Ephesians Introduction

Ephesians Introduction


The theme of this letter is clearly established early on in 1:9–10—the consummation of all things in Christ—the things in the heavens and the things on the earth in Him. God’s plan encompasses the entirety of the cosmos! And perhaps no less striking is the fact that God’s people are part of this vast and glorious drama. Human history, particularly of the people of God, is the arena for a cosmic battle: God vs. the forces of evil opposed to his consummation of all things in Christ. If the children of God ever feel their lives are insignificant, they need to take note of Ephesians: they are the agents of the manifestation of divine victory in the cosmos. Indeed, their victories in spiritual battles redound to God’s victory and thereby his glory. This makes the canvas of Ephesians as capacious as the cosmos, upon which is being painted the grand masterpiece of divine action. It is because the universe is fractured as a result of sin that a consummation of all things in Christ is a necessary plan of God: a creation in which Jesus Christ is the singular head over all, and in whom, all things are filled with the divine fulness by the Spirit.

Summaries of Pericopes

1. Ephesians 1:1–14. The first pericope raises the curtain on God’s grand and glorious plan for the cosmos—the consummation of all things in Christ. Into this grand and glorious plan, all (believing) humans have been recruited, God’s scheme for them extending from eternity past to eternity future. A blessed God blesses his people in his Son, with grace, love, and delight.

2. Ephesians 1:15–23. In co-opting them into his grand scheme, Paul assures believers that divine power—involved in the raising and exaltation of Christ over death and every inimical power in the universe—is working on their behalf, for those who are the body and fullness of Christ and the expression of his divine rule in the cosmos.

3. Ephesians 2:1–10. Once lost in sin, influenced for the worse by the world, by evil powers, and by their own flesh, and deserving only of the wrath of God, Christians have now been saved by grace through faith. They now share their Savior’s exaltation, proclaiming to the universe the mercy, love, grace, and kindness of God, by their salvation from sin and their sanctification in good works.

4. Ephesians 2:11–22. Those who were once unbelievers and far from God, have been brought near, into the community of God’s people, as believers reconciled to God. Now God’s people comprises all humanity—all those who have believed in Christ, the personification and producer of peace. Christ removed the condemnation of the law (for sin) upon mankind and made possible their access to God and their becoming a holy temple, a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

5. Ephesians 3:1–13. Paul’s own divinely empowered role in God’s administration of the hitherto unknown mystery of the universality of the church was to serve the co-opting of all (believing) humanity into the community of God’s people. This grand role of the apostle—howbeit paradoxical, for he was but a prisoner, and one who was “less than the least of all the saints”—becomes the paradigm for the ministry of all believers, as God accomplishes his eternal and glorious plan through those who are seemingly insignificant, uninfluential, and unimportant.

6. Ephesians 3:14–21. The accomplishment of God’s plan through believers involves their being strengthened by the Spirit and thereby being conformed, more and more, to Christ by faith. Not just individually, but corporately as well, God’s plan is being worked out as believers in community comprehend the magnitude of Christ’s love for them. This enables them to become filled to the fullness of God (i.e., God glorified in the church and dwelling in it), —the church increasingly becoming the holy temple of God, thus bringing him glory.

7. Ephesians 4:1–16. Christians are called to selfless love that leads to unity in the body reflecting the unity of the Godhead, and they are to exercise the grace-gifts given to them by Christ. These grace-gifts, appropriately granted to church leaders and to every believer, enable the former to facilitate the ministry of the latter, so that the church may be built up in unity to the full, mature stature of its head, Christ.

8. Ephesians 4:17–32. Believers, no longer living licentiously, ignorant and devoid of divine life, have learned Christ and are being divinely renewed in the likeness of God. Now they are to manifest that divine character as they engage in activities that build up one another and are conducive to the development of community: eschewing anger, sharing resources, speaking grace, controlling temper, and forgiving divinely.

9. Ephesians 5:1–20. This brings us to the imitation of God and of Christ’s selfless love, which calls for the abandonment of illicit worldly “love” (i.e., sexual immorality in word and in deed), eliciting only the wrath of God. Believers, being filled by the Spirit and with the divine fullness of God in Christ, are to adopt a lifestyle that is wise and worshipful, inviting the pleasure of God.

10. Ephesians 5:21–33. The fullness of God in the church is manifested in the mutual submission of believers in the fear of Christ, and in the modeling of the relationship of husband and wife after the relationship between Christ and the church—sacrificial love on the part of the husband and submission to delegated authority on the part of the wife.

11. Ephesians 6:1–9. The responsibilities of those in authority and those under authority involves children being obedient to parents, and parents gently instructing their children. In addition, slaves and masters treat one another with sincerity of heart, doing God’s will and serving him, the divine Master of all mankind. All are appropriately rewarded in the future on the day of reckoning.

12. Ephesians 6:10–24. Victory against supernatural foes, always arrayed against God and the people of God, can be achieved only by divine empowerment. Such empowerment is granted to the believer in the form of God’s own armor—relating to the attributes (belt-truth, breastplate-righteousness), deeds (shoe-peace, shield-faith, helmet-salvation), and utterances of God (sword-word). This comprehensive view of life as a battle fought with divine enablement calls for utter dependence of the believer upon God for everything, expressed in constant, alert, Spirit-driven prayer for all the saints.

The broad theological thrust of Ephesians may be summarized this way in a single (and long) sentence:

A blessed God blesses his people graciously and lovingly in his beloved Son, redeeming them as his own possession to undertake divinely empowered good works, so that they may manifest his power and glory as a united body of all (believing) humanity, exercising grace-gifts for edification to Christlikeness, with selfless love abandoning all activities not conducive to community, adopting a wise and worshipful lifestyle pleasing to God—filled by the Spirit with the divine fullness of God in Christ, submitting to one another, modeling marital relationships after the Christ–church relationship, maintaining household relationships in accordance with God’s plan—and gaining victory over supernatural foes by divine empowerment: all of this is integral to God’s grand and glorious plan to consummate all things in the cosmos in Christ.

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