SAINTS AND FAITHFUL
That is Paul’s way of describing a church. There were plenty of very imperfect Christians in the community at Ephesus and in the other Asiatic churches to which this letter went. As we know, there were heretics amongst them, and many others to whom the designation of ‘holy’ seemed inapplicable. But Paul classes them all under one category, and describes the whole body of believing people by these two words, which must always go together if either of them is truly applied, ‘saints’ and ‘faithful.’
The apostle addresses himself principally to Gentile Christians. His object was:
- 1. To bring them to a just appreciation of the plan of redemption, as a scheme devised from eternity by God, for the manifestation of the glory of his grace.
- 2. To make them aware of the greatness of the blessing which they enjoyed by sharing its benefits.
- 3. To lead them to enter into the spirit of the Gospel, as a system which ignored the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and united all the members of the church in one living body, destined to be brought into full conformity to the image of Christ.
- 4. To induce them to live as suited a religion which had delivered them from the degradation of their heathen condition, and exalted them to the dignity of sons of God.
He begins, therefore, with the primal fountain of all spiritual blessings. He refers them to their predestination to sonship, and their consequent election to holiness, before the foundation of the world. From this flowed their actual redemption by the blood of Christ; and the revelation of the divine purpose to unite all the subjects of redemption in one body in Christ; in whom first the Jews, and then the Gentiles, had been made the heirs of eternal life (Ephesians 1:1–14).
He next earnestly prays that God would enable them to appreciate the hope which they were thus entitled to cherish; the glory of the inheritance in reserve for them; and the exceeding greatness of that power which had already wrought in them a change analogous to that effected in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. For as Christ was dead and deposited in the tomb, so they were spiritually dead; and as Christ was raised an exalted above all creatures, so they also were quickened and exalted to a heavenly state in him (Ephesians 1:15–2:10).
He therefore calls on them to contrast their former condition as heathen, with their present state. Formerly they were without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without God, and without hope. But by the blood of Christ a two-fold reconciliation had been effected: the Jews and Gentiles are united as one body, and both are reconciled to God and have equally free access to his presence. The Gentiles, therefore, are now fellow citizens with the saints, members of the family of God, and living stones in that temple in which God dwells by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:11–22).
This great mystery of the union of Jews and Gentiles had been partially revealed under the old dispensation; but it was not then made known as clearly as it had since been revealed to the apostles and prophets of the new dispensation. It was their great vocation to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make everyone understand the plan of redemption, hidden for ages in God, but now revealed, that God’s manifold wisdom might be made known to principalities and powers through the church (Ephesians 3:1–13).
The apostle, therefore, bows his knees before the common Father of the redeemed, and prays that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith; that they, being rooted and grounded in love, might be able to apprehend the infinite love of Christ, and be filled with the fullness of God, who is able to do for us far more than we are able either to ask or to think (Ephesians 3:14–21).
The Gentiles, therefore, are bound to enter into the spirit of this great scheme – to remember that the church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, wise and unwise, is one body, filled by one Spirit, subject to the same Lord, having one faith, one hope, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is in, through, and over all. They should also bear in mind that diversity in gifts and office was not inconsistent with this unity of the church, but essential to its edification. For the ascended Saviour had constituted some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the very purpose of building up the church; and through them, as the channels of the truth and grace of Christ, the church was to be brought to the end of its high calling (Ephesians 4:1–16).
They should not, therefore, live as the other Gentiles did, who, being in a state of darkness and alienation from God, gave themselves up to impurity and greed. On the contrary, having been taught by Christ, they should put off the old self, and be renewed in the image of God. Avoiding all falsehood, all undue anger, all dishonesty, all improper language, all malice, all impurity and covetousness, they should walk as children of the light, reproving evil, striving to do good, and expressing their joy by singing hymns to Christ, and giving thanks to God (Ephesians 4:17–5:20).
He impresses upon his readers reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great principle of Christian obedience. He applies this principle especially to people’s domestic obligations. The marriage relationship is illustrated by a reference to the union between Christ and the church. The former is an obscure foreshadowing of the latter. Marriage is shown to be not merely a civil contract, not simply a voluntary compact between the parties, but a vital union producing a sacred identity. The violation of the marriage relationship is, therefore, presented as one of the greatest of crimes and one of the greatest of evils. Parents and children are bound together not only by natural ties but also by spiritual bonds; and, therefore, the obedience on the part of the child, and nurture on the part of the parent, should be religious. Masters and slaves, however different their condition in human eyes, stand on the same level before God – a consideration which exalts the slave, and humbles and restrains the master. Finally, the apostle teaches his readers the nature of that great spiritual conflict on which they have entered; a conflict, not with men, but with the powers of darkness. He tells them what armor they need, how it is to be used, and where they are to find strength to bring them off victorious (Ephesians 5:21–6:20).
A Suggested Outline of Ephesians
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, Warren W. Wiersbe, p.7)
I. Doctrine: The Believer’s Blessings in Christ (1-3)
A. Our possessions in Christ (1:1-14)
- 1. From the Father (1:1-6)
- 2. From the Son (1:7-12)
- 3. From the Spirit (1:13-14)
B. Prayer for enlightenment (1:15-23)
C. Our position in Christ (2)
- 1. Raised and seated on the throne (2:1-10)
- 2. Reconciled and set into the temple (2:11-22)
D. Prayer for enablement (3)
II. Duty: The Believer’s Behavior in Christ (4-6)
A. Walk in unity (4:1-16)
B. Walk in purity (4:17-32)
C. Walk in love (5:1-6)
D. Walk in the light (5:7-14)
E. Walk carefully (5:15-17)
F. Walk in harmony (5:18-6:9)
- 1. Husbands and wives (5:18-33)
- 2. Parents and children (6:1-4)
- 3. Masters and servants (6:5-9)
G. Walk in victory (6:10-24)
Ephesians balances doctrine and duty. First Paul reminds us of what God has done for us; then he tells us what we must do for Him in response to His mercies. Christian living is based on Christian learning. The believer who does not know his wealth in Christ will never be able to walk for Christ. Our conduct depends on our calling. Too many Christians live in chapters 1-3 and study the doctrines but fail to move into chapters 4-6 and practice the duties.