From An Introduction to the New Testament by D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo
Paul was in prison. He was either in Rome, Caesarea, or Ephesus.
Carson/Moo believe the evidence favors Rome. Paul probably wrote this letter during his first imprisonment in Rome. Luke was with him in Rome, as well as Aristarchus.
It is probable that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were written from the same place.
This letter was a “circular” and was meant to be passed along from city to city.
Likely written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome near the end of his life in the early 60s AD.
Because of the lack of personal touches and reference to specific situations, this letter was likely written to be some kind of circular. But this is debated.
The inscription is “to Ephesus”, but this doesn’t appear in some important early manuscripts.
Paul spent a lot of time in Ephesus and he personally evangelized there. So why did he write a letter that doesn’t refer to specific problems in the church?
Paul wrote this letter after he wrote Colossians, and he develops more of his theology in Ephesians.
It is likely that Paul wrote this letter to the church in Ephesus and asked Tychicus to deliver it to the various house churches in the immediate region as a circular letter.
This letter is not “occasional” as other letters from Paul; he is not writing to address a specific situation on a specific occasion.
It is written with a more general tone, developing foundational theological concepts, and could be called a “tractate letter” with the purpose of developing certain theological ideas without a specific church in mind.
N.A. Dahl rejects this view, and states, “It belongs to a type of Greek letters — genuine and spurious — which substitute for a public speech rather than for private conversation.”
What is the occasion for this public speech?
Possible tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians? Paul is trying to secure unity.
Instructing Gentile converts in important aspects of their new faith?
An attempt to set out some of the greatest truths for which the early Christians stood?
Gentile believers are primarily in view
Paul thought his readers needed to be exhorted to pursue unity and a distinctively Christian ethic.
There is an emphasis on cosmic reconciliation in Christ.
An effort to give Paul’s readers a distinctively Christian identity.
The Contribution of Ephesians:
The letter begins with a section putting strong emphasis on the divine action in bringing salvation.
God chose the believers before the creation of the world (1:4)
Their salvation did not take place because they earned it but because God planned it, a truth that is otherwise expressed in terms of predestination that is linked with God’s will and pleasure (1:5) and again with his plan (1:14).
This opening also includes references to sonship through Christ, redemption through his blood, and sealing with the Holy Spirit (1:5, 7, 13).
Christ’s saving work is stressed in the opening
This emphasis persists throughout the letter. Who Christ is and what he has done for us is at the heart of the Christian way.
It is he who brings about the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in the church in the notable section on the breaking down of hostility and the making of peace between them (2:11-22).
Christ “himself is our peace” (2:14). This is more than the overcoming of human hostility. Part of Christ’s work is “to bring unity to all things in heave and on earth under Christ” (1:10).
The powers in the heavenly realms are to know “the manifold wisdom of God” through the church (3:10).
There is an importance in Christ’s saving work that we cannot fathom, and there is an importance in the very existence of the church that we are not able fully to comprehend.
We must know the love of Christ
Paul exhorts them to be “rooted and established in love” and to be able to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (3:17-19).
The word “agape” occurs more often in this book than any other in the NT except 1 Corinthians and 1 John.
The reader sees the wonderful thing that Christian love is and the importance of living in love in a world that knows so little of it.
The church is a “holy temple in the Lord,” a building in which Christ is “the chief cornerstone” and in which “God lives by his Spirit” (2:20-22).
Church members are both “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (2:19; cf. 1:5), a household that derives its name from the Father and that has members in heaven as well as on earth (3:14-15).
The brining of Gentiles as well as Jews into membership of the one body is explained as a mystery (3:4-6), a deep and hidden truth that none of us could have worked out but that has now been revealed by God.
There is a unity that believers should strive to preserve (4:3); indeed, Paul draws attention to a whole series of unities: including one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father, one body and one hope, one faith, one baptism (4:4-6), even though there are diverse gifts of apostles, prophets, and others in the church (4:11-13).
Clearly, Paul wants his readers to catch the splendid vision of one church, thoroughly united in the Lord, though it contains members of various races and is equipped by God to render significant service in the world.
Emphasis on living lives in conformity with the salvation that God has given believers.
The kind of life the Gentiles live is contrasted with the new life believers live (4:17-5:21); the darkness of the old way is set over against the light there is in the Lord (5:8).
This has important entailments for specific groups — wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters (5:22-6:9).
While wives are subject to their husbands, Paul has much more to say about the obligations marriage lays on husbands: they are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church — which, at the least, must mean self-sacrificially and for their good. Such love prevails over other ties, such as those that previously bound a man to his parents.
The section on the Christian’s armor is a further incentive to wholehearted Christian service as well, as a reminder that there is full provision for those who engage in Christian service (6:10-18).
OVERALL — this letter emphasizes the supreme place of God, who brings salvation despite the unworthiness of sinners. Nor can we overlook the greatness of Christ or the fact that the church, his body, occupies an important place in God’s working out of his great purpose.