Reflections on Ephesians

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Kings, Ezekiel, Daniel, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy.

Ephesians can be divided into two parts: chapters 1-3 are about God and what He has done; chapters 4-6 are about what believers in Christ should do in response. The book deals with the themes of salvation, unity in Christ, rules for Christian living and spiritual warfare.

1:1-14

1:3-14 is one long sentence in the Greek, 202 words long. God is the subject of every verb but one (in verse 13) in this section. Verses 3-6 focus on the Father, verses 7-12 on the Son and verses 13-14 on the Spirit. Each of these sub-sections ends in praise to God (1:6, 12, 14).

When were Christians saved? Before the creation of the world (1:4). How are Christians saved? By redemption through the blood of Christ (1:7). Why are Christians saved? To be holy and blameless in God’s sight (1:4) and to praise His glory (1:12).

Our response should therefore be humility (we were chosen before we did anything good or bad) and worship (thanksgiving to God for His mercy).

1:15-23

Paul transitions from praise to intercession. Why does he pray? Because of the spiritual blessings God has given us in Christ (1:3, 15). What does he pray for? That the eyes of his readers’ hearts may be enlightened (1:18). What is the basis of his prayer? The power of God (1:19). In the original, there are four different power words in verse 19 (dunamis, energeia, ischus and kratos)!

2:1-10

What we were: dead, deluded, disobedient, dominated by evil desires and under God’s wrath (2:1-3). But now we have been made alive in Christ, raised with Christ and seated with Christ (2:5-6). Why? Because of God’s great love (2:4); in order that God may show the riches of His grace (2:7); so that we may do the works God has prepared for us to do (1:10).

2:11-22

What we were: alienated from the people of God and alienated from God (2:12). Christ is our peace, He has made peace and He preached peace. As a result, we have been brought near and are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (2:19).

3:1-13

In this section Paul considers the mystery of the gospel:

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

—Ephesians 3:6

3:14-21

Verses 14-19 form another long sentence in the original. Paul prays for strength in his readers, writing in confusing terms: he describes the love of Christ in four dimensions (width, length, height and depth) and prays that we may know the unknowable  (3:19). I have a feeling he did it deliberately 🙂

In verses 20-21, he breaks out into praise again.  He just couldn’t help himself!

4:1-5:20

Here begin the instructions on how Christians should live, in light of the truths laid out in the previous chapters. What are the characteristics of a life worthy of the calling we’ve received? Love and unity, for starters. Maturity happens as we learn from those God has appointed to teach —all the gifts mentioned are speaking gifts.

We should no longer live and think like pagans. Instead, we should:

Put off Put on Why
Falsehood Truth-telling We are all members of one body (4:25)
Anger So as not to give the devil a foothold (4:26-27)
Stealing Work So as to have something to share with those in need (4:28)
Unwholesome talk Helpful words So as to benefit those who listen (4:29)
Bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice Kindness, compassion, forgiveness God in Christ forgave us (4:31-32)

It is interesting to note that how a Christian treats other people is inseparable from their relationship with God (5:1-2).

In 5:3-7, Paul calls us to walk in purity. Why? Because God’s people are holy; so that we may have an inheritance in the Kingdom; and so that we may not face God’s judgment.

In 5:8-14, Paul calls us to walk as light. We are light, so he’s simply telling us to be what we already are.

In 5:15-20, he gives further instructions in holy living. In verse 18, he contrasts being filled with wine and being filled with the Holy Spirit. When a person is drunk, the alcohol affects everything they do. So it should be with a Spirit-filled Christian: His indwelling presence should affect everything the believer does. I’m told that the verb used in this verse does not indicate a one-off action, but a continuous one.

5:21-6:9

Submission in three kinds of relationships: husband and wife, parent and child, master and slave. Why? Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church (5:22-33); a child’s obedience results in blessing from the Lord (6:3); everyone has God as their Master (6:5- 9).

6:10-20

If you read Ephesians through in one sitting, this section may seem to be out of the blue. After all, Paul’s been talking about salvation, unity and love—what’s spiritual warfare got to do with that? A lot. As explored earlier in the letter, mankind’s problem is alienation and hostility to God and to one another. God’s plan is to break down the walls of division and bring everything together under Christ. Satan undermines God’s plan by causing believers to (1) resent God (think Job) and thus be separated from Him; (2) to lose faith in God and thus be separated from other believers.

I had no idea that Paul borrowed the armour imagery from the OT: the belt, the shoes, the breastplate and helmet are found in Isaiah.

What’s our task?  To put on the full armour, stand firm and pray. Paul ends his letter by giving grace to all those who love Jesus with an undying love. How tragic that the Ephesian church forsook its first love! God help us from going down that path.

Sources: CICCU Media, Covenant Life Church, ESV Literary Study Bible (sample), David Jackman.

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