The book of Ephesians serves as a beautiful reminder of God’s divine plan. May this guide us and help us grow into God’s family so that we fulfill God’s will on Earth.
The book of Ephesians perfectly summarizes the doing, thinking, and being of a Christian in this world. Paul gives us a glimpse of God’s divine work through Jesus Christ. As we go through this article, we’ll learn a new perspective on living the life God intends for us. Each of us has a unique purpose that is essential to God’s work in this world. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians can help shape us into our “new selves” in Christ.
Context and Background of Ephesians
To understand the context behind Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, let’s take a quick look at Acts 19 to 21. The city of Ephesus was huge and was known to be a center of worship for Greek and Roman gods. This city was also one of the first places where Paul taught about Christianity.
When Paul first arrives at Ephesus, he needs to help fellow followers understand Jesus Christ’s truth. He shares his experience and knowledge and even baptizes them in the name of Jesus.
Paul’s influence in the city grows, but with that also comes a growing number of those opposed. Demetrius, for example, feels enraged that his income is now stagnant because of Paul. This causes the Ephesian to call others that are affected and cause a riot in a theater. There they also drag two of Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus.
After the chaos, Acts 20-21 tells us that Paul decides to travel to other cities. Yet, once he arrives in Jerusalem, the Jews falsely accuse Paul. Despite the lack of evidence, the soldiers and officials had no choice but to arrest Paul to dissipate the chaos.
Composition of the Book of Ephesians
Paul wrote the book of Ephesians. Ephesians was one of the thirteen letters he wrote while he was in prison. Paul’s letters are a way for him to continue preaching about Jesus Christ. Themes such as death, resurrection, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ are prevalent in all his letters. Being in prison did not stop Paul from preaching to those who were willing to listen.
Place and Date of writing
Scholars have suggested that Paul may have written the book of Ephesians at around 60-61 AD. They have also indicated that Ephesians was written at the same time as Colossians.
Purpose of writing
Paul’s letter to Ephesus reminds readers of all God’s work through Jesus Christ. Ephesians is often divided into two halves, and the first half talks about the story of the gospel. Here, Paul talks about how despite the diversity of Jesus’ followers, we have unity in Jesus Christ. God’s divine purpose was to unify us through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
In the second half, Paul challenges us, Christians, to live our “new lives.” To take off our “old self” and put on our “new self” so that we may grow in the image of God. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our “new selves,” as Paul says. Through the Spirit’s influence, we are more thankful and submit to the proper authority. Submit to God’s order in our lives, in our marriages, in our families, the workplace, and the church.
To whom Paul is writing
Many scholars believed that Paul wanted the letter passed around to several churches in Ephesus and those who wanted to learn more. The lack of a personal greeting meant that Paul had no specific church in mind when he wrote this letter.
Themes and Purpose of Ephesians
As we read through the whole book of Ephesians, we’ll find that the main themes are as follows:
- Reconciliation of all to God through Jesus Christ
- Unification of people from all nations in Jesus Christ and His church
- Living our new lives through Jesus’ salvation
Paul opens his letter by praising God’s blessings and works through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1-3). Though we are all sinners, through God’s grace, we are saved through the blood of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us that we were not given salvation for our benefit but so that we could praise and bring glory to God (Ephesians 1:4-11).
Through God’s great love for all, He also has gifted Gentiles salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul states that Jesus has broken the barriers so that we are all united in one body, the church (Ephesians 2:11-22; 3:1-13). Through Christ, we can receive guidance and wisdom from the Spirit. In this sense, we are no longer strangers to each other but are united with fellow citizens with God’s people under one household (Ephesians 2:19-20).
Lastly, Paul wrote instructions in living with our “new selves (Ephesians 4:17). Our “old selves” are dead, for we lived through the ways of the world. We lived in sin and selfishness, only looking to fulfill all that is beneficial and pleasing to us (Ephesians 4:18-19). But now that we are given the gift of salvation, Paul encourages us to put off our “old selves” and be made new. We are to change our attitude towards life and pattern it to God’s righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:23-24).
Instead of lying, we are to speak of the truth of Jesus Christ. Instead of anger, let us promote and live in peace with each other. Paul continues and tells us to give generously and to encourage one another in times of hardship. Instead of revenge, let us choose to forgive because we are sinners as well. Practice self-control and dwell in God’s spirit instead of filling our minds with impure thoughts and getting drunk (Ephesians 4:25-32).
Key Verses in Ephesians
Praises and Thanksgiving to God (Ephesians 1:3)
Paul starts his letter with praises and thanksgiving to God for spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ. Our main takeaway here is to open our day with praises and thanksgiving to God. Even when we are not always aware, God’s blessings and guidance are ever-present.
God’s Grace through Faith (Ephesians 2:8-10)
In this part of the letter, Paul reminds us that our salvation through Christ is not a reward for our good deeds but a gift because of God’s grace. Because of this, we should not boast of our good deeds but God’s goodness and love for all humanity. As we are made new in Jesus Christ, we should prepare and do everything God has planned for us.
Unity in Christ (Ephesians 4:4-6)
As we have received salvation through Jesus Christ, we are automatically a part of His vast family. We learned that Jesus had broken all barriers that divide us, so there is no reason for us to judge each other. Our primary focus is to help one another to keep ourselves united in Christ. Let us all help each other in staying faithful to our calling and make an effort to reach others that have yet to feel God’s, immense love.
Submission to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
As we have submitted to God’s calling, let us also offer proper authority in our lives. As much as possible, let us lift others and bring ourselves down so that we may stay humble and remember that Jesus Christ has done the same for others.
The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11)
Our battles against dark forces that seek to stop God’s work will be brutal, but God would not leave us powerless against them. Now that we have received salvation through Christ, we also have the armor of God to protect us from spiritual warfare. Let us pray fearlessly, stand firm in God’s promises, and hold onto the truth of Jesus Christ so that we are spiritually prepared for any battle.
Outline of the Book of Ephesians
Here is a brief overlook of the topics Paul has written in the book of Ephesians:
- God’s divine purpose (Ephesians 1:10)
- Prayer of thanksgiving for those who have remained faithful in Christ (Ephesians 1:15)
- Through God’s grace, we are saved and made new (Ephesians 2:4-5)
- Jesus Christ has broken all boundaries and judgment so that we may be united in Him in one body (Ephesians 2:14-16; 2:19-20).
- Prayer for believers to experience God’s fullness in-depth (Ephesians 3:14-17)
- We are united in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-3)
- Instructions for Christian living
- Leave our “old selves” behind so that we may live and grow in our “new selves” (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:20)
- Submission to one another as we have to God
- For wives to submit themselves to their husbands as they have for God (Ephesians 5:22-24)
- For husbands to love their wives as he loves himself (Ephesians 5:25-32)
- For children to honor their father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3)
- For parents to bring up their child through the guidance of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4-5)
- For slaves to obey their masters as they have obeyed God (Ephesians 6:5-8)
- For masters to treat their slaves the same way they treat others (Ephesians 6:9)
- Strength in Spiritual Conflict (Ephesians 6:10-20)
- Final greetings and Conclusion (Ephesians 6:21-24)
What Can We Learn From Ephesians Today?
Our identity in Christ
In Ephesians 2, Paul explains that through God’s grace, we are saved and made new. Despite our shortcomings, God’s great mercy and love have redeemed us from the grip of our sins (Ephesians 2:4-5). Paul reiterates that it is not our good deeds that have granted us salvation. Only through God’s grace are we gifted with salvation. So we should not boast about our works but instead praise God for his faithfulness and love (Ephesians 2:8-10).
We learn that as the grace of God saves us, we now belong in one family with the other believers. Jesus Christ has broken all boundaries and judgment so that we may be united in Him in one body, with Jesus Christ as our head (Ephesians 2:14-16; 2:19-20).
Our purpose in the body of Christ is revealed to us when we search for God’s calling. In doing so, we improve the talents that God blessed us this putting His will in motion.
Living our lives following Jesus’ teachings
Paul’s instructions for Christian living are found in the last three chapters. He, again, reiterates that we are united in the body of Christ. Be humble, patient, and love one another (Ephesians 4:1-2). Let us also make an effort to bond in peace with the other believers (Ephesians 4:3).
As we now take on our “new selves,” Paul tells us to leave our self-indulgent ways behind. Let us live a life in God’s righteousness (Ephesians 4:17 – 5:20). Make an effort to speak of the truth instead of hiding in lies to keep unity among fellow believers. Instead of letting our emotions get the better of us, practice understanding one another. Living our “new” lives means that we choose to show God’s love through our words and actions. Let others feel what we have experienced.
Submission to proper authorities at home, work, and the church
In Ephesians 5-6, Paul wrote a separate section on submission to proper authorities. We are compelled to lower ourselves so that we may elevate them. Paul uses the Christian household to elaborate on this point. Wives respect and allow their husbands to be responsible for their wives (Ephesians 5:22-24). Husbands are to love their wife and lay down themselves so that they can focus on their wife’s wellbeing above their own (Ephesians 5:25-32).
This kind of submission perfectly reenacts the gospel story that Paul was talking about in chapter 1. Paul continues by using the relationship of children to their parents and vice versa (Ephesians 6:1-5). Paul also includes slaves to their masters and vice versa (Ephesians 6:5-9).
Standing firm against spiritual opposition
In Ephesians 6:10-19, Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power. We are to take our stand against the devil because we have the whole armor of God. Paul reminds us that our problems and struggles on Earth are nothing against the battle we are to face in the name of Jesus Christ. Wear the armor of God so that when the time comes, we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13).
Paul also reminds us to always pray with all kinds of prayers and requests from the Holy Spirit. Be alert and always pray for our fellow believers to stay firm and find strength in the Lord. Pray that we may have the same courage Paul had to speak fearlessly of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-20).
The book of Ephesians is a beautifully written letter that expresses Paul’s desire to share the knowledge God has given him. There is a lot to take away from Ephesians. All are as important and valuable as we continue to grow and mature into our “new selves.” Paul’s situation in prison also has something to teach us. I have taken away from that is no amount of suffering can stop you from being thankful to God.
Ultimately, God’s love and mercy have allowed us to be saved and a part of God’s multi-ethnic family. Through His grace, He has sent Jesus to save us from our sins and has provided us a way back to the Father. As we wait for the day, we return home to God, and He has provided us an armor so that we would be ready in times of spiritual conflict. Through the power of prayer, we gain strength in the Lord that allows us to win over the evil one.