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New Testament Survey: The Book Of Ephesians

Written By: Steve Shirley

The Book Of Ephesians


  • Paul (Eph 1:1)(Eph 3:1)
    (For more on Paul see: Survey: Biography Of Paul)
  • The early church fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius) and others agreed that Paul authored this book.
  • This is the most impersonal Epistle that Paul wrote. He says very little about himself.
  • Most agree that this was the 7th of the Epistles that Paul wrote.

The Stats:

  • Chapters: 6
  • Verses: 155

Date Written:

  • 60-62 A.D.

Place Written:

  • Rome (while in prison [Eph 3:1][Eph 4:1][Eph 6:20])
  • This was the first (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippeans) of what are often referred to as the “Prison Epistles” because they were written during Paul’s 1st imprisonment in Rome which lasted 2 years (Acts 28:30).
  • Out of the 155 verses in Ephesians, about half are also found in Colossians in varying degrees. Compare:
Eph 1:7 to Col 1:14 Eph 4:32 to Col 3:13
Eph 1:10 to Col 1:20 Eph 5:6-8 to Col 3:6-8
Eph 1:16 to Col 1:9 Eph 5:15-16 to Col 4:5
Eph 1:21 to Col 1:16 Eph 5:19 to Col 3:16
Eph 2:5 to Col 2:13 Eph 5:20-22 to Col 3:17-18
Eph 3:2 to Col 1:25 Eph 6:4 to Col 3:21
Eph 4:2-4 to Col 3:12-15 Eph 6:5-9 to Col 3:22-4:1
Eph 4:16 to Col 2:19 Eph 6:19-22 to Col 4:3-4
Eph 4:22-24 to Col 3:9-10 Eph 6:22 to Col 4:8
Eph 4:24-25 to Col 3:9  

Written To:

  • The Church at Ephesus (Ephesus is mentioned 17 times in the New Testament)
  • Some believe that Ephesians may have been what is called a “circular letter.” Those who hold to this viewpoint think that it may not have been addressed to Ephesus specifically, but rather, to several churches in the region. There are several reasons for this thinking:

1. The words “at (in) Ephesus” (Eph 1:1) are not found in the Codex Sinaiticus or Codex Vaticanus, which are two of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament that we have today.

2. There are no specific church problems addressed, nor are there any specific references to any people other than Tychicus (Eph 6:21). Considering the time Paul had previously spent in Ephesus (3 years during his 3rd missionary journey) this seems unusual if it was addressed specifically to Ephesus.

3. (Eph 1:15)(Eph 3:2)(Eph 6:30-31) make it sound as though Paul did not personally know his recipients. Some believe Paul may have been writing to the Laodiceans based on (Col 4:16). This “letter from Laodicea” would be lost unless it is referring to the letter we call Ephesians.

  • On the other hand, there are several good reasons to hold to the traditional view that the letter was to Ephesus.

1. The words “at (in) Ephesus” are found in the margins of all the oldest manuscripts and versions. In addition, most or all have the heading “To The Ephesians.”

2. No single ancient manuscript says “at Laodicea” in (Eph 1:1).

3. Since Ephesians and Colossians contain numerous identical passages, and were written at almost exactly the same time, why would Paul tell the Colossians and Laodiceans to exchange letters in (Col 4:16)?

4. Why would Paul send his greetings to the Laodiceans if he had just written them (Col 4:15)?

5. What Paul said in (Eph 1:15) doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t literally know anything of their faith. A direct parallel can be found in (Phile 5). Paul says nearly the same thing of Philemon, but Philemon was a convert of Paul (Phile 19).

6. Most of the early church fathers called this “The Epistle To The Ephesians.” They never considered the matter under discussion.

Key Verses:

A lot! (Eph 1:3-7,13-14)(Eph 2:1-10)(Eph 3:20)(Eph 4:4-6)(Eph 4:9-12,15)(Eph 4:22-32)(Eph 5:2-5,8,11,18)(Eph 5:21-33)(Eph 6:1-4)(Eph 6:10-20)


1. To encourage, strengthen, and mature its recipients.

2. To emphasize and explain how all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, make up “the church” and are one body in Christ (“make the two into one new man” Eph 2:15), and that Jesus is the head of this body.

3. To share with them the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (Chapters 1-3), and how they were responsible to walk them out (Eph 4:1), and practically apply them to their lives.

4. To emphasize again that salvation is by grace alone, and not by works.

About The City:

  • The Grecian city of Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). It was 3 miles east of the Aegean Sea, located near the mouth of the Cayster River, which emptied into the Aegean Sea. It lied almost exactly east of Athens and opposite the island of Samos.
  • The city stood upon the sloping sides, and at a base of two hills: the Prion and Coressus. It had a very good climate and the soil of the valley was unusually fertile.
  • Ephesus was a major commercial center and easily the most accessible city in Asia. It had highways which connected it with the chief cities of the province as well as a major man-made harbor.
  • Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the world in Paul’s time with about 250,000 to 300,000 people. Its inhabitants were known for being self-indulgent, extravagant, and worshipers of many gods and goddesses.
  • The most well known thing about Ephesus was its temple to Diana or Artemis, which had quite a history.
    • History records that the temple of Diana was destroyed by fire and rebuilt 7 times, each time on a larger and grander scale than before.
    • The temple which existed in Paul’s time had been rebuilt at an enormous cost after the previous one had been burned down in 355 B.C. by Herostratus on the night that Alexander The Great was born. It supposedly took 220 years to rebuild.
    • It was considered one of the “Seven Wonders Of The World.” Archaeological remains have shown that it had 10 steps leading to it, and was 425′ long by 220′ wide. It contained 127 pillars and had a roof that was 60′ high.
    • That temple was burned to the ground in 252 A.D. and never rebuilt.
    • While the temple of Diana was a place of worship, it was also a museum in which the best statues and most beautiful paintings were preserved.
    • Because the temple of Diana, and the worship of her was so significant in Ephesus, there was a large number of mini shrines which could be purchased by strangers to take on their journeys or set up in their homes.
      (The Bible says Paul put a dent in this trade with his teachings: Acts 19:23-27).
  • Ephesus was also home to the largest theatre (See: Acts 19:29-31) that was ever built by the Greeks. It could hold 25,000 to 30,000 people. It was 685′ long by 200′ wide, and open to the sky.
  • In addition, the city contained public baths, gymnasiums, and a library. Because of its strength, people also stored their money there.
  • As mentioned above, the harbor was man-made. The Cayster River contained a lot of silt, which continually had to be removed to keep the harbor open. We now have only partially covered remains of the city today because the silt from this river has covered what used to be Ephesus. The remains are now several miles inland as well, and the whole area is now totally desolate with the exception of a small Turkish village at Ayasaluk.

About The Church:

  • Paul visited Ephesus during his 2nd missionary journey, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. While he was there, he preached in the Jewish synagogue, but only stayed a short time during this visit (Acts 18:19-21). He left Priscilla and Aquila behind, and it is believed that they started the church at Ephesus soon after.
  • Paul returned to Ephesus during his 3rd missionary journey and stayed for three years (Acts 20:31)! The many miraculous things that occurred during these three years are recorded in (Acts Ch. 19). (Paul wrote 1st Corinthians near the end of these three years: 1 Cor 16:8, Acts 19:1).
  • During this time, the Gospel spread from Ephesus to all of Asia.
  • The church was made up of Jews and Gentiles (Acts 19:8-10).
  • The church at Ephesus is also mentioned in (Rev 2:1-7). Jesus commends them for their deeds, hard work, perseverance, endurance, and hating the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. However, he rebukes them for having lost their first love. He tells them to “repent, and do the first works.”
  • On his last journey to Jerusalem, Paul sailed by Ephesus and summoned the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him at Miletus. Here, he gave them final instructions and bid them farewell saying he would see them no more (Acts 20:18-35).

Special Emphasis:

  • At least three key words are found more in Ephesians than any other book in the New Testament:

Mystery: (Gr: “musterion”) 6 times || Fullness: (Gr: “pleroma”) 4 times || Redemption: (Gr: “apolutrosis”) 3 times

  • “Heavenly (Gr: “epouranios”) places” is used 5 times (Eph 1:3,20)(Eph 2:6)(Eph 3:10)(Eph 6:12 – “high” places in KJV). These words together are used nowhere else in the New Testament.
  • Paul used the words “love” (Gr: “agapao/agape”) (18 times), and “walk” (Gr: “peripateo”) (7 times) in Ephesians more than any other Epistle he wrote.
  • There is also an emphasis on “grace” (Gr: “charis”) (12 times).


  • The divisions are, broadly, four:

1. The apostolic greeting, 1:1-2.

2. Positional; the believer’s standing “in Christ” and “in the heavenlies.”

3. Walk and service, 4:1- 5:17.

4. The walk and warfare of the Spirit-filled believer, 5:18-6:24.

(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)

Copyright: © Steve Shirley