KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1)
Ephesus was a strategic seaport, ranking in importance with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch in Syria. It was located on the western edge of Asia Minor (which is now Turkey) near the present-day city of Izmir, and was the most important Aegean Sea port on the main route from Rome to the East. Ephesus was a religious center as well, and was famous for its magnificent temple of Diana (the Roman goddess), also known to the Greeks as Artemis. The temple was a structure considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus was a large international tourist center, and so profitable that its leaders opened the first world bank. Its population at that time was about 300,000, making it one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire.
Paul had been a missionary for about seventeen years before he reached Ephesus. After two of his fellow missionaries had gone for several months and laid the groundwork, Paul arrived and set up his customary headquarters for evangelism in one of the provinces. Along with the colleagues he had brought with him and some Christians already in Ephesus, he began a network of home churches. This network eventually spread to other areas of Asia.
Paul’s first converts were probably Jews and “God-fearers.” God-fearer was the Jewish term for a Gentile who wanted to follow the worship of the Lord but did not want to formally renounce his culture or undergo circumcision. The new converts were usually from the middle-class, looking for truth and security but not quite ready to completely change their lifestyles and attitudes. If the head of a household decided to follow Christ, his children, wife, slaves, and clients usually followed too. So the young church was built of individual households, meeting in the home of one of the more prosperous members. As a church outgrew the house, some households broke off and began to meet in another house. Thus, the early church in Ephesus continued to grow. Paul and his team spent more than two and a half years in Ephesus gaining converts and training leaders.
This letter to the Ephesians was written while Paul was in prison in Rome from A.D. 60-62 and sent to the Ephesian church with Tychicus. Unlike other letters he wrote, this letter was not written to address any particular problem in the church. It was written to strengthen and encourage the Ephesian church. It was also possibly circulated around other churches in the area for the same purpose. In it, Paul described the nature and appearance of the church. He challenged believers to function as a living body of Christ on earth.
The Book of Ephesians can be broken down into two major sections. The first three chapters deal with doctrine (the calling of the church), and the last three deal with application (the conduct of the church). The overall theme of the book is the unity of believers.
In chapter 1, Paul began with a prayer that the church may have wisdom and revelation. In chapters 2 and 3 he discussed the believers’ positions individually and corporately before God, and the mystery of their calling. He ended with a prayer that their faith might be strengthened through the love of God.
Chapter 4 is a pivotal point in the book. Paul admonished the believers to walk worthy of their calling in Christ. In the last three chapters alone, there are thirty-five directives that speak of the believer’s responsibility to conduct himself according to his individual calling. Throughout chapters 4 and 5, Paul discussed the Christian’s walk in unity, holiness, love, light, and wisdom. In chapter 6, he concluded the book by instructing believers regarding how to endure spiritual warfare.
Like the Ephesian church, we are called to know Biblical doctrine and then live it out before the watching world. A loving, unified church is a strong church that unbelievers will be drawn to.
It is a great privilege and encouragement to be a part of the family of God. As we walk together with other believers, we must be faithful in our individual walk with God, consistent in our prayer lives, and strive for unity among the believers. If we do this, we will experience the many spiritual blessings God has in store for us.