The Purpose and Plan of Ephesians

Virtus E. Gideon  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 6 - Fall 1963

The purpose and plan of the Ephesian letter are inextricably interwoven. A delineation of the plan is impossible apart from an understanding of the purpose. However, the separation of these two basic interests and the resolving of the inherent difficulties introduces a maze of thorny problems through which one must wind his path.

 

Problems

A mere mention of some of the basic problems will suffice as a background against which to note the purpose and plan of the letter. The first problem is that of authorship. Many liberal American and European scholars have abandoned the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, although outstanding English and American scholars alike advocate its authenticity. F. F. Bruce of Manchester suggests:

If the Epistle to the Ephesians was not written directly by Paul, but by one of his disciples in the apostle’s name, then its author was the greatest Paulinist of all time—a disciple who assimilated his master’s thought more thoroughly than anyone else ever did . . . . The author, if he was not Paul himself has carried the apostle’s thinking to its logical conclusion, beyond the point where the apostle stopped, and has placed the caping stone on the massive structure of Paul’s teaching. Of such a second Paul early Christian history has no knowledge.[1]F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1961), pp. 11-12.

H. J. Cadbury insists that the letter is written in Paul’s style and from Paul’s perspective and that these two aspects become invaluable criteria for determining authenticity.[2]H. J. Cadbury, New Testament Studies, 5(1959), pp. 91-102. Robert Grant likewise concludes that since the authenticity of the letter cannot be disproved it should be regarded as genuine.[3]Robert Grant, Historical Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), pp. 201-202.

A second problem which is equally intertwined in a definition of purpose and plan is the question of recipients. One must readily admit that the words in Epheso do not appear in the better manuscripts.[4]The scholar, however, must decide whether the value of a work is to be determined by the presence of the recipients’ names or by its intrinsic worth, etc. Added to this textual problem is the absence of personal greetings to individuals who had benefited from Paul’s three-year Ephesian ministry. William Barclay insists that Ephesians is the most impersonal letter to be penned by Paul.[5]William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (“The Daily Bible Study Series”; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), p. 73. This is quite unlike the Paul who sends such extensive greetings to the Roman Christians. Various theories have been proffered in an attempt to explain this phenomenon. E. J. Goodspeed[6]E. J. Goodspeed, Introduction to the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937), p. 239. Cf. also Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933); Goodspeed, New Solution of New Testament Problems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927). suggests that someone, in all probability Onesimus, was stimulated by the publication of the Acts and subsequently began a search for Paul’s letters. Upon collecting the writings, he wrote Ephesians as an introduction to the collection. John Knox[7]John Knox, Marcion and the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942). believes Ephesians to be a general letter which serves as a preface to other letters. Marcion calls it the Epistle to the Laodiceans. Perhaps A. T. Robertson’s solution is as attractive as any. He suggests that the epistle is a circular letter and came to be called the Epistle to the Ephesians because most of the manuscripts were copies made from the one in Ephesus.[8]A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broad­man Press, 1931), IV, 514. Cf. Charles J. Ellicott, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts and Green, 1863); J. Armitage Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1909); E. J. Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933).

 

Purpose

Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes this letter as “the divinest composition of man.” A. S. Peake refers to this work as the “quintessence of Paulinism.”[9]Cf. A. S. Peake, “The Quintessence of Paulinism,” Bulletin of John Rylands Library 4(1917-1918), pp. 285-311. John A. Mackay insists that Ephesians is the “most modern of the New Testament writings.”[10]John A. Mackay, A Preface to Christian Theology (London: Nisbet & Co., Ltd., 1942), p. 96. Other descriptions are equally exalted: “perhaps the profoundest book in existence;” “The Epistle of the Ascension.”[11]Charles R. Erdman, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1931), p. 14. The writing concerns those in “the heavenly places.”[12]Ibid. However, even a casual reading of the epistle indicates immediately that the work is as practical as it is exalted and sublime. The so-called doctrinal aspects of the letter are followed by an intensely practical section. Needless to say, the letter can be divided into doctrinal and practical sections only for the purpose of analysis. Any thorough investigation reveals readily the inadequacy of such an arrangement.

 

Plan

The Ephesian letter follows the general Pauline plan—a so-called doctrinal section followed by an exhortation to apply the principles of Christianity upon the basis of the doctrinal content. Assuming that this letter is encyclical in nature, one can readily see the plan of Paul. Apart from a defended apostleship as in Galatians or the identification of associates as in 1 Thessalonians, or personal reminiscences as in others of the Pauline corpus, the author immediately begins to write concerning the broad sweeping themes of God’s grace in Christ. He plunges unhesitatingly into the heart of a subject which lifts him into the “heavenlies.” The emphasis is upon God’s grace in redemption, not upon a defensive measure or upon reflections of a past ministry.

But Paul’s thought is not presented in an undefined or unintelligent fashion. He moves carefully from one great theme to another, always revealing the universality of his message. No Euodia or Syntyche appears as individuals who have broken this relationship. Paul’s plan is for all men to see God’s act of redemption.

The style of Ephesians is notably Pauline. Although certain typical Pauline words do not appear in Ephesians,[13]Cf. “Letter to the Ephesians,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), II, 109. the style, like that of Colossians, is polished, exalted, and rhetorical. Let each remember that Paul writes from a prison to declare the glories of God as he had experienced and proclaimed them. Unhampered by the pressures of missionary travels, this epistle is more contemplative and does not reveal the abruptness of other letters written in the midst of travel and heartache.

 

Key to the Epistle

In defining the key idea, as in practically every other area, scholars disagree-some as to minor details, while others disagree concerning major points. Although Bruce[14]Bruce, p. 17. seems to emphasize unity in Christ as the basic thrust of the letter as does Erdman,[15]Erdman, p. 14. his terminology differs, and his thought is unquestionably influenced by the contemporary social scene composed of racial disorders, iron and bamboo curtains and class warfare—to mention only a few problems of disunity. Barclay,[16]Barclay, p. 78. the popular contemporary Scottish scholar, insists that the central thought of Ephesians is “the realization of disunity.” This dis­unity expresses itself in nature, man, time, eternity, and in divine­ human relationships. In the same paragraph, Barclay interprets Paul to say that this disunity can become unity only when men and powers are united in Christ. F. L. Cross[17]F. L. Cross (ed.), Studies in Ephesians (London: A. R. Mowbray and Co., Ltd., 1956). has edited a work which is basically theological in nature that finds unity as the key to Ephesians.

In his devotional commentary Ephesians: Pattern for Christian Living, Ray Summers[18]Ray Summers, Ephesians: Pattern for Christian Living (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960). views redemption as the theme of the epistle. His typically lucid style and clarity of thought present a forceful argument for this position. A rather workable outline employed by Summers is built upon the word redemption. The only deviation is found in his conclusion, constituted by the Christian warrior passage of Eph. 6:10-20.

T. K. Abbott,[19]T. K. Abbott, The Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians (“The International Critical Commentary”; Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, n.d.), pp. xxxii-xxxiv. in his splendid work in the International Critical Commentary, sketches a brief outline in which he seems to note two basic ideas: the purpose of God in the salvation experience and the purpose of God in the Christian life. Although Abbott does not choose a particular key word to interpret Paul’s approach, his summary seems to indicate that the term purpose is basic in his thought.

Robertson[20]Robertson, p. 515. stresses the Gnostic heresy confronted by Paul as the background for Ephesians and indicates that this is the same difficulty which Paul combats in Colossians. Paul’s most exalted writing is Ephesians 1-3, according to Robertson, and this writing reveals the dignity of the church, the body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head. Robertson also notes the similarities to Colossians, insisting that the two epistles are vitally related to the same problem and subject matter.

Barclay[21]Barclay, pp. 76-78. also understands the Epistles to the Colossians and the Ephesians to be intimately related, defining the theme of Colossians as the all-sufficiency of Christ. All knowledge and wisdom dwell in him (Col. 2:3), as does all fullness (Col. 1:19). He is the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9), and he alone is necessary and sufficient for man’s salvation (Col. 1:14). Ephesians, then, expounds the thought of Colossians. Barclay[22]Ibid., p. 76. suggests that the whole thought of Ephesians is developed in Eph. 1:9-10: “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself, that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him.”

It is readily evident that Barclay views unity in Christ as the key thought of Ephesians. “Christ is the centre in whom all things unite, and the bond who unites all things.”[23]Ibid., p. 77. Apart from Jesus disunity prevails, but in Jesus unity is known and that through the power of God in Christ. Paul’s thought must have been based upon his conviction that Christ is all-sufficient. In Colossians he underscores the all-sufficiency of Christ. Having confronted this concept, only one logical conclusion remainsthings and men are united only when they live and serve m Christ. But Paul’s environment likely contributed to his thinking concerning unity. His world was Roman, and the pax Romana made her what she was. Although kingdoms and puppet kings had attempted to ferret out one another, the imperial power had produced a unity known as the Roman Empire. Writing from a Roman prison, Paul has observed the heartbeat of Romanism, just as he had brushed shoulders many times with Roman unity during the course of his missionary travels. Perhaps Paul came to visualize a spiritual world unified to the same extent as a political world headed by Rome.

Bruce[24]Bruce, p. 21. interprets the Epistle around the words “the new community.” His usual thoroughness reveals itself in careful exegesis and astute understanding of a difficult writing. The core of Paul’s thought—justification by faith—surfaces in a letter in which the author is concerned primarily with other themes. Bruce likewise notes the similarities between the Colossian and Ephesian letters and suggests that in Colossians Paul develops the person and work of Christ in relationship to the universe. Thus a cosmic significance is attached to the person and work of Christ. But what is the relationship of the church to Christ’s cosmic role? This question is answered in the Ephesian epistle. The church is the new community created by God to be his habitation and to become the medium of achieving his will. The emphasis of the church s work rests upon the eternal purpose and will of God. Thus a frustrated creation is unified in the person of Christ. Mackay,[25]Mackay, p. 96. the Scottish-American theologian; agrees with this position and calls Ephesians the most modern of New Testament writings because of the nature of the problem which it so carefully explains.

Erdman,[26]Erdman, pp. 14, 15. in his Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, admits readily that some interpreters believe unity o be the key to the epistle. However, he states succinctly that the purpose is to establish the readers in their Christian faith, to prevent their return to former heathenistic practices, and to guard against disunity of Jew and Gentile.[27]Ibid., p. 15. To accomplish this purpose, Paul writes two great sections—a doctrinal section followed by an intensely practical section. The first section discusses truth in Christ, the second reveals this truth as it applies to the Christian life. The grace of God is defined in the first section, the second is composed of exhortations which are based upon this grace. Here Erdman admits that Christians are to live worthy of a Christian society whose essential character is unity.[28]Ibid., p. 17. His emphasis upon the practical aspects of the Christian life is helpful.

A. H. McNeile’s An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament is a concise critical work but offers little contribution concerning theme and purpose. Interestingly, however, he agrees with the majority of commentators who suggest unity as the theme of the work.[29]A. H. McNeile, An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament, Revised by C. S. C. Wililams (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1952) pp. 172-75. The unity of Jew and Gentile is indeed a startling development, but more interesting is a ramification of this truth—the Gentiles were allowed to become fellow-heirs. Their inclusion is the mystery of God’s grace.

Grant,[30]Grant, pp. 199-202. in a work printed only this year, insists that the theme of the letter is defined in the introductory prayer. God has blessed Christians in the heavenly places by choosing them in Christ before the foundation of the world and by revealing the mystery of his will to them. The mystery was a plan “for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him.” Christ is head over all things and all men, not merely a headship relating only to the cosmos but a headship which unites Jews and Gentiles alike. The Gentiles have become a part of the temple of God. No longer are they denied citizenship. This unity is not merely theory but it reveals itself in practical Christian expression and truth. The Ephesian letter, in a manner peculiar to its content, places emphasis upon the cosmic nature of the church.

G. Johnson, in an article appearing in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, considers the various aspects of critical study, as well as a brief resume of the contents. He analyzes Ephesians by employing two inclusive terms: theology and ethics. Johnson investigates the eternal purpose of God and notes that the Christology is basically Pauline, although he questions Pauline authorsh1p. “Ephesians has no missionary interest, for it is concerned with unity and maturity.”[31]Johnson, p. 113.

C. F. D. Moule follows in the traditional thought and suggests that the “church is cosmic in its range and embraces the entire human race.”[32]C. F. D. Moule, The Birth of the New Testament (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), p. 51. Cf. Marcus Barth, The Broken Wall   (Philadelphia: The Judson Press, 1959), for a discussion of the relevance of Ephesians for evan­gelism in a contemporary world. Moule, in the same context, postulates the purposiveness of God in the church, a church which, according to Moule, is continuous with Judaism, but at the same time 1s not restricted by the limitations of Judaism. Thus he concludes that the Ephesian thought is an answer to the objector who visualizes the church as only a particular group of persons in a particular setting in time and space.

 

Representative Outlines of the Epistle

The following outlines are chosen merely as representative and workable outlines which illustrate the various approaches to the letter and similarly indicate the author’s interpretation of the key to the letter. The reader will note the key as expressed in the emphatic word of the outline and will observe the manner in which this word is woven into the material. Major divisions are essentially the same. Somewhat ambiguously defined doctrinal and practical sections, for the most part, follow a rather rigid pattern. Each outline is suggestive of the depth of Pauline thought and the extreme difficulty involved in an attempt at concise analysis.

A word of caution at this point is in order. The depth of the letter, the variety of subjects discussed, and the long involved and complicated sentences make outlining extremely difficult. For example, Stoeckhardt suggests that no special need existed at the time of writing. Yet he projects unity of the church as the theme of the letter.[33]G. Stoeckhardt, Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (St. Louis Concordia Publishing House, 1952), pp. 32-33. Mackay develops the letter around the theme God’s Order, the title of a work first printed in 1953. Mackay[34]John Mackay, God’s Order (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1953), p. 14. investigates an order, not which might or should be, but which now exists in “essential, nuclear form.” C. L. Mitton abruptly states the personal impossibility of reconciling the divergencies and incompatibilities of others’ views. His work The Epistle to the Ephesians, which is quoted frequently by current scholars, is a highly technical attempt to resolve some of the ancient problems, while offering an academic basis upon which to understand the writing, particularly in its relationship to other Pauline writings. J. H. Robinson, a contemporary of J. O. F. Murray and R. B. Rackham, describes Ephesians quite adequately in his comment concerning Eph. 1:3-14:

The twelve verses which follow baffle our analysis. They are a kaleidoscope of dazzling lights and shifting colours: at first we fail to find a trace of order or method. They are like the preliminary flight of the eagle, rising and wheeling around, as though for a while uncertain what direction in his boundless freedom he shall take. So the Apostle’s thought lifts itself beyond the limits of time and above the material conceptions that confine ordinary men, and ranges this way and that in a region of spirit, a heavenly sphere, with no course as yet marked out, merely exulting in the attributes and purposes of God.[35]J. Armitage Robinson, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (2nd. ed. rev. Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1909), p. 19.

 

A Practical Outline Using Redemption as the Key

I. The Plan of Redemption (1:1-2:10)
The Provision of Redemption, 1:1-14

The Work of the Father, 1:3-6

The Work of the Son, 1:7-12

The Work of the Holy Spirit, 1:13-14

The Blessings of Redemption, 1:15-2:10

A Clear Insight into the Nature of Redemption, 1:15-19

A Full Insight into the Nature of Christ, 1:20-23

A Transition from Death to Life, 2:1-9

A Life of Good Works in Christ, 2:10

II. The Propagation of Redemption (2:11-3:21)

Redemption for All Without Regard to Race, 2:11-13

Redemption Makes All Men One in Christ, 2:14-22

Redemption Revealed to Men Through Men, 3:1-13

Redemption’s Ultimate Goal, 3:14-21

 

III. The Application of Redemption in Church Life (4:1-16)

The Unity Which the Spirit Produces, 4: 1-6

The Diversity Which Christ Provides, 4:7-11

The Maturity Which Results from Both, 4:12-16

 

IV. The Application of Redemption in Personal Life (4:17-5:21)

A New Philosophy of Life, 4:17-24

A Detailed Application of this Principle, 4:25-32

Walk in Love, 5:1-5

Walk in Light, 5:6-14

Walk in Wisdom, 5:15-21

 

V. The Application of Redemption in Domestic Life (5:22-6:9)

Duty of Wife to Husband, 5:22-24

Duty of Husband to Wife, 5:25-33

Duty of Child to Parent, 6:1-3

Duty of Parent to Child, 6:4

Duty of Servant to Master, 6:5-8

Duty of Master to Servant, 6:9

 

VI. Conclusion: The Fighting Spirit (6:10-20)

His Ally-God, 6: 10-11a

His Enemy-Satan, 6: 11b-12

His Equipment-Full Armor, 6: 13-20

Girdle-truth

Breastplate-righteousness

Sandals-readiness

Shield-faith

Helmet-salvation

Sword-God’s Word

Farewell (6:21-24)[36]This is Ray Summers’ outline which appears in Ephesians: Pattern for Christian Living (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960). Summers’ work is an excellent, practical, and inspirational exegesis of Ephesians.

One recognizes immediately the author’s emphasis upon unity, although he has chosen redemption as the key word. He follows the same general pattern of suggesting that Ephesians 1-3 is a doctrinal section, while Ephesians 4-6 is a practical section. God’s redemption effects unity in a cosmic society of disunity.

Some Outlines Employing Unity as the Key

B. F. Westcott’s old but classic work on Ephesians follows a doctrinal (1-3) and a practical section (4-6). Chapters 1-3 consider the unity and universality of the church; the remainder of the epistle reveals this unity as it is expressed in the Christian life.

Salutation (1:1, 2)

I. A Hymn of Praise to God for the Redemption and Consummation of Things Created in Christ (1:3-14)

1. The work of the Divine love: the fullness of the Divine blessing realized ‘in Christ’ (v. 3)

2. The bestowal of the blessing (4-14)

(a) Wrought out before time in the eternal order according to the Divine idea (4-6)

(b) and realized in spite of man’s fall (7-14)

II. Thanksgiving for Faith Realized; Prayer for Deeper Knowledge: General Exposition of The Work of Christ for Men (1:15-2:22)

1. Thanksgiving for the faith of the. Ephesians (1:15, 16a)

2. Prayer for their fuller enlightenment (1:16b-21)

3. The work of God for men in Christ-overcoming personal disqualifications (1:22-2: 10)

4. Union of Jews and Gentiles in one Divine Body (2:11-22)

III. The Grandeur of the Revelation Made to St. Paul. Prayer for Fuller Understanding in Those Who Receive It (3)

1. Revelation to St. Paul of the Central truth, or ‘mystery,’ of the universality of the Gospel (1-13)

2. Prayer that those who receive it may be able to apprehend its lessons (14-19)

Doxology

The next section outlines Paul’s message concerning the Christian life.

The Christian Life (4: 1-6:20)

I. The Ground, The Growth, The Character of the Christian Life (4: 1-24)

1. The correspondence of life and faith 1-3)

2. The unity and harmonious growth of the Christian Society, that Body of which Christ is the Head (4-16)

3. Contrast of the old life and the new (17-24):

(a) the old life (17-19)

(b) the new life (20-24)

II. The Outward Manifestation of the Christian Life, Personal and Social (4:25-6:9).

1. Special features in the Christian character (4:25-5:14): truth (5:25), control of anger (26f.), honest labour (28), good language (29f.), tenderheartedness (32), lovingkindness (5:1f.), as opposed to impure and selfish indulgence. The Christian life the life of a child of light (7-14).

2. Cardinal social relationships (5:15-6:9).

(a) Social conduct and temper in general (15-21)

(b) Wives and husbands (22-33)

(c) Children and parents (6:1-4)

(d) Servants and masters (5-9)

III. The Christian Warfare (6:10-20)

Epilogue

Personal message (6:21, 22)

Benediction (23, 24)[37]B. F. Westcott, The Epistle to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1950), pp. lxvii-lxviii.

The analysis offered by Robinson is more a teaching outline than homiletic arrangement. Robinson believes Ephesians to be a circular letter and apparently considers unity to be the theme of the writing, although he admits that the attempt to outline the letter is rather baffling, so involved is the language and thought of Paul.[38]Cf. Robinson, pp. 10-12, 19.

i 1, 2. Opening salutation.

i 3-14. A Doxology, expanded into

(a) a description of the mystery of God’s will: election (4) , adoption (5), redemption (7), wisdom (8), consummation (10);

(b) a statement that Jew and Gentile alike are the portion of God (11-14).

i 15-ii 10. A Prayer for Wisdom, expanded into a description of God’s power, as shown

(a) in raising and exalting Christ (19-23),

(b) in raising and exalting us in Christ, whether Gentiles or Jews (ii 1-10).

ii 10-22. The Gentile was an alien (11, 12), but is now one man with the Jew (13-18); a fellow-citizen (19), and part of God’s house (20-22).

iii 1-13 Return to the Prayer for Wisdom; but first

(a) a fresh description of the mystery ( 2-6),

(b) and of St. Paul’s relation to its proclamation (7-13).

iii 14-21 The Prayer in full (14-19), with a Doxology (20, 21).

iv 1-16 God’s calling involves a unity of life ( 1-6) , to which diversity of gifts is intended to lead (7-14)—the unity in diversity of the body (15, 16).

iv 17-24 The old life contrasted with the new.

iv 25-v. 5 Precepts of the new life.

v 6-21 The old darkness and the folly: the new light and wisdom.

v 22-vi 9 Duties interpreted by relation to Christ:

wives and husbands (22-33);

children and parents (vi 1-4);

slaves and masters (5-9).

vi 10-20 The spiritual warrior clad in God’s armour.

vi 21-23 Closing words.[39]Ibid., pp. 13-14.

 

Redemption and Unity as Basic Words

The outline suggested and followed by Bruce emphasizes not only the redemptive quality of Christ’s work but also the unity which results from such a glorious redemption. Bruce’s basic idea is that of a “new community.” He follows the traditional division of the epistle but chooses an interesting expression to describe the meaning of Christianity. Bruce likewise stresses the work of God as a purposeful work—an emphasis which is obvious even to the casual reader of Ephesians. Nevertheless, his outline is reminiscent of those of the classic writers.

Part I

The New Community in the Purpose of God (Chapters 1-3)

1. Salutation (1:1-2).

2. A doxology (1:3-14).

Amplified by the contemplation of—

(a) the mystery of God’s eternal purpose (1:4-12);

(b) the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ (1:13-14).

3. A prayer for wisdom (1:15-2:10):

Smplified by the description of God’s power in—

(a) the raising of Christ from the dead (1:19-23);

(b) the raising of those who were dead in sins (2:1-10).

4. The Gentiles made heirs of the promises (2:11-22).

5. The prayer for wisdom resumed (3:1-13), with a digression on—

(a) the mystery of Christ (3:2-7);

(b) Paul’s stewardship of the mystery (3:8-13).

6. The prayer for wisdom concluded (3:14-19).

7. A doxology (3:20-21).

Part II

The New Community in the Life of the Believers (Chapters 4-6)

1. Unity in diversity in the body of Christ (4:1-16).

2. The old life and the new contrasted (4:17-24).

3. Precepts of the new life (4:25-52).

4. Old darkness and new light (5:3-21).

5. The Christian household (5:22-6:9):

(a) Wives and husbands (5:22-33);

(b) Children and parents (6:1-4);

(c) Servants and masters (6:5-9).

6. The panoply of God (6:10-20).

7. Final greetings (6:21-24).[40]Bruce, p. 21. For additional outlines cf. H. E. Dana, The Life and Literature of Paul (Dallas: Baptist Book Store, 1937); H. C. G. Moule, Ephesian Studies (London: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d.); William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (“The Daily Bible Study Series”; Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958).

 

Conclusion

After attempting to fathom the Pauline thought of Ephesians through a careful consideration of the Epistle itself, as well as through the various interpretations of leading New Testament scholars, one finds it quite easy to agree with John Mackay’s suggestion that this letter is the most contemporary book in the Bible. Its plan and purpose are elusive to men who in other areas of study have little difficulty in analyzing the more difficult biblical passages. Each time one studies Ephesians and attempts to present its message, he is more aware of the inadequacy of his past preparation and is convinced of needed additional study in the lofty thought pattern of Paul.

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