Ephesians and Apartheid

Was the letter to the Ephesians written to Jewish or Gentile Christians? Previously, I believed that Ephesians was written to a church made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and that one of the things that Paul was seeking to address in writing this Epistle was the infighting and fractured relationships in the church. However, I have not only come to question this view, but to conclude that the Epistle was written to a Gentile church that is struggling to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (4:1).

My reasons for sayings this are:

  1. Written to Christians

    Firstly, we know that the recipients of this letter were Christians because in 1:2, Paul refers to them as “saints” and “the faithful in Christ.” In his final greeting he refers to them as “all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (6:23). Secondly, in 2:1-9 Paul writes about the clear change that has taken place in their lives as a result of their conversion. They were “dead in their transgressions and sins” (2:1), they used to follow the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” (2:2), they used to live “gratifying the cravings of their sinful nature” (2:3); now they have been “made alive with Christ” (2:5), “saved” (2:5, 2:8), “raised up with Christ” (2:6).

  2. Written to Gentiles

    Firstly, Paul refers to his recipients as Gentiles in 2:11. Secondly, in 2:12 he mentions that Gentiles were separated and far from God, “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel,” “strangers to the covenants of promise.” In 2:17 he says that Christ “came to preach peace to you who were far away [Gentiles], peace to those who were near [Jews]” (italics mine). Notice that the Jews are spoken about in the third person, whereas the Gentiles are spoken about in the second person. Hopefully this proves that the composition of the church was both Christian and Gentile.

  3. Written to encourage believers to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel they have received

    Please read my previous blog post on the purpose of Ephesians.

Is it not interesting that a letter written to Gentiles, who would have been viewed as culturally inferior by the Jews, would have so much to say about reconciliation?

Even more pertinent is what it has to say to them about their responsibilities when it comes to reconciliation. In 4:1-2 they are told to live a life worthy of the gospel, to be completely humble and gentle, to be patient, to bear with one another in love.

What practical implications can we take from this? The letter applies to all believers. It is authoritative to all believers and all must obey its instructions. However, would it not seem that those who, like the Gentiles, have been subjected to views of cultural inferiority should pay particular attention to the instruction given in this letter regarding reconciliation? Please let me know what you think.