Ephesians is Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, a major city in modern-day Turkey. Ephesus was known for its Greco-Roman culture and was a center for worshiping Greek and Roman gods. In the city center was the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Paul had a long history with the Ephesian church. He lived in the area for about two years, planting churches and preaching the Gospel. It was also where a riot broke out against Paul and other Christians among those who worshiped at the Temple of Artemis (see Acts 19). Many scholars believe Paul wrote First Corinthians while he was in Ephesus.
Ephesians was written around 60 A.D.—about 10 years after Paul first came to Ephesus—while he was in prison in Rome. It’s important to remember Paul’s imprisonment while reading the letter. Like Paul’s other letters, Ephesians was written to remind church members of the Gospel message and how it transforms the lives of believers.
The letter has two main sections: Chapters 1-3 explain the unifying relationship between Jesus and the church and chapters 4-6 explain how that relationship impacts Christians’ relationships with others—within the church, with other churches, within marriages, families and households and with Satan, who seeks to rival God and tear down His children.
Unity in Christ and the church: Ephesians emphasizes the unity that comes from following Christ. Paul explains that because of God’s grace through the saving work of Jesus and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, followers of Jesus are now adopted into God’s unified, diverse, multi-ethnic family, including both Jews and Gentiles, which Paul describes as “one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). Paul also writes about how Christians, as a unified body of believers, can live together in harmony.
Biblical relationships: Paul spends a great deal of time addressing how the Gospel should inform Christians’ relationships with others. He addresses husband-wife relationships, parent-child relationships and servant-master relationships, as well as relationships with friends, neighbors, coworkers and strangers. Each of these relationships should be a reflection of a believer’s relationship with God.
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Ephesians reminds readers that following Christ is not a one-time commitment, but a lifelong one.
When we give our lives to Christ, it transforms every part of life: how we view people who are different from us, how we treat our spouse, how we talk to others, how we make decisions, how we parent, how we treat those in authority over us or under our authority.
But Ephesians also reminds us that we are never too old, mature or Godly to receive spiritual guidance and wisdom. Paul had been away from Ephesus for nearly a decade when he wrote this letter, yet he still maintained a relationship with these people. He continued to pray for their spiritual growth, for their boldness in sharing the Gospel and for their perseverance in the faith.
Whether you’ve been following Jesus for a few months, a few years or a few decades, the message of the Gospel is one worth repeating.