The epistle to the Ephesians has been both a blessing and a “mystery” to many Bible students and scholars through the ages. Some have called it “the Queen of the Epistles,” and others “the Alps of the Epistles.” Coleridge said that Ephesians was “the divinest composition of man,” according to the scholar, William Barclay (The Letter to the Ephesians: The Daily Study Bible Series). Yet, the thoughts and sentence structure of the epistle have confounded many. In the Greek, passages like Ephesians 1:3–14, 15–23; 2:1–9; and 3:1–7 are all one long sentence.
It appears that this epistle was an extended development of Colossians, just as Romans is to Galatians. Barclay points out that there are more than 55 verses in the two letters that are exactly the same in the original Greek. Additionally, we find at least seventy words in Ephesians that are not in any other letter that Paul wrote. Paul’s inspired thought soars into realms found nowhere else in Scripture.
Paul wrote this epistle while he was in prison in Rome. He mentions his imprisonment in Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; and 6:20. The words, “in Ephesus” from Ephesians 1:1 are not found in early manuscripts. Some have suggested it may be “the epistle from Laodicea” mentioned in Colossians 4:16. Most likely it was a circular epistle to all the churches of Asia Minor.
Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world. It was a Roman capital, a wealthy center of the merchant trade, and was home to the Temple of Diana, considered one of the “seven wonders of the world” at the time (Dr. Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the New Testament).
Where Colossians emphasizes Jesus Christ, resurrected, and seated in Heaven, as the Head of His body—the Church (Col. 1:18), in Ephesians Paul stresses the Church as His body on Earth (Eph. 1:22–23; 3:6–7). In this letter, Paul places great emphasis on the “mystery,” that is, the previously unrevealed plan of God for this present Church Age (Eph. 1:9–10; 3:1–11). The epistle is built around two prayers of Paul for the church: first, that we would receive enlightenment concerning our “riches in Christ” (Eph. 1:15–23), and second, that we would receive enablement from His Holy Spirit to live in the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:14–21). Also, there are two main sections of the book: In chapters 1–3, Paul explains the position and the power we have “in Christ” by faith. Then, in chapters 4–6, he teaches us the practice, and the worthy walk (Eph. 4:1) that should reflect our position.
Bible expositor, G. Campbell Morgan, presents an interesting theory that the book of Ephesians is “the last exposition of the words of Jesus Christ at Caesarea Philippi, ‘Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it … I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom’” (Matt. 16:18–19 KJV). He goes on to say, “Paul was the steward of the mystery of the Church. In this letter, then, we have the last exposition of the meaning of Christ” (G. Campbell Morgan, Concise Survey of the Bible, p. 476). In this sense, chapters 1–3 deal with the building of the Church; Ephesians 4:1–6:9 have to do with the “keys to the kingdom” in the sense of Christian conduct, and Ephesians 6:10 to the end has to do with the warfare by which the powers of hell are defeated.
One last note in relation to the outline of the book: It has long been noted that Paul builds the epistle around three postures of the Christian. First, we are “seated” with Christ (Eph. 2:6), which relates to our position in Christ (chapters 1–3). Second, we are to “walk worthy” (Eph. 4:1), which relates to Christian conduct (Eph. 4:1–6:9). Finally, we are to “stand firm” against the forces of Satan (Eph. 6:11, 13–14), which concludes the book. Many books and studies on Ephesians have followed the “Sit, walk, stand” theme.
By-verse Notes on Ephesians