Beyond Eden Ephesians 5 6 Tells What The Passage Is Really About

A whole book in one blog post by Bruce C. E. Fleming

Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5-6 by Bruce C. E. Fleming is now available!

Not about headship? Not about marriage? What is Ephesians 5-6 about?

Paul spells out the key to this passage in 5:32. And he uses literary patterns from 5:15-6:9 that make it the central idea of this part of Ephesians.

The Great Mystery, now revealed, is the mutually supportive relationship of Christ and the members of the church in one body. This passage is all about Christ and the church!

Two introductory sections set the stage. Then a large bell-shaped chiastic parallel section centers on the Great Mystery of verse 32. This can be called “a jump, jump, high jump pattern” and is found elsewhere in the Bible. This pattern was named and pointed out by Kenneth E. Bailey.

The first “jump.” Verses 15 to 18 end with the unique idea of verse 18b that believers in Christ are to be being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The second “jump.” Verses 19-21 build on the unique idea of 18b. Being filled with the Spirit results in four actions. They involve focusing on God (19b and 20) and the involve reciprocally ministering to one another (19a, 21). Spirit-filled believers speak to one another (19a), teaching and correcting one another (see Col 3:16b). In response to this teaching and correction they submit themselves (21). They submit not in a vertically-oriented hierarchical structure but in a voluntary and horizontal way in reciprocating self-submission. This is the unique idea of this second “jump.”

The “high jump.” Verses 5:22-6:9 build on this Spirit-filled, mutually supportive relationship in Christ. It is summed up in the centering declaration of the key verse in 5:32 that this passage is about Christ and the church. Here is the message of this passage. All the parts of the passage are subordinate to this key theme.

You can evaluate a person’s interpretation of the verses inside of this passage by whether or not they have correctly identified the structure and center of this passage.

What is going on in verses 5:22-6:9? Paul uses what has been called the prophetic rhetorical template. This is a seven-part rainbow-shaped parallelism with its high point in the middle. Three “as Christ” illustrative sections lead up to verse 32, in 22-24, 25-27 and 28-31. Three “in the family” sections further illustrate verse 32.

In verses 22-31, Paul assembles three “as Christ” sections. 

– Verses 22-24 focus on Christ (23b) and on the secondary example of the reciprocal unity of the Christian couple.

– Verses 25-27 focus on Christ (25b) and on how Christ lovingly and sacrificially cares for the church.

– Verses 28-31 focus on Christ (29b) and on the secondary example of how people care for their own bodies.

In verses 22-31 these three sections are linked together by the Christ’s two actions in 5:25b. To link them together Paul uses a linchpin literary pattern like the one found in Genesis 3:15-17 that is centered in Line 1 of Genesis 3:16. How Christ sacrifices for the church is linked in Ephesians 23b and in 25b. How Christ loves the church is linked in verse 29b and in 25b.

In verses 5:33-6:9, Paul assembles three “in the family” sections. 

– Verse 33 focuses on the married couple living out the horizontal mutual submission between believers of verse 21.

– Verses 6:1-4 focus on the respectful relationships of children and parents.

– Verses 5-9 focus on the respectful relationships of servants and masters.

Much has been written about this passage that may or may not be found elsewhere in the Bible but is not the message of this passage. This is not the longest passage in the Bible as some claim. It isa magnificent description of the relationship of Spirit-filled believers united with Christ in the church.

You can think again about Ephesians 5:15-6:9 by reading Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5-6 by Bruce C. E. Fleming, founder of the Tru316 Project and speaker on The Eden Podcast. The relationship of believers with one another and Christ goes even beyond the wonderful unity experienced in Genesis 2 in the Garden of Eden.

by Bruce C. E. Fleming (

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