Paul first visited Ephesus towards the end of his second missionary journey, leaving Priscilla and Aquila behind (Acts 18:18–19; AD 51). They likely evangelized in Ephesus, and Apollos made some disciples as well (cf. Acts 18:24–19:7). Paul returned (AD 54) to find this core of believers (Acts 19:1–7), evangelized further (Acts 19:8–10), and saw the hand of God at work (Acts 19:11–20; cf. 19:10, 20). Unbelievers there greatly opposed the gospel (Acts 19:21–41; 20:19), and Paul left shortly thereafter (Acts 20:1). Paul had lived Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). He bid a final farewell to the Ephesian elders at Miletus during later travels (Acts 20:17–38).
Paul wrote Ephesians during his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30–31; AD 61). He would later wrote 1 and 2 Timothy (AD 64 and 66), both obviously to Timothy who was in Ephesus at the time (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:18; 4:12). The apostle John later addressed Ephesus and six other churches (Revelation 2:1–7).
Tychicus, likely an Ephesian (cf. Acts 20:4), carried Ephesians (Ephesians 6:21–22) along with two letters written at the same time, Colossians (Colossians 4:7–8) and Philemon (cf. Colossians 4:9 with Philemon 10). The ministry of Tychicus was similar to that of Timothy (cf. 2 Timothy 4:12) and Titus (cf. Titus 3:12).
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul likely heard from Tychicus how the Ephesians were doing and of their angst for him in prison (cf. Ephesians 1:15; 3:1, 13; 6:21–22). Having known them for 6 or 7 years at this point, and having been with them for about half of that time, Paul wrote to encourage them in a very doctrinal and practical way—his suffering was for their glory and the promotion of the gospel (Ephesians 3:13, 6:19–20).
Overview of Ephesians
If I could boil Ephesians into a few words to say to us today, as simple as they may be, it would be this: You are in Christ—know what this means, and walk like Him.
What follows is an elaboration of this summary. I try to briefly capture the major thoughts of each passage in Ephesians, spoken to us today.
We wish all the faithful in Christ grace and peace (Ephesians 1:1–2) and especially bless the Father for all the salvation blessings that He gives to us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3–14). Knowing these blessings, we should pray for one another to better understand the hope, riches, and power that are to us through Christ (Ephesians 1:15–23). Whereas we were once dead in sins, God made us alive in Christ in order to know His saving grace both now and forever (Ephesians 2:1–10). As Gentiles, our new life resulted in peace with God and becoming joint-citizens with all who are in the household of God (Ephesians 2:11–21). This amazing display of God’s wisdom to the heavens is the basis whereby we pray for one another to be spiritually strengthened in order to understand more fully the love of Christ to us (Ephesians 3:1–21). Being united in salvation, we must walk together in spiritual unity, serve according to God’s grace to each of us, and thereby bring all to maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1–16). We therefore walk not as we were without Christ but with love, being like Him in every way (Ephesians 4:17–5:2). We walk not in darkness but wisely, as children of light who are filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:3–21). This Spirit-filled walk extends to how we relate as husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22–33), children and fathers (Ephesians 6:1–4), and servants and masters (Ephesians 6:5–9). We stay strong in the Lord by wearing His armor (Ephesians 6:10–20), encourage one another, and wish each other peace, love, faith, and grace (Ephesians 6:21–24).