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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

The Message of Ephesians in Summary.

1.

The great theme of the first three chapters is God: God whose purpose embraces all time and space and comes to focus in Christ. It is because the readers' faith and life is centred in this Christ (‘in Christ’ is a repeated theme) that they can have such confidence in God, based as it is both on God's resurrection of Christ from the dead and their own experience of his Holy Spirit and grace (ch. 1 ).

2.

At the heart of God's universal purpose from eternity has been the retrieval of humanity from its state of death, the abolition of the divided state of humanity, and the bringing of all things to unity in Christ. Seen from a Jewish perspective, that deadness and dividedness had its principal manifestation in the disadvantaged state of Gentiles as contrasted with Jews. But Christ's death rendered that old division null and void and has made possible a reconciled and united community held together by Christ, which as a whole enjoys the privileges previously confined to Israel and so can function as the household of God, the place where God continues to meet with humankind (ch. 2 ). This reconciliation of Jew and Gentile within the gracious purpose of God was at the heart of the divine mystery which Paul in particular had been given the commission to unveil to all (ch. 3 ). The fact that the church is so much the medium now for the outworking of this purpose of God makes its unity and its proper working as facilitated by the ministry gifts given it all the more important. Only as it functions as the body of Christ and grows up into Christ can it fulfil the universal and cosmic role earlier ascribed to it ( 4:1–16 ).

3.

Right functioning of the church also depends on believers living as the church in the world and walking in the light, with all the specific moral commitment, both positive and negative, implied. Conduct and relationships modelled on those of Christ are also part of the restoration of creation to serve its original purpose. The enabling of the Spirit in shared worship remains indispensable ( 4:17–5:20 ).

4.

Particularly important, as the basic unit of society, are households and their several relationships; here too Christian households should have Christ as model and resource and thus provide a test bed for society in re-creation. At no time should they forget that they were involved in a spiritual warfare nor fail to maintain the appropriate equipment and cooperation (chs. 5:21–6:20 ).

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