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 .

Monday, June 24, 2013

Doctrine and Duty

As we have mentioned before, how important doctrine is! As the late pastor and expositor Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes: “The most foolish of all Christians are those who dislike and decry the importance of Theology and teaching. Does not that explain why they fail in practice?”

Why are many Christians weak and shallow? Why do many fall to any new trend that comes along? Why do many fail to discern false teaching? Why do many fail to be consistent and faithful? Why do many fall to temptation? Why do many collapse when someone challenges their faith? Because they do not know doctrine—they are not being taught doctrine by their pastors; they are not being taught that God’s Word alone is Truth. People are being taught that truth is relative and can be found in many other places. And that is why they fail.

That is why the first half of Ephesians (as most of Paul’s Epistles) deals with doctrine and the second half deals with practice, because without right doctrine we will not have right practice. No matter what the issue, the question, or the problem, there is a doctrinal principle in God’s Word to answer it. This fact is at the very heart of the doctrine of the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture. To deny it is to deny it is to deny Scripture Itself.

So, with the great doctrines of Chapters 1-3 as our foundation, we turn now to the practical portion of the Epistle. As we noted in the “Introduction” way back when this series started, this can be expressed in several ways: (1) Chapters 1‑3 present our Riches in Christ; 4‑6 show us our Responsibilities in Christ; (2) Chapters 1‑3 present our Wealth in Christ; 4‑6 show us Walk in Christ; (3) Chapters 1‑3 contain the truth Stated; 4‑6 contain the truth Applied; (4) Chapters 1‑3 present our Heritage in Christ; 4‑6 present our Life in Christ; and (5) Chapters 1‑3 present the Exposition of what we have in Christ; 4‑6 give us the Exhortation of what we are to do in Christ.

To express this in still another way, based on the Doctrine of Chapters 1-3, we come now to the Duty that it demands. This does not imply that the first half of Ephesians in not at all practical. We have, of course, seen many practical principles. Rather, what we see in Chapter 4-6 are specific applications of the doctrines in Chapter 1-3.

The key word in Chapters 4-6 is walk, and we find it five times (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The Greek in all five occurrences is peripateō (peri, “about” or “around,” and pateō, “to walk”), and so literally means “to walk about, to walk around, to walk concerning.” In Classical Greek this word was used only in the literal sense and meant strolling and stopping, as someone would walk about in the market place. It was never used in a figurative sense as it is in the New Testament. Used in the figurative sense, it speaks of “conduct of life,” that is, how we “how we walk about,” how we conduct ourselves as we walk through life. How, then, are we to conduct ourselves? Chapters 4-6 reveal seven ways in which we are to walk, each of which in-turn is based on related doctrine in Chapters 1-3, as the following table illustrates.

Doctrine and Duty in Ephesians

Walk in unity (4:1‑16)
1:22-23; 2:16,21-22; 3:6
Walk in purity (4:17‑32)
Walk in love (5:1‑7)
Walk in light (5:8‑14)
Walk in wisdom (5:15‑17)
1:8,17; 3:10
Walk in submission (5:18‑6:9)
Walk in victory (6:10‑20)

So Paul does not simply write about unrelated thoughts, a little “potpourri of principles” as it were, rather he writes about objective truth on which he then bases proper conduct of life.

Monday, June 17, 2013


How often do any of us think about the word “Amen?” It’s the word that we say at the end of a prayer, but do we ever think of its meaning, much less its significance? This word, which is often overlooked, or even ignored, is actually extremely significant.

Amen is merely a transliteration of the Hebrew āmēn. One purpose of the word is to confirm a statement and could be translated in various ways: “so, be it,” “so it is,” “there you have it,” and so forth. But another use of the word was originally one of response by the listeners or readers who were present when truth was given. One Greek authority tells us that a certain custom, which passed from the synagogue to the Christian assemblies, was that when someone closed a solemn prayer, others present responded with Amen and thus made all that was said their own.

How thrilling this is! Can you say Amen to the marvelous truths of prayer, the attitudes, the approach, and the appeal?  Can you say Amen to that wondrous ascription of praise as God makes His power work in us?

What’s more, can you say Amen to the many, MANY marvelous truths of Ephesians? Can you say Amen to the fact that the true Christian Believer is “a saint” (1:1), to God’s greatest blessings of “grace” and “peace” (1:2), to our “election” and “adoption” (1:4-6), “to our redemption” and “forgiveness” (1:7-12), to our “knowledge,” “wisdom,” “insight,” and inheritance” (1:13-14), to the reality of absolute “Truth” (1:13), to the privilege of prayer (1:16-23), to the blessings of true “enlightenment” (1:18) and powerful living (1:19), to the deliverance from total sinfulness through God’s mercy, love, and grace (2:1-5), to the fact that God is constantly working in us and through us (2:10), and to much MUCH more?

As this first half of Ephesians closes, and as we say Amen to it, we are not only confirming it, but we are responding to it by realizing that it is our very own possession. In short, by saying “Amen,” we are saying, “All this is mine.”

All the doctrinal truth of Ephesians 1‑3 sets the stage for the practical truth of Ephesians 4‑6. It is in chapters 4‑6 that we will see the great responsibilities we have as Christians, and if we can’t say Amen now in chapters 1‑3, we will certainly not be able to say it in chapters 4‑6. If we can’t say Amen to our riches in Christ, we certainly won’t be able to say it to our responsibilities in Christ. Oh, may we say with the Apostle Paul, AMEN!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Ascription of Praise (2)

As we discovered last time, in light of the glorious truths of the Attitudes of prayer (vs. 12‑13), the Approach to Prayer (vs. 14‑15), and the Appeal of prayer (vs. 16-19), there is nothing left to do but praise God in the way Paul does in Ephesians 3:20-21: Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. First, we saw the measure of power to us (v. 20), where we discovered that God’s power is working in us. One reason for this truth is that God is to making each of us all we can be for our own benefit and blessing. But there is a greater reason.

Second, the measure of praise to God (v. 21). Some view the theme of Ephesians as being the Church. While we agree that it is a secondary theme, it is not the primary theme, which is, God’s eternal purpose and the place of Christ and His people in that purpose. An example of this is here in our text. Yes, the church is in view, but before that is God’s glory. So, since God’s ultimate purpose is to bring glory to Himself, Paul closes the doctrinal portion of this letter by presenting two intimately related ways through which God will be praised.

(1) In the Church. What is the purpose of the Church? Is its purpose to be “seeker-sensitive,” to appeal to people’s “felt needs,” to reach the “unchurched,” to entertain, and so forth? Regardless of the redefining of the Church today, its true purpose is the glorify God. God is actually using the Church to glorify Himself. As Psalm 148 declares, everything gives praise to God: angels, the sun, moon, and stars, all the animals, fire, hail, snow, vapours, stormy wind, mountains, hills, trees, kings, princes, judges, and all people, “both young men, and maidens, old men, and children.” Everything praises God, whether or not people intend to do so.

The Church, however, is something special, a grand miracle. We have studied how Jews and Gentiles were alienated and how man in general was alienated from God. Only God could bring about reconciliation, the changing back to the time of no variance, no enmity.

Therefore, what marvelous glory this brings to Him! But, to go deeper, the Church is the living entity that God is using to bring about His purposes on earth. Neither the Church, that is, the universal Body of Christ, nor churches, that is, local assemblies, are to ever bring glory to themselves. Tragically, there are many today who brag about how large their church, what their church has accomplished, how many programs and “ministries” they have, but this an abomination. But how many of these are bringing glory to God alone? We must be careful that all we do brings glory to Him.

(2). By Christ Jesus. Not only is God glorified in (or through) the Church, but this is accomplished by Christ Jesus. The Greek behind both in and by is the same word (en), “a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality,” and is translated in several ways: in, by, with, among, at, on, and through. In light of the context, then, the idea here is that God is glorified through the Church by the instrumentality of Christ. While modern ministry tries to glorify God through the instrumentality of human reason and worldly methods, God wants it done by the instrumentality of Christ. As our Lord Himself declared, “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18).

Finally, Paul adds throughout all ages, world without end. Here is another one of his “self-invented phrases.” Literally, he says, “unto all generations of the age of ages,” or “unto all the generations of the eternity of eternities, or the eternity of ages.” The language is obviously designed to picture eternity. Christ is eternal, the Church will last forever, and both shall forever give glory to God. One poet puts it well: “To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, / The God whom heaven’s triumph’s host, / and saints on earth adore, / Be glory as in ages past, / As now it is, and so shall last, / When time shall be no more.”

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Ascription of Praise (1)

We’ve been looking at Paul’s second prayer in Ephesians (3:12-21). Having looked at the Attitudes of prayer (vs. 12‑13), the Approach to Prayer (vs. 14‑15), and the Appeal of prayer (vs. 16-19), we come finally to The Ascription of Praise (20-21): Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

In light of all that glorious truth, there is nothing left to do but praise God in the way Paul does here in verse 20-21. Paul went a little higher until he reached the climax with the words, “We might be dominated with all the dominance of God.” There is nothing more he could do then except praise God for all He has done. In closing the doctrinal half of Ephesians, we note two principles: The measure of power to us and the measure of praise to God.

First, we see the measure of power to us (v. 20). One of the most incomprehensible truths of God’s Word is Paul’s description of God’s power. Verse 20 is one of the most vivid examples of the in­adequacy of human language. Paul cannot find adequate words to describe God’s power, so he heaps superlative upon superlative. He first says that God is able. Scripture several times declares what God is able to do. With the threat of being cast into the furnace for not bowing to worship the Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego humbly responded, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king” (Dan. 3:15-17). “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul,” our Lord declared, “but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Additionally, “God is able to make all grace abound” (II Cor. 9:8), “is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:10), “is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by [Christ]” (Heb. 7:25), “is able to keep that which [we] have committed unto him” (II Tim. 1:12), and “is able to keep [us] from falling” (Jude 24). The root of Paul’s thinking is that God is able.

Therefore, because He is able, God can do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The expression exceeding abundantly is incredible. It is a very rare double compound, huperekperissou. The prefix hyper means “over, beyond, or above,” the primary preposition ek means “out of or from,” and the root perissos means “over and above, more than enough.” It wasn't enough for Paul to say that God can do more than enough, but that He can do above and beyond more than enough. What a paradox! How can one do more than more than enough?

But even that is not all, for Paul adds above again—exceeding abundantly above all things. Above is again huper. The full thought then is: not only can God do more than enough, and above and beyond more than enough, but even more than above and beyond more than enough. In short, God can do infinitely more than what any of us can ask or even think about asking.

Now consider that this unfathomable power of God is the same power that is [working] in us. This power first saved us. It turned a cowardly fisherman named Peter into courageous servant of Christ. It turned a persecutor of the Church named Saul into the greatest preacher of the Gospel. It turned our Lord’s own unbelieving brother James into an uncompromising pillar of the Church. Most Christians can name at least one person they know who was dramatically saved by this power. One man I know was once the distributor of pornography on board a naval vessel, but God gloriously converted him and called him to preach.

This power now continues to [work] in us, “For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10). Oh, that we would realize that God is continually working in us: He uses every message we hear preached; He uses every trial and sorrow we encounter; He uses every joy and triumph we experience; He uses every opportunity to witness we face; in short, He uses everything to work in us. The sooner we realize that truth, the more we are going to mature, the deeper we will grow spiritually.

Why is God working in us in this way? One reason, of course, is to make us all we can be for our own benefit and blessing. But there is a greater reason, and it is this that we will examine next time.