AUTHOR: The apostle Paul (Eph 1:1; Eph 3:1). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Paul include: Irenaeus (200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), and Origen (250 A.D.). Polycarp (125 A.D.) attests to its canonicity in his own epistle to the Philippians (chapter 12).
THE RECIPIENTS: There are reasons to believe that this epistle was not designed for just one congregation, but intended to be passed around to several churches in the area surrounding Ephesus. The earliest manuscripts do not contain the phrase "in Ephesus" (cf. Eph 1:1). The epistle itself is in the form of a general treatise rather than as a letter written to a specific church. For example, there are no specific exhortations or personal greetings. It is thought by some (Conybeare and Howson) that this letter is the epistle that was first sent to Laodicea (cf. Col 4:16), and designed to be shared with other churches, including Ephesus. Because Ephesus was the leading city of the region, and the main center of Paul's missionary activity in the area (cf. Act 19:1; 19:8-10), it is understandable why later scribes might have assigned this epistle to the church at Ephesus. Without question it was intended for "the saints ...and faithful in Christ Jesus." (Eph 1:1)
PAUL'S MINISTRY IN THE REGION: Paul first came to Ephesus for a short visit toward the end of his second missionary journey (Act 18:18-19). Located on the SW coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), Ephesus was one of the great cities in that part of the world. A Roman capital, it was a wealthy commercial center and home for the worship of the goddess Diana (cf. Act 19:23-41). Though Paul briefly studied with the Jews at the local synagogue and was invited to stay longer, he made plans to visit them again after a quick trip to Jerusalem (Act 18:20-21).
On his third missionary journey Paul made it back to Ephesus for an extended stay of three years (cf. Act 19:1; 19:10; 20:31). After his initial success in converting twelve disciples of John (Act 19:1-7), Paul spent three months teaching in the local synagogue (Act 19:8). Resistance to his doctrine forced him to leave the synagogue, but he was able to continue teaching in the school of Tyrannus for a period of two years. The end result is that the gospel spread from Ephesus throughout Asia Minor (Act 19:9-10). A disturbance created by some of the local idol makers finally forced Paul to leave Ephesus (Act 19:23 - 20:1).
Toward the end of his third journey, Paul stopped at nearby Miletus, and met with the elders of the church at Ephesus. Reminding them of his work with them, he charged them to fulfill their own responsibilities as overseers of the flock of God, and then bid them a tearful farewell (Act 20:17-38).
TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING: Ephesians is one of Paul's four "prison epistles" (Eph 3:1; Eph 4:1; Eph 6:20; cf. Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). The general consensus is that these epistles were written during Paul's imprisonment at Rome (cf. Act 28:16; 28:30-31). If such is truly the case, then Paul wrote Ephesians around 61-63 A.D. from Rome. The indication is that the epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus (cf. Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9; Phm 10-12).
PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE: Unlike other epistles written to specific churches, this epistle does not deal with specific problems in a local congregation. Instead, Paul addressed great themes that pertain to the Christian's position in Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, the church. As expressed in his prayer for his readers, it was his desire that they might know:
In the first three chapters, Paul answers his own prayer by expounding upon their spiritual blessings in Christ. The last three chapters focus on the conduct (or "walk", cf. Eph 4:1; 4:17; 5:2; 5:8; 5:15) expected of those so richly blessed. Therefore Paul writes to:
THEME OF THE EPISTLE: A grand epistle like Ephesians almost defies coming up with one main theme. With its exalted view of the church in God's plan of redemption, it is common to suggest the theme as "The Church, The Fullness of Christ". Another theme which does justice to the content of the epistle and one that I suggest for this study is that offered by Warren Wiersbe:
"THE BELIEVER'S RICHES IN CHRIST"
KEY VERSE: Ephesians 1:3
(adapted from The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 2, Warren W. Wiersbe, p.7):
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2003
Cite This Page:
Copeland, Mark A. "The Epistle to the Ephesians," Executable Outlines. The Blue Letter Bible. 28 Aug 2003. 18 Jun 2013.