Essay / Theology

Thanks for the Ephesians


Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you
in my prayers; ~Ephesians 1:15, 16

Because the Ephesian believers were “in Christ” and were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise,” and because of the greatness of “the redemption” to which they had been “foreordained” by Him “who worketh all things after the counsel of His will,” “for this cause” (R. V.) Paul “having heard of” their “faith in the Lord Jesus,” which faith the showed “toward all the saints,” “ceased not to give thanks for” them.

Whenever Paul heard of real, living faith it filled his heart with thanksgiving to God who was the Author of that faith. We find this thanksgiving on Paul’s part mentioned in every one of his epistles to the churches except to the Galatians and Second Corinthians (Rom. 1:8; I Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:3; 2:13). Its omission in the letter to the Galatians and in his second letter to the Corinthians is significant.

What Paul returned thanks for was their “faith” and “love” (cf. Col. 1:4). Some of the most important manuscripts omit the word “love,” but it is found in all the ancient versions and in some of the oldest manuscripts. It really does not matter much whether we omit it as the Revised Version does, or insert it as the Authorized Version does. As we read in the Revised Version, “The faith in the Lord Jesus …which ye show toward all the saints,” the essential thought remains the same, for we show our faith in the Lord Jesus toward all the saints by love to them, true faith in the Lord Jesus working by love (Gal. 5:6; I John 3:23).

The faith for which Paul returned thanks was “in the Lord Jesus.” Not only did it rest in Him as its object, but He was the sphere of it, it was “in Him” (i.e., in living union with Him that they had it).

It is argued from Paul’s speaking of hearing of their faith and love that this letter could not be to the Ephesians, for he had spent much time among them and knew their faith and love by personal observation. But it was now some time since Paul had been among them, and he had heard of their faith through Epaphras and others. Paul uses exactly the same expression in writing to Philemon, who was an intimate friend and fellow-worker (Phile. 1:2, 5). This is one among many illustrations of how the arguments against this epistle being to the Ephesians, that appear very strong, in fact unanswerable, are seen to vanish when we carefully consider them.

Paul’s thanksgiving was unceasing. This, of course, does not mean that he was in audible thanksgiving to God every moment, but it does mean that he did not merely return thanks to God once or twice and then cease, but day after day he turned to God without ceasing for these saints in Ephesus and elsewhere.

With his thanksgiving here as always Paul coupled prayer (cf. II Tim. 1:2). Very much of Paul’s work for his converts consisted in prayer. We think of his work for the churches as consisting in his preaching, his journeys, and his labors, but if we will go through his epistles and note the amazing number of times he tells people that he is praying for them “without ceasing” we will see that the most important and laborious part of Paul’s work was his intercessory prayer (cf. Rom 1:9; Col. 1:9; I Thess. 1:2, 3; II Tim. 1:3).

[This was written by R.A. Torrey for his regular column, “Daily Devotional Studies in the New Testament: For Individual Meditation and Family Worship,” published regularly in Biola’s magazine The King’s Business from 1915-1918. These comments on Ephesians have never been republished since their original appearance there in the June, 1918 issue.]

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