On Ephesus and Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

(excerpts from In The Same Way)

Ephesus was planted by Paul himself (Timothy would later come along to minister to it) and was later pastored by no less than the beloved apostle John.  It was also very likely that Mary—Jesus’ mom—probably lived out her life in Ephesus as well since she was now part of the surrogate family established with the apostle John when Jesus died at the cross.

Ephesus would receive the greatest attention from the writers of the New Testament as eight epistles would be addressed to it or to someone associated with it.  These would include Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations (where it would be addressed directly by Jesus).  At least two more epistles (Colossians and Philemon) would pass through it and probably have been read as well.  That is more than a third of all the books written in the New Testament—a possible 10 out of 27 books.

Ephesians is a theological masterpiece in the same category as Romans and Galatians but has somehow suffered in their shadow. Romans and Galatians trumpet justification by faith and grace—the rallying cry of Evangelicals since the Reformation—making them easy favorites. Because of that emphasis, the theological value of Ephesians is measured and reduced to where it echoes those two earlier epistles. Usually it is only remembered for the “saved by grace” passage in chapter 2. Because of this, some would suggest that it was not written by Paul at all because it does not highlight his justification by grace theme. But written almost 10 years after Romans and Galatians (early 50s; at the latest 53 C.E.), Paul must have matured in ways that could not be contained by the justification and grace paradigm.

Another way of putting it, Romans and Galatians were Paul’s masteral theses while Ephesians was his doctoral dissertation. Ephesians is Paul in his maturity which represents his insight into the cosmic agenda of the One who sits on the throne. Talking from the perspective of the heavenly realms, he catches a glimpse of God’s wonderful agenda that was hidden and is now revealed. Justification and grace, while being essential elements to the gospel of salvation, are only subsets of the bigger theme of Ephesians which echoes Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom of God.