To accurately understand the book of Ephesians, we must start with the ABCs: author, background, and context.
The apostle Paul is the author of Ephesians. Paul (formerly known as Saul) was a devout Jew. Soon after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Paul regularly persecuted Christians. During this time, God audibly spoke to Paul and he committed his life to spreading the good news of Jesus to all, and specifically to the Gentiles.
Paul lived from around AD 5 to AD 68. After his conversion around AD 33, Paul went on three different missionary trips, spreading the gospel and starting churches. After these three missionary journeys, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. From his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote the book of Ephesians around AD 60–62 as a letter to the believers in Ephesus.
Paul’s first, brief visit to Ephesus occurred on his second missionary journey (read Acts 18:18-22). Paul’s second visit to Ephesus was on his third missionary journey, which was much longer; he spent three years there (Acts 20:31). Acts 19 gives an account of what happened in Ephesus while Paul lived there.
Ephesus was one of the larger cities in the Roman Empire and was famous for the temple of the goddess Artemis. Artemis was a widely worshiped deity in the region of Asia, so much that the city’s economic survival depended upon the worship of Artemis. Silversmiths became wealthy selling mini-statues of Artemis. People from all over traveled to Ephesus to worship Artemis, which boosted the economy. Artemis was the goddess of sex, which led to sexual immorality within Ephesus. Sorcery and magic were also common practice within the city. God called Paul to Ephesus to build up a church that would be a light in a city of great darkness. At one point, Ephesus erupted in a riot due to people turning their back on Artemis and choosing to worship Jesus (Acts 19:23–41).
The book of Ephesians fits into the epistles (letters) section of the New Testament. The epistles include the books from Romans to Jude and were written after Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. At this point in history, the church of Jesus Christ had begun and was spreading. The epistles, including Ephesians, explain who Jesus is, what He did, and how to follow Him.
Ephesians is full of theological and doctrinal truth, as well as practical instruction. Chapters 1–3 of the book focus on the doctrinal truth of who we are in Christ, and chapters 4–6 focus on practical instruction for how we are to walk out our faith in Christ. Because God has blessed us with a position in Christ, we are moved to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ, due to His great love for us.
*Today, we need to make a correction regarding the Ephesian goddess, Artemis. In the content for today, she was mentioned as the goddess of sex. This is incorrect. She was actually a goddess who was more associated with childbirth and, unfortunately, had been sexualized over time. To learn more about Artemis' true identity, please read these articles from Dr. Sandra Glahn, who is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and one of our IF:Equip video contributors:
Part One: http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sandra_glahn/who_was_artemis_and_why_does_...
Part Two: http://blogs.bible.org/engage/sandra_glahn/who_was_artemis_and_why_does_...