Ephesians Key Themes
Ephesians finds its central unity in the work of Jesus Christ and in the community of people (both Jews and Gentiles) who are corporately united in him.
The Setting of Ephesians
(c. A.D. 62)
Ephesus was a wealthy port city in the Roman province of Asia. It was a center of learning and was positioned near several key land routes in western Asia Minor. Paul probably wrote his letter to the Ephesians while under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28).
8 Key Themes in Ephesians
All people are by nature spiritually dead, transgressors of God’s law, and under the rule of Satan. 1:7; 2:1–3, 5, 11–122.
God predestined his elect to redemption and holiness in Christ according to the free counsel of his will. 1:3–14; 2:4, 8–93.
God’s rich mercy in Christ has saved sinners; this free gift is by grace through faith alone. 1:7–8; 2:4–144.
Christ’s earthly work of redemption was part of his cosmic reconciliation and exaltation in this age and the next. 1:15–23; 3:1–135.
Christ’s reconciliation entails uniting all people, whether Jew or Gentile, into his one body, the church, as a new creation. 1:23; 2:10–22; 3:1–21; 4:1–66.
Christ’s people are renewed to new lives of holiness in thought, word, and deed, and must reject their old, sinful lifestyles. 4:1–3, 17–32; 5:1–207.
Holiness of life entails submission to proper authorities, and loving and considerate care for those in submission. 5:21–6:98.
Christ has given powerful gifts to his church to bring about her unity, maturity, and defense against the onslaughts of the devil and his allies. 4:7–16; 6:10–19
Ephesians exemplifies the genre of the NT epistle, with its salutation (including sender, recipients, and greeting), thanksgiving, exposition, exhortation, and closing (including final greetings and benediction).
The main argument of the letter is punctuated by several prayers and an interior benediction (3:20–21) that marks the transition from doctrinal affirmations to practical exhortations.
Chapter 2 takes the form of a spiritual biography, in which Paul recounts the saving work of Christ in the life of every Christian, and especially in the lives of Gentiles who are now included in the one new people of God.
In chapter 3 the apostle takes an autobiographical turn as he testifies about his calling to the Gentiles and his prayers for the Ephesian church. The paraenesis (series of moral exhortations) consists mainly of instructions for household conduct, both for the church as the household of faith and for individual believers in their domestic relationships.
The famous description of the complete armor in the last chapter is an extended metaphor. Paul also catalogs the blessings of salvation in a lofty and exhilarating lyrical style.
Ephesians finds its central unity in the work of Jesus Christ and in the community of people (both Jews and Gentiles) who are corporately united in him. The strong opening statement of praise and the absence of any theological polemics make Ephesians pervasively positive in tone.
The clear division of the epistle into two halves of nearly equal length (namely, the doctrinal section in chs. 1–3 and the practical section in chs. 4–6) also provides a strong sense of structural unity.
Outline of Letter
Spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3–14)
Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving (1:15–23)
Salvation by Grace through Faith (2:1–10)
Hopelessness and helplessness without Christ (2:1–3)
Hope in Christ (2:4–10)
Unity and the Peace of Christ (2:11–22)
Unity of Christ’s people (2:11–15)
Peace with God (2:16–18)
Implications of Christ’s peace (2:19–22)
Revelation of the Gospel Mystery (3:1–13)
Paul’s apostolic ministry (3:1–7)
The mystery and wisdom (3:8–13)
Paul’s Prayer for Strength and Insight (3:14–21)
Unity of the Body of Christ (4:1–16)
Exhortation to unity (4:1–6)
The different gifts (4:7–10)
The gifts for edification of the church (4:11–16)
Paul’s Testimony (4:17–24)
Exhortation to an Edifying Lifestyle (4:25–32)
New Life in Love (5:1–20)
Exhortation to self-sacrificial love (5:1–2)
Instruction in holy living (5:3–20)
Submission to One Another (5:21–6:9)
Submission in general (5:21)
Wives and husbands (5:22–33)
Children and parents (6:1–4)
Slaves, bondservants, and masters (6:5–9)
The Whole Armor of God (6:10–20)
The Lord’s strength (6:10–13)
Standing firm (6:14–17)
Being constant in prayer (6:18–20)