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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.


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