– God’s Ultimate Plan
A. Introduction to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
1. The character and themes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
a. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is different compared to many of the other New Testament letters he wrote. Like Romans, Ephesians was not written so much to address problems in a particular church; more so, it was written to explain some of the great themes and doctrines of Christianity.
i. The elevated themes of Ephesians make it highly praised and prized by commentators. Ephesians has been called “the Queen of the Epistles,” “the quintessence of Paulinism,” “the divinest composition of man” and even “the Waterloo of commentators.” Some say that Ephesians reads “like a commentary on the Pauline letters” and probably it has been best termed “the crown of Paulinism.” (Bruce)
ii. “It sums up in large measure the leading themes of the Pauline writings . . . But it does more than that; it carries the thought of the earlier letters forward to a new stage.” (Bruce)
iii. “Among the Epistles bearing the name of St. Paul there is none greater than this, nor any with a character more entirely its own . . . There is a peculiar and sustained loftiness in its teaching which has deeply impressed the greatest minds and has earned for it the title of the ‘Epistle of the Ascension.” (Salmond)
iv. “If Romans is the purest expression of the gospel (as Luther said), then Ephesians is the most sublime and majestic expression of the gospel.” (Lloyd-Jones) Lloyd-Jones also said of Ephesians: “It is difficult to speak of it in a controlled manner because of its greatness and because of its sublimity.”
v. “The Epistle to the Ephesians is a complete Body of Divinity. In the first chapter you have the doctrines of the gospel; in the next, you have the experience of the Christians; and before the Epistle is finished, you have the precepts of the Christian faith. Whosoever would see Christianity in one treatise, let him ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the Epistle to the Ephesians.” (Spurgeon)
vi. Moule quotes Chrysostom: “This Epistle is full to the brim of thoughts and doctrines sublime and momentous. For the things which scarcely anywhere else he utters, here he makes manifest.”
b. If the Letter to the Romans focuses more on God’s work in the individual Christian, Ephesians includes the great themes of God’s work in the church, the community of believers.
i. Karl Marx wrote about a new man and a new society, but he saw man and society both in almost purely economic terms, and offered only economic answers. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul also saw the new man and a new society, but he saw it all accomplished by the work of Jesus.
c. Ephesians has many similarities with Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Since Paul wrote both of them from his Roman imprisonment, his mind may have been working on the same themes when he wrote each letter.
i. “He wrote to the Colossians to meet a particular situation and danger in the church at Colossae. Then with his mind still working over the theme of the greatness and glory of Christ, but moving on to consider the place of the Church in the purpose of God, he wrote Ephesians, this time without the limitation of any polemical aims.” (Foulkes)
ii. In looking at the great, majestic themes of Ephesians, it is important remember that Paul wrote this letter from prison!
d. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10:
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.
For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the Deep Things of God.
Ephesians is the fulfillment of this.
It reveals the things God has prepared for those who love Him.
2. (1-2) Paul’s greeting to the Ephesians.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
a. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ: The opening of the letter is brief, without the more detailed greetings from Paul often found in his other letters.
b. To the saints who are in Ephesus: In a few ancient manuscripts there is a blank space instead of the words in Ephesus. Based partly on this, some believe that this letter was actually a circular letter written not to any one congregation, but meant to be passed on to many different congregations in different cities.
i. There is little doubt this letter was intended for Ephesus, and Ephesus was an important city to Paul. “Here was his well-known Ephesus. Here for the space of three complete years – a unique length of stationary work for him – he had lived and labored, not as the apostolic missionary only but as the apostolic pastor. Here he had taken that critical and momentous step, the ‘separation’ of the disciples from the Synagogue to a distinct place of teaching and no doubt of worship, ‘the school of one Tyrannus,’ the lecture-hall, we may suppose, of a friendly professor in what we may call the Ephesian University. Here he had laboured, watched, and wept, for both the community and individuals.” (Moule)
ii. At the same time, we can gather that the letter was also intended in a more general sense – to circulate among Christians as a great statement of God’s eternal plan, worked out in the church and in individual Christian lives. If there is a blank space in a manuscript where others read in Ephesus, it is certainly because we are to put our city in that blank space.
c. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father”:
This greeting is typical of Paul. The apostle knew the essential place of grace and peace from God in the life of the believer, and He knew that receiving God’s grace comes before a walk in peace with Him.
© 2006 David Guzik