The structure of Ephesians
outlined thematically and chiastically
by J. Philip Scranton
For years the book of Ephesians seemed to be holding elusive secrets from me. The first problem is most clearly seen in the second chapter. If Israel as a nation was cast away, and Paul was the apostle to the nations, then why does Paul join believers from among the nations to the citizenship of Israel (2:19)? Why does he not join believing Israelites to a Gentile body?
Secondly, the context of chapter 2 speaks of the nations as being outsiders from the promise covenants and citizenship of Israel. This sounds like Paul is still living in the OT situation. But while he speaks of Israel with this OT terminology, he defines the blessings of his evangel in chapter 1 in terms that do not match up with the OT expectation.
The third problem I had was determining who is being spoken to in the Ephesian letter. Throughout the first two chapters Paul is continually volleying back and forth between us (first person plural pronouns) and you (second person plural pronouns). The questions: "Who is this us?" and, "Who is this you? are seldom asked. Instead we tend to take it for granted that everything the apostle says is aimed directly at believers today-if Paul says us, we think he is including us today with him, and if he says you, we think he is speaking directly to us today. The problem with this approach is that Paul distinguishes between the us and the you, so we miss his perspective if we fail to identify them. The identity of us and you should be determined by the context of the book.
Ephesians is written to two groups of believers: (1) believing Israelites-the saints; and, (2) the faithful, or believers from among the nations. Both of these groups are listed in 1:1 as it is translated in the Authorized Version (AV). But the variety of interpretations and translations of this verse among the abundant versions available today hides the fact of the two groups from most believers.
And if these problems were not enough, we have a fourth problem because there are also verses where the pronouns are universal, referring to all the recipients of the letter, as opposed to some passages where the pronouns refer to their specific group. Where is the resolution of these problems?
We will use the context of the letter to resolve these problems, and also to discover that Paul uses the different pronouns to create a structure in which he repeatedly joins, separates and rejoins two different groups.
Did Paul receive revelations and a special evangel of grace? (see my evangel: Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8; and special revelations: Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:6-10; 9:17; Gal. 1:10-2:10; 2 Cor. 12:1-7; Eph. 3:1-11; Col. 1:23-2:3; 1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Tim.1:8-11; Tit. 1:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:14-16). He did. And if he did, would he not first extend it to his own people, Israelites? ("to the Jew first, and to the Greek as well” Rom. 1:16; 2:9, 10; Rom. 10:1-4; Gal. 2:1-2;). And if he is the apostle to the nations, would he not go to the nations and seek to join the believers of the nations to those of Israel? This is precisely what we see him doing in the first two chapters of Ephesians. Indeed, his method of separating and joining the two groups repeatedly makes it all the more emphatic.
The vocabulary of Ephesians emphasizes this theme of two groups being joined into one body by its use of so many words-mostly compounds-possessing the idea of together:
In addition to the use of these joint/together words, the idea of unity and oneness pervades the epistle. The word unity (henotEs) occurs only twice in the NT, and both occurrences are in Ephesians. The word one (heis and mia-masc. and fem.) occurs 16 times. The word all (pas) is found many times in the epistle and often in the sense of all the members in unity. The words one another (allElOn) occur 4 times, all with a sense of unity. Also the words members (melos) and body (sOma) occur 2 and 9 times. Without mentioning phrases, it is obvious that the uniting of different groups is a strong theme of the book.
The outline of the text is given in the Concordant Version (CV), with the exception of 1:1, which is from the Authorized (AV), or King James Version (KJV). It should be noted that any capitalization of the word Spirit in the text is mine. The CV has chosen generally not to capitalize the word spirit and let the reader determine where it uses the word with reference to the Spirit of God, and where it uses the word in other senses. In some passages it is difficult to tell. I do not wish to give any impression of lack of respect for the Spirit of God, so I have made changes where I thought proper. The CV's explanation for their practice may be found on pp. 619-20 of the Concordant Literal New Testament.
The purpose of this study is to show the literary structure of Ephesians and the purpose behind its structure. Ephesians has a very strong and definite form, and seeing the design of its structure is helpful to understanding the book as a whole. We will only be concerned with the text, not with the additional academic issues that fill most commentaries. It is often suggested, perhaps correctly, that Ephesians was a circular letter. Being a letter designed to answer some of the most common and significant questions in early Christianity, one would expect a straightforward and unmistakably clear treatise.
However, what we have instead is an ingenious presentation which answers the critical questions, not only with statements, but also with illustrations embedded in the literary form of the letter. The modern English reader is not accustomed to look below the surface for such intricacies, but when they are seen they increase the impact of the letter's message.
The early Christians had many questions, questions like: What is going on with the chosen nation that rejected their Messiah? Have we misunderstood the O.T.? How can Pentecost be the fulfillment of the O.T. prophecies when so many of the gifts have ceased and many prophecies remain unfulfilled? Should we interpret everything in the Hebrew Scriptures as only having some sort of spiritual fulfillment? Should the Gentiles be circumcised? Should they keep the law? Should they keep part of the law? Are believers of all nations equal? It was imperative that questions like these be answered.
The second chapter also raises some unique questions that can only be answered by understanding the pronoun problem. Paul's message of grace is generally understood as a separation from historical Judaism, and many Jews followed it, leaving the old behind. But in chapter two, instead of saying that believers of the Jews are joined to believers of the Gentiles, Paul says that believing Gentiles are no longer "guests and sojourners," but they have become "fellow-citizens" of the believing Jews. So how can they be fellow-citizens without even living in the same country? And how can Paul speak so much about the Spirit of God being in believers when the prophecies of the out-pouring of the Spirit in the OT have not yet been fulfilled? We are knocking on the door here of what Paul calls the secret or mystery.
A third problem with the letter is that chapter and verse divisions and English paragraph divisions tend to hide the true contextual divisions of the letter. Everyone knows that the first three chapters of Ephesians pertain to teaching and the last three chapters to conduct. But that is only one feature of the book's structure. Of primary importance is the fact that the entire book of Ephesians flows out of Paul's prayer for believers in chapter 1. Paul prayed that God would grant them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of God as their glorious Father. Then he made three petitions. The understanding of these three petitions and the realization of God as our Father of glory are mutually indispensable. The petitions are:(1) what is the expectation of the glorious Father's calling?
(2) What are the glorious riches enjoyed by those who become part of the glorious Father's allotment?
(3) What is the transcendent greatness of the glorious Father's power for believers?
As we come to know: (1) who we are, (2) where we are going, (3) and how we should live, then we will be realizing God as the Father of glory. These three petitions sum up the whole book. Following is an outline of the letter's thematic structure. Details that identify the structure will be addressed in the outline of each section.
1. Introduction: 1:1-2
The introduction and the conclusion are very short, so for the purpose of viewing the general structure they could be dropped. That leaves us with 12 items, and these are easily divided into four groups of three. Items 4, 5, and 6 are indented to show that they comprise the focal area out of which the whole letter issues. So if we learn Paul's three petitions based on realizing God as our glorious Father, the outline is nearly in our grasp. These three petitions are presented (2,3,7), explained (8,9,10) and applied (11,12,13) to our conduct. The odd group of three points (4,5,6): joins the believing Gentiles to the Jewish believers; states Paul's prayer; and illustrates God's power in Christ-this third topic being an outflow of the evangel-something that is very important, but something with which we should already be quite familiar.
That is the basic structure of the book. It is not the structure itself that is so cleverly conceived but rather the added subtleties that Paul employs. One of Paul's emphases or themes is that believing Israelites and Gentiles are now joined, by the message of his evangel of grace, into one body. Paul joins them, not only by direct statements, but he also joins them repeatedly by the simple use of pronouns as he proceeds through the letter. He is repeatedly joining "us believing Jews" and "you believing Gentiles" into an "us together," or a "both," or a universal "we," or an "anyone," or even a "completed… entire complement of God." We will see that the contexts of defining and explaining and applying the truth of Paul's three petitions provide the fabric for illustrating this unity over and over.
Another unusual feature is that Paul defines two of the prayer's petitions before stating the prayer. This too is part of his methodology of separating and joining the two groups of believers into one body.
This structural separating and joining of Jewish and Gentile believers is most predominant in the first two chapters of the book. It can easily be identified by the use of first and second person plural pronouns. So significant is the use of these pronouns that they could be said to form another division of the book. If we consider the first three chapters as doctrinal instruction, we can also divide these chapters into two sections: (1) 1:3-2:22, except for one variation, uses only plural first and second person pronouns; (2) 3:1-ff., beginning in chapter 3 Paul begins the frequent use of first person singular pronouns-the apostle begins his direct instruction. The only occurrence of first person singular pronouns in the first section (in one verse) comes in what we will soon label as Paul's "I-you" statement.
To Whom Was Ephesians Written? Or, Who Are You and We?
So that there is no misunderstanding of terminology, when we speak of Gentiles we simply imply non-Jewish people-people not related to God through the Sinai covenant. The context of the letter is unmistakably clear that Paul uses you to refer to believing Gentiles. "Remember that once you the nations in flesh-who are termed 'Uncircumcision' by those termed 'Circumcision,' in flesh, made by hands" (2:11). And in 3:1 he says: "I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you, the nations." Examples could be multiplied, but these are clear and should suffice.
Now do we refer only to Paul and his associates who were bringing this gospel of grace, or to a larger group? It refers to a larger group-believers of the Jewish nation, which includes Paul. In the introduction Paul's address reads: "to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus" (1:1 AV). And in 3:8-9 he says: "To me, less than the least of all saints, was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret which has been concealed from the eons in God." When Paul says that it was granted to him to "enlighten all," he clearly reaches out beyond the realm of believing Gentiles to all believers in Christ. So the audience to whom he writes is all believers, both Jewish and Gentile. The confusion comes in if we fail to realize that he alternates, sometimes addressing Jewish believers and sometimes Gentile believers. Whether we use the term Jew or Israelite, we refer to descendants of the 12 tribes of Jacob, and not a specific group within that nation, other than the distinction that we are generally speaking of believers-those with faith in Christ.
Paul was called to his office of apostleship later in the N.T. ministry. The apostles of Christ had already been ministering and leading an ecclesia in which Jews were predominant. This is important, because his message relates to a later time in the Pentecostal ministry and to conditions that were changing.
We conclude that the we's, us's and our's refer primarily to believing Jews, and the you's and your's refer to believing Gentiles. Confusion may still arise if we fail to realize that the structure of the letter brings the two groups into unity. When the point of unity is reached, Paul freely uses the first person pronoun as a universal we or us. Then, after reaching the unity, he divides them again so that the we's are Jewish as opposed to Gentile you's. Paul does this so that he can begin from a different perspective and then join them again. This is where the outline of the text comes in. We will define this joining so that it can be easily distinguished when personal pronouns are limited and when they are universal.
Who Does Paul First Address?
If one takes the time to read the first verse of Ephesians in a variety of translations, he will probably find more variation in renderings and terminology than in any other first verse of Paul's letters. I am not speaking of the variation that has to do with the presence or absence of the word Ephesus, but of the variation in the rendering of the words saints, believers (or faithful) and the word and that comes between them. To the modern English reader the first two of these words are redundant. To us a believer, or faithful one, is one who is a saint. This has become the prevalent current conception. But Paul's use of the word here is clearly different from current use.
In the first century and before, the Israelite nation was the saints, the holy ones who were set apart for God's service (Deut. 7:6; 33:3; Ps. 31:23; 37:28; 50:5). Their covenant with God placed them in that position, and the use of the Psalter in worship made the term a common designation. This is the historical background meaning behind Paul's use of the term. But how does Paul use the term? First, Paul's idea of the term saints is in full agreement with the idea of those who are separated to God for divine service. Second, since he is writing to believers and not addressing unbelieving Jews, it seems he does not apply this term indiscriminately to all Israelites. In some passages this point can be debated, but overall it appears that he reserves its use for Israelites who believe in Jesus Christ. Circumcision appears to be his term for Jews without regard to faith in Christ (we realize that in some contexts this statement may also be debated).
In 2:19 he said: "no longer are you [believing Gentiles] guests and sojourners, but are fellow-citizens of the saints and belong to God's family." In order for the believing Gentiles to become fellow-citizens of the saints, the saints must be a group to which the Gentiles did not previously belong. This verifies our understanding of the term so far. But another question remains: Does becoming a fellow-citizen with the saints make one a saint? In the sense of being separated to God for service, the Gentile believers are saints. But we need to be careful of putting this present day definition on Paul's first century use of the word. In Paul's day, saints was a term for the Israelites.
There are some contexts where Paul may seem to speak of both believing Jews and Gentiles as saints. And there are also contexts where his mention of saints clearly refers to Jewish people. This probably reflects the fact that most early believers were Jewish. It will be sufficient to know that both groups, believing Jews and believing Gentiles, were, by this document of Scripture we call Ephesians, becoming a new humanity without racial distinctions. We would probably be more in line with Paul's thinking if believers today were called the new humanity. Still we cannot ignore the historical process of coming to that condition. Although believing Gentiles received the Spirit of God and were as fully sanctified as believing Jews (1 Cor. 1:30; etc.), in most cases the N.T. term saints (hoi hagioi) will be found to apply to Jewish believers.
This brings us to an important point: Ephesians 1:1 is being addressed to two groups of believers. If it is understood this way, then it finds solid agreement with the rest of the letter. If it is not understood this way, we must ask why Paul writes to two groups of believers but only addresses one of them in his greeting. There is nothing strained in the Authorized Version, and it reads:
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
Our intention is for this verse to be understood as follows: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints [believing Jews] which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful [other believing ones - Gentiles] in Christ Jesus." If we understand the first verse this way, it helps to prepare us for the contrasting of two groups that arises immediately in the letter. It helps to prepare us for verse three to be directed only to part of the recipients. The CV is different and reads:
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God,
The definite article, the, is rendered who (as the textual marking in the version indicates), and the conjunction, and, is changed to also, a common variant for and. It seems that the CV understands the word saints to refer to Jewish people, otherwise there would be no need to say that these saints were also believers. The problem with this interpretation is that Paul's introduction then would be addressing only believing Jews. If he only addresses believing Jews then he would be failing to address the group of whom he claims to be the apostle. If the CV understands saints to mean any believers, then the last phrase of the verse is simply redundant-"to the believers who are also believers in Christ Jesus."
The CV of 1 Corinthians shows a straightforward presentation of two groups in its address: "...to the ecclesia of God which is in Corinth, hallowed in Christ Jesus, called saints, together with all in every place who are invoking the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). Here the two groups are: (1) called saints, and (2) all who are invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours. The question begs to be asked here, "are some saints not called?" But if the word saints refers to Jewish people, then all is clear. The called saints would be Jewish people who were called-they were believers. Notice Paul's additional statement to clarify that Jesus Christ is the Lord of both groups he addresses-"both theirs and ours." Paul's term called saints means believing Jews. (see also Romans 1:7)
The AV gives no hint about who it understands the saints to be here in Ephesians 1:1, and that must be gained from the context of the letter. Apparently it was so well understood in the first century that no explanation was needed. I reject the rendering of the CV on this first verse of the letter for the reasons given. But I favor the greater consistency of the CV in its vocabulary and will use it for outlining the book.
The word faithful identifies a group other than saints in verse 1. In verse 13 you (Gentiles) who are faithing (or believing) have received the divinely endowed proof of possessing our (the saints) allotment. And in verse 15 Paul prays for those with this faith, and for the saints as well. Paul maintains his distinction.
We have established that we find two groups addressed in v. 1: the you-group is Gentiles and the we-group is Jews, or Israelites. Immediately someone will then ask if the you in verse 2 applies Paul's invocation of grace only to the Gentiles. Obviously not Paul just mentioned both groups in verse 1 and invokes grace on them all. The you of v. 2 is universal and is part of the opening of the letter. But in verse 3 and following, where Paul restricts himself to addressing we, or, us, he is speaking to one group at a time.
Ephesians 1:1-2 with 6:23-24
A1 1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: [AV]
We place the opening and closing of the letter together to illustrate what will take place in the letter. The two groups in A1 become the brethren of A2, and the B's reiterate the invocation of grace on them all.
The Opening Structure of Paul's Letters
At this point we would like to take a broad look at the openings of Paul's letters. When it came to writing letters, Paul was a creature of habit. That is good news for us, because his habits will help us see that something is special and different about the way he wrote the letter to the Ephesians.
All the N.T. books written by Paul were letters that he sent to various churches or individuals. All of these letters begin with a very definite format. Only in a few cases is there any variation in form. Despite a small amount of variation, they all contain three basic elements that always occur in the same order.
(1) First is Paul's greeting in which he introduces himself and sometimes a coworker such as Timothy. He mentions his relationship of service to Christ and that he came into this position through God's will or purpose. Finally Paul mentions the recipients of the letter. Following are the verses in each letter that are occupied by the first element of Paul's greeting:
We call attention briefly to two references: Romans 1:1-7a and Titus 1:1-4. These passages are noticeably longer than Paul's norm. The introduction to Romans contains the gospel in a nutshell. When Paul speaks of his relationship to Christ he adds a number of phrases that are descriptive of Christ's work. By doing this he gives a mini-introduction to the gospel, which is the basic theme of the whole letter. Titus is very similar. There Paul adds some extra words about devoutness and our expectation-ideas relevant to the message of that letter.
(2) The second element of Paul's greeting is a statement that is repeated nearly verbatim in all his letters: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ." As a literary structure, this invocation of God's blessings on the readers almost takes the nature of a line drawn between the introduction and the third element. The references for the second element are:
The only variation of any significance is that in Galatians Paul attaches a statement about the purpose and fullness of deliverance that comes to us in Christ's sacrifice. Clearly this relates to the problems the Galatians faced with Jews who wanted the Galatian believers to be circumcised. It is a brief precursor of a major theme of the letter: grace. If Paul could not defend the evangel he brought to them, his ability to invoke God's grace upon them would be in question, so he combines a brief explanation with the invocation.
(3) We are going to call the third element of Paul's greetings an "I-you" statement. In the "I-you" statement Paul expresses his concern for the situation of the recipient(s) of the letter. This third element is the launching pad from which we are projected into the body of the letter. This third element links back to the first two, because it tells the reason Paul writes to the recipients, and it shows his motives for invoking God's grace and peace upon them.
The third element will have more variation in content from letter to letter because it is directly related to the circumstances of the recipients. We will give some examples of the "I-you" statements:
Romans 1:8 "First, indeed, I am thanking my God through Jesus concerning all of you, that your faith is being announced"
If we look at the verse numbers above for all of these "I-you" statements, it is easily seen that two stand out from the rest. In every letter of Paul except two, the "I-you" statement immediately follows his invocation of grace and peace.
In 2 Corinthians there is a 20 verse jump from the invocation of grace and peace to the "I-you" statement. The reason for the jump is so Paul can insert a passage concerning his own personal experience. He begins the insertion by pronouncing a blessing on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for using the trial he underwent to accomplish a work of blessing and consolation in him. Paul had endured some hardship that caused him to delay his return visit to Corinth. Meanwhile this delay gave time for speculation among the Corinthians to grow a variety of rumors and even accusations about the reason for the apostle's absence. Previously Paul had given strong rebuke to the ecclesia for allowing indecent conduct among its members. Some in the church criticized Paul and challenged his authority. In this opening paragraph Paul explained that God was using the experience of his hardship to enable him to identify with and better console those to whom he ministered. The theme of this opening paragraph surfaces repeatedly throughout the letter.
The other book with an addition between the invocation and the "I-you" statement is Ephesians. Verses 3-14 are an insertion into Paul's normal form, and they lay a foundation for much of what Paul will say in the letter. Like the insertion in 2 Corinthians, it begins with a blessing on God. Unlike 2 Corinthians, this insertion does not detail a personal experience of Paul. In Ephesians the insertion actually forms the basis for part of the "I-you" statement because it gives explanation for part of his prayer which the "I-you" statement introduces.
Since verses 3-14 are a variation from the normal order of Paul's writing, we can expect something unique about their content. We need not expect that he will immediately address all the intended recipients. Knowing these verses are preparatory helps us adjust to the first person plural pronouns (we, us and our) that meet us in verse 3 and carry us through verse 12. At verse 13 the second person plural (you) will come in and bring the Gentile believers into the blessings of verses 3-12, though Paul will continue to address them separately. And Paul's "I-you" statement in verse 15 initiates the prayer for the recipients of the letter to understand verses 3-12 and all that is implied in them.
We look at the things Paul says in these verses and we say, "Yes, that is the same, good old gospel stuff we have heard all our lives." But what would the Israelites who lived in Paul's day say when they heard or read these things? We are so far removed from the first century that it is quite difficult for us to see through the eyes of his original recipients.
Why Does Paul Start This Letter By Addressing Jews?
Paul begins immediately in verse 3 by speaking about God's blessings upon us believers of the Jews. Why does he do this? (1) The saints were the first group mentioned in his address (v. 1). (2) Jewish believers were the oldest and most numerous group in the faith. (3) They were the group who were expecting the Messiah on whom their salvation was based. (4) As we look at verses 3-12 additional reasons become apparent. There were so many changes that had taken place with the coming of Christ and His rejection, and there were so many incorrect ideas among believing Jews about Messiah and the kingdom (Lk 19:11; Matt. 21:42-44; 22:41-46; Acts 1:6; 2 Pet. 3:8-10) that Paul needed to begin by setting a new baseline. The believing Jews were depending upon their familiarity with the Hebrew Scriptures (OT), and there was a great deal of New Testament (NT) revelation that needed to revise and be incorporated into their thinking.
This is a simple and logical approach. Paul was about to unveil the new revelation of the joint body of Christ. Since God's secret purpose involved a change in who His people would be, it is only natural that Paul would start with the old chosen people-Israel-and then join the believing Gentiles to them. Paul says this very thing in chapter 2 when he says that believing Gentiles were becoming fellow citizens with the believing Israelites and both were "being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the capstone of the corner being Christ Jesus Himself" (2:20). He first establishes where the Jewish believers are, and then joins the Gentile believers to them. This is an echo of Paul's phrase in Romans: "to the Jew first, and to the Greek as well" (Rom. 1:16; 2:9, 10). Here is an answer to our earlier question: Why does Paul join the Gentiles to the Jews, since the Jews had to leave traditional Judaism? "God does not thrust away His people whom He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). God did thrust away the covenant nation as a whole because the nation as a whole did not have faith. But God kept His people with faith-the people He foreknew, and then added believers of the nations to them, making a new people, a new humanity. So first Paul moves the believing Jews out of traditional Judaism, giving them new revelation, and then he joins the believing Gentiles to them.
New Revelation Unveiled
1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
We have identified these first person plural pronouns to refer to Paul and believing Israelites. But the blessings in these verses are what we understand to be the characteristics of the evangel committed to Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. Why does the Gentile apostle start his letter by speaking to Israelite believers and giving them all of the blessings?
What we need to see is that these statements of blessing, except for one, are clearly not the blessings that were promised and prophesied for the Israelites in the OT. They are changed and modified. Let's take a closer look at them.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." To the orthodox Jew of the first century, this statement is blasphemy-it is flaming hot controversy. Why was Jesus crucified? He was crucified for claiming to be the Son of God. The high priest charged Him under oath before the living God to tell them if He was the Christ, the Son of God. And Jesus said, Yes, He was. The high priest tore his garments (which was a violation of the Torah) and called it blasphemy deserving of death. But three days later Christ's resurrection proved He truly was the Son of God. This is NT doctrine-not OT Israelite expectation.
We should also note that God is rarely called Father in the OT. Sometimes there were comments that God was a Father to widows and orphans, but such comments were only occasional and general. In the NT referring to God as Father is the norm. The revelation of the Son is simultaneously a tremendous revelation of God as Father. The position of being in Christ is the position of being a son to God.
"our Lord Jesus Christ" Here is a phrase that has a whole new meaning in the NT. The Israelites were expecting a Messiah and He would indeed be Lord, but the Lordship of Christ from heaven on believers is something different and unexpected. Israel was looking for a king to sit on the visible throne of their country and to be their Lord in the sense of being a political and religious leader.
"Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials" Here again is NT revelation. The Israelites to whom Paul speaks had been expecting the promised land to be the place of their citizenship and for their blessings to be physical-as in the prophecies of Isaiah and others-good health, peace and prosperity, leadership of the nations, abundant agriculture. Paul promises them none of those things but rather spiritual blessings in a celestial realm.
"according as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world" Ask a first century Israelite if he knew that he was chosen in the Messiah. He would tell you, "No, we were chosen in our father Abraham!" The idea of being chosen, even before the creation of humanity, was a foreign idea to the Israelites of the first century. This is not OT expectation.
"we to be holy and flawless in his sight" Hah! The Israelites knew enough about the law they were obligated to keep that flawless perfection was an impossibility. Justification and being counted holy and flawless in Christ is NT teaching. The OT prophecies of righteousness were dimly seen through a fog. Here Paul is making a surprising and emphatic statement.
"designated beforehand for the place of a son for Him through Christ Jesus" Now here is something that comes on the list of Israelite expectation-sonship. Paul said that the sonship pertained to the Israelites (Rom. 9:4), and in John 10 Christ quoted Psalm 82:6 to show them they were called sons of God. But that they were designated beforehand through the Messiah for this position is an update and upgrade on what they had known before. They considered their natural physical descent from Abraham the qualifying factor for their sonship. This is upgraded expectation.
"in accord with the delight of His will, for the laud of the glory of His grace" This would be puzzling to the first century Israelite. Their nation had long suffered under the rule of other nations because of their disobedience and stubbornness to God. They were under a covenant of law and were required to be obedient. But Paul is talking about sonship through the Messiah, and that this is according to God's grace and that it is something God delights in. The Israelites were deserving of the curse, which the nation at large was receiving in their Roman subjection, but the believing Israelites were under grace and in the position of God's delight. This is NT revelation, not OT expectation.
"we are having the deliverance through His blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the riches of His grace, which He lavishes on us" Here Paul says the Israelite believers are cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ which comes upon them through God's lavish grace. It does not depend on their baptism in water and repentance and performance of works, but on God's grace. This is NT revelation not OT expectation.
"in all wisdom and prudence making known to us the secret of His will" In 1 Cor. 2:6-10 Paul tells us that the wisdom of God's plan which included blessing to the world through the gift of His Son was not part of the OT revelation. It was kept secret. The reason it was kept secret is because the chiefs of this eon would not have crucified Christ if they had known it. Again, we have NT revelation.
"to have an administration of the complement of the eras to head up all in the Christ-both that in the heavens and that on the earth" Here again we have a difference with the OT expectation of the kingdom. The Israelites expected to be the head of the nations of the earth, but they did not have an expectation of being part of an administration that would also operate in the heavens. So now their citizenship is being changed to a heavenly one (Phil. 3:20-21). This is NT revelation, not OT expectation.
"...that we should be for the laud of His glory, who are pre-expectant in the Christ." The Israelites being pre-expectant in the Messiah-in Christ, means they had faith in the promises and prophecies and were expecting the Messiah to come and bring them a great salvation. These were the Israelites Paul called the foreknown ones in Romans 11. On the other hand, in those previous eras the Gentiles were apart from Christ, alienated from Israel's citizenship, nothing better than guests of the promise covenants, having no expectation, and without God in the world. By summing up these 10 verses with this statement, Paul drives it home that he is speaking directly to the believing Israelites. The Israelites were pre-expectant in the Messiah, but they did not know the degree to which their expectation was centered in Him, rather than being centered in their obedience and physical lineage.
We must note one more thing on this topic. As we go through these verses we see that all the blessings come to the believers in and through Christ. We can see in this Paul's concept of Christ as the last Adam and the beginning of the new humanity. This also is NT revelation that supersedes the OT expectation.
Here is the reason that Paul can join the believing Gentiles to the Israelites in chapter 2 and call them fellow-citizens with Israel: he can do this only because in chapter 1 he gave the believing Israelites a new expectation. This is why the pronouns are as they are. Verses 3-12 pertain to believing Israelites and upgrade their expectation from the standard ideas based on the OT to NT revelation. Then the Gentiles are joined to those Israelites who have the new expectation of Paul's evangel. (Some of these topics of new revelation are discussed in further detail in Appendix 1.)
Presentation of The Father of Glory's Newly Revealed Calling: 1:3-6
A1 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,
As we have said in the introductory chapter, the whole letter to the Ephesians revolves around the prayer in 1:15-19. The first petition of the prayer was for a realization of the glorious Father's calling. Verses 3-6 above define that calling for us. The calling is to be sons of God. This first stanza of Paul's blessing upon God lists the prominent teachings incumbent upon sonship.
A1 and A2 both speak of praise to God for the blessings He has given, and both verify that these blessings come to us through Christ, and in virtue of God seeing us as in Him. Noting these correspondences helps us see the balance that is inherent in the structure of the letter. The Father sees the Son as the Head of the new humanity, and we are in Him as the race was in Adam. The cross of Christ corresponds to the deep sleep God caused to fall upon Adam when He took of his bone and flesh to make his complement. We will be birthed into sonship to God at our glorification which will come at the command of Christ (Rom. 8:23). And the body of Christ will be presented to Him as Eve was to Adam. A1 has repetition of bless and A2 has repetition of grace.
B1 and B2 both have the word accord. When these lines are placed together it is seen that God delighted in His plan to honor His obedient Son long ago in reference to the same time and event from which the Son's sacrifice became necessary (cf. Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8; 17:8).
C1 and C2 continue and expand this thought, and show that the standing in Christ is what qualifies for sonship. C1 and C2 give us the focal point of the chiastic structure. Our perfection as sons of God is the topic of this focal point and clearly names the expectation of the glorious Father's calling.
The first person pronouns: our, us, us, we, us, and us show that Paul is speaking of himself and his fellow Jewish believers in Christ. No second person pronouns are used in these verses. We should not reject this idea with the thought that it takes anything away from us believers of other nations. Our inclusion in these blessings will come shortly.
Presentation of The Father of Glory's Newly Revealed Allotment Among The Saints: 1:7-12
Our title comes from the second petition of Paul's prayer and it is defined in verses 7-12. Paul's use of the phrase "God's allotment among the saints" carries an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:9: "For the portion of Yahweh is His people; Jacob is the line of His allotment." The use of this term is especially fitting for addressing Jewish believers. Twenty-first century believers seem mostly concerned with what their allotment in heaven or the kingdom will be, missing the point of what Paul says here. The purpose of delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery was to set up a nation which had God as its King, and for that nation to be an ensign before the nations of the world. That nation was to establish and be a place for God's Name. This is a major theme of the Pentateuch, especially Deuteronomy.
The thing that would make Israel different from every other nation is that God would be dwelling among them. His presence would be the source of all their blessings. They were meant to be a nation that could be called Emmanuel. When the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven the Scriptures say: "And I hear a loud voice out of the throne saying, ‘Lo! The tabernacle of God is with mankind, and He will be tabernacling with them, and they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them" (Rev. 21:3). This great climactic point in the Bible rests on the idea of God and people dwelling together. That is the goal of the second of the three petitions.
In this section Paul will speak of the believer's allotment also. There is no separating God's allotment and the people's allotment. There are indeed places of habitation and tasks to be completed, but these will be accomplished with God living and walking in the people. The places and service in the kingdom are the people's allotment, and the people God has called to perform the service are His allotment.
In his prayer Paul stacks up the superlatives in describing this condition that he wants his readers to grasp. "...for you to perceive...the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints" (1:18). To be a son of God, and to participate in God's plan of redemption, is to enjoy a tenancy-a place of life and service-where you are living with God and those He has perfected.
This tenancy will be glorious, and the glory of this tenancy is rich. So let us look at Paul's description of God's allotment among the saints.
A1 7 in Whom [Christ] we are having the deliverance through His blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavishes on us;
Five of the six lines contain the phrase "in Christ," in some form. In A1 the riches of His grace are lavished on us, so that we should be for the laud of His glory in A2. B1 and B2 have very significant repetition of ideas: (1) wisdom and prudence are in parallel with God's counsel; (2) both lines have the word purpose-once in verb form and once as a noun; (3) "the secret of His will" is set over against "the counsel of His will." Grace is lavished upon the Jewish believers, according to the delight of God's will, in leading up to the focal point of the petition's definition.
The first petition spoke of sonship, which also might be described as maturity, or, adulthood. When the child comes to the place of adulthood the parents share their plans and purpose with him or her so they can participate in it. That is what God is doing here in telling us of the administration of the complement of the eras. We are coming to the place of participation in God's purpose, so He instructs us about it.
There are three very important "according to's": the forgiveness of offenses is according to His riches of grace; the making known of His long kept secret is according to His delight; the calling in God's foreknowledge was according to His purpose in which He delighted.
C1 and C2, the focal point of the outline, define the allotment of those who are God's allotment. They, the believers in Christ, will fill the offices of a future administration that will bring all under the headship of Christ. It is one administration, but it functions in more than one realm. Israel's kingdom, as previously revealed, does not match up with this. What was revealed was the earthly, visible realm-only a portion of God's intended purpose. Here we see that this administration will operate also in the celestial realm, which is now invisible to us. This is part of the secret of Paul's good news, and it is relative to the casting aside of Israel as a nation. The kingdom extends beyond the tangible realm of humanity, but this had to be kept secret or Christ would not have been crucified (1 Cor. 2:6-10). All of the accounts in the gospels of spiritual opposition and the casting out of demons show the necessity of the kingdom administration operating in both terrestrial and celestial realms.
The first person pronouns are abundant: we, us, us, our, and we. There are no second person pronouns. This means that Paul was still updating the believing Jews on the gospel of grace that was revealed to him. The final line, A2, shows emphatically that Paul was speaking to believing Jews. They were pre-expectant, or had a prior expectation in Christ the Messiah. The Jews had long been waiting for their Messiah. That is the prior expectation. Paul's mention of the Jewish expectation at this point heightens the contrast that is coming in the next verse.
There are four uses of the word expectation in Ephesians, and they do a marvelous job of summing up a large part of the letter's themes. Three times we have the noun, expectation (elpis), and once we have the compound verb, being pre-expectant (proelpidzO). Since we are maintaining that the whole letter flows out of Paul's prayer in the first chapter, we will note first the word's occurrence there: "...the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the expectation [elpis] of His calling" (1:18). This is the first petition in the prayer: that we would realize the expectation we have in Christ of becoming sons of God. Next, Paul describes the uncircumcised Gentiles' condition before the new revelations accompanying the cross as: "...apart from Christ...alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and guests of the promise covenants, having no expectation [elpis], and without God in the world" (2:12). On the other hand, as we have seen in 1:12, the Jews were "pre-expectant [pro-elpidzO] in the Christ." So the Gentiles had no expectation of becoming sons of God and being God's allotted people, but the Jews already had that expectation in their expectation of a coming Messiah.
In chapter 4, remembering the prior conditions and realizing that the believing Jews and Gentiles were one in Christ, Paul said: "...endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit with the tie of peace: one body and one spirit, according as you were called also with one expectation [elpis] of your calling" (4:3-4). Both Jews and Gentiles are called to be sons of God-they share a common expectation.
If these first two chiasms are compared together, it will be noticed that the first B speaks of being chosen by God, and the next 3 B's mention God's will being performed.
The Bringing of Gentile Believers into These Newly Defined Privileges 1:13-14
A1 13 In Whom you also-on hearing the word of truth, the evangel of your salvation
These two verses may seem too short to be given separate attention, but Paul makes them a separate stanza in his blessing upon God. In doing this he is placing great emphasis on the subject of only a few phrases. After addressing God in verse 3, it is easily seen that all the things for which we bless God are in Christ. And so all the blessings of the first stanza come to us in Christ, and the first stanza ends with the laud of God's glory in Christ. The second stanza in verse 7 begins in Whom [Christ}, and ends like the first with the laud of God's glory in verse 12. This stanza also begins with in Whom [Christ], and ends with the laud of His (God's) glory. In addition to being a separate stanza, it is a very important pivotal point in the letter.
The salient feature of the third stanza is the change from first person to second person plural pronouns. In Christ, you of the nations also are hearing the word of truth-the evangel of your salvation. In Christ, you of the nations also are sealed with the Holy Spirit, Who was promised to be poured out upon Israel! In Christ, you of the nations have the Holy Spirit, Who is the newly revealed earnest or title deed to the enjoyment of the allotment that was promised to us Israelites! The pronouns read you, you, your and our-three seconds and one first. This is in crucial contrast to the previous 10 verses.
In Exodus 19:6, where God spoke of Israel becoming a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, the first thing He said was "you shall become Mine." When Peter repeated that verse he expressed the idea of Jewish believers becoming God's people with the term, "a procured people" (1 Pet. 2:9). This means an acquired or purchased possession. God purchased Israel at the cost of Egypt (Ex. 15:16; Isa. 43:3, 4).
Paul uses the same terminology here in v. 14 when he says, "you [believing Gentiles] are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (which is an earnest of the enjoyment of our allotment, to the deliverance of that which has been procured)." By receiving the Holy Spirit upon believing, the Gentile believers have become God's people-God's sons, just as truly as the believing Israelites had (1 Cor. 6:20). The phrase: "to the deliverance of that which has been procured," refers to people. Another rendering could be: "to the deliverance of the procured." Procured is singular. Even though Paul has been talking about two different groups of people, they make up one possession. This as an allusion to the two being one body in Christ and in God's sight. This shows a joining of the first and second person pronouns.
Here is the contextual answer to the question: Why does Paul speak first to Jewish believers, when the "you" in his audience is Gentile believers? The calling of believers to be sons of God was always in Christ, but it came to Israel first. The allotment of being God's people with God dwelling among them came to the Israelites first. These first two petitions of the prayer rested upon Israel from the time of Abraham till the time of Christ and in a limited degree it was fulfilled to them. The gift of God's Spirit on His people was revealed first to be a benefit to be enjoyed by Israel (see John's gospel, Isa. 32, Ezek. 37, etc.), but they barely received it before it changed and became a blessing on the nations also. So when Paul prefixes his prayer with these descriptions of his first two petitions, he is following the historical order of revelation that God has already employed. Then he says that Gentile believers have become co-owners of these benefits in Christ by believing the evangel and receiving the earnest of God's Spirit. The word also occurs twice in these verses in telling how the Gentiles were joined to the Jews: "in Whom [Christ] you also;" and, "in Whom [Christ] on believing also."
The power of God for believers, the third petition in Paul's prayer for realization, came to Israel and the nations at nearly the same time. Paul saves it for last, after the transition of joining the two, and reveals it differently. Since Jews and Gentiles alike hear of the word of truth in Christ and believe on Him, they are united by the earnest of the Spirit. This is an illustration of Paul's point designed into the literary structure of the letter. He uses the structure to show the joining of Jew and Gentile into one body. To the writer, it is a proof of the continually amazing doctrine of divine inspiration in the Scriptures.
Paul's Prayer for The Believers 1:15-19
A1 15 Therefore, I also,
A2 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may be giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, 18 the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive
When Paul calls himself "I" in A1, it is the first, singular, first person pronoun of the letter, and it commences his I-you statement. A1 through B2 confirms again the division between we and you. Paul was well aware of the faith of believing Jews. Many of them preceded him in faith. These believing Jews already had a concept of God as the Father of glory, but they needed an update. So Paul mentions hearing of the faith of you believing Gentiles, and then mentions the saints also. This is a reversal of the order in v. 1, and faith is again the identifying term that stands in contrast to the saints. Paul does not want the Jewish believers to feel slighted here, and he includes them in his prayer for realization. This reversal is part of the structural method of joining the two.
Another interesting detail confirms our proposition on understanding the pronouns. We have shown that verses 3-6 describe the calling of the Father of glory to be His sons and verses 7-12 describe His allotment among the saints. When Paul described these things (in vv. 3-12) he applied them to us believing Jews. But when he makes these issues the petitions of his prayer, he prays for you believers of the nations to realize them! Notice the words: "...making mention in my prayers that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may be giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him, the eyes of your heart having been enlightened, for you to perceive what is the expectation of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of His allotment among the saints" (1:16-18). This use of the second person balances against the use of the first person in vv. 3-12. <
And then, on the third petition, he restates the aspect of pronouns to include all. "...to perceive...what the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing" (v. 19). This first person pronoun must include both the believing Jews and those of the nations, because he noted in verse 13 that you the nations were believing also-in addition to the Jewish saints. And back in verse 1 it was the faithful or believing ones that are mentioned in addition to the saints.
B3, B4 and B5 are the three petitions of the prayer and the heart and soul of the whole letter.
Presentation of The Father of Glory's Power for Believers as Illustrated in Christ: 1:20-23
Paul's description of his third petition in the prayer follows the prayer (vv.17-19) rather than precedes it. And there is more than one description of this petition. First he gives an example of God's power for believers by showing how God's power operated with Christ, the most faithful Believer in the Father. Later, following that description he will give similar illustrations by applying God's power to the joined body of Jewish and Gentile believers. This section and the following (2:1-10) are numbered with a continuing sequence, since the next section is a repetition of definition on God's power for believers. It is very worthwhile to compare these two sections and their corresponding alpha divisions.
A1 Christ [the transcendent power of the Father for Him]
Four words in B1 (operation, might, strength, operative) emphasize the transcendent power of the glorious Father that is available to believers. In B1 we are told that this power operated in Christ, and in B2 we see that Christ is the One who will complete the all in all through the exercise of that power in and through the ecclesia. There is a definite, progressive flow through this chiasm. B1 through C2 speak of the Father exercising His power through Christ, and then in B2 the action of completing the all is accredited to Christ. Completing is the middle voice form of the word. In C1 through C2 Christ appears passive while the Father acts, but in the final statement He is acting for Himself in His service to the Father. B1 through D1 shows the progression of Christ's exaltation, and D2 through B2 shows the progression of Christ's authority.
Presentation of The Father of Glory's Power for Believers: 2:1-10
A5 4 Yet God
In chapter one we saw Paul addressing the believing Jews in verses 3-12, and then joining the believing Gentiles to them in verses 13-14 and also in the prayer. Now Paul separates the two groups again and will go through the process of joining them again. Previously he dealt with the Jews first. Here he deals with the Gentiles first. In chapter one he separated them on the basis of the Jews having the background of being God's chosen people and having prior revelation-they were the saints. Here he deals with their past experience in life and how each group fell short of God's intended goal, and the fact that both were in the same basic condition. Then he shows how God in love brought them to Himself and together in Christ. The purpose of this is to show the power of God working in them and available to them-this is the power of the third petition.
A1, A3, A4, A5, and A6 indicate the parties spoken of. Notice the repetition of the word being in B3, B4, B5, and B6. In B3 and B4 the entire lines are nearly duplicated for the purpose of comparing the Gentile and Jewish believers.
B4 and A4 are in their proper place in the outline, but in the text they are out of place, occurring after the statement about God's vast love. Why is this? It appears that Paul's passion forces him to rush ahead to God's remedy when speaking of the failure of both the nations and Israel. By speaking of God's vast love, and then returning to finish the balance of his thoughts, Paul places emphasis on the divine love.
In A3 through D3 Paul uses the pronouns: you, your and you, referring to the believing Gentiles. In C4 through A4 he uses the pronouns: we, our, our and we, referring to the believing Jews. When the corresponding lines of this chiasm are compared, their remarkable parallelism is easily seen.
C3 and C4 use parallel expressions to describe the lives of those who are now believers. You Gentiles walked, and we Jews behaved. Both of these lines have the word once (pote) which indicates that he speaks of their behavior before their faith in Christ. This indicates that lines B3 and B4 present a viable translation. Paul is not saying, as most translations have it, that the believers are dead in offenses, sins and lust, but rather, now that they believe, they are dead to those things in which they once lived. Paul is about to say, proleptically, that they are raised, vivified and seated among the celestials. These thoughts would be founded on the fact that they have already died with Christ to their sins and offenses. Being dead to those things aligns with the description of the power of God that is available to them and working in them (1:19; cf. Rom. 6:2-14). This shows the link of these thoughts to the petition of the prayer that Paul is emphasizing.
D3 and D4 are quite similar in their thought, but they use different terminology. This is an important distinction. Paul does this to emphasize a difference between the Gentiles and Jews. The Gentiles had been living according to the customs and culture of the current age that is influenced and controlled by Satan, the chief of the jurisdiction of the air-the spirit who operates in those of humanity who are stubborn to God. The Jews were under a covenant with God, and were supposed to live in a manner acceptable to Him. Since they were in this covenant relationship with God Paul does not say that they were following the leadership of Satan, but he does say that they followed the lusts of their flesh. The resulting figures are "sons of stubbornness" for the Gentiles and "sons of indignation" for the Jews. Paul places Jews and Gentiles on a level field.
By speaking of "the spirit now operating in the sons of stubbornness," Paul reminds them of the petition for power he is defining. The power now available is the power that was operating in Christ (1:20) in B1 and C1. So Christ, the Head of the new humanity, is set in contrast with the world under Satan. The evil spirit operates in the old humanity and the Spirit of God operates in Christ. And now the new humanity, like their Head, and because of their Head, has the Spirit of God operating in them.
Recalling D1 and D2, we see Christ exalted to a position of high authority. Comparing D3 and D4 with this, we see believing Gentiles rescued by grace from the authority of the chief of the jurisdiction of the air, and the believing Jews being rescued by grace from their failures in the flesh. This gives reason for the repetition of the phrase, in grace are you saved (C5, C6), and also for the addition of the phrase not of works lest anyone should be boasting. Paul frequently relates the idea of boasting to Jewish advantages in the flesh. This phrase comes on the Jewish side of the structure and harks back to the idea of obedience to the law. Christ's ascension to authority is shown as the cause for these changes, and also as the cause for our future glorification and accomplishments that are inferred in D5 and D6.
A5 begins with God and His actions and leads to A6 having a we which represents a united body of Jewish and Gentile believers. Throughout this chiasm we will see a united or universal we and us. It is clear that the first person pronoun here will apply to both Jews and Gentiles by the threefold repetition of the emphatic us together. You pops up in parallel statements about being saved by grace. This may suggest an emphasis of this idea to the Gentiles, but the previous chiasm (vv. 1-4) made it clear that the Jews needed the grace just as much as the Gentiles did. And further, after the use of you, Paul adds the statement: "not of works lest anyone should be boasting." The "anyone" makes it clear that the "you" includes both Jews and Gentiles. And further still, the first "you" occurs in the midst of three "us together's."
In B5 we have God described as being rich in mercy and having a vast love. This leads to B6 where believers are created in Christ Jesus for a new kind of life.
D5 and D6 speak of our future position in glory where our position and the works of service we will do will display the transcendent riches of God's grace that have been imparted to us through the work of Christ and His exaltation. Here the emphasis is on future works in the celestial kingdom setting. A whole section in the last three chapters will deal with how we are enabled to walk in the power of God now. All this is seen as God's achievement.
We outlined these two sections together, saying that the display of God's power in Christ was a preparation to perceive God's power in us. B1 mentions the power of God being operative in the Christ; B2 speaks of Christ being the One who will complete the all in all; B3 speaks of Gentile believers being dead to their offenses and sins; B4 speaks of Jewish believers being dead to their offenses and lusts; B5 speaks of the love of God which motivates Him to exercise His power in us; B6 speaks of us being created anew in Christ to walk in God's works. These are the progressive works of God's power.
The raising and ascension of Christ, seating Him at the Father's right hand in C1 is in parallel with the raising and seating of believers among the celestials in C5. D1, D3 and D5 are all at the focal points of the three chiasms, and the ages, or eons, are mentioned in all three, giving a forecast of things to come and contrasting it with the time in which we live. The phrase: "the eon of this world" has been puzzling for some. The chiasms show it to be in contrast with future eons, so it seems best to understand it as an expression for the current time while also showing the balance of the chiastic thoughts. (Further comments on time periods mentioned in Ephesians may be found in appendix 2.) The following chart sets Christ's experience in God's power in parallel with our experience.
God's power operating in Christ
Rousing Him (Christ) from among the dead 1:20
Though we were once in sin, He vivifies us and rouses us together in Christ 2:1-5
>God's power in The Headship of Christ: Ecclesia:
God's power in believers under Christ's Headship: Personal:
God's power in the Headship of Christ: Future--Universal
God's power in believers under Christ's Headship: Future outworking:
Teaching on The Father of Glory's Calling: 2:11-22
We have finished the three petitions of Paul's prayer concerning their definition. Now we begin looking at them again, for doctrinal teaching. We should first ask how we know that this section relates to the first petition of the prayer. We said that the Father's calling was to be sons of God. Adam was called a son of God (Lk. 3:38), but lost much of that image when he sinned and died. In this section of the letter we are told that Christ is making believers into a new humanity of which He is the Head. The headship of Christ brings about redemption into sonship to God for those who belong to Christ.
The defining of sons of God in 1:3-6 said that they were to be holy and flawless in His sight. In this passage Paul will speak of those who were outside of covenant relationship and "without God in the world" becoming God's family and ultimately the very sacred temple in which He dwells. Those who had no part with Israel, the nation which did have an expectation of sonship, are joined with those Israelites who believe in Christ. The unity of the body of believers is a necessity to witness the fact of their sonship, of God's indwelling and of the truth of being a new humanity. Their unity will show the world that relationship to God supersedes all human divisions and barriers. The whole tenor of this passage gravitates to the calling as God's sons.
Again, Paul will repeat the process that he has been using: he will divide the Jewish and Gentile believers into two groups, and then he will show how the cross of Christ joins them.
A1 11 Wherefore, remember that once you,
A3 12 that you were in that era,
A5 13 Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you, who once are far off,
A9 19 Consequently, then, no longer are you guests and sojourners,
A1 through B2 defines the previous relationship of Gentiles to the nation of Israel as separate.
This outline shows progression through two mediums: time and space. Notice that all of the A lines contain time elements: "Wherefore, remember that once you...you were in that era...Yet now, in Christ Jesus, you, who once...no longer are you...you also are being built."
Then notice that spatial references fill in between the time elements. The spatial references can be divided into two groups: (1) elements of distance: "apart from Christ; alienated from the citizenship; guests; without God in the world; the barrier; enmity; enmity; guests and sojourners; (2) elements of nearness: in Christ Jesus; become near; peace, one; creating into one; making peace; reconciling both in one body; evangel of peace to you those afar; peace to those near; access; fellow-citizens; belong to God's family; built on the foundation; being connected together; being built together for God's dwelling place. All of these terms speak of spatial relationships in one way or another. Even the term saints speaks of separation to God and separateness from the world. This is the terminology Paul uses to teach how the believers came to the goal of God's calling.
In the first chiasm, A1 through B2, Paul again deftly levels the ground between Jew and Gentile. He speaks of the nations in flesh, and compares that to circumcision in flesh made by hands. This reference to flesh places both groups outside the realm of the spiritual blessings for sons of God described in chapter 1. Notice the perfect balance between B1 and B2, and between C1 and C2-both B's refer to flesh and both C's refer to circumcision.
In B3 and B4, being apart from Christ parallels being without God. C3 places the Gentiles outside of citizenship to Israel. C4 repeats this but gives more emphasis to the distance from God. The best they could hope for was to be guests of the divine blessings that would come directly on Israel. They had no expectation-no expectation of sonship to God.
A5 through B8 is the main body of the outline and explains how the change takes place that brings unity. Here the chiastic indentation reaches its deepest point at E5 and E7. This is the most severe description of divisions in humanity: enmity. We are given a double focal point on this word. This section also reminds us that religious enmity has frequently been the harshest of dividers between groups. The word law only occurs once in this letter, and it is in this focal area about enmity (v. 15). But the cross (which only occurs once also and here) is brought in and an abundance of terms-peace, reconciling, one-that vanquish the distance and barriers between parties. And here for the first time Paul introduces a new term: the new humanity. It is a new undivided humanity that will fulfill the calling to be sons of God. This is a very significant focal area.
Time should be given to look at the relationship of all lines of the same letter designation in this section. The balanced parallelism of thoughts will show that this arrangement of the thoughts is the structure of the text itself, not something that has been forced upon it.
C6 also becomes a special focal point, being centered between E5 and E7. It is also centered between C5 and C8, both of which it restates, and it gives us Paul's first mention of the new humanity.
The focal point of A9 through A10 is D9: "the capstone of the corner being Christ Jesus Himself." We have an allusion here to the rejected stone that became the head of the corner in Psalm 118:22, as well as allusions to many other O.T. passages that speak of Christ as a stone. There is some debate here whether the rendering should be capstone or head of the corner or whatever. We choose to plunder all the different views for the insights they offer.
The metaphor of the context speaks of building a temple. The first cornerstone laid was the one from which all the others were aligned.
A proper building must be square. The cornerstone was the zero point in three dimensions for the entire edifice. It marked the intersection of the datums in space. This is a perfect illustration for a section of the letter that has employed so many references to spatial distances and relationships. Christ is the beginning point in all dimensions.
The capstone of the corner speaks of the exalted position that completed the wall or building. Christ is all these things and more. He is the measure by which we are aligned (see the word measure in the chapter 4 section on the conduct of those called to be sons of God). He is the Head of all the other stones of the building (see the word head in 4:15, the aforementioned section on conduct). We should not think of Christ as Head of the corner without also thinking of Him as the Head of the new humanity. We should see the new humanity spoken of here as a symbol or type of the complete humanity at the end of the ages.
The Rock band, Pink Floyd, produced a popular song titled, "Another Brick in the Wall." If you have ever been up close to a very large brick building and looked at the bricks in front of you and then at the seemingly endless bricks to the right, the left, and upward, you may have an idea of how powerful this figure of speech can be: "you're just another brick in the wall." "You have no individual significance!" "You are embedded in a system from which you cannot escape!" "You are part of a world system, whether you like it or not!" The band used this figure in rebellion against the idea of conforming to the status quo.
But consider with me a very different logic. Think of the perfection of Jesus Christ. Think what it would be like to be part of a humanity in which every human being was aligned with Jesus Christ! Think of a humanity, like all the bricks in a wall, square with the cornerstone. Then, think that every brick is not some unfamiliar and unknown identity that could not care less about you, but every brick is someone who loves you as they love themselves. And every brick is someone who is devoted to please God and live for Jesus Christ. Wouldn't you love to be part of that building? That is no regular building! That is the temple that God is building through Jesus Christ! And it is the building in which God delights to live!
The tower of Babel was made with bricks. Every building block was to be like every other building block. But God does not build that way. At Mt. Sinai God told Moses that if the Israelites were to build an altar to sacrifice to Him they must use natural stones. If they used any tool to straighten or flatten a stone, that stone was disqualified from use. Every stone of God's altar was a unique, unaltered individual. So it is with God's building, and God's humanity. God values your individuality. He is not looking for identical copies, but He is incorporating individuals who have come to a realization of the truth. There are no duplicate blocks in God's building. Each one is a unique individual who has been aligned with the truth that is in Jesus Christ. When Peter spoke of believers as making up a temple or house of God he called them living stones (1 Pet. 2:5), maintaining their uniqueness. Paul emphasized the same idea when he spoke of individual members of the body having different functions (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12).
Teaching on the Father of Glory's Allotment among the Saints: 3:1-13
Throughout the first two chapters we have seen Paul repeatedly separating and rejoining the believing Jews and Gentiles into a single body. In chapter three and following there will be references to that, but they are much more subdued. Here Paul begins by addressing you, the nations and speaks of their joint relationship and enjoyment of the evangelistic blessings with Jewish believers. It is clear from the start and throughout that Paul is giving further teaching or explanation on the portion of chapter 1 that was identified with the second petition of the prayer. He even says that is what he is doing in verses 2 and 3: "according as I write before in brief." As in chapter one (7-12) he speaks of the administration of God's grace that was kept secret (B1). The word secret, or mystery (mustErion) which occurred in the chapter one section on the glorious Father's allotment occurs three times in this passage.
The word administration (oikonomia), which occurs once in the chapter 1 section occurs twice here (3:2, 9; some manuscripts have koinOnia in 3:9 instead of oiknomia). And, as in chapter one, he connects it with the celestial or heavenly realm (D3).
The words wisdom (sophia) and wise (sophos) occur four times in Ephesians. One of these occurrences is in Paul's prayer where he asks that the Father of glory give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the realization of Him. All three of the other occurrences fall in the sections that have to do with perceiving the riches of the glory of God's allotment among the saints (1:8; 3:10; 5:15 compare also 1 Cor. 2:1-10).
The words purpose (prosthesis) and purposed (protithEmi) occur three times in Ephesians. All three occurrences are within these sections that deal with perceiving God's allotment among the saints (1:9, 11; 3:11). The words allotment (klEronomia), the casting of our lot (dlEroomai), and joint enjoyers of allotment (sugklEronomos) also stand out as identifying related sections of the letter. These words are found in the second petition of the prayer (1:18), the defining of the petition (1:11), here in the teaching on the petition (3:6), and in the instruction for conduct related to this petition (5:5). The only other occurrence of these words is in 1:14 where the believing Gentiles are joined to the believing Jews in this allotment. This repetition of words helps confirm the identity of these sections as all relating to the same petition of Paul's prayer in the first chapter.
A1 1 On this behalf I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you, the nations-
The first change we notice in chapter 3 is the repeated use of the first person singular pronoun. Paul is instructing and speaks of himself freely as I.
Clearly the main theme of these 13 verses is education about the secret of Christ and its administration. Notice the phrases: "by revelation the secret is made known to me:" "you...are able to apprehend my understanding in the secret;" "in other generations is not made known;" "it was now revealed;" "through the evangel;" "to bring the untraceable riches of Christ;" "which has been concealed from the eons;" "that now may be made known." In addition to making known there are several mentions of the administration that was committed to Paul: "the grace of God that is given to me;" "the secret is made known to me;" "the gratuity of the grace of God, which is granted to me;" "To me...was granted this grace."
At first glance, this passage may appear to present redundant repetition without significant benefit. But the repetition is the means whereby the outline can be identified, and the outline then shows the focal points which bring home the main message of the section. Repetition may be the most frequently used structural method of biblical emphasis. It is certainly one which possesses a wide variety of forms. One point to keep in mind is: if the Scriptures say something in two different ways they more than double the information that they provide. Through comparison the similarities, contrasts and progressions can provide additional insight.
The passage divides itself, by means of the balance of words and ideas, into two chiastic sections. A1, A3 and A4 all speak of Paul, his office and ministry. There is no A2, as it would be unnecessarily redundant to mention himself twice in a row.
In A3 Paul speaks of a gift of grace that was granted to him. To the Philippians Paul said: "for to you it is graciously granted, for Christ's sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also, having the same struggle such as you are perceiving in me, and now are hearing to be in me" (1:29). In A4 he encourages the Ephesians not to be despondent about his afflictions for their sake, because those afflictions were their glory. Christ came in humility and suffering, and His suffering and struggles were the basis of grace being granted to us. Paul could glory in the cross because of what it did for him and humanity. Paul, in serving the Ephesians, entered into the suffering of Christ for the sake of others, making his afflictions for them something in which they could glory. Thus the connection between A3 and A4.
Because the A and C members have such clearly discernable similarities, we can look with confidence for a relationship between the B members. Though it may not be lying on the surface, it is not far to seek. B3 mentions the secret going to the nations and also the enlightening of all concerning its scope. In B4 we are reminded that these blessings are based on the faith of Christ, and that both the Gentiles and Israel have access to God in this new oneness. This idea was also developed in the previous section with its common use of the word access. The untraceable riches of Christ, in B3 corresponds to His faith in B4. His faith demonstrated is the means of our obtaining those riches.
The focal point of the second chiasm (D3) is that the multifarious wisdom of God may now be made known to the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials. This multifarious, or, multifaceted wisdom is revealed through the administration of the secret. The balance of the first and second chiasms is apparent here. In C1 and D1 the secret of Christ was unknown in previous generations of humanity, but was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets. In C3 and D3 the administration of the secret was concealed from the eons, but now it may be made known through the ecclesia to the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials. It was hidden on earth and in heaven, and now it is revealed on earth and in heaven (cf. 1:10). In C1 and D1 it was the secret of Christ, and in C3 and D3 it was the administration of the secret. The administration of the secret includes the employment of those who were chosen and called; who were made members of the administration; and who are recipients of the life and Spirit that was promised in Christ. So D3, in speaking of the celestials is an enlargement on D1 which speaks of the planning and development stages of the administration of the secret.
Teaching on The Father of Glory's Power for Believers: 3:14-21
The previous section opened and closed the chiastic sections of the outline with a reference to the apostle Paul. That was fitting, because that section provided teaching on God's allotment among His sons in the administration of the secret of Christ, which was committed to Paul. The current section closes out chapter 3 (vv. 14-21). It is a prayer addressed to God the Father, and it begins and ends (A1 and A2) with references to Him. It is clear as crystal that this section is concerned with the third petition of Paul's prayer in chapter 1: "to perceive...what the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing" (1:19). Paul prays that God would give the Ephesians: "to be made staunch with power, through His Spirit, in the man within...that you...should be strong to grasp...that you may be completed for the entire complement of God. Now to Him Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is operating in us" (3:16-20). There is much in this section to help us understand the power that Paul prayed for us to perceive in chapter one.
A1 14 On this behalf am I bowing my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 after Whom every kindred in the heavens and on earth is being named,
In the O.T. (for example the table of nations in Gen. 10) nations of people were named after a forefather of significance. This section begins with the mention (A1) of every kindred (patria-a fatherhood) of beings in the heavens and on earth receiving a name from the divine Father. This speaks of their coming into relationship with Him, a process accomplished through the administration of the complement of the eras-an accomplishment that requires divine power and an accomplishment in which the ecclesia participates. The closing statement calls for Him to be glorified in the ecclesia and in Christ, unto all the generations of the eon of the eons. This is calling for God to be glorified by the body of Christ completing its part in the administration of the secret under Christ's headship. Every kindred in in the heavens and on earth in A1 is in parallel with all the generations of the eon of the eons in A2.
In many ways this prayer is a continuation of the prayer in chapter 1. God as Father is a key issue in both. In chapter 1 the prayer to realize God as the Father of glory is to be accomplished by coming to an understanding of the three petitions. Here Paul speaks of every fatherhood in the heavens and on earth being named after the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom God's Fatherhood is being expanded through the power and authority working in Him. In chapter 1 the prayer was for a realization of the Father of glory. In chapter 3 Paul is looking forward not to understanding God's glory, but to us actually being part of the channel through which glory goes to the Father. One must precede the other.
We understand "the eon of the eons" to be the final eon of the eonian times, the closing eon of the complement of the eras (1:10). We also understand this eon to run its course after the great white throne judgment. That appears to be the final judgment of the eonian times, so we have no expectation that humanity will continue to procreate during the final eon. (If more people were born, would they not need a final judgment also?) This reasoning leads us to understand that all the generations of the eon of the eons is a term including those raised at the great white throne-they will have come from all generations of all the previous eons. During the final eon these generations will be reconciled to God. That will be the reason for them receiving a name, not from their patria-fatherhood of the old creation-but from the Father of the family of God (2:19). Glory will go to the Father through Christ and the ecclesia. This indicates their instrumentality in the reconciliation of all during the final eon-which is similar to, if not the same, as all coming under the headship of Christ during the complement of the eras (1:10).
The mention of the eon of the eons also relates this third chiasm of the chapter back to the second, which spoke of the eons and the purpose of the eons. In turn, this eonian purpose was referred to also by the references to eons in 1:21; 2:2; and 2:7. In all of Paul's letters only 1 Corinthians (which has 16 chapters) has more occurrences of the word eon (aiOn) than Ephesians. But in 1 Corinthians there is much more emphasis on the current eon, while in Ephesians the emphasis is on God's purpose throughout the eons.
B1 and B2: The B members of this chiasm both refer to God's power strengthening us and operating in us. It is by His power that we will be instruments of the reconciliation of all to Him. God's power works wondrously in ways that we might not normally associate with power. Strengthened with His power within, we will be strong to grasp-to realize the breadth, length, depth and height of the administration of the secret. That power operating in us will enable us to see Him doing through us things superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending. The eye had never seen, the ear had never heard, and the heart of man had never aspired to the things God has prepared for the ones loving Him (1 Cor. 2:9), yet He is even now revealing them to us. His power brings us to know the love of Christ, that we may be completed, with all the saints, for the entire complement of God (C1, D1, D2, C2). The complement of Theos, the Placer, is the complement that will function in the placing of all in that divinely designated Patria, or, Fatherhood. While the complement of Christ is the ecclesia, the complement of God must also include Christ with the ecclesia.
D1 and D2 are the focal point of the chiasm. The dimensions might be understood as a way of saying that we will come to an unlimited grasp of God's purpose and its fulfillment during the administration of the secret. But we will also venture another understanding of the dimensions taken from the context. In chapters 1 and 2 we have seen a great emphasis on the Gentiles being included with the Jews in God's purpose of the secret. This shows the breadth of the secret. There are no human limitations. It is broad enough to encompass all. And beyond this, all those of the heavens will be brought under the headship of Christ also.
In chapter 1 we saw that the body of Christ was chosen in Him before the disruption of the world. Later in chapter 2 we saw an emphasis on the expansion of God's purpose over time and through space, bringing in people from all of humanity. Then chapter 3 ends with mention of the final eon of God's purpose, the eon of the eons. From beginning to consummation it grows to encompass all. That is the length.
The depth could be representative of the resurrection to the great white throne, and the reconciliation of all that follows it. It reaches to the lowest grave. None are missed below. This brings in all the generations of the eon of the eons.
Here in the third chapter Paul has given additional information on the celestial beings. None of them are above the blessings of the administration of the secret. They all come under the headship of Christ and are blest by Him. Chapter 1 told us that His seating was "up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named" (v. 21). Similarly in 4:10 we read that the ascension of Christ was "up over all who are of the heavens." This is the height-it encompasses all and is over all, even the highest. In grasping the dimensions of this glorious outcome of the cross, we can come to know the love of Christ-the knowledge-transcending love of Christ.
I have debated in my mind about changing the C and D elements around, or even combining C1 and D1, and combining C2 and D2. Following would be one option:
C1 17 Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith,
This would place Christ dwelling in your hearts and knowing His love in parallel. The question is, does grasping the dimensions of the secret make a better parallel with being completed for the entire complement of God? Or is it better to combine the C's and D's and only have C1 and C2. We leave this query to the reader.
The last three chapters of the Ephesian letter also develop the theme of the three requests for perception about the Father of glory.
Paul will focus first on the expectation of the Father's calling in 4:1-29. In 4:30 through 5:17 he will deal with the Father's allotment among the Ephesian believers, and in 5:18-6:20 he illustrates and instructs in the glorious Father's power for believers. 6:20-24 is the closing of the letter.
One might ask, "Do not chapters 4 through 6 just deal with the conduct of the Ephesians?" Yes they do. But on closer examination it can be seen that the first section mentioned treats of the conduct of the believers as the body of Christ, and the unity and maturing they undergo in relationship to their Lord and to each other as sons of God-as fulfilling their calling. The second section treats of their conduct in relationship to God the Father as the Deity that dwells among them-God's allotment among the saints. The third section speaks of their conduct in relation to their power in virtue of God's Spirit dwelling in them.
Conduct of Believers in The Father of Glory's Calling: 4:1-29
One of the first things that will be noticed in studying the text of chapter 4 is a distinct similarity between verses 1-6 and verses 17-19. We take our cue for outlining the chapter from this similarity, a comparison of which follows. Both of the sections following these similar lead off passages will be divided into two paragraphs, giving us a total section of six short paragraphs. The first half of this section (vv. 1-16) gives exhortations for conduct from a positive perspective. It calls for an exemplary walk and tells of the spiritual gifts supplied for the growth and maturing of believers. The second half is given more to the negative approach of their previous walk and how it should be changed.
(4:1) I am entreating you, then, I the prisoner in the Lord,
In the first comparison of the chart Paul is speaking to the Ephesians "in the Lord"-in their place of service and obligation to their Owner. He is entreating to a godly behavior, and he is giving witness that they must no longer behave as they did before believing. In the second comparison he refers to both their new manner of life and their old one as a walk. The third comparison is a contrast between the orderly life in the body of Christ and the ungodly life of the world. In the final comparison the mention of their calling is repeated and also contrasted with a synonym, vocation [ergasia]. Instead of having a holy calling to unity under the Headship of Christ, and in conformity to His image, the nations gave themselves over, lemming-like, to what is uncleanness in the sight of God. So much is this the case that Paul calls it their job or vocation or livelihood-their calling. The similarities and contrasts of these passages speak for themselves.
The next pair of outline sections is verses 7-13 and verses 20-25. Verses 7-13 begin with the measure of the free gift of Christ and close with the body coming to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ. The measure or amount of the gift that God provided in giving His Son, and the measure the Son provided in His obedience, is the measure of our transformation. This transformation is told to be accomplished through the descending of Christ into death and His ascension to heaven following. From that exalted position He gave the gifts that enable the body to mature into His image.
Verses 20-25 begin with learning Christ and being taught by Him-this brings us to the truth, since the truth is in Jesus. These verses close with the idea of putting off everything that is false and speaking the truth with our associates-our fellow members in the body of Christ. This transformation is accomplished by putting off the former behavior of the old humanity which was corrupted according to its seductive desires. Corruption is a function of death, and thus provides a parallel to Christ's descending to the grave. Then the new humanity is put on, which is created-a parallel with Christ's resurrection-according to God in true righteousness and kindness. The outline below will show the strong and careful parallelism of this paragraph.
The third and sixth paragraphs have a common theme, but do not exhibit the same kind of comparative relationships we see in the others. The third, verses 14-16 begins with the strong affirmation that we must no longer be immature minors or children. It closes with the members of the body contributing to the growth and maturation of each other. The transformation is accomplished by turning away from the inconsistent and fickle leadership of men to the solid headship of Christ. Through the gifts He has given, the members of the body find their place and function as members of the whole.
The sixth paragraph, verses 26-29, is arranged as a set of three couplets. Each begins with an example of the common behavior before knowing Christ. Each closes with the exhortation and instruction to replace the wrong behavior with a better one that will make the individual a better body member and strengthen and edify the whole.
Chapter 4:1-29 Outline: Conduct According to Calling
A1 1 I am entreating you, then, I, the prisoner in the Lord, to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called,
Paul begins this section of his letter by recalling the first of the three petitions in his prayer for the Ephesians: to perceive the expectation of the glorious Father's calling (1:15-19). He exhorts the Ephesians to live in a manner that is in keeping with this high calling of being sons of God. At this point we should remember the first two chapters of the letter, and the various and repeated methods Paul employed in showing the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers. Nothing could be more damaging to the testimony of the ecclesia than to have fighting and divisions among its members. The same Spirit of God was in Jewish and Gentile believers, but if these different groups displayed animosity or even distaste for each other, their actions would deny the fact that they were sons of the same God and servants of the same Lord. Even a human master would not allow fighting among his own slaves. Today we are so accustomed to being divided by differences of opinion and any trivial issue, that we take this exhortation too lightly, if we do not ignore it altogether.
With the casting aside of Israel as God's chosen nation, there was only one body of believers. There was only one faith: the faith of Jesus Christ. The believer's faith appropriates or takes possession of the faith of Christ, which was displayed in His unparalleled obedience to the Father. Jewish believers were to follow in the steps of the faith of Abraham, which he had before the law and Israel's covenant were given (Rom. 4:12-14). The Jews required a sign as a show of power, but the faith of Abraham simply believed, even when no sign was given (Gen. 15:6). Gentiles do not come into Israel's covenant, but in spirit they observe the principles that were foreshadowed by the law (Gal. 5:25).
Galatians spoke of a gospel for the circumcision (covenant Israel), and a gospel for the uncircumcision (Gentiles and Jews whose faith was in Christ for having fulfilled all covenant responsibilities for them). But the setting aside of national Israel eliminates the circumcision gospel and the physical blessings that were associated with it. Under Paul's gospel of grace believers of both groups became a single unit. The circumcision gospel was associated with the pouring out of God's Spirit on Israel, physical blessings and world leadership. It did not remove the central barrier wall between Jew and Gentile (2:13-18). Paul's detailed discourse here on the unity in our calling is aimed at bringing this truth home to both Jewish and Gentile believers.
The single baptism that Paul mentions here is also a distinct marker that the circumcision gospel was suspended. John's water baptism was an outward washing that was meant to restore covenant relationship. It reflected the washing of Israel's clothing at Sinai after the exodus when Israel first entered covenant with God (Ex. 19:10-11), but since it was a bodily washing instead of a washing of clothing, John's baptism showed the need for heart and life cleansing, not just the outward cleansing of walking according to the law. John himself spoke of three baptisms: (1) a baptism of repentance in water-meaning a change of heart and mind; (2) a baptism of fire-meaning a judgment to be passed through; and, (3) baptism in the Holy Spirit-meaning a filling with God's own Spirit. Israel rejected and murdered John-the water baptizer. Jesus was to be the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and they assassinated Him too. The Holy Spirit was the One they were to be baptized in, and Stephen said they rejected Him (Acts 7:51), and they proved it by killing Stephen and some of the apostles.
Jesus told Nicodemus that they would never see the kingdom if they were not born of water and Spirit. This represents two baptisms, and it does not eliminate the third. But believers today receive the Spirit of God immediately upon belief. They need not pass a baptism of repentance and a washing in water. They need not pass through a judgment-a baptism of fire-before receiving life. These key elements were proof to the Ephesians that the gospel of grace which Paul brought had superseded the initial gospel to Israel. The earmarks of the circumcision gospel had passed into abeyance, and that was proof that these common elements experienced by both Jewish and Gentile believers made them one body, the new humanity created in Christ Jesus.
A1 and A2 mention the calling of the believers and the expectation of their calling, referring back to the first petition of Paul's prayer: to perceive the expectation of the calling of the Father of glory. The conduct of unity would testify that the one true God dwelled in all the believers alike. The Jews had centuries of separatism as their background, and the Gentiles had all kinds of religious beliefs in their past. True unity would be a remarkable testimony.
A1 7 Now to each one of us was given grace in accord with the measure of the gratuity [free gift] of Christ.
B2 11 And the same One gives these, indeed, as apostles, yet these as prophets, yet these as evangelists, yet these as pastors and teachers, 12 toward the adjusting of the saints for the work of dispensing, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ,
In A1 we have the measure of the free gift of Christ which corresponds to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ in A2. A2 speaks of attaining the unity of the faith and the realization of the son of God. This takes us back to our calling as sons of God as described in chapter 1:3-6. B1 says that the ascended Christ gave gifts to mankind. B2 names these gifts and gives their purpose. In C1 and C2 we have the repetition of ascending and descending, and also the contrast of the lower parts of the earth with up over all who are of the heavens. Christ's giving of the gifts and their exercise is what brings the body into conformity to Him.
B1 says that when Christ ascended on high He captured captivity. The picture is that of victorious conquest. The conqueror overcame the stronghold, released those whom the enemy had held captive, and rewarded his captains and soldiers with gifts-probably lands or cities. The quotation is from Psalm 68:18. This same passage appears to be the background reference for Acts 2:35 as an explanation for the pouring forth of the Spirit. Opinions vary as to what historical event was associated with the writing of this psalm in David's day. Some associate it with the bringing of the ark to Jerusalem; some with the conquering of the Jebusites and Jerusalem becoming the new capital of Israel.
The context of Psalm 68 tells of God's dwelling place coming to Jerusalem from Sinai. Verses 15 and 16 of the psalm speak of the mountains and peaks of Bashan in northern Palestine as being jealous and insulted that God would choose the lowly hill of Zion rather than their lofty snow-covered peaks for His dwelling place. That too is in keeping with Paul's message in Ephesians. Israel was originally chosen, not because they were the greatest or strongest nation, but because they were the smallest (Deut. 7:7). Yet they conquered nations greater than themselves. God sent a humble Messiah to be obedient unto death, and through that obedience He conquered death, despoiled principalities and powers and ascended to God the Father's throne. Paul has instructed the Ephesians to be humble and meek, and yet he tells them they were called to be part of the administration that will bring all in heaven and earth under the headship of Christ.
Christ captured the things that had captured humanity. He fulfilled the law-that which had captured the Jews. He crucified the flesh-that which had captured the nations. He conquered death-the power of Satan, who is not yet removed from ruling this world. Death had captured humanity. Now He gives gifts to equip His servants to serve Him and subject the universe to Him and to spread His life.
The reference to Christ's resurrection is very fitting. It was the resurrection that designated Christ as Son of God (Rom. 1:4; Acts 13:32-34; Psalm 2:7). And it is by believing in Him that we become sons of God. And by the exercise of the gifts of His glorious victory we mature into the realization of being a son of God and of being Christ's complement (v. 13). Here is a very strong emphasis on Paul's first petition.
A1 14 that we may by no means still be minors,
A2 here echoes the word measure that was seen in both A1 and A2 of verses 7-13. This chiasm is more about contrasts than similarities. The imperative that we no longer be minors is compared to the grace of Christ given to each believer providing for their growth and maturing that is needed to prevent us from remaining minors. B1 and B2 are very compact statements that employ infrequently used words. We will restate this chiasm below in an effort to amplify and convey the thought. In essence B1 says the world around us would scatter the body of Christ in many directions, but the headship of Christ, and growing into Him and His likeness is what brings us together and places each one in their correct place. The world feeds us confusion, but the grace of God nourishes us for growth to become like Christ. C1 is the focal point. It mentions two things that will be repeated. The love employed in making all grow into Christ is repeated in A2, closing the thought. Also in C1 the idea of being true in Christ is very significant. This will be repeated in the A1 and A2 of verses 20-25. So we see that while there are separate thoughts in these short paragraphs, there is definitely a continuous flow throughout.
Chapter 2:11-22 was the section of the letter that dealt with teaching on Paul's first petition: the expectation of the glorious Father's calling. That section went into detail by using the figure of building a temple to illustrate principles of the petition. Here we have the similar figure of building or growing a body. Much of the language is very similar. The N.T. word, sunarmologeomai is only used twice in the N.T., both in this letter, and both in sections that speak of our calling. The word is rendered being connected together in 2:21, and being articulated together in 4:16. Such unusual repetitions add credence to our designation that these two passages refer to the same petition of Paul's prayer.
Verses 14-16 in a Simplified Rendition
A1 By no means should you remain children!
There may be a subtle reflection in these verses of things that Paul said in chapter 2. First he tells us not to continue as children. In chapter 2 he called the Gentiles sons of stubbornness who acted in accord with the prince of the power of the air. The correlation between spirit and wind is suggestive of the prince of the power of the air being the one blowing the winds of false teaching that scatter the members of the body. In chapter 2 he referred to the Jews as children of indignation. Instead of following God's law from the heart they followed the impulses of the flesh and the teachings of the nations around them. It doesn't require too much imagination to see these ideas as underlying thoughts in this passage. It would be logical and normal to follow up the teaching of principles with illustrations that traced the same pattern as the teaching.
A1 17 This, then, I am saying and attesting in the Lord: By no means are you still to be walking according as those of the nations are walking.
A1 20 Now you did not thus learn Christ, 21 since, surely, Him you hear and by Him were taught (according as the truth is in Jesus),
There is a wonderful flow and continuity between verses 17-19 and verses 20-25. In 17-19 we have the following phrases: "the vanity of their mind...their comprehension being darkened...the ignorance that is in them." This is followed in verses 20-25 with the phrases: "you did not thus learn Christ...Him you hear...by Him [you] were taught...the truth is in Jesus...rejuvenated in the spirit of your mind." In the previous sections Paul dealt with the transition from childhood to maturity. Here he treats the same issues but from the viewpoint of the transition from ignorance to being educated in the truth.
The use of the word truth in Ephesians is very significant. In the first three chapters it occurs only and conspicuously in 1:13: "on hearing the word of truth-the evangel of your salvation." The Hebrew word amen carries much of the idea of truth. Truth is something that was firm, solid, dependable, and real. The Greek word has a similar background coming from the idea of non-concealment. Something unhidden and unchanging-reality. The good news of Christ is such a firm and stable reality, being founded in the wisdom and power of God.
When the Ephesians came to faith in Christ they came to a true foundation for their lives-a foundation unlike the surging waves of a storm-tossed sea-a foundation not laid on the windswept sands of human philosophy. They came to a new reality-a new manner of life, that governed the way they lived and the way they treated others. After Paul's solitary use of the word truth in the doctrinal chapters of his letter, he used it 4 times in this section on conduct that accords with our calling (4:15, 21, 24, 25), once when speaking of conduct according to our allotment (5:9), and once when speaking of our conduct in the power of the Spirit (6:14). (6 times aletheia, 1 time aletheuo)
The symmetry and parallelism of verses 20-25 are beautiful. The passage begins and ends with truth. The believer learns truth from Christ, and then truth becomes the touchstone of the believer's relationship to others. In B1 and B2 behavior before and after believing is likened to the apparel with which one is clothed. The old apparel is the old life and the new apparel the new life. Dress yourself in the new and beautiful! Change your manner of life to accord with your calling as a son of God. The old life was corrupted, and the new life is created. The old was in accord with its seductive desires, and the new is in accord with God. All these figurative expressions are beautifully blended into a clear, concrete example that is easy to grasp. This all comes about by a new attitude or disposition in a rejuvenated mind. This is the major theme in the Philippian letter-have this mind or disposition (phroneO) in yourself which was displayed in Christ. The previous vanity or emptiness of the mind was due to the void or lack of the knowledge of Christ. The blessings that come to humanity from God through His Son fill and renew the mind.
The expression new humanity occurs only twice in Ephesians: 2:15; and 4:24. Both of these sections deal with the expectation of our calling to be sons of God.
A 26 Are you indignant, and not sinning?
A 28 Let him who steals by no means still be stealing;
A 29 Let no tainted word at all be issuing out of your mouth,
Verses 26-27: The parallels of the first A-B here are indignant and vexation, and, sinning and giving place to the adversary. Tell the truth. Can you really be angry for any length of time and keep yourself from sinning? Don't let yourself be angry long enough to have a chance to sin. Don't give the devil a chance to get his foot in the door.
Verse 28: In the second A-B steals is set in contrast with toiling and working with his hands. Continuing to steal is set in contrast with having something to share, and the additional thought of the needs of others is brought in. There is so much of Christ in this. The change in attitude that leaves behind the motive of getting gain for self, and moves on ahead to the motive of helping others. He deemed equality with God in form something not to be stolen or grasped.
Verse 29: in the final A-B any tainted word is contrasted with any good word that will bring good results. "Issuing from the mouth" does not name the implied and obvious result of tainted words. But by leaving it out the result of any good word-supplying needful edification and giving grace-is emphasized.
Conduct of Believers in The Father of Glory's Allotment: 4:30-5:17
This section of the letter begins and ends with statements that allude to the portion of chapter 1 which defined God's allotment among the saints. Phrases associated with the Spirit give us the first indication of the relationship. Wisdom, prudence and the will of God are repeated ideas in these corresponding verses. This thematic relationship is emphasized further because only these sections of the letter and the prayer in chapter 1 contain the word allotment.
1:7-12 was designated as the portion of chapter 1 that defined God's allotment among the saints. Verses 13-14 following were designated as the transition in which the Gentiles were joined to the Jews to share their allotment. So together those two sections define God's allotment among all the believers. Under Teaching on the Glorious Father's Allotment Among the Saints 3:1-13 we noted the use of the word allotment that is found in various forms in these related sections.
The previous section encouraged believers to walk worthily of their calling as sons of God. This section continues in the same vein, but the reader will notice that all exhortations are relative to the thought of God living among the saints, and their living in His presence. The first section: 4:30-32 begins with the subject of the believer's treatment of God's Spirit and closes with a reminder of how God has treated the believer.
A1 30 And do not be causing sorrow to the Holy Spirit of God, by which you are sealed for the day of deliverance.
We have the power to grieve God with our behavior. He is living in us among us.
The following section makes repeated use of lists of three items. One of these lists is even duplicated. For this reason we will give this feature prominence in the outline. The following chart lists similarities and contrasts between the opening and closing statements of the section.
A1 1 Become, then, imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and be walking in love, according as Christ also loves you, and gives Himself up for us
A1 sets before us the believer-individually and corporately-as the temple or dwelling place of God, as Paul said in chapter 2. Three things are said about Christ's cross, and they all present OT pictures that can be helpful to us. Imagine ourselves in the temple and in God's presence-as if we were God's allotment of people in times before the cross.
The first term is an approach present. In Leviticus 1 the first offering described there is called an approach present in the CV. A footnote tells us the Hebrew word for it meant nearing. In Hebrew it is corban. You may remember the Lord Jesus mentioning corban in Matthew and Mark. The purpose of this offering was to come near Yahweh-to show devotion, gratitude and worship. The approach offering was a whole burnt offering. Except for the skin and a few other parts from the animal, the whole offering was consumed on the altar.
Leviticus 21:6 calls the offerings the bread, or food of God. This was a symbolic statement. Psalm 50:8-15 is very helpful on this thought. There God says that He would not take a bull from their household and if he were hungry He would not tell them. He owns all the cattle and beasts of the hills and fields. He needed nothing from them. What He wanted was to be called upon and thanked for what He did. So when we think of Christ as an approach present we should think of a number of things. He enables us to draw near to God. His life and the cross were a means of showing a complete devotion to and faith in God. The life of Christ was consumed with the performance of doing God's will and giving God what God truly wanted. Christ satisfied God much more deeply than any fine and delicate meal could satisfy a starving man.
The second term is that Christ was a sacrifice to God. He did not do His own will but God's. He pleased not Himself but God. Everything He did was toward God. And He was a sacrifice so that God could have us for sons.
The third thing that Christ was for our sakes was a fragrant odor to God. One of the ways that we could divide the different kinds of offerings in Leviticus, is to divide them as fragrant odor sacrifices and non-fragrant odor sacrifices. In the AV it is sweet savor, or non-sweet savor. Actually I prefer the rendering of that version on this point because the sacrifices were also a cooking of food and sweet savor suggests that thought. We know how pleasing it is to smell meat cooking, especially when one is hungry.
Sin offerings and trespass offerings were not sweet-savor offerings. They were offerings that were owed to God from the viewpoint of restoring fellowship that was broken by sins or trespasses. Isn't it wonderful that, even though Christ died for our sins, still His death for our sakes was a sweet fragrance of devotion to God. And as we come to realize our salvation, it is a sweet fragrance to us also.
B2 begins another list of three items, and these items have a direct correspondence to the three terms about Christ's cross. The approach present symbolized complete devotion to God. The first item in the next list is prostitution. Prostitution is a sin. But there is more here than the simple naming of a sin. Prostitution is a life of unfaithfulness. And when Israel worshiped false gods they were breaking their covenant with God and showing themselves unfaithful to Him. The prophets give us many examples in God's word accusing Israel of prostituting herself with false gods. This was the opposite of the whole-hearted devotion symbolized in the approach offering.
The second item is uncleanness. This corresponds to the second item in the first list: a sacrifice to God. Uncleanness is a general term for much behavior that is unacceptable to God. But it is also a term for distinguishing things that could be eaten and things that could not be eaten. And it was a term that described animals that were unacceptable for sacrifice. There were animals that were ceremonially clean and others that were considered unclean. And of the clean animals, nothing could be offered that was sick or injured or impaired in any way. Uncleanness is a term that describes unacceptability to God, and something that is disqualified from being suitable for sacrifice. We could say that the unclean and the suitable sacrifices were opposites.
The third comparison is between greed and a sweet savor to God. In verse 2 Paul said that Christ loved us and gave Himself up for our sakes. It was His complete devotion to God that made Him do that. And it was that free giving up of Himself that made His death a sweet, fragrant savor to God. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn. 15:13 AV). And yet Christ laid down His life for us when we were enemies of His Father, and when we were contemptible sinners. When we realize this, we have to say that there was not one ounce of greed in Christ. Christ had no inclination to greedily hold on to the equality with God in form He enjoyed during His OT existence. Instead He emptied Himself-the opposite of greed. He did not try to accumulate anything on this earth, and He gave up His own life for us. The only possession of any earthly value that Christ had was His seamless robe, and it was taken by the soldiers that killed him. How fitting! Garments are often used as a symbol of righteousness. Christ's seamless righteousness-offered and taken by those who killed Him. How could we even think of being greedy when He has given up so much for us?
Both B2-D2 and B4-D4 list three things, and in many translations it is difficult to tell the difference between them. They almost seem like a repetition of the same things-to a degree they are. In B2-D2 there is prostitution, uncleanness and greed. These three words are nouns that are feminine in gender. Paul says these things should not even be named as occurring among us. In B4-D4 we have a couple of adjectives used substantively and a noun, and they are masculine and neuter in gender. Paul puts some emphasis on the men here, perhaps to prevent the thought that prostitution is only a female sin or that Paul was emphasizing the need of faithfulness in women more than men. Anyone's life that is characterized by these things is void of God's Spirit. On earth men have been designated to take a position of authority and leadership as representative of Christ, but it is how we live our life, not our gender, that will show the validity of our faith.
In E3-A3 Paul goes a step further to deter us from 3 other areas of activity that should not characterize our lives. These are less serious things, but by avoiding these as well we can assure ourselves of being more pleasing to our Lord. Vileness, stupid speaking and insinuendo, Paul says, are not proper behavior for the children of God. Vileness refers to that which is vulgar, or common in the sense of distasteful. Stupid speaking is self-explanatory, but its mention shows us that we should correct each other in this matter as well as being free of it ourselves. Insinuendo is a blend of insinuate and innuendo. The thought here is jesting or hinting about things in a way that is suggestive of behavior unbecoming one who is devoted to God. We are to be imitating God (v. 1), who is in us and among us, not imitating or joking about things of the flesh and the world.
Verses 5:8-17: The Conduct of Light
There is a theme of the figurative, spiritual sense of light that runs through every verse of this section, tying it all together.
A1 8 For you were once darkness, yet now you are light in the Lord. As children of light be walking 9(for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10testing what is well pleasing to the Lord.
A1 begins with "testing what is well pleasing to the Lord," and A2 closes with "understand what the will of the Lord is." In addition to the obvious references to light, being prudent and knowing the Lord's will are also expressions that suggest light. The references here are for the believer himself to behave in a way that is consistent with the light of truth.
B1 and B2 take into account the actions of a child of light in relation to those around him. Light not only acts like light, but it has an impact on its surroundings. It will reprove or judge the things of darkness simply by being what it is. Being light puts us in opposition to the world system of darkness around us. Paul says that, living as light, we are actually buying back our time in the dark system of this world and making it light (B2). B1 and B2 contrast two functions of light for us: (1) the light of judgment and reproof, and, (2) the beacon light, which is a witness in the darkness. Throughout the book of John, the Lord Jesus is repeatedly referred to as Light, the Light of the world, and the Light of life. The things He did in His life changed things in the authority structure of the universe, and He changed the course of history. Live in such a way that you continue the world-changing practice of Christ! C1 and C2 emphasize this and exhort the light to be active and consistent.
Conduct of Believers in The Father of Glory's Power: 5:18-6:17
This third section of the conduct portion of Ephesians gives expression to the third petition of Paul's prayer in chapter one: "...for you to perceive...the transcendent greatness of His power for us who are believing, in accord with the operation of the might of His strength, which is operative in the Christ" (Eph. 1:18-20).
There are at least nine words in Ephesians that are associated with the ideas of power or strengthi, and four of them are included in this one petition: the transcendent greatness of His power (dunamis); the operation (energeia) of the might (ischus) of His strength (kratos). There are also four different words for power and strength in Paul's exhortations to stand against spiritual powers in chapter 6 toward the end of this section. These are two of the three areas of this letter that contain a concentration of these words. The latter part of chapter three is the section of the doctrinal portion of the book which emphasizes the third petition of the prayer. Five different words for power occur there, some of them more than once.
The first verse of our section is 5:18, and it reads as follows: "And be not drunk with wine, in which is profligacy, but be filled full with Spirit." At the end of chapter three in our corresponding section, Paul gives another prayer petition that should be considered with this verse: "that He [the Father] may be giving you, in accord with the riches of His glory, to be made staunch with power, through His Spirit, in the man within, Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith, that you, having been rooted and grounded in love, should be strong to grasp, together with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and depth and height-to know the love of Christ as well which transcends knowledge-that you may be completed for the entire complement of God" (3:16-19).
In 3:16 we are to be made staunch with power within ourselves-in our inner person-by the Spirit of God. In 5:18 we are to be filled full with God's Spirit. That fullness of God's Spirit within us gives us the strength to live our life in a way pleasing to God, and it controls all of our relationships. In chapter 3 we saw that we needed the strengthening of God's Spirit within us to grasp and understand the dimensions of the gospel, the love of Christ and the fullness of God's purpose.
God's Spirit strengthens us mentally and opens our perceptions to receive and grasp the truth. And the Spirit of God strengthens us to enable us to walk each day in the way that God would have us go. This defines the nature of the power that Paul prayed for in chapter one.
A1 18 And do not be drunk with wine,
Following B2 and B5 the C members have been withdrawn from the normal order of the text to highlight the corresponding features of the list of phrases. Three dots show their placement in the text.
Being drunk with wine tends to make us subject to the baser motives and desires within us. Being filled with the Spirit governs us also, but in a far better way. "Be filled full with Spirit" is an imperative command, and in the context of grace, it comes to us as an exhortation. This ideal command would be useless if we were not capable of obeying it. But Paul supplies the means for us to follow the instruction. Starting with B2, all the B's tell us the method to use to fill ourselves with the Spirit. Starting with C1, all the C's tell us the relationship involved.
The Lord Jesus told us that love was the key to fulfilling the law. Love governs relationships. The Torah said to love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind; we were to love ourselves; we were to love our neighbors as ourselves. All of Paul's instructions in this command to be filled with the Spirit are given in terms of relationships, similar to the relationships that were necessary for fulfilling the law. C, 1 through 4 name the relationships for us: ourselves, the Lord, our God and Father, and one another. So while the fulfilling of the law was summed up in the right relationship to God, self and neighbors, Paul modifies this somewhat to present what we might call the fulfilling of grace, or the life in the Spirit. He adds the relationship of the Lordship of Christ. He emphasizes thankfulness to God, which presupposes love but also adds the retrospect of the cross. And he modifies loving the neighbor to a mutual subjection to fellow members of the body of Christ. Obviously, we should still love our neighbors, including unbelievers, but there is a special emphasis here on our relationship to fellow believers. The mutual subjection of believers to each other especially supports the unity of Jews and Gentiles that Paul has stressed throughout the epistle.
B4 literally says to be giving God thanks for all. The word things is added. But because the context deals so much with interpersonal relationships, it might be well to drop the supplied word. Then we might not be quite as prone to apply the thanksgiving only to life situations, and overlook thanksgiving for people also.
A1 22 Let the wives be subject to their own husbands, as to the Lord,
It is shown here that the Lordship of Christ is the guiding principle for our lives and conduct. Our relationship to Him carries over into our lives to give us guidance in whatever our situation might be. The CV of the OT has made a change in Genesis 3:16 which is confirmed by the LXX, and I believe it is confirmed by this verse in Ephesians also. It reads, "Yet by your husband is your restoration. And he shall rule over you." It is restoration by the husband instead of desire to the husband as some versions have it. When we see Adam as representative of Christ and Eve as representative of the ecclesia, the parallel thoughts jumps off the page. By the husband was restoration and rule-Christ is the Head-Ruler-and Savior.
The parallelism of the chiasm is clear. A1 and A2 both speak of the subjection of the wife to the husband. B1 and B2 take us into the comparison of the relationship of the husband and wife being modeled after the relationship of Christ to the ecclesia. C1 and C2 show that the position of headship which Christ has over the ecclesia was initiated by Him when He became the Savior of the body/ecclesia. His headship was given to Him by God when He completed His obedience and displayed God's love. Love is the basis of the husband/wife relationship. Headship of the husband is a temporary office till we all come to perfection in Christ. Headship is based on the giving of one's self.
A3 25 Husbands, be loving your wives
A3 and A4 both speak of the husband loving his own wife. In B3 and B4 the husband is to love his wife as his own body, in the way that Christ gave up His own body for the ecclesia, or church. C3 speaks of Christ cleansing His body-the church, and C4 speaks of the body of Christ as having been cleansed. The goal of the cleansing and the focus of the outline is that Christ might present to Himself a redeemed company to be His complement in the administration of the new creation.
A5 29 For no one at any time hates his own flesh, but is nurturing and cherishing it, according as Christ also the ecclesia, 30for we are members of His body.
These verses bring Paul's illustration of applying the Lordship of Christ to the marriage relationship to a finale. The illustration of Adam is brought before us with the quotation from Genesis. Adam was alone until God created Eve. And Adam was incapable of fulfilling God's commission to fill and subdue the earth until Eve was present. Similarly, the loneliness of Christ was something He overcame when He took our flesh, was tempted as we, and died as we do. Now He has things in common with humanity that are beyond what He shares with the spiritual realm. And it is in God's plan that He not complete the kingdom until He has assembled the body that will function as His complement in that work.
The Genesis passage provides an interesting question: Why does it not say that the woman would leave her parents and be joined to her husband? Is that not as true as the man leaving his family? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the man represents Christ, and He left so much to be joined to us. We, on the other hand, remain where we are until we receive enough enlightenment to accept the One who left all to come to us.
Also, in a similar manner, Eve sinned and died. God provided a sacrifice and covering for her shame. Then, after these things had transpired, she was named Living (Eve). After all these things she bore children and helped Adam fulfill God's commission for them. It is after our experience with sin and death, and after our experience of coming to know God's sacrifice for our sakes, that we come to life. And it is in this life, under the Lordship of Christ, that we come into the realization of being God's allotment and living in His power. And in the exercise of His power we will work with Christ to complete the kingdom. In the exercise of His power we will function as the complement of the One who completes the all in all.
A1 1 Children be obeying your parents, in the Lord, for this is just.
A1 5 Slaves, be obeying your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in the singleness of your heart, as to Christ,
A3 9 And, masters, be doing the same toward them, being lax in threatening,
A1 10 For the rest, brethren mine, be invigorated in the Lord and in the might of His strength.
A3 14 Stand, then, girded about your loins with truth,
Verses 1-4 and 5-9 are quite straightforward, and we will decline comment on them, other than to say these are examples of how to exercise the power of the Spirit in different relationships.
In verses 10-17, A1 through A2 is meticulously balanced. A1 starts with three different words for the Lord's strength, and A2 finishes with the exhortation to stand in that strength. C1 tells us who we do not wrestle against, and C2 tells us who we do wrestle against. B1 and B2 have so many points of comparison that we will display them in the chart below.
The chart closes with the word the wicked day. This calls to mind 5:17, "reclaiming the era, for the days are wicked." By living as Paul instructs us here, we can buy back for God the time in which we live. The lyrics of a song bemoan: "Tuesday's gone with the wind," using the idea that time cannot be recaptured to lament a lost love. Paul's radical thought here is that we can live the kingdom life now, before Christ returns, and make this present evil day count for God and Christ and the coming kingdom. We are called to be administrators in the time in which God will be living among us. But He is already within us in earnest and by our sealing. Don't just sit around and wait for Christ's return, but use the power of God's Spirit within us to live the future life now. "Get hold of eonian life...really" (1 Tim. 6:12, 19).
A3 through A4 has been presented very simply, and may deserve other treatments as well. We have chosen to put several verbs in bold print. These verbs occur in the middle voice, which carries the thought of doing something to or for yourself. We might express this special emphasis as follows: Stand, then, when you've girded yourself about with truth, and when you have put the breastplate of righteousness on to protect your vital organs, and when you have put the sandals of peace on your feet, and when the large shield of faith has enabled you to extinguish all the fiery arrows the wicked one has shot at you, and then you can receive to yourself that salvation which is like the crucial helmet and the mighty sword, but in reality the sword is a declaration of the living word of God.
A2 and A3 give the exhortation to stand, and A4 closes with salvation. B3 and B4 both give us the protective elements of the cuirass, or breastplate, and the shield of faith. At C3, the focal point, we are to be walking in peace with those around us. A3 through C3 seem most easily applied to our tangible world of human relationships, while B4 moves into the spiritual realm which is also all around us.
The third petition of the prayer was that we would perceive the transcendent greatness of His power for us who believe. If we perceive that power we will act on it and in it. This acting is emphasized by the middle voice form of these verbs. The Lord Jesus Christ defeated the Adversary in the wilderness, not by the power of physical actions, but by a kind of power that is available and useable by everyone-the power of God's declarations-God's sword. This is the same kind of power Paul prays we will perceive.
The first humanity-Adam and Eve in the garden-were naked and they failed to serve and guard (Gen. 2:15) the holy place where they were living. We are the new humanity. We are not naked. We are dressed with the full armor of God. In the garden of Eden, God "set the cherubim and the flame of the revolving sword to guard the way to the tree of life" (Gen. 3:24). This sword is God's word (Heb. 4:12; Ps. 149:6; Isa. 49:2; Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; cf. Judg. 3:20, 21). Now we are not only clothed with God's armor, but we also are given His sword that we may be the guardians of life. With Jesus Christ as our Lord, we will overcome the opposition that faces us, and we will bring life to the creation by bringing them under the headship of Christ.
Prayer for Paul, Verses 6:18-20
A1 18 During every prayer and petition be praying on every occasion
A1 21 Now that you also may be acquainted with my affairs, and what is engaging me,
A3 23 Peace to all the brethren, and love with faith, from God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The pattern in verses 18-20 is progression. The prayer that is requested for Paul is that this evangel of God's grace which he has expounded to them may flourish, in spite of the opposition he suffered.
In verses 21-24 we wish only to comment on the unity with which the letter ends. In the opening verse he addressed two groups: the believing saints (Jewish) and the faithful ones, or believers (of the nations). He closes by invoking peace upon all the brethren and grace upon all who are loving our Lord Jesus Christ. He opens with an invocation of grace and peace, and closes with a benediction of peace and grace.
Ephesians is loaded with revelation of two different kinds. There is N.T. revelation that goes beyond what was revealed in the O.T. about Messiah and His kingdom. And there is also the secret or mystery revealed to Paul that involves the casting aside of Israel and salvation to the nations. If we can distinguish these two categories of N.T. revelation we can better understand Paul's Ephesian epistle.
Under the law, Israel had been promised temporal, physical blessings for obedience. But now Christ has gone beyond the limitations of the Levitical priesthood. He did not enter into an earthly holy place with an annual sacrifice. He entered heaven itself and the presence of God to present Himself as a once for all sacrifice for our sakes. He has entered the spiritual realm to open the bounty of spiritual blessings for us.
In the accounts of the life of Jesus, there are many examples of Jesus and His disciples exercising power over evil spirits. Those miracles illustrate the expanding realm of authority for man in God's kingdom.
Christ's exaltation in heaven over the spiritual realm also gives reason for the calling of the Gentiles. In Ephesians 2:2, 3 we see that the Gentiles were in the realm of Satan's control. For the Gentiles to be freed from domination by evil spirits, especially on the scale of Paul's evangel to the nations, into life in Christ, is evidence of Christ's ascension and authority. These spiritual blessings come to believers because they were chosen by God, in the Messiah, before the disruption of the world. The Father loved the Son before the disruption of the world (Jn.17:24), and chose a body of believers in Him to participate with Him in the kingdom. To be "holy and flawless in His sight" is a spiritual blessing that is required and enables believers to participate in the administration of the kingdom and to enter the celestial, spiritual realm.
Sonship to God
Christ spoke of sonship for Israel (Jn. 10 and Ps. 82:6 and text), and Paul named it as a privilege that belonged to the Jewish nation (Rom. 9:4). But while it is not a new item of revelation in Paul's letters, he explains it in much greater detail than was known before. So what we have is progressive N.T. revelation.
This condition of "holy and flawless" is amplified in the next line which says, "...in love designating us beforehand for the place of a son for Him through Christ Jesus." Notice that in the pre-disruption love of God, believers were designated for the place of a son for God (1:4). This word is in the same word family that is used of Christ's designation. Christ was designated Son of God by His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). His was not a designation beforehand, but designation in the course of human history and witnessed by man. His was a validated Sonship. He was loved long before by the Father, and His designation was planned before, but it awaited His obedience and suffering for fulfillment.
The believer's designation was beforehand and in Christ, and in grace. Paul illustrates this when he speaks of dying and being raised with Christ. Our sonship is inseparably tied to Christ and His work-the work that verified His sonship. Since this work of Christ was, to some degree, hidden (1 Cor. 2:6-8), the teaching of the believer's sonship was also partially hidden, especially with respect to the inclusion of Gentiles.
Paul's letter to the Romans ties many of these thoughts together for us. Believers are called according to God's purpose, and those who are called were "designated beforehand...to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the Firstborn among many brethren" (Rom.8:28-30). As His brethren, believers will work with Him, under His headship, in the administration of the kingdom. We noted that it was the resurrection that designated or specified that Christ was God's Son. This will also be true of believers. Currently we enjoy the earnest, or firstfruit, of these spiritual blessings. But in our own quickening to immortality we will also be verified as sons of God as Paul said earlier: "For the premonition of the creation is awaiting the unveiling of the sons of God...we ourselves...who have the firstfruit of the Spirit, we ourselves also, are groaning in ourselves, awaiting the sonship, the deliverance of our body. For to expectation were we saved" (Rom. 8:19-24). So the promise of Yahweh to Christ, "My Son are You; I, today, have begotten You" (Ps. 2:7), comes to believers also in virtue of being in Christ. And its final fulfillment comes in our glorification.
Ephesians 1:6 closes the opening stanza of Paul's praise to God with the thoughts of God's purpose and grace being the source of these wonderful blessings. To summarize these blessings, the calling of God to believers is for them to become His sons, and enjoy the privileges that come with being sons of God. This is precisely Paul's first petition in his prayer for the Ephesians: to realize what is the expectation of the calling of the Father of glory. God is the originator of these events, and they all come to us through the channel of Christ.
The Disruption of the World
I understand the word world (kosmos) to mean a system, or the prevailing order of things. Christ was foreknown by God as an unspotted Lamb before the disruption of the world, and His death is seen as effective from the disruption (1 Pet. 1:18-21; Rev. 13:8; 17:8). These verses make it clear that the disruption of the world was an event that created enmity toward God and called for the sacrifice of His Son to make reconciliation. The cleansing that required the sacrifice of Christ was not limited to planet earth and the human race, but the heavenly precincts of the spiritual realm needed this cleansing from the disruption of the cosmos also (Heb. 9:23-26). These verses show us that the term disruption of the world applies to a wider range of beings than humanity alone. The cross of Christ reconciles those of the heavens as well as those of earth (Col. 1:20). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the works of the days of creation, leading up to the original Sabbath, occurred from the disruption, dating the disruption at the time of Genesis 1:2 (Heb. 4:1-4). The disruption was an event that called for rule or reigning to restore order. Christ spoke in parables uttering things kept secret from the time of the disruption when he gave the parables of the kingdom. The allotment of tenancy in the kingdom was prepared for believers from the disruption (Matt. 13:35; 25:34). God has been sending out prophets since that time of whom Abel was the first (Lk. 11:50). And Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:4 that believers were chosen before the disruption of the world.
This brief summary on the disruption of the world shows that it has everything to do with the Messiah-the suffering Messiah-the kingdom, the spiritual realm, and the salvation of believers. This revelation was as important to Jews as it was to Gentiles, because the O.T. does not reveal how this event was connected with the Messiah and the aspects of God's plan that were kept secret.
These verses also bring up an issue of terminology. In Revelation 17:8 we are told of the book or scroll of life from the disruption of the world. In Revelation 13:8 this is the book or scroll of life of the Lamb, who was slain from the disruption of the world. In Ephesians 1:4 Paul says that believers were chosen in Christ before the disruption of the world. Is there a difference of meaning between "the book of life of the Lamb," and "chosen in Christ," or, do the differences just relate to the contexts of different books? And why does it speak of being "chosen before," and "in the book of life from?"
Moses also spoke of a book of Yahweh from which names could be blotted out (Ex. 32:32-33). However, this probably referred to the book of the covenant that had recently been made (Ex. 24:3-8)-a book that was not called a book of life. Moses made no comment about when this book was written, so we do not know if it dated from the disruption or from the covenant making at Mt. Sinai. It was normal practice when a covenant was made that names or some description of the parties involved would be included in a document. The very thought that someone could be erased from this book indicates that it was not a book of life, but a book of probation, much like the covenant. To consider this book the same as the book of life is to exercise liberties unwarranted by the context.
It has been suggested that the book of life was a book of Israelite names. This idea may have been based on Moses' mention of a book. But Paul uses the term in Philippians with reference to people there who competed with him in the evangel (4:3). We cannot be sure everyone referred to there was Jewish, though they may have been. While we see a future for a reborn Israel in the kingdom, we expect their role to be limited to earth. The role of the body of Christ in that administration is revealed by Paul to be among the celestials. Still, it is one administration not two, even though it will operate in two realms.
The book of life, being that of the slain Lamb, was based on the cross. This is the same cross that Paul said destroyed the enmity between Jew and Gentile. One further comment: it seems uselessly redundant to pull out a book of life at the great white throne if the only names included in it were Israelites who were already raised at the start of the millennium or born during its duration. Our conclusion has two aspects: (1) being chosen before the disruption and (2) the Lamb's book of life that dates from the disruption, are both elements of N.T. revelation. For the present we leave it at that.
The word that is given here as disruption (katabolE) is widely translated foundation in common versions of the N.T. This is in spite of the fact that the N.T. has the common noun for foundation (themelios) occurring more frequently than katabolE and consistently translated as foundation. Apparently part of the reason for this confused rendering is that N.T. revelation just speaks of the disruption without giving it a special clarifying introduction.
But what is clear is that foundation, as a translation of katabolE, leaves much to be desired. What was inherently wrong with God's creation, if the Lamb's death dates with reference to its foundation? Are we guilty of saying that God founded His creation on sin and failure? Why must the Lamb suffer from the beginning of God's creation if all was created good? If we hold to the translation of katabolE as foundation, do we not claim, or at least insinuate, that God's creation was flawed?
Frequently the justification for rendering katabolE with foundation comes from 2 Maccabees 2:13 and 29. The participial form of the verb, kataballO is used in 2:13 and is sometimes rendered founding or founded, speaking of a library (KJV, Knox Translation, NRSV, NJB).
But this is not the consistent rendering of all translations. The Douay Version said "he made a library;" TEV says "he established a library;" the NAB says "he collected the books." One obvious point to be made here is that establishing or making or founding of a library is far different from laying a structural foundation for something, and the thought of a building is lacking in the text. Such a founding is likely to be done by collecting books (as this context shows), or by making a grant of money for the purpose.
Perhaps the most help at this point for understanding variation in the use of the verb, kataballO, is that the root verb, ballO, requires a wide variety of translations in English. Commonly the use of ballO is very well represented by the ideas of "to throw," or, "to cast." But there are also passages where such a rendering is ridiculous. Men do not cast (ballo) new wine into old bottles (Matt. 9:17). A paralytic might be said to be thrown (ballo) on a couch or bed. A steward might throw (ballo) his master's money to the bankers (Matt. 25:27). In some instances the English word put seems to be the idea expressed by ballo. It should not be surprising then in various contexts to find the compound, kataballo, used in the sense of put down. However, I think that is as far as it can be taken. It can be said that someone put down a foundation and we remain well within the normal meaning of katabolE. But when the translator moves from put down to found, or, establish, they have changed the meaning of the word, even if it may seem warranted by the subject of the text. What may seem like a small, justified variation in one text can be a whole and unjustified change of meaning in another.
In 2 Maccabees 2:29 (or 30, varying with translations) the noun katabolE is used in a context dealing with the construction of buildings. In this passage the entire building project is set in contrast with the final painting or decorating of the structure. The use of katabolE here is much like our use of the noun project with respect to our use of the verb project. Men project their plans for future undertakings, and when these projections are accomplished they may speak of them as the entire project. So here, the whole putting down of their labors is referred to as the entire down-putting, or, down-casting. KatabolE does not mean foundation.
In the N.T. there are 11 uses of the word katabolE. One of these is used in a sense similar to that of the passage in Maccabees. In Hebrews 11:11 Sarah was strengthened for the putting down of seed. However, the other 10 occurrences of katabolE are different. The all speak of the katabolE of the cosmos, and their contexts define it as a pivotal point in the history of creation, and a point in time from which the cross became a necessity. We cannot be indifferent to or willingly blind to the importance of this event, if we wish to understand the N.T. revelations that explain our current situation.
The Outpouring of God's Spirit
The promise of God's Spirit being poured out upon Israel was part of the gospel of the kingdom. When John the Baptist came preaching, he called for repentance because the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:1-2). This repentance was to be initiated by baptism-a washing or cleansing-and followed by a change of life (Matt. 3:6; Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3, 7-8, 10-14). The outward cleansing of the washing represented the inward cleansing evidenced in the manner of life following. The cleansing was a preparation to enter into, or to restore covenant relationship with God. Such a cleansing was also done at Mount Sinai when Israel received the law and entered into that covenant (Ex. 19:10; compare also Rev. 7:13-17). At Sinai it was a sanctification and a washing of garments (Ex. 19:10).
But in his preaching John spoke of baptisms that were more searching and final than his washings in the Jordan River. "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11 ESV). Israel's initial entry into covenant relationship with God provided a representation of these deeper baptisms also. "I want you to know brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:1-2 ESV). Passing through the sea represented a cleansing by water and a symbolic passing through death that freed them from the slavery of their old life. It represents what Paul calls being baptized into Christ, and being baptized into His death. They were also baptized in the cloud which overshadowed them, and which was a cloud by day and fire by night. Isaiah 63 recounts the exodus event and identifies the Holy Spirit with the column of cloud and fire. So Paul's inclusion of the cloud as baptism can be understood as figuratively representing baptism in the Spirit. The exodus illustrates the escape from slavery to sin and the entering into the rest which the believer finds. It also shows the guidance and light provided by the Spirit of God. We usually sum these blessings up with the word salvation.
What Are the Blessings Associated with the Out-pouring of the Spirit?
When the Spirit is poured out upon Israel, they will repent of their unfaithfulness, be regathered into their land, and God's Spirit will be in them (Ezek. 20:30-44; 37; 39:28-29: Jer. 31:31-34; Zech. 12:10-11)
When the Spirit is poured out upon Israel, they will dwell in their land in peace and prosperity (Isa. 32:15-18; Ezek. 20:30-44; Joel 2:20, 27-29).
When the Spirit is poured out upon Israel, they will have agricultural abundance. So great will be the land's productivity that the wilderness areas will become abundantly fruitful fields and what was previously considered fruitful fields, by comparison will be looked upon as wildwoods (Isa. 32:15; Joel 2:21-26; 3:18).
When the Spirit is poured out upon Israel, righteousness and true justice will prevail under the rule of Christ (Isa. 32:1-18).
Obviously, none of these blessings are currently upon the nation of Israel. The fact that the Spirit was not poured out upon them with the results prophesied in the O. T. verifies that the rejection and murder of John the Baptist, the rejection and murder of Christ and the rejection of the Holy Spirit-verified with the murder of Stephen, resulted in God's rejection of them and the withholding of the blessings of the Spirit until a later time.
The gift of the Holy Spirit to believers that is available today is a different blessing from that promised to Israel. It is given upon belief, rather than upon repentance (though we do not deny the change of attitude that accompanies belief). Instead of the fullness of physical blessings believers receive the earnest or promise of current and future celestial blessings.
Yet God transformed Israel's loss of blessing into blessing upon the nations. God changed Israel's tangible blessings into spiritual blessings for the body of Christ, called from all nations. God changed the glory and authority of an earthly kingdom into the calling of the administration of a celestial kingdom, so that the full kingdom-earthly and terrestrial as well as heavenly and celestial-could, at a future time function in both realms at the same time with the same Head. This is why Paul must begin this Ephesian epistle with praise to God. The fact that God brought about these blessings out of the rejection and murder of the Messiah demands nothing less than astonishment, humiliation and unbounded praise.
So the message that Paul presents is a mixture of two things: (1) it contains much new revelation that was not given in the O.T. This is revelation that was shared and also given by Christ and His apostles. (2) It also contains new revelation concerning the secret of God's purpose to have a body of Christ to function in the celestial realm. The equality of Gentiles and Jews in this body which was kept secret is a hallmark difference between what Paul called the evangel of the circumcision and the evangel of the uncircumcision. The evangel of the uncircumcision is so called because it depends on nothing of the flesh or Israel's covenant-even for those of Jewish descent. Paul spoke repeatedly of the revelations that had been given to him regarding his evangel (Rom. 16:25-26; 1Cor. 2:6-10; 9:17; 2 Cor. 12:1-7; Gal. 1:10-2:10; Eph. 3:1-11; Col. 1:23-2:3; 2 Tim. 1:8-11).
Time Periods and the Body in Ephesians
Ephesians deals with God's purpose of the ages (1:9-11; 3:8-11). Scattered throughout the letter are references to different time periods during God's plan of the ages and to things that were done or will be accomplished during those times. We would like to give a short treatment of these things, but first we will give a brief justification for parting with the way most translations handle some terms.
AiOn and AiOnios
The NT words aiOn (age or eon) and aiOnios (age-lasting or eonian) are rendered very inconsistently in most translations. Frequently these words are rendered forever and eternal. But the inconsistency of rendering these terms shows that something is amiss in understanding their meaning. Both NT phrases for the eon, (eis ton aiOna), and for the eons (eis tous aiOnas) are rendered forever. In one phrase the noun is singular and in one it is plural, but both phrases are translated as if there was no difference between them. Forever appears as a singular term. This raises questions: "If forever is endless then how long does a plural number of forevers last? Can there be more than one forever? If not, what does the plural in the Bible mean?"
The expression forever and ever is used as the translation for three different NT phrases: for the eon of the eon; for the eon of the eons; and, for the eons of the eons. To ignore the difference between singulars and plurals without clear and definite examples in Greek idiom to justify it is little short of denying inspiration of the Scriptures. No one seems to have trouble understanding phrases like holy of holies; King of kings; or Lord of lords. Yet when we look for definition of age of the ages or eons of the eons we are met with unusual explanations like: ages continually tumbling over each other-a description obviously invented to support the idea of eternity. Instead, why not take the obvious meaning-the greatest age, or the greatest ages of all the ages? If one wishes to remain with the phrase forever and ever, he should ask himself the question: "If forever means endless time, then how long is forever and ever?" Apparently the Bible is telling us things that many of our versions are hiding from us.
But singulars and plurals are not the end of the problems in translating these words. For example, in Matthew the phrase the end of the age, or end of the eon, is translated with completely different words. Since it would be an obvious contradiction to speak of the end of forever, they translate instead: the end of the world, as if there was no difference between the meaning of the words world and forever. This can be found 5 times in Matthew (Matt. 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20). In a supposed effort to correct this problem, many new versions have changed world to age in these verses, but they have left the word uncorrected in other places-hiding the overall problem more deeply.
We will not belabor the point further though much more could be said, but we will try to sketch in some of the significant features of God's plan of the ages which are referred to in Ephesians.
Ephesian Time References
God chose to have, in Christ, a body of believers to be Christ's complement, before the event occurred which would require the death of Christ (Eph. 1:4). This is symbolized especially in the creation account in Genesis 2, and it is probably at least part of the reason why there are two separate accounts there. In the second account we see the man created first and separate from the woman. Christ is represented by the man. Christ has many titles which give Him multiple beginnings. He is "the beginning of the creation of God, the Firstborn of every creature;" and, "Firstborn from among the dead" (Rev. 3:14; Col. 1:15, 18 AV, CV). His resurrection is what designates the Son of Man as Son of God, and is His begetting as God's Son (Ps. 2, Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:1-4). These titles show Christ to be the beginning of the new creation.
The account in Genesis 2 can be seen as a typical presentation of the beginnings expressed in these titles. The loneliness of Adam speaks to us of the solitariness of Christ before the time when those of faith are glorified and thus enabled to be with Him and serve Him. Eve was Adam's complement, and, as Paul shows in Ephesians, she portrays typically the calling of Christ's complement. Eve was deceived by the serpent and sinned and came under the penalty of death. She and Adam tried to cover their own nakedness with fig leaves, which represents an effort by man to justify himself by his own efforts and to bring about a replica of God's kingdom. Man can accomplish neither of these apart from God's plan.
When God warned not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden, He did not say, "In the day you eat of it I will sacrifice animals to make a covering for your nakedness." He did say they would die. But, instead of the penalty of death being completed on humanity that day, God in mercy killed animals instead. This shows that a sacrifice would be made for humanity to prevent their annihilation. And like God's actions in the garden, Christ's sacrifice for sin takes the world by surprise. It was a secret kept hidden. Nature and conscience and the law all taught that man could not achieve God's kingdom by his own efforts-all that knowledge could teach him was that he must die.
After the woman came under the penalty of death, and after God had clothed her shame, the man, representing Christ, named the woman Eve, or living. It is after we have experienced mortality, and the gift of life through the sacrifice of Christ, and in most cases it will be after we have experienced death, that we will truly become living. It was through Adam's experience of the deep sleep that God caused to fall upon him that Eve was made. And it is through Christ passing into death that the body of Christ is created.
It is not said that Adam knew Eve until after her experiences of death, sacrifice, clothing, and being named living. And she bore no children-the means by which she and Adam could fulfill God's commission-until after these things had transpired. So also, the body of Christ awaits its glorification to eonian life before it will truly fulfill its calling of bringing all under the headship of Christ (Eph. 1:10).
In Ephesians 1:10 the time element-"the complement of the eras"-is mentioned. The complement of the eras is a period of time-an era or a group of eras-that complete or finish the eras being spoken of. The eras of the context date back to a time before the disruption-back to a time before there was a need for the cross-back to the time when the Father and Son agreed or covenanted with each other on their plan.
So the complement of the eras will be the time when God's plan of redemption will be completed. A complement is that which completes something. The work that will be completed will be performed by an administration. The administration performing the work is made up of those who become sons of God, and are the allotment of humanity among whom He dwells. The work they will accomplish will be the bringing of all under the headship of Christ.
Since Christ is Head of the ecclesia/church/body of Christ, coming under this headship must mean being reconciled to God through the cross and the owning of Jesus Christ as Lord. This will be fully accomplished when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). Paul says the administration that carries out this purpose will function in both the heavens and on earth, and Philippians agrees saying every knee-celestial, terrestrial and subterranean-will bow. In 1 Corinthians 15 we are told that this ultimate subjection of all to Christ comes with the abolition of death and accomplishes the goal of God becoming all in all-everything in everyone (15:22-28). In agreement with this, Ephesians tells us that Christ is "the One completing the all in all," and the One who "should be completing all" (1:23; 4:10).
There are different opinions on when the complement of the eras takes place. What we can be sure of is it will include the completing of the all in all. Will it be the single final era of the ages in the plan of redemption, or will it be all the era(s) in which this administration is active? Perhaps we have at least a partial answer to this question in some of the phrases mentioned earlier. The phrase forever and ever is most often the rendering of the phrase for the eons of the eons. This suggests that there are some ages or eons which are greater than the others in some way. These I understand to refer to two future eons. Referencing a concordance will show that the coming ages are indeed greater than those in the past and the current age in that God's glory will continually increase through the exercise of divine power by Christ in the realized kingdom.
In Ephesians Paul speaks of the body of Christ as having a celestial or heavenly allotment. But the celestial realm is only one of the two realms in which the one administration functions. God's power is displayed in the glory of the ascension of Christ, not only in the current eon, but also in the coming eon (1:21). And it is in the oncoming eons (plural 2:7) that the transcendent riches of God's grace to us will be displayed. The first aspect of this future display of God's grace is that we will be living during those periods of time. It is God dwelling among us and our service to Him through Christ that creates this display, and so we expect the administration to be functioning in both of the coming eons.
We understand the coming eon to be that which includes the 1,000 years in which Israel will be reborn and given authority and leadership on earth. It seems only natural then that a future, reborn Israel will make up that part of the one administration under Christ that functions on the earth. The body of Christ which is presently being called out of all nations has a celestial calling. Paul says that saints and believers will be judging the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3). This sounds very similar to the administration that operates both in celestial and terrestrial realms in Ephesians.
That there would be an administration, made up of believers from all nationalities, and that it would bring all realms under the headship of Christ, was a secret hidden in God from past generations. To the apostle Paul it was given to reveal this secret (3:4, 5, 9). Paul closes the third chapter of Ephesians with the benediction of a prayer and mention of the eon of the eons. Notice the first use of the word eon is singular and the second is plural. This phrase only occurs once in the NT-here in Ephesians 3:21. I understand this phrase to refer to the final eon in God's purpose of redemption. As such this eon reaches the highest point of glory in the course of the eons, because in it Christ will complete the kingdom and hand it back to the Father. This will be the eon in which God becomes all in all (1 Cor. 15: 22-28). We are not yet told what lies beyond the final eon of redemption, but we know that our reconciliation to God, adoption as His sons, and His being all in each one of us will continue on.
In contrast with this glorious future, Paul speaks of the present time as a wicked day (Eph. 5:16; 6:13) which we should reclaim or buy back from the current eon. We do this by living in the power of God's Spirit daily. It is as if we could take this time and make it part of the future glorious time when Christ will be widely revered and God glorified.
Who Makes Up the Complement of Christ?
From these time references in Ephesians we see that Paul takes into consideration the entire span of God's purpose of redemption that will be accomplished through a course of ages or eons. We would like to ask the question: "Who constitutes the complement of Christ?" Our purpose here is not to receive an answer that may be true at a specific point in time, but to consider who it involves over the course of the ages.
We have referred to Adam and Eve as being typical of representing the relationship of Christ to His complement. As Adam could not fulfill the commission of multiplying and filling the earth without Eve, so it is in God's plan that Christ would not fulfill the work of reconciling all to God by Himself. Christ's complement will serve under His headship to accomplish that goal. Those who serve in that capacity must qualify as being part of His complement.
The Father of glory gives Christ, "as Head over all, to the ecclesia which is His body, the complement of the One completing the all in all" (1:22, 23). In the structure of this sentence, the word complement is used as an appositive for the ecclesia which is Christ's body. And in the current age the ecclesia is the only active body that can function as Christ's complement. National Israel is cast off. But as the completing of the all in all is something that will not be fully accomplished for two more eons, we may be out of line with the Scriptures if we limit the complement's membership to the ecclesia that is being formed today. The future reborn Israel will also be serving her Lord in the coming eon, discipling the nations and teaching them of God-administrating God's will on earth. During the two coming eons the ecclesia will perform a similar function-and we should also say both a supplementary and complementary function with reborn Israel-in the celestial realm (Eph. 2:7).
Though we understand that the coming eon will end in rebellion against God (Rev. 20:3, 7-10), as the current one of grace will end in apostasy (2 Tim. 3:1-9), yet surely some will be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth through Israel's ministry just as many are saved in the current eon. We are assured by the Scriptures that glory to God will be increasing in these closing eons. What this means is that the called out ones who minister under Christ cannot be limited to what is called the body of Christ today. Indeed it will include them! But the content of the assembly-the complement, the administration-will surely grow and expand through the course of the ages, and in resurrection will even include many of faith who lived before Paul's secret was unveiled.
So we conclude that today the complement is limited to the group known as the ecclesia or body of Christ. But in the future it will expand to include many more as the different phases and eons of the kingdom progress. If the kingdom administration is to operate in both celestial and terrestrial realms, this must be true. So while we today are blessed to live in a time of grace, we should live in humility and not consider ourselves an elite group in some way more privileged than others of faith. When we consider the millions of sinners swept into the ranks of membership in Christ's body by God's boundless grace, we are both staggered and humbled.
One of the main themes of Ephesians is the unity of believers in Christ because of their common reception of the Spirit of God upon faith in Christ. This letter may well continue bearing such a message of unity as the ages progress and the kingdom of God morphs through the changes that come with each new era of the eons.
© J.Philip Scranton