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Ephesians: Read it like you'd eat a rich fruit cake

Ephesians is a letter that's been compared to a sermon – it's so full of deep thinking about the implications of the gospel for the daily life of the Christian. Every verse has another nugget, something for us to feed on and enjoy. It's best consumed in small bites, like a rich fruit cake.

Paul was universally accepted as the author of Ephesians until modern times, but today some scholars debate the letter's authorship and destination. Some feel its style, tone and contents differ from other letters written by Paul and question the lack of specific recipients, given that Paul spent considerable time in Ephesus.

While it says in 1.1, 'To God's people in Ephesus', the words 'in Ephesus' are not in the earliest manuscripts, leading some scholars to think it may have been a circular letter written to a group of churches of which Ephesus may have been one. This could account for the lack of personal greetings or references to particular situations or individuals that's typical of other letters from the Apostle Paul.

There are strong arguments for believing that Paul was the author, and most conservative scholars would say he was. He is directly identified as the author in 1.1 and 3.1 and the author makes several references to their imprisonment and suffering for the gospel which fit with Paul’s experience. Francis Foulkes in his Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Ephesians (IVP, 1989) argues that Ephesians is in fact the 'letter from Laodicea' Paul refers to in Colossians 4.15-16, and there are many similarities between Colossians and Ephesians.

The letter itself is rich and dense, full of deep thinking and profound theology. Every verse is packed with meaning. It speaks of the plans of God for his people, the lordship of Christ, the purpose of life for the redeemed, reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles, the love of Christ, the need for unity, peace in the Church and the family, and the struggle against evil.

In his The Message of Ephesians (IVP, 1979) John Stott divides the book in this way:

1. The new life which God has given us in Christ (1.3–2.10)
2. The new society which God has created through Christ (2.11–3.21)
3. The new standards which God expects of his new society, especially unity and purity (4.1–5.21)
4. The new relationships into which God has brought us – harmony in the home and hostility to the devil (5.21–6.24)

One of the notable features of Ephesians is the way it combines practical advice on Godly living – for example, to husbands and wives – with deep insights into the truths of God. It is full of treasures for disciples of Christ.


Author: Mark Woods, 13 December 2019

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