The case for this final letter has been stated earlier in its barest form. Arguments concerning its authenticity have gone on for ages, and this student does not believe that an answer will be found in our generation. Surely, however, it is known to God.
This a treatise in the form of a letter. Its author has been given the name of Paul, but as the Interpreter's Bible, states, "...by an unknown Christian of the second generation..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 602)
Despite this 'controversy' it is necessary to investigate the writing due to its enormous importance to the present theological view accepted within the body of the Church. If it is not the work of Paul, then it most certainly bears his indelible mark, for the strength of that 'power' which guided him has made any other history of the church impossible. We shall never know the loss that has been suffered.
No dialogue could be more appropriate to open this study than the one which is contained in, The Interpreter's Bible. And so, despite the possible criticism that it has been used to lengthen this unworthy work, this student must reference it here.
Ephesians is of supreme importance in the history of Christian theology. The conception of the church as the body of Christ, its mission to unite all peoples in a single society of worship, has been shaped by the dissertation of this letter. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 605)
The writings of Paul are expounded upon in this letter. It is certain that the basic ideas are certainly his. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 599)
Without question, the entire basis for the theology of Christianity has come down to us as a result of Paul's philosophical and theological imagery. There is nothing in the synoptic gospels, in the teachings of Jesus, or the practice of the Apostles, that would have led the world into a religious practice the nature of which we find today. The result of that worship is evidenced by the unjustifiable history of the Church, and the moral and spiritual decay of our world society.
It is unfortunate that the words of men must always be subject to the whims of those who come after them, but thus it is with Ephesians. In the origin of this letter, there was no congregation or city named as is common with the other letters in the Pauline corpus.
'To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 1:1; RSV)
The King James version, however, follows the dictates of fourth century clerics who inserted, "...to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus..."
Professional translators and interpreter's agree that the words, "in Ephesus" were not found in any Greek manuscript before the fourth century. They are certainly a scribal insertion. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 601)
"In 1:1 the evidence of our earliest authorities shows unmistakably that the words rendered "at Ephesus" (KJV) are not original..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 608)
The author of this treatise uses II Corinthians for the opening of the blessing and then goes directly into his theory of predestination. Paul dealt with this subject when referring to those who had been 'chosen', 'called' into the church, indicating that they had been known beforehand. This author now expounds on that subject.
"...even as he chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world... He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ..." (Ephesians 1:4-5; RSV)
Not only is Jesus' pre-existence pronounced but also the ability of, the chosen, to become the 'sons of God.' This is part of a 'creed' which the high church still administers during every service in which they are engaged. Unfortunately, it can never be achieved during our lifetime, but only after death.
That which Paul had already established concerning the sacrifice of Jesus is repeated here and leaves us in no doubt of its meaning.
"...we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..." (Ephesians 1:7; KJV)
It is absolutely essential that the Christian, upon being initiated into the 'mystery' of Jesus' death and resurrection, avow their firm belief in this doctrine. The 'blood' of Jesus is the essential part of the ritual of sacrifice, as in any cult or religious sect, including Judaism, which uses blood as the cleansing agent for sin.
The resurrection may be considered the result of that rite which is significant in a promise of eternal life. Herein lies the aspiration for the act, to escape death and obtain immortality with the living god. No more, no less, all hinges on the firm belief of the worshiper, and his participation in the act itself through the taking of communion. Which 'mystery' rite is, again, an invention of Paul.
Predestination is broached once again, a boon to those who might believe that God chose them before the world was formed, before the beginning of all things. But it is a woe to those who have not been 'chosen', even though they follow all the tenants of the faith. Somehow, in some deep, mysterious council, they have been found wanting before they came into existence.
The conclusion is that God creates even those who are unworthy, leaving them to suffer an existence of struggling to no avail. No matter what they do, no matter what sacrifice they suffer, they will not be acceptable to God because they were not among the 'chosen', 'the elect', from the beginning.
To accept this doctrine, to hold to this Pauline precept, is to do away with any concept of a 'free will', or the existence of a compassionate God.
The Interpreter's Bible, makes no bones about what this letter is saying. "The participle is to be taken closely with the main verb, so that the meaning is, "We were made God's portion by predestination". Verses 3-4, lead us to the inevitable conclusion that all this was planned before the beginning of eternity. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 622)
The writer of this epistle goes further, and in doing so, proves this student's position on attaining the status of, 'the sons of God.'
"... were sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it..." (Ephesians 1:14; RSV)
Not in this life, not on this earth, but after our deaths. Paul himself makes reference to this in his letter to the Romans.
"We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23; RSV)
God forbid that any one should reach this inspired status in the present life, how would Paul and his church ever cope with such a one? And if Jesus were to return without fanfare, without our being prepared, like a thief in the night, how would he receive that 'divine' status of sonship?
In a lesser dogma, the writer of Ephesians pronounces that God, "...accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places..." (Ephesians 1:20; RSV)
"...he ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of God..." (The Apostles Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 18)
"...ascended into heaven, and is seated on the right hand of the Father..." (The Nicene Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 18)
"...ascended into heaven, is seated on the right hand of the Father..." (The Athanasian Creed; The Book Of Concord; Fortress Press: Page 20)
And in each, Jesus, it is proclaimed, "...shall judge the living and the dead."
All that the ancient writer proclaimed almost two thousand years ago is repeated, word for word, in our present theology. Even down to a reflection on the church being the body of Christ, nothing has changed but has been amplified into a complex and unyielding framework that is as sinister as the law Paul sought to evade.
The writer of Ephesians now begins a dissertation that opens a window on the major reason that Paul was able to dominate and further his theology despite the opposition of the Twelve and the true gospel. Believe this, the Evil One did not consider Jesus' reported death on the cross a defeat. For Satan, it would seem this was a victory that became his greatest triumph over man, an achievement that led mankind on an ill conceived path that has lasted for twenty centuries.
"And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." (Ephesians 2:1-2)
To Paul and his followers, Satan was a real, living entity. Like God's Word, the Evil One's presence is announced from the very beginning, even in the garden and in the story of Job. We are made aware of that One in the prophets who cried out as to the manner of his creation. (Ezekiel 28:11-15; RSV)
And even to the day of his being cast out from paradise.
"How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground..." (Isaiah 14:12-15; RSV)
Again, the professionals amplify Paul's belief that in our sins we are subject to a demonic power of evil. He conceived of it in terms of a, "...personal spirit who rules over a kingdom of evil in the atmosphere which surrounds us." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 639)
But man's downfall is the beginning of folly.
In opposition to Paul's convictions, modern theologians seem to think that the idea of a real, existing entity of Evil is, "...all but unimaginable to the mind of our own times..." (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 639)
This is how we could fall subject to an invalid theology that emanates from the mind of a single human being. Ignoring the word of God, mankind assumes that he is superior to God's mind and loses sight of the greatest enemy he has to face. It is one of Satan's major victories.
"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28; RSV)
Why is it that we do not believe Jesus anymore? Was Jesus talking for his health? Do you think he was ignorant of the danger we face on this 'veil of tears'? Did God send him with a meaningless message?
The writer of Ephesians now starts a dissertation that begins to unravel the entire framework of Paul's argument. Once an elaborate recitation has been started, especially dealing with a system of philosophy or theology that has no material proofs, the way becomes treacherous and may well cause its creator to stumble.
"...even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)..." For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:5-9; RSV)
Paul's 'faith without works' comes to the fore once again, the 'free gift' of the church, salvation through faith alone. But that 'free gift' is hardly 'free' when one reads the small print. To obtain it one must first go through a ritual initiation which involves the swearing of an oath of allegiance. Yet, what does the head of the church, Christ, say about this?
"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, "You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn, But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black." (Matthew 5:33-36; RSV)
Then the ritual cleansing, baptism must be entered into. And from that we must go on to absolute faith, a faith without works that will justify and redeem us. Where one is to find that strength within the structure of humanity is impossible to say. That is why Jesus taught us as he did.
"Be not hearers of the word, but doers also."
"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21; RSV)
"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man..." (Matthew 7:24; RSV)
And will faith without works bring us those things we desire from God? Jesus says it will not, for he speaks of acts.
"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..." (Matthew 7:7; RSV)
One of the greatest evils that we see exhibited by Paul's work is that we no longer believe the words of Jesus, who is the Christ. Since the church has built its foundation on the metaphysical works of Paul, it dare not insight one word that might disrupt his imaginative and highly unstable theology.
The 'free gift' of salvation is a myth, for at the very least, beyond the proofs we have shown and could show, there must be belief, absolute, and that is a work, an action of the mind, ego, and body, just as surely as any other. It is totally reflected in the rites we must accomplish, the payment to receive this free gift. And it is not available to those who remain outside this closed association, or those who have not been 'chosen' before the beginning of all things.
For even if one were to cry out in the streets, 'Lord, Lord, I believe...', they are not saved. Even if they were to accept Paul's entire message of salvation, until and unless, they go through the rites of the church, the Oath, Baptism, and Communion, until he becomes a member of the Church by adoption, he will not be acceptable.
As we will see momentarily, there is also a higher price to be paid for salvation, one that seems to go beyond reason and moral decency.
Salvation comes through the Jews according to the writer of Ephesians.
"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh... remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2:11-13; RSV)
Why are the doors of some churches painted red? Because one enters into the Church through the 'blood of Christ.' Without the blood offering of a human sacrifice, there is nothing. And without absolute faith in that pagan rite, without acceptance of that heathen price, salvation is not available.
In all of this, Jew and Gentile are supposed to be reconciled.
"For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility..." (Ephesians 2:14; RSV)
If we are known as Jesus said, by our fruits, then the basis of Paul's gospel, and the Hellenistic theological reasoning of Ephesians' author, are a total failure. This, of course, is taking into consideration the plight of the Jew in a Gentile world for the last five thousand years.
But the means of this 'reconciliation' is what should concern us the most.
"...by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances..." (Ephesians 2:15; RSV)
This student has already gone to great lengths to point out Jesus' view on the Law. They are etched in stone, cut into granite tablets if you would. Paul and the writer of this epistle must have been ignorant of his teachings, for if they did have that knowledge, then they counted Jesus as nothing (See Matthew 5:17-18).
"And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near..." (Ephesians 2:17), is a prime example of this reasoning. What did Jesus teach us?
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set man against his father..." (Matthew 10:34-36; RSV)
"...and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross..." (Ephesians 2:16; RSV)
Again we are confronted with that which we must accept in the form of payment for our salvation. An act which, to this student, is so selfish as to be loathsome. The author of Ephesians approves, even underlines the 'small print' which accompanies his contract.
"...but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone..." (Ephesians 2:19-20; RSV)
Jesus' birth is not the cornerstone, not his life, his ministry, or his teachings, but the one feature that is essential to the entire body of Paul's theology, original and expanded. Jesus as that human sacrifice, the blood offering to atone for mankind's sins, the paschal lamb.
And the 'apostles' and 'prophets' that are spoken of here have nothing to do with the Twelve or God's chosen prophets. Paul's standard for these offices are now very general in nature, bereft of their original meaning and purpose.
The prophets Paul speaks of are the Christian prophets (4:11; I Corinthians 14:1-5, 24; Acts 11:27). The joining of prophets with apostles has no parallel in the genuine epistles. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 661)
Well, we have all seen where Paul did use both titles for Christian offices, and his abasement of those high commissions could do nothing but lead others astray. And this unknown writer goes on in the first person, stating for Paul that, "...the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly." (Ephesians 3:2-3; RSV)
Paul wrote more than briefly on the subject of his 'visions', but more importantly the epistle goes on in an ever expanding symposium on Paul's 'commission'.
"When you read this you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit... "
From previous readings one might have thought that Paul was the singular 'apostle' to the Gentiles, but now there are a score.
Paul alone is mentioned as the recipient of the revelation (vs 3); here he implies that a larger group of the inspired leaders have received the same insight. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 667)
It seems that corruption of the true faith weighs light on the conscience of those who would have their way rather than God's. Here they have done their best to wipe out any concrete evidence of the Lord God's most high commissions, those attained through His Holy Spirit. The price to be paid was beyond their comprehension.
Ephesians goes on to admonish all believers to live a life worthy of their faith, but using the example of Paul's manner in stating scripture he writes, "Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8; RSV)
The writer here refers to Psalm 68:18. It was applied to on his ascension of Mount Sinai to receive the Law. (The Interpreter's Bible; Volume 10: Page 688)
The scripture is really not scripture at all for it neither conforms to the Masoretic Text nor the LXX. In any case, the misuse of Old Testament verses, which was a regular practice for Paul, is inexcusable for any reason. It has become a common habit in our time for ministers and evangelists to mix 'apples and oranges' whenever it suits their purpose. It is even more unacceptable since they have Jesus' teachings to count on, and refuse to use them over Paul's.
It is interesting to note how quickly the author of this epistle turns on the Gentiles. We must assume that he is speaking to those who have not yet been 'saved' by the knowledge of Paul's Christ.
"Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds... You did not so learn Christ!-assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him..." (Ephesians 4:17-21; RSV)
Indeed, for the whole world had not heard the message.
The balance of the letter instructs the body of believers to act according to their example in the Christ they have been taught. There is certainly nothing to chastise, for the message is one that asks for the congregations to act in a superlative, if not perfect, manner. To cast off humanity for total spirituality, is a common goal in valid religious movements.
However, one must question what, "...example in the Christ..." they had been taught. At best it could only have been fourth or fifth hand.
What is objectionable, aside from the Pauline desire for chastity in all things, is the subjugation of women.
"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife... As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:22-24; RSV)
But then the author suggests that God's word in Genesis is, "...and the two shall become one." It is a misquote of, Genesis 2:24.
"...and they become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24; RSV)
"...and they shall be one flesh." (Genesis 2:24; Masoretic Text)
The verse here does not refer to marriage, but to the redemption of the fallen angels, when they gave up their human forms. The distinction between male and female, as pointed out by the Hebrew 'tsela' will be erased and they will become one flesh again in the spirit.
"But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:29-30; RSV)
It was the firm belief of the orthodoxy in Jesus' time that angels were neither male or female, but neuter, both male and female. If Paul and this writer were unaware of the rabbinical interpretation of this passage, and Jesus' teaching, they were indeed in darkness.
In the final instance, this unknown author renders a warning that is worthy of our greatest attention. Unfortunately, we have all but pushed it aside preferring to be in the presence of half-truths and philosophical ramblings. It is therefore fitting that we conclude the findings of this thesis, and the study of Ephesians, with that writer's own words. It was never more meaningful than in today's world and in this present age.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:10-12; RSV)