Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians
Overview & Background
The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians was one of the called “Prison Epistles” written by Paul. Prison Epistles includes Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Someone had said that this Epistle is the most beautiful letter and the most beautiful words that have ever been written by any human being. Well, he is absolutely right for they are the words of the Almighty God. The prison bars did not prevent Paul to share with these believers the great truths the Lord had taught him about Christ and the church. The first three chapter of this letter is doctrinal I would say which would be a bit controversial for we will be refuting some Calvinistic doctrines. The last three chapter would be about Christian living or the practical part. So join us as we take a closer look to this wonderful letter of Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the New Testament churches.
I. Historical Background
A. Ephesus is a city in western Asia located in what is today the country of Turkey.
B. Its inhabitants are Greeks and Asians, with some Jews. Due to ready interaction with the rest of the world, it is likely that people of many parts and from many lands lived, passed through, or spent time there.
C. Ephesus is notorious for its luxury, wickedness, evil, and licentiousness. Sorcery and idolatry of all kinds is common, crime and prostitution is widespread. This to be expected since the city was open to ports of Greece and Egypt and centre of traffic between Rome and Asia.
D. As to worship, the goddess Diana is the chief object. The Temple of Diana is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, housing priests and priestesses, criminals, thieves, idol makers, worshippers, and prostitutes. Temple-rites are immoral and indecent.
E. Ephesus was an important political, educational, and commercial centre, ranking with Alexandrian in Egypt, and Antioch of Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor.
F. Paul first visited Ephesus, on his 2nd missionary journey, Acts 18:19-21. He brought Priscila and Aquila with him and left them there.
G. It is here that Priscila and Aquila met and taught a powerful Bible preacher whose name was Apollos, the details of the Word of God (Acts 18:24-26)
H. Paul’s second visit here was during his 3rd missionary tour, Acts 19:1-10; 20:31. He won many converts, made definite progress against the worship of Diana, and founded a great Church which he pastored for some 3 years.
I. When Paul left, the young Timothy took over, who faced the false teachings of Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:3,20). Because of these two the Ephesian church was polluted by “fables and endless genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4), unscriptural ideas of forbidding of marriage and abstaining from certain foods (1 Tim. 4:3).
J. The Lord Jesus also addressed one of the seven letters of Revelation to the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7), indicating that this church had lost their first love for Him.
II. Occasion of the Letter
A. The Letter gives no indication or any reference to attack on Paul’s apostolic authority. Its admonitions are, by and large, more general in nature.
B. Just like any other New Testament church, the church in Ephesus has its own unique problems.
C. One of the emphasis in Ephesians is the unity of believers (Jews and Gentiles) in the Church as the Body of Christ. The Letter shows our position in Christ as His Body, and our related walk.
D. The converted Jews in the early churches have a tendency to separate themselves from their Gentile brothers. This situation may have led Paul to write this epistle whose theme is Christian unity.
Illustration 1: Strength in Union
One of Aesop’s fables tells of four oxen who were such great friends that they always kept together when feeding. A lion watched them for many days with longing eyes, but never being able to find one apart from the rest, was afraid to attack them. Whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another so that whichever way he approached them he was met by horns. At length he succeeded in awakening jealousy among them, which grew into a mutual aversion, and they strayed a considerable distance from each other. The lion then fell upon them singly and killed them all.
The moral is, “United we stand, divided we fall.” ( A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.)
Illustration 2: Flying Together
Have you ever wondered why the Canadian geese fly only in the V formation? For years specialists in aerodynamics wondered the same thing.
Two engineers calibrated in a wind tunnel what happens in such a V formation. Each goose, in flapping his wings, creates an upward lift for the goose that follows. When all the geese do their part in the V formation, the whole flock has a 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. Each depends upon the other to get to its destination.
Something else—When a goose begins to lag behind, the others “honk” it back into place.
Now, let us learn from God’s animal creation. The church needs to fly in a spiritual V formation, “honking” one another into steadfastness. And it must be at least 71 percent easier to live the faithful Christian life flying with the flock as opposed to going it alone. “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24). (A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.)
A. Compared to other epistles of Paul in which he write to correct an existing problem, like legalism in Galatians, division, immorality, conflict and lawsuits in Corinthians, disputes between two women to the Philippians, there is no such pattern in Ephesians, but rather principles are set forth which constitute a barrier to these erroneous ideas. Ephesians is preventive rather than corrective.
A. I have difficulty deciding what really is the theme of this grand epistle. For me they are:
1. Countless spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3)
2. The mystery of the church (unrevealed truth from the OT saints) in which the “Gentiles should become fellow heirs of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. (Eph. 3:6)
3. The unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8)
4. Living worthy due to all the blessings bestowed upon us (Chapters 3-6)
V. Significant words in Ephesians
A. In – occurs about 90 times. It stresses the truth of the believers’ union with Christ in death, resurrection, ascension, and present session. The fact of the believers’ position “in Christ” permeates the entire thought of the entire epistle.
B. Grace – occurs 13 times showing that this epistle is an exposition of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)
C. Spiritual – (or spirit) occurs 13 times, defining both the sphere of truth dealt within the epistle and the realm of life in which the believers are living.
D. Body – occurs eight times. It is a metaphor describing our positional union with Christ (Chapter 1 – 3).
E. Walk – is found eight times. Our walk is our behaviour within the body of Christ, how we act in union with Him, the Head. This term is the heart of the practical appeal of the epistle.
F. Heavenlies – is found five times, setting forth the exalted sphere of the believer’s position in Christ and the realm of his walk and warfare.
G. Mystery – is found five times. The term does not denote something inscrutable, but a hidden truth held in secret till the proper time for its revelation in the divine program. (Unger’s Bible Handbook).
VI. Uniqueness of the church in Ephesus
A. Ephesian Church is the only New Testament church to receive a letter from more than one Bible writer, Paul and John (Rev. 2:1-7)
B. It had more popular preachers than any other NT church, Paul, Apollos, John and Timothy.
C. Ephesians is sometimes referred to as the Book of Joshua in the New Testament
D. Dr. Pierson calls it “Paul’s third heaven Epistle”. It has been referred to as the Alps of the New Testament, the Mount Whitney of the High Sierra’s of all Scriptures”. (Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible).
The Word of God is full of wonders that’s why one of the Lord’s name is “Wonderful”. Indeed, the Epistle to the Ephesians is a magnificent letter, majestic, grand, etc., but most of all powerful for it can change lives. Will you stay with us as we study God’s Word? There’s always a blessing for people who studies Christ’s word.