The vision of Ephesians is that in Christ, Jews and Gentiles have been unified into a single household. The letter seeks to encourage its recipients to live this out in practice. The first half of the book lays out the theology that lies behind Paul's vision of unity, exploring in particular the way in which the Church is the body of Christ. The second half discusses in more detail what this might look like in practice. Ephesians and Colossians are often recognised to be companion books, as their message is very similar.
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. (Ephesians 1.3–4)
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2.8–10)
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6.10–11)
Paul is probably the best–known of all the early Christians. Before encountering Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was a zealous Pharisee who sought to maintain the purity of Judaism. After his experience on the Damascus road, he turned his zeal to proclaiming Jesus Christ among the Gentiles. This brought him into conflict with some other early Christians, not least Peter, who thought that followers of Jesus should convert to Judaism. He travelled around the Roman Empire (though primarily in Asia Minor – modern-day Turkey – and Greece) proclaiming the good news and founding communities of Christians as he went. He also wrote a large number of letters, 13 of which are preserved in the New Testament. Ephesians is traditionally be thought to be one of these.
The theme of Ephesians – Christian unity in Christ – is a common one both in the first century and today. The challenge, then as now, is how to live out the gospel’s message of unity with those who are very different from you.
There will be some names you will not know; don’t worry if you can’t place them all. The key ones are given below.
Ephesus, Asia Minor
Gentiles, Gospel, idols