Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 3

Tonight was a rich discussion of God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians. How humbling to realize that our salvation allows us to participate in the power of Christ over sin and the powers of the enemy. Can we ever truly comprehend such a mystery?

Ephesians 1:15-2:10

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A.      Thanksgiving, Intercession, and Digression #1

1.       Organization

a.       Normal Greek letter:

Salutation→Prayer→Thanksgiving→Intercession

Ephesians is different:

Salutation→Blessing →Thanksgiving→Intercession

b.       Order of Ephesians is very similar to many Jewish prayers (eg, prayer of Abraham in Jubilees 22 [Jewish pseudepigrapha) and is nearly analogous to II Corinthians 1.

2.       Structure

a.       In Greek, 3 sentences (1:15-23; 2:1-7; 2:8-10)

b.       In terms of subject matter, can be broken up into thanksgiving (1:15-16a), intercession (1:16b-19), and a digression (1:20-2:10). Very similar to I Thessalonians.

  • The digression elaborates points presented in the blessing and intercession. In most Pauline letters this is part of the main body of the letter, but in Ephesians the digressions break up the prayer.

B.      The Text

Salutation (1:1-2)

Prayers: using the language of worship to reinforce Christian identity (1:3-3:21)

Berakah: blessing God for blessings bestowed on believers (1:3-14)

Thanksgiving: thanking God for the readers’ faith and love (1:15-16a)

Intercession: asking God for the readers’ enlightenment, especially that they might know God’s power at work in them (1:16b-19)

Digression 1: God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians (1:20-2:10)

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[15] For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you,

Thanksgiving: The thanksgiving portion of the letter begins with the phrase “for this reason,” which refers back to the berakah of 1:3-14 and the description of the many blessings bestowed on believers by God. The phrase also refers forward; as “Paul” continues by elaborating that he has heard about the faith of the readers of the letter as well as their love towards other believers. For this, “Paul” is thankful.

remembering you in my prayers, [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

Intercession: The intercession portion begins with the indication that “Paul” has been praying for these believers. Specifically, praying that they would be enlightened by God.

Talbert points out that the wording of v. 17b-18a sounds very similar to the following text from the Dead Sea Scrolls: “May he illuminate your heart with the discernment of life and grace you with eternal knowledge” (IQS II, 3).

It is hoped that this enlightenment will allow the Gentile believers to experience 3 things:

1) “the hope to which he has called you” meaning their salvation (cf 2:12 where we are told that Gentiles formerly had no hope, and 4:4 where we are told that there is one hope of their calling);

2) “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” meaning their membership among God’s inheritance, which is His people (cf 2:19 where the Gentiles are referred to as fellow citizens, 3:6 where they are referred to fellow heirs, and Paul’s conversion is Acts 26:18); and

3) “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might” meaning the power of God and Christ that is at work in all believers. (This exact nature of this power is elaborated upon in the next section of verses.)

[20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Digression 1: At this point, “Paul” interrupts his prayer for the Gentile believers with the first of 2 digressions.

The first part of the first digression continues the 3rd hope for Gentile enlightenment in v. 19 by elaborating on the greatness of God’s power. This power is at work in Christ (1:20-23) and at work in Christians (2:1-10).

The power of God at work in Christ raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God in the heavenlies. (cf Psalm 110:1) This act placed Christ above all other powers, both natural and supernatural. These other powers are rule (archēs), authority (exousias), power (dynameōs), and dominion (or sovereignty, kyriotētos). (cf I Cor 15:24; Col 1:16)

There will never be another with greater authority or a greater name, and his authority will never end. All things are under his feet (cf Psalm 8:6) and he is head over all things for the church (or the universal church, ekklēsia), which is his body.

We (the church) are his fullness because he first fills us. (cf Col 2:9-10)

[Ch 2 v. 1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – [3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

What was our existence like before Christ? Note that “you” in v. 1 is plural and refers to Gentiles. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were conformed only to the world and could not avoid following Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air and the spirit (pneuma) at work in the sons of disobedience (or obstinance, rebellion, disbelief, apeitheia – the source of our English word “apathy”).

But the Gentiles were not alone in their plight. Note that “we” in v. 3 refers to the group to which “Paul” belongs – Jews. Jews who did not yet know Christ also lived according to the desires of the flesh and were by nature children of wrath (or desire, violent passion, orgē – the source or our English word “orgy”) like the rest of us.

The power of God at work in Christians has saved both Jew and Gentile by making us alive together with Christ. God’s mercy, love, and grace saved us from the literal and figurative death of our sin and raised us instead to new life. In this new life we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies so that we will be living examples of God’s immeasurable grace and kindness.

Talbert emphasizes that the theology of Ephesians does not indicate that this raising and seating of believers is a literal bodily transportation to heaven. In Talbert’s view, Ephesians is speaking of believers who are still physically alive and on earth, but who are spiritually reigning with Christ over sin and the powers of Satan. In Talbert’s words, “Believers…are alive upon the earth and alive in the heavenlies at the same time…It is, moreover, their participation in the heavenlies in dependence on Christ that enables them to resist the evil powers that impinge upon humans on earth.” (Talbert, p. 61) In this way, Christians partake in the resurrection power of Christ.

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Christians have been saved by grace (charis) through faith (pistis). In other words, God’s grace enabled our salvation and our faith in Christ was the vehicle for our salvation. Talbert puts it another way, “The content of God’s charis is salvation.” (Talbert, p. 67) And not only is faith the vehicle of our salvation, but it is also our response to our salvation. While our faith that led to our salvation was a single event, our response of faith to our salvation is a life-long process.

God’s divine influence on our heart is his gift to us and has nothing to do with our own merit or worthiness. Note that the word “gift” (or offering, specifically a sacrifice, dōron) used in v. 8 is the only use of this word in the entire Pauline corpus. In the ancient world of sacrificial cults, it was possible for humans to gain the favor of the gods through their works. Ephesians is clearly rejecting this notion.

The result of God’s generous salvation is a people who are his workmanship (or product, fabric [literally or figuratively], poiēma). We are knitted together both within ourselves and with each other in Christ Jesus with the purpose of performing the good works that God has predestined for us in this life.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Opposing spiritual powers

a.      “The earth below and heavens above”

  • Ephesians depicts the heavenlies as the realm of God and Christ (1:3, 20; 2:6) that is far above the realm of hostile spiritual powers (1:20-21). Humans are directly affected by the spiritual powers in the heavenlies – either God (1:19; 3:20) or the “prince of the power of the air” (2:2). Ephesians indicates that evil powers are behind human sin (2:1-2; 4:27).
  • Ancient Jewish and early Christian cultures held to the belief of multiple heavens. Mormons still hold to this belief today. Multiple heavens are mentioned in various ancient Jewish and Christian texts (Testament of Levi, 1 and 2 Enoch, and Ascension of Isaiah).
  • In Ephesians, believers in Christ are “raised up” and seated with Christ “in the heavenly places” to share in Christ’s transcendence over sin and death. Talbert says, “Now that believers are seated in the heavenlies in dependence on Christ, it is possible not to sin.” (Talbert, p. 72)

2.       Participation with Christ

a. The view of Ephesians

  • Believers do not “participate” in the death of Christ – Christ alone dies; no reference is made to Christians dying.

Christ’s death was strictly for believers by redeeming us through his blood (1:7), bringing us near by the blood of Christ (2:13) and reconciling us to God through the cross (2:16).

Christ’s death provides Christians with a model for life: walking in love as Christ loved us (5:2), husbands loving wives as Christ loved the church (5:25).

  • That raising and exaltation of Christ are shared experiences in which Christians participate (1: 20-22; 2:5-6)

Homework for Week 4:

Read Ephesians 2:11-22 and consider the following questions:

  • Ephesians 2:16 tells us that Christ has reconciled both Jew and Gentile “in one body” to God. What do you envision as the body of Christ? Who makes up this “body”?
  • How do we further unity in the body of Christ as individuals? As a church congregation?
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Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 2

Wow.  What an awesome conversation about predestination tonight at Bible study!  I am so thankful for a group of women who value the discussion of these sensitive and sometimes difficult issues of faith.

Following are lesson notes from Week 2 and homework questions for Week 3. May we rejoice that not only has God blessed us with every spiritual blessing but he has lavished upon us the riches of his grace. Hallelujah!

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Ephesians 1:3-14

A.      Blessing = Hebrew “berekah

1.       Structure

a.       In Greek, 1 long sentence

b.       In English translations, broken up into shorter sentences (Today’s English Version translation has 15!)

2.       Origin

a.       Matter of debate

  • Pre-existing liturgical text: hymn? prayer associated with baptism?
  • Redaction of Colossians 1:5, 9, 13-14, 16?
  • Ad hoc composition with no pre-existing source?

3.       Organization

a.        Various proposals but no conclusion

  • 3 sections (3-4, 5-8, 9-14) marked by the use of 3 participles that indicate action (eulogēsas “having blessed,” proorisas “having predestined,” and gnōrisas “having made known”)
  • 3 sections (1-6, 7-12, 13-14) each ending with the refrain “to the praise of his glory”
  • 4 sections (3-6, 7-10, 11-12, 13-14) marked by the use of enhō (“in whom”)
  • 6 sections (3b-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14) with sections 1, 2, and 4 using the action participles noted above to describe the action of God, and sections 3, 5, and 6 introduced by en hō to describe redemption through Jesus

b.       Function

  • P.T. O’Brian states that introductory Pauline blessings had 4purposes:

Pastoral: expressing concern and love for recipients

Didactic: instruction related to the gospel

Parenetic: emphasizing ethical implications of the instruction

Epistolary: indicating key themes of the letter

  • O’Brian then asserts that the berekah of Ephesians uses 3 of these techniques: epistolary, didactic, and parenetic

B.      The Text

Salutation (1:1-2)

Prayers: using the language of worship to reinforce Christian identity (1:3-3:21)

Berakah: blessing God for blessings bestowed on believers (1:3-14)

(Note throughout this section the use of “our/us/we” and “you.” The former is thought to refer to Jewish Christians and the latter is thought to refer to Gentile Christians who are the readers of the letter.)

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Generalized introductory blessing following the common ancient pattern of first uttering praises before beginning to pray.

Verse 3 is seen as the heading or main statement of this section upon which vv. 4-14 elaborate. Many scholars believe that the verb in 3a should be “is” instead of “be” because the blessing of God was not a wish (ie, “may God be blessed”) but a declaration (“God is blessed”).

God is blessed because of who he is (the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; 3a) and what he has done (blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing; 3b).

Spiritual blessings are characterized as being in Christ and in the heavenly places. The heavenlies are mentioned 5x in Ephesians, and it is clear that this is the dwelling place of God/Christ, spiritual rulers and authorities, and evil spiritual forces as well.

[4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace,

Movement 1 of this section (vv. 4-10) speaks of God’s gracious acts both before the creation of the world (vv. 4-6a) and within history (vv. 6b-10) that benefit all Christians.

The text begins with 2 synonymous expressions for God’s precreation activity: he chose (exelexato) us (4a) and he predestined (proorisas) us (5a). We were chosen “in him” meaning that Christ was the instrument and means through which God elected us.

When did these acts take place? Before the foundation of the world. Why did these acts take place? So we should be presented to him as holy and blameless (4b) and so that the purposes of his will could be fulfilled (5b).

God fulfilled the purpose of His will even before the foundation of the world by predestining us for adoption (“sonship”) through Jesus Christ.

The result of this predestining act is the praise of his glorious grace (6a). This goes back to the notion of benefaction mentioned in Week 1; because of God’s gracious act of adoption we owe him eternal praise.

with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Verse 6b begins a new thought segment on God’s grace that builds on the preceding verses. He has “blessed us in the Beloved,” which is another term for Christ (cf. Mark 1:11, 9:7). In other words, the location of God’s blessing is in his Beloved, the Christ.

How does God accomplish blessing us in his Beloved? We receive redemption through the death of Christ (ie, “his blood”). This redemption comes in the form of “forgiveness of our trespasses” and comes as a result of the riches of God’s grace.

[8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

As done in v. 6b, v. 8 begins a new thought segment on God’s grace that builds on the preceding verses. In what manner has God given grace to all Christians? He has “lavished [it] upon us.” The word “lavish” means extravagant, profuse, and abundant. This act was done based on his wisdom and insight.

By lavishing grace upon us through Christ, he has revealed to us the mystery of His will that was set forth in Christ.

[10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is the mystery of His will? In the genuine Pauline letters, this mystery refers to the participation of believers in the glory of the world to come (Rom 11:25; I Cor 2:6, 15:51). In Ephesians, the mystery is both eschatological and universal. The mystery in Ephesians refers to God’s complete and overarching plan for the fullness of time that will ultimately gather all things to Him and unite the entire cosmos through Christ.

One must infer from this passage that the cosmos (both the heavens and the earth) is currently not united to God and is therefore in disunity. Christ alone is able to overcome all hostility and division, both on earth and throughout the universe, in order to set all things right and restore order to the cosmos.

[11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Movement 2 of this section (vv. 11-14) speaks of God’s gracious acts as setting the goal for all Christians, both Jew (ie, “we/us” in vv. 11-12) and Gentile (ie, “you” in vv 13-14).

The Jews have obtained their promised inheritance, the hope of Messiah that is their heritage. As God’s chosen people, they were the first to have this hope, and many came to faith in Christ before the Gentile readers of this letter.

And of course, the fact that the Jews have accepted Christ as the promised Messiah results in rightful praise to the glory of God.

[13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Gentiles who have responded to hearing the gospel (“the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”) by accepting Christ and believing in him have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.

The notion of “sealing” in the ancient Mediterranean world indicated many things including ownership, authenticity, or even protection (cf. Ezek 9:4-6; Rev 7:3).

In Ephesians, “sealing” functions as both protection and spiritual empowerment through the Holy Spirit as a pledge of a future inheritance (ie, the day of redemption, when God’s people are finally fully and completely restored to Him).

And, as with the experience of the Jews, the fact that the Gentiles have accepted Christ for their salvation results in rightful praise to the glory of God.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Predestination: Arminius vs. Calvin

a.        The Arminian view

  • The view of Arminius and the Eastern Orthodox Church was that God knew beforehand how creatures would choose; on the basis of this foreknowledge he predestined them either to life or to death. In other words, predestination is based on God’s pre-creation knowledge of his creatures’ future behavior.

b.       The Calvinist view

  • The view of John Calvin (who drew on Augustine and the Qumran) was that God preordained some to eternal life and some to death and damnation. In other words, man is predestined to life or to death.

This notion was repulsive to Arminius, who stated that this was “repugnant to the nature of God” (who is merciful and just), “contrary to the nature of man” (who has freedom of will), and “injurious to the glory of God” (since it makes God the real sinner). (Talbert, p. 51)

c.        Ephesians response according to Talbert

  • God’s predestining activity arises out of the good pleasure of his will (1:5, 1:11).
  • In Ephesians there is no hint of predestination based on foreknowledge.
  • In both Ephesians and canonical Paul, election before the foundation of the world and predestination are God’s choice and not the sinner’s (cf. Romans 8).
  • Christians are elect through Christ just as they are predestined through Christ (1:5), and some will not inherit the kingdom of God (5:5-6).
  • “The pre-creation [saving] activity of God/Christ precludes any notion of human merit as playing a part in establishing or maintaining the relationship between creator and creature.” (Talbert, p. 52)

Homework for Week 3:

Read Ephesians 1:15-2:10 and consider the following questions:

  • Based on 1:20-23, how is God’s power at work in Christ?
  • Based on 2:1-10, how is God’s power at work in Christians?
  • Different religions and philosophies have different views on the interaction of supernatural beings and humans. Do you believe that heavenly beings (both good and evil) are interested in humans? If so, do they involve themselves in human affairs?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 1

We kicked off our study of Ephesians tonight at Grace Chapel! Thanks to the awesome women who braved the freezing temperatures to gather in the Geneva House for time in God’s word.

Following are lesson notes from Week 1 and homework questions for Week 2. I hope that you can join us in person or on-line as we look closer at what God has to say to us through the words of Ephesians.

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Introduction and Ephesians 1:1-2

A.      Introductory thoughts on Ephesians

1.       Canonical context

a. Placement in New Testament

  • Gospel (4), Acts, Letters (21), Revelation
  • Letters: Pauline (13) and non-Pauline (8)

Pauline corpus = the 13 letters attributed to Paul in the Bible, 7 of which are considered authentic (“canonical Paul”)

Letters to the 7 churches: Romans, I/II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I/II Thessalonians

Letters to the 3 individuals: I/II Timothy, Titus, Philemon

Note that the letters are placed in order of descending length in each group.

  • Pauline letters: “Prison Epistles

Text indicates that Paul was in prison at the time of the letter’s composition (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, Philemon)

b. “Canonical conversation”

  • Ephesians has conversation with Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, Exodus, IKings, Ezekiel, Haggai, Deuteronomy, Micah, Romans, Galatians, Colossians

2.       Literary context

a. Language

  • Greek (however, the style of Greek is very different from Paul’s major letters [Romans, I/II Corinthians, Galatians])

b. Genre

  • Hellenistic letter (possibly “cyclical”) with typical introduction and conclusion

c. Literary techniques

  • greeting/salutation, homily, prayer, exhortation/parenesis, repetition, digression, intercession, benediction, Two Ways form

3.       Historical context

a. Date

  • Between the late 50s and ~100AD

Along with Colossians, written later than the authentic 7

Used and referred to by early Christians (1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp)

Ephesians was the first New Testament book to be called scripture by the early church fathers (Polycarp, To the Philippians, 12.1)

b. Locale

  • City of Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia, which included a number of Greek cities in the western peninsula that came under the control of the Romans in the second century BC
  • Other nearby cities: Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Smyrna, Miletus, Sardis

Note that all 7 of the churches (including Ephesus) in Chapters 2-3 of Revelation are located in this region

c. Purpose

  • Addressing a specific problem or issue?

No specific issue is addressed as with other Pauline letters (arguments, return to pagan customs, Jew/Gentile relations)

  • Addressing identity or character formation?

Most scholars now view Ephesians as addressing the identity formation of Gentile Christians, telling the converted Gentiles the nature of their new life and the conduct required of them

d. Approach

  • Audience

Original recipients: new Gentile Christians living in this particular region of western Asia Minor; influenced the topics, language, style, and arguments in the letter

1st century auditors: person or persons who originally heard the letter being dictated, understood the arguments being made from a cultural perspective, and then communicated the letter to the Mediterranean world

  • Culture

Unity: obsession with unity in the Roman world begun by Alexander the Great and continued by the Caesars; dominant theme in the propaganda of imperial Rome was pax romana: harmony, order, peace under the rule of 1 king

Hostile powers: strong cultural belief in evil and alien powers that influenced all aspects of life, magical words that could drive out evil spirits, Fate/Fortunes, Greek pantheon of gods

Benefaction: expected way of life in ancient Mediterranean culture, public spaces adorned with honorific inscriptions both human and divine

Loose living/disorderly worship: influence of religious cults, debauchery, drunkenness

Household codes: Romans considered the health of the household as directly reflective on the health of the state, science of household management in Mediterranean culture: money, slaves, wife, children

e. Influence

  • Along with Romans, considered the 2 most influential New Testament letters
  • John Calvin regarded Ephesians as his favorite letter, John Knox’s wife read to him daily from Calvin’s sermons on Ephesians, a former president of Princeton Theological seminary attributes his conversion to the reading of Ephesians.

4.       Issues of Authorship

a. 6 types of authorship in antiquity

  • I – Written with one’s own hand (cf. Galatians 6:11)
  • II – Author dictated to auditor (cf. Romans 16:22)
  • III – Collaborators functioned as co-authors (cf. I Thess 1:1)
  • IV – Someone authorized the writing (cf. John 21:24)
  • V – Written “as if” by one individual but actually written by friend or disciple in a practice called prosōpopoeia (eg, Cicero’s letter to himself under Atticus’ name that contained praise for Caelius; letter was read to Caelius as if it had come from Atticus so Atticus could gain Caelius’ favor)
  • VI – Forgery (ef. II Thess 2:2)

b. 7 authentic Pauline letters (types I or II): I Thessalonians, I/II Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Galatians, Romans

  • Ephesians is considered “deutero-Pauline” (Type V) based on many differing points of theology from the authentic 7:

Meaning of baptism – dying with Christ and resurrection is future (Romans 6:3-4) vs. raising those who are dead through trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:5)

Definition of mystery – participation of believers in the glory of the world to come (Romans 11:25/I Cor 15:51) vs.  inclusion of Gentiles in the people of God to fulfill God’s plan to reunify the cosmos (Ephesians 1:9-10/3:3-6)

Definition of church – always the local church in authentic Pauline (I Cor 1:2, II Cor 1:1, Gal 1:22) vs. the universal church (Ephesians 4:12-13

References to Satan – occasional reference in authentic Pauline (I Cor 5:5, II Cor 12:7) vs. clear references to devil, powers of the air, host of evil spirits dwelling in the heavens (Ephesians 4:27, 2:2, 6:12)

Ephesians lacks the characteristic Pauline terms like sin, law, promise, righteousness, justification, and Christ’s victory over sin, law, and death. Instead, stress in Ephesians is on Christ’s victory over cosmic powers.

  • Most scholars agree that Ephesians differs enough from the authentic Pauline letters to show that it did not come from Paul himself, but has sufficient continuity with his letters to warrant conclusion that they were written by followers of his who saw themselves as carrying on his work and writing under his authority. (Talbert p. 11)

B.      Broad Outline of Ephesians

Salutation (1:1-2)

Prayers: using the language of worship to reinforce Christian identity (1:3-3:21)

Berakah: blessing God for blessings bestowed on believers (1:3-14)

Thanksgiving: thanking God for the readers’ faith and love (1:15-16a)

Intercession to God: in 2 parts, sandwiching 2 digressions about God’s power (1:16b-3:19)

Intercession 1: for the readers’ enlightenment (1:16b‑1:19)

Two digressions about God’s power (1:20-3:13)

Digression 1: God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians (1:20-2:22)

Digression 2: God’s power at work in and through Christ’s apostle, Paul (3:1-13)

Intercession 2: for the readers’ empowering, infilling, and enlightenment (3:14-19)

Doxology: praising God for his power at work in Christians (3:20-21)

Parenesis: using the language of exhortation in an appeal to demonstrate Christian identity in life (4:1-6:20)

A call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

A household code (5:22-6:9)

A call to stand firm (6:10-20)

Postscript (6:21-24)

Source: Talbert, CH. Commentaries on the New Testament: Ephesians and Colossians

C.      The Text

Salutation (1:1-2)

[1] Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

The title of “apostle” indicates that the letter is official, even if not authored by Paul himself.
The qualification “by the will of God” indicates that this apostle was one chosen by God/Christ and not sent out by a particular church.

to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

“Paul” is writing to Christians who are faithful, like himself. “Saints” was a common Pauline term for Christians.

Disagreement among early scholars as to whether “in Ephesus” was part of the earliest manuscripts. Marcion believed it was the letter to the Laodiceans mentioned in Col 4:16. Origen and Basil believed there was no named destination. Irenaeus, Clement, and Tertullian believed is was addressed to the Ephesians.

Was “in Ephesus” added based on a combination of Eph 6:21-22 and 2 Tim 4:12? Was “in Ephesus” added because a copy of the letter was left in the Ephesians’ church archives and assumed it was intended for them? Was “in Ephesus” added because the letter was originally sent to Laodicea but they became anti-Pauline and the letter was no longer kept there?

Widely believed to be a “circular letter” sent to multiple churches rather than a singular congregation. Why?

  • Circular letters were an early Christian phenomenon
  • No individuals are greeted
  • No one besides Tychicus is mentioned
  • No specific congregational problems are addressed
  • Tone is more formal than more personal tone of letters sent to specific congregations

In authentic Pauline letters, “in Christ” has 3 basic meanings: instrumental (“through Christ”), locative with instrumental force (“in dependence on Christ”), and derived (“Christian”).

Talbert believes that in Ephesians, the phrase “faithful in Christ Jesus” can be interpreted as “faithful by means of Christ Jesus” or “faithful in dependence on or by the power of Christ Jesus.”

Either way, the tone of the letter is set by this phrase that means the faith of Christians is enabled by and dependent upon the saving work of Christ.

[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Greetings in Pauline letters contain some form of “grace and peace” while more typical Greek letters contain a simple greeting (eg, Acts 15:23; James 1:1). The greeting in Ephesians follows the common Pauline pattern.

Homework for Week 2:

Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and consider the following questions:

  • What are your thoughts about “predestination”? What teachers/teachings have influenced your thoughts on this issue?
  • Talbert asserts that being elected/chosen before the foundation of the world (1:4) and being predestined according to God’s will/purpose (1:11) are synonymous expressions. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • Talbert states that Ephesians (and canonical Paul) present election before the foundation of the world and predestination as God’s choice and not the sinner’s. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Congress bailout of the porn industry?

According to this article on CNN, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis are planning to request that the US Congress provide a $5 billion bailout of the adult entertainment industry.

I could write a novel on how I feel about old Larry Flynt, but instead I will request that my readers take a minute to pray that Larry and Joe will come to know Jesus. I’m talking radical, born-again, loving Jesus with every molecule in their body SAVED. Amen? Amen.

Happy Wedding Day to Molly & Chris Ebbers!

I want to take this opportunity to send a shout-out to my sweet friend Molly who is getting married this evening to her sweetheart, Chris Ebbers. Here’s a photo of the beautiful couple taken by my extremely talented friend Renee (check out her site – she rocks):

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These are two people who are in love with Jesus, in love with each other, and in love with the plan that our gracious and merciful Lord has for their lives. Cheers to Molly and Chris!!