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Bible Commentaries

Derickson's Notes on Selected BooksDerickson on Selected Books

- Ephesians

by Stanley L. Derickson

Mr. D’s Notes on Ephesians

Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D.

Copyright 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God’s work and I don’t want anyone to profit from it in a material way.


Most authors hold Ephesians as the best and most illustrative book written by Paul. It sets the stage for his other writings. It is the best of his writings in its content relating to the work of Christ and the church that was the outgrowth of Christ’s work.

Deffinbaugh calls it the "Rolls Royce of the epistles and further states "" F. F. Bruce, noted New Testament scholar, calls Ephesians "the quintessence of Paulinism." C. H. Dodd called Ephesians "the crown of Paulinism.""

AUTHOR: Paul is named as the author in verse one. This was not questioned until the liberal men of yesteryear decided against Pauline authorship, but most others over the centuries have accepted his authorship without question.

PLACE OF WRITING: Paul seems to have been in prison in Rome at the time of writing. Many believe that Colossians was also written at the same time due to their similarities. If you aren’t aware of the similarities take a few minutes and read through both books quickly and it will become quite evident.

RECIPIENTS: The "saints which are at Ephesus" is the commonly accepted position, though some have suggested that it was a letter specifically to Laodicea that was copied several times and the city changed to fit those that would receive it.

I have included a lengthy quote at the end of this file from Barnes listing some of the pros and cons of the line of thinking. Even if it is true, the letter was to Ephesus, whether there were other letters or not, nor does it change the fact that the text is Scripture.

Deffinbaugh tells us that there are only three older manuscripts that omit the phrase "at Ephesus" while all others contain the phrase. The fact that these are the oldest of those we have indicate to some scholars that they would be the more correct, however many disagree with this logic.

He goes on to suggest that this isn’t the first letter to the Ephesians, that in 3:1-3 Paul mentions a previous letter to the Ephesians. The problem is that if this is not to the Ephesians, neither is the previous one (actually verse four should be included).

Herrick mentions of the missing words "First, while many manuscripts and early versions have the words "in Ephesus" ... they do not appear in some very important and early manuscripts; Sinaiticus (a), Vaticanus (B), p46 and 424c do not contain "in Ephesus." Second, that they were most likely not there in the original is further confirmed when we realize that several of the Fathers did not have them in their copies either. Origen (ca.185-254) did not have them and Basil (ca. 330-79) said they were lacking in the earliest manuscripts known to him. Marcion (ca. 140), the heretic, referred to Ephesians as the letter sent "to the Laodiceans" which probably indicates that he did not have the words in his copy either."

LOCATION: Ephesus was a city where Paul had probably spent more of his time than any other place. In the book of Acts we find that he was there a couple of years at least. His time in Ephesus is recorded in Acts eighteen and nineteen. It is logical that he would have come to know many people there both lost and saved.

He would have also, most likely, have grown to love some of the believers there after spending so much time with them.

It also is logical to deduce that the believers at Ephesus were better trained in the things of the Lord having had the apostle with them for an extended period of time. It might be deduced that the people in their lost state were so decadent that he needed to spend a lot of time there teaching so that he could bring them out of their paganism.

The city was the center for worship of the goddess Diana; thus, paganism would have had a strong hold on many of the citizens. In fact this book seems to be a call to them to remember their base beginnings and to glory in the grace that God had shed upon them when He called them unto their salvation.

This may be why Paul spent so much time there. He always went to the population centers so that he could establish a church that could reach the many people coming to town to trade. He knew this to be one of the largest idol centers and would have wanted a strong church present to confront the evil of Diana.

Barnes describes the city thusly: " Ephesus was a celebrated city of Ionia in Asia Minor, and was about 40 miles south of Smyrna, and near the mouth of the river Cayster. The river, though inferior in beauty to the Meander, which flows south of it, waters a fertile vale of the ancient Ionia. Ionia was the most beautiful and fertile part of Asia Minor; was settled almost wholly by Greek colonies; and embosomed Pergamos, Smyrna, Ephesus, and Miletus."

Barnes quotes another "The climate of Ionia is represented as remarkably mild, and the air as pure and sweet, and this region became early celebrated for everything that constitutes softness and effeminacy in life. Its people were distinguished for amiableness and refinement of manners; and also for luxury, for music and dancing, and for the seductive arts that lead to vicious indulgence. Numerous festivals occupied them at home, or attracted them to neighbouring cities, where the men appeared in magnificent habits, and the women in all the elegance of female ornament, and with all the desire of pleasure.-- Anachar."

The city had little of importance other than the temple so decayed with time into nothingness. Other cities that relied on trade survived much longer.

Barnes quotes others concerning the temple. "That for which the city was most celebrated was the temple of Diana. This temple was 425 feet in length, and 220 in breadth. It was encompassed by 127 pillars, each 60 feet in height, which were presented by as many kings. Some of those pillars, it is said, are yet to be seen in the mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople, having been removed there when the church of St. Sophia was erected. These, however, were the pillars that constituted a part of the temple after it had been burned and was repaired, though it is probable that the same pillars were retained in the second temple which had constituted the glory of the first. All the provinces of Asia Minor contributed to the erection of this splendid temple, and two hundred years were consumed in building it. This temple was set on fire by a man named Herostratus, who, when put to the torture, confessed that his only motive was to immortalize his name. The general assembly of the states of Ionia passed a decree to devote his name to oblivion; but the fact of the decree has only served to perpetuate it. Cicer. De Nat. Deor. 2, 27. Plutarch. Life of Alex. Comp. Anachar. vi. 189. The whole of the edifice was consumed, except the four walls and some of the columns. It was, however, rebuilt, with the same magnificence as before, and was regarded as one of the wonders of the world. It is now in utter ruin. After the temple had been repeatedly pillaged by the barbarians, Justinian removed the columns to adorn the church of St. Sophia at Constantinople. The place where it stood can now be identified certainly, if at all, only by the marshy spot on which it was erected, and by the prodigious arches raised above as a foundation. The vaults formed by them compose a sort of labyrinth, and the water is knee-deep beneath. There is not an apartment entire; but thick walls, shafts of columns, and fragments of every kind, are scattered around in confusion. Ency. Geog. ii. 273, 274."

The city does not exist today, other than a small village by the name of Ayasaluk which is near the original site.

The church at Ephesus is not mentioned until Revelation when John is told to address a letter to them in Revelation 2:1-7. The letter mentions that they had left their first love. The apostle Paul seems to drive home the doctrine of that first love - Christ - so if John recorded that they had left that love, there must have been some strong draw from other resources to separate them from following God closely.

It does mention in Revelation that they still hate evil, which would most likely indicate the idolatry that still surrounded them. This would indicate that the draw was not idolatry but some other worldly matter. Most suggest that it was a rich and opulent city, so general worldliness may be the culprit.

Barnes tells us that John went to Ephesus and spent a large amount of time there as well. Paul had Timothy there for a time also. There must have been some strong needs at this church for such high powered men of God. Barnes bases his comments of John on tradition, which is not inspired but it comes from historical "church" information so may well be true.

Gill says of the city, "The city of Ephesus is, by Pliny {a}, called the other light of Asia; Miletus was one, and Ephesus the other: it was the metropolis of the lesser Asia, and one of the twelve cities of Ionia, and the first and chief of them: it is said to be built by the Amazons {b}: it was famous for the magnificent temple of Diana; and the inhabitants of it were very much given to superstition and idolatry, and even to devilish arts, Acts 19:19. It abounded with orators and philosophers, and men of great wisdom and learning {c}; and was formerly a very rich, trading, flourishing city, but now a village, and a poor desolate place; it retains the name of Efeso, though the Turks call it Aia Salik."

Easton mentions that the temple of Diana also had a theater where the typical fighting between men and animals went on. The arena could seat fifty thousand people for these festivities. Not only a seat of idolatry but also a seat of inhumanity - what a place for a strong church. Paul certainly knew where to plant churches!

PURPOSE: The purpose seems to emphasize the mystery of, as well as the unity of the church with a little love mixed in. Constable suggests that Paul saw the beginnings of what the Apostle John had revealed to him by Christ, that they were leaving their first love.

Gill sees a little more purpose in the work. "The occasion of it was the foresight the apostle had of false teachers that would spring up in this church, after his death, and spread their pernicious

doctrines, and draw away disciples after them, and do great mischief in the church; wherefore the design of this epistle is to establish the saints in the doctrines of the Gospel, that so they might not be carried away with the errors of the wicked: the subject matter of it is most excellent; it treats of the most sublime doctrines of grace, of divine predestination, and eternal election, of redemption by Christ, and of peace and pardon by his blood, of conversion by the power of efficacious grace, and of salvation by the free grace of God, in opposition to works: it also very largely treats of the nature and usefulness of the Gospel ministry, and of gifts qualifying for it, and of the several duties of religion incumbent on Christians; and the method which is used is exceeding apt and beautiful, for the apostle first begins with the doctrines of the Gospel, which he distinctly handles and explains, and then proceeds to enforce the duties belonging to men, both as men and Christians."

Herrick suggests the following relating to the purpose of the book. "Though the specific purpose of the book is difficult to nail down precisely, certain theological and ethical themes play an important role. Some include: (1) the trinitarian and gracious nature of salvation (1:3-14; 2:1-10); prayer for spiritual understanding, power, and transformation (1:15-23; 3:14-21), the nature of the church as the unification of Jew and Gentile in one "new man" (2:11-22); positional and practical unity in the church (4:1-6); the purpose for spiritual gifts (4:7-16), personal and corporate holiness (4:17-5:14); the husband-wife relationship (5:22-33) and the spiritual warfare the church must engage in as it opposes Satan and his demons (6:10-18). The central organizing theological idea in Ephesians is that through Christ’s atoning work God has mightily brought about the church-a new humanity, i.e., the unification of Jew and Gentile in one new man-for the praise of his glory and as a testimony to the principalities and powers of His multi-colored wisdom."

KEY PHRASE: "In Christ" and "In Him"

Deffinbaugh suggests some special characteristics of the book. One of the characteristics is that it is the "waterloo of biblical commentators" and explains it thusly. "Ephesians is one of those books which, like the God of whom it speaks, is beyond the grasp of the finite minds of men."

It crosses my mind that if God sent the Bible as His message to man, that it is understandable to man. Yes, there are some deep thoughts and doctrines contained within, but I don’t believe for a moment that God would send us a message we can’t grasp.

I won’t dwell on his other characteristics. They seem to me to be more for sermonizing than useful in this work.

I believe that Stedman knew the importance of this letter. I would like to quote a section from one of his sermons. After challenging his congregation to read the epistle every week as they studied through the Word, he says this. "Let me share with you the experience of another person in this respect. This is from the introduction to a book by Dr. John McKay, for many years the president of Princeton University: I can never forget that the reading of this Pauline letter when I was a boy in my teens exercised a more decisive influence upon my thought and imagination than was ever wrought upon me before or since by the perusal of any piece of literature. The romance of the part played by Jesus Christ in making my personal salvation possible, and in mediating God’s cosmic plan, so set my spirit aflame that I laid aside, in all ecstasy of delight, Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo which I happened to be reading at the time. That was my encounter with the Cosmic Christ. The Christ who was, and is, became the passion of my life. I have to admit without shame or reserve that as a result of that encounter I have been unable to think of my own life or the life of mankind or the life of the cosmos apart from Jesus Christ. He came to me and challenged me in the writings of St. Paul. I responded. The years that have followed have been but a footnote to that encounter. So I would suggest that, if you feel the need for change in your own life and for deepening your relationship with our Lord, you would do well to expose yourself in a very personal way to these teachings from the letter to the Ephesians."

I trust that you will find this study of use in your life. I have always been partial to the book especially the truths relating to the church and its purpose and ministry found in chapter four. So much of this passage has not been found to be useful to the church over the centuries. Rather the church has seen fit to set up its own ideas of "government" and personally, I believe this has limited the work and outreach of the church as a whole.


Barnes on the recipients of the book:

"(1.) The testimony of Marcion, a heretic of the second century, who affirms that it was sent to the church in Laodicea, and that instead of the reading (Ephesians 1:1) "in Ephesus," in the copy which he had it was, "in Laodicea." But the opinion of Marcion is now regarded as of little weight. It is admitted that he was in the habit of altering the Greek text to suit his own views.


"EPHESIANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 2

"Continuation of Notes for Verse 1. Note 2 Verse at end of this note.

"(2.) The principal objection to the opinion that it was written to the church at Ephesus, is found in certain internal marks, and particularly in the want of any allusion to the fact that Paul had ever been there, or to anything that particularly related to the church there. This difficulty comprises several particulars:

"(a.) Paul spent nearly three years in Ephesus, and was engaged there in deeply interest transactions and occurrences. He had founded the church, ordained its elders, taught them the doctrines which they held, and had at last been persecuted there and driven away. If the epistle was written to them, it is remarkable that there is in the epistle no allusion to any one of these facts or circumstances. This is the more remarkable, as it was his usual custom to allude to the events which had occurred in the churches which he had founded, (see the epistles to the Corinthians and Philippians,) and as on two other occasions at least he makes direct allusion to these transactions at Ephesus. See Acts 20:18-35 1 Corinthians 15:32.

"(b.) In the other epistles which Paul wrote, it was his custom to salute a large number of persons by name; but in this epistle there is no salutation of any kind. There is a general invocation of "peace to the brethren," (Ephesians 6:23,) but no mention of an individual by name. There is not even an allusion to the "elders" whom, with so much affection, he had addressed at Miletus, (Acts 20:1-38,) and to whom he had given so solemn a charge. This is the more remarkable, as in this place he had spent three years in preaching the gospel, and must have been acquainted with all the leading members in the church. To the church at Rome, which he had never visited when he wrote his epistle to the Romans, he sends a large number of salutations, (Romans 16:1-27;) to the church at Ephesus, where he had spent a longer time than in any other place, he sends none.

"(3.) The name of Timothy does not occur in the epistle. This is remarkable, because Paul had left him there with a special charge, (1 Timothy 1:3,) and if he was still there, it is singular that no allusion is made to him, and no salutation sent to him. If he had left Ephesus, and had gone to Rome to meet Paul as he requested, (2 Timothy 4:9,) it is remarkable that Paul did not join his name with his own in sending the epistle to the church, or at least allude to the fact that he had arrived. This is the more remarkable, because in the epistles to the Philippians, Colossians 1:1-29 and 2 Thessalonians, the name of Timothy is joined with that of Paul at, the commencement of the epistle.

"(d.) Paul speaks of the persons to whom this epistle was sent, as if he had not been with them, or at least in a manner which is hardly conceivable on the supposition that he had been the founder of the church. Thus, in Ephesians 1:15-16, he says, "Wherefore also after I heard of your faith in Christ Jesus," etc. But this circumstance is not conclusive. Paul may have been told of the continuance of their faith, and of their growing love and zeal, and he may have alluded to that in this passage.

"(e.) Another circumstance on which some reliance has been placed, is the statement in Ephesians 3:1-2, "For this cause, I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to youward," etc. It is argued (see Michaelis) that this is not language which would have been employed by one who had founded the church, and with whom they were all acquainted. He would not have spoken in a manner implying any doubt whether they had ever heard of him and his labours in the ministry on account of the Gentiles. Such are the considerations relied on to show that the epistle could not have been written to the Ephesians.

"On the other hand, there is proof of a very strong character that it was written to them. That proof is the following:--

"1. The common reading in Ephesians 1:1, "To the saints which are in Ephesus." It is true, as we have seen, that this reading has been called in question. Mill says that it is omitted by Basil, (Lib. 2. Adversus Eunomium,) as he says, "on the testimony of the fathers and of ancient copies." Griesbach marks it with the sign om., denoting that it was omitted by some, but that in his judgment it is to be retained. It is found in the Vulgate, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Ethiopic in Walton’s Polyglott. Rosenmuller remarks that "most of the ancient codices, and all the ancient versions, retain the word." To my mind this fact is conclusive. The testimony of Marcion is admitted to be of almost no authority; and as to the testimony of Basil, it is only one against the testimony of all the ancients, and is at best negative in its character. See the passage from Basil, quoted in Hug’s Introduction.

"2. A slight circumstance may be adverted to as throwing light incidentally on this question. This epistle was sent by Tychicus, Ephesians 6:21. The epistle to the Colossians was also sent from Rome by the same messenger, Colossians 4:7. Now there is a strong improbability in the opinion held by Michaelis, Koppe, and others, that this was a circular letter, sent to the churches at large, or that different copies were prepared, and the name Ephesus inserted in one, and Laodicea in another, etc. The improbability is this, that the apostle would at the same time send such a circular letter to several of the churches, and a special letter to the church at Colosse. What claim had that church to special notice? What pre-eminence had it over the church at Ephesus? And why should he send them a letter bearing so strong a resemblance to that addressed to the other churches, when the same letter would have suited the church at Colosse as well as the one which was actually sent to them; for there is a nearer resemblance between these two epistles than any other two portions of the Bible. Besides, in 2 Timothy 4:12, Paul says that he had sent "Tychicus to Ephesus;" and what is more natural than that, at that time, he sent this epistle by him?

"3. There is the utter want of evidence from Mss. or versions, that this epistle was sent to Laodicea, or to any other church, except Ephesus. Not a Ms. has been found having the name Laodicea in Ephesians 1:1; and not one which omits the words "in Ephesus." If it had been sent to another church, or if it had been a circular letter addressed to no particular church, it is scarcely credible that this could have occurred.

"These considerations make it plain to me that this epistle was addressed, as it purports to have been, to the church in Ephesus. I confess myself wholly unable, however, to explain the remarkable circumstances that Paul does not refer to his former residence there; that he alludes to none of his troubles or his triumphs; that he makes no mention of the "elders," and salutes no one by name; and that throughout he addresses them as if they were to him personally unknown. In this respect it is unlike all the other epistles which he ever wrote, and all which we should have expected from a man in such circumstances. May it not be accounted for from this very fact, that an attempt to specify individuals where so many were known, would protract the epistle to an unreasonable length? There is, indeed, one supposition suggested by Dr. Macknight, which may possibly explain to some extent the remarkable circumstances above referred to. It is that a direction may have been given by Paul to Tychicus, by whom he sent the letter, to send a copy of it to the Laodiceans, with an order to them to communicate it to the Colossians. In such a case every thing local would be designedly omitted, and the epistle would be of as general a character as possible. This is, however, mere conjecture, and does not remove the whole of the difficulty.

"The rest of the material for this note is continued in note for Ephesians 1:2 due to space limitations for note."

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