The Ephesians Bible Study by Bruce C. E. Fleming
All of Ephesians in a few paragraphs? No. We’re focusing on Ephesians 5:15-6:9 because this is the heart of Paul’s teaching on life in the Spirit and the relationship of Christ and the Church. This passage is also the heart of much turmoil and misunderstanding regarding wives and husbands in the Christian home.
Did Paul teach that women are to submit to the headship of their husbands? Did Paul teach that a husband is like Christ to his wife? Did Paul teach that fathers are authority figures more than mothers are to their children? No, no and no!
People have gone astray because they have taken smaller pieces of this long passage out of context. This passage that focuses on one thing is made out to be about another thing. And this is a big problem! People in difficult marriages, people out of difficult marriages, and people in dysfunctional churches will benefit from this better look at Ephesians 5-6.
To understand Paul’s message we need to look at the context in the whole Epistle of Ephesians. Then we need to identify the literary structure inside the passage. Once done, we can quickly see the meaning of the parts of this great passage.
The Context. “Therefore walk.” This is the fifth Section of Ephesians chapters 4-6. Each of the six Sections in this second half of Ephesians begins in Greek with the words “therefore” and “walk,” except the sixth Section that begins with “therefore” and “stand.” The two words “therefore walk” appear at the beginning of Ephesians 5:15. “Therefore stand” appears at 6:10. Therefore this is a long passage that runs from 5:15-6:9. Now we can look at the parts of this passage in Section Five.
The Literary Structure. This passage of 5:15 to 6:9 is constructed in the “jump, jump, high jump” pattern. The pattern was famously named by Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey. He observed this pattern used in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. I believe it was used here by the Apostle Paul.
The first “jump” runs from 5:15 to 5:18. The second “jump” runs from 5:19a to 5:21. The “high jump” runs from 5:22 to 6:9.
The smaller “jumps” prepare us for the message of the “high jump.” There are additional patterns woven into these verses as well, such as the pattern of 4s. I reveal these patterns and much more in my book, Beyond Eden – Ephesians 5:15-6:9.
“Jumps” one and two. The first “jump” ends with the key idea that believers are to be being filled with the Holy Spirit. The second “jump” gives insight into what life is like as a Spirit-filled believer. The main point is given in two parts. The first part is found in verse 19a. The second part is parallel to it and is found in verse 21.
In verse 19a Paul refers to believers who are “speaking to one another.” They do so by teaching and correcting one another (compare Colossians 3:16). In verse 21 Paul refers to believers who are submitting one to another. What are they submitting to? They are submitting to the teaching and correction they are receiving from one another. In all this activity no restriction is made among the believers as to one’s wealth, rank, sex or age.
The “high jump.” These two jumps introduce the contents of the “high jump.” This “high jump” is not written in a 1, 2, 3 linear or straight line pattern. It is written as a chiasm or a rainbow pattern where the main idea is in the middle.
The last point in the second “jump” has to deal with the relationship believers have one to another. This is the practice of mutual submission, or reciprocating submission, among Spirit-filled believers.
The main point does not come in verses 22 and following but in the center of the “high jump” which is verse 32. There, Paul writes about the Great Mystery. This mystery was previously hidden but is now revealed and it has to do with the relationship of Christ and the church.
Paul looks back at the one-flesh, joint-body unity shared by the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden and how closely they waked with God there. In Ephesians 5-6 he reveals that the relationship we have one another in the church and together with Christ goes beyond Eden!
Now that we understand the main points of this passage we can look at the individual verses in context. We will see that in the “high jump” Paul leads up to the Great Mystery by giving us three “as Christ” sections in verses 22-31. Then he gives us three “one another” sections drawn from the family unit of his day.
At every point along the way he is teaching believers to build up one another and to sacrifice for one another. He is telling us to submit to the teaching and correction we get from one another, without restriction on who does the speaking, the correcting and the submitting. He is showing us that spouses mutually love one another and that parents and masters together treat children and servants with love and honor as full believers in the body of Christ.
There is much more to look at in this rich passage from Paul. I invite you to get a copy of my book, Beyond Eden – Ephesians 5:15-6:9, the Great Mystery Revealed: Mutually Submitting in Christ. It is available as a paperback, as an eBook or on Audible as an audiobook. Here’s a link: Click Here