesians (2002).[24] Harold Hoehner was a top-notch scholar, who received his Ph.D. from Cambridge and did postdoctoral study at the University of Tübingen. His writing on this subject is considered by many to be the strongest defense of Pauline authorship in print today.

Audience: To Whom was Paul Writing?

Most scholars hold that Paul wrote Ephesians as a circular letter—not a specific one. That is, a later scribe most likely added the words: “To the saints who are at Ephesus…” There are a number of reasons why Bible-believing scholars hold this view:

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).[25] This phrase (“who are at Ephesus…”) is absent from the Chester Beatty papyrus (AD 200), Sinaiticus, and Vaticanus.[26] Bruce comments, “The weight of documentary evidence indicates that the phrase ‘at Ephesus’ is not part of the original wording… Those manuscripts which omit ‘at Ephesus’ put nothing in its place.”[27] This seems to fit with the concept of a circular (encyclical) letter.

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 writes as though he hardly knows them, using very generic language. We might expect him to dote over this church (as he does in his other letters), but he doesn’t. Consider just a few examples:

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

This conclusion is quite different than other letters. For instance, in Romans, Paul identifies no fewer than 26 people, but in Ephesians, he doesn’t identify anyone! Paul had never even been to Rome, and he still addressed many 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.

Paul alludes to false teachers, but he mentions 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. This is odd language for a man who had spent three years in this church.

Third, Colossians seems to have been written at the same time as Ephesians, and Colossians might refer to Ephesians being a circular letter. In fact, both letters contain identical 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 had already made its way to the church in Laodicea, and this is what Paul is referring to. Paul likely 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] 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.”[28]

Fourth, since this was a circular letter in Asia Minor, we still see general application to that region. There are elements in Ephesians that fit with a historical setting in Ephesus. For instance, Jesus’ Lordship over the demonic would fit well with what we know of Ephesus (cf. Eph. 6:10-18 with Acts 19:19). These people were polluted with demonic, idol worship.

Date: When was this letter written?

Ephesians was probably written around the same time as Colossians. Both letters share a similar structure and concepts (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7), and both are delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-8).[29] 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.”[30] Blomberg[31] dates Ephesians to AD 60 or 61 under Roman house arrest. Wood[32] also places Paul in Roman house arrest, but he places the date around AD 63.

How to use this commentary well

For personal use. We wrote this material to build up people in their knowledge of the Bible. As the reader, we hope you enjoy reading through the commentary to grow in your interpretation of the text, understand the historical backdrop, gain insight into the original languages, and reflect on our comments to challenge your thinking. As a result, we hope this will give you a deeper love for the word of God.

Teaching preparation. We read through several commentaries in order to study this book, and condensed their scholarship into an easy to read format. We hope that this will help those giving public Bible teachings to have a deep grasp of the book as they prepare to teach. As one person has said, “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.”[33] We couldn’t agree more. Nothing can replace sound study before you get up to teach, and we hope this will help you in that goal. And before you complain about our work, don’t forget that the price is right: FREE!

Questions for Reflection. Each section or chapter is outfitted with numerous Questions for Reflection or questions for reflection. We think these questions would work best in a small men’s or women’s group—or for personal reading. In general, these questions are designed to prompt participants to explore the text or to stimulate application.

Discussing Bible difficulties. We highlight Bible difficulties with hyperlinks to articles on those subjects. All of these questions could make for dynamic discussion in a small group setting. As a Bible teacher, you could raise the difficulty, allow the small group to wrestle with it, and then give your own perspective.

As a teacher, you might give some key cross references, insights from the Greek, or other relevant tools to help aid the study. This gives students the tools that they need to answer the difficulty. Then, you could ask, “How do these points help answer the difficulty?”

Reading Bible difficulties. Some Bible difficulties are highly complex. For the sake of time, it might simply be better to read the article and ask, “What do you think of this explanation? What are the most persuasive points? Do you have a better explanation than the one being offered?”

Think critically. We would encourage Bible teachers to not allow people to simply read this commentary without exercising discernment and testing the commentary with sound hermeneutics (i.e. interpretation). God gave the church “teachers… to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). We would do well to learn from them. Yet, we also need to read their books with critical thinking, and judge what we’re reading (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21). This, of course, applies to our written commentary as well as any others!

In my small men’s Bible study, I am frequently challenged, corrected, and sharpened in my ability to interpret the word of God. I frequently benefit from even the youngest Christians in the room. I write this with complete honesty—not pseudo-humility. We all have a role in challenging each other as we learn God’s word together. We would do well to learn from Bible teachers, and Bible teachers would do well to learn from their students!

At the same time, we shouldn’t disagree simply for the sake of being disagreeable. This leads to rabbit trails that can actually frustrate discussion. For this reason, we should follow the motto, “The best idea wins.” If people come to different conclusions on unimportant issues, it’s often best to simply acknowledge each other’s different perspectives and simply move on.

Consulted Commentaries

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

John Stott was a magnificent writer, a hard-working theologian, and a possessed a brilliant mind. This pastoral commentary (from the series, “The Bible Speaks Today”) is very insightful and worth reading.

F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 249.

A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989).

Not read yet

Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002).

We have not read this entire commentary, which clocks in at 800+ pages (!!). But we thoroughly enjoyed Hoehner’s defense of Pauline authorship (pages 2-62). Hoehner’s commentary is routinely considered to be the best commentary on Ephesians in print today. Maybe someday we will read all 800 pages (!!).

Terry Wilder, Ephesians, vol. 31, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991).

We really wanted to read this volume. We committed to read all the way through the New American Commentary series for the NT. However, this volume from the NAC was not published as of 2022. We like the NAC for its high view of inerrancy, as well as typically being an excellent blend of pastoral and technical insights. It seems that we won’t be seeing this commentary until 2024.

Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999).

O’Brien’s commentary is widely regarded as one of the top commentaries on Ephesians. However, this commentary was taken out of print by the publisher after indictment regarding plagiarism. All the manuscripts were refunded or destroyed.

Commentary on Ephesians

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

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:1-14 (Do versus Done)

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

“Paul, an apostle.” Later we learn that Paul is in prison as he writes this letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1). Here, he opens by writing that he is authoring this letter all alone.

“To the saints who are at Ephesus. Our earliest manuscripts do not include “who are at Ephesus.” Therefore, Ephesians wasn’t likely written to the city of Ephesus, but to the greater region of Asia Minor. This would make Ephesians a circular letter that was meant to be passed from city to city (Col. 4:16). Paul wrote this letter to get these Christians grounded in the essentials of their faith and practice.

“To the saints… who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Even in the first verse, Paul is already using the prepositional phrase “in Christ.” The term “faithful” (pistoi) can be translated as either “those who have faith” or as “those who are faithful.”[34] However, F.F. Bruce,[35] Andrew Lincoln,[36] Ernest Best,[37] and Clinton Arnold[38] all favor the former view—namely, “those who have faith in Christ.” Therefore, if you have faith in Jesus, then you are part of the “us” mentioned throughout Paul’s introduction.

(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).[39] Once Paul started talking about the grace of God, he couldn’t stop.

What does it mean that God is “blessed”? It was common in the OT for God to be regarded as “blessed” (Ps. 41:13; 66:20; 72:18). The same is true in the NT (2 Cor. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:3). God is “blessed” (eulogētos) in the sense that he deserves blessing by virtue of his very nature. It carries “the idea of someone deserving appreciation, honor, and praise.”[40] This isn’t a “wish,” but a “declaration.”

What does it mean that God has “blessed us”? The word “blessed” (eulogētos) is a compound word that comes from the words “good” (eu) and “to speak” (logeo). Thus if we were breaking down this word into parts, we would say that God “speaks well of us.” Moreover, if God speaks something, that implies a promise or an action on his behalf (e.g. Gen. 1). This means that God has acted to give us many spiritual gifts and promises.

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.” This is where Christ is currently exalted (Eph. 1:20), and this is where angels dwell (Eph. 3:10; 6:12). This is where we are currently seated with Christ in our position in Him (Eph. 2:6). We receive our promises from God by being identified with Christ; that is, being “in Christ.” Paul uses the expression “in him,” “in Christ,” or “in the Beloved” eleven times in this opening section (vv.1-14). 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.”[41] 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.”[42] In Paul’s letters, he refers to this truth at least 126 times:

  • “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.[43]

We should not ask God to give us these gifts listed in Ephesians 1. Instead, we need to learn to thank God for already giving us these gifts. It takes faith to believe that this is the way reality actually is. Paul says that these things are “unseen” (Col. 4:18; cf. Heb. 11:1), and he tells believers to set their minds on these things above (Col. 3:1-4). It takes active and ongoing trust to accept that these promises are true of us.

(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 (i.e. unconditional election and irresistible grace). 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 the quality of being “holy and blameless” by being “in Him.”

“Holy and blameless.” It’s scandalous that Paul could call human beings “holy and blameless.” Yet, because we are “in Christ,” when God looks at us, he sees Jesus. This is how we can come “before Him,” entering boldly into his presence. This explains how Paul can later write, “In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (Eph. 3:12).

(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.”

“In love.” This is God’s motivation for his plan. Whatever we think about predestination and election, we need to remember that God set forth his plan “in love.”

Just like our election was found “in Christ,” 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. God owes us nothing, and we deserve nothing. We live based on his kindness—not any demands of our own.

(1:6) “To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

Does this refer to a corporate worship service? 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.

“In the Beloved.” God views us in the same light as he views Jesus, because we have been placed into Christ (“in Christ”). We often feel like a failure. Yet, God thinks about me as completely and totally righteous. Right at this moment, he currently loves us and is currently pleased with us—just as he loves and is pleased with his Son. When Jesus was being baptized, God the Father spoke to him as he rose from the water. God the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:17). This language of being “beloved” is similar to Ephesians 1:6. Because we are “in Christ,” God is very happy, very pleased with us. This would be complete and utter nonsense to write unless God himself told us that this was true.

(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, but it cost Jesus an incredible price: “His blood.” The verb tense is continuous: “We have and are still having”[44] redemption through the blood of Christ.

“Redemption” (apolutrōsis) isn’t a common English word anymore. Maybe we’ll hear someone say, “She redeemed the lottery ticket” or “I redeemed the gift card.” The term means to be released from a “captive condition” (BDAG). The root word (apoluo) means “to grant acquittal, set free, release, pardon” (BDAG). In extrabiblical Greek, this term referred to a “ransom [that ] was… paid to free slaves.”[45] Jesus came to give his life as a “ransom” (lutron) for us (Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:6; Rom. 3:24).

“Forgiveness” (aphesis) refers to “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). In Christ, God has released us from the payment we owe him.

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 explore 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” (BDAG) or “superabundance.”[46] In other words, when God was pouring out his grace, he gave us far more than we need or deserve. There is no deficit in his grace toward 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. He tells them all about his plans for the future. Of course, we don’t the future fully, but we do know it truly. We know that Jesus will return a second time to eventually inaugurate heaven on Earth. While we have been given “all wisdom and insight” about the future, we still need to pray for “a spirit of wisdom” (v.17) and that we “may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). This is an example of the “already-not-yet” tension that we see throughout the NT.[47]

(1:9) “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.”

“Mystery” (mystērion) could refer to a secret initiation into Gnostic groups or to a secret in general. The term was used in Jewish circles for the mysteries that God had revealed (Dan. 2:19), and this seems to be the background for Paul in this setting. In this context, Paul is revealing God’s will from eternity past to eternity future. He claims that this is the birthright of every Christian—to know about our election in Christ and our future reign with him. Therefore, the term “mystery” in this context doesn’t refer to “something mysterious, but something revealed.”[48]

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.”[49] 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.”

“Administration” (oikonomia) was a term used for the steward of a household. Paul chooses this word because it is the “arrangement of things for God’s people, and for the whole universe, that is in view.”[50]

“Summing up” (anakephalaiōsasthai) was used for adding up all of the parts into a whole,[51] and it is also used for “summing up” the meaning of the Law into the single imperative of love (Rom. 13:9). In this passage, Paul is referring to the “restoration, unity, and the headship of Christ”[52] over all of creation. Jesus was the Creator of “all things” (Col. 1:16) and he will restore “all things” under his leadership (cf. Col. 1:20). This will be the unifying of the “heavens” and the “earth,” the spiritual and the material.

God has revealed that history will not fizzle out in the slow extinction of the human race. Nor will history continue in its current form forever. History will culminate in the return of Christ’s rule on Earth. But more than this, he will restore “all things.” Hence, Wood writes, “The mission of Christ extends beyond the human race and assumes cosmic dimensions.”[53] 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.”

Does God determine “all things”? Many Calvinists understand this passage to refer to divine determinism. After all, Paul writes that God “predestined… 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 desired this to be the case. 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.”

Who are the “we” who were the first to hope in Christ? This could refer to Jewish believers.[54] people of God in the age which Christ has inaugurated by[55] However, these promises would apply to both Jewish and Gentiles Christians. After all, Paul later writes, “In Him, you also…” (v.13). This implies that the Gentiles had the same promises as the Jews (cf. Eph. 2:11-16). 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.”

“After listening to the message of truth.” The gospel is a verbal message that needs to be communicated through words. When we hear and believe, we come to Christ. Yes, it is that simple. Elsewhere, Paul writes, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:2).

“Having also believed.” This is in the aorist tense. This means that this occurred in the past tense with ongoing implications. The message is not that we continue to believe, but that we did believe, and this is the basis for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Incidentally, the indwelling of the Spirit is one of the clearest signifiers that someone is an authentic Christian (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 4:30; Acts 11:15-18). Bruce writes, “The gift of the Spirit, then, is the guarantee of coming immortality.”[56]

“You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Instead of receiving the “seal” of circumcision (Rom. 4:11), we receive an incomprehensible seal: The Holy Spirit. God seals us with 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.”[57] 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).[58]

(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” (arrabōn) is like a down payment or upfront deposit on something we plan on paying for. Bruce writes, “It was a commercial word denoting a pledge—some object handed over by a buyer to a seller until the purchase price was paid in full.”[59] Becker writes, “[This is] 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.”[60] Likewise, 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.”[61] Again, the concept of using this in terms of an engagement ring is its modern usage—not its ancient use.

People used to refer to this as “earnest money.” If someone wanted to buy a car, they gave a small sum of money to show that they were sincere or “earnest” about buying the car. Similarly, God is “earnest” about claiming us because he has given us his Holy Spirit, and it isn’t as though he can get another Holy Spirit if he gives this to us!

Application and Conclusion

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

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.

Questions for Reflection

Readers verse 1-14. List and describe the gifts that God has given us “in Christ.” What does each gift mean to you personally? Which gift means the most to you personally?

Read verses 1-14. How would you succinctly describe what it means to be “chosen” by God?

Read verses 13-14. Why is security so important in our relationship with God (vv.13-14)? What might happen if you didn’t have eternal security? What would change? (e.g. motives, actions, emotions)

Imagine if someone said, “I don’t want these blessings from God in Christ or in the heavenly place. I want them here and now!” How would you respond?

  • The point is these blessings are secure, and cannot fade away.
  • If we’re in Christ, then these are available through faith. These aren’t in a distant bank account that I don’t have access to. I can make withdraws anytime I want.

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? How can you tell when you are drifting into one rather than the other.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (Enjoying intimacy with God)

So far, Paul has articulated the incredible spiritual wealth given to us from God. To summarize, we possess:

  • Belonging (v.4).
  • Moral perfection and approval (v.4).
  • Adoption into a new family (v.5).
  • Total forgiveness (v.7).
  • Anticipation of Heaven (vv.9-10).
  • Reward and a great inheritance (v.11).

Yet, these spiritual realities can cease from being life-changing realities, and they can become vague abstractions instead. That is, it’s possible to be sitting on a spiritual goldmine of promises, but minimize these or treat them with contempt.

Is this you? If so, how do you move forward? The key is revelation. The heart of the issue is the issue of the heart. We need God to open the eyes of our heart to see, know, and understand these great spiritual realities.

(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.”

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).

This doesn’t imply that Paul was praying 24-hours a day. After all, he writes that he would give thanks when he was praying for them.

(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.”

This passage seems parallel to Colossians, where Paul writes, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). 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). Paul already explained the propositional knowledge in verses 3-14. Here, he must be referring to a deeply personal experience and encounter with God.

Does this refer to a “spirit” or the “Holy Spirit.” The 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 (vv.13-14). Here, he is praying 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, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

“Eyes of your heart.” Bruce gives a less literal translation of “spiritual eyesight.”[62]

“Heart.” In the biblical concept, the “heart” referred to all aspects at the core of a human person (e.g. will, intellect, emotions, etc.).[63] Therefore, this isn’t just referring to an emotional experience, but an encounter with God that is wholistic and interacts with the entire person.

“Enlightened” (phōtizō) is the root word for the term “photon.” It refers to God’s enlightening 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. I’ve had times where I was scouring my house for my car keys for 10-20 minutes. Only to feel a painful cramp in my hand and realize that I was tightly gripping them in my hand the entire time! I possessed the keys, but since I was running late, I was frantically searching for something I already had.

(1) The Hope of His Calling

“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). This isn’t wishful thinking, as in the modern use of the word hope. Today we might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain today” or “I hope the Browns don’t embarrass the city of Cleveland this Sunday… again.” But this sort of hope offers no guarantees, and it is far from “hope” described in Scripture. The term “hope” (elpis) refers to “confidence” or “expectation” (BDAG, p.319). This is why Paul can write that “hope does not disappoint” (Rom. 5:5) and he can write about our “earnest expectation and hope” (Phil. 1:20). This sort of hope is similar to daydreaming about a future vacation. You booked the tickets, and you paid tab. You aren’t wishing that you could go on vacation. Instead, you’re anticipating when you get to pack your bags and leave.

To focus on our hope must mean to focus on our future eternity with God (Col. 3:1-3). This would include focusing our thoughts, emotions, and investments in 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 means of sitting in front of the word of God. It can also be a spiritual experience where God makes this future reality clear to us in prayer and biblical meditation.

(2) The Riches… of His Inheritance

“What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” In verse 14, Paul writes that God gave us the Holy Spirit, who is the pledge of our “inheritance.” The Holy Spirit is the down payment on what we will experience in heaven—namely, direct and uninterrupted relationship with God.

Do we get an inheritance from God? Or are we God’s inheritance? Earlier, Paul stated that we get an inheritance from God (vv.11, 14), and some interpreters understand this to refer to God giving us an inheritance.[64] However, we are inclined to hold that we are God’s inheritance. The NLT renders this as, “His people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” In other words, we get an inheritance from God, but what does God get out of the deal? He gets you! (Heb. 12:2). Bruce writes, “That God should set such high value on a community of sinners, rescued from perdition and still bearing too many traces of their former state, might well seem incredible were it not made clear that he sees them in Christ.”[65] He has been waiting since before the creation of the material universe to get close to you (Eph. 1:4). Do you value yourself as much as God does? Can you begin to grasp much God treasures you?

(3) His Power toward us who Believe

(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. After all, the power is “toward us” or “for us” (NLT) so that we can grow and serve. Or, perhaps, it could be both. The gospel is the power of God “to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16-17).

What are ways to seek this enlightenment?

My friend Gary Delashmutt jokes that we don’t have an “app” to download this sort of enlightenment from God. God is a person, and we are persons. But does this mean that we have no role in getting enlightenment? No. As in all personal relationships, we have a role. Here are a few ways to access this sort of enlightenment from God.

(1) Ongoing prayer. When reading the Bible, begin with prayer. Even the psalmist states that he needed to pray before reading the Bible for spiritual enlightenment: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18).

(2) Meditation. Paul gave us the propositional truths about our identity (vv.1-14), but now we need to meditate on these until they become life-transforming and life-giving realities. Culturally, we’re fighting uphill in this area. We can’t skim through Scripture to do this. We need to linger long enough to hear from God. Like Jacob, we can pray that we aren’t going to leave until God blesses us with an insight in his word. During these times, God will bring fresh reminders, fresh application, and fresh insight into areas of unbelief.

(3) Gratitude. In order to have our minds enlightened, we need to focus on the beauty and excellencies that God has provided all around us. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want in your life, you need to focus on what you will do have and give thanks for it. The alternative is a mind poisoned with bitterness (Rom. 1:21).

(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 all people who trust in him.

(1:21) “Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

“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 fits with Jesus’ “hyper exaltation” in Philippians 2:5-11. Paul later brings up Satan in Ephesians 2:2 and 6:10-18. So, Paul is already showing that Jesus is far above creation, and this reality shows that Jesus is our foundation for spiritual warfare precisely because he is “far above” all of these created angels. 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.”[66]

“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. Paul quotes this passage elsewhere (1 Cor. 15:27) and so does 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). There, Paul writes, “For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:27-28). Christ is currently ruling from heaven, but he will rule on Earth in the future (Ps. 2).

If everything in creation is under Jesus’ feet, and the Church is identified with Jesus, then “all things” are beneath the Church, beneath us (!!). We have nothing to worry about. The world is under our feet.

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

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

Questions for Reflection

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 are practical steps that might overcome these barriers?

Have you ever had a personal and experiential time where you understood the love of God in a deeper way? What was this like? What led to this experience?

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

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Personal salvation)

Paul began with the good news, but now he backtracks and discusses the bad news. He compares what we are by nature to 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. To begin, Paul says that the Gentiles are condemned (you were dead,” v.1), and 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) “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

“You formerly walked.” The term “walked” comes from Jewish thought. The way of life prescribed for Jewish people was called the Halakah (“Walking”). The NT authors use this concept to describe the Christian life.[67] At this point in a person’s life, they are “walking” apart from God (cf. Eph. 4:17).

“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) in non-believers 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). Philo understood the “air” to be “the home of incorporeal souls… called ‘demons’ by the other philosophers but customarily ‘angels’ by the sacred record.”[68]

(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 is our sin “nature” (v.3). We deserved judgment from God (see our earlier article “Original Sin” as well as comments on Rom. 5:12, 14).

(2:4) “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.”

“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 fate from dead to alive. This was based purely 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.

“Rich” (plousios) often 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).”

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.”

“Raised us up… Seated us with Him.” Not only are we made alive, but we are seated in honor and privilege next to Christ. We aren’t just brought from a deficit to a “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. 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!

Because we are identified in this way, this is why we need to think about ourselves in this way. In order to experience these truths, we need 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 all of this? The word “show” (endeixetai) means to demonstrate or display (2 Cor. 8:24). God wants to show us off as trophies of his grace for the ages to come. The gracious rescue of human beings will have cosmic effects. Later, Paul writes that God had concealed his mystery “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” (Eph. 3:10). Wood writes, “This eschatological dimension implies that it will be for the benefit of angels as well as men.”[69]

(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. Of course, it isn’t our faith that saves us. Rather, God’s grace saves us, and 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”). Likewise, by forgiving his enemies and making them his sons, God will reveal his love for us in his new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). 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.”[70]

These “good works” are not determined. The Greek here is in the subjunctive mood, showing that these good works are possible but not certain. 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.”

Questions for Reflection

Read verses 1-10. What is “grace”? Define the word “grace” by only appealing to these ten verses in Ephesians 2.

Read verse 3. Summarize what you think it means for humans to have a sin nature.

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.”[71]

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?

Ephesians 2:11-22 (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 now sociologically 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 a very 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—”

The term “Therefore” refers back to verses 1-10. In Greek, these verses were all one sentence. Based on our complete and total rescue by God, how should we view one another? If God accepts us totally and without condition, then how should we treat others in light of this?

“Uncircumcision.” This was a racist nickname that Jews gave Gentiles. Literally, the term is “foreskin” (akrobustia).[72] Just imagine a person routinely referring to you, your family, and your entire race “the foreskins.”

(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.”

The worst problem that the “Gentiles” faced was not discrimination from the Jews. Instead, as Paul makes abundantly clear, these people were truly very far from God. 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 (cf. Acts 22:28). This could also refer to the legal covenant of having the laws of Israel.[73]

(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.” Paul directly connects our “hope” in life with God’s existence. “Without God” (atheos) is the root word for “atheist” or “atheism.” If God is dead, then so is our hope for the future. Greco-Roman philosophies of various kinds did not end with a linear fulfillment in heaven, but rather, they “a cyclic view of history.”[74] This purged all purpose from their lives, and they truly had “no hope.”

(2:13) “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Once again, Paul interrupts this despairing fate with two profound words, “But now…” God intervened to bring the Gentiles “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.”[75]

(2:14) “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”

The Gentiles were excluded from the Temple. Josephus (a famous first century historian) used the same words (“barrier” and “dividing wall”) to describe the barricades that kept the Gentiles from coming into the Temple.[76] 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.”[77] Elsewhere he writes, “No foreigner should go within that sanctuary.”[78] 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” (katargeo) in the sense that it is annihilated or non-existent. The term 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).

“That in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” 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.”

“Reconcile them both.” Racial reconciliation is now possible through our corporate identity “in Christ.” Since I am now reconciled to God and my brother is reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Col. 1:20), I can now be reconciled to my brother. I can’t hate my brother for being a different race or social class from me, when Christ came from incredible wealth to become the friend of a destitute man like me (2 Cor. 8:9). I cannot judge someone whom Christ has given a new identity (2 Cor. 5:16). I can’t exclude someone whom Christ accepts (Rom. 14:1). I can no longer hate a sinner whom Jesus has forgiven (Rom. 5:8), or consider my brother an enemy when Jesus has made him a friend (Rom. 5:10; Jn. 15:15). Such actions are, of course, possible for me to pursue. But these are 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.”

Paul cites Isaiah 57:19 (cf. Acts 2:39; Rom. 10:15). 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). The continuing work of Jesus through the Body of Christ fits better with the context of Ephesians.

(2:18) “For through Him [Christ] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.”

All people have equal “access” to God. There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.

All three members of the Trinity are mentioned in this verse. Wood comments, “The trinitarian implications of this verse are obvious.”[79]

(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 along with everyone else.

(2:20) “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”

“The foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Paul calls Jesus the foundation elsewhere (1 Cor. 3:11). This is not a contradiction because Paul thought of the apostles as the first stones laid in the building—being built atop the foundation of the “corner stone.” Foulkes explains, “Because they received, believed and witnessed to that word, they were the beginning of the building on which others were to be built.”[80]

“The corner stone.” Jesus was the called the “corner stone” by multiple authors (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16; Mk. 12:10; 1 Pet. 2:6-7; Acts 4:11). The “corner stone” was the most important stone in ancient architecture. It was “set in the foundations at the corner to bind all together and to give the walls their line.”[81] 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.”[82]

(2:21) “In whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.”

Believers have replaced the Temple. This is true on an individual level (1 Cor. 6:19), as well as a corporate level (2 Cor. 6:6). Paul emphasizes the corporate dimension of the Church being the new 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.”[83] Moreover, if the OT Temple has been replaced, how much more have the Pagan temples of Artemis been replaced?

“Being fitted together.” This is written in the passive voice. In other words, we aren’t fitting ourselves together. As the Master Architect, God is fitting us together as he sees fit.

(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.

Application for Today

Our culture speaks against injustice and prejudices of all kinds, and they are right to do so. However, what is the ethical foundation for speaking against the injustices of racism, sexism, and classism? Personal opinion? Majority rule? Cultural relativism? Christianity offers a powerful answer: Jesus himself is the (ontological) reason for our peace. Without him, our preaching and teaching would be useless (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19). The God who became weak and feeble on the Cross is the answer to power struggles and pride.

Very few Christians would admit to being racist, but ask yourself: Do I talk more about my race than I talk about my identity in Christ? Do I subtly separate from others based on their race? Do I fail to initiate with others because of our differences in race?

Questions for Reflection

Briefly explain the barriers that existed between Jews and Gentiles at this time. What analogy could you use to describe these tensions in today’s world?

Why does Paul compare the church to being a citizen of a country? (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? (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?

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:1-13 (The mystery of Christ)

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, by the way, I’m in the county lockup right now, and you wouldn’t believe the food they have in here.” It would be shocking to hear a person speak so positively about their life, only to realize that they were sitting in jail.

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! Think about that: Paul doesn’t even mention being in prison until halfway through the letter. How was he capable of having such an attitude?

Paul opens this section by writing the he is being incarcerated for the sake of 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 closely connected with God’s cosmic plan. Paul starts his letter focusing on his position in Christ. Here, he begins to reflect on his condition. He is modeling for the readers what it looks like to dwell on our new identity “in Christ.”

(3:1) “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.”

“The prisoner of Christ Jesus.” 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 (cf. Phile. 1, 9). Nothing was spinning out of control. Foulkes writes, “Just as his spiritual life ‘in Christ’ mattered far more to him than his outward circumstances and environment, so now he regarded himself as a prisoner by the will of his master.”[84]

“For the sake of you Gentiles.” Paul willingly allowed himself to be taken prisoner so that he could reach the Gentiles for Christ. 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.

Does Paul’s poor grammar invalidate inerrancy? This is a sentence fragment. This sentence includes a noun, but no verb.[85] Inerrancy allows for grammatical errors like this. Grammar doesn’t apply to inerrancy because poor grammar doesn’t 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 old Bill guilty of perjury! (Even if his grammar left something to be desired.) Moreover, grammatical rules are often somewhat subjective, so this really shouldn’t be a defeater of inerrancy.

Once Paul writes the word “Gentiles,” this takes him on a digression. He needs to explain why he was called to reach the Gentile people. He doesn’t return from this digression until verse 14.

(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 Paul 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 the doctrine of perspicuity: The average person can read what Paul wrote and “understand” it—even this deep “mystery” revealed in Christ.

(3:5-6) “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. 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 mystery was not revealed in the OT. Whatever Paul is going to share is a new revelation. Indeed, it was “hidden for ages” (v.9). The inclusion of Gentiles into God’s community can’t be the complete extent of the mystery. After all, this was explicitly taught in the OT.[86] Bruce openly states that the inclusion of Gentiles was “not a new revelation.”[87] He argues that this revelation wasn’t explained “as it has now been revealed.” That is, the new revelation is now “without any discrimination, in the new, comprehensive community of God’s chosen people.”[88] Perhaps he is right, but we hold that this isn’t the entire mystery. In other words, Jew-Gentile unity in the people of God is one aspect of the mystery, but the foundation of the mystery is the death of the Messiah, who made this unity possible (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).

This fits with Paul’s multifaceted definition (or application) of “the mystery” in other contexts. Earlier, Paul referred to the mystery as the “summing up of all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:9-10). In Colossians, Paul writes that the mystery is “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27), while later he simply states that the mystery is “Christ himself” (Col. 2:2). This gives warrant to the notion that Paul is merely explaining a part of the mystery, or perhaps an application of it—namely, the bringing together of Jews and Gentiles. But this doesn’t encapsulate all of this mystery. Through the death of Christ, God revealed his love “through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). Paul has a cosmic scope in view.

(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? Paul’s credentials came from (1) God’s grace and (2) God’s power (cf. Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 1:29). 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.”[89]

(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 saints and sinners (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). Then, he writes that the worst of all of the “saints” is now supposed to preach to the worst of all of the “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.”[90]

(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 rooftops. Specifically, God will communicate through the church to the angelic realm (“to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places”). 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) refers to “courage, confidence, boldness, fearlessness, especially in the presence of persons of high rank” (BDAG; cf. Eph. 6:20, Acts 4:31; Phil. 1:20). It can be translated as “freedom of speech.”[91] This final definition (“especially in the presence of persons of high rank”) is particularly appropriate in view of Paul referring to coming into none other than the presence of God himself (Heb. 4:16; 10:19).

“Confidence” (pepoithēsis) refers to “a state of certainty about something to the extent of placing reliance on, trust” or “assurance about an outcome” (BDAG). Paul grounded his confidence 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.”

While Paul was content in prison, he realizes that his readers might not have the same perspective. Bruce writes, “Gentile Christians, who recognized him as their apostle, the champion of their liberty, might well be dismayed at the thought of his being in chains, deprived of his freedom to move around for the advancement of the gospel and the strengthening of the churches.”[92] Paul feels the need to tell them not to lose courage.

Even in prison, Paul focused on others—not himself. He was more concerned about them “losing heart,” than he was about his own “tribulations.” The suffering or “tribulations” that these believers were dealing with connect with Paul’s own suffering in prison (Eph. 3:1).

Questions for Reflection

How would you define what Paul is referring to by “the mystery” in this section? What is the mystery?

Is it deceitful that God would allow mysteries or keep secrets from us? Is this a “lie of omission”?

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?

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Paul’s prayer)

Once again, Paul prays that they would understand the depth of God’s love (cf. Eph. 1:18-20). In this prayer, Paul mentions the three persons of the Trinity: The Holy Spirit (v.16), the Son (v.17), and the Father (vv. 14, 19).[93] All three persons work together to open our eyes to the love of God.

(3:14) “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.”

Paul had “boldness and confident access” to the Father (Eph. 3:12). He models that for us here, praying boldly for these fearful, Gentile Christians.

“I bow my knees.” Paul knelt in prayer, and we see many examples of this (1 Kin. 8:54; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; 20:36; 21:5). This outwardly shows humility, respect, and dependence before God, and it is “an expression of deep emotion.”[94] At the same time, Christians are never commanded to bow when they pray. These are only examples—not imperatives. Paul taught us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), which must mean that we can’t be bowing at all times. Elsewhere, we read that people commonly stood during prayer (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. Theologians refer to believers in heaven as “the church triumphant,” and believers on earth as “the church militant.” Yet, we are ultimately all one church. Not even death can separate our unity.

(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 of His glory” refer to the riches of God’s grace and mercy that Paul mentioned earlier (Eph. 1:18; 2:4, 7). Bruce writes, “The glory of God may be viewed as the sum-total of all his attributes. Because God himself is infinite and eternal, his glory is inexhaustible, and provides the measure of his generosity when he bestows his gifts. Because his resources are inexhaustible, he cannot be impoverished by sharing them with his children.”[95]

To be “strengthened” is the opposite (in the Greek language) of being “discouraged” in verse 13.[96] 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.”

“To dwell” (katoikesai) is in the present continuous sense. Therefore, this describes 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 (i.e. “to dwell”), this leads to stability and “being rooted and grounded in love” (Col. 2:7).

“Established” (tethemeliomenoi) refers to laying a foundation for a building or “to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen” (BDAG). Everyone has a foundation in their lives. The question is whether or not they have a stable and sturdy foundation. God’s love serves as the foundation in our lives. As we draw strength from the love of God, we become more stable.

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

(3:18) “May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth.”

To “comprehend” (katalabesthai) means “to make something one’s own, win, attain, or to ‘come into possession of an inheritance” (BDAG). We have already been given this inheritance; now we need to access it and take ownership of it through faith. Moreover, we learn about God’s love “with all the saints.” This directly confronts the concept of “lone ranger” Christianity. We need a personal inner life to understand God’s love, but we also need “all the saints” as well. We need Christian community to understand the love of God.

(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.

“Be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Paul later prays that these believers would be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). He seems to be introducing this concept here, but he will elaborate on this more in chapter 5. This is something that “we have all received” (Jn. 1:16), yet we can pray and seek for more and more of it.

(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 by acknowledging the surging omnipotence of God (“according to the power that works within us”). 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. He is able to do more than we “ask” or even “think.” Foulkes comments, “There is no limit to his power; only human words and thoughts about it are limited.”[97]

(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.

Questions for Reflection

Read verses 14-21. What do you learn about prayer from Paul’s example? What are keys to this prayer that could help you in your prayer life?

How does Paul’s comment about having “boldness and confident access” to the Father help us understand his style of prayer in verses 14-21?

Read verse 15. Compare and contrast praying to God as our owner or boss versus praying to God as our Father.

Read verse 16. Compare and contrast inner change and external behavioral change. How are they different? How are they similar?

Read verse 19. Compare and contrast propositional knowledge about God with experiential knowledge of God. How are these different? How are they similar?

Ephesians 4

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. God shows us what he has done before he tells us what to do.

We heard the story of a Bible teacher who once said that he would no longer teach the imperatives of Scripture—only the indicatives. After all, he argued, he wanted to focus on “grace,” rather than “law.” To a biblically trained mind, this is nothing short of absurd! Imperatives fill the Bible. Indeed, that Bible teacher would’ve had an easy time teaching chapters 1-3 of Ephesians, but as we’ll see, teaching chapters 4-6 would’ve been an insuperable task!

That being said, as we enter into chapters 4-6, we shouldn’t view these imperatives as contradictory to the indicatives of chapters 1-3. Rather, these are complementary. The imperatives build on what God has already done. We cannot emphasize this enough: The imperatives of Ephesians 4-6 only make sense in light of the first half of the book.

Ephesians 4:1-5 (What is the Body of Christ?)

(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.”

Earlier Paul called himself a “prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:1). To reiterate, Paul didn’t believe he was a prisoner of Rome, a prisoner of Satan, or a prisoner of any other enemy. If he was chained to a Roman guard, then the chains belonged to the “Lord.”

If all of this is true of us who are “in Christ,” we should live consistently with these truths. Without any apology or hesitancy, Paul “implores” the people to follow Christ with everything they have.

“Walk.” We “formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Now, we can “walk” in another way entirely.

(4:2) “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

Humility (tapeinophrosynē) is the first attribute Paul mentions. He begins by stating that we should live “worthy of the calling” of Christ (Eph. 4:1), and then jumps directly to humility as the first virtue to pursue. It’s no wonder why Andrew Murray calls “humility” the chief virtue of the Christian life. (For more on this subject, see our earlier article “Humility”.) This term “does not seem to have been used before New Testament times” and the adjective “nearly always had a bad meaning, and was associated with words having the sense of slavish, mean, ignoble.”[98] Yet, Christianity made this a virtue—not an embarrassment.

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.”[99] 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.”[100] 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.”[101]

Picture a billiards player tapping the cue ball and slowly sending it to the other side of the table, lightly tapping her ball into the pocket. Surely the player could crush the ball with tremendous force, but she shows restraint and gentleness to set up her next shot. This captures the biblical view of gentleness: We use the right level of strength for a greater good. Not too strong. Not too weak. Just the right amount.

We should have gentle submission when reading God’s word (Jas. 1:21) and when interacting with others (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).

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.”[102] 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” or “bear with” or “to undergo something onerous or troublesome without giving in” (BDAG). Serving sinful people (like ourselves!) is hard work, and it takes a lot of patience and “tolerance.”

This command, however, doesn’t merely mean to 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 believers until you feel affection for them.” Or we might say, “Love others until you like 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.”[103]

Jesus is the ultimate example of these virtues. He lived a servant’s life, leaving his throne in heaven, tolerating the foolishness of his disciples, washing their dirty feet, and dying the death of a traitor—being crucified naked on a Cross. In Jesus, humility, gentleness, and love are personified.

How do we gain these virtues above? Paul already stated that we need to be “rooted and grounded in love” from God (Eph. 3:17). When we grasp his love, we are able to grow in love.

(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). The immediate application is racism (i.e. Jews and Gentiles). If racists can overcome their biases and prejudices through the Cross, how much more should believers resolve their petty conflicts?

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” or to be “zealous/eager, take pains, make every effort, be conscientious” (BDAG). The reason we should be “diligent” to live in “peace” is because we are all members of “one body” (v.4).

(4:4) “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling.”

Despite our racial and social differences (Eph. 2:11-16), we have a foundation for unity. 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.”

Paul continues to enumerate the 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, and Paul doesn’t give the referent into which we are baptized. It is strange that if Paul had a ritual like water baptism in mind that he wouldn’t also mention the Lord’s Supper (compare with 1 Cor. 11:23-34). Moreover, our unity isn’t based on water, but on spiritual unity. Therefore, we are inclined to see spiritual baptism is in view here.

(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”). Once again, Paul mentions the three members of the Trinity in verses 4-6. This order seems reversed from our standard description of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Indeed, Paul writes of the Spirit, Son, and Father. Bruce holds that this is the “order based on experience.”[104] The Holy Spirit convicts us and brings us to the Son; the Son forgives our sins and brings us to the Father; the Father adopts us as his children.

Ephesians 4:6-16 (How does the Body of Christ grow?)

(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 and building up the Body of Christ (i.e. the Christian community). To be clear, this refers to lay people—not leaders. It is the role of the leadership to “equip” the lay people to serve (v.12).

(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”?

Paul explains that Jesus ascended in order to give out gifts to the Church. What are these gifts? In this context, his gifts are people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

(4:11) “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.”

Rather than viewing these gifts as being given for us, Paul states that God gave these gifts for the church. God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. God has gifted the Body of Christ differently, and we shouldn’t be jealous of one another’s gifts. After all, when we see the beauty and splendor of the Sun, we don’t writhe in bitterness and jealousy. We simply appreciate its beauty and warmth. Similarly, when others have greater gifts than us, we need to learn to give thanks for them, rather than competing with them. We need to get to the point where we can say, “Thank you, God, for giving us that person and her gifts! Where would we be without her? I’m so grateful that you’ve given her to us to fill such an important role.”

“Apostles” (apostolos) are listed as “first in time and first in importance.”[105] Without people with the gift of apostleship, we wouldn’t have churches.

“Prophets” (prophētēs) could be fore-tellers of the future (Acts 11:28; 21:9, 11), or forth-tellers of the truth in the present (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

“Evangelists.” Philip was so gifted in evangelism that he is simply called “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). Evangelism is part of fulfilling our ministry (2 Tim. 4:5).

“Pastors and teachers.” These two roles 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.”[106] That is, the same article links both “pastors and teachers.”[107] Elsewhere, Paul tells us that all elders or “pastors” should be “skilled teachers” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9). In addition, there is a gift of teaching that God gives to some people (Acts 13:1; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28).

For a more robust explanation, see our earlier article on the “Spiritual Gifts.”

(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 (or staff) should be doing all of the ministry in the church. The role of Christian leaders is to “equip the saints” to do the ministry. The word for “equip” (katartismon) is similar to the training pursued by artists or tradesmen—almost like taking on an “apprenticeship” from a journeyman. 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.”[108]

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.”

We already have unity with other believers (v.3), but we do not necessarily have the “unity of the faith.” 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 (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:13). It’s fine to be a spiritual baby for a period of time (1 Pet. 2:2), but we shouldn’t remain in this infantilized state. An integral part of spiritual maturity is to be stable enough in our doctrine to be able to recognize truth from error. The effect of false doctrine is that we are “carried about” (peripherō). This term is used in Hebrews 13:9 to refer to the effects of false doctrine. It literally means to be “swung around.”[109] It carries the idea of making a person “dizzy” as a result.[110] False teachers are not ignorant in their teaching.

They are filled with “cunning” and “deceitful scheming” (methodeia). This is the same language used regarding the “schemes” of the devil (Eph. 6:11).

(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.” These people stand in stark contrast to the false teachers mentioned earlier (v.14). 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.

“Grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” Instead of being children (v.14), we need to “grow up” into maturity through the speaking of truth in love.

(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.”

“Being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies.” This is a condensed explanation of the necessity of each and “every” part of the Body of Christ. Paul explains this concept in greater detail in passages like Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.

“Causes the growth of the body.” 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 purpose of all of this qualitative growth is for the “growth of the body.” If Paul thought this was simply growing in love, as some commentators hold,[111] then the purpose clause would be redundant with verse 15 (“speaking the truth in love”). Qualitative and quantitative growth are two concepts that go hand-in-hand.

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

Questions for Reflection

Read verse 2. Why does Paul begin his list of spiritual qualities with “humility”? What is the significance of this being at the beginning of the list?

Read verse 2. What does it look like to tolerate a person versus actively loving them?

Read 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?

Read verse 3. What are practical creative ways that we might preserve the unity we have in Christ? What has worked well in the past? What could we try in our current context?

Read verse 14-16. What are distinguishing keys to spiritual immaturity? What are keys of a spiritually mature person?

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?

Ephesians 4:17-24 (The battle is in our minds)

(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. Paul describes Christians who live more like “Gentiles” (i.e. non-Christians) than like Christ.

What is the difference between a carnal Christian and a committed Christian? The battle is lost or won in their “minds.” The way we think about God and the world will affect how we relate to God and the world.

The term “futility” (mataiotes) refers to a “state of being without use or value, emptiness, purposelessness, transitoriness” (BDAG). Elsewhere, Paul writes, “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.”

Are these people innocent because they are ignorant? Those who don’t know Christ cannot say that they are “ignorant” in the modern sense—that is, they simply lack adequate information. Instead, they are ignorant precisely “because of the hardness of their heart” and because they have “become callous” (v.19). This is a form of ignorance that leaves them culpable and responsible. Because they have sinfully hardened their hearts, this has led to a poisoning of the mind and becoming “hostile in mind” (Col. 1:21). This is what theologians call the “noetic effects of sin.” This explains why Jesus was “grieved” over the hardness of people’s hearts (Mk. 3:5; 8:17). Elsewhere, Paul writes 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 a “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.”[112]

(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 all the pain and despair that comes with this. Just like callouses might form on the worn hands of a construction worker, Paul says that our own hearts can become “calloused.” 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 her fingertips). According to the Bible, such a phenomenon can happen to your heart! What a terrifying thought: You can ignore God and suppress his truth for so long that you become numb to the Holy Spirit’s initiation and conviction.

Just as verse 18 reflects Romans 1:18-23, so too this verse reflects Paul’s repeated statement that God “gave them over” to their own desires (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). This is what theologians refer to as the “passive wrath” of God. He doesn’t judge us; instead, he lets us go. God is so good and his will is so wonderful that letting us go is a form of his wrath.

Because the person without God feels empty, they thirst for sensual experiences to fill the ever increasing void in the human heart. The term “greed” (pleonexia) comes from the root words “more” (pleon) and “to have” (echo). 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.”[113]

Questions for Reflection

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 effect on a person?

Ephesians 4:20-24 (How to walk WITH God)

(4:20-21) “But you did not learn Christ in this way. 21 If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.”

Paul contrasts this entire worldview and way of life with the Christian world and life view. This is a first-class conditional in Greek.[114] 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) imply 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.”

Bruce states that the indicatives and imperatives in this section can be summed up with the terse statement: “Be what you are!”[115] This passage is parallel to Paul’s excursus in Romans 6-8. If sin started 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 (i.e. “the new self”) and have a change of thinking before lunging into a change of action. Of course, when we choose to act, this can affect our thinking (as we’ve already seen above). However, this text teaches that as we reflect on our new life in Christ, this is the key to change. We realize that the emptiness and futility of living apart from God has been abundantly filled, and we have so much left over to give away to others.

Ephesians 4:25-32 (New identity, new life)

Paul said to “lay aside the old self” (Eph. 4:22) and “put on the new self” (Eph. 4:24). In this section (vv.25-32), Paul explains this contrast with sets of antitheses. That is, he gives an example of a sin issue (e.g. lying) and he replaces it with the alternative (e.g. speaking truth). This shows the concrete and practical outworking of what happens when we change from the “old self” to the “new self.”

(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.” Paul doesn’t base his motivation for truth-telling on our individual identity, but on our corporate identity. Unity in the Body of Christ is more important than my appearance and ego. Lying breaks trust and breaks down 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. He shows that there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous anger. It’s possible (in fact commanded) to “be angry.” But we should be careful that this doesn’t devolve into unrighteous anger. (For more on this topic, see our earlier article “Anger”). One sign that I’m harboring unrighteous anger is if I’m brooding with my anger for an extended period of time (“do not let the sun go down on your anger”). Bruce comments, “Nursing one’s wrath to keep it warm is not recommended as a wise policy, and least of all for Christians: it magnifies the grievance, makes reconciliation more difficult, and destroys friendly relations.”[116]

(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 fuel division, mistrust, and bitterness. One of Satan’s “schemes” is to capitalize on situations where we refuse to forgive (cf. 2 Cor. 2:10-11). Paul will elaborate on Satan’s schemes later in the letter (Eph. 6:11).

(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 we can become a giver. The Proverbs speak of the “sluggard” who only thinks of meeting his own needs, sometimes through stealing and other times through mooching off of others in the Body of Christ. These people need to learn to work. Paul writes, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you” (1 Thess. 4:11; cf. Acts 20:34; 1 Cor. 4:12).

(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). It refers to being “harmful, bad, evil, unwholesome” (BDAG). This term not only refers to “obscene vulgarity but slanderous and contemptuous talk, any talk that works to the detriment of the persons addressed or of those who are spoken about.”[117] 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 speaks to those who constantly jabber, joke around, and make small talk; yet they never think of building up 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.”[118]

(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. 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 spiritual of guilt or fear. After all, the fact that that Holy Spirit is “grieved” shows that he still loves us: You never grieve over an enemy or someone you don’t know; you only grieve over people whom you love. Since God’s needs are all met, he isn’t grieved for His own sake, but for ours, 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.”

“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 [emotional] sense, animosity, anger, harshness” (BDAG). Aristotle used the term to refer to people who are “hard to be reconciled” (Nicomachean Ethics 4.11).[119]

“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 could refer to shouting matches or raising your voice at others in an unrighteous way—probably designed 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.”

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

“Tender-hearted” (eusplagchnos) means 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 other people’s overt sin in verse 31 is not to be “nicer.” The solution is to learn how to be kind, forgiving, and compassionate—actively loving the people around us. Likewise, the solution to our overt sin is for others to forgive us in the same way.

Questions for Reflection

Read verses 22-24. What does it practically look like to put off the “old self” and put on the “new self”?

Read 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?

Read verse 26. What is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger? What are some examples of righteous anger?

Read verse 27. In what way do you think Satan might use unrighteous anger in Christian community?

Read 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

Ephesians 5:1-21 (What does it look like to follow Christ?)

(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. 2:3) to God’s “beloved children.”

(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? Our foundation is the love of Christ, who loved us with an incomparable love (“…just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us…”). Thus, Paul is referring to nothing less than sacrificial love, because he uses Jesus’ sacrificial death as the indicative (Jn. 15:12-13).

“Offering… sacrifice… fragrant aroma.” This is the language of worship (Ps. 40:6; Heb. 10:5). To “walk in love” is a way to worship God (cf. Rom. 12:1-2), just as Jesus’ sacrifice was an act of worship.

(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” (porneia) and “impurity” (akatharsia) cover every “kind of sexual sin.” In other words, this refers to “all sexual intercourse outside its God-ordained context of a loving marriage.”[120]

“Greed” (pleonexia) comes from the root words “more” (pleon) and “to have” (echo). 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.”[121]

When Paul writes that sexual immorality 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.”[122] We sometimes might feel like our views on sexuality is at odds with our culture. Join the club! The Christian view of sex has been countercultural for two millennia.

(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 this word is used in the NT. It refers to “stupid chatter or silly twaddle.”[123] Plutarch described this as the words of a drunken man that make no sense and have no benefit for others.[124]

“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 “mostly… good sense: ‘wittiness’, ‘facetiousness’” (BDAG). However, in a negative sense, it refers to vulgar jokes that often involve sex. The NEB translates this as “flippant talk” or constant sarcasm.[125]

(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. They aren’t sons, and therefore, they have no inheritance. If we take this passage hyper-literally, we would need to think that a Christian who sometimes covets is going to hell. Paul is describing these people by their identity: That is, they are an immoral person; they are a covetous man; they are an idolater. If this is your identity, then you have not come to faith in Christ in the first place.

(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.”

Paul uses the present tense. God’s wrath is currently falling on unbelievers, because he “gave them over” (Rom. 1:24-28) and they “have given themselves over” (Eph. 4:18) to an empty and damaging way of life.

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

(5:7) “Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

Why would we partake with non-believers if we know where that lifestyle leads and that identity results? Their lifestyle leads to God’s “passive wrath” (i.e. God 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.”

Again, there are three keys to understanding Ephesians: (1) identity, (2) identity, and (3) identity! Paul bases his case for rejecting immorality on the fact that our identity changed from “darkness” to “Light in the Lord.” It’s on this basis that we should “walk as children of Light.” That is, be consistent with our new identity “in the Lord.” We are a new creation and shouldn’t live apart from God anymore. Paul’s repeated emphasis is to align our lives with who we already are “in the Lord.”

(5:9) “(For the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)”

Paul defines what “light” looks like. He doesn’t want to be misunderstood (by proto-Gnostic teachers?) as defining “light” as resulting in licentiousness or asceticism (as Gnosticism taught). Instead, God’s revelation results in love, goodness, righteousness, etc. See a similar argument in 1 Thessalonians 5.

(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). Elsewhere, Paul writes, “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9-10 NIV). 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.”[126] God is “well-pleased” with us (Eph. 1:6; Mt. 3:17), but we can still make it our ambition to be “pleasing” to him (2 Cor. 5:9; Phil. 4:18; Col. 1:10).

(5:11-13) “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.”

To “expose” (elenchō) has a “wide range of meaning,”[127] and so, the context must inform its meaning. The term can mean “to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light” or “to bring a person to the point of recognizing wrongdoing, convict, convince someone of something point something out to someone (BDAG). Jesus uses it to refer to being “exposed” (Jn. 3:20; cf. 1 Cor. 14:24-25). 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 God’s truth, resulting in a changed mind and life. Bruce writes, “Exposure to the light is the best way to make them wither and die.”[128]

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.[129] After all, verse 14 is a call for the non-believer to receive the light of Christ also.

Fitting with his theme above about filthy language (v.4), there are some acts that are inappropriate to even speak about (v.12).

(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 like Isaiah 9:2; 26:19; 51:17; 52:1; 60:1. In our estimation, he seems to be citing the OT in general, rather than a specific passage. This might be similar to saying, “The Bible says that God wants our whole lives.” While this captures the teaching of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:36ff), this isn’t a direct quote from the Bible. In our view, we need to expand our view of what it means for the NT authors to cite the OT. Not all are direct, verbatim citations.

The need for wisdom

(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: Are we asking ourselves the hard questions? Am I being wise with my time, talents, and treasures? Am I investing these wisely? Big decisions aren’t always in Scripture (e.g. dating, marriage, career, investments, etc.), but 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.

“Not as unwise men but as wise.” God has given us wisdom (Eph. 1:8, 17), and our role is to know it, meditate on it, and trust in it. This not only includes wisdom toward our own lives, but toward non-believers (Col. 4:5).

(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 that is vying for our attention and affections. We face a tacit and continuous pull toward temporary and transitory pursuits. Don’t fall for the trap of the world-system (1 Jn. 2:15-17). Make the most of your time by sharing about Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness with others (Col. 4:5; 1 Cor. 7:29).

(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 or murder). 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.”

Why shouldn’t we get drunk? Paul gives several reasons in this one verse.

First, getting intoxicated is one example of wasting your time (vv.15-17). When you’re engaging in heavy drinking, you get stupid, and you can’t think straight. Moreover, who on Earth enjoys a hangover? Not only did you waste one day, but now you’re paying for it a day later. It’s all a big waste of time.

Second, drunkenness leads to a true slippery slope. It’s fine to drink alcohol, but that’s not what Paul is describing. He is writing of getting intoxicated or “drunk.” This, he argues, can lead to “dissipation” (asōtia) refers to “debauchery” or “wild living” (BDAG, p.148; 1 Pet. 4:4; Lk. 15:13). Paul is right: “Drunkenness” very easily leads to foolish and immoral decisions. Some of our worst moral decisions were made when we had too much to drink.

Third, drunkenness is set in tension against being filled with the Spirit. As we are filled with the Spirit and being fulfilled by Him, we don’t feel the need to turn to drunkenness. Interestingly, Wood points out, “On the day of Pentecost the effect of [being filled with the Spirit] was mistaken for drunkenness.”[130] Being filled with the Spirit has an ecstatic effect on the believer.

Is being filled with the Holy Spirit lead to irrational and bizarre behavior? No! We reject so-called hyper-charismatic manifestations of the Spirit like being “slain in the Spirit,” “drunk in the Spirit,” or the so-called “Toronto blessing.” Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit gives us a “sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7), and we shouldn’t look “mad” when the Spirit is operating in our midst (1 Cor. 14:23). As Bruce writes, “The normal exercise of intelligence is not eclipsed but enhanced when he is in control.”[131]

Instead, we mean that believers experience a lifting of their spirit when they are filled with the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22ff). As Foulkes writes, “The apostle is not merely negative. He does not seek simply to take away joys and pleasures from people’s lives. He would replace them by higher joys and better pleasures.”[132] God doesn’t want to take away anything from our lives that’s worth anything; instead, he wants to fill us with great joy.

“Be filled with the Spirit.” This doesn’t refer to being sealed with the Spirit, which is a one-time event. Rather this refers to being filled with the Spirit in an ongoing and daily opportunity (present tense). How do we get filled with the Spirit? Rather than thinking that this is some sort of mystical experience, we’re inclined to think that the following verses give practical advice on how to be filled with the Spirit.

(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.

Does this describe a corporate worship service? No. The “one another” portion of this passage refers to “speaking,” rather than singing. The singing portion is directed toward God himself, but it is performed in the heart. Hence, Foulkes rightly states that the “melody may sometimes be in the heart and not expressed in sound—and go forth addressed to the Lord.”[133] This passage supports singing, but it doesn’t support corporate worship services.

(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 being lifted and our soul experiencing the peace of God in new levels (Phil. 4:6).

(5:21) “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

This participle (“submitting to one another” ESV) also shows how to be filled with the Spirit. When we develop a Christ-like attitude of servanthood and humility with 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 (Jn. 13:17; Acts 20:35). Paul has already written enough about our mindset and thought-life. Here, he emphasizes taking action based on this subject.

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.[134] Commentators sometimes call these “Janus verses” based on the Roman god Janus who had two faces: one looking backward and one looking forward.[135] 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?

Ephesians 5:22-32 (Marriage)

Christian marriage counselors sometimes refer to these sections as “mail” written to different people. In one section, Paul is writing “mail” to wives. Later, he writes “mail” to husbands. But it would be unwise to “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. If you’re a husband, let the passages to you convict you, stir you, and grow your heart in love toward your wife. Don’t leap to leveraging these passages about wives against your wife, but let God work on you with his words to you.

(5:22) “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

The submission of a wife is mutual. Both husband and wife should submit to one another (v.21). And yet, wives are told to “be subject” to their husbands. While these words (“be subject”) are not in the Greek, in our view, translators rightly infer these words from the previous verse, where we are supposed to “be subject to one another” (v.21), as well as verse 24, where the term is once again explicitly used. Indeed, the “whole structure of the verse depends on the participle in verse 21.”[136] This being said, any teaching on the leadership of a husband in the home should be understood through the lens of mutual submission and humility (v.21).

The submission of a wife to her husband’s leadership is voluntary. For one, it is a voluntary decision regarding whom she chooses to marry. Second, 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?

The submission is centered on God. Paul writes that the wife submits “as to the Lord.” This doesn’t refer to absolute submission to the husband. Rather, the parallel passage in Colossians states: “as is fitting in the Lord.” The wife humbly serves her husband in an authentic way. It is this authenticity that is parallel to serving God.

(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.”

The husband is called to be a servant leader in the home. Elsewhere, Paul writes that husbands “should not be harsh” with their wives (Col. 3:19 NIV). This is why Paul compares marriage to Jesus’ love for the Church. The husband is the “head” of the wife in the way that Jesus is the “head” of the Church. We should be careful to avoid modern views of dictatorial, bossy, and authoritarian leadership into this passage. After all, how did Jesus lead the Church? He gave up his life! Wood writes, “Marriage is thus interpreted in the sublimest terms. It is compared with the marriage of the Lamb to his bride.”[137]

(5:24) “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Wives should respect the servant-leadership of their husbands. This means they should “respect” the leadership and initiation of their husbands (v.33).

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

Of course, 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.”[138] 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. This means that, 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 and pampering ourselves. This is how each of us is 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. Wives often want a husband that is more engaged in leading the home—not less.

(5:26) “So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”

Jesus sanctified us through his word. On the night before he died, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Surely we have our role in getting into the word, but God promises to use his word to grow and cleanse us.

(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). Thus, this isn’t something that we do, but something God has done for us (cf. 2 Cor. 11:2). The Church “can do nothing of herself to make herself beautiful in the eyes of her Lord. Of necessity it is all his work. He must thus present the church to himself.”[139]

(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: “[A wife] 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.”[140]

(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. Incidentally, this speaks against the notion that we need to love ourselves first before we can learn to love others. Paul assumes that we know how to love ourselves just fine. If we need someone to carry our load (Gal. 6:2) or refresh our spirit (Rom. 15:32; 1 Cor. 16:18; 2 Cor. 7:13; 2 Tim. 1:16; Phile. 20), this is fine. Likewise, we shouldn’t run ourselves ragged to the point of breakdown (1 Kin. 19). But we should be very suspicious of our inclination to love ourselves given the reality of the human condition that naturally curves inward.

(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. This speaks of monogamy: a singular father, a singular mother, and a singular wife. This was God’s design, and it is still operative today.

(5:32) “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

Paul understands that marriage mysteriously reflects the love of Christ for his Church. When people enter the Body of Christ, they see the love of God through the love of Christians (Jn. 13:33-34; 17:21, 23). Likewise, Christian marriages are supposed to reflect God’s love to the world. As modern society continues to denigrate, dismiss, and darken this beautiful, biblical picture of marriage, healthy marriages and families will shine even brighter than ever before (Mt. 5:13-16).

F.F. Bruce understands the “mystery” of marriage to reflect Christ’s love for the Church: “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.”[141] Foulkes agrees, “The husband’s position as head, and his duty of sacrificial love and devoted care for his wife are but pictures, imperfect, but the best that this life can offer, of Christ as head, of his love, self-sacrifice and concern for his church. The dependence of the wife on her husband and her duty to accept his leadership are a picture of how the church should live and act towards her divine Lord.”[142]

(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? We’re not sure, but it’s an interesting turn of phrase that Paul chooses.

Questions for Reflection

Read verses 2-4. How would gratitude help combat the sins listed in these verses?

Read verse 3. Is there any significance to the fact that Paul lists sexual immorality alongside greed? If so, why do you think Paul linked these sins together?

Read 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 desire a successful marriage, but less are getting married. What might be some reasons for this phenomenon?

The Huffington Post (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 agree with? Which do you disagree with? Why?

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

Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:1-4 (Parents and children)

(6:1) “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“Children” (tekna) are not grown adults. Women give birth to children (1 Tim. 2:15; cf. 5:14), so little children must be in view. This term can be translated as “descendants,” but the context must inform our interpretation.

“Obey your parents.” Colossians 3:20 adds that children should be obedient “in everything.” Of course, this should be understood alongside the prioritized ethic of obeying God first and foremost (see “Prioritized Ethics”). The expression “in the Lord” could 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.). However, we should remember that even the child Jesus was in “subjection” to his parents (Lk. 2:51).

It’s interesting that Paul specifically addresses children in his letter. Wood notes, “It is interesting that Paul addresses children directly.”[143] Children were able to hear the Word of God and respond to it. This implies that they are valuable in God’s eyes, and it implies that children are able to understand what is being read to them.

Children should listen to both parents—not just the father. In a patriarchal society, Paul goes out of his way to state that both dad and mom should be listened to.

(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.”

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). Rather, Paul is saying, “This is the first commandment that 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).

“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 we have with our parents—even if they are sinful. Our job as children is to find ways to honor our parents wherever we can. If we cannot honor them, we are going to have a tremendously difficult time honor other authorities in our lives.

(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” (paraorgizete) comes from the root “anger” (orge). It is used to refer to anger that leads to giving Satan a foothold (Eph. 4:26-27), and it can be also translated as “exasperate” (NIV). While fathers have delegated authority in the home, Paul commands them to be gentle. Foulkes writes, “Discipline is essential in the home; but not unnecessary rules and regulations and endless petty correction by which children are ‘discouraged’ (Col. 3:21).”[144] Wood notes, “In a society where the father’s authority (patria potestas) was absolute, this represented a revolutionary concept.”[145]

“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 “mind” (nous) and “put” (tithēmi), or to “put on someone’s mind.” 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—teaching them, directing them, correcting them, and encouraging them. This is all done for the child in love (Prov. 22:6).

Questions for Reflection

Why would obeying parents be good for us?

Are there ever times when we would be obligated not to obey our parents? If so, when and why?

If you’re not a parent, what are some ways to prepare for becoming a godly parent?

How might a person “honor” their parents, even if their parents were abusive or cruel? Is this possible? If so, how?

Ephesians 6:5-9 (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.”[146] 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 the 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 a workaholic for the sake of the work or success is not in view here. Rather, 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.”[147]

(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. Your slave-master would seem ultimate. Yet, Paul notes that God is watching their labor of love to reach their masters, and he will personally reward them (v.8). Jesus is our “Lord,” not a human slave master.

(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, 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 at least 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. This was a radical concept in the first-century world.

Ephesians 6:10-19 (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 a model for his metaphor regarding what to wear into 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. We need to gain our strength “in the Lord,” not in ourselves. Moreover, the expression (“be strong”) is actually passive—not active. It could be better rendered “let yourself be strengthened.”[148] Foulkes writes, “People cannot strengthen themselves; they must be empowered, and that not once for all but constantly, as the tense of the Greek indicates.”[149]

(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, of course, Wood notes that “it is not altogether certain that such a custodian would have been in full battle dress.”[150] All the same, Paul probably had a lot of time to talk to the Roman guards about their service and warfare.

We need to wear the “full armor” of God, 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.”[151]

“Stand” (stēte) is a “military term for holding on to a position.”[152]

“Schemes” (methodeias) refers to Satan’s “methods” in battle (2 Cor. 2:11). So far, Paul states that Satan would use false teaching to attack us (Eph. 4:14) as well as unrighteous anger (Eph. 4:27). He has many other schemes as well. In fact, his tactics are so effective that we often fall for them—even when we are well-aware of the fact that this is a scheme of Satan! Indeed, how many times have we nursed bitterness or anger—even when Scripture directly teaches that Satan uses this to destroy relationships in Christian community? (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 4:27)

(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.”

Paul gives various names for demons. This implies that there are many species of demons (see “Angelology”).

“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.”[153]

“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.”[154]

“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) or could refer to our “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4).

(6:14) “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.”

“Stand firm” is mentioned twice in back-to-back verses (vv.13-14). Much of spiritual warfare is simply standing our ground, and not retreating or slipping backwards. It is a refusal to be swept away by false teaching (Eph. 4:14) or to retreat in fear of the opposition.

Paul cites Isaiah 11:5 and Isaiah 59:17, which in context refer to the Messiah’s armor or Yahweh’s armor. Because we are “in Christ,” we gain Jesus’ armor. After all, we find truth in Jesus (Eph. 4:21), why not his spiritual armor as well?

“Girded your loins.” 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 on our own abilities or competence, we will surely lose an argument with him. Sadly, most Christians are woefully ignorant of the contents of their Bible—their foundation for battling the evil one. Barna studied how many Christians hold to a Christian worldview.[155] 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.

Does this refer to our righteousness or Jesus’ forensic righteousness? Some commentators believe that we should live holy live and display our own personal righteousness when Satan attacks us. Lordship theologian John MacArthur writes, “The weapons of warfare can be summarized in one word: Obedience.”[156] Likewise, Bruce writes, “It is truth and righteousness as ethical qualities that are meant, rather than truth of doctrine and justification by faith.”[157] 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.”[158] Foulkes states that this refers to the “loyalty in principle and action to the holy law of God.”[159]

Not true! This refers to Christ’s righteousness—not our own personal righteousness. For one, the OT citation fits this view. Paul cites from Isaiah 59:17, where Christ (Yahweh) possesses the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation. Of course, God doesn’t need “salvation.” Instead, he gives it away. Similarly, because we are “in Christ,” we possess all of the armor that Christ possesses in that passage. Second, the other pieces of armor in this section are gifts—not something we produce. That is, we don’t produce “truth” (v.14), “the gospel” (v.15), “salvation” (v.17), or the “word of God” (v.17). It’s true that we need to exert “faith” (v.16), but righteousness? This seems out of line with the immediate context. Third, elsewhere, Paul writes that he is not looking to have 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). Fourth, battling Satan on the merits of our own personal righteousness is just about the worst way we could defend ourselves. The Greater Accuser relishes in our desire to defend ourselves based on our own righteousness, because he can always find innumerable chinks in such a miserable armor.

We agree with other commentators who argue that this refers to Jesus’ righteousness—not our own. McCallum writes, “When Christians take their seat with Christ, not based on their own good works, Satan loses his most potent weapon: accusation.”[160] 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.”[161] 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.”[162]

(6:15) “And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”

Josephus describes the shoes of Romans soldiers (the caligae) 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 be vulnerable of being trampled or stabbed.

The “gospel of peace” seems to 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.”[163]

In ancient warfare, soldiers would often panic when their shield filled with fiery arrows (Livy, History 21:8). Because their shield was on fire, they would often panic and throw it aside. Bruce writes, “The soldier was tempted to get rid of his burning shield and expose himself to the enemy’s spear-thrusts.”[164] Yet, Bruce notes that the “shield of faith” not only blocks the arrows, but these are “extinguished” as well.

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

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.”[165] Believers do not merely deflect the arrows through faith, but they “extinguish” them.[166] This must refer to refuting Satan’s accusations toward us, others, and God.

(6:17) “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

“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 our justification and our security in Christ. This could involve speaking these words of faith 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!”[167]

(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.”

Prayer refers to outward requests for 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 in the mission of sharing the message of Christ with others (vv.19-20).

What does it mean to pray “in the Spirit”? Bruce states that this means that we should pray “under the Spirit’s influence and with his assistance.”[168] Perhaps 1 Corinthians 14:15 and Romans 8:26 apply here.

(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? 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 (cf. Col. 4:2-4; 2 Thess. 3:1).

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

Ephesians 6:20-24 (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 identical to Colossians 4:7-8. This implies that “Colossians and Ephesians were written and sent at the same time.”[169] Paul probably sent Tychicus 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 with fellow believers.

(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.”

Questions for Reflection

Why does Paul compare his work of evangelism to being an ambassador? (Eph. 6:20) In what ways are Christian “ambassadors” and political “ambassadors” similar? In what ways are they different?

[1] Knox held that the author was Onesimus, whom Ignatius said was a bishop in the early second century. J. Knox, Philemon among the Letters of Paul (London, 1960), pp.85-92.

Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), lxviii.

[2] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 47.

[3] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 3.

[4] Tertullian, Against Marcion 5.17.1.

[5] Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.2.3; 5.8.1; 5.14.3; 5.24.4.

[6] Stromatum 4.8; Paedagogus 1.5.

[7] Tertullian, On Monogamy 5. He cites Ephesians 1:9-10. He also understood Ephesus as a city that received a genuine letter from Paul (The Prescription Against Heretics 36). Hoehner comments, “Tertullian quotes from Ephesians more than forty times over the course of two chapters.” Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 5.

[8] Edward Evanson, The Dissonance of the Four Generally Received Evangelists and the Evidence of Their Respective Authenticity Examined (Ipswich, England: George Jermym, 1792), 261-62.

[9] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 7.

[10] Hoehner also adds allusions from 2nd century writings like the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas, and even Gnostic writings. Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 5-6.

[11] C. Leslie Mitton, The Epistle to the Ephesians: Its Authorship, Origin and Purpose (Oxford: Clarendon, 1951), 15-16.

[12] Robert Morgenthaler, Statistik des neutestamentliche Wortschatzes, 4th ed. (Zürich: Gotthelf-Verlag, 1992), 164.

[13] G. Udny Yule, The Statistical Study of Literary Vocabulary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1944), 2, 281.

[14] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 27.

[15] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 24.

[16] P. N. Harrison, Paulines and Pastorals (London: Villiers, 1964), 48.

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

[18] H. J. Cadbury, “The Dilemma of Ephesians,” New Testament Studies 5 (January 1959): 101. Cited in Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians, 29.

[19] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 29.

[20] Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), lix-lxxiii.

[21] C. Leslie Mitton, The Epistle to the Ephesians. Its Authorship, Origin and Purpose (Oxford: Clarendon, 1951), 57.

[22] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 31.

[23] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 31.

[24] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 2-62.

[25] 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.” Robert Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 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.

[26] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 9.

[27] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 249-250.

[28] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 12.

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

[30] Robert Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 421.

[31] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 307.

[32] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 16.

[33] Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker (Cambridge: O’Reilly Media, 2009), 57.

[34] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 25.

[35] Bruce writes, “‘Believers’ is more probably the sense here.” F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 251.

[36] Lincoln writes, “‘Faithful’ is to be understood in the sense of having faith or exercising belief rather than of being trustworthy or reliable. As an adjective, πιστός means ‘believing’ in Gal 3:9. Used as a substantive, it began to take on the semitechnical sense of ‘believer’; in 2 Cor 6:15 the believer (πιστός) is contrasted with the unbeliever (ἄπιστος), and by the time of the Pastorals this usage seems to have become fixed (cf. 1 Tim 4:10, 12; 5:16; 6:2; Titus 1:6).” Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1990), 6.

[37] Best writes, “Used as a noun in Eph 1:1 it will belong to the same semantic field as ‘saints’ and should be translated as ‘believers.’” Ernest Best, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians, International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T&T Clark International, 1998), 101.

[38] Arnold writes, “The adjective is best understood in the active sense of exercising belief or trust, especially since the object of that faith is explicitly stated as ‘in Christ Jesus.’ Although the word could also be taken as ‘faithful,’ this is doubtful because Paul is not making a distinction in the letter between faithful and unfaithful Christians at Ephesus.” Clinton Arnold, Ephesians: Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 69.

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

[40] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 162.

[41] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Vol. 2:250).

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

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

[44] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 25.

[45] W. Mundle, “Lutron,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 190.

[46] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 59.

[47] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 260.

[48] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 60.

[49] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 26.

[50] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 61.

[51] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 61.

[52] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 61.

[53] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 26.

[54] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 264.

[55] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 264.

[56] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 266.

[57] Craig Blomberg, From Pentecost to Patmos: An Introduction to Acts through Revelation (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2006), 309.

[58] R. Schippers, “Seal,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 498.

[59] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 266.

[60] O. Becker, “Gift, Pledge, Corban,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 40.

[61] Craig Blomberg, 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.

[62] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 270.

[63] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 69.

[64] Two close verbal parallels favor this view (Acts 20:32; 26:18). Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 70.

[65] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 270.

[66] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 30.

[67] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 77.

[68] Philo, On Dreams 1.134-35, 141; cf. On the Giants 6. Cited in F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 282.

[69] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 35.

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

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

[72] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 38.

[73] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 39.

[74] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 88.

[75] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 39.

[76] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 40.

[77] Josephus, Antiquities 15.11.5.

[78] Josephus, Wars of the Jews 5.5.2.

[79] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 41.

[80] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 93.

[81] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 94.

[82] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 42.

[83] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 42.

[84] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 97.

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

[86] 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; Isa. 19:24-25; 37:20; 45:22-23; 52:10; 66:18-19.

[87] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 314.

[88] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 314.

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

[90] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 47.

[91] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 106.

[92] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 323.

[93] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 50.

[94] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 107.

[95] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 326.

[96] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 51.

[97] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 113.

[98] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 115.

[99] W. Bauder, “Humility, Meekness,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 256.

[100] James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans through Galatians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 499.

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

[102] U. Falkenroth and C. Brown, “Patience, Steadfastness, Endurance,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 764.

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

[104] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 338.

[105] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 124.

[106] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 58.

[107] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 126.

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

[109] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 59.

[110] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 129.

[111] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 131.

[112] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 61.

[113] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 137.

[114] 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…”

[115] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 357.

[116] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 361.

[117] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 362–363.

[118] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 65.

[119] Cited in A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 65.

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

[121] Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 137.

[122] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 68.

[123] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 68.

[124] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 147.

[125] Interestingly, our modern word “sarcasm” literally means to “to tear flesh” or “strip flesh.”

[126] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 70.

[127] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 151.

[128] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 375.

[129] J.B. Phillips understands this passage in this way. Cited in A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 70.

[130] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 72.

[131] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 380.

[132] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 155.

[133] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 157.

[134] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 75.

[135] I am indebted to my friend and colleague Jim Leffel for this insight.

[136] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 159.

[137] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 75.

[138] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 76.

[139] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 164.

[140] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 77.

[141] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 395.

[142] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 167.

[143] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 80.

[144] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 170.

[145] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 81.

[146] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 83.

[147] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 83.

[148] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 85.

[149] Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 175.

[150] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 86.

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

[152] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 86.

[153] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 86.

[154] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 86.

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

[156] John MacArthur, How to Meet the Enemy (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), 69.

[157] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 408.

[158] Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Vol. 2 [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983], p. 643.

[159] Foulkes is citing H. C. G. Moule, Commentary on Ephesians (Cambridge Bible; Cambridge, 1884). Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 180.

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

[161] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 87.

[162] Merrill Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991), 18.

[163] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 88.

[164] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 408.

[165] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 88.

[166] A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians through Philemon, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 88.

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

[168] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 411.

[169] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), 414.