Today, we begin the study series on Ephesians: The Church Rooted in Love, Walking in Power by Precept Ministries. If you have not purchased the study materials, you can find them here.
Paul visited Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila around 52-53 A.D. during his second missionary journey. After speaking briefly in the synagogue, the Jews urged Paul to stay and teach but he promises to return at God’s discretion. Paul returns to Ephesus a year later.
“And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, and he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ’Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. And there were in all about twelve men.” Acts 19:1-7
Some scholars have suggested that Paul was not the author of this letter because the vocabulary and style choices used differ noticeably from his other letters. Others put forth that the letter was written after Paul’s death in Rome by an anonymous author who was a disciple of Paul. Yet, many other scholars acknowledge Paul’s authorship. If Paul wrote this letter, he would have penned the letter near the end of his life while imprisoned in Rome.
Paul’s letter written to the Colossians bears a strong resemblance to Ephesians. More than fifty-five verses found in these two letters are written word for word which has led the letters to be viewed as companion pieces. The letters would have been written on rolls of papyrus and hand delivered by Tychicus, an Asiatic Christian who accompanied Paul during his journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem and possibly to Rome.
“But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the dear beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” Ephesians 6:21,22
Ephesians is the most impersonal letter Paul wrote. The letter contains no personal greetings or messages which are found in his other letters. This lack of personalization to the Ephesians is even more surprising when coupled with the fact that Paul spent the longest amount of time in Ephesus than in any other place.
“‘Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Acts 20:31
In Acts 20:17-35, Paul shares his grief over having to say goodbye to the elders of Ephesus. His strong feelings towards them and theirs towards him is odd when considering the lack of personal greetings. Therefore, some scholars have concluded that the recipients were not personally acquainted with Paul and that their knowledge of one another was hearsay.
One final and quizzical point concerning the recipients of the letter is that none of the important early Greek New Testament manuscripts include the phrase ‘at Ephesus’ in Ephesians 1:1 as part of the greeting.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:” Ephesians 1:1 ( highlight mine)
These facts have led some scholars to question whether this letter was actually written to the church at Ephesus. Most scholars, however, have concluded that the letter to the Ephesians was not written to the church at Ephesus alone but rather to a group of churches in Asia Minor. Ephesus was the most prominent city among this group. Tychicus would have carried this general letter from church to church since Paul was unable to go himself.
Please begin the Week 1 assignments. I will give commentary and an overview next Monday on the Week 1 assignments.