Unity of the Church
Jews and Gentiles One in Christ
Paul spent his life teaching Gentiles that they could be Christians without becoming Jewish Proselytes. This was very displeasing to Jews generally, for they thought of the Mosaic Law as binding upon All, and were bitterly prejudiced against Uncircumcised Gentiles who presumed to call themselves disciples of the Jewish Messiah.
While Paul taught Gentile Christians to stand like a rock for their Liberty in Christ, as he did in Galatians and Romans, yet l're did not want them to be Prejudiced against their Jewish fellow-Christians, but to regard them as Brothers in Christ.
Paul did not want to see Two Churches: a Jewish Church and a Gentile Church: but ONE CHURCH: Jews and Gentiles One in Christ. His gesture, in behalf of Unity, to Jewish elements in the Church, was the Great Offering of Money which he took from Gentile Churches, at the close of his Third Missionary Journey, to the Poor in the Mother-Church at Jerusalem (Acts 21). His hope was that this demonstration of Christian Love might bring Jewish Christians to feel more kindly toward Gentiles.
Paul's gesture, in behalf of Unity, to Gentile elements in the Church, was This Epistle, written to the leading center of his own Gentile Converts, exalting the ONENESS, UNIVERSALITY and UNSPEAKABLE GRANDEUR of the Body of Christ.
To Paul, Christ was a Great Big Something, in Whom there is room, not only for people of different Races, Viewpoints and Prejudices, but He is One who has Power to solve all the problems of mankind, and bring into unity and harmony with God all earthly Social and Family life (5:22-6:9), and even the Myriads of Beings in the Infinite Unseen Universe (3:10).
This is one of the four "Prison Epistles," written from Paul's Roman imprisonment, A.D. 61-63, the others being Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Three of these were written at the same time, and carried by the same messengers (6:21; Colossians 4:7-9; Philemon 10-12: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon). There was another, not now extant (Colossians 4: 16).
Chapter 1. Spiritual Blessings
"At Ephesus" (1), is not in some of the most ancient manuscripts. It is thought that, probably, it was intended as a Circular Letter to the Asian" Churches, Tychicus bearing a number of copies, with space for each city to insert its own name. This would account for its lack of personal greetings, with which most of Paul's Letters abound.
Paul had spent three years in Ephesus, and had there many devoted friends. But if this was'a circular Letter to Ephesus and neighboring cities that would account for its more formal tenor. The Laodicean Letter (Colossians 4:16), possibly, may have been one of the copies.
God's Eternal Purpose (3-14). A magnificent epitome of God's plans: the redemption, adoption, forgiveness, and sealing of a people for God's own possession, determined from eternity, now being brought to pass through the effective exercise of God's will.
"Heavenly places" (3). is a key phrase of this book (10, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) It means the unseen sphere above this world of sense, which is the Christian's ultimate home, and with which we now, in a measure, have communication.
Paul's Prayer for Them (16-23). That is the way Paul, usually begins his Letters. Four such prayers are especially beautiful: This, and those in 3:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11; and Colossians 1:9-12.
Chapters 2, 3. The Church Universal
Saved by Grace (1-10). The Body of Christ is being built up out of unworthy sinful men, to be an everlasting demonstration of the Kindness of God. When God's work in us is completed we will be creatures of Unutterable Bliss in a state of heavenly glory beyond anything we can now imagine. It will be God's work, not ours; and through the ages heaven will never cease to resound with the glad hallelujahs from grateful hearts of the redeemed.
Once One Nation, Now All Nations (2:11-22). "Circumcision" as e term came to be used as e name of the Jews, as distinct from other nations which were spoken of as the "Uncircumcision" (11). For a while the Jews constituted the body of God's people, of which circumcision was the fleshly sign, and from which other nations were excluded. But now the Call from God rings out clear and strong to ALL, from every tribe and nation, to come and join His household.
The "Mystery" of Christ (3:113-9), hid for ages in God (9), in this passage plainly means that the Nations are heirs to the promises which God lave to the Jews, but which the Jews hitherto had thought belonged to them exclusively. That phase of God's plan had been hid, though He had purposed it from the beginning (1:5), till the coming of Christ, but now is fully revealed: namely: that God's future world of glory will be builded, not out of the Jewish nation, but from All Mankind.
Grandeur of the Church (3:8-11). Through the Church God unites the hostile elements of the human race into One Body, and demonstrates His wisdom to the superhuman orders of heavenly beings, actually summing up all things in Christ.
Chapter 4. Oneness of the Church
ONE BODY (1-16). A complex organism, with many functions, each in its own place, working in harmony, its basic principle love (16), Christ himself its head and directive force.
Being composed of many members of diverse talents and tempers, the fundamental requisite to its proper functioning is a spirit of humility and mutual forbearance on the part of the members one toward another (2).
Its object is to nurture each of its members into the perfect image of Christ (12-15). The idea of growth, as expressed in these verses, seems to apply both to individuals and to the Church as a whole.
The childhood of the Church will pass. Its maturity will come. (Compare the companion passage, I Corinthians 12, 13.)
The Church is nearly 2,000 years old, and, in this respect, is still in its childhood state. It has not yet, in its visible manifestation as a whole, known Unity. Paul's unceasing fight was against factional elements in local churches and the Jew-Gentile dissension. Then came the bitter controversies of the 2nd to 4th centuries. Then the
Imperial Church, with its outward semblance of Unity under State authority, but poisonous blight of its spiritual life. Then the Papal Hierarchy with its Unity of Authority that robbed men of their rights of conscience and drove the Bible out of circulation.
Then, 400 years ago, the Protestant break for freedom. Naturally, when men began again to think for themselves, after the long night of Papal bondage, they would see things somewhat differently; and it was inevitable that the Protestant Movement would go down the years in different streams. So we still have a Divided Christendom.
Whether there will ever, in this world, be an outward organic Unity of the Visible Church, we do not know. The selfishness and pride of men are against it. But there always has been, and still is, a Unity in the Invisible Church, of God's true saints, which, somehow, sometime, somewhere, will come to full fruition, in answer to Christ's own prayer (John 17), and manifest itself as the fullgrown body of Christ.
New obligations (25-32). Seeing the Church is a brotherhood, it is necessary that its members be very considerate of one another. "Anger" (26): perhaps Paul thought it was a little too much to tell them not to get angry at all; so he cautions them to be careful not to hold it. "Stole" (28): some of them evidently had been tough characters; bur now they must respect the rights oi others. (See note on ll Thessalonians 3:6-15.)
Chapters 5, 6. New Obligations
In these two chapters Paul continues with what he began in 4:17, their obligation to Live differently.
Fornication (5:3-14), that is, immorality, promiscuous sexual indulgence. It was a very common sin in Paul's day, in many places a part of heathen worship. Paul warns against it again and again. (See notes on I Corinthians 7 and I Thessalonians 4:1-8.)
Singing (5:18-21). The joyful praise of Christian meetings is here put in contrast with the riotous indulgence of noisy drunken revels (18, 19). Hymn singing is by far the most natural, simplest, best loved, and by all odds the most spiritually stimulating of all the exercises of religious meetings.
Husbands and Wives (5:22-33). If we are Christians, we must show it in all the relations of life: business, social and domestic. The relation between husband and wife is here represented as being a counterpart of the relation between Christ and the Church (25, 32). The exhortation is to mutual love and devotion, and in no way suggests that a man has a right to make a slave of his wife. Each is dependent on the other, because of the different functions that each has in human society. Each, in serving the other, best serves self (28). "He that loves his wife loves himself": husbands, take note.
Parents and Children (6:l-4). It was one 6f 1[s Ten Commandments that we honor those who gave us life. So doing would prolong that life. This was the promise of God, and is a fact of nature. Fathers are cautioned against being too severe with their children, both here and in Colossians 3:21. Parental authority was generally too austere then, as it is now generally too lax, Fathers are named, because mothers are naturally more lenient. We suspect that it was easier then for parents to raise children after their old mold than it is now, for they were not exposed to so many influences outside the home so early and so continuously as today.
Servants and Masters (6:5-9). Half the population of Rome, and a large proportion of the population of the Empire, were slaves. Many of the Christians were slaves. They are here told that faithful service to their master is a prime requisite of their Christian faith. It is a remarkable teaching: that, in the performance of our earthly tasks, however menial, we are always under the watchful eye of Christ, for His approval or disapproval, as we may deserve. So are masters in their treatment of slaves.
The Christian's Armor (6:10-20). This passage certainly means that the Christian's warfare is against more than the natural temptations of his flesh. There are powers in the unseen world against which we are powerless except through the aid of Christ. Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Faith, Salvation, the Word, Prayer, are weapons that ward off the darts of the unseen enemy.