Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pauline Authorship of Ephesians

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

Today we continue to refute the foolish assertions of unbelieving scholars who maintain that Paul did not write Ephesians. Their second argument is that Ephesians 2:20 says the church is built on a foundation of apostles and prophets, whereas elsewhere Paul says that the church is built on Christ. Can you answer this from the New Testament? Certainly. Jesus is the Chief Corner-stone in the foundation; the rest of the foundation is made up of apostles and prophets.

The most potent argument advanced by the higher critics is this: When we compare the sentence structure in Ephesians with all the rest of Paul’s letters, we find that the sentences in Ephesians are strikingly longer and contain many more dependent clauses. In other words, the overall style of Ephesians is different from the rest of the Pauline letters. There are obvious explanations for this feature of Ephesians.

As we have seen, it is likely that Ephesians was designed as a circular letter. If you write a letter to friends, you will write rather informally. If you write to people you don’t know, you will probably adopt a more formal style. This by itself would account for the longer sentences in Ephesians.

In Ephesians, Paul frequently breaks into prayer and praise. This is part of the content of the letter, and so we should expect Paul to use a slightly different style. The very content of the letter has caused him to write in a more exalted manner. Similarly, a theologian may write technically for a theological journal, worshipfully when preparing a liturgy for church use, and informally when writing for a church newsletter or magazine. Ephesians is highly theological and also highly doxological (full of praise), and thus contains long, complex sentences. Thus, the “most potent argument” of the critics is really quite impotent.

It is remarkable that educated people—and the higher critics are educated people—could advance arguments like these and expect to be taken seriously. It is a sad commentary on the state of the Christian church today that so many people are influenced by such silly assertions.

As you prepare to study Ephesians, take the time to read Chapter 1. Read it out loud. Notice the abundant praise Paul offers up to the Lord. From the outset, Paul directs his readers to the glorious grace of the Savior. Meditate on the rich blessings of Jesus Christ and offer up praise to Him today.