Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 13 - Paul's Letter to the Ephesians)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

Considering Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

Many Bible scholars don’t believe Paul wrote Ephesians. They offer the following reasons:

  • There are no personal greetings in Ephesians. 
  • There’s no mention of the prior relationship between Paul and the congregation.
  • The Ephesians are challenged to imitate God rather than Paul.
  • When compared to what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the image of the church as the “Body of Christ” is different in the Letter to the Ephesians. 
    • 1 Corinthians 12:12: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 
    • Ephesians 4:15-16: But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. 
  • The style is different. Ephesians doesn’t have the long sentences that can be seen in other Pauline works.
  • The language is slightly different. “Righteousness” isn’t the focus, while the “mystery” of salvation is.
  • In Ephesians, Paul turns away from the end-time coming of Christ. Instead he suggests that the church has already been united with the risen Christ. 
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.  
    • Ephesians 1:20-23: God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. 
The letter was written to a Gentile, Christian community that had knowledge of Gnosticism.

As with other Pauline letters, Ephesians can be divided between the theological and the ethical.

  • Theology – Ephesians 2:1–3:21 (Ephesians 2:1-10: 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. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life)
  • Ethic – Ephesians 4:1–6:20 
    • The church as body
    • Two ways to live - old vs. new
    • Living as imitators of God, including topics like impurity and using empty words.
    • True wisdom
    • Household codes, addressing husbands and wives, children and parents, slaves and masters
    • Armor of God

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