May 27 2010


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The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians

(Part 1)

A- The Church of Ephesus


The relation of St. Paul with the city of Ephesus 1 dates back to his visit on his way back from his second missionary trip, in which he preached in Europe (Greece) for the first time and Silas was his companion.  He crossed by sea from Corinth to Ephesus on the shore of Asia Minor (now Turkey), and stayed there for a short time (around the year 53 AD).  He left there his other companions, Aquila and his wife Pricilla, whom he met in Corinth, and who became among the best helpers to St. Paul.  They have helped Apollos the Alexandrian (Egyptian) to fine-tune his knowledge and faith in Christ (Acts 15 – 18).

St. Paul went to Ephesus a second time during his third missionary trip (Acts 19) and stayed there about three years (54-57 AD) preaching the Jews and the Greeks and performing miracles “So that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them … Many of those who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly … So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” (Acts 19:12, 19, 20).

It was in Ephesus also that the famous riot lead by Demetrius, the maker of silver shrines of Diana (Artemis), took place.  He incited the makers of the idols against Paul.  They seized Gaius, and Aristarchus, the Greek companions of Paul.  But, the city scribe, appeased them, and convinced them to raise the matter to Justice (Acts 19: 33-41).  Also in Ephesus, St. Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians (around 57 AD).

After another missionary trip to the Churches in Greece, and on his way back to Syria, St. Paul went first to Troas where he raised the young man Eutychus who had fallen dead from the third story.  From there he went to Miletus where he called the priests of the nearby Ephesus, and gave them his moving farewell speech affirming his dedication to the Lord’s service; “But none of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).  He asked them to be vigilant for their flock “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers … Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:28-31).  In conclusion, he reminded them of the Lord’s words, which were not recorded in the gospels “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20: 35, see picture at the end).  Later, he sent to them Timothy to teach them and guide them (1Tim. 1:3).  St. Paul kept carrying a lot of love to the Church of Ephesus, in which he labored in its service for many years.  While he was jailed in Rome [In reality it was a house he rented and lived in under surveillance for two years (Acts 28)], he wrote his epistle to the Ephesians.  It was delivered to them by Tychicus, the Ephesian.  It is one of many letters he wrote while he was imprisoned (Letters to Philemon, to the Colossians, and to the Philippians).

B- On the Epistle to the Ephesians

There is no doubt that this Epistle is written by St. Paul.  Because some of the ancient copies did not have in its introduction the word “Ephesus”, some scholars have suggested that the letter to the Ephesians, was a cyclical letter sent for all the Churches of Asia (the name of the Church was left blank to add the name of the specific Church), especially because this epistle was void of any specific issues that usually were found in a letter to a particular Church.  If some copies carried the name “Ephesus”, it was because “Ephesus” was the pearl of Asia Minor’s cities, and where the greatest Church was found.

In the epistle there are indications that it was written from jail, such as “As a prisoner of the Lord” (Eph 4:1) and “for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Eph 6:20).

C- The Subject of the Epistle


St. Paul wrote this epistle neither to answer the questions of the Church, nor to condemn some deviation in it, but it is a highly spiritual letter, where the writer praises God for His Grace and His Salvation due to His great love, and His compassion to all sinners, Jews and Gentiles.  He glorifies the person of the Savior who is sitting at the right hand of the Father, who is, at the same time, the Head of the Church, His body (1:22,23), and the chief cornerstone in it (2:20).


As he speaks to the members of the Church, he incites them to keep the unity of the spirit (4:3), to repent from their past life (4:17), and put on the new man (4:24), to live prudently as wise people (5:15).  He instructs men and women to love and respect each other (5:22-33), and the children to obey their parents (6:1), the slaves to obey their masters for God’s sake, and the masters to fear God (6:5, 9), and for everyone to put the full armor of God to have victory over the devil (6:11).  He is concerned about the peace of the Church, its unity, and its new life in Christ.  He is comforted that the Church is living in the fear of God, and there is nothing that disturbs its peace.

D- Outline of the Epistle

The epistle is almost divided into two main equal parts:

In the first part (Chapters 1 – 3), St. Paul speaks of the work of Christ and the grace He bestowed on the Gentiles by His salvation, and by joining them to His One Church.

The second part (Chapters 4 – 6) deals with the new conduct of the believers, which should be different from their previous conduct.  He addresses the members of the family, the masters, and the slaves, showing all of them how they should overcome in the enemy’s war with the full armor of God.

+ Chapter One: Introduction (1: 1, 2) – God’s intention since the beginning (1: 3-6) – What was accomplished at the fullness of time and its purpose (1: 7-10) – The eternal inheritance (1: 11-14) – A prayer for wisdom and enlightening (1: 15-18) – Christ above all, as the head of the Church, His body (1: 19-23).

+ Chapter Two: We were dead by sin, and Christ made us alive by His death (2: 1-5) – Our salvation is by grace, and not by the works of the law or self righteousness (2: 5-9) – Our works after salvation, God has prepared in advance for us to do (2: 10) – In Christ Jesus, the Gentiles who were without hope became members of the flock of Christ, who united the Jews with the Gentiles, by His cross (2: 11-19) – We all become one holy temple and Jesus Christ is the cornerstone and the foundation of the building is the gospel, the epistles (the apostles), and the books of the prophets (2: 20-22).

+ Chapter Three: The Gentiles are heirs in Christ … the hidden mystery that was revealed (3: 1-13) – His prayer that Christ will dwell by faith in their hearts, and they may apprehend the extent of the love of God, to whom is all the glory (3: 14-21).

+ Chapter Four: The translation of the new life into a behavior that will conserve the unity of the spirit and the peace of the Church (4: 1-6) – Christ, when He ascended into heaven, He gave His people various gifts to build the Church (4: 7- 12) – The goal is the unity of faith, the knowledge of the Son of God, and attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (4: 13,14) – Christ is the head to whom all the members are connected (4: 15-16) – Your behavior should be different from your former way of life with its ignorance, and sin, i.e., to put off the old man and put on the new man (4: 17-24) – The Christian behavior (4: 25-32).

+ Chapter Five:  The ideal and perfect model is God (5:1, 2) – To avoid many sins that are inappropriate for the children of light (5: 3-10) – Be strong, condemn sin, and encourage the sinners to repent (5: 11-14) – Behave carefully as wise people (5: 15-17) – Be filled with the Spirit singing and praising (5: 18-20) – Man and woman should submit to each other; he should love her, and she should respect and honor him, following the model of Christ and the Church (5: 21-33).

+ Chapter Six: A message to the children and their parents (6: 1-4) – Another message to the slaves and their masters (6: 5-9) – Put on the full armor of God in your spiritual warfare (6: 10-20) – The conclusion of the epistle (6: 21, 22) – The Apostolic blessing (6: 23-24).

Ruins in the island, ‘Militus”, where St. Paul called the priests of Ephesus to see him before his last trip to Jerusalem, where he was attacked by zealous Jews and had to be sent to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 20:15 – 28:31).

Ruins in the island, ‘Militus”, where St. Paul called the priests of Ephesus to see him before his last trip to Jerusalem, where he was attacked by zealous Jews and had to be sent to Rome as a prisoner (Acts 20:15 – 28:31).

continued, Ephesians Part 2

Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make copies of these notes to distribute them. The Fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspond­ence. Write to us:
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  1. Ephesus was one of the great five cities of the Roman Empire with Rome, Corinth, Antioch, and Alexandria.  It was a commercial, political, and religious center for all Asia Minor. Ephesus gets pride in being the place of the graves of St. John the Evangelist (who wrote his Gospel there), and of St. Timothy (its first bishop).

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