Ephesians

 

Author

·         Some scholars say Paul was the author, others say Paul was not the author

·         I believe Paul did write the letter, but it is important to understand both sides.  I will present three arguments against the authorship of Paul and three arguments for the authorship of Paul.

·         Reasons to think Paul didn’t write Ephesians:

1.       Vocabulary:  Ephesians contains 80 words that are not found in any of the writings that everyone agrees Paul’s did write

2.       Writing style:  Ephesians uses long, complex sentences whereas in a letter that everyone agreed that Paul wrote, such as Romans, the letter uses shorter sentences.

3.       No discussion of circumcision or the Law of Moses:  we have seen that Paul often focused on those ideas in his letters, but Ephesians does not discuss those points.

·         Reasons that answer the points above:

1.       Vocabulary:  Paul traveled extensively and used words that regionally common.  This would explain some words in Ephesians.

2.       Writing style:  Paul uses an amanuensis for Romans, and probably in other letters also.  The amanuensis Paul used for Ephesians had a different writing style.

3.       Theology:  The Ephesian churches did not have any problems and so they did not need to hear about theological ideas such as the Covenant and the Law of Moses.

·         For this class I will present Ephesians as if Paul wrote it.

 

Place and Time of Writing

·         Written when Paul was in prison in Rome.  This is described in Acts 28: 30-31.

·         It dates between 60-62

·         Paul had two lengthy imprisonments:  In Caesarea before being sent to Rome for 2 years (Acts 23:23-26:32) and in Rome (Acts 28:30-31).  This is from the latter imprisonment.

 

Unique Characteristics

·         Ephesians is considered a Prison Epistle.

·         We will cover three other letters that are considered Prison Epistles:  the next two, Philippians and Colossians, and the last of Paul’s letters, Philemon.

·         Ephesians involves no controversy and deals with no specific problems.

 

Audience

·         The house churches in Ephesus

·         At the end of his second missionary trip, Paul visited Ephesus where he left Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18-21).  He stayed a short time.

·         Paul remained in Ephesus for nearly 3 years on his third missionary journey (Acts 19; 20:30,31); while there the message of Christ was spread throughout the region.

·         Paul then left for Macedonia, but afterward he met with the Ephesians elders while on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17-38).

·         Ephesus was most likely Paul’s favorite city.

·         His friend Tychicus is mentioned, and he probably carried the letter from Paul to Ephesus. (Ephesians 6:21-22)

 

Theme

·         Ephesians focuses on describing the church, also known as the community of believers.

·         This does not mean the Catholic Church, but church with a small “c,” which means all Christians.

 

Opening Ephesus Up

 

1:1-2:  Greetings:  “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Why did Paul write the letter?

Paul mentions several times in the letter that he was in chains. 

·         For example, 3:1:  For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.”

According to the last two verses in Acts, Paul was under house arrest in Rome for two years.  While there he wrote four letters, Ephesians plus Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  Ephesians was unusual in that it did not deal with any particular situation or problem that the church had.  Therefore the question has to be asked:  why did Paul write it? 

    NT scholars are divided on their reasons, but it might be as simple as this:  Ephesians was probably Paul’s favorite city.  Out of the all the places we have discussed in Paul’s travels, Paul stayed in Ephesus the longest:  3 years.  Perhaps Paul found himself under house arrest, and after awhile he wanted to write a letter to his many friends in Ephesus.  Since Paul had stayed in Ephesus so long, he had well trained the leaders there and so they had no theological problems.  By writing them he would let them know that he was doing fine under house arrest.   We do know from the letter that Paul discussed some issues more deeply than in other letters.  That would add validity to the idea that he knew the recipients of the letter well, that they had no problems, ad that Paul wanted to discuss some ideas more deeply.

 

Discussion of the idea of “church” in Ephesians

Paul used the illustration of a body to represent God and believers:

·         1:22, 23:  “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

·         2:14, 16:  “For he himself [speaking about Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility [between Jews and Gentiles] . . . and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”

·         3:6:  “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

·         4:4-6:  “There is one body [meaning one people of God] and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

·         4:11-12:  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” 

This “body of believers” is to work together for the purpose of mutual encouragement and accomplishing the tasks of the church as a whole.  The house churches in Ephesians were not having problems, and so Paul was able to discuss how they relate to each other in more detail.  Let me give an example of what Paul is doing by comparing the Corinthian letters and Ephesians:  the Corinthian house churches were having many problems, and so Paul had to focus on working them through their problems instead of giving them deeper teachings.  Paul does mention this “body” idea in I Corinthians 12:12-31, but he spends most of the letters “putting out fires” by focusing on their problems.  But the house churches in Ephesus contain more mature Christians, and so Paul instructed them in the finer details of how they relate to each other as part of the “body of Christ.”

 

Predestination vs Free Will:  what are they exactly?

Paul mentioned the idea of predestination at the beginning of the letter:

·         1:4, 5:  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with is pleasure and will.”

·         1:11:  “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”

Predestination, simply put, is the idea that God, at some point in the past, chose the people who would accept him.  Those whom God has chosen in the past will become Christian at some point in their lives.  If someone was not chosen, then he/she will not become a Christian.  God made the choice and the decision is final. 

    Christians who believe in predestination disagree over when God made this choice.  Some say that God made the choice right after he created humans.  When I say “made the choice,” I mean that God looked into the future and decided who would become Christians eventually.  Some say that God made the choice after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [after they ate the forbidden fruit:  Genesis 3].  Whichever time it was, God made the choice out of all the people who would ever be born, and decided which would follow him.

    The opposite idea is called “Free Will.”  This is the idea that everyone has a free choice to follow God or not.  God does know who will choose him and who will deny him, but God does not choose individuals but instead people get to choose.  This is known as “foreknowledge,” that God knows beforehand but does not make the choice himself.

    Here’s the problem:  the Bible seems to speak on behalf of both ideas.  I have shown you several verses in Ephesians that seem to promote predestination, but I can also show you a verse that seems to promote free will:  John 3:16:  “For God so love the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Plus there are many more on both sides.  This is why there is so much disagreement over the two, because both sides can find verses that back up their point of view. 

    To sum up:

·         Predestination:  At some point in the distant past God chose every one of the future people who would become Christian and will go to heaven.  By default, those God did not choose will not become Christian and therefore go to hell.

·         Free will:  God has given everyone freedom to choose to follow Jesus or not.

 

Second part:  how to live as a Christian:  4:17-6:20

 

At this point in Ephesians Paul shifts to discuss the actions of a Christian.  He did that because his teachings were causing confusion.  Remember that Paul said not to be circumcised or follow the Law.  Also remember that the Law told the people of God (in the Old Testament period) how to live.  So basically the Christians did not know how to live.  After all, the Gospels had not been written yet, and so Christians could not read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John to see how Jesus lived.  Therefore in many of Paul's letters he tells Christians how to life.  In four of his letters he does that in the second part of the letter:  Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and I Thessalonians.   Some examples from Ephesians:

·         4:25:  “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

·         4:29:  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

·         4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

·         5:22-6:9:  The Christian household:  wives, husbands, children, slaves

o    These verses can be confusing.  Paul discusses the members of a Christian household, but also includes slaves (6:5-9).  [Note:  some Bibles will use “servants” because the Greek word, “doulos” can mean both servant and slave.] 

o    The short answer for this is that slavery was of a different sort in the Roman period than in the American South before the civil war, or really in most places in the world.  Slavery in those days was not a racial issue but an economic issue.  Please go here to read about this in more detail:  http://studythechurch.com/slavery_in_nt.htm 

 

Outline of Ephesians

 

Chapters

1-3:  the church

4:1-16:  Unity in the body of Christ

4:17-6:20:  How to live as a Christian

6:21-24:  Closing remarks

 

Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate

 

63BC

Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting

44BC

Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.

40BC

The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel

37BC

Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt

31BC

Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.

27BC

Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 

AD

All years after this point are AD

Before

6

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem

6

Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors

8

Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah

8-27

Jesus probably worked as a carpenter

26-36

The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate

27

Jesus baptized by John the Baptist

27-30

Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles

30

1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel

30-50

Peter was the leader of the Christian movement

33

Paul became a Christian

48-50

Paul went on his First Missionary Trip

50

Council of Jerusalem

51-90

We do not know what John did during this time period

50-55

Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians

54-68

Nero was Roman emperor

55-60

Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians

60-62

Paul arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Rome

·         Paul wrote Ephesians

63

Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain

64

Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 

65

1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome

66

Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.

66-70

The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.

68

Mark written around this year

70

The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 

80

Matthew and Luke written around this year

81-96

Domitian is Roman emperor

90

John and Acts written around this year

95

1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian

96

1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life

100

John died

367

First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop

390s

Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books

1200s

NT divided into chapters

1500s

NT divided into verses

 

 

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Questions/comments, contact Mark at marknickens@gmail.com