Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Ephesus, located in what is now Turkey, while he was a prisoner in Rome in around 62 AD. The economy of the large, cosmopolitan town was based on the worship of the Roman goddess Artemis whose temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Idol worship, prostitution, occult practices and money lending brought great wealth into the area. That was the climate in which God called Paul to plant churches and spread the gospel in and around the port city (Arthur, pg. 1987).
The epistle to the Ephesians can be divided into three parts. In chapters 1-3, Paul gives us a picture of our inheritance in Christ, God’s eternal plan for the mystery of the church, and how we are sealed by his Holy Spirit:
“In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:13-14 ESV).
After assuring believers of our riches in Christ in the first three chapters, in chapters 4-6:9 Paul gives instruction on how followers of Jesus should behave in the midst of the darkness of this world:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift” (4:1-7 ESV).
In chapter 6:10-20, Paul warns us that while we are called to walk in a way that provides an example to a lost and dying world, we will also face times of struggle and spiritual warfare. He assures us that God has not only sealed us with his Holy Spirit, but he also provides us with the covering of his armor, so that we are able to take a stand, and continue to stand with his supernatural strength to meet any challenge:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (6:10-20 ESV).
This series will continue with Part Three.
Arthur, Kay. Introduction to “Ephesians”. The New Inductive Study Bible: English Standard Version. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2001. Print.