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Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey - The Letter to the Ephesians

Alternate Lecture on: NT 600 New Testament Survey

The Letter to the Ephesians

by Timothy Kenney, PhD

The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians is one of the 4 Captivity Epistles, along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. The letter was probably written from his imprisonment in Rome in 62-63 AD, although some authors point to an earlier imprisonment, perhaps in Caesarea (Acts 23:33-27:2).

St. Paul's purpose in the letter to the Ephesians is to share his "insight into the mystery of Christ" (3:4) and "to make all men see what is the plan of the for ages in God Who created all things..." (3:9). In the first part of the letter, the apostle attempts to describe the mystery. He uses many words in long sentences, overflowing with adjectives, in his effort to accomplish his task. Defying a neat outline, the main points of the message are clear.

The Letter to the Ephesians is most noted for its description of Christ and the Church. Paul speaks of the Father's Plan for Salvation (Ephesians 1:3-6); the Church as the Body of Christ (1:22-23); calls for the Unity of the Church in Christ (1:15 - 2:22); and Unity of the Body of Christ in "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all" (4:1-6). He calls for the exemplary living of its members through one's daily conduct (4:1-5:5); to live as children of the light (5:8 - 5:20).

Finally, we find the most famous part of the letter, in which St. Paul spells out the implications of the "great mystery ... Christ and the Church" (5:32). He urges sound doctrine and love, a true conversion of life, a complete end to all impurity and immorality and a total commitment to spiritual battle. He addresses the Church as a whole; husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. He calls all to "put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (4:24).

The letter to the Ephesians finds its place in the liturgical lectionary of the Church, with the well-known lines from the sixth chapter being the epistle reading at the sacramental celebration of marriage (5:21-33).

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A general outline is provided below:

1:1-1:2 -------------- Salutation
1:3-1:14 -------------- Spiritual Blessings in Christ
1:15-1:23 -------------- Paul's Prayer

2:1-2:10 -------------- From Death to Life
2:11-2:22 -------------- One in Christ

3:1-3:13 -------------- Paul's Ministry to the Gentiles
3:14-3:21 -------------- Pray for the Readers

4:1-4:16 -------------- Unity in the Body of Christ
4:17-4:24 -------------- The Old Life and the New
4:25-5:2 -------------- Rules for the New Life

5:3-5:20 -------------- Renounce Pagan Ways
5:21-5:33 -------------- The Christian Household

6:1-6:9 -------------- Children and Parents
6:10-6:20 -------------- The Whole Armour of God
6:21-6:24 -------------- Personal Matters and Benediction

We now turn to St. Paul's letter to the Phillipians in our next article.

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