Epistle to the Ephesians
|What is Paul's pattern in this and many of his letters?
Doctrine first then duty - doctrine demands duty
How is the letter to the Ephesians divided?
The first three chapters are primarily doctrine, while the last three are duty (practical application).
How does Paul begin chapter 4?
Therefore which draws the reader's attention to the truths in the previous section as well as to the powerful prayer on behalf of his readers. Based upon unfathomable riches in Christ and his prayer, Paul comes to a conclusion.
What is his conclusion?
That his readers are to walk worthy of the calling to which they have been called. This marks the transition from positional to practical truth, from principle to practice. Right practice must always be based on right principle. It is impossible to have a Christian life–style without knowing the realities of the life that Christ has provided.
How does he appeal to them?
He reminds them of his condition of imprisonment but emphasizes he is a prisoner of the Lord Jesus not of Rome. Paul has a proper perspective on suffering and sees it as allowed by a sovereign God for His good purposes.
How do you see your "prisons" (a difficult marriage, a career that isn't what you expected, family difficulties, etc)? Do you need to take Paul's approach to suffering?
How does Paul make his appeal...does he command them to walk worthy?
He does not command but comes alongside with an exhortation. He is imploring his readers to walk worthy. The idea of implore is to beg earnestly or even desperately. Interestingly, the English word implore is from the Latin implorare meaning to "invoke with tears"! So although it is not a command, likewise it is not just a suggestion.
What is the picture presented by the word "walk"?
The word walk is used figuratively to picture one's conduct or manner of life. The picture is powerful because walking consists of taking one step, then another, then another, each step indicating that the person walking is making steady progress. That is Paul's desire for these Gentile believers - that their spiritual walk would be one of progress (the theological term is progressive sanctification).
What is the picture presented by the word "worthy" (in a manner worthy) especially as it describes one's walk?
The picture is that of a set of scales or a balance with the weight on one side of the scale equally balancing the weight on the other side of the scale.
What is on each side of the scales in Ephesians?
Walk is on one side and calling on the other side
Paul is saying in essence, I implore you to let you walk be balanced by your calling. Truth demands an appropriate response. The Christian life is nourished and grows best with a balance of proper intake (doctrine) and exercise (application).
Are you living in the light of the of the unfathomable riches of Christ which you are learning in Ephesians? Is your in depth study of Ephesians making any perceptible difference in your Christian life?
What is the calling in context?
To be called was to be invited to a banquet but in context refers to the sinner being invited to become a saint with all that such a great salvation entails. Paul describes the glorious truths of their calling in Ephesians 1-3. These things are true of all who have been called out of darkness and into God's marvelous salvation light.
The Gentile's calling equates with all of the spiritual riches in the first 3 chapters.
Paul is saying because of your spiritual possessions, position and privileges in Christ, now you are to walk accordingly, putting these truths into practice (progressive sanctification).
Too many times in churches, we spend more time in the "practical application" sections of the Pauline epistles to the neglect of a balanced exposition of the foundational doctrinal truths on which a godly walk is based. And then we wonder why so many who profess to believe in Christ are not walking the talk. It's great for example to preach on the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23, but it is an incomplete study if not balanced by the important doctrinal truths (Sanctify them in truth. Thy Word is truth!) in the preceding chapters. This is one of the inherent dangers of topical studies.
What were the doctrinal truths Paul enumerated in the first three chapters?
After each one of these spiritual blessings it would be good to repeat "therefore walk worthy"
1:3 Blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places ...therefore walk worthy
1:4 Chosen to be holy and blameless ...therefore walk worthy (holy and blameless)
1:5 Adopted as sons ...therefore walk worthy (As children taking care not profane their Father's name)
1:7 Redeemed, forgiven ... therefore...
1:9 Knowledgeable of the mystery...
1:11 Possessors of an inheritance...
1:13 Sealed by the Spirit of promise...
1:14 Recipient's of Spirit's pledge (down payment - "engagement ring") of future redemption...
1:18 Hope of their calling...
1:18 God's inheritance...
(Dunamis = Inherent power of God residing in believers because of their new nature in Christ. Divine power to live the supernatural, abundant life in Christ).
2:5 Made alive with Christ...
2:6 Raised up with Christ...
2:6 Seated with Christ in the heavenly places...
(Walk on a higher plane... life on a higher plane)
2:10 Created for good works... walk worthy in them!
2:13 Brought near by the blood of Christ...
2:16 Reconciled to God
2:18 Access to God...
2:19 Fellow citizens, of God's household (family members)...
2:21 A holy temple in the Lord...
2:22 A dwelling of God...
3:6 Fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, fellow partakers of the promise...
3:8 Possessors of unfathomable riches...
3:10 A demonstration of the manifold wisdom of God...
3:16 Strengthened with power (dunamis) in your inner man... walk worthy in the light of that power
3:20 In light of fact that God is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think - His power works (energizes) us... therefore walk worthy!
Let's review Paul's pattern in this letter....
Ephesians 4 begins a new emphasis...
Ephesians 1-3 Who we are in Christ
Ephesians 4-6 How we are to walk because of who we are
Belief always precedes behavior.
We must think rightly if we are to act appropriately.
Now, how could one subdivide Ephesians 4:1-16?
Ephesians 4:1-6 - Unity ("all")
Ephesians 4:7-16 - Diversity within Unity ( "but"; "to each one")
Ephesians 4:1-6: How are the first 6 verses divided?
Ephesians 4:1-3 - Walk Worthy (To Preserve the unity)
Ephesians 4:4-6 - Essentials of Unity (Foundational truths of unity)
Ephesians 2:11: What is a command Paul gave in the first 3 chapters that should serve as a strong motivator of a worthy walk?
Remember - (Present imperative = command to continually do this) we were far off, spiritually dead, Christless, hopeless, godless, etc. Let this sink in! Think about the principle which our Lord explained in Luke 7 when He explained to the Pharisee why the woman who was a sinner (perhaps a prostitute) anointed Jesus with costly perfume...
We Gentiles (and believing Jews too) have been forgiven much. Keep this far off/brought near picture in the forefront of your mind. Let it stir up your love for Christ (2Cor 5:14) and motivate you to live your new life on the highest plane! The "view" there will be exhilarating! Never forget where you have come from. Don't dwell morosely on the past, but contemplate the past that it might serve as a reminder of the stark contrast with your present heavenly position and high calling in Christ, and so you will be motivated to walk worthy of your calling.
Remember that as a you thinketh in your heart, so you are!
So this worthy walk is not like your former walk (according to domination by the world, the flesh and the devil), but is a walk in good works which God prepared for you beforehand that you should walk in them, empowered by God’s grace, possessors of His riches in Christ and strengthened with His power through His Spirit.
Ephesians 4:2 What is the character of this worthy walk? What is the believer's responsibility? What does a worthy walk look like according to Paul?
A worthy walk is a walk...
1) With all humility (tapeinophrosune) - not thinking highly of self. It is lowliness of mind - see Jesus' example Mt 11:29...
God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Grace will facilitate a worthy walk that promotes unity rather than division. The opposite of humility is pride, which is divisive not uniting.
Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it. Humility means putting Christ first, others second, and self last.
How will walking with humility (or pride) affect the unity of the Spirit?
Apply the same question to each of the following character traits...
2) Gentleness (prautes) - meekness, the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance. A fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) thus it is not a natural trait but a supernatural one.
Again Jesus is the example, entering Jerusalem as the King of Jews, yet knowing He would be rejected...
3) Patience (makrothumia) - literally long temper (as opposed to "short tempered"), far off passion. It pictures a "long (emotional) fuse" before exploding! How has your "fuse length" been this week?
The patient person endures negative circumstances and refuses to give in to them. It is that attitude which is able to bear up under provocation. It is a state of emotional quietness in the face of unfavorable circumstances.
Patience is the first attribute of love (1Cor 13:4)! It is also a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and thus is supernatural. Because we possess surpassing power (dunamis) in Christ. Strengthened with power (dunamis) through His Spirit in the inner man. According to His power (dunamis) which works (energizes) believers on the inside.
Showing tolerance to one another (anechomai) - in simple terms, putting up with others!
How are we to put up with others? In our own power?
In love - this is agape, the divine love which gives unconditionally, expecting nothing in return. To tolerate just by "grinning and bearing" does not foster unity but can have the opposite effect.
Ephesians 4:3: How does Paul describe the unity? What is its source?
It is "of the Holy Spirit" - the unity which the Spirit creates and is not an achievement of the believers who are reading this letter.
Where do we see the creation of this unity in Ephesians?
In Ephesians 2 we see the formation of Jew and Gentile into one new man, this unity establishing peace.
God’s intention is to bringing all things together into unity in Christ. All will be headed up in Christ, and therein final harmony and God's eternally intended purpose will be realized.
Ephesians 4:3: What are believers to do in regard to this unity of the Spirit?
It is not our job to “produce” unity. Unity is “of the Spirit.” Unity is automatic when the Spirit is in control of everyone’s lives. Our job is to “preserve” the unity of the Spirit—to do nothing to disrupt the unity He is producing. We must take care of our relationships and be quick to clean up our offenses. We must make right our wrongs so that the unity of the Spirit is not disrupted.
Ephesians 4:3: What's the practical implication of being diligent?
It will take a volitional choice on each believer's part. Preservation of unity necessitates a determined effort by each member of the body!
Preservation of the unity will not come automatically but entails earnest endeavor.
How do each of the characteristics of a worthy work promote the unity of the Spirit? (Humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance ... think of the opposite traits)
Ephesians 4:3: What is the "glue" that holds the unity together?
Peace - the bond of peace means the bond which is peace. Peace has a bonding effect and is the means by which the addressees will maintain and show forth the unity of the Spirit. When the peace is disturbed you can rest assured that the unity is disrupted.
Paul has parallel thought (substituting love for peace) in Colossians 3 writing...
Blaikie explains that
William MacDonald explains that...
How does this worthy walk apply to your relationship to believers with whom you disagree doctrinally?
In essentials, unity.
The number "one" is repeated seven times, seven being the number of perfection or completion in Scripture.
What do you observe about the Godhead and these 7 areas of oneness?
Ephesians 4:4 centers on the Holy Spirit, verse 5 on the Son, and verse 6 on the Father. The Trinity is foundational truth for the maintenance of unity! Although we as finite men cannot understand the doctrine of the Trinity, we can still believe it because the Scriptures (as here) clearly teach this doctrine.
Ephesians 4:4-6: How can believers have unity of the Spirit according to these verses? What are the foundational truths on which the unity of the Spirit is based?
Many people today attempt to unite Christians in a way that is not biblical. For example, they will say: “We are not interested in doctrines, but in love. Now, let’s forget our doctrines and just love one another!” Unity built on anything other than Bible truth is standing on a very shaky foundation. Paul names seven basic spiritual "ones" that unite all true Christians.
(1) ONE BODY
What has Paul taught about “one body” in Ephesians 1-3?
Body is a metaphor, the very term emphasizing unity of the various body parts.
Ephesians 1:22 Christ is the Head. Where is He? Heaven.
Ephesians 1:23 The church is Christ’s body.
Ephesians 2:14 Christ our Peace made both groups (Jew and Gentile) into one body
Ephesians 2:15 Christ abolished the enmity and made the two (Jew and Gentile) into one new man
Ephesians 2:16 Both Jew and Gentile are reconciled in one body to God through the cross
Ephesians 3:6 The mystery was revealed that Gentiles are fellow members of the body (Gentiles are at no distance or disadvantage, but share a position of equality with saved Jews)
Ephesians 3:10 This body, the church is the creation through which the manifold (multicolored) wisdom of God (especially regarding His wise plan of salvation) is made known to the angelic hosts.
Ephesians 3:15; 3:16 Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him Who is the head, Christ, from Whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (The whole body grows together with a growth from God, but each individual part has to function properly.)
Implied - all the members of the body are genuine believers.
These descriptions serve to explain in part how the Spirit created unity ("unity of the Spirit")
(2) ONE SPIRIT
What has Paul taught about “one Spirit” in Ephesians?
Ephesians 1:13 Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (after believing the message of truth, the gospel of salvation)
Ephesians 1:14 The Spirit is a pledge (down payment) assuring our inheritance in the day of redemption, when God changes our corruptible bodies in incorruptible bodies (glorification) He is the divine engagement ring, as it were, who guarantees that every believer will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).
Ephesians 2:18 Both groups in one Spirit have access to the Father through the Son
Ephesians 2:22 Jew and Gentile are being built together (the church is an ongoing "building program" until the last saint is brought into the body) into a dwelling of God in the Spirit
Ephesians 3:5 The Spirit reveals the deep things of God, particularly the mystery of the church. Man cannot discover what God has hidden. God reveals truth through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth
Ephesians 3:16 The Spirit strengthens believers with power in our inner man
Ephesians 4:30 The Spirit can be grieved. He has sealed us for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 5:18 The Spirit is to fill (control the conduct) of believers
Ephesians 6:17 The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit
Ephesians 6:18 We are to pray at all times in the Spirit, inspired by, empowered by and led by the Spirit to pray in the will of God. (To the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit).
Romans 8:9 Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ - those who belong to Christ have the Holy Spirit. If a person does not have the Holy Spirit, then that one does not belong to Christ because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ.
John 14:15-17 The Spirit is our Helper (Comforter) Who is with us forever. He is the Spirit of Truth Who abides with and in believers (this is the promise of the New Covenant)
John 14:25-26 The Spirit will teach us all things and bring to our remembrance Jesus' words (cf Paul's prayer for enlightenment - the Spirit is not mentioned but clearly from Jesus' declaration, the Spirit is the One Who enlightens).
John 16:12-15 The Spirit discloses what is to come and glorifies Christ. His ministry of disclosing truth to us is reiterated (twice)
1Corinthians 12:13 All (note all is mentioned twice) believers were (past tense = completed action not will be at some future time) baptized into one body by one Spirit (speaks of identification and union with the body of Christ) and all regardless of race or social status are nourished by Him.
How will these truths about One Spirit preserve unity?
He is our Resident Teacher who will teach us all things and bring to our remembrance the truths regarding unity. For example, He may convict us us a prideful spirit (opposite the call for "all humility").
The Spirit also strengthens us to walk worthy of our calling, the characteristics of this walk (humility, gentleness, etc) being those that foster preservation of the unity of the Spirit.
(3) ONE HOPE OF YOUR CALLING
Ephesians 1:18 Paul prayed for us to be enlightened to the truth about the hope of our calling
This hope (elpis) is an absolute assurance that God will do good to us in the future.
See 1John 3:2-3
In Romans Paul explains that because of Christ's death, burial and resurrection we have...
(4) ONE LORD
Ephesians 4:5 What is the meaning of the Greek word for Lord?
Kurios = signifies one who has sovereign power and absolute authority. It is the one who has absolute ownership and uncontested power.
In the context of Christ's body, composed of Jews and Gentiles, He has the right of sovereign power and authority.
Paul's point is that there ought to be unity among believers, because they all have one Lord. There is not a different Lord for the Jew and another for the Greek! He has the right to rule over one as much as over another.
Barnes explains the power to promote unity in the recognition of one Lord writing
Ro 10:9 Confession of Jesus as Lord and belief in one's heart that God has raised Him from the dead will result in salvation
He is Lord of any and all who believe - anyone who believes in Him will not be disappointed.
Ro 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him
Ro 10:13 Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Acknowledgment of His Lordship should serve to promote unity.
One day everyone will confess that He is Lord, but now only the body of Christ does.
Have you confessed Jesus as Lord?
(5) ONE FAITH
Ephesians 4:5 What does "one faith" mean?
There are two possibilities, one referring to the object of faith (often termed "the faith" see study), the body of doctrine which is believed, especially the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The other interpretation is that one faith refers to the subjective aspect of faith, the placing of one's trust in the gospel of Christ.
It is difficult to be dogmatic but in the next section (Ephesians 4:7-16) which is discussing diversity in the context of unity, Paul refers to "the faith" which in that context is clearly the body of revealed truth which is believed. (See note Ephesians 4:13).
The common ground for all believers is the truth that they believe. If we all believe the same thing for salvation, then why should we not be diligent to preserve unity among those who are saved?
(6) ONE BAPTISM
Ephesians 4:5 To what does "one baptism" refer?
1Corinthians 12:13 teaches that all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, are baptized into one body when they believe. Here the word baptized conveys the idea of union or identification with. This is not an experience after conversion, nor is it an experience the believer should pray for or seek after.
Although some commentators (including those I highly respect like John MacArthur) interpret one baptism as referring to water baptism, this issue (sprinkle, dunk or pour? etc) has hardly been a source of unity over the centuries since the church was born. It seems unlikely that this is Paul's intent, but one has to be careful not to be too dogmatic.
I like the way Dr Wiersbe handles one baptism writing that...
(7) ONE GOD
Ephesians 4:6 What is the last “one” Paul mentions?
One God and Father of all believers, Jew or Gentile.
What do the following passages teach about One God?
Deut 6:4 The LORD is God and He is one God (monotheism) not many gods like the idolatrous nations. This is the famous "Shema" (from the Hebrew word for to hear = Shamac the first word in the passage in Deut 6:4) The "Shema" was recited by devout Jews once in the morning and once in the evening and was the bedrock truth of Judaism - one God! Now Paul is saying that the "Jewish Shema" is not just for the Jews but is also applicable to the Gentiles (many of whom who undoubtedly had formerly worshiped many gods - polytheism), for He is also their God, and this truth would foster a spirit of unity over divisiveness.
Deut 32:39 There is no god but God and He is absolutely sovereign over life and death
Isaiah 43:10 Israel was to believe in God and then be His witness that there is no other God before or after Him.
Mark 12:29 Jesus said that the foremost command was the Shema and that they were to love Him with all their heart and soul and mind and strength (Mk 12:30).
God has a family which is entered into by faith in Christ. The children of the same family having the same father and are devoted to him will be united among themselves. So too in the spiritual family. God shows no partiality in His family, for He is the Father of all, both Jew and Greek, etc, and acknowledgement of this truth should aid preservation of family unity.
Believers are not to love many gods like the pagans but only one God. When we do, it will draw us closer to each other and minimize strife, discord and division, instead preserving the unity of the Spirit.
John 5:44 Jesus acknowledged that there is only one God. The main point of this important verse is that the Jews were more interested in the approval of their fellow men than they were of God's approval. The principle is enduring -- as long as a person is afraid of what others will say or do, he or she will not be saved. Truth faith is impossible when one seeks the wrong object - man not God (Jesus)!
Romans 3:29; 3:30 (Note that in this section of Romans Paul is especially speaking to the Jews who were reading this letter) Paul anticipated the question a pious Jew would ask "Is He the God of the Jews only?" Paul's answer is that since God is one, He is the same God of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul states that God justifies both Jew and Gentile the same way, through faith. God does not justify the Jews one way (by the Law) and the Gentiles by another way (through faith). The gospel presents God as God of both Jews and Gentiles.
1Cor 8:6 Is a powerful and clear affirmation that God the Father and God the Son are in essence co-equal. Jesus is one with the Father.
John 17:20-23: What did Jesus pray the night before He was crucified?
Jesus prayed for believers to be perfected in unity like the Father and He are (the supreme example of unity) with the specific purpose that the world might believe that the Father had sent Jesus. How are you doing beloved? How is your local church doing? Are the lost drawn to salvation by the behavior and/or reputation of your local church?
Are you being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
Are you walking in humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance (in love) or has the Spirit of God convicted you of some lapse in one of these areas of your walk?
Do you accept the "seven one's" that form the doctrinal foundation of unity or are have you divisive over one or more of these doctrines?