Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

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Ephesians 3 The Mystery, Jesus Christ

September 25, 2011
Picture source
Ephesians 3 The Mystery, Jesus Christ

Common English Bible (CEB) Via Biblegateway.com
 1 This is why I, Paul, am a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles.
 2 You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right? 3 God showed me his secret plan[a] in a revelation, as I mentioned briefly before 4 (when you read this, you’ll understand my insight into the secret plan[b] about Christ). 5 Earlier generations didn’t know this hidden plan that God has now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets through the Spirit. 6 This plan is that the Gentiles would be coheirs and parts of the same body, and that they would share with the Jews in the promises of God in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7 I became a servant of the gospel because of the grace that God showed me through the exercise of his power.

8 God gave his grace to me, the least of all God’s people, to preach the good news about the immeasurable riches of Christ to the Gentiles. 9 God sent me to reveal the secret plan[c] that had been hidden since the beginning of time by God, who created everything. 10 God’s purpose is now to show the rulers and powers in the heavens the many different varieties of his wisdom through the church. 11 This was consistent with the plan he had from the beginning of time that he accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Christ we have bold and confident access to God through faith in him.[d] 13 So then, I ask you not to become discouraged by what I’m suffering for you, which is your glory.

 14 This is why I kneel before the Father. 15 Every ethnic group in heaven or on earth is recognized by him. 16 I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. 17 I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, 18 I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. 19 I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.

 20 Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; 21 glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.
Footnotes:
Ephesians 3:3 Or mystery
Ephesians 3:4 Or mystery
Ephesians 3:9 Or mystery
Ephesians 3:12 Or through his faithfulness


I love how the Common English Bible states the firsts verse in a form of a question. “v2 You’ve heard, of course, about the responsibility to distribute God’s grace, which God gave to me for you, right?” For me, it conveys the heart of the verse in a way other versions gloss over. Paul, mentions that he has stated this before, and this is a gentle (or rhetorical) reminder of what he has already taught and was accepted as truth by those in Ephesus who now are reading his words. Paul lays out the mystery, or “secret plan” that was always there yet hidden. This secret plan was hidden to those throughout the ages yet, was always there in plain sight. Paul, states he received the understanding of the secret plan by revelation.

Revelation is tricky. Many can claim revelation, and use it to abuse people. Some seem to think that they become special when they receive revelation and often this seems to go to people’s head and they become power hungry and abusive. I do think at times these people are truly humble at a point, as they could not receive revelation without humility. However, Satan or humanities own evil desires can twist even the purest revelation into something it was never intended for. Again, I am not speaking of something that was not there in the text, but the sudden understanding of a text of Scripture, more akin to Luther’s “the just shall live by faith” moment that rocks the Church even today.

This special revelation that Paul received was special in that Paul was the first to see it. Paul, by guidance of the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus, began to understand who Jesus was. Jesus WAS the Mystery or Secret Plan from the beginning of creation. Jesus was the redemption of all creation. Jesus was the unveiling of the Goodness and loving compassion of God alone. God is and was possibly NEVER angry with mankind, but with sin.

But, there is more to this secret plan of Christ Jesus. For the Jews believed they were like the man who received that special revelation, however instead of spreading to all the nations of the world, they kept it hidden by not sharing the goodness of God to the Nations. They, like the pastor who sees a truth and uses it for his own advantage, twisted the true nature of the Law into a Graceless means to force God to listen and obey their desires. If that was not horrific alone, they then used the Law to divide and keep people away from God instead of using it to unite and bring those to God.  

Now, not all of Israel did this, but at the time of Jesus this was the case with the Roman rule and occupation of Jerusalem. The focus was on trying to get God’s attention as if God was like the pagan Gods. But they already had God’s attention, as well as the Gentiles who did not even seek God. God already had the secret plan in motion at creation in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Paul was suffering, as he was in chains bound by Roman guards. Paul had suffered much for Christ in many ways from stonings to whippings. However, Paul stated that these sufferings were all worth it if the Gentiles came to know Jesus. For this reason, Paul would kneel and pray that every ethnic group would come to know Jesus in an intimate way in a love that knows no boundaries.

V  18 I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers.

This love that has no boundaries or bonds goes beyond mere head knowledge. It is received only by revelation. It goes straight to the heart of a person and may take a while for the head to begin to even comprehend it (though I believe it never can). To know this love is to know the Fullness of God. The Fullness of God is Christ Jesus of course, so to know Jesus is to know the Fullness of God through Christ in you.

Often we want to peg down God in our mere and pathetic theologies. Yes, I am often guilty of this myself so do not mean to point fingers at others. However, we must realize that God is able to do much more than we will ever comprehend in and through us by His Power (not ours). By doing this, God brings glory to Himself and to His Church through Christ Jesus and this will be everlasting. 
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Ephesians 1:7- 23

November 25, 2010
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Ephesians 1:7- 23

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (NIV)
“In Him” is the point I cannot drive home enough. Other phrases such as “His Blood”, “He made”, “His will and “He purposed “ shows over and over what we contribute to the equation of our salvation, and that being nothing! It was at the “fullness of time” or in perfect timing that Jesus came to gather both the “heavenly things” as well as the things on earth all back “in Him”.
Verse 11 once again starts with “In Him” and presents what we obtain being “in Him”. You who are “in Christ” obtained an inheritance as an adopted son! You see while the natural son might be disowned, yet the adopted son was never natural, but placed in the family and instated by decree of the family that the adopted was now a natural child. The predestination is not some pre-existing clause that somehow initiated you to be created “saved” and some not… and then just one day come to that realization as some Reformed traditions promote. Rather, that according to “His Will” those, “as verses 12 and 13 state, “who “trusted” to accept the counsel of “His Will” after having heard the word of truth would become not only sons, but be the “praise of His glory.
The Glory… is Jesus! (John 17:5) We in Christ are His praise unto the Father for what the Father does in and through Jesus! Now we in turn become the glory unto God through Jesus (John 17:10). Now how does this take place? Through trust! Trust is the responsive action based on having faith and belief in the other, who in this case is God in Christ… and then you are placed “in Christ”! Another note some miss is that the “gospel of your salvation” is not a set of doctrines but rather a person as Paul states “you were included in Christ when you heard” Often the gospel is represented by a series of events, and in some way this is true. However, here Paul is clear that salvation is the Person of Jesus Christ as you were placed “in Christ” when you heard, responded and believed on Jesus.
In verses 13-14 the Holy Spirit is finally mentioned filling out the whole of the Trinity as far as being mentioned. Here Paul states in verse 13 has place the Holy Spirit on you as a seal! A holy seal or decree that shows God Himself seals us. This concept of the “seal” is that of the kings ring which would be leave the insignia of the king on a royal letter in the wax that sealed the letter. The Holy Spirit is that seal that shows we are of the King Himself. The Holy Spirit is given as proof of ownership of sorts and proof that we are His until God redeems those who become His possession, to the praise of His Glory.
Paul spoke of those faithful in Ephesus as the “praise of His Glory”. So as Paul hears of their faith in turn gives thanks to God for their faith, even stating they are mentioned in his prayers. Paul prays that the may also receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him [Jesus]. Sadly, many traditions today have cut believers off from revelation and reduce it to experientialism (as if experiencing God is a bad thing) or worse claim it to be some sort of occult majick  or Gnosticism. Yet, Paul (who is writing scripture knowingly or not) teaches this as a good thing as he himself prays the believers receive these things. Paul prays “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you”. Enlightenment is given that you may know gain understanding in relation to revelation that leads to hope. This enlightenment that leads us to hope can only come by revelation from God through the Holy Spirit.
To grasp the flow to this one might chart it out like this
  1. Understanding the calling that was heard at salvation leads to
  2. Enlightenment unto hope leads to…
  3. The Hope in you were called to… leads to…
  4. Stronger belief in Jesus which leads you to…
  5. The Power of God that raised Jesus from the dead…
This power also raised you! It made you a new creation… yet also power in that the Kingdom of God has and is coming down to us. All authority and power is not Jesus as he rules over His Body… the Church. However, this rule and authority is different that just a king to his kingdom. This is a King to His own Body… it is relational… and in His Body, which is the Church the fullness of Christ fills everything… that includes you who are “in Christ”.
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Ephesians supplemental: Understanding “In Christ”

October 24, 2010

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Ephesians supplemental: Understanding “In Christ”
The first thing one must comprehend in reading Ephesians is to understand what the phrase “in Christ” means. This phrase comes in a few different variants such as, “in Him”. “in Christ appears six times with variants “in Him” used four times. As you can see just in the 23 verses in the first chapter this phrase is used so often it must contain some significance.
To begin to understand the significance we must go to Genesis chapter seven and the creation of Adam. We see Adam is created/formed from the dust of the earth and that being the finiteness of creation itself as there is nothing as fleeting as dust. Dust can be moved by the wind yet in itself cannot even hold a seed to grow anything properly. Then, God breathes His Life giving Breath (which can be translated also as Spirit) into Adam. Note it never states an animal is “breathed into” though they contain the life giving breath, but Adam is more than a mere creature creation. It appears significance is placed on the idea that Adam was not only breathed into the Spirit of Life, but also that Adam became a living “being”.
We humans have a sense of being that may not be experience n the animal kingdom. We have a clear sense of self beyond the physical needs. We have a keen sense to ask questions beyond survival questions. We ask higher questions such as our purpose, – a monkey knows his purpose! Eat, poop, procreate, fight and die. I doubt they ask, “Why me?” when they die, or that they ponder their existence as having purpose as they gasp their last breath… but humans consider their “being” as they live as well as when they die.
Now in Genesis 2:8 it states; “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” If one takes note they will notice that God placed Adam in the garden. The Garden is symbolic of Jesus Christ. So, we see a picture of Adam, the newly created man, placed in the Garden the idea of the New Man being placed “in Christ” at his birth.
Romans 6: 3.  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death
We see in this verse the idea that we were “baptized into Christ Jesus”. Now, we can thank good ole King James for creating a bit of confusion by imposing his phobia of bathing into our translations in English. Baptism simply means “immerse”. While I cannot find a credible source, I understand that King James had a phobia of water, so bathing was terrifying to him. So, in deference to King James the translators used the transliteration or “baptizmo” when they simply could have used “immersed”. So the phrase “baptized into Christ Jesus simply means we are immersed/placed into Christ Jesus as Adam was immersed/placed into the Garden. I have always found it strange that even today, most translators use a transliteration of a word that can be translated…, but I digress. If one simply reads this verse as “immersed into Christ Jesus” much of the confusion of ritual drops off and the meaning becomes easier to grasp. Another verse states this concept as “put on the new self” (Ephesians 4: 32) as well as being “clothed in your heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:2) or that those “who were baptized (immersed) into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3: 27).
In Christ, we have been equipped to do all God has prepared for you to do (Hebrews 13:21-22)!  In fact, 2 Peter 1: 3 states, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” The point being, that everything we need is in the Person of Jesus Christ. We come to Jesus with nothing, and God gives us everything “in Christ” and we gain all! Jesus becomes our very all. Jesus becomes our very life, for He is Life eternal. Jesus becomes our dwelling place in which we live out this life eternal. One way to understand this idea is we have died to this world’s reality at the Cross and are born into the New Reality at the Resurrection. While we maintain a citizenship in this world we are no longer of it, but born of the heavenlies. Still another way to express this idea is the idea of the Kingdom. We die to our own kingdom and now live in God’s Kingdom that is eternal. To be “in Christ” means we live in the total dependency and trust in all Jesus has done and is now doing. As Major Ian Thomas often stated, “He who gave His Life for you, gave His Life to you to Live His Life Through you.” If one begins to understand this concept, one realizes it is all Jesus and none of me. One should soon realize that there is no hierarchical idea here… it is very much relational and this relationship is very much one sided.
Reference: All translations are NIV
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Ephesians 1: 1-8 Grace and Peace and being ‘in Him”

October 20, 2010
Ephesians 1
 1.  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,   To the saints in Ephesus,  the faithful  in Christ Jesus:
 2.  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 3.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5.  he  predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6.  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8.  that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)
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Ephesians 1: Grace and Peace and being ‘in Him”
One must never underestimate the wisdom of Paul as he opens with what seems to be a rather plain opening. Most might read over or even skip the greetings as it seems nothing is really being taught. However, Paul first establishes that he is indeed more than some self appointed teacher. In fact the first thing Paul establishes is not only is he “an apostle of Jesus Christ” but also “by the will of God” to show that this letter is not written by Paul’s authority, but by the will of God through the authority of Jesus Christ. One should note that a seemingly simple opening statement sets this letter apart in authority than the letters of Ignatius or Polycarp. Paul then continues with whom he is addressing and that being the “the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” I want to draw your attention the simple but profound phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” This phrase will appear over and over in this letter in different forms mostly being “in Christ”. In my opinion, this is the main thought Paul is addressing as he unfolds many attributes of what being “in Christ” is about. While many focus on some sort of pre-existing plan of God where God chooses some for salvation and other for damnation, I see that instead, the plan was Jesus Christ Himself and all creation to be “in Christ” and returned to its original glory, yet not just that, beyond that Glory, and into an all new glory. We will continue with this thought a bit more as we address other versus to come.
“Grace and peace” states Paul, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” sounds again like a mere and rather inornate greeting, yet here Paul address again that this letter is not coming from just his own self interest, but “from God our Father and Jesus Christ.” Not only is this no mere greeting but Paul states that Jesus “has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ.” Again, notice that phrase “in Christ”.
Here we come on the idea predestination. While many seem to focus on the idea that “we were chosen” I have seen over the years a lack of the understanding or insight on the phrase “in Him” which is another restatement of “in Christ”. We see in verse 4, that the Father has chosen us “in Him” (Jesus) before creation. I hold out the idea that it was not at that time God chose Tommy to inherit the Kingdom and Bill to burn in hell, rather that the eternal plan of salvation was set in plan before creation. In a sense God knew that humanity might fall and choose his own path apart from God, yet also set in motion the plan to teach and redeem humanity “in Christ.” Meaning; Jesus Christ was THE PLAN before creation for the redemption of creation. Part of this reasoning is based on the idea that we are not mentioned as “sons”; meaning the Elect being already saved before creation because they were already chosen, rather that we were planned to be “adopted as sons”. If we were created to be saved, then there would be no need for adoption. We would only retain what was there all along. However, our own sonship was lost in the Garden and in our own desire to be like God and decide what is good and what is evil without God. Again, to assume one was already saved before creation as some present assumes that one was not truly lost or in need of salvation. The assumption that we were sons apart fro adoption also usurps the singular and important position of Jesus being the Only Begotten Son. My point to be clear is that no one is saved before creation; only the potential for salvation was set in the Person of Jesus before creation. That “in Christ” we are predestined, yet if we are not “in Christ” we will not fulfill our predestination of salvation. For a person to claim they were saved before creation in my opinion seems presumptuous and rather overlooking the importance of being in “the Only Begotten Son”. To begin to grasp “in Christ” helps one regain the perspective that apart from Jesus there is no salvation and that only “in Christ” we have salvation.
Next we see “in Him we have the redemption of through His blood and forgiveness of sins. We see repeatedly Paul speaking of the “glorious grace of God” to emphasize that it is by grace we are saved, not by works, or by even some pre-existing pre-salvation. It is only by the “blood of Jesus” we are saved. This was the eternal plan that was before creation. This salvation as Paul re-emphasized, “has been freely given us in the One He loves.” To rephrase that as the grace of God has been freely given “in Christ” because God loves Jesus Christ His Son. While it is true that God loves you and me, God’s sight is on His Son more than on us. God’s sight is on us only as we are “in Christ.”
On point I would like to draw out is a phrase that if translated one way emphasizes on thing one way and another thing if translated slightly differently. The phrase in verse 7 a phrase is translated as “we have”. This translation emphasized the human side of the equation which is there, yet as I look at alternatives in how this could be translated I see a better rendering might be, “conceived”. The verse in my estimation should read; “In him was conceived redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…” While we do have redemption, I see that this better brings out the eternal plan as being in Jesus Christ before creation and not about what “we have”. The idea of salvation was “in Christ”. The idea of salvation was conceived “in Christ” and out of that we received salvation by His Blood which brought forgiveness of sins which opens the door to eternal Life by the power of the Resurrected life of Jesus Christ.  The idea being brought forth is that salvation and redemption were present as ideas in the Person of Jesus Christ even before the creation of all things.
To be continued:
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Introduction to Ephesians

October 20, 2010
Introduction to Ephesians:
I have been sorting through ideas for new blog posts and have come to realize that maybe I should start a new installment on a book of the bible. Ephesians has been calling out to me for some time though as I read chapter one and two I find myself overwhelmed with the thoughts. Ephesians is a book that reminds me of wading through a NT Wright book. NT Wright can write one sentence with more content than most writers can introduce in a whole book! In a real way I look at what Paul has done with Ephesians as something that might take more time to unpack than Romans and Galatians combined. For me though, Ephesians is a book that contains more powerful truth than some of Paul’s other letters. That is not to say the truth contained in Paul’s other letters are lesser in truth, only that what Paul is teaching in Ephesians seems to reach deeper in to revelation and relational teaching that most realize. In some ways other writings of Paul are more practical while Ephesians seems to reach into Heaven and bring down bits and pieces of truth that may find some readers to feel the ideas are rather intangible if not out of reach of mere mortals. I hope to bring out points that I have been blessed with understanding and as we (the read and myself) humble push forward, that God may bless us both with something new to us, yet ancient in truth.
Ephesus was a city of commerce and a major port in the Mediterranean for trade in the ancient world. Ephesus is located in what we now call Turkey.  There is much history in Ephesus from St. Luke’s grave where companion of Paul and writer of the Gospel of Luke was martyred and burred, to temple to the goddess Artemis (who in Greek mythology was the twin sister of Apollo as well as the daughter of Zeus and Leto). Not to mention this was the place Domitian built a temple to honor himself and accept worship as Caesar. Domitian may be the very person in which much of what the Apostle John wrote about as John spent time in Ephesus and was also exiled from Ephesus the Island of Patmos that is only a little over 60 miles away. If one reads the Book of Revelation, they might see that as John unfolds his vision, John describes such places as the Prytaneion as the place of the 24 elders in which the regional administrators would sit before Domitian. John replaces the earthly lord Domitian with the Heavenly Lord of All in the very seat. Again, if one reads the book of Revelation many scenes in Ephesus such as the decree to take the mark 666 in order to buy or sell in Ephesus may sound familiar. It may be a key to understanding the Book of Revelation as Ephesus is the very first church mentioned in the Book of the Revelation and called out on Ephesus is also the place where John returned after his exile and wrote the Gospel of John. John’s grave is also in Ephesus and in the Middle Ages considered to be a holy structure.
The Apostle Paul, who also lived in Ephesus for a time wrote about Ephesus, as we will read later, Paul calls out by name the silversmith Demetrius as there was the fear of loss of income by those who made idols as people turned from paganism to Christianity. Another point of interest as the popular cult of Diana seems to have been replaced by the cult of the Virgin Mary.
The Letter of Paul called the book of Ephesians is considered one of the “prison” letters as Paul was written during his imprisonment. If there be one theme to consider, Charles Rye sums it up as we go through Ephesians, is “God’s eternal purpose to establish and complete His Body the church of Christ.” (Ryrie NIV study Bible) Jon Stott in his book on Ephesians states the basic theme this way. “We are the family of God the Father, the body of Jesus Christ his Son and the temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.” (Stott p. 25) Stott also puts forth the main message is “adumbrated in the apostle’s opening salutation: Greece to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. While this may seem like a common greeting, and as Stott points out even a “Christianized” version of the Greek and Hebrew written greetings, there is nothing common about this introduction… for the key word of Ephesians are “Grace” and “Peace” which are found in not only in the concept of being “in Christ” but in the very Person and message of Jesus that was set forth even before creation.
References:
1. Ring, T., Salkin, R., & La Boda, S. (1996). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Available from http://books.google.com/books?id=74JI2UlcU8AC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217&dq=prytaneion+and+revelation&source=bl&ots=jtvPbCr2LK&sig=CLk1DEfhAS2LUflLoxooNHKjvOE&hl=en&ei=6qa-TNvWCYSnnAfi4vGJDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=prytaneion%20and%20revelation&f=false.
2. R. W. Stott, J., The Bible Speaks Today: The Message of Ephesians (Inter Varsity Press, Leicester, England. Downers Grove, Illinois, U.S.A. 1979)