Ephesians 1:1-2 NIV
1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the Will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus,a the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Introduction of the Gospel at Ephesus
It is admitted by all that the gospel was introduced into Ephesus by the apostle Paul. He first preached there when on his way from Corinth to Jerusalem, about the year 54 A.D. Acts 18:19. On this visit Paul went into the synagogue, as was his usual custom, and preached to his own countrymen, but he does not appear to have preached publicly to the pagan. He was requested to remain longer with them, but he said he must, by all means, be in Jerusalem at the approaching feast - probably the Passover, Acts 18:21.
He promised, however, to visit them again if possible, and sailed from Ephesus to Jerusalem. Two persons had gone with Paul from Corinth - Priscilla and Aquila - whom he appears to have left at Ephesus, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26. During the absence of Paul there came to Ephesus a certain Jew, born in Alexandria, named Apollos, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, who had received the baptism of John, and who taught the doctrine that John had taught, Acts 18:24-25.
What was the precise nature of that doctrine it is now difficult to understand. It seems to have been in substance: (1) that repentance was necessary, (2) that baptism was to be performed, and (3) that the Messiah was about to appear.
Apollos, who had embraced this doctrine with zeal, was ready to defend it, and was in just the state of mind to welcome the news that the Messiah had come. Priscilla and Aquila instructed this zealous and talented man more fully in the doctrines of the Christian religion, and communicated to him the views which they had received from Paul, Acts 18:26. Paul, having gone to Jerusalem as he planned, returned again to Asia Minor, and taking in Phrygia and Galatia in his way, he revisited Ephesus, and remained there for about three years (Acts 18:23; Acts 19:1 ). It was during this time that the church was founded, which afterward became so prominent, and to which this Epistle was written.
The principal events in the life of Paul there were:
(1) His baptizing the twelve persons whom he found there, who were disciples of John; see notes at Acts 19:1-7.
(2) Paul went into the synagogue there and engaged in an earnest discussion with the Jews respecting the Messiah for about three months Acts 19:8-10.
(3) when many of the Jews opposed him, he left the synagogue and obtained a place to preach in, in the schoolroom of a man by the name of Tyrannus. In this place he continued to preach without trouble for two years and proclaimed the gospel, so that a large portion of the inhabitants had an opportunity to hear it.
(4) the cause of religion was greatly promoted by the miracles which Paul performed Acts 19:11-17.
(5) Paul remained there until his preaching excited great commotion, and he was finally driven away by the tumult which was excited by Demetrius, Acts 19:23-41.
At this time the gospel had secured such a hold on the people that there was danger that the Temple of Diana would be forsaken, and that all who were dependent upon the worship of Diana for a livelihood would be thrown out of employment. It is not probable that Paul visited Ephesus after this, unless it was after his first imprisonment at Rome. In his way from Macedonia to Jerusalem he came to Miletus, and sent for the elders of Ephesus and gave them his deeply-affecting, parting address, expecting to see them no more Acts 20:16.
Paul remained longer at Ephesus than he did at any other one place, preaching the gospel. He seems to have set himself deliberately to work to establish a congregation there, which would ultimately overthrow idolatry. Several reasons may have led him to depart so far from his usual plan by laboring so long in one place. One may have been that this was the principal seat of idolatry in the world at that time. The evident aim of Paul in his ministry was to reach the centers of influence and power. Hence, he mainly sought to preach the gospel in large cities, and thus it was that Antioch, and Ephesus, and Corinth, and Athens, and Philippi, and Rome, shared so largely in his labors.
Not ashamed of the gospel anywhere, Paul still sought mainly that its power should be felt where wealth, and learning, and genius, and talent were concentrated. The very places, therefore, where the most magnificent temples were erected to the gods, and where the worship of idols was celebrated with the most splendor and pomp, and where that worship was defended most strongly by the civil arm, were those in which the apostle sought first to preach the gospel.
Ephesus, therefore, as the most splendid seat of idolatry at that time in the whole pagan world, particularly attracted the attention of the apostle, and hence it was that he was willing to spend so large a part of his public life in that place. It may have been for this reason that John afterward made it his permanent home, and spent so many years there as the minister of the congregation which had been founded by Paul; see section
Another reason why Paul sought Ephesus as a field of labor may have been that it was at that time not only the principal seat of idolatry, but was a place of great importance in the civil affairs of the Roman empire. It was the residence of the Roman proconsul, and the seat of the courts of justice in Asia Minor, and, consequently, was a place to which there would be attracted a great amount of learning and talent. The apostle, therefore, seems to have been anxious that the full power of the gospel should be tried there, and that Ephesus should become as important as a center of influence in the Christian world as it had been in paganism and in civil affairs.