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Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians


I. Writer

The Apostle Paul (Eph.1:1; see Eph. 3:1; 4:1). Please read “the introduction to the book of Galatians” for more reference.


II. The Recipients


This book was written to the saints at Ephesus (1:1). Some of the best old scriptures however had no the words of “at Ephesus”. The church in Ephesus was built by Paul personally, who had lived there for about three years and be surely acquainted with many saints there. However, unlike the epistles of Paul to other churches, who liked to greet some saints by name, this epistle seldom mentioned individual saints. Therefore, some Bible scholars generally believed that this epistle might have been an official letter written to all the churches in Asia Minor. It was also possible that this epistle was the one that Paul had mentioned to the church in Colosse, namely, “the epistle from Laodicea (Col. 4:16)”. And the saints at Ephesus might add the phrase “who are in Ephesuson the blank place of the manuscript after reading this epistle. 

Ephesus, the capital of the province of Asia Minor as well as one of the colonies of the Roman Empire, was located at the east bank of the Aegean Sea, in the East of the Mediterranean Sea. The city boasted its convenient geographic location ---- the hub of communications of land and sea. The commodities were transported and conveyed to other localities through Ephesus. Temple of Diana, in Ephesus, was one of the seven greatest wonders of the world. The whole temple was built by marble, and there were 127 columns as high as 56 feet, which was extremely magnificent. Ephesus was known as a city that defended the temple, where idolatry and sorcery were prevailing. The business of making silver shrines for Diana was very prosperous. Many people did this business to make a living, since there were tens of thousands of people who were usually gathered in Ephesus to worship the goddess Diana.

Paul began the second journey in about the spring of 54A.D. He came with Aquila and Priscilla from Corinth to Ephesus to preach the gospel, and had good effects at that time and even many believers constrained him to abide with them. However the arrangement of his journey was already set, so he asked Aquila and Priscilla to stay there and promised that he would return to them again if God would (Acts. 18:19-21). Afterwards, Apollos came to Ephesus and stayed there for a short period (Acts. 18:24-27). In the summer of the same year, Paul returned to Ephesus. He spoke boldly, and there were twelve men who were filled with the Spirit (Acts. 19:7). He stayed there for about three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the kingdom of God in the synagogue, but was rejected by the Jews. Later, he preached the gospel in the school of Tyrannus for about two years, and thus the gospel was spread throughout all of Asia (Act. 19:8-12). The Lord’s name was highly magnified and the gospel thus increased and prevailed. Many of those that practiced curious arts brought their books and burnt them before all. And they reckoned up the prices of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver (Act. 19:17-20). Then there arose a big riot, and Paul departed from there (Acts. 20:1). Later in Miletus, Paul called over the elders of the assembly in Ephesus to give them a word of exhortation. And from Paul’s prophetic words, they knew that grievous wolves and heresy would emerge (Acts. 20:17-35). It was likely that Paul returned back to Ephesus after his release from the Roman prison. He let Timothy remain to fulfill the rest affairs and to exhort men not to teach heresy (1Tim. 1:3). It was said that the apostle John had also ever been to Ephesus afterwards. The Lord Jesus also asked John in a vision to write an epistle to the angel of the church in Ephesus, rebuking them for their forsaking their first love and warning them that they should repent, or else the Lord would move their candlestick out of its place (Rev. 2:1-7). The city of Ephesus turned to be a place of desolation, thus this warning prophecy was fulfilled.


III. The Time and Location the Book was Written


This book was written in about 61-63 A.D., when the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). This epistle, being delivered by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7), with the epistle to Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon together is commonly known as the “prison-epistles”.


IV. The Background


         At the time this book was penned, the number of the gentile Christians in all the churches throughout Asia Minor had increased. Since they came from the heathenish world, Paul was not sure whether they had known the purpose of God who had early chosen the Jews as His people and now preached the glad tidings to the nations. Therefore, Paul had a burden in his heart that he was willing to share his revelation from God concerning the mystery of the church through this book, thus they would know the counsel and purpose of God to His church, and thus they would know clearly the origin, essence, testimony and other aspects of the church.


V. Special Points


1)    There is no individual greeting of Paul as that in other epistles.

2)    It speaks utterly from God. Among all of Paul’s epistles, this book is the very book that the least begins with speaking about man and that contains the least part of personal affection.

3)    It helps us to see the present events from the point of eternity. Everything at present is according to what God has predestinated in the past eternity so as to fulfill the purpose of the eternity in future.

4)    This is “an epistle of heavens”: the first chapter speaks of our blessings in the heavenly places. The second chapter touches upon our sitting together with Christ in the heavenly places. The third chapter refers to the fact that family in heavens and on earth is named with us together. The fourth chapter tells us that the Lord Jesus has risen far above all the heavens and has given gifts to man. The fifth chapter shows us that how the heavenly people should walk on this earth. The last chapter speaks of our battle with the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.

5)    The book of Ephesians involves a wide range, including the Jews and the Gentiles, reaching the heavens and covering the whole earth, and encompassing things of the past, present, and future.

6)    “Peace” is the special message emphasized in the book of Ephesians:

a)    Those who once were far off from God has become near through the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13).

b)    Those who once were separated by a middle wall of partition, the enmity, has been reconciled and made into a one New Man through the Lord Jesus tearing down the middle wall of partition through His cross; thus making peace (Eph. 2:14-16).

c)    All the disharmony among the saints should be revolved by the fruits of the Spirit and the perfecting grace of Christ, thus arriving at the unity (Eph. 4:1-16).

d)    The situation of believers’ disobeying God and having no peace with God should be resolved by obeying the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit, thus we may have peace with God (4:17-5:21).

e)    All the strife in believers’ family should be resolved by following the examples of the Lord and abiding in the Lord, and thus there is peace between the husband and wife and the father and the son (5:22-6:4).

f)     All the conflicts between the masters and the servants should be resolved by fearing the Lord and relying on the Lord’s heart that has no acceptance of persons (6:5-9), thus making peace between the master and the servant (the superior and the inferior) (Eph. 6:5-9).

g)    Man used to walk according to the ruler of the authority of the air (2:1-3), so the situation of man who had no peace within themselves (Rom. 7:18-25) should be overcome by putting on the panoply of God against spiritual of wickedness in the heavenly places, thus bringing peace to his spirit, his soul and his body (6:10-24).


VI. General Description


The theme of the book of Ephesians is “the church” (Eph. 1:22; 3:21; 5:32). This book reveals that the will of God in this age is to build up the “body of Christ” ---- “the church in glory”. From this book we may know the position of the church in the glorious counsel of God and the way of the church’s bearing witness of Christ on the earth.

This book tells us that the Church is a vessel that is filled with and manifests His wisdom, life and power. The Church is the “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). And the fullness of the Christ manifested by the Church is beyond men’s understanding. It is as the saints are built together that we shall become the dwelling place of God in spirit (Eph. 2:22). It is through the Church that the wisdom of God is manifested to the principalities and powers in the air (Eph. 3:10). It is with all the saints that we can fully apprehend the love of God (Eph. 3:18-19). It is when all the members of the body of Christ have been fitted together that the Church will grow into the full measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). It is when the Church put on the full armor of God that we will be able to stand in the evil days and against the wiles of the enemy (Eph. 6:11). This book emphasizes that it is only the church, not any individual that shall be the vessel to manifest the fullness of Christ.

In short, the book of Ephesians gives us the highest revelation concerning the Church. Such revelation can be seen from the sequence of the record. The church was redeemed out of sins, and also started from the foundation of the world. Actually, the book of Ephesians is a complete history of the Church, including her position in the perfect will of God and the redemption in Christ through the gracious work of God, until the Church will finally fulfill the original counsel of God in the beginning.



VII. The Status in the Holy Scriptures


This book has the reputation of being the "crowning jewel" of all the epistles. Many people hold that it has reached the summit of mind of the New Testament. When John Knox lay on his sickbed, before his deathbed, the most frequent book that was read by others for him was the Sermons of the book of Ephesians by John Calvin. Coleridge called it "the divine composition of man".


VIII. It’s Relations with Other Books in the Bible 


         This book matches the Book of Colossians. The former reveals that the church is the body of Christ, and the latter mentions that Christ is the head of the church. It was the brother Tychicus that sent both of the two books. In the book of Colossians, Paul said that Tychicus would tell them all the news about him (Col. 4:7). In the book of Ephesians, Paul mentioned Tychicus would make all things known to them (Eph. 6:21). In addition, there were numerous scriptures that were very similar throughout the two books. Therefore, as Coleridge held, the book of Colossians might be called “the overflow” of the book of Ephesians or the book of Ephesians was a greater version of the book of Colossians.   


IX. Key Verses


“The Church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph. 1:23)

 “In Whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22)

“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6)

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph 4:1)

 “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:17-18)

“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:32)

 “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11)


X. Key Words


“Church” (Eph. 1:22, 23, 3:10, 21, 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32 …)

“In Christ” or “in Christ Jesus” or “in the beloved (Son)” or “in Him” or “in the Lord” (Eph. 1:1, 3, 4, 6, 10, 11, 12; 2:6, 7, 10, 13; 3:6, 11, 12, 21; 4:17; 5:8; 6:1, 10 …)

    “In one accord” or “joined together in one” or “made into one body” (Eph. 1:10; 2:14, 16; 3:6; 4:3, 13; 5:31)

    “In heaven” or “in the heavenly place” (Eph. 1:1, 3, 10, 20; 2:6; 3:10, 15; 4:10, 6:9)

 “Grace” (Eph. 1:1, 2, 6, 7; 2:5, 7, 8; 3:2, 7, 8; 4:7, 29; 6:24)

“Riches” or “abundantly” (Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8, 16)

“Mystery” (Eph. 1:9, 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19)

Apart from that, “saints” 7 times; “body” 9 times; “conduct” 7 times; “filled” 6 times; “His glory” 7 times.


. Outlines of the Book


1) Introduction (Eph. 1:1-2)

2) The Blessings of the Church Received in Christ:

  a) The selection and predestination of the Father (1:3-6)

  b) The salvation and inheritance of the Son (1:7-12)

  c) The seal and earnest of the Spirit (1:13-14)

3) The Spiritual Knowledge of the Church Received in Christ:

a) In the full knowledge of him (1:15-17)

  b) To know the calling of God and His inheritance in the saints (1:18)

  c) To know the power of God towards those who believe (1:19-23)

4) The Status of the Church Received in Christ:

a) The church is the workmanship that God has created in Christ (2:1-10).

  b) The church is a new man that God has created in Christ (2:11-18).

  c) The church is the habitation of God that He has built in Christ (2:19-22).

5) The Revelation of the Church Received in Christ:

a) God reveals the mystery of Christ to His apostle through the Spirit (3:1-6).

  b) The apostle preaches this mystery to all the others (3:7-13).

6) How does the Church Substantiate What He Has Obtained in Christ?

a) God strengthens the inner man of us through the Spirit (3:114-16).

  b) Christ dwells in our hearts (3:17).

  c) We can understand the boundless love of Christ (3:18).

  d) When the church has been be filled to all the fullness of God, he will be able to do exceeding abundantly (3:19-21).

7) The Gifts Granted to the Church by Christ:

a) Christ has granted the essence of the oneness of the church (4:1-6).

  b) Christ has granted the gifts to build up the church (4:7-16).

  c) Christ has granted the new man to change the walks of the church (4:17-32).

8) The Manifestation of Christ in the Church:

a) He is manifested when the church is like the beloved children (5:1-7).

  b) He is manifested when the church is like the children of light (5:8-14).

  c) He is manifested when the church is like the son of wisdom (5:15-21).

  d) He is manifested when the church loves others as Christ loves the church (5:22-23).

  e) He is manifested when the church serves others as Christ serves others (6:1-9).

  f) He is manifested when the church is like the mighty warrior (6:10-20).

9) The Epilogue (Eph. 6:21-14)


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Mary Zhou