Did you know that Paul uses the phrase, “the church” nine times in the relatively brief letter to the church at Ephesus? This is a church Paul worked with for three years (Acts 20:18,31). He taught them in person and then he sends this epistle full of teaching (Eph. 1-3) and application (Eph. 4-6). In both parts of the letter, he makes important statements about “the church.”
• “(God) gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…” (1:22-23a; see 4:4).
• The manifold wisdom of God is meant to be made known by the church (3:10).
• God’s glory is meant to be shined through the church (3:21).
• Christ is the head and savior of the church (5:23).
• The church is subject to Christ (5:24).
• Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (5:25).
• Christ seeks to present to Himself the church in all her glory (5:27).
• Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (5:29).
• The husband/wife illustration is about Christ and the church (5:32).
When you add in the times Paul discusses “the body” (1:23; 2:16; 3:8; 4:4; 4:12; 4:16; 5:23; 5:30), it is easy to see why Ephesians has often been labeled the book which exalts the church of the Christ (in contrast with Colossians, touted as the book which exalts the Christ of the church).
Ephesians destroys the concept of the religious division also known as denominationalism. Where Christ has spoken on how to be saved, how to worship, how the church is to be organized and led, and religious bodies teach as divine doctrine the precepts of men (Mat. 15:9), they become plants which the heavenly Father has not planted (Mat. 15:13). If that is true of what the Pharisees did with God’s law concerning honoring father and mother (Mat. 15:3ff), doesn’t it follow that it would include all of Christ’s doctrine?
Ephesians is a great letter to discover the truth that Christ desires religious unity among believers, a unity derived from believers submitting to His teaching and will. But to limit our interpretation of this book to just that idea is a tragic shortcoming. The whole letter begins with a powerful, humbling truth: “God chose us” (1:4). We are His treasures, the praise of His glory. We are precious and valuable to Him–He predestined us to adoption as sons (1:5), He redeemed us with His blood (1:7), He lavished us with His grace (1:8), He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9), He gave us an inheritance (1:11), hope (1:12), and a pledge (1:13-14) that we might be wise, knowledgeable of His will, enlightened, and strengthened (1:15ff). All these spiritual blessings (1:3) are reserved for those who submit to Jesus as the head and strive to follow the pattern of New Testament teaching. When we do, we have access to the greatest possible relationship in the whole universe! “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21).