Tuesday, January 24, 2006


A Theology of Church in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

A Biblical Theology Paper Submitted to Clinton Arnold, Ph.D.
In Partial Fulfillment of The Requirements of the Course Exegesis in Ephesians TTNT 644
by Laura K. Springer, November 16, 2005


"Unity in itself will not suffice; nor will any or all of the ideas and ideals which we may link with that concept. Unity in itself, even Church unity in itself is, as surely as the independent multiplicities are, merely fallen and unreconciled human nature."

Barth’s comments are as valid today as they were in 1936 when he first spoke them. In this work, Barth comments on the problem of unity in a global church divided by various beliefs. The church today is divided into camps of traditional, seeker-sensitive, emerging, evangelical, and a host of others. In each camp, the understanding of church is different. In each camp, human understandings taint notion of ‘church.’ Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (background; text) provides what may be the New Testament’s clearest and deepest picture of the church. Written in a context of struggle with spiritual powers, this letter describes the church and her connection with Christ in order to equip the church to live for Christ in a culture much like our own. The church’s understanding of herself cannot come from mere human sources, because she is not a human institution. The church’s understanding of herself must come from the Word. The images of the body, the building, and the bride employed in this letter provide a foundational understanding needed to live in and respond to a cultural context permeated with concern for evil powers.

This series gives an overview of the cultural, epistolary, and immediate context of these three images; describes the images in their immediate and epistolary context; draws theological conclusions about the church from the three images; and discusses some of the practical implications of a theology of church in Ephesians.

Previous Posts:

Future posts:
The Context of Ephesians
Description of the Images: Body
Description of the Images: Building
Description of the Images: Bride
Summary and Theological Conclusions
Practical Implications

Arnold, Clinton E. Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians. Reprint by Wipf and Stock Publishing. Previously published by Baker Book House, 1989.

Barth, Karl. The Church and the Churches. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1936.

Best, Ernest, M.A., B.D., Ph.D. One Body in Christ: a study in the relationship of the church to Christ in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. London, S.P.C.K., 1955.

Calvin, John. The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Translator T. H. L. Parker. Editors David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965. Translated 1965.

Fung, Ronald Y. K. “Some Pauline Pictures of the Church.” The Evangelical Quarterly. Issue 53, April-June 1981. Pages 89-107.

Hoch, Carl B. "The Significance of the Syn-Compounds for Jew-Gentile Relationships in the Body of Christ." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 25.03 pp. 175-183. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Hoehner, Harold W. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2002.

Metzger, Bruce M. "Paul's Vision of the Church: a study of the Ephesian letter." Theology Today, 6.01 pp. 49-63. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Minear, Paul S. Images of the Church in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, third printing 1977.

Simson, Pierre. "The Church in the New Testament." AFER 19.05 pp. 280-288. (C) 2004 ATLA Serials. Downloaded November 10, 2005.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of Ephesians: God's New Society. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979.


  1. Laura, This the FIRST of a series? Great. Thanks. Looking forward to it!

  2. "The church’s understanding of herself cannot come from mere human sources, because she is not a human institution."

    Is not this where a lot of the confusion arises - we build human institutions and label them 'church' and then are surprised, disappointed, confused when they do not function like the Kingdom.

  3. I think that is a key issue. When I read Scripture--OT and NT--I see a picture of the people of God that is richer, deeper, messier, and more glorious than anything I have ever experienced. I've come close--maybe--but I think we've concentrated so much on the institutional "necessities" that we've missed the point.

    I think things are changing in some circles, but the it is all too easy to trust ourselves--whom we can see--than it is to trust God--whom we cannot see.