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In verses 11-14 of Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul seems pretty clearly to make a distinction between "we" and "you". My understanding is that the contrast is between "we" the Jewish believers and "you" the Ephesian Gentile believers.

Is the "we/us" in verses 3-10 also specific to Jewish believers or does it also include the Gentile believers to whom Paul is writing?

On the one hand, it doesn't seem like there is an obvious reason to think he transitions in verse 11 (except maybe the word και); but then it also seems unlikely that Paul would spend so much time praising God for things that his readers don't participate in.

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This is a good question. I haven't delved into Ephesians enough to feel comfortable answering it at the moment, however. –  Jon Ericson Nov 1 '11 at 21:27
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3 Answers 3

I would interpret it as follows:

"us" and "we" in the whole passage refers to all believers (or specifically Paul and the Ephesians here) - with the exception of the following:

  • v12 "we who were the first to hope in Christ" refers to those early believers (like Paul), of whom it is likely that nearly all were Judean Jews;
  • v13 "you also" refers to the Ephesians believers (and so all future believers), who came to faith in Christ later once missionaries had brought the gospel to them.

By v14, "we" and "our" once again refer to all believers.

Technical bit for verse 12, of which I'm pretty sure: the "τους προηλπικοτας εν τω χριστω" ("the ones having believed before/first in Christ") modifies the meaning of "ημας" ("we/us") for this phrase alone to be more specific than in the rest of the passage.

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If we consider Paul to be explaining the great benefits that Jewish believers have found in God, in Christ, then the transition of saying 'you also' means Gentiles also share in all those blessings stated from verse 3. This seems to be the idea, we have so much and you also without any difference.

The Apostle wants the Ephesians to know what great blessings they have obtained as an inheritance which they have found by joining the kingdom of God. This naturally leads to the theme found in the next Chapter:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into la holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

So yes he is referring the Jewish believers and then includes Gentiles into those blessings. They have no joined a new Kingdom, but a Kingdom that was first for the Jews, but once joined they share the full inheritence as fellow citizens with the exact same rights.

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The "we/us" may actually have included non-Jewish Christians who were with Paul in Rome, so Paul would not be distinguishing between "us" (Jews in Rome) and "you" (Gentiles in Ephesus). The Tychicus, who hand-carried the letter to Ephesus (Eph 6:21), was the same Tychicus, who hand-carried the letter to Colossae (Col 4:7). That is, these two letters were "prison epistles" which Paul wrote from Rome. Tychicus had hand-carried these two letters to Asia Minor at the same time in the same trip.

Having said that, the "we/us" with Paul would therefore have to include believers who were not circumcised, that is, they are enumerated in Col 4:12-14 as Epaphras ("one of your number"), Luke, and Demas. In other words, these three names are mentioned after Paul finishes in Col 4:11 finishing with "Justus... who are from the circumcision." He then mentions the non-circumcision, who (again) were Epaphras ("one of your number" and therefore a Colossian), Luke, and Demas. To put it another way, Epaphras, Luke, and Demas were Gentile believers who must have been physically with Paul in Rome when Paul had written the epistle to the Ephesians, which Tychicus subsequently had hand-delivered to Asia Minor with the Colossian letter at the same time in the same trip.

So the "we/us" in the Ephesian epistle are believers in Rome "who first believed" (Jew & Gentile) and the "you" are those in Ephesus who believed later and who were of course exclusively Gentile believers (according to Eph 2:11-12). So the emphasis falls more in line that Gentile believers are included in a body, which is already comprised of both Jews & Gentiles, and of course Paul foot-stomps this in Eph 2:11-22.

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