During his third missionary journey, Paul had spent two years in Ephesus. It was a large, wealthy city, with trade flourishing through its harbor on the Aegean Sea. With its magnificent temple for Artemis, and its commitment to the emperor cult, we learn in Acts 19 that believers in The Way were seen as a threat to both the civic and economic equilibrium of Ephesus. However, the church appears strong in the New Testament record, and it served as a base camp for evangelization of Asia Minor.
The letter to the church at Ephesus is, in many ways, the antithesis of the letters to Corinth and Galatia. It is distinctly not committed toward addressing a set of problems. It holds neither personal pleas nor intimate greetings, lending credence to the possibility that this letter was intended for all the churches in the region.
After the introduction and expression of gratitude for the Gospel, previous letters have trained us to expect the hammer to fall: but it never does. Instead, words like love, gift, riches, glory, and inheritance are repeated throughout these first three chapters, as Paul gushes over God’s workmanship. Notice how the Lord as the primary subject comes to the fore, as Paul observes the character and authority of Father, Son, and Spirit fulfilling their purposes.
One distinct point of celebration, or admiration, is the purpose of the church. Each of the three chapters leads to a conclusive statement about it: in chapter 1, the church is described as God’s creation, Christ’s “body.” In chapter 2, Paul presents an elaborate description of the church as “the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple to the Lord.” And the benediction at the end of chapter 3 prays “To Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus…”
As in Romans, there is so much here that it might be necessary to let it wash over you. Paul is beside himself with excitement; it feels like he wants his readers to be excited as well.
Our verse for this week is Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Ephesians 1 through 3. Now let’s read it!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.