Intro to Ephesians: A Prison Epistle
The Apostle Paul wrote 2/3 of the New Testament. His writings include: Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, 1&2 Thessalonians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and the early church attributed the book of Hebrews to him also. Hebrews is one book in the New Testament, which doesn't specifically state who the author is.
Of his 13, more likely 14, epistles, four of them were written while he was a prisoner in Rome. The four prison epistles are: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Internal evidence that Ephesians is a prison letter:
Ephesians 3:1: For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles –
Ephesians 4:1: I urge you, therefore, I the prisoner in the Lord, to live in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called.
Ephesians 6:20: ...for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak it boldly as I must.
Date: The date Ephesians was written is likely AD 60-62, during his Roman imprisonment.
Genre: just as music has various types of genre, the Bible does also. Various biblical literary genres include: narrative literature, prophetic, apocalyptic (Daniel & Revelation), and epistles.
Ephesians is an epistle; the word epistle simply means that it was written as a letter to communicate biblical truths to the early church.
In the New Testament, all four gospels and the book of Acts are narrative literature. Whereas, the gospels explain the advent of Jesus, the book of Acts tells the story of the acts of the apostles, and the growth of the early church against all the odds of the mighty Roman Empire. All other books in the New Testament, except the book of Revelation are considered epistles or letters, so that includes James, John, Peter, and Jude's writings also in addition to Paul's.
The reason all this is important is because spiritual truths are communicated slightly different when comparing narrative vs. epistle literature. For instance, in narrative literature, God's story is being told, whether it be Old or New Testament. Furthermore, within the unfolding of the story, God reveals deep spiritual truths.
Just a couple we have learned recently include:
(1). When God calls His people to do something and we write a "but" instead of an "and" into the script, in other words, we're contrary to His will, God will also write a "but," and in Jonah's case, the word says,
"Jonah 1:3 But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish:so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.Jonah 1:4...
.... But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
(2). When we studied the life of Gideon out of the book of Judge's, the story unfolded that Israel had been placed under the bondage of their enemy because of their disobedience towards God: does that sound familiar?
During this time, they were ravaged by the Midianites, and we found Gideon threshing wheat in a wine press. Well, you're not supposed to thresh wheat in a wine press. You're supposed to stomp grapes, but Gideon is cowering in fear; nevertheless, his name Gideon means "great warrior," and the angel of the Lord shows up and calls him a mighty man of valor. There are a lot of spiritual truths that could be brought out of this passage, but let's just mention this one: just as Israel's disobedience brought them under bondage to their enemy, many times, our disobedience, does the same to us. But it's important that we get a revelation about something right here: God sees something in you that you can't see. Many times, we're so busy hiding in the wine press, we never look up to realize that God has a plan to restore us, a plan of deliverance, and a plan where He let's us know that the way we see ourselves isn't the way He sees us. You need to know that you're precious in His eyes. I don't care how bad you may think you've failed Him. God loves you, He's committed to you, and He proved His part by sending His only begotten Son to die in your place (John 3:16). All He's asking from you and me is that we would believe Him at His word and keep our faith in His plan.
Epistles, on the other hand, are very doctrinal (instructive) in nature. The whole purpose they were written was to combat heretical teachings, instruct the believer in truth, and bring encouragement to persecuted Christians. Whereas, truth about God is drawn out from the movement and dialogue of Biblical narrative, when studying New Testament epistles, it must be understood that close attention to the thoughts, and even the individual words, can contain great spiritual truth when unpacked within their proper context.
Some examples of the importance of specific Bible words and how they can directly affect our understanding of the Bible are:
Elect- chosen out
Church- called out
Communion- common union
Purpose of Ephesians:
In many of Paul's letters, the purpose is of the letter is obvious because he often addresses openly the problems that the church is facing. In this letter, the specific concerns are a little more difficult to ascertain within the letter itself because there doesn't appear to be an obvious problem within the letter; however, if we review other portions of scripture, we begin to gain a glimpse of the Holy Spirit's purpose through Paul for this letter. Also, I believe that as we move forward, there will be an overarching theme reminding the reader that there is an eternal God with an eternal plan who is creating an eternal family. Ultimately, Paul's purpose is to make the Ephesians aware of that plan, who those people are, what they should look like, and their purposes for God's kingdom.
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound (to be fastened with chains) in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide...
(abide- to dwell or continue [its almost like he's saying, "I'm on my journey to Jerusalem to do God's will, and I don't know exactly what will happen, but I've been told by the Holy Spirit that I will be living in a new place called affliction])
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (he's preaching to preachers), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
He was concerned about wolves and false doctrine affecting Ephesus.
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars...
(We we're told the stars represented the "angels" of the churches in Revelation 1:20. The word aggelos is the Greek word for angel here. it can be translated as pastor or angel. The word literally means messenger. Personally, I believe that in a spiritual sense, churches have angels assigned to them; however, most people agree that the intent was that these things be written and communicated to the pastors of these churches; therefore, the idea would be that while churches probably do have angels assigned to them, the letters were physical letters John was instructed to write to these specific churches in Asia Minor, which, according to church tradition, he was the overseer or bishop of).
in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks
(other translations would use lamp stand, which is probably more accurate when you consider the way a lamp burns vs. a candle. A lamp can burn perpetually as long as it is cared for, wick trimmed and oil replenished (oil of the Holy Spirit); furthermore, both of these were duties of the high priest to keep the lamp stand (menorah) in the holy place burning brightly. A candlestick, on the other hand, would burn only for a short period of time; furthermore, we were told that the candlesticks or lamp stands represented the seven churches in Asia Minor in Revelation 1:20. The church, made up of individual born again believers are supposed to be the light of the world).
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil:and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
The commendation and correction to the church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation surrounds two main thoughts: (1) they refused to tolerate false apostles and false doctrine; with this is in mind, it appears that some 30-35 years later, when the book of Revelation was written, which was approximately AD 90-95, remember Ephesians was written by Paul approximately AD 61, the church of Ephesus had stayed true to to the apostle's charge to beware of false apostles. However, the condemnation our Lord gives in Revelation two is that "they have lost their first love."
We must be careful in our endeavor to protect and preserve the truth of God's word in our hearts that we don't become so cynical of everyone else that we lose our love towards them. We must strive to love with God's love for both the world and God's people, whether they've erred in the doctrine or not. I'm not saying that we should condone error; to the contrary, we should contradict error; nevertheless, we must love with our Master's love.
Interestingly, the Bible Knowledge commentary points out that the word love, either in its noun or adverb form is used 16 times in the book of Ephesians, which is 1/6 of the times Paul uses agape love in all his writings; with this in mind, it appears the purpose of the letter is to: instruct in proper doctrine, warn against false doctrine, and remind the people of God to love with the love of Christ. Remember agape love describes God's kind of love, which recognizes the value of the object being loved. God can see past all our failures and love us with His love. Phileo love, on the other hand, is a brotherly love, a fondness, it's the type of love that humans more often exhibit. All is fine until wronged; then that type of love becomes exhausted. God's love, when found in man is there because it's produced as a fruit of God from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
The environment and occultic religion of Ephesus.
The goddess Diana can be traced all the way back to Semiramis, which, according to extra- biblical findings was Nimrod's wife. The story of Nimrod, according to the Bible's testimony:
And Cush begat Nimrod:he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before (against the face) the Lord:wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
Some of the things to take notice of are: (1) Nimrod was a mighty hunter, (2) the Bible says he was before The Lord, but when you study the words and the context, you realize that the word before is describing the fact that he was against and in the face of God i.e. the Tower of Babel.
I wanted you to be aware of the fact that he was a mighty hunter because archaeological finds have the goddess Diana in pictures as a huntress with command over wild animals. And the story of Semiramis connects all the way to Diana this way.
Semiramis was married to Nimrod, and they were bringing the whole world together as one in opposition and defiance against God (this same Luciferian agenda continues today under the New World Order agenda). At some point Nimrod was killed, some say he was killed by Shem, who was one of Noah's righteous sons, but we don't have biblical evidence to support that; nevertheless, Nimrod was killed and the story goes that his body was ravaged by wild animals. She searched to recover his body parts and found everything, but his male member. I'm not trying to be graphic. I'm just trying to tell you the story.
Because she couldn't find that all important part, she began to erect poles all over the land; ultimately, through some "mystical" happening because of these occult symbols, in the land, she became pregnant for her son and the story gets really weird between them afterwards, so we won't go there, but her place as a god was preserved, and she began to be revered with the same attributes Nimrod previously had as a great hunter, hence, the pictures of Diana as a hunter and tamer of wild animals.
The mystery religions, which have been in existence since Babel, will finally be destroyed in the end when Jesus comes back to exact judgment on the nations and leaders that have raged against God (Psalm 2:1-5).
But these same mystery religions, which include every false religion instituted by Satan upon the earth that pull humanity away from the real Jesus, all started at Babel and spread South and West towards Egypt, through Asia Minor, into Rome and throughout Europe, and along this routed pathway can be found a strange occurrence that physically connects and gives validity to both the story of Nimrod and definitely, in my opinion, the God of the Bible.
What I mean is that in the land of Canaan, which is now the land called Israel, the bible tells us that there were Asherah poles all over. These poles are also referred to as the "groves" in the KJV. Furthermore, they were connected to the worship of the goddess Ashtoreth, which was the Canaanite version of Semiramis, who was known as Ishtar in the more modern Babylonian Empire, which existed long after Babel, as we know she is where our word Easter comes from, and she was also known as the Queen of Heaven as we discussed in the class about Personal vs. Biblical Convictions part 1.
In Egypt she was known as Isis, and her poles were called obelisks. Let's just take a moment to realize that these poles straddle the globe as we speak. there are 12 in Rome (one stands in front of the pope when he stands on his balcony, facing the crowd); also, our Washington monument is one. In Ephesus, she was Diana, but she also had other names in other places.
Diana of Ephesus
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
The world and false religion hates the truth because it exposes their error!
But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?
Have you ever noticed that when you expose false doctrine or the lies of religion to people that many times their first response is to hold tighter to the lie? Don't give up Christian there's a breakthrough on the way for the people that God is ministering to through you.
Paul's Trade as a Tentmaker
-- After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought:for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
1 Corinthians 9:1-19
Acts 21:35 - 22:30
And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city:and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
Chapter 22 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence:and he saith,)
The main point that I wanted to make here was that he spoke at least two languages.
Education and Training as a Pharisee
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
Gamaliel was a very well known teacher of the Jewish Law during his time. The idea that Paul learned under the tutelage of a teacher like Gamaliel points to the fact that he had been exposed to the highest level of education that a young Jewish man could have been exposed to-- all this was for the purpose of his preparation as a Pharisee, which was one half of the group known as the Sanhedrin, which were the religious rulers during Jesus' time, so for clarity, the Sanhedrin was comprised of both: Pharisees, which Paul was and Saducees, which didn't believe in the resurrection (Matt 3:7,16:1,16:6,16:11,16:12,22:23-34)
(actual occurrence took place in Acts 9. Here he's retelling the story) As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders:from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem:for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Stephen the Martyr
And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart:for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles. And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth:for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with throngs,
I've often wondered how Paul must have felt throughout his life, knowing that he had a big part to play in Stephen being stoned to death as a martyr for Jesus (Acts 7). When I consider what God accomplished through the Apostle Paul and the revelation God gave him about true righteousness, it makes me want to scream to the church, "Preacher! Teach your people that they're righteous through faith in Jesus and His cross. Christian! Learn who the Bible says you are in Christ. Quit walking around under a cloud of guilt because you used to be a drug addict and a fornicator. Paul was a murderer. Paul allowed a man of God to be stoned to death before his very eyes. Get over yourself already." Most scholars agree that he was probably the highest ranking Jewish leader there, and his consent allowed the stoning to commence. If Paul could be healed of that and accomplish the work he did for the kingdom of God, surely we can allow God to forgive us for our sins.
Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest:for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him:and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.-- On the morrow, because he would have known the certainty wherefore he was accused of the Jews, he loosed him from his bands, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down, and set him before them.
Paul's Roman citizenship helped him in many ways. In this passage and the one below, it allowed him to be released from prison.
But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates:and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.
"Because Paul had used his Roman right to appeal to Caesar’s tribunal, Agrippa and Festus can only refer him there with a letter specifying their own opinion. This appeal had earlier saved Paul’s life (25:3), and now it provides him free passage to Rome (19:21) and a public forum for the *gospel there." _ Bible Background Commentary.
His Trials for the Kingdom
2 Corinthians 11:22-28
Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
His Love for Jesus
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:but I follow after, if that I may apprehend (to seize or lay hold of) that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark (skopos-- the distant mark) for the prize (victor's award in the games) of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.