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The Argument of Ephesians

About: this paper was delivered to Professor Peter Rodgers at Fuller Theological Seminary during my final quarter for a self-directed study of Socio-Rhetorical Analysis.

 

How should we understand the Letter to the Ephesians when it was written in a different language during a different time and within a different culture? If at all possible, we should attempt to understand the letter as the original audience understood it, which requires taking into consideration the values and morals of the social setting within which the letter was addressed, the language the letter was written in, and the structure of the letter. For now, we will be examining the structure of the letter and leave the language and social setting for a different time. Studying the structure of the letter involves looking at the whole composition in order to determine its themes and points of emphasis. The arrangement might also show us how one part of the letter is to be understood. In this case, we will see that the Letter to the Ephesians follows an epideictic rhetorical structure. This structure contains several rhetorical elements, such as an exordium, a narratio, and an exhortatio, where the exhortatio is to be understood in light of the narratio. And the letter as a whole works up to the peroratio, the emphasis of the letter in accordance with ancient rhetorical practices. We will now focus on the epideictic structure of the letter as we consider ancient epideictic style.

The Letter to the Ephesians is a letter of praise. As such, it is epideictic. This form of rhetoric had several parts according to Aristotle. It had an exordium, a narratio, and an epilogue or peroratio. For epideictic rhetoric, an exordium was like a music prelude in that it would have a keynote throughout that linked it with the rest of the song. The source for the exordium was praise, blame, exhortation, dissuasion, or appeals to the listener. The author used it to make the listener believe that he or she shared in the praise (or blame, etc.) that was being given.1 For Aristotle, praise meant language that set forth the greatness of one’s virtue. He held that it was necessary to demonstrate how a person’s actions were virtuous. The actions themselves were not disputed; all that was necessary was to amplify the actions.2 People that were noble were worthy of praise for they were both good and virtuous. To have virtue was to have the ability to produce good things. Virtue consisted of justice, courage, self-control, gentleness, and wisdom among other things. But the greatest virtues were those that were the most useful. Vengeance was understood to be a virtue because it was seen to be just. Courage required not allowing one’s self to be beaten, as it is just and therefore noble. Victory and honor were also seen to be noble.3 After the epistolary prescript, where Paul introduces himself and gives a brief greeting to the recipients (1:1-2), the Letter to the Ephesians has an exordium (1:3-14). This section of the letter is a eulogy or a praise of God. God is being praised for the virtuous and noble work that he has done. But the language is in the first person plural so that the author is including the listeners in the praise (cf. 1:1). This section praises God for the work that he has done in Jesus Christ; this work takes the focus throughout the rest of the letter, and it is the keynote that links the exordium to what comes after it (cf. 1:11).

Following the exordium, the narratio is disjointed, being one part inartificial (i.e., it reports the facts) and one part art. But the narratio was also to have a sense of moral character. It was to make clear the moral purpose of the facts; that moral purpose was the end goal for the listeners. Furthermore, the narratio was also to draw upon the emotions.4 Furthermore, epideictic rhetoric utilizes amplification as proof of the honorable, useful, virtuous, and noble deeds of the one being praised; such proof was utilized in the narratio.5 In the Letter to the Ephesians, following a section of thanksgiving and prayer (1:15-23), there is a narratio (2:1-3:13). This section reports the facts, but it is not in consecutive sequence, and it uses imagery to artfully convey the facts (cf. 2:14). The tone of the narratio in the letter is emotionally charged (cf. 2:12-14) and focuses on God’s work for the listeners (and author) and its moral ramifications (cf. 3:4-7).

Aristotle also wrote of an epilogue or peroratio. The peroratio was composed of four parts. First, it disposed the listener favorably towards the author and unfavorably towards the adversary. Second, it amplifies and depreciates. Third, it heavily excites the emotions of the listener. Finally, it recapitulates with a summary statement of the proofs. The emotions that the peroratio appeals to typically ranged from pity to anger, jealousy, or emulation. Note that the peroratio was not to have any sort of connecting particle according to Aristotle, so that it would not be confused with an oratio.6 From a rhetorical perspective, the peroratio is in the place of emphasis; for this reason it was also to be most memorable.7 Near the end of the Letter to the Ephesians, there is a peroratio (6:10-20). There is no connecting particle, but instead, a closing statement, “of the rest” or “finally” (6:10). This section disposes the listeners favorably towards God for equipping them with the ability to stand firm against the powers, rulers, and authorities (6:12-13). It amplifies God’s provisions, thus summarizing the earlier proofs, that is, the exhortatio, with imagery of a warrior suited for battle against the evil one who is attempting to harm them with flaming arrows (6:14-17). It also appeals to the emotions by asking the listeners to pray for boldness (or courage) to be given to Paul and the saints (6:18-20).

The Letter to the Ephesians is not comprised solely of an exordium, narratio, and peroratio. Instead, it also has a thanksgiving and prayer section, and an exhortation section. There were three forms of ancient rhetoric. There was Koine, Attic, and Asiatic. Koine was the common form utilized in the New Testament. However, it was not the only form. Attic, which sought to formulate itself with classical structures, was not seen in Christian writings until the second century. Asiatic rhetoric, however, is evident in the New Testament. Cicero referred to two kinds of Asiatic styles, one that was “smooth, sententious, and euphonious” and another that was “swift and impetuous.” The latter Asiatic style was full of “ornamentation, redundancy, and fine language.”8 The thanksgiving section in Ephesians (1:15-23) seems to be rather redundant. It starts with thanksgiving for the recipients, but then it restates what was already said in the preceding eulogy. Ephesians appears to be of the second Asiatic style, which explains why the letter is being redundant.9 (But why use Asiatic style? This style would have been prevalent throughout the regions around Ephesus.10) The thanksgiving section thus adds amplification. According to Quintillian, a first century rhetorician, the exordium should be linked with “the pursuit of the matter one wants to discourse about.”11 The thanksgiving section not only amplifies the praise, but it also links it with what the rest of the letter was going to be talking about. Furthermore, the thanksgiving section can be compared with the peroratio, which indicates that it can be viewed as a kind of propositio, a main point or thesis for the letter.12 Not only is the thanksgiving section an amplification of the eulogy, but it also provides the transition for the rest of the letter, and within that transition, it affirms the following proposition: God has worked in Christ, raising him from the dead, seating him at his right hand in heaven, placing him in authority over all things, appointing him as the head of the church, which is his body (1:20-23). This propositio rings throughout the whole letter. It is not proved in the duration of the letter, but instead, being epideictic, the rest of the letter seeks to praise and expound upon it by revealing or explaining it in detail.13

The Letter to the Ephesians also has an exhortatio (4:1-6:9). This section follows after the narratio in 2:1-3:13. Note that the narratio is followed by a prayer and a doxology in 3:14-21. The prayer and doxology function as a transition from the narratio into the exhortatio. In epideictic, the exhortatio replaced the proofs that were used in other forms of rhetoric. While it further amplified the themes of the praise, thus acting as proof, it was still substantiated by inartificial facts (cf. 4:7-16) and logical sequences (cf. 1-6).14

Therefore, the Letter to the Ephesians has an eightfold structure. This structure was influenced by an Asiatic style of epideictic rhetoric. The structure is as follows: the epistolary prescript (1:1-2); the exordium (1:3-14); the thanksgiving and prayer (1:15-23); the narratio (2:1-3:13); the prayer and doxology (3:14-21); the exhortatio (4:1-6:9); the peroratio (6:10-20); and the epistolary postscript (6:21-24). Notice that prayer functions as a transition for each major section. Prayer ends the introduction (prescript and exordium) before entering into the narratio; and the exhortatio does not come until after a prayer and doxology. Furthermore, the peroratio ends with a section on prayer (6:18-20), so that prayer also brings the peroratio to a close, allowing the postcript to enter and conclude the letter. Prayer functions as a means for progression.

Within this structure, the tone is of praise and the theme is God’s work. The narratio speaks of the work of God mentioned in the introduction in further detail; the exhortatio speaks of the response to the work of God mentioned in the narratio. There seems to be a three-part structure to both the narratio and the exhortatio, so that the latter must be understood in accord with the former. The narratio can be broken into three related sections. First, there is the section that focuses on God’s remedy for the sinful condition (2:1-10). Second, there is the section that focuses on what God did with grace; he made a new person, the church (2:11-22). Third, there is the section that focuses on the church as a mystery planned from before the laying of the foundation of the world (3:1-13). The exhortatio has three parts, each beginning with “walk” language. The first section exhorts the listeners to walk worthily according to their calling (4:1-16). The second section exhorts the listeners to walk like the new person and not the old (4:17-5:14). The third section instructs the listeners to walk carefully in the mystery, which is the wisdom of God (5:15-6:9). The first part of both the narratio and exhortatio shares a focus on the grace-gift of God.15 The second part of both shares a focus on the new person.16 The third part of both shares a focus on the mystery. 17 The nature of the exhortatio is to replace the proofs for the narratio; as such, it is further expounding upon the narratio even though it is practical. Therefore, we cannot begin to understand the parts of the exhortatio without first understanding the respective parts of the narratio.

One word should be mentioned about the division of the parts of the exhortatio. It could be that someone would argue that the phrase, “Therefore, be imitators of God . . .” should be the start of the next section. However, it is so closely tied to the second part of the exhortatio that it is not best to see it as the start of the third section. It not only shares language with the second section of the exhortatio, but also shares a keyword from the second section of the narratio. Both 2:12 and 5:8 use the second person plural imperfect active indicative of eimi in reference to the former life. Furthermore, 4:32 exhorts the readers and the basis of God’s action: forgive as God forgive you. The next sentence, 5:1, concludes 4:32 with this statement: “Therefore, imitate God . . .” The section starting in 5:1 is not the start of the third part of the exhortatio simply because it has the connecting particle oun, but instead, it is the beginning of the ending to the second part of the exhortatio. It is further connected with the second section by the use of several key words, which are as follows: akatharsia (4:19 and 5:3); pleonexia (4:19 and 5:3); dikaiosynê (4:24 and 5:9); and alêtheia (4:24 and 5:9). The second part begins with a statement not to walk as the non-Jews and starts to come to a close with a statement to walk in love, so that it is a section devoted to the “dos and don’ts” of living.

The Letter to the Ephesians follows an Asiatic style of epideictic rhetoric. It has all the major parts of a rhetorical composition—an exordium, narratio, and peroratio. It may be redundant, but this is due to its Asiatic style, where redundancy builds amplification, which is a noteworthy feature among epideictic compositions. The overall argument of the letter emphasizes God’s work and our response to it. In this argument, there is an intricate structure within which we must consider when interpreting its parts. The exhortatio cannot properly be interpreted without taking into consideration the narratio. The peroratio, the final point of the exhortatio, though set apart as the most important feature of the letter, comes into play to summarize the argument in colorful imagery and emotion. We must consider the full weight of the argument throughout the letter, but also understand each section in light of the progression of the argument and how each section functions within the structure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Aristotle. Art of Rhetoric. Loeb Classical Library, Aristotle, XXII. Translated by John Freese. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2006.

 

Witherington, Ben. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A socio-rhetorical commentary on the captivity epistles. Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

1 Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, Loeb Classical Library, Aristotle, XXII, translated by John Freese (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2006), III.xiv.1-11.

2 Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, I.ix.33-40.

3 Ibid., I.ix.3-13, 24-25.

4 Ibid., III.xvi.1-10.

5 Ibid., III.xvii.3.

6 Ibid., III.xix.1-6.

7 Ben Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A socio-rhetorical commentary on the captivity epistles (Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 344-45.

8 Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 4-5. Witherington depends heavily on Cicero’s Brutus, which is a history of Roman oratory, to describe Asiatic rhetoric.

9 Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 238-39.

10 Ibid., 223.

11 Quintillian, Institutio Oratio, IV.i.16-17, in Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 239.

12 Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 239.

13 Ibid.

14 Witherington, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians, 280-81. Witherington is heavily relying on references to Quintillian, Institutio Oratio, III.vii.1-6.

15 Note particularly the “grace” and “gift” language in 2:8 as compared with 4:7.

16 Note the exact phrase is in the second section of both: “kainon anthrôpon.” Both also share the idea of being formerly like the non-Jews (2:11, 12 and 4:17-19; 5:8).

17 Note the recurrence of the “mystery” language in 3:3 and 5:32. Wisdom language is present in both (3:10 and 5:15). Also, the idea of the oikonomia mentioned in 3:9 is implicit in 5:21-6:9.

Post and Verse Indices for Ephesians Sentence by Sentence

Post Index for Ephesians Sentence by Sentence

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:1-2
Ephesians 1:3-6
Ephesians 1:7-10
Ephesians 1:11-12
Ephesians 1:13-14
Ephesians 1:15-19
Ephesians 1:20-23

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:1-7
Ephesians 2:8-9
Ephesians 2:10
Ephesians 2:11-12
Ephesians 2:13
Ephesians 2:14-16
Ephesians 2:17-18
Ephesians 2:19-22

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:1-7
Ephesians 3:8-12
Ephesians 3:13
Ephesians 3:14-19
Ephesians 3:20-21

Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:1-6
Ephesians 4:7
Ephesians 4:8
Ephesians 4:9
Ephesians 4:10
Ephesians 4:11-16
Ephesians 4:17-19
Ephesians 4:20-24
Ephesians 4:25
Ephesians 4:26-27
Ephesians 4:28
Ephesians 4:29
Ephesians 4:30
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1-2
Ephesians 5:3-4
Ephesians 5:5
Ephesians 5:6
Ephesians 5:7-11
Ephesians 5:12-14a
Ephesians 5:14b
Ephesians 5:15-16
Ephesians 5:17
Ephesians 5:18-20
Ephesians 5:21-24
Ephesians 5:25-27
Ephesians 5:28a
Ephesians 5:28b
Ephesians 5:29-30
Ephesians 5:31
Ephesians 5:32
Ephesians 5:33

Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:1
Ephesians 6:2-3
Ephesians 6:4
Ephesians 6:5-8
Ephesians 6:9
Ephesians 6:10
Ephesians 6:11-12
Ephesians 6:13
Ephesians 6:14-17
Ephesians 6:18-20
Ephesians 6:21-22
Ephesians 6:23
Ephesians 6:24

Verse Index for Ephesians Sentence by Sentence

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1:1
Ephesians 1:2
Ephesians 1:3
Ephesians 1:4
Ephesians 1:5
Ephesians 1:6
Ephesians 1:7
Ephesians 1:8
Ephesians 1:9
Ephesians 1:10
Ephesians 1:11
Ephesians 1:12
Ephesians 1:13
Ephesians 1:14
Ephesians 1:15
Ephesians 1:16
Ephesians 1:17
Ephesians 1:18
Ephesians 1:19
Ephesians 1:20
Ephesians 1:21
Ephesians 1:22
Ephesians 1:23

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:1
Ephesians 2:2
Ephesians 2:3
Ephesians 2:4
Ephesians 2:5
Ephesians 2:6
Ephesians 2:7
Ephesians 2:8
Ephesians 2:9
Ephesians 2:10
Ephesians 2:11
Ephesians 2:12
Ephesians 2:13
Ephesians 2:14
Ephesians 2:15
Ephesians 2:16
Ephesians 2:17
Ephesians 2:18
Ephesians 2:19
Ephesians 2:20
Ephesians 2:21
Ephesians 2:22

Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:1
Ephesians 3:2
Ephesians 3:3
Ephesians 3:4
Ephesians 3:5
Ephesians 3:6
Ephesians 3:7
Ephesians 3:8
Ephesians 3:9
Ephesians 3:10
Ephesians 3:11
Ephesians 3:12
Ephesians 3:13
Ephesians 3:14
Ephesians 3:15
Ephesians 3:16
Ephesians 3:17
Ephesians 3:18
Ephesians 3:19
Ephesians 3:20
Ephesians 3:21

Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:1
Ephesians 4:2
Ephesians 4:3
Ephesians 4:4
Ephesians 4:5
Ephesians 4:6
Ephesians 4:7
Ephesians 4:8
Ephesians 4:9
Ephesians 4:10
Ephesians 4:11
Ephesians 4:12
Ephesians 4:13
Ephesians 4:14
Ephesians 4:15
Ephesians 4:16
Ephesians 4:17
Ephesians 4:18
Ephesians 4:19
Ephesians 4:20
Ephesians 4:21
Ephesians 4:22
Ephesians 4:23
Ephesians 4:24
Ephesians 4:25
Ephesians 4:26
Ephesians 4:27
Ephesians 4:28
Ephesians 4:29
Ephesians 4:30
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1
Ephesians 5:2
Ephesians 5:3
Ephesians 5:4
Ephesians 5:5
Ephesians 5:6
Ephesians 5:7
Ephesians 5:8
Ephesians 5:9
Ephesians 5:10
Ephesians 5:11
Ephesians 5:12
Ephesians 5:13
Ephesians 5:14a
Ephesians 5:14b
Ephesians 5:15
Ephesians 5:16
Ephesians 5:17
Ephesians 5:18
Ephesians 5:19
Ephesians 5:20
Ephesians 5:21
Ephesians 5:22
Ephesians 5:23
Ephesians 5:24
Ephesians 5:25
Ephesians 5:26
Ephesians 5:27
Ephesians 5:28a
Ephesians 5:28b
Ephesians 5:29
Ephesians 5:30
Ephesians 5:31
Ephesians 5:32
Ephesians 5:33

Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:1
Ephesians 6:2
Ephesians 6:3
Ephesians 6:4
Ephesians 6:5
Ephesians 6:6
Ephesians 6:7
Ephesians 6:8
Ephesians 6:9
Ephesians 6:10
Ephesians 6:11
Ephesians 6:12
Ephesians 6:13
Ephesians 6:14
Ephesians 6:15
Ephesians 6:16
Ephesians 6:17
Ephesians 6:18
Ephesians 6:19
Ephesians 6:20
Ephesians 6:21
Ephesians 6:22
Ephesians 6:23
Ephesians 6:24

Conclusion to Ephesians Sentence by Sentence

It took a long time, but the task has been completed. The series I started a couple of years ago is now done. Ephesians has been translated, explained and applied one sentence at a time. From here, we must go beyond the words themselves and look at the history, the culture, the geography, and the rhetoric. Such things will not be part of this series, but they should be part of our studies.

I am hoping that this series will make it into a book form. In its current first draft form, it runs about 110 pages. It needs to be formatted and edited, with discussion questions, diagrams, and other supplements added, but the major task has been completed.

Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:24

ἡ χάρις μετὰ πάντων τῶν ἀγαπώντων τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν Ἱησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ. Grace with all the ones who love our Lord Jesus Christ in imperishability.

Paul concludes his letter with a desire for grace to be or to be given to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. Then he adds ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ at the end. Are these words modifying Jesus, therefore claiming Christ to be immortal? Are they modifying τῶν ἀγαπώντων, thus describing the love as undying? Or are these words modifying the grace that Paul desired to be with the believers? If it is the latter, then Paul is requesting for grace to be with the believers with imperishability. The two go hand-in-hand with this view (“grace and imperishability be with those who love the Lord”). It seems best to see ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ in relation to τῶν ἀγαπώντων, indicating the manner of the love for Christ. Paul is wishing grace to be given to all those who incorruptibly love the Lord.

Grace be with all those who incorruptibly love our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul hoped the best for his readers and listeners. He wanted them to have God’s meritless favor. But it is important to understand the idea of incorruptibility. He wants everyone who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in an undying, imperishable, incorruptible manner to have grace. Those who receive grace are those who do not wane in their love for Christ. The love remains steadfast, unwavering, and uninterrupted. We must be righteous as he is righteous, and we must be faithful as he is faithful. Our love must not fail. We must be fully dedicated. Our hearts must be committed. We are to identify ourselves among the saints as those who love Christ unwaveringly. Those who love Christ in such a way have grace. To love Christ is to have God’s favor.

Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:23

Εἰρήνη τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς καὶ ἀγάπη μετὰ πίστεως ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καἰ κυρίου Ἱησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Peace to the brothers and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins to close the letter by wishing peace and love with faith to his readers and listeners. The dative articular noun, ἀδελφοῖς, means “brothers,” but because women were not addressed, we should understand this term to include the entire audience, and not simply the men. Those in the audience are desired by Paul to be the recipients of peace and love. Along with peace and love, Paul wants them to have faith. All three, peace, love, and faith, come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers and sisters and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that peace, love, and faith all find their source in someone other than ourselves. It is God who enables us to love, who grants us peace, and who ingrains in us faith. Paul wanted his recipients to have all of these things. Are we so nice? Are we hoping the best for each other? Are we wanting the best from God for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Perhaps we should search ourselves and check our hearts whenever we interact or correspond with a fellow believer.

Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:21-22

Ἵνα δὲ εἰδῆτε καὶ ὑμεῖς τὰ κατ᾽ ἐμέ, τί πράσσω, πάντα γνωρίσει ὑμῖν Τύχικος ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος ἐν κυρίῳ, ὃν ἔπεμψα πρὸς ὑμᾶς εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ἵνα γνῶτε τἀ περὶ ἡμῶν καὶ παρακαλέσῃ τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν. But that you also might know what according to me, what I am doing, everything he will make known Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, whom I sent to you to this very thing, that you might know the things concerning us and it might comfort your hearts.

Paul now transitions from his prayer request to his intentions. Paul uses the subjunctive to indicate his end-goal for sending Tychicus. He wanted his readers and listeners to know his circumstances (τὰ κατ᾽ ἐμέ, “the things with respect to me”). He wanted them to know what he was doing. For this purpose, he sent Tychicus to fill them in on what was going on, so that the end-result would be his readers and listeners would be informed. And who is Tychicus? He is the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord. Paul sent him for the end-purpose of revealing to them the things concerning both Paul and Tychicus and comfort their hearts. He wanted them to be informed and to be comforted as a result of Tychicus’ news.

But so that you might also know my circumstances, what I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved borther and faithful servant in the Lord, will reveal everything to you, whom I sent two you for this very reason, so that you might know what concerns us and it might comfort your hearts.

It is not a bad thing to update each other with our lives. It is constructive to inform each other of our work as it can warm our hearts. Even still, when we tell each other what is not going well, we can receive encouragement. It is important to be open with each other, so that we can help each other. Christianity is not merely an individual task. It is a communal religion and it requires participation on all accounts. Here lies the value of small churches. Small churches are better at involving each other in such encouraging communication. Large churches who incorporate small groups can do the same. We need to have such circles of believers for the sake of encouragement during good and bad times. We must nourish our hearts with encouraging, uplifting words and reports of good news, but we must discipline our hearts with encouraging, constructive criticism as well. When times are good, we should praise God together. When times are bad, we should seek to help lift each other up. We must praise with our brothers and sisters who are in a position to praise. We must weep with those who are weeping. And in so doing, we can encourage each other in love.

Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:18-20

Διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως προσευχόμενοι ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ ἐν πνεύματι, καὶ εἰς αὐτὸ ἀγρυπνοῦντες ἐν πάσῃ προσκαρτερήσει καὶ δεήσει περὶ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός μου, ἐν παρρησίᾳ γνωρίσαι τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, ὑπὲρ οὗ πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ παρρησιάσωμαι ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι. Through every prayer and petition praying in every opportunity in the Spirit, and to this watching in every perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, that to me he might give a word in opening of the mouth of me, in boldness to make known the mystery of the good news, for which I am an ambassador in chain, that in it I will speak with boldness as it is necessary for me to speak.

Paul has finished describing the full armor of God that Christians should take up. Now he turns to the action of the Christian. Part of standing and resisting involves taking up the right equipment, but it also involves prayer. The participle, προσευχόμενοι, “praying,” expresses means in relation to standing as do the previous participles describing the full armor of God. Prayer is to be done ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ, “in every opportunity.” The preposition is temporal, and therefore we can translate it as “at.” Christians should take every opportunity to pray. But when they pray, it is to be done ἐν πνεύματι, “in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is involved in the act of prayer. It is best to understand ἐν πνεύματι as a dative of means. Christians pray to God by means of the Spirit. Such prayer is to be done διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως, “through every prayer and petition.” How is διὰ functioning here? Is it expressing means or manner? If ἐν πνεύματι is expressing means, then διὰ is likely functioning as a marker of manner. If διὰ is expressing manner, in what sense is it adding color to the participle? It seems that it is neither manner nor means, but rather, it is marking attendant circumstance, and therefore it ought to be translated as “with,” so that we will render the phrase in this way: “pray with every prayer and petition at every opportunity by the Spirit, . . .”

Not only are Christians supposed to resist by standing and praying, but they are also to keep watch. Paul tells his readers and listeners to keep watch for this. The prepositional phrase, εἰς αὐτὸ, “for this,” marks purpose (“for this purpose”). The purpose of keeping watch was to persevere in making petitions for all of the saints and for Paul. Paul tells his readers and listeners, “. . . keep watch in every perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, . . .” What does this mean to keep watch in all perseverance and petition? It means to be persistent in prayer. They were to keep alert for a purpose, to pray persistently for fellow believers. Paul delineates what he wants them to pray for on his behalf. He wants them to pray that he will receive a message or a word when he opens his mouth. He wants them to pray for him that he will be able to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness. After all, as Paul himself states, it is for the gospel that he is an ambassador in chains. This phrase, ἐν ἁλύσει, “in chains,” is actually singular, but it speaks of imprisonment, hence, being in chains. Paul wants to be able to speak the message boldly, which, in his words, “it is necessary for me to speak.” He wanted encouragement through prayer to be able to courageously speak the gospel in a way that was fitting for an ambassador.

With every prayer and petition, praying at every opportunity by the Spirit, and for this purpose watching in all perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, in order that a message might be given to me when opening my mouth, in order to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness, for which I am an ambassador in chains, in order that in it I might speak with boldness as it is necessary for me to speak.

Prayer is important in this struggle against the powers in the heavenly places. It causes us to participate in the struggle and not simply stand idly. But we are to be ever dependent upon the Spirit when it comes to prayer. Are we praying and so relying on the Spirit for strength? The Spirit of Christ is in each and every one of us who believe. Therefore, we are all empowered with the same Spirit, and, as a result, we should join together in prayer, lifting each other up with our words, making requests of God on each other’s behalf. It is an encouragement and it is spiritually edifying. And in this battle, we need to be equipped not only with armor, but also with prayer. If we are equipped with the defensive garbs but have not prayer, we will not be tapping into God’s power, and therefore we will be lacking. Prayer is vital. Paul knew it, and so he requested not only that his own audience would pray diligently, but he even gave them specific things to pray for on his behalf. We need to keep an open line of communication with God. Tell God your fears and troubles. Request your desires, including pleas for help. It is important to interact with God with our mind and our words, and this practice is prayer. But prayer is about community as well. We do not pray only for ourselves, but we pray for each other too. Therefore, prayer entails relationship between us and God and each other. If we are not in such relationship, then we will be all alone in the struggle. But there is strength in numbers. If we want to stand victorious, we have to enter into prayer.

And what can we say of the idea of Paul being an ambassador? We too are ambassadors. We are God’s representatives. How are we boldly proclaiming the gospel? We should certainly be spreading the gospel with our actions. Our lives are messages and testimonies in themselves. We should boldly do what God desires of us. We should courageously follow Christ, pursuing righteousness in all that we do, seeking to please God in every aspect of our lives. In so doing, our lives can become a message that speaks against the contrasting ways of the world. While we boldly decide not to be drunkards, our lives therefore shine a contrastive light on those in the world who are drunkards. While we courageously pursue right, ethical behavior in the work force, such as refusing to embezzle, bribe, or blackmail, our actions place those who do such things into the light, so that our deeds speak a message. Our lives show the world’s actions for what they really are. The message is clear: Jesus Christ changes lives, transforming those who are morally corrupt into righteous sons and daughters of God. As ambassadors, it is important that our lives are speaking this message. When they do, we can also boldly proclaim with our mouths the message of the gospel, but our words must be backed by our deeds, lest our words show themselves to be empty and void. As ambassadors, we have the responsibility to boldly proclaim the message in both our words and our actions.

Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:14-17

στῆτε οὖν περιζωσάμενοι τὴν ὀσφὺν ὑμῶν ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἐνδυσάμενοι τὸν θώρακα τῆς δικαιοσύνης καὶ ὑποδησάμενοι τοὺς πόδας ἐν ἑτοιμασίᾳ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τῆς εἰρήνης, ἐν πᾶσιν ἀναλαβόντες τὸν θυρεὸν τῆς πίστεως, ἐν ᾧ δυνήσεσθε πάντα τὰ βέλη τοῦ πονηροῦ τὰ πεπυρωμένα σβέσαι· καὶ τὴν περικεφαλαίαν τοῦ σωτηρίου δέξασθε καὶ τὴν μάχαιραν τοῦ πνεύματος, ὅ ἐστιν ῥῆμα θεοῦ. Therefore, stand, girding your waste with truth and putting on the breastplate of righteousness and putting on the feet with a readiness of the gospel of peace, in all taking up the shield of faith, in which you will be able all the arrows of the evil one which burn to quench; and the helmet of salvation take and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

After having commanded his readers and listeners to resist and stand by taking up the full armor of God, Paul now defines the armor itself. He concludes, “Therefore, stand . . .” But how is one to stand? First, by girding the waist with truth. This participle, περιζωσάμενοι, “by girding,” involves one’s preparation. The Christian soldiers prepare themselves with the truth. Second, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness. One needs to have protective body armor in order to stand. Third, by putting on the feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace. Again, we have this idea of preparation, that the feet are to be prepared with the gospel of peace. The gospel, good news, forms the source of the preparation, and the content of the good news is peace. Fourth, by taking up the shield of faith along with truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace. This shield will enable the Christian to extinguish all of the burning arrows being shot at them by the evil one. Furthermore, Paul instructs them to take hold of two pieces of equipment, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. Not only are they to stand by equipping themselves with truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and faith, but they are also to receive salvation and the word of God. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. This word, μάχαιραν, “sword,” refers to a short sword. In this instance, it highlights the power of the Spirit, which is defined as the word of God. God’s word is powerful, and it is one of the tools supplied in the armor. Christians receive salvation and the word of God as part of their armor.

Note the textual variant here. In τὰ βέλη τοῦ πονηροῦ τὰ πεπυρωμένα, the second τὰ is absent from several key witnesses (Papyrus 46, B, F, G, and the original hand of D). However, the rest of the witnesses include it (such as א, A, 33, 1739, the second corrector of D, and the majority text). Furthermore, if the article is omitted, then the following participle must be translated like a predicate adjective (“the arrows are burning”). It is most likely that the original text included the article and later scribes accidentally omitted it. Since its inclusion has early support, although not the earliest, and fairly wide support, and because the text makes no sense without it, we should include it as the best candidate for the original text. By including it, we translate the following participle as an attributive adjective (“the burning arrows”).

Therefore, stand by girding up your wast with truth, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by putting on your feet with a readiness of the gospel of peace, with all these things by taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the burning arrows of the evil one; and receive the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

When the devil is bearing down on you, will you be prepared? Will you be able to stand against the devil’s onslaught? God has provided all that we need to withstand the devil. Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God are all provided by the Lord so that we will be able to stand victoriously. But are we tapping into the very power of God by utilizing these resources? And not simply one resource, but we need them all. We are to put on the full armor of God, not part of it, and not most of it, but all of it. We need every part of God’s provision in order to be victorious. We cannot stand unless we are fully equipped. A football player who has all of his gear but forgot his cleats at home will not be able to win. He will not be able to stand his ground, his feet will be open to injury, he will not be able to sprint, and he will not be able to keep traction. By forgetting one small piece of his equipment, he effectively places himself into a losing position. If we want to beat the devil when he comes to attack us, we will have to be equipped with everything God has meant for us to have. God desires for us to win and he does not want us to be in a losing position, which is why he has provided all that we need in order to stand against the devil.

Aside from the need for the full armor of God, note the use of the short sword. It may have been a defensive tool primarily, but it was still used for offense. And we have all heard the saying, “A good defense is a good offense.” In what sense can the word of God be an offensive tool that we use as a defensive weapon? By learning the word of God, we are taking an offensive posture. By studying the word of God, we further equip ourselves in an active way for the purpose of being able to defend ourselves from the devil. Jesus was able to quote Deuteronomy to fight off the devil. Learning Scripture is an offensive, active tactic for being able to stand one’s ground defensively against the devil. It is absolutely vital that we learn Scripture by studying and memorizing it. Without it, we will fall, for we need the full armor of God. We might know the truth, we might be righteous as God declares us righteous, we might know and live out the gospel of peace, we might have faith, and we may be saved, but if we are not studying the word of God, we will not be able to stand. After all, it was Scripture that Jesus–Truth, the righteous one, the one who brought peace, the faithful one, the author of salvation–used to fight the devil.