30” He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30–31 (ESV)
During Paul’s two year house arrest in Rome, he maintained a busy schedule. Luke records that the apostle welcomed visitors, proclaimed the kingdom of God, and taught about the Lord Jesus. What Paul also did was write four epistles commonly referred to as his Prison Epistles. They include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. For the next several days we will survey the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Ephesians is addressed to the church in the city of Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia (Asia Minor, or modern Turkey). Because the name Ephesus is not mentioned in every early manuscript, some biblical scholars believe the letter was a circular letter, intended to be distributed and read among all the churches in Asia Minor and was simply sent first to the church in Ephesus.
The Apostle Paul is unquestionably the author. He is indicated as such in the opening salutation (1:1; 3:1). The letter was written from his prison in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) sometime between A.D. 60–62. Ephesians may have been composed almost simultaneously with Colossians and initially sent with that epistle and Paul’s letter to Philemon by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21–22; Col. 4:7–8). Due to the fact that Ephesians and Colossians contain similar themes, they are often referred to as the “Twin Epistles.”
The background and setting for Paul’s composition is important and should not be overlooked. As we have seen in our study of Paul’s life and ministry in the Book of Acts, it is likely that the Gospel was first brought to Ephesus by Priscilla and Aquila, an exceptionally gifted couple (Acts 18:26) who were left there by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18–19).
Ephesus was located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea. The city was perhaps best known for its magnificent temple of Artemis, or Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ephesus was also an important political, educational, and commercial center, ranking with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch of Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor.
The Ephesian church begun by Priscilla and Aquila was later firmly established by Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts 19) and was pastored by him for some three years. After Paul left, Timothy pastored the congregation for perhaps a year and a half, primarily to counter the false teaching of a few influential men (such as Hymenaeus and Alexander), who perhaps were elders in the congregation there (1 Tim. 1:3, 20).
Because of those two men, the church at Ephesus was plagued by “myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4) along with ascetic and unscriptural ideas as the forbidding of marriage and abstaining from certain foods (1 Tim. 4:3). Although those false teachers did not rightly understand Scripture, they propounded their ungodly interpretations with confidence (1 Tim. 1:7), which produced in the church harmful “speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Tim. 1:4). Thirty years or so later, Christ gave to the apostle John a letter for this church indicating its people had left their first love for him (Rev. 2:1–7).
More to come.
Soli deo Gloria!