Ephesians 1 (day 1098) 2 January 2013
Ephesus was located at the western end of Asia Minor (Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. Paul’s visit there is described in Acts 19. He stayed for about 3 years (Acts 20:31), longer than in any other place. Still, owing to certain vocabulary differences, many scholars doubt that this letter was written by Paul. Further, there is manuscript evidence that the original letter was addressed generally to “the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus,” and not specifically to Ephesus. All this speculation aside, it is a well crafted treatise which beautifully describes what it means to be a Christian. In a sense it is more a sermon than an epistle. We note also that it was written from prison (see 3:1, 4:1 and 6:20), a circumstance that certainly fits with Paul’s career.
1-2: A typical salutation pronouncing the grace and peace of Christ on its readers, including us.
3-14: A summary of the theology presented in the letter, that through Christ we are adopted as God’s children, forgiven and redeemed through his blood, and have become partners with God in the redemption of all things.
15-23: This section of thanksgiving mirrors that in Romans 1:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. Paul follows his thanksgiving for them with his prayer that they will grow in wisdom and knowledge and power to do God’s will, which is to redeem the world under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2 (day 1099) 3 January 2013
1-10: It is such a simple faith. People (including those in the present) lived according to the passions of the flesh (which results in all kinds of ills such as jealousy, deceit, anger, lust, etc.), under the influence of “the ruler of the power of the air,” a reference to a popular belief in evil spirits that work counter to God’s will. Even so, God’s love for us did not fail, but though we were dead through sin God saved us by “raising us up” with Christ. Verse 8 was frequently quoted by John Wesley in his sermons. God’s grace does not depend on anything we do, but solely on God’s love for us.
11-22: Paul assumes, of course, that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people, and that Gentiles were initially left out of the covenant God shared with them. But through Christ those who were “far off” have been brought near. Christ has broken down the wall between Gentile and Jew. It is no longer the law that binds us in covenant to God, but faith in Christ reconciles us to God and to one another. Christ is the cornerstone that holds the temple of faith together. In those days the cornerstone was not a decorative feature. It was the capstone at the top of the arch which bore the weight of the wall. We can picture the two sides of the main entrance curving to a point at the top where the cornerstone joins them, symbolic of Jews and Gentiles joined in the saving sacrifice of Christ.
Ephesians 3 (day 1100) 4 January 2013
1-6: Paul recalls his commission to be “the apostle to the Gentiles.” Verse 3 would seem to refer to his Damascus road experience, but the expression “as I wrote above (or before) in a few words” is curious; his call to preach to Gentiles came some years after the Damascus road experience. Moreover, his earlier accounts of the Damascus road experience do not indicate that he received anything that could be called an “understanding of the mystery of Christ.” It would seem there was another experience of revelation, the account of which has been lost.
7-13: He asserts that the purpose of the gospel is to reveal God’s purpose that was hidden until the coming of Christ, which is to draw all the world to him through Christ so that Gentiles as well as Jews are included in God’s promise of salvation and eternal life.
14-19: The theme of universal access to God’s grace continues with the reference to “every family in heaven and on earth.” Paul’s hope, his prayer, is that all of them will grow in the knowledge and in the spirit of God through the love of Christ.
20-21: This reads like the end of a letter, or of a sermon, but does not necessarily have to be interpreted as such. The ascription of glory does, however, represent at the least a conclusion of the present line of reasoning and gives the reader a clue that the letter is about to take a different direction.
Ephesians 4 (day 1101) 5 January 2013
1-6: The different direction signaled at the end of the last chapter is to address the subject of the need for unity within the body. That unity is secured by attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience and love for one another. There is, after all, but one God who called us to one hope through one faith, sealed by one baptism.
7-16: God’s grace is the gift we receive in Christ. Verse 8 quotes an early hymn, and verses 9-10 add commentary to it. If Christ ascended, he must also have descended – this verse is why some versions of the Apostles’ Creed add the statement “he descended to the dead.” The gift of God’s grace results in the conferring of special abilities that will result in equipping the church with the leadership it needs to mature in the life to which God calls us. Maturity in the faith is proven by steadfastness in carrying out God’s will for unity and avoiding distraction from conflicting doctrines.
17-24: So, Paul tells the Gentile Christians that they should stop acting like Gentiles; that is, those Gentiles who behave according to pagan mores that encouraged self indulgence.
25-32: Instead, Christians should live by a different set of attitudes, and here Paul gives an impressive list. Would that every congregation should memorize verses 31-32!
Ephesians 5 (day 1102) 6 January 2013
1-2: To love as Christ loved means to give yourself up for the other. That is what Christ did for us, and that is what the followers of Christ should do for each other.
3-5: Still, Paul finds it necessary to list forbidden behaviors which would seem to be obviously contrary to the life God has called us to live.
6-14: The use of light and darkness as metaphors to refer to life with and without a covenant relationship with God is common throughout the New Testament.
15-20: Live carefully, he tells them. Focus on God’s will. Be inebriated by worship, not by wine.
21-24: Paul’s advice to wives, which has spawned so much controversy in recent times, reflects the culture in which he lived. Rather than interpret his words out of contemporary sensibilities, remember that his emphasis on submission is grounded in the idea of the lordship of Christ over all of us.
25-33: Husbands, for their part, are to give themselves up for their wives as Christ gave himself up for the church. In other words, love her so as to be willing to die for her. Something to think about.
Ephesians 6 (day 1103) 7 January 2013
1-9: As we have seen in others of Paul’s letters, he teaches a reciprocal respect between those in authority and those under authority. Parents should be honored, and this injunction is given with Biblical support (Exodus 20:12), and parents have a responsibility for their children’s education – to be brought up in the “instruction of the Lord.” Likewise, slaves are enjoined to obey their masters as they would obey Christ. Masters in return are to treat their slaves without malice. While we do not agree with slavery, these instructions would have provided a distinct improvement in the conditions of those who were under such a burden. For an example, see Paul’s entreaty to his friend Philemon concerning the slave Onesimus (Philemon 1:15-16).
10-17: These are perhaps the best-known verses in Ephesians, the so-called “whole armor of God” passage. Paul wants them to be able to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” How do you do that? Well, with honesty and righteousness, by practicing peace and by keeping faith, knowing that your salvation is secure through the Spirit of God. But Paul’s way of saying it is much more colorful.
18-20: His final request is that they pray for “the saints” (probably a reference to the apostles who are spreading the gospel) and for him to be faithful in his preaching. That he would have the opportunity to preach although imprisoned supports the theory that the letter was written from Rome where, although a prisoner, his imprisonment was quite relaxed (see Acts 28:30-31).
21-22: Tychicus had accompanied Paul to Macedonia on his last missionary journey (Acts 20:4) and was likely acquainted with some of the leaders of the church at Ephesus (see Acts 20:17. The mission of Tychicus to Ephesus is also mentioned at 2 Timothy 4:12.)
23-24: The closing is a bit unusual. The reference to those who “have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ” is unique in all the Bible.