Ephesians is probably one of the best books in the Bible for explaining the eternal purpose of God. We may even describe it as a summary of God’s eternal purpose. Let’s look at how the NIV Study Bible summarizes the theological message of Ephesians. This will help us get a better grasp of God’s eternal purpose.

God’s Eternal Purpose

Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, to understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace. He wants them to come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church. In many ways, it reads like a compendium of the most important themes that Paul stresses elsewhere. At the same time, the theme of spiritual warfare, which climaxes in 6:10–20, fits well as a response to the many mystery religions and their “magical” (occult) practices in Ephesus (Ac 19:11–19).

Paul wrote Ephesians to expand the horizons of his readers, to understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace. He wants them to come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church.

Theological Message: God’s Grace and Glory in Christ

The letter opens with a sequence of statements about God’s blessings, which are interspersed with a remarkable variety of expressions drawing attention to God’s wisdom, forethought and purpose. Paul emphasizes that we have been saved, not only for our personal benefit, but also to bring praise and glory to God. The climax of God’s purpose, “when the times reach their fulfillment,” is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ (1:10). It is crucially important that Christians realize this, so in 1:15–23 Paul prays for their understanding (a second prayer occurs in 3:14–21).

Theological Message: God’s Wisdom in the Church

After explaining God’s great goals for the church, Paul proceeds to show the movement toward their fulfillment. First, God has reconciled individuals to himself as an act of grace (2:1–10).

Second, God has reconciled these saved individuals to each other, Jew and Gentile, Christ having broken down the barriers through his own death (2:11–22).

But God has done something even beyond this: He has united these reconciled people in one body, the church. This is a “mystery” not fully known until it was revealed to Paul (3:1–6). Now Paul is able to state even more clearly what God has intended for the church, namely, that it be the means by which he displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:7–13). It is clear through the repetition of “heavenly realms” (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) that Christian existence is not merely on an earthly plane. It receives its meaning and significance from heaven, where Christ is exalted at the right hand of God (1:20).

Theological Message: God’s Gifts to the Church

Nevertheless, that life is lived out on earth, where the practical daily life of the believer continues to work out the purposes of God. The ascended Lord gave “gifts” to the members of his church to enable them to minister to one another and so promote unity and maturity (4:1–16). The unity of the church under the headship of Christ foreshadows the uniting of “all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (1:10). The new life of purity and mutual deference stands in contrast to the old way of life without Christ (4:17—6:9). Those who are “strong in the Lord” have victory over the evil one in the great spiritual conflict, especially through the power of prayer (6:10–20).

Grasp More of God’s Eternal Purpose with the NIV Study Bible

The NIV Study Bible comes loaded with thousands of study notes, hundreds of maps and charts, and summaries to books. This is a great resource to use in our app! You can even try it for free for two weeks with our NIV Bible Study Pack!


  1. Charmaine Kriel Reply

    I luv the Word of God. I just wish that you can send more too lurn on.

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