Ephesians

These are all of the chapters of the book of Ephesians. Clicking on a chapter will show you the text of that chapter of Ephesians in the Bible (New International Version).

Bible opened to Ephesians

Who Wrote the Book of Ephesians?

Most scholars believe the apostle Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians. Paul, initially named Saul, was born a Jew and, in fact, persecuted many early Christians, thinking they were blaspheming God by lifting up Jesus as God’s son. Then, on the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared and revealed the truth, and he became a believer, ultimately changing his name to Paul. Paul spent the rest of his life traveling the world spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. He is thought to have authored 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, and half of Acts of the Apostles recounts Paul’s life and work.

Context and Background of Ephesians

Ephesians has been called a literary masterpiece, as well as an important instructional manual for the church and its people on unity, Christian living, and prioritizing God.

Ephesians is thought to have been written around AD 60-62, though some scholars believe it might have been written decades later. It was a letter to early Christian believers in Ephesus, which was at that time a leading commercial, political, and intellectual center in what is now modern-day Turkey. Most of the people in Ephesus at that time were pagan. Paul brought the Gospel to Ephesus and made the city a center of evangelism for a few years. Scholars believe given the time of writing and some text references — such as calling himself an “ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:20) — that Paul was imprisoned in Rome when he wrote this letter.

Main Theme and Purpose of Ephesians

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is filled with encouragement and instruction, both on our priority in life (God and His glory), as well as on unity in Christ and how that unity calls us to act toward others.

In the first portion of Ephesians, Paul reminds readers that God has a divine plan, developed before the world was created, and He chose us to be part of that plan. Because we believe in Jesus, we are God’s adopted children. This isn’t because of anything we did but is solely because of God’s goodwill and grace (Ephesians 1:5-6).

Before we knew Jesus, Paul writes, we lived for ourselves and were dead because of our offenses against God, but because of God’s great love for us, He gave us the opportunity for life through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). Now we have a God-planned purpose: to do His work here on earth.

That shifts into Paul’s second major point: It does not matter that the Ephesians are Gentiles and not Jews, God’s “chosen” people. Jesus broke down the barriers between them and made the two groups one. Now all are joined as the body of Christ regardless of ethnicity (3:14-19).

Because of all this, Paul writes, believers should live as authentic Christians — united, holy, patient, loving, and gentle — and represent the Lord well. As one body, all work together and must build each other up in accountability and love to become the best we can be for God. This includes putting aside our old lifestyle in favor of the new, “Jesus” way. As Paul writes, “Put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:22-24).

Further, he writes, we must live our lives in the light, filled with the Holy Spirit, and reject all darkness (5:8). Paul offers real-world, practical examples of how Christians can do this in marriage, in parent-child relationships, and in master-servant relationships.

What Can We Learn from Ephesians Today?

We can learn a lot from Ephesians today. First, in a world where the self is often the highest priority, Paul’s pointed reminders that God is the authority and His way is highest are important messages to remember.

Also, because we are God’s, we have certain tools at our disposal that can help us fight battles that might level another. Paul’s point that our battle goes beyond flesh and blood applies today just as much as it did in the first century. As he notes, our fight is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). But, he says, God gives us a full set of armor we can put on to stand strong against these forces. That armor includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God, all just as effective today as back then.

Another lesson is unity. Our culture can be so divided, whether along lines of race, class, age, gender, or political persuasion. But Paul urged the Ephesians to embrace their unity as Christians regardless of ethnicity, reminding them they are “members together of one body” (3:6) and should act that way. That means loving each other with Christ as our head. Today, the same applies. Our neighbor might have a different skin color or speak a different language, and we may practice different cultural traditions, but we are all one in Christ.

Next, putting the past behind us to embrace new life in Christ is another important lesson from Ephesians. In a time when the sins of our past are often preserved for all time on social media, many believers feel a tremendous amount of shame about their former transgressions. Others might be Christians but are still using foul language and doing other things that do not look like the “image of God” to others. But as Paul writes in Chapter 4, we are to put our old ways behind us and embrace Godly living, not the sort of self-centered lifestyle culture applauds.

Finally, Paul has some good words in Chapter 5-6 for today’s Christians when it comes to relationships. Often, we have tremendous friction with our spouses, children, parents, and coworkers (note: the “master-slave” analogy Paul uses applies today to employers and employees). Much of these relationship problems stem from skewed power dynamics, disrespectful me-first behavior, or the inability to forgive. But Paul urges us to honor each other, be good to each other, and serve each other as Jesus would — as though we were Jesus Himself, or serving Him. This humble, reverent attitude can help mend or prevent broken relationships.

Our Favorite Verses from Ephesians

Ephesians is chock-full of empowering, convicting reminders on Christ-centered living. Besides those mentioned above, here are some other favorites:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7).

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

Sources

Harrill, J. (2012). From Pharisee to Apostle. In Paul the Apostle: His Life and Legacy in their Roman Context (pp. 23-45). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Global.britannica.com, “Saint Paul, the Apostle”. Encyclopædia Britannica, Online Academic Edition..

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, Encyclopædia Britannica.

Insight.org, Swindoll, Chuck, “Ephesians.”

Ancient.eu, Mark, Joshua J. “Ephesus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia.

Jones, Tim. “Ephesians: A Historical Background.” Medium.com.

Bible.org, Deffinbaugh, R. ”The Uniqueness of Ephesians Among the Epistles.”

Bible.org, Wallace, Daniel B. “Ephesians: Introduction, Argument, and Outline.”

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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team. Learn more at http://jessicabrodie.com.