My pastors have been preaching through Ephesians lately. As we’ve been working through the book, it occurred to me that the structure of Ephesians may roughly follow the covenantal structure of the book of Deuteronomy. Consider this pairing of sections:
- Introduction of God, speaker — Deut 1:1-5, Eph 1:1-2
- Historia salutis, formation of covenant people, preliminary charge — Deut 1:6-4:49, Eph 1:3-4:16
- Ethics — Deut 5-26, Eph 4:17-6:9
- Final charges — Deut 27-30, Eph 6:10-20
- Further plans for conquest-ministry — Deut 31-34, Eph 6:21-23
The sections of Deuteronomy listed here are those suggested by Ray Sutton in his book, That You May Prosper. Sutton names these sections, or aspects of the covenant, transcendence, hierarchy, ethics, sanctions (others call this “oath”) and inheritance (others call this “succession”). I’m not sure we can frame Ephesians in these specific terms (notably sanctions) although Sutton does suggest that all of the epistles follow this model (p. 246).
There are some variances. For example, Deuteronomy’s hierarchy section begins with the appointment of leaders and ends with historia salutis, whereas Ephesians reverses this order. Additionally, Moses structures his ethical sermon according to the ten commandments in sequential order, whereas Paul does not. (It would be interesting to map Paul’s ethical statements to corresponding commandments and analyze the resulting structure.) Finally, Paul’s language is less formally structured than Moses’.
However, there still seems to be a general parallel between the two books. This parallel highlights the unity of Ephesians as a declaration of God’s covenant. We can thus say that the theme of the entire book is our salvation — not only its accomplishment but also its out-working, in just the same sense that 1 Corinthians 15 describes what we might call the past, present and future tenses of our salvation.
More than that, if Ephesians is a covenant document, then it is in fact God’s blueprint for his church’s conquest of the world.