II. The Occasion
Unlike the typical Pauline letter, Ephesians does not address any particular local conflict or issue. Also, no personal greetings appear at the end, as one would expect if Paul wrote this letter to people with whom he had spent three difficult years (Ac 19; 20:13-31).
Because the phrase “in Ephesus” is missing in some of the early copies of this epistle, scholars have proposed a different destination. That Ephesians is “the letter [to] Laodicea” was first proposed by Marcion in the second century, but the idea has little support today. It is more likely that the author intended this as a circulating letter. The contents are appropriate to a number of churches in Asia Minor, of which the church at Ephesus was typical. That an encyclical could not easily contain personal greetings might explain their absence.
At Ephesus, the center of Paul's Asian ministry on his third journey (Ac 19:10), the Christian faith had come face to face with black magic, cult religion, and the power of demons. There, too, it had been maligned by Jews (Ac 19:9), and later it was infiltrated with new doctrine offered through the “cunning and craftiness of men” (4:14) and was stripped of its ethical principles (4:17-5:20). Therefore, having seen how the “devil's schemes” (6:11) had affected his ministry in Ephesus, and having already encountered the “new religion” sweeping through the province of Asia, Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians to believers in Asia to remind them that no religion offered more than the Gospel, because in Christ every spiritual blessing had already become theirs.