Introduction to Ephesians
In this daily reflection from The High Calling, Mark Roberts considers how the command to "no longer live as the Gentiles do" might be relevant to our work. If we set aside worldly ways of thinking about work and embrace God's vision, we will be able to live fruitfully, with our work as a primary means to serve God and our fellow human beings, as well as a way to enjoy the fullness of life God intends for us.
What is the place of our work in the grand scheme of things? Is work just an activity we need to get by in life? Or is it also a place where we find meaning, healing, and personal integration? Does our work have a place in the cosmos of God’s creation? Does it mean anything alongside Christ’s work of redeeming the world?
The letter to the Ephesians tells the story of God’s cosmic work, beginning before the creation of the world, continuing in Christ’s work of redemption, and leading up to the present moment and beyond. It draws us into this work both as awestruck observers of the drama and as active participants in God’s work.
Thus Ephesians gives a new perspective, not only about God but also about ourselves. Our lives, our actions, and indeed our work take on fresh meaning. We live differently, we worship differently, and we work differently because of what God has done and is doing in Christ. We do what we do with our lives, including our professional lives, in response to God’s saving activity and in fulfillment of the assignment he has given us to cooperate with him. Each one of us has been called by God to participate in God’s work in the world (Eph. 4:1).
The letter we know as “Ephesians” is both similar to and different from other New Testament letters attributed to the Apostle Paul. It is similar most of all to Colossians, with which it shares common themes, structures, and even sentences (Eph. 6:21–22; Col. 4:7–8). Ephesians is different from the other Pauline letters in its exalted style, distinctive vocabulary, and in some of its theological perspectives. Moreover, it is much less oriented to a particular situation in the life of a particular church than Paul’s other letters. In this commentary, authorship by Paul is assumed.
Rather than focusing on the needs of one particular congregation, the letter to the Ephesians presents an expansive theological perspective on the work of God in the universe and the central role of the church of Jesus Christ within that work. Each individual believer contributes to this ecclesial effort as one who has been “created in Jesus Christ for good works” (Eph. 2:10) and who is essential to the growth and ministry of the church (Eph. 4:15–16).
See, for example, Dan P. McAdams, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Donald E. Polkinghorne, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (Albany: State University of New York, 1988).
For discussion of these issues and their implications, see Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, vol. 42 of the Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), xlvii–lxxiv; “Ephesians, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).