“You have been saved.”
So what? What does God’s salvation have to do with our everyday lives? And just how are we supposed to live out God’s truth in the midst of today’s culture?
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus helps us answer these questions. In Ephesians, Paul not only beautifully expounds on God’s glorious gift of salvation, he also shows us how to live it.
The Scripture Dig team is excited about exploring the book of Ephesians with you during the month of April. This letter is so practical! We will begin by looking at how and for what purpose God saves us. Then we will see how His salvation should affect our character, our church life, our family relationships, and more.
Do you long to grow in your knowledge of God and deepen your intimacy with Christ? Then join the Scripture Dig team on our journey to Ephesus!
Although Ephesians has some aspects of a written sermon or devotional, it is basically a letter or epistle. Like all letters in the New Testament, Ephesians was written for a specific purpose, to a specific group of people, in a specific cultural situation, in a specific time period, to deal with specific issues.
Understanding the historical context in which this letter was written will help us separate universal truths and applications from instruction and applications that were specifically tied to the original audience and their historical situation. For instance, we cannot directly apply the facts found in Philemon. I don’t think many of us have had runaway slaves! However, there are foundational truths and principles – like forgiveness and restoration – we must accept and apply.
Unlike most New Testament letters, Ephesians does not address any specific, looming problems. This seems to indicate that the church was fairly solid – unlike the Corinthian church, which dealt with multiple problems like sexual sin and division. Based on the letter itself and Paul’s history with the church, his purpose in writing seems to be to encourage them to further spiritual growth and to keep them on a solid doctrinal footing.
Background & History
Paul made his first visit to the city of Ephesus around 50 AD during his second missionary journey (See Acts 18:18-22). Ephesus, an important trade center, was well-known for its worship of Artemis (also know as “Diana,” the goddess of fertility). This first visit was brief, but the message was well received. When Paul left, his coworkers, Priscilla and Aquilla, remained behind to carry on the work he started.
Paul returned to Ephesus about four years later during his third missionary journey and stayed for 3 years. This time, he faced opposition from some of the Jewish leaders at the synagogue. So, Paul and the believers moved to a rented lecture hall. God greatly blessed the message: “All the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).
As hearts turned to Christ, opposition increased. Some local business men, who did not like the effect the Gospel had on their idol-making business, incited a riot and Paul had to leave Ephesus. But God’s truth was firmly planted in the entire region. The Gospel “spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).
At the end of his third missionary journey, on his way to Jerusalem, Paul sent for the Ephesian elders to meet him in Miletus. During this final goodbye, he warned them of trouble ahead. He charged these leaders to carefully watch themselves and their flock because “savage wolves” would infiltrate the church to distort the church. They must diligently guard the church! (See Acts 20:17-37.)
Date and Purpose
It is generally accepted by scholars that Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in the broader area of Ephesus from prison in Rome between 60 and 62 AD. As we saw above, Paul was concerned that false teachers would try to sway them from the truth he had taught them. They needed a firm grasp of the Gospel. Because the pagan worship of Artemis was so ingrained in the culture, the church also faced a lot of opposition from the people around them. They needed to be armed with practical ways to live out their faith.
We may not have to deal with Artemis worship today, but our culture certainly opposes God’s truth. We too, need a solid foundation and practical ways to stand firm in the midst of temptation and false teaching. Are you ready to dig in?
What do you hope to gain from this study of Ephesians?