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Sunday, December 22, 2013 pm                Ephesians - Index 

INTRODUCTION TO EPHESIANS
Ephesians 1:1-3

 Tonight we will start a study of the book of Ephesians.  About once a month (typically on the 3rd Sunday night) we will present an expository lesson as we go through this book from beginning to end.  Tonight we want to introduce this letter of Paul’s to these brethren.

Examining the background of a book is beneficial in many ways.  It helps you put certain phrases in context, gives you a better understanding of who the writers are addressing and the reason for a particular letter being written, but mostly, it ensures that you are “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) which itself means to handle it accurately. 

In the Greek language there are 2 different words of “word” – one is “logos” which focuses upon communicating an understandable idea.  The other is “rhema” which simply refers to a word, saying or expression of any kind (regardless of understanding).  While “rhema” includes words of understanding , it is much broader.  We want to do our best to fully understand the usage of a word – which means properly defining it and using it in its intended context.  That is one reason background and context is helpful.

So with that in mind, today we examine the background of this epistle that we will be studying from time to time.

 I.                    Ephesus

a.        Ephesus was a port city in western Asia Minor.  It was an influential city in that region linking together Asia and Europe for trade and other purposes.  It was founded around 1100 BC and fell under various rules throughout its history.  Its greatest influence and prosperity was during the first and second centuries AD (during NT times).  It was the 4th largest city in the Roman Empire[1] with an estimated population of 250,000.

b.       Character of the city –
Ephesus was a free city (meaning it enjoyed special privilege in the Roman Empire, including a greater degree of independence).  
It was the seat of the courts of Asia Minor and home of the proconsul of that region.
It was a worldly city hosting games and had an amphitheater that seated an estimated 25,000.  It is believed this is the theatre where the citizens carried Paul and almost started a riot (Acts 19:29).  There was also a stadium in the city.
The city was wealthy and worldly.
It was home to the temple of the goddess Diana. 
The goddess Diana was believed to be the sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus.   She was the goddess of the moon, hunting and chastity and childbirth                         . 
The temple was so grand it is considered one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  This brought tourism to the city along with its other industries.  The temple was involved in all sorts of immorality.  Because it was a sacred place, it granted asylum to all who entered.  Therefore there were all sorts of corruption there.  IT was also a place where banking took place (again because of its sacred status).  Finally, it was a place of prostitution as hundreds of “priestesses” offered their services as a form of “worship” to this goddess.

 

 II.                  The Church at Ephesus –

a.        Ephesus is prominently mentioned in scripture.   Why this is, is left to speculation.  Perhaps it has to do with its central location in taking the gospel to Asia and abroad.

b.       We first read about it on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey.   Paul has been to Corinth and has determined to make his way to Jerusalem.  He takes with him Aquila and Priscilla and comes to Ephesus and stays a short time (Acts 18:18-21). 

c.        Acts 18:24-19:1 - He leaves them there and proceeds to Jerusalem.  While gone, Apollos comes to Ephesus teaching accurately the things of the Lord, EXCEPT he knew only the baptism of John.  Aquila and Priscilla take him aside and correct his error.  Apollos immediately repents and then goes to Corinth.

d.        Acts 19:1-41 – During his 3rd preaching journey, Paul goes through Galatia and Phrygia strengthening the disciples.  He then comes to Ephesus.  At first he meets some disciples who had only been baptized with John’s baptism (and had not received the Holy Spirit, which they did not even know about).  Paul preached to them and they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (19:5 - NOTE: WE have here an example of 12 men who were baptized for the wrong reason.  When they discovered their error, they were properly baptized.  The text does NOT say, “baptized again.”  The point being their first baptism was never valid.  IF WE through study determine that we were baptized for the wrong reason {i.e. because you are already saved, to please your parents or someone, etc.} we need to take care of it).
He stayed there for some 3 years teaching in the school of Tyrannus and possibly other places. (Acts. 19:9-10, 20:31)
While there several things happened: (Acts 19:11-41)

                                                   i.      Great miracles at the hand of Paul were performed so that people brought handkerchiefs from the bodies of the sick and many were healed and evil spirits cast out.

                                                  ii.      Some Jewish exorcists tried to cast out a demon in the name of Paul, but they were overpowered and fled naked and wounded because the spirit said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”

                                                iii.      Many believed and came confessing their deeds.  Many who practiced magic repented and brought their books and burned them in the sight of all.  The value was 50,000 pieces of silver.

                                                iv.      Toward the end of his stay (and perhaps the reason for his leaving), Demetrius, a silversmith, who made idols for the goddess Diana (and perhaps others) caused an uproar in the city almost leading to a riot.  Several of Paul’s traveling companions were dragged into the theater (Gaius and Aristarchus).  Paul was prevented from going out to them.  The city clerk then quiets and dismisses the crowd. 

                                                  v.      After the uproar, Paul calls together the disciples and then parts for Macedonia (20:1)

e.       We also read about Ephesus in other locations in scripture.

                                                   i.      It is believed that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus before parting to Macedonia. (1 Cor. 16:8-9)  He stays there awhile, “for a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

                                                  ii.      Acts 20:17-38, Paul calls for the Ephesian elders.  After Paul left Ephesus on his 3rd preaching trip he went into Macedonia and spent some time in Corinth.  Following this, retraces his steps (somewhat) and determines to go to Jerusalem again.  He comes to Miletus where he calls for the Ephesian elders and gives them exhortation to shepherd their flock and watch for wolves. Paul declares the manner in which he had conducted himself in their midst. 

                                                iii.      Paul writes the letter of Ephesians to them.  While not positive of its date, it is believed that Paul wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome.  Perhaps during the 2 years he was awaiting trial when the book of Acts ends (Acts 28:30-31).   Ephesians 3:1, 4:1, 6:20, indicates that Paul was a prisoner of Christ Jesus as he wrote this letter. Because of this, Ephesians is described as one of the “prison epistles.”  That would date the writing of this letter around 60-62 AD. 

                                                iv.      1 Tim. 1:3, the first letter to Timothy was written to him while he was in Ephesus. 
It is believed this letter was written after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.  While not recorded in scripture, since Acts ends with Paul in prison in Rome, it is believed that he was released and revisited many of the churches he previously taught.  Among those churches was Ephesus where he left Timothy.
Paul encouraged him to stay there and “charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”  In that letter Paul deals with leadership, worldliness, false doctrine, and orderliness in the church.    IF this be true, the dating of 1 Timothy is around 62-64 AD.

                                                  v.      Revelation 2:1-7, one of the “seven churches of Asia” was Ephesus.  Most attribute the dating of this book to the mid-90s AD by John.  Evidently the church at Ephesus had been in existence for some time as their zeal has begun to diminish.  The angel of the Lord to this church noted that they had “Left your first love.” (vs. 4)  They are called upon to repent or lose their “lampstand” (their standing with the Lord Jesus Himself).   NOTE: Some believe that John lived his latter life in Ephesus and even died there.

 III.                The Book of Ephesians

a.        Paul – the author.  There are some who question that Paul is the author of this letter, but as with most of his letters, he begins by identifying himself as the author. (Eph. 1:1)  Only liberal critics of the Bible question such and usually they are hostile to the message of God’s word. 
We accept this letter as inspired, and as such Paul is the author.

b.       Purpose.  In this letter Paul addresses how we are blessed in Christ.  In fact, some put the theme as vs. 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:3)   Beginning with a description of various blessings we enjoy “in Him”, Paul proceeds to describe many of them in detail.  In this letter we learn a great deal about Christ and His church and how it is a part of God’s eternal purpose.

c.        The Message.   There are many messages we glean from this book that we will address in much greater detail as our study progresses.

                                                   i.      The expression “in Christ” is found some 30 times in its various forms beginning with Eph. 1:3.  Truly that is where all of our true blessings are going to be found.

                                                  ii.      The book uses the word “walk” in 7 verses (8 times) each descriptive of some aspect of our lives.  IT starts with how we “once walked” (Eph. 2:2); we are created in Christ for good works “that we should walk in them” (2:10); we “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (4:1); we no longer “walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk” (4:17); we “walk in love” (5:2); we “walk as children of light” (5:8); we “walk circumspectly” (5:15).  We’ll visit each of these as we proceed through our study.

                                                iii.      A breakdown of the book also reveals its purpose:

1.       Chapter 1 speaks of God’s blessings “in Christ” as we have already discussed.  WE find that in Him we have salvation with terms such as redemption, adoption, forgiveness of sins, predestination, all lead to being accepted and the source of our hope.
Christ is also introduced as “the head over all things to the church, which is His body.” (1:22-23)

2.       Chapter 2 addresses our salvation through the grace of God.  This chapter also identifies how it is available to all mankind (Jew and Gentile alike) (cf. 2:14-16)

3.       Chapter 3 addresses how “the mystery” has now been revealed to the Holy Apostles.  The “mystery” was that God’s plans included all mankind including the Gentiles.

4.       Chapter 4 calls for brethren to walk in unity.  Leaders are appointed to firmly ground the body and cause growth when everyone does his share.

5.       In the latter half of this chapter (4:17-32) and through 5:21 Paul describes how we are to treat one another as brethren.  There are many practical lessons in this about both our attitudes and our action.

6.       In 5:21-33 – Paul compares the relationship of Christ and His church to a marriage.  The emphasis is how we need to know our place.

7.       Chapter 6 continues to address the subject of submission including the importance of children obeying their parents and servants and masters. (6:1-9)

8.       Paul concludes this epistle with an admonition to persevere for God.  We have the description of the “gospel armor” that we are to don as we battle the spiritual forces of wickedness. 

9.       Though shorter and less personal than most of His epistles, Paul gives his concluding remarks in 6:21-24.

 

              And there you have the introduction to the epistle of the Ephesians.  I look forward to a detailed study of this letter and application in our lives.   My hope is that you will glean the same. 

              In this letter Paul has revealed what God has done for us to make salvation possible.  But we must do our part to obtain it.  Will you obey God?  If we can help, we are here. 



[1] Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible dictionary 1985 : n. pag. Print.