Overview of the Book of Ephesians


The Book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul (1:1; 3:1). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Paul include: Irenaeus (200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), and Origen (250 A.D.). Polycarp (125 A.D.) attests to its canonicity in his own epistle to the Philippians (chapter 12).

Written to the church of Ephesus and quite possibly was a circular letter sent by Paul to the churches of Asia. Very possibly it was directly addressed to the Ephesians, but written in such a way as to make it helpful for all the churches in Asia. It is thought by some (Conybeare and Howson) that this letter is the epistle that was first sent to Laodicea (cf. Co 4:16), and designed to be shared with other churches, including Ephesus. Because Ephesus was the leading city of the region, and the main center of Paul's missionary activity in the area (cf. Ac 19:1, 8-10), it is understandable why later scribes might have assigned this epistle to the church at Ephesus. Without question it was intended for "the saints ...and faithful in Christ Jesus." (1:1).

Brief History
The letter to the Ephesians was written approximately 61 AD during the Apostle Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. Christianity first came to Ephesus during Paul's 2nd missionary journey with the help of Priscilla and Aquila. On his 3rd missionary journey, Paul stayed in Ephesus about 3 years and Acts 19:10 tells us that . . . .all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. The Church of Ephesus was made up of converts partly from the Jews and partly from the Gentiles (Acts 19:8-10). The city was well known as a commercial, political, and religious center. The great Temple of Diana was located in Ephesus.

Purpose and Theme
The purpose of this letter is to enlighten believers to the riches they possess in Jesus Christ. Paul begins by describing in chapters 1-3 the contents of the Christians heavenly “bank account”: adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, life, grace, citizenship-in short, every spiritual blessing. In chapters 4-6 the Christian learns a spiritual walk rooted in this spiritual wealth.
As you read through Ephesians you should note that the Apostle Paul uses six figures of speech to describe the nature of the church. 1. the church is the body of Christ (1:22); 2. the church is the temple of God (2:21-22); 3. the church is a mystery (3: 8-10); 4. the church has a new nature (4:24); 5. the church is the bride of Christ (5:25-27; 31-32); and 6. the church is a soldier (6:13). Understanding these figures of speech will help us to comprehend, embrace and fulfill our purpose.

As you study Ephesians look for the following two complementary themes: 1. the place of the church in God’s plan of redemption and 2. the believers riches in Christ.[1]

[1]This overview is adapted from Executable Outlines, Mark A. Copeland, 2001, Ephesians, executableoutlines.com/pdf/ep_se.pdf