LESSON 1-EPHESIANS, THE CROWNING GLORY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Introduction: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Vital Statistics: Purpose: To strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Author: Paul; some scholars say that an admiring follower of Paul wrote this letter and signed his name to it. This is contrary to the Word. This is heresy that has been spread throughout history. There is nearly universal consensus in modern New Testament scholarship on a core group of authentic Pauline epistles whose authorship is rarely contested: Romans, 1 and 2
Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Several additional letters bearing Paul’s name are disputed among scholars, namely Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on whether or not Colossians and 2 Thessalonians are genuine letters of Paul. The Holy Spirit inspired all Scripture and will lead us into all truth. It is not the letter of the Word but the Word revealed by Holy Spirit.
Chronological Order of Paul’s Books
Many believe the lie that Paul did not write Ephesians. Like I said all truth is revealed by Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
To whom written: The church in Ephesus and to all believers. This letter was circulated among other churches, known as a circular or open letter. Later it became and epistle and part of the Pauline revelation. The words at Ephesus 1:1 are not part of the present manuscript. Paul intended for this letter to be circulated to all the churches in that area and later to all believers.
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, 1 To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Setting: This letter was not written to confront any heresy or problem in the churches. It was sent to Tychicus to strengthen and encourage churches in that area. Paul had spent over 3 years with the Ephesian church.
Similarities with other books of the Bible: Ephesians is one of four shorter epistles written by the apostle Paul while he was in prison, the others being Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Ephesians shares many similarities in style and content with Colossians; it may have been written about the same time and delivered by the same person.
Structure of the Epistle:
Ephesians divides naturally into two halves:
• a lofty theological section (chaps. 1–3),
• and a section of ethical appeal and application (chaps. 4–6)
1. Paul begins by greeting his readers and assuring them that they have been blessed with God’s gracious favor—redemption in Christ—from before the foundation of the world (1:1–14).
2. Paul then prays that God may grant them an even greater measure of spiritual wisdom and revelation (1:15–23).
3. Chapter two begins with perhaps the clearest statement of salvation by grace through faith in all the Bible (2:1–10). Although the Ephesians were once alienated from God, now they are reconciled both to God and to one another by Christ, who is “our peace” (2:11–22). We know now we were alienated in our mind. Col. 1:21
4. Paul was made an apostle to proclaim the “mystery of Christ”—the inexhaustible riches of the gospel to the Gentiles (3:1–13).
5. Paul brings the first half of the epistle to a close with a prayer that the Ephesians may understand the depth of Christ’s love (3:14–19). A benediction concludes the doctrinal section (3:20–21).
6. An appeal to adapt one’s life to one’s faith (4:1) marks the transition to the second half of the epistle.
7. The Christian fellowship should pattern itself after the unity of the Godhead (4:1–16), and Christians should pattern themselves after the example of Christ (4:17–5:21). As new people in Christ they should walk in love, light, and wisdom.
8. Paul cites Christ’s relationship with the church as a model for wives and husbands (5:22–33), children and parents (6:1–4), and servants and masters (6:5–9).
9. The epistle ends with an appeal to put on the whole armor of God and to stand against the forces of evil (6:10–20), followed by final greetings (6:21–24).
Ephesians bears the name of Paul (1:1; 3:1), and it sets forth many of the great Pauline themes. Ephesians is known as the highest revelation that Paul received. We know, for instance, that Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 19:1–40), and it is clear that the Ephesians cherished his ministry among them (Acts 20:17–38).
Date: Paul probably wrote Ephesians about the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians. Both Ephesians and Colossians agree to a large extent in style and content. Both letters were delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). Furthermore, Paul was in prison at the time, presumably in Rome. This would suggest a date in the late 50sAD or early 60sAD.
The general nature of Ephesians makes it difficult to determine the specific circumstances that gave rise to the epistle. It is clear, however, that the recipients were Gentiles (3:1) who were estranged from citizenship in the kingdom of Israel (2:11). Now, thanks to the gracious gift of God, they enjoy the spiritual blessings that come from Christ.
Other significant facts about Ephesians:
Ephesians is not a didactic/ designed for teaching purposes epistle. Although it certainly is. The Epistle to the Ephesians is written to one of the most well-taught churches that ever existed. Paul spent nearly 3 years teaching in Ephesus. Apollos had ministered there as well. And in Paul’s absence he wrote two epistles to this group of believers. He also sent Timothy to minister at Ephesus as his representative (some would call Timothy an ‘apostolic legate’). While He was at Ephesus, Paul wrote two personal letters to Timothy, which contained instructions that applied to this church (1 & 2 Timothy). In other words Ephesus believers were well taught. This letter was for encouragement and confirmation of who they (we) were and are and shall be for eternity.
Colossians is considered a companion book to Ephesians.
The main focus in Ephesians is who you (we) are and have always been.
What Ephesians is and is not:
Ephesians is not a “need-meeting” epistle, nor is it a book which tells us how to be successful or effective. In writing Ephesians, Paul breaks the rules of homiletics, as often taught today. Generally, sermon introductions try to address a “felt need” in the listener, which the preacher tries to convince his audience his message will address and meet.
Paul is not preaching or teaching in Ephesians as much as he is praising, praising God for who He is and what He has done, as evidenced in the person and work of Jesus Christ and in the gospel. After a brief greeting in verses 1 and 2, Paul’s first words in Ephesians begin, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ …” The tone of Ephesians, and especially the first three chapters, is one of praise toward God. The first three chapters are addressed to God as much as to men, with the reader being given the privilege of overhearing Paul’s response to God in both praise and petition, and then having the opportunity to join with him. In the midst of chapters 1 and 3, Paul turns to prayer. Ephesians is the “Waterloo of Biblical commentators.” This characterization of Ephesians suggests to us that this book has proven to be greater than the minds of those who have studied it. Ephesians is one of those books which, like the God of whom it speaks, is beyond the grasp of the finite minds of men.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
It is not that Ephesians is unclear, but that the truths of which it speaks are beyond our grasp, that is in our minds or in the soulish realm. We should not be frustrated by the fact that we cannot “master” this epistle own existence and intelligence. Only by the Holy Spirit’s guidance can we grasp these revelatory truths.
This is true of all canon of Scripture.
Ephesians is the “high road” of New Testament revelation, changing our perspective from that of a citizen of this world to that of a citizen of heaven. Faith in Jesus Christ, often spoken of as being “born again, born from above in the truest sense.” (see John 3:3ff.), brings about a radical change. Born from above is the correct rendering.
If salvation brings one from “death” to “life,” from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of light,” then one would expect that conversion would likewise bring about a vastly different way of viewing life. No epistle penned by the Apostle Paul is so extensive in the change of perspective which it challenges us to adopt. The Book of Ephesians seeks to expand our knowledge and understanding in virtually every dimension. Yet it is called “the mystery of His will.” Made known to us through revelation.
Listen to what Paul himself says about this matter:
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:15-19).
For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).
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Our spiritual “center of gravity” is too low, too human, too temporal, too material, too earthly, too selfcentered. Ephesians is written to challenge and to change our “center of gravity.” In this epistle, Paul writes to change our perspective, to see earthly appearances in the light of heavenly realities, time in the light of eternity, the spiritual life as a struggle a spiritual warfare,( I call it spiritual joyfare) not merely with human opponents, but with a host of heavenly forces.
Ephesians seeks to change our orientation from one which is man-centered to one which is God-centered. We smile to ourselves when we think of the ancient view that the world is flat, or that the earth is the center of the universe. And yet, we see man as the central focus, rather than God. Ephesians unapologetically challenges this view, and calls us to a God-centered focus. But the gospel is the good news that God is the allsatisfying end of all our longings, and that even though he does not need us, and is in fact estranged from us because of our sense realm thinking he has, in the great love with which he loved us, made a way for us to drink at the river of his delights through Jesus Christ. And we will not be enthralled by this good news unless we feel that he was not obliged to do this. He was not coerced or constrained by our value. He is the center of the gospel. The exaltation of his glory is the driving force of the gospel. The gospel is a gospel of grace!
To sum up the essence of the contribution of Ephesians, this epistle draws our attention to the glory of God. The glory of God is not only the motivation, but the goal of God’s sovereign work among men. There is no more majestic theme, no more noble pursuit than the glory of God. Moses’ highest ambition and most noble request was to see the glory of God (Exodus 33:17–18:8). The first coming of Christ was a display of the glory of God (John 1:14; see also Matthew 16:27–17:8). The Apostle
Paul was encouraged and sustained by his awareness of God’s glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; 4:3-6, 16-18). The apostle Peter found the revelation of the “Majestic Glory” of our Lord a witness to the truthfulness of the prophetic word revealed through the apostles (2 Peter 1:16-19). Our Lord’s second coming will be a revelation of His glory, and the cause for the saints’ rejoicing (1 Peter 4:12-13). Every supreme goal of our every action is the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Epistle to the Ephesians is all about the glory of God.
God’s glory is everything He is.
The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections. The infinite beauty, His weightedness—a manifestation of his character and his worth and his attributes — all of his perfections and greatness are beautiful as they are seen, and there are many of them.
Chapters 1-3 of the Epistle to the Ephesians urge us to be more heavenly minded so that, in obedience to the instruction laid down in chapters 4-6, we may be of more earthly good, to the glory of God. May God grant us an appetite for the “meat” of this great epistle, and may He also grant us the ability to grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s glory, as seen in Christ and in His church.
What is the glory of God? The GLORY of God is the sum total of all that God is and does. Everything collectively that God is and that God does is characterized by His GLORY. Too sum it all up. What is Ephesians? The gospel of God’s grace and glory.