I’ve been studying Ephesians 1 lately because I’ll be teaching on it at my church next Sunday.
In preparation for that, I thought I’d write a little here about what I’m finding.
I’m a context guy. I want to know what is going around outside the text before I try to understand what it means, and I am approaching Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the same way.
Understanding the context starts with understanding the author and his audience.
First there is Paul. It’s somewhere between 61 and 63 A.D., and he’s in jail in Rome. He’s there because he appealed to Nero Caesar (Acts 25:11), and the Lord has promised him he will have the opportunity to preach to Nero (Acts 27:23-24).
He probably believes he will be killed. In fact, when he left the Ephesians a few years prior he told them they would never see his face again. (Acts 20:22-25). He had poured his life into the church plant in Ephesus, devoting nearly three years to it and risking his life in doing so. Many believe Paul was thrown to the lions there but somehow survived. (I Cor. 15:32). Paul wants desperately for the church there to survive so that all his effort is not in vain.
And then there are the Christians in Ephesus. They are living in the second largest city in the Roman Empire, a port city no less, and one of the most important and wealthiest cities in the world. The Ephesian Christians had been persecuted and rejected by the Jews as a cult and by the Romans and Greeks as atheists because they rejected Rome’s pagan gods. The church there was a small group in a big city, surrounded by hostile forces on every side. On top of that their founder was 1,500 miles away in jail in Rome. My guess is they probably felt pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Paul has many important things to say to the Christians in Ephesus, but he has to decide what is most important to say first, what to say before he says anything else, what is so foundational it needs to be said before he explains how a church is supposed to work and everything he says in his letter, which he believes may be the last time he ever communicates with this church.
In the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians Paul makes two points, and they are two things every Christian, every church, indeed every organization, needs to understand to be successful.
Tomorrow I’ll explain the first of those two things. GS