Ephesus was a great city in Asia Minor. She called herself the first city of Asia. Apart from Paul’s visit to Rome, this was the most important center visited by Paul. Ephesus was an important center commercially, intellectually, and religiously. She also boasted one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the glistening temple of Diana, who was the great goddess of the Ephesians (see Acts 19:43).
The history of the Ephesian Church can be traced in detail throughout the New Testament. Paul founded and established the church in Acts 19:20. The spiritual maturity and capacity of the church can be ascertained in that he fed them “strong meat” (see Ephesians 1:3-14). Moreover, this epistle warns against the conflict with evil spirits (see Ephesians 6:10). This was a real menace at Ephesus (see Acts 19:11-17).
The letters to Timothy, who was left at Ephesus to carry on the work (see 1 Timothy 1:3), show the next stage in its history. False teachers had begun to show their erroneous doctrine, so Paul sends instructions to Timothy regarding sound doctrine and proper behavior in the church.
In Revelation 2:1-7, the last chapter is written in the history of this church. It is a sad word. It is an inglorious end; she has left her first love, Christ (see Rev. 2:4). When she did not repent of her condition, as instructed, Church history shows that she was removed and her lamp stand no longer shone as a witness in Ephesus.
Paul made a short visit to Ephesus during his second missionary tour (see Acts 18:19-20). On his third missionary journey he stayed for upwards of two years (see Acts 19:10). His stay among them probably accounts for the spiritual maturity of the local assembly.
In Ephesians, the church is seen as the body of Christ. He is “Head over all things to the church, which is His Body.” The themes of the first three chapters are:
1. The origin of the church
2. The formation of the church
3. The purpose of the church
The second three chapters depict and describe the Christian’s “walk” and “warfare.” Dean Farrar says that “this epistle is unparalleled.” Dr. A.T. Pierson called it “Paul’s third heaven epistle.” It is the Mount Pisgah of the New Testament from which we survey God’s purposes from eternity to eternity. From its glorious heights, we view the “ages past” (Ephesians 3:5), the “present age” (Ephesians 3:10), and the “ages to come” (Ephesians 2:7).
Let us now illustrate more fully the aforementioned truths:
Part I - Doctrinal
1. The Origin of the Church (Ephesians 1)
a. The Father elects (Ephesians 1:1-6)
b. The Son redeems (Ephesians 1:7-10)
c. The Spirit applies (Ephesians 1:11-14)
d. Paul’s prayer for the church (Ephesians 1:15-23)
2. The Formation of the Church (Ephesians 2)
a. Salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10) - But God who is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4)
b. Reconciliation (Ephesians 2:11-18) - But now…made nigh (Eph. 2:13)
c. Association (Ephesians 2:19-22) - But ye are fellow citizens (Eph. 2:19)
3. The Purpose of the Church (Ephesians 3)
a. The revelation of the mystery (Ephesians 3:1-7)
b. The purpose of the mystery (Ephesians 3:8-13)
c. The prayer for appreciation of the mystery (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Part II - Practical
1. Christian Conduct (Ephesians 4-6:9)
a. In Church Life (Ephesians 4:1-16) - Walk in unity
b. In Personal Life (Ephesians 4:17-24) - Walk in purity
c. In Social Life (Ephesians 4:24 to Ephesians 5:17):
1. Walk in truth (Ephesians 4:25)
2. Walk in love (Ephesians 5:1)
3. Walk in light (Ephesians 5:8)
4. Walk in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15)
d. In Domestic Life (Ephesians 5:18 to Ephesians 6:9):
1. Walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-21)
2. Wives and Husbands – submission and love (Ephesians 5:22-23)
3. Children and parents – honor and discipline (Ephesians 6:1-4)
4. Servants and masters – obedience and justice (Ephesians 6:9)
2. Christian Conflict (Ephesians 6:10-20)
a. The warrior (Ephesians 6:10-11)
b. The warfare (Ephesians 6:12)
c. The weapons (Ephesians 6:13-20)
This epistle was not directed to novices in the Christian faith, but to those who, having achieved some maturity in spiritual experience, wished to go on to fuller knowledge and life. One cannot but conclude that the theme of the letter is the Church in its universal aspect rather than the local aspect. This teaching permeates especially the first three chapters. We learn that the sphere of the believer’s activities is in “the heavenlies.” This is a spiritual locality rather than a geographical one. See Ephesians 1:3, Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 2:6, 10, and Ephesians 6:12.
One other outline is necessary to illustrate the central theme, the Church as the Body of Christ, its witness within the world, and its conflict against the forces of evil.
The Church in the Purpose of God (Ephesians 1:3-14)
The Church and the Power of God (Ephesians 1:15 to Ephesians 2:10)
The Church as the Household of God (Ephesians 2:11-22)
The Church as the Revelation of God (Ephesians 3:1-13)
The Church as the Fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-21)
The Church and the Standards of God (Ephesians 4:1 to Ephesians 6:9)
The Church and the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20)
There is also described for us the dynamic of the Church’s life, which is “The Holy Spirit:”
He is the seal of our acceptance (Ephesians 1:13).
He is the means of access to God (Ephesians 2:18).
He is the source of revealed truth (Ephesians 3:5).
He is the secret of universal power (Ephesians 3:16).
He is the bond of unity (Ephesians 4:3-4).
He is the stimulus of joy (Ephesians 5:18).
He is the armorer for conflict (Ephesians 6:17)
Below are additional notes that may be helpful for a study in Ephesians.
Our Wealth in Christ - Part I (Ephesians 1-3)
Our spiritual blessings in Christ:
1. Chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
2. Predestined unto the adoption of children (Ephesians 1:5-6)
3. Redemption through his blood (Ephesians 1:7-8)
4. Revelation—made known the mystery of his will (Ephesians 1:9-10)
5. Inheritance—in whom also we have obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11-12)
6. Sealed by the Spirit—after we believed (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Ephesians 1:15-23 reveals a prayer for spiritual perception. That we may know:
- What is the hope of His calling
- The riches of His inheritance in the Saints
- The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe
Paul’s other prayer in Ephesians 3:13-21 is threefold. The apostle prays that we may be:
1. Strengthened by the power by His Spirit
2. Rooted and grounded in love
3. Filled with the fullness of God
Ephesians 2 depicts what we once were and what we now are in Christ.
1. What we once were - without Christ:
A. Spiritually dead
B. Subject to Satan
C. Controlled by the flesh
D. Under Divine condemnation
2. What we now are - in Christ
C. In the Heavenlies
D. Objects of superlative favor
[But now in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:11-18). Now therefore ye are (Ephesians 2:19-22)]
- Revealing of the divine mystery (Ephesians 3:1-12)
- Receiving of divine fullness (Ephesians 3:13-21)
Our Walk in Christ – Part II (Ephesians 4-6)