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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

- Ephesians

by Gary Hampton

Walking In The

Lord's Way

A Class Commentary on Ephesians


Gary C. Hampton



Ephesus was a part of the Roman province of Asia. Charles Pfeiffer, in Baker's Bible Atlas, tells us "Four districts of western Asia MinorCaria, Lydia, Mysia and Phrygia were united as the Province of Asia. About 560 B. C., the city that was later to be called Ephesus was under the rule of Croesus, king of Lydia. In 546 B. C. it was conquered by Cyrus and became a part of the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great took it for the Greeks and Attalus II, king of Pergamos, willed it to the Roman Empire at his death. In 190, the Romans formed the province of Asia and made Ephesus a part of it. Much of the Roman communication with the East went through the city and ships travelling the coast both North and South bound would often stop there.

E. J. Banks, in his article in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, tells us Pergamos was the capital city of Asia, thus the center of Roman religion and government. However, Ephesus' location made it the commercial center and it was the home of the temple of the great local goddess, Diana. Seven times the temple was destroyed by fire. Each time it was rebuilt on a larger and more ornate scale than before. In New Testament times, it was 425 feet long and 220 feet wide. Its colonnade was 60 feet high and was supported by 127 pillars. Some of its columns were provided by the wealthy king Croesus and pilgrims from much of the oriental world brought their wealth to it. Eventually, it owned valuable lands, controlled the fisheries and became a banking center. Many beautiful art pieces were displayed in it, including paintings and statuary. Banks also says a large number of artisans were employed by the temple to make statues to sell to temple visitors.

How Christianity Came to Ephesus

New Testament Christianity may have come to the city as a result of the sermon on Pentecost ( Act_2:9 ), but it was Priscilla and Aquila, with Paul, who really began to take the city for Christ. In Act_16:6 , we learn Paul was forbidden to preach in Asia while he was on his second missionary journey. On his return trip, he did make a brief stop in the city and left Priscilla and Aquila there ( Act_18:18-21 ).

Apollos, an eloquent Jewish preacher from Alexandria who was mighty in the scriptures, arrived at Ephesus sometime after Paul's departure ( Act_18:24-25 ). As McGarvey notes, he would have had to be quite a student of God's word since he was wholly dependent upon his personal knowledge of the scriptures to make his arguments, while the apostles could gain inspired insights from the Holy Spirit. Apollos taught such truth that he caused people to follow Jesus. Unfortunately, he did not know of Christ's baptism until Aquila and Priscilla taught him "the way of God more perfectly."

Paul Preached At Ephesus

Remember, Paul had sailed from Ephesus to Caesarea, gone up to Jerusalem, down to Antioch, then all over Phrygia and Galatia strengthening churches. In Act_19:1-41 , he returned to Ephesus and had to teach some of Apollos' early converts the difference between John's baptism and Christ's. After which, they were baptized in Jesus' name ( Act_19:17 ). Paul, as was his custom, began by preaching in the synagogue for three months. When strong opposition arose, Paul and the disciples separated themselves and began a two year program of daily teaching in the school of Tyrannus and all Asia heard of the Lord Jesus ( Act_19:8-12 ). All of Asia was effected by the works going on in Ephesus.

Magic played a part in the worship of Diana. There were some mystic formulas inscribed on the base of the statue and monograms were manufactured to be sold as charms. After hearing the gospel, a large number came together and burned their books on magic ( Acts 19:13 20 ). Demetrius, and other members of the silversmith guild that made silver shrines for Diana, began a riot against the Christians. Paul's friends kept him from entering the theatre where they assembled and the town clerk was eventually able to disperse the crowd ( Act_19:21-41 ). Having completed three years of work, Paul then said farewell to the disciples and went into Macedonia ( Act_20:1 ; Act_20:31 ).

Further Inspired Communication

Later, Paul called the elders from Ephesus to Miletus and gave them instructions on overseeing the work of the church in their city ( Act_20:15-38 ). Paul charged Timothy with the job of opposing false teachers who began to work in Ephesus ( 1Ti_1:3 ; 1Ti_1:20 ). Christ addressed the church at Ephesus in Rev_2:17 .)

The letter to the Ephesians contains clear references showing Paul to be the author Ephesians (1:1; 3:1). Thus, serious challenge has never been made to Paul's authorship. Some early manuscripts, such as the Chester Beatty Papyrus, omit the phrase "that are at Ephesus." It is possible this was a circular letter sent from Paul by the hand of Tychicus to all the churches of Asia, as some suggest. However, it could also be that later copyists omitted Ephesus. Such would have allowed them to substitute the name of the group to whom they might read the letter. In either case, the Ephesian brethren would have heard its contents.

There is no doubt Paul was a prisoner when he wrote the epistle ( Eph_3:1 ; Eph_4:1 ; Eph_6:20 ). Since Tychicus bore this letter and the one to the Colossians, we believe they were written at about the same time ( Eph_6:21-22 ; Col_4:7-8 ). Likely, Paul was in his first Roman imprisonment and we can give it a date around A.D. 62.

Since there is no internal reference to actual happenings, Paul's purpose for writing cannot positively be found. Coffman notes, "Thirty times, the expression 'in Christ,' or its equivalent, is used, providing the most definitive and specific statement of the blessings 'in Christ' to be found in the NT." Such challenges us to greater thanksgiving and can prepare us to face life's storms with joy in our hearts.


Banks, E. J. "Ephesus." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Colossians, 1939 .

Carver, W. O. Ephesians The Glory of God in the Christian Calling. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1949.

Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians. Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1977.

Hendren, Bob. Chosen for Riches. Austin: SPC, 1978.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. An Introduction to the Pauline Epistles. Chicago: Moody Press, 1954.

Lipscomb, David. A Commentary On the New Testament Epistles. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1939.

McGarvey, J. W. A Commentary on Acts of Apostles. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., n.d.

Pfeiffer, Charles F. Baker's Bible Atlas. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.

Summers, Ray. Ephesians Pattern for Christian Living. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1960.

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