The Letter to the Ephesians – 01 (“New Life Through Christ Jesus – 01”)
(Message by Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 07 February 2016 – Please visit our Website: http://3riversbaptist.co.za)
I would like to start with a series on the letter to the Ephesians and in this series we will see what God Almighty did through the historical work of Jesus Christ and does through His Holy Spirit today, in order to build His Church in this world – to create new beings from the old.
Before we can look at the first verses of Ephesians 1, we first have to look at some other important background information which we must keep in mind as we work through this letter:
- The Message of Ephesians:
As I already indicated, this letter is all about God’s historical work He did through His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, in order to build a people for Him in this world.
We will see through this letter how Christ shed His blood in a sacrificial death for sin. We will see – in contrast with what the liberal and Post Modern world of our time teaches, that Christ was risen from death by the power of God and how He (Christ Jesus) was exalted above all, to the supreme place in both the universe and the Church.
This wonderful letter also teaches that all who are ín Christ, are organically united to Him by faith. We who believe in Christ have been raised from spiritual death – eternal death. We have been reconciled with God the Father through Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrificial offering – He who was crucified and raised from the dead and has made us part of God’s new society.
We can obviously say a lot more about the message of Ephesians, but I think that this is enough for now.
- The Letter – Analysis:
This letter can be analysed as follows:
– Salutation (1:1-2);
– New Life given through Christ (1:3-2:10);
– A new society created through Christ (2:11-3:21);
– New standards expected from God’s elect (4:1-5:21);
– New relationships into which God has brought the believers (5:21-6:24).
As we can and will see – this whole letter is a wonderful combination of Christian doctrine and Christian duty, Christian faith and Christian life, what God has done through Christ and what we must be and do in consequence.
- The Author:
Paul the apostle announces himself as author of this letter when he says in v.1 ~ “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints…” When we listen to some theologians, there is a widespread denial of Paul’s authorship. and we might therefore ask: Who ís the author of this letter?
Since the beginning of New Testament times, it was accepted that Paul was the author of this letter, but since 1792 there are some scholars (beginning in Germany) that questioned the letter’s authenticity, and since then the authorship of the letter is obviously also in doubt. One of the reasons why the authenticity is questioned, is because of the style it is written in and a lot of the vocabulary used in this letter “differs” from that used in other by Paul. These scholars say that there are a lot of words in Epesians that Paul never uses in his other letters. Some of his favouite words and phrases in other letters are not to be found in Ephesians. His style is far less passionate in Ephesians, etc. There are also historical and theological arguments against Paul’s authorship. However, I want to suffice with the fact that we must remember that different themes, require different words, and changed cicumstances create a changed atmosphere and ‘the burden of the proof lies with those who say this letter is not from Paul’ – and they cannot really do it.
- The Date:
This letter is dated between AD 60-62 during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment and was most probably part of his “Prison Epistels” (Ephesians, Philippians; Colossians and Philemon).
- The Recipients:
Just quickly: Paul names his recipients in v.1, “saints”; faithful; those who are in Christ Jesus and finally, they are residents from Ephesus.
- The City – Ephesus:
Paul visited Ephesus a short time on his second missionary trip to Asia Minor (Acts 18:19-22), as well as during his third missionary trip (Acts 20:31). During his second visit, he baptized about twelve of John the Baptist’s followers (Acts 19:1-7). He had discussions and taught the Gospel in the public school called ‘The Hall of Tyrannus’. This school was run by a Jewish Rabbi called Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10). Paul also performed unusual miracles in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12), as well as exorcism (Acts 19:13-16) and sorcerers were converted (Acts 19:17-20). Paul, during this visit, was also caught up in a city riot by threatened temple workers (Acts 19:23-41). Paul gave the Ephesian leaders a farewell address in the town of Miletus (Acts 20:13-34).
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Eph.1:1-14 ~ ʺPaul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Tonight, we will only be looking at the firts two verses of this wonderful chapter!
- THE SALUTATION (vv.1):
This Epistle, like twelve other New Testament books, begins with the name “Paul”. From Acts we learn that Saul was his Jewish name – Paul, it appears, was his Roman name.
Paul makes two assertions about himself in this opening statement:
– First, he affirms that he is an “apostle of Christ Jesus”. The term “apostle”, is a transliteration of the Greek ἀπόστολος (apostolos), which means “sent one”. This title was uniquely used for men that were chosen by God to be the foundation layers of the Church, and the receivers, teachers and writers of God’s final revelation – the New Testament. These apostles also had the duty to preach the Gospel ~ “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor.1:17); they also had the duty to teach and pray (Acts 6:4); to work miracles (2 Cor.12:12); to build up other leaders of the Chruch (Acts 14:23), and to write the Word of God (Eph.1:1).
In affirming his apostleship, Paul is asserting his right to address his readers. In essence he is declaring that the teaching he sets forth is invested with Divine authority.
– Second, if we look at 1 Tim.1:1, Paul declares that his apostleship is by command of God… ~ “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” and therefore he repeats the same idea here in the salutation of Ephesians, when he says ~ “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (v.1). Paul’s tone in this letter, is not one of arrogance, but one of submission to God’s master-plan. This master-plan is the great theme of this letter – a plan to bring the message of redemption to sinful humanity. Paul says in Acts 9:15 ~ “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel’” – which we can interpret as the “chosen instrument in God’s hand in fulfilling His master-plan”.
What is also important to keep in mind, is that Paul was not elevating himself above other believers when he writes down his credentials, because he always remembers that he had been a blasphemer, a violent persecutor himself and an unworthy and ignorant unbeliever; and he still considered himself the foremost of sinners ~ “…though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief… The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim.1:13, 15). He wants his readers to understand that this letter was inspired through the work of the Holy Spirit and was therefore God-breathed.
- The Readers:
In the second part of v.1, Paul uses several characteristics or attributes to describe his readers:
– First, they are saints. When Paul calls his readers saints, we must understand that this word does not carry the same meaning as “saints” in the Roman Catholic Church – these readers were called saints, because they were “set apart” – set apart by God and without any collaboration of man. It is a sovereign act of God and God alone, according to His sovereign electing grace (i.e. God ordained, without any human merit). We, as believers are therefore saved and set apart – we are holy ones (saints). In other words, a Christian is set apart when God reaches down through the person of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him, and thus draws him into the company of God’s Church.
James Montgomery Boice says. Every Christian is a saint and every saint is a Christian. Moreover, every true Chirstian is in one sense separated from the world. It does not mean that we are taken out of the world. That is not the way God operates. But it does mean that we are removed from it in the sense of not really belonging to the world any longer. If we are truly Christ’s, we have a new nature, a new set of loyalties, a new agenda. We belong to a different kingdom!
Although the Ephesian Chirstians were holy and set apart, they continued with their lives, as shopkeepers; builders; farmers; Moms who raised children, etc. This is important because it has implications on each of us who profess that he or she is a Christian!
Why is Paul using this term, saints in addressing the Ephesians? Was it to “softsoap” them? Was it to flatter them? To create a feel-good attitude, before he commences with the letter? No, his primary motive with referring to them as saints, was to emphasize that just as he, as a sinner was appointed by God to be an apostle, they too had been called to live holy lives and be ambassadors for God. In Jesus’ own words ~ “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt.5:14-16) and Peter says in 1 Pet.1:16 ~ “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
– Next, Paul says that they are also faithful. Paul uses this word “faithful” to convey a very special attribute that they had. In Greek this word is πιστός (“pistos”). This word can either have an active meaning (‘trusting’, ‘having faith’), or a passive meaning (‘trustworthy’, ‘being faithful’). Paul uses it here in the active voice. It means that the Ephesians are ‘the household of faith’, united by their common trust in God through Jesus Christ. They are people who exercise their faith in a practical and everyday sense and sanctification is a reality in their lives and an ongoing process.
Can we call this ongoing process of sanctification, works? No, definitely not, Boice states it beautifully and clear: Usually when Reformed Chirstians talk about the perserverance of the saints, they mean the perserverance of God with His saints. They wish to say that the only reason why any of us are ever able to stand firm to the end is that God is faithful to us. Well and good! But it is also true that precisely because God perseveres with us, we also must persevere. We must be faithful, It is therefore also proper to say that a Christian is one who is characterised by a full faith to the very end of life.
– Thirdly, they are in Christ Jesus. This characteristic means far more than just believing on Christ or being saved by His atonement. Paul discusses this characteristic in length, later in his letter, in fact, more than once. For now we must realise that they were firmly grounded in their union with Christ.
– Fourth, some manuscripts add that Paul’s readers are at Ephesus. Ephesus was a flourishing commercial city – capital city of the Roman Empire in the province Asia. Ephesus was also the headquarters of the cult of the goddess Diana whose temple is one of the seven wonders of the world.
- THE BENEDICTION (v.2):
We find a benediction at the end of v.2 and that is strange, because in our culture we have a benediction at the end of a conversation, but this benediction sets the tone for the rest of the letter. This benediction or greeting also does not come in Paul’s name. It comes ~ “…from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It conveys grace upon grace and it comes from God Himself. It confirms that our God and Saviour intends to bring us spiritual health.
What is the contents of this benediction that comes from God our Father? It says in v.2 ~ “Grace to you and peace…” It comes to us from our Father. Grace indicates God’s free, saving initiative, and peace is the result of this saving initiative – peace with God, because we are now reconciled with Him in and through Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace are key words of Ephesians. In Eph.6:15 the Good News is termed, “…the Gospel of peace.” In 2:14 it is written that Jesus Christ Himself ‘is our peace’, because He made peace by dying on the cross (2:15). He also came and preached peace to Jews and Gentiles (2:17).
Grace, on the other hand, indicates both why and how God has taken his reconciling initiative. For grace is His free and undeserved mercy. It is by grace that we are saved, indeed by ~ “…the immeasurable riches of his grace” (2:5, 7, 8), and it is by the same grace that we are gifted for service (4:7; 3:2, 7). So if we want a concise summary of the Good News which the whole letter announces, we could not find a better one than in his benediction ~ “…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Finally, before leaving the introduction to the letter, we must not miss the vital link between the Author, the readers and the message. It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Paul, the author, is an apostle of Christ Jesus’; the readers are in Christ Jesus, and the blessing comes to them from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God is the spring from which grace and peace flows forth. In this we see that the Lord Jesus Christ dominates Paul’s mind and fills his vision. It almost seems as if he feels compelled to bring Jesus Christ into every sentence he writes. The emphasis is on the fact that through Jesus Christ, God’s new society has come into being.
The question that we must answer for ourselves tonight is:
- Do you always remember that you were an unworthy and ignorant unbeliever?
In fact there are more questions that we must ponder on (meditate – I don’t like the word) and answer for ourselves:
- Do you really believe that it is only by grace and grace alone that you are saved?
- Do you really realise and acknowledge and believe that you are a saint – a saint set apart to glorify God and to do good works for His glory?
- Do you honestly believe that you have a new character and that you are part of a new society – do you live worthy of that call?
- Are you a faithfull follower of Christ Jesus?
- Do you continue to work in a secular work, but now as an ambassador of Jesus Christ who exercise your faith in a practical and everyday sense?
- Is sanctification a reality in your life and an ongoing process?
- If you call yourself a saint – are you convicted by your sins?
But most important of all – are you in Christ? Are you saved? Are you born again? Do you posess eternal life? If not, you must make an urgent appointment with me or a Christian brother or sister to assist you and pray with you.