Outline Studies in EPHESIANS
Fulfilling our High Calling
Through the Church Jesus Established

By Eugene Garner




"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."

        From Rome, where he awaited trial before Caesar, to whom he had appealed at Caesarea (Acts 25:10-11), Paul wrote the greatest of apostolic letters - the one commonly called "Ephesians", (approximately 61 A.D.). Since meeting the Lord on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), he had ceased making havoc of the church. He had learned, from the inside, what imprisonment really involved.

        Paul claimed to have been imprisoned more than any other apostle, (2 Cor. 11:23). There is definite reference to an imprisonment: at Philippi (Acts 16:23), at Caesarea (Acts 24:27), and at Rome (Acts 28) - with an implication that he was also once confined at Ephesus (I Cor. 15:32). In this letter he speaks of being a prisoner in behalf of Jesus Christ, the Lord - "an ambassador in chains", (3:1; 6:20).

        As in his other epistles, Paul lay special emphasis on the fact that he had not desired, sought or assumed for himself the office of apostleship. Necessity had laid it upon him; he had been the object of God's choice. His will had been to destroy the testimony of Jesus - thinking this to be God's will. But God's will was actually that he should become a special instrument in His hands to spread the very Gospel message that he was trying to destroy. When enlightened and turned around, by his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, Paul joyfully surrendered the control of his life to Jesus' control. Thereafter he constantly rejoiced in the marvelous grace that could pass over his folly, call him to the ministry and make his life a pattern to those who should thereafter believe, (I Tim. 1:12-16).

Nor was there ever a more exemplary life of Christian service than that evidenced in this joyful bondservant. The "high calling of God IN CHRIST JESUS" - to share the fullness of His life and glory - became the chief motivation of his life. He knew that THE CHURCH was CHRIST'S INTENTION; for her He had died, (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28). Therefore, his Christian life was spent in calling others into union with Christ as "members of His body", (Eph. 5:30).


        ".... to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful IN CHRIST JESUS." Whether this letter was originally sent EXCLUSIVELY to Ephesus, or was a general epistle circulated among all the churches of Asia (of which Ephesus was the Capital), it IS, in the strictest and fullest sense, A CHURCH EPISTLE!
        On this word "saints", Dr. Fred Stevenson has some very pertinent comments:
        "Generally speaking "saint" is a word reserved in the New Testament for church members. It is doubtful whether it can be proven it EVER means anything else in its New Testament usage. The reason for this is that a saint is one who is consecrated to service, and we consecrate ourselves to service when we unite with the church This LIMITS the subjects of Paul's address to FAITHFUL CHURCH SAINTS. In a case like this we .... should be more conservative about ascribing ALL the promises to ALL THE SAVED. We cannot say ANY of the promises of Ephesians are to saved people outside the church unless such are DEFINITELY SPECIFIED in some way". ( in ABA Adult S.S. Quarterly, April-June, 1956. The emphasis is mine. E.G.)
        It should be clearly understood that by "church" is meant a "LOCAL, visible body of scripturally baptized believers banded together, according to the New Testament pattern, for mutual edification and obedience to the Great Commission of our Savior and Lord", (I Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; I Thes. 1:1; Matt. 28:18-20). The modern myth of a universal, invisible, mystical church (composed of all the saved) is an invention of Protestant theologians caught in a dilemma concerning Protestant AUTHORITY (or, rather, a lack thereof) for baptism. This ecclesiastical nonsense has no foundation in the Scriptures, is an outrage against reason, disgraces the name of Jesus Christ, and hinders the spiritual development of all whose minds are contaminated and distorted by its leavening affect. This "doctrine of men" has been a greater hindrance to true New Testament Christianity than all other enemies combined!
        Only such people as faithfully dedicate themselves to the Lord, as signified in the symbolism of Christian baptism, may RIGHTFULLY claim the promise of "ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS" as set forth in this letter. Nor is this to imply that a saved person has NO spiritual blessing "outside" the church; salvation, itself, is THAT! Nor is it meant to suggest that ANYONE possesses EVERY spiritual blessing that God has made available to men in Christ. It simply means that IN THE BODY OF CHRIST ALONE is the totality of spiritual blessings deposited - adequately supplying the need of EVERY particular body-member. Nowhere is greater emphasis placed on the fact that God's purpose, from eternity past, has been to exalt those yielding themselves under the authority of His dear Son TO THIS UNIQUE POSITION - that "in Him" they might be to the eternal praise of His glory and grace.
        Paul describes the spiritual position of the believer (identified with Jesus Christ as a member of His body, the church) as being "IN CHRIST JESUS" and, thus, able to draw upon the inexhaustible resources of His grace for daily living. This beautiful phrase is found some 27 times in this epistle alone -- emphasizing the blessed intimacy, the unswerving security and the indescribable bounty provided for those whose hearts and lives are yielded in a commitment of loving loyalty and service, to Jesus Christ as their Saviour, Lord and living Head. To insist that these New Covenant blessings are assured to ALL THE SAVED (many of whose lives are being lived in rebellion against the Master's commandment), is a dangerous exercise in god-playing PRESUMPTION unworthy of one divinely called to proclaim God's word in its purity!


        Imprisoned for his fidelity to "the testimony of Jesus", Paul encourages his brethren to steadfastness in the vocation to which they have been called. Most of his letters were written to deal with specific problems, in definite localities. This one seems designed to encourage the hearts, and challenge the lives, of those properly identified with the Christ in New Testament churches everywhere -- and for ALL TIME!
        Here the apostle discusses the over-all purpose of God, but with SPECIAL EMPHASIS on the high calling and vocation of THE LORD'S CHURCH in that purpose. The great WEALTH that is ours "in Christ" is held up as an incentive to faithfulness in our Christian WALK and WARFARE. Briefly stated: this letter deals with the wealth, walk and warfare of the saints. It is a revelation of God's rich and glorious purpose in the church -- giving valuable instruction concerning a proper walk and warfare in this exalted position.

        In this Ephesian letter the CHURCH RELATIONSHIP is illustrated by several figures:

        1) By THE FAMILY: the household over which God is Father, (Eph. 3:14-15; 2:19). His children enjoy precious liberty -- the liberty of the Spirit which makes the church His "habitation", (Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:19-22). Any attempt to separate the "family" of God from the "church" of God is a tragic mistake, and contrary to biblical usage. It appears that this idea is perpetuated mainly by people who desire a SPECIFIC CATEGORY OF BLESSINGS that may rightfully be claimed by so-called "saved people" who have not submitted themselves to WALK in the "order" our Lord has appointed, for such as are His "disciples indeed", in a scriptural church. But, the scriptures are utterly SILENT with regard to the promise of specific blessings for ANY who choose to settle for less than God's best!

        2) By THE BODY: of which Jesus Christ is the living Head; the vehicle through which God purposes to make known His manifold wisdom to "principalities and powers in heavenly places". In her behalf, Christ has been given headship over ALL THINGS, (Eph. 1:22). Being His body, the church is "the fullness of him that filleth all in all", (Eph. 1:23). More than an organization, the church is a LIVING ORGANISM -- the continuing INCARNATION of the Living Christ in this present age -- calling mankind to reconciliation with God!

        3) By THE BRIDE: a position held by Israel, as the covenant nation, in her relationship to God in Old Testament times, (Eph. 5:21-23). The relationship of man and woman, in marriage, is the most intimate and vital union conceivable to human minds. That Paul should use this figure, to illustrate the relationship existing between Christ and His church, suggests how deeply he felt the church's responsibility to love, honor, cherish, worship and obey her living Head!

        4) As ONE NEW MAN: composed of Jew and Gentile -- Christ being formed IN both so that they no longer live, but HE LIVES IN THEM, (Eph. 2:14-15; 4:22-24; Gal. 2:20). Purposing, ultimately, to reconcile all things under the authority of Christ, (Eph. 1:10); God has demonstrated, in the church, His ABILITY to do so. The church's work is a "ministry of reconciliation"; it can be effective ONLY as her corporate life evidences the fact that SHE IS, herself, RECONCILED!

        To reap rich and lasting benefits from this study, it is suggested that the student read the letter through weekly while studying this series of lessons. If various translations are available, it will be both interesting and advantageous to use them. Such an experience will deepen your love for the church -- so dearly loved by our Lord that He was willing to die for her life! It will strengthen your faith IN HIM -- enabling you to experience that "grace and peace" pronounced on such as "love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity", (Eph. 6:24).


  1. Who wrote this Ephesian letter? To whom?
  2. Under what circumstances was it written?
  3. Had Paul sought the office of apostleship?
  4. What sort of conflict had existed between his "will" (as a Jew) and that of God?
  5. Following the encounter with Jesus, on the Road to Damascus, what was the chief motivation of his life?
  6. Is there anything in this letter to suggest that it was intended for "all the saved"? or was it limited in its scope?
  7. What is a church, in the New Testament sense of that word?
  8. Is there any clear, biblical basis for the doctrine of a "universal, invisible church"?
  9. Who is authorized to claim the promise of "all spiritual blessings" as set forth in this letter?
  10. What was the purpose of this letter?
  11. What four figures are used in this letter to illustrate the relationship existing between Christ and His church? Explain.
  12. Do YOU truly love the church which Jesus has purchased with His own blood?
  13. Is your life truly yielded to His direction - as a member of His body?