Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome. Likely he dictated his prison letters to someone else who wrote them down. In prison he would need people to take care of his needs and also likely to bribe the guards and officials to allow him certain comforts and freedoms. Prisons back then were inhumane.

This letter was written to Gentiles.

(Ephesians 1:1) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

This verse mentions two groups of people: (1) the saints at Ephesus, and (2) the faithful in Christ Jesus. Two questions...

  1. Are these two actually merely two designations for the same people; people who are both saints and faithful?
  2. Is this letter to the congregation at large or mainly to the leaders of this local church?

The word saint here seems to mean a Christian.

(Ephesians 1:2) Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 1:3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Christians, even before death, are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places. This implies that the blessings are in the spiritual realm, blessings of the soul.

The word "all" refers only to all categories of spiritual blessings, not to each and every last possible kind of blessing.

(Ephesians 1:4) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

God desired to enjoy communion with a race of created creatures so he created the universe inhabited by them and later provided for their redemption. God does not choose who will and who will not receive his offer in grace of salvation through Jesus.

(Ephesians 1:5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

God predestined that the redeemed would become his children.

(Ephesians 1:6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

(Ephesians 1:7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

We are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. Whatever does this mean? Paul tells us. It's the forgiveness of the sin that separates us from God; this, by Christ's sacrifical death when he shed his blood. These ideas are borrowed from the Old Testament sacrifical system.

Redemption required that Jesus Christ took on human flesh in the incarnation, deifying it.

(Ephesians 1:8) Wherein [in which] he hath abounded [abundantly supplied] toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

God's grace to us manifests in ways that are wise and effective.

(Ephesians 1:9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself [Christ]:

God reveals the secret of redemption, the gospel which we can never discover merely by our own intellect; it must be revealed via revelation. Christ brings this revelation through his incarnation and building on the revelation of the Old Testament.

(Ephesians 1:10) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times [when the times have reached their fulfillment] he might gather together in one [bring into unity] all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

All the redeemed will one day join with Christ in paradise, in the new heavens and new earth. This includes those who have died and now reside in the heavenly realm, as well as those still alive.

The fullness of time occurred when Christ came to earth. Christ gathered together all those in Abraham's bosom and continues to gather those of every age who receive him in faith.

(Ephesians 1:11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

(Ephesians 1:12) That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

(Ephesians 1:13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

(Ephesians 1:14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

(Ephesians 1:15) Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

(Ephesians 1:16) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

(Ephesians 1:17) That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

Notice wisdom is spiritual, having spirit, or more accurately, composed of spirit; that is to say, residing in the spiritual realm along with our soul. True wisdom is directed toward God.

(Ephesians 1:18) The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

Does your understanding really have eyes? Apparently so. The understanding is an aspect of your soul and as such resides in the spiritual realm. Therefore, these eyes are also in the spiritual realm. Anytime we encounter eyes not physical, we know we are dealing with the spiritual realm.

The hope and the riches of the glory are the new heavens and new earth.

God calls us; we must respond to enjoy the benefits. God desires amazing blessings for us and calls us to receive them.

(Ephesians 1:19) And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward [toward us] who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,

Notice the power referred to is resurrection. It is significant that Christ was resurrected; it is significant that we will be resurrected.

(Ephesians 1:20) Which he wrought [worked] in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

God the Father performed his work through Christ in raising him from the dead and in Christ's ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. Both of these events are for our benefit, to provide eternal redemption for us so that we too can enjoy eternal communion with God.

(Ephesians 1:21) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

(Ephesians 1:22) And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,

Christ is the head of the Church and of everything pertaining to human redemption. Christ reigns until he puts everything under his feet. He reigns for the entire Church age.

(Ephesians 1:23) Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

The Church is the body of Christ. The Church is the fullness of Christ, meaning that Christ, in taking on human nature and dying for the redemption of all the redeemed, is made full when these are redeemed.

(Ephesians 2:1) And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Notice the progression in time: (1) first we are innocent, (2) then we are dead, (3) then Jesus Christ does something, (4) then we are alive. This guides the verses that follow.

Notice that step (2), our being dead, requires we actively sin. Those in the womb don't sin; neither do children. The capacity to sin requires mental development sufficient to choose to disobey God as the next verse shows.

Can young children bypass step (2) if they accept Jesus Christ as soon as they are mentally able to? Fundamentalist evangelical Protestants seem to ignore this possibility assuming, I suppose, that young children are old enough to sin but too young to become redeemed. The Protestant Reformers (revolutionaries) taught that even those still in the womb were totally depraved and would end up in hell if they died at birth or before.

Step (3), Jesus Christ's work on our behalf to provide salvation, doesn't really happen after step (2); he already did this. But it is a precursor to step (4).

(Ephesians 2:2) Wherein [in which] in time past [formerly] ye [you] walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

The wicked powers in the spiritual realm influence our soul making us turn from God to follow after the ways of self indulgence. Our disobedience to God is what separates us from God. As the previous verse shows, we start out in this condition as soon as we exit the state of innocence, step (1).

That we can be disobedient implies something we must obey. God desires and commands from us a certain kind of living. When we instead follow the dictates of the wicked powers, we disobey, we turn from God. Normally people don't think to follow God because the cultures of the world are godless, emphasizing pleasure seeking, exploitation of others, and the opposite of love of neighbor. God injects the message of his love and redemption via preachers of the gospel. In accepting this message and making the required lifestyle changes we become children of God.

Notice we turn from God under the influence of the wicked powers of darkness. This implies we start out innocent and are slowly corrupted. The standard teaching of fundamentalist evangelical Protestants is that we are totally depraved even in the womb, but this verse says otherwise.

(Ephesians 2:3) Among whom also we all had our conversation [lived among] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The wording is awkward, but Paul mentions he lived among those who were disobedient and was, himself, disobedient as well. Then he proceeds to talk some more about the lifestyle of these disobedient and of their fate.

Two aspects of us: (1) mind, and (2) flesh — both energized by desire. Buddhism wrongly claims desire is bad; but it is wrong desire which is bad. Desire for unity with God and to please God is good. In the new heavens and new earth we will still have desire.

Paul seems to assume that before becoming Christians people lived a debauched life of total depravity. Perhaps that was commonly true in his day, especially among soldiers or pagans.

(Ephesians 2:4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for [because of] his great love wherewith [with which] he loved us,

(Ephesians 2:5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened [made alive] us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

This verse is a continuation of the previous.

For those who accept God's grace and mercy, and who accept Christ's offer of redemption through his sacrifical death; they become alive. Just as the soul of the God-rejecting wicked is all tangled up with the spiritual powers of darkness, so also, the soul of the redeemed is all tangled up with the Spirit of Christ.

(Ephesians 2:6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

The heavenly places refers to life after death in the spiritual realm and to the new heavens and new earth.

(Ephesians 2:7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

(Ephesians 2:8) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

This verse states that we are saved by God's grace; salvation is a gift from God. We appropriate this by faith. This grace of salvation does not come from ourselves but, rather, from God. God is the source and goal of our salvation; our only role is to receive, believe, repent, then live a life pleasing to God.

(Ephesians 2:9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We are not saved by our own efforts, thus, we are not saved by works only. Critics of Catholicism typically claim that the Catholic Church teaches salvation by works only. This claim is false; shame on them!

The Bible clearly emphasizes the need for good works as an ingredient of salvation. This verse does not speak about whether or not works are an ingredient of salvation; it merely states that we are not saved by works only. In order for good works to have their proper role in salvation they must be linked to God's grace and faith. Works without faith are dead.

Acknowledging our salvation in Christ is to be a humbling event. We must be painfully aware of our original sin, our past sins (now forgiven) and the hurt we have caused, and the lingering concupiscence that tempts us to continually sin. We must acknowledge that our only hope for salvation is God's mercy and grace. We must look to Christ's humility in taking on human form and human nature, being tortured on the cross as a mere criminal, and his dying like a mere mortal. We must accept that God has the power over sin and death and they we don't. This, I think, is the intent of this verse; to put us in our proper place, our proper role.

(Ephesians 2:10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

We should perform good works. God has foreordained this as a key part of his plan and purpose for creating humans. In fact, we were created with the ability and tendency and interest to perform good works. Only when we are fully created, created in Christ Jesus, can we perform our proper role.

After stating that we are not saved only by works in the verses above, but by God's grace, Paul, in this verse, emphasizes that we are to perform good works, that this is our proper role and function. It's as if he is afraid Christians will think works aren't a key ingredient of salvation and will de-emphasize them. This is exactly what happened with the Protestant Reformation. Because the Catholic Church had emphasized tradition, rites, rules, canon law, and other kinds of works, the reformers went to the opposite extreme. But the Bible clearly teaches that works do have a role in our salvation and that we are not saved by faith alone.

The word "walk" is an idiom, not a figure of speech (at least not according to several dictionaries). It pervades the Bible; even Jesus used it.

(Ephesians 2:11) Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

The audience of this letter is Gentiles, those who are not descendants of Israel.

(Ephesians 2:12) That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

This verse implies the Jews before the time of Christ were in some way with Christ, probably because the Old Testament was written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In a sense, therefore, this verse is Trinitarian.

(Ephesians 2:13) But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes [formerly] were far off are made nigh [near] by the blood of Christ.

Christ's sacrifical death brings the Gentiles near to God just as circumcision brought the Jews near to God. That's what these three verses say.

(Ephesians 2:14) For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

God united Jews and Gentiles through Christ Jesus. Originally, God's revelation was to the Israelites.

I think it's unfortunate Paul uses such warlike and violent language; after all, God is the one who established Israel to be the nation and the people who would bring monotheism to the world.

(Ephesians 2:15) Having abolished in his [Jesus'] flesh the enmity [hostility], even the law of commandments contained in ordinances [dogmas]; for to make in himself of twain [two] one new man, so making peace;

The word "flesh" refers to the body of Jesus which was crucified.

Paul is referring to the uniting of the Israelites and the Gentiles through Jesus' work. The Old Testament law contained laws, commandments, and ordinances which in effect separated the Israelites from God by highlighting their deficiencies. And the Gentiles were separated from God by not being part of the covenant. But Jesus joins both into one new man by his work "in the flesh", by his sacrificial death on the cross.

(Ephesians 2:16) And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

This verse implies Jesus died on the cross to unite Jews and Gentiles into one people.

(Ephesians 2:17) And came and preached peace to you which were afar off [far away], and to them that were nigh [near].

Notice Paul is addressing Gentiles, those who were far away. Jesus didn't preach to Gentiles but, rather, to Jews. Paul is in error to claim Jesus preached to the Gentiles. Perhaps Paul has in mind Old Testament prophecies regarding the Gentiles.

(Ephesians 2:18) For through him we both have access by [in] one Spirit unto [to] the Father.

A Trinitarian verse: through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, to the Father.

(Ephesians 2:19) Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Paul is still speaking to Gentiles. The word "saint" here refers to Jewish Christians. Even though Paul claims to be the apostle to the Gentiles, he still thinks as a Jew and speaks to Gentiles in an insulting manner. It is one thing to say the gospel was revealed to the Jews first, but it is quite another to consider Gentiles merely as "spiritual" Jews. This is similar to the Catholic Church which considers Protestants (separated brethren) to be Catholics, but they just don't realize it!

(Ephesians 2:20) And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

(Ephesians 2:21) In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

The body of Christ is a temple of God.

(Ephesians 2:22) In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Not just the Jews, but also the Gentiles, are included in God's holy building.

(Ephesians 3:1) For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

(Ephesians 3:2) If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

(Ephesians 3:3) How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

(Ephesians 3:4) Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

(Ephesians 3:5) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

This Divine Revelation was not made known by scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) but was revealed to the apostles.

The apostles were the first leaders of the Christian church. They had the authority (1) to teach correct doctrine, and (2) to interpret scripture.

(Ephesians 3:6) That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

(Ephesians 3:7) Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

(Ephesians 3:8) Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable [boundless] riches of Christ;

It's funny Paul refers to himself as at the bottom, presumably, because he used to persecute Christians, or perhaps because he is a prisoner.

He preached among the Gentiles, meaning, he preached outside of Jerusalem and surrounding Jewish lands. But on his journeys, he began his preaching in the synagogues to the Jews. And his letters written to the Gentiles contain much of interest to only Jews, such as the lengthy discussions of law and ritual and sacrifices and circumcision and dietary laws and such.

(Ephesians 3:9) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

(Ephesians 3:10) To the intent that now unto the principalities [rulers] and powers [authorities] in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold [abundant] wisdom of God,

Two odd ideas...

  1. That knowledge of truth comes from the Church to those spirit beings in the spiritual realm. The Church is for humans.
  2. That principalities and powers, if they are wicked, would have any interest in truth, except in worrying about their final demise.

Referring to created creatures in the spiritual realm. In Colossians 2:15 the phrase "principalities and powers" refers to wicked spirit beings, but I wonder if it here refers to good spirit beings for reasons I mention above.

(Ephesians 3:11) According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

(Ephesians 3:12) In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

(Ephesians 3:13) Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

(Ephesians 3:14) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

(Ephesians 3:15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

This verse appears to say that families and people of the past are in heaven. Certainly, the souls of these are in the spiritual realm, perhaps in purgatory, perhaps in some higher place in the spiritual realm. And when we die we will reside in the same place. But this is not our eternal home; once Jesus returns and we receive resurrected bodies we will spend eternity in the new heavens and new earth.

This verse provides evidence that the word "heaven" merely refers to the spiritual realm; either all of it including the place where God resides, or part of it where disembodied humans reside.

All humans and all groupings of humans, alive and deceased, derive their existence and being from God the Father.

(Ephesians 3:16) That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

(Ephesians 3:17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

(Ephesians 3:18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

(Ephesians 3:19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

(Ephesians 3:20) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Through the power of Christ working in us we are able to conquer sin and to live a holy, righteous life. This verse is used by the word-faith, health-wealth teachers to support their false idea we should ask for anything at all and expect God to grant it, even demand God to grant it. Of course we certainly can ask for things we desire and hope God grants it.

Paul has been discussing the gospel and redemption through faith. Jesus can deliver redemption to us fallen humans, he can conquer death, and he can provide life eternal for us with resurrected bodies in the new heavens and new earth.

In becoming redeemed, God grants us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By sinning, we are able to thwart the power of God working in us, and I can't imagine how the Holy Spirit could reside in us as we sin. Perhaps there is a special compartment of our soul that is sealed off from our sin nature and the Holy Spirit resides there and, therefore, doesn't see the sin. Anyway, God is repulsed by sin and turns his face from us when we sin. So, as glorious as this verse is, we must still live virtuously or it all means nothing — we can even lose our salvation altogether if we persist in mortal sin. Tragically, many fundamentalist evangelical Protestants feel safe from this possibility and allow themselves to sin with impunity.

(Ephesians 3:21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

This verse clearly emphasizes the important role of the Church. The Church is that collection of people and that institutional framework providing a way for people to become saved and to gather together to praise God. Anytime the institutional Church frustrates this objective, it is not really the Church. We should not defend a dysfunctional, stylized, superficial social construct as if it were the thing God intended it to be.

Similarly, the Church must be giving glory to God. Many in the Church have devolved into emphasizing rituals, rites, the liturgical calendar, the priesthood, etc. and have no regard for the spiritual health of the Christians at large.

Notice that Jesus Christ resides in the true Church for all time. The Church will never be destroyed. This means that throughout human history until the end of the world, there will always be at least one true believer alive at any given time. But notice, that in many ages past, the Church was teaching a warped view of Christianity (and it still often does, in my opinion) yet God looks to the heart of each person based on what they know. Thus, God overlooks people's error as best he can. But this does not mean we are to be accepting of error in the Church. For example, the Church was in error in the claims it made regarding Galileo, and it was dehumanizing and unrighteous in its treatment of this great man of science. Those bishops and popes were not truly representing Christ's love and teaching and were, therefore, not truly leaders of the Church. This means that the kind of Church they created in which bishops would possess instruments of torture which they could show Galileo to scare him; that this was not the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has an institutional aspect, but this only extends so far; when bishops and popes are more concerned with politics and rulership than in the spiritual welfare of the people; when popes and bishops must defend the mistakes of past popes and bishops at all cost rather than admit that the system is just plain wrong; these aspects of the Church institution are not part of the Church. In similar manner, people who are married but who speak and behave in ways which destroy the marriage; these aspects are not part of their marriage. Likewise for families and extended families and clans and tribes and even nations. For example, the genocide of the Native American Indians was not part of the glory of America as envisioned by its founders — it was the actions of corrupt, ruthless, and God-dishonoring men taking advantage of the power they had usurped from the government, from the people. It is wrong to say: "this is the glory of America!" The system of governance and ethics these men followed was not American. In like manner, Church leaders who do not honor Christ as evidenced by their actions; these are not truly following Christ, and the structure and institution they have built is not truly to be called "the Church of Christ".

(Ephesians 4:1) I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

Apparently there were some members of the church who were not really living the lifestyle. Perhaps they were not being taught properly. Certainly newcomers to Christianity need instruction to get them on track, and it never hurts for mature Christians to hear about what pleases God; to be reminded, even rebuked.

Being a Christian is a vocation, a lifestyle, a long-term covenant relationship.

Everyone is called to ultimately spend eternity in the new heavens and new earth, but some reject the call. Being a Christian is a calling because, in choosing to follow Christ, you have accepted God's call. This does not mean God only calls some but not others as Calvinism claims.

(Ephesians 4:2) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

(Ephesians 4:3) Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

You can tell if you have unity by whether you have peace. Notice the basis of peace and unity among Christians is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. As we truly allow his Spirit to dominate our spirit we become united with him and each other. I would dare suggest those who do not have peace are perhaps not redeemed, those who stir up dissension and turmoil. As you unite with God you take on his characteristics; as you reject him you become more like Lucifer.

(Ephesians 4:4) There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

(Ephesians 4:5) One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

Baptism is universal. It crosses denominational boundaries. In this passage the word baptism seems to refer to more than merely a symbol of obedience after salvation.

(Ephesians 4:6) One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

(Ephesians 4:7) But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

(Ephesians 4:8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

(Ephesians 4:9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

(Ephesians 4:10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Gifts of the Spirit

(Ephesians 4:11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

5 gifts of the Spirit...

  1. apostles
  2. prophets
  3. evangelists
  4. pastors
  5. teachers

Gifts 4 and 5 should perhaps be combined as "pastors and teachers".

Notice there is no mention of ordination via the sacrament of holy orders. It mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers but not bishops, priests, and deacons. This oversight does not bode well for the Church's later emphasis on these three; it smacks of revisionism, that the apostles did not really pass on those three leadership roles after all.

Perhaps the word "apostle" refers to bishops also. You can make the case that the bishops of the early church are actually apostles as they perform the same role in planting churches and in teaching the faith and defending it from heresy. These bishops were sometimes targets for martyrdom much as Peter and Paul were.

(Ephesians 4:12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

(Ephesians 4:13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

(Ephesians 4:14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Some wish to deny the importance of doctrine preferring, instead, to emphasize their moment by moment relationship with Jesus. This verse is clear: sound teaching provides the foundation of the Christian faith. Without it, people are led astray into error and their relationship with Jesus is for nothing (even Mormons claim a relationship with Jesus). These days, most fundamentalist evangelical Protestant movements are based in sound doctrine so it is easy to de-emphasize it.

(Ephesians 4:15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

(Ephesians 4:16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

(Ephesians 4:17) This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

(Ephesians 4:18) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

(Ephesians 4:19) Who being past feeling [become callous] have given themselves over unto [to] lasciviousness [lust], to work all uncleanness [impurity] with greediness.

Probably Paul means they greedily seek their pursuit of lust, not that they are both (1) lustful, and (2) greedy for money and possessions.

When the soul becomes blind to the goodness and purity of God, the result is desire for unwholesome activities. A modern day example is, I think, that young people are not taught to abstain from sex outside of lifelong marriage but, rather, to enjoy it safely whenever they choose.

(Ephesians 4:20) But ye have not so learned Christ;

(Ephesians 4:21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

(Ephesians 4:22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation [way of life, behavior] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

Before repenting of sin and accepting redemption through faith in Jesus, we lived the old way; steeped in sin and drawn to sin by concupiscence, the tendency or desire to sin. The new way, living virtuously and righteously without sinning, this new way is possible for those who actively pursue it. But we must strive continuously to resist the temptations to sin. Thus, the old man and new man are constantly at war.

Notice we must work to put off the old man. This verse is written to Christians who have already received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit yet must continue to put off the old man. Thus, we are not saved by faith only — works have a role in our salvation — and we can lose our salvation if we persist in mortal sin.

(Ephesians 4:23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

The way this is worded sounds like your mind has a spirit — and so it does. Everything living resides in the spiritual realm. The mind is not physical but is, rather, spiritual, as are the emotions, the will, the passions, the intuition, and all the other attributes making up a human. These can operate under the influence of fallen humanity, of the wicked spirits; or they can operate under the influence of the Holy Spirit. We are to renew the mind (and every other aspect of human life) by bringing it into subjection of the Holy Spirit. Paul addresses the mind, by which he probably refers to the intellect, emphasized by the Greek philosophers. The spirit of the mind is the guiding and controlling aspect of humans.

(Ephesians 4:24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Putting on the new man means you will be holy and righteous just as God is. We cannot be saved yet live in a way conflicting with that which pleases God. God hates sin so he turns his face from us when we sin. In order to be in fellowship with God we must put on the new man, we must be holy and righteous. Just as Adam and Eve were created in the image of God so we, as renewed and redeemed humans, will be re-created in the image of God, in holiness and righteousness.

(Ephesians 4:25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

(Ephesians 4:26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

(Ephesians 4:27) Neither give place to the devil.

(Ephesians 4:28) Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

(Ephesians 4:29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

(Ephesians 4:30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Since they are waiting for Christ's coming, this implies he comes at their death; that everyone encounters Christ at death and they are received into the kingdom of heaven at that time. It doesn't make sense for them to be exhorted to wait for Christ's coming if it occurs thousands (millions?) of years after they have died.

Even though the Holy Spirit indwells Christians they can "grieve" him by sinning; this indwelling is merely the "firstfruits", it doesn't prevent us from freewill choices of disobedience.

(Ephesians 4:31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

(Ephesians 4:32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

(Ephesians 5:1) Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

(Ephesians 5:2) And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

True Christians are to be loving with the same kind of love Christ showed towards us; his love involved his sacrificial death for us.

About sacrifice: Many societies throughout history have practiced sacrificial death: of animals and even of humans. Even God's covenant nation, his chosen people the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice animals as a key ingredient of their religious society. God himself performed the first sacrificial death of animals in clothing Adam and Eve after they sinned, to cover their shame. Ultimately, our very salvation hinges on Christ's sacrifice of himself on our behalf.

My view of how it all works...

  1. The universe was created as a place of pain and suffering (see point 3). Once animals appeared on the scene they required eating each other to survive. God even allowed humans to eat animals.
  2. Once cleansed of the wicked spirits in some glorious future day, in the new heavens and new earth this same universe will operate just as it does today but free of pain, suffering, and death.
  3. The universe was created by God to be good, but he created it in such a way to allow Satan to take it over and fill it with pain, suffering, and death. I describe the mechanics of this elsewhere.
  4. Because God gave Lucifer control over this created universe as an eternal covenant which God cannot break, Lucifer was given the power to ruin the world for the creatures. The only way God could redeem the world for all his innocent created creatures was to take on human form and endure the same ravages of Satan along with the rest of us. This was Satan's goal all along, to kill God. Thus, Christ died a sacrificial death to redeem the world and to finally conquer Satan.
  5. In conquering death, Christ paved the way for Satan to one day be permanently imprisoned in the lake of fire where he will no longer have any influence over the universe, and it will become free of pain and suffering: the new heavens and new earth.

The smoke of true sacrifice to God smells good to God and brings him pleasure just as some people like the smell of a barbeque. God likes every aspect of redemption and true sacrifice brings redemption.

Some Christians talk about the Old Testament animal sacrifices as if they were useless and worthless (because only the true sacrifice of Christ has redemptive merit). In saying this, they hint that therefore these Old Testament people were not really saved since their sacrifices did not really do anything — they were merely types pointing to Christ's true sacrifice. I reject Typology because it is often used to come to lazy conclusions such as this.

(Ephesians 5:3) But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

(Ephesians 5:4) Neither filthiness [obscenity], nor foolish talking, nor [coarse] jesting, which are not convenient [proper]: but rather giving of thanks.

This verse pretty much rules out most comedy so popular today. Christians are to shun unwholesome forms of entertainment such as: well, what is even watchable on TV or the movies? And the music? Even billboards and ads on the side of busses?

Verses such as this are very common in the New Testament, in which the writer exhorts Christians to not murder or to have adultery or rage attacks or any number of other horrifyingly immoral behavior. What kind of people were these?

(Ephesians 5:5) For this ye know, that no whoremonger [sexually immoral], nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

This verse provides, I think, the basis of the common idea that such things as materialism and going to the movies too frequently are idolatry. Overlooked is that the person referred to as being an idolater is grossly and obscenely immoral; they don't just watch too much TV or shop for clothes too often.

More than just faith is necessary for salvation.

(Ephesians 5:6) Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

(Ephesians 5:7) Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

(Ephesians 5:8) For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

(Ephesians 5:9) (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

(Ephesians 5:10) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

(Ephesians 5:11) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

We should be opposing evil, not participating in it. We are to reprove evil and sin; we are to not fellowship with these. Since it is people who are doing all these unwholesome things this means, in effect, we are to shun people who do these things. We must also shun the things they say and do, the works of their hands and minds. Sadly they have littered our culture with the creations of their corrupt minds. Museums containing smut paid for with public funds, unwholesome ads on billboards and buses, even the home page of news websites.

(Ephesians 5:12) For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

This verse highlights my objection to participating in much of society. A few examples...

  1. Books, movies, TV, etc. Should we really be reading novels or watching shows about people committing mortal sins?
  2. Interacting with unwholesome people, meaning those who speak openly of their sin. I am fortunate to work at a place where people don't share in great detail their unwholesome activities outside of work but, sadly, many do have to listen to this stuff. I suppose they should inform them that they don't want to hear about such things.
  3. I support gay marriage (because I believe they should be allowed the same rights and privileges) but why should I be constantly bombarded with hearing about the topic?

(Ephesians 5:13) But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

(Ephesians 5:14) Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

(Ephesians 5:15) See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

(Ephesians 5:16) Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

(Ephesians 5:17) Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

(Ephesians 5:18) And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

I don't wish to encourage anyone to drink wine or even to suggest it is a good idea, but notice it is excess wine which is the problem, not wine itself. Some well-meaning have taught that the wine of the New Testament days had no alcohol. Nonsense! Paul would not have written this verse about mere grape juice.

We need to be filled with something giving us joy and hope and spiritual direction; without this we feel hopeless and lost. Only the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, answers this need. You hear so often of famous people whose fame has left a spiritual void in their soul, not providing them the fulfillment they hoped for. This comes only with a relationship with Jesus.

It's telling that Paul refers to wine and the Holy Spirit in the same sentence. Some seek spiritual fulfillment with drugs (or sports, or entertainment, or relationships) but deep spiritual satisfaction only comes from God, not from material pursuits.

(Ephesians 5:19) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

I should glue this verse to my eyeglasses. How nice it would be if everything I said was uplifting and directed toward God, for edifying and encourgaging the other. I must commend the fundamentalist evangelical Protestant movement for attempting to apply this verse in their every verbal interaction with one another.

A brief story to illustrate: Decades ago I attended a songwriting seminar taught by various well-known songwriters, publishers, and producers. One was clearly a Christian and prefaced nearly every sentence with short devotional phrases such as "praise be to the Lord" and many variations. I was not Christian at the time but was not offended in the least; to the contrary, the practice inspired me (perhaps even led me to Christ).

(Ephesians 5:20) Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

(Ephesians 5:21) Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Wife, submit to your husband 

(Ephesians 5:22) Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

(Ephesians 5:23) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

(Ephesians 5:24) Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Husband, love your wife 

(Ephesians 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

A husband is to sacrificially love his wife, the way Christ loved those he redeemed by giving his life in sacrifice that our sins might be forgiven. If there is such a thing as a sacrament of marriage it consists in this: married Christians have Christ at the center of their marriage and they sacrificially love one another. God imparts grace to those who live this.

(Ephesians 5:26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

(Ephesians 5:27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Christ wishes those in the Church to be holy and righteous. We should reject unholy and unqualified Church leaders.

The verbiage here is odd, that Christ would present the Church to himself. This statement is probably an artifact of the comparison from above: A husband is to love his wife and present her to Christ; Christ loves the Church and presents it to . . . himself. Thus, Christ desires that Christians become educated in the faith, that they live devotional lives of faith, that they practice the virtues, that they be holy. Since Church leaders are the ones with the duty and responsibility to teach these things, those who mislead the flock or fleece the flock are in big trouble.

(Ephesians 5:28) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

(Ephesians 5:29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

(Ephesians 5:30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

In receiving salvation through faith in Christ, we become part of the family of God.

(Ephesians 5:31) For this cause [reason] shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

The reason the husband is to love his wife is given in verse 26 above, to "sanctify and cleanse her" as Christ "sanctified and cleansed the Church with the washing of water by the word". In other words, the husband is to make the wife holy by loving her.

To make the wife holy, the husband is leave his parents and unite as a nuclear family with his wife.

They become one flesh by merging their souls, by tangling up their souls together. In sharing love and empathy together, each soul shares in the bodily sensations of the other; in other words, when you love someone, you see through their eyes, hear through their ears, and so forth. And, you influence their movements, you affect what they want to do, what they pray for. I doubt if the image of being of one flesh refers specifically to having conjugal relations, but people commonly teach it means this being small-minded and perhaps somewhat carnal.

(Ephesians 5:32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Paul is mainly discussing the Church, not marriage. In the same way a husband sacrificially loves and lives for his wife, so also Christ serves and animates the Church. This can only be understood by divine revelation, it is a mystery. For those living in Old Testament times, Christ's incarnation could not have been known about except for hints in Old Testament prophecy.

(Ephesians 5:33) Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

Child, obey your parents 

(Ephesians 6:1) Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

The Bible requires that children are to obey, honor and respect their parents.

(Ephesians 6:2) Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

(Ephesians 6:3) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Father, don't provoke your children to anger 

(Ephesians 6:4) And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Slave, obey your master 

(Ephesians 6:5) Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

The word "flesh" refers to the areas of life that a master rules over a servant. This includes every aspect of living: physical, mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual.

Probably referring to household servants, some who were previously or still slaves. Certainly if these were to endure indignities by their employer, so should we. This does not mean we should not try to improve working conditions, only that early Christianity did not do so; the burden was on Christians to endure exploitation so as to not imperil the spread of Christianity. Today, Christians do the opposite, demanding freedom to practice their faith in the most minute of details.

(Ephesians 6:6) Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

(Ephesians 6:7) With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

(Ephesians 6:8) Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

Master, be just and fair to your servants 

(Ephesians 6:9) And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing [abstain from] threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

God resides in heaven. Probably refers to Christ who they are slaves of.

The Armor of God

(Ephesians 6:10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

This verse is not referring to physical strength but to spiritual strength, to the strength of will that allows us to resist the temptations of the wicked powers of darkness in the spiritual realm. If we become spiritually weak, we fall easily into sin. When we are spiritually strong we live a holy, virtuous life of faith. Some Christians seem to think being strong in the power of the Lord means having supernatural displays of charismatic manifestations, but this misses the point. True spiritual strength results in habitual practice of the Gifts of the Spirit and Fruits of the Spirit.

(Ephesians 6:11) Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles [deceptions] of the devil.

Notice that the armor of God consists of defensive weapons. You often hear Christians claim we are to be engaged in an offensive war with the enemy of faith, but actually we are to stand firm in Christ and oppose the enemy by living a live of virtue. The elements of the armor of God are...

  1. truth
  2. righteousness
  3. the gospel of peace
  4. faith
  5. salvation
  6. the Spirit, the word of God
  7. prayer

(Ephesians 6:12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities [rulers], against powers [authorities], against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The spiritual war is not with humans but of spiritual powers. Notice that we are living in the kingdom of the evil one and that this kingdom has a political structure much as human societies have political structure. Every evil spirit has a role to play; some command, some obey. Notice also that the spiritual realm has structure; in the realm of wicked spirits there are high places and low places and places in between. Likewise, in the spiritual realm of God there are various spiritual places, for example, the throneroom of Revelation 4. Throughout church history some have written about the various places in the spiritual realm and described the various kinds of spiritual entities. This endeavor does not seem fruitful to me. Likewise, I think there may be some truth to some of the views from non-Christian spiritual traditions; such things as spiritual energy centers in the body, pranic energy flow, the power of mantras, and such things. But dabbling in these should be avoided because we have no revealed truth from God about these and because they are clearly embedded in un-Christian world views. In other words, the spiritual enemies have claimed this territory as their own.

Paul was persecuted by people it's true, but he informs us that the wicked powers of darkness operating in the spiritual realm were the source of his trials. These powers of darkness influence people to sin.

(Ephesians 6:13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

I interpret the image of the armor of God literally. Our soul resides in the spiritual realm and in this realm symbols are real. In the spiritual realm we have a spiritual body which we experience in dreams and in our imagination. We are to mentally imagine ourselves putting on this armor of God and to meditate on each of the parts as having the characteristics Paul mentions. This kind of mystical meditation is used in many Catholic devotions such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and many others. Practicing such things provides God opportunity to pour grace into us. The sacraments are based on this idea. For example, when participating in the Eucharist we are to mentally imagine that Christ is on the altar being sacrificed as a sacrificial lamb.

What is the evil day Paul is referring to? Certainly any day can be considered evil when we are assaulted by the powers of darkness. In verse 11 Paul mentions we are to stand against the deceptions of Satan. Perhaps Paul has in mind that some Christians will fall away from the faith and that some will fall into heresy. Notice that we must actively put on the whole armor of God at these times of extreme temptation in order to stand. The antidote to apostasy and heresy is living a holy life devoted to Christ under the guidance of apostolic teaching.

(Ephesians 6:14) Stand therefore, having your loins [hips and middle] girt [secured by encircling with a belt or band] about with truth, and having on the breastplate [armor covering the chest] of righteousness;

Truth is to be our guide. We are to reject error. And how do we know what is true? We should follow infallible apostolic teaching. When we notice temptations to sin, we should realize that our commitment to righteousness and holiness has weakened. This should remind us to tighten up our robe so we don't trip over it. At times like these we should review the apostolic teaching regarding salvation and living a life pleasing to God.

Righteousness requires we do something, that we work. To be righteous we must practice the virtues and avoid sinning.

(Ephesians 6:15) And your feet shod [wearing shoes] with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

The gospel message provides for peace between God and us humans. This is the first step in living a holy life, to become a friend of God, to restore the lost fellowship with him by repenting of our faith and receiving his grace of salvation by faith.

(Ephesians 6:16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

Trusting in God is the only proper response when facing the difficulties of life. We must not let the powers of the wicked spirits fool us into thinking we can address our concerns with ingenuity or cleverness; we must call out to God and trust him to inform our mind and will of what to do, strengthen us to do the right thing, give us the power to endure hardship.

(Ephesians 6:17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

(Ephesians 6:18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

(Ephesians 6:19) And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

(Ephesians 6:20) For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

(Ephesians 6:21) But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things:

(Ephesians 6:22) Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.

(Ephesians 6:23) Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Ephesians 6:24) Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

King James Version