Main theme: God’s eternal plan for this universe: unity in thought and walk.
Date written: A.D. 60-62
Place: Roman prison
- Paul had spent more than 3 years with this church and was very close to them.
- It would seem that the letter was not intended solely for the church at Ephesus, but rather as a circular letter to churches in that area. (In some of the earlier manuscripts the words “in Ephesus” do not appear, etc.)
- It is not written to correct wrong doctrine or behaviour, but rather to lead the readers onto higher ground regarding:
- Insight into God’s eternal purposes with creation (chapters 1-3).
- Their holy walk in Christ (chapters 4-6).
- Paul uses several figures of speech to illustrate the unity of God’s people in Christ:
- The Church is like a building of which the cornerstone is Christ.
- It is also like a body of which Christ is the head.
- Again it is like a marriage where Christ is the husband and the Church the wife.
- Some scholars are of the opinion that this letter is a deeper revelation of Christian doctrine that what is found in the book of Romans.
B. PAUL GREETS THE CONGREGATION
- Some of the earlier manuscripts do not have the word “Ephesus”.
- Paul greets the congregation(s) by saying:
- That the letter which follows is from him, Paul.
- That he is an apostle.
- That he has this apostleship because God so willed it.
- He addresses them as “Believers” and “Holy ones.”
- How comforting to know that God sees us as “Holy ones.” This of course is what we are in Christ.
- As in just about all of his other letters, Paul pronounces a blessing over his readers, before imparting his teaching to them.
C. GOD’s PLAN FOR HIS CREATION
- Regarding Gods plan for the universe and especially for mankind:
- He formulated and finalized it way before He created anything. (1:4,5)
- He did it by his own free will and not because there was any pressure upon him. (1:5,11)
- He was deeply satisfied and delighted with it. (1:5,6)
- It demonstrates his ingenuity and his abundant grace. (1:6,7)
- It is a hidden mystery which He reveals in his own time and at his own pleasure. (1:9)
- It has as end purpose to unify all things both in heaven and on earth under the headship of Christ Jesus. (1:10,22)
- Regarding the blessings it will bestow upon man:
- He will be comprehensively redeemed (set free) from the just judgment that is upon him because of his crimes. (1:7,8)
- He will be born and adopted into the family of God and thus become a child of God. (1:5)
- He will receive all of the blessings that God has for him in the form of an inheritance. (1:18)
- He will receive every iota of blessing which heaven has available. (1:3)
- He will be immaculate in holiness; without any defects or shortcomings. (1:4,23)
- As soon as he accepts this deal, he will receive assurance that the deal has been clinched by God, by the Holy Spirit entering into and taking control of his life. (1:13,14)
- Regarding the basis on which this plan rests:
- It is based on the exceeding abundance of God’s grace. (1:7)
- It is brought about by the sacrificial death and resurrection of his beloved Son, Jesus. (1:7)
- Regarding the outcome of this plan: it will, and is bringing overwhelming glory and praise to God’s Name. (1:12)
D. PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE ENFOLDING OF GOD’S PLAN
Prayer is the penknife God uses to break the seals of his secret plan and set it in motion; this was so ordained by him. That is why Paul, when he got to know of the commencement of the enfolding of God’s plan in the lives of his readers, immediately goes onto his knees and allows the Holy Spirit to fill his heart with prayer that would lead to the breaking of every subsequent seal, so that they may receive every blessing that God has in store for them.
This then is what he prays and thanks God for:
- That they may clearly see the enormous greatness (scope) of God’s plan for them. (1:17,18)
- That this may kindle a sparkling hope within them for their own future. (1:18)
- That they may be able to form an idea of how extremely rich they became because of what they inherited from Christ. (1:18)
- That they may be able to form an idea of Gods enormous power that is now working within them and will cause all of God’s perfect, predestined plan (outlined before) to be fulfilled in them. This power is in fact the very same power in which God operated when He (1:19-23):
- Raised Christ from the dead.
- Raised him above all authority, might and power and every name mentioned both in this world and in the world to come.
- Subjected all things under his feet.
- Seated him at his right hand in heaven.
- Appointed him as Head over all things.
- Gave him as Head of his body which is the congregation of saints.
- Gave him to fulfill his plan in his body.
E. FROM DEATH TO LIFE
Having prayed for their enlightenment, Paul now resumes his instruction of them (with the same purpose):
- The state in which God found mankind.
- God came to them (and mankind) while they were in a state of spiritual death. (2:1)
- A dead body is blissfully unaware of all the activity that takes place around it; likewise a person in a state of spiritual death is unaware of, and irresponsive to the life of God that throbs throughout the universe.
- It is in a process of decay which causes it to drift further and further away from God’s life and there is no remedy whatsoever known to man by which it can be restored to life.
- It emits a bad odour that is highly repulsive to the living and so much more, to the God of life.
- The cause and result of their death:
- They had been walking (living) in the way common to all mankind, the main road of this world. (2:2)
- Their footsteps were directed by the monarch of the evil powers (spirits) that dwell in the air around them. (2:2)
- They were controlled by the spirit (attitude) of disobedience that is still operating and giving birth to children whose main characteristic is rebellion against God. (2:2)
- They had, by choice, been committing sins, both heinous and less serious, against God. (2:2)
- All of those now saved, were formerly walking on this highway, swept along by the powerful desires of their flesh (sinful nature). (2:2)
- When they took the very first step onto this road, God immediately departed from them and as his life (his way of thinking and walking) left them, death set in – sin was the disease that slew man and covered the earth with corpses. (2:1)
- They ended up like children that had totally disgraced the house of their father by the total corruption of their characters and upon whom his wrath was to be poured out. (2:3)
God’s action in this dead world: It was into this world of corpses that God stepped, where he set foot and began his work:
- He did this because of his great compassion and love for us even in the state we were in. (2:1)
- What he then did was nothing but grace, for we did not deserve his mercy. (2:1)
- So what he did was to consider us to have been in Christ (not physically or spiritually but legally) when He was resurrected from the grave. (2:5)
- In that unity with Christ, He lifted us up in him and let us sit in Him in the heavens. (2:6)
- He did this in order that through all the ages that are to come, He will be able to shower us with all the riches of his grace as He pours it onto Christ in whom we are. (2:7)
- His grace is the bottom line of our salvation for, even the faith that we exercised when accepting his offer of salvation, was a gift we received from God. (2:8)
- Our returning to life was not by our own efforts, so that we may not boast about it. (2:9)
- Now we are beings created (recreated) by God inside of (legally inside of) Christ. (2:6)
- We are thus created in order that we may walk in good works which God planned for each one of us, even before the creation of the earth. (2:10)
F. GENTILE AND JEW, ONE IN CHRIST
Paul further enlightens their minds by showing how, in Christ, the spiritual enmity that had existed between Gentile and Jew was obliterated and the two races were made into one single body of believers.
- The former state of the Gentiles:
- They were far from God, (2:13)
- Strangers that had no part in citizenship of God’s Kingdom, (2:12)
- Foreigners in respect of the covenants (promises) of God with his people, (2:12,19)
- Did not carry God’s covenant sign, circumcision of the flesh, in their bodies. (2:11)
- Without hope, (2:12)
- Without God. (2:12)
- Were living on earth as squatters that had no rights but were merely tolerated by God. (2:12)
- Between them and the Jews there was a dividing wall which kept them apart. (2:14)
- The former state of the Jews:
- They were nearer to God since:
- They were custodians of his written laws (Word). (2:12)
- They were included in God’s covenant (the offer He made to their ancestor, Abraham to be their God). (2:12)
- Their males carried God’s covenant sign, circumcision of the flesh, in their bodies. (2:11)
- They were however not one with God:
- Because they were unable to keep his commandments.
- This resulted in enmity between them and God.
- Their spiritual advantages over the Gentiles (see a. above) caused them to be proud and resulted in enmity towards them.
- They were nearer to God since:
- Christ’s act of reconciliation (making one):His dying on the cross on behalf of mankind (legally taking them into his own body) so that they could, in him, eventually emerge from the grave, totally free from guilt and inwardly completely recreated into new creatures, had the following consequences respectively for Jews and for Gentiles:
- He pulled the Gentiles from a great distance right up to himself. (2:13)
- He wiped away all enmity and brought peace between God and man and between Jews and Gentiles (those that believe in him). (2:14,15)
- The enmity the Jews experienced towards him, evaporated the moment when He fulfilled every iota of the requirements of the Law on their behalf. (2:16)
- He united Jew and Gentile into one single body of believers. (2:14,15)
- His message and offer of salvation, which is the Gospel of peace, is one and the same for Jew and Gentile. (2:17)
- Both races now have equal access to the Father by one Spirit (His Holy Spirit). (2:18)
- The believing Gentiles (in Christ) are no longer strangers and squatters on God’s earth, but citizens together with all the saints and members of the household of God (God’s children and Christ’s brothers and sisters). (2:19)
- While the house of Israel was only for the Jews, this new house which God is building is for all mankind, is built upon the foundations laid by the apostles and prophets while Jesus Christ himself is the corner stone (the member that holds everything together). (2:20)
- The bricks of this building are cemented very firmly together. (2:21)
- It rises up in this world as a beautiful temple (a house in which God dwells with his people). (2:21)
- Not only is the house rising up higher and higher, but each brick (believer) is expanding as he or she grows in understanding and holiness. (2:21)
- This is the Jew-Gentile house in which God now dwells by his Spirit. (2:22)
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