Ephesians: Life and Love in Christ
“For individuals who prayerfully and studiously think through every sentence, possibly no book yields richer and more gratifying rewards than the Epistle to the Ephesians.” In this way the authors begin the preface to their well-written commentary on Ephesians. Beal taught for many years at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, and Earl Radmacher is the chancellor of Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary, Englewood, Colorado, and former president of Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon.
They ask, “Why write a commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians when both popular and scholarly commentaries abound?” They answer, “Briefly, our purpose is to provide a substantive commentary of use to pastors and adult Bible class teachers with special concern for those who lack a reading knowledge of Greek or whose Greek is mostly forgotten. This book will also be of value for those who want a more detailed explanation of the text than is available in most popular commentaries. The commentary seeks to lay bare the astonishingly radical nature of Christian faith and life as developed in Ephesians. The believer’s irrevocable union with Christ is glossed over in most commentaries. . . . Few commentaries develop the significance of love as the standard for all Christian behavior, even though it is of overriding importance in Ephesians” (p. iii).
The Bible translation used in this commentary is the English Standard Version. The authors suggest that Ephesians was probably “intended to be circulated among a number of churches, possibly in Ephesus and its environs and even extending into the Lycas Valley” and “that there were a number of house churches” in Ephesus (p. xiv).
The authors envision the Epistle to the Ephesians as being in two major parts in chiastic fashion. Part one discusses the Christian’s privileges and status (1:3–3:13), and part two addresses the Christian’s responsibilities (4:1–6:20). In a chiastic structure the reader’s attention is focused on the central element, and here that central element is Paul’s prayer in 3:14–21, which stands between the two major parts. Paul’s focus in the prayer “is that the Christian might know the surpassing love of Christ, and through this, by the power of the Holy Spirit, be rooted and grounded in the practice of love” (p. xxiii).
Beal and Radmacher rightly challenge the view that Ephesians 4:9–10 mean that Christ descended into hell and preached to the wicked there. Instead, they say, these verses simply affirm that Psalm 68:18, which they quote, refers to Jesus Christ.
In discussing Ephesians 4:22, which refers to believers having “put off” their “old self,” the authors write that crucifying the old self at the moment of salvation means “that the Christian is no longer under any compulsion to sin” (p. 181; italics theirs). “None of us has to give in to sin. If we do, it is by our own choice” (p. 182; italics theirs).
Regarding “praying at all times in the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:18, the authors suggest this means “praying with the mind set on the things of the Spirit” (p. 262), which, according to Romans 8:5–7 brings life and peace.
The authors include a postscript of what they call “special observations” (pp. 270–90). The five observations discuss the literary structure in Ephesians, the phrase “in Christ,” the biblical meaning of love, the church and Israel, and the church and the Law.
Pastors and Bible teachers will find this exposition a valuable resource on this fascinating epistle of Paul to the Ephesians.