What are the historical and theological themes contained in Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The first three chapters are theological or doctrinal, while chs. 4-6 are practical and focus on Christian behavior. Perhaps, above all, this is a letter of encouragement and admonition, written to remind believers of their immeasurable blessings in Jesus Christ; and not only to be thankful for those blessings, but also to live in a manner worthy of them.
Despite, and partly even because of the Christian’s great blessings in Jesus Christ, they are sure to be tempted by Satan to become self-satisfied and complacent. It was for that reason that, in the last chapter, Paul reminded believers of the full and sufficient spiritual armor supplied to them through God’s word and by his Spirit (6:10–17) and of their need for vigilant and persistent prayer (6:18).
A key theme of the letter is the mystery (meaning a heretofore unrevealed truth) of the church, which is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (3:6), a truth completely hidden from the Jewish OT saints (cf. 3:5, 9). Dr. John MacArthur writes, “All believers in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, are equal before the Lord as his children and as citizens of his eternal kingdom, a marvelous truth that only believers of this present age possess. Paul also speaks of the mystery of the church as the bride of Christ (5:32; cf. Rev. 21:9).”
A major truth emphasized is that of the church as not an organization, but rather a living organism composed of mutually related and interdependent parts. Christ is head of the body and the Holy Spirit indwells each believer in Christ (Romans 8:9). The church body functions through the faithful use of its members’ various spiritual gifts, sovereignly and uniquely bestowed by the Holy Spirit on each believer (I Peter 4:10-11).
Other major doctrinal themes include the riches and fullness of blessing to believers. Paul writes of “the riches of his [God’s] grace” (Eph. 1:7), “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8), and “the riches of his glory” (3:16). Paul admonishes believers to “be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19), to “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13), and to “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). Their riches in Christ are based on his grace (1:2, 6–7; 2:7), his peace (1:2), his will (1:5), his pleasure and purpose (1:9), his glory (1:12, 14), his calling and inheritance (1:18), his power and strength (1:19; 6:10), his love (2:4), his workmanship (2:10), his Holy Spirit (3:16), his offering and sacrifice (5:2), and his armor (6:11, 13). The word “riches” is used five times in this letter; “grace” is used 12 times; “glory” six times; “fullness” or “filled” six times; and the key phrase “in Christ” (or “in him”) some 22 times.
Dr. MacArthur concludes, “The general theology of Ephesians is direct, unambiguous, and presents no ideas or interpretations whose meanings are seriously contended. There are, however, some texts that require careful thought to rightly interpret, namely: 1) 2:8, in which one must decide if the salvation or the faith is the gift; 2) 4:5, in which the type of baptism must be discerned; and 3) 4:8, in its relationship to Ps. 68:18.”
My absolute favorite portion of Ephesians is 1:1-2:10. What a magnificent treatise on the sovereign grace of God. I encourage you to read Ephesians throughout the day today. You will be blessed and encouraged.
Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!