Dead to sins, Alive in Christ!

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins with his doctrinal convictions in the first three chapters followed by an application of his convictions in the latter three chapters. Within both these sections Paul emphatically stresses the importance of unity in the Church. More specifically in Chapter two he employs language such as, “made us alive together with Christ” and “raised us up with him” (Eph. 2:5; 6).

 This would have meant a radically new understanding of Jesus’ mission described by himself as this being the great mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mark 4:11-12). It is that Christ has died for the Jews as well as the Gentiles. Thus being the mediator for all men. This concept was revolutionary to the Jews and in Chapter two of Ephesians Paul speaks as a Jew to Gentiles that they too can come into a relationship with the Messiah. It is the message of how God’s great mercy gave life to all mankind, hopeless sinners, and how everyone can come into a right standing before the Father.

The authorship of Ephesians has always been ascribed to Paul until recently. The question of who really wrote the letter of Ephesians has and since been challenged as late as the eighteenth and early ninetieth century.

 The letter states that Paul is the author. In Ephesians it reads, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus,” as well as other all give evidence in the text that it does in fact assume that Paul is the author (Eph. 1:1, 3:1). However, Paul’s authenticity of this letter to the Ephesians is being scrutinized for reasons such as the language and grammar use, the style of the authors writing, as well as the relationship of Ephesians to other known Pauline letters.

 There is also within the text external and internal evidence that support both sides for and against Pauline authorship.

The external evidence that supports Pauline authorship from general to specific is listed as follows. The first defense for Paul’s authorship is that it is quoted by the early Apostolic Church Fathers. The Church Fathers had lived closed to the time of the publication of Paul’s letter and their writings quote Paul as being the author. It was Ignatius who wrote that, “Ye are associates and fellow students of the mysteries with Paul, who in every letter makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.”

 Furthermore, Polycarp who also lived in the first century, may have been responsible for the circulation of the letter of Ephesians. Thus he could have served as a viable eyewitness for Ignatius who said that St. Paul was the author.

 Moreover Paul is ascribed to being the author in the second century from the writings of Irenaeus that say, Ptolemais the disciple of Hippolytus, attributes Saint Paul as the author.

 Even Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen all defend the authorship of that Paul.  In addition to this the Muratorian Fragment written in the third century also gives authorship to Paul.

 

There are three strong evidences that are internally found in the Epistle that indicates Paul as the author of Ephesians. The first proof for evidence has already be mentioned it is that the Epistle assumes that Paul is the author. All through-out the text Paul who is addressed in the first verse and other verses convey that he is the singular subject pronoun. Paul also asks the people to pray for him in order that he would proclaim the gospel boldly (Eph. 6:19-20).

 Further evidence that supports Paul’s authorship is the close relationship it has with Ephesians twin letter Colossians. Colossians is incontrovertibly assumed by scholars to be written by Paul. Peter O’Brien points to Leslie Mittons statistics that “shows of the 1,570 words in Colossians 34 percent are paralleled in Ephesians, while 26.5 percent of the 2,411 words in Ephesians are paralleled in Colossians.”

 That is a total of more then fifty percent of the words in both books that have a corresponding relationship with each other. Finally the style of Ephesians is similar to other Pauline letters. The language used in the long sentences found in the eulogy, praise, prayer and doxology all have characteristic of Paul’s writing.

 The similarities of these characteristic exist not only in Ephesians but Romans and First Corinthians as well as Philemon.

 

There are also three internally strong evidences that argue that Paul was not the author. The first defense is the impersonal character of Paul in Ephesians. Paul mentions that he is the author (1:1; 3:1) of Ephesians and as a suffering prisoner for Christ, the gospels and the gentiles (3:1, 13; 4:1; 6:19, 20) but nowhere does Paul give details of his suffering or imprisonment.

 Thus showing a lack of empathy with his audience and a indication that Ephesians may be a work of pseudonymity. Moreover there are forty-one words that are only used in Ephesians while another 84 words are not found anywhere in Paul’s writings.

 The second argument against Paul’s authorship is the letter equivocal dependency upon Colossians. Further suggesting that Ephesians may have been a word of pseudonymity. The argument is that the prologue, thanksgiving period, and discussion of Paul’s suffering are all paralleled to Colossians.

 Finally the third argument against Paul’s authorship is the theological emphases on Christ’s exaltation instead of His Death. In addition to this, Paul also emphases more on salvation rather then justification.

 

The counter argument for the opposing Pauline authorship follows accordingly. The problem with the first argument is that it puts boundaries around Paul’s writing. What textual critics will do is take what they know from other Pauline letters that are irrefutably assumed to be his, and argue that Paul is unable to operate outside the boundaries of his own writings. Thus tying Paul to his own letters and taking away his freedom to work outside of his own mind. The second argument cannot be found conclusive because there is simply a lack of evidence to suggest which letter depends on which letter. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that no one can, “come down firmly in favor of the priority of either letter.”

 The third argument also ties Paul to his former writings. Thus keeping Paul from maneuvering freely within his writings. This is especially difficult to reconcile when taken in the fact that Paul is writing to a different crowd with different problems.

The audience that Paul was writing to is also not clear. In verse one of chapter one it reads, “To the saints who are in Ephesus,” assumes that this letter was written to the Ephesians. However the phrase “in Ephesus” is not found in early manuscripts.

 It was then added latter but  it has thus been proposed that this Epistle has more then likely a circular letter for the Churches around Ephesus. Thus explaining why Paul lacks a sense of intimacy with his audience. Since Paul had spent more then two years with the Christians in Ephesians during his second mission trip in Acts 19-20. This would also explain why Paul does not addresses a specific problem in the Church because he is writing to all the Churches across what is known today in the providences of Turkey and Greece. It is clear that Paul is addressing a Church because he is writing “to the saints (1:1).” These are Christians who are “raised up with Him and seated” (2:6) with the father in the heavenly places. The Epistle is also very focused on the Gentile Christians. For two reasons, one is because this letter is being sent to an area that is largely Gentile. And the other reason is that Paul calls them Gentiles (2:11; 3:1).

Paul most likely wrote this Epistle while he was in Prison in Rome around the time of 61-62 A.D.

 During this time the Empire of Rome was under the rule of the notorious Nero. It was only two years later in the spring of 64 A.D. When Rome mysteriously caught on fire, and the persecution of Christians broke out. Thus, leading some scholars to believe that this letter was written later given Paul’s exhortation for the Christians to put on the full armor of God (6:13-17).

 However unlike the date the purpose of Paul’s letter is more explicit. It is clear that Paul’s purpose of writing Ephesians is to show the Gentiles that there is no longer a barrier between Jew and Gentile. Paul a Jew is urging the Gentiles that this was the reason why Christ has come (2:11-22). It is the message that Christ has chosen to save all men who are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins (2:1).” People who were separated from Christ (2:12) can now be brought near in Christ Jesus because of the blood (2:13) that he shed, which broke down the “wall of hostility (2:14),” between Jew and Gentile.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is nearly in the middle of Paul’s theological exhortation within the first three verses. Paul opens with a common salutation (1:1-2) found in his letters, which introduces himself and identifies the recipients he is writing to.

 Following this is another common Pauline characteristic where Paul expresses thanksgiving and praise.

 Paul expresses praise for every spiritual blessing (1:3-14), including praise for the redemption of the saviors blood for the forgiveness of sins (1:7). Subsequently, Paul then encourages believers to have knowledge and wisdom about the sovereignty of God (1:15-23). Paul mentions here the hope for all the saints who believe in the one that God raised from the dead in order that they may know the hope that God has called them to (1:17-20). In Chapter two Paul reminds the saints of God’s great mercy for hopeless sinners for all who believe unto good works (2:1-10). In this passage Paul exhorts the saints to remember that it is by God through Christ alone that men can be saved. Then in Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul expresses his purpose and the general theme for writing the book  of Ephesians, that is Christ death was for all men, Jew and Gentile, thus calling all men to be united. Finally in conclusion of Paul’s theological address he begins by describing his call to minister to the Gentiles and his purpose to unite the church by explaining the mystery of the Gospel (3:1-13). The mystery is that Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ alone can be grafted into the body of believers and partake of the Salvation that the Jews were promised of.

In the final verses of Chapter three Paul praises for knowledge, power, strength, in order to know the love of Christ (3:14-21).

Next, Paul applies the theology he has exhorted in the first three chapters in the final three chapters. First by describing what it means to be unified in the Spirit (4:1-16) by strongly empathizing the oneness of Christ. Moreover, Paul tells the Saints to “put off” their old self, and “to be renewed in the sprit” of their minds (4:17-32). Following this Paul then exhorts the people in the area of Ephesus to be imitators of God by walking in love (5:1-19). As believers in Christ they are to walk in the light, because they are no longer slaves to sin. In the proceeding verses of chapter 5 and into chapter 6 Paul shows how one is to be filled by the Holy Spirit (5:15-6:9). One example is by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21).” Lastly before Paul concludes (6:21-23) with a prayer previously given (6:18-20) Paul commands all believers to put on the full armor of God (6:10-17).

In chapter 2:1-10 Paul captures what it means to be in Christ and how through him there is unity. Beginning in verse one Paul says, “And you,” that is the Gentiles that he is speaking to in the area of Ephesus. Further support for this is verse 11 where by Paul directly calls the people he is addressing Gentiles. In addition to this the area of Ephesus consists of what is today modern day Turkey or Asia Minor, and this area was largely a Gentile region. The Jews were more concentrated in Israel and especially Jerusalem, the land that God promised to the Abraham in the Old Testament (Gen. 12:7). However as Paul will make clear later in the passage Paul is not exclusively speaking to the Gentiles. Continuing further Paul addresses these Gentiles in the past tense, “were.” This is significant because the passage moves from past tense in verses 1-3, to present tense 4-6, then future tense concluding with verse 10. This word, “were” is connected to the phrase “dead in the trespasses and sins (2:1b).” This phrase that Paul uses introduces his argument to describe the state in which the Gentiles were in when they were outside of Christ. The word “dead” in this phrase does not explain a physical death but a spiritual death. Paul uses this word because it strongly conveys what it means not to be in Christ. One of the best ways to describe what it means to be spiritually dead is to describe what it means to be physically dead. To be physically dead means to be motionless, and cold. Unable to hear sounds, smell, or taste anything. A corpse that has not breath or life in it whatsoever, thus it means to be spiritually dead. Moreover, death comes upon all men because of their trespasses and sins. It is not clear what those who are outside of Christ have trespassed against but Paul is clearly talking about trespassing against God. The word “sin” is a failure or an error. A natural tendency to behave in an immoral act 

 It is also the act of deliberately doing what is contrary to God (The NIV application Commentary 109).

 In Romans 3:23 it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is a target that sinners fail to hit. However the adjective “dead” indicates that those who are outside of Christ are not even aiming for the target. 

Paul moves further on to describe three influences in which everyone one who is outside of Christ is under.

 The first influence of those who are dead spiritually is that they followed “the course of this world (2:2).” Paul is not writing about the physical world, Earth. Paul is pointing to all the facets in the world that do not glorify God. That which does not please God is sin. Paul is saying those who are outside of Christ followed after this one trait that God hates. The second influence that Paul uses to characterize those who are dead in their sins is that they follow, “the prince of the power of the air (2:2b). The prince that Paul is writing about is Satan. Satan is also known as the prince of all that is not light. That is because the light symbolizes God because “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).” Darkness also represents the realm that the devil operates in. The “power of the air” is this realm. “According to the ancient worldview, the air formed the intermediate sphere between earth and heaven.”

 The third influence that Paul adds is the pursuit of the fleshly passions. What is in important to point out in verse three is that Paul himself incorporates himself in the phrase, “among whom we all” that is Paul as well as the Jews are all under these three influences. Therefore Paul is clearly showing evidence that the Jews and the Gentiles share with in these influences. The third influence Paul really emphasizes on is how everyone will suffer under the pursuits of the flesh. Employing words such as “passions of our flesh,” and “body” as well as, “mankind (3).” The flesh is ones carnal desires to pursue what is right in ones own eyes. Not only does Paul say that those who are outside of Christ carried out these desires in the body but also the mind. Metaphorically speaking, Paul is essentially saying that everyone at one time has used the mind as a playground to workout the sexual desires of the flesh. Furthermore, “the works of the flesh are evident impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealously, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, [and] drunkenness (Gal. 5:19).” Paul then adds that they are also “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3).” All of mankind that is every living person that has lived, living, and will live were44 all at one time literally objects desiring the full punishment of God. 

Verse four unto verse seven Paul leads into the hope that hopeless sinners have in Christ. Paul begins with the conjunction, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us (2:4).” There is a magnificent hope that Paul brilliantly employs by strongly contrasting how if it were not for God’s rich mercy then sinners would be totally doomed. The conjunction is only possible with a God who is rich in mercy. Otherwise there is no hope for anyone. Verse five Paul goes on to add that with Christ we are made alive with him and that it was by grace that humanity is saved by. Despite the fact that everyone was dead in their sins as indicated in verse one Christ makes those who believe in Him, alive through Him. Paul writes in the present tense. Believers in Christ are made alive with Christ in contrast to their former state, being dead in their sins. Verse six continues the contrast adding that through Jesus we are raised up and seated with Jesus in the heavenly places. Before, as a result of the three influences had God not exercised his mercy on humanity everyone would have been an object of divine wrath. God’s divine wrath is completely fulfilled in Hell, yet now those who are in Christ can be seated with Christ because Christ is seated at the, “right hand of the heavenly places (1:20).” Finally verse seven adds that God will also reward those who love Him by showing the “immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” This word grace appears many times in Ephesians 2:1-10. The word grace in Ephesians first appears in Chapter one. Then it is used more then ten times in the book of Ephesians. The word charis is the transliteration of the word grace when it first appears in Ephesians 2:5. Paul first uses this word “grace” in the way of meaning that it is grace by which we are saved. Secondly Paul uses this same verb in Ephesians 2:7 where the word “grace” seems to mean the type of love that God has to shown to those who believe in Him. Moreover, Paul also uses this verb in Ephesians 2:8. Here Paul transitions back to how he first used it in 2:5. That this is a grace by which men are saved. Looking within the context outside of Ephesians 2 is when this word seems to take upon a few more meanings. In 6:24 “grace” is used in a way in which one can give to other people. In 4:29 it is used by means of ministering to others. Further outside the context in the New Testament it appears more then 150 times. In light of the gospels Charis seems to mean a type of favor (Luke 2:52), as well as a type of fullness that Christ has (John 1:14). In addition to this it is also used in the same manner Paul uses it in John 1:17, in that it is by this “grace” in which was given by Christ. However the significant difference is that it is Christ’s grace to give, whereas in Ephesians 2 it is less explicit and the subject appears to be Gods grace. Finally in verses eight through ten Paul shows that God’s great mercy should lead one of faith unto good works. Firstly, because it was only by grace in which men are saved by through faith. If men could buy there way into heaven or work their way into heaven then God’s grace would not have been needed. However because it is only by God grace and that there was no other way by which humanity could be saved by God grace was not contingent but necessary. As a result if one of faith accepts this gift (v.8) through faith and not by his works (v.9) realizing that it had nothing to do with one then there necessarily follows an outflow of good works. 

When Paul writes about being dead in ones sins, one can appeal to the Old Testament account of Creation when God first created man and woman. In the creation story the author of Genesis tells the reader that God created this perfect place called Eden (Gen. 2:15). There was no sin because God created all things good (Gen. 1:31). In the Garden there it is described that God had placed two trees, one of life and the other knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). God gave man the will to obey him by commanding him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However as the discourse continues Adam does eat from the tree (Gen. 3:6) and as a result he was cast out from the paradise of Eden and cursed to toil and work the ground (3:14-19). That is what it means to be spiritually dead. Furthermore God tells Adam that if he eats from the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would die (2:17). However when Adam is put out of the Garden he is still alive physically. Thus because of Adam’s disobedience he was now forever and eternally incapable of ever entering into that sinless fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. In Romans 5:12, Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” What happen is that all of humanity was encapsulated in the decision of whether Adam would obey or disobey God. Since Adam disobeyed God sin entered upon all men. In Psalm 51 David rightly said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Therefore everyone who ever lived, and currently lives and will live is brought into this world a sinner through the man Adam. In Ephesians though Paul clearly states that it was because of our “trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (2:1b-2a). Paul is saying that it is not Adam’s fault but everyone has disobeyed God.

There is a disease out there that is worse then cancer. There is a disease that has and will affect everyone who ever lives. This disease claims more life then malaria, and influenza. More destructive then HIV and Aids. This disease is called sin. Paul gives the diagnoses of this disease in the first three verses. God gives the cure to everyone through faith alone in Jesus Christ unto good works. The New Testament calls Him the great physician (Mark 2:17). However the cure can only be given to those who realize they have a disease that leads to death. The number one problem that prevents this is self-righteousness. A self-righteous person does not need a Savior because he sees no need for one. Even among Christians one needs to reflect on what God has done for them in their lives. One characteristic of being self-righteous is a life deficient of prayer. A self-righteous person believes that they do not need to depend upon God. Another characteristic is being un-teachable. This manifests itself in attacking and being overly critical of other people. This is one side of the phrase following the course of this world means. Jesus Christ is calling everyone to give up on them-selves and through him be united to do good works. Good works such as reading your Bible. It says in John 8:31 that “whoever does not abide in the word is not a disciple of Christ.” Good works include doing to will of the Father. The Father calls everyone to do the great Commission. Evangelizing by spreading the Gospel. One reason why people do not share the Gospel is not because they are unequipped to answer every question. It is neither because one is afraid of awkward conversations. The number one reason is because people do not truly believe that Christ has risen from the dead and that Jesus is the only way to Salvation. If one believes that they do not have this disease then one needs to return and find themselves in the first three verses. There is no one to far from Christ because man is finite. And because man is finite then sin in man can only be finite but God is eternal and His grace is immeasurable (Eph. 2:8) and He alone can wash away all of mans sins. God has provided this Salvation for everyone who believes through faith. Whoever is willing to accept this free gift (v.8) unto good works then He will seat those upon the, “heavenly places (v.6).”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s