The city of Ephesus, with a population of more than 250,000, was a major commercial center in New Testament times. It was a harbor on the Aegean Sea and situated along major trade routes. Located in modern-day Turkey, it was the provincial capital of Asia, mentioned in the same breath as Rome and Athens. Its Temple of Artemis, larger than the Parthenon, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world!
The apostle Paul first stopped in Ephesus, along with Priscilla and Aquila, on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). This was when the church there was planted. The city was home to many pagan religions, including emperor worship, and was known as a center for magic and the occult (Acts 19:13–20). Paul later returned and stayed over two years, using the city as a base for evangelistic and missionary endeavors (Acts 19:10). Timothy served there as pastor (1 Tim. 1:3).
Paul wrote his letter to “God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (v. 1) between A.D. 60–62. This is around the same time he wrote Colossians, when he was under house arrest in Rome—which is why they, along with Philippians and Philemon, are often described as the “prison epistles.” The church at Ephesus was the main audience, but it was also a letter that he intended to be circulated and read aloud at other churches in the region.
Now many centuries later, this letter continues to challenge, teach, and encourage believers. The book of Ephesians is our focus for this month’s devotional study. The epistle’s themes include salvation, grace, faith, reconciliation, unity, the church, God’s sovereignty and love, and how we are to live on the basis of all this.
As you begin this study of Ephesians, pray for openness to what God has to teach you this month. In fact, why not make this prayer a habit throughout the study? Pray for openness and teachability before reading each day’s Scripture passage. Then the Holy Spirit will be your guide and teacher as you encounter the Word’s truths!