Regarded by many as the most sublime of all ofthe apostle Paul's writings, the theme of this brief letter is God's eternal purpose in establishing and completing the universalChurch of Jesus Christ. Though drawn from variousbackgrounds and nationalities, themembers of this community have been called by God the Father, redeemed and forgiven through his Son, and incorporated into a fellowship that is sealed and directed by the divine, indwelling Spirit (this Trinitarian emphasis, in a lyrical mood, appears in 1.5,12,13; 2.18-20; 3.14,16,17; 4.4-6). In developing such luminous figures of the church as the body of Christ(1.23; 4.16), the building or temple of God (2.20-22), and the bride ofChrist (5.23-32), the author suggests the glorious privilege and destiny of believers as well as their duties.
Written while Paul was a prisoner (3.1; 4.1; 6.20), probably at about the same time as his Letter to the Colossians, Ephesians shares with that letter many of the same phrases and expressions. Its contents may be divided into two main sections, the first chiefly doctrinal (chs. 1-3), the second hortatory and practical (chs. 4-6). Because important early manuscripts and church fathers make no reference to Ephesus in 1.1, and because the letter contains no local allusions or personal greetings, most scholars regard it as an encyclical or "circular letter," of which copies were distributed by Tychicus (6 .21-22) to several churches in Asia Minor. When Paul's correspondence was collected into a corpus, a copy of this letter was probably secured from Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia, and the present title was then affixed.