Ephesians is one of the most encouraging books in the New Testament. I offer the following commentary and summary for Ephesians in this article.
Purpose and Themes
The purpose of the book of Ephesians was to warn the church elders about the false teachers that were teaching a false gospel and to maintain their first love that they held when they first became believers. Paul doesn’t specify a specific heresy but does seem to want them to be identified with Christ and one in a sense of purpose. Love is an often repeated verb that Paul uses in Ephesians and he expresses it as an action verb.
There is also Paul’s emphasis that Jew and Gentile are one in the same in Jesus Christ and so this ought to be expressed in their love for one another. Paul is also interested in the practical implications of Christian behavior. And the Christian needs to put on the whole armor of God to be protected from spiritual warfare. There is also the importance of the marital relationship and that of the entire family but that is not said to be one of the primary purposes (Ephesians 5:22 – 6:1-4).
Audience & Geographical Location
The recipients of Ephesians were the resident of Ephesus which was the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor. Their city was a center of pagan worship and was home of the Temple of Diana (or Artemis). The residents lived in an important commercial center that ranked close to Alexandria in Egypt in importance and as an educational and political base. The Ephesians letter may have been circulated and read by churches in Laodicea and in Colossae.
Part of the calling of the church is to be giving praise to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes about predestination in the first two chapters of Ephesians. Predestination is a comfort for Christians who are steeped in the secular world, like the church at Ephesus was. Ephesians is an amazing descriptive letter about God’s election and His predestining of believers that describes God‘s calling of us before the earth even existed. That He predestined us before the earth was even created is just too awesome to consider in all its implications. This call from God is entirely from His good pleasure and His own call alone (Ephesians 1:4). His call of believers and our salvation is God’s doing alone. We simply have to throw ourselves on the mercy of God and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. That is the only thing that the believer contributes to their salvation.
Even though we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, a believer is nonetheless called to become holy and blameless in His sight. Our obedience is an expression of our love for Him. God’s goal of our election is that we will be a praise of His glorious grace. Christians are chosen so that they will praise God and the Father and this is part of the great purpose of God in calling men, women, and children to Him. The Westminster Catechism is along this same line that our purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
The Power to Save
The Holy Spirit seals us as a guarantee of our salvation so we don‘t have to worry that one day we are saved only to believe that the next day we might be lost. When the Holy Spirit seals us He gives Christians inheritance rights that we already hold since we now already belong to and are a possession of God’s. How much more is God glorified in us than by taking wrath-deserving sinful vessels and making them “trophies” in God’s showcase of His grace? This defies human logic.
Another part of our calling is that He brings dead corpses to life by His power alone which brings Him glory. The miracle that Jew and Gentile, which were in relationship to each other hostile by nature, are made to be in union with one another in Christ and is further cause for God’s glorification and praise worthiness.
To Glorify, be Holy and Humble
And we were called by God for good works that God has ordained for us eons ago so that His workmanship can be displayed to the world (Ephesians 2:10). This absolutely glorifies God because it is not for us to brag about but a sovereign work of God alone (Ephesians 2:9). We are saved for good works and never by good works.
For the church to walk in unity and holiness the church should live worthy of their calling by God. Humility promotes unity as believers consider or esteem others better than themselves (Walvoord and Zuck, 632). Humility is the opposite of pride. The Greeks saw humility as a weakness and as something to be practiced only by slaves but God highly esteems meek and gentle spirits because pride and humility can not coexist. Holiness and unity are bedfellows because if we are bearing with one another we are treating others with love and respect. Since believers all have the same hope we should act as a unified body of believers.
Gifts of the Believers & Unity
Gifts are given as equally distributed among the members of the body of Christ for the benefit of all its members (Ephesians 4:7-11). Paul stats that every member of the body is fitted perfectly together as it pleases God and since we are joined together carefully, there should be unity in this body. Since each of the members support each other there is made possible a growth in holiness. Unified growth is by the means of a unified body.
God tells the church to walk in holiness and to be separate from the world (Eph 4:17-32). Putting off the old self of the former carnal nature enable believers to walk as a new creature in Christ; in holiness and in righteousness. Walking in love is to be more like Christ and thus more holy, however if we hold grudges and try to avenge ourselves then Satan can get a foothold in us and we can turn to bitterness and become slanderous and unforgiving. The church is made to walk in love in light of their lives. Walking with God is basically living out God’s principles in a Christian’s daily life just as Enoch walked with God and never tasted death (Genesis 5:24) Holiness is displayed when we love each other as Christ loves us and when we are unified in purpose as Jesus was in unity with the Father and was one in purpose with Him.
My children and grandchildren imitate me and so I should be imitating God so that they will imitate God. When we walk in love (that is living it out) we imitate God because He is the consummate expression of love. Walking in love is sacrificing our time, energy, and assets for others. As He gave Himself up for us, we should give up ourselves and even our own agendas to serve others.
God is light and His light shines before us and just as the moon has no source of light in itself but reflects the sunlight, we should reflect the light given to us by God and shine it on others. Love inhabits lights as John said, “He who loves his brother abides in (or dwells in) the light” (I John 2:10). The children of light live according to Him Who is life and the life was the light of men (John 1:4). Light is opposed to darkness and exposes the darkness and thus the fruit of the light are righteousness, goodness, and living a holy life. There is no iniquity in light, no sexual immorality, greed, or disobedience and so Christians should not be walking in (living in) darkness but in His light.
The Bride Groom & the Bride
True wisdom is living in submission to the Lord and as the husband submits to God and he is the head of the wife, the wife ought to submit to her husband as in the same manner as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-33). The husband-wife relationship is like the church’s relationship to Christ Who is its head. Christ loves the church and He expressed this love by giving up His life for her so husbands should be giving up their lives (in living it out day by day) for their wives. I am a pastor but it is not my church, it is Jesus’ church. I am simply an under-shepherd or overseer of it. I too must submit to Jesus as my head.
Christ’s purpose is to present the church spotless, perfect, and without blemish and so the husband being the spiritual head of the family must be the spiritual leader in striving for his wife and the children to live as perfectly as possible. Like Christ and His church become one in unity and purpose so husband and wife become one in flesh and also in unity and purpose. True wisdom is the husband loving the wife as his own body and the wife being in submission to her husband as the church should be in submission to Christ. This is how Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for the church and so the church reasonably ought to be in submission to Him Who is the head of the church.
Be Ready for Battle
If the church is to survive in her spiritual warfare she needs to have the full armor that a warrior would wear as he goes into battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). The arrows and fiery darts are not literal arrows but they are no less real and dangerous. To stand is like a warrior digging in and taking up arms with which to fight. To stand is not to be passive but to be proactive. The enemy is too much for mere mortals so Christians had better be equipped with the weapons and armor of God. This is the only way we can stand in defense of the powerful spiritual forces of evil.
God’s truth is the believer’s integrity and faithful obedience secures the belt on them. Christ’s own righteousness is the breastplate that believers wear for protection from the enemy’s assaults and protects them in knowing that they are secure in Christ. The Gospel’s assurance for the believer gives them sure footing in this battle. The shield of faith is able to extinguish the wicked spirit’s fiery darts that will be fired at them. Faith in the Lord enables the believer to stop these otherwise deadly arrows of Satan. The helmet of salvation is close to the believer’s brain and typifies the knowledge of their future deliverance which protects their thoughts and keeps them from giving up. The Word of God, the Bible, is the only offensive weapon the believer has. It can be used offensively when needed and is a good reason for believers to hide God’s Word (Scripture) in their heart or memorize it.
Ephesians Key Verses
Ephesians 1:4-7 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Ephesians 1:11-14 “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 2:1-2 “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 3:17-19 “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Ephesians 4:11-12 “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
Ephesians 5:21-25 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Ephesians 5:31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”
Ephesians 6:12-13 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
This letter to the church at Ephesus encourages, admonishes and teaches believers even today of God’s plan for His church. Paul offers so much information in these six chapters. When you read and study this book you can understand that the Holy Spirit gives the believer what they need to be saved, holy and God-honoring. You will also come to understand and perhaps even consider the gifts that God has given to you as a believer. Paul compares and explains the purpose of our earthy marriage and how that relates to things in eternity. He finishes the book by explaining that all believers will be faced with spiritual warfare and he gives six examples of the weapons that are at every believer’s disposal to thwart the wiles of the devil. This is a book in the Bible that should be studied and understood by all believers.
What is your favorite Bible verse from the book of Ephesians? Share it in the comments!
Source – The Holy Bible, New International Version, THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide; Image courtesy of / FreeDigitalPhotos.net