Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Friday, April 29, 2011

Introduction to Ephesians (2)

As mentioned in my first post, Ephesians has for some time been a personal passion of mine. But for quite awhile I did not know why. That passion for the Epistle was ignited by the monumental eight‑volume exposition of Ephesians by Dr. David Martyn Lloyd‑Jones and then fanned into a roaring blaze through countless hours of study, but the reason for my special love for the book eluded me.

Then I read the following words in a particular commentary: “In many respects Ephesians reads more a like a sermon . . . than a letter written to meet some special need in a church or group of churches. It is like a sermon on the greatest and widest theme possible for a Christian sermon—the eternal purpose of God which he is fulfilling through His Son Jesus Christ, and working out in and through the Church. It is like a sermon, but the medium is the written word and the appeal is addressed to readers.”

When I read that statement, I knew why I love Ephesians so much. Ephesians does not read like a letter; it sounds like a sermonit preaches. There is a progression of thought in Ephesians that flows along as the spoken word. This strikes me so profoundly because it is the preaching of the Word that makes the difference in people’s lives. In a day when true biblical preaching is more and more de-emphasized and even ridiculed as old fashioned, out of date, not practical or relevant, Ephesians illustrates its need all the more.

Besides that, however, as I’ve analyzed the impact that Ephesians has made in my own life, I find at least five very specific affects that have changed my life and ministry. They can do the same for yours.

First, and I think foremost, is how it has altered my entire view and outlook on the doctrines of salvation, what are called the Doctrines of Grace. Paul’s presentation in chapter 1 concerning what God alone did in eternity past to elect us and predestinate us to His own glory is a transforming truth.

Second, Ephesians 4 has taught me much about ministry. It has shown me the office gifts given to the church and has shown me their purpose and functions.

Third, Ephesians 4 has also taught me much about personal living by detailing the characteristics of the New Man and how he is to live

Fourth, the truths in Ephesians 5 concerning marriage are the profoundest of all the Scripture. I cannot even imagine having a successful marriage—which by God’s grace I have enjoyed for 29 years—without these truths.

Fifth, Ephesians 6 has given me the tools, more precisely the armor, that is needed to fight the spiritual war in which we are engaged and has taught me how be victorious.

As we’ll see, Ephesians is about spiritual wealth. Several years ago there was a story in Los Angeles Times that reported the story of an elderly man and wife who were found dead in their apartment. While the autopsies revealed that both had died of severe malnutrition, investigators found a total of $40,000 stored in paper bags in a closet.

Another legendary story is of Henrietta “Hetty” Green, who was at her death in 1916 the wealthiest woman in the United States. After doing a little research, I discovered that after being left with an estate of $10 million acquired from the family’s shipping and trading business, she turned it into $100 million by shrewd management. But part of that management also earned her the nickname “America’s Greatest Miser.” In spite of her unimaginable wealth, she ate cold oatmeal to avoid the cost of heating the water. Her son lost his leg to amputation because of the infection that set in while she looked for a free clinic to treat his injury. As the story goes, she even contributed to her own death by bringing on a stroke while arguing that skim milk is better than whole milk because it’s cheaper.

Some Christians do the same thing—they ignore the spiritual wealth that they possess in Christ. A study of Ephesians, however, will show them just how rich they are. They’ll discover their riches, their inheritance, and their fullness in Christ. This wealth falls into two broad categories: 1. A wealth of doctrine, and 2. A wealth of practical instruction. We will see this over and over throughout our series.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Introduction to Ephesians (1)

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (the great Welsh preacher and 30-year pastor of Westminster Chapel in London) began his five-year exposition of Ephesians (beginning in 1954) with these words: “As we approach this Epistle I confess freely that I do so with considerable temerity. It is very difficult to speak of it in a controlled manner because of its greatness and because of its sublimity.”

With that I heartily agree. In my some 37 years of preaching, I have never preached anything that affects me like Ephesians. This is not to imply that other series have not affected me. On the contrary. My four years expositing Matthew, for example, influenced me profoundly and molded much of my thought on the true Gospel. My year or so in Galatians was equally valuable in emphasizing the true Gospel over works-oriented religion and just how much false teaching on the Gospel exists in our day.

But always I return to Ephesians.

I would begin our study by saying, We are about to embark on a journey through the grandest, most awe-inspiring piece of writing known to man. That is, of course, my opinion, but I do not stand alone in such speech.

The eloquent J. Sidlow Baxter writes of Ephesians: “Although not the longest of Paul’s Epistles, Ephesians is generally conceded to be the profoundedest. There is a grandeur of conception about it, a majesty, a dignity, a richness and fullness which are peculiar to it.”

Another author writes, “[Ephesians] is a book greatly loved; it is probably loved more than any other book by most people. With strong wings it soars among the heights of theological thought and glides upon the winds of the greatest of truths. It is like the delivery of a great sermon that holds a person spellbound. It is like the greatest of prayers that draws a person into the very presence of God. It is like a great doxology that leaves a person with a deep sense of worship.”

There have been many such descriptions of the value and bless­ing of the Epistle to the Ephesians. John A. Mackay, past president of Princeton Theological Seminary, and who was converted at the age of fourteen through the reading of this Epistle, wrote: “Never was the reality of Revelation more obvious and the reflective powers of the Apostle’s mind more transfigured than in the great book which is known by the title, The Epistle to the Ephesians...[t]he sublimest communication ever made to men . . . The crown and climax of Pauline Theology”. . .The greatest . . . maturest . . . [and] for our time the most relevant of Paul’s letters.”

Bible scholar F.F. Bruce calls Ephesians, “The quintessence of Paulinism.” Scott Lidget likewise writes: “The consummate and most comprehensive statement which even the New Testament contains of the meaning of the Christian religion. It is certainly the final statement of Pauline theology.”

English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Ephesians “the divinest composition of man” because “it embraces, first, those doctrines peculiar to Christianity, and, then, those precepts with it in natural religion.”

In his expositional commentary, James Montgomery Boice calls Ephesians, “A mini-course on theology, centered on the church.”

Armitage Robinson called it, “The crown of Saint Paul’s writings.”

Nineteenth-century preacher, scholar, and commentator F. W. Farrar called it “the most sublime, the most profound, the most advanced and final utterance of St. Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles.”

W. O. Carver, American Baptist theologian, viewed it as “the greatest piece of writing in all history.”

Irving Jensen, Bible teacher and author of the excellent book Survey of the New Testament writes: “Ephesians is a book of grand superlatives. It is the sublimest of Paul’s epistles . . . the apostle has a vision of the heavenly realm, and in the quiet and calm of his imprisonment he is inspired by the Spirit to share that with his readers.”

William Morehead, nineteenth and early twentieth century pastor and scholar, wrote, “we pass into the stillness and hush of the sanctuary when we turn to Ephesians. Here prevails the atmosphere of repose, of meditation, of worship and peace.”

There have been many other picturesque descriptions. Ruth Paxson calls it, “The Grand Canyon of Scripture,” and William Barkley views it as, “The Queen of the Epistles.” Still others have described it as, “The Pikes Peak of Scripture,” “The Treasure House of the Bible,” and “The Holy of Holies of the Epistles.”

And finally, quoting an unnamed writer, the aforementioned Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The distilled essence of Christianity, the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of our holy Christian faith.” Then, comparing Romans to Ephesians, he adds in his own words, “If Romans is the purest expression of the Gospel [as Martin Luther stated], the Epistle to the Ephesians is the sublimest and most majestic expression of it.”

What marvelous language, indeed! Is this just heaping superlative upon superlative. Perhaps, but the true Christian believer cannot read this Epistle without being struck by its many profound and clear truths.