Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Ephesian Letter

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

Sometime after Paul was arrested, probably after he had been taken to Rome, he wrote a letter back to the Ephesian church. Today I begin an extended study of that letter. There has never been any doubt in the church that Paul wrote Ephesians because the Bible itself says so. Also, the testimony of all the church Fathers agree.

With the rise of secular thought after the Renaissance, however, free-thinking liberal critics of the Bible began to argue that Paul did not write Ephesians. Their only arguments for this are that there are a number of words found in Ephesians that are not found elsewhere in Paul’s writings, and that in some ways the style of Ephesians differs from the rest of Paul.

Regarding the first argument, what difference does it make if there are some words unique to Ephesians? Are we to assume that he had a vocabulary of only a few thousands words? The unique words in Ephesians are readily accounted for by the fact that Paul deals with some things here that he does not deal with elsewhere.

Secondly, as to style, if we read Ephesians we notice that more than any of the rest of Paul’s epistles, it rings with doxological praise. Given this worshipful tone, we can expect a slight difference in style, just as you and I use a different tone when we pray to God than when we converse with one another.

Another question that has arisen about Ephesians comes from the fact that three of the most important early manuscripts of the New Testament do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in Ephesians 1:1. Also, Ephesians 1:15 reads as if Paul did not know these people, or at least did not know all of them, while we know that he was well acquainted with the Ephesian church. Thus, many scholars, including conservative ones, have concluded that Ephesians was a letter sent to the area of the Ephesian church, but designed not for them only but to be circulated among all the churches in the area. Eventually someone added in the words “in Ephesus” in the first verse, because Ephesus was the center of the area the letter was sent to. Perhaps the letter to the Ephesians is the “letter coming from Laodicea” Paul refers to in Colossians 4:16.

Ephesians 1:1 refers to us as “saints.” A saint is literally a “holy one.” In the Old Testament, only sanctified people were allowed to have access to the tabernacle. A saint, thus, is a person who has access to God’s sanctuary. A Christian has that access, through prayer. It is your greatest privilege. Make use of it today.