The Book Of Ephesians – Part I

by Ed Urzi

The Biblical book that we know today as “Ephesians” first began as a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church that met together in the ancient city of Ephesus. This letter (along with the Biblical books of Philippians, Colossians and Philemon) was written by Paul sometime around the year 61 AD while he was under arrest in the city of Rome (see Colossians 4:1). The city of Ephesus was located in what is now the modern-day country of Turkey and you can find out what life was like there at that time by taking a quick look over here.

As with some other New Testament books (like Romans, for example), God’s message to the Ephesians through Paul’s letter follows a pretty basic format. The first part of this letter contains a doctrinal section that features teachings that are designed to help give people the right understanding about important subjects like God, Jesus, humanity and the church. This section begins in Ephesians chapter one and continues right on through to the end of chapter three. This portion is then followed by the practical section of Ephesians, which covers chapters four, five and six. The practical section of Ephesians talks about how to apply the teachings of the first three chapters and put them into daily use.

In writing this letter to the Christian community in Ephesus, Paul begins by sharing his deep appreciation and gratitude to God for all the good things that He has provided through Jesus…

“Dear Christian friends at Ephesus, ever loyal to the Lord: This is Paul writing to you, chosen by God to be Jesus Christ’s messenger. May his blessings and peace be yours, sent to you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every blessing in heaven because we belong to Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-3).

While it may seem strange to those of us living in the 21st century, it was the custom of first century writers to place their name at the beginning of a letter rather than at the end of a letter as we usually do today. In keeping with the tradition of that time, Paul also identified himself as the author right at the start of this letter.

As a commissioned representative for God (or “apostle”) who was personally selected by Jesus Himself (see Acts 9:1-15), Paul first made sure to establish his authority to say the things that he is about to write: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…” (Ephesians 1:1 NIV). In a sense, Paul is saying to his friends at Ephesus, I’m not doing this on my own. I don’t have this position because I’m skillful or talented or because the other apostles picked me- I am Jesus’ representative by the will of God.

And look at what he says by the will of God…

“Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault-we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” (Ephesians 1:4-5).

This portion of Scripture tells us that you were in the mind of God before your parents ever got together to conceive you or even before your parents were even born. In fact, this Scripture tells us that God had you in mind before the universe and every galaxy, every star and every planet ever came into existence. You see, you didn’t choose God- He chose you. God had a blueprint and a specific genetic line designed to produce you before time began. Because of this, every Christian can legitimately substitute the word “me” for the word “us” in these verses like this…

“Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose (me) to be his very own through what Christ would do for (me); he decided then to make (me) holy in his eyes, without a single fault-we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt (me) into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for (me). And he did this because he wanted to!”

Psalm 139:14-18 talks a little more about this subject when it says…

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV).

Now it can sometimes be difficult to really believe these Scriptures, especially during those times when we feel like we’re not fitting in. For example, if things like the circumstances of our birth or our physical limitations or our social standing don’t meet the expectations of other people, then it can be easy to think that God somehow made a mistake in His plan for us. But the Bible clearly tells us that there are no mistakes in God’s plan. God knew that you would be here in this time and in this place long before you, your parents, their parents, or anyone else ever existed. Not only that, God made the decision before anything else to adopt you into His family through what Jesus did on the cross.

So whenever you’re feeling like your life is not everything that you’d hoped it would be, you should remember that this life is only a small part of your existence and that things are going to be very different for you in the future. It might also be helpful to remember the encouragement of 1 Corinthians 2:9…

“…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (NLT).