I. Who is Paul?
a. His roots
i. Birthday - Paul was born around A.D. 10, a Jew in a family of Pharisees (Acts 23:6) of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5) in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3),
ii. Tarsus was a center of commerce and learning that embraced the Greek culture and Roman politics. It was a the capital city of Roman province of Cilicia and a city of prominence. Though there was a significant Jewish population it had a Greek character, being a place where the Greek language was spoken and Greek literature was cultivated.
iii. Birth name was Saul, perhaps after the first king of Israel, who was also a Benjaminite (1 Sm 11:15; Acts 13:21), but Acts 13:9 notes that he “was also called Paul.” He uses the Roman name Paul throughout his letters.
iv. His parents were religious Paul received knowledge of the Law and Prophets and the Hebrew and Aramaic languages (Acts 21:40; 22:2–3; 23:6; Gal 1:14; Phil 3:5–6). Tarsus, however, was not a Jewish city. Rather, This accounts for Paul’s familiarity with Greek (Acts 21:37), the language of the streets and shops of Tarsus.
v. Roman citizenship - Paul inherited from his father his Roman citizenship, which would prove to be of great value to Paul in his later life as he traveled with the gospel throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 16:37; 22:25–29; 23:27).
vi. Siblings - Scripture mentions only one sibling, a sister, in Acts 23:16.
1. “But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul.”
2. This was probably a lifesaving act for his uncle.
vii. His job - Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3).
1. He may have learned this trade from his father, or he may have selected it as a means of self-support, as was the custom of those in rabbinical training. Tarsus was well known for the goat’s-hair cloth called cilicium. It was the weaving of this cloth and the fashioning of it into tents, sails, awnings, and cloaks that gave Paul his economic independence
b. His Education
i. Paul was at least bi-lingual. He grew up speaking Hebrew in the home. He would have been well versed in Greek as that was the common language used in the trades. He probably also learned Aramaic.
ii. Studied under Gamaliel
1. We read the words of Paul about himself in Acts 22:3. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city(referring to Jerusalem), educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today.”
2. We don’t know exactly when Paul went to Jerusalem but it would have been between the ages of 13-20 that he would have undertaken formal studies.
3. At one point Paul calls himself a ‘Pharisee of Pharisees’ and in Galatians 1:14 we read, “…and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.”
4. It is clear that Paul was zealous for Judaism from his early years. There weren’t many Jews around who knew the scriptures as Paul did.
One interesting point of view that we don’t often think about is that Paul would probably have been studying under Gamaliel in Jerusalem about the time Jesus was a carpenter in Nazareth. While Jesus was choosing his disciples (who would later be Paul’s partners in ministry) Paul’s zealousness for Judaism was growing.
iii. His public presence
1. First contact - When do we have our first contact with Paul (Saul)?
a. Yes, it is at the stoning of Stephen.
b. Acts7:58 says, “When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
2. Zealot - Then we learn that in his zealousness he persecuted those who followed Christ.
3. Miraculously converted - I won’t take the time this morning to talk in detail about Paul’s conversion. But we know that he was miraculously converted while on the Damascus road intending to persecute more Christians.
a. Paul recognized that God had called him specifically to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, though he always began with his own people, the Jews.
b. His ministry and travels are well documented in scripture by Luke in Acts. We know that Paul had three different missionary journeys. If you Bible has a set of maps in the back you probably have one of these journeys.
c. [put map up at this point] It was on the second missionary journey that he spent time in Ephesus.
II. The city of Ephesus
a. Importance - Ephesus was considered the most important city of the Roman province of Asia, located on the western shore of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). There were was an estimated population of about 250,000 people.
b. Religion - Ephesus was steeped in Greek pagan religion. The temple of Diana was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
c. Ephesus was a wealthy city. The upper middle class had multi-storied homes. Some of the homes had mosaic floors and marble walls. Two excavated homes were found to have heated bathrooms. Many of the homes had running water. The theatre mentioned in Acts 19:29 has been excavated. It is 495 ft. in diameter and seated 24,000 people in three tiers. By all accounts Ephesus was a beautiful but spiritually needy city.
III. The purpose of the letter
Paul basically had two reasons for writing letters to the churches. The first reason was to encourage and teach the congregation to press on in their faith. The second reason was to deal with a problem present in the church. It could have been some form of heresy that was affecting the church. In either case Paul was not afraid to tackle an issue that had been brought to his attention.
The purpose is two-fold. The first part of Paul’s purpose is to highlight…
a. Reconciliation between God and man – Paul does this by emphasizing the revelation of the mystery of God’s will.
i. Listen to Ephesians 1:9-10 “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.“
ii. The result of God’s mystery revealed as Paul speaks of it is…
b. Unity in Christ
i. Chapters 4-5 particularly deal with the unity that the body of Christ, the church, is to have based on having received and believed the gospel.