The Epistle to Ephesians --Part 1

The Epistle to Ephesians
Part 1

John Reid Sr.

This detailed exposition of Paul’s Ephesian letter by our deceased brother John Reid was entrusted to us by his son. We appreciate this honour.

The manuscript represents a meticulous effort to ascertain and present the true meaning of this part of Holy Scripture.

Much profit is to be derived from a prayerful and thoughtful perusal of each article. If all the articles are kept, they will provide a splendid running commentary on the entire epistle.

When the Apostle Paul came to Ephesus the first time, he seemed to find an unusual opening for the Word of God in the synagogue of that city. After he there had “reasoned with the Jews,” they “desired him to tarry longer time with them.” This indicated an interest among his brethren according to the flesh such as he had often sought with tears, but in vain. However, we are informed that “he consented not,” but said: “I will return again unto you, if God will.”

Of course, we know that when he set sail from Cenchrea, the port of Corinth, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila, his objective was Syria (Acts 18:18), although that of his companions was Ephesus. Therefore he “left them there,” but “he himself (temporarily) entered into the synagogue (in Ephesus) and reasoned with the Jews.” There he availed himself of an opportunity during the vessel’s stay in the port of Ephesus, intending to continue the journey to Syria when the vessel resumed her voyage.

The reason he gave for not remaining longer with the interested Jews was: “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem.” We are aware that this explanation is omitted from some of the oldest versions, but there appears to be no other reason to explain the refusal of what seems to have been an exceptional opportunity among the Jews.

In the meantime, a certain Jew named Apollos, “an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures” had arrived in the city and spoken “boldly in the synagogue” although “knowing only the baptism of John.” Aquila and Priscilla, now resident in Ephesus, being impressed with his message, “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” In due course this minister of the Gospel departed for Greece where he “mightily convinced the Jews and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:24-28). The city of Corinth seems to have been the centre of his labours (Acts 19:1).

Paul at Ephesus

When Paul returned to Ephesus as promised he found there twelve men, disciples who had been baptized only “unto John’s baptism,” and were unaware that the Holy Ghost was, that this, His day, had come. See John 7:39. The reading here without the italics, “The Holy Ghost was not yet,” is correct. These disciples then, after instruction in the truth and upon receiving Christian baptism, became the nucleus of one of the most outstanding examples of the Apostle’s work among the Gentiles, and this in a city literally submerged in the grossest forms of idolatry. Paul continued there three years (Acts 19:10; 19, 31). This great work was almost entirely among the Gentiles.

However, at last, after the work of several years in many places, we find him on his last journey to Jerusalem. On the way he sends a request to the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus, about a day’s journey from their city. Here he gave them very salutary counsel. It is noticeable that while he warned them that after his departure grievous wolves would find entrance among them, not sparing the flock, there was no such notion suggested as “apostolic succession.” On the contrary, he said: “I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

There are, however, many who, not satisfied with their divine safeguard, have much to say about an equal authority of “tradition;” but this is transgressing “the commandment of God.” See Matthew 15:3.

The Apostle a Prisoner

Four years had elapsed since the farewell at Miletus. Shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem he had been attacked by the Jews but rescued by Claudias Lysias, captain of the Roman guard, under whose custody he was kept pending investigation of his behaviour. In Caesarea, an asylum safer than Jerusalem, he appealed to Caesar to avoid a plot against his life (Acts 25:9-12). The appeal being recognized, in due time with a number of “prisoners,” he was placed upon a ship for Rome, in the charge of a centurion “of Augustus’ band.”

Paul in Italy

At last he arrived in Italy, and was met by a group from the church in Rome. The brethren came “as far as Appii forum.” In that group there was no apostle, nor, so far as the holy records are concerned, was there an apostle’s name on the list of the visiting comforters who saw him during confinement. Furthermore there is not a word to suggest that another apostle had ever resided in Rome. For such information we have to go to “tradition.” As to that, however, Dr. L. H. Lehmann, formerly “Priest by the rite of Rome,” tells us in his account of “The Soul of a Priest,” that as a student in Rome, his teacher of archaeology, Professor Marucchi, a co-worker with the great archeologist Di Rossi, related that “for fifty years his greatest ambition had been to unearth in Rome some inscription which would verify the papal claim that the Apostle Peter actually had been in Rome. Pope Leo XIII had solemnly promised, should he succeed in bringing to light such an inscription, that, layman and married though he was, he would reward him by making him a cardinal. “The professor,” states Dr. Lehmann, “was forced to admit to us that he had given up hope of success in his search.”

We can, therefore, see the wisdom of God in the Bible representation to us of the Roman assembly in existence independent of apostolic founding. The Epistle to the Romans was penned by an apostle who, at the time of writing had never seen Rome, and who, when he did arrive there did so a prisoner.

Paul’s Prison Letters

Four of them were written during his first imprisonment in Rome; three during an interval of liberty (Acts 28:30-31); and one during his last imprisonment said to be in the Mamertine dungeon.

The four were: the Epistles to the Ephesians, the Colossians, the Philippians, and Philemon. The first two were carried by Tychicus, the last one by Omesimus, a repentant run-away slave. Paul desired the letter to Colosse, forwarded to the Church of the Laodiceans, and that the Colossians would “read the Epistle from Laodicea.” (This may have been the Ephesian Epistle forwarded to Laodicea). Apparently Paul regarded the Epistles to Ephesus and to Colosse as of a nature which might be serviceable as circular epistles among the three churches named. The Philippian letter was carried by Epaphroditus on his return from Rome (Phil. 2:25-30).

Those epistles which were written during the interval of liberty were Hebrews, Titus, and Timothy. Hebrews was written from Italy, Paul mentioning that Timothy had been “set at liberty,” with whom he shortly expected to visit the Hebrews. This is the only Pauline epistle to that people, an epistle authoritative as “the other Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). The letter to Titus concerns a work in Crete for which there appears to be no room in the book of the Acts. This evidently was a work wrought after the Apostle’s release from prison. In the first Epistle to Timothy we learn that Paul besought him to “abide still at Ephesus” while he (Paul) passed on to Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3). Thus the desire expressed in Italy to visit the saints with Timothy was realized.

The second Epistle to Timothy was written during the Apostle’s final imprisonment. It is the last letter from his hands of which there is evidence. History tells us that shortly after writing it he was beheaded under Nero. As a Roman citizen he would not be crucified. That noble witness for Christ thus closed his testimony. Long before this Ananias of Damascus had been informed by Christ of His servant’s prospective career in these memorable words: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Paul’s Letter to Ephesus

The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians gives the fullest revelation of “the mystery” that had been hid in God throughout the ages, but “now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” In his Roman Epistle this is alluded to (Rom. 16:25-26), and again more fully in the Corinthian Epistle, in both cases, however, chiefly in its practical bearing upon certain matters (1 Cor. 14:12-21). After a long and arduous life, he writes about it from prison, with a fulness not found elsewhere in Scripture. It may be helpful to state that in writing to the Colossians he informs them that he had two ministries committed to him; he was a minister of the Gospel, which they had heard and which had been preached to every creature under Heaven; and a minister to complete the Word of God (as to its subjects). This he did in the revelation of “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints” (Col. 1:23-26). The latter ministry is in large part the subject of the Epistle to the Ephesians, an Epistle giving us, as another has said, “The richest exposition of the blessings of the saints individually and of the assembly, setting forth at the same time the counsels of God with regard to the glory of Christ.”