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Summary: Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

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Intro to The Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians 1:1

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Background

Ephesus

The city of Ephesus, was the fourth largest city in the Roman empire 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.

Home of a temple to the fertility goddess, worship to her was the city's largest source of income. Along with this idol worship, prostitution and other religious practices were prevalent throughout the city.

The Temple of Diana was a place of worship, and a treasure-house, but it was also a museum in which the best statuary and most beautiful paintings were preserved. Among the paintings was one by the famous Apelles, a native of Ephesus, representing Alexander the Great hurling a thunderbolt. It was also a sanctuary for the criminal, a kind of city of refuge, for none might be arrested for any crime whatever when within a bowshot of its walls. There sprang up, therefore, about the temple a village in which the thieves and murderers and other criminals made their homes. Not only did the temple bring vast numbers of pilgrims to the city, but it employed hosts of people apart from the priests and priestesses; among them were the large number of artisans who manufactured images of the goddess Diana, or shrines to sell to the visiting strangers.

Paul at Ephesus

Paul traveled to Ephesus on his second journey and left Priscilla and Aquila there to engage in ministry (Acts 18:18-19).

When Paul arrived later on his 3rd journey, between 49-51 a.d., he found a growing Christian community (Acts 19:1-10; 20:31), he remained there for two years preaching in the synagogue (19:8, 10), in the school of Tyrannus (19:9) and in private houses (20:20).

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.

Paul was probably not the first to bring Christianity to Ephesus, for Jews had long lived there (2:9; 6:9), he was the first to make progress against the worship of Diana. As the fame of his teachings was carried by the pilgrims to their distant homes, his influence extended to every part of Asia Minor. In time the pilgrims, with decreasing faith in Diana, came in fewer numbers; the sales of the shrines of the goddess fell off; Diana of the Ephesians was no longer great; a Christian church was founded there and flourished.

A farewell 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.

Paul's Letter

The letter to the Ephesians was written by Paul near the end of his life while he was in prison in Rome. The letter was probably intended as a circular letter to be passed on from church to church for everyone's instruction.

Paul does mention the Ephesian Christians in Rom (Rom 16:5); 1 Cor (1 Cor 15:32; 16:8,19); 2 Cor (2 Cor 1:8 f); 1 Tim (1 Tim 1:3) and 2 Tim (2 Tim 1:18).

Peter either knew Ephesians or at the very least had discussed these subjects with its author and 1 Peter shows many parallels. Paul teaches some of the same truths to the believers in Colasse.

The letter to the Ephesians -- a strong chain of evidence to early and continued use. Eph 4:6 is quoted by Clement of Rome (c 95 AD).

His Purpose

Paul, the prisoner of the Lord, is writing in the calm of his imprisonment, to the churches about Ephesus to emphasize the great central truth which he had put in the very forefront of his letter: that they may have full, clear knowledge of this purpose of God which He is working out through Christ Jesus.

The vision is of a great oneness in Christ and through Him in God, a oneness of birth and faith and life and love, as men, touched with the fire of that Divine purpose, seek to fulfil, each in himself, the part that God has given him to play in the world, and, fighting against the foes of God, to overcome at last.

Turning Points

Eph 1:3

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

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