Although the letter claims to be from Paul, there are issues surrounding the authorship of Ephesians that suggest that Paul was not the author. Several reasons stand out to support that Paul possibly did not write the epistle. For some, the language, its terms and grammar, sound too different from the undisputed letters (Romans, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon) to be written by the same hand. For others, the theology, especially ecclesiology and soteriology, are sufficiently distinct to warrant pause in proclaiming Pauline authorship.
It is often said that Ephesians assumes a realized eschatology, with salvation having been accomplished fully in the past with no future implications (2:8– 9). For example, Paul uses the perfect tense when speaking about believers being saved, rather than talking about the hope which looks forward. The cross is not emphasized, nor is justification; instead the exaltation of Christ and his cosmic superiority over all powers take center stage.
A closer look at the theology in Ephesians, however, suggests close connections with theology expressed in the undisputed letters. For example, although the term “cross” is found only once (2:16), this reference forms the platform upon which is built the arguments for reconciliation of humanity to God and between human groups (Jews and Gentiles). A similar case is made in 2 Cor 5:18– 21 concerning reconciliation, where, interestingly, we also find Paul describing himself as God’s ambassador, a term used in Eph 6:20 “ambassador in chains”.
The perspective of Ephesians moves from a vastly cosmic picture of God’s plan and the believers inclusion in, to the role and mission of the church and life within it, to a depiction of relationships within the household, to a final description of how, with prayer, each believer stands battle-ready in God’s power. This broad perspective binds the Letter together. God’s power to enact the cosmic (1:3-23) is the same power available to the believer as armament in 6:10-17.
In Ephesians by Benjamin Merkle, he points out that scholars have offered various proposals including the following:
“Paul writes Ephesians to his mainly Gentile Christian readers . . . with the intention of informing, strengthening, and encouraging them by assuring them of their place within the gracious, saving purpose of God, and urging them to bring their lives into conformity with this divine plan of summing up all things in Christ”.
Paul writes to remind his readers of “(1) the power and grace of the one God, to whom they had committed themselves at their conversion; (2) the role that, as the church, they were playing in God’s plan to unite the whole universe in Christ and under his feet; and (3) the ethical responsibility that God’s grace and their role in God’s plan placed upon them.”
As it relates to the assigned pericope, the word final signals the beginning of a new section and the conclusion of the body of Ephesians. It also represents the climax of the second half of Paul’s letter. This paragraph is united by its battle theme and, more specifically, words related to: power of strength, putting on armor, armor and weaponry, enemies, and fighting or battle.
Thus, the pericope can be divided into three parts: (1) 6:10 (a general command to be strong with the strength that God provides), (2) 6:11– 13 (an emphatic call to put on the full armor of God with several reasons why this is necessary), and (3) 6:14– 20, an exhortation to stand with an explanation of the six pieces of armor/weaponry along with the need to persevere in prayer.
This final paragraph is not only a fitting conclusion to the exhortatory material of Ephesians (4:1– 6:20) but also serves as the fitting climax of the entire letter (O’Brien 457– 60; Thielman 412). Paul draws from the imagery of Isaiah which depicts Yahweh and his Messiah as the divine warrior who is clothed with armor as he prepares for battle to defend and vindicate his people (11:4– 5; 52:7; 59:17; cf. Wis 5:17– 20; 1 Thess 5:8). With this background Paul calls his readers to use God’s armor in order to be ready to stand firm in light of the spiritual warfare that surrounds them and to be devoted to stand firm in light of the spiritual warfare that surrounds them and to be devoted to prayer.
In addressing the bible study group about their questions and concerns as it relates to the former member, I would direct the bible study around how to be strong when faced with tragedy. It would probably work best to break the text up in the three sections mentioned above. It is important to keep in mind that the members of the group are going to be upset, unsettled, confused and anxious. Breaking up the text in parts will allow time for members to share their feelings and see that God provides even through tragedy.
Paul insists that we continually pray and petition God and keep watch for each other (6:18– 20), so that the powers of darkness might not envelop the believing community. These forces are spiritual but impersonal and exist inextricably within the political and social structures and institutions of our world. As the priest it is critical that I convey to the group that their feelings are real. I feel that it is important to honor what they are experiencing and not brush it aside. Also, to let them know that it is important to stay connected to God. I would suggest that we develop a way to hold each other in prayer after leaving the group over the next week or so. Something as tragic as this can not be fixed in one day. It will take more work and spending time with this text to provide the healing that this group needs.
Cohick, Lynn H. Ephesians: A New Covenant Commentary. Eugene, Or: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2010.
Meeks, Wayne A. The HarperCollins Study Bible?: New Revised Standard Version With the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. 1st Pbk. Ed edition. New York London: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.
Merkle, Benjamin L. Ephesians. Edited by Dr Andreas J. Köstenberger Ph.D and Robert W. Yarbrough. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2016.