summarizes his great success while in Ephesus and stands as one of the most poignant portions of the New Testament.
Occasion for The Letter
It is believed Paul wrote Ephesians during his imprisonment in Rome (61-62 AD).On that occasion, Paul was returning Onesimus (a runaway slave) to his Christian master, Philemon,who lived in Colosse. The returning group would have traveled through Ephesus on their way home.Paul took this opportunity to craft the letter to Philemon, as well as Colossians and Ephesians and sentthem along with the returning group.
Ephesians is unlike other Pauline letters in that it is NOT addressed to a particular situation or problem.(We see the particularity in the divisions mentioned in 1 Corinthians or the compromise of the gospelwhich Paul fought against in Galatians.)There is a breathtaking and cosmic quality to the themes that are covered in Ephesians. Here we aretreated to God's universal plan which he had purposed from the foundation of the world.This plan, which Paul calls a "mystery" is that the Gentiles and Jews would become one body, thetemple in which God would dwell, the body of Christ united, the church.In the first three chapters we are treated to the way in which God joined Jew and Gentile into oneglorious body. This is a grand picture of the church, replete with the sinful past we left behind and thespiritual blessings that are now accrued to every believer.Once Paul has established our position in Christ, he then makes an appeal on what it means to walk worthy of our calling in Christ. These chapters are filled with moral exhortations to lead us to the goalof Christ-like maturity. Paul ends his letter with his famous chapter on the armor of God, againdemonstrating that our maturity is possible if we will but use our spiritual blessings.
Important Cultural and Historical Background for Ephesians
In order to understand the radical nature of the message of Ephesians or even some of Paul's harshlanguage toward Gentiles, it is important to provide some cultural and historical context for the Jew /Gentile relationship in the ancient world.From the perspective of a first-century Israelite, the world was divided between those who belonged tothe covenant community of God (the Jews) and those that did not (the Gentiles). Indeed, the entire OldTestament reflected God's election, love, blessing and discipline for the chosen nation of Israel.In addition, Gentile culture was known for two egregious sins that ran counter to all Jewish sensibility,that is, idolatry and sexual immorality. In the Jewish mind, to be a Gentile was to be a sinner in theworst possible way.