Ephesians for the Common Man: Intro Pt. 2

“THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS”

Introduction

AUTHOR: The apostle Paul (1:1; 3:1). Early sources in church history
that attribute this letter to Paul include: Irenaeus (200 A.D.),
Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), and Origen (250 A.D.). Polycarp (125
A.D.) attests to its canonicity in his own epistle to the Philippians
(chapter 12).

THE RECIPIENTS: 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” (cf. 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
(Conybeare and Howson) that this letter is the epistle that was first
sent to Laodicea (cf. Col 4:16), and designed to be shared with other
churches, including Ephesus. Because Ephesus was the leading city of
the region, and the main center of Paul’s missionary activity in the
area (cf. 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’S MINISTRY IN THE REGION: Paul first came to Ephesus for a short
visit toward the end of his second missionary journey (Ac 18:18-19).
Located on the SW 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 (cf. 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 (cf. 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 WRITING: 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 (cf. 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; Col
4:7-9; Phm 10-12
).

PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: Unlike other epistles written to specific
churches, this epistle does not deal with specific problems in a local
congregation. Instead, Paul addressed great themes that pertain to the
Christian’s position in Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, the
church. As expressed in his prayer for his readers, it was his desire
that they might know:

* What is the hope of God’s calling (1:18)

* What are the glorious riches of God’s inheritance in the saints
(1:18)

* What is God’s great power toward those who believe (1:19)

In the first three chapters, Paul answers his own prayer by expounding
upon their spiritual blessings in Christ. The last three chapters
focus on the conduct (or “walk”, cf. 4:1,17; 5:2,8,15) expected of
those so richly blessed. Therefore Paul writes to:

* Remind Christians of their spiritual blessings in Christ (1:3)

* Exhort Christians to have a “walk worthy of the calling with
which you were called” (4:1)

THEME OF THE EPISTLE: A grand epistle like Ephesians almost defies
coming up with one main theme. With its exalted view of the church in
God’s plan of redemption, it is common to suggest the theme as “The
Church, The Fullness of Christ”
. Another theme which does justice to
the content of the epistle and one that I suggest for this study is
that offered by Warren Wiersbe:

“THE BELIEVER’S RICHES IN CHRIST”

KEY VERSE: Ephesians 1:3

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly
places in Christ,”

Taken from a Bible study created by Mark A. Copeland at ExecutableOutlines.com, use by permission.

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