Yesterday, when we gathered together with the church, we studied the last part of the book of Ephesians together. We spent about an hour discussing Ephesians 6:10-24.
As we’ve worked our way through this book together, different people have led our discussion – we usually call it “leading” or “facilitating.” This time, it was my turn to facilitate our discussion. Because of that, I probably had more to say than I normally do. I thought I would write a few posts about some of my observations on Ephesians 6:10-24, and even a few observations made by my brothers and sisters in Christ.
To begin with, Paul begins this section with an exhortation to “Be strong” (or, literally, “be strengthened” or “be made strong”) in the Lord. (Ephesians 6:10) Why did Paul want the Ephesians to be strengthened in (or by) the Lord? Because he knew that their battles was against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) With spiritual opponents like these, the Ephesians needed the power that can only be given by God.
But, then, that’s exactly how Paul started this letter. He started by praying that the Ephesians would understand the power that was available to them. What kind of power was that?
[I pray that you may know] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:19-21 ESV)
So, at the beginning and end of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminded his readers of God’s power that was available to them, the power that subdued (and subdues) all spiritual enemies.
In literary terms, this is called an “inclusio.” Authors use the same or similar words, phrase, or themes at the beginning and ending of a section as a way to bracket or envelope that section of writing. The inclusio works to unify that section or writing.
In this case, then, the inclusio of Ephesians 1:19-21 and Ephesians 6:10-12 bracket almost the entire letter of Ephesians. And, the focus of the inclusio sections is on the power of God to overcome spiritual enemies.
I think the connection between those two passages in Ephesians is pretty straightforward. But, that connection leads to a more important question…
Does the fact that Paul focuses on the power of God having overcome (or to overcome) spiritual enemies at the beginning (Ephesians 1:19-21) and closing (Ephesians 6:10-12) of his letter to the Ephesians indicate Paul’s overall purpose in this letter?