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Ephesians: Introduction

Updated: Jun 4

The SimplyRevised Podcast

Trek Bible Studies are designed to help us engage the Scriptures and connect with the Lord. Each study will focus on a particular passage of the Bible, the Trailhead, followed by a few reflections and thoughts to help us Cross The Context from the first century to our life today. At the end of the study, a series of questions guide us as we Unpack the lesson.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Welcome to the Book of Ephesians! This profound letter, written by the Apostle Paul, is rich with spiritual insights and practical guidance for living a life grounded in the faith. This study will explore themes of grace, unity, and the transformative power of Christ's love. Whether new to the Bible or a seasoned reader, Ephesians offers timeless wisdom and encouragement for all. Join us as we journey through its pages, growing together in understanding and applying its truths to our lives. 

Literary Style

The Epistle to the Ephesians, historically considered to be written by the Apostle Paul, is a piece of New Testament literature categorized as an epistle. This form of writing, common in the Greco-Roman world, is a letter intended for public reading within the Christian community. Like other Pauline epistles, Ephesians employs a formal style marked by theological exposition, practical instruction, and personal exhortation. The discourse within the letter ranges from doctrinal teachings to practical applications, making it a rich tapestry of insight and guidance.

The letter is structured in two main parts: the first half (chapters 1-3) focuses on the theological exposition of God's plan of salvation through Christ, while the second half (chapters 4-6) addresses the implications and practical outworking of these truths in the life of followers of Jesus.

Discourse in the Bible

Discourse in our Bibles, including letters, speeches, and sermons, make up a significant portion of Scripture. In a graphic I saw from a lesson by Tim Mackie, he shared that about 43% of the Scriptures are narrative, 33% are poetry, and 24% are discourse. These discourse forms, including books like Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and others, are crucial for understanding  Christian faith and practice.

Recognizing the literary style of these writings is essential for interpretation because it helps readers discern the author's intent, the context of the message, and its application to our lives today. Understanding the genre helps us grasp the nuances of the text, whether it is theological arguments, instructions, or personal reflections.

Historical Significance

Ephesus was a major port city in the Roman Empire, located on the western coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). As a bustling hub of trade and commerce, Ephesus was known for its strategic location and grand Temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The temple served as a religious center and a vital economic institution, drawing pilgrims and tourists from across the empire and contributing to the city's wealth and prominence.

Temple of Artemis
created with Midjourney by Steve Ellis

The cultural landscape of Ephesus was a melting pot of Greek and Roman influences, characterized by a blend of pagan worship, philosophical inquiry, and commercial enterprise. This environment posed opportunities and challenges for the early Christian community as they navigated their faith amidst diverse religious practices and social dynamics.

The Ephesian Church

Paul's connection with Ephesus is documented in the Book of Acts. During his second missionary journey, Paul briefly visited Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21), but during his third journey, he spent approximately three years there (Acts 19:1-41). During this period, Paul established a strong Christian community and engaged in extensive teaching and debate in the synagogue and the lecture hall of Tyrannus (see Acts 19:9).

Paul's ministry in Ephesus was marked by several notable events, including the public burning of magical books by new converts (Acts 19:19) and a significant riot instigated by silversmiths whose trade in Artemis idols was threatened by the spread of Christianity (Acts 19:23-41). These accounts highlight the transformative impact of the gospel in a city deeply entrenched in pagan worship and commercial interests tied to the temple of Artemis.

Cultural Context

Ephesian culture was heavily influenced by its status as a significant urban center. The city's prosperity was linked to its port, which facilitated trade throughout the Mediterranean. Its citizens were exposed to various cultural and religious ideas, making Ephesus a cosmopolitan and vibrant metropolis. The prominent worship of Artemis was intertwined with local identity and economic activity, with festivals and rituals drawing visitors and reinforcing the city's religious significance.

Theme and Purpose

One central theme in the letter of Ephesians is the unity of all believers in Christ. Paul emphasizes the mystery of the gospel, which brings Jews and Gentiles together as one body in Christ:

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NASB95)

"For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall" 

The letter underscores the church's role in God's redemptive plan and encourages believers to live in a manner worthy of their calling.

Paul's purpose in writing Ephesians includes:

Strengthening the believers' understanding of their identity in Christ.

Promoting unity within the church.

Providing practical instructions for living out their faith.

He addresses various aspects of Christian life, including relationships within the household (Ephesians 5:22-6:9) and the spiritual warfare believers face (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Crossing The Context

Understanding the literary style and historical context of the letter to the Ephesians helps us better understand its application for our lives today. Situating the letter within the vibrant, diverse, and economic context gives us a clearer picture of the challenges and opportunities these early Christian community faced.

Considering Ephesians' rich and diverse background helps guide our understanding of Paul's words and the wisdom of God found in this letter for our lives today.



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steve ellis
steve ellis

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