The love chapter of the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 13, but the love book of the New Testament is Ephesians. The word love,” found twenty times in this book (in its verb and noun forms), occurs more than twice as many times per thousand words of text in Ephesians than in all the other Pauline letters.
After the prologue (1:1–2), Paul gives praise for God’s planned spiritual benefits (1:3–14) and points out that God provides all the blessings necessary for the spiritual well-being of believers. The three Persons of the Trinity are involved.
First is the selection by the Father that we might be holy and blameless before Him in love, having been adopted into God’s family (vv. 4–6).
Second is the sacrifice of the Son providing redemption and wisdom to
understand the mystery of God’s will to head up all things in Christ (vv. 7–12).
Third is the sealing of the promised Holy Spirit, which indicates the security
of God’s ownership of believers (vv. 13–14).
For those who have everything
This magnificent eulogy is followed by Paul’s prayer for those who have everything, namely, all the spiritual blessings mentioned in verses 3–14. He prays that the believers might know God more intimately, in order to know:
(1) the hope of his calling, which looks to the past
(2) the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, which looks to the future
when this inheritance will be fully realized in Christ’s coming for His saints
(3) the greatness of God’s power demonstrated by raising Christ and seating Him
in heaven, which looks at the present (vv. 15–23).
Having described God’s eternal plan, Paul then demonstrates the execution of that plan.
First, God’s love is demonstrated by grace, saving sinners who deserved God’s wrath and seating them in the heavenlies (2:1–10).
Second, God’s love is shown by uniting individual redeemed Jews and Gentiles into one corporate body, the church, Christ’s body (2:11–22). Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation, and the Holy Spirit resides in this corporate body of believers.
It’s a mystery
Paul begins to pray for these believers (3:1) but pauses, abruptly digressing to the mystery of Christ (3:2–13) with two emphases:
First, he states his responsibility to explain the mystery, unknown in previous generations but now revealed to New Testament apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that is, both believing Jews and Gentiles are fellow heirs of Christ (vv. 2–6). This is a revolutionary concept. Although the Old Testament reveals that Gentiles may be saved, it never reveals that believing Jews and Gentiles would become one entity in Christ.
Second, Paul states his responsibility to proclaim this mystery to the Gentiles, thus demonstrating through the church God’s multifaceted wisdom to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (vv. 7–13).
After his digression (vv. 2–13), Paul continues the prayer begun in verse 1 by praying that believing Jews and Gentiles might comprehend and experience Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge (vv. 14–21), thus maintaining their unity.
It’s all relevant
In chapters 4 through 6 Paul applies the doctrine he has related in the first three chapters. The major divisions revolve around the “walk” in 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15. The only exception is 6:10–20, where believers are to “stand” against evil, after which he gave his conclusion and a benediction (6:21–24).
First, believers are to walk in unity (4:1–16). They are to maintain a lifestyle worthy of their call to salvation and union with other believers by demonstrating humility and gentleness, making every effort to preserve the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit (vv. 1–3). In fact the three persons of the Trinity are an example of such unity (vv. 4–6), the preservation of which is maintained by the bestowal of spiritual gifts to all believers, thereby equipping them for the work of ministry. Consequently the believing body will grow up in Christ as each member lovingly contributes to that growth (vv. 7–16).
Second, believers are to walk in holiness (4:17–32), not in futility like the Gentiles (vv. 17–19) but as new persons in Christ (vv. 20–32). The truth in Jesus is that they have laid aside the former old person, having been renewed by the spirit of their minds, and having put on the new person created after God’s likeness (vv. 20–24). Therefore they are not to lie but are to speak the truth to one another, not to steal to satisfy personal needs but work with their hands to share with those in need, and not to use unwholesome words but to use beneficial words to build each other up. They are to be kind and compassionate to one another, exhibiting the same graciousness that God had already demonstrated toward them in Christ (vv. 25–32).
Third, believers are to walk in love (5:1–6). Positively they are to imitate God and to love as Christ did (vv. 1–2). Negatively they are to abstain from the evil works of unbelievers who will face God’s wrath (vv. 3–6).
Fourth, believers are to walk in light (5:7–14). They are not to become involved with evildoers (vv. 7–10) nor with their works (vv. 11–13) but are to seek to have the approval of Christ (v. 14).
Fifth, believers are to walk in wisdom (5:15–6:9). They are to walk wisely by understanding the Lord’s will through the filling of the Holy Spirit (vv. 15–21). This walk in wisdom, enabled by the Spirit, is applied to the domestic realm (5:22–6:9): the relationship of wives and husbands (vv. 22–32), the relationship of children and parents (6:1–4), and the relationship of slaves and masters (vv. 5–9).
Sixth, believers are to put on the full armor of God in order to be able to stand against the schemes of evil spiritual forces in the heavens (6:10–20). Offensive advance against the devil is not commanded. Instead believers are to take a defensive stand in order to hold the territory that Christ and His body, the church, have claimed. Such spiritual warfare demands alertness and persistence in prayer for all saints.
In conclusion Paul writes that Tychicus is being sent to them and will provide further information about Paul’s circumstances in order to encourage them (6:21–24).
The theme of love, dominant throughout the letter, shows God’s love in saving sinners by His grace and shows that this love is to prevail in all relationships between believing Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ, the church. Believers today are responsible to carry forth this mandate in their relationships with fellow believers.
Also By Dr. Hoehner:
Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ
Dr. Hoehner carefully documents the data available on the life of Christ—including a study of Greek words, Roman law, and Jewish customs and prophecy. He also establishes certain fixed dates in Jesus’ life.
Herod Antipas: A Contemporary of Jesus Christ
Originally published by Cambridge University Press in the monograph series of the Society for New Testament Studies, this work, republished by Zondervan in 1983, has been widely acclaimed for its scholarly reconstruction of Herod Antipas’s political career.