An Overview of Ephesians

EphesiansThe book of Ephesians is a favorite among many Christians[1]. Its rich blend of salvation theology and Christian practice, carefully balanced over six chapters, offers to readers a full-orbed view of the Christian life. It boasts some of the most profound and enriching statements regarding the predestination and election of Christians, as well as conceivably the greatest passage on the meaning and wonder of marriage ever penned. Perhaps it is for this reason that Ephesians is considered “one of the most influential documents in the Christian Church.”[2]

Paul begins his epistle to the Ephesians with a sentence of unparalleled length and theological content. Nowhere in any of his other epistles does Paul carry on as he does in Ephesians 1:1-14, heaping phrase upon phrase defining and describing the fullness of God’s work in salvation. It is here, in Ephesians 1:1-14, that Paul lays the foundation and groundwork for the rest of the book. Paul takes the reader back before the foundation of the world to behold a God of sovereign and free mercy, choosing whom He will save (vv.4-5) and in time, bringing those chosen to the knowledge of the truth (1:13) and sealing them with the Holy Spirit (1:14).

After confessing to the Ephesians that he has been offering thanks and praise to God for their faith in the truth (vv.15-16a), he informs them that he continues to pray that God will open their eyes to spiritually understand the greatness of the inheritance they stand to receive (vv.16b-19). He also prays that they will comprehend the power to which they have access—the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and sat him above all rule and authority (vv.20-23).

In 2:1-10, Paul details how the Ephesians were brought to a knowledge of the truth – namely, through God, in his mercy, granting them spiritual life, during a time and despite the fact that they were dead in their trespasses and sins. The remainder of chapter two explains that not only are Jews welcomed into relationship with God, but the Gentiles as well, although these Gentiles were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12).

In chapter three, Paul reminds his readers that God was pleased to reveal to him and the other apostles the mystery of the gospel although it had not been revealed in times past. In verses 14-21, Paul provides yet another prayer, this time praying that God would provide them with inner spiritual strength and enable them to comprehend the immeasurable greatness of Christ’s love.

Chapters 4-6 contain the practical implications of the glorious salvation revealed in the previous three chapters. “Therefore,” Paul writes, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” (v.1). The remaining text is a collection of practical instruction for Christ-exalting living, the goal of which—at least partially—is to grow up into maturity, no longer being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (v.14).

One who has been raised from the dead should live, not as they used to —as dead men— but as new creatures that have come to truly know their Creator. This kind of life is a life of love, purity, honesty, hard work, wholesome and edifying speech, wisdom and joy (4:17-5:20).

It is also a life that properly understands relationships within the body of Christ. In particular, Christians should understand that there are certain relationships that require an order of leadership and submission (5:21). The first example where this should occur is marriage (5:22-33). The husband is to love and lead his wife as Christ loves and leads His own Bride, the Church. The wife is to gladly submit to the loving leadership of her husband, just as the Church is to happily submit herself to the leadership of Christ. In a similar way, children are to joyfully obey their parents (6:1-4) and slaves their masters (6:5-9).

Finally, this glorious salvation, Paul tells us, will not be without its trials and troubles. One of the primary foes the Christian will face is his new enemy, Satan, and all the demonic powers of the spiritual realm. Therefore, the Christian must take up the armor of God and stand firm against the wiles of the devil (6:10-19). It is immediately after this exhortation that Paul brings his epistle to a close as he informs the Ephesians of a brother, Tychicus, whom Paul will be sending along in his stead. Paul ends the letter with “grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (6:24).


[1] Peter T. O’Brien in the PNTC: The Letter to the Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), page 1, reminds us that not the least of one of these Christians was John Calvin who confessed that Ephesians was his favorite.

[2]Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 1.

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