Ephesians, Epistle to

Ephesians, Epistle to - was written by Paul at Rome about the same time as that to the Colossians, which in many points it resembles.

Contents of. The Epistle to the Colossians is mainly polemical, designed to refute certain theosophic errors that had crept into the church there. That to the Ephesians does not seem to have originated in any special circumstances, but is simply a letter springing from Paul's love to the church there, and indicative of his earnest desire that they should be fully instructed in the profound doctrines of the gospel. It contains

(1) the salutation (1:1, 2);

(2) a general description of the blessings the gospel reveals, as to their source, means by which they are attained, purpose for which they are bestowed, and their final result, with a fervent prayer for the further spiritual enrichment of the Ephesians (1:3-2:10);

(3) "a record of that marked change in spiritual position which the Gentile believers now possessed, ending with an account of the writer's selection to and qualification for the apostolate of heathendom, a fact so considered as to keep them from being dispirited, and to lead him to pray for enlarged spiritual benefactions on his absent sympathizers" (2:12-3:21);

(4) a chapter on unity as undisturbed by diversity of gifts (4:1-16);

(5) special injunctions bearing on ordinary life (4:17-6:10);

(6) the imagery of a spiritual warfare, mission of Tychicus, and valedictory blessing (6:11-24).

Planting of the church at Ephesus. Paul's first and hurried visit for the space of three months to Ephesus is recorded in Acts 18:19-21. The work he began on this occasion was carried forward by Apollos (24-26) and Aquila and Priscilla. On his second visit, early in the following year, he remained at Ephesus "three years," for he found it was the key to the western provinces of Asia Minor. Here "a great door and effectual" was opened to him (1 Cor. 16:9), and the church was established and strengthened by his assiduous labours there (Acts 20:20, 31). From Ephesus as a centre the gospel spread abroad "almost throughout all Asia" (19:26). The word "mightily grew and prevailed" despite all the opposition and persecution he encountered.

On his last journey to Jerusalem the apostle landed at Miletus, and summoning together the elders of the church from Ephesus, delivered to them his remarkable farewell charge (Acts 20:18-35), expecting to see them no more.

The following parallels between this epistle and the Milesian charge may be traced:

(1.) Acts 20:19 = Eph. 4:2. The phrase "lowliness of mind" occurs nowhere else.

(2.) Acts 20:27 = Eph. 1:11. The word "counsel," as denoting the divine plan, occurs only here and Heb. 6:17.

(3.) Acts 20:32 = Eph. 3:20. The divine ability.

(4.) Acts 20:32 = Eph. 2:20. The building upon the foundation.

(5.) Acts 20:32 = Eph. 1:14, 18. "The inheritance of the saints."

Place and date of the writing of the letter. It was evidently written from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Col 1:14; Eph 1:10; Col 1:20 Eph 3:2; Col 1:25 Eph 5:19; Col 3:16 Eph 6:22; Col 4:8 Eph 1:19-2:5; Col 2:12,13 Eph 4:2-4; Col 3:12-15 Eph 4:16; Col 2:19 Eph 4:32; Col 3:13 Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:9,10 Eph 5:6-8; Col 3:6-8 Eph 5:15,16; Col 4:5 Eph 6:19,20; Col 4:3,4 Eph 5:22-6:9; Col 3:18-4:1

"The style of this epistle is exceedingly animated, and corresponds with the state of the apostle's mind at the time of writing. Overjoyed with the account which their messenger had brought him of their faith and holiness (Eph. 1:15), and transported with the consideration of the unsearchable wisdom of God displayed in the work of man's redemption, and of his astonishing love towards the Gentiles in making them partakers through faith of all the benefits of Christ's death, he soars high in his sentiments on those grand subjects, and gives his thoughts utterance in sublime and copious expression."

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