Some of you might just now be jumping on the pondering train. If so, there is a post that I wrote last year that may help you as you get started. Check out How To Ponder A Passage
This Week’s Passage: Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
One of the first things I remember learning about understanding Scripture is this: before you can know what a passage means you have to know what it meant. To translate in our context here – in order to understand what Ephesians means to us and apply it effectively to our lives, we have to understand what it meant when Paul wrote it to the Ephesians. In order to do this we have to understand as much as we can about who the Ephesians were and what their culture and context was. That is why I focused my pondering this week on 2 words: “in Ephesus”. In this post I’m going to try to give us a glimpse into who these people were and what their city was like.
Ephesus was one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire – second only to Rome.
It is located in what was called Asia Minor, which is present day Turkey
It had as many as 250,000 people living there which made it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world.
It was a big tourist center, largely because of its great Temple of Artemis , the Greek goddess of fertility (also known as the temple of Diana). The Temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. (It was built around 550 B.C.)
It was also a major trade center. As a port city it was the center of trade between Asia Minor and Italy.
Because of the aristocracy that lived in Ephesus and governed the city there was a lot of wealth . But there was also a lot of slavery.
It had a huge open air theater, which was capable of holding 25,000 spectators which was used initially for drama, but during later Roman times hosted gladiatorial combats on its stage.
Paul wasn’t able to travel to Ephesus until the end of his 2nd missionary journey (around A.D. 52). See Acts 18:19-20
Paul returned after his 3rd missionary journey (A.D. 53) and stayed 3 years – the longest time Paul ever spent in a city. See Acts 19
Ephesians is one of Paul’s prison epistles – written around A.D. 62 while he was under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16).
Ephesus was a city with a culture and spiritual climate that was not unlike our own today. Prosperous, cultured, and full of idol worship. This is why I think there is so much that we can learn from these 6 chapters.
Verse 1 is a verse that often gets overlooked. There was so much that could have been pondered and that I hope many of you did. (If so I hope you will take the time to share some of your thoughts.) For example, here are some of the other ponderable questions: 1) Who is Paul and what was going on in his life as he wrote? 2) What is an apostle? 3) How did Paul know that it was God’s will for him to be an apostle? 4) What is a saint? 5) Why did Paul consider the Ephesian saints to be faithful?
As you read through the book this past week you probably noticed that the first 3 chapters are largely doctrinal in nature and the last 3 chapters are primarily application oriented. As we work our way through the book this year don’t be fooled into thinking that this book is so familiar that nothing will be gained. My guess is that many of us have read it but never really pondered it. As I read through it I began to get excited about pondering a bunch of the passages – some of which are months away from getting to. My hope is that this book will not just become more familiar to us this year but that as God’s Word it will begin to dwell in us, take root in us, and transform us.
I’m just sayin’!
Next Week’s Passage to Ponder: Ephesians 1:2-3