I’m starting a new sermon series at Bread and Wine Fellowship on the fabulous book of Ephesians. We already started last week, and I’ll post some things from my introductory and overview thoughts later. Today I want to jump into the text. I’m posting stuff from my study process in case someone might enjoy or find use in it. In the past I have not posted this part of the work, so feel free to skip the observations and questions if you like.
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- This letter was written by Paul the Apostle. It says so right here.
- He is “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” There were numerous apostles and he is one of them.
- He is an apostle by the will of God. This would seem to be in opposition to the idea that he might have aspired to the position, or that he was appointed to it by human decision or vote. It was by the will of God.
- God has a will and exercised in Paul’s life quite apart from the will or initiative or thought of any person, including Paul.
- Paul writes to them under the unction or office of a God-ordained apostleship.
- It is written to a group of people in a geographic context – Ephesus.
- It is written to a particular group of people in Ephesus: the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus.
- Apparently you could perhaps be a saint without being one who is faithful in Christ Jesus.
- It is not written to an individual, but to the community of people who are the saints who are faithful in Christ in Ephesus. It is not written to each saint or to a particular saint, but to the saints.
- The very first word of the very beginning of the letter is “Grace.” It is, “grace to you.”
- Grace and peace are distinguished. Grace is one thing and peace is another. You can have grace, without peace, or peace without grace. Paul wishes or grants grace and peace together to them.
- Grace and peace can come from many quarters. Drug addicts have a special bond when they share their drug experience together, so in a way they have grace and peace. When Adam shared the forbidden fruit with Eve, they had grace and peace between them as they hid in the bushes together sewing leaves. But this is grace and peace from God.
- God is distinguished clearly as God our Father, and God the Lord Jesus Christ.
- God is described not simply as the Father of Jesus, but as “our” Father.
- Jesus is described as “the Lord”.
- Jesus is described as the Christ.
- At what stage of his life was Paul writing this? What was the circumstance?
- This was after his third missionary journey, after his imprisonment in Jerusalem, after his appeal to Caesar, and after the terrible journey to Rome where the whole ship full of people almost died. Paul had made it to Rome under house arrest, and was apparently chained to a Roman guard as he dictated this [Stott – ]!
“Let me remind you that he was a prisoner in Rome. Not indeed in a cell or dungeon, but still under house arrest and handcuffed to a Roman soldier. Yet, though his wrist was chained and his body was confined, his heart and mind inhabited eternity.
Stott, John (2014-04-02). The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Kindle Locations 574-575). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
- What is the meaning of the word “apostle”? Can people be apostles now? Was there a meaning beyond the lexical meaning?
- “Apostle” is the Greek word “apostolos” which means, a delegate. It can’t exactly mean one of the original twelve apostles, because Paul was an apostle but he was not one of the original twelve. “In the majority of cases it refers to men appointed by Christ for a special function in the Church.The Twelve and Paul are frequently in mind, but there are some instances where others are called apostles. James, the Lord’s brother, seems to be one (Gal. 1:19, 2:9, 1 Cor 5:7). Barnabase is described as an apostle in Acts 14:4, 14, and he is associated with Paul in the argument of 1 Corinthians 9:6, but he is distinguished from the Jerusalem apostles (Acts 9:27). (Zondervan Pictorial Bible, v. 1, pages 217-218).
- What is the meaning of the word “Christ”, which is used twice in conjunction with Jesus?
- Christ is the Gr Christos, meaning “anointed”. It rapidly became a proper name to Gr. speaking Gentile Christians. It indicates a special selection as a king or ruler.
- What exactly does Paul mean by the idea of the “will” of God?
- It means, the initiative or plan of God, as contrasted to the initiative of Paul. Paul is saying, he didn’t will himself to be an apostle. God decided it should be so and dramatically intervened in his life to make it so, even though Paul was strongly opposed to the Christian message.
- Should I expect that my calling or life ministry should be so dramatically described? Is it OK to have the personal ambition to enter ministry, or should we only go into ministry if we don’t want to and God dramatically calls us?
- I think that on reflection, this text is not meant to define everyone’s experience, but rather to define Paul’s experience. His ministry does carry extra gravitas since it is only by the miraculous intervention of God Himself that Paul could have become an apostle. This indicates an extra level of authority in Paul’s ministry, since God Himself ordained his very faith and change. We should all look to see where a similar dynamic applies to our lives.
- When Paul uses the word “saints”, does he mean saint as in an especially righteous or unusually holy person? Or does he mean, simply someone who is a believer?
- “Saints” is translated from the Greek word “hagios”, from the word hagos, which means “awful thing.” It means sacred, pure, morally blameless, or consecrated. Perhaps the “awful thing” indicates an aura of wrath against those who would seek our harm.
“In the NT the word Hagios, when used as a noun, usually refers to member of the Christian Church. It is used once in the gospels (Matt 27:52) of the saints of the former age. The other references are in Acts and later. All believers are called ‘saints,’ even when their character is cubiously holy.” Zondervan Pictorial Bible, v.5, page 217.
I think this is a good indicator that we are made holy through Christ’s blood, and not by our own actions. So by “saints”, Paul means, the believers in Christ of any level of maturity and sanctified practice.
- When Paul says he writes to the saints who are “faithful”, does he mean that they are extremely loyal and persistently obedient, or does he mean simply those who have faith in Christ?
Next, they are also faithful. The adjective pistos can have either an active meaning (‘ trusting’, ‘having faith’) or a passive (‘ trustworthy’, ‘being faithful’).
Stott, John (2014-04-02). The Message of Ephesians (The Bible Speaks Today Series) (Kindle Locations 255-256). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
I think that having read Stott’s discussion, but more importantly, looking at the context here, Paul means simply those saints who have faith in Christ. I think a more stringent works-based role has been read into these verses over the years for something that simply means, “to the Church members in Ephesus who have faith in Christ.”
The very first two verses of this letter drop-kick us squarely into the land of scandalous real grace. Paul was a pharisee of pharisees breathing threats and seeking the demise of the church. He was a zealous enemy of Christ and of the gospel. God sovereignly stepped into his life and powerfully changed him and called him as a minister of the gospel. He writes to the “awe-full” saints set apart as those who have become frighteningly important in God’s eyes because of their faith in Christ. Mere belief has made them saints, and the receivers of the incredible message he is about to deliver in this letter. Neither the writer nor the receivers of this letter deserved any accolades apart from the amazing grace of God. What is important here from the outset is not the magnitude of Paul’s passion and sacrifice. Paul did not even want to appoint himself as an apostle, a messenger of the gospel. It is not how saintly and deserving the Ephesians believers are. They were eaten up with sin when they were called and as believers they still needed all kinds of exhortations against anger and discord and laziness and many other sins. It is, from the very life and testimony of Paul, the sacrificial passion of God for us. Grace and peace is what we have from both God the Father and God the Son. They have colluded together to secure the salvation of Paul, and the Ephesian believers he writes to, and by inference, all believers.