Ephesians – Interpretation

Welcome back to another post in my series on Ephesians! Thank you for returning!

As you may have read previously, the first step in the Inductive Study Method is Observation. I posted my personal observations in 3 parts earlier in this series. The second step if this study method is Interpretation.

 

Determining Chapter Themes

My first step toward interpreting Ephesians was to read each chapter and come up with a theme for each one. By determining a theme for each chapter (and as you’ll see in the next step, the book as a whole), it can be easier to make accurate interpretations of the text. I’m not great in the area of discovering overall themes, but here’s what I was able to come up with:

  • Chapter 1: Our inheritance in Christ
  • Chapter 2: Our old ways vs. our walk in Christ
  • Chapter 3: Gentiles have access to the Inheritance
  • Chapter 4: Our new life as one body
  • Chapter 5: Live as wise imitators of God
  • Chapter 6: Stand firm wearing God’s provided armor

 

Determining the Overall Theme for Ephesians

Based on the themes present in each chapter, the next task was to think about the theme for the entire book. Again, I struggle with this sort of thing, but what I wrote down as the Theme for Ephesians is

Live like Christ using the armor God provided for us

Not overly profound, I know, but there it is.

 

Dividing the Book by Themes

Following this, I came up with segment divisions based on the themes of each chapter. I titled my segment divisions as “Topics of Discussion”. Then I separated the entire book into two main sections, as follows:

  • Chapters 1-3: Our inheritance as believers
  • Chapters 4-6: How to live the way God desires

In other words, the first half of the book discusses who receives the inheritance, what the inheritance is, and how it has changed believers from who we once where to who we now are in Christ. Then the second half of the book explains what our new life should look like, provides specific examples for the various stations in life, and even explains the tools God has given his people to help them live the way he has declared.

 

Interpreting Ephesians

Without much more direction than that, the rest of my Interpreting step was to read through the entire book one last time and write down thoughts that jumped out at me based on the text. (Perhaps that should have come before determining the themes, so I will switch that around for next time.)

Here’s a list of what I wrote down:

  • Christ gives his people spiritual blessings
  • I am adopted as God’s child through Jesus Christ (to me this “adoption” seems to imply that those who do not have (believe in) Jesus Christ are not considered to be God’s children. They most certainly are loved by God, but they are not his “children” until they have been adopted as such through a belief in Jesus Christ.)
  • Because I am his child, I have an inheritance provided by God
  • The Holy Spirit is my guarantee of the inheritance God has given me
  • All things are under the feet of Jesus, meaning he has authority over all things.
  • I was once separated from God because of my sin, but now I have been brought near to God.
  • God’s people are all one body: We do not all have the same jobs or roles — just as eyes do not have the same job as ears — but we are all used by God to fulfill his purpose.
  • God extended the inheritance beyond the people of Israel so that anyone who believes in Christ may receive it.
  • Anger is ok as long as it does not cause you to sin (Realizing this was a big one for me after the death of my mom. For a long time, I was angry that she was gone, but when my pastor told me that it was ok to be angry — “God can take it” he said — it was a huge relief to me. Seeing it again here in my study of Ephesians was a good reminder.)
  • Husbands are told to love their wives sacrificially; wives are told to submit to the husband’s wisdom.

Since this final point is often a touchy subject and the idea of a wife being submissive to her husband is loathe in today’s society, I am going to go into more detail about it. The verses I am referring to in my Bible say,

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5:22-25

If you read these verses carefully, you will see that God is not telling women to become their husband’s doormat. I understand the first part to be saying that when making decisions for the family, a wife — although she can certainly express her thoughts and views on the situation — ultimately should be willing to take the path decided by her husband, in the same way she would follow the path for her life as determined by God.

On the flip side of the coin, the husband is told to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This means that a husband is to love his wife sacrificially — even to the point of death if need be. If a husband is obeying this command the way God intended, then any decision he makes would be made with his wife’s (and family’s) best interests in mind.

To show this playing out in a real-life example, let’s imagine a husband and wife are about to have a baby, and they need to decide whether or not someone will stay home to care for the baby or if they will put the baby in a daycare facility. (Really controversial example, I know!)

If the husband and wife are following the commands given in this section of Ephesians, they would discuss the various options available to them. Then the husband would weigh all of those options, thinking sacrificially about the needs of his family, and come to a decision that is best for all of them. Then the wife’s job, after the decision is made, is to support whatever decision her husband chose (knowing that he made the decision with a sacrificial love for her needs) and be willing to take the route he has deemed to be the best for their family.

I hope this adequately explains what is being commanded in this section. Being submissive does not have to have the negative connotation that society gives it today.

So there you have it… These are the interpretations I have discovered in the book of Ephesians.

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