I have noticed people clicking on my little commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, which I did some time ago, so I thought it would be helpful to some to put them altogether. Et Voila!
Chapter 6:10-20 The Christian’s Warfare and Armor.
It would be remiss of the writer not to include a discussion of “a believer’s use of God’s resources, to help him stand against evil powers.” (Hoehner, 642) In an epistle that, more than any other, dwells upon the Christian’s role in the Church, a section such as this (6:10-20) would only be expected.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (v. 10). The believer’s strength is in Christ, He it is who vanquished Satan. The devil has defeated everyone who he has come up against, apart from the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not to be underestimated by us. Too many of the Lord’s people are unwilling servants of the devil. By that we mean, they are often found doing his will instead of the Lord’s will (e.g. Matt. 16:23). We must be strong in the Lord (cf. Prov. 18:10, Psa. 91:2, 2 Cor. 7:16). The Lord’s might (cf. 1:19) is greater by far than that of Satan (cf. 1 Jn. 4:4; Heb. 1:2-3). By speaking of the power of His might, Paul is not forgetting his grammar; he deliberately uses what seems to be a redundant superlative in order to better explicate the enormity of Christ’s power (cf. Matt. 28:18).
The believer is to be armed both in heart and mind (cf. 1 Pet. 4:1). The apostle turns to military terminology in order to illustrate what has been properly called “the Christian warfare.” Spiritual battles are encountered by “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:12). No true saint can function in the Body without encountering some resistance from the forces of evil. Therefore, we must all put on the whole armour of God (v. 11), which provides the Divine protection and endurance so that no Christian need break ranks and suffer the work of God to be impaired.
Of course, one is not to forget that this is figurative language. The important points in this section are the spiritual realities, which the figures represent, and not the figures themselves. “We must not…inquire very minutely into the meaning of each word; for an allusion to military customs was all that was intended. Nothing can be more idle than the extraordinary pains which some have taken to discover the reason why righteousness is made a breastplate, instead of a girdle.” (Calvin, 338)
The armour Paul refers to will be delineated in verses 14-18. Its purpose is that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Satan uses deceit and craft to get his way. He is “the tempter” (Matt. 4:3) and he appeals to our old wicked natures in order to bring about our fall. Our objective in spiritual combat is to stand (vv. 11, 13, 14). At the end of the day, when the trial of our faith is passed, we should still be standing for our Lord and His Gospel. This is not to say that there is no exertion on our part; we wrestle (v. 12) we contend (Jude 3) we strive (Phil. 1:17, 27) against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (v. 12). Wrestling involves hand-to-hand combat. The figure is chosen because the Christian warfare is not like an artillery bombardment, with both sides launching volleys of hardware from a distance. It is a fight at close quarters. The enemy marches against us, and our duty is to hold our ground. If we are standing faithfully in the power of Christ’s might, then the powers of darkness will not get through. But if we try to stand in our own strength, there can be only one outcome. The description that Paul gives of these powers is one of authority and great strength. It is clear that he is saying that their capacity is far too great for the unprepared Christian to handle. If he strives without his Master, he will fail! Read more »
Chapter 5:22 – 6:9: Relationships
From here to chapter 6:9, Paul deals with relationships. First, he writes to husbands and wives, then to their children, and, finally, to servants and masters. A feature of this section is the way one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ governs one’s approach to others in the home.
The first thing God instituted was marriage. It is the very bedrock of a good society. The world does not provide a rationale for a good marriage, neither does it know how to protect and nurture stability and fidelity within the marriage union. The opposite is true of the Bible. Scriptural marriage is a beautiful thing. So beautiful, in fact, that Paul uses it as a picture of Christ’s special relationship to His Church. But it must be a scriptural marriage!
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord (v. 22). Some would like to join this verse to verse 21 (e.g. C. I. Scofield, C. Keener). But to do that would be to ignore the fact that verse 21 is aimed at the Church body, whereas verse 22ff, is much more specific, aimed at a sub-group within the Body. Read more »
Chapter 5:1-21: An Illuminated Life.
Be therefore followers of God, as dear children…(v. 1). The word therefore connects these verses to what preceded them. As a young child follows its parent, so we should be followers of God. To follow God it is necessary to have regard to His wonderful character. By this I mean, we follow God because of Who He is, and because we appreciate a little of His multifaceted perfection. We follow because we are attracted, and we follow because we are enabled to follow. We want to walk after our Father and to please Him.
The KJV uses the word followers and not “imitators,” which is the word employed by modern translations. Although “imitators” is a technically correct translation, it is not as full a word as followers, and is, perhaps, theologically open to question. An imitator is not necessarily a follower. God does not want mimics, He wants disciples. The old saying, “imitation is the best form of flattery,’ contains more than a grain of truth to it. But one ought to remember that the great imitator of God is Satan himself. It is Satan who appears as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14, cf. Eph. 5:8). In any case, we are not seeking to flatter God (cf. Psa. 78:36).
We are dear children to God. This is a very real truth that many believers struggle with. It is hard sometimes for us to believe that God always loves us, especially when our lives do not match up with God’s Word or even with our own self-expectations. How many preachers will confess frankly that it is easier to preach consecration to God than to practice it daily! True, but we are still beloved children. We are “accepted in the Beloved.” Read more »
The fourth chapter marks the beginning of the practical section of the letter.From here on in the writer is concerned with our responses to the doctrines taught in the first three chapters.This is not to say that chapters 4‑6 do not contain doctrine, but the primary emphasis is the outworking of these truths upon Christians, both individually and corporately.
Chapter 4:1-16 Unity in Service.
Chapter 4 begins in the same way as chapter 3.But this time, Paul is using his circumstances (i.e. his imprisonment) to beseech the Ephesian church to walk worthy of the vocation with which [they were] called (v. 1).This verse makes it clear that just being born‑again is not enough if we are to please God.To please our Lord we must be useful and obedient.It is vital that Christians understand their vocation, what their function is within the Body.
The first fruit of a Christian should be lowliness and meekness (v. 2).Without these characteristics in the life of the believer, further spiritual progress is impossible.We are to be like our Master, Who was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).Lowliness is the same as humility.Christians should be humble people, remembering from what terrors they have been rescued, by Whom they have been rescued, and what it took to save them (Heb. 12:3-4). Meekness or gentleness is a disposition that, although it is in control of emotions, nevertheless, does not assert itself.1To be meek is to have an excellent spirit; it is to have inner strength tempered by a humble sense of duty to God (cf. Num. 12:3).Perhaps the finest description of the combination of these two qualities is given by Solomon in Proverbs 16:32, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty: and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.”2
Humility and meekness are not qualities often found in the Lord’s people, but they are absolutely essential for healthy and constructive Christian relationships.Nobody can relate to their brother or sister in Christ in the way God wants them to relate if they are full of pride (cf. Rom. 12:3). Verse 2 continues, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love (cf. 3:17).This we can do when we let Christ reign in our affections (cf. 1 Cor. 13:4, 5), tempering our egos and expanding our concern for others. Read more »
Chapter 3:1-13: The Mystery of the Church.
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…(v. 1). Most commentators believe that Paul wishes to speak about his situation as a Roman prisoner. He feared that his imprisonment might cause some to depreciate his teaching, and he did not want the Ephesians asking, “If God has done all Paul says He’s done, why is Paul in prison?” Paul addresses this in verse 13ff. But it appears verses 2‑12 are a digression; an explanation of Paul’s special knowledge.1
The dispensation of the grace of God (v. 2) is a reference to God’s imparting new revelatory knowledge about the Church to His apostle. As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was entrusted with the dispensing of this knowledge to the Gentiles. The grace of God here, as in all Scripture, is not an impassive thing. Rather, it refers to God gifting Paul (though grace mustn’t be viewed as a substance) so that he in turn would be a gift to the churches.
How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…(v. 3). The mystery being the revelation about the Church found…in a few words, in the preceding chapters. By reading those chapters, the church at Ephesus would understand Paul’s…knowledge in the mystery of Christ (v. 4). What is this mystery? It is the truth that the saints were predestined in Christ to be holy, spiritually‑minded children of God, who corporately, in one body (Jew and Gentile) would grow “into a holy temple in the Lord.” Read more »
Chapter 2:11-22 The One New Man.
The Apostle has just shown that the way out of the deathly grip of sin and Satan is the way of God’s grace. Now he moves on to discuss some practical implications of salvation in Christ. The Gospel reaches out to all men, Jew and Gentile, and makes them brothers. In this way, it reconciles two opposing parties. But it also reconciles men to God. The Gospel therefore, brings peace both horizontally—between man and man—and, vertically—between man and God.
Therefore, remember…(v. 11). The apostle, a Jew, invites the Ephesian Gentiles to remember their condition previous to the coming of Christ into the world. The Jews thought the Gentiles were dogs. The Letter of Aristeas, for example, written by a Jew about 170 years before this epistle, refers to Gentiles as “worthless persons.”4 To distinguish themselves from the heathen, the Jews referred to themselves as “the Circumcision.” They did this, not because they alone practiced the rite,5 but because of its significance in identifying Israel with the God of the Old Testament Mosaic Law. It is hardly surprising to learn of the Jews speaking about Gentiles as the Uncircumcision (v. 11). By drawing their attention to this, Paul is not exhibiting racist tendencies, but he is highlighting the social gulf, which existed between Jews and Gentiles. This he continues to do in verse 12, where he reminds his hearers that at that time (before the Gospel came to them) you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise. Read more »
Chapter 2:1-10: Salvation by God’s Grace.
This chapter can be divided between verses 1‑10, which speak of the method of our salvation; and verses 11‑22, which speak of reconciliation (first, that of the Gentiles and the Jews brought together in Christ vv. 11‑15, second, both reconciled unto God vv. 16‑22). Both argue from what has already been said in chapter one about the power of Christ in us as our resurrected Lord.
And you has He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins. If one is going to speak about the grace of God, as Paul does in this section, one cannot ignore the effects of the Fall upon mankind. All men born into the world are dead in trespasses and sins (cf. Col. 2:13). This deadness (the term nekrous is used figuratively not literally – they are children of disobedience!) is total in regards to spirituality. The day Adam disobeyed God was the day God said he would die, and he did; not physically, but spiritually; that is, he was alienated from the life of God. His spirit was separated from its Creator, and his heart and mind were corrupted by sin. “There being nothing of that spiritual life in them [mankind after the fall] which consisteth of the union of the soul with God.” (J. Fergusson, The Epistles of Paul, 144). This is the doctrine known as Total Depravity.1 It is vital that men understand their plight with God. They are utterly unable to do anything ‘spiritual’ without the Holy Spirit. And since “God is a Spirit” (Jn. 4:24) all an unsaved man’s religion and good works are as filthy rags in His sight (Isa. 64:6). From this spiritually dead condition has He quickened us. This means that Christ has infused His life (by the Spirit) into His redeemed ones. Read more »
Chapter 1:15-23. Paul’s Prayer
Verse 15 is supposed to be proof that Paul did not write this letter to the Ephesians. But as Paul had been away from Ephesus for a number of years, it is not unusual that he writes of having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints.
Faith in Jesus as Lord produces love between Christians. The fruit that God most desires to see His adopted children bearing is love (cf. v. 4; 1 Jn. 4:7, 8). From the subjective angle, the sign that a person is under the Lordship of Christ is the love they have for the saints. The news of the Ephesians’ love, not only among themselves, but unto all the saints, encouraged the apostle to give thanks (v. 16), and to pray for them. We might ask ourselves, how often do we thank God for faithful saints, and intercede for them?
The content of this prayer is most instructive. Read more »
Chapter 1:1-2: Salutation.
The apostle Paul, now a prisoner in Rome, addresses the assembly of Christians at Ephesus, whom he had last seen about six years previously.1 In the opening verse, he states his apostleship as being by the will (thelema) of God. No one could take to himself the title and authority of an apostle of Jesus Christ without the special call unique to an apostle. This calling included sign-gifts (2 Cor. 12:12) and witnessing the resurrected Lord (cf. Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1). In 2:20, the apostles and New Testament prophets are called the foundation upon which the household of God rests.
In some of his epistles (e.g. Phil.; 1 & 2 Thess.), Paul does not feel the need to state his apostleship at the head of the letter. Here however, where deep teaching about the plan and purpose of God for the Church is being put across, he perhaps saw a need to stamp it with apostolic authority from the start.
Paul writes to, the saints (hagiois – separated [holy] ones), and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. Ephesians is written to all Christians; those at Ephesus, but also, we think, to churches around that city2 and, because of its universal character (see esp. 3:15), to all God’s people.
Grace be to you, and peace…(v. 2). Both the words, grace and peace, are important words within this letter.3 The reason we can know peace is because of God’s grace (cf. Rom. 5:1-2).
In the ancient world, letters usually began with a short salutation, not unlike the ones that Paul uses for his epistles. The author’s name and that of the addressee, and a short greeting was the usual way for letters to begin (e.g. Acts 15:23ff, 23:26). However, Paul makes of this characteristic greeting an address from God, the Bestower of a Christian’s blessings. Read more »