The Book of Ephesians
John Telgren

Paul's purpose in Ephesians is to promote a unified, growing, healthy church that fulfills God's purposes of being his vehicle for reconciliation in the world, and for growing in maturity and ministry in a unity that demonstrates God's wisdom and character.

To promote this vision, Paul's strategy was to begin by identifying God's cosmic purpose and how the church fits into that purpose (Eph 1). He then moves from the cosmic to the more concrete in an exposition of how God's purpose involved the reconciliation of both Jews and Gentiles as one through the Gospel in order to demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God, and his personal mission in that purpose as given by God (Eph 2-3). Paul then gets more specific and expands the idea of unity and how unity is indispensable for the church to carry out God's purposes of maturity and ministry (Eph 4:1-16). Following this, Paul expands on the idea of maturity with an exposition of holiness, a putting off of the old self and putting on the new, which involves purity and love (Eph 4:17-5:14). Ephesians uses love more than any other New Testament book except for 1 Corinthians and 1 John. Paul then applies this to the principle of submission to one another in various relationships (Eph 5:15-6:9). Finally, Paul moves back to the cosmic picture again, only this time it is a cosmic battle in which we are the soldiers (Eph 6:10-20). This re-characterize everything Paul had said previously in terms of military imagery. In Paul's conclusion, he returns to the theme of his mission as an ambassador to preach the Gospel.

Since Paul does not appear to be reacting to specific problems as in 1 Corinthians or Galatians, this letter appears to be a summary of God's purpose for the church. This purpose is central to the current sermon series. I have heard a lot of sermons on Ephesians that disconnect the message of individual passages of Ephesians from this bigger picture. This is ironic because Paul begins with the big picture in Ephesians, which overshadows the rest of the letter. Without this perspective, we miss what the book of Ephesians was designed to accomplish.

There are many "pieces" in the church, and without a sense of God's purpose and design, we could wind up putting those pieces together in such a way that God's purposes are only marginally being met if at all. In other words, we could wind up doing things that are right and good, but at the same time neglect focusing on what is of ultimate and central importance. What is peripheral could wind up taking center stage, and what is supposed to be central could wind up on the sidelines.

I believe that Ephesians tells us that it boils down to mission, ministry and maturity. This sermon series and the discussion questions seeks to discover what this means for the Leavenworth Church of Christ.