Ephesians: The Divine Purpose in Christ - Introduction
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-10)
The Epistle to the Ephesians stands out as one of the great masterpieces of Pauline theology. Ironically, this theology is one reason that some liberal scholars question the authorship of the letter as one genuinely written by the apostle Paul. Those scholars suggest that a disciple of Paul or a Pauline school of disciples are responsible for the work. One of the reasons given is the almost collection-like grouping of Paul’s best theological teachings. Ephesians is loaded with Paul’s greatest thoughts, which they believe to have been further developed by Paul’s disciples! However, this letter is so Pauline that it could not have been written by anybody else but the great apostle himself.
Paul wrote this letter along with several others while he was imprisoned in Rome about A.D. 60. After writing to the Colossians about a particular problem that they were dealing with, Paul apparently next wrote Ephesians. Both letters have many of the same themes in common. However, Ephesians focuses on similar Christological issues as applied to the church as a whole, rather than at the local level. This is also the reason why several scholars see the Epistle to the Ephesians as not written to address any particular problem at Ephesus, but as a circular letter sent to all the surrounding churches in general.
Special attention needs to be paid to the small phrase “in Christ” that so often appears in Paul’s writings, as is the case with Ephesians. It is a reference to every believer’s incorporation into all the spiritual blessings available in Christ via the Holy Spirit. The blessings possessed in Christ are not any less real because they are “spiritual.” It is because of the spiritual realm where Christ reigns in heavenly places that we can be assured of victory today and of the promise of a glorious inheritance, of which we have only begun to taste!
The theme of Ephesians is the disclosure of God’s eternal divine purpose, which is the uniting together and reconciliation of all things in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In God’s plan of reconciliation, Jesus Christ is at the heart and center of all that the Father wills. And at the heart and center of Christ’s work is his church. Christ as its Head has given the church an awesome responsibility and role as the redeemed organism by which he brings unity to this alienated, fragmented and fallen world. As the body of Christ, the church is to live out the purposes for which it was called. The church’s calling is to exemplify before the world the unity and love of reconciliation for which Christ died and rose. The gospel of God’s grace has bestowed upon believers a higher calling in Christ. Therefore, believers as a body and as individuals are to conduct themselves in this fallen world accordingly “in Christ” to his glory.
Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.