Notes on the Book of Ephesians

Taken at a Bible Study Led by Walt Henrichsen

In San Francisco, 19-23 March 2007

 

 

Table of Contents

Introduction. 1

Comments about these notes. 1

Opening remarks by Walt Henrichsen. 1

Background. 2

Overview.. 2

‘Church’ and control 4

Doctrine, obedience and security. 5

If you believe, you will not receive or seek honor. 6

 

 

Introduction

 

Comments about these notes

·        Except for a few selected parts, these notes are not a word-for-word a transcription but rather an attempt to provide a detailed summary or paraphrase of ideas covered.

·        These notes for the most part follow a Q&A format to facilitate future Bible study discussion.

·        “Q” is used to denote a question; however, not all occurrences of “Q” were actually questions.

·        Most comments were either spoken or affirmed by Walt Henrichsen.

·        Most or all of the brothers present participated, but the names of those who spoke throughout the session were usually not recorded, so as to focus mainly on the ideas, to maintain confidentiality and also to save time in typing.

·        When the pronoun ‘I’ is used, it was probably spoken by Walt Henrichsen.

·        Explanatory remarks are sometimes added for clarity, and are hopefully accurate in meaning.  They are usually offset by [square brackets].

·        These notes are public domain; anyone is free to use these notes for his own personal meditation or Bible study; freely we have received, so freely we give.  (Mt. 10:8)

 

Opening remarks by Walt Henrichsen

 

What I pray for my tongue:

·        Not misspeak myself [say something wrong by accident] – if I do, then please correct me.

·        Not be hurtful, harsh or unloving; forgive me if I am.

·        Not misrepresent God – most important – not say something is true that is not true.

 

Comments on materials covered so far

·        I cannot remember what I’ve talked about in this group due to senility & being involved in several studies, so I’ll assume in our time together that everything is something we’ve thought about before.

·        I will not try to hedge my bet [insure against the possibility that] I have not covered it by saying we covered it, but just assume we have.

 

Background

·        Paul wrote the epistle from prison, probably around 62 AD

·        Tychicus is mentioned in 6:21, Col. 4 27 and Phm. 13.

·        All three epistles were probably written concurrently and sent by Tychicus.

·        Paul labored in Ephesus for 3 years – longest recorded time in any one spot on any missionary journey.

·        Acts 18:18-20:2 [read aloud in turn to review the story]

·        Notes on this story:

·        A large number of Jews and Greeks converted.

·        The Gospel penetrated all Asia.

·        The ministry of Paul was so powerful that false teachers sought to emulate him.

·        The religion of Diana was threatened.

·        The church grew and prospered.

·        On Paul’s 3rd missionary journey (mentioned in Acts 20:17-38) he said that false teachers would come in.

·        Rev. 2:2 says that this prediction was true and came about.

 

Q: What do we know about Ephesus?

·        The center of the worship of Diana/Artemis

·        Had some tensions between the Jews and gentiles

·        Alexander, a Jew, wanted to speak to the crown in the theatre, but the Gentiles didn’t want to listen to him.  [Acts 19:33,34]

·        Capital of the Roman province of Asia

·        Center of the early church

·        Trade center, cosmopolitan city – lots of people coming in and out – new ideas

·        Advantageous because sea port

·        Located near the mouth of a river that went deep into Asia minor, so it was located near an important trade route going east inland

·        Over time the silt from the river filled in the harbor and it fell into disuse.

 

Overview

Q: What do you think was the theme of the book of Ephesians?

·        Understanding the riches of God’s grace to preserve the unity of the body

·        Our response to what God has done for us through the revelation of his mystery

·        Eternal counsel of God to his sons and working through his church

·        Importance of interpersonal relationships

 

Q: How divide the book:

·        In chapters 1-3 the believer is passive; doesn’t do anything and not called upon to do anything; but in chapters 4-6, he’s active.

·        Passive in regard to redemption, active in that God holds him responsible in interpersonal relationships.

 

Q:  The blood of Jesus Christ has a 2-fold reconciliation – what is it?

·        Reconciliation of God & man and Jew & Gentile

 

Q: How much does Paul quote the Old Testament?

·        17 references to the Pentateuch – mostly from Exodus and Deuteronomy

·        30 ref. to the prophetic writings

·        11 ref. to the psalms

·        So he uses the OT quite a bit.

·        Yet no trace of Paul using the OT as an apologetic for the Christian faith [as in other letters]

 

Q: Eph. never uses the word “justify.”  Why?

·        Our position in Christ appears many times, but justification does not appear.  Why?

·        He’s been with them for a long time, so in this episode he’s not talking about the obvious doctrine

 

Use of verbs and nouns

·        Eph. has more verbs than nouns – 321 verbs; 158 nouns

·        In Romans they are about even

·        In Galatians there are far more nouns than verbs: 250 vs. 138

·        Q: Why?

·        Wordsmiths – what is the use of verb instead of noun?  Action

·        Noun?  A description, used to define doctrine

·        Thus, in Eph. there is far more emphasis on action than doctrine.

 

Q: What is the purpose of the letter?

·        I’m unsure of the exact purpose of the letter

·        It seems to be a compendium of thought; not a situational letter (like Romans)

·        Seems to give some of his matured thinking regarding Christ

·        My sense is that Eph is more philosophical, Romans more doctrinal

·        If you are familiar with the various denominations in Christendom, most denominations are creedal, and most creeds are an exposition of Romans

·        Ex: catechism teaching follows Romans

·        Salvation, sanctification

·        No so in the book of Ephesians

·        He gives you a “let’s stand on the edge of the universe and see what has transpired” approach

·        Why?  I don’t know

 

Q: To whom was the letter written?

·        Circular letter because not too many personal names were written - conjecture

·        1:1 – the saints in Ephesus

·        Q:  What saints?

·        Note: he doesn’t write to the ‘church at Ephesus’

·        For sure not a situational letter like Galatians or Corinthians

·        Written to Gentiles, not to Jews

·        Q:  If so, why so many references to the OT?

·        All they had was the OT scripture

·        The mystery was for the Gentiles

·        The word ‘Jew’ doesn’t appear; the word ‘Israel’ does

·        5 times [Paul] refers to the ‘nations’ or ‘Gentiles’ [same in Greek]

·        He wants to show that the Gentiles had the same rights and privileges afforded to the Jews

·        Note that Israel is the family of God into which the Gentiles had been invited

·        Paul was saying, “We [Jews] are the people God; you are the ones whom God brought in to be part of us.”

 

‘Church’ and control

·        The word ‘church’ appears 9 times in Ephesians.

·        3 in chapters 1-3 (doctrine portion); 6 in application portion

·        Husbands love your wives as Christ love the church and gave Himself for her.

·        I suggest that it is import to note that church is never used in the book of Ephesians in reference to a local congregation.

·        It is always used in reference to the universal church – the church to which everyone is a part

·        Ekklesia = church

·        There are probably as many different views of church as there are Christians

·        It is so typical to have difficulty having a good relationship with the local church; a lot of emotional energy is used trying to [get along with it].

·        The best approach is just to have no expectations of it.

·        The reason it is such a hot button and generates so much emotion – every debate and so much [argument] in the history of the church – is that every time the issue is control.

·        Because there is no institutional commitment to the church – only to Israel – the church has been adamant that it has replaced the affections of God toward Israel.

·        Therefore, it is an institutional commitment

·        Thus the Roman Catholics say there is no salvation outside the church, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church

·        The reformers agreed with them; that’s why called it the Reformation

·        They were not leaving the church they were reforming the church

·        I remember during my [theological] education I asked my professors, “Do you believe there is no salvation outside the church?  They could not bring themselves to say ‘yes’, but every instinct led them to [want to] say ‘yes’.

·        Control – I’m against bishops unless I can be one!

·        That’s why it is such an emotionally charged question.

 

Q:  Would you go so far as advising us to stay away form the local church?

·        NO! Let the records show.  I’ve never said such a thing never thought such a thing

 

Q:  What is the relationship between the local church and the universal church?

·        Ideally, the former should be an expression of the latter.

 

George Barna says that Americans are moving away from local church into affinity groups

·        In the US, we have a guy who does research named George Barna.

·        He does polls on Christianity in the US.

·        In his book “Revolution” ($2 used) he’s discovered that the disillusionment with the local church in the US is so profound among born-again believers, that they have for all practical purposes have disassociated with the local church and moved into affinity groups.

·        He is neither for nor against local church.

·        Like Promise Keepers - men who know each other and gather to study the Word.

 

The problem is ‘organization’

·        Organization is both a noun and an adjective.

·        We here [at this meeting] have not created an organization, nor do we want to, although we could have done it.

·        Q:  More dangerous if a noun?

·        If Barna is correct, then there is a profound disillusionment with the church.

·        100 million are unchurched in the US.

·        Life in America changed greatly since 1994.

·        If we meet, we might not have to organize.

·        I meet with men regularly, and no organization has ever come into existence.

 

Q:  Is control ever good?

·        Man is never more insecure than when he senses that he’s not in control.

·        It drives a great deal of what he does, so if I am going to spend my life doing something, I want God to be on my side.

·        Therefore, it’s not my church it’s Christ’s church, but since I'm its vicar, you’d better behave me.

 

Q:  Is there a difference between control and manipulation?

·        For sure manipulation is an endeavor to control – a method – which is precisely what our children try to do with us.

·        Q:  How do churches go about it?

·        The presence of an elder does not necessitate the presence of an institution

·        I suggest that all of you sitting around this table are elders, whether or not you function as one in an institution; this is by virtue of who you are, not what you do

·        All of you have in common a spiritual authority that is emitted from your presence.  It cannot be otherwise.  Like an odor you give it off – they sense it in your presence – the fragrance of Christ, if you would.

 

Q:  So what do you consider the church at Corinth?

·        It was a local congregation, an institution

·        The question is not, ‘is it permitted?’  The question is,  “is it essential?”

 

Doctrine, obedience and security

Q:  Historically, was it mainly the heresies that caused institutionalization?

·        The men desperately wanted to control.

·        Therein lies the problem, which is ‘who gets to define heresy?’

·        From Genesis to Revelation holiness has nothing to do with doctrine and everything to do with obedience.

·        Doctrine has always been more important to man than God, because God is truth, so He’s secure.  Man is always looking for truth, so we are by nature insecure.

·        I’m looking for truth; therefore I’m insecure.

·        The only time I’m aware of when Jesus addressed doctrine was when confronted by the Sadducees regarding the resurrection.  Almost dismissive – “I’m the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so God is not the God the dead but the living.  Go away!”

·        Paul used doctrine. I’m not saying it’s not important.  As a man thinks so he is. [Pr. 23:7]

·        God says that the path to holiness is obedience.

·        Faith and believe, the noun and verb forms of  ‘pistus’ are at the heart of every relationship in life.

·        If you don’t believe me, when you get home, take your wife out for a meal and get her to share her heart and say, “You’re lying.”  See if it enhances the relationship.

·        You can’t have a relationship if you call me a liar.

·        God says that is the heart of the relationship – you’ve got to believe me!

·        Only it's different with God – He knows every thought.

·        I’ve said things to my wife, and I cannot be believed.  For instance, I forgot the book of ferry coupons.  I couldn’t find it.  She asked, “Did you look in your brief case?”  I said, “Yes.”  She looked and it was there.  So, she can’t believe me.

·        Everyone wants us to believe him, but we don’t expect a person to believe everything we say.

·        Jesus in His ministry was intentionally obscure – definite on the commands but obscure on everything else.  He was never clear on the cross.  The disciples in upper room discussed it, but He would not give them a straight answer.

 

Q:  Are you aware of a case in which your obedience depends on your doctrine?

·        In terms of revelation, yes; but in terms of understanding it, no.  [You must obey what’s been revealed to you as an expectation of God for you, but you don’t have to understand it.]

 

If you believe, you will not receive or seek honor

·        John 5:44 – Jesus is having one of his testy encounters with religions leaders over having been believed.  “How can you believe if you receive honor from one another but make no effort to receive the honor that comes from God?”

·        The operative words are ‘believe,’ ‘receive,’ and ‘seek.’  How can you believe if you receive honor from one another?

·        We are dependent on the spirit of God to reveal truth to us.

·        Jesus said I’m not going to give you the answers.

·        I’m going to send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.  He shall teach you all things.

·        You’re dependent on the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual truth.

·        Jesus says if you receive honor, it’s not going to happen.

·        You may think it will, but I promise you it will not.

·        Jesus says, “I want you to believe Me.”

·        Believe what?  In this I’m unique.  I want you to commit to believe Me before I reveal [anything].

·        If you don’t commit, I won’t reveal.  The revelation comes after the commitment.

·        I promise that if you receive the honor that comes from other people, I’m not going to reveal it to you.

 

Q: How can you not receive honor?

·        You cannot be boorish or rude, but in your soul of souls it should terrify you – I beg you not to impute this to me – politely say thanks but don’t listen to a word of it.

·        Jesus spoke in parables in Mt. 13:10-17 – so people would not understand.

·        What Hebrews says regarding Abraham in Hebrews 11 – he went out by faith.

 

Q:  Is it wrong to praise men?  How about when raising children?

·        Be careful!  1 Peter 2:17 – how honor all people?  5th command – honor parents.

·        Civil decorum – honor essential for these.  Ex: judge leaves court, so people stand.

·        President called ‘Mr. President’, but he’d better not read his press clippings.

·        I have two beautiful daughters, and I’ve told them again and again, “You are beautiful, but if you believe it, you’ll destroy yourselves.”

·        The key is to tell God, “I don’t seek it, don’t want it, don’t receive it.  The only person I want to please is You.”

·        When we got started talking about this [praise of men] we were talking about how the local church praises men.

·        Howard Hendricks used to tell the story of a pastor who gave a sermon and then went to the glorification of the worms ceremony [went out to be greeted by people praising what he said.]

 

Q:  How could a pastor survive without making a church grow?

·        There are three forms of church government [Episcopal (regional bishops), Presbyterian (local elders) and Congregational (democracy)].  Two of the three take it out of the hands of the congregation

·        It’s OK to receive honor from God, but don’t receive it from men.

·        1 Pt. 5:5-7 – the only way to be humble is to cast all your cares upon him.  If you don’t, you can’t obey verses 5 and 6 [be submissive and humble].

·        But God acknowledges your desire to be exalted; just be sure to look to Him only for it.

·        If you agree with God that you’re nothing – just a slave – then why does it bother you when people say so and treat you like a slave?

·        One of the signs of this is resentment when people do not acknowledge your gift or help.  If it bothers you, you have a problem.

·        God only faults us for seeking or receiving praise when it’s from men, not from Him.

·        However, we have no idea what that praise will look like in heaven.

·        That’s why most of what you believe about heaven is a figment or your imagination.

·        In Ephesians it becomes clear that all true religion exalts God and humbles man.

·        All men by nature hate God.  The reason is because God got there first.

·        Most anger that you’ll experience in your life is your taking exception with God in how he’s running His universe.

·        That is the reason the doctrine of election is so essential.  Our relationship with God is grounded and guaranteed in his elective processes.  If we’d been involved, we’d never have come to God.

 

 

[First day’s morning break]