Introduction To Ephesians
The town of Ephesus was the capital of the Roman Empire of Asia. It was situated on the western coast of modern-day Turkey [Google Map] and was the most important commercial center of Roman Asia.
On Paul’s third missionary journey he stopped in Ephesus after finding some people there who were believers, but who weren’t quite accurate in their understanding [Acts 19:1-7]. He stayed there for almost three years, initially preaching in the synagogue but later having to leave there due to opposition to the gospel message. He then preached in the hall of Tyrannus for almost two more years [Acts 19:8-10].
One of the interesting features of Ephesus was its Temple of Diana (aka Artemis). This was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. From inscriptions which have been excavated in Ephesus, we know that the city was extremely proud of having this temple in their jurisdiction. It brought respect from surrounding cities, not to mention income.
A great many people earned a living selling trinkets with Diana’s image on them. But when Paul began teaching about Jesus in this city those businessmen became enraged out of fear that the demand for Diana souvenirs would dwindle as people gave up their worship of their gods in exchange for worship of Jesus. This created quite a confrontation [Acts 19:23-41]. After this Paul left Ephesus [Acts 20:1]. But years later, while in a Roman prison, he would write at least two letters to the church there. One survived and is known as the book of Ephesians in the Bible.
This letter is a bit different than Paul’s other letters as it does not address any specific issues in the church at Ephesus. Nor does it mention any specific members of the church there. In fact, many manuscripts do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in the opening line [Ephesians 1:1]. It appears that this letter was meant to be a circular letter – one that would have been copied and sent to churches all over Asia Minor with each church’s name being put into the greeting.
This seems very plausible when we consider the content of this letter. Rather than focusing on specific issues, it focuses instead on general spiritual truths that every believer needs to know (chapters 1-3) and practical behavior that should ensue as a result of these truths (chapters 4-6). These are the truths and behaviors that disrupted life in Ephesus when Paul taught them to the pagan culture there.
But it is no less important for us living today to be reminded of these truths as we live in a culture with many false gods that demand our devotion and financial resources. We too need to have our lives disrupted by God’s truth.
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