Finding the Pericopes of Ephesians

 |  March 11, 2020

Ephesians seems to be written as a “circular letter” to the churches in the city of Ephesus.[1]Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians ZECNT (Zondervan, 2010), 2528Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians. PNTC (Eerdmans, 1999), 83. And, probably, it was probably read aloud to all the church members at the public gathering, such as the worship service (Cf. 2 Thess 5:27; Col 4:16; Rev 1:3). Such a public letter reading, as described in Revelation 1:3, consists of “one who reads (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων) and “those who hear (οἱ ἀκούοντες). It is certain that Paul hain mind such a public reading while writing EphesiansAlso, Paul would have written the letter as if he were “one who reads (the speaker)” standing before the Ephesians believers as “those who hear (the audience). Therefore, one can regard Ephesians, in a sense, as sermon manuscript which is carefully designed by “the pastor Paul” for a public worship gathering. Furthermore, the nature of Ephesians is quite neutral comparing to Paul’s other letters in which several ad hoc issues are addressed, such as Galatians and 1 Corinthians. A few scholars, thus, have emphasized the sermonic nature of Ephesians, labeling the letter as “a circular homily”[2]Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Eerdmans, 2007), 21519. or a “sermon.”[3]Roy R. Jeal, Integrating Theology and Ethics in Ephesians: The Ethos of Communication (E. Mellen Press, 2000), 4151.

Then, some questions will quickly arise while reading Ephesians as Paul’s sermon. For example, Which title would be a good fit for the sermon?Which sub-points does Paul mention?, By what logic are the sub-points arranged?, What is the core message which Paul wants to deliver with this sermon? and so forth. If one can givhis own answers to these questionsI think, he already has been ready to find the pericopes of Ephesians, particularly for series-sermon. In this article, I will introduce my own answers to those questions, thereby suggesting the pericopes of Ephesians.   

Title: In Christ, In Christ, and In Christ 

Core MessageWhat God has done for us in Christ? 

Sub-points: Blessings in Christ (Eph 1: 3-14) 

Gods power revealed in Christ (Eph 1:15-23)  

Redemption  in Christ (Eph 2:1-10) 

Reconciliation in Christ (Eph 2:11-22) 

God’s administration in Christ (Eph 3:1-13)  

Core Message How we should live in Christ?  

Sub-points: Growth in Christ (Eph 3:14-20) 

Oneness in Christ (Eph 4:1-16) 

New Man  in Christ (Eph 4:17-5:22) 

Family and workplace in Christ (Eph 5:22-6:9) 

Spiritual warfare in Christ (Eph 6:10-20)  

As indicated in the table above, all sub-points of Paul’s sermon revolve around the concept of “in Christ,”[4]One can easily find that most all of Paul’s arguments in Ephesians include “in Christ” languages such as “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in the beloved.” See. Ephesians 1:1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 21, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13, 22; 3:6, 11, 21; 4:1, 17, 32; 5:8; 6:1, 10. and they fall into two main categoriessuch as “What God has done?” and “How should we live?”  The first category portrays Christ as the divine agent through which God’s actions happen(election, salvation, and reconciliation). The second category describes Christ as the divine sphere in which believers’ new identity, lifestyle, and responsibilities are re-defined.  

Paul was a pastor, and Ephesians, as his sermon, shows Paul’s preaching style well. Paul 1) wanted to preach on Christ, 2) selected topics related to Christ, 3) categorized and arranged these topics carefully, and then 4) delivered his message successfully. Therefore, if one wants to find the pericopes of Ephesians, particularly for preaching, it would be a good starting point to read Ephesians as the preaching of the Pastor Paul.”

Geonil Kim is a New Testament Ph.D. student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 


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