Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 10

We finished our study of Ephesians this week with a discussion on the Armor of God and the importance of recognizing that God’s own helmet (His salvation) and sword (His word) have been offered to us. We can surely stand against the enemy with the strength of His might!

Thanks again to Charles Talbert, a great scholar and the author of my frequently-referenced commentary on Ephesians. And many thanks to those who studied along with us on-line. Please join us again!

May we love our Lord Jesus with a love that has unending existence, a love incorruptible!

Ephesians 6:10-24

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A.      The Whole Armor of God

1.       Why do we need it?

a.        Spiritual warfare

  • “In the present, the spiritual powers continue their assault on humans, attempting to create divisions and lawlessness…There is warfare between the heavenly powers and believers. Believers need to know how to resist.” (Talbert, p 158)

b.       Spiritual strength

  • The armor of God provides the tools we need to achieve the goals described in Ephesians: unity of the church, unity with other believers, unity in the household, unity within ourselves

2.       What is it?

a.        Empowerment

  • Strength to enter into battle, resolve to remain in battle, perseverance to withstand the fight — We have access to the “strength of His might”!
  • In the ancient world, putting on another person’s clothes signaled the empowerment of that person (cf 2 Kgs 2:13-15; Judges 6:34; 2 Chr 24:20; Job 29:14-17)

b.       Equipment

  • Concrete tools: belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, sword, prayer
  • Not just a conceptual idea – concrete commands to “put on” (6:11), “stand” (6:14), and “receive” or “take” (6:17)
  • God’s own helmet (His salvation) and sword (His word) have been offered to us!

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

The Two Ways form: Part II (5:1-21)

“Household Code” (5:22-6:9)

Wives and husbands (5:22-33)

Children and parents (6:1-4)

Slaves and masters (6:5-9)

The Whole Armor of God (6:10-20)

Final Greetings (6:21-24)

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[10] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Final exhortation: Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

• Note the passive tense (“be strong”). The strength comes from outside of us – it comes from the Lord.

[11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

How can we be strong in the Lord?

• Put on the whole armor of God
• Individual parts of the armor can function independently, but God intends for the whole armor to be used together. An area not protected by the armor is vulnerable.

Why do we need to be strong in the Lord?

• So that we can stand against the schemes of the devil (4:27)

What does this look like?

• Wresting with the cosmic powers of evil that rule the world (2:2) – a spiritual battle – not against other human beings!!

Wrestling was a common custom in the ancient Greek world and would have been very familiar to the Ephesian readers.

• Evil powers are very real (cf, 1 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 2:11,4:4,11:3). They exist around us on the earth and God permits them to exist in the heavenly places (for the time being).

[14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [18] praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

What are we to do?

• STAND (repeated in vv 11, 13, 14) and hold your ground against the enemy!

But only after you…

• Fasten on the belt of truth (cf, Isa 11:5; Ps 91:4-5)
• Put on the breastplate of righteousness (cf, Isa 59:17a; 1 Thess 5:8a)
• Put on the shoes…the readiness given by the gospel of peace (cf, Isa 52:7)
• Take up the shield of faith (cf, Eph 3:12; 1 John 5:4)
• Take the helmet of salvation (cf, Isa 59:17a; 1 Thess 5:8b) and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (cf, Isa 11:4, 49:2; the temptation stories in Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)
• Pray at all times in the Spirit (cf, Rom 8:26-27; Jude v 20; Luke 22:40,46)

“In sum, in this letter the Christian life is depicted neither as a steady progress toward heaven, nor as a sweeping missionary endeavor, nor as a struggle against internal psychological impulses, but rather as warfare against supernatural forces arrayed against believers. In this warfare the powers are defeated by Christ’s exaltation (1:20-22), by Christians’ moral walk in the world that does not leave an opening for the enemy (4:26-27), and by Christians’ donning God’s armor that enables them to stand against the enemy (6:10-17).” (Talbert, p 166)

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

• We should not only pray for ourselves to have strength to stand against the enemy, but we should also pray for all other believers.
• “Paul” also requests prayer for himself, that he will speak with boldness (in Greek “en parrēsia” meaning freedom of speech) instead of fear when preaching the Gospel.

Other references to Paul in “chains”: Col 4:18; 2 Tim 1:16, 2:9

[21] So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. [22] I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. [23] peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [24] Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Acknowledgement of Tychicus as “beloved brother and faithful minister,” the messenger and deliverer of the letter, and someone who can encourage the Ephesians.

Other references to Tychicus:

• Acts 20:4 as “Asian”
• Colossians 4:7 as the bearer of that letter
• 2 Tim 4:12 as being sent to Ephesus

Typical final greetings for a Pauline letter:

• Peace (2 Cor 13:11; 1 Thess 5:13b, 23 2 Thess 3:16)
• Love (cf, 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Cor 16:24)
• Grace (cf, 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 13:13 Gal 6:18)

…with love “incorruptible” in Greek “en aphtharsia” meaning sincerity, genuineness, unending existence (Strong’s Greek dictionary).

C.      The Major Issues

1.       God’s Armor and the “Modern Church”: Is the battle with spiritual powers or human powers?

a.        Different viewpoints (Talbert, pp 168-169)

  • Berkhof (1962): Paul was using terms from apocalyptic Judaism, but regarded the powers as structures of earthly existence.
  • Cullmann (1957): Paul is referring to the dual powers of spiritual and human authorities.
  • Caird (1976): Paul was referring to spiritual beings that operated in and through the structure of this world.
  • Bultmann (1951): The powers refer to the conflicts and struggles that characterize our human existence.
  • Wilder (1964): The language points to the structural elements of unregenerate society; the fake authorities of culture, which are the objects of Christian social action.
  • Whiteley (1957): The powers refer to “the demonic,” or aspects of creation acting chaotically and destructively that seem to have gotten out of control and threaten the lives of humans.
  • Lincoln (1995): The author of Ephesians believed the powers to be supernatural forces, but these are best thought of now in terms of ideologies and societal structures.
  • Arnold (1992): “If the realm of spirits and angels is a dominant part of the biblical world view, it should thus be a dominant part of a Christian world view in our age.”

b.       Consensus

“The text refers to evil spiritual powers that are hostile to humans. They impinge on human life, controlling those outside the Christian fold and warring against those within the fold…The basic fault line is between those who believe in personal spiritual evil and those who do not.” (Talbert, p 169)

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 9

The topic of submission is not easy. Many of us, including Christians, are resistant to the idea of being a submissive wife, child, or employee. But it is exceedingly important that we realize the purpose of Godly submission, and the blessings that God provides when we willingly place ourselves in the submissive roles that He has ordained. Be filled with the Spirit!

Ephesians 5:22-6:9

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A.      “Household Code”

1.       Rooted in Mediterranean culture

a.        Influenced by Greek philosophy that affected Jews in the Hellenistic world

  • Philo: household management is assigned to men, but women have their own sphere of authority within the home
  • Josephus: under the Law, men have duties to God, to wives, to children, to parents, to friends, and to strangers
  • Aristotle: natural ruler + natural subject = marriage
    marriage + a slave = a household
    several households = a village
    several villages = a city-state

2.       Very early Christian writings contain “household code”

a.        Two types in Christian antiquity

  • Code of duties for the home (cf, Eph 5:22‑6:9; Col 3:18‑4:1; I Pet 2:13-3:7)
  • Code of duties for the church (cf, I Tim 2:1-2, 8-12; 3:8-13; 5:1-3, 17-22; 6:1-2)

b.       “The specified duties were very much the same in pagan, Jewish, and early Christian usage. Only the motivations for the specified behavior differed significantly.” (Talbert, p 138)

3.       Functions of the “household code”

a.        Missionary strategy (cf, I Pet 2:12; 3:1-2)

  • “If Christians who had changed their gods still maintained order in the household according to the best values of the culture, then they would decrease the hostility of their pagan neighbors and perhaps encourage them to convert.” (Talbert, p 138)

b.       To run counter to an “overrealized eschatology” (cf, I Cor 7:1‑24; 11:2-16)

  • At the time, some Christians claimed that because of their salvation they were no longer bound by the “orders of creation” (ie, categories such as slave/master or ruler/subject) because of the equality created by the Spirit. (cf, Col 3:22-25)

c.        Illustration of unity

  • A peaceful Christian household would illustrate God’s purpose in unifying the cosmos through Christ (Eph 1:10)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

The Two Ways form: Part II (5:1-21)

“Household Code” (5:22-6:9)

Wives and husbands (5:22-33)

Children and parents (6:1-4)

Slaves and masters (6:5-9)

**Important items to consider:**

1. Three relationships (6 groups) are presented

2. In each case, the subordinate member is mentioned first

3. In each case, the relationship being advocated is between the individual and Christ and is not based on the behavior of the other person

4. It is assumed that the household described in the text is Christian

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[22] Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

What are wives are to do? (v 22)
• Submit to your own husband as to the Lord

“Submit” in Greek is “hupotassō” meaning to be under obedience, to obey, be subject to, submit oneself to

In other words, submit to your husband in a way that is analogous to your submission to Christ (Talbert, p 140)

Why? (vv 23-24)
• Because the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body

“As Christian wives within the church are subject to Christ as head, so in the household they should be subject to their husbands.” (Talbert, p 140)
“How the Christian wives are to act is rooted in their relation to Christ. Their submission to Christ in church is the model for their submission to their husbands in the household.” (Talbert, p 141)

[25] Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, [26] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, [27] so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

What are husbands to do? (v 25)
• Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

“Love” in Greek is “agapaō” meaning to be fond of, love dearly

In other words, love your wife in a way that is analogous to how Christ loved the church (his body)

Why? (vv 26-27)
• [so] that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word

“Sanctify” in Greek is “hagiazō” meaning to make holy, purify, consecrate to God

“Cleanse” in Greek is “katharizō” meaning to make clean in the physical (ie, stains, dirt) and/or moral (ie, sin, guilt, wickedness) sense

“The image of the bath [of the bride] refers here to the cleansing that has happened to God’s people through the word of the gospel.” (Talbert, p 142)

• so that he might present the church to himself in splendor…that she might be holy and without blemish

“Splendor” in Greek is “endoxos” meaning glorious, noble, honorable, GORGEOUS

[28] in the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. [29] For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, [30] because we are members of his body. [31] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” [32] This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. [33] However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

What are husbands to do? (v 28a)
• Love their wives as their own bodies

“Body” in Greek is “sōma” meaning literal body (flesh)

Why? (vv 28b-33)
• He who loves his wife loves himself (cf, Gen 2:24)
• For no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body

“Since the husband and the wife are one flesh, to love one’s wife is to love oneself. What one loves, one nourishes and cares for. So there is an analogy when Christ cares for the church because we are members of his body.” (Talbert, p 142)

“Paul appeals to Gen 2:24 to argue that a bond between husband and wife is analogous to that between Christ and the church. It is this bond that makes the husband’s love for his wife and Christ’s love for the church a love for oneself.” (Talbert, 143)

[6:1] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

What are children to do? (v 1a)
• Obey your parents in the Lord

“In the Mediterranean world, obedience to parents was the chief virtue of children. This was true for pagans, Jews, and Christians alike.” (Talbert, p 144)

Why? (v 1b)
• for this is right (cf, Rom 1:30; 2 Tim 3:2)

[2] “Honor our father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), [3] “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

What are children to do? (v 2a)
• Honor our father and mother (cf, Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16)

This commandment has the approval of Jesus (cf, Mark 7:10, 10:19)

Why? (v 2b-3)
• this is the first commandment with a promise, that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land

In other words, we honor our parents because it is right, it is commanded by scripture, and scripture contains a promise to those who fulfill the command and honor their parents.

[4] Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What are fathers to do? (v 4)
• Do not provoke your children to anger…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord

According to Talbert, it was a Mediterranean cultural value that fathers teach their children, and fathers were ultimately responsible for the religious upbringing of their children. (p 145)

Paul is putting a level of restraint on parental authority by encouraging the use of discipline and teaching (encouragement and reason) as opposed to force (which is discouraging).

[5] Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, [6] not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, [7] rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, [8] knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

What are employees to do? (vv 5-7)
Three things:
• Obey your earthly masters (ie, employers) with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ
• not with eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart
• rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man

“The Ephesian household code assumes a Christian household that has slaves. From these slaves it asks for wholehearted effort in their duties.” (Talbert, p 147)

Why? (v 8)
• knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free

Why do we work in the first place? (cf, Eph 4:28; I Thes 4:11-12; I Cor 15:58)

Ultimately, we are working for the Lord and not for our employer. While we may receive a “reward” from our employer (a paycheck), it is the Lord who will truly reward us.

[9] Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

What are employers to do? (v 9a)
• Do the same (ie, good) to them (ie, employees)
• and stop your threatening

Anger, threats, and punishment were the normal way to control slaves. (Talbert, p 147)

Why? (v 9b)
• knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven…and is not partial

Employers and employees have the same Lord who looks upon both with an impartial eye.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Submission

a.        Effective household management

  • “In the Christian household, the subordinate figures are to yield to the dominant ones, while the dominant figures are to relate lovingly and humanely to the subordinate ones. The unity and harmony produced by this type of household management is yet another evidence of God’s summing up all things through Christ.” (Talbert, p 148)

b.       A result of being filled with the Spirit

  • “…but be filled with the Spirit…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5: 18b, 21)

c.        An imitation of Christ

  • Imitating the virtues of Christ in our personal relationships (wife, child, employee) is a microcosm of the unity and peace that God is forging in the cosmos (cf, Eph 2:11-22)

Homework for Week 10:

Read Ephesians 6:10-24 and consider the following questions:

  • Do you think it is legitimate to speak of certain aspects of Christian life in terms of “battle” or “spiritual warfare”? Why or why not?
  • Why are we commanded to put on the armor of God? What do you think can happen to us if we don’t?
  • How does clothing ourselves with the armor of God empower us?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 8

This week we continued looking at what putting on the “new self” looks like according to Ephesians. While the aspects of the new self in Ephesians 4 are “horizontal” or about relating with each other (speaking the truth, letting go of anger, helping others in need, building each other up with your words, and forgiving one another), the aspects in Ephesians 5 are more “vertical” or about our relationship with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

May we be greatly encouraged this week as we strive to live in the new self!

Ephesians 5:1-21

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A.      “Two Ways” form of instruction (continued)…

1.       Puts 2 ways of living in stark contrast, one positive and the other negative.

a.        Part I: 4:17-32 (discussed last week)

  • General exhortations on what not to do, why not to do it, and what to do (vv 17-24)
  • 5 exhortations on the specifics of a New Life: speak the truth, let go of anger, help others in need, build each other up with your words, let go of bitterness and forgive as thoroughly as Christ forgave you (vv 25-32)

b.       Part II: 5:1-21

  • Be imitators of God and Christ
  • Change your lifestyle and watch your walk
  • Be filled with the Spirit

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

The Two Ways form: Part II (5:1-21)

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[5:1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Exhortation#1: Be imitators of God by imitating Christ

How?
• Recognize we are His beloved children (children imitate their parents)
• Walk in love as Christ did

Why?
• Because Christ sacrificed Himself for us as a fragrant offering (recall the burnt offerings of Israel and how they were a “pleasing aroma” to God [Ex 29:18], cf Eze 20:40-44)

What must we avoid in order to imitate God and Christ?
• Sexual immorality – in Greek “porneia” meaning premarital and/or extramarital intercourse
• All impurity – in Greek “akatharsia” meaning physical and moral impurity
• Covetousness – in Greek “pleonexia” meaning greed

Why?
• Because these behaviors are not fitting among saints (we are saints! cf, 2:19)

What other behaviors should we avoid?
• Filthiness – in Greek “aischrotēs” meaning obscenity
• Foolish talk and crude joking – in Greek “mōrologia” and “eutrapelia” meaning coarse, vulgar language and degrading joking

Why?
• This language is out of place [among saints] when there should instead be thanksgiving!
• Because we know that people who behave and speak in these ways will not inherit the kingdom of God and Christ

And finally…
• Do not listen to those who lie and excuse their evil actions (ie, the “sons of disobedience”)

According to Talbert, “Various Jewish writings refer to wicked persons who excused their evil actions on the grounds that God does not judge. The author of Ephesians says, ‘Do not listen to such people. They lie!'” (Talbert, p 126)

[7] Therefore do not associate with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Exhortation #2: Do not participate in the “Gentile lifestyle”

Why?
• Because we (believers) are light in the Lord – in Greek “phōs” meaning luminous (cf, Matt 5:14, Acts 26:18)
• We must walk as children of light (ie, Christ is our power source and we are therefore luminous and glowing in the darkness of the world!)

How will we know that we are walking as children of light?
• We will bear fruit: goodness, righteousness, truth, and discernment of what is pleasing to the Lord

If we are light, how do we respond to the “darkness” in the world?
• We confront it, expose it, and make it visible by bringing it into the light
What happens then?
• Any sin that is exposed by the light can no longer remain
• The one who has committed the sin is now “light” herself, she is awakened and restored, and is reconnected to the light of Christ

[15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. [18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [21] submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Exhortation #3: Look carefully at how you walk and be filled with the Spirit

Why?
• Because we must walk in wisdom and make the best use of our time because “the days are evil” (recall that the sons of disobedience are telling us lies! cf 5:6)

What does walking in wisdom look like?
Do not be foolish
BUT…
Do understand the will of the Lord
Do not drink to excess and behave improperly
BUT…
Do be filled with the Spirit

What are the results of being filled with the Spirit?
• We will sing praise to each other
• We will sing praise to the Lord
• We will give thanks to God and Christ at all times and for all things (not just the good things!)
• We will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ

C.      The Major Issues

1.       The imitation of God

a.        The view of ancient Greek, Jewish, and 1st century philosophers

  • Humans attained likeness to God by imitating His virtues
  • True worship is not only believing God but imitating Him as well

b.        New Testament examples

  • Matt 5:43-48 “…be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
  • I Cor 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
  • I Thess 1:6-7 “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…so that you became an example to all the believers…”
  • I Pet 2:21 “…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Homework for Week 9:

Read Ephesians 5:22-6:9 and consider the following questions:

  • 5:22-6:9 provides specific examples of relationships where we can be “imitators of God” (wives and husbands; children and parents; employers and employees). How do you think becoming imitators of God and Christ can help us to fulfill these roles?
  • What do obedience and submission look like for a wife? For a child? For an employee?
  • Are you bothered by the idea of being an obedient and submissive wife/daughter/employee? Why or why not?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 7

What exactly does “putting on the new self” look like? According to Ephesians 4, it looks like speaking the truth, letting go of anger, helping others in need, building each other up with your words, being gentle and sensitive with each other, and forgiving as thoroughly as Christ forgave you. Can we do it? When we are in Jesus, Yes We Can!

Ephesians 4: 17-32

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A.      “Two Ways” form of instruction

Examples: Plato, Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Galatians 5:16-25

1.       Puts 2 ways of living in stark contrast, one positive and the other negative.

a. Three required components

  • Dualistic introduction
  • Lists of virtues and vices
  • Eschatological warning (eschatological = “end times”)

b. Based on the notion that conversion leads to moral renewal (Perkins, 1997)

  • Ephesians is reminding Gentiles about a proper lifestyle for a Christian
  • Presumably so they can “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [they] have been called…” (4:1)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

A “Two Ways” form (4:17-5:21)

The Two Ways form: Part I (4:17-32)

General exhortations (vv 17-24)

  • What not to do (vv 17-19)
  • Why not to do it (vv 20-21)
  • What to do (vv 22-24)

Specifics of a New Life (vv 25-32)

  • 5 specific exhortations regarding specific behaviors

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[17] Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

What are Christians not to do? (vv 17-19)
• “Walk as the Gentiles do” (cf I Pet 4:3-4)

In other words, do not have the lifestyle of an unsaved Gentile that is marked by:
• futility of the mind (cf I Pet 1:18)
• darkened understanding (cf Rom 1:21)
• alienation from the life of God because of ignorance (cf Eph 2:12)
• hardness of heart
• callousness
• given up to sensuality, greed, and every kind of impurity (cf Rom 1:24)

[20] But that is not the way you learned Christ! – [21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Why should Christians not live as the Gentiles do? (vv 20-21)
• the (unsaved) Gentile lifestyle is at odds with the walk that Jesus embodied (Talbert, p 123)

Note in v 20 that what is learned is a person.

Talbert notes that this would not have been an unusual concept for the Ephesian culture, as they viewed rulers as “the living law” (eg, Caesar). One learned the right way of living by observing the ruler in power.
Paul is referring to “learning Christ” as the totality of the Christ paradigm (Talbert, p 123).
• One learns Christ
• One is taught by means of Christ
• The truth resides in Christ

[22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

What are Christians to do? (vv 22-24)
• Undergo moral transformation

How?
• put off the old self
• be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (cf Rom 1:1-2; Col 3:10)
• put on the new self

Picture the image of changing garments. The new garment (or self) is created “in true righteousness and holiness.” (v 24)

“In Jesus one sees the norm of all values. This vision produces righteousness and holiness, not debauchery and a greedy desire to practice all kinds of uncleanness.” (Talbert, p 124)

[25] Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

What does this “new self” look like?

Exhortation 1: stop lying and speak the truth

Why? Because “we are members of one another” (cf I Cor 12:12, 14, 18)

The Message: “What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”

[26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil.

Exhortation 2: stop holding on to your anger

Why? Because this gives opportunity to the devil, or “opens one to the influence of the evil powers” (cf 2:1-2)

The Message: “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry-but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

[28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Exhortation 3: stop stealing and do honest work instead

Why? So that you will have something to share with those in need (cf 2 Thess 3:6-11)

The Message: “Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.”

[29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Exhortation 4: watch your words and what you say to each other.

Why? So that your words will only benefit one another, and so that you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.

The Message: “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.”

[31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Exhortation 5: let go of bitterness, revenge, anger, slander, and malice and instead be tender and forgiving of one another.

Why? Because this is how Christ first acted towards us.

The Message: “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Putting off the “old self”

a. Why does “Paul” discuss these issues at this particular point in the letter to the Ephesians?

  • An attempt to eliminate common vices that divide people
  • To further the theme of harmony and unity in the body of Christ

b. Does this passage apply to modern‑day Christians?

  • Do we see these vices in ourselves and in our own congregations?
  • How would addressing these vices help us to live in community and “do life together”

Homework for Week 8:

Read Ephesians 5:1-21 and consider the following questions:

  • Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “be imitators of God.” What does this mean to you? How do you think the original Gentile readers would have understood this exhortation in their culture and time in history?
  • The last portion of Chapter 5 and the first portion of Chapter 6 have specific examples of relationships where we can be “imitators of God” (wives and husbands; children and parents; slaves and masters). How do you think becoming “imitators of God” can help us to fulfill these roles?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 6

We jumped into the wonderful teaching of Ephesians Chapter 4 tonight by discussing the themes of unity and diversity in the body of Christ. We can grow in our appreciation of each Christian’s diverse spiritual gifts when we remember that Christ’s provision of these gifts is for the growth and maturity of the body!

Ephesians 4: 1-16 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A.      Ephesians “Part II”

1.       Chapters 4-6

a. Parenesis – “using the language of exhortation in an appeal to demonstrate Christian identity in life” (Talbert, p. 39)

  • Four units: 4:1-16; 4:17-5:21; 5:22-6:9; and 6:10-20

2.       4:1-16

a. Unity (4:1-6)

  • A call to maintain the unity of the Spirit (vv 1-3)
  • The basis of this unity is 7 “unifying realities” of the Christian faith (vv4-6)

b. Diversity (4:7-16)

  • Christ’s diverse gifts are the basis of Christian diversity (vv7-11)
  • The goal of Christians’ diverse gifts are unity, maturity, stability, and growth of the church (vv 12-16)

B.      The Text

Parenesis (4:1-6:20) – advice or exhortation

Unity and Diversity: a call to maintain Christian unity (4:1-6) and the goals of Christian diversity (4:7-16)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[4:1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The beginning of the parenetic section of the letter is signaled by the phrase “I…urge you” or in some translations, “I…exhort you.” The word “therefore” tells us that “Paul” will base his teaching (exhortation) on what has come before (ie, Chs 1-3). In other words, because of God’s actions towards us (as described in Chs 1-3), we should therefore respond by living our lives as Christians in a certain way (as will be described in Chs 4-6).

What are we being exhorted to do?
• Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called

In other words, live in a way that is consistent with being called a Christian.

What does walking in this way look like?
A 5-fold picture:
• Humility (cf, Acts 20:19; Phil 2:3; Col 3:12; I Pet 5:5)
• Gentleness (cf, Gal 5:23; Col 3:12)
• Patience (cf, 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Col 3:12)
• Bearing with one another in love (cf, Phil 2:2; Col 3:13)
• Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf, Rom 14:17; Gal 5:22)

[4] There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 

Why should we be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit”?
A 7-fold basis for unity:
Because there is…
• one body
• one Spirit
• one hope
• one Lord
• one faith
• one baptism
• one God and Father

Talbert notes that there is “a Jewish ring” to the language of these verses. The element that made the Jewish people unique was their creed of a single God and their unity as a people of a single faith. Talbert states, “The 7-fold basis for Christian unity in Ephesians is an adaptation of this Jewish way of thinking.” (p. 109)

[7] But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Beginning in v 7, the focus shifts to the relationship between unity in the church and diversity among its members. In this verse we are told that grace has been given to each one of us “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

To fully understand this portion of Ephesians, it is important to hear the conversation going on with Romans 12:4-8 and I Cor 12:4-20. In these passages, Paul speaks about the diversity of gifts within 1 body. The perspective of both passages is that diverse gifts should be used for the unity of the whole body of Christ.

[8] Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

In v 8, “Paul” is quoting Psalm 68:18, but does not provide an exact quote. Scholars have different views on why the author did not quote Psalm 68:18 exactly, but the general consensus is that v 8 represents a “Christianization” of a Mosaic reading of that particular Psalm.

In other words, “Paul” altered the text of Psalm 68 to bring out its meaning in terms of Christ.

[9] (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? [10] He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Beginning in v 9, the text provides what could possibly be a commentary or explanation of the quotation of Psalm 68:18.

The statement that Christ “descended” has been interpreted a variety of ways. The primary interpretation by the early church fathers was that Christ literally descended into hell or Hades while on the cross, taking with him the “captives” (cf, v 8) of death, sin, the curse, and the devil. Recall that the Apostles’ Creed states, “He descended into hell…”

Talbert believes that, since Ephesians only pictures a world consisting of 2 levels (earth and the heavens), the descent of Christ in Ephesians refers to his descent into the grave before the resurrection.

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Verse 11 picks up again on the role of Christ’s gifts in maintaining Christian unity by specifying that some gifts are given to certain individuals who have a large role in fostering unity in the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers).

God’s purpose in equipping people in these offices with spiritual gifts is to so they may in turn equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. According to Talbert, the text indicates the saints will need the guidance of people in these offices to know the proper way to use their gifts to contribute to the growth of the church.

[13] until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, [14] so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. [15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

How long will we be working toward the growth of the body of Christ with our gifts?
Focus on inner growth:
Until we [the church] attain…
• unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God
• to mature manhood
• to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

And what is the purpose of this Christian maturity?
• so that we may no longer be children…easily influenced by other teachings, doctrines, or even deceitful schemes
• so that we might speak the truth in love and grow up “in every way” into Christ, who is the ultimate measure of our spiritual growth.

Verse 16 tells us that Christ is not only the ideal measure of our spiritual maturity, but also the source that enables that maturity. He is the “head” from whom we are all joined together, each equipped with our unique spiritual gifts, to work together in building up the body of Christ in love.

The Major Issues

1.       Spiritual gifts

a. Biblical references for spiritual gifts: Rom 12:1-8; ICor12:8‑10, 28-30; Eph 4:11; I Pet 4:11

  • Note that the lists of spiritual gifts are not the same in these references; the lists are “illustrative” rather than exhaustive (Talbert, p. 118)

b. Organization of spiritual gifts (Fung, 1987)

Endowments for Ministry in Word

Equipment for Ministry in Deed

Gifts of gospel proclamation

            Apostles

            Evangelists

Gifts of supernatural power

            Miracles

            Healing

            Faith

Gifts of inspired utterance

            Prophets

            Discernment of spirits

            Tongues

            Interpretation of tongues

            Utterances of knowledge

Gifts of administrative leadership

            Administrators

            Pastors

Gifts of didactic speech

            Teachers/pastors

            Exhortation

            Utterances of wisdom

Gifts of practical assistance

            Helping

            Serving

            Sharing

            Caring

            Showing mercy

Homework for Week 7:

Read Ephesians 4:17-32 and consider the following questions:

The focus of this passage is putting off the “old self” and forsaking the vices that cause divisions among us.

  • Why do you think “Paul” is discussing these issues at this particular point in the letter to the Ephesians?
  • Does this passage still apply to modern day congregations of Christians?
  • With our congregation’s current focus on community and “doing life together,” do you think that we are to help each other live the “new life” described in this passage? How can we do this?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 5

We finished up the first half of Ephesians tonight with a great discussion on the “mystery” of Christ as well as the implications of needing strength to understand the full dimensions of Christ’s infinite love. His riches are unsearachable and His love surpasses knowledge! Amen.

Ephesians 3: 1-21

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A.      Digression #2, Intercession #2, and a Doxology

1.       Digression #2

a. God’s power at work in Paul (3:2-13)

  • This is the second digression the author uses to discuss God’s power – the first digression addressed God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians (1:20-2:22), and the second digression addresses God’s power at work in and through Christ’s apostle Paul.

2.       Intercession #2

a. Paul intercedes for the Gentiles a second time (3:14-19)

  • This time the intercession is for the Gentile readers’ empowerment, enlightenment, and filling with the Holy Spirit

3.       Doxology

a. Praising God for His power at work in Christians (3:20-21)

  • Doxology: a hymn or verse in Christian liturgy glorifying God

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 1: 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 (1:20-2:22)

Raised through Christ: victory over sin and evil powers (1:20-2:10)

Reconciled through Christ: victory over alienation (2:11-22)

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

Intercession 2: asking God for the readers’ empowerment, enlightenment, and filling with the Holy Spirit (3:14-19)

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[3:1] For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles – [2] assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

“For this reason” refers back to Digression #1, where Jew and Gentile are described as being a new humanity reconciled both to each other and to God through Christ. In verse 1 it appears that “Paul” is going to resume the intercessory prayer for the Gentiles that he began in 1:16b-19, but the prayer is again interrupted in verse 2 with Digression #2.

“Paul” begins the digression with the assumption that the Gentile readers in the region of Ephesus in Asia Minor have heard of him and the specific ministry to the Gentiles that has been given to him by God.

[3] how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. [4] When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

When did “Paul” write briefly about “the mystery” made known to him by revelation? He is likely referring back to 1:9‑10 (“making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for he fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”)

What does “the mystery” mean? In pre-Christian Judaism, “mystery” often referred to something hidden that is revealed by God to or through someone (cf, Dan 2:27-28)

In the New Testament, “mystery” sometimes refers to an aspect of religious tradition about which there is an element of secrecy (cf, Mark 4:11) or something in need of interpretation (cf, Romans 11:25) 

[5] which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. [6] This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

The Spirit has revealed this mystery to all of the apostles and prophets, including “Paul” who is now sharing it with the Gentiles.

 What is the Christian mystery to which “Paul” is referring? That Jews and Gentiles are now part of one body making up the household of God. This is made possible through the promises fulfilled in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[7] Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. [8] To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, [9] and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, [10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

“Paul” reiterates that his mission to the Gentiles was a gift from God, although he is “the least of all the saints.” Recall that Paul refers to himself as a persecutor of the church (cf, I Cor 15:9, Gal 1:13) and a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” (I Tim 1:13).

What is this mission? To “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” and to “bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things”

Why is “Paul” preaching to the Gentiles and revealing the plan for unification of Jews and Gentiles into one body (the “mystery” as defined in verse 6)? So that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

The unification of humanity through Christ is a testimony to all heavenly powers (angels, demons, supernatural rulers and authorities) that God’s wise plans and purposes are being carried out according to His will. Even angels wouldn’t necessarily know this mystery (cf, I Pet 1:12).

[11] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, [12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. [13] So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

 

This universal unification plan is being fulfilled according to an eternal purpose, and this purpose has been realized in Jesus Christ.

Verse 12 reiterates the notion of “access” that was first presented in 2:18 (“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”) This access through the cross of Christ should give us boldness and confidence in our faith.

“Paul” closes Digression #2 with what some scholars refer to as “an exercise in self-praise.” However, this self-praise is not done in an effort to be self-congratulatory. Instead, it is in the context of praising God, recognizing the purpose of ministry to the Gentiles, and raising the confidence of the new Gentile believers.

[14] For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

After finishing his digression, “Paul” now continues the intercessory prayer begun in Chapter 1. Note that he first clarifies that he has taken the position of bowing his knees in prayer.

What is the nature of “Paul’s” prayer?

The request: that the Gentiles (“you” plural) might be strengthened with power through the Spirit in “our” inner being

The four-fold purpose of the request:

  • So that Christ may dwell in our hearts, rooting and grounding us in love
  • So that we may have strength to comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth of Christ (or Christ’s love)
  • So that we may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
  • So that we may be filled with all the fullness of God

As Talbert says, “The goal is that believers be filled up to the level of the fullness of God…The empowering, indwelling, and filling are characterized by the experience of power and love. This is the primary Christian religious experience.” (Talbert, pp 102-103)

In Beth Moore’s study “A Woman’s Heart, God’s Dwelling Place” she compares the description of dimensions in v 18b with the description of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:15-17. In those verses, the heavenly city is described as a perfect cube, having equal breadth, length, height, and depth, descending out of heaven from God and having the radiance of God’s glory.

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The first half of Ephesians ends with a doxology praising God, acknowledging the power of God at work within us as Christians, and recognizing God’s glory.

The doxology ends with the Hebrew word “Amen” meaning truly, so be it, or truth.

C.      The Major Issues

1.       Wrap-up of “Ephesians Part I”

a. Ephesians falls into 2 main sections: Chs 1-3 and Chs 4-6

  • In Chs 1-3, the blessing, intercessory prayer, and digressions function to prepare the Gentile readers for the last 3 chapters where “Paul” will provide the main teaching of the letter.
  • God was first blessed for bestowing blessing on believers, God was then thanked for the Gentile readers’ faith and love, “Paul” then interceded on the Gentile’s behalf for enlightenment, empowerment, and filling with the Spirit, and the Gentiles have been reminded about God’s power at work in Christ, in Christians, and in “Paul” as a minister of the Christian “mystery.”

 Homework for Week 6:

 Read Ephesians 4:1-16 and consider the following questions:

  •  Scholars refer to 4:4 as stating the “seven unifying realities of the Christian faith. Do you agree with these realities? Do you agree that they are unifying?
  •  The language in 4:9-10 is somewhat controversial in the description of Christ as descending “into the lower parts of the earth.” Did Christ literally descend? If so, where?
  •  How do you see the diversity of gifts among Christian believers as aiding unity in the body of Christ?

Ephesians Bible Study ~ Week 4

Tonight we discussed the body of Christ and the reconciliation provided by the cross as part of Grace Chapel’s larger discussion currently going on about community. Ephesians describes how this reconciliation is both “horizontal” and “vertical,” which can help us recognize the many ways that God is reconciling the whole of creation to Himself. Praise the Lord!

Ephesians 2:11-22

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A.      Digression #1

1.       First part (1:20-2:10) – discussed in Week 3

a.        Focus on God’s power at work in Christ and in Christians

2.       Second part (2:11-22)

a.        Focus on Christians reconciled through Christ

  • A result of God’s power
  • Joy in being part of God’s people
  • Realization of hope in Christ
  • The realization of the intercession in 1:16b-19

b.       Christ: “the bringer of peace”

  • Readers of Ephesians in Asia Minor would have been very familiar with the idea of a “bringer of peace” considering the fame of Caesar Augustus who claimed to have brought peace to the entire Roman world. In this portion of Ephesians, “Paul” is intentionally presenting Christ the King as superior to the Caesar.

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 (1:20-2:22)

Raised through Christ: victory over sin and evil powers (1:20-2:10)

Reconciled through Christ: victory over alienation (2:11-22)

~~~~~~~~~~

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands –

In the years of the early church, there was a very clear distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Jews viewed Gentiles as “the nations” (see also Gal 2:15) and the distinction was based on the physical act of circumcision. “Paul” is emphasizing that this was the case “at one time” (also “formerly” in some translations).

However, we know that Paul sees a difference between the circumcision of the flesh and the circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:25-29).

[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Before Christ, the Gentiles lacked 5 spiritual privileges that were unique to the nation of Israel:

  • separated from Christ
    Before becoming Christians, Gentiles did not share Israel’s expectation of a Messiah.
  • alienated from the commonwealth of Israel
    Gentiles were not part of the people of God.
  • strangers to the covenants of promise
    Gentiles before Christ could not rely on the Abrahamic (Gen 12:1-3), Mosaic (Ex 20:1-21), or Davidic (2 Sam 7: 12‑17) covenants.
  • having no hope
    Gentiles had no hope of anything after death (cf. 1 Thess 4:13)
  • without God in the world
    Gentiles did not have a relationship with Yahweh, the one true God (Deut 6:4)

All of this has changed with the blood of Christ, which is the seal of the new covenant (cf. I Cor 11:25) that reconciles all humanity to God.

[14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility [15] by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

How has Christ Jesus brought us “who once were far off” near to him? The action is two-fold.

In vv 14-15 we see that the action is horizontal:  he has “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…” Most scholars regard this dividing wall as the Mosaic law, which caused the Jews to live in direct opposition to the nations in terms of customs and way of life. God intended for Jews to be set apart from the nations in this way.

Christ abolished this Mosaic law through the sacrifice of his flesh, thereby making peace between Jew and Gentile “in himself.” Talbert notes that in this new way, Jews don’t become Gentiles and Gentiles don’t become Jews. A third option is created that both Jews and Gentiles enter into to achieve reconciliation.

[16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. [18] For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

In vv 16-18 we see that the action is also vertical: he is able to “reconcile us both to God in one body…” (cf. Col 1:20) This reconciliation was preached to the Gentiles who were considered “far off” as well as the Jews who were considered “near.”

We have access to the Father by means of the “one Spirit” and we have access to the Spirit “through him” (Christ). Talbert notes that v 18 doesn’t say that Gentiles have somehow gained an access that earlier belonged to Jews alone, but rather that both Jews and Gentiles have a new access.

[19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

We can now understand that, by virtue of the cross, the Gentiles (plural “you”) are now both 1) citizens with the redeemed (“the saints”) and 2) members of a family (“the household of God”).

This household of God is further compared to a building in the following ways:

  • built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets
    (cf. 3:5, 4:11)
  • Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone
    In antiquity, the cornerstone was the first stone laid and every other stone was lined up to it.
  • the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord
    It is important to note here that the word for temple in Greek is naos does not refer to the entire temple complex, but instead to the inner sanctuary where God Himself dwells.

In v 22, the attention seems to shift from the present to the future. Talbert says, “One is led to envision a completed sanctuary indwelt by God’s presence…This is but the beginning of the summing up of all things through Christ. (1:10)” (Talbert, p. 86)

C.      The Major Issues

1.       How are we to understand the “body of Christ”?

a.        According to Ephesians:

  • Jew and Gentile are reconciled “in one body” to God (2:16)
  • Christ is head over everything for the church “which is his body” (1:22-23a)
  • Gentiles have become “members of the same body” (3:6)
  • Ephesians tells us that there is “one body” (4:4)
  • Christ equips believers for “building up the body of Christ” (4:12)
  • Christ is the head of the church, “his body” (5:23)
  • Christians are members of “his body” (5:30)

Talbert says, “In summary, in Ephesians, the ‘body of Christ’ is to be taken as a corporate entity, the people of God, the whole church.” (Talbert, p. 88)

2.       The concepts of “alienation” and “reconciliation”

a.    What can we take from this portion of Ephesians and apply to the current conversations going on at Grace about community?

  • Grace Chapel’s vision specifically mentions outreach to the “marginalized” in our community. What do you think we mean by this?

Here are a couple of blurbs from the Grace Chapel website:

“While Grace Chapel is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, we welcome all kinds of people regardless of beliefs, appearance, lifestyle, and/or socio-economic status.”

“We welcome people from all walks of life, whether they agree with our particular beliefs or not. We love a good discussion and are seekers of Truth.”

Homework for Week 5:

Read Ephesians 3:1-21 and consider the following questions:

  • Paul was evaluated differently by both Jews and Gentiles. To Jews, he was hated as a traitor. To some early Christians, he was more important than the Twelve. In other circles, he was virtually ignored. Does reading Ephesians influence your view of Paul in any way?
  • What do you think is the aim of the prayer in 3:14-21?

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?

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?