Introduction to Ephesians

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 20, 2005


This morning we’re going to take a journey through time and space … and no, it’s not to the Twilight Zone.  Today we start our journey through the book of Ephesus.

The little letter of Paul to the Ephesians may seem like a small book of the Bible, but it’s really quite an important part.  I’ve come to realize that we know more about the church at Ephesus than any other church in the New Testament.  We have a history from its earliest beginnings right on through to the last book of the Bible.

And so this morning we’re going to go through a journey of time, trying to lay the groundwork to understanding this most important of Biblical books.

Background of the city

Ephesus was a city located on the western coast of what was known as “Asia Minor”, or modern day Turkey. The city was founded around 1,000 BC.  It was a port city located at the mouth of a river and became an important trade center between Asia and the west. You can tell how important it was by how many people conquered it.  It was ruled over by the Cimmerians, then the Lydians, Persians, Greeks, and finally the Romans in Paul’s day.

Show maps of Ephesus… (2 slides)

The city was eventually abandoned in the 14th century when its harbor became filled with silt and was unusable.  Since 1863, there have been many excavations at Ephesus, uncovering many ancient buildings including the Temple of Artemis, the amphitheater, and various sculptures.

A history of Ephesus

1,000 BC Ephesus is founded.  (1 slide)

In ancient times, the most famous thing about Ephesus was the Temple of Artemis (also known as Diana), built in the 6th century BC.  The legend was that Artemis had fallen from heaven at Ephesus, and that’s why the Temple was built.  In its day, it was the largest structure in the world, and was the seventh of the seven wonders of the world. Archaeologists have also uncovered a theater that held 25,000 people. 

Show pictures of ancient Ephesus, temples, etc. … (4 slides)

At some point, a large colony of Jews developed in the city of Ephesus.

AD 30 Jesus’ Resurrection

33 Paul’s Conversion

45 Paul’s 1st Journey (Acts 13)

50 Paul’s 2nd Journey (Acts 15:36)

52 Paul briefly visits Ephesus for 1st time (Acts 18:19)

As Paul leaves some of his friends behind in Ephesus, a church begins to develop …

(Acts 18:19-28 NKJV)  And he came to Ephesus, and left them there (his friends Aquila and Priscilla); but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. {20} When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, {21} but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus. {22} And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. {23} After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. {24} Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. {25} This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. {26} So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. {27} And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; {28} for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

And so a small group has developed in Ephesus, being led by Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos.

53 Paul’s 3rd Journey (Acts 18:23)

Show map of Paul’s main cities …

53 Paul’s main ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19)

It’s at this point, that Paul settles down for awhile.  He will stay in Ephesus for a period of three years (Acts 20:31).  He will take the small group that has been meeting in Ephesus and disciple them.

(Acts 19 NKJV)  And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples {2} he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." {3} And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism." {4} Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." {5} When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. {6} And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. {7} Now the men were about twelve in all.

Jesus told His disciples that they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit before they could be effective witnesses.  Paul knows that these disciples need the same thing.

{8} And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. {9} But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. {10} And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. {11} Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, {12} so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. {13} Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." {14} Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. {15} And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" {16} Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. {17} This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. {18} And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. {19} Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. {20} So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

Jesus did some pretty amazing things in the life of Paul. Ephesus will serve as a “home base” for Paul as the gospel is spread throughout Asia Minor.

54 Nero becomes emperor of Rome

56 Paul writes 1Cor. from Ephesus

{Acts 19:21 NKJV} When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."

In Acts 19:22-20:1, we have the account of how Paul actually left the city of Ephesus.  Luke describes how one of the silversmiths who made little trinkets for the Temple of Artemis was all upset because Paul had been ruining his business.  There were so many people in Ephesus getting saved that nobody bought his little silver “Artemis-bobble-head-dolls”.  He stirred up the city and almost caused a riot.  And before he could get killed, Paul was persuaded by the church to go ahead and take his trip to Macedonia

56 Paul leaves Ephesus for Macedonia (Acts 20:1)

56 Paul visits with the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:17) on his way back to Jerusalem.

(Acts 20:17-38 NKJV)  From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. {18} And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, {19} "serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; {20} "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, {21} "testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

You get a summary of Paul’s ministry – living “among” the people, serving with humility, tears, trials, keeping back nothing that was helpful, and encouraging people to repent and to trust Jesus.

{22} "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, {23} "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. {24} "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. {25} "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. {26} "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. {27} "For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. {28} "Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. {29} "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. {30} "Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Serious warnings.

{31} "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. {32} "So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. {33} "I have coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. {34} "Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. {35} "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

Some preachers use this verse to take an offering.  Paul used it so remind them that he had been giving and not receiving…

{36} And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. {37} Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, {38} sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.

Do you get the idea that Paul loved these people?

56 Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27)

60 Paul arrives in Rome under arrest

Paul will write several letters during this period of imprisonment from Rome.  He will write Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.

60 Paul writes “Ephesians” from Rome. 

It’s been five years since Paul has been in Ephesus. The church is about ten years old.

As you’ve seen, the church has experienced quite a lot.  They’ve seen the moving of the Holy Spirit.  They’ve seen miracles.  They’ve seen people won to Jesus and turn from their wicked lifestyles.  They’ve seen the gospel spread through their entire area.  We might think that they’ve grown a lot as a church, but they’ve still got lots of growing to do.

And so Paul writes them a letter about what’s important for their growth.

Here’s your homework for this week – read the letter to the Ephesians.

Key words:  As you’re reading, look for and circle two key words found throughout the book. 

The first word is “grace”, a word we usually connect to Ephesus.  Grace is what God has done for us, the gifts He has given to us, things He has done freely and without our deserving it. We are saved by grace.  We are saved because Jesus died on a cross to pay for our sins, even though we didn’t deserve it.

The second word is “love”.  I was surprised to find that this word is found even more times in Ephesians than “grace”.  I believe it is one of the keys to seeing how this letter fits together.

The Outline:  Sit – Walk – Stand

This is the classic way of looking at the book of Ephesians, made famous by the Chinese theologian Watchman Nee.  The words follow the order of the book:

Sit:  Chapters 1-3 talk about our relationship with Christ.  We are to learn to “sit” in the heavenlies.
Walk:  Chapters 4-5 talk about our “walk”, how we are to follow Christ.  This involves learning how to get along with one another with instructions for family life, work, and all kinds of relationships.
Stand:  Chapter 6 talks about how we are to “stand” against the devil and the attacks he brings.

This is a common order in many of Paul’s epistles.  There is a reason for this order.  This is the order of grace.

Some people want to start out learning to “stand” against the devil.  But when they haven’t gotten the connection with Jesus correct, they will find themselves fighting Satan by themselves, and that never works.

Others want to jump into the “walk” and learn how to relate to others.  But learning to “submit” to others isn’t a fun or easy thing to do.  We need to learn how to first “submit” to Jesus first, and then our relationships with others get much easier.

And so the order in our lives is to sit-walk-stand.

We need to learn first to “sit” down and understand our magnificent Jesus and the relationship we have with Him.
Then we learn to “walk”, to follow Him and live like Him.
Which leads us to successfully be able to “stand” against the devil in the time of difficulty.


There is a story about two people who wanted to immigrate to America. They scraped up all their money to buy two tickets on an ocean liner headed for New York.  With their last bit of money, they were able to buy enough bread and cheese to live on for the two week journey across the ocean.  For the first couple of days, the bread and cheese were okay.  But by the tenth day, the bread was getting pretty hard and the cheese was starting to mould.

Every day they would take walks out on the deck and wander by the dining room where they would watch the other passengers lining up and the huge buffet tables filled with all sorts of incredible foods.

Finally, they approached one of the cabin stewards and begged if there was any way they could perhaps work to earn enough to buy maybe one meal up in the dining room.  But to their surprise, they found out that all their meals were paid for with the price of their tickets.  If they had paid attention when they bought their tickets, they could have spent the entire trip in the dining room feasting on roast beef instead of cheese and crackers.

As we work through the book of Ephesians, we’re going to start by learning to “sit”, by learning about all the things that came with that ticket to heaven we’re holding in our hands.

But this isn’t where the story about the Ephesians ends.  In a way, it’s only halfway complete.  There’s much more ahead …

64 Nero burns Rome and blames the Christians

65? Timothy becomes pastor at Ephesus

It is thought that Paul makes one last trip to Ephesus, makes Timothy pastor of church in Ephesus, then from Rome writes 1Timothy to this young pastor at Ephesus, letters about how to pastor the church at Ephesus.

67 Paul writes a second letter to Timothy at Ephesus.

If you want extra credit, read 1&2Timothy.

67 Paul martyred

68 Nero dies

70 Jerusalem destroyed

85 John writes his gospel while in Ephesus

By this time John the apostle has settled down in Ephesus.

90 John writes his letters, 1-3John from Ephesus

95 John writes Revelation

John has been exiled to the island of Patmos, about 45 miles west of Ephesus.  Jesus shows up and not only tells John about the future, but includes seven letters, including one especially for the church at Ephesus.

97 Timothy dies

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells us that Timothy died after being beaten with clubs by a crowd in Ephesus.

100 John dies at Ephesus

It is told that in his last years, John was confined to a cot, and whenever he would have visitors, his common phrase he would repeat over and over was: “My little children, love one another”.  You see it in his last letters:

(1 John 4:7 NKJV)  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

Show map of Patmos

Perhaps one of the last things written to the church at Ephesus was that letter that Jesus dictated to John on the island of Patmos in the book of Revelation, written 30 years after Paul had written his letter to the Ephesians…

(Rev 2:1-7 NKJV)  "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: {2} "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; {3} "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

They were a good church.  They did good things.  They kept serving the Lord. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders about false teachers (Acts 20), and it seems they had taken his warning seriously.

{4} "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Isn’t this interesting, considering how John had been making it a point to tell folks in the last years of his life, “My little children, love one another”?  I believe John was very clued in to what the people needed.  They had lost their passion for God and for one another.

It’s kind of sad when you realize that Paul had also been trying to teach them about the importance of love.  In all of Paul’s letters, he uses forms of the word “love” (Greek, agape) 107 times.  Yet 19 of them are in this little six chapter letter.

Back in the 70’s a phrase you’d hear Christians say was that they had “lost their first love”.  But Jesus doesn’t say they had “lost” their first love, He says they had “left” their first love.  If you “lose” something, you don’t know where it is or how to get it back.  But if you’ve “left” something, you know right where it is.  You have the ability to get it back.  And Jesus tells us how to get it back.

{5} "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place; unless you repent. {6} "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. {7} "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."'

Have you experienced that dangerous place where you don’t love the Lord as much as you once did?  Have you come to the place where it is no longer exciting to sit and talk with someone about who Jesus is and what He’s doing in your life?

The most important thing that you can I can do in our life is to love God (Mat. 22:36-38).

Do you believe that?

Jesus tells the church to do three things:

Do you remember what it was like to be so in love with Jesus?
If there are things in your life that have caused you to walk away from Jesus, things in your life that have crowded out your time with the Lord, then it’s time to turn around.
(Lam 3:40 NKJV)  Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD;
do (or, “re-do”) the first works
Seek Him.  Trust Him.  Serve Him.
What kinds of things did you used to do back when you loved Him so much?  Go back and start doing those things again.

The supremacy of love

Whether you are a new Christian, one in the middle, or one near the end, you can’t escape it.  You shouldn’t escape it.