Posted April 17, 2019
The epistle to the Ephesians sets forth the grand theme of the church's unity in Christ. Being one of Paul's writings during his confinement in Rome, it reflects the maturity and spiritual insight of one whom the Holy Spirit had prepared for such a task.
Paul addresses this epistle to the "saints that are at Ephesus" (Eph 1:1). There has been extensive debate as to whether this is correct. Some hold the opinion that this letter was not intended for the church at Ephesus, but for many churches in Asia Minor. William Hendriksen summarizes the arguments in his Bible Survey. We briefly present them here.
1. The words, "in Ephesus" (Eph. 1:1) are omitted in the best and most ancient manuscripts. Counterargument is: in all the ancient manuscripts (except one corruption by the heretic Marcion) the epistle has the title, "To the Ephesians." All the ancient versions have "in Ephesus" in verse one. Could it be possible that someone tampered with some of the most ancient manuscripts as Marcion did with the title?
2. In Ephesians 1:15 we read, "For this cause, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you." This would indicate that Paul did not know them personally, something which could not be said of the Ephesians, among whom Paul labored for more than two years. Counterargument: Paul simply refers to the fact that he heard about their faith. He hadn't been there for over five years; now he gladly affirms once again that he heard good things about their faith in Christ Jesus.
3. In every epistle addressed by Paul to a congregation with whom he was acquainted, there is reference to the fact that he was their spiritual father and that he had labored in their midst. This is lacking in this epistle. In fact, there are no intimate touches, nor is any personal information given. Counter argument: true, there is no such information, yet it can be explained if we consider two things. First, in all likelihood there were no pressing problems in the Ephesian church which necessitated Paul's making such references. Besides, he included in the letter a reference to Tychicus, the bearer of the letter, who would bring them up to date concerning his own personal affairs (Paul's condition) and comfort their hearts (Eph. 6:21, 22).
4. The epistle has no personal greetings. If it was intended for the Ephesians, whom Paul knew so well, would he not have included these? Counterargument: 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians are letters for churches which do not have such personal greetings either.
We view this letter as having been intended for the Ephesian congregation. The evidence warrants this conclusion. Besides this, the content of this letter is appropriate for such a congregation as the Ephesians, for they too had matured in the faith under the ministry of Paul. This is not to say that the letter was not intended to be read by others, for the writings of Paul were regularly used in the churches. It was addressed to the Ephesian church.