I am excited to hear of many reading the Bible at College Park Church! I love the Bible as it draws us to the Author who is our Creator and Redeemer. Let me share an overview of the book of Ephesians that might help you as you read through this letter. There a number of themes to keep in mind. So, let’s take a look.
An Overview of Ephesians: Context
The book of Ephesians is a letter in format, but there is a lot of action demonstrated in the text. My suggestion is to not miss the small words among the big action themes. Additionally, as we look at an overview of Ephesians, it helps to break Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus down into six major parts:
The Triune God in Action (Eph. 1:1-22)
Ephesians 1 is one of the most God-centered chapters in the Bible. Paul presents God in his glory—which is the starting point for all of life. J.I Packer talks of this in Knowing God, which is my favorite book other than the Bible). In it, he quotes Spurgeon, writing:
“The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”
And who is this great, triune God that Spurgeon and Packer reference? Paul gives a short, exciting description of the actions of the triune God here in Ephesians 1:
- The Father blesses us “in Christ Jesus with every spiritual blessing” (1:3). I do not know totally what that means, but it is good!
- The Son provides “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins” (1:7). My favorite music group has a song that says, “Be glad, be glad, every debt you ever had, has been paid up in full by the grace of the Lord, Be Glad, Be Glad, Be Glad.” So true.
- The Spirit is the seal and “guarantee of our inheritance” (1:14). He is our confidence—not our 401k.
Toward the end of the chapter (1:21) Paul uses a “BUT.” He says that Jesus is exalted to the highest place in heaven and earth. To demonstrate that significance, he says Christ reigns “not only in this age, but in the one to come.” To God alone be the glory—our King in every age!
Sin & Grace in Action (Eph. 2:1-10)
This section is one of the clearest descriptions of the devastating depravity of mankind. Words like “dead” and “children of wrath” (2:1;4) show the severity of the human condition. Then, the greatest “BUT” in the Bible reverses the course of human descent into evil: “But God rich in mercy” chooses to save us. His love, grace, and mercy are the basis of salvation. Hallelujah! Those two words—“but God”—signify our hope.
Christian Unity in Action (Eph. 2:11-3:21)
This section is the center of the letter to the Ephesians. I realized this better as we recently worked through it together at College Park Church Greenwood.
Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus—a thriving city in Asia Minor (Turkey). It was probably a circular letter read and sent on to another church. We know of at least seven churches in that area from the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3. In this section of his letter, Paul calls for unity in the church. We need that message today, as well. The ethnic divisions we experience today are not new. As the church in Ephesus faced them, Paul uses a great “BUT” to help the discussion:
“But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace who has made us both one. . .” (2:13-14).
In the USA, the division of the nation is very obvious, and that is often true in the church as well. But if there is an active, triune God and a great salvation of mercy, then the Church must figure out how to be unified across socio-ethnic barriers. As you read this section of Ephesians, reflect on this and pray that we would be a people that loves God more and lives out that love in the way we treat our fellow brothers and sisters. God loves to unify his people!
Christian Maturity in Action (Eph. 4:1-32)
Ephesians 4 is a great counseling chapter. It is the call to action—walk worthy of your calling, believer (4:1). It also answers the question brought up from chapter 3: How can the church be unified? The answer is by living out the character of the triune God. Some of the believers were living like the world and not unified. In response, Paul pulls out another “BUT” in 4:20, saying, “But that is not the way you learned Christ!”
Church, we must put off the old self and put on the new. We must be characterized as a unified body that speaks truth (4:25), does not sin in our anger (4:26), speaks edifying words (4:29), and is kind and forgiving (4:32).
Christian Love in Action (Eph. 5:1-6:9)
This chapter starts with the greatest action word of the Bible: “love.” Paul instructs the Ephesians to “walk in love as Christ loved us” (5:1). He grounds this action in 5:18, where we are told not to be drunk with wine, BUT to be filled with the Spirit (5:18). When we are filled with the Spirit, our love ought to be demonstrated in our families, our jobs, and in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. This love is the evidence of our great salvation.
Evil in Action (Eph. 6:10-32)
The epistle ends with the reminder that the kingdom of God is not without opposition. The “BUT” contrast comes in verse 12, as Paul puts things into perspective: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against. . .the spiritual forces of evil n the heavenly places.” In other words: there is a battle raging and we have all we need in God for victory. The symbolic armor that protects us and the weapons of the Word and prayer equip us to glorify God.
The Book of Ephesians in Action
Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is alive and hopeful. I hope this overview of Ephesians is, as well. The same truths that Paul proclaimed to this ancient church can deepen our faith and bolster our courage today. Let us commit to being in the Word and doing the Word until the Lord returns. Make 2021 your best Bible reading year ever!