All Courses

Ephesians

13
Lessons
6 hrs
Starting at $14/month (billed annually)

Overview

This course on the Book of Ephesians by Prof. Fredrick J. Long provides a comprehensive look at this amazing epistle, a favorite of many pastors and teachers. While offering a general introduction to critical matters pertaining to authorship, audience, setting, and occasion for the epistle.

Prof. Long locates Ephesians within the socio-political-religious world of Asia Minor. He argues that Ephesians presents Paul’s mature Political Theology at a critical juncture of his ministry as he transitions from his missionary work in the Greek East that culminated with his delivery of the international relief fund (the “Collection”) to Jerusalem and then sets his missionary sight to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Lord to the Roman West, beginning in Rome. Paul resists Roman “imperial paganism”—the worship of the gods including the emperors and their family members—prevalent in the Mediterranean world and especially Asia Minor with the rapid spread of localized imperial cults dedicated to worshiping the emperors and often alongside them, Roma, the goddess personifying the Roman populace. Thus, Paul presents the counter-narrative of God’s salvific plan and work affected in Christ who is our political Lord and Head of the Church assembly—also personified in Ephesians as Christ’s consort bride. Jesus Christ fulfills God’s mission bringing peace and unifying all peoples (Jews and Gentiles) into one Body, the church assembly, through whom and with Christ God is glorified forever and ever (3:21).

With this understanding, then, Prof. Long presents a comprehensive treatment of the rhetorical structure of Ephesians before then systematically walking through the book section by section. In his exposition, Prof. Long accesses the Greek text and focuses on central verses and key points of contact with the broader world of Asia Minor within the Roman Empire.

Throughout, Prof. Long considers how understanding of Ephesians informs our discipleship in terms of theology, spiritual formation, ministry, and matters of application in life. After this course, you will not read Ephesians the same way ever again.

Categories

New Testament
Theology Concepts

1. Ephesians

Prof. Long provides an orientation to Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians by addressing questions of Who wrote it, to whom it was written, what is its content, where and when it was written and why it was written. Despite the scholarly dispute concerning the authenticity of Ephesians, Long addresses these doubts and sets forth reasons for accepting Ephesians as authentic from the Apostle Paul. Long provides an overview of the political themes running throughout Ephesians by placing them within the predominant religious worldview of the Roman Empire—imperial paganism.

Long posits that Ephesians was written from Caesarea Maritima (around AD 58-60) as a circulating letter for Ephesus within Asia Minor after Paul delivered the Collection to Jerusalem and some Jews from Asia Minor accused him of speaking “to all people everywhere” against 1) the Law, 2) the people (of Israel), and 3) the temple (see Acts 21:28). Paul addresses each of these points in Eph 2:11–22. In the end, Paul writes Ephesians at a major point of transition in his ministry, while awaiting trial and needing to appeal to justice to Caesar. Paul, in exile from Judea, was now focusing on preaching the Gospel in the Roman West while recognizing that the peace of the Gospel of Christ for the nations subverts the Roman militaristic message of pacifying the foreign nations by military conquest.

2. Ephesians

In this lecture, Prof. Long looks at the social-political context in Asia Minor of honoring Augustus that was adopted by the Asian League of Cities. One famous inscription, the Priene Inscription, describes a view of the world that is analogous to that of Ephesians, except Paul argues that God has provided grace, peace, and hope in the good news of Christ as Lord in implicit contradiction to the Roman Narrative that Providence has provided peace and surpassing hope in the good news of “the god” Augustus. Next, Long discusses the rhetorical structure of Ephesians in which 2:8–10 is the thesis.

One particularly seminal section is 4:1 through 6:9 that is structured around five instances of the verb “walking” (περιπατέω). He then concludes by walking through Ephesians by discussing each “verse 10” across the epistle (1:10; 2:10; 3:10; 4:10; 5:10; 6:10) which culminates with a description of the type of warfare and divine Messianic armor that believers have available to them to stand firm against the strategies of the devil.

3. Ephesians

Prof. Long works through 1:1–14. This opening “blessing” in 1:3–14 is highly theological and structured around God the Father, the Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit of Promise. Paul walks from before creation time to final eschatological time in his description of God’s saving purposes. Paul here in 1:4–5 explains the vision of God as revealed in Hebrew Scripture to have a Holy People as his special possession (Exod 19:6; Deut 7:6; 14:21, etc.). Now Christ “heads up the administration of the fulfillment of the times” (Eph 1:10), which is a time of Gentile inclusion into the People of God, themselves receiving the Spirit of promise and becoming God’s special possession (1:14).

4. Ephesians

Prof. Long discusses Paul’s prayer in 1:15–21. Paul’s prayers prepared him for writing out his epistles! Prayer prepares us for action (see Matt 9:36–10:1). The prayer culminates with Paul’s description of Christ raised up and seated in the heavenly realms far above all rule, power, authority, and lordship and every name being named (1:20–21). Long relates this to ancient politics in which political figures (esp. the emperors) loved to amass “names” and titles as attested especially on public inscriptions and coins. Paul affirmed that Jesus’s exaltation after his resurrection to the right hand of God trumps them all.

5. Ephesians

The narrative material of 1:22–2:7 is the focus of this lecture. The narrative section in a discourse, if present, lays out the essential events as relevant for the main argument of the discourse (cf. the narrative in Gal 1:11–2:14 leading to the thesis of Galatians in 2:15–21). The basic storyline is that Christ is the Head of the political body of the Church assembly (1:22–23); head-body imagery was a political metaphor in use in the mid-first century (see 1 Cor 12; and Seneca’s essay De Clementia written for the young emperor Nero in AD 54-55). The narrative continues showing the “dead” sinful condition of Jews and Gentiles (2:1–3) who are then able to be saved because of God’s merciful love, kindness, and grace (2:4–7); “by grace you have been saved.” Then, Long looks at the thesis statement of 2:8–10 that discusses “sacrifice/gift,” faith, and grace (outlining topics of 2:10–3:21) and culminating with the purpose of “walking in good deeds” (anticipating five “walking” sections in 4:1–6:9).

6. Ephesians

The first inferential conjunction “therefore” (διό) marks the beginning of the formal argument of Ephesians in 2:11–22. These verses are arranged as a chiasm (ABCDE-F-EDCBA) that hinges around Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross to do away with the Law in commandments with ordinances—that is, the center of the Old Covenant and the human “rules” added to the Law. This removal allows for the Gentiles to enter into God’s people and have full access to the Godhead of Father, Beloved Son, and Holy Spirit. With Christ as capstone (or cornerstone), believers are metaphorical built into a new temple—God’s people form a holy temple space for God’s indwelling (2:20–22). Indeed, Christ establishes “peace” between Jews and Gentiles, making one new humanity, and reconciles both into one body politic in relation to God (2:15–16).

7. Ephesians

Prof. Long discusses Inductive Bible Study and then investigates the structure of 3:1–13. Once again, these verses are formed as a chiasm with the very center hinging on his receiving grace “according to the working of power” (3:7). Paul showcases himself as a political prisoner on behalf of Christ for the sake of others sacrificially (3:1, 13). Paul pours out his life for the sake of the Gospel just as Christ offered himself as a sacrifice in the Gospel. The mystery of the Gospel is now revealed—namely, that God in Christ has brought together Gentiles and Jews as co-heirs, co-participants, and co-body members. In fact, the church assembly is the means by which God’s marvelous wisdom is communicated to human rulers and spiritual authorities in the heavenly realms (3:10)—so important is the church assembly!

8. Ephesians

Prof. Long looks at Paul’s second prayer in Eph 3:14–19. Paul bends his knee before the Father of Fathers. The prayer unfolds in cascading layers of purpose: inner power through the Spirit is the means of Christ dwelling in the heart is the means for knowing and understanding Christ’s unknowable love is the means to be fulfilled with the fulfillment/fulness of God. We see the Godhead at work once again—Spirit, Christ, and Father God. Particularly profiled with Christ is the dimensionality of the love—"the breadth and length and height and depth” (Eph 3:18) that recalls the exact dimensions of the altar of sacrifice of the hoped for eschatological temple in Ezek 43:13–17. Indeed, Christ’s work fulfills God’s purposes to forgive and purify humans. This ultimate fulfillment of God among us humans leads Paul to conclude this unit by praising God for his tremendous abilities to do well beyond what we can imagine or even ask and by envisioning God being glorified in the Church assembly and in Christ Jesus forever and ever (Eph 3:20–21).

9. Ephesians

Prof. Long looks at the first of five walking sections in 4:1–16, “walking worthily of the Gospel.” Instrumental here is that Paul begins with a list of virtues culminating with “eagerness to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1–3). This unity is grounded in the “Seven Ones” of 4:4–6. The following discussion describes the giftedness of believers on the basis of Christ’s triumphal ascension “to fulfil all things” (4:10) whereby Christ gives “people” as gifts to people—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The goal of giving these leaders is described in detail in 4:12–16, not least of which is to have believers grow up into Christ as our “measure of maturity” and as head of the church body. This growth occurs as co-body members speak the truth in love with one another. This growth into Christ, also, prevents us from being infantile, tossed about by every human teaching that is crafty, scheming, and deceitful (4:15). This message is as relevant now as it was then.

10. Ephesians

Next up, Prof. Long unpacks the structure of the second walking section “to not walk anymore like the Gentiles walk” (4:17–32). This section begins with a sober description of sinful humanity and its tragic “alienation from the life of God” (4:17–19), pivots around “learning the Christ” in a three-step pattern of growing as a disciple—1) putting off the old corrupted self; 2) being renewed (ongoingly) by the renewing of one’s mind; and 3) putting on a new self that is created according to God in holiness and righteousness of the truth (4:20–24). The unit concludes with a profound chiastic section showcasing truthfulness, addressing matters of anger, encouraging proper good deeds/good speech, and setting forth the need for kindness, compassionate treatment of one another, and self-forgiveness all grounded in God in Christ’s forgiveness of us (4:25–32).

11. Ephesians

Prof. Long delves into the next two walking sections. The third and central “walking” section is Eph 5:1–6 based upon imitating God and “walking in love just as Christ loved us” sacrificially. Paul’s situates his call to imitate God and to love like Christ amidst prohibitions against different types of pagan practices—sexual immorality, uncleanness, foul speech, greed, and idolatry. In the next “walking” section of 5:7–14, Paul calls believers to walk in the light by not participating in darkness, but exposing/refuting the deeds of darkness. Believers are expected to produce the fruit of goodness, justice, and truthfulness; basically, we are to please the Lord. Paul shows Christ’s presence in the world as One who brings illumination, calling sleepers to awake and arise from the dead, so that Christ would shine on them, i.e., be converted (5:14).

12. Ephesians

Prof. Long investigates the final “walking” passage in 5:15–6:9 “to walk wisely.” Here walking wisely consists of knowing what the Lord’s will is and being filled with the Spirit rather than with empty, wasteful entertainments (like wine drinking parties of Paul’s day). Just what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit is described in 5:19–21—speaking to one another in Psalms and spiritual songs; singing and making melody to the Lord; always giving thanks; and mutually submitting to one another. No punctuation or section break occurs between 5:21 and 5:22, such that a wife’s “submitting” to her own husband continues from the mutual submission that flows from being filled with the Spirit. In 5:22 to 6:9, Paul treats “traditional” household relationships from a new perspective of Christ, and subverting “traditional” roles in varying degrees. Paul uses “technical” language of “submission” (expected of a wife to her own husband) very carefully here and shows that husbands indeed submit to their own wives by loving them as they love themselves. Radical. In the end, even the husband-wife relationship is subordinated to the Christ-Church relationship. Next, Paul urges Fathers to take a more active role in the instruction of their children (typically, the mothers were more involved). Finally, although slaves are to serve their masters well “knowing the Lord’s will” (i.e., to help them be converted to Christ), at the same time Paul commands the masters to “do the same things to them (their servants)” that these servants do for them (6:9)!

13. Ephesians

In this final lesson, Prof. Long looks at the climactic conclusion in 6:10–24. Believers do find themselves in a struggle with evil forces, a variety of “schemes” of the devil. But, the good news is that God has provided divine armor so that believers can be strong and stand their ground on the evil day. Here, Roman looking armor is metaphorically applied to believers based upon Messianic armor descriptions from the Book of Isaiah. Rather than fighting and killing people for the gospel of Christ, believers instead wield the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and pray for the spread of the Gospel (6:17–19). Paul asks that these believers pray for him to proclaim the Gospel boldly even as he is an ambassador in chains—implying clearly that he belongs to a different Kingdom and has a different King than that of Rome (6:20). How exciting is it to think that our prayers participate in the extension of the Word of God! Paul concludes by offering up peace, love with faith, and “grace for all who are loving our Lord, Jesus Christ with incorruptibility [ἀφθαρσία]”—this latter word ἀφθαρσία meaning that such a mutually loving relationship between Christ and the Church is immortal and without end. Our union with Christ is everlasting. Amen.

Instructor

Dr. Fredrick Long