LENT SERMONS ON EPHESIANS


On Sunday evenings during Lent we will be studying St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians along with our Lenten Studies giving a very Pauline feel to this year's season.  Every Sunday we shall be reflecting on a different chapter of the letter including Palm Sunday, as there are 6 chapters to complete.  The Passion Narrative will be read throughout the other services that day, with the Palm Sunday reading being heard in the evening along with the final chapter of Ephesians. 

The Sermons will be preached at the 6:30 services starting Sunday 18th February


Introduction to St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians

 By means of preparation I thought that it might be useful to have some back ground information.  The author of the letter is the Apostle Paul and it was probably written whilst he was in prison, for in Chp 3:1 he describes himself as ‘a prisoner for Christ.’ In 6:20 he is ‘an ambassador in chains.’  It is believed that the Epistle was written towards the end of his life and not long before his execution.  There is a close connection between Ephesians and Colossians, (55 verses between the two letters are verbatim the same) and it would seem that Tychicus, a fellow co-worker with Paul was responsible for bearing both letters.  Some have seen Colossians as the overflow of Ephesians.

Who was the letter written to?

The answer to this question is problematical.  It might seem obvious that it is written to the church in Ephesus, but there are doubts about this because of the following:

*  The letter is addressed to Gentiles and references to the Gentiles are common throughout.  So it does not appear to be addressed to an established church.

*  There are no personal greetings in the letter, in fact it is rather impersonal, which is surprising, as in Acts 20 Paul speaks very affectionately about his friends in Ephesus and spent the longest time there, (3 years), than anywhere (Acts 20:31).

*  Lastly the first verse suggests a lack of knowledge of the recipients, unlike his other letters Paul does not begin with, ‘to the saints in…’ etc but something more formal; verse 1. ‘This is a letter from Paul, and Apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, to God’s consecrated people who live in Ephesus.’

For these reasons a slight mystery hangs over who the letter was actually written to.  It has been suggested that the letter was written to Laodicea.  In Colossians 4 Paul writes,’ when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans.’ So it is certain that a letter was written to the Laodiceans, but none such letter exists now. Why does it then mention that it is to the Ephesians?  It may have been that it was transferred to the Ephesian church because the Laodicenian church fell spectacularly from grace and is mentioned in the book of Revelation chapter 3 as being ‘spewed from the mouth of the Risen Christ.’  This being the case the letter might have been redesignated to a more worthy church. 

A further view is that the letter was not addressed to any one church, but was in fact a circular letter to all of Paul’s Asian churches.  A more careful look at Colossians 4:16 reveals that Paul says, ‘when you have read this letter, then read the letter from Laodicea.’ In other words there is a letter circulating and please give it time and space to be read out.

Matthew Hughes, Rector


FAITH AND WORSHIP

 

Key Thoughts

This latter solution to the problem of destination of the letter seems supported by the key thoughts in the letter, which focus on the unity of all things in Jesus Christ who has reconciled the world through the shedding of his blood.  This unity and reconciliation is to be proclaimed and advanced by the Christian church. 

In this sense the church is Christ’s instrument to bring about this reconciliation. It is as if Paul deals with the specific problem of heresy in the Colossian church and then continues with an appeal to all of his churches via the letter to the Ephesians to believe and accept the universal sufficiency of Christ.