Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Ephesus, the most important city in the Roman province of Asia, was located at crossroad of major trade, a seaport just across the Aegean from Athens. The temple of Artemis, one of the 7-Wonders of the Ancient World, was located in Ephesus, attracting pilgrims from all over the the eastern world. The pilgrims provided income for the local silversmiths, who made and sold idols of Artemis. Paul got into trouble preaching salvation for Gentiles, both with the Jewish leaders and the silversmiths selling idols.
Ephesians was written while Paul was in jail, but because he was imprisoned at least once in Ephesus, it's impossible to know if the epistle was written there or in Rome. You can read about Paul's adventures in Ephesus in Acts Chapter 19. Clues indicate the letter was written for several churches in or near Ephesus, which deserves a word of explanation. The "church" in Ephesus consisted of fellowship meetings in believer's homes. The church Paul is speaking of is not a congregation as we know it, but a collection of homes scattered throughout Ephesus where new converts met and together became the Church, one with the growing body of Christ.
Christianity threatened the worship of Artemis, so new converts may well have kept a low profile to avoid conflict. Paul's letter outlines the scope of God's grace, making sure they fully understand its full significance. It encourages the unity of Jews and Gentiles, demonstrates what a new life in Christ is all about, and warns us to protect ourselves with the armor of God. Ephesians is split in two. Chapters 1-3 praise God for his amazing grace, and chapters 4-6 demonstrate the new life we have believing in Christ Jesus. Paul begins Chapter 1 with a few choice words about himself and a greeting. Referring to his divine apostleship, he calls his readers “God’s holy people,” blessing them with God's “grace and peace.”
For a short but comprehensive view of Ephesians, play the Bible Project video below.
In Chapter 1:1-14, Paul presents God’s master plan from eternity. Then in verses 15-23 he prays that we understand what it means to be in Christ, to be part of God's plan, to be elected, redeemed, and granted an eternal inheritance. Paul wants Christians to fully understand the power we have in Christ, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him at God’s right hand. If you desire to know what this means to you, if you need guidance during this pivotal time, read Chapter 1 and we'll go on from there together.
Paul evokes God's grace and peace on his readers, clearly including Gentiles in the blessing. To be on the same page as Paul, "grace" is undeserved blessing that comes from God's kindness, and "peace" is the sense of well-being and contentment we receive from the Holy Spirit upon believing the gospel message. Paul describes what God did—through Christ—to bring us into a saving relationship with Himself. Paul praises God for the blessings we receive by grace, that we are made holy, without fault, part of God's family. It demonstrates how much He loves us, purchased our freedom from sin with the blood of His only Son. Among the kindnesses God blessed us with are wisdom and understanding. Divine truths (mysteries) once obscure are revealed to those who believe in the gospel. The Spirit within us identifies us as His own and assures us of our salvation.
Paul prays for his readers to grow in spiritual understanding with their newfound relationship with God, that they'd grasp the full significance of their promised inheritance. He links faith in Christ to love for God’s people, that by their faith receive salvation, and salvation is best expressed by living a life of love. Paul talks about the knowledge of God, about coming to know God personally and not just intellectually. The confident hope we have in Christ’s promised return, and the blessings we share as joint heirs with Him.
The incredible greatness of God’s power is manifest by the Holy Spirit working in and through God’s people, empowered because they are joined with the risen Christ with specific reference to the coming age. I believe we’re witness to the dawning of that age, for when Paul writes about Christ filling all things everywhere, he’s describing the body of Christ, which is His church and the full expression of Christ in this world. When love replaces hate, God is expressed in this world, and by this expression also worshipped. The opposite is also true. When hate replaces love, we find the kind of division within our own country that exists today. When hate replaces love, the dark spiritual powers that control the earth now are given full reign.
Food for Thought
Why should I praise God?
What does Paul mean by “mystery” or "mysterious"?
What spiritual blessings have I received from God the Father?
What spiritual blessings have I received from the Son?
What spiritual blessings have I received from the Holy Spirit?
Count your blessings. Write them down. They are probably more than you thought! May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.