The letter to the Ephesians is often seen as a general letter addressed to Churches in Asia Minor. In the earliest manuscripts the name Ephesus does not appear. Very early tradition - around 150 AD - indicates that it was addressed to the Church in Laodicea. Based on Rev 3:14–22, however, the Church in Laodicea got severely criticized by the risen Christ.
There are many similarities between this letter and the letter to Colossians. For example:
- The teaching about Christ as the Head of the Body (Col 1:18; 2:19; Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23);
- The household rules (Col 3:18–4:2; Eph 5:22–6:9);
- Similar expressions (Col 1:16 and Eph 1:21; Col 1:27 and Eph 1:18).
It is assumed that the letter to the Colossians was written first and was a foundation for writing a better and more elaborate letter to the Ephesians.
Another problem is the authorship. Many contemporary scholar think that the letter was written by one of Paul’s disciples already after the death of the apostle, but the tradition of the early Church strongly points to Paul as the author of the letter.
The letter was addressed to Christian of pagan origin (Eph 2:11; 3:1. In Christ, they gain the same privilege like the Israel of the Old Testament. In Christ, the Jews and the Gentiles can worship the same God together.
It is difficult to establish the date of writing. Some indicate that perhaps around 61–63 AD.
In order to grasp fully the message of the letter we need to look at ancient cosmology. The universe was usually divided into three spheres:
- Heaven - the place where God reigns;
- Earth - a flat disk flowing on the waters;
- Hades - the realm of dead and demons.
The letter to the Ephesians has two spheres: heaven and earth (Eph 1:10; 3:15). How does it look like?
- The earth is in the center floating in the ‘air’;
- The earth is surrounded by different planets which circle around it;
- Above the earth is the sphere of heaven - a dwelling place of gods totally different from the dwelling place of humans;
- Between heaven and earth is a space where the souls and daemons dwell;
- The heaven and earth are separated from each other and between them is the sphere inhabited by evil spirit, which control and reign over human beings (see Eph 2:2; 6:12; 3:10);
- Above all of this - heaven and earth - is Christ the Lord sitting at the right hand of God.
- Christ destroys the dividing wall of enmity (Eph 2:14), frees the faithful from the influence of “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), and let us know the power and the love of God (Eph 3:14–21).
The letter is divided into four parts:
- Introduction 1:1–2;
- Theological part 1:3–3:21;
- Pastoral part 4:1–6:20;
- Conclusion 6:21–24
At the center of the letter is the teaching about the Church as the Body of Christ. The Church is:
- A unity of Jews and Gentiles (Eph 1:9–10);
- She is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph 2:20);
- She continues to grow (Eph 4:13);
- She is totally dependent on Christ as her Head (Eph 1:22) and her Source (Eph 4:11).
- Other images of the Church can be found in Eph 2:19–22);
- The Church is preaching the Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15) and struggles against spiritual forces that wants to keep humans in submission (Eph 6:12).
- Freedom from the forces of evil takes place in the sacrament of baptism as a consequence of faith (Eph 2:1–5.13). It is the beginning of a new life in Christ (Eph 2:6).