Ephesians 1-3

Introduction: Ephesians claims to be a letter written by Paul, but scholars are divided over its authenticity.  The majority believe it is not actually by Paul, pointing to differences between Ephesians and Paul’s undisputed letters–differences in writing style, in theology, and in the use of terminology (such as “mystery” and “church”).  A minority explain the differences by positing that Paul was writing at a later date and to a different audience.  In any case, chapters 1-3 is a theological teaching emphasizing the importance of unity between Jews and Gentiles, while 4-6 is an ethical exhortation for the church to maintain this unity by rejecting previous lifestyles and adopting Christian ones.

Ephesians 1-3:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In Jesus we have redemption and forgiveness of our trespasses, according to his grace.  He has made known to us the mystery of his will–the unification of all things in heaven and on earth under him.  When you Gentiles heard the gospel and believed it, you were also included in God’s own people and guaranteed a part in our inheritance.

You were once dead through the trespasses and sins in which you lived.  But God, who is merciful, loved us and made us alive together with Christ.  This grace is not of your own doing, but a gift of God.  Remember, Gentiles, that at one time you were aliens to the Israelite covenants; then Jesus came and abolished the law.   You are now citizens and members of the household of God.  The mystery was made known to me by revelation, the mystery being that Gentiles have become sharers of the promise to Abraham.  I have become a servant of this gospel, despite being the least of all the saints, to make everyone see the mystery hidden for ages.  I pray that God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit and that you have the power to comprehend the love of Christ.

Commentary:

  • Even to the casual reader, Ephesians has a strikingly different writing style than Paul’s undisputed letters (Romans, 1/2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Thessalonians).  Paul writes in short, simple sentences in his undisputed letters, whereas Ephesians is full of very long and verbose sentences.  These sentences are so long in Greek that they are often divided in the English translation, or else they would be incomprehensible.
  • It is striking that Paul says Jesus abolished the law in 3:15 (“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two”), in stark contrast with Matthew 5:17 (“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”)
  • Paul believes in an enigmatic evil spirit that is at work among the disobedient:

    You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient (2:1-2)

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