THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE
O U T L I N E
The purpose of the book of Ephesians is to disclose the highest truth that God has in His heart. As Paul said in Acts 20:27; “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” This is what we get in Ephesians. We can look at this truth under three headings:
- The highest individual blessing which is the privilege of sonship (also touched on in Romans and Galatians);
- The greatest divine secret which is God’s ultimate purpose to manifest the glory of Christ, to bring all things under the headship of Christ in a coming day;
- The highest collective blessing which is the fact that Christ will possess His inheritance through a special vessel; namely, the Church which is His Body and Bride.
At the same time, the book of Ephesians discloses the deepest truth, the love of God in Christ. In ch.3 we find that the motive for the great purpose of God is love. In this way we see in Ephesians the highest mountain peaks of blessing (ch.1-2), then brought to view the measureless depths of the love of Christ (ch.3).
Ephesus. In Acts 19, the Ephesian assembly began with twelve men, and the burning of occult books. A very small assembly, but they were still exhorted to practice the truth of the One Body! The question has often been raised as to whether the Ephesians received the highest truth because they were going on well…. Kelly says: “nowhere do we find an assembly more happy, flourishing, and blessed of God, than the Church in Ephesus.” Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3). This shows that Ephesian truth is important to hold, and also that is possible to give it up.
Ephesians compared to other epistles. You never get the truth of justification mentioned in Ephesians, because we are seen “in Christ”. It is justification that puts us “in Christ”… it is a foregone conclusion in this epistle. You never get the “ifs” and “whens” of condition in Ephesians. That is because this is not a wilderness epistle like Colossians, Philippians, and Hebrews. Everything we have is “in heavenly places”… typified by Canaan in Israel’s wilderness journey. The Rapture is also not mentioned because the believers are already seen as seated in heavenly places. In the counsels of God, we are already in heaven!
Ephesians vs. Colossians. In Colossians we are incomplete without Christ (Col. 2:10), but in Ephesians Christ is incomplete without us (Eph. 1:23)! One is what Christ is to the Church, the other is what the Church is to Christ.
“In Christ” and “Christ in you”. Two expressions that are often confused:
- “In Christ” is our individual position before God.
- “Christ in you” is Christ seen in the saints collectively because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
You get the “in Christ” side of the Mystery in Ephesians, and the “Christ in you” side in Colossians (Col. 1:28). You get both expressions in Romans “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1) and “Christ in you” (Rom. 8:10). “Christ in your hearts” (Eph. 3:17) is an expression that refers to holding Christ in our affections.
Redemption has more to do with our condition than our standing. Redemption means to be “bought back and set free” from (1) sin, (2) the world, and (3) Satan for the purpose of doing the will of God in worship and in service. “Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Ex. 8:1). There are four aspects of redemption given in scripture, three of which are found in Romans and Ephesians:
- The past redemption of our souls (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:24)
- The present redemption of our time (Eph. 5:15-16; Rom. 12:1)
- The future redemption of our bodies (Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8:23)
but a 4th aspect of redemption is only found in Ephesians:
- The future redemption of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)
Lines of truth in various epistles.1
In Romans you get “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1) but it is only in the negative sense – what the position saves you from. But in Ephesians it is the positive side (Eph. 1:3) – what the position brings us into. In Romans you get “dead” in the aspect of “dead to sin” or separated from sin as to be no longer affected by its action. But in Colossians it is "dead with Christ" in a personal way.
"The Mystery". Often we think of a “mystery” as something that is difficult to discover or decipher. Paul does not use the word in this way. Rather, it refers to a secret counsel of God that was previously unknown in the Old Testament, but now revealed and made plain. It could not be known by anything but divine revelation; in fact, it is one of four special revelations given to the Apostle Paul. The teaching of "the Mystery" is found in Ephesians and Colossians.read more…
Paul’s teaching of the Mystery. In Rom. 16:25 Paul says that his desire is to establish the saints in “my gospel” and in the “revelation of the Mystery”. We get the teaching of Paul’s gospel in the Epistle to the Romans. The teaching of “the Mystery” we get in Ephesians and Colossians, but it is also mentioned in Romans and 1 Corinthians. We need both to be established! Col. 2:3 says that understanding the Mystery is the key to all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Peter perhaps acknowledged the importance of it in his second epistle, when he spoke of the "wisdom" given to Paul, and that his epistles contained "some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures..." (2 Pet. 3:15-16). This is the truth that Paul suffered for. Primarily, the persecution came from the Jewish leaders who said “If you teach that these Gentile dogs are going to have a higher place of blessing that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… we’ll kill you.”
- The Epistle to the Ephesians. (by Hamilton Smith)
- The Epistle to the Ephesians (by J. N. Darby)
- Ephesians (by F. B. Hole)
- The Epistle to the Ephesians (by W. Kelly)
- Synopsis of the Books of the Bible (by J. N. Darby)
- The Epistle to the Ephesians (by Bruce Anstey)