Book of Ephesians 以弗所书

INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS


Ephesians in a Nutshell


Purpose:   To emphasize the unity of the church in Christ through the power of the Spirit.


Major Doctrine:   Re-creation of the human family as God originally intended it.


Key Passage:   Ephesians 1:10: “with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the      times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and on earth.


AUTHOR


Paul the apostle referred to himself as the author in two places in the letter: 1:1 and 3:1.  Paul was the outstanding missionary and writer of the early church.  Both he and his theology are important in the New Testament, not only because thirteen of the New Testament letters bear his name, but also because of the extended biographical information given in the book of Acts.  From the information in these two sources, we can piece together a picture of one of the major personalities of early Christianity.  The letters of Paul, as listed in the New Testament, include Romans through Philemon.  His experience of radical change and call to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles provided his motivation to travel throughout the Roman world, preaching the way of Christ.


PURPOSE FOR WRITING


Paul wrote most of his letters to meet specific needs in the churches, but it is difficult to determine the specific occasion for which Ephesians was written.


The letter itself, however, hints at several purposes.  Paul taught that Jewish and Gentile believers are one in Christ.  This oneness is to be demonstrated by their love for one another.  Paul used the noun form of the verb “to love” (agape) nineteen times in the letter.  Ephesians begins with love (1:4-6) and ends with love (6:23-24).


Ephesians is a general statement of Christian truth concerning the church, Christian unity, and the Christian walk.  The understanding of this truth is as necessary for the church today as it was in Paul’s day.


DATE AND PLACE OF WRITING


Interpreters are divided on the question of the time and place of the writing of Ephesians.  Paul’s imprisonments in Acts 21:15-26:32 and 27:1-28:31 are the only ones that might bear on the question of where and when the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians) were written.  In all four of these letters, Paul mentioned his imprisonment.


Date: The traditional view is that Ephesians was written during the early sixties (60-62).  References in Ephesians 6:21-22 suggest that Tychicus carried the letter to its destination.


Place: Careful review of this extensive and complex issue leaves the subjective opinion that all four Prison Epistles were written from Rome while Paul was imprisoned there about A.D. 60-62.


AUDIENCE


In spite of the traditional heading (1:1), relatively little is known about the recipients of the letter who are called “Ephesians.”  Some interpreters have suggested that the Ephesians was originally a circular letter, sent perhaps to churches throughout Asia.  The church at Ephesus kept a copy of this letter without an address.  As time passed, readers outside Ephesus might have assumed that Ephesus had received the letter initially.  The idea that this was a circular letter provides the most logical explanation of the omission of “in Ephesians” from the greetings in the letter.


PAUL’S MINISTRY AT EPHESUS


At the close of his second missionary journey (about A.D. 49-52), Paul left Achaia (Greece), taking Aquila and Priscilla with him.  They stopped at Ephesus and surveyed the situation in that city where religions flourished.  The Ephesians urged Paul to stay, but he declined.  Leaving Aquila and Priscilla and perhaps Timothy there to carry on the Christian witness (Acts 18:18-21), Paul sailed to Antioch.  He returned to Ephesus during a third missionary journey and experienced triumph over the challenge of Jewish religious leaders as well as that of the Greco-Roman religions represented in the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis (Roman name, Diana; Acts 19:24).


Paul’s ministry in Ephesus lasted three years (Acts 20:31).  From there he journeyed to Jerusalem, where he was arrested by the Jews and turned over to the Romans.


THE THEOLOGY OF EPHESIANS


Doctrinal Emphasis:

Central to the message of Ephesians is the re-creation of the human family according to God’s original intention.  The new creation destroys the misguided view of some people that God accepts the Jew and rejects the Gentile.  Paul claimed that this distinction was abolished at Christ’s sacrificial death.  Thus, a hindrance no longer remains to reuniting all humanity as the people of God, with Christ as the head (1:22-23).  The new body – the church – has to enable them to live out their new life (1:3-2:10) and put into practice the new standards (4:1-6:9).


Theological Significance of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:

This letter lifts its readers to a new vantage point from which they are united with the risen and ascended Christ.  Believers are not to have a limited or merely earthly perspective.  When we view life from the heavenly realms (1:3), we can understand that the church’s strength is not in human resources but in the grace and strength of God.


The church, God’s people, does not function just to carry out routine activities.  It reveals the wisdom of God and proclaims the rich redemption provided by Jesus Christ (1:3-11; 3:2-13).  This grand letter gives us a purpose for living in line with God’s history (1:10).  This is accomplished as we live in submission to Christ, the head of the church, and indeed the supreme authority over all things (1:22).


THE RELEVANCE OF EPHESIANS FOR BELIEVERS TODAY


Ephesians has been called the most modern of all the New Testament writings.  The breadth and depth of its doctrinal teachings make it a lively source of ideas for every situation.  Its emphasis on the inclusive nature of the church makes it a rich source of inspiration and challenge for churches of any age.


Christ for the Whole Universe:

Ephesians is one of the major sources for our vision of Christ as the Lord of all creation.  Although New Testament writers could not have envisioned our modern technology, they had no doubt that Christ was big enough to be Lord of the entire creation.  He was “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:21-23).  


Ephesians rekindles our vision of the church as the body of Christ in which gifts are recognized and leaders equipped for the work of the ministry.


The Nature and Purpose of the Church:

No Biblical book provides a higher view of the church than Ephesians, and none has had a greater impact on modern church life and theory.


Bringing Together a Divided World:

From Ephesians we learn that God’s plan is “the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (1:10).  Paul’s letter sets forth a church in which both Jews and Gentiles join in one faith, serving one Lord.  Paul’s message of peace and unified purpose in Christ is both relevant and pertinent to the modern world.


A Sense of Calling:

Ephesians challenges its readers to their best with Paul’s exhortation to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (4:1).  Institutions, organizations, and individuals often lack a sense of purpose.  Even churches sometimes languish because they lack a compelling goal.  The view of life offered by Ephesians is a powerful motivation for believers to get involved in what God is doing in the world.


Worthy Living:

In today’s pluralistic culture where moral values are widely questioned and abandoned, Ephesians describes Christian living as walking in the light in the midst of a world of darkness.  It presents a radically different lifestyle for Christians and describes appropriate patterns of behavior in detail.