Today we apply high school learning. In the ninth grade Mrs. M was my English teacher. She was the most frightening teacher a student could imagine. We have all met perfectionist types who demand absolute attention as well as unquestioning obedience. In a man this is militant. In a woman this was Mrs. M. I just looked at her picture again in my yearbook and chills still hit my bones. My fright was compounded because I too was a perfectionist type who lived to please my teachers. However, I was terrible at English and saw zero hope for my future in this woman's class. Much time has passed since this fearful experience and I no longer fault her. Were I to teach today I could invoke the same fears in my pupils and enjoy it too. I am a parent now, you know! Furthermore, I thank her because some things she taught us remain with me and are relevant to our study of the book of Ephesians.
She explained that good writing is not simply a bucket of words thrown onto the page. Rather there is order and organization. There is composition that first outlines themes and arranges these themes into paragraphs. She insisted that every thought in a paragraph needed to be relevant to the main idea in the paragraph as well as to the whole of the composition. As we learned more about the artistry of the written composition she began to give us writing assignments. Every paper we wrote that year needed to fit the specific pattern of a five paragraph composition. The first paragraph was the introduction. This first paragraph was also required to contain one thesis sentence that listed three main points that supported the main idea. These points were then to be expanded upon in paragraphs two, three, and four. These three points were affectionately referred to as "Bing," "Bang," and "Bongo." The fifth paragraph was the conclusion. We had poetic license, but only within this rigorous framework.
For example, suppose I were to write a paper using this pattern exhorting you to visit my church family some Sunday morning. In my first paragraph I would introduce the subject by explaining that my church family is great. My thesis would be, "My church family is great because of the Bible facts taught, the wonderful fellowship, and the tasty food." In my second paragraph I would expand on the Bible facts taught. In my third paragraph I would describe the wonderful fellowship. In my fourth paragraph I would illustrate the fellowship meals we have once a month. Finally in my fifth paragraph I would say again that our church family is truly great and that you should therefore come to visit. Do you understanding me so far?
All of this is relevant to the book of Ephesians because this book contains all the elements of an excellent composition. These elements of composition include an introduction, thesis statements, body, conclusion, themes, and style. Most people do not read the Scriptures as a composition, but instead as a mass of verses thrown onto the page. This is a shame. Unfortunately it results in the neglect of major points, the over-emphasis of minor points, and missing the majesty and beauty of the Holy Spirit's compositional artistry. If Mrs. M can teach a bunch of 13 year old students to write a good composition, don't you think the Holy Spirit can write an excellent composition? In the remainder of this paper we will show how the Holy Spirit framed the composition of Ephesians with a variation of the five paragraph pattern I first learned from Mrs. M, discuss the introduction, show the thesis statements in Ephesians with their main points, and highlight the power of God as a major theme.
Again, the book of Ephesians is a variation of the five paragraph composition I learned about in high school English. It goes without saying that Mrs. M taught us a simple pattern. However, a pattern is only a tool to help us along the way. A beautiful composition need not follow this pattern, but may choose another pattern. The pattern observed in Ephesians is that two five paragraph compositions have been glued together. An extra paragraph has also been added at the beginning to explain the relationship of the two major sections of the book. The first major section of the book leads the reader to a knowledge of God as our savior with three supporting points. The second major section of the book leads the reader to Christian growth as a result of this knowledge with three supporting points.
Thus Ephesians is an eleven paragraph composition. The first paragraph is simply the welcome and introduction of the author and audience. The second paragraph introduces the two halves of the book, namely our blessing of salvation and our blessing of praising the Lord. The third paragraph introduces more completely our blessing of salvation with a thesis statement listing three component points of salvation. The fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs expand on the three component points of salvation. The seventh paragraph introduces more completely our blessing of praising the Lord with a thesis statement listing three points of our praise to the Lord. The eighth, ninth, and tenth paragraphs expand on the three component points of our praise. And finally the eleventh paragraph is simply a farewell from the author to the audience.
You are Blessed
After the welcome in paragraph one we come to the introduction of the two major halves of the book in paragraph two included here for you reference.
First you are blessed because God has chosen to save you.
3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love, 5) having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, 6) to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favor in the Beloved, 7) in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8) which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him 10) to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in him. 11) We were also assigned an inheritance in him, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who does all things after the counsel of his will, 12) to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. 13) In him you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14) who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:3-14 (WEB)
This paragraph can be neatly divided into two halves by the word "also." The first point in the paragraph explains our blessing of salvation which is discussed in the first half of the book of Ephesians. The second point in the paragraph explains our blessing of praising the Lord which is discussed in the second half of the book of Ephesians, in particular, praising God by the way we live. Typically we think of praise or worship as singing praise or worship to the Lord. However, most would agree that the Scriptural meaning of praise and worship goes well beyond singing. Romans 12:1 make it clear that the offer of our lives to God is our act of worship. The book of Ephesians makes it clear that our pursuit of a godly life is acceptable praise.
Prayer One and Three Points
Following the introduction of our two blessings Paul singles out the first blessing, that of our salvation. In paragraph three, Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul prays a lofty prayer for us. This prayer, in effect, is the introductory paragraph for the next three paragraphs about salvation. This prayer also contains a thesis statement which introduces the next three paragraphs. The thesis is included here for your reference.
15) For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you have toward all the saints, 16) don't cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, 18) having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19) and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might.Ephesians 1:15-19 (WEB)
You will notice that I have underlined three words in this Scripture which highlight three main points. This sentence is the thesis statement itemizing three points about the knowledge of God as our savior. These three points are hope, riches, and power. These three points are then highlighted in the following three paragraphs in Ephesians. NOTE: Paul and other Scripture authors follow this same pattern of using a prayer or introduction as a thesis statement to introduce the main points of their books. This is a very helpful study to properly preach the main points of the book because the author tells you himself what they are!
Ephesians 2:1-10 is the paragraph which explains the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, point number 2 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 2:7 (WEB), "that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 2:11-22 is the paragraph which explains the hope of His calling, point number 1 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 2:12 (WEB), "that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
Ephesians 3:1-13 is the paragraph which explains the greatness of His power toward believers, point number 3 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 3:7 (WEB), "of which I was made a servant according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power."
Prayer Two and Three Points
Now concluded with the first half of the book, Paul begins a second lofty prayer in which he highlights the second blessing introduced earlier, namely that we are chosen for the praise of His glory. This is observed because every theme in this second prayer concerns our growth in becoming a holy people in order to please Christ and represent His glory in this world. This is our praise to Him. This second prayer is also a prayer of introduction for the last half of the book. Again the prayer contains a thesis statement which introduces the next three paragraphs. The thesis is included here for your reference.
14) For this cause, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16) that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18) may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19) and to know Christ's love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:14-19 (WEB)
Again you will notice that I have enumerated the clauses of this Scripture which lists three points. This sentence is the thesis statement itemizing three points about our growth in the knowledge of God as our savior. These three points are power, love, and fullness. These three points are then highlighted in the following three paragraphs in Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:1-13 is the paragraph which explains being filled up to all the fullness of Christ, point number 3 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 4:13 (WEB), "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
Ephesians 4:14-6:9 is the paragraph which explains being rooted and grounded in love, point number 2 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 4:16 (WEB), "from whom all the body, being fitted and knit together through that which every joint supplies, according to the working in measure of each individual part, makes the body increase to the building up of itself in love."
Finally, Ephesians 6:10-20 is the paragraph which explains being strengthened in His power, point number 1 above. This can be seen most clearly in Ephesians 6:10 (WEB), "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might."
We may have made Mrs. M proud! But more importantly I pray that this explanation of Ephesians will help impress upon you the main points of the book. To conclude let us return to the theme of God's power which is threaded through the whole book and is also the final point. In Ephesians 1:19-23 we read that God's power raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at the highest point of authority in the universe. God's power lifted Jesus from death to the highest height. In Ephesians 3:7-9 we read that this same power of God transformed Paul, a hardened religious Jew, to bring the good news of Christ to the ungodly Gentiles, those that he formerly despised. God's power removed all his self-righteousness and gave him the desire to tell others about the righteousness of Christ. And finally in Ephesians 6:10-20 we are exhorted to be strong in the Lord's mighty power. Brother, sister, friend if God's power can raise the dead, if God's power can propel a self-righteous Jew to tell ungodly Gentiles about the love of Christ, then what can His power do for you? Answer: absolutely anything is possible. You could be sharing the Christian faith in Iraq to a people in dire need!
Be strong in His power!