INTRODUCTION TO EPHESIANS

 

Dr. Grant C. Richison

 

  VALUE OF EPHESIANS

Ephesians, more than any other book, presents the purpose and plan of God for the church.

This book sets forth one of the clearest presentations on the relation between positional truth and experiencing positional truth in one’s life.

John Calvin called Ephesians his favorite book of the Bible.

We see something of the supremacy of Christ in God’s eternal plan.

Ephesians emphasizes God’s sovereign grace in the lives of believers.

 

AUTHOR: PAUL–1:1; 3:1

Paul visited Ephesus twice:

Briefly, in his second missionary enterprise in A.D. 52. He ministered in Ephesus with Pricilla and Aquila (Ac 19:18-21).

On his third missionary enterprise (A.D. 53 through 58). We find the Acts account in 18:23-21:16. Paul, with Priscila and Aquila, there led both Apollos and his 12 disciples to Christ (Ac 18:24-28).

Paul spent about three years in Ephesus during his third missionary enterprise (Acts 20:31; cf. 19:8-10).

He supported himself by his tent-making trade, Acts 20:34.

After his departure from Ephesus he sent Timothy there to continue his work (1 Ti. 1:3).

In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul wrote that he “fought with beasts at Ephesus,” but whether this is figurative or literal is uncertain.

2 Timothy 1:18 refers to service rendered by Onesimus at Ephesus,

2 Timothy 4:12 refers to Paul’s sending Tychicus there.

Paul wrote Ephesians from Rome while in prison. Both external and internal evidences are strong for Paul’s authorship.

Paul was killed before June 9, A.D. 68, the date of Nero’s suicide.

Tychicus and Onesimus took the letters of Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon to Asia Minor.

 

RECIPIENTS: the church at Ephesus and other churches in the surrounding area (1:1; Co 4:16)

Paul established the church on his second missionary enterprise. He went to Ephesus with Aquila and Pricilla from Corinth on his way to Jerusalem. Paul left Aquila and Pricilla in Ephesus (Acts 18:19–22).

Paul came again to Ephesus on his third missionary enterprise in A.D. 57. It was upon this visit that Paul asked Aquila and Pricilla to correct Apollos’s doctrine so that, rather than resting his beliefs on John the Baptist, he would understand and teach the new economy of grace. Twelve others followed Apollos in this.

Ephesians was a circular letter intended for a number of churches in the Ephesus region. Paul probably sent the letter to Laodicea and other cities in the region.

The message of Paul fell on fertile soil in Ephesus, so Paul made that city a center of evangelism for three years (Ac 19:10).

Paul left Timothy in change of the Ephesian church after his ministry there of three years. Timothy faced doctrinal problems with Hymenaeus and Alexander there (1 Ti 1:3-7, 20; 4:7).

John also made Ephesus the center of his labors (Re 2:1-7).

Priscilla and Aquila probably brought the gospel of John to Ephesus.

The church of Ephesus was the first of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation (1:11; 2:1-7). It needed a warning from God.

 

  CITY OF EPHESUS

It was the chief city of the Roman province of Asia Minor (western Turkey).

Ephesus was the fourth major city in the Roman Empire (behind Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch), with a population of about 250,000.

Romans came to control the city in 133 B.C.

Ephesus was situated near the coast. It had a harbor and port on the Cayster River, which flowed into the Aegean Sea.

Ephesus was the intersection of three major trade routes and became a commercial center.

Ephesus became the greatest commercial city of the Roman province of Asia. It then occupied a vast area.

Some estimate that the great theater built into Mt. Pion in the center of the city had a seating capacity of about 25,000. Demetrius led the silversmiths to riot against Paul and his companions in this theater.

 Ephesus Theater

The government of Ephesus was essentially democratic.

  Religion:

Ephesus was a center of the emperor cult and eventually possessed three official temples, their primary function being to foster the imperial cult.

The Roman world principally celebrated the city of Ephesus for its temple of Diana. This chief temple of the Roman goddess Artemis (Latin = Diana), the goddess of fertility, was located in the city (Ac 19:23-31). This temple was essentially the Bank of Asia, holding deposits from all over the world. The temple of Diana was the largest Greek temple in the world.

The goddess Diana was fashioned as a many-breasted and mummy-like image.

Worshipers of Diana practiced sorcery. Ancient heathen writers told of the use of monograms, charms, and amulets. Ephesus was the chief seat of necromancy and exorcism in all Asia Minor.

The temple was rebuilt after a great fire in 356 B.C. and ranked as one of the seven wonders of the world. All Greece contributed to its restoration, and it took centuries to rebuild. It was four times greater than the Greek Parthenon in Athens. The temple was 425 feet long and 250 feet wide. The 127 marble columns of 60 feet in height supported the temple.

A lucrative occupation of some merchants was the manufacture of miniature representations of the temple made of silver.

After years of patient search, J. T. Wood in 1870 uncovered its remains in the marsh at the foot of Mt. Ayasoluk. It had been the largest building in the Greek world. The temple contained an image of the goddess Artemis (cf. Acts 19:35). 

Silver coins from many places in the Roman Empire show the validity of the claim that the goddess of Ephesus was revered all over the world (Acts 19:27). They bore the inscription of Diana of the Ephesians (cf. Acts 19:34).

A large number of Jews lived in Ephesus. Paul spoke in their synagogue (Ac 19:8).

  Commercial City

Ephesus was a city of large commerce—vessels docked here from all over the maritime world.

Great highways passed through Ephesus for inland commerce.

  Culture of the City

The culture of Ephesus was pluralistic. There were many ethnic and religious movements in the city. There was a range of ethics from Jewish morality to abject moral depravity. Polytheism reigned supreme. There was wide-ranging social acceptance of different viewpoints through syncretism.          

  OCCASION

Paul learned of a new heresy of Gnosticism in the churches of Asia Minor. Gnosticism was in its incipient form in the first century. This belief held to eternal dualism between spirit and matter, that is, between god and matter. Matter was evil.

  LIFE-SETTING OF THE EPISTLE

Ephesians is the least situational of the epistles. Paul addressed no particular problem in the epistle. It does not have a response to a crisis, as do Paul’s other letters.

  DATE

Ephesians was written about A.D. 60-61 during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Acts 28:16,30-31).

During this time in prison, Paul received a steady stream of visitors:

Epaphroditus from Philippi (Php 4:18);

Tychicus from Ephesus (Eph 6:21);

Epaphras from Colosse (Co 4:12);

Mark, Justus, Luke, Demas, and Timothy (Co 1:1; 4:10-14; 4:10-14);

Onesimus (Phm 10).

  PURPOSE

Ephesians shows how our position of status in Christ relates to our daily walk (4:1).

Paul addressed no particular problem, as he did in books such as Colossians (incipient Gnosticism).

  THEME

Ephesians deals with our legal position before God in Christ and the daily life that corresponds to that position.

  DOCTRINE

Ephesians argues that the believer’s position before God is the same as Jesus’ status before God (chapters one to three). The second dimension is that the believer is to apply positional truth to experience (chapters four to six).

The doctrine of the “mystery” is that God changed His economy from working with Israel to the church. God did not reveal the idea of the church in the Old Testament. That it is why Paul called it the “mystery” (3:1-6).

  PECULIARITIES

  • There are very few personal references; this is unusual, for most letters of the New Testament include personal references.
  • Ephesians contains only one personal reference, to Tychicus (6:21); this is the same person as in Colossians 4:7.
  • It includes 42 Greek words that are not found in any other New Testament book.
  • It uses some very long sentences (Eph 1:3-14; 1:15-23; 3:1-7; 3:8-12; 4:11-16).
  • Two significant prayers of Paul are found in this book (Eph 1:15-25; 3:14-21).
  • There is not one exhortation in the first three chapters.
  • Ephesians and Colossians have a number of parallels.
  • Ephesians and Colossians were probably composed at the same time in Rome.
  • Ephesians is an epistle or letter.
  • No major problem in the church is indicated.
  • Ephesians was a circular letter intended for a number of churches.
  • Ephesians is one of four prison letters of Paul (in addition to Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians). Paul wrote all four epistles during his first imprisonment.
  • The New Testament mentions “Ephesus” and “Ephesians” more than 20 times in the New Testament.
  • Paul spent longer in Ephesus than any other location.

  KEY VERSES:  1:3; 4:1   KEY WORDS:  Especially “in Christ”

   “In” = 93 times (89 times in the Greek)—shows the foundation to the spiritual life.

   “Grace” = 12 times

   “Body” = 8 times (the church as an organism)

   “Love” = 10 times

   “Mystery” = 6 times

   “Walk” = 8 times (the way we should live because of our position in Christ)

        -walk in sin, 2:2

        -walk in good works, 2:10

        -walk in unity, 4:1-3

        -walk in newness of life, 4:14ff

        -walk in love, 5:2

        -walk in light, 5:8

        -walk in wisdom, 5:15

  RELATIONSHIP TO COLOSSIANS

Historical relationship: Epaphras, who was from Colosse, received Christ in Ephesus and took the gospel back to the Lycus River Valley (Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae).

False teachers attempted to synchronize the gospel with the Greek ontology of incipient Gnosticism (matter was evil, a series of angelic levels existed between the high God and the lesser god who formed matter, salvation was based on knowledge of secret passwords which enabled people to process through angelic levels toward God, etc.).

Epaphras sought Paul’s advice on this subject for the church in Colosse.

Literary: Paul wrote Colossians directed at false teachers demonstrating the cosmic lordship of Christ. Shortly after, Paul wrote Ephesians drawing out the implications of the Colossian epistle.

Similarity:

Basic structure of Colossians and Ephesians is the same

Similar openings

Many of the same doctrinal areas

Many of the same practical applications

29 closely aligned verses in the Greek at the close (only differing workings in Colossians)

Both books have similar and exact words and phrases.

They share synonymous theological ideas.

Over one-third of the words in Colossians are in Ephesians; 75 of 155 verses are parallel.

Both books were delivered by

Both books were delivered to Asia Minor.

Both books address the same Christology.

Both books emphasize Christ as head of the church.

Both books have similar application to doctrine.

Dissimilarity:

The church was local in Colossians but universal in Ephesians

Heresy was mentioned specifically in Colossians but not directly referenced in Ephesians.

  OUTLINE

I. THE OUTER CIRCLE (our position before God in Christ forever), 1-3

A. Salutation, 1:1-2

B. The Outer Circle Itself, 1:3-14

C. First Prayer of Paul for the Church, 1:15-23

D. New Position Individually, 2:1-10

E. Old Condition:  Dead to God, 2:1-3

F. New Condition: Alive to God, 2:4-10

G. New Position Corporally, 2:11-22

H. The Mystery, 3:1-12

I. The second prayer of Paul for the Church, 3:13-21

II. THE INNER CIRCLE (Christians live out the inner circle on the basis of the outer circle), 4:1-6:9

A. Walk in Unity, 4:1-6

B. Walk in Maturity, 4:7-16

C. Walk in Holiness, 4:17-32

D. Walk in Love, 5:1-6

E. Walk in Light, 5:7-14

F. Walk in Wisdom, 5:15-21

G. Special Application of the Spirit-filled Life, 5:22-6:9

H. Spiritual Warfare, 6:10-2o

III. CONCLUSION, 6:21-24

A. The Letter Bearer, 6:21-22

B. Salutation, 6:23

C. Benediction, 6:24

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