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Ephesians unfolded

This is the first of a series of posts that I intend to look at the book of Ephesians. For purposes of expediency and personal belief I will keep to the traditional view that it was the Apostle Paul who wrote this letter. I acknowledge that there is some current critical doubt as to it being authentically Pauline, a belief which I don’t hold to and don’t wish to debate here. (1)
The letter is thought to have been written during AD 60-61 by Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. The difference between this letter and his others is that he doesn’t address it directly to any person or group, though our popular versions say to the Church at Ephesus, many of the original manuscripts do not contain that address and it is thought to have been added at a later date and so the intent of the letter is more an open letter to a group of churches around Asia Minor whom he is most likely not personally familiar with, though knowing they know of his authority as an Apostle. The intent of the author is similar to his letter to the Romans Rom 11:33 where he is talking to both Jewish and Gentiles Christians about how they both are in Christ and none is greater than the other. The background here is that the Gentile Christians have grown in numbers and are boasting of their independence and perhaps superiority to Israel and becoming intolerant of their Jewish Christians. Therefore I propose that the outline of the contents of the first chapter of Ephesians should be as follows.

1:1-14 Introduction and purpose of his letter.
1:1-2 Address and salutation
1:3-10 God chooses the Jewish nation to reveal Christ.
1:11-12 God predetermined that it would be Jewish disciples, apostles, prophets whom Paul counts himself among to reveal Christ.
1:13-14 God has also chosen the Gentiles to be included in His plans
1:15-23 Paul prays for the church.
1:15 -16 reason for praying
1:17 – pray for wisdom and revelation so that they could know him better
1:18 – heart be enlightened – know the hope God had called them and the riches of his inheritance in the saints
1:19 -23 Know the incomparably great power for those who believe and what that power is.

If what has been suggested is true by the commentaries in that the Gentiles are being intolerant of the Jewish Christians then Paul is actually rebuking the recipients of this letter reminding them that they were the last to have Christ revealed to them.

The other issue that this raises is that Paul is not speaking to individuals so much about what it was that Christ had done through verses 3 -14 rather he is talking about what He has done is for both the Jewish and Gentile nations together in a corporate manner rather than a individual way. Though we can be greatly encouraged by applying the meaning of those verses to ourselves we need to be careful that we don’t take upon ourselves some of the meanings that Paul assigns on a national level.

Take verse 4 for an example “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” Most Christians wrongly read this verse applying it in a personal way that says, “God chose me in Himself before the creation of the world” The context of the passage does not allow us to make that interpretation rather the true meaning is that before the creation of the world God chose the nation of Israel to be the nation to reveal to the world Christ.

The next passage which is then taken out of context is verse 11-12. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out every thing according to the purpose of his will in order that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory.

Paul is not talking about individual salvation being predetermined by God, rather he is making reference to his apostleship among the other disciples coming out of the Jewish nation as being chosen to reveal Gods plan for the world – “Christ”
He then says, you (Gentiles)also were included in Gods plan of salvation that Christ died for you as well.

Then while it is true that as individuals we take hold of the great promises of Christ we need to remind ourselves that in this first chapter Paul talks about God choosing the Jewish nation to be his children – referring to his promise to Abraham that they will be a great nation blessed by God, then how God chose some to be Apostles (2) to make this plan of salvation known, and 3rdly that the Gentiles are included in this plan of salvation and were so before the creation of the world.

[1] D. Guthrie, J.A Motyer New Bible Commentary, Ephesians (Intervarsity Press, England 1970)p.1107
[2] This is referred again by Paul in 4:11 about how God gave some to be Apostles…to prepare Gods people for works of service.

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