The structure of the epistle

“Epistle” means “letter”. The Book is regarded as an epistle because it has the basic form of a letter for written communication between the sender and the receiver:  

Beginning of letter,       

    Writer—Paul (1:1)
    Receiver—disciples at Ephesus (1:1)
    Greetings—Grace and Peace (1:2)

End of letter, 

    Deliverer—Tychicus (6:21-22)                                       
    Final Blessings—Peace, love and grace (6:23-24)

As for the structure of the epistle, the first 3 chapters are concerned with the doctrine of the church. The last 3 chapters are the practical performance required of the church on earth.

The Prison Epistles
Four letters were written by Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. These four letters are called the “Prison Epistles of Paul”—The Epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Ephesians and Colossians are similar in content and structure. They both present the relationship of Christ to the invisible Church—Christ is the Head and the Church is Body. However, Colossians emphasizes the Head whereas Ephesians emphasizes the Body. Colossians was finished writing prior to Ephesians. After Paul finished writing this letter of Ephesians, he sent an Ephesian disciple Tychicus (Ephe 6:21) to bring the letter to Ephesus.

The City of Ephesus

Ephesus was located in Asia Minor and west of Turkey nowadays. It was the cultural, commercial as well as religious center in Asia during the rule of the Roman Empire. It was the capital of Asia Minor and was second to Rome. It was a harbour in Paul’s time. In Ephesus was found the Temple  of Diana, the largest Greek temple ever constructed at that time. Diana (Acts 19:24, 28, 34, 35) was the goddess of fertility. The worshippers of this idol wished to have more descendants for their families.

Paul’s establishment of the Church of Ephesus

The first time Paul entered the city of Ephesus was recorded in Acts 18:19. That was on his way returning to Jerusalem during his second missionary journey. He stayed there for a brief time arguing with the Jews in the synagogue and rushed to Jerusalem.(Acts 18:21-22)

The second time Paul visited the city again was on his third missionary journey. This time he stayed for 3 years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31) before he continued his journey to Macedonia (3 months preaching in Jewish synagogue plus 2 years debating in the school of Tyrannus, followed by the uproar over the issue around the goddess Diana, Acts 19:8-10). He established the Church of Ephesus during this time. Paul’s missionary experience in Ephesus during his third journey is recorded in Acts 19:1-20:1. On his way back to Jerusalem, he passed over Ephesus and summoned the church elders of Ephesus to him in Miletus and gave them a farewell speech.(Acts 20:17-38)

The church membership was mostly Gentiles. Apollo, a Jewish preacher of the Scripture, once preached in Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla, a couple and disciples of Paul, were there at the time of Apollo’s preaching in Ephesus.(Acts 18:24-28)

Other places in the N.T. that mention the Church of Ephesus include: I Cor. 16:8-9, where Paul said he would stay in Ephesus until Pentecost because he saw great missionary opportunity in the city; I Tim 1:3, where Paul asked Timothy to stay in church as overseer while he himself left for Macedonia (3rd journey?); Rev 2:1-7, where Christ charged John that a letter be written to the church of Ephesus regarding its merits and faults.