In the book of Ephesians it identifies the author as Apostle Paul. Paul intended all those that long for Christ to receive this writing. Enclosed in the book of Ephesians is the discipline needed to develop into
true sons of God. A study of Ephesians will help to fortify and to establish the believer so one can fulfill the purpose and calling God has given. The aim of this epistle is to confirm and to equip a maturing church. It presents a view of the body of Christ and its importance in God’s economy.
There are reasons to believe that this epistle was not designed for just one congregation, but intended to be passed around to several churches in the area surrounding Ephesus. The earliest manuscripts do not contain the phrase “in Ephesus” (1:1). The epistle itself is in the form of a general treatise rather than as a letter written to a specific church. For example, there are no specific exhortations or personal greetings. It is thought by some that this letter is the epistle that was first sent to Laodicea (Co 4:16), and designed to be shared with other churches, including Ephesus.
Ephesus was the leading city of the region, and the main center of Paul’s missionary activity in the area (Ac 19:1,8-10), it is understandable why later scribes might have assigned this epistle to the church at Ephesus. Without question it was intended for “the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.” (1:1)
Paul first came to Ephesus for a short visit toward the end of his second missionary journey (Ac 18:18-19). Located on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Ephesus was one of the great cities in that part of the world. A Roman capital, it was a wealthy commercial center and home for the worship of the goddess Diana (Ac 19:23-41). Though Paul briefly studied with the Jews at the local synagogue and was invited to stay longer, he made plans to visit them again after a quick trip to Jerusalem (Ac 18:20-21).
On his third missionary journey Paul made it back to Ephesus for an extended stay of three years (Ac 19:1,10; 20:31). After his initial success in converting twelve disciples of John (Ac 19:1-7), Paul spent three months teaching in the local synagogue (Ac 19:8). Resistance to his doctrine forced him to leave the synagogue, but he was able to continue teaching in the school of Tyrannus for a period of two years. The end result is that the gospel spread from Ephesus throughout Asia Minor (Ac 19:9-10). A disturbance created by some of the local idol makers finally forced Paul to leave Ephesus (Ac 19:23-20:1).
Toward the end of his third journey, Paul stopped at nearby Miletus, and met with the elders of the church at Ephesus. Reminding them of his work with them, he charged them to fulfill their own responsibilities as overseers of the flock of God, and then bid them a tearful farewell (Ac 20:17-38).
Time And Place of Writings
Ephesians is one of Paul’s four “prison epistles” (3:1; 4:1; 6:20; cf. Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). The general consensus is that these epistles were written during Paul’s imprisonment at Rome (Ac 28:16,30-31). If such is truly the case, then Paul wrote Ephesians around 61-63 A.D. from Rome. The indication is that the epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. 6:21-22; Co 4:7-9; Phile 10-12).
Unlike several of the other letters Paul wrote, Ephesians does not address any particular error or heresy. Paul wrote to expand the horizons of his readers, so that they might understand better the dimensions of God’s eternal purpose and grace and come to appreciate the high goals God has for the church.
The letter opens with a sequence of statements about God’s blessings, which are interspersed with a remarkable variety of expressions drawing attention to God’s wisdom, forethought and purpose. Paul emphasizes that we have been saved, not only for our personal benefit, but also to bring praise and glory to God. The climax of God’s purpose, “when the times will have reached their fulfillment,” is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ (1:10). It is crucially important that Christians realize this, so in 1:15–23 Paul prays for their understanding (a second prayer occurs in 3:14–21).
Having explained God’s great goals for the church, Paul proceeds to show the steps toward their fulfillment. First, God has reconciled individuals to himself as an act of grace (2:1–10). Second, God has reconciled these saved individuals to each other, Christ having broken down the barriers through his own death (2:11–22). But God has done something even beyond this: He has united these reconciled individuals in one body, the church. This is a “mystery” not fully known until it was revealed to Paul (3:1–6). Now Paul is able to state even more clearly what God has intended for the church, namely, that it be the means by which he displays his “manifold wisdom” to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (3:7–13). It is clear through the repetition of “heavenly realms” (1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) that Christian existence is not merely on an earthly plane. It receives its meaning and significance from heaven, where Christ is exalted at the right hand of God (1:20). Nevertheless, that life is lived out on earth, where the practical daily life of the believer continues to work out the purposes of God. The ascended Lord gave “gifts” to the members of his church to enable them to minister to one another and so promote unity and maturity (4:1–16). The unity of the church under the headship of Christ foreshadows the uniting of “all things in heaven and on earth” under Christ (1:10). The new life of purity and mutual deference stands in contrast to the old way of life without Christ (4:17—6:9). Those who are “strong in the Lord” have victory over the evil one in the great spiritual conflict, especially through the power of prayer (6:10–20; see note on 1:3). The work that went on in Ephesus was magnificent. The Christians there made up a great church. But, in spite of this, Paul warned the elders of this church of a coming apostasy that would corrupt the divinely ordained government of the local church. A generation later, a message from the Lord in the book of Revelation commends them for many wonderful things;nevertheless, the Lord warns them, “you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). They had not maintained the fervor and devotion of the love of their earlier history. If they did not repent and do their first works, the Lord promised that He would repudiate them.
The city of Ephesus now lies in ruins and there is no church meeting there. As sad as this is, we are encouraged by the words of the Lord in Revelation 2:7: “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Consequently, we know that those who obeyed the gospel in Ephesus and remained faithful make up a group that will live eternally in heaven.