In Ephesians 1-3, Paul described the formation of Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ. In the remainder of the epistle, Paul exhorted Jews and Gentiles to be united in Christ in the church. The logic of Paul’s ethical exhortations was punctuated by the Old Testament.
(1) In Eph 4:8, Paul quoted Ps 68:18 to shape the Ephesians’ understanding of spiritual gifting and service in the church. In Psalm 68, the psalmist recounted God’s great power over those who had opposed the Lord and His people from the days of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai to the conquest of Canaan. The psalmist portrayed God as One who ascended to the heights of the mountains, received gifts from people, and overtook the lands of the rebellious so that His people might dwell in them; God was victorious over all. In Paul’s interpretation of Ps 68:18, he placed Christ as the ruling Victor who gifts His people in the church with abilities for spiritual service so that the church might function as a well-coordinated body. Paul wrote that gifted leaders labor “for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).
(2) In Eph 4:25-26, Paul quoted Zech 8:16 and Ps 4:4 to warn the Ephesians concerning the sins of slander and anger. In its original setting, Zech 8:16 was part of the prophet’s statement that the returned exiles need not be concerned with the traditions of fasting employed by their fathers. Since, in the present time, the Lord would restore His favor upon His people, they should feast—and speak the truth. In the coming of the Messiah, the Lord had indeed restored favor to His people. Paul’s use of Zech 8:16 was near the thrust of its original intent. In Psalm 4, the psalmist mused in his heart regarding the injustice committed against him. His self-talk included the counsel, “Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still” (Ps 4:4). Paul urged his readers to go beyond David’s statement, imploring them not to let the sun go down before they resolved the anger in their hearts.
(3) In Eph 4:27 and 6:10-13, Paul portrayed the Devil as the opponent of the church, echoing the descriptions of the Devil in the Old Testament. In Gen 3:1-7, the Devil, through the serpent, tempted Eve to disobey God. The Devil slandered God’s character and perverted His word to humanity. When Adam and Eve sinned, their fellowship was broken. Rather than being naked and unashamed, they were naked and sought to cover themselves (Gen 2:25; 3:7). As a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin, the Lord stated that there would be hostility between the serpent and humanity until the day when the seed of Eve would strike the Devil on his head (Gen 3:15). In Eph 1:20-23 and 3:8-10, Paul wrote that in Christ’s resurrection and ascension, He ruled over the spiritual forces in the heavens. The Seed of Eve struck the Devil when Jesus Christ came alive out of the tomb and then took His place of authority at God’s right hand in heaven. Paul wrote that divisions in the church were the result of the Devil’s influence. The Ephesians thus needed to lovingly speak words that resulted from fellowship with the Holy Spirit so that they might be a community of grace and forgiveness (Eph 4:29-32). As the Ephesian church put on the armor of God, they could together withstand the Devil’s efforts to divide them against one another. Paul wrote, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph 6:12).
(4) In Eph 5:31, Paul quoted Gen 2:24 to compare the oneness of man and woman in marriage with the oneness of Christ and the church. God created male and female and ordained their complimentary natures to be expressed in physical union in marriage (Gen 2:15-25). Since the Ephesians were surrounded by an immoral culture, Paul urged them, saying “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). Church life was to be marked by fellowship with the Spirit, singing to the Lord in their hearts, gratitude, and mutual submission in the fear of Christ (Eph 5:21). Paul wrote that the Christian marriage should likewise conform to Christ’s work on the cross as wives submitted to their husbands and husbands sacrificially loved their wives (Eph 5:22-33). Just as members of the church were spiritually united together in one body, husbands and wives were to be united together both spiritually and physically. The intimate oneness of the marital union described in Gen 2:24 provided Paul a metaphor for describing the union between Christ and the church in Eph 5:30-32.
(5) In Eph 6:2-3, Paul quoted the fifth commandment to reinforce the need for children to obey their parents. In Exod 20:12 and Deut 5:16, Moses commanded children to obey their parents. In Eph 6:2-3, Paul observed that the fifth commandment was the first of the Ten Commandments that contained a promise. The Lord promised that a child’s good behavior would result in a long life in the Promised Land. Paul urged children to obey their parents in the Lord, honoring Christ so that they would have a long life in Him (Eph 6:1).