We turn now to the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, one of the greatest letters of the New Testament. Of all Paul's letters, this letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Romans have affected me most profoundly. Both set forth a systematic and rather exhaustive explanation of the whole Christian view of life and the world. Paul's other letters deal with specific problems, and they are helpful when we are faced with those same problems. But these two deal with the whole sweep of truth, the great canvas of God's painting of reality. Ephesians has changed my life again and again.
It was from this book that I learned how the body of Christ functions. When I was a young man fresh from seminary, these truths of the fourth chapter were strongly in my heart: the conviction that the ministry belongs to the saints; the pastor's task is to help people find their ministries and prepare them to function in them; the Christian's discovery of the excitement of living where they are. It was from this letter that I learned, as a young man, how to handle the sex drive that God had given me, as He has given it to all of us, and how to live properly in a sex-saturated society. Ephesians taught me profound truths about marriage and family life. This letter taught me how to understand the strange turbulence I often found in my own heart, the spiritual attacks to which I was subject, and how to deal with my fears, anxieties, and depressions—where these were coming from and what to do about them. So this is a great and practical letter, and I urge you to become familiar with it and to make it second nature to know the truth of Ephesians.
The letter to the Ephesians was written about AD 61 from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment there to the Christians in the Roman province of Asia, who were ordinary people—tradespeople, craftspeople, a few doctors and lawyers, and some politicians. Many of them were slaves. The letter is commonly called the Epistle to the Ephesians, but this title is not found in many of the ancient manuscripts. Most leave the address of these saints blank.
Many scholars believe that this is a circular letter that was written to many churches, probably those in the region of Ephesus. Some think it may have been addressed to the very churches to which Jesus had John address the letters in the book of Revelation, beginning with Ephesus and ending with Laodicea. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to a letter from Laodicea, and many believe that Ephesians is that letter. It was brought from Rome by the hand of Tychicus, to whom the apostle dictated this great treatise. Circulated from church to church and read in each one, it finally ended up in Ephesus, where it was labeled The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. As we gather from Paul's footnote at the end, it is really a letter addressed to all Christians everywhere. You can read it, therefore, as the letter of
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in [wherever you are], the faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).