The Purpose of Ephesians
In an effort to encourage dispirited Christians in southern Asia, Paul has reminded them of God’s plan for the universe and of the critical place of the church in that plan. His letter paints a picture of a new creation in which the invisible and hostile forces of the heavens lie conquered beneath the feet of Christ. In this picture, a church that consists of both Jews and Gentiles sits alongside the risen Christ in the heavens, sharing his triumph. This is the goal, Paul says, toward which God is moving the universe–to sum up all things in heaven and on earth in Christ.
Before “the times” reach this “fulfillment,” however, the hostile cosmic powers continue to wage war against the church, and so Christians must clothe themselves in an armor that will be able to resist their onslaught–truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and salvation. By standing united with one another in this armor, they will make “known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” God’s “manifold wisdom” in reconciling Jews and Gentiles to form one new human being through the gospel. The church will therefore proclaim to these hostile powers that in the death, resurrection, and heavenly session of Christ, God has defeated their efforts to frustrate his purpose in creation.
The church plays a critical role, therefore, in God’s plan to bring the times to their fulfillment by summing up everything in Christ. They are the new humanity that replaces the old, disintegrated humanity, and they are the evidence that God’s plan to sum up everything in Christ is rapidly coming to its end. The church in Roman Asia should take heart that God, in his great love and rich mercy, has done so much for them. They should pursue with renewed zeal their vocation to stand strong and united against the devil and his realm as God brings his cosmic purposes to their glorious end.
-Frank Thielman, Theology of the New Testament, 407