Vol. 14 No. 20
The Book of Ephesians
The Reason for Writing the Book
Why is the New Testament divided into parts?
Under the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration, 2 Tim 3:16-17, the New Testament Canon had to be written to explain the relationship between Jesus Christ, (the great power experiment of the Hypostatic Union) and the Church, (the great power experiment of the Church Age). This explains why the New Testament is divided into parts.
- The Gospels present the great power experiment of the Hypostatic Union – Jesus Christ.
- The Book of Acts is the history of the transition between the great power experiment of the Hypostatic Union and the great power experiment of the Church Age – The Church.
- The Epistles delineate the great power experiment of the Church Age; i.e., what is expected of you after your salvation through faith in Christ.
- The Book of Revelation presents the transition between the Church and the Kingdom of Christ, the Tribulation.
The Books of Epistles, The Letters.
There are twenty-one Epistles, or Letters, in the New Testament, from Romans through Jude, (the first 3 chapters of Revelation could also be considered Epistles). These are divided into two groups, The Pauline Epistles, (Romans to Philemon), and the Jewish-Christian Epistles, (Hebrews to Jude). The former give us church doctrine, while the latter carry us through the difficult transition from Law to grace, and show us that we are all one in Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike. Of the Pauline Epistles there are two categories, church Epistles, written to specific churches, (Romans to Thessalonians and Philemon), and the Pastoral Epistles, written to young pastors like (Titus and Timothy), instructing them on church leadership and church conduct.
The Letters of Paul.
There are three categories of Paul’s letters:
1. General Epistles, written to a church including: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
2. Prison Epistles, written to churches or a person while Paul was under Roman confinement, including: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
3. Pastoral Epistles, written to young pastors established by Paul, including: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.
The Book of Ephesians
The Writing of the Letter.
Twice noting himself as the writer of this Epistle, Eph 1:1; 3:1, this letter is part of the second category of writings by Paul called “The Prison Epistles” since they all were written during his first Roman imprisonment, Act 28:16-31; Eph 3:1; Phil 1:7; Col 4:10; Philemon 9, sometime between 60 and 62 a. d. During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, he was kept in or near the barracks of the Praetorian Guard, most likely in rental quarters at his own expense, for two years, Acts 28:30, during which time this and other Epistles were written. He was released from that imprisonment, made several trips and wrote First Timothy and Titus, cf. 2 Tim 4:6‑8, 14‑17. He then was rearrested and wrote Second Timothy and most likely Hebrews. Soon after, he was martyred. Therefore, this letter to the Ephesians was one of the letters written during his first Roman imprisonment, approximately 61 A.D.
This letter is called an Encyclical letter, meaning it was a letter with doctrinal treatise circulated amongst the churches in Asia Minor. It was composed almost contemporaneously with Colossians and initially sent with that Epistle and Philemon by Tychicus, Eph 6:21, 22; Col 4:7-8, to the church at Laodicea, cf. Col 4:16. In fact, some ancient Greek manuscripts do not have the words “at Ephesus” in the first verse, that gave the book its name.
“The oldest documents (Aleph and B) do not have the words en Ephesōi (in Ephesus) in Ephes. 1:1 (inserted by a later hand). Origen did not have them in his copy. Marcion calls it the Epistle to the Laodiceans. We have only to put here Col. 4:16 “the letter from Laodicea” to find the probable explanation. After writing the stirring Epistle to the Colossians, Paul dictated this so-called Epistle to the Ephesians as a general or circular letter for the churches in Asia (Roman province). Perhaps the original copy had no name in Ephes. 1:1 as seen in Aleph and B and Origen, but only a blank space. Marcion was familiar with the copy in Laodicea. Basil in the fourth century mentions some MSS. with no name in the address. Most MSS. were copies from the one in Ephesus and so it came to be called the Epistle to the Ephesians. The general nature of the letter explains also the absence of names in it, though Paul lived three years in Ephesus.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament.)
In addition, this book has an absence of individual controversies that tells us it does not deal with the problems of a particular church or people, but speaks to all, as an Encyclical would.
Nevertheless, Paul had preached the gospel in Ephesus ten years before, and had built up a large and flourishing church there, cf Acts 19; 20:17-38, and throughout Asia Minor. Since these believers had been personally taught by Paul for about three years, they were well able to understand the more advanced doctrines of Christianity as found in this book. In fact, John commended the church at Ephesus for its commendable works and sound orthodoxy. However, by the time of writing the Book of Revelation, it needed greater love for Christ and one another within its church body, as John noted in Rev 2:1-7.
- Commendation: They reject evil, have perseveres and patience.
- Criticism: Their love for Christ was no longer fervent.
- Instruction: Do the works you did at first.
- Promise: The Tree of Life.
Wuest notes, “As to the Ephesian letter, Expositors has this to say: “In the judgment of many who are well entitled to deliver an opinion, it is the grandest of all the Pauline letters. There is a peculiar and sustained loftiness in its teaching which has deeply impressed the greatest minds and has earned for it the title of the ‘Epistle of the Ascension.’ It tarries largely among ‘the heavenlies.’ . . . . It is characterized by a dignity and a serenity which is entirely in harmony with the elevation of its thoughts. It has little to do with the questions of ceremonialism or with the personal vindications which fill so large a space in others of the great Epistles of St. Paul. The polemical element is conspicuous by its absence. There is scarcely even an echo of the great controversies which ring so loudly in the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians.” (Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)
“Paul has written nothing more profound than chapters Ephes. 1-3 of Ephesians. Stalker termed them the profoundest thing ever written. He sounds the depths of truth and reaches the heights.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament.)
Content of the Letter.
The theme of this letter is God’s eternal purpose to establish and complete His body, the church of Christ who is its head. Three main doctrines of truth comprise this theme:
- The believer’s exalted position in Christ through grace.
- The truth concerning the body of Christ.
- The believers walk in accordance with that position.
In developing this, Paul discusses:
- Predestination, Eph 1:3-14.
- Christ’s headship over the body, Eph 1:22-23; 4:15-16.
- The Church as the building and temple of God, Eph 2:21-22.
- The mystery of Christ, Eph 3:1-21.
- Spiritual gifts, Eph 4:7-16.
- The church as the bride of Christ, Eph 5:22-32.
- Putting on the Armor of God, Eph 6:10-18.
The City of Ephesus.
Located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea, the city of Ephesus was a commercial, political and religious center.
It is perhaps best known for its magnificent temple of Artemis, (Latin, Diana), completed around 550 BC, cf. Acts 19:24ff, that was one of the 7 Wonders of the ancient World.
Site of the Temple of Artemis in the town of Selçuk, near Ephesus. The famous temple of Artemis was built at a sacred site of an ancient Anatolian fertility goddess, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) NE of the city. The magnificent structure ranking as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World, was widely represented on Roman coins, and was reputed to be four times the size of the Roman Parthenon.
From the Greek point of view, Ephesian Artemis is a distinctive form of their goddess Artemis. In Greek cult and myth, Artemis is the twin of Apollo, a virgin huntress who supplanted the Titan Selene as goddess of the Moon. At Ephesus, a goddess whom the Greeks associated with Artemis was venerated in an archaic, certainly pre-Hellenic cult image that was carved of wood and kept decorated with jewelry.
The Lady of Ephesus, 1st century AD, Ephesus Archaeological Museum, and an 18th-century engraving of a Roman marble copy of a Greek replica of a lost Geometric period xoanon
Being on the coast of Ionia, (one of the four major tribes of the ancient Greeks alongside Dorians, Aeolians and Achaeans), it was three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmi Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. In the mid 7th century BC, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League.
This is a street scene at the archeological excavations at Ephesus.
In fact, in Gen 10:2, there is a Javan who is a son of Japheth. Javan is believed nearly universally by Bible scholars to represent the Ionians; that is, Javan is Ion. The Hebrew is Yāwān, plural Yəwānīm. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.) See also, Isa 66:19.
The great theater in Ephesus, into which the rioting mob carried Paul’s traveling companions, Acts 19:29, had a capacity of about 24,000. It remains largely intact to this day, at the end of the impressive marble boulevard that led from Mt. Pion to the ancient harbor, now several miles inland.
The city has a long history of being ruled independently, by ancient civilizations, the Greeks, the Persians, and the Romans. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates, Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.
It was an important political, educational, commercial and trading center, ranking with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch of Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor. Its harbor, though partly filled up, was crowded with vessels, and it lay at the junction of roads which gave it access to the whole interior continent. Its markets were the “Vanity Fair” of Asia. Herodotus says: “The Ionians of Asia have built their cities in a region where the air and climate are the most beautiful in the whole world; for no other region is equally blessed with Ionia. For in other countries, either the climate is over-cold and damp, or else the heat and drought are sorely oppressive.”
By NT times, it was in a state of decline, due to the silting of its harbor, which today is completely filled in, and its control of trade in the region had diminished. Paul lived there for over two years during his third missionary journey, making it central to the evangelization of the entire province. It was also one of the Seven Churches of Asia that the Apostle John wrote to in the Book of Revelation. In addition, it is likely that the Gospel of John was written there.
The city was also the site of several 5th century Christian Councils (see Council of Ephesus). It is the site of a large gladiators’ graveyard. And the basilica of St. John is located there today. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction.
The Book of Ephesians, Cf. Acts 18:18-19, 24; 19:1-41; Revelation 2:1-7.
If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson #’s:
15-053 & 15-054
A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!