The letter to the Ephesians

Introduction

The letter to the Ephesians is one of the most attractive documents in the New Testament, a formal letter intended to give instruction, its firm theological foundation leads to spiritual stability. The letter calls on the church to demonstrate humility and gentleness, love and unity, things that would make the church body reach its goals. The first three chapters of this letter dealt with doctrine. Starting with the fourth chapter, Paul starts upon the practical application of the truth stated in the first three chapters. He tells these Christians how they ought to live. Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ is the author of the book of Ephesians. His recipients are the saints living in the city of Ephesus, The epistle was written primarily to Gentile believers, though there were at least some Jewish believers in Ephesus.[1] The relationship between the Apostle Paul and the recipients goes back to the early church missions in the book of Act, Paul the author briefly visited the city during his 2nd missionary journey and during his 3rd missionary journey he stayed in the city (Ephesus) over two years and founded the church. Although he suffered many tribulations, rejection, and the uprising of the silversmiths of the temple Paul continued to keep track of this church after he left the city.[2]

Authorship and Historical background of Ephesus

The exact date of when Paul wrote Ephesians cannot be certain. It was universally accepted in the early church and Most Scholars maintain Pauline authorship date it around AD 64 Likely it was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, It is known to have been written about the same time as Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon which Paul wrote in Rome. It is well known that Tychicus carried it to the province of Asia along with other Pauline epistles.[3] The recipients of the epistle live in the city of Ephesus, a great commercial port town on the east side of the Aegean Sea. It became the most important city in the Roman province of Asia Minor present day Turkey, a metropolitan population with well established enterprises that could purchase almost any goods they desired, by New Testament times it had grown to a population to at least 250,000. But the flow of people through its port also brought the worship of nearly every god of the world. The city was home to a fertility goddess, whom the Greeks renamed Artemis and the Romans Diana; it was also a centre for emperor worship, and sorcery was common.[4] Paul's visits to Ephesus are recorded in the book of Acts 18-20. During his second missionary journey Paul briefly stopped in Ephesus leaving Pricilla and Aquila there, and his third missionary journey included as least a three year stay in Ephesus. Strategically Paul used the city as his head office to spread the Gospel to the cities around Ephesus.[5]

Language style and purpose

Ephesians presents significant differences of language and style from other accepted Pauline letters. Most scholars observed words that are used only in Ephesians, and other words that are not found anywhere else in Pauline writings but appear in the rest of the New Testament writings. The letter illustrate a unique combinations of words and phrases which reflect the style of expression including spiritual blessing, the word of truth, the desires of the flesh and to know Christ etc.[6] The author uses expressions like "in Christ" or "in the Lord" which appear more in Ephesians as compare to other Pauline writings, also the epistle expresses the Church as the Body of Christ. Paul never ever refers to himself as a saint instead of the least of the apostles, but in Ephesians he appears as the least of all saints. In comparison with other Pauline letter Ephesians is said to different in form.[7]

The letter to the Ephesians is not directed to a particular church or situation neither dose it response to a sense of urgency to a crisis as other Pauline letters do. But it appears that the recipients of the letter are the saints who are faithful in Christ, making this a general or circular letter. By contrast, Paul in most letters uses 'Church' exclusively as a gathering of believers in Jesus as the Christ. Ephesians' focus on large audience predominantly gentile churches, it deals with the general topic of how the gospel should change a person, the church, and ultimately all of creation. A number of metaphors used of these Christians readers are described in terms of their belonging to a wider community of saints in Christ. Paul's intention as an apostle takes the responsibilities of strengthening and encouraging the Christians with assurance of their position in God, urging them to live their lives in conformity with the divine plans in Christ.[8]

The message in Ephesians chapter four

The central message of Paul's letter to the Ephesians is divine reconciliation and unity in Christ. He addresses the Ephesians how the believers should behave to maintain the peace and unity among Christians that God has established a covenant in Christ, and Christ has atoned by His blood. As an apostle who has been faithful to his calling, Paul urges his readers to live a life that is consistent with the calling that they have received. He specifically urges the believers to maintain unity and peace among them. The demand of their call is to practice patience, gentleness, humanity, and above all to show love toward one another. Although Christians may demonstrate many superficial differences, there is only one body, one Spirit, one faith, and one God the Father of all. The relationship among believers is founded upon a real spiritual unity, not a human treaty or the general welfare of humanity. [9] The apostle teaches that God has predetermined that His people would become one in Christ. Although believers are redeemed they are imperfect individuals, therefore there will be conflicts and misunderstanding among them, but now they have a true foundation for unity in Christ, and they also have the spiritual resources by which to maintain the unity, and to resolve conflicts of any kind. Since Paul is writing about believers who are already saved, his reference to grace is grace that equips each individual believer for service and ministry. In understanding the statement about the equipping grace given to individual believers, Paul refer to Psalm 68:18: Applying the verse to Christ incarnation and crucifixion, and His resurrection and exaltation.[10] Christ as the intercessor gave gifts to all men; Paul says Christ chooses to focus on those in leadership positions some apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the edification of the church. The passage indeed says that because of the diversity in gifts, believers can each make unique contributions to the growth of the body of Christ, whatever the gifts may be they are united by the work that Christ has done to redeem His people. Paul commands believers to stop living like the Gentiles and live a life worthy of the calling.[11] They are caution not to live like non-Christians for their mindset ends in futility, and that their understanding is darkened. Christians are different because they have been taught the truth of Christianity. God's power rescues believers from futile thinking and continual lust by the teaching of Christ and through Christian doctrine, applied to the mind by divine power. In sanctification, the Christian renews his mind with the teaching of Scripture, and then following its instructions; he puts off the old self and puts on the new self.[12] The apostle Paul lists several specific areas in which Christians must practice this principle, and he explains what it means to put off the old self and put on the new self.

Clearly, he introduced a whole new pattern of thinking and living to his readers as indwelt by the spirit.

Conclusion

The letter to the Ephesians has a special attractiveness among other Pauline epistles. As discovered Ephesians is a very powerful and enlightening that illuminates the hearts and minds of the believer. Paul at his theological best unfolds the revelation of the kingdom of God. He presented a sound doctrine without reproach and covers a lot from the hidden wisdom of God and the work of grace in salvation, to the origin of the ministry and the strategies of spiritual warfare. In the first three chapters the author addresses his intensified interest in the realization of an existence as Christian. The beginning of the fourth chapter highlights the pieces of advice for the life of the congregation for love and unity among them and those who hold office in the congregation. Paul spends time addressing the issues that surrounded the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body in Jesus Christ; His teaching is to unify the church communities as whole. Beyond that one can affirmed that the chapter presents doctrines of the absolute sovereignty of God, the particular atonement of Christ, the irresistible calling of the Spirit, and the preservation of the saints in the Lord.

Bibliography

  • Balz, Horst, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Published, 1994).
  • Best, Ernest, Ephesians: a shorter commentary (Edinburgh, SCOTLAND: T&T Clark Ltd, 2003).
  • Dahl, Alstrup, Nils, el al, Studies in Ephesians (Tbingen, GER: Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co. KG, 2000).
  • Efird, James, M., The New Testament writings: history, literature, and interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1980).
  • Knight, George, R., Exploring Galatians and Ephesians ( Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2005).
  • Ramsay, William, M., The Layman's Guide to the New Testament (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1981).
  • Schnackenburg, Rudolf, Ephesians: a commentary (Edinburgh, SCOTLAND: T&T Clark Ltd, 1991).
  • Shauf, Scott, Theology as history, history as theology: Paul in Ephesus in Acts 19 (Berlin, GER: Walter de Gruyter, 2005).
  • William, Rodman, John, Renewal theology: systematic theology from a charismatic perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Published, 1996).
  • Witherington, Ben, The letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: a socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Published, 2007).
  1. Ben Witherington, The letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: a socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Published, 2007) 283 - 283.
  2. John Rodman Williams, Renewal theology: systematic theology from a charismatic perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Published, 1996) 110.
  3. William M. Ramsay, The Layman's Guide to the New Testament (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1981) 170.
  4. Scott Shauf, Theology as history, history as theology: Paul in Ephesus in Acts 19 (Berlin, GER: Walter de Gruyter, 2005) 136
  5. Horst Balz, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Published, 1994) 149
  6. James M. Efird, The New Testament writings: history, literature, and interpretation (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1980) 152 - 153
  7. Nils Alstrup Dahl, David Hellholm, Vemund Blomkvist, Tord Fornb, Studies in Ephesians (Tbingen, GER: Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co. KG, 2000) 111- 112
  8. Rudolf Schnackenburg, Ephesians: a commentary (Edinburgh, SCOTLAND: T&T Clark Ltd, 1991) 42 - 43
  9. Ernest Best, Ephesians: a shorter commentary (Edinburgh, SCOTLAND: T&T Clark Ltd, 2003) 184-185
  10. George R. Knight, Exploring Galatians and Ephesians ( Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub Assoc, 2005) 244
  11. Schnackenburg, Ephesians: a commentary, 184
  12. Rodman Williams, Renewal theology: systematic theology from a charismatic perspective, 110

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