1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints at Ephesus, faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul happily simply passes on grace and peace from God rather than wishing or praying for these blessings.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heaven,
He is overwhelmed by God’s loving kindness when he considers the magnitude of our inheritance in Christ – even “every spiritual blessing in heaven!”
4 as he chose us in him before the founding of the universe, to be utterly holy and flawless in his presence in love,
God’s plan, from before He created anything, was our presence with Him in perfect holiness. Also note: God chose us “in Him” before…
5 predetermining our adoption through Jesus Christ into him, in line with the kindness of his wishes,
He rejoiced in planning our adoption out of His own good will,
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he freely conferred on us in the beloved.
to which end He lavished on us His own grace so we would have all we needed to be as pure and holy as He is – in Jesus!
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins in line with the abundance of his grace
The blood of Christ has redeemed us, bought us out of the slave market of sin, and paid the price (taken the punishment) for all our sins,
8 which he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
knowing that without His grace we could never be free.
9 He has made known to us the mystery of his will, which in his delight he planned in Christ,
I love to read that God took a deep and holy pleasure in planning our redemption and our eternal future with Him.
10 at the supervision of the completion of time, to gather up all things, both in the heavens and on earth, in Christ.
When we get to the “completion of time” (which I take to be at the end of the 1000 year reign of Jesus), everything which hasn’t rejected Him in some way will be gathered up into Christ, to live with Him and in Him forever!
11 In whom we received a birthright, being chosen beforehand according to the intention of the one who accomplishes all things just as he determines,
Predetermination is tricky, but I see it as God seeing the end from the beginning and knowing exactly who will accept Jesus on His terms, and these He chooses. The “birthright” is everything we inherit in Christ through our new birth.
12 so that we, who have put our hope in Christ in advance, should be to the praise of his glory.
The implication here, in most translations, is that only the first believers would be “to the praise of his glory,” and thus receive the birthright, being preselected by God. The problem they have not faced is ‘where is the cut-off point?’ If it were the crucifixion, the resurrection, or the ascension, Paul could not say “we” since his faith postdates all these. Therefore it simply means those who put their faith in Christ “in advance” of our actually being gathered in to Him – at the completion of time. So his “we” includes all who come to faith. Praise the Lord! This is immediately confirmed by the next two verses.
13 And when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, you were sealed in him, in the Spirit, with the holy promise,
Here we have another translation problem: the Greek actually puts the word “holy” in relation to the “promise,” not the “Spirit,” which makes “the holy promise” the “deposit,” not the Holy Spirit. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is not referred to as “the Spirit of promise” anywhere else.
14 which is the deposit towards our inheritance until the liberation of his purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
One thing is not in question: our inheritance is guaranteed right up until we get our eternal, holy bodies. If it is guaranteed by “the holy promise,” it has to work by faith because you can only claim on a promise as long as you believe it, but if the Holy Spirit is the guarantee then it is no longer by faith, since it becomes the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to honour the promise. This would falsely imply that you cannot lose your salvation, even if you lose your faith and choose to turn away from Jesus.
15 So, ever since I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
Their “love for all the saints” being the confirmation of that faith.
16 I never stop giving thanks for you and remembering you in my prayers
This is not a 24/7 kind of arrangement, he is just saying that the Ephesians are in his prayers every day.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know him fully and accurately.
Paul is praying for a solid foundation for their faith, built on a deep and accurate knowledge of God, both the Father and the Son. It is important to point out that this knowledge is the intimate knowledge gained by fellowship and obedience, not the intellectual knowledge of much reading and study.
18 I pray that your rational insight may be enlightened to know the hope you are called to, and the glorious extravagance of the saints’ inheritance in him,
19 and the transcendent supremacy of his power for us who believe. This is the same potency of his strength
Our walk with Christ grows by revelation, so Paul also prays for revelation of the hope we are called to and, because we inherit in Christ, the understanding that our inheritance is far beyond extravagant.
All the power of God is available for the saints to draw on by faith.
20 which he employed when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heaven,
The right hand of God is the seat of total authority which Jesus holds.
21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title given, not only in this age but in the one to come,
Which makes it all-inclusive. Jesus is in charge.
22 and placed everything in subjection beneath his feet and made him head over all the assemblies,
Over all the assemblies of ‘called out ones,’ wherever they may be. These are most particularly not “churches” in the normal sense of the word, as that would imply clergy, liturgy, laity, authority structures, buildings, sermons, leaders, etc, in complete disobedience to Jesus’ instruction to have no leaders to lord it over the flock. It can only include those who make up the genuine, spiritual ‘body of Christ’ regardless of what people may claim about their faith: in other words, those who have believed, repented, and accepted the lordship of Jesus over their lives.
23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fulfills everything in everyone.
Because we are, individually and corporately, the living ‘body’ of Christ, He completes, in Himself, all that needs completion in each one of us.
1 And now you are dead to the offenses and sins
Need to watch the tenses of the verb “to be” throughout this section: this part is talking about the saints’ current condition, not their previous state.
2 in which you once lived, as the world still does, in line with the influence of the ruler of the air, the spirit now working in the offspring of disobedience.
All the translations struggle with the meaning here as they insist on retaining the order of the Greek which seems to say “the ruler of the power of the air” but, since power can also mean authority or influence, and the air has no authority or power anyway, then amending the order to normal English allows the sense to be straightforward.
We see here that the wickedness of the world is directly due to the influence of the enemy, who is actively working in people and organisations, particularly through ‘the air.’ As we are no longer part of the world, we are no longer “offspring of disobedience,” we are now children of obedience and the enemy no longer operates within us.
3 We all once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and were inherently children of wrath like the rest.
Doing what the flesh desires or what the thoughts deem appropriate (doing what seems right in our own eyes), is the way of the world and makes people “children of wrath.”
4 But God, being rich in mercy, due to the great love he has for us,
Tense again: God’s love for us is not past tense.
5 made us alive together with Christ and so we are dead to sin, having been saved by grace,
Again, we are dead to sin: present tense, not we were dead in sin; and because we are alive to God and to righteousness in Christ we can actually live a holy life; and because we are dead to sin the enemy has no hold on us.
6 and he raised us in Christ Jesus and seated us, in him, in heaven,
All that is true in Christ and of Christ, apart from His divinity, becomes ours when we are included in Him, so we are raised up to new life in Him and we are also seated in heaven in Him.
7 so that in the ages to come, he could demonstrate the transcendent riches of his grace by his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
We truly can’t imagine how good it’s going to be: His demonstration of “the transcendent riches of His grace” is going to be to us and in us!
8 For you are saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves, the gift is of God
God gives us the faith to believe, and this is not just any gift, it is a gift which has cost Him deeply, a sacrificial gift with which He honours us. Now that’s grace.
9 not of deeds, so no one may boast,
The deeds here implied are primarily the attempt to keep the laws of Moses, but also any attempt to do good in the flesh to earn our salvation. This is all useless as the whole point of our salvation is that God does it all without our contribution. That way it is worth having and will last for eternity. As it’s all of God, there is nothing for us to boast about.
10 for we are his craftsmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepares in advance for us to carry out.
We don’t have italics or bold for stress in the Bible, but if we did, then “his” would be a prime candidate, since the point is, we are not self-made in any sense—if we are holy it can only be God’s craftsmanship. Self-effort militates against holiness. This doesn’t mean we do nothing—God prepares work for us to do. We are “created in Christ Jesus” means the new creation, not the old; the new, holy believer, not the old sinner.
11 So remember that you, once Gentiles by birth—those called ‘The Uncircumcised’ by those who teach circumcision in the flesh by hands—
The religious Jews weren’t too polite about Gentiles, the word literally means “foreskins.” We do notice here that we become ex-Gentiles once we come to faith, though we don’t become Jews or Hebrews; they become ex-Hebrews or ex-whatever they were before.
12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope in the world without God,
Until we heard the gospel and responded with faith and obedience we were truly lost with no way to reach God. Theoretically, the Jews had hope as they had the truth, the promises, and the true God, but they mostly missed it and were just as ‘lost’ as the Gentiles, as they didn’t believe the promises or trust God. So most of the Hebrews were also “excluded from citizenship of Israel,” though they were unaware of the problem.
13 but now, in Christ Jesus, you who were outsiders are now gathered in through the blood of Christ.
“Made nigh” or “brought near,” as in most translations, work in Greek as a colloquialism, but in English we are left with the implication that we come close, but not all the way in. Since this is clearly not the point of this sentence, I have changed the words themselves so that the real point comes across.
Christ “purchased the entire field” with His blood, so faith and trust in God became available to all mankind. As we come to faith, we become members of His body, not just good friends with His people but one with them in Christ; always remembering that ‘His people’ means believers, whether Jews or Hebrews or Gentiles, not at all the unbelieving Jews.
14 For he is our peace, making us both one by destroying the wall of division that stood between us,
The “wall of division” was firstly the definition of who were ‘God’s people.’ The death of Christ drastically amended that definition from ‘Israel’ to ‘believers,’ thus alienating, at a stroke, almost the entire nation who counted themselves as holy simply because they were circumcised. At the same time, the door opened for the Gentiles. It also, however, would describe the wall between all men and God, represented by the veil of the temple which was torn in two at the death of Jesus.
15 the conflict, in his flesh; annulling the commandments ordained by the law, so that in himself he could create from the two one new man, establishing peace,
16 and reconciling both to God in one body through the cross, by which he took the hostility itself to death.
The barrier between Hebrews and Gentiles was also the Law of Moses and God’s choice, but it was amplified by prejudice and nationalism, pride and fear. Jesus came and broke down all the real barriers to unity, in His flesh on the cross, when He fulfilled and so annulled the Law of Moses. In Him we are not just brethren, but actually one new man—the ex-Hebrew believer is to me as I am to myself.
17 He came and brought the good news of peace to you who were distant and those who were close,
Though it is the primary meaning, this does not necessarily refer to just Gentiles and Jews: those who were distant would also include the lost tribes of Israel.
18 so that through him we both have access to the Father in one Spirit.
To live this life as God wants us to, we need clear access to the Father by the Holy Spirit, and there is no difference here either between Jews and Gentiles.
19 As a result, you are no longer strangers and outsiders but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the family of God,
It seems a little strange from this end of “the time of the Gentiles” to realise that Paul’s “saints and members” means Jewish believers and the Jewish family of God, but now it needs to be reversed so that the Jews can know that they too are welcome in God’s family, and not just the Gentiles.
20 being built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone;
These prophets are not the OT prophets, but the prophets in the assemblies who are supposed to be working with the apostles as Jesus’ agents in building the assemblies on the cornerstone of Christ.
21 in whom the entire building fits together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
This is in stark contrast to the ‘church’ of today where there are thousands of satanically inspired denominations, not one spiritual building, gracefully becoming the Lord’s temple.
22 and you too are being built together by the Spirit into this residence of God.
We who are truly disciples of Christ are all one habitation for God: no building, no denomination, and no clergy: just believers, all believers.
1 For this reason, I Paul, prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles…
He doesn’t mean he is in prison “on behalf of” the Gentiles, he means he feels so constrained by Christ to reach the Gentiles for Him that it has become almost physical – he couldn’t do otherwise if he tried.
2 I assume you have heard how I was assigned with the administration of God’s grace for you;
This was a divine commission,
3 how he made known to me the mystery by revelation, as I wrote before in brief,
involving deep and holy revelation from Christ, by the Spirit.
4 in order that, as you read, you will understand my grasp of the mystery of Christ,
The idea is not directly that his readers would internalise the revelation for themselves, even though that is what he wants, but that they should be fully assured of his qualifications from God, and therefore of the confidence they could place in his explanations. Christ is the mystery now revealed.
5 which was not revealed to the sons of men in earlier generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets.
Even here he is not claiming to be the only one to have received this revelation – it’s not about him – he’s explaining why nobody ever taught this before. This revelation to which he refers is the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets which he talks about in Chapter 2, verse 20.
6 The revelation is that the Gentiles are joint heirs with Israel, form the same body, and share the promise in Christ through the gospel.
It refers to his message to the Gentiles: together with Israel we form one body, share the promise and are therefore joint heirs of the kingdom of God.
7 I became a minister of the gospel in line with the gift of God’s grace, given to me through the exercise of his power.
God gave Paul the grace and the ministry, and confirmed them by exercising His power through Paul as he obeyed the calling. Not only was God’s grace given to him by God’s power, it was also given to him as he used God’s power to heal and convert the Gentiles.
8 To me, less than the least of all the saints, was granted the grace to announce to the Gentiles the good news of the untraceable wealth of Christ,
Paul’s poetic “less than the least” implies that he sees his own history of sin, and the corruption of his flesh, as worse than everyone else: humble, but hardly rational. The “untraceable wealth” is not only the glory and power of Christ, but, more importantly, the love of God bequeathed to creation by God in Jesus.
9 and to enlighten all regarding the dispensation of this mystery, which from the beginning has been hidden in God who created all things,
It is important that all believers know and clearly understand how we gain and maintain this fellowship with Christ and each other, and how we receive and operate in all that we inherit in Christ. God “created all things” in order that He could reveal to us, and in us, all that is in Christ for us.
10 so that through the assembly, the many aspects of God’s wisdom would be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
He wants us, who form the body of Christ, to make known the wisdom of God, in all its rich variety, to all the spiritual beings who witness our holy lives, despite our carnal heritage in our flesh, as God reveals Christ in each of us.
11 in line with the eternal purpose which he fulfils in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is ongoing, throughout all eternity, that God fulfils His purpose in Christ.
12 In him we have courage and assured access [to the Father] through his faith.
What is true of Christ (apart from His divinity and personal history) becomes true of us once we are in Him. So His boldness and confident access to the Father, built on His own faith, becomes our confident access, also built on Christ’s faith.
13 I would ask you not to be disheartened by my ordeals for you, for they are your glory.
It seems the Ephesians were troubled by Paul’s sufferings, which in some sense were for them, and they were getting despondent, fearing that to suffer showed some kind of failure. Paul says, no, to the contrary, “they are your glory,” so don’t worry or be discouraged on my account.
14 For this reason I kneel to the Father,
15 by whom all people, in the heavens and on earth, are being called by name,
All the translations miss this. They are certain that “every family” “received” their name, or “is named,” which doesn’t work—no family, whether in heaven or on earth, is actually called by the Father’s name, in any language, not even Hebrew.
The point Paul is making is simply that God’s gracious invitation—to freedom in Christ and eternal life—is for everyone, regardless of their situation, heritage or history. All they have to be is on earth, under our skies, or even in space, though not of course, in the spiritual heaven. And each one is called by the Father, personally, by his own name.
16 and pray that he may grant you, in line with his glorious abundance, power to strengthen your inner man by his Spirit;
Here Paul properly prays to Him for what they most particularly need: the Spirit of God to strengthen their “inner man,” or the “new creation,” with faith to withstand temptation and persecution,
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, so that, being rooted and grounded in love,
that they may live by the knowledge that Christ is alive within them, and that they may have their roots in the firm foundation of His love,
18 you should be able to truly grasp – together with all the saints – what is the breadth and length and depth and height
19 of that which transcends knowledge: the love of Christ, so you may be filled with all the fulness of God.
and that they may be strong enough to truly know the unknowable: the love of Christ, so they may be filled up with God.
20 So, to the one capable of doing far above and beyond all we request or imagine, in line with his power that is active in us,
God’s responses to our prayers may be, and often are, far beyond our wildest dreams,
21 to him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus for all the generations through the ages for ever. Amen.
so Paul renders Him glory for His greatness. That glory should be revealed by His ecclesia – the assembly of those He has called apart to follow Him.
1 So I, captive in the Lord, urge you to live up to the calling you have received
He reminds us he is slave to Christ, and wants us, through obedience, to make the most of all we have received in Christ.
2 with all humility and gentleness, patiently bearing with one another in love,
As we graciously refuse to take offence at one another, despite our various character flaws, God will gradually change our characters to be more and more like Jesus.
3 and, bound together in peace, diligent to preserve the oneness of the Spirit:
We must always seek to hear clearly from the Spirit so that we will be in total agreement with every other believer who hears clearly. Once we all (in our assembly) know what the Spirit is saying, then we can commit ourselves to full obedience. We are firmly bound to each other in peace by the Spirit of God.
4 one body and one Spirit, and, just as you were called to one confident anticipation by your calling,
Here Paul stresses our unity, thus forbidding all forms of denominationalism in one sentence. We have no business introducing divisions into Christ’s own body nor alternatives to His teachings. God’s invitation to eternal life is our summons to live a holy life in perfect fellowship with Him, with but a single outcome – everlasting life with Him.
5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Listing these together stresses their singularity: there is but one Lord, so by grammatical inevitability, there is but one faith—the one God has defined—and one baptism. Again, this means the baptism defined by Christ and implemented by the apostles. It’s not primarily that we may only enter the waters once, but that, when we are baptised, it must be the proper baptism: it must be the response of true faith not the exercise of tradition, the washing away of our sins, of which we have repented, and the burial of our old selves which were crucified with Christ.
6 one God and Father of all – the one who is over all and through all and in you all.
Over the last four verses Paul has stressed the uniqueness of all these aspects of the teachings of Christ: any substitute means “another gospel – which is no gospel at all.”
The transcendent supremacy and immanence of God the Father energises and directs every believer.
7 Yet grace was given to each of us in line with the scope of Christ’s gift,
Now Paul starts to differentiate between people, but only in the area of giftings, ie, we are all the same before God, but we are all individuals in Christ.
8 as the scripture says, “he ascended on high defeating bondage and so gave gifts to man.”
The bondage he defeated was our slavery to sin and our bondage to the flesh, thus releasing us to live holy lives; the gifts are all which are ours in Christ: salvation, forgiveness, our death in Him, our new creation, our new “heart of flesh,” our burial in baptism, and so on, and the Holy Spirit by whom Christ lives in us and overcomes for us.
9 But how could he ascend, unless he first descended to the depths of the earth?
You have to go up from a lower place, in this case Hades and the tomb.
10 He that descended is the one who then rose above all the heavens so that he would fulfill all things.
So Christ didn’t simply rise from the dead, He “rose above all the heavens” to fulfill every last prophesy, pattern, promise or pact which God had ever intended for Christ’s first appearance on earth.
11 And so he provides apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers
Returning to Christ’s gifts for the assemblies – all who are in Christ. These are roles or functions within the body of believers for service, not positions of governmental authority over anyone.
12 to complete the saints for works of service, promoting the growth of the body of Christ,
And this is their role: training and perfecting the saints so the body of Christ may grow, healthy and strong in obedience to Him.
13 until we are all unified, in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, into one perfect man of the stature and the fullness of Christ.
If ever there was a goal which precluded any hint of denominationalism it has to be this—we are to grow to be, as one body, one perfect man in the fullness of Christ! No possible separatism could ever work or be valid, as the body of Christ is one. If we are separate from the body of Christ then we are part of something else and very possibly disqualified for eternal life.
14 Then we may not be infants any longer, buffeted back and forth and persuaded by every wind of teaching of deceitful people in their crafty strategies of deception,
15 but, professing the truth in love, we will grow in all things into Christ who is our head.
This is a command not to “be infants any longer.” The unity of the body of Christ here is not the final perfection we may expect at our Lord’s return, it is the foundation position where we will stop being deceived, and from which we can actually grow up into Him “who is our head.”
“Professing the truth in love” is not just a question of speaking, preaching and teaching, it is primarily as we truly present the life and character of Christ in its fullness in our daily behaviour, attitudes and the holy, sinless tone of our lives before those around us and before God.
16 Out of him the entire body, being joined together and united through every connection to the supply, and with the full functioning of each part, grows by building itself up in love.
The body can only grow as each believer is properly joined to each other and connected to Christ, from whom comes all that is needed to grow. This will flow, through the obedient, holy, loving activity of each person, to build up the body in a healthy way. There is no place within a living body for competition between members.
17 So I say this, and solemnly declare in the Lord: you can no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the perverse depravity of their thinking,
When Paul refers to Gentiles, he means unbelievers or pagans, rather than non-Jews—many Jews, in their unbelief, would count here as Gentiles. They are lost in corruption as their normal thought processes are depraved. This includes even very caring and civilised unbelievers as they can only live by the flesh. As true believers, our carnal nature is dead and our minds have been renewed, so we are free to live holy lives.
18 having darkened minds and being alienated from the life of God, due to their spiritual ignorance caused by hardening their hearts,
They have hardened their hearts which has closed them off to any genuine spiritual knowledge, which in turn leaves them cut off from the life of God. We have to keep our hearts soft towards the things of Christ so that we may be fully alert to spiritual things and filled with God’s life.
19 who, no longer caring, have abandoned themselves to debauchery and made a vocation of their insatiable indulgence.
The natural effect of turning away from God is a numbness towards others and a bias towards corruption, so we must turn towards God in humility, allowing Him to bring us freedom from all sin.
20 But that’s not how you learn Christ –
Interesting to note that we are not primarily learning of Christ or from Christ, but simply learning Christ Himself, so, as Paul says elsewhere, “to live is Christ.” This learning is through faith, trust and obedience, rather than through study, memorisation and thought.
21 you hear him and are taught in him, in line with the truth that is in Jesus:
We are to learn by listening to the indwelling Christ by the power of the Spirit and obeying Him. The knowledge of a disciple comes through obedience, and, because Jesus is the truth, all that we learn in Him will be true.
22 to take off, just like your former behaviour, the old man which is defiled by deceptive desires;
The first thing we learn is to divest ourselves of our old sin nature. This seems a simple thing, but it doesn’t mean much to the natural man, so we cannot just read this verse and go away and do it. We have to hear His voice for the instruction to make sense and to be able to obey it. And while we’re at it, our former behaviour also has to go so we are free to grow (and retain our joy).
23 to be renewed in your mind towards the Spirit;
Almost every translation (with the singular exception of the New Living Translation (NLT)) reduces the ‘Spirit’ in this verse to ‘spirit’ or even ‘attitude’ as the word order in the Greek appears to link ‘spirit’ with ‘mind.’
Paul’s point is that it’s all about learning a whole new way of thinking: of turning to the Spirit first to discover what is required, and then doing it, in His strength, by faith.
24 and to put on the new man, which is being created by God, in righteousness and true holiness.
Most translations get the tense of ‘is being created’ wrong, stating that the new man either “is created” or “has been created…” They then assume that it should read “like God” or “in God’s image,” when the Greek says “by God” or “according to God.”
And then we must don the new, holy nature which God is creating as we move in obedience. Again, this has to be our response to the inner word of the Holy Spirit so that we understand what to do and how to do it; we can’t simply read this verse and obey it.
25 Therefore, abandon deception and speak the truth with your neighbour since we are members of each other.
Since Paul says “we are members of each other,” he is speaking here of our behaviour within the assembly, though clearly he doesn’t mean that we can continue to lie to unbelievers.
26 Don’t sin when you are angry; don’t let the sun set on your indignation,
While we should be done with expressing anger, it is actually an emotion given to us by God so we may still experience it. Anger which does not lead to wicked words or deeds is not sinful, but we must not allow our behaviour or our words to be dictated by it (or, actually, by any emotion), or we will fall into a trap and find we are in sin. A good rule of thumb is to not “let the sun set on your indignation,” and to not allow ourselves to be motivated or dictated to by our feelings. By sunset we must forgive and thereby diffuse our anger.
27 and give the devil no opening.
We don’t generally realise how the devil and his demons are looking for opportunities to sneak in to our lives where they can cause trouble. If we allow our anger to direct our words or actions we could easily find something nasty has made itself a foothold in our lives.
28 Let the thief stop stealing and work instead, using his hands to earn honestly; then he will have something to share with those in need.
This is a picture of ideal conversion: the thief has used his hands to steal, now he must repurpose them for honest work. Whatever our previous sins, we must reverse the use of our bodies for deeds which are good and holy. Then we will have something legitimate to share with those God sends us.
29 Don’t let any defiling word out of your mouth, only what is good to enlighten, consistent with the need to give grace to those who hear,
The society which surrounds us is so openly corrupt that we hear defiling language from every source, and, as a result, it is terribly easy to allow such words to come from our own mouths. As far as God is concerned that is simply not an option. All our talk should minister grace and enlighten those we are talking to. This is a high standard indeed, for which, like everything else, we clearly need the full assistance of the Holy Spirit.
30 so you don’t distress God’s Holy Spirit, in whom you are sealed for the day of redemption.
Using foul, deceitful or divisive language is a very effective way to distress or grieve God’s Holy Spirit. This we must not do since it is Him in whom we are sealed. Good to note again here that if we drop our guard for a moment, and get angry with a brother or sister, or use defiling language, not only are we likely to distress the Holy Spirit, thus pushing Him away, but we may also “give the devil [an] opening” into our lives to cause serious spiritual problems.
31 Let all bitterness, rage, anger, uproar and slander be gone from you, together with every evil intent;
We must be so filled with the grace of God that nothing else can be expressed through us.
32 and be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving one another just as God forgives you in Christ.
Again, we have a tense issue here: many translations put “God forgave you” but we know that His forgiveness continues throughout our lives – otherwise we wouldn’t last a day – so I have corrected it to “forgives.”
The practical outworking of the Christian life is, first of all, grace towards each other. Here we see that the entire passage from verse 25 has been talking about our relationships within the body of Christ – how we are to treat each other. This is not to say that we can continue to be rude to unbelievers, just that we must be gracious to other believers at all times.
1 Become then, more and more, disciples of God, as beloved children,
The idea here is that we are to follow God as our Father, watching for all the small details that make Him all that He is, and train ourselves to behave in the same way, because we are loyal sons and daughters. He has made this easier for us by coming as Jesus so we could see His character traits and make sense of them.
2 moving in love just as Christ loves us, giving himself up for our sake, his offering and sacrifice a fragrant aroma to God.
Every part of our lives should be informed and directed by love: love without limit and love without compromise. That way, our lives will also be a sacrificial fragrant aroma to God.
3 So let there be no suggestion of fornication, greed, or any uncleanness among you, as they are inappropriate for saints;
Fornication includes all forms of illicit sexual activity and idolatry; greed implies the wanting and grabbing for more than is necessary and more than God has graciously provided; uncleanness refers to lustfulness, profligacy and impurity, not at all one’s body simply needing a wash.
4 no obscenity, foolish talk, or jesting, which are equally inappropriate; but instead, thanksgiving.
Obscenity would include talking about or writing or displaying or imaging the private parts for any reason other than the clinically professional; foolish talk covers joking, drivel, lies, flattery, exaggeration, propaganda, politicking, deceiving rhetoric, attempts to control others by any of these, and so on; jesting in this context refers to finding humour in obscenity, in the pain or embarrassment of others, or in lies about others. It does not forbid word games and fun, as God gave us a sense of humour, He just expects us to use it properly. We are to replace all this wickedness with thanksgiving, which is very doable since we have so much to be thankful for.
Are we to banish the gentle, gracious presence of the Holy Spirit from our own hearts by a thoughtless word of profanity? And what is the only offering worthy to lay before such divine, unselfish love? Nothing less than a life of utmost purity.
5 For, as you know, no one who is a fornicator or impure or avaricious – and is thus an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Idolatry includes many things including: fornication, which is primarily male prostitution here (ie, those free to choose prostitution); impurity, which means practicing unclean thoughts and behaviour; and greed, meaning covetousness, eager to have more, and to take what belongs to others. These are all idolatry because they turn away from the living God in rebellion for their security, their entertainment, their provision, even their thoughts.
All of these areas we are to consecrate to God so that He can be all in all for us, and if we fill our thoughts with Christ, His words and His character, all else that we need will be ours without strain or guilt.
6 Let no one’s futile arguments deceive you, since they will cause God’s wrath to fall on the stubbornly disobedient,
These “futile arguments” are in stark contradistinction to the words of Christ which are peace since they are true. Acceptance of vain reasonings leads people into stubborn disobedience to God and so draws down His wrath upon them.
We are told not to be deceived as God knows how easily we may be convinced by lies, so we must counter the arguments we are offered by immersing ourselves in Christ and in the truth of God’s word.
7 so don’t be associated with them.
Once we recognise these people, by the disagreements between their teachings and God’s word or by the ‘check’ in the spirit, we are to have no more to do with them: do not sup with them, do not share a platform with them, do not join with them in any way.
8 Though once you were darkness, now you are light in the Lord, so live as children of light:
9 the fruit of light is in all goodness, righteousness and truth,
We have been utterly translated from darkness into light, from wickedness to goodness, from evil to holiness, but this is more technical or positional to start with and only really becomes our own as we live in it by faith. We have no business being involved in works or words of darkness any more, so we must deliberately put ourselves into the light, spiritually, in everything we do, so that God can see that everything is for Him, and the world can see that we are His.
10 and discerning what really delights the Lord.
We sense in our spirits the ‘check’ or approval of the Holy Spirit so we can know what “really delights the Lord” and rejoice to do it. In the process, of course, we will discover that the same actions will also fill us with joy, and we will draw closer to Him.
11 And don’t join with them in the barren works of darkness, but rather rebuke them,
Darkness tempts people to do things they would be less inclined to do if it were daytime when others can see what they’re up to. These things are shameful sins, which necessarily are barren, as sin is opposition to God, the source of all life.
From verse 6 we can see that Paul is still talking about believers who are involved in sin, not unbelievers who have no real option, so these are very serious warnings.
12 for it is sordid even to mention the things they do in secret,
This does not mean we should politely refrain from talking about the sin of others—we are to confront them and try to convince them to repent, in order that we may save them from utter loss at the last judgment. We are, however, to refrain from talking needlessly about other’s sins—from gossiping about them.
13 but everything exposed will then be fully revealed by the light, for light reveals everything.
If we continue in sin as believers, as soon as someone exposes our behaviour, the light of the word of God will reveal our sinful condition to the rest of the assembly and the world.
14 Which is why it says, “rouse yourself sleeper, arise from the dead, and the Christ will shine on you.”
This is in the form of a command because it is our own responsibility, we cannot pray for rescue and just wait for God to do something.
Anyone who, as a believer, has descended again into sin, is depicted as being asleep. This implies a level of moral indifference regarding their salvation. It says “arise from the dead” because those who are slaves of sin are “dead” to God and to truth and grace, etc, so they will have to leave the company of sinners in full repentance to get themselves right with God again.
It’s definitely worth us doing so however, as Christ will then shine the bright, uncompromising, but healing light of His divine holiness on us, and we will find we are truly free from the “miry clay” of sin and the flesh and can follow Him again by grace.
15 Be careful how perfectly you live, in wisdom not in foolishness,
Being a disciple of Christ means very carefully avoiding all wickedness, whatever form it takes, and deliberately seeking truth, goodness and wisdom. To do otherwise is to practice foolishness, as evil is described as foolishness throughout the Bible.
16 redeeming every opportunity as the days are evil.
This means, as God provides the opportunities, doing good, sharing the gospel, healing the sick, and so on, basically doing our best to undo the evil we see around us by bringing the grace of Christ to others.
17 Don’t be fools, but understand what the will of the Lord is,
We are clearly to know the will of God, generally and personally so we can sensibly obey it, but this seems to refer more to gaining a conceptual grasp of what kind of a thing the will of the Lord is in itself, ie, the expression of both His divine love and His perfect justice.
18 and don’t get drunk on wine, which removes all restraint; instead, be filled with the Spirit,
This is not suggesting that we ‘get drunk in the Spirit’ as some would have us believe, as that would also “remove all restraint,” but that we should never indulge in activities which lead to loss of control. This would also include taking any kind of mind altering drug. Being filled with the Spirit ultimately leads to perfect control of all our attributes: our bodies, feelings, responses, etc.
19 mentally reciting psalms, singing hymns and spiritual songs, and making music in your hearts to the Lord;
This is what is happening in our thoughts once we are filled with the Spirit; our hearts bubble up with worship and our thoughts are focused on truth. It also shows us that true worship is in the heart: without the music in the heart, no amount of singing will count as worship.
20 always giving thanks for all to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This “all” refers to everything and everyone: all God’s gifts, all God’s actions, everything that happens, everything we come across, everyone in the assembly, everyone we know, and so on.
21 Yield to each other in the fear of Christ:
This is about not insisting on getting our own way but allowing each other to take precedence. Obviously this prohibits any kind of governmental structure being superimposed on the assembly.
“The fear of Christ” could be our fear of, or reverence for Christ, or equally, His reverence for the Father which we live by as we abide in Him.
Here Paul starts a single subject which continues right through to chapter 6, verse 9. All these points elaborate on this verse.
22 wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord,
23 for the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is head of the assembly and saviour of the body,
24 and, just as the assembly is subject to Christ, so the women are to their husbands in all respects.
This is not implying that men are better than their wives in any sense, nor that husbands have any right to insist on their own way over their wives (see verse 21); it’s about respect for the authority structure which God has put in place. Because God has put men in a position of responsibility for their wives, he has also given them authority, and this authority must be used in a godly, holy, and loving way, entirely in obedience to God. This is actually a benefit to the wife as she can know that her husband will treat her as Jesus treats the assembly—loving her enough to die for her as Jesus did for His body. Being subject to her husband is the wife’s official approval of God’s authority structure.
25 Husbands love your wives, as Christ loves the assembly, giving himself up for her sake
Important to note that the “love” Paul talks about here is not romantic love, but ‘agape,’ a love entirely focused on the good of the person or people loved, with no hint of self-interest. In other words, a sacrificial love. Not how most of us start our married lives! But here we are told that husbands are to sacrifice themselves for the good of their wives, because that is what Christ does for His assembly.
26 in order to sanctify her, and purifying her by washing in the water of his guidance,
Here he is talking about Christ purifying the assembly, by the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit in each believer gradually cleansing each one, and thus ultimately the entire fellowship.
27 that he should set the assembly at his side in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and faultless.
Eventually, when we are the holy and faultless assembly, Jesus will draw us up to His side in glory and we will be His bride.
28 Just so, husbands should love their wives like their own bodies: he who loves his wife, loves himself;
Again the Greek word used for love (all three times in this verse) comes from agape, so he is talking about a love which is entirely concerned with benefitting the object of the love and not with any ‘payback.’ We also have to remember that in marriage before God, the husband and wife become “one flesh” so, in a real sense, she truly is his body. Because Jesus loves Himself, in holiness and purity, He also loves His body perfectly.
Additionally, of course, if any man chooses to truly love his wife in this sense of non-self-interest, she will naturally respond to that by being happier and more secure, and so she will be quick to return his love.
29 for no one ever hated his own body, but nurtures and cares for it, just like the Lord nurtures the assembly,
Paul doesn’t mean that no one ever wanted to harm himself, or even commit suicide; he means that, without demonic interference, tragedy, illness or injury, no one normally hates his own body. His point is that Jesus, who is perfectly sane—He has a perfect grasp on reality—inevitably loves his body: perfectly, utterly, and without looking for payback, so He cherishes and nurtures all the members for the sake of divine love.
30 and we are members of his body.
All the perfect, uncontaminated love of Christ, and his careful nurture are automatically the possession of every member of His body.
31 That’s why, when a man leaves his father and mother and becomes joined to his wife, the two become one flesh.
Because that’s what happens between Christ and His assembly: as we come to faith and leave our natural inheritance in the flesh we become one with Christ. Which is also why all believers are one, as they are all united with Christ.
32 What I am saying concerning Christ and the assembly is a profound mystery,
33 however, let each one love his wife as himself like this so that she will honour her husband.
Most translations turn this around into a matching command for the wives, but the responsibility here is fully on the husbands because Paul is just talking to the husbands (he’s already addressed the wives, see verses 22-24) and using the behaviour of Christ towards the assembly as the pattern. Each married man is to sacrificially love and nurture his wife exactly as Christ loves and nurtures the assembly, which naturally leads to every believer honouring Jesus appropriately; just so the man’s wife will naturally honour him also.
Paul is not saying wives have no responsibility to love their husbands—he is not talking to wives at this point, he is simply describing the effect of the men loving their wives correctly. And of course, Jesus loved His assembly to the point of dying on the cross for them, ie, totally self-sacrificially. How could any woman, faced with a truly self-sacrificial love and concern for her, fail to honour her man?
1 Children, listen obediently in the Lord to your parents, as to do so is righteous,
In most translations the implication is that children are to obey their parents in all things, but that is not necessarily the case: they are still to weigh the advice (or command) in the light of the Holy Spirit for themselves. If it is immoral (unbiblical), illegal, impossible, unreasonable or unhinged, or if the mother and father disagree with each other, every child still has a responsibility before God to disobey them. This is really an instruction to weigh parental orders carefully before God so that the child can still do the righteous thing.
I think this primarily refers to minors, not simply to anyone who has parents, as children’s responsibility before God is greatly reduced while they are minors, whereas once we are adults, our responsibility is entirely to God, regardless of the input of our parents. This is not to say parents of grownups can have no input, as they may have much wisdom and experience in hearing from the Lord, but as adults the responsibility is still ours.
2 “honour your father and mother” – the commandment with the foremost promise:
Many translations tie the “first” or “foremost” with the “commandment” rather than with the “promise.” While this is not particularly important, it is different.
This is interesting because it refers to a Mosaic law which Paul has gone to some trouble elsewhere to prove we are free from. This tells us that it is more of the nature of a standing law, like “you reap what you sow” or “if you remain in the flesh, sin will have dominion over you.”
It means that we must all, even adults, continue to respect and honour our parents, however poor a job they did in raising us, simply because they are, or were, our parents. This is because God designed the family as the best pattern for raising children and the alternatives mean that children will grow up not even knowing one or both of their parents, or confused about who is and who isn’t. If we honour our parents, we are basically approving God’s design and choosing His will.
3 “that it may go well for you and your life will be long on the earth.”
Not a bad promise, but we must always remember that it requires faith. Does it mean that all who are martyred failed to honour their parents? If not, then it’s not a universal promise… umm…
4 And fathers: don’t raise your children for wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and guidance of the Lord.
All the translations I have looked at miss the point of this verse: they assume that Paul is telling believing fathers not to make their children angry by bullying them or annoying them and treating them badly. This is ridiculous: Paul didn’t need to point out that mistreating children was poor parenting, but he was very concerned that those who had believing parents should have the best chance of not facing the wrath of God. What he is actually saying is “don’t bring them up without a clear understanding of the truth of the gospel, or you will make them subjects of the coming wrath.” This is why the rest of the verse talks about bringing them up to know the Lord for themselves—the one is the remedy for the other.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect, concern and sincerity of heart as to Christ;
These slaves are bondmen or bondmaids, and so would include servants and the king’s attendants—and thus anyone who has a boss. I felt that the Greek idiom, “fear and trembling” carried a strange implication in English since the trembling is not at all physical, it means ‘taking great care’ (to do everything correctly), so I have clarified it to “respect” and “concern.”
6 not for approval just when you can be seen, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from your heart,
Nothing we do should be based on whether or not we are seen by others, as God sees everything that we do anyway.
7 serving with good grace as to the Lord, not to men,
8 well aware that whatever good anyone does, he will receive just reward from the Lord, whether he be slave or free.
The point is that we should be doing everything (legitimate) to the very best of our ability so that God will be honoured and those we deal with will be blessed. It simply makes no difference whether we are employed or even enslaved; whether we are giving things to charity or selling them second hand; whether the boss is a believer or a pagan. In every case we look to the Lord for reward, not other people.
9 And masters, grant them the same attitude: forsake the threat, as you know that their master and yours is in heaven and there is no favouritism with him.
Oddly, Paul doesn’t forbid the ownership of slaves, nor even the buying and selling of slaves, he merely calls for an attitude of good grace towards them, without threatening them, beating them or overworking them. Perhaps this is due to the nature of slaves in the first century: basically they sold themselves for a specified period to pay off a debt of their own, or else they were ‘legitimate’ spoils of war, and not simply captured for a slave trade. However, if the slave owner were to ponder the thought that God is looking down on them both and seeing them as equals, he will have a lot of trouble justifying having slaves at all; he should emancipate them on the spot and offer them proper, paid employment if he wants to keep them on, for them to accept or reject as free adults.
10 Lastly brethren, be strong in the Lord, in the power of his strength.
We can simply avail ourselves of God’s power for our use in His service as, and when, we need to, by faith.
11 Clad yourself in God’s full armour, so that you will be able to stand against the devil’s schemes,
In Christ, God has provided “full armour”—all the protection we will need if we obediently seek the truth and the will of God in faith, prayer, sinlessness, discernment, trust and love; all of which we will be doing if we are careful to “abide in Christ.”
12 for our combat is not with flesh and blood, but against rulers and authorities: the lord of this world’s darkness and evil spirits in the heavens.
Most translations use the word “against” instead of “with,” but this narrows the argument to the opposition which we face, or don’t face; ie. not flesh and blood, but spiritual opponents… I chose to put “with,” (ie, “pertaining to”) which is just as valid a translation, because it allows the discussion to include the fact that we are not to battle using our own flesh and blood, any more than we are to fight opponents who are flesh and blood.
At the same time, I have used the word “combat” rather than the technically accurate “wrestle” because we have many more alternative combat styles to draw upon today than Paul had in his day, and to use “wrestle” now would imply much more than it did then; ie, wrestling today is the quintessential ‘flesh and blood’ combat experience, so the tension between the example and the argument would, I believe, be counterproductive.
Paul would have chosen “wrestle” to reference the personal and intimate nature of the battle, not its physicality. His only alternative one-to-one combat style in the first century would be the fight to the death using swords: inappropriate as the kind of struggle he is talking about does not lead to the shedding of blood or instant termination—we are more likely to be undermined in terms of faith or spiritual effectiveness in future skirmishes.
13 Therefore take up all the armour of God so you will be able to resist in the time of evil and, having accomplished everything, to stand firm.
The “armour of God” is His provision, enabling us to successfully resist all attacks from the enemy’s forces. These attacks will come in the form of temptations to sin, lies about each other, deceptions and false teachings, clashes with other believers, misunderstandings, and so on.
Here Paul strictly instructs us to make sure to use it all, and thereby give ourselves the best chance. If we choose to ignore any aspect, the enemy will probably find the gap in the armour, and “take us out.” If we resist him in Christ, using the full armour, we can not only expect complete victory, but after the enemy’s defeat, we will be still standing—sinless heroes of the hour.
Note that we are not simply doing the wise thing and protecting ourselves, we are also doing the obedient thing and fulfilling the will of God to His glory, scoring wonderful victories over His enemy. God issues us with His armour so that we will be properly equipped to obey Him utterly, and safely, whatever the opposition. God really wants us to be victorious. After all, where we fail will be an injury to the entire body of believers.
14 Stand then, prepared for action by truth, with righteousness as your breastplate;
Most translations stick to the archaic Greek metaphor of “girding your loins” which doesn’t mean a lot to modern readers—especially the younger ones. It’s a phrase by which the Greeks simply meant “prepare yourself for action,” in this case by knowing and drawing upon the truth. ‘The belt of truth’ we all know, is not even hinted at in the Greek. The idea Paul is actually presenting is that if we insist on sticking to truth in every part of our lives we will always be prepared to resist the attacks, lies and deceptions of the enemy.
The breastplate was for protecting the chest, ie, the vital organs, particularly the heart, so righteousness is ‘vitally’ important.
Note: in 1Th 5:8 the breastplate is used instead as a metaphor for faith and love, and therefore they are equally vital.
15 with the firm footing of the gospel of peace;
The word translated as ‘readiness’ in many translations, actually means ‘a firm footing,’ as in Psalm 89:14 in the Septuagint (see Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words), which works far better for the personal combat metaphor Paul is using. The gospel of peace will allow us to keep our balance and remain standing: if we are fully instructed in the gospel of peace, always ready to share it, and living it out, it will be for us the firm ground we need to stand on while we defiantly resist the deceptions of the enemy.
16 and with faith as the main shield over you all, which will enable you to extinguish all the burning arrows of evil.
The word for shield is the full body shield of the Roman soldiers which was designed to cover the entire man, and even, when overlapped with others, to form an impenetrable ‘roof’ over the heads of the advancing troops. As a result, I am certain the “over all” refers to the way the shield is held, not to the ‘above all’ that many translations have. It is also the way faith works in skirmishes with the enemy: stopping the lies and accusations dead and thus working just as much for the benefit of the entire assembly as for each individual believer.
I’m not quite sure how a shield would ever do more than just stop an arrow or dart from the enemy, so to ‘extinguish’ a burning arrow seems to take the metaphor a little far (unless the Roman soldiers actually soaked their shields before battle for exactly this purpose), though faith is clearly up to the job.
17 Accept salvation as your helmet, and the words of God as your spiritual sword;
The helmet will protect our heads: our thoughts, moods, attitudes, and so on, so salvation, as a spiritual and personal fact, should do the same. The head is an important area as this is where the enemy has long worked in us and he knows if he can beat us there he can vanquish us with depression or self-pity or deception. This is also why Jesus utterly routed the enemy at Golgotha—‘the place of the skull.’
In many translations the phrase used is “the word of God,” which implies that it means just the Bible. If that were correct, Paul would have used the Greek word ‘logos,’ but the word he used is ‘rhēma’ which means ‘that which is spoken by a living voice,’ so it is referring to the prompting of the Holy Spirit just as much as to the ‘living word of God,’ which is living because it is illuminated and revealed by the Holy Spirit. So He may or may not directly quote the Bible, and as a consequence, I have used “words” in the plural as the best compromise, as it comfortably includes biblical wording, ie, quoting scripture in the face of temptation as Jesus did in the wilderness, but would also include anything given spontaneously by the Holy Spirit.
18 and pray in the Spirit on every occasion with all sorts of prayers and petitions, staying alert in order to pray purposefully and tenaciously for all the saints.
This prayer is the core of the battle we face: this is how we fight—in the Spirit, in persistent prayer. The part about staying alert means watching over each other so that we will always know when our supporting prayer is necessary. This implies living together and sharing our lives to such an extent that we are clearly aware of each other’s needs and attitudes, hopes and fears, weaknesses and failings, and so on. As a result, if the enemy tricks or attacks a brother or sister, those who are nearest will immediately be aware of the problem and what to pray about, so they will pray in the Spirit, relying on Him to direct their prayers to best effect, and thus bring release, forgiveness and restoration.
19 Pray for me too, that when I open my mouth I may be given fluency in speaking, to communicate fearlessly the mystery of the gospel,
20 (for the sake of which I am an ambassador in chains), that I may speak freely as I should.
Even Paul didn’t feel he could preach the gospel without the practical, moment by moment assistance of the Holy Spirit, and wanted the prayers of the Ephesians to reinforce his own, so that his evangelistic enterprises would be as fruitful as possible. We cannot possibly expect to share the gospel successfully without plenty of prayer and intercession in advance to ensure that the Holy Spirit is fully involved at every moment—“without me you can do nothing.”
21 So that you may know how I am, as well as all that I am doing, Tychicus, beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will keep you informed,
22 I send him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we’re doing, and he may encourage your hearts.
The reason Paul wants them informed of all he and his team are doing is so that they are reassured as to their safety, inspired by their successes, and able to struggle in prayer for them and the work they are doing in the Lord, so that it will be fruitful. Like Tychicus, we should always be ready to encourage each other.
23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here Paul speaks for God as he gives them a final greeting.
24 Grace be with all who sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ.
And wishes them grace if they are genuine believers, not otherwise.