( Eph 1:1,2 )
Ephesians is one of Paul's so called "Prison Letters" and was probably written from Rome around 64 A.D. during his imprisonment there. It is closely linked to those letters that Paul wrote to the Philippians and the Colossians and which were delivered to them by Tychicus (Eph 6:21).
This letter does not seem to have been prompted by any special circumstances, but is simply a letter springing out of Paul's love for the church there and from his desire that they should be fully instructed in the profound doctrines of the gospel.
Ephesus - The City
Ephesus was the most important city in the Roman province of Asia, on the west coast of Anatolia near the historical town of Selcuk in what is now called the Republic of Turkey.
In ancient times it was situated at the mouth of the River Cayster and a magnificent road some 11 metres wide lined with columns ran down through the city to the harbour. The harbour served as both a great export centre at the end of the Asiatic caravan-route and also as a natural landing point from Rome.
The site of ancient Ephesus is probably the most impressive and extensively excavated ruin in Asia Minor. The sea is now some 10 km away owing to the silting process of centuries which resulted in the complete silting up of the bay.
The temple of the Greek goddess Artemis (in Latin, Diana of the Ephesians) lay 2 km N.E. of the city. All that remains today of this "wonder of the ancient world" are a few stones and part of a column which has been restored. At the height of its power, during Roman times, its population reached almost 330,000 people. The Great Theatre which is 50 m in diameter had seating for 25,000 spectators with 22 flights of stairs each set by three circular rows.
It was here that a capacity crowd bayed for the blood of the apostle Paul and his companions, chanting the slogan "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" for the space of two hours (Acts 19:34).
The city had a large colony of Jews who had long enjoyed a privileged position under Roman rule.
The Church at Ephesus
It was during that period that Apollos arrived in Ephesus and proceeded to preach the Word powerfully, if not accurately.
However Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos aside and "expounded unto him the Way of God more perfectly" (Acts 18:26).
During his third missionary journey Paul arrived at Ephesus having come via the "upper coasts" ie. from the interior of Asia Minor. On this occasion Paul stayed for almost three years in the city during which time he disputed daily in the school of Tyrannus which was located off Harbour Street.
Luke records that during this time "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10). It was during this time that Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in which he stated his intention to remain at Ephesus until Pentecost "for a great door and effectual is opened unto me" (1 Cor 16:9).
It is most likely that the seven churches of Revelation were founded during this period.
On his last journey to Jerusalem Paul landed at Miletus, some thirty miles to the south, and summoned the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him, whereupon he delivered unto them his remarkable farewell charge (Acts 20:15-35).
Ephesus is mentioned twice in the book of Revelation by the apostle John who himself spent many years there and whose grave is located in the church of St. John to the N.E. of the ancient city.
The Occasion of the Letter
It was evidently written from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment there. ( cf. Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20, ) probably soon after his arrival there some four years after his meeting with the Ephesian elders at Miletus.
The object of the letter is to set out the grounds, the cause, and the aim and purpose of the church of the faithful in Christ. In this respect he speaks to the Ephesians as a type or sample of the universal church.
His theme is the church's foundations, its course, and its end.
Throughout the letter:-
The foundation of the church is seen as "the will of the Father."
The course of the church is set by "the satisfaction of the Son."
The Composition of the Epistle
In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul writes from the point of view of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ.
In Ephesians, he writes from the point of view specially of union to the Redeemer.
The scope of its message bears witness to the teaching which Paul had provided during his three year stay at the city.
The epistle to the Ephesians bears considerable resemblence to that written to the Colossians, which is hardly surprising since they were written at virtually the same time and delivered by the same hand.
The following comparisons illustrate the similarities between the two letters:-
13. Eph 6:19,20 cf. Col 4:3,4 14. Eph 5:22-33 6:1-9 cf. Col 3:18-25;4:1
The message of the epistle is that the Church is "The Body of Christ."
After the initial salutation, or greeting, the book divides into two parts, three chapters are doctrinal, the other three being practical.
In Christ; In heavenly places; We in Him and He in us;
The practical part deals with the believer's responsibility in service and walk in four different realms:-
The Church; Society; Home; Spiritual Warfare.
The true Church, made up of all believers, is the Body of Christ of which He is the Head.
God the Father not only prepared a Body in which the Lord should suffer - His human frame, but He prepared a Body for Him in which He should be glorified - the Church.
As a Body, the Church is not an organisation, but an organism.
An organisation is a mechanical thing, an organism is a living entity which functions naturally.
Each member of the Body operates in its own place and way, in obedience to the Head.
The style of the letter is quite animated, and is in keeping with the state of the apostle's mind at the time of writing.
The Apostolic Greeting
Paul begins by stating the authority of his apostleship.
He is an apostle - by the will of God. Paul never got over the sense of wonder that God should choose him, who he himself describes, as "the least of all saints..." ( 1 Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8 ).
The letter is addressed to - "the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus."
This extends the greeting to include the saints in every age and at every place - ie. to you and to me.
Paul extends grace and peace to the saints from both God, the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
And there we have it, right at the very beginning of the letter, our position - is in Christ Jesus.
The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians
The key word which recurs throughout this letter is the word " in." The first chapter is particularly rich in the word, indeed verse one declares the basis of our security it is - "in Christ Jesus." It is because of our position "in Him" that we can rest assured of our eternal security. Everything that we have and are and ever will be is because of this established relationship in Him.
The word "In"
The letter is addressed to the "faithful in Christ Jesus."
We are blessed with all spiritual blessings , in heavenly places in Christ (v. 3). This term "heavenly places" means, literally, "in the heavenlies." The "heavenlies" may be defined as the sphere of our spiritual experience in Christ. Believers are spiritual people, strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Paul says here that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (v. 4).
The purpose of this ? To be holy and blameless before Him in love (v. 4).
To this end God has predestined us to be adopted into His family (v. 5).
And we have been accepted in the beloved (v. 6).
The word "According"
Another word which is repeated in the letter is …… "according."
None of the blessings of the Lord come to us according to our deserving but according to His choosing (v.4).
So, we have been chosen, adopted and accepted and been granted the forgiveness of sins.
On what grounds?
On redemption ground according to the riches of His grace (v. 7).
All this is according to the good pleasure of His will (v.5), according to His purpose (v.11) and according to the working of His mighty power (v.19).
Predestinated unto the Adoption of Children
Predestination is that effective exercise of the will of God by which things determined by Him are brought to pass.
Predestination is one part of that trinity of divine processes namely:-
Election, Foreknowledge, and Predestination.
The divine order is:- foreknowledge, election, predestination.
1 Peter 1:2 makes it clear that it is foreknowledge which determines election, and that predestination is the bringing to pass of the election.
Election, which means "chosen," is wholly of grace and proceeds from the divine will.
Election and predestination are always related to the saints and their sanctification. And are not to be interpreted in the sense that some are predetermined for salvation while others are predetermined to be lost.
Election is the sovereign act of God whereby certain elect persons are chosen for distinctive service for Him.
cf Luke 6:13 Where Jesus chose, from among His disciples twelve, whom he named, apostles.
Acts 9:15 The Lord said of Saul "he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles..."
1 Cor 1:27,28 God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.............."
Nowhere does scripture tell us what it is in the divine foreknowledge which determines the election and predestination. What scripture does declare is that the foreknown are elected and the elect are predestinated, and that this election is certain to every believer by the mere fact that he believes. It is because we have first trusted in Christ (v.12) that God has predetermined that we should be continuously transformed into the full likeness of His dear Son, that we should be to His praise.
The Adoption of Children
The word huiothesia, translated "adoption," meaning "placing as a son," is not so much a word of relationship as of position. Our relationship to God as a child results from our being "born again (John 1:12,13), whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one, already a child, is placed in the position of an adult son through redemption from the law (Gal 4:5,6,7). It is the operation of the Holy Spirit which brings about the realization of this fact in our present experience but the full manifestation of our sonship will occur in what the scriptures call the "redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23 1 Thess 4:14-17) at the coming of Christ for His saints. Then we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
The Mystery of His Will
This is "that in the dispensation of the fullness of times" He might gather together in one, all things in Christ.
The Dispensation of the fullness of times is the final dispensation in God's dealings with mankind.
The present age will end with the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:21 and Rev 16:1-21) and even the Age of Righteousness will end in apostasy after Satan has been "loosed from the Bottomless Pit" (Rev 20:7-15).
It is then that the "Perfect Age" the "Dispensation of the Fullness of Times" will be ushered in and there will be a "New Heaven" and a "New Earth" "Wherein Dwelleth Righteousness (Rev 21 and 2 Pet 3:13. It is this "Perfect Kingdom" that Christ surrenders to the Father (1 Cor 15:24-28).
What these Ages of Ages will reveal of the Plan and Purpose of God, we do not know for these are in the "Mystery of His Will." This great era is still over a thousand years in the future and is not the end of things - eternity is yet young!
The Seal of the Holy Spirit
This is our inheritance in Christ! and the proof of this lies in the very fact that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are trusting Him as Lord and Saviour.
We are "Born of the Spirit" and have been sealed by Him (v. 13).
What we have here and now is "the earnest of the Spirit."
In the symbolism of Scripture a seal signifies:-
1. A Completed Transaction.
The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal. He has completed the transaction, we are now Divine property and our eternal future is secure.
What a privilege it is to belong to the Living God, to be His purchased possession, His property!
The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians
(Eph 1:15 - 2:10)
Paul's Prayer for The Saints
Ever since Paul had learned of the existence of the church at Ephesus he had never stopped praying for them.
1. Spiritual Wisdom and 2. Spiritual Understanding
1. Spiritual Wisdom
That God, the Father would grant them wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Never forget this - the source of all our wisdom is The Father Himself - through knowing The Son.
The last book in the Bible commences with the words – "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him...."
and Revelation ends with the solemn warning – "And if any man shall take away from the words of this book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life."
Oh that we might know more of Him.
2. Spiritual Understanding
When God grants us spiritual understanding a whole new area of knowledge is opened up to us:-
(a) The hope of His calling
(b) The Riches of His inheritance
(c) The greatness of His power.
(a) The Hope of His Calling
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Eph 1:18-20
His calling is …….. . High
The High Calling of God
Our calling is not a lowly one for, in Phil 3:14, Paul tells us that it is a high calling - he says it is ……. “ the high calling of God."
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Phil 3:14 KJV
A Heavenly Calling
In Hebrews 3:1 we are told that it is ……. "a heavenly calling.”
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
Heb 3:1-2 KJV
A Holy Calling
In 2Tim 1:9 Paul states that it is a "holy calling" which is - "not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace."
The Anomaly of God’s Choice !
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul states that “not many wise men, according to the flesh, not many noble not many mighty are called but God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and the weak things to confound the things which are mighty." 1 Cor 1:26,27)
Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul urges believers – “to abide in the same calling” (1 Cor 7:20-24).
In The Light of This ….. Peter, in his second epistle, urges believers to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure." (2 Pet 1:10)
However, note that … In Roman 11:29 Paul teaches us that - "the Gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
That is to say, God will not go back on His Word.
May we be counted worthy of being “Chosen By Him”
May our lives glorify Him !
(b) The Riches of His Inheritance
Note how Paul phrases this - “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
Just think about this phrase - “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”
He is the Lord of glory! The universe and its contents belong to Him!
Him who, as Paul says in Phil 2:9, has been given the Name which is above all other names - has an inheritance in the saints.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”Eph 2:10.
In his Epistle to the Colossians, Paul writes - “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” Col 1:12.
In Acts 26:18 we find Paul testifying to King Agrippa that the Lord Jesus Christ had called him to go to the Gentiles - “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Acts 26:18.
This is what Peter says on this subject
Peter, in his first epistle, tells us that God has “begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet 1:3,4,5.
All this is possible because of The Atonement - “For this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” Heb 9:15.
(c) The Greatness of His Power
19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Paul delights in the use of superlatives - here he refers to “the exceeding riches of His power.”
There is no doubting the mighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ, for this was demonstrated time and time again during His earthly ministry.
He healed the sick, opened blind eyes, un-stopped deaf ears, made the lame to walk and even raised the dead. He cast out demons and stilled the tempest with the phrase “peace, be still.”
However, the exceeding greatness of His power is demonstrated to us by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Now, He is far above all else, be they principality and power, might and dominion. Christ is exalted to be head over all things to the church, which is His body.
This is further demonstrated in the fact that He has brought us to new life in Him.
Past, Present and Future
Paul now proceeds to deal with the past, present, and future of us believers.
In The Past Before we were saved, we were dead in:-
(a) trespasses (b) sins and (c) conducted our lives according to the manner of this world.
Our lives were dominated by the prince of the power of the air - Satan.
In this respect we were no different to anyone else because this is the same spirit which is at work in the world.
We lived according to the dictates of the flesh and were – “by nature children of wrath, even as others.”
In The Present
God, who is rich in mercy has:-
(a) Quickened us together in Christ. (ie made us alive)
(b) Raised us up together and made us
(c) Sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
In The Future
That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace toward us through Christ Jesus.
The Method of Salvation
Throughout this letter Paul emphasizes our dependence upon God’s grace.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
In verse 5 he interjects the phrase “by grace are ye saved” and in verses 8,9 and 10 Paul explains how Salvation is the gift of God by His grace and that the mechanism by which that grace becomes effective is through faith; this is God’s way.
In the words of the hymn-writer:-
Nought have I gotten, but what I received,
Grace hath bestowed it, since I have believed,
Boasting excluded, pride I abase,
I’m only a sinner, saved by Grace.
Only a sinner, saved by Grace,
This is my story, to God be the glory,
I’m only a sinner, saved by Grace.