The Ephesian Epistle

The Ephesian Epistle

Selected

Findlay has descriptively called r this letter, “The general Epistle of Paul to Ephesus and its daughter churches”. Apparently this Epistle was written to a group of churches among which Ephesus was the most notable. The names of the different churches to which copies were sent were probably inserted and likely Paul refers to one of these in Col. 4:16, “The Epistle from Laodicea”.

Ephesus, which had been a leader in idolatry and superstition, by the grace of God was to become one of the foremost examples of the power of God through the gospel (Acts 19). The gospel found the Ephesians in the lowest depths of heathen darkness and spiritual bondage, but it raised the believers in that city to the sweetest intimacy in Christ and to the highest heights of imparted glory. From darkness they had been brought to light and from death they had been brought to life.

Ephesus was the centre of much oral ministry from Paul, for here he spent more than two years (Acts 19) preaching publicly and from house to house. Timothy also laboured and ministered here (1 Tim. 1:3). Tradition suggests that the Apostle John likewise lived here and that, if not in the city proper, in its district, the Epistles of John may have been written. Ephesus was the objective of much written ministry.

It is solemn to learn from Scripture that this church, so favoured by God, left its first love (Rev. 2:4) and proved disloyal to its spiritual father, “All they of Asia be turned away from me,” (2 Tim. 1:15). (Ephesusis included in this Asia Minor.) Before the end of apostolic days this richly endowed assembly manifested a lack of love to Christ and a lack of loyalty to the cause of Christ.

Let us consider the relationship of this Epistle to some of the others, and thereby learn by comparison and contrast the general tenor of its teachings.

The Epistle to the Galatians might be called the Epistle of the Cross, for seven times the Apostle Paul directly refers to the death of Christ on the cross. He is endeavouring to bring the Galatian saints back under the shadow and influence of the Crucifixion. The Epistle to the Romans is the Epistle of the Empty Tomb: it opens with the resurrection of Christ (1:4); it closes with the resurrection of Christ (14:9), and between these two references there are many others. Now, the Epistle we are studying may readily be called the Epistle of the Heavens (see 1:9-13). In Galatians the crucifixion of Christ is prominent; in Romans the resurrection of Christ, and in Ephesians the ascension of Christ. In all these the believer is identified with Christ. He is “crucified with Christ” in Galatians, “planted in the likeness of His resurrection” in Romans, and “raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” in Ephesians.

While we see a development in the doctrine of Christ as we compare these three Epistles, and likewise a precious sequence to the experience of a believing soul, we must not fail to notice the contrast which exists; first, between Galatians and Ephesians. In the former, Paul, the defender of the gospel, enters into conflict with those who pervert it, and here we notice the strife and tumult of this conflict; whereas in Ephesians we sense the quietness of the sanctuary, the tranquility of the precincts of the Lord. The errors of those who corrupt the gospel provoke the one, while the benign influence of the presence of the Lord inspires the other. Second, the contrast between Romans and Ephesians appears when we notice that in the former man is foremost, ruined man in his sin, redeemed man purified, and finally, man glorified rendering glory to God. In Ephesians God is first and foremost, the Triune God, for the Holy Trinity is seen in every chapter, and in some more than once.

It is well that we compare our Epistle with what might be called its sister Epistle — Colossians. In Ephesians one of the major themes is the believer in Christ; but in Colossians we see that Christ is in the believer. Another point of comparison ought to be noticed. In Ephesians we have teaching relative to the Church, the Bride, the Body, and the organic oneness of all who are in the Church. In Colossians the Head of the Church is before us. Consequently, we see in Colossians that we are complete (filled full) in Christ (2:10), while in Ephesians, the Church, composed of all believers in the era, is the fullness of Him Who filleth all in all (1:23).

Ephesians likewise should be viewed as one of the great Church Epistles, and read in conjunction with the Epistles to the Corinthians, for while Ephesians gives to us the teaching of the Universal Church, Corinthians governs the matter of the local churches.

A very simple analysis of the Epistle may thus be formed:

    1. The Will of God: Chapter 1.

    2. The Workmanship of God: Chapter 2.

    3. The Wonder (Mystery) of God: Chapter 3.

    4. The Walk worthy of God: Chapter 4-6:10.

    5. The Warrior of God: Chapter 6:13-24.

As has been suggested, the Holy Trinity is very prominent in Ephesians. Another simple analysis has been offered presenting the work of God thus:

    1. The Work of God the Father: Chapter 1.

    2. The Work of God the Son: Chapter 2.

    3. The Mystery (parenthetic): Chapter 3.

    4. The Work of God the Spirit: Chapter 4-6.

While this is very general, it does reveal some of the salient points of the Epistle.

—S. O. M.

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God sometimes shuts the door and shuts us in,
That He may speak perchance through grief or pain;
And softly, heart to heart, above the din,
May tell some precious thought to us again.

* * *

“Some Christians are so resolved to make love paramount that they forget the sacredness of revealed truth. ‘Let us drown our doctrinal differences,’ they urge, ‘in the ocean of brotherly love!’ Others are equally mistaken in their pursuit of truth at the expense of love. So dogged is their zeal for God’s Word that they become harsh and bitter and unloving. Love becomes sentimental if it is not strengthened by truth, and truth becomes hard if not softened by love.” — Scott.