Date: c. A.D. 60 or 61
The city of Ephesus, one of the great cities of antiquity, was located on the Western coast of Asia Minor, in present-day Turkey. It is no longer of any consequence. All that remains are some magnificent ruins, now being excavated by numerous organizations from around the world. Because the main roads, buildings, temples, houses, and amphitheater are more or less intact, one may get the feel of what it must have been like to live in Roman times by wandering among those extraordinary remains of a past civilization.
Paul traveled to Ephesus on his second journey and left Priscilla and Aquila there to engage in ministry (Acts 18:18-19). They must have done a good job because when Paul arrived later to stay for almost three years, he found a growing Christian community (Acts 19:1-10). Paul was forced to leave the city after a violent uprising of the people because of loss of money for the local temple of Artemis (Diana), which was blamed on his having said that idols were nothing and ought not to be supported. The temple, one of the great monuments of antiquity, must have brought an enormous amount of money into Ephesus by the worshipers of Artemis. A touching sermon is recorded in Acts 20:17-38, in which Paul encouraged the Ephesian elders to remain in the ways of the Lord. It is also a beautiful portrait of Paul the missionary and his love for the church.
The letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul near the end of his life while he was in prison in Rome. It is important to keep the serenity and peace of the letter in mind. Paul’s sense of calm came from the presence of the Lord, not from his external circumstances. The letter was probably intended as a circular letter to be passed on from church to church for everyone’s instruction.
Theological Themes in the Epistle of Ephesians
The Epistle of Ephesians makes numerous important theological points, mainly dealing with the nature of salvation and the Christian life. The first chapter stresses the comprehensive nature of salvation. In one of the longest sentences of the Bible (1:3-14), Paul spoke of the eternal purpose of God. God planned, executed, sustains, and directs our salvation. The only reason given for God’s electing some to be saved is his love. From the depth of God’s being there poured forth compassion and grace that resulted in the salvation of those who believe.
Chapter 2 continues this theme, broadening it to explain how Jew and Gentile are now made one in Christ. No barriers should keep human beings apart; all are alike in God’s eyes. Love does not discriminate but freely blesses the object of its affection.
Chapter 3 continues with an emphasis on Paul’s gospel and how it related to the overall mystery of God. The riches of Christ, which are past finding out, are made available to us if we will reach out and take them. When one does this he or she enters into the love of Christ, with knowledge that goes beyond words and experience. To know it is enough.
Chapters 4 through 6 contain teachings about Christian living. Paul touches on marriage, family, temptation, anger, service, and spiritual conflict. In all of this the solution is to know Christ better in practical experience. Prayer becomes a key to winning the victory over sin, evil, Satan, and our own wayward selves.
Outline for the Epistle of Ephesians
The glorious nature of salvation Ephesians 1:1-23
The unity of all who believe in Christ Ephesians 2:1-22
The mystery of the love of Christ Ephesians 3:1-21
The nature of the Christian life Ephesians 4:1-6:24