Paul writes to the Ephesian church so that they may know who they are in Christ and challenges them to live a life worthy of this high calling.
Paul writes Ephesians from his light imprisonment in Rome (Eph 1:3, Acts 28:30-31), together with the other so-called prison epistles Philippians, Colossians and Philemon.
The Ephesian church has been founded most likely by Paul’s co-workers Prisca and Aquila in about 52 AD. Paul soon joins them during his 3rd missionary journey and stays there for almost three years (53-56 AD, Acts 20:31), making it his ministry base (Acts 19:8-10). In Ephesus he evangelizes, teaches extensively, disciples and trains workers and probably travels to the surrounding province Asia in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey.
Ephesus was a huge city and a very challenging place spiritually: rampant Greek idolatry, occultism, mystery cults, a Jewish population and Greek philosophy pressured the church.
Paul reminds them in one long sentence (Eph 1:3-14) of all the amazing things God has done for the believers in Jesus: In Christ God has given them every spiritual blessing, chose them before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless; destined them for adoption as his children, bestowed on them his grace, redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of their trespasses, wisdom and insight into the mystery of his will, knowledge of a plan for the fullness of time to gather up all things in him, an inheritance, a destiny of living out life for the praise of his glory, the marking with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. He prays two powerful prayers for the believers so they would grow in this understanding (Eph 1:17-19, Eph 3:14-21).
Paul gives them assurance of their salvation, contrasting what they once were (Eph 2:1-3) with what they have become in Christ (Eph 2:4-7): alive with Christ, raised up with him and seated with him in the heavenly places. He reminds them that all of this is the fruit of God’s grace and in no way due to anything they could have done. He also reminds them that such a salvation needs to lead to a changed life, a life of fruitfulness (Eph 2:8-10).
Paul stresses that the basis for unity between Jews and Gentiles is precisely this grace: Jesus is our peace, he has broken down the dividing wall (Eph 2:14), making both Jews and Gentiles citizens of his kingdom and members of his household (Eph 2:19). This acceptance and unification of both sides Paul calls the mystery, hidden for ages in God, now revealed and preached to all (Eph 3:3-6).
Paul calls his readers to live a life worthy of such an amazing gospel and such a high calling: A life in one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Eph 4:1-6). God gave many different gifts and roles to people (Eph 4:7, 4:11), but all are given to serve each other and equip the believers for ministry (Eph 4:12).
Paul uses the metaphor of wearing clothes to explain the daily habit of putting off the old nature and putting on the new one (Eph 4:22-24): putting away falsehood (Eph 4:25), bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, malice (Eph 4:31), greed (Eph 5:1, 5:4) putting on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:11) and the breastplate of righteousness (Eph 6:14). He calls the believers to work, to generosity (Eph 4:28), to wholesome speech (Eph 4:29), to be filled with the Spirit, to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:18), to good use of time (Eph 5:16) and to mutual submission (Eph 5:21), whether in marriage (Eph 5:22-33), in families (Eph 6:1-3) or in slave-master situations (Eph 6:5-8). He calls them to a life of prayer, standing firm and strong in what God has granted them (Eph 6:10-20).
Paul writes this letter from jail (Eph 1:3), most likely at the same time as the other so-called prison epistles Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. These four letters are linked by Paul being in prison, by a common letter deliverer Tychicus (Eph 6:21, Col 4:7), by roughly the same people being with Paul sending greetings, by a similarity of topics and by the mention of Paul’s hope of his imminent release from prison (Php 2:24, Phil 22). From Philippians we can conclude with good certainty that Paul’s current imprisonment is in Rome (Php 1:13, 4:22), the so-called ‘light imprisonment’, as described in Acts 28:30-31. This puts the date of writing of the Ephesians at 62 AD.
The oldest manuscripts found of this letter do not contain the words ‘Ephesus’ in Eph 1:1, but rather have a gap left open. It is therefore probable that Ephesians was a circular letter that was either sent around to several churches or which was copied and sent to various churches after filling in their name.
The Ephesian church has been founded most likely by Paul’s co-workers Prisca and Aquila in about 52 AD, whom Paul leaves in Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey when heading back to Jerusalem (Acts 18:18-22). Paul soon leaves on his third missionary journey and travels quickly to Ephesus, where he remains for nearly three years, making it his ministry base (Acts 19:8-10). In Ephesus he evangelizes, teaches extensively, disciples and trains workers and probably travels to the surrounding province Asia in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey. Not only the Ephesian church is established at this time, but probably also churches in many other cities of Asia: Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardes, Philadelphia and many more.
Paul’s time in Ephesus is remarkable in many ways: extraordinary miracles happen, both healings and removal of demons (Acts 19:11-12, 19:13-17), many turn from idolatry to faith in Christ (Acts 19:18-20), the local idolatry business takes damage (Acts 19:23-27), opposition rears its head, a riot ensues (Acts 19:28-41) and Paul is most likely jailed at some point (2 Cor 11:23-24). It is a time of great fruitfulness but also tremendous pressure and discouragement for Paul (2 Cor 1:8-10).
Ephesus was a huge city and a center for idolatry. The local Artemis (Latin: Diana) temple was one of the seven world wonders of the ancient time. Ephesus was therefore spiritually a very challenging place: a strong Jewish population, Greek idolatry reigning supreme, rampant occultism, magic arts and mystery cults as well as Greek philosophy was pressing in on the believers.
Who you are in Christ
In Greek the passage (Eph 1:3-14) has very long and strongly interconnected sentences. It is packed with rich pictures of all the amazing God has done in Jesus for every believer: God has…
Eph 1:3 given us every spiritual blessing
Eph 1:4 chosen us before the foundation of the world
Eph 1:4 chosen us to be holy and blameless
Eph 1:5 destined us for adoption as his children to the praise of his glorious grace
Eph 1:6 bestowed freely on us this glorious grace
Eph 1:7 brought redemption through his blood
Eph 1:7 give the forgiveness of our trespasses… according to his grace
Eph 1:8 lavished his grace on us
Eph 1:9 made known to us with all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will
Eph 1:9 made known a plan for the fullness of time to gather up all things in him
Eph 1:10 given us an inheritance
Eph 1:10-12 destined us to live out life for the praise of his glory
Eph 1:13 marked us with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, the pledge of our inheritance
Paul asserts that all of this God has done according to his choice before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:3). It was the good pleasure of his will (Eph 1:5), a plan for the fullness of time (Eph 1:10) and his purpose, he who accomplishes all things according to this counsel and will (Eph 1:11). Paul portrays God’s generosity and his lavish and joyful giving.
In Eph 1:11 Paul says that “we have been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will”. This verse – and others like it – have given rise to the age old debate of predestination versus free will, of God’s sovereignty versus human choice.
The Bible clearly teaches that God is all powerful, all-wise, irresistible, sovereign, completely capable and unlimited in his power. Yet the Bible equally clearly teaches that humans have choice and are held accountable by God for their choices. The Bible shows powerfully that God is more interested in the human heart, will and choice than in anything else.
So yes, God can do anything he wants. But he has also told us what he wants: free human choice. He wants all humans to choose him from the depth of their heart, understanding his goodness and in complete freedom. But not all are responding. It is not that God’s grace is limited, but not all humans repent. The verse “For many are called but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14) is often interpreted to show God’s restrictive selection. Yet this verse is the final sentence of the wedding banquet parable, where everybody is invited, but they choose not to come. God does not reject any willing heart, but we can reject his offer.
Paul prays two wonderful prayers for his readers for them to grow in their understanding of all that Christ has done for them (Eph 1:17-19 and Eph 3:14-21).
Assurance of salvation
Paul gives them assurance of their salvation. He contrasts what they once were (dead through sins, following the course of this world, children of wrath, Eph 2:1-3) with what they have become in Christ (Eph 2:4-7): alive with Christ, raised up with him, seated with him in the heavenly places. He reminds them that “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). But salvation needs to result in a fruitful lifestyle: “For we are what he had made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10).
Unity through grace
Paul reminds the Gentiles that they were uncircumcised, without Christ, aliens from the common wealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, far off, with no hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:11-12, 2:17). But now they are brought near by the blood of Christ, no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God (Eph 2:13, 19).
Paul stresses that the basis of unity between Jews and Gentiles is precisely grace in Christ: “For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is the hostility between us” (Eph 2:14). “He has abolished the law… that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace and that he might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death the hostility through it” (Eph 2:15-16). “So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:17-18). In Jesus “you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place of God” (Eph 2:22).
The mystery revealed
Paul takes words in his mouth that both the Greek philosophers and the mystery cults loved, like “secret”, “mystery”, “wisdom” and “rulers in heavenly places”. But he turns these words around: he doesn’t talk about a secret mystery knowledge of only an initiate few, but rather about a gospel for all: “the mystery was made known” (Eph 3:3) and “the mystery has now been revealed” (Eph 3:5).
What is this mystery? It is that “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6).
He says that “this grace was given me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:8-10). What a God!
Paul talks about the invisible realities or spiritual forces in this letter. What spiritual forces are these exactly? Here is a study of the different words, uses and translations:
- G746 Principality (Greek: Arche). 56x in NT, 3x in Eph 1:21, 3:10, 6:12
Used for time, political office, spiritual force, chief, beginning, first, magistrate, power, principle
- G1849 Power (Greek: Exousia). 93x in NT, 4x in Eph 1:21, 2:2, 3;10, 6:12
Used for Jesus, God, spiritual elders, political office, spiritual forces, authority, ability, mastery, influence, jurisdiction, privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, potentate, control, liberty, might
- G1411 Might (Greek: Dunamis). 116x in NT, 5x in Eph 1:19, 1:21, 3:7, 3:16, 3:20. Used 1x for evil force, 4x about God meaning power, ability, might, strength , miracle, violence
- G2888 Rulers (Greek: Cosmocrator). 1x in NT, 1x in Eph 6:12. Used for world ruler, Satan
- G2963 Dominion (Greek: Kuirotes). 4x in NT, 1x in Eph 1:21. Used 2x spiritual forces, 2x lack of self-control, submission. Translated mastery, ruler, dominion, government
- G4189 Wickedness (Greek: Poneria). 7x in NT, 1x in Eph 6:12. Used here impersonal but spiritual. Translated wickedness, depravity, malice, plot, iniquity
- G758 Prince (Greek: Archon). 37x in NT. 1x in Eph 2:2. Used for spiritual forces, spiritual or political leaders. Translated first in rank, first in power, chief, ruler, magistrate
Paul seems not really to distinguish between them so much but rather to simply mention an array of spiritual forces of some sort. The terms seem to be used interchangeably or even haphazardly, more as an attempt to include all things the Ephesians may be scared of or overly impressed by.
Paul’ first and foremost point is the absolute supremacy of Christ over all these spiritual forces: “God put this power to work in Christ… and seated him 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 age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church” (Eph 1:20-22).
As unbelievers the Ephesians have “once lived… following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:2). But now no longer. Rather they are enabled to do battle against such powers: “For our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Paul’s intention is not to teach them ‘demonology’, but rather for them to be aware of these forces, but to not be scared of them.
Paul even says that the church demonstrates the wisdom of God to them: “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). Through the church something is displayed, that they didn’t understand, and don’t like.
What is the believer’s role in relation to spiritual forces?
- Eph 6:12 to understand that humans are not our problem, but sin, wickedness, evil spirits behind people are. God is always for people, and always against evil and injustice
- Eph 6:10, 11 be strong! put on the armor! stand!
- Eph 6:13 withstand! stand firm!
- Eph 6:18 pray!
- Eph 6:14-17 put on the armor:
◦ fasten the belt of truth… > embrace truth
◦ put on breastplate of righteousness… > assurance of salvation, no condemnation
◦ put on shoes of readiness… > share gospel with others
◦ take up shield of faith, quench darts… > believe God’s word, stand on it
◦ take the helmet of salvation… > know Jesus’ salvation, eternal assurance, no doubt
◦ take sword of the Spirit = word of God… > hold on to truth, throw out lies, believe God’s word, act on God’s word
These commands are commands to the believers to take charge of their own thinking and attitudes, to agree with truth and to reject deception. As in the garden in Gen 3 Satan has no power to make sin happen (like stuffing the fruit down Eve’s throat), he can only tempt people to believe him more than God, to agree with him over agreeing with God.
In one sense the great spiritual battle is fought between spiritual forces in the air, in another sense the great battle is one for the mind of humans: what will I really believe, on what will I really act?
Live a life worthy of this calling
Living in unity
Paul starts the second half of the letter with a big “therefore” (Eph 3:1), referring back to all that was said so far: Because of God’s amazing work and destiny, because we have been given everything in Christ, because he has revealed the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles to us… lead a life worthy of this God and worthy of his calling!
Paul challenges them – by humility, gentleness and patience – bear to with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond peace. Unity is not created by pressure, by hierarchy, by all agreeing to the same rules or by all being the same. Unity is created by humility in the face of God’s grace, which we all need: “for there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:1-6).
God gave many different gifts and roles to different people (Eph 4:7, 4:11), but all are given to serve teach other and equip the believers for ministry (Eph 4:12).
Here is the list of the roles mentioned:
- G4166 Teacher (Greek: Didaskolos). 58x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11. Used 10x for role in church, including false teachers
- G4166 Pastor (Greek: (Archi)poimen). 18x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11. Only here referring to church leadership, all else: Jesus or shepherd
- G2099 Evangelist (Greek: Euaggelistes). 3x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11. Other uses Acts 21:8, 2 Tim 4:5
- G652 Apostles (Greek: Apostolos). 81x in NT, 4x in Eph 1:1, 2:20, 3:5, 4:11. Used for the twelve apostles, but also for others
- G4396 Prophets (Greek: Prophetes). 143x in NT, 3x in Eph 2:20, 3:5, 4:11. Used 21x for church functions. Used generally for prophetic gifting, but also special prophets in NT.
Paul’s list here is by no means exhaustive. Neither is the list hierarchical. Other lists of giftings and roles include an array of similar and additional gifts (1 Cor 12:7-10, 1 Cor 12:27-30, Rom 12:6-8).
Very rigid grids for church leadership have been derived from this and similar passages. Studying New Testament leadership suggest that the roles were a lot more fluid than that (see teaching unit “Church 05 – NT Leadership” on the same website). Most roles are also commands addressed to every believer (like the role of the ‘evangelist’ in the church, yet all should evangelize). Most roles have no strict definitions and even less so instructions on how to be appointed.
Then there are surprises: our modern pastor-based church structure is simply not found in this form in the New Testament. As a matter of fact Eph 4:11 is the only mention in the entire New Testament of a pastor as a church role. If leadership principles must be drawn ‘elders’ is the better candidate, besides the infrequently mentioned bishop and deacon. There is unbelievably little in the New Testament on church leadership structure or appointment! Rigid interpretations are problematic.
What is very clear is the goal of all the church functions: “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Eph 4:12), for building up the body of Christ. So these five functions are not to be what church is, nor to be what ministry is, nor who ministers. These functions are to equip the normal believer in the church to do the ministry. It is the normal believer who does ‘the ministry’!
Paul describes the maturity of a believer as stability, withstanding false teaching, speaking truth, unity among believers and building each other up in love. Paul uses the metaphor of the church being the body and Christ being the head (Eph 4:13-16). The body metaphor suggests inter-connectedness, interdependence, organic growth and unity.
Challenge to lay aside the old life and be clothed with the new self
Paul uses the metaphor of wearing clothes to describe the daily habit of putting off the old nature and putting on the new self (Eph 4:22-24). The implication of the metaphor ‘clothes’ is that this needs to be done regularly, continually and consciously. “Do not make room for the devil” (Eph 4:27). How does the devil get room? By dwelling on negatives, by not forgiving, by holding on to anger and resentment, by not being thankful. To not give the devil room requires a continual ‘mind hygiene’, a continual, conscious putting off of the old nature, and embracing of truth.
Paul challenges them to put away many things: falsehood (Eph 4:25), bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, malice (Eph 4:31) and greed (Eph 5:1, 5:4).
About anger he says: “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26-27), implying that anger as an emotion is not sin, but it may turn into a sin if I hold on to it or let it grow into a resentment or violent behavior.
Paul calls greed idolatry. Greed is an enthroning of my want or need over God, a discontentment with what he has provided, a wilful ‘looking after myself’ (Eph 5:1, 5:4).
Paul calls the Ephesians to labor and honest work “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so that as to have something to share with the needy” (Eph 4:28). Work is not just about feeding myself and my family. The gospel must bring about such change in the believer’s life that he becomes a contributing and giving member of the community. We shouldn’t be just consumers, but contributors, powerful to bless, rich to give.
Paul challenges the Ephesian believers to watch their tongues: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). They should bless those around them: not slander or speak with malice, but “be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, make melody to the Lord in your hearts” (Eph 5:18). Thankfulness, appreciation, encouragement, truthfulness, wisdom and prayer should be the hallmark of the believer’s speech.
One more area to be faithful in is the use of time: “live not as unwise people, but as wise, make the most of the time” (Eph 5:15-16). This is a challenge for the believers to understand the importance of their lives, their labor, their time, their investment, their contribution and their calling.
In contrast to the immoral surrounding culture Paul also calls to sexual integrity in speech (Eph 5:4) and in action (Eph 5:12). The need for self-control also extends to alcohol (Eph 5:18).
Submit to one another
The whole passage of Eph 5:15–6:5 contains very long sentences and is strongly interconnected. The passage about submission is hinging on Eph 5:21, where the main command with the main verb is found: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. Then three examples of submission are hung unto that basic command:
• Eph 5:22 “likewise, wives to husbands”
• Eph 6:1 “likewise children to parents”
• Eph 6:5 “likewise slaves to masters”
In these three verses there is no verb at all, it is omitted by ellipsis, deliberately binding back the sub-clauses to the main command: “Submit to one another.”
In Roman and Greek culture the male in the house was the master and had virtually total power over his wife, his children and his slaves. Roman or Greek texts of that time addressing the rights and duties in the family unequivocally give all rights to the husband and all duties to the wife. What Paul commands here is something dramatically different: Christ is the Lord of the household, and in obedience to him there is mutual submission within the family, including wives submitting to husbands, children to parents and slaves to masters.
• Paul addresses wives in five verses (Eph 5:21-24, 5:33) to submit to and respect their husbands.
• Paul addresses husbands in ten verses (Eph 5:21, 5:25-33) to love their wives as Christ loved the church, to give themselves to their wives as Christ did and to care for their wives as for their own bodies. The standard for the love and self-sacrificial service of the husband is Christ himself.
• Paul addresses children in three verses (Eph 6:1-3) to obey their parents in the Lord and to honor them.
• Paul addresses fathers in one verse (Eph 6:4) not to provoke their children to anger but to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
• Paul addresses slaves in four verses (Eph 6:5-8) to obey their masters with fear, in singleness of heart as they obey Christ, not only when watched but as doing the will of God from the heart. He commands them to render service with enthusiasm as unto the Lord and not unto men.
• Paul addresses masters in one verse (Eph 6:9) to stop threatening their workers, knowing that they have the same Master in heaven.
Also note that the word ‘submission’ means to ‘put oneself under’, which also means one wasn’t ‘under’ in the first place. Submission is something that takes place between equals.
- Eph 1:1 The author claims to be Paul, claiming his authority and apostleship
- Eph 3:1 I Paul, a prisoner
- Numerous “I, me, my” statements, especially Eph 3:1-14, 4:1,17, 6:21-22. An obvious relationship with the readers
- Ephesians was one of the earliest books to be included in the New Testament canon. Paul’s authorship was never disputed until 1820 AD.
- The heretic Marcion, who only recognised Paul’s writings, accepted Ephesians (called it “letter to the Laodiceans).
Written to whom?
- Eph 1:1 … but “in Ephesus” is omitted in the most old manuscripts
- The Greek in the original is without “Ephesus” but rather it says: “To the saints who are ……. and faithful in Christ Jesus”. The blank was possibly a space to insert the name of the destination.
- Paul doesn’t seem to know the audience personally. Eph 3:2 – “assuming you have heard …”, Eph 1:15 – “I have heard of your faith” (2nd hand) … yet Paul was in Ephesus 2 ½ years.
- There are no personal greetings in the letter, although Paul was well known in Ephesus
- For all these reasons > It was possibly a circular letter for general circulation around the churches in Asia
- Perhaps a copy was left at Ephesus and became associated with that church as the main church of Asia.
When written and where from written?
- Eph 3:1 … “I, Paul as a prisoner in Christ …” Possible Imprisonments?
- The four prison epistles Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon linked by various factors:
- Conclusion: since the 4 letters are linked > all 4 written at the end of Paul’s light imprisonment in Rome, 62 AD.
- Notice the great similarity between Ephesians and Colossians … of the 155 verses in Ephesians, a third are in parallel content and order in Colossians, but never more than 5 words in a row … pointing to not copying, but the same author addressing congregations in similar historical situations: Ephesus and Colossae, or Asia (general) and Colossae (specific).
The city of Ephesus – geophaphy
- Ephesus was an important port city, built on the mouth of the River Cayster opening into the sea. An important Roman trade route started in Ephesus and lead East towards Colossae, one of the main East-West axes of the Roman Empire.
- The hills around Ephesus were used for the Mediterranean goat. Deforestation (for timber and charcoal) and overgrazing lead to a destruction of the top soil, which slipped into the streams, creating swamps and leading to the river Cayster, on which Ephesus was built, to silt up.
- Despite the problems, great efforts were made to keep the harbor open with dredging even before New Testament times. This was even more necessary as the sister port of Miletus was having the same problem and had been irreparably damaged in war.
The History of Ephesus
- About 550 BC Croesus of neighboring Lydian kingdom annexes Ephesus, starts building an Artemis/Diana temple.
- 334 BC conquered by Alexander.
- Later part of the neighboring Kingdom of Pergamum. Pergamum’s final king Attalus III bequeathed his whole empire to Rome after his death 133 BC.
- Ephesus was the end of a trade route coming from the east (linked up with others) > important sea port to the Greece, Rome and the West in general
- It was a typically Greek city, became a free city (that is: a Roman city with special privileges like a city in Italy) and became the most important city in the Roman province of Asia and the center of the Roman Province Government
- It was a huge city of about 330 thousand people, prominent, strategic, proud, rich.
- By the New Testament times, Ephesus was in decline due to the silting up of the harbor. Great efforts were made to keep the harbor open (in pre-Roman and Roman times) … till about 100 AD (last attempts).
- This meant that the tourism due to Ephesus being a spiritual center was even more crucial to maintain. Ephesus was a city living of past glory, but slowly declining
- 263 AD the Goths sacked Ephesus and destroyed the Artemis temple.
Spiritual situation of Ephesus
- Diana / Artemis temple and cult. Tradition said that a meteorite fell down here (Acts 19:35). Artemis was a fertility goddess, thought to be a supreme deity, feeding other gods.
- The temple was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world. It was as big as a Olympic size football field, the greatest building in the Greek world, it took 220 years to build, of pure marble.
- A magnificent road 11 meters wide, lined with columns, ran through the city to the harbor.
- With the Artemis cult came a large silver smith guild, that produced silver Diana temple souvenirs (Acts 19:24-27). The deepening economic depression and decline made Ephesus’ tourism all the more important.
- Ephesus was also a center of magic arts. Acts 19:13-19 indicates the influence of the gospel over this: many convert, burn their magic books worth 50’000 silver coins (daily wages), magic formulas, amulets, love potions, spells.
- Syncretism was also common. In Acts 19:13-16 the exorcists called “sons of Sceva” cast out demons in Jesus’ name, though they were not believers
- Emperor cult flourished at Ephesus, Caesar Claudius (41-54 AD), later Caesar Hadrian and Caesar Severus built temples to themselves in Ephesus.
- The great Ephesus theater seated 25’000 to 50’000 people – the scene of the riot around Paul in Acts 19:29-31
- Jewish Historian Josephus says that Ephesus had a large colony of Jews. Since 200 BC Jews had slowly been moving to the area. The Jews had many privileges and much to lose, therefore they put forward Alexander the Jew, to make sure they were not associated as Jews with Paul the rabblerouser (Acts 19:33-34).
- Mystery religions were secret, elusive fellowships, brotherhoods with closeness of relationships, centered around a god, with its own mythology. The origin of mystery cults was in Egypt, Asia, Persia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, … Importance of relationship with that god, of sensual, sexual, spiritual experiences, wild purification or initiation rites including sacrifices, like bathing in blood dripping down of a slaughtered bull, death-resurrection themes:
- Mithras … Persia … warrior / sexual power / immortality, 7 step ascension, widespread among troops
- Cybele … Anatolia … fertility / mother-goddess / bull sacrifice
- Dionysos … wine excesses, screaming-trance, release for the soul … partner of Cybele
- xx / Astarte … Syria … sexual excesses
- Isis / Osiris … Egypt .. model of wifely devotion, surviving death
- Ephesus was one of the darkest strongholds of that time.
- Question a normal person would have been asking / struggling to find answer to:
- How do I protect myself from evil influence?
- How do I commune with the gods?
- How do I obtain / guarantee life after death?
- How do I find fulfillment in this life/
The History of the Church in Ephesus
- 50 AD … Already on the 2nd missionary journey Paul was trying to head into Asia, but the Holy Spirit directed Paul to Macedonia / Greece (Acts 16)
- 52 AD … At the end of the 2nd missionary journey Paul came shortly to Ephesus, preached in the synagogue (Acts 18:18‑21). Paul left Priscilla and Aquila, with whom he had pioneered the Corinthian church (they are Jews from Italy, she has a Latin name, he is from Pontus).
- Acts 18:24-28 … Later, Apollos, a Jewish believer from Alexandria arrived in Ephesus, preached eloquently, at the synagogue > converts but Apollos knows only till the baptism of John. Priscilla and Aquila teach him more, help him own to Achaia.
- 52 AD … Acts 19:1-6 … On his 3rd missionary journey Paul comes to Ephesus, finds believers without the Spirit’s baptism > baptizes them
- 52-55 AD … Acts 19:8-10 … 3months synagogue, 2 years in the hall to Tyrannus …
- Acts 20:34 … Paul worked (in the mornings?) at tent making, or some other work to support himself (Acts 20:34)
- Acts 20:20 … the rest of the day teaching in the hall of Tyrannus (bigger gatherings), or in the homes of believers (smaller gatherings / individuals)
- His teaching was very comprehensive. He says to the elders at Miletus, “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable” (Acts 20:20) and “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and “for three years I did not cease night and day to admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:31).
- During this time major church planting in Asia > Acts 19:10 … “this continued for 2 years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.”
- Ephesus becomes a training center, missionary launch platform of center of province wide church planting
- Also planting of the 7 churches of Asia of Revelation (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamom, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadlphia, Laodicea … as well as Colossae and Hierapolis (Col 1:6-7, 2:1, Acts 19:10).
- He was plagued by the Jews (Acts 20:19). It seems that after the three months in the synagogue, the Jews started planning persecution and plotting trials. In 2 Ti 4:14 Paul warns Timothy of Alexander the copper smith, the one involved in the riot.
- Great effect of the gospel: extraordinary miracles by Paul > deliverances of demons and healings even by handkerchiefs or aprons (Acts 19:11).
- People who were formerly involved in the occult were saved and openly repenting, burning their books. Fifty thousand pieces of silver would correspond to the day wage of 50,000 workmen, equivalent to 2 million US$.
- When the Jewish exorcists were overpowered by one man, compared with the power of the Holy Spirit through Paul. Stories like these travel fast! (Acts 19:13‑17)
- 55 AD … So many were being saved (and fearing God) that the sale of miniature idols was affected, putting silversmiths out of business (Acts 19:24ff). Demetrius called a trade union meeting > great stir > city was filled with confusion > crows to theatre (the one holding 25’000) > found Paul’s travelling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus > shouting match in the theater > almost riot.
- The Jews, supposedly wanting to disassociate themselves from the Christians, put forward a spokesman, Alexander, but the crowd knew him to be a Jew, therefore shouted him down chanting, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’
- It took the town clerk to quieten the crowd and speak sense.
- 55 AD … After this incident, Paul left Ephesus, never to return as far as we know.
- Paul mentions fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32), and utterly, unbearable crushed by affliction in Asia, that we despaired of life itself (2 Cor 1:8) could refer to the riot or imprisonment in Ephesus.
- 56 AD … Farewell speech to the elders at the end of the 3rd missionary journey in Miletus (Acts 20:19,21, 26‑28, 31‑35). Paul predicts and warns about false teachers from without and arising from within the church “Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them”. (Acts 20:29‑30) … fulfills later with Timothy fighting false teachers.
- 62 AD … Paul sends them the circular letter “Ephesians”
- 1 Ti 1:3 … He later leaves Timothy to pastor the Ephesian church, writes him “1 Timothy” … 65 AD?
- Peter writes “1 Peter” a circular letter to Asia Minor, Asia being one of the addresses … possibly also “2 Peter”
- 70 AD … According to Irenaeus and Eusebius, Ephesus was the headquarters of the Apostle John, in his latter years until his death, where he was the elder of the church.
- John wrote his gospel, his 3 letters and Revelation to this area as well
- Ephesus is one of the addressees of Revelation, and get a personal letter Rev 2:1-7: The church that is doing well: There was work, toil and patient endurance. They were exposing and rejecting false teachers and not growing weary. It does seem that their love had grown a little cold and needed to be rekindled (repentance called for!). One point in the church’s favor was that they hated the work of the Nicolatians.
- Around 98 AD John, the last of the apostles, dies (in the days of Emperor Trajan, a source in Church history says)
- 98 AD? 100 AD? … The leading elder after John’s death is called Onesimus.
Groups in the church
- Jews had been settling in Asia Minor since 200 BC, most everywhere Jewish settlement, some of them large (11’000 once recorded at Laodicea) … > Jewish background believers (Paul always frequenting local synagogue).
- many social classes … slaves and masters are addressed
- people of different backgrounds, idolatry (Artemis, …), syncretism, Mystery religions
Strengths & Weaknesses of church
- nothing very specific addressed, because of the nature of the circular letter
- unity of Jews and Gentiles Eph 2:11-22
- Prose > literal interpretation, some poetry in a Old Testament quote (Eph 4:8) and a hymn quote (Eph 5:14)
- Greek letter, but circular letter (no personal greetings)
- Theology > Application
- very long sentences (Eph 1:3-14, 15-23, 2:1-10, 3:1-6, 4:11-16, 5:15-6:9?)
Main themes / topics
- In Jesus we are chosen from before creation, blessed, redeemed, made sons and heirs, seated with him in heavenly places … we have salvation, the Holy Spirit, a high calling, hope and everything else
- In Jesus we are reconciled to God, to one another (Jew and Gentile), made part of a unified church, who reveals this mystery of God
- Because of all this, we now need to lead a holy life, worthy of this high calling, in love, in purity, in good works.
- Because Christ is above all spiritual powers, we are no longer subject to spirits but daily doing battle against them.
Main reasons / purpose
- to assure the Ephesian (and surrounding) church that they have received everything in Christ, so they would know and hold on to this truth.
- to challenge the Ephesian (and surrounding) church to live a life worthy of this calling in love, purity, good works, unity, mutual submission and prayer.
EPHESIANS CHAPTER 1
- Eph 1:3-14 is one long sentence in Greek! packed with rich pictures of all the amazing God has done for us in Jesus … Paul puts so many things into this sentence, he stumbles over his own words
- Basic sentence: God has … in/through/for … Jesus/beloved son/Christ … according to his will/pleasure:
- Eph 1:3 … “given us every spiritual blessing”
- Eph 1:4 … “chose us before the foundation of the world”
- Eph 1:4 … “chose us to be holy and blameless”
- Eph 1:5 …“destined us for adoption as his children to the praise of his glorious grace”
- Eph 1:6 ... “he bestowed freely on us this glorious grace”
- Eph 1:7 … “redemption through his blood”
- Eph 1:7 … “the forgiveness of our trespasses … according to his grace”
- Eph 1:8 … “his grace, that he lavished on us”
- Eph 1:9 … “he made known to us with all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will”
- Eph 1:9 … “he has made known a plan for the fullness of time to gather up all things in him”
- Eph 1:10 … “we have obtained an inheritance”
- Eph 1:10-12 … “destined to live out life for the praise of his glory”
- Eph 1:13 … “you were marked with the sea of the promised Holy Spirit, the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption”
Repeated theme: according to his will / good pleasure
- Eph 1:5 … “according to the good pleasure of his will”
- Eph 1:10 … “a plan”
- Eph 1:11 … “having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to this counsel and will”
- The picture is one of God doing exactly what he wants / pleases, and that is to graciously and generously lavish all things on us in Jesus.
- Not a picture of God, grudgingly involving us, because he has no other subjects
- It’s a picture of giving, of selflessness, of open-heartedness, of inclusion, of goodwill
Important Phrase before the foundation of the world
- Eph 1:3 … “he chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless”
- Before anything was created, God was already thinking about humans, about humans in his image, reflecting his holiness … he already thought about you
- A picture of God’s foreknowledge, unchallenged and unparalleled sovereignty
- Eph 1:10 … “a plan for the fullness of time”
Repeated Theme: Chosen, destined us, plan, will
- Eph 1:4 … “he chose us in Christ”
- Eph 1:5 … “he destined us for adoption as his children according to the good pleasure of his will”
- Eph 1:9 … “he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure”
- Eph 1:10 … “as a plan for the fullness of time”
- Eph 1:11 … “we have been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will”
- Age old debate of predestination or election versus free will, God’s sovereignty versus human choice
- The Bible clearly teaches that God is all powerful, all-wise, irresistible, sovereign … completely able and unlimited
- The Bible clearly teaches that humans have choice and are held accountable by God. The Bible is explicit that God is more interested in human will / choice / heart than in anything else.
- If we let go of any of these 2 truths, we end up with a problem … to lose God’s sovereignty means to end up with a God who is not God … to lose human choice means to end up with a completely controlled universe, where nothing I do matters and God is to be blamed for all things
- Neither one can be true.
- C.S. Lewis: “we cannot understand the relationship between choice and time till we are beyond both”
- My take: God is completely sovereign, powerful, unrestricted. He can do anything he wants.
- But I think God has also told us what he wants. He wants free human choice. He wants humans to choose him from the depth of their heart in understanding of his goodness in complete freedom.
- nd not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?”
- Eze 18:23 … “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD”
- 1 Ti 2:4 … ”He wants all humans to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.”
- I believe he has desired, wanted, called, chosen – whatever you call it – everyone.
- Mt 22:14 … “For many are called but few are chosen.” … This scripture is often interpreted exclusively and restrictively … But it is the final word of a parable, that well explains what is meant … wedding banquet, all invited, but many don’t want to come, pay no attention, place no importance. God does not reject any willing heart, but we can reject his offer to enter in.
- Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, and there is no incidence of him rejecting truly willing people, there are a few stories of him probing for their motives or challenging their assumptions, but no outright wanton rejection of any willing person.
- There is only one thing in the universe that God has chosen not to control … it is the one thing that he is after … your heart. But he will never ever reject a willing heart.
- This wide open door, salvation to all who will believe, no limitation of access, no difference between Jew or Greek, high or low, man or woman, all are welcome … is one of the major theme, the ‘melody’ of the New Testament
- Also in Ephesians: Repeated theme “all”, “everyone”, “both Jew and Greek”, … Paul bends over backwards to show the inclusive nature of God’s will and salvation.
- Eph 1:17-19 and Eph 3:14-21
- Good prayer for your husband, wife, child, friend, … what to pray if you don’t know what to pray, or if you realize your limited understanding.
Repeated Theme: Heavenly places
- This phrase is repeated 5x in Ephesians (same word), we will list the occurrences, and note the different translations as per context > we will understand the range of meaning of the word and its context:
- Eph 1:3 … “we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”
- Eph 1:20 … “Christ at Father’s right hand in the heavenly places”
- Eph 2:6 … “God raised us up with Christ, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places”
- Eph 6:12 … “Our struggle is against rulers, authorities, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”
- Eph 3:10 … “through church wisdom of God is made known to principalities, powers in heavenly places”
- This is a good example of where careful reading makes clear that a term in used in many ways, or in ways we would not expect
- Heavenly places is where Christ is at Father’s right hand
- Heavenly places is where we sit (right now! present tense!) with Christ having every blessing
- Heavenly places is where evil rulers, authorities, forces are
- Well, did that help any? How do we understand this?
- Again I told you before, that ‘heaven’ is used in the Bible in 4 ways:
- sky … where birds fly, clouds float
- universe … where sun, moon, stars, empty space is
- spiritual world … where God, angels, Satan, demons and human spirits are
- heaven … where God fully reigns
- In which sense is is used here by Paul? > “spiritual world”, both good and – since the fall of angels and humans -, evil
- God is Spirit, there are good spirits (angels), there are evil spirits (Satan, demons) and there are our human spirits
EPHESIANS CHAPTER 2j
- Eph 2:1-10 Assuring their salvation
- There is a great contrast all through the paragraph: Eph 2:1 You were … Eph 2:2 we all once lived … Eph 2:3 like everyone else … dead through sins … following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air … passions of our flesh and senses … children of wrath
- Eph 2:6… “But God, rich in mercy, out of great love … made us alive together with Christ … raised us up with him … seated us with him in the heavenly places”
- Eph 2:7 … “so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”
- Eph 2:8 … “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”
- Eph 2:9 … “not the result of works, so that no one may boast” … Paul will always put that in: saved by grace through faith.
- Eph 2:10 … “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life”
- Combination … total unconditional grace … complete God-breathed change to a fruitful life … not a picture of drudgery and toil, but of God preparing the good for us to walk in … and us cooperating
Eph 2:11-22 Basis for unity
- All are sinners … all are saved by grace … all walking in his good works” > Paul lays the foundation of humility and unity
- He addresses the Gentiles: Eph 2:11 Gentiles … uncircumcised … Eph 2:12 without Christ … aliens from the common wealth of Israel, strangers to the covenants of promise … no hope and without God in the world … Eph 2:17 were far off
- Eph 2:13 But now brought near by the blood of Christ … Eph 2:17 … proclaimed peace … Eph 2:19 no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God
- Then he addresses Jews and Gentiles: Eph 2:14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is , the hostility between us.
- Eph 2:15 … He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace
- Eph 2:16 … and that he might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death the hostility through it
- Eph 2:17 … So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; Eph 2:18 … for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father
- Eph 2:22 in whom you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place of God.
- Eph 2:13 far off … brought near. Eph 2:17 peace to the far off and peace to those near
- Eph 2:14 he has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us … maybe harking back to the Temple courts
- Eph 2:18 access in one Spirit to the Father
- Eph 2:19 no longer aliens, you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God
- Eph 2:20 built upon foundations of apostles and prophets, with Jesus as cornerstone
- Eph 2:21 in him the whole structure is joined together an grows into a holy temple … built together … a dwelling place for God
EPHESIANS CHAPTER 3
Eph 3:1-13 The mystery revealed
- In this passage Paul uses an array of buzz words of the religious groupings, cults or mystery cults around Ephesus
- “Mystery” … the lure of the unknown, the hidden, the limited access
- “wisdom” … fascination with wisdom (Greek philosophy, sophists, gnostics …)
- “revelation” … the lure of the secret knowledge, the limited access, the special revelation, the initiated few
- “spiritual beings” … rulers, authorities in the heavenly places
- But what does Paul with these buzz words? He uses them, but we will see he does not at all sign up with the mindset of these groupings:
- Eph 3:3 … “was made known to me”
- Eph 3:5 … “formerly not made known to mankind”
- Eph 3:5 … “but now revealed to his apostles / prophets”
- Eph 3:9 … “to make everyone see what the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God”
- Eph 3:10 … “the wisdom of God now made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places”
- Eph 3:11 “this was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he carried out in Christ”
- Eph 3:6 “that is: Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of same body, sharers in the promise in Jesus” … It was hidden for ages, now revealed to us / apostles, now preached to all, even spiritual forces (who didn’t get it either)
- The amazing plan or purpose of God … work through Israel but now to include all nations in salvation
Repeated theme: Spirit world, spiritual forces, spiritual Warfare
- Eph 1:20-21 … “God put this power to work in Christ … and seated him 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 age to come”
- Eph 1:22 … “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church”
- Eph 2:2 … “you once lived, … following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient”
- Eph 6:12 … “For our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic power of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”
- G746 Principality “Arche” 56x in NT, 3x in Eph 1:21, 3:10, 6:12 … Used for time, political office, spiritual force, chief, beginning, first, magistrate, power, principle
- G1849 Power “Exousia”93x in NT, 4x in Eph 1;21, 2:2, 3;10, 6:12 …Used for Jesus, God, spiritual elders, political office, spiritual forces, authority, ability, mastery, influence, jurisdiction, privilege, force, capacity, competency, freedom, potentate, control, liberty, might
- G1411 Might “Dunamis”116x in NT, 5x in Eph 1:19, 1:21, 3:7, 3:16, 3:20. Used 1x for evil force, 4x about God … Meaning: power, ability, might, strength , miracle, violence
- G2888 Rulers “Cosmocrator” 1x in the NT, Eph 6:12 … Meaning: world ruler, Satan
- G2963 Dominion “Kuirotes” 4x in NT, 1x in Eph 1:21.Used 2x spiritual forces, 2x lack of self-control, submission … Meaning: mastery, ruler, dominion, government
- G4189 Wickedness “Poneria”, 7x in NT, 1x in Eph 6:12. Used here impersonal but spiritual … Meaning: wickedness, depravity, malice, plot, iniquity
- G758 Prince “Archon” 37x in NT, 1x in Eph 2:2. Used for spiritual forces, spiritual or political leaders. Meaning first in rank, first in power, chief, ruler, magistrate. Most terms not used exclusively for one thing or the other, for spiritual only or physical only or political only.
- What is said about these forces, that seem here by context to be clearly an array of spiritual forces of some sort (though the terms seem to be used if not interchangeably still rather haphazardly, more as an attempt to include all things the Ephesians may be scared of
- Eph 1:21 … “Christ is seated in the heavenly places far above all rule / authority / power / dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come”
- Eph 2:10 … “you once followed the ruler of the power of the air” … but no longer
- Eph 3:10 … “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”
- Eph 6:12 … “our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Basic facts about spiritual forces
- they are a reality
- God has ultimate power over them, they are no match for God
- we once obeyed these abd were under their power, but with salvation: no longer
- yet as long as we are in the world, we have to keep struggling against them
- the church demonstrates the wisdom of God to them
- This last one is interesting … though the church something about the wisdom of God is displayed, that they didn’t get … and don’t like.
- A basic biblical view: some spirit have rebelled against God, are trying to deceive people (since they have very limited direct power) to hurt God, are thinking themselves very smart, but are regularly self-defeating (like Satan with Job, like Satan with the cross, like spiritual forces here with the church), but they are not yet removed and need to be struggled against.
What is our role in this struggle?
- Eph 6:12 understand that not humans are our problem, but sin, wickedness, evil spirits behind people … God is always for people, and always against evil and injustice
- Eph 6:10-11 … “be strong! put on the armor! stand!”
- Eph 6:13 … “withstand! stand firm!”
- Eph 6:18 … “pray!”
- Eph 6:14-17 … “armor”
- fasten the belt of truth … embrace truth
- put on breastplate of righteousness … know Jesus made righteous, no shame, no condemnation
- put on shoes of readiness > proclaim gospel share with others
- take up shield of faith > quench the darts believe God’s word, stand on the word of God
- take the helmet of salvation. know Jesus’ salvation, have eternal assurance, no doubt
- take the sword of the Spirit = word of God hold on to truth, throw out lies, believe Word and act on word
- Most of these are a way of taking charge of my thinking and my attitude …
- The concrete pictures we get of Satan is one of tempting, lying, deceiving … his power is in us believing him, in us agreeing with him and not with God, accepting his negative vision of us
- In one sense the great spiritual battle is fought between spiritual forces in the air
- in another sense the great battle is one for the mind of humans … what will I really believe, on what will I really act
- That’s why these commands here are all about standing, holding fast, standing firm, not giving ground, knowing who I am in Christ, knowing God’s salvation, knowing God’s word, believing promises and agreeing with God
- This is why it is so important what you think: 2 Co 10:4-6 … “destroy strongholds … destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raise up against the knowledge of God … take every though captive to Christ”
- Again a picture of a mental battle, a battle for the minds of men …
- In a real sense to expose your thinking to God’s truth, to change our mind, to agree with God is spiritual warfare
- Your mind, your thoughts, your daily little decisions, what you will believe, whether you will agree with God … this is the real battle ground
EPHESIANS CHAPTER 4
Eph 4:1-6 Basis for it all and call to unity
- “For this reason” or “therefore” … referring to the whole of Ephesians chapter 1-3: Because of God’s amazing plan, because you have been given everything, because he works with power in you: “Lead a life worthy of this amazing calling” … doctrine > application
- Godly attitude resulting from a true understanding of these amazing realities: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond peace … again a full focus on character and attitude … not very Greek, not very spiritual in context’s eyes
- “There in one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all who is above all and though all and in all” … Father, Lord, Spirit is the Trinity … body (church!), hope, faith, baptism
- Unity is not created by hierarchy, by all agreeing to same rules, by pressure, by outside coercion but by a standing on same basic doctrine: all sinners, all need grace, for all grace is effective, all are born into this family, all are welcome, all are important, all are gifted, all have something to contribute
- Quote: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom, in all things respect”
Eph 4:7-16 Gifts given … descending and ascending
- Eph 4:7 … “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” grace “charis” is the normal word for God’s grace, the divine influence upon the heart, the response, gratitude, acceptable, benefit, favor, gift, joy, liberality, pleasure, thanks, thankworthy
- Eph 4:7 G1431 gift “doma”, meaning gift, gratuity Christ’s gift
- Eph 4:8 G 1390 gift “dorea”, meaning gift, present gifts to people (quote)
- Context: God gave gifts to people … a carry-over from the prior paragraph on unity and inter-dependency
- Quote of Psa 68:1,17-18 … “Let God rise up! let his enemies be scattered … with mighty chariotry the Lord came from Sinai into the holy place. You ascended the high mount, leading captives in your train and receiving gifts from people, even from those who rebel against he LORD God’s abiding there”
- A victory psalm about God triumphing, in establishing his Holy Place especially.
- Why does he quote this? just as a fancy way to introduce the gifts theme?
- Rather in theme with the triumphing of God’s wisdom in the church, now newly united, interdependent, God-inspired and in-lived.
- Eph 4:9 … “He ascended, what does in mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all heavens, so that he might fill all things”
- Two pictures are overlaid … Psalm: God triumphing and making his home on earth on the Holy mount … Paul: Jesus descended from heaven (allusion to Php 2:5-11), descended even into the lower parts of the earth (Sheol, referring to Jesus dying > joining the world of the dead, though not permanently) … and ascended leading captivity captive (probably meaning death having to die, that is: resurrection, of Jesus, but through him of everybody, so death is reversed) … establishing his church of believers, inspired by spiritual gifts.
- Lower … G2737 “katoteros”, meaning inferior, lower, of Hades … Earth G1093 “ge”, meaning soil, earth, ground
- Eph 4:11 his gifts were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors & teachers
- G4166 Teacher “Didaskolos”, 58x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11,
10x including false teachers
- G4166 Pastor “(Archi)poimen”, 18x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11,
only here referring to church leadership, all else: Jesus or shepherds
- G2099 Evangelist “Euaggelistes” 3x in NT, 1x in Eph 4:11
2x Ac 21:8, 2 Ti 4:5
- G652 Apostles “Apostolos” 81x in NT, 4x in Eph 1:1, 2:20, 3:5, 4:11 … used for the 12, but also for others
- G4396 Prophets “Prophetes” 143x in NT, 3x in Eph 2:20, 3:5, 4:11, used 21x for church functions. Used for prophetic gifting, but also special prophets in NT.
- There are different lists of giftings in different passages … 1 Co 12:7-10 … 1 Co 12:27-30 … Ro 12:6-8
- People have derived very rigid grids from this passage and others. I suggest things are a lot more fluid than that
- 1 Co 12:27-30 … “first apostles, then prophets, third teachers, then deeds of power, gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, tongues, interpretation of tongues”
- This is going from what could be a rigid function list, even hierarchy, over into the more spontaneous, un-ordained normal usage in a church.
- For church leadership all the above categories are only part of the picture … the one form mentioned most for local leadership is “elders”, referring 18x to church leadership in the NT … and that is not even on the lists.
- On a side note: also for church leadership functions, like deacons and overseers / bishops, we have very rigid interpretations, but there is little on each, nothing very clear or structured about appointment, and little on their relationship with each other.
- Now very important: What is the goal of these 5 functions to be?
- Eph 4:12 … “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ”
- These functions are not to be what church is, not what ministry is, not who ministers … these functions are to equip the normal believer to do the ministry. We have made this into the ministry!
Eph 4:13-16 Call to grow up into maturity and Body metaphor
- Maturity described … stability, withstanding false teaching, speaking truth, unity among believers, building up, love
- As in Corinthians … body metaphor, Christ as the head (authority or source, “kephale” in 1 Cor 11)
- Illustration: When a cell or cell cluster elevates itself over all others, captures all nutrients, multiplies itself only, this is called ‘cancer’
Eph 4:17-24 Challenge to lay aside old life
- There is a repeated theme: to “Put on, put off … clothe yourself”
- Eph 4:22 … “Put off old nature / put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts.”
- Eph 4:24 … “Put on new nature / clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God”
- Eph 4:25 … “putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to your neighbors, for we are members of one another”
- Eph 4:31 … “Putting away all bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, malice”
- Eph 6:11 … “Put on whole armour of God”
- Eph 6:14 … “Put on breastplate of righteousness”
- What does the metaphor of putting off, putting on, taking of clothes, clothing oneself with … imply?
- daily activity, have to keep doing it, not necessarily that difficult, but has to be done, choice
- Illustration:falling into a grumble
- Command to own your mind, command to be aware, command to through continual little choices hold fast the reality that God has given
- Don’t be surprised that this is needed, don’t be discouraged that you have keep doing it, it’s okay, but just keep doing it … it’s not automatic, it needs to keep being chosen
- Thi sis small scale but essential discipline
- Eph 4:27 … “Do not make room for the devil” … how do I do that? by dwelling on negatives, by not being thankful, by misinterpreting behavior, by holding on to insults, …
- How do I prevent these thoughts? … Can’t have the mind dwell on nothing, so if you want to throw one thing out, you have to replace it with something else … this is why thankfulness, appreciation, encouragement, prayer is so important … these are disciplines, keeping your mind godly and productive and blessing others
- Eph 4:26-27 … “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil”
- What can we learn about anger?
- anger itself is not a sin, though it may lead to sin, or become a sin
- anger is an emotion, and emotions are not right or false, they are just emotions.
- emotions cannot really be prevented, don’t need to be prevented
- emotions are just what they are: emotions, indicators of my reaction to something
- what can become sin is the way we handle emotions … for example making emotions God, the decisive factor in everything … or feeding an emotion that God wants to discourage in the long run
- anger is an appropriate emotion to things like injustice, abuse, etc. Injustice should make us angry
- Who in the Bible is most often described as being angry? God. And God doesn’t sin.
- What is the difference? God remains completely just, completely self-controlled, acting only by principle, even in anger, even when he judges, he is just, and has our best in mind.
- We get annoyed by one thing, let it out on another, weaker person, or simply use anger to push our will through … we are not self-controlled, not principles, and not selfless in our anger.
- Reduce stressful circumstances
- Ask yourself: what exactly makes me so angry? … Find the root.
- Underlying level of anger in this country, I think due to a continual level of injustice > powerlessness > anger
- Link to childhood, my own hurts and hang-ups … we need counseling, we need to keep receiving God’s love
- Sometimes I think it has to do with a sensitivity that has to do with calling. Often calling is linked to past injustices.
- Eph 4:28 … “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so that as to have something to share with the needy”
- Teaching on how stealing stifles and hurts all
- Work … It’s not just “I work that I can feed myself” … not just “I work that I can feed my family” … it’s through work being able to give, to bless …
- God wants us to be be producers, not just mouths to feed … God wants us to be givers, not just takers … God wants us to be contributors to our societies, who have wisdom, voice, weight, something to give … on every level: in marriage (do you marry to get something? or to give something?), in family (do you render service or receive service?, in church (are you an evaluator of sermons and churches, or a contributor?), in society (if everybody behaved exactly like you, how would the streets look? how would the systems run? how would traffic look? … or would the nation fall apart?
- God wants you to be a voice. God wants you to have the power to give. God wants you to have weight, importance, significance
- Eph 4:29 … “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear”
- If everybody talked like you, how would your family, ministry or nation look like?
- Faithfulness with words … thankfulness, appreciation, encouragement, truthfulness, wisdom, prayer …
- Eph 5:18 … “be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, make melody to the Lord in your hearts”
- Eph 5:16 … “live as wise, make the most of the time” … a challenge to understand the importance of my calling, my contribution, my work, my time
- Eph 4:31 … “put away bitterness” … bitterness is deadly, deal with the root
- Eph 5:1, 5:4 “greed, which is idolatry, will not inherit the kingdom of God”
Addictions / sexual sin
- Remember the context of Ephesus!
- Eph 5:4 … “obscene, silly, vulgar talk”
- Eph 5:12 … “it is shameful to even mention what such people do secretly”
- Eph 5:18 … “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery”
- Eph 4:17, 4:18, 4:23, 5:17 … mind words … the way we think and believe is crucial
Eph 5:21-6:9 Submission
- Structure: one long sentence in Greek, hinging on Eph 5:21 where the main verb of submitting is mentioned, not after … elipsis, deliberately binding back the sub clauses to the main sentence
Husband & wives
- Command to the wives … 5v … to submit, to respect
- Command to husbands … 9v … to submit, to love your wives, your authority will be to the degree you love
- standard: Christ’s love for the church, giving himself
- subpoint: to love your wife is to love yourself … your love will create an atmosphere of care, consideration, appreciation, security, freedom
- subpoint: nagging, power struggles … any victory at the expense of the other is defeat
- submission means to put oneself under … presupposes equal standing before. Submission is a virtue practiced by equals, not non-equals
- to true leadership people submit willingly. Become somebody to whom people will submit willingly.
- Limits of submission: you do not have to submit to the point of immorality: beating, abusing girls, sending a wife as prostitute … only submit in things neutral or moral …
- Submission is generally commanded, but not that all women have to submit to all men. Example: DTS girl
Children & parents
- Obey parents, honor parents …
- Commandment with promise … unless I can honor where I come from, I cannot honor my origin / myself
- Obedience … how far? in all things? at all ages? … till adult? till marriage? after marriage? … only if moral
- Or said differently: what is honoring parents? …
- Examples of verbal, physical, sexual abuse
- Fathers … do not provoke, do not use your superiority in knowledge, power to annoy, anger the child
- Fathers … command to bring them up in discipline (need for this!) and instruction (do teach!)
Slaves & Masters
- Work attitude … with fear, singleness of heart, even if not watched, not just to please, from the heart, with enthusiasm, regardless of appreciation / recognition / profit … as unto Christ
- God ultimately rewards you
- Work ethics … needed desperately, we very little biblical thinking
- Masters … do the same to them (what exactly?), stop threatening them, know you are accountable to the master in heaven, who is impartial
Eph 6:10-20 Armor & Spiritual Warfare
- See before
- Watchman Nee’s … sit (Eph 1-3) … walk (Eph 4-6) … stand (Eph 6:10-24)