An epistle of Paul addressed, according to the title appearing on the ancient manuscripts, and according to ch 1:1 in many manuscripts, to Christian believers residing in the city of Ephesus, metropolis of the Roman province of Asia, and possibly intended also for other Christians in the neighbouring cities as well. However, since the titles are later additions, and since the words "at Ephesus" in ch 1:1 are lacking in 2 of the most ancient and respected manuscripts, the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus, and in the Chester Beatty Papyrus (P) as well, and since the epistle records no personal greetings, some have concluded that it was originally addressed to all Christian believers in the province of Asia, but that it was probably sent first to Ephesus, where the oldest and foremost church of that region was situated from which the gospel had spread to the outlying cities of the province (see Acts 19:10, 26). The status of Ephesus as the metropolis of Asia and the position of the Ephesian church as mother of the other churches in the province could account for the attachment of the expression "at Ephesus" in ch 1:1, and subsequently "To the Ephesians" as the title of the epistle. From the earliest times the Christian church has acknowledged the epistle as genuine, and thus as rightfully included in the NT canon. Among those who refer to it are Clement of Rome (c. a.d. 90) and Ignatius and Polycarp early in the 2nd cent. Paul is mentioned by name as author by a number of Christian writers of the 2nd cent. and onward.
During the course of his 3rd Missionary Journey Paul laboured in Ephesus for approximately 3 years (Acts 20:31), and may have personally evangelised some of the other cities of the province as well (Acts 19:10, 26). At the time of writing the epistle he was in prison, a fact to which reference is repeatedly made (Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), apparently at Rome during his first imprisonment there. For this reason Ephesians is commonly grouped with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, which were written during this same imprisonment (see Php 1:13, 14; Col 4:18; Phm 1:1, 9), which continued for 2 for 2 years or a little more (Acts 28:30), from a.d. 61 63. In Eph 6:21, 22 Tychicus is mentioned as the bearer of that epistle, and in Col 4:7, 8 as the bearer of that epistle, and when v 9 is taken with Phm 10, 12 it seems evident that Onesimus accompanied Tychicus on the same mission. Apparently the 3 letters were written and dispatched at the same time, perhaps in the year a.d. 62. The numerous and striking parallels between Ephesians and Colossians (Eph 1:1 cf. Col 1:1; 1:13 cf. 1:5; 2:16 cf. 1:4, 9; 2:12 cf. 1:21; 2:15 cf. 2:14; 2:16 cf. 1:22; 6:18 cf. 4:2; 6:21 cf. 4:7) tend to confirm still further the close relationship between the 2 epistles, in subject matter, as well as in point of time. In Col 4:16 Paul mentions a letter addressed to the church at Laodicea, which some have considered identical with the epistle commonly called Ephesians.
The central theme of Ephesians is the pre-eminent position of Christ in the divine provision for man's salvation, and the unity of believers in Him. In a cosmopolitan region such as the coast of Asia Minor bordering on the Aegean, where the Christian church doubtless included Gentiles of several different races in addition to the Jewish believers, there would be an especial need to develop the theme of unity in Christ as a means of binding men of diverse backgrounds together in Christian fellowship. Heresies that later developed in Roman Asia, such as the teachings of the Judaizers (2 Ti 1:15) and Docetism (see 1 Jn 4:1 3), both of which denied Christ His pre-eminent gospel role, may imply that already there were tendencies that Paul sought to check by his emphatic statement on the unique position of Christ in the faith of the believer. The phrase "in Christ," occurring 4 times in the first chapter (Eph 1:3, 10, 12, 20), sets the keynote of the book. In one way or another the Christian's close personal relationship with Christ is mentioned more than 20 times. The epistle may be considered a treatise on this subject.
After a brief salutation (Eph 1:1, 2) Paul develops the doctrinal theme of the book (chs 1:3 to 3:21) and then proceeds to show how a philosophy of life based on this exalted concept of unity in Christ should affect the believer in meeting the problems of life and church fellowship (chs 4:1 to 6:20). The letter closes with mention of the mission of Tychicus (ch 6:21, 22) and an apostolic benediction (vs. 23, 24). In the practical section (chs 4:1 to 6:20) Paul develops an appreciation for the gifts of the Spirit as a means of preserving Christian unity (ch 4:1 16), and then shows how true Christianity will transform the life of the individual believer (chs 4:17 to 5:21). Various home relationships--those of husband and wife, children and parents, servants and masters--are discussed at length, as the basis of unity in the church (chs 5:22 to 6:9). This section closes with a graphic portrayal of the spiritual armour, which alone will give the Christian victory in his contest with the devil (ch 6:10 20).
Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.