Historical and Cultural Background of the Book of Ephesians
Ephesus was a small town located near Cayster River on the west side of the roman province in Asia. The town is what is today referred as Turkey. This was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and its population composed of mainly the Ephesians and the Jews. Majority of the people in Ephesus worshiped various gods and goddesses such as Artemis. Ephesians worshiped their gods in the temple and other areas specifically designed for worshiping. The Jews in Ephesus also had a synagogue in which Paul the apostle of Christ began his mission in Ephesus.
Historically, the book of Ephesians is a letter by Paul to the people of Ephesus. Writing of the book took place from about 60- 61 A.D targeting the Christians of the early church in Ephesus. Historical information shows that when the Jews in Ephesus hardened their hearts against the gospel of Jesus brought by Paul, the apostle Paul turned to the Gentiles and through them, the gospel of Christ spread to the whole province of Asia. The main teachings and purpose of the book of Ephesians was to strengthen the Christian believers in the early church in Ephesus. Paul wrote the letter to strengthen the believers' faith in the gospel of Christ and encourage them that there is grace in performing the holy works of God. According to Youssef (2012), Paul reveals to the Ephesians that there are spirituals blessings in Jesus Christ. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the believers have limitless access to riches and power of the Holy Spirit. The book of Ephesians is one of the most critical letters of Paul to the early churches he established in various parts of the World during his missions. Youssef (2012) argues that the letter provides a foundational understanding of the New Testament and the teachings of Paul to Christians. The book is an everyday reference material to believers and reminds them of the need to strengthen their faith in Christ Jesus and His gospel.
In contrast to the other letters of Apostle Paul to the early churches, his letter to the Ephesians Paul teaches more about the church itself in which Christ is its head. The passage explains how God plans to use the church to deliver his mission of salvation to the whole world. The passage contains a prayer by Paul to God on behalf of the Ephesians. Paul asks for God's strength upon the believers in Ephesus that Christ dwells in their heart and unites them in His love. According to a commentary by Youssef (2012), Paul describes the heavenly riches and glory of our heavenly father as a reality that is invisible to the believers at that particular time. The heavenly reaches and glory in the passage come from believers' spiritual struggle against evils. Teachings by Hiegel (2013) indicate that there is grace and peace in believers when they accept Christ in their daily lives. The passage explains the fulfillment in believers that comes with the acceptance of God's love.
The passage refers to the believers in Ephesus as saints in Christ. Hiegel (2013) identifies this notion as identification of believers. Paul notes that there are no more requirements for a believer in Christ to become a saint. A believer becomes a saint through cleaning of the sins in Jesus death and resurrection. The passage explains the need for believers to maintain purity and holiness in Christ Jesus. The passage further provides teachings to believers on how to maintain their purity especially through constant prayers to God. Asking for spiritual strength to overcome evil and other immoral ways of the devil significantly works to strengthen believers' faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians speaks about the great love of God to human kind and His desire to bring salvation. Paul speaks of the endless love and compassion of Christ to save the human race from the bondage of sin. Jesus does this by His humble acceptance to die on the cross and take away the pain and suffering from the human race. Through this limitless love, humans are free from death, and he promises an everlasting and joyous life to all not only in Ephesus but to all believers in the world. Paul teaches this eternal promise by emphasizing on the spiritual purity of believers. According to Nee & Lee (1990), in order to receive the promises of the Lord, our spirits must be spirits of wisdom and revelation. The spirits must be organs in which God reveals His mystery to us, and our inner self receives strength through the spirit of God. According to verse 20 of the passage, Paul recognizes the powerfulness of God and His ability to do mighty things that are beyond our human ability. Concerning this passage, Paul wants the Ephesians to fully rely on Christ's ability to provide salvation to them if only they allow Him into their lives and spirits.
Verse 14 of the passage acknowledges God's ability to identify every one of us and our families. Paul writes to the Ephesians to make them understand that God is the creator of everything on the surface of the earth and beyond. He rightfully possesses all the riches on earth and in Heaven and grants them to those who believe in Him. The riches and God's glory belong to those in Him. According to Hiegel (2013), Paul emphasizes the notion 'in Him' as a key factor to believers. 'In Him' or 'In Christ' refers to the fact that believers unify themselves with Jesus through a personal relationship. This means that, the Christ's characters and purposes are now in a believer to guide them in their daily lives.
Unlike the other books of Apostle Paul, the letter to the Ephesians can provide guidance to the everyday believer's life and the church. The book provides summarized information of our requirement by the gospel of Christ. Youssef (2012) explains that, the letter to the Ephesians is a Christian's bank and an important referral material. It makes Christians remember and understand the greatness of God's love to the church and His desire to use it to deliver salvation to the world. The book contains many teachings particularly to the modern church specifically in relation to how the Lord plans to use it for salvation. The church is made up by believers who are united by the love and unity of Christ to serve and spread His gospel to the non-believers. The letter reminds the church of God to remain strong in Christ irrespective of the many challenges from the world and evil powers. Hiegel (2012) explains that there is eternal grace, happiness and peace to all united in Christ's name and ready to defend Him against evils on earth.
Faith is necessary to believers for them to receive salvation and the promises of God. The modern church should always desire to strengthen their faith in the Lord and fight against all temptations especially earthly desires. The passage explains that Christ dwells in our hearts as believers and members of the church of Christ through faith. Through love towards one another as members of one church, we strengthen this faith. The modern church should always desire to attract more members to the church of God and spiritually strengthen them to see the love of God in their lives. The modern church should understand the sacredness of the church as a dwelling place for the Lord. In this notion, it is upon the believers to keep it holy and clean. Paul uses the example of the early temples in Ephesus to explain the immorality that the Lord does not require from believers. As the head of the church, God expects believers to adopt His ways and characters.
The mission of the church as created by Christ Jesus is to do good works. God does not expect the church to involve itself in immoral ways that may interfere with the unity and love of its members. God does not expect the church to segregate others or push them out but leave in peace and harmony and do all that pleases the Lord. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains to the church that, God's plan is to save both the Jews and Gentiles by His grace and the faithfulness of the believers. As members of God's church, God expects us to commit ourselves in prayers to overcome the devil's schemes. In the passage, Paul emphasizes the need to let in God in our souls and minds and not to rely on our human abilities alone. Hiegel (2012) explains that we owe everything to our Lord. We owe our lives, minds, present and eternal to the riches of God's grace. Church leaders should ask for wisdom and knowledge to lead properly the people of God to eternal happiness.
The main purpose of the letter of Apostle Paul to the…