Introduction to the Letter to the Ephesians and Study of Ephesians 1-6
December 8th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016


Paul wrote this letter to the early churches to encourage them to understand how to center their churches on Christ and fulfill their God-given purpose on earth. This letter may have been addressed to the church of Ephesus or circulated among many churches, but it certainly applies to us today. We will review all six chapters of Ephesians in one day.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Doll, the Reverend Gregory, "Lectures on The 10 Commandments," delivered at Noroton Presbyterian Church, September 2011-December 2011
  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version , Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993
  • Hunter, Archibald M, Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 22 (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) John Knox Press, Richmond, VA, 1959
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005
  • “Sermon Library,” Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT

Ephesians 1-6 (The Church Is the Working Body of Christ)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

- Ephesians 5:16 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

The first three chapters include a traditional greeting followed by reminders of the Ephesians faith history and Paul’s mission with them. In chapter 2 Paul reminds the audience that they once had been separated from God and were considered aliens, but are now one in unity with Christ – one universal family. Jesus has broken down these walls through his sacrifice and commandments.

In chapter 3 Paul explains that he writes so that the reader will understand the mysteries of Christ and advises them not to be discouraged. Paul lets them know that he suffered for them and encourages them with prayer. He petitions God to strengthen his audience and give them deeper understanding of Christ's boundless love.

The last three chapters focus on Christian ethics. Chapter 4 reinforces a theme from other letters regarding the unity of people in Christ and the recognition of the different gifts of the members of the body. In the remainder of 4 and 5 he offers practical advice on how to be shining lights of Christianity for their community: Don’t let anger stew, don’t steal, speak only in tones of helpfulness, get rid of negative emotions and hurtful actions, forgive one another, and always speak the truth.

Paul reinforces the ninth commandment when he emphasizes to the Ephesians that part of the evidence that we have been born anew is that we become truth-tellers (1).

    You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

    - Ephesians 4:22-25 (NIV)

Paul also says that the Ephesians should be “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph 5:21 - KJV),” and then applies that general rule to married couples: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord (Eph 5:22 - KJV)” and “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph 5:25 - KJV).” Paul then gives further instruction to the husband on how to sacrifice himself in love for his wife.

Paul closes in chapter 6 by adding specific instructions for other members of society: He commands children to obey the parents and tells slaves and masters to treat each other with respect.

He may have sensed that the reader might be wondering at this point how he or she can fulfill all of these commands, so he counsels them to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Eph 6:11 - NIV).” Paul also says to “take up the shield of faith (Eph 6:16- NIV)” and pray, pray, pray, including prayers for him (Paul) that he may continue to use his words to share the Gospel:

    And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

    - Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

The physical wall at the temple in Jerusalem was a concrete symbol of separation. Gentiles were warned not to cross it – with the penalty of death clearly spelled out. Jesus came to tear down this wall and the leaders spat on him. He showed disregard for the wall by ministering to Gentiles during his time on earth. For example, he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), responded to the Centurion who asked for healing for his servant (Matthew 8:15-13), and provided comfort or healing in many other cases for other non-Jews. His resurrection took down the final brick in that wall – all we have to do is cross the threshold and accept the invitation.

Paul’s reference to the mysteries of Christ is an appropriate adjective because it is hard for us to intellectually accept the whole premise. How exactly does his death and resurrection open up heaven for us? What are the mechanics of that operation? Why did he chose that era to arrive, why are so many left to gnash their teeth while others are saved? How is it that we can sense his presence and perhaps hear his voice call to us?

We can pray to God for a deeper understanding, continue reading his words in the book, and persist in loving and serving. By doing this we may get some clues and in the end the mystery will be solved. This is a guarantee.

Are you ready to take on one of the most controversial Bible verses from our emancipated times? Some have cherry-picked certain verses and say, “If the Bible requires wives to submit to husbands then maybe the whole thing is off base!” The problem with sound bites is that we don’t see the context. When we read the verses before and after the controversial ones we see that first Paul says that all of us should submit to all the others. Therefore all are equal. This truth was proclaimed 2000 years ahead of movements for civil rights, woman’s suffrage, and the end of apartheid.

However, some are called to submit more than others: The husbands. We are asked to love our wives the way Christ loved the church. What did Christ do? He sacrificed his body, his dignity, his ego, everything to serve us and save us (how this works is still a mystery, but it’s the Gospel truth). We are called to do the same. So, for those of us who are husbands, we can remind ourselves that when our wives ask us to perform some small task that we feel is beneath us we can reflect on the task that Jesus carried for us – before he even knew us.

Kids obey your parents – no explanation needed there. However, the discussion of slaves and masters does not fit in with our modern era, and in fact is a bit disconcerting. But, if we substitute bosses and employees for masters and slaves, then the translation becomes applicable to our current times. If we treat our bosses and employees with the same respect that we want from them, then our organizations will work a lot better. Try it and see.

Paul closes Ephesians with an emphasis on prayer. If you would like to see some new ideas on prayer then you might be interested in the video at the link below that features people praying with special friends:

Grateful Dogs

For some additional inspiration on praying, we recommend the following performance:

"The River"
Performed by CHoosE, arranged by Melanie Turner; Soloists Eli Michel and Joey Paris

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Who was one of your favorite bosses or employees and why?
    2. How would you explain some of the mysteries of our faith, such as the Resurrection, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and eternal suffering for those who scheme against God?
    3. What can you do today to treat your boss or employees a little bit better (if that’s possible)?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we thank you for the other people and animals in our lives. Help us to be a servant to them all.

    Prayer Concern
    Dog Trainers


    (1) Doll, Gregory “Lessons on the Ten Commandments – Commandment 9,” delivered at the Noroton Presbyterian Church, December 2011

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview and Study of the Book of Philippians (Ode to Joy)

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