The four letters Paul wrote while in prison at Rome include Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians.
These four books of the Bible are known as the "Prison Epistles."
Some say this was meant to be a circular letter, going to various churches in the Asian region, but didn't occur.
According the Illustrated bible Handbook, the probable dates of the writings of these books of the New Testament put them in this order: James, Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. Notice they do not appear in our King James Version
in that order.
The Theme: The epistle emphasizes the living church being one with Christ, He is the Head of the body of
believers; He is the Chief Corner Stone of his building; He is the Bridegroom of His bride. The
church is a living organism; it is not an institution. Salvation by grace through faith is Paul's
The apostle taught that Gentile and Jewish believers are one in Christ. He used the agape,
"to love" nineteen times in this letter.
Ephesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia, which is modern Turkey. In ancient times, the city was known as "the Landing Place" because of its seaport and gateway to Asia. Its population was apporximately 340,000.
Ephesus was noted for the Great Temple of Diana (Artemis), an open-air theatre seating 25,000 and the shrine of Serapis (an Egyptian divinity. The temple was four times the size of the Parthenon of Athens. Famous Ephesus had rich culture-Oriental religion, Greek philosophy, Roman government, and worldwide commerce.
Tradesmen and souvenir makers, as well as providing food and lodging, all depended on the temple trade. In addition, the temple served as a treasury, a bank where kings, cities, and individuals made deposits and drew loans.
[Resources: Shepherd's Notes, Illustrated Bible Handbook by Lawrence O. Richards, The MacArthur Bible Handbook by John MacArthur, Liberty Bible Commentary by Jerry Falwell]
Here's an outline for Ephesians given in The MacArthur Bible Handbook:I. Salutation (1:1-2)
II. God's Purpose for the Church (1:3-3:13)
A. Predestination in Christ
B. Redemption in Christ
C. Inheritance in Christ
D. Resources in Christ
E. New Life in Christ
F. Unity in Christ
III. God's Fullness for the Church (3:14-21)
IV. God's Plan for Faithful Living in the Church (4:1-6)
V. God's Son Endows and Builds the Church (4:7-16)
VI. God's Pattern and Principles for Members of the Church (4:17-32)
VII. God's Standards for Faithfulness in the Church (5:1-21)
A. Walking in Love
B. Living in Light
C. Walking in Wisdom and Sobriety
D. Filled with God's Spirit
VIII. God's Standard for Authority and Submission in the Church (5:22-6:9)
A. Husbands and Wives
B. Parents and Children
C. Employers and Employees
IX. God's Provision for His Children's Spiritual Battles (6:10-17)
A. The Believer's Warfare
B. The Believer's Armor
X. God's Appeal for Prayer in the Church (6:18-20)
XI. Benediction (6:21-24)
Certainly Paul wrote to this church at Ephesus, a specific congregation, but let's think of it as a letter written from God to us believers in our present time. Then consider the question, "What is it God wants to say to me?"
Now that we have a little background, we will be ready to go treasure hunting tomorrow. Put on your old clothes and bring a spade, rather the Bible, ready to dig in.