What is an Epistle?
The Title to Ephesians commonly says, “An Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians.” What exactly is an epistle? Well we know that Ephesians is not a term paper, newspaper article, fictional short story, or inspirational allegory. It is an epistle, in other words a letter. This is important to understand because 21 of 27 NT books are letters. Like most letters, even ones that people write today, the letter to the Ephesians has a opening greeting [1:1-2], personal words [6:21-22] and closing benediction [6:23-24]. Letters are like sandwiches—the opening and closing is like bread, while the message is like meat. The meat of Ephesians has two main parts: instruction in doctrine [1:3-3:21] and application on how living it out [4:1-6:20].
EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who wrote the letter to Ephesus?
The author of the letter to Ephesus is clear from the very first word. The apostle Paul penned this letter [apostle = messenger of Jesus Christ]. Paul knew the people at Ephesus like family. The Bible records Paul visiting the Ephesians on a few occasions [Acts 18:18-21; 19:1-41; 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 1:3-11].
Paul wrote this letter while in prison [3:1; 4:1; 6:20], probably in Rome about 60AD. He did not slack off while he was in prison. He deeply cared for these believers, therefore, while in chains he poured out his heart to these churches encouraging them to endure for the cause of Christ.
Who did Paul write the letter to in Ephesus?
According to verse 1, Paul wrote to the “saints in the churches around Ephesus” [cf. Acts 19]. The word “saint” brings different things to mind to different people. Some people define a saint as a particularly good or holy person [lit. ἁγίοις = holy one]. Others use the term to describe someone who is exceptionally kind and patient in dealing with difficult people or situations.
I grew up in a Catholic church and a saint was a dead person who did extraordinary things for God and His people [miracles, teachings, humble, etc.], but did not become a saint until long after their death. My Grandfather’s patron saint was Francis of Assisi. Francis was a man who loved nature and animals—commonly pictured with a bird in his hands. My great grandmother also had a medallion of Christopher in her car who is the patron saint of travelers. The Catholics have catalogued 1,400-10,000 saints.
Paul calls his readers as “saints” [cf. 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18]. These saints were alive, not dead. The word saint is simply one of the many terms used in the New Testament to describe a person who has a living relationship with Jesus Christ. They are a saint not because of what they do, but whom they faithfully serve [God].
Paul purposes in his letter to demonstrate to the Ephesians the scope of God’s eternal plan for all humanity. There does not seem to be any one issue that Paul is addressing, however, the theme of walking in the grace of God in Christ’s glorious work seems to be a golden thread throughout the entire letter.
There is a distinct flavor between the first and second half of the letter. Chapters 1-3 focus on what Christians should believe, unfolding the glorious riches of God’s grace in Christ. Chapters 4-6 explain the implications of walking in God’s grace for the church, for believers, and for specific relationships. Therefore, this study on Ephesians will be called: Watch The Way You Walk. Not to be mistaken with the title of the popular song by RUN DMC summarizes the theme of Ephesians: Walk This Way.