The Apostle Paul's
Great Mystery of Christ and the Church
The Figuratively Masculine Saints
And the Figuratively Feminine Faithful in Christ Jesus in Union
by Steve Santini
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus andto the faithful in Christ Jesus
The apostle Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus is the capstone of all his recorded revelations. The 19th century British author Samuel Taylor Coleridge considered the Ephesian letter as the most divine piece of literature ever written by man. Even with this, it seems something very important about the letter has been overlooked for millennia.
The author, Paul, is obviously addressing two different groups in his letter. First, this is apparent from the usage of the Greek conjunction kai translated as and placed between the saints, which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus. It is a conjunction of annexation,[i] not one of correspondence and, as such, the second subject joined by the kai to the first subject is subordinate to the first.[ii]
This understanding of the usage of kai can be seen in the classical figure of speech polysyndeton.[iii] Polysyndeton means many ands. It is used when recording a sequence. In this figure each phrase in a sequence is separated by the word and. Each phrase in the sequence is to be understood distinctly and given equal weight.
Some commentarians propose that since there is no definite article before faithful like there is before saints that faithful is a modifier of saints. This view ignores the kai that separates saints and faithful and it ignores a number of similar usages translated correctly as two separate things where there is a definite article before the first noun and without one before the second noun after the conjunction kai. It also ignores the rules of Greek grammar that allow for the second of two things conjuncted by kai to be without the definite article.[iv]
The two groups addressed in this Ephesian letter are also apparent from the apostle Paul's usages of both the first person plural pronoun we and his usage of the second person plural pronoun you.
When pronouns in a piece are read the determination of the antecedent nouns for the pronouns is essential for understanding the piece. Usually the antecedent noun is in the vicinity of the pronoun and most often precedes its related pronoun. Paul, in the introductory line of the letter, introduces the antecedent nouns as saints and faithful for the pronouns we and you that are used throughout the body of the letter. Then he proceeds in his introduction with these appropriate pronouns.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,Ephesians 1:12,13
He continues addressing the two groups first in their given order by differentiating his message to each by the pronouns we and you.
Certainly, as any speaker or writer, when Paul is using the pronoun, we, he is including himself. Paul, later in the letter, confirms himself as one of the saints.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; Eph:3:8:
When Paul uses the second person plural pronoun you in the letter to the Ephesians he is addressing the faithful rather than the saints. There are a number of areas in the letter that define the relationship between the saints and the faithful. Here are three examples that are succinctly contained in three verses. The first is:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; Eph:2:19
This verse is from a "you" section addressed to the faithful. In earlier letters and in the context within this section of Ephesians he has made it known that there is no longer a difference between Jew and Gentile according to the promises originally made only to Israel. In this verse according to an understanding of the context and the definition of the Greek words used, strangers are those who have become faithful from among the Gentiles and foreigners are those who have become faithful from the Jews. Both of these faithful have become one of the two groups in Ephesians and have become fellowcitizens with the saints, the other of the two groups of Ephesians. The word translated fellowcitizens is a Greek word with a prefix that is rendered in English as the first word, fellow, in the compound word fellowcitizens. The Greek word is sumpolites. The prefix in this word is sun. Sun means union with, yet beside. The final phrase of the verse, of the household of God, places the faithful within the household as family members however distinct from the saints according to the Greek definitions of the words in the verse.
The second verse that defines relationship within the household comprised of both saints and faithful comes from one of Paul's prayers for the church:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, Eph:1:18
Here again, Paul is addressing the faithful as designated by the pronoun your and ye. The inheritance is and has always been in the saints while those faithful, now out of either Jew or Gentile, are written of as joint inheritors. (Eph. 3:6, Rom. 8:17) This truth is consistent with the remainder of the letter where Paul includes the ideal marriage relationship. In the ancient Eastern marriage the bride brought no inheritance into the relationship. Once married, she became legally a joint inheritor of her new husband's inheritance from his family line.
The third of the three verses simply showing a relationship between the saints and the faithful and from another of Paul's prayers is Ephesians 3:18. The previous two verses are also given here for informative context.
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; Ephesians 3:16-18
In verse eighteen the Greek preposition translated with is sun. As a preposition it has the same meaning as stated before when used as a prefix. It means union with, yet beside. In the Greek language there is another preposition translated with not used here that means to be mixed with. This other Greek preposition is meta rather than the sun used in verse eighteen.
In corresponding manner the apostle Paul differentiates between the apostles and prophets from the faithful in Christ Jesus and the holy apostles and prophets from the saints. In an extended ye section he writes:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Ephesians 2:19,20
Then in an extended we section where he includes himself, Paul writes:
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; Ephesians 3:4,5
In this second verse the underlying Greek word translated holy is identical to the Greek word underlying the word saints that Paul used in his introductory verse of the Ephesian letter.
There are a number of other proofs in Paul's letter to the Ephesians and his other letters that the body of Christ is comprised of two groups that have unified functional relations. Upon the first resurrection of the faithful, this functional relationship shall become purely manifest. Until that time any functioning of the relationship is based simply on the faith that one day it will be fulfilled.
In the gospel of Matthew there are two parables of Jesus that liken the entrance into the kingdom of God to a wedding feast. (Matt. 22:1-14, 25:1-13) The author of John begins his narrative with the first of eight significant miracles of Jesus with the account of him turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. The apostle Paul, as he nears the end of his letter, includes a section of practical application for the marriage relationship. (Eph, 5:21-33) The last three verses of this section are revealing in the context of the two groups he is addressing in his letter.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33
The operative verse in this context for understanding the scope of the Ephesians letter is verse thirty-two. Paul sets off verse thirty-two by the use of the word but within the verse and the word nevertheless beginning verse thirty-three. The Greek word translated but is the word de. De is a moderate contrasting conjunction that is continuative. The first word of the next verse resumes and finalizes the preponderant subject of the section. The Greek word for nevertheless is the word plen, a contrasting word meaning for the more part or of the more part; here the more part being the practical application of the marriage of which Paul was writing before he moderately digressed in verse thirty-two from this primary topic of the section.
Two other words in verse thirty-two provide enlightenment on the subject of saints and faithful in relational union. The word concerning in the verse is the Greek word eis. Eis means towards the object and attaining the object. The object in this case is the oneness of Christ and the church as in a marriage relationship. This completed oneness is yet future only to be consummated in entrance to the kingdom of heaven on earth. For now the faithful are betrothed or engaged in preparation for this union as one.
The second enlightening word in regard is the word Christ. In this usage there is no definite article making it generic rather than specific. In harmony with the immediate context and the scope of the letter it becomes a personification representative of the husbands of the context and of the saints in the scope of the letter to the Ephesians. As Peter attests there were others than himself that were gifted with the spirit of Christ. (I Peter 1:9-12) These are the saints to one day come, preceding their Lord, and the Lord of all, for their beloved-the faithful church.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named,
[i] A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Bullinger, E.W., Samuel Bagster and Sons, London 11th ed, 1974 p. 50
[ii] A Greek Grammar for Colleges, Smyth, H.W., American Book Company, NY 1920, # 2163A, 2168, 2169b
[iii] The Companion Bible, E.W. Bullinger, Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1970, app. 6
[iv] New Testament Greek for Beginners, J. Gresham Machen, The Macmillan Co., 1923, pp. 35-37
The Analytical Greek Lexicon, Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, pp. 439, 326
In the underlying Greek text from which other language versions are translated both saints and faithful are adjectives in the dative masculine plural. However, according to J. Gesham Machen's New Testament Greek grammar an adjective may be used as a noun. He also writes that when the plural masculine adjective is used as a noun, the noun can be understood without its usage. For example: the good in the plural masculine can be read as the good ones even if the definite article is not present. Those few English translations that display faithful modifying saints have done a disservice to the reader. Saints and faithful are separated from each other by the kai. In addition there are no rules of Greek grammar that allow for a translation that has faithful as an adjective modifier of saints with the present kai separating the saints and faithful.