|Epistle to the Ephesians
Had Paul ever been to Ephesus?
Ephesus (see also Ephesus Tour; Ruins; Pictures; More pictures) the capital of proconsular Asia was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, some estimates placing the population as high as one-half million in the latter part of the first century AD. It had a huge library, a harbor that made it an active seaport (one of 3 major cities in the Roman Empire), a huge amphitheater (capable of seating 25,000), and the temple of Artemis (Diana) which attracted visitors from all over the Roman empire (as one of the seven wonders of the world and the center of worship of the idolatrous goddess, Artemis). Apparently by the time of Paul the harbor had been rendered virtually unusable as a result of accumulation of silt from the Cayster River, increasing the importance of the Temple of Artemis that attracted pilgrims from all over the empire.
What was Paul's experience in Ephesus? Where was the first place he went?
Jewish synagogue (he always went to the Jew first and also to the Greeks)
For example, in Romans 1:16 Paul wrote "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (see note Romans 1:16)
How long did he remain there?
3 months - the three-month hearing the Jews allowed Paul was one of the longest teaching opportunities he had in any synagogue.
What was he doing there?
Speaking boldly, reasoning, persuading
How was he received? What is the progression?
Jews became hardened > disobedient > began to speak evil (enmity, hostility)
Have you ever experienced this reaction?
How did Paul respond to the opposition?
Withdrew to school of Tyrannus
How do you respond to opposition?
Do you "throw in the towel"? Or move on to other territory?
What did he do there?
Reasoned daily concerning the Word of the Lord.
2 years (actually 3 years from Acts 20:31)
Ephesus was his longest stay in any of Paul's missionary journeys.
What was the effect of one man zealous for God's Word?
All in Asia heard the Word of the Lord
Both Jew and Greek (Gentile)
What was the religious climate like in Ephesus?
v12 Demonic Activity - Healing and Evil spirits coming out of men as result of handkerchiefs touched by Paul!
v13-16 Interest in Exorcism - Jewish exorcists attempt to counterfeit these miracles failed
Widespread Practice of Magic
(Note: Had this exorcism succeeded, it would have discredited the name of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the church in Ephesus)
Comment: Gaebelein writes that…
"The use of magical names in incantations to exorcise evil spirits was common in the ancient world, and it seems to have been especially prominent at Ephesus. In addition, Jewish practitioners of magic were highly esteemed in antiquity, for they were believed to have command of particularly effective spells. The great reluctance of the Jews to pronounce the divine name was known among the ancients and often misinterpreted according to magical principles. Moreover, those connected with the Jewish priesthood would have enjoyed great prestige in magical circles since they were the most likely ones to know the true pronunciation of the Ineffable Name and therefore most able to release its power. (cf. Bruce M. Metzger, "St. Paul and the Magicians," Princeton Seminary Bulletin , 38 , 27-30). Some Jewish exorcists, on coming into contact with Paul and his preaching about Jesus, attempted to make magical use of this new name they had heard." (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing)
What resulted from the Seven Sons of Sceva being beaten by a demon possessed man?
Fear fell upon all = Both Jew and Greek
Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified (instead of being disgraced and used as a "lucky charm")
How were new converts responding? What's a "theological" description of their action?
Coming, Confessing, Disclosing Practices
Magic practitioners were burning their books (50K in silver = 50K day's wages for average laborer - an incredible amount in that day = indicates how many were practicing magic in Ephesus = several million dollars worth of wages in present earning power)
Repentance - manifesting the fruit of a changed mind - turning from their sins
Comment: Gaebelein writes that…
"News of what happened spread quickly throughout Ephesus. All who heard were overcome by reverential fear (phobos) and held the name of Jesus in high honor. Negatively, they learned not to misuse the name of Jesus or treat it lightly, for it is a powerful name. Positively, many Christians renounced their secret acts of magic and several magicians were converted. Openly demonstrating the change in their lives, they brought their magical scrolls together and burned them in the presence of the gathered congregation (enopion panton or "publicly") (Ed note: literally "in the eyes of all"). (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing)
What were the results of these miraculous/supernatural events?
Word of the Lord grew mightily and was prevailing
How would you sum up the spiritual battlefront in Ephesus?
Evil spirits on one hand
The Word of the Lord on the other ("spiritual warfare")
The satanic forces and magic practices were in a very real sense arrayed as an evil spiritual force against the Word of the Lord and yet could not overpower the truth - Paul's bold preaching, confirming miracles, defeat of exorcists, resultant awe and respect for the name of Jesus, and the convert's public repudiation of magic demonstrated the transforming power of the Word of God.
Acts 19:23: What is the main event Luke describes?
"No small disturbance" over the Way
What was the problem and ultimately who is behind it?
Goddess Artemis silver shrine sales were being threatened
Evil forces stirred up human agents to oppose the Way and the Word
Paul had persuaded them and considerable numbers had turned away from idolatry
In short, lives were being transformed as the word of God was prevailing and making a real difference in the Ephesian society, but not without opposition (it never does).
Have you been experiencing opposition as you seek to carry out the Lord's will in your life, your family, your job? Indeed all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (see note 2 Timothy 3:12)
Acts 19:26 What were they turning away from?
Gods made without hands = no gods at all
Acts 19:27: What was the Demetrius' great fear?
Trade would be in disrepute = decreasing revenues, failed business venture
Temple of Artemis would be regarded as worthless
Artemis would be dethroned of her magnificence
"By the time of Paul, Ephesus' position as a center of trade was lost because the harbor became unnavigable. From that point on the worship of Artemis became the city's means of economic survival. The tourist and pilgrim trade associated with Artemis made many people in Ephesus wealthy. Silversmiths made their living selling images of this goddess and her temple. Innkeepers and restaurant owners grew rich from the large influx of worshipers who traveled great distances to see the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. The temple treasury even served as a bank, loaning large sums of money to many, including kings. And since Artemis was the patroness of sex, prostitutes sold their bodies without condemnation in the two-story brothel on Marble Street." (Adapted from the introductory comments to Ephesians in the International Inductive Study Bible/New American Standard Bible - this resource is highly recommended)
What was the reaction when Alexander (a Jew) began to speak?
Crowd lost control and shouted for 2 hours "Great is Artemis" - this event highlights the "tension" that existed in the ancient world between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), a "tension" (enmity, hostility) that Paul deals with in believing Jews and Gentiles in the book of Ephesians.
How was it resolved?
Mob dispersed from the theater without harming the believers when convinced by the town clerk the Jews had done nothing wrong and the city was in danger of being accused of a riot (which might threaten loss of privileges Rome accorded to the city of Ephesus).
As you study Ephesians keep this historical context in mind, specifically recalling that the original recipients of this letter were transferred from the kingdom of darkness to light and from lifeless idols to the living God. Watch for Paul's exhortations and instructions to the Gentile believers that have their basis in this historical and cultural context.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: EPHESUS
Summary from Acts 19
Paul lived and taught the Word of the Lord in Ephesus for 2 years (actually 3 years according to Paul's statement in Acts 20:31).
All in Asia heard the Word of the Lord
Epistle to the Ephesians
Eph 1:1 Who are the recipients in general terms? Where are they?
Saints (set apart from the world and unto God for His use)
At Ephesus (some modern manuscripts delete this "address")
Faithful in Christ Jesus (they were saints were were truly acting saintly!)
(Note: They had two "addresses" an earthly one, in Ephesus, and a heavenly one, in Christ Jesus).
Eph 1:13 How had the Ephesians become saints?
1) Listened to the message of truth = Gospel of salvation
2) Believed (cf Ro 10:17 "So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ)
3) Sealed in Him (Christ) with the Holy Spirit of promise
Note: As background remember that Paul had taught in Ephesus about 3-5 years earlier (this is an approximation). The point is that the Ephesian believers were generally "young" in the faith. And yet did Paul consider this profoundly doctrinal treatise to be "too deep" for them? Who should be studying Ephesians in the modern church?)
(How did they demonstrate the reality of their conversion? burning magic books)
Eph 1:15 What do we learn about the saints in Ephesus?
Paul had heard - implies others had told him - indicates they were "living epistles"
(But how could Paul have known since he was in prison? Acts 29:30 says Paul was "welcoming all who came to him" so undoubtedly he had heard good reports.)
1) Their faith in the Lord Jesus
2) Their love for all the saints (It is interesting that some 35 years later John wrote Jesus' scathing rebuke directed at the church at Ephesus "I have this against you, that you have left your first love"! Rev 2:4)
Eph 2:1-2 What does Paul remind the readers they were prior to listening to and believing the Gospel?
Dead in trespasses and sins ("were dead" = past tense)
How did they walk (live, conduct themselves in everyday life)?
Formerly walked according to…
Eph 2:5, 8 What happened that made these spiritually dead men and women into saints who were faithful?
Grace -- by grace you have been saved
Not of works
Eph 2:11-12 How does Paul specifically identify his readers? What was their spiritual status when they were dead in their trespasses and sins?
Eph 2:13 What is the of contrast and how does Paul explain it?
Formerly far off <BUT NOW> brought near
Brought near by the blood of Christ (the Cross)
Eph 2:14, 15, 16 What does Paul repeatedly state is now the relationship between Gentile and Jewish believers (note: "both" ~ Jew and Gentile)?
Both in one body (v16)
Eph 2:17 What did the preaching of Christ accomplish for those "far away" (Gentiles) and those who "were near" (Jews)?
Peace (with God) - those far away (Gentiles)
Eph 2:19, 22 What was now true for the Gentile believers?
No longer strangers and aliens
Fellow citizens with the saints
Of God's household
Dwelling of God
Eph 4:1,17 What is Paul's charge to the Gentiles?
Walk in a manner worthy of your calling
Don't walk like the (unbelieving) Gentiles
Eph 5:1-3 What is the quality of the walk Paul is calling for in the Gentiles?
Walk in love
Not in immorality, impurity, or greed
Eph 5:8 What does Paul remind them they once were by way of contrast?
Formerly darkness (spiritual darkness = dead in trespasses and sins)
(Now) Light in the Lord
Walk as children of light (shining forth, exposing the deeds of darkness).
Epistle to the Ephesians
Eph 1:1, 3:1 Who wrote this letter? How do you know?
3:1 "I, Paul"
How does he describe himself?
Apostle of Christ Jesus
(How?) By the will of God
Who is he an apostle to (who is he sent to)?
Saints at Ephesus (to the Gentiles)
Eph 3:1, 4:1, 6:20 What was his current condition? Of whom?
Acts 28:11-31: What do we learn about Paul's status that parallels Ephesians?
He is in prison in Rome
What does Paul say in Acts 29:20 that parallels Ephesians?
He was wearing the chain for the hope of Israel
Cf "ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:20)
Note: In Eph 6:20 Paul also mentions "chains" which could allude to the custom of the Romans, who according to secular writers (Josephus, Seneca, Athenaeus), would confine prisoners not only by shutting them in prison, but also by chaining their right arm to the left arm of the soldier guarding them. Can you imagine being a pagan chained for a 8 or 12 hour shift to the the apostle Paul?
How does Luke describe Paul's conditions?
By himself with a Roman soldier (Acts 28:16) - see note above.
Free to preach the Kingdom of God - which he did to the Jews
Stayed in his own rented quarters
Welcomed all who would come
Preached openly, unhindered for 2 full years
What was the result of Paul's prison "sermon series" to the Jews? What was the source of his teaching material?
Some were persuaded but others would not believe
Paul explained and solemnly testified of the Kingdom of God and Jesus, trying to persuade them from the Law and Prophets (Old Testament)
When they did not believe Paul told them the salvation would be sent to the Gentiles who would listen.
Eph 3:2 What had God given Paul?
A stewardship of God's grace for the Gentiles
Eph 3:3 What did he remind them about?
He had written before in brief
Eph 3:4 What was Paul's desire for the Gentile believers?
To understand his insight into the mystery of Christ (to understand what he understood about this truth)
Eph 3:6 What was the mystery he wanted them to understand?
That the Gentile believers are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body (the church) (Note: "Mystery" is not that which is mysterious but in the NT represents a truth previously hidden and thus not but now revealed by God)
Eph 3:8 How does Paul describe himself?
The very least of all the saints (Remember Paul had seen the glorified Christ and was never the same!)
Eph 3:8-9 What was Paul given the privilege to preach to the Gentiles?
The unfathomable riches of Christ
To bring to light the administration of the mystery
I read in a commentary that we don't see any of the personal concern by Paul in this letter -- is that true? What do you observe in Eph 3:13, 6:21-22?
Did not want them to lose heart at his tribulations - it was for them and their glory
Sent Tychicus to let them know of his circumstances so their heart would be comforted
What else do we see Paul doing in this letter that reflects his concern for the Gentile believers?
He does not cease to pray for them in Eph 1:16-18 and 3:14-21 (Would it encourage you to know the apostle Paul was praying for you? Do you let others know you are praying for them?)
Eph 6:19 What do we learn about Paul from this verse?
He asked for prayer to be able to proclaim the mystery of the gospel with boldness (even in prison -- does this make you think of his exhortation in Ephesians 5:16?)
He was aware of his own weakness and inability, knowing that he stood in need of divine enablement at all times.
Do you ask others to pray for you without hesitation?
Or does pride and a sense of self-sufficiency keep you from asking others for prayer?
What would you have ask the saints in Ephesus to pray for? … for release from prison? … or for release of the gospel message?
Why did Paul write this letter to the Gentile believers (purpose of the letter)? What truth did he want them to understand?
He wanted them to understand the mystery that had been revealed that believing Jews and Gentiles are both part of one body, the church, in a real sense now representing Christ's spiritual, earthly body and to walk accordingly in unity, love and power to the praise of the glory of His grace!
Epistle to the Ephesians
|Ephesians 1:1-2 Introduction of Author and Recipients
Ephesians 1:3-14 Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ
Ephesians 1:15-23 Prayer for Enlightenment and Power
Chapter 1 Theme: Spiritual Blessings in Christ
Ephesians 2: Were Dead in Sin, Now Alive and in One Body in Christ
Chapter 2 Theme: Gentiles and Jews One in Christ
Ephesians 3:1-13: Mystery of the Church Made Known
Ephesians 3:14-21: Paul's Prayer for Inner Power and Love
Chapter 3 Theme: Mystery of Gentiles as Fellow Members of the Church
Ephesians 4:1-6: Walk in Unity of the Body
Ephesians 4:7-16: Gifts for Equipping of the Body
Ephesians 4:17-24: Don't Walk Like the Gentiles (Like you used to walk)
Ephesians 4:25-32 How to Not Walk Like Gentiles
Chapter 4 Theme: Walk Worthy of Your Calling Not Like the Gentiles
Ephesians 5:1-21: Walk in Love, Light, Wisdom and the Spirit
Ephesians 5:22-33: Walk as Submitting Wives and Loving Husbands
Chapter 5 Theme: Walk in Love and the Spirit
Ephesians 6:1-9: Walk Worthy in the Family and at Work
Ephesians 6:10-17: Be Strong in the Lord and Stand Firm in His Truth
Ephesians 6:18-20: All Prayer at All Times for All the Saints
Ephesians 6:21-24: Comforting News and God's Grace to Make It
Chapter 6 Theme: Stand in the Lord's Strength and Pray in the Spirit