The letter of Paul the apostle, to the church at Ephesus, is one of the most theologically profound writings in the Bible. And it is one of my favorites as well. Paul’s writing here helps us better understand God’s purpose in creation, our position in Christ, and how to live as believers in this world. This post is a brief introduction to Ephesians.
Who Was the Author
The apostle Paul is traditionally considered to be the author of Ephesians. However, this is a matter of dispute among modern scholars. The disagreement seems mostly to center around the use of some specific words not used in other Pauline writings. In addition, there is a more fully developed idea of Christ and his church than is found in some of his earlier writings. As a result, many see that this letter was produced by a disciple of Paul and attributed to him. I have read many of the arguments for and against the traditional view of Paul’s authoring of this letter. But I have yet to see a compelling reason to doubt his authorship.
The Intended Audience for Ephesians
The traditional view holds that this letter was written to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a city where Paul ministered for around three years. And it was the center of his mission to the Roman province of Asia, what is today Turkey.
There is some dispute about the traditional audience, though. Paul does not include any personal references to people he knew there. And he seems to rely on second-hand testimony concerning their faith. Also, some of the earlier manuscripts do not include the words ‘in Ephesus’ in the address.
I think it is possible that this letter was originally more of an open letter to all the saints rather than addressed to a specific church. And, if that is true, then what we have preserved is a copy obtained by the church at Ephesus. A copy they added their name to. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me. I read it as a letter addressed to me as well as the church I am a part of.
When It Was Written
The date you give to this epistle will be primarily determined by who you understand to have written it. If you favor Paul as the author, it was likely written during his Roman imprisonment that was recorded at the end of Acts. This would place its writing sometime in the early A.D. ’60s.
However, if you favor a different author, it will have a later date of composition. I prefer the traditional Pauline authorship of the letter. And see it as written during his Roman imprisonment. That would place its composition at roughly the same time as Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.
The Purpose of Ephesians
More than any other book in the Bible, Ephesians helps me understand the big picture. In it, I see God’s purpose for and working in his creation; what it’s all about. It is like being given a peek behind the curtains in some ways. Paul’s prayers for the saints are significant. They help me to pray for others. They also help me understand what God wants me to do in my life. And his description of the armor we are to put on gives me hope for engaging in the spiritual conflict that wages around us.
Grace is a central theme in Ephesians, mentioned eleven times. It is by God’s grace that we experience salvation. And we are equipped for service by his grace. God’s grace is indispensable for the Christian life.
Paul grounds much of our experience as believers in Christ. “In Christ” is a common expression in Ephesians. When I am in Christ, I experience the blessings of knowing God and being in a relationship with him.
Paul is very concerned about the church and our relationships in the body. Christ died to erase the distinctions that divide us in the world, bringing us together into one new humanity.
And Paul spends much of this letter giving instructions on living as believers. Together within the body, within the family, and standing against evil in the world. We are called, not just to ensure our eternity. But also to live faithfully in the here and now.
To summarize this introduction to Ephesians, I accept the Pauline authorship of this letter, although accept that Ephesus may not have been the original target audience. And, to me, the most significant aspect of Ephesians is its big picture. The big picture of what God is up to in his creation. I also find the prayers to be useful in my own prayer life. And the picture of spiritual warfare is eye-opening.
Some Questions to Consider
- Who is the traditional author of this letter? When was it written? And who was it written to?
- If the Holy Spirit inspired this letter, does it matter who wrote it?
- Read through this letter and see if you can identify some of its major themes.
You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.
- Ephesians: A Brief Introduction
- Ephesians: Spiritual Blessings (1:3-14)
- Ephesians: A Prayer for Believers (1:15-23)
- Ephesians: From Death Into Life, An Act of Grace (2:1-7)
- Ephesians: Amazing Grace (2:8-10)
- Ephesians: Tearing Down the Wall of Hostility (2:11-22)
- Ephesians: A Mystery Revealed (3:1-13)
- Ephesians: Rooted and Established In Love (3:14-21)
- Ephesians: Walking Worthy (4:1-6)
- Ephesians: Growing a Mature Church (4:11-16)
- Ephesians: Put on the New Self (4:17-32)
- Ephesians: Imitators of God (5:1-20)
- Ephesians: Life in the Family (5:21-6:9)
- Ephesians: The Bride of Christ (5:25-32)
- Ephesians: Spiritual Warfare (6:10-20)