Why do we give background?
Because the only way to understand a piece of literature is by using the Grammatical-Historical or what we call the Literal Method of Interpretation, one branch of which is the historical background which forms the context for appreciating the content of the epistle.
*REVIEW OF PAUL’S WRITINGS:*
First, it’s going to be my custom that when we study one of Paul’s epistles that we review the whole corpus of Paul’s writings in order to reveal the schedule of writing because you do not have in your Bibles the order in which his epistles were written.
Therefore, you may be misled by certain believers who like to emphasize tongues and ecstatic experiences and who try to lead you to think that you’re missing out on some great spiritual experience if you haven’t had these emotions.
The reason they do this is because they center everything around a couple of passages in Acts and some in 1 Cor.
12-14 not realizing the order that Paul wrote his epistles.
So, let’s look at the order and then fit Ephesians into the order because Ephesians is a very important dividing line in Paul’s epistles.
Paul wrote his epistles in 3 groups.
He didn’t write them all at one time but it took many many years and although the apostles wrote their epistles under divine inspiration and were infallible in their writings, nevertheless the apostles grew spiritually and there is therefore a progression in Paul’s thought as Paul grew as the Lord revealed new truth to him.
It is quite evident that when Paul finished his ministry he knew a lot more than when he began.
1st Group: 6 Early Epistles (50-60AD)
1 Thess - Bible Prophecy (elementary)
2 Thess – Bible Prophecy (elementary)
(dealing with problems)
(dealing with problems)
Galatians – Law and Grace (fundamental for new believers)
Romans – Law and Grace (fundamental for new believers) – the 1st Systematic Theology, a legal brief.
OT corollary is Deuteronomy.
2nd Group: 4 Prison Epistles (60-64AD) – most at 62 AD
Ephesians (advanced doctrine over 1st group)
Philippians (advanced doctrine “”)
Notice that only the 1st group have anything to do with tongues, the 2nd group has nothing to do with tongues.
If it’s some great spiritual experience and very advanced then why is it absent from these writings?
3rd Group: 3 Pastoral Epistles (written after Acts was finished, after the transition time)
1 Timothy (very important for Church; pure doctrine)
2 Timothy (very important for Church; pure doctrine)
Titus (very important for Church; pure doctrine)
The Pastorals are very important because they were written after the events of the Book of Acts were finished.
And Acts is a transitional book.
It is the first Church History book and it records the transition from Law to Grace or the Church.
Since the transition was over Paul wrote the Pastorals in order to give us the normative for the Church.
We don’t go back to Acts to find out how the church is supposed to operate because by definition transitions are not the norm.
To find the norm we go to the Pastoral Epistles of Paul.
And there you will find sound and normative instruction for the Church.
It is important to notice that these three epistles are almost purely doctrinal.
There is very little about experience in the Pastoral Epistles.
*SUMMARY OF PAUL’S WRITINGS*
Now that we’ve given the sequence of Paul’s writings do you see the trend of Paul’s writings?
The 1st group was written during the transition zone between the dispensation of law and grace.
Thus, you can see why tongues groups are wrong because 1 Cor.
was written during the transition, during the events of Acts and transitions by definition are not normative.
When the Church emerged from transition then the Pastoral Epistles emerged as the norm.
So, if you want to find out how the church functions then ignore Acts and look at the Pastorals.
Book of Acts is written to Theophilus, a Roman authority who was investigating Christianity, and it is for our edification through the understanding of certain points of history, dates, government entanglements, Roman policies and the foundation of the church.
It is for us to understand the politics and society of the day in which the church began.
This is one reason we’re not going to get on that boat with the rest of the Charismatic movement.
It’s a satanic thing because what it is doing is taking God’s word out of the historical context; twisting God’s teaching and then parading it as the normal church life.
And that is absolutely wrong.
Nothing could be more dangerous and sinful than distorting God’s word.
The 3 groups might be likened to Baby Stage, Teenage Stage, and Adult Stage of the Church.
What the Charismatics want us to do is go back to the Baby Stage and stay there in immaturity.
Apparently that’s where all the real spirituality is taking place and those who progress onto meat and doctrine are just the old fuddy duddies who take the Bible too seriously.
*PAUL’S SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT MIRRORS HIS WRITINGS*
Experiential ChristianityàDoctrine~/ExperienceàPure Doctrine
So, Paul’s life follows a decrease in experience and an increase in doctrine.
What we find is a decline of signs and an increase in wisdom (which is bible doctrine).
While Paul was in his early ministry he was dealing with these signs such as tongues, healing, and miracles, particularly in a Jewish context, but that continually diminished and the wisdom principles began to increase along with his ministry to the Gentiles.
The tendency in Paul’s growth is to emphasize doctrine more and more as he develops and to leave all this experiential stuff.
Why does Paul’s ministry do this?
Because Jews seek for signs and Greeks for wisdom (1 Cor.
Early on his ministry was directed toward the Jewish synagogue and signs proving Jesus’ Messiahship.
But as his ministry expands there is a greater and greater percentage of Gentiles in the church.
Finally the point is reached when these principles are just about peaked out here and that’s about where Ephesians is written.
Ephesians is written at a crisis period in the Church and in Paul’s ministry.
And it is because of this that Ephesians has been attacked by Liberals claiming it as non-Pauline.
The reason is because this Epistles has zero specific application like the epistles in the 1st group.
In other words, Paul is not dealing with problems that need specific attention.
All the early epistles point to specific problems in a local church.
Since Ephesians doesn’t do this the liberals say it is non-Pauline.
For example, we’ll see them arguing that Paul doesn’t mention people at the end of his letter, why not since he did in all his others?
We’ll answer these later on, but basically the answer is that this is the first time Paul is laying out the basis for Gentile Christianity.
For the first time Paul is confronted with a tremendous Gentile revival in an Asian Province and for the first time Paul has to address the issue of thousands and thousands of Gentile Christians with no Jewish background.
And this is the first time in the man’s personal history that this has happened.
Paul was accustomed to going into the Jewish Synagogues and speaking to people who know the OT but after the great revival there was such a large percentage of Gentile Christians that a new problem arose.
How and where to ground a church that was almost 98% Gentile?
What firm foundation can Paul give to a Gentile Church so they can find stability?
He can’t go to OT prophecy like he did in Romans 9-11, they don’t have the background.
What we’re going to find is that Paul has to go back to Eternity Past to develop a basis for the Gentile.
He has to peer into the eternal purposes of God.
For the Jews he’d go back to Abraham and recount Israel’s history but Gentiles have been out of the loop and so the only place to ground the predominantly Gentile Church is to go all the way back to Eternity Past to find the basis in God’s plan and purpose via predestination and election.
Here he is laying a base since they have no historical base.
He’s got to ground their faith in something and that sound base is God’s Eternal Purpose.
Notice the 1st 3 chapters are almost purely doctrine (1-3).
Application, for the most part is general in this epistle (ch.
4-6), some specifics are addressed in chapter 5. Paul is not doing like many evangelicals who start with do’s and don’ts.
People become believers and all of a sudden everyone around them is imposing standards.
Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance and don’t go with the girls that do.
No, no, Paul doesn’t start like that.
That kind of approach would be meaningless to Gentile converts in the 1st century.
Instead, what he did was spend 3 full chapters, giving them the doctrine, giving them reasons for behaving as they should before the Lord.
He’s explaining the why’s before he gives the what’s.
He ALWAYS grounds their life application in doctrinal reasons.
You’ve heard the popular saying “It doesn’t matter what you believe it’s how you live”.