The writer is the apostle Paul as per verse one of chapter one. It was written from Rome in the early 60's A.D. and is one of the prison epistles. Someone has said that the words “to the saints which are at Ephesus” are not in the manuscripts, and that it should in reality be “to the saints which are in Christ Jesus anywhere”. This makes the letter quite impersonal, and in accord with its message which is not to a local church, but to the true church which is the body of Christ everywhere.
The doctrine of the epistle confirms this view. It contains the highest church truth, but says nothing about church order. Three lines of truth are discussed: “the believers exalted position through grace; the truth concerning the body of Christ; and a walk in accordance with that position”.
The epistle is in three parts:
1. Chs. 1 to 3. The believers standing in Christ and in heavenly places through grace.
2. Chs. 4:1 to 5:17. The walk and service of the believer.
3. Ch, 5:18 to 6. The walk and warfare of the believer.
THE BELIEVERS STANDING IN CHRIST, AND IN THE HEAVENLIES.
The term “in Christ” introduces us to a relationship with God, and of pardon and acceptance through grace which is very comforting to a repentant sinner. Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and away in that distant past God chose to redeem man back to Himself. Therefore, we are chosen “in Him and predestinated unto the adoption of children BY HIM, and through redemption are now accepted in Him”, Ch. 1:4-7. In the dispensation of the fullness of times God will gather “all His own” into one great company, which will bring praise and glory to His name. To this end we are sealed with His Spirit until the redemption of the purchased possession, vs. 10,12,14, which will take place at the end of this age, when the saints are raptured.
In order to enter into such a glorious fellowship we need the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God that we may understand this hope, and be able to grasp the manner in which it is to be realized, even by the same power which raised Christ from the dead, and exalted Him above all other ruling power through all ages. We are His body, the fullness of Him that “filleth all in all”, vs. 17-23, and as Paul prayed, so that prayer should continue to ascend, that no child of God should miss the wonderful consummation of this hope, to be realized at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Ch. 2, Paul continues to enlarge upon the theme by declaring that through faith we are delivered from our state of death in sin, and are quickened together with Christ, vs. 1, 4-5. This is not by our own works of self-righteousness lest any man should boast, vs. 8-9. In the past, Israel was the people of God, but now the Gentiles are brought in through the blood of Christ, for both Jew and Gentile must submit to the terms of the Gospel, and both have access by one Spirit unto the Father, vs.12-13, 18. The new group of believers is not an organization but an organism, founded on the testimony of the apostles and prophets, and fitted into the Corner Stone Jesus Christ, the whole body growing unto “an holy temple in the Lord”, vs. 20-22.
In past ages such teaching was hidden. Man served God up to His light, and for his faith through the blood of the sacrifices, he obtained a clearance from guilt. Now, however, it is gloriously possible to be delivered from sin in this present life. God has revealed the mystery which was hidden, and that is that Christ might dwell in our hearts by faith. This is the eternal purpose which God hath purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord, Ch.3:5,11, 17. God is able to bring this to pass, for His power within us makes possible that which otherwise could never be accomplished.
THE WALK AND SERVICE OF THE BELIEVER.
Paul, a prisoner because he dared to believe the new message of the Gospel, and endeavored to live it among his fellow men, sends forth from his place of captivity the exhortation that we all should likewise walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. The world, the flesh, and the devil unite in opposition. There is no surer road to defeat than lack of unity in the body. We are, therefore, urged to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Ch. 4:3. While men always differ, there is a unity of testimony in God and His doctrine which never changes. “One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God”, vs.4-6. In the church there are various forms of ministry which express God differently, but their witness focuses united on one book, even the unchanging Word, vs.7, 11. There is also one purpose underlying all God given ministry and that is that the saints be perfected or trained for the ministry, for the edifying or building up of the body of Christ, v.12. To become effective participants in this great scheme, we must live right as well as endeavor to preach well. We must no longer walk as other Gentiles walk, the old many must be put off, and we must live by the power of the new man through a daily renewal in the spirit of our mind, vs.17, and 22-24. All forms of evil living are to be banished such as lying, stealing, corrupt communications, bitterness, clamor and malice, etc., and we are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, vs. 25-32.
In Ch. 5, we have further exhortations of a like character. Christ in His life and ministry was very pleasing to the Father, and God is looking to us also, since Christ lives within, that we might be unto Him and offering and a sacrifice with a sweet-smelling savor, v.2. We must have no fellowship with the works of darkness, but rather reprove them, v.11, and as good servants, redeem the time for the days are evil, v.16.
THE WALK AND WARFARE OF THE BELIEVER.
The Christian life is a warfare as well as a call to witness. Those who join the army are drawn from the ranks of wives and husbands, children and parents, and servants and masters. The battle is not apart from our daily round, but interwoven into the everyday obligations by which we are defeated or in which we overcome. We are, therefore, exhorted to be filled with the Spirit, which will give us a heart of praise, and enable us to submit one to another in the fear of God, Ch.5:18-21. In this way, Christ meets our spiritual need and washes us in His Word, until we can be presented to God victorious in every way, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, vs.26-27. That we might be fully equipped for the warfare we are given a fourfold instruction in Ch. 6:1.
1. v.10. We are to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. It is not at all uncommon for a saint to be painfully conscious of his own weakness, but it need not be a cause for discouragement. God will clothe His own with dynamic power.
2. vs.11,13. The way to win is to stand in faith when every known rule has been applied.
Satan finally moves off of the field of bottle when he sees we mean to obtain victory through faith in Christ.
3. v.12. We are made aware of the fact that our warfare is not against man, but against the strongly entrenches forces of the kingdom of darkness.
4. We must put on the whole armor of God of which there are seven pieces, including praying in the Spirit.
In closing, Paul exemplifies his own teaching in a very convincing way. He is in prison, in bonds, but rather that be discouraged by his lot he calls himself and “ambassador in bonds”, vs.19-20. No higher position can be conceived of by one in such lowly and unpleasant circumstance. The apostle saw himself as a personal representative of his Sovereign in a foreign country, and he felt honored and asked for prayer that he might open his mouth boldly, and continue to make known the mystery of the Gospel.