Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 18


Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 18
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Letters of Paul

Part 7

VII. Ephesians: Unity in Diversity as a Witness to the "Powers"

A. Ephesians Outline [General]

1. Theological exposition: The blessings of salvation (Chapters 1-3)

2. Ethical implications (Chapters 4-6)

B. Ephesians Outline [Detailed]

1. Greetings (1:1-2) – recall encyclical theory

2. Theological exposition: The blessings of salvation (1:3-3:21) – all one large prayer?

a. Praise God for blessings in the Trinity (1:3-14)

b. Prayer for understanding of hope and power (1:15-23)

c. The certainty of salvation (2:1-10)

i. The future as past: Co-resurrected and exalted (2:1-7)

ii. The past as present: Saved by grace which produces works (2:8-10)

d. The reconciliation of salvation (2:11-3:21)

i. Unity of Jews and Gentiles (2:11-22)

ii. Paul's stewardship of this unity (chapter 3)

3. Ethical implications (Chapters 4-6)

a. Growing up into Christian Unity (4:1-16)

i. The source is the Trinity (1-6)

ii. The method is the gifts of the Spirit (7-16)

b. Walking in Christian morality (4:17-5:16)

i. Putting on new person – renewing image of God (4:17-24)

ii. Putting off old person – falsehood (4:25-5:16)

c. Knowing God's will: the filling of the Spirit (5:17-6:9)

i. The main commands (5:17-18), fleshed out as:

ii. Praising God (v. 19)

iii. Giving thanks for everything (v. 20)

iv. Observing relationships of authority (5:21-6:9)

d. Standing firm against demonic realm (6:10-17)

i. Struggle in the "heavenlies" (10-12)

ii. Resistance through God's armor (13-18)

e. Concluding comments (6:19-23)

C. Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson Transcript


This is the 18th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


The letter to the Ephesians has for many Christians been as beloved or nearly, as the letter to the Romans and arguably the second most influential book among the Pauline corpus, after Romans as well. Like that epistle, Ephesians sets out in a very organized fashion, many key tenants of the Gospel message, though less with respect to a point by point progression of taking the believer from their plight in sin through the steps of salvation to glorification. As in focusing on what Christ has done and his benefits for the church as a whole, though certainly derivative for the believer and thus the responsibility of the church ethically to live out its collective salvation as a testimony to a watching world and to the cosmos, we will see perhaps the central means to accomplishing that mandate is as the church reflects unity in the mitts of its diversity. Hence our title, powers includes not only earthly but also heavenly and other worldly, angelic and demonic powers along with unity and diversity. 


Ephesus, like Corinth and Philippi have received considerable archaeological attention, spectacular ruins remain or have been renovated so that tourists can see the pillars that surrounded the market place. The very stunting facade of the pagan philosopher Celsus, extensive personal library, the marble slab tiled roads that crisscross the city center at more than one location with pillars that once held up the shops that lined those roads. And even when the marble no longer appears, the columns enable people to see how long and wide and majestic these main streets were. In this case the road heading out to where the harbor would have been in the 1st century but now silted over making the sea further away. The Ephesian theatre is one in the Greek world that still remains in tack. 


With the nearly three year period that Paul spent in Ephesus as shown in the Book of Acts, one would expect this letter to have many personal touches perhaps reflect distinctive problems relating to the cultural community of Ephesus. In Romans, we find almost none of this, but Paul had not visited that church or community. With Ephesians, one cannot make sense out of the phenomena in this fashion. We will return to this question. But after our survey of the outline and highlights, we will also suggest that perhaps the problem itself is over played. 


There is no doubt if one looks at the outline of the book, it can be easily divided in half even more so than letter to the Romans, into a section of theological exposition followed by a section of ethical implication. That section of theological exposition if not exactly the plan of salvation as in Romans, can be viewed as describing the blessings of salvation. The introductory greetings include one of the potential keys to solving the mystery of the abstract nature of the letter’s content and also to the vexed issue of the authorship of the thesis. Even more so than Colossians and also 2nd Thessalonians, the authenticity of Ephesians in the modern biblical scholarship, aka the last 250 years or so, has been called into the question. Not merely by the lack of apparent connection with the particulars of the Ephesian church but as with the letter to the Colossians being a very different style from the undisputed letters of Paul. Where Colossians had very clear particulars such as the heresy that Paul had to combat, enabling some to account for the difference in style, in Ephesians, one has to deal with both problems of abstract content and unique style and as we noted in our introduction, a style very similar to that of Colossians. But with contents nearly as distinct from the undisputed Pauline’s as the case with Colossians, largely because of anything like the Colossian heresy. And also because as F.F. Bruce in his commentary as well as others have pointed out, even though the style is different, phrase by phrase and concept by concept, a large part of Ephesians reads like a compendium, using F.F. Bruce’s phrase, the quintessence of Pauline thought, as if perhaps a follower of Paul wanted to create a collage of the best of Paul’s teachings. 


The one other datum that begins to lead us in the direction of a solution is the lack of the words in Ephesus from the three earliest known reliable manuscripts of this letter. Could it be that Ephesians was originally not written merely to one unique congregation or community of house churches? It’s intriguing that in the letter to the Colossians in 4:16 Paul writes, ‘after this letter has been read to you see that is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. The latter letter obviously hasn’t been preserved. Here is clear evidence that Paul intended that one of his letters to be read by more than one church. Now Laodicea was close enough to Colossae that they both were infested by the same false teachers so that Paul’s words proved appropriate for both churches, but we also see in the Book of Revelation for a document which was intended to be read by seven churches, including Ephesus and also Laodicea. It doesn’t seem that Paul initially having intended Ephesians to be addressed to more than one church insomuch that he had to write at a more abstract level without greetings people of one community, without dealing with specific problems of a particular community and that rather than having to create a copy for each community, he simply didn’t include a specific destination in his opening greetings leaving individual churches to make a copy for themselves. 


Unpacking the rest of the first three chapters, the prayer or thanksgiving as in 2nd Corinthians but unlike other letters surveyed thus far is couched as a Jewish  (בְּרָכוֹת – Barakhah) praise or blessing rather than an explicit thank you. It is interesting that comments and wordings of prayer continue to punctuate the first three chapters. So in chapter three, Paul begins as if he is concluding the long first part of the body of the letter, ‘for this reason, I Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you gentiles,’ but then breaks off not resuming his line of thought until verse 14, ‘for this reason I kneel before the Father’, the posture for prayer and by the end of chapter three, Paul is in a mode of prayer. It is the Greco-Roman literary, epistolary sub-form of an encomium, prayer praise to the gods or for wealthy civil benefactors often inscribed on buildings and columns erected and made possible by their patronage, in which we fine the closest possible parallels to the first three chapters of the Ephesians. 


The formal thanksgiving prayer however spans 1:3 – 14 which in the Greek, creating one unified long sentence, clearly divisible in thirds according to the respected works of the triune God-head with each section concluding with the reframe to the praise of his glory. The uniqueness of the Father is the work of predestining or election on which I recall my comments on Romans 8 & 9 and note that here, even more clearly, it is only believers that are in view and only single predestination which is unambiguously spoken of and that even though this is election in the Christian era which refers to eternal salvation which seems to require an individual component to it, nevertheless, can still be spoken of in terms of cooperative election, for it is we the church who was chosen in Christ and in his love such as we become related to Christ through our response to God’s wooing but not deterministic initiative; he declares us to be the elect, he signifies that we are those who are predestined by virtue of in cooperation into Christ and his body. Jesus Christ is the one who has redeemed us to his cross work and the Spirit is the one who comes to live in us, to mark us and seal us, to form a deposit or down payment guaranteeing the rest to come, our full eternal inheritance. But although the formal blessings ends with 1:14, verse 15 begins, ‘for this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I have not stopped in giving thanks.’ Still the language of one in prayer as it says in the second part of verse 16, ‘remembering you in my prayers.’ In verse 17, I keep asking and verse 18, I pray and what he prays for, spans the next several verses, shading into theological affirmation about what Christ has done and made possible for us. We may understand this section as continued prayer for believers, a greater understanding of the hope of the future and even now the power in the present that Christ death and resurrection have made possible. 


By the time we get to chapter 2, a newly begun paragraph or sentence in the Greek, we are at least in uninterrupted declarative and indicative teaching for some time. Though as we have already mentioned, the prayer mode will resume by chapter 3:1. The main point of chapter 2:1 – 10 as Paul turns to the benefits that are available to those who are in Christ as a result of Christ’s work, would appear to be the certainty of that salvation, present and future for the believer because of the finished work of Christ and the fact that, it is made available to the believer by the grace of God. Verses 1 – 7 may be thought of as playing with these various times and tenses in which Paul alternates, entitled the future as past. Particular striking in these verses is Paul’s use of compound verbs, all put in the past tense, to describe the believers’ unity in Christ and the blessings available in that unity. Less clear in the English, the language in verse 5, being made alive with Christ and verse 6, being raised up with Christ and being seated with him, are verbs that could be more literally rendered co-resurrected, co-made alive, co-seated, co-exalted or something like this; and yet, except for the beginning stages of being made alive in Christ, we have not been resurrected bodily, seated in the heavenly places, using the language of chapter 1 and elsewhere or exalted with Jesus into heaven. 


But Paul uses the emphatic use, a future referring to the use of the past tense, perhaps something similar to the emphatic perfect in Hebrew. For it is a comparative rare form outside of Greek, influenced by Semitic language and thought. To say emphatically that these future promises are so certain that we can speak of them as if they are already past. Maybe the best known verses in all of Ephesians or at least in the theological half of Ephesians are 2:8 – 9. For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast. Here we may label the play with tenses as the past as present. As he has already done once in the briefer statement in verse 6, Paul uses what is called a periphrastic construction, to say with two verbs a form of the verb, to be, followed by a participle. What in the vast majority of instances, Greek employed only one verb to communicate and thereby to the extent he uses two separate tenses in those two different verbs can say what we cannot say nearly so fluently in English, namely in this case, ‘for it is by grace that you have been and continue to be saved through faith.’ We don’t like the covenantal nomist about whom we talked about in introducing the Letter to the Galatians, preaching salvation by grace but perseverance by works. It is as Paul puts it in Romans 1:16-17, what we introduced as the thesis statement of that letter, justification, a partial synonym for salvation, by faith from first to last, a revelation of the righteousness of God in the Gospel by faith. We refer also to Galatians 2. But that is not to say that good works do not have a part to play, for the verses not nearly as well known, tellingly as 8 – 10 afterwards adds, ‘for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Neither Paul nor any other apostolic or foundational Christian writer was against good works or believed that salvation was possible if one’s faith never resulted in good works. Works are not things that bring about salvation but the out-growth of it. It is a response for gratitude for Christ’s completed work on the Cross for us appropriated entirely by faith. 


Chapter 2: 11 to the end of chapter 3 may then be seen as moving on to the reconciliation that salvation offers. Beginning here, unlike Colossians, immediately with the reconciliation of Jew and gentile; the most warring factions of Paul’s day, little wonder that the theme of unity pervades. The rest of chapter 2; precisely because the Gospel is a Gospel of grace which is entirely by grace through faith, Jew and gentile come after Christ has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between them (2:14). They come on utterly equal terms to create peace (verse 15) and Paul believes that in his apostolic commission, a steward of this unity. A stewardship that he begins and takes for granted that his Ephesians audience knows but not everyone else at the other churches that this letter may be delivered to, may know and so he interrupts the beginning of his prayer in 3:1 to remind them of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to him, which he speaks of in verse 3 as a mystery once hidden but now reveals both on the plain of salvation and personally in his life.  And this mystery that previous generation did not know or understand (verse 5) is defined specifically in verse 6 as that through Gospel, the gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together as one body in Christ Jesus. Moreover, the goal in creating such a unity, mysterious indeed to the Israelites of the Old Testament when they seemed always at odds with their surrounding neighbors. 

That mystery in verse 9 is to be made plain, to be disclosed to everyone now is the Christian age, through the church, through the local expressions and worldwide expressions of the community of God’s true followers in Christ, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known and also to the rulers and authorities, not even in this life but in the heavenly places, in another world, according to his eternal purpose. There is a message here for Christian witness and evangelism. We don’t need any new tools or strategy or resources although there might be new developments in those areas, to have an impact on our world in the 21st century for good for producing more followers of Jesus Christ. If we would take seriously the task of uniting true Bible believing born-again evangelical Christians, tragically that wing of the church seems in recent decades due to the accesses of the modern ecumenical movement. But create the needed unity for those to trust in Christ like in the days of Paul’s writings. And there are probably implications also for the nature and made up for any individual Christian congregation. There is a time and place for homogeneity, for like-minded individuals in the same age bracket or any other walk of life to join together to discuss and encourage and be challenged and nurtured in common concerns. But too a contemporary church have so divided into separate groups, that there are few if any avenues left for fellowship and to get to know young adults at a deeper level, for people to come together within a given community for the common cause of the kingdom, for different cultures and peoples to not just know a few people but to have cherished brothers and sisters in relationships that are natural enough that others will know about them and wonder why such people are gathered together like this who have no natural human reason for doing so, it is then the question of a supernatural power cannot be avoided. Thus through this, people will come to Christ.