This December I had the privilege of reading some of John Calvin’s sermons on the book of Ephesians. I felt as if I was re-converted after every sermon. I loved Calvin’s (correct) emphasis on the utter hopelessness of man and the extreme, deep grace of God in drawing us out of the pit of hell and giving us new life. I was challenged by Calvin’s regular reminders to ask God to make me perceive my sins more, to throw myself once again on the mercy of Christ, to hate my sin more, and to aim more at holiness out of an abiding sense of profound gratitude to a good, majestic God.
Three of the earliest original manuscripts of the letter to the Ephesians do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in 1:1. This omission has led certain scholars to doubt that the letter was indeed intended for the believers in Ephesus although all the Ephesians manuscripts, including the three mentioned, have the superscription or heading: ΠΡΟΣ ΕΦΕΣΟΥΣ (“To the Ephesians”).
For many years the letter to the Ephesians has been regarded as a general epistle or letter, addressed to wide variety of churches and therefore containing very general instruction with no specific historical context or church issue in mind. This general nature was believed to have set Ephesians apart from the other New Testament letters for which it is plain that some or other issue in the church caused or facilitated the letter being written. For example, in Corinth there was sexual immorality in the church, lawsuits amongst believers, and a wrong understanding of what it meant to be spiritual that caused Paul to write 1 Corinthians. In Galatia it was the Judaizers promoting a false gospel of faith and circumcision, and so on.
Ephesians seemed to have no such particular issue, save perhaps the general challenge of Jewish and Gentile relations in Ephesians chapter 2.