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Ephesians Ephesians

At a Glance
Author: The apostle Paul
Audience: The church of Ephesus, and surrounding area churches
Date: AD 60–62
Type of Literature: A letter
Major Themes: Salvation and grace, God’s power, church unity, and Christian conduct and identity
Letter Opening — 1:1–2
The Church’s Heavenly Calling — 1:3–3:21
The Church’s Earthly Conduct — 4:1–6:20
Letter Closing — 6:21–24
About Ephesians
What you are about to read is meant to be taught to every church. It is the constitution of our faith, the great summary description of all that is precious and esteemed in Christian doctrine and Christian living. Paul firmly plants the cornerstone of our faith in this powerful letter, cementing, in its few pages, the position and authority of the church over every other force. In it, Paul brings before every believer the mystery of the glory of Christ.
The theme of Ephesians is that God will one day submit everything under the leadership of Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the church and the fullness of God in human flesh. He gives his church extraordinary power to walk filled with the Holy Spirit, revealing the nature of God in all things. Jesus loves the church and cherishes everything about her. He is the one who brings Jews and non-Jews into one body. The church is God’s new humanity—one new man. It is the new temple where God’s glory dwells. And the church is the bride of Christ, the beloved partner who is destined to rule with him.
How wonderfully he blesses his bride with gifts from above. He gives us, both men and women, the grace to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who will feed and encourage the church to rise higher. The greatness of God streams from Jesus Christ into the hearts of every believer. These are the grand themes of Ephesians.
I have always loved the apostolic prayers of Paul, especially those found in Ephesians. I have prayed nearly every day for forty years that God would impart to me the spirit of revelation and the spirit of wisdom to guide my life, my family, and my ministry. God is good to give the Holy Spirit’s fullness to those who ask with sincere hunger for more.
What an exciting letter Paul has written to us! Ephesians is full of life and its words reach higher in Christian thought than any letter in our New Testament. Full of living revelation, it simply drips with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Where most of Paul’s letters are addressed to churches facing specific issues dealing with belief and practice, this isn’t the case with Ephesians. There is a more general, theologically reflective tone to this letter that is meant to ground, shape, and challenge believers (mainly gentile) in their faith.
Author and Audience
Paul wrote this letter about AD 60, while in a prison cell in Rome, and sent it with Tychicus as a circular letter that was to be read to all the churches.
Originally, there were no titles on Paul’s letters. They were gathered and the titles were assigned according to where they were sent; then they were published for the churches as a group. In none of the earliest Greek manuscripts did the words Ephesus or Ephesians occur. It was simply added in the margin next to the main text in the first copies made. The conclusion by some scholars is that this letter to the Ephesians may possibly be the lost letter of the Laodiceans mentioned in Col. 4:16: “Once you’ve read this letter publicly to the church, please send it on to the church of the Laodiceans, and make sure you read the letter that I wrote to them.” Others believe it was intended for Ephesus as it stands today.
Scholars are not sure on this point; it is the only letter Paul wrote that did not contain any personal greetings to specific people. Since these greetings easily identified the other letters, many now believe this letter was written not only for the Ephesians but for Christians in the surrounding area too.
Major Themes
Salvation by Grace through Faith. Paul paints a very bleak picture of who we were before God stepped in to rescue us: “you were once like corpses, dead in your sins and offenses” (2:1). Yet he goes on: “Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!” (2:5). Paul makes it clear we don’t earn or work for this rescue; rather, it’s God’s undeserved favor from beginning to end!
Power of God over All Others. One of the leading themes in this letter from heaven is the theme that God’s power trumps that of all other principalities, powers, and authorities in this world. For Paul, any threat of the spiritual powers of this world should be seen in light of the superior power of God and the power we have as his children.
Christian Unity. Another leading theme in Paul’s letter is the unity that Jews and non-Jews share in Christ. Paul’s strong encouragement for unity and love within the body work together to encourage believers to overcome any and all cultural pressures of animosity on the basis of Jesus’ work uniting all believers into one community of people.
Christian Conduct. Most of chs. 3–6 focus on how Christians should live, especially new believers, which is summed up with Paul’s appeal in 4:17 to “not live like the unbelievers around you who walk in their empty delusions.” Paul urges new believers—and really all believers—to cultivate a lifestyle consistent with their new life in Christ—a life free from drunkenness, sexual immorality, lying, stealing, bitterness, and other ungodly behaviors.
Christian Identity. One of the major themes of Paul’s teachings is the fact that believers are now “in Christ,” an idea that impacts every aspect of believers’ identity. We exist in a personal, energizing relationship of unity with the risen Christ! This identity is crucial in our ongoing struggle with spiritual darkness and powers, maintaining Christian unity, overcoming our former lifestyle, and living as God has called us to live.
Heaven’s Riches

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