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Summary of Ephesians


Ephesians proclaims the unity of Jew and Gentile in one household of God and spells out real-life implications of the gift of reconciliation with God and with one’s fellow human beings. After announcing the priority of God’s action with the news that “by grace you have been saved through faith,” the letter exhorts readers to live mature Christian lives by speaking the truth in love, by separating from pagan influences, and by being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.


At a time when hope for Christ’s imminent return is fading and believers need to be reminded of his ongoing presence with the faithful, Ephesians fills this need. The letter portrays Christ as one whose past actions of making peace and providing leaders to the church are relevant for the present time when he has not yet returned. Ephesians encourages readers with the news that, through Christ’s work, the church is reconciled to God and outfitted for tasks as varied as living peacefully in a congregation, serving one another within a household, and withstanding hostile cosmic powers.


Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is the tenth book in the New Testament. It is situated in the midst of the “Pauline corpus,” the collection of letters attributed to the Apostle Paul (the books of Romans through Philemon).


Ephesians claims to be a letter from Paul, yet a number of elements make it significantly different from Pauline letters whose authorship is undisputed. These differences of vocabulary, christology, and ecclesiology, as well as its apparently generic occasion and audience, have led many modern scholars to conclude that the letter was written in Paul’s name by a student of Paul’s theology after the apostle’s death.


The author refers to himself as a prisoner. If Paul wrote the letter, it was probably written late in his life during an imprisonment in the early 60s C.E. If a student of Paul wrote the letter, it dates from the last quarter of the first century. References such as that in Ephesians 2:20 to the household of God having been “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” argue for a time when the work of first-generation apostles was far enough in the past to be seen as finished.


Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians proclaims to Gentile readers the cosmic and mundane implications of Christ’s work on their behalf to remind them of their own adopted inclusion into God’s household and to encourage them to behave toward one another with the same kind of mature, self-giving love that Christ practiced in his life and death.


The letter uses abundant adverbs and adjectives to create an over-the-top report of God’s abundant gracious activity on behalf of humankind. In addition, the formulaic language of liturgy (for example, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all,” Ephesians 4:5-6) involves the reader in doxology. Ephesians is as much prayer and praise as it is correspondence between a letter writer and recipients.