What’s The Big Picture?
Ephesians has been called “The Heavenly Epistle” and “The Alps of the New Testament.” In it Paul takes us from “the depths of ruin to the heights of redemption.”
Many prominent Bible scholars and theologians regard Ephesians as the crown of all of Paul’s writings.
- Ephesians unpacks essential truths at the very core of what it means to be a Christian both in faith and in lifestyle.
- The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological: emphasizing basic New Testament doctrines, and the reality of who we are in Christ and what Christ accomplished for us at Calvary.
- The last three chapters of Ephesians are practical: emphasizing Christian behavior and authentic Christian living, with a clear focus on developing godly character.
As you study Ephesians, you’ll notice there are no commands in chapters 1-3, but there are over 30 commands in chapters 4-6.
Ephesians 1:3 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
Above all, Ephesians is a letter of encouragement written to remind believers of their immeasurable blessings in and through the Lord Jesus Christ; and not only to be thankful for those blessings, but also to live in a manner worthy of them.
Title, Author and Date
The letter is addressed to the church in the city of Ephesus – an opulent city, very sophisticated, proud, and pagan. It was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia, in modern Turkey.
Paul is the writer as indicated (Ephesians 1:1; 3:1). The letter was written during his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:16-31), sometime between A.D. 60-62 and is often referred to as a prison epistle (along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).
- Paul, the author of Ephesians, was an apostle of Christ, a courageous missionary, gifted Bible teacher, articulate apologist and Christian statesman.
He was a specially gifted emissary from God, not because he chose to be, but because God called, anointed and gifted him.
- The language of the letter makes it clear that Paul is enraptured by the overflowing goodness of God and His amazing grace. His prayers and words of gratitude and praise to the Lord stream out like a gushing river.
Background and Setting
Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) was an important cultural center of the ancient world, only behind Rome and Alexandria in Egypt.
With a population of over 330,000 it served as a strategic political, educational, and commercial center – a great city in its time.
One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the magnificent temple to Diana of Ephesus, dominated the social life of the city.
Diana, among many other things, was the goddess of fertility. Ephesus was a city brimming with pagans, and steeped in idolatry, sorcery and the occult (Acts 19:17-20).
- Associated with the ministries of Paul, Timothy, and the Apostle John, the city and the entire region was impacted by the power of the gospel and played a crucial role in the dynamic spread of Christianity.
The audience was the church at Ephesus. But since Ephesus was a cosmopolitan city and included believers from Greek, Roman, and Jewish backgrounds, the letter was circulated to other churches in the area and so would have had a much larger audience to believers everywhere.
Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus to build up their faith and help them realize the marvelous gift of the riches of God’s grace they had been given in Christ (Chapters 1-3).
His epistle encouraged every Christian to live a godly life worthy of God’s calling; to be filled with the Holy Spirit and triumphantly engage the enemy in spiritual warfare (Chapters 4-6).
- Ephesians underscores the gospel truth that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone – and not through any works or human striving.
- The church came into being because of God’s great work of salvation. Paul wrote this letter to instruct believers in Christ concerning the privileges and responsibilities of those who were part of the church, the Body of Christ, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles.
- In Ephesus, a city with a powerful pagan cult – the worship of Diana of Ephesus – the apostle Paul magnifies the matchless and supreme nature of Christ’s power and authority.
Key Message of Ephesians
We live our beliefs! We are to walk the walk – and not simply talk the talk! As Christians our behavior must match our beliefs.
In an age when many in the church speak disparagingly about Bible doctrine and seek “more relevant” teaching, Ephesians highlights the inseparable link between sound doctrine and sound living.
- Satan’s primary purpose is to subvert, oppose and mute the content of sound biblical doctrine and dislodge it from its central place in the life of the church.
- Sound doctrine is not optional. Theological truth provides the solid foundation and reason for Christian behavior. Therefore, the better we know biblical doctrine and our commitment to it as a set of convictions, the better we can live strong and confident Christian lives.
Outline of Ephesians
Ephesians has been given such titles as the believer’s bank, the Christian’s checkbook, and the treasure house of the Bible. This amazing epistle informs Christians of their great inheritance, wealth and riches in Jesus Christ and in His church.
It enlightens us about our position, place, power and privileges in Him. It tells us what we possess and how we can claim and enjoy our possessions…
I. THE CALLING OF THE CHURCH (Eph. 1:1 – Eph. 3:21).
A. Praise for God’s Redemptive Work and Amazing Grace (1:1-14).
B. Prayer for a Clear Revelation of God’s Grace (1:15-23).
C. Salvation Only by God’s Grace (2:1-10).
D. Jew and Gentile Reconciled Because of God’s Grace (2:11-22).
E. Paul a Steward of the Gospel of God’s Grace (3:1-13).
F. Prayer for Spiritual Power and Discernment (3:14-21).
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE CHURCH (Eph. 4:1 – Eph. 6:20).
A. In Unity (4:1-16).
B. In Righteous Living (4:17-5:14).
C. In the Spirit’s Fullness and Control (5:15-21).
D. In Marriage (5:22-33).
E. In Family and Work Relationships (6:1-9).
F. In Winning in Spiritual Warfare (6:10-20).
III. CONCLUSION AND CLOSING REMARKS (Eph. 6:21-24).
Seven Facets of God’s Character
Who is God? What is God like? And what kind of God is He? A.W. Tozer often said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Fully comprehending the awesomeness of our God is impossible for us as limited beings – however, God does make Himself known through His Word. In Ephesians, Paul reveals these seven great attributes…
- God is glorious (Eph. 1:12; 3:16).
- God is a promise keeper (Eph. 1:13; 2:12; 3:6).
- God is an all-powerful God (Eph. 1:19; 3:7, 20; 6:10).
- God is a merciful God (Eph. 2:4).
- God is a kind and loving God (Eph. 2:4-7).
- God is wise and the source of wisdom (Eph. 1:8; 3:10).
- God is a God of peace and the author of peace (Eph. 2:14, 17).
Embracing God’s Opinion of You
In his many letters, Paul often uses the phrases “in Christ” and “in Christ Jesus” and “in Him” to describe the believer’s position and privileges. In Ephesians they appear about thirty times. The phrases “with Christ” and “through Christ” are also used.
Today, because of Jesus and the triumph of the cross, God now sees us according to our true identity in Him…
- We are saints in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:1).
- We are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3)
- We are chosen by God (Eph. 1:4, 11).
- We are adopted as children of God (Eph. 1:5).
- We have received grace, redemption and forgiveness (Eph. 1:6-7).
- We have obtained a victors inheritance (Eph. 1:11).
- We are marked by God and sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
- We have received wisdom and understanding from God (Eph. 1:17).
- We are clothed with resurrection power (Eph. 1:19-20).
- We have been made alive and saved by grace (Eph. 2:5).
- We are God’s workmanship created brand new (Eph. 2:10, 15-16).
- We have been brought near to God (Eph. 2:13).
- We have direct access to the Father through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18).
- We are built and joined together into a spiritual temple (Eph. 2:21-22).
- We have been equipped with boldness and confidence (Eph. 3:12).
- We have been anointed with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).
- We are strong in the Lord and empowered for victory (Eph. 6:10).
Six Key Verses In Ephesians
Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV) By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
Ephesians 4:30 (NKJV) Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 5:17 (NKJV) Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Two Key Words In Ephesians
1. GRACE describes God’s free and unmerited favor lavished upon sinful humanity. It is God’s goodness and undeserved kindness poured out by which salvation is freely given (Ephesians 1:2).
As sinners before God, we have nothing that could commend us to Him. Grace comes to those who are ill-deserving, and in fact, none of us deserve it. God’s Grace is not only undeserved but also unending.
Acts 15:11 (NLT) We are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.
- Grace is God loving the unlovely, pardoning the guilty and saving the lost.
- G.R.A.C.E. = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. We are used to the idea that we have to earn what we get, but the grace of God is different: It is 100 percent free. We’ll never get a bill. We’ll never be asked to pay Him back. We couldn’t even if we tried (Ephesians 2:4-9).
- Grace is not a one-time event in the Christian experience. The entire Christian life is lived and empowered by grace. (Titus 2:11-14).
2. REDEMPTION means to buy back and set free by the payment of a ransom price or the release of a slave upon receipt of ransom (Ephesians 1:7).
In ancient times, one could buy back a person who was sold into slavery. In the same way, Jesus through the power of His shed blood “purchased” and rescued us from the slave market of sin and set us free (Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 3:18).
“The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.” – Adrian Rogers
Christ died on the cross and rose again to pay the price required to ransom sinners and free us from the penalty, punishment, and power of sin (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).
- Redemption, forgiveness, and deliverance are accomplished for us through the power of the cross. Both the Old and New Testament clearly teach that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Transformational Truths In Ephesians
1. The Truth of Our Salvation (Ephesians 1:13): Salvation is an absolute gift of grace, unearned and undeserved. In just 6 chapters and 155 verses, Ephesians makes it crystal clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and to God alone be the glory.
- Salvation is of God. Man cannot and does not save himself. God alone saves. Salvation never originates in the efforts of people; it always arises out of the goodness and lovingkindness of God. Truly, “salvation is of the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). Every aspect of man’s salvation is from God and is entirely dependent upon God.
- Salvation is all of grace. Paul emphasizes this truth throughout the letter (Ephesians 2:1-10). Grace is God’s unearned, unmerited free favor showered on people who do not and cannot deserve it. God’s grace is the only way man can be saved.
- Salvation is not a matter of human attainment, but of divine atonement. Jesus died on the cross as an atonement, which means a payment for our sin. Jesus removed the sin debt we owed through His death on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15).
- Salvation is already paid for! While we owed a debt we could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe. Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection fully paid the penalty for our sins, and secured our forgiveness and salvation. Because of Jesus your salvation is paid in full!
- Salvation is God’s greatest gift and man’s greatest need. In salvation, men who deserve hell obtain heaven. This cannot be explained apart from God’s grace.
- Salvation is only one way! The only way for any person to be saved is “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:11). Heaven is reserved exclusively for those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Acts 4:12).
2. The Truth of the Spirit-Filled Life: In Ephesians 5:18 to be “filled with the Spirit” means “to be under the influence and be controlled by” the Holy Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost when 120 believers were filled with the Holy Spirit they were accused of being “drunk and drunken behavior” (Acts 2:13).
Just as a drunk is influenced by alcohol, so a believer should be controlled by the Spirit. However, there are key differences…
- The drunk loses self-control, but the Holy Spirit gives the believer self-control (Galatians 5:23).
- The drunk has an artificial happiness that is very temporary, while the Spirit-filled believer has a genuine and lasting joy in the Lord (Acts 13:52).
- Drunken people do dumb and foolish things that hurt others and bring them embarrassment, but Spirit-filled believers help others and live to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:18-21).
Think About It: Questions to Ponder
- What new insights have you gained through this brief snapshot of Ephesians?
- How does it make you feel to know that the God of the Bible chose you and saved you?
- Do you believe that God’s grace is sufficient to forgive even your worst sin?
- Have you ever thought about your spiritual wealth and riches in Christ?
- How much have you grown in your Christian life since you came to faith in Jesus Christ?
- If you were asked to explain grace to someone, what would you say?
- Do you believe that you now have access to all of God’s spiritual blessings?
- What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit?
- Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit and are you living the Spirit-filled life?
Personal Application: Take the time to read and study Ephesians. And write your own list of “riches of grace” and blessings in Christ for which you are thankful, and praise God for His great love and amazing grace in your life.