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Ephesian Headquarters (1)

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Ephesian Headquarters (1) Introduction
Ephesian Headquarters (2) Corinthian Correspondence .. Previous Letter .. 1 Corinthians
Ephesian Headquarters (3) 1 Corinthians (cont.)
Ephesian Headquarters (4) Galatians
Ephesian Headquarters (5) Prison .. Philippians .. Philemon 
Ephesian Headquarters (6) Intermediate Visit to Corinth .. 2 Corinthians 10–13
Ephesian Headquarters (7) Summary Chart #3









The Road to Ephesus

Upon the conclusion of the Jerusalem Conference, and when the Antioch episode had run its course, Paul proceeded toward Ephesus, the major commercial, cultural and administrative center of the province of Asia, in western Asia Minor (what today would be part of Turkey).


We have here an example of trying to “connect the dots,” where explicit evidence from the letters is lacking.

 It is possible, indeed probable, that Paul planned a return visit through Galatia, on his way to Ephesus. Even though Galatia was not on a direct route to Ephesus, he may have decided on the detour, reasoning that he would be as close to Galatia on this trip as he would ever be again, before he left for Rome, and thence to Spain. The visit to Galatia would give him the opportunity to commence work there on the collection, as well as to deal with questions which might have arisen in the Galatian churches since the founding visit. A return visit is plausibly, though not certainly, grounded in Galatians 4:13, “You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first [literally, the former time, suggesting the possibility of a latter visit as well] announced the gospel to you.”

Click on Return Visit for further discussion.

Romans 1:13   I want you to know . . . that I have often intended to come to you . . .

The return visit would have been the occasion for pronouncements previous to the letter: Galatians 1:9; 5:21.

The Founding Visit in Ephesus

Regrettably, we have no direct information in the letters about the founding of this congregation. That Paul was founder is in this writer’s opinion beyond doubt, inasmuch as Paul emphatically refused to preach where the gospel had already been proclaimed (Romans 15:20-21). 

Paul’s Fellow Workers

The companions who assisted Paul in this founding work during the Ephesian period include the following persons.




Romans 15:20  Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation. . . .

   • Titus probably accompanied Paul from Jerusalem, where he had been living testimony to the gentile mission’s success (Galatians 2:1, 3); he was an effective representative of Paul to the Corinthians, especially in work on the collection,  (2 Corinthians 7:6-7; 8:6, 16-17, 23).
    • Timothy was Paul’s emissary to Macedonia and Corinth during this period; at the time of the writing of Philippians he was sent on ahead to Philippi before Paul's arrival.

   • Aquila and Prisca hosted the church in their house in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19).

Philippians 2:19   I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon . . . .


   • As for Apollos, we are noncomittal. 

1 Corinthians 16:12  Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but he was not at all willing to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.

As Paul writes to the Corinthians from Ephesus,
Apollos seems to be working cooperatively with him, if not under his direction. Though the Corinthians see Paul and Apollos as competitors for their loyalty, 1 Corinthians 16:12 does not betray any rivalry between the two.






1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4-9, 21-23.

   • Epaphroditus had been sent by the Philippians to assist Paul in prison (probably in Ephesus), but unhappily was taken ill and was finally sent back to Philippi.
Philippians 2:25   Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus--my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need.
   • The escaped slave Onesimus would take his turn, seeing to the needs of the apostle during his imprisonment. Philemon 13  I wanted to keep [Onesimus] with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel . . . .

Opportunity and Opposition

In the first year or so of his stay in Ephesus Paul could write of evident success and continuing opportunity.  But it is also a time of bitter opposition.  This opposition may have come from two directions:  

1 Corinthians 16:9   For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
   • From civil authorities.  We hear of certain troubles presupposed by his enigmatic reference to fighting with beasts in Ephesus; and some time later he tells of mortal danger “in Asia” (2 Corinthians 1:8). What is more, on the hypothesis of an Ephesian imprisonment for the composition of Philippians, we may suppose that he was held in prison for some months or longer.

   • From competing Christian preachers, who aggravated or might even have precipitated persecution of him by the civil authorities. 

Philippians 1:15-17   15Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment.

1 Corinthians 15:32   What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? . . . [RSV] 


Beyond his problems in Ephesus, this was also a time of anxiety for his other churches, which were beset with controversies, false teachers, or other urgent problems which clamored for attention.
2 Corinthians 11:28   And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches.

Ephesus in Paul’s Strategy

We now call attention to the strategic importance of Ephesus for his wider work over a period of several years, so that even during an extended imprisonment his work went on.  Not the least of the reasons for its usefulness was its situation as a kind of hub with access to the Aegean basin and Asia Minor by land and by sea.

   • The agenda for these years was set in part by Paul, especially his work on the collection which had recently been agreed to at Jerusalem; and in part by the needs and crises of the congregations he had already established. Thus, 

   • In Ephesus he was visited by people from his churches in Philippi, Corinth, and probably Galatia, all to often bearing news of some major controversy.

   • From here he wrote an important part of his surviving letters:  most of the Corinthian correspondence, Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon (the last two, and possibly Galatians, from prison).

   • From Ephesus he sent Titus and Timothy on their various assignments, sometimes on the collection project; sometimes to be his eyes and ears; sometimes to be a human connection with his people, just as his letters provided a verbal connection with them.

   • From here he probably made his intermediate (and notably painful) visit to Corinth and back.

   • In the post-Pauline period Ephesus would become one of the major centers of the ancient church, ranking with or not far behind the likes of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome.



If not a period of extensive travel, the Ephesian years were nevertheless eventful and productive, as we shall see in the segments which follow.
Revised February 1, 2003
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