The central theme of the letter to the Ephesians is Christ who has reconciled all creation to God and has united people from all nations in His church. The letter consists of two main parts: an exposition of doctrine (chapter 1-3) and the consequent moral teaching (chapter 4-6).
The apostle Paul sends grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus to his readers, the saints in Ephesus. Ephesus was an important city in Asia Minor, modern Turkey. During his third missionary journey, Paul labored in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:10). He probably wrote this letter from his imprisonment in Rome (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1, 6:20) and sent this letter as well as the ones to the Colossians and Philemon with Tychicus around 62 AD.
Paul does not mention specific people nor particular cases in the letter and the words “in Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1) are missing in important manuscripts. This makes it likely that the letter was intended to be circulated in the area in and around Ephesus.
Spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3-23)
After the greeting, Paul sets off with exalted words of praise on God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He blessed us in Christ with everything we need for redemption and He chose us even before creation.
In Christ, we obtained the inheritance of salvation which was proclaimed by the Gospel. Paul then prays that the believers in Ephesus may know more and more the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that He worked in Christ.
Saved by grace through faith (chapter 2)
After describing salvation from God’s perspective, Paul now addresses the Ephesians directly and explains what happened to them when they believed the Gospel. At first, he writes, we were dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1).
But God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). All this is not a result of our works, but a gift of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). In fact, God prepared the good works beforehand, that we should walk in them. Through the work of Christ, all Gentiles have access in one Spirit to the Father, just like Israel.
The mystery of the Gospel (chapter 3)
Paul continues on the theme of Jews and Gentiles in the next chapter. Since the revelation of the Gospel, the Gentiles are members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6).
This was a mystery hidden for ages, but now brought to light, so Paul could preach the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). Paul concludes the first main part by a powerful prayer that the Ephesians may be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).
Unity, life and light in Christ (chapter 4:1-5:21)
Having outlined the important doctrines of the gospel, Paul now turns to the practical implications for the believers in Ephesus. Despite the differences between the church’s members, they should be one in Christ, joined as one body.
They should not walk in the darkness of sins, but be renewed in the spirit of their minds and walk in love and light. All kind of sins are identified and rejected by Paul. They Ephesian believers have been risen from the dead and Christ shines upon them, so they should walk according to their calling.
Wives, husbands, children and slaves (5:22-6:9)
Paul becomes even more practical when he addresses in succession wives, husbands, children and slaves. He compares marriage with the mystic relation between Christ and His church.
Husbands should love their wives as Christ does the church (Ephesians 5:29). Wives should submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Furthermore, children, parents, bondservants and masters receive instructions from Paul to live a Christian life.
The whole armor of God (6:10-20)
The life of a Christian is not led without aid. An entire armor equipment is at our disposal. Paul elaborates on the various parts of the Roman soldier’s outfit, which the believer needs to stand against the schemes of the devil, the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:11-12).
We need the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit to resist the devil, while praying at all times in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).
Final greetings (Ephesians 6:21-23)
Paul concludes his letter with a comment regarding the postman Tychicus and wishes his readers peace, love, faith and grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Main messages for us
- Salvation is founded on the free election of God in Christ before the world began.
- Sin is not an accidental shortcoming, but a state of death.
- We possess all spiritual blessings of salvation through faith in Christ.
- Jews and Gentiles are now united in one body.
- The gospel transforms our life, so we do not walk in darkness anymore, but in the light.
- Husbands and wives should mirror their relationship to Christ and the church.
- The armor of God gives us the power to resist the satanic temptations.