Outline of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

An introduction to the letter

Paul wrote this letter about 60 A.D. while he was in prison in Rome to the Gentile Christians in and around Ephesus to clearly explain to them what God had done for them through Jesus Christ, and how God expected them to live as Christians in response to God’s grace and special blessings. Paul recognized that his perspective regarding how individual human beings, both Gentiles and Jews, were to live in their relationship with God had been changed by the life, sacrificial death, and the mighty resurrection of Jesus.

The letter is clearly organized into two parts: chapters 1- 3 cover Paul’s summary of God’s blessed work in Jesus Christ, and chapter 4-6 cover his instructions regarding how they should live or otherwise walk in a faithful relationship with God in their daily lives.

This is a short letter, so it can be quickly read, but it should be read thoughtfully verse by verse in order to get the fully impact of God’s special work and will for Christians. This brief outline may help readers to recognize and to apply Paul’s teaching regarding these matters in their daily lives.

  1. God’s new and special work in Jesus Christ, chapters 1-3
    1. Paul’s Greeting
      1. He identifies himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus” (vs. 1:1).
      2. And he identifies his readers as “saints” who are “faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1:2).
      3. And he offers them “grace” and “peace” from both God and Jesus (vs. 1:2).
    2. Their Spiritual Blessings in Christ
      1. God, the Father of Jesus, has blessed them “in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (vs. 1:3).
      2. Chosen “before the foundation of the world” to be “holy and blameless” (vs. 1:4).
      3. Predestined for “adoption as sons” (of God) to “praise” “his glorious grace” (vs. 1:5).
      4. Given “redemption” and “forgiveness” of their “trespasses” (sins) (vs. 1:7).
        1. The “mystery” of this new work and God’s will regarding it, which Paul explains in this letter, is part of God’s plan to “unite all things in him” (in Jesus Christ) (vs. 1:10).
      5. So because they “heard the word of truth” (regarding God’s work for their salvation “in Christ”) and “believed in him,” they were “sealed” with the Holy Spirit until they would be able to “acquire possession” of their complete “inheritance” at the end of their earthly lives (vss. 1:11-14).
    3. Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer for these Christians
      1. Paul gave thanks for their “faith” and their “love” toward other Christians (vs. 1:15).
      2. He prayed that God would give them “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation” in their knowledge of Jesus (vs. 1:17).
      3. So that they may really realize “the hope,” the “riches,” and the “power” that God placed “in Christ” and gave to them when he “called” them into their new relationship with God (vss. 1:18-23).
    4. A work of God’s grace that is received through faith
      1. They had been “dead” in their “trespasses and sins,” “children” facing God’s “wrath” (vss. 2:1-3).
      2. But God made them and Paul and all of us Christians “alive together with Christ” (as God had made Jesus alive after his death) because of his “great love” for them (vss. 2:4-5), even placing them and us all with Jesus “in the heavenly places” (vs. 2:6).
      3. And God did this as an expression of the “riches” of his grace “in Christ Jesus” (vs. 2:7).
      4. But their salvation was done by God’s grace through their “faith,” which was also God’s “gift,” because they and all Christians are God’s “workmanship created in Christ Jesus” to live or to “walk” in accord with “good works” (vss. 2:8-10).
    5. So all Christians are one in Christ in their new reconciled relationship with God
      1. But it is well for us Gentile Christians to remember our former separation from God, because we were not living “in Christ” and we were not a part of the “commonwealth of Israel” and we were not included in God’s “covenants of promise” (made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David) (vss. 2:11-12).
      2. But now these Christians in Ephesus and us have been “brought near” to God “by the blood of Christ” who makes “peace” for us all in our personal relationships with God (vs. 2:13-14).
        1. Jesus himself is the agent of this peace (vs. 2:14).
        2. He abolished the laws and ordinances by dying on “the cross” for both Jews and Gentiles, giving both parts of humanity “access in one Spirit to the Father,” bringing them both into “the household of God” (vss. 2:15-19).
        3. And together with the “saints,” the “apostles and prophets,” and “Christ Jesus himself,” all of us Christians are “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (vss. 2:20-22).
    6. Paul presents his credentials to explain the “mystery” of God’s new work in Jesus Christ
      1. A personal “revelation” from God had made Paul a steward of this “mystery” of “God’s grace” in Jesus, as he assumes that they may “have heard” about his conversion (vss. 3-1-3).
        1. And this “mystery,” which they are now able to read about in his letter, had also been “revealed” to God’s “holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (vs. 3:4-5).
        2. And this specific “mystery” is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (vs. 3:6).
      2. And Paul states that he was made a “minister” of “this gospel” “according to the gift of God’s grace” by the “power” of the Holy Spirit (vs. 3:7).
      3. So Paul states that he was “given” the ministry “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” so that “through the church” this “mystery” of God’s wise “plan” might be “made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (vss. 3:8-10).
      4. And since Paul was engaged in his ministry in accord with God’s “eternal purpose” “in Christ Jesus” with his bold and confident “faith in him,” they shouldn’t be discouraged by what he was “suffering” in his Roman prison, because it was all being done for their “glory” (vss. 3:11-13).
    7. And then Paul prays for their spiritual strength
      1. As he bows before “the Father” and asks God to “grant” his prayer in “accord” with “the riches of his (that is God’s) glory” (vs. 3:14-15).
      2. That they may be “strengthened with power through his Spirit” (vs. 3:16).
      3. That Christ may “dwell in their hearts through faith” and that they may be “rooted and grounded in love” (vs. 3:17).
      4. And that they may be able to “comprehend” the vast dimensions of “the love of Christ” and God’s love “in Christ,” which “surpasses knowledge” (vss. 3:18-19).
      5. So that they may be filled “with all the fullness of God” (vs. 3:19).
      6. And Paul closes his prayer by asking that God will be glorified “in the church” and “in Christ Jesus” in accord with “the power” that is “at work within us” (vss. 3:20-21).
  2. How they should live or otherwise walk in a faithful relationship with God in their daily lives, chapters 4-6
    1. With “humility,” “gentleness,” and “patience” “bearing with one another” (or supporting each other) “in love” “to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (vss. 4:1-3).
      1. Because there is “one body,” “one Spirit,” “one hope,” “one Lord,” “one faith,” “one baptism,” and “one God and Father of all” (vss. 4:4-6).
        1. And this God and Father is “over all and through all and in all” (vs. 4:6).
      2. And God’s “grace was given to each one” of them and “us” in accord with “the measure of Christ’s gift” (of God’s love and power) (vs. 4:7).
        1. Which Jesus dispensed “on high” in heaven and on “the earth” to the “apostles,” “prophets,” “evangelists,” “shepherds” (of churches), and “teachers” (vss. 4:8-11).
      3. And God dispensed his gift of grace through Christ in order “to equip the saints (and of all God’s servants) for the work of ministry,” “for building up the body of Christ” (vs. 4:12).
        1. That they all may “attain” the “unity of the faith” and a “mature” “knowledge of the Son of God” that is equal to “the stature of the fullness of Christ,” which is the goal of God’s “workmanship” for the revelation of his glory in everyone that he calls into a relationship with him “in Christ Jesus” (vs. 4:13).
        2. That they no longer live and walk as “children” who are easily influenced by various heresies of “doctrine,” “human” philosophies and opinions, and clever “deceitful (or lying) schemes” (vs. 4:14).
        3. But “rather” they are to speak “the truth in love” and to “grow up in every way into him who is the head (of the “body,” his Church), into Christ” (vs. 4:15), because it is from Christ that the “whole body” of the Church is “held together” and “equipped” (or otherwise empowered to work “properly” in loving teamwork) “so that it builds itself up in love” (vs. 4:16).
    2. They are to live or to walk in accord the new life that they have been given in Christ Jesus
      1. Not in accord with their old Gentile mental understandings and desires, which were (vs. 4:17)
        1. darkened” and they were thus ignorant of any relationship with God because of the “hardness” of their hearts (vs. 4:18),
        2. and sensual and “greedy” and impure (vs. 4:19).
      2. Because that is not the way they “learned” to live in Christ, but they “were taught” to (vss. 4:20-21)
        1. put off your old self” (vs. 4:22),
        2. “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (by the glory of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ) (vs. 4:23),
        3. and “to put on the new self,” which has been “created after the likeness of god in true righteousness and holiness” (vs. 4:24).
      3. Therefore they are to live in accord with these virtues in their relationships with their “neighbors” and other Christians (vs. 4:25):
        1. speak the truth” (vs. 4:25),
        2. do not sin,” even when you are “angry,” and don’t let your anger be carried over into another day (vs. 4:26), because that gives “the devil” opportunities to harm your relationships (vs. 4:27).
        3. Don’t “steal,” but do “honest work” in order “to share with anyone in need” (vs. 4:28).
        4. Don’t let any “corrupt talk come out of your mouth,” but only speak in ways that will be “good” for “building up” others in order to “give” them “grace” (vs. 4:29).
        5. And don’t “grieve” (or otherwise hamper) “the Holy Spirit of God,” by “whom you were sealed” (vs. 4:30) with any “bitterness,” “wrath,” “anger,” “clamor,” “slander,” and “malice” (vs. 4:31),
        6. but “be kind to one another, tenderhearted,” and “forgiving,” because “in Christ” God “forgave you” (vs. 4:32).
    3. Live or walk “in love” as “children of light
      1. as Christ did when he “gave himself up for us” by dying on a cross as a “sacrifice to God” (vss. 5:1- 2).
      2. And have “no part” in
        1. sexual immorality,” “impurity,” “covetousness,” “filthiness,” or “foolish talk nor crude joking” (vss. 5:3-4),
      3. because “the wrath of God comes upon” those who live in such ways and disobey his will (vss. 5:5-7),
      4. and because “you are light in the Lord” and because “the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true” (vss. 5:8-9).
      5. Therefore “you” (and all of us Christians) should
        1. try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (vs. 5:10),
        2. take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,” but “expose them,” because they will become “visible” in God’s “light” (vs. 5:11-13)
        3. and as we “awake” as a “sleeper” and “arise from the dead” (in the new life that Christ has given to us), “Christ will shine on” each of us (vs. 5:14).
      6. And live or walk in ways that will
        1. be a “wise” and “best use of the time” (vss. 5:15-16),
        2. enable you to “understand” “the will of the Lord” (vs. 5:17),
        3. keeping you from getting “drunk with wine,” but rather helping you to “be filled with the Spirit” (vs. 5:18),
        4. so that you can address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” making a beautiful “melody to the Lord” with the joyous praise and thanksgiving of your heart “to God the Father” (vss. 5:19-20)
        5. as you submit to “one another out of reverence for Christ” (vs. 5:21).
    4. And manage your families and households as you should unto “the Lord” “Christ” (vss. 5:22-23).
      1. Wives, submit to your own husbands,” because “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church,” and the church “submits to Christ” (vss. 5:22-24).
      2. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church” (5:25)
        1. and “gave himself up” to “sanctify” the church, which is his “body,” “with the word” that it “might be holy and without blemish” (vss. 5:26- 27).
        2. So husbands “should love their wives as their own bodies,” which they nourish and cherish “as Christ does the church” (vss. 5:28-29), “because we are members of his body” (vs. 5:30).
        3. As “a man” leaves “his father and mother” and holds “fast to his wife” with such cleansing and nourishing care from God’s Word (John 1:1) the two“become one flesh” (vs. 5:31), as “Christ and the church” become one through this mysterious process that Paul is now explaining (vs. 5:32).
      3. So each husband is to “love his wife as himself” and each wife is to see that she “respects her husband” (vs. 5:33).
      4. And children should “obey” their “parents in the Lord” (vs. 6:1).
        1. The commandment that children are to “honor” their fathers and mothers “is the first commandment with a promise,” which was that life would go “well” with them and that they would “live long in the land” (vss. 6:2-3).
        2. But fathers should not “provoke” their children “to anger,” but “bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord” (vs. 6:4).
      5. Slaves are to “obey” their “earthly masters” “with a sincere heart” not to please other people but “as servants of Christ” who are “doing the will of God” from their hearts as their service “to the Lord” (vss. 6:5-7),
        1. knowing that whatever good anyone does,” whether they are a “slave or free” will be given back to them “from the Lord” (vs. 6:8).
      6. Masters are to live with their slaves with the same attitudes in accord with “the will of God from the heart,” and they should “stop” “threatening” their slaves, because they should realize that “he who is both their Master” (their slaves) and theirs “is in heaven,” and he has authority over both of them (vs. 6:9).
    5. Finally,” in your life and walk with God in this world, which is the battlefield for his war with Satan, you should “put on the whole armor of God” (vs. 6:10)
      1. for you will be challenged to “stand against” “the devil” (vs. 6:11)
        1. and this enemy is not a “flesh and blood” opponent, but his army includes “the rulers,” “the authorities,” even the “cosmic powers over this present darkness” (in the world’s systems of thought and action), and even “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (vs. 6:12).
      2. Therefore” you will need “the whole armor of God” in order to do “all” that you can to “withstand” this enemy’s weapons and “to stand firm” (vs. 6:13), and this armor includes these items:
        1. the belt of truth” and the “breastplate of righteousness” (vs. 6:14),
        2. and “shoes,” which will help you to be ready for the battles, because they are “given” to you “by the gospel of peace” (vs 6:15),
        3. and “the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all of the flaming darts of the evil one” and his warriors (vs. 6:16),
        4. and the “helmet of salvation,” which provides the major source of protection for you and your brain (the center for your personal ID) and your thoughts, and “the sword of the Spirit,” which is the “word of God” and your only offensive weapon in your battles (vs. 6:17).
      3. Christians will need to be “praying at all times in the Spirit” that they may “keep alert with all perseverance” that they may make “supplication for all the saints,” encouraging all Christians (vs. 6:18),
        1. and Paul requests their prayers for him that he may “boldly” “proclaim the mystery of the gospel,” which is this new way of living and walking “in Christ” in the power of God’s love and grace in Jesus even though he was “an ambassador in chains” (vss. 6:19-20.
    6. And Paul closes his letter with a brief personal note
      1. that he was sending Tychicus to them so that he may give them a current report of “everything” that was going on in the circumstances of his life and ministry and that he may “encourage” them (vss. 6:21-22).
      2. Then he offers “peace” and “love with faith” from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “grace” to “all,” which includes the Christians in Ephesus and uswho love our Lord Jesus Christ” with a love that is “incorruptible”(vss. 6:23-24) and indestructible.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.