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EPHESIANS

INTRODUCTION

 

EPHESUS A large and important city on the west coast of Asia Minor, surrounded by:

    To the North - Smyrna
    To the East - Laodicea
    To the South - Miletus
    To the West - The Aegean Sea

We know this area today as the western part of Turkey, and because of silting from the Cayster river the ruins of the city are in a swamp 5 to 7 miles inland..

Economics - sitting at the mouth of the river Cayster and midway between Smyrna and Miletus, it was at the junction of natural trade routes. Ephesus was:

    1. The most favorable seaport in the province of Asia
    2. The most important trade center west of Tarsus

Population - although Pergamum was the capital of the province of Asia during Roman occupation, Ephesus was the largest city in the province with a population of approximately 300,000 people. This was due mainly to the prosperous economic climate.

Culture - the people of Ephesus were accustomed to all forms of entertainment and luxury available to the people of their time. The city contained a theater that seated an estimated 25,000 people. A main thoroughfare, approximately 105 feet wide, ran from the theater to the harbor, at each end of which stood an impressive gate. The thoroughfare was flanked on each side by rows of columns. Behind these columns were baths, gymnasiums, and impressive buildings.

Click here to see a map of the area with Ephesus in relation to other cities during Paul's 1st and 2nd missionary journeys
(maps by "PC Study Bible" Biblesoft)

History - during the Biblical period, Ephesus was under several different rulerships:

IONIA - In the 11th century B.C. the town was seized by the Ionians who were part of the Greek race. Ephesus became one of the 12 cities belonging to their confederation, and became the capital of Ionia.
LYDIA - Around 555 B.C. it was conquered by Croesus, king of Lydia, whose capital was at Sardis.
PERSIA -  It soon after fell to the Persians.
GREECE - With the victories of Alexander the Great, Ephesus came under Macedonian-Greek rule. Until this time it was in a low flood inundated plain. In 286 B.C. Lysimachus extended it to higher ground. By this change of location the temple of Artemis was left outside the city walls.
PERGAMOS - In 190 B.C. the Romans defeated Antiochus the Great at Magnesia, took Ephesus from him and gave it to Eumenes II, king of Pergamos.
ROME - When Attalus III of Pergamos died in 133 B.C. the city came under Roman rule and eventually became the capital of the Roman province of Asia.  The city was almost demolished by an earthquake in A.D. 29, but was rebuilt by the Roman emperor Tiberius.

Religion - religion in Ephesus was as diverse as its teaming population:

Idolatry - Ephesus was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the famous Temple of the goddess Artemis (known as Diana among the Romans). As the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus, Artemis was known variously as: the moon goddess, the goddess of hunting, and the patroness of young girls. The temple at Ephesus housed the multi-breasted image of Artemis which was reputed to have come directly from Zeus (Acts 19:35). When Paul ministered in Ephesus, the temple was supported by 127 columns, each of them 197 feet high. The Ephesians took great pride in this grand edifice. During the Roman period, they promoted the worship of Artemis by minting coins with the inscription, "Diana of Ephesus."
Jews - Jews There was a fairly large synagogue, as many Jews with Roman citizenship lived in Ephesus. Paul's first contact with the people of this city was during his short visit toward the end of his second missionary journey, and he began his ministry there when he preached in their synagogue.
Christians - Christianity was introduced to the people of Ephesus around A.D. 50 by Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:18).

Christianity - Christianity began to flourish in Ephesus when Paul came to Ephesus for the second time in approximately A. D. 52, establishing a resident ministry for the better part of three years (Acts 20:31).

During his stay in Ephesus, Paul encountered both great opportunities and great dangers:

Divine Inspiration -
It was during his Ephesian ministry that Paul wrote I Corinthians  (1 Cor. 16:8).
Missionary Outreach -
The Book of Acts reports that "...all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:10), while Paul taught during the hot midday hours in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). Influence from his ministry at Ephesus also resulted in the founding of churches in the Lycus River valley at:
1. Laodicea
2. Hierapolis
3. Colossae
The Silversmith's Riot -
So influential, in fact, was Paul's ministry at Ephesus that the silversmith's league, which fashioned souvenirs of the temple, feared that the preaching of the gospel would undermine the great temple of Artemis (Acts 19:27). As a result, a silversmith named Demetrius actually stirred up a riot against Paul.
Disciples of John the Baptist -
He baptized believers who apparently came to know the gospel through disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-5).
Seven Sons of Sceva -
And he also had to contend with the strong demonic influences in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-20).
False Doctrine -
"I know full well that after I leave you, false teachers, like vicious wolves, will appear among you, not sparing the flock. Some of you yourselves will distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! Remember the three years I was with you-- my constant watchcare over you night and day and my many tears for you." (Acts 20:29-31) [The Living Bible]

After Paul left Ephesus, Timothy remained to combat false teaching: "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work-- which is by faith." (1 Tim 1:3-4) [NIV]

Many traditions testify that the apostle John lived in Ephesus toward the end of the first century. In John's vision from the island of Patmos off the coast of Asia Minor, he described the church of Ephesus as flourishing, although it was troubled with false teachers and had lost its first love (Rev. 2:1-7). In the sixth century A. D. the Roman emperor Justinian (A. D. 527-565) raised a magnificent church to John's memory in Ephesus.

Ephesus continued to play a prominent role in the history of the early church:

1. A long line of bishops in the Eastern church lived there.
2. In A. D. 431 the Council of Ephesus officially condemned the Nestorian teaching that there were two separate persons, one divine and one human, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Today most of the city is in decay due to the silting of the harbor by mud brought down by the Cayster River. Among the remains are the ruins of the wall and a gate, the stadium, the theater, Roman baths, and a library.

The great temple is destroyed and the site where it stood is a swamp.

THE EPISTLE

Authorship - it has been generally accepted that the Holy Spirit divinely inspired the apostle Paul to write the Epistle to the believers at Ephesus.
Date & Place - probably in 62 A.D.
Ephesians is part of what is commonly known as "The Prison Epistles" which also include Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, because they were written during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. He arrived in Rome in the spring of A.D. 61, and lived in his own hired house for 2 years (Acts 28:30). He was probably released before Rome burned in A.D. 64, or at least he was expecting release as is evidenced in Philippians 1:19-26 and Philemon 22.
Destination -  There have been discussions that the epistle may have been written either to:
1. Ephesus
2. All the assemblies in that area
3. Laodicea
(this comes from the instruction to the churches at Collosse and Laodicea to exchange letters with each other - Col 4:16)
However, the first verse leaves little doubt as to the original recipients of this letter, the believers in Ephesus.
NOTE:  I would like to point out that there have been many letters written by both the apostles and by Godly men that followed them. These men may have written while they were anointed with the Spirit, and the writings may have been Scriptural, but that does not make them Scripture Itself. In other words, only those works that were given under Divine Inspiration as Scripture actually are Scripture. Therefore, the loss of a letter Paul wrote to the church at Laodicea does not constitute a loss of Scripture.

Theme
-

the great truth of Ephesians is that Christ and the Church together form a completeness, the Church being the body and Christ being the head.
Emphasis - the believer's Position in Christ.
Qualifying Phrase -  "In Christ"
Outline -
I 1:1 - 3:21 The believer's Position in Christ
II 4:1 - 6:24 The believer's Conduct in the world

- OR -

I I. Doctrinal Chapters 1-3
I II. Practical Chapters 4-6

EXCERPTS FROM  "THE APOSTLE",  BY JOHN POLLOCK

"No one could leave that hired house untouched, if only to 'argue vigorously.' It had an atmosphere of happiness with the music and singing which Paul mentions in both the chief letters he wrote from it. His character had not been soured or hardened by troubles. To judge by what he thought important, he was kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as Christ had forgiven him. He walked in love, the element which bound his qualities together. He was still the great encourager, welcoming a man who was weak in faith but refusing to argue about secondary matters. Like his Master he did not emphasize a man's shortcomings but his potential, and he would not pass judgment on others unless they betrayed their Master by open sin, when he could be severe but with the aim of restoring and strengthening.

"In that Roman house bitter people softened; anger, wrath, clamor died away. Paul had more than ever a sense of his littleness, his unworthiness - 'less than the least of all saints' - of the marvel of his being entrusted with a commission 'to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.' He seemed to delight in the contrast between the majesty of the message and the insignificance of the messenger: such a gentle little man now, yet with what steel and strength.

"The soldiers, turn and turn about, knew where that strength had its chief contact with infinity. In the early mornings the guard chained to Paul joined willy-nilly the time on his knees, and heard the words of thanksgiving and intercession. Paul's heart was far away in Greece or Asia Minor. 'Father of glory,' the soldier must have heard him pray for the Ephesians, and for the Colossians and 'all who have not seen my face': 'God of our Lord Jesus Christ, give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation. May they know what is the hope to which you have called them, what are the riches of your glorious inheritance, what the immeasurable greatness of your power ... May they live a life worth of you, fully pleasing to you, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in their knowledge of you ... Father, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, according to your riches in glory grant them to be strengthened by might in the inner man. May Christ dwell in their hearts by faith. May they be rooted and grounded in love, and comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth - and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that they be filled with all the fullness of God.'

"Mentioning many by name, entering into their needs and problems as best he knew them, Paul prayed, sometimes alone except for the soldier, sometimes with Aristarchus and Luke and whoever was with him. His prayers were shot through with praise, and it may have been a soldier, whether Christian yet or not, who first heard in Rome the thanksgiving which would ring out to Asia and thus to the world: 'Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.' "

THE STRUCTURES
From the COMPANION BIBLE

The Structures used in this study give, not a mere Analysis evolved from the test by human ingenuity, but a SYMMETRICAL EXHIBITION of the Word itself, which may be discerned by the humblest reader of the Sacred Text, and seen to be one of the most important evidences of the Divine Inspiration of its words.

These Structures constitute a remarkable phenomenon peculiar to Divine Revelation; and are not found outside it in any other form of know literature.

This distinguishing feature is caused by the repetition of subjects which reappear, either in alternation or introversion, or a combination of both in many different patterns.

This repetition is called "Correspondence," which may be by way of similarity or contrast.

THE INTER-RELATION OF THE 7 CHURCH EPISTLES AS SHOWN AS A WHOLE:

ROMANS "Doctrine and Instruction" The Gospel of God: never hidden, but "promised before." God’s justification of Jew and Gentile individually - dead and risen with Christ (1-8). Their relation dispensationally (9-11). The subjective foundation of the mystery.
CORINTHIANS "Reproof" Practical failure to exhibit the teaching of Romans through not seeing their standing as having died and risen with Christ. "Leaven" in Practice (I Cor. 5:6).
GALATIANS "Correction" Doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Romans. Beginning with the truth of the new nature (spirit), they were "soon removed" (1:6), and sought to be made perfect in the old nature [flesh] (3:3). "Leaven" in Doctrine (5:9).
EPHESIANS "Doctrine and Instruction" The Mystery of God, always hidden, never before revealed. Individual Jews and Gentiles gathered out and made "one new man" in Christ. Seated in the heavenlies with Christ.
PHILIPPIANS "Reproof" Practical failure to exhibit the teaching of Ephesians in manifesting "the mind of Christ" as members of one body.
COLOSSIANS "Correction" Doctrinal failure as to the teaching of Ephesians. Wrong doctrine which came from "not holding the Head" (2:19) and not seeing their completeness and perfection in Christ (2:8-10).
THESSALONIANS "Doctrine and Instruction" Not only "dead and risen with Christ" (as in Romans); not only seated in the heavenlies with Christ (as in Ephesians); but "caught up to meet the Lord in the air, so to be for ever with the Lord."

ROMANS = JUSTIFIED IN CHRIST

EPHESIANS = SANCTIFIED IN CHRIST

THESSALONIANS = GLORIFIED WITH CHRIST

No "reproof", no "correction". All praise and thanksgiving.

A "TYPICAL" CHURCH


CHRONOLOGY OF THE PAULINE EPISTLES

A.D. 52
2nd Missionary Journey
A.D. 57
3rd Missionary Journey
A.D. 62
1st Roman Imprisonment
A.D. 67
2nd Roman Imprisonment
I Thessalonians Galatians Colossians I Timothy
II Thessalonians I Corinthians Ephesians II Timothy
II Corinthians Philemon Titus
Romans Philippians
Hebrews (?)

 


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