Ephesians


Updates as they are found…

Arnold, Clinton E. Ephesians, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians in Light of Its Historical Setting. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

________. “Ephesians.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, ed. Clinton E. Arnold, 3, 301-341. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002.

Best, Ernest. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield. London ; New York: T & T Clark, 1998. Reprint, 2004.

Liefeld, Walter L
. Ephesians The I V P New Testament Commentary Series ; 10. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997.

McComiskey, Douglas S
. “Exile and the Purpose of Jesus’ Parables (Mark 4:10-12; Matt 13:10-17; Luke 8:9-10).” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (2008): 59-85.

O’Neill, J. C. “‘the Work of the Ministry’ in Ephesians 4:12 and the New Testament.” The Expository Times 112 (2001): 336-340.

Page, Sydney H. T. “Whose Ministry? A Re-Appraisal of Ephesians 4:12.” Novum Testamentum XLVII, no. 1 (2005): 26-46.

Saucy, Mark
. The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus: In 20th Century Theology. Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub., 1997.

Vooys, John
. “No Clergy or Laity: All Christians Are Ministers in the Body of Christ Ephesians 4:13.” Direction 20, no. 1 (1991): 87-95.

Wells, David F. “Christian Discipleship in a Postmodern World.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51, no. 1 (2008): 19-33.

Body-Building-Bride: A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Springer, November 16, 2005

Summary

How do these images relate to the contextual world of Ephesians? Understanding the identity of the church is a powerful tool for godly living in such a context. First, vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with fellow believers provides the power support needed for the struggle. Second, believers participate with Christ and fellow believers in the growth of the body and are not mere pawns in the struggle with spiritual powers. Third, understanding the church as being “in process” gives hope for the future and comfort in present setbacks. She has not yet arrived AND she is safe.

How do these images support Paul’s epistolary argument? First, these images show that the essential connection with Christ is both the source and goal of the church’s life. There is no need to fear or rely upon the spiritual powers. Second, this essential connection is the ground upon which the Ephesian believers could stand as they lived in and responded to a culture permeated with concern for spiritual power.

Theological Conclusions

Everything the church is flows from and toward her connection with Christ. As his body, the church is his presence in the world. As such, the church does the will of her head (Jesus) and draws upon his power as she works in the world for his sake. As his body, she is the one new humanity, created and growing into the image of Christ, demonstrating God’s wisdom to the powers (3:10).

As God’s building, the church is and is becoming the dwelling place of God. Christ himself is the origin of the building, the source of power for the process of building, and the goal toward which the building grows. The church finds her shape in Christ, the chief corner stone. She is founded upon the teaching of his apostles and prophets. She is supplied with gifts and trainers that make the building process possible.

As bride, the church submits to and is loved by her husband, the Christ. The church willingly submits to Christ by choosing to be and to do for his good. Christ loves the church by choosing to be and to do for her good.

Practical Implications

Questions on the nature of church need to be asked within and among the traditional, seeker-sensitive, emerging, and evangelical camps. A theology of church drawn from the images in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can provide an important foundation from which to seek answers. There are several key understandings. First, the church is one. Human divisions are just that—human. There are real theological issues to be discussed, but there is also a real unity. We must find a way to hold passionately to our beliefs while holding passionately to one another.

Second, the church is in the process of maturing. We will not be complete until the consummation in the last day. Because we are incomplete, we must listen to the voices of our brothers and sisters. We must consider their questions. We must all do our part.

Third, the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Experience is important. The writings of our theological mothers and fathers are important. But an intimate understanding of God’s Word is essential. We must start there.

Finally, the church is intimately connected to Christ. This is our current reality, though our experience of it is incomplete. Everything the church is and everything she is to become exists in and grows toward her relationship with Christ.

It is imperative for theologians in every camp to look deeply into the biblical understanding of church and to begin to separate the biblical from the merely traditional. This is especially true in the current discussions (and too often conflicts) between evangelical and emerging churches. There are valid concerns in both camps. The evangelical church is concerned about the emerging church’s understanding of truth. The emerging church is concerned with the evangelical church’s reliance on human structures and methods. There are valid questions on both sides and these questions must be considered. The state of our culture demands it. The state of our church demands it. The state of our theology demands it.

We end as Barth ended his call for unity in 1936:

[Teaching and preaching are] the fundamental postulate and presupposition of Church union; it is vital that once more in every church, in its own special atmosphere and thus with an ear attentive to Christ, real sober strict genuine theology should become active. [i]

What we need is what Doug Pagitt called for at the 2004 Emergent Convention: congregations willing to do “the hard work of hand-crafted theology.” [I blogged/commented about it here and here]

for BIBLIOGRAPHY see introduction

Previous Posts:
Abstract
Introduction
The Context of Ephesians
Description of the Images: Body
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride

i Barth 92

Body-Building-Bride: A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005

Description of the Images: Bride

Bride (gune; woman, wife) is used nine times in Ephesians (Eph. 5:22ff, 28, 31, 33). All nine instances refer to human wives directly and to the church by analogy.
In 5:22-33, the church is presented as a bride submitting to her husband. She is loved, sanctified, cleansed, and made glorious by him and for him. She is united as one flesh with him. While the body and building metaphors communicate the inherent connection of the church and Christ, it is the image of the bride that shows the intimacy of that connection. It is a connection of choice: Christ’s choice to love and the church’s choice to submit. Both choices are done willingly and not by force of habit or duty. Best remarks, “This picture of the Church as Wife of Christ has taken us, perhaps, further into the relationship of Christ and the Church than any other because it shows us both sides of that relationship; dependence and obedience on one side; love and unity on the other.” [i] There is a necessary mutuality between Christ and the church. This mutuality consists in the choice to be and to do for the good of the other. Christ’s love for the church is not mere emotion, but a willing choice of self-sacrifice. The church’s response is willing submission. [ii] Minear summarizes: “The image stresses the wife’s role of subjection and obedience and the husband’s role of self-sacrifice and authority. Their mutual interdependence is so intimate and so permanent that the two become one body.” [iii]

for Bibliography see introduction

i Best 179
ii Metzger 60
iii Minear 55

Previous Posts:
Abstract
Introduction
The Context of Ephesians
Description of the Images: Body
Description of the Images: Building

Future posts:
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

Body-Building-Bride: A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005

Description of the Images: Building

Building (oikodome) is used four times in Ephesians (Eph. 2:21; 4:12, 16, 29), either referring to the church as a building or as being built. In 2:11-22, the building is that which, in relationship with the chief cornerstone (Christ) and built on the foundation of the New Testament apostles and prophets, grows into a holy temple in the Lord and is built together into a house of God (2:21-22). The temple is not primarily a place to gather for worship, but is rather the dwelling place of God. [i] Christ is the sphere in which the growth of the building takes place (2:21). “The building is complete, the chief corner stone having been put in position; yet it still grows. This paradox of completion, or perfection, with growth we also found in the metaphor of the Body and the Head.” [ii] This building is the one body (the one new humanity) composed of Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus, in relationship with one another and with Christ.

In 4:7-16, the building is the process of growth, resulting from the training of the saints, by which the body grows itself in love (4:12, 16). “The church is a building-site … It is constantly in the making, just as we ourselves are. We are a temple, or the house of God. God’s house is no longer the stone or mud building, it is the community of people, the living community.”[iii] Christ is both the origin and goal of this process. [iv] Attention is focused on construction and connection rather than on the building itself. [v]

for BIBLIOGRAPHY see introduction

i Ernest Best, One Body in Christ: a study in the relationship of the church to Christ in the epistles of the Apostle Paul, (London, S.P.C.K., 1955), 168.

ii Best 167

iii Pierre Simson, “The Church in the New Testament,” AFER 19.05 pp. 280-288. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005. 284

iv Bruce M. Metzger, “Paul’s Vision of the Church: a study of the Ephesian letter.” Theology Today, 6.01 pp. 49-63. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005. 59

v Paul S. Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, third printing 1977), 49.

Previous Posts:
Abstract
Introduction
The Context of Ephesians
Description of the Images: Body

Future posts:
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

Body-Building-Bride: A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005

Description of the Images: Body

Paul uses the image of the body to picture the church as connected to Christ (1:15-23), as one (2:11-22), as growing (4:7-16), and as willingly subjected (5:22-33). Body (soma) is used nine times in Ephesians (Eph. 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 28, 30). Eight times it refers to the church and once to the human body (5:28). Seven references to the church as body are clustered in the four passages discussed in this paper.

In 1:15-23, the body is described in the context of the manifestation of God’s power and is further identified as the fullness of Christ. The four manifestations of God’s power are raising Christ from death, seating him on the throne, putting all things under his feet, and giving him as head over all things to the church. As the body of Christ, the church is directly connected with Christ as head, having access to his supremacy over the powers. This connection is not external, but intimate; the church is the very body of Christ and he fills her with himself. The terms soma (body) and pleroma (fullness) are in apposition (thus, each further describing the other) and both picture Christ’s rule of the church [i] and his connection to her.

In 2:11-22, the body is one, made up of two (Jew and Gentile) that are no longer two (2:15-16). It is further identified as a building that grows into a holy temple, the house of God (2:21-22). Here the one body (which is the one new humanity) is the result of Christ’s being our peace in his flesh (2:14). The two divisions of humanity—Jew and Gentile—are made into one new humanity by Christ.[ii] Because of this, Jewish and Gentile converts are fellow citizens and the household of God, growing into a dwelling place of God. Christ is creating a new humanity in himself; a humanity which not only was created but also is coming into existence in relationship to Christ.[iii] This new humanity is neither held together by similarity nor divided by differences. As Calvin says, “However much the two might differ in their former condition, in Christ they have become one man.” [iv]

In 4:7-16, the body is that which is constructed when God’s people make proper use of Christ’s gifts (4:12, 16). Here the body is further identified as maturing to adulthood and to Christ’s fullness (4:13). The construction of the body is one result of the training provided by apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Verse 16 adds that Christ is the source of the fitting together (sumarmologeo) and uniting together (sumbibazo) that make it possible for the body to grow itself in love.

In 5:22-33, the body is that which Christ saves (5:23) and is the whole of which believers are members (5:30). The body is further identified with the bride. Christ’s headship of the church and the church’s submission to Christ are both stated in the context of Christ’s being the Savior of the body. In verse 30, our membership in Christ’s body is the given as the reason Christ feeds and takes care of the church. He cares for her because she is his body.

for BIBLIOGRAPHY see introduction

i John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979) 65.

ii Carl B. Hoch, “The Significance of the Syn-Compounds for Jew-Gentile Relationships in the Body of Christ,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25.03 pp. 175-183. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005. 179-180.

iii Stott 101

iv John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, Translator T. H. L. Parker. Editors David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Translated 1965), 151.

Previous Posts:
Abstract
Introduction
The Context of Ephesians

Future posts:
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians
A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005

The Context of Ephesians

This theology of the church in Ephesians is drawn from the contextual meaning of the body, building, and bride images. Three levels of context apply. First, cultural context: what is the Ephesian culture may have prompted this letter? Second, epistolary context: what is the core message of the letter as a whole? Third, immediate contexts: what are the immediate contexts of these images? We turn first to the Ephesian culture.

Cultural Context

The cultural context is the Roman Province of Asia in the first century. In his book, Power and Magic, Clint Arnold makes a strong case for a cultural context overwhelmed by concern for spiritual powers. He says, “Ephesians appears to have been written to a group of churches in western Asia Minor needing help in developing a Christian perspective on the ‘powers’ and encouragement in their ongoing struggles with these pernicious spirit forces.” [i] The Artemis cult, magical practices, and a multiplicity of deities were integral to Ephesian society, and remained sources of temptation and persecution for the Ephesian church.

Epistolary Context

The epistolary context is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and the constellation of images he employs to describe the church. Ephesians is Paul’s epistolary treatise describing Christ and the Church. In this letter, he uses these descriptions to teach the Ephesian churches how to live in and respond to a cultural context permeated with concern for spiritual powers. In describing the church, Paul employs constellation of images revealing the identity of the church in relation to Christ. Table 1 lists these images, the Greek terms, and the passages where each term is found.

Table 1. Images of the Church in Ephesians
Image;Greek term;Passages
Fullness;
pleroma; Eph. 1:10, 23; 3:19; 4:13
Building;
oikodome; Eph. 2:21; 4:12, 16, 29
Adulthood;
aner teleios; Eph. 4:13
One new humanity;
anthropos kainos; Eph. 2:15
Fellow-citizens;
sumpolites; Eph. 2:19
Household;
oikeos; Eph. 2:19
Bride;
gune; Eph. 5:22ff, 28, 31, 33
Body;
soma; Eph. 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 28, 30
Temple;
naos; Eph. 2:21
Assembly;
ekklesia [ii]; Eph. 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23ff, 27, 29, 32
House;
katoiketerion; Eph. 2:22
Built together;
sunoikodomeo; Eph. 2:22
Fitted together;
sumarmologeo; Eph. 2:21; 4:16
United together;
sumbibazo; Eph. 4:16

In this constellation of images, three images–body, building, and bride–provide the bulk of the description. They are found in four major sections of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: 1:15-23; 2:11-22; 4:7-16; and 5:22-33.

Immediate Context

The immediate contexts are the four passages in which Paul employs the body, building, and bride images. In 1:15-23, Paul reports his ceaseless, berakah-based thank-prayer for the Ephesian believers. In this prayer, he asks that God give them spiritual wisdom and revelation for the purpose of knowing him. The knowledge of him includes knowing the hope of his calling, the glorious wealth of his inheritance, and the surpassing greatness of his power.

In 2:11-22, Paul describes Christ’s blood-accomplished work of horizontal and vertical reconciliation. Through this work, Christ brings near the once-far Gentiles, creates one new humanity by reconciling Jews and Gentiles to God, and builds one new holy, worshiping people of God.

In 4:7-16, Paul describes Christ’s gift of grace to each believer and his gift of messengers, prophets, good news preachers, and pastors and teachers to the whole church. These individual and corporate gifts equip the saints to build the body to maturity in Christ.

In 5:22-33, Paul gives instructions concerning the submission of wives and the sacrificial love of husbands. The relationship between husbands and wives reveals the great mystery of the relationship between Christ and the church.

Previous Posts:
Abstract
Introduction

Future posts:
Description of the Images: Body
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

for Bibliography see introduction

[i] Clinton E. Arnold, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians, (Reprint by Wipf and Stock Publishing. Previously published by Baker Book House, 1989) 167.
[ii] While this author understands ekklesia as an image, Paul employs it as a technical term. Therefore it is mentioned only in reference.

Body-Building-Bride
A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005

Introduction

“Unity in itself will not suffice; nor will any or all of the ideas and ideals which we may link with that concept. Unity in itself, even Church unity in itself is, as surely as the independent multiplicities are, merely fallen and unreconciled human nature.”

Barth’s comments are as valid today as they were in 1936 when he first spoke them. In this work, Barth comments on the problem of unity in a global church divided by various beliefs. The church today is divided into camps of traditional, seeker-sensitive, emerging, evangelical, and a host of others. In each camp, the understanding of church is different. In each camp, human understandings taint notion of ‘church.’ Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (background; text) provides what may be the New Testament’s clearest and deepest picture of the church. Written in a context of struggle with spiritual powers, this letter describes the church and her connection with Christ in order to equip the church to live for Christ in a culture much like our own. The church’s understanding of herself cannot come from mere human sources, because she is not a human institution. The church’s understanding of herself must come from the Word. The images of the body, the building, and the bride employed in this letter provide a foundational understanding needed to live in and respond to a cultural context permeated with concern for evil powers.

This series gives an overview of the cultural, epistolary, and immediate context of these three images; describes the images in their immediate and epistolary context; draws theological conclusions about the church from the three images; and discusses some of the practical implications of a theology of church in Ephesians.

Previous Posts:
Abstract

Future posts:
The Context of Ephesians
Description of the Images: Body
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Arnold, Clinton E. Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians. Reprint by Wipf and Stock Publishing. Previously published by Baker Book House, 1989.

Barth, Karl. The Church and the Churches. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1936.

Best, Ernest, M.A., B.D., Ph.D. One Body in Christ: a study in the relationship of the church to Christ in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. London, S.P.C.K., 1955.

Calvin, John. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Translator T. H. L. Parker. Editors David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Translated 1965.

Fung, Ronald Y. K. “Some Pauline Pictures of the Church.” The Evangelical Quarterly. Issue 53, April-June 1981. Pages 89-107.

Hoch, Carl B. “The Significance of the Syn-Compounds for Jew-Gentile Relationships in the Body of Christ.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 25.03 pp. 175-183. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Hoehner, Harold W. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002.

Metzger, Bruce M. “Paul’s Vision of the Church: a study of the Ephesian letter.” Theology Today, 6.01 pp. 49-63. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Minear, Paul S. Images of the Church in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, third printing 1977.

Simson, Pierre. “The Church in the New Testament.” AFER 19.05 pp. 280-288. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979.

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