Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

- Ephesians

by Daniel Whedon



OF the founding of the Church in Ephesus by St. Paul, a full narrative is given by Luke, Acts 19:0, where see our notes. The twelve Johnite disciples, the secession from the synagogue and establishment of preaching in the academic rooms of Tyrannus, the contests with sorcery, and more especially the opposition and commotion of the worshippers of Diana, form a series of stirring and striking narrations. Three years, in round numbers, were spent in this great work. See our Outline History commencing this volume.

This is one of the four epistles from the Roman prison, as we have noted on Acts 28:31. Of its genuineness no doubt has ever been entertained in the Christian Church until modern criticism raised the question. De Wette and Bauer maintain it to be not the work of Paul; and Renan places it among the “doubtful.” Their reasonings, too captious for a discussion in our brief space, have been amply answered by Meyer, Eadie, and Alford.

A more serious doubt exists whether the epistle was addressed to the Ephesians; or, at any rate, to them alone. This doubt arises from two sources: 1. There are no greetings in the epistle, although Paul had hosts of friends in Ephesus; and the whole epistle is like a religious essay without definite reference to facts or circumstances. To this it is fairly replied, that most of Paul’s epistles are without greetings; and there is no good reason why St. Paul should not write a treatise on a holy model Church in epistolatory form, and send it to his Ephesians. But, 2. Very early manuscripts of the epistle are found without the words “in Ephesus” in the first verse. The Sinaitic manuscripts and one or two others omit. St. Basil and Jerome both say that ancient copies are without it. And hence a large number of our best biblical scholars conclude that this was an encyclical epistle; that is, it was sent by Paul by the hands of Tychicus to Asia with the space left blank that each Church in that section might insert its own name in a copy as its own. But to this there is a mass of objections. How happens it that not a single copy has ever been found with the name of any other Church inserted? The majority of manuscripts and versions with the words “in Ephesus” inserted is overwhelming; and even Basil and Jerome entertain no doubt of its really being an epistle to Ephesus. The omission of the words “in Ephesus,” in a few instances, like the omission of the words “in Rome,” in some copies of the Epistle to the Romans, may have arisen from the desire of some Churches to give to their own copy a character of generality by removing the mention of a particular Church. This question, it will be seen, does not affect the authenticity or value of the epistle.

Over this memorable Church, after Paul, a Timothy and an apostle John presided. To it one of the addresses of the Apocalypse was delivered, picturing its spiritual state. For centuries, the temple of Diana, lying in ruins, and splendid Christian cathedrals crowning the city, Ephesus was a great stronghold of eastern Christianity. Subsequently it fell under the power of the Turks, and at present few traces of ancient grandeur remain upon its site.

We may consider this production of St. Paul to be an epistolary treatise upon a holy Church as accordant with God’s eternal ideal through Christ, and humanly to be realized on earth. So far from being, as De Wette thinks, “rich in words and poor in ideas,” the greatest students of its pages have found it powerful in its combination of language and sublime in its sweep of thought. Dr. Bloomfield applies to it Dr. Johnson’s words in regard to another book: “If the reader have a spark of regard for the gospel it will blow it into a flame.” Grotius and Coleridge characterize it in terms we are almost able to endorse. The former says, “It equals its sublimity of ideas with words more sublime than any human language ever possessed.” The latter calls it, “The divinest composition of man.”

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The Eternal and Divine Side of the Formation, through Christ, of a Holy Church on Earth and in Heaven Ephesians 1:3 to Ephesians 3:21


1. An eternal preference for all believers Ephesians 1:3-8

2. According to a divine ideal of universal reconciliation and headship in Christ Ephesians 1:9-10

3. In which election we (all believers) are inheritors Ephesians 1:11-12

4. Into which ye, Ephesians, entered by faith Ephesians 1:13-14

5. Thanks, and prayer that they may realize Christ’s glorious headship Ephesians 1:15-23


1. Recapitulation, historically, of their faith and regeneration Ephesians 2:1-10

2. With the unification of Jew and Gentile in one Church Ephesians 2:11-22

3. Under Paul’s Gentile apostleship as divine instrument Ephesians 3:1-13

4. St. Paul’s apostolic prayer for the Ephesian Church Ephesians 3:14-19

5. Closing Doxology Ephesians 3:20-21


Human Side of this Churchdom Duties of the Elect Church on Earth Ephesians 4:1 to Ephesians 6:24

I. IN CHURCHLY RELATIONS AND OBLIGATIONS Ephesians 4:1 to Ephesians 5:21

1. To be a holy and efficient Church Ephesians 4:1-16

a. In holy unity of spirit Ephesians 4:1-6

b. And with Christ-given ministries Ephesians 4:7-11

c. To develop into a perfect individual Christian manhood and a compact organic life Ephesians 4:12-16

2. To be a Church in double contrast to the anti-Church of Gentilism Ephesians 4:17 to Ephesians 5:21

First Contrast Sins of the spirit Ephesians 4:17 to Ephesians 5:2

a. In contrast to the Gentilism which you have left Ephesians 4:17-19

b. Be renewed from the old to the new man Ephesians 4:20-24

c. By putting off the five Gentile vices Ephesians 4:25 to Ephesians 5:2

Second Contrast Sins of the flesh Ephesians 5:3-21

a. Against Gentile uncleanness, be mindful of God’s judgment Ephesians 5:3-7

b. Against their secret and nightly shame, be children of light and day Ephesians 5:8-17

c. Against their drunkenness and revelry, be filled with the Spirit and with holy hymns Ephesians 5:18-21

II. IN THE FAMILY AND DOMESTIC SYSTEM Ephesians 5:22 to Ephesians 6:9

a. Wives and Husbands Ephesians 5:22-33

b. Children and Parents Ephesians 6:1-4

c. Servants and Masters Ephesians 6:5-9

Closing Appeal for earnest readiness Ephesians 6:10-24

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