Narratio: Eph 2:1-3:21

Following the exordium, the narratio enters into Ephesians, picking up on the praise of God’s works by expounding upon the facts previously presented. It is the narratio’s job to amplify and provide the moral end of those deeds (cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric, I.ix.38; III.xvi.1-10).

Ephesians 2:1-3:21 provides breaks down into three sections. First, Eph 2:1-10. This section talks about how the audience was dead in their sins, yet God, rich in mercy and love, made them alive with Christ, raised them up and caused them to sit down in the heavenly places with Christ, to show his surpassing abundance of his grace. What we have here is good epideictic rhetoric, for God’s abundant grace for humanity is praised (cf.Aristotle, Rhetoric, I.ix.38; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, III.vii.6-8). But it doesn’t stop with praise; it identifies the moral end of God’s actions. It is by grace that the audience is being saved, which is God’s gift, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, in order that we might walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10). The purpose of God’s grace, his raising them to life and causing them to sit down in the heavenly places with Christ, is to have them do good deeds that he prepared beforehand. This purpose follows good epideictic style for the narratio (cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric, III.xvi.1-10).

Second, Eph 2:11-22. While the first section concerned the audience’s former condition of being in death (dead in their sins), this section concerns their former condition of being in flesh (uncircumcision). The audience was called “the uncircumcision” by Israel, “the circumcision.” They were separate from Christ and alienated from Israel. Christ, acting as God’s agent, as destroyed the dividing wall between the uncircumcision and the circumcision, joining the two into one new being, thus bringing the audience near though they were once far away. As a result, those who are in this new person have access in one spirit to the Father. He took strangers and aliens and made them members of God’s household. Furthermore, they are being built up into a dwelling of God. Again, we are seeing good epideictic rhetorical fashion, for this narratio is continuing to expound upon the deeds mentioned in the exordium by praising God for his works. In this case, Christ is the active agent of God. Where Christ works, God is working, for it is God’s power at work in Christ (cf. Eph 1:20). The moral end of these deeds is revealed in the next section.

Third, Eph 3:1-21. The author first gives an aside about the mystery of Christ for Gentiles to be co-heirs belonging to the same body and sharing in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Now, the audience, the Gentiles, are built up into a dwelling place for God, and to what end? The author identifies the purpose of these deeds, which is for them to make known the diverse wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The diverse wisdom of God is the administration of his grace, the mysterious plan. This third section is entirely independent, but it does shed light on the purpose of the previous section. It is independent in that it gives its own deeds–God’s making the Gentiles co-heirs, members of the same body, sharers of the promise–while also giving the moral purpose–for the Gentiles to make known the diverse wisdom of God. But this role of the Church to make known God’s wisdom is bound to the preceding section. The Church is the dwelling place of God, the holy temple. The rulers and authorities look upon this building, the Church, and see God’s wisdom. Because the Church bears this purpose, the author gives a prayer for them, following good epideictic style (cf. Cicero, Orator, 137-138; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, VIII.v.1-7). In this prayer, he seeks for God to give them strength, to cause Christ to dwell in their hearts through faith, to root and perfect them in love, to cause them to know fully the width, length, height, and depth, to cause them to know the surpassing love of knowledge of Christ, and for them to be filled. In closing, the prayer is extended into a closing eulogy that parallels the exordium when it speaks of God as the one who is able to exceed anything that the author and his audience could possibly imagine, and he seeks glory for God in the church and in Christ for all generations forever and ever.

Let’s take a quick look at the deeds set forth in the exordium and see how they are amplified in the narratio.

  • God predestined them to be children (1:5) = Christ’s work on the cross has made them members of God’s household (2:19)
  • God freely gave them grace (1:6) = God gives grace and is saving the audience by grace (2:5, 8)
  • God provided a ransom, his Son, for them (1:7) = Christ used the cross to reconcile them (2:1-22)
  • God revealed the mystery of his will to them (1:9) = God revealed the mystery to the author who revealed it to the audience (3:2-7)
  • God sealed them with the Holy Spirit (1:13) = God built them up in the Spirit (2:22)
  • God raised Christ from the dead (1:20) = God raised them with Christ (2:5)
  • God placed Christ at his right hand in heaven (1:20) = God placed them with Christ in the heavenly places (2:6)
Let’s also look at the moral ends of the deeds established in the narratio:
  • to live in good works prepared beforehand by God (2:10)
  • to make known the mystery, the plan, God’s diverse wisdom (3:10)

In the narratio, the author of Ephesians further explains in more detail God’s deeds, thus providing more praise for God. He is worthy of praise because he has raised up the audience from death to life with Christ, he sat them down with Christ in the heavens, he has made them co-heirs with Israel, making one new being rather than two hostile entities. God has revealed his mystery, and it is the new being. His grace and mercy are indeed worthy of praise. And these deeds call the audience to do good deeds and make known God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Now that the narratio has come to a close, the next section, the exhortatio, is able to come in and expound upon the moral end.