Summary: God designed for humans to think, feel, speak, and act in certain ways. As a race we have walked away from that and messed up the universe. God, through Jesus, has hit the reset button on our lives, giving us hope for a better life.
I was recently working with something on a website and every time I made a change it messed everything up. I was only digging myself deeper. Then I saw this little button that said “Reset to Default Settings.” I thought I’d give it a try and voila, it worked.
In a way, Ephesians is about God’s reset button for humanity. In the Garden of Eden we decided to monkey around with God’s ways of thinking—listening to serpents and disobeying God’s instructions for how to live life. We, and the universe been messed up ever since. But thanks be to God that He sent Jesus to rescue us.
One of the things God is doing through Jesus is hitting the reset button for our lives. We get a chance to start anew, with a new heart and mind that is being transformed back into the ways of thinking prior to the Fall. Eventually, God will hit the reset button for all the universe—and this is what the book of Ephesians is about—God resetting humanity and the universe to factory settings—to the way they should be.
The book of Ephesians is broken up into 2 major sections: Chapters 1 – 3, and 4 – 6. Ephesians is a very hefty book. It’s a little like thinking you are picking up balsa wood and lifting a bar of gold instead. For just six chapters it is surprisingly deep. Peter O’Brien, in his commentary on Ephesians, calls the book “one of the most significant documents ever written.”
Chapters 1 – 3 are about how God has given us new life – what God has done for you.
Chapters 3 – 6 are about how God wants us to live in that new life – what we do in response.
You could say that the first half of the book is more theological, the second half more practical—learn the truth, and then apply the truth.
It focuses on two major themes: truth and love. There is more love per page in Ephesians than anywhere else in the New Testament save 1 Corinthians 13
It is very close in content and style to Colossians – in fact they could be thought of as sister letters.
Ephesians was not written to a problem church, but a healthy one. It was written to healthy Christians telling them why it’s worth it to serve Jesus.
A key to the whole book can be found in Chapter 1, verses 9-10:
Ephesians 1:9 “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him 10 for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.”
God is bringing everything together in Jesus. We’ll break apart this verse more when we get into Chapter 1, but it tells us that God is summing up everything in Jesus, bringing the universe together, bringing it back into harmony—in Jesus. And in this verse we also see the division of the book. Paul talks about how everything is being brought together—things in heaven (the first three chapters where we see God’s plan of salvation realized) and things on earth (the final three where we live out the life of Christ and glorify Him with our lives here).
Ephesians is a book filled with lessons on how we can live the good life in Jesus. It was written to Christians who had already heard and received the gospel, but it isn’t necessarily that easy to understand. Each verse is so packed and so concentrated that it’ll take some deep looks for it to soak into our souls.
It was written to the church in Ephesus, but don’t think of some large mega-church. Ephesians at the time had about a quarter million population, the third largest in the Roman Empire and a very important city, but the “church” was scattered about the city in many house-churches. It’s likely that it was written to all the Christians in Ephesus, and some think, to all Christians everywhere, since the word “Ephesus” does not appear in some manuscripts.
It was written while Paul was in a Roman prison in A.D. 61-62. Ephesus was important to Paul. He’d started the church there about five or so years prior to writing the letter, and had spent three years there (Acts 18-20).
Around the same time Paul probably wrote Colossians and Philemon. In fact, Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, may have accompanied Tychicus as he delivered this letter, prior to delivering the letter to the Colossians.
So let’s do a fly-over of the book and see what the major sections are about. I won’t comment much about them now, but it’ll give us a good sense of where we’re going.