Overview of Ephesians (2 of 4)
As you know, next Monday morning will begin a new online devotional through the entire book of Ephesians, which will last six weeks.
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Here’s the second overview study of Ephesians, in preparation for next week.
BACKGROUND TO EPHESIANS
(Taken and adapted from Talk Thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Copyright 1983 by Thomas Nelson. Publishers.)
The traditional title of this epistle is Pros Ephesious, “To the Ephesians.” Some ancient manuscripts, however, omit en Epheso, “in Ephesus,” in chapter 1, verse 1. This has led some scholars to posit the idea that Ephesians was a circular letter intended for general use for all the churches of Asia and beyond. It is argued that Ephesians is really a Christian treatise designed for general use (for the following reasons): Ephesians involves no controversy, and deals with no specific problems as is common in Paul’s epistles to specific churches. Ephesians was also written with a formal tone (no terms of endearment) and distant phraseology (e.g. “after I heard of your faith,” 1:15), details which seem inconsistent with the relationship Paul must have had with the Ephesians after a ministry of almost three years among them.
If Ephesians began as a circular letter, it eventually became associated with Ephesus, the foremost of the Asian churches. Another plausible option is that this epistle was directly addressed to the Ephesians, but written in such a way as to make it helpful for all the churches in Asia.
DATE AND SETTING
At the end of his second missionary journey, Paul visited Ephesus where he left Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18–21). This strategic city was the commercial center of Asia Minor, as well as a religious center … famous especially for its magnificent temple of Diana (Roman name) or Artemis (Greek name), a structure considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (cf. Acts 19:35). The practice of magic and the local economy were clearly related to this temple.
Paul remained in Ephesus for nearly three years on his third missionary journey (Acts 19; 20:30), during which time the Word of God was spread throughout the province of Asia. Paul’s effective ministry began to seriously hurt the traffic in magic and images, leading to an uproar in the huge Ephesian theater. Paul then left for Macedonia, but afterward he met with the Ephesian elders while on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17–38).
Paul wrote the “Prison Epistles” (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) during his first Roman imprisonment in a.d. 60–62. These epistles all refer to his imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Philippians 1:7, 13–14; Colossians 4:3, 10, 18; Philemon 9–10, 13, 23), and fit well against the background in Acts 28:16–31. This is especially true of Paul’s references to the “palace guard” (governor’s official residential guard, Philippians 1:13) and “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:22). Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were evidently written about the same time (cf. Eph. 6:21–22; Col. 4:7–9) in a.d. 60–61, and Philippians about a year later, not long before Paul’s release.
THEME AND PURPOSE
The theme of Ephesians is the believer’s responsibility to walk in accordance with his heavenly calling in Christ Jesus (4:1). Ephesians was not written to correct specific errors in a local church, but to prevent problems in the church as a whole by encouraging the body of Christ to mature in Him. It was also written to make believers more aware of their position in Christ because this is the basis for their practice on every level of life.