“Introduction to Ephesians,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Ephesians,” New Testament Study Guide
Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “Ephesians is an epistle for all the world, for Jew and Gentile, for husband and wife, for parent and child, for master and servant. It was the mind and will of God in Paul’s day; it is the voice of inspiration in our day; it is an epistle of universal appeal and application.
“… It contains some of Paul’s best writing, and is a document that deals with fundamentals, with the gospel of God in all its saving glory” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:489).
Studying the Epistle to the Ephesians can inspire you to set aside the things of this world and can help you grow spiritually and learn to more fully partake of the unity and fellowship of the Church.
The Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 1:1).
Paul stated that he was a prisoner at the time he wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). Ephesians may have been written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, around A.D. 60–62 (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Pauline Epistles,” scriptures.lds.org). During this time Paul was being held under house arrest, but he had the freedom to receive visitors and teach the gospel (see Acts 28:16–31).
In the King James Version of the Bible, Ephesians 1:1 states that the Epistle to the Ephesians is addressed “to the saints which are at Ephesus.” However, the earliest manuscripts of Ephesians do not contain the words “which are at Ephesus.” This suggests the possibility that Paul may not have written the epistle specifically to the Ephesians but to several congregations of Saints, including those in Ephesus. Ephesus served as Paul’s headquarters during his third missionary journey (see Acts 19:9–10; 20:31), and he had great affection for these people (see Acts 20:17, 34–38).
In this letter, Paul addressed gentile members of the Church (see Ephesians 2:11) who were perhaps recent converts (see Ephesians 1:15). He wrote to help develop the spirituality and testimonies of those who were already members. His main purposes were to help these converts grow in their spiritual knowledge of God and the Church (see Ephesians 1:15–18; 3:14–19); to promote unity, particularly between gentile and Jewish Saints (see Ephesians 2:11–22; 4:1–16; 5:19–6:9); and to encourage the Saints to withstand the powers of evil (see Ephesians 4:17–5:18; 6:10–18). Many Saints in Ephesus were living righteously enough to be sealed up to eternal life (see Ephesians 1:13; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:493–94).
Ephesians contains many teachings and ideas that are familiar to Latter-day Saints, including foreordination, the dispensation of the fulness of times, the Holy Spirit of Promise, the importance of prophets and apostles, the idea of one true and unified Church, and the various offices, callings, and functions within the organization of the Church. This letter also contains some of the most sublime teachings on the family that are found anywhere in scripture.
Ephesians 1:1–4:16. Paul writes of the Saints’ foreordination to receive the gospel; the dispensation of the fulness of times; sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise; salvation by grace; the unifying of gentile and Jewish Saints in the Church; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; the purpose of the Church; and the Church’s organization upon a foundation of prophets and apostles, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Paul teaches that God will gather all things together in Christ in the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Ephesians 4:17–6:24. Paul encourages the Saints to apply true doctrine in their daily lives. He encourages them to put off the old man (their former sins) and put on the new man they become through Christ. He gives counsel to wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, masters, and congregations. He encourages Saints to “put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11).