Author

Internal evidence (1:1) clearly tells us that Paul was the author. The most widely held belief is that Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome (see 3:1,13; 4:1; 6:20) together with the other so-called ‘prison letters’ Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. It was not until the nineteenth century that some have questioned the authorship of Paul, preferring to believe instead that the letter was written by one of his disciples. But if someone else actually wrote this epistle using Paul’s name when Paul never wrote it, then we cannot trust the epistle as God’s word. We unequivocally reject this proposition simply because it will make the Bible a lie. Furthermore, such a view (and not only on Ephesians but on many of the other books of the Bible) is supported by uncertain analysis, methodology and assumptions.

Recipient

Internal evidence (1:1) states the recipients to be ‘the saints who are at Ephesus’. However some of the oldest Greek manuscripts omit ‘at Ephesus’ and the absence of any personal greetings makes it probable that the letter was written to several churches, one of which was the one at Ephesus.

Date

During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (59-64 AD). We are uncertain whether it was during the first imprisonment (house arrest) of two years (59-61 AD) mentioned in Acts 28:30 or a later more severe imprisonment which led eventually to his execution.

Unique Characteristics

1. This epistle does not address specific problems in the church.
2. There are no personal greetings.
3. The literary form is a combination of doxology, prayer, theology, and exhortations. Such free form of composition is the result of the sublime nature of the doctrines in the epistle.

Central Verse

“… in all wisdom and prudence having made known to us the mystery of His will …” (1:8,9).

Survey

To get a broad picture of the Ephesians, read the entire book and record a heading for each of the section divisions in chart B.

Themes

In the Heavenly

Places Christians are to realize that there is a realm that exists alongside the physical world we live in. The heavenly places mentioned five times in this epistle does not refer to the heaven that we will dwell in for eternity (see 2Cor 5:2) but rather a spiritual dimension where saved Christians sit with Jesus (2:6) who is at the right hand of power (1:20). Here God blesses Christians (1:3) and reveals His manifold wisdom through His congregation, the church, to the spiritual principalities and powers (3:10) and this results in a war against the spiritual hosts of wickedness (6:12). With this extra perception, the enlightened Christian will prepare himself spiritually for the warfare in the heavenly places by putting on the armor of God (6:11-18). This spiritual world is real and it is another trick of Satan to deceive the people of the world into thinking either that spirituality is New Age affinity to nature or that spirituality is spiritism, occultism and black magic.

To Be Spiritually Knowledgeable

In two famous prayers, Paul asks that the Ephesians be enlightened spiritually. In 1:18-21, he asks that they know their hope, their glorious inheritance and the greatness of the power of God. This knowledge strengthens the faith and makes the believer realize the preciousness of the Holy Spirit in him (1:13-16) – He is the guarantee of his inheritance. In 3:17-19, Paul asks that the Ephesians may have power to comprehend the love of Christ. This knowledge allows one to be filled with the fullness of God (3:19) and thus controlled, the Christian is strengthened in his love for others (2Cor 5:14,15).

Unity

The early church was at risk of breaking into two parts, one part Jewish and the other part Gentile. Also, it was in danger of remaining one at the cost of compromising the doctrine of Christ – the Jews were insisting that the Gentiles observe the requirements of the Law of Moses in order to be followers of Christ (Gal 5:1-12). Paul stresses that unity is achieved by the abolishing in Christ’s flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances (2:14-18) and then further emphasizes that the body of Christ, the church, must be one (2:19; 3:6; 4:3-6). Thus the church must strive for unity but not a unity outside the one body of Christ.

The Church

This theme runs throughout the epistle. We are told many things about the church – that the church is the body of Christ (1:22,23); that the church is the household of God built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone (2:19,20); that through the church, which is His body, Jews and Gentiles are reconciled as one (3:6,12); that there is one church (4:4); and that Christ is the head of the church and her husband (5:23,31,32). The letter also addresses what is expected of the church – that gifts are distributed to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for building up the church (4;11,12); that Christians must put on the new nature when in the body of Christ (4:24) and thus walk in the light and not in darkness (4:17-5:20).

The New Nature and the Old Nature

Paul affirms that the Christian life is totally different from the unconverted life. They are poles apart, as new compared to old (4:22- 24) and light compared to darkness (5:8). Eph 4:17-5:20 is a strong appeal to note this great difference and gives clear advice on how to live one’s life accordingly. Paul extends this advice to how Christians should view relationships with one another – as husband and wife (5:21-33); as children and parents (6:1-4); and as slaves and masters (6:5-9).

Map & Chart

Map A Geography in the time of the early church