Lesson One: Overview:
Someone has said that Ephesians is the “Owner’s Manual of the New Testament.” And while it is true that no one book is more important than another, there is a sense in which Ephesians is “special.” It is a “seed plot” for almost every doctrine in the New Testament: the doctrine of the church, the doctrine of holiness, or “sanctification,” the details of spiritual maturity, the basic principles of marriage and the family, the power of Satan against the believer, and the believer’s armor against him. In fact, one of the key words of the book is “riches,” as we shall see as we move through the book. So, needless to say, we are in for some real “adventures in Bible Study in the weeks ahead!
But in this study we want to do what we would do with any good book that we are thinking about reading; look it over and find out about the subject and the author, and so forth. Now the first thing you need to know about this book is that technically speaking is not really a book at all; it, like most of the “books” of the New Testament is a letter written by one of the Apostles of Christ. These Apostles were the original 12 disciples whom Jesus had trained while He was on earth. After Judas committed suicide following his betrayal of Christ, the remaining disciples chose a replacement for him as recorded in Acts 1:21,22 based on the following criteria: He had to have been taught by the Lord Jesus Himself, and He had to have seen the risen Christ. A man by the name of Matthias was chosen, but Mattathias is never mentioned again in the New Testament record, and most Bible scholars think that Paul was his replacement, although there is no mention of that in the New Testament. Paul had seen the resurrected Christ in His appearance to him on the road to Emmaus as recorded in Acts chapter 9, and many Bible scholars think that during period of time when Paul was in Arabia he was being taught by Christ in preparation for his ministry as an apostle. And of course, there is the fact that Paul often referred to himself as an apostle, as we see right here in the opening words of this book.
Now with that background, the first thing we want to think about is the name of the book. Look at chapter 1, verse 1.
“Paul, an Apostle of Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus.”
So, as you may already know, this is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christians who had formed a church in the city of Ephesus. So of the name of the book comes from the name of its recipients, as is true of all of the books written by the Apostle Paul.
Another thing to notice about this book is that its recipients are called “saints” here in verse 1. Now the word “saint” comes from the Greek word “hagios,” but it is not referring to the “saints” that we hear about in the Roman Catholic church. This word actually was a very common word in the Greek world. It basically means “devoted to the gods” and it applied to the temples that the Roman idol worshippers used for their worship. Interestingly enough this word actually describes what we as Christians ought to be. These buildings were used for nothing but worship
Services but they still performed all of the functions of a building: shelter, usable space, and so forth. Like those temples, we should be “devoted to our God,” even though we go about our daily lives doing the things that other humans do. This is more important than it might seem at first glance. When God designed the plan of salvation He didn’t send one of the angels to give the message of salvation to human beings, rather He sent His Son in human form. And that set in motion the pattern for the spread of the gospel from that day till this; person to person. People in the advertising business recognized long ago that is by far the most effective method of spreading good news. The most effective evangelist is a person who is a friend or neighbor or co-worker; someone living in the same place and circumstances as the people around him or her who is “devoted to his or her God.
Another thing we always want to know about a book that we are interested in is the aim, or purpose of the book and we find that in chapter 1, verse 3.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
The aim of this book is to instruct believers as to the true nature of the church. Now someone might ask, “Where do you get the church out of this verse?” But “the church” is the body of individual believers in Christ. Look at chapter 1, verses 22, 23.
And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
So in this letter Paul is going to outline all the spiritual blessings for the individuals who make up the church. This emphasizes the personal nature of the church – you and I and the believers around us are the church! And notice something else here: these blessings are already ours. Look at verse 3 again “. . . Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings”
Peter tells us the same thing in II Peter 1:3
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.
That brings us, us then, to the next major thing we want to think about: the frame or outline of the book.
There are many ways to present the material of this book, but one way to outline it is in terms of six metaphors that Paul presents. First, there is the church as a body in chapter 1. We have already looked at chapter 1, verse 22. But verses 1 through 14 show us who the participants in the body are, and that is all believers, regardless of background. Look at some of the descriptions: “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” in 1:4; “predestined to be adopted by Jesus Christ” in 1:5; “made acceptable (and accepted) because of Jesus Christ” in 1:6; “having received an understanding of the mystery of His will” in 1:9; and “given an eternal inheritance in 1:11.” And all of this because we have trusted in Christ!
For anyone who has issues with self worth this is wonderful good news. We will be looking at this aspect of our salvation in more detail as we come to it in the course of our study, but for now let me ask you if you sometimes think no one cares about you? Stop and read through these possessions again and realize that you are of great importance to the most important person in the universe. And with all of that in mind it easy to understand that the purpose of the body is to fulfill the intentions of the head of the body. The only time a human body doesn’t do that is when some nerve cell is artificially stimulated, as in a “knee jerk reaction.”
Then in chapter 2 we find the second analogy – the church as a temple. This is described in verses 19 through 22 of chapter 2:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
This is God’s building project: human bodies in which He can dwell – your body is the real “sanctuary” and “temple.” And the purpose of this “building” is that He will have a place to be “at home.” How much can He be “at home” in your heart? Verses 1 through 18 of chapter 2 tell us how He is shaping and preparing the “building materials,” to be usable in the temple.
Then in chapter 3 the metaphor is the church as a mystery. Now many churches may seem pretty mysterious to some people, but that is not the idea in this chapter. The word “mystery” is a translation of the Greek word “musterion” which is a word that deals with secrets revealed only to a select group of people (secret societies, etc.) And its use here indicates that the true nature and purpose of the church can only be understood by real believers.
Then in chapter 4 we have the church as a new man. The concept is summarized in chapter 4, verses 20 through 24.
But you have not so learned Christ, if in deed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off concerning your former conduct, the old man, which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.
And the purpose of this new man is to put a new ministry into effect. Look at verses 13 through 15:
Till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;
And this is accomplished by means of teaching pastors. Look at verses 11 and 12:
And He himself gave some to be Apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Then in chapter 5 we have the church as a bride. The principle is summarized in verses 25 through 27.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having wrinkle of spot or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Verse 25 reminds us once again of Christ’s love for us. He literally gave up everything for us. And then notice especially verse 27 – “that He might present it to Himself.” Have you ever stopped to think that your devotional time is as precious to the Lord as it is to you?
Finally, in chapter 6 we see the church as a soldier. The thought is summarized in verses 11 through 13:
Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle flesh and blood, but against principalities, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
The verses before these list various kinds of sins that can occur every day of the week – disobedience of children, provoking children to wrath, lack of submission of authority, and so forth. And surprisingly enough, the construction of the chapter shows that all of these things are attacks from Satan!
Fortunately enough, the armor against these attacks is listed in verses 14 through 20. But the key to it all is in verse 13: “and having done all, to stand.” It is not enough to know about the armor, what is important is to put it on and use it regularly.
Perhaps the best summary and conclusion of this whole study is in chapter 4 verse 1:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that walk worthy of the calling with which you are called.
So as you can see there is a wealth of practical experience ahead of us. I hope you will approach the teachings of this little book with expectancy and a desire for the Lord make all these things a reality in your life.