Lesson 3 of 5
In Progress

Background of Ephesians

According to Ephesians, Christ and believers are seated in the heavenly places, the church bears witness to God’s wisdom in the heavenly places, and the armor of God is made available for believers to battle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Both the salvation Christ has won for believers and the threats they still endure are cosmic in scope.

This cosmic message is addressed to Gentiles. They are described as having formerly had no hope and having been without God before God’s intervention through Christ on their behalf. From the two groups–Israel and the Gentiles–Christ has made “one new humanity.” Peace is the result.

After peace between Israel and the Gentiles is proclaimed in the second chapter, the issue of reconciliation across ethnic lines disappears from the letter. In its place is a call for readers to build up the body of Christ by practicing virtues such as gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another in love.

The letter blends ethereal and mundane concerns. It proclaims the cosmically significant unifying work of Christ and then exhorts readers to practice the implications of that unity in everyday relationships, for instance, by speaking only what is useful for building up and by being kind to one another.

Concern for the household of God intersects with concern for households of believers. Specific directions are given to husbands, wives, fathers, children, masters, and slaves for behaviors of mutual respect. Scholars disagree on whether these directions offer any significant Christian revision or critique of ethical commonplaces in Greco-Roman philosophy.