Review of Epistle to the Ephesians

Dec 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Ephesians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Review of Epistle to the Ephesians

Chapter 1

Paul called attention to the fact that he was an apostle “by the will of God”; that is, his apostleship was not predicated on an election by man, such as took place just prior to Pentecost when the disciples elected Matthias to take the place of Judas. Also, some of the Ephesians felt that laying hands on Paul and Barnabas made them equal. With both being prominent and dedicated to the Lord, Paul’s apostleship did not have the proper emphasis and priority with these brethren. Therefore, Paul deemed it necessary to state that his authority came from God Himself. Later in the epistle, he referred to the revelation he had on the way to Damascus.

After the usual salutation, Paul launched a very sublime theme. Instead of giving pertinent advice for the problems there in Ephesus, he told about the mystery of God—that an elect body, or Church, is being called. God predestinated the calling of The Christ in His mind before ever the world began.

Paul enlarged on the thought that the calling of this mystery class includes Gentiles as well as Jews. Many Jewish Christians adopted a superior attitude, but Paul showed that all are one new man in Christ in the predetermined calling.

Among other things, the Ephesians were great believers in magic, mysteries, and curious arts. However, Paul was so influential that the brethren brought their magic books and burned them, destroying a quantity worth 50,000 shekels, a considerable sum of money.

With the exalted theme, Paul was trying to replace the mysteries the Ephesians had previously been immersed in. People seem to like to get beyond mundane things and delve into the spirit world, the afterlife, etc. Paul wanted to replace these former thoughts by the truth, which is even stranger than fiction. What God intends to do is way beyond man’s conception. Paul was replacing their previous ideas with something far grander yet somewhat along the same lines.

Thus he spoke of the “mystery.” In the Book of Revelation, the “seven stars,” the seven messengers to the Church, are called “a mystery” (Rev. 1:20). In Ephesus, the first period of the Church, Jesus was seen standing in the midst and calling attention to the Church as a light bearer, and Ephesus was an ecclesia of light. Paul alluded to this fact later in his epistle.

Paul emphasized that Jesus is the Head of the Church, but in the city of Ephesus, Diana was the leading character and goddess. Paul replaced this imagery with a man instead of a woman. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary died at Ephesus, so the cult of Mariolatry conveniently followed the cult of Diana.

Paul told about the mystery of God—that it involves a man instead of a woman and that the “man” is really a composite body, of which Jesus is the Head and the body is the Church, with the body members being both Jews and Gentiles. Next Paul told about the riches of God’s grace in the calling—that God wanted Paul to reveal to the Ephesians the richness of His grace.

Chapter 2

Paul reminded the Ephesians they were previously children of wrath. As Gentiles, they were without God and without hope. Their darkness exceeded that of the Jew, who was brought up with the covenants and had some enlightenment. The Gentiles were “strangers from the covenants” and “aliens [outcasts] from … Israel,” but now they were in the body on equal terms with the Jew. Paul was thus trying to eliminate the conflict in this class between Jewish and Gentile Christians. All things being equal, because of their background, the Jewish Christians would have been more advanced, but they could not presume this or have a superior attitude.

Paul said, “I came to you Gentiles from afar. God sent me to you aliens to enlighten you with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Then Paul told about another building. In Ephesus was the Temple of Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but Paul spoke of a better and more glorious “temple” God is purposing to build. This temple will be made up of individuals, a class (not one woman), and it is God’s workmanship. To the contrary, with the Temple of Diana, the people contributed money and labor, and other nations sent gifts—it was a product of man’s imagination and adornment.

But God is the Architect of His temple, and it will be far more glorious. Paul did not say all of these things in his epistle, but the brethren living in Ephesus knew the circumstances. Ephesus was revered and called the “light of the world.” It was believed that the statue of Diana in the temple had fallen down from heaven. But in Jesus’ case, he not only came down from heaven but ascended (Eph. 4:10). The stone statue was a dead idol, whereas the living Jesus came down here and dwelled among us as God’s Son.

Chapter 3

The “revelation” occurred when the risen Lord appeared to Paul on the way to Damascus, effecting his conversion. Paul said that God had instructed him to take the gospel to the  Gentiles. He was trying to make the Ephesian Gentiles feel that they had just as great a legacy on the truth as the Jewish Christians from the Holy Land itself.

There was disunity in this class and even clamoring and tumult, so Paul’s reasoning with regard to the Gentiles being “fellowheirs” was needed. A lot was behind Paul’s choice of the word “fellowheirs” because of the disunity and undercurrent in the class.

Paul told the brethren not to faint because of his afflictions. He was not troubled by his persecutions, and neither should they be troubled. His attitude was, “It is my privilege and glory to suffer. I am happy to suffer in order to transmit this information to others.”

Paul desired that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, and that they would be rooted and grounded in love and not have continual contention, disruption, and disunity. He was saying, “There is a motive in the calling; namely, God wants you to be established in the truth.”

Chapter 4

Paul went to a more personal exhortation with regard to problems in the class and besought the brethren to “walk worthy of the vocation” wherein they were called. This exhortation was necessary because their former life was immoral. There was cheating in business, for example.

With Ephesus being a noted commercial and “religious” center, people came from all over the Roman Empire and wanted relics or souvenirs attesting that they had been to the Temple of Diana. The making of relics provided numerous job opportunities for the Ephesians, and many lived on profits from tourism because of the Temple of Diana. Greed and covetousness, as well as the practices of the temple worship, were sinful. Temple priestesses called “virgins” were actually a form of prostitution but without an evil connotation in the heathen worship.

One phrase in the epistle became the seed thought of Gnosticism, which, among other things, said the Christian does not have to worry too much about the natural life, for immorality is not that important. They maintained that the new creature is what counts. After Paul died, Gnostics took his writings on the distinction between the spirit within us and the fleshly vessel to justify their wrong thoughts. They excused the flesh by saying that the new creature was not responsible for it, for God views us according to the spirit.

In the ecclesia at Ephesus, an Alexandrian Jew was causing problems by introducing Eastern theosophy and amalgamating it with the Christian religion. He was a converted Jew but had a Grecian background from Egypt. Paul said, “Do not be deceived! You are to walk worthy of being a Christian—both in your own family and outside in the world.” Paul told about the relationship of husband and wife, parents and children, master and slave. Since the Christian represents God in the world, he should walk circumspectly as an example of the truth. The Christian is not to be careless in his daily living.

Paul wanted the Ephesians to have unity in the Spirit. He gave a beautiful and simple definition of the dogma of Christ and of God that consisted of seven parts. Its very simplicity is deceiving in that the seven parts are far-reaching.

1. There is one body—that is God’s objective.

2. There is one Spirit in our midst. We should all try to have the same mutual desire.

3. There is one hope of our calling.

4. There is one faith.

5. There is one baptism.

6. There is one God and Father of all.

7. There is one Lord (Jesus).

Not only are these seven parts simple criteria of the hope, ambition, and drive of the Church, but also God gave gifts to the Church. Moreover, each of the brethren could testify that he had received an additional gift. When Christ went to heaven, he gave gifts to men. The “gifts” include apostles and prophets, and Paul was one of those apostles, that is, one of the “gifts.”

The very advice he was giving was a gift (although, of course, Christians also had mechanical gifts in the early Church).

The purpose of all this was “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,” no longer being “children tossed to and fro … with every wind of doctrine.”

No more should there be lasciviousness, uncleanness, or greediness in the Church. These sins should not once be named among Christians. The old man was to be put away. The Ephesian brethren were to speak truthfully to one another, not let the sun go down on their wrath, and steal no more. It is understandable that there is excitement in connection with the study of truth, but Christians must be careful that no seed or root of bitterness carries over to the next day. These admonitions were given because such things were happening in the church at Ephesus. We see examples of this today—where a nation is corrupt and full of bribes from top to bottom. Corruption is a way of life, so if one does not conform, he stays at the bottom stratum of society. After a while, as bribery becomes an inbred culture, it is not seen as wrong. “Everybody does it” is the cliché.

Finally, Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be considerate, tenderhearted, and kind to each other.

As far as possible, they were to try to be peaceful in their mutual gatherings.

Chapter 5

Paul told the Ephesians to walk in love as God’s dear children. Again he warned against fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness. He said, “You are light in the Lord, so walk as children of light.” Ephesus was known as the “light of the world,” but that light was Diana. People came to her for happiness, instruction, and a good time, but the Christian was to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness and, instead, was to reprove them. The Christian was not just to take a negative, quiet stance but was to actively reprove at times.

Paul admonished the Ephesians to awake from sleep, and in worldly associations, they were not to become drunk with wine. Christians are to be circumspect and shun former practices.

Instead of wine, they are to be filled with the Spirit of God, that is, with instructions from the Scriptures. In both private and public life, the Christian is to be submissive, reasonable, and pliable—where principle is not involved.

Chapter 6

The personal instruction continued. Paul closed out the epistle with the admonition to put on the full armor, the whole armor, of God. This theme is in both Colossians and Ephesians, showing that, just as with us, when letters are written by one individual to others, certain thoughts and phrases are repeated because they are contemporaneous with our thoughts and feelings of the moment. Thus there are similarities between Paul’s letter to the Colossians and his letter to the Ephesians—the language, the thinking, etc.

The considerable detail of putting on the armor reflected that Paul was a prisoner stationed near the Praetorian guard in Rome. Daily he could see the guard marching with their armor paraphernalia, and thus he drew the analogy of how, spiritually speaking, the Christian soldier should also be armored and protected from the enemy. We need all this armor to stand against unseen powers, as well as the wiles of Satan himself.

Among the armor, Paul inserted the admonition to have the “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Often when one prepares for battle, he assumes the language of the battle, but while the Christian is a soldier, he is to be careful that the combativeness is not unnecessarily used; that is, he should not look for a fight. He is not to be contentious and then try to justify his actions by saying he is standing for the truth. The weaponry of the Spirit, not carnal weapons, is used in fighting the good fight of faith. While the armor application is beautiful for the Christian, it should be used, as far as possible, in peace.

That concludes the review of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians with insight into the conditions, the peculiar circumstances, and the Christians who dwelled there.

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