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. (Eph 1:1-2 NASB)
Flashing His Badge
I have been watching a lot of old westerns lately, I just love them. I recently watched a James Garner western called “Support Your Local Sheriff.” It is really complete fluff. But I’m reminded of it here. He wanders into this very rough and very out-of-control town, and since he needs a job, he goes in to apply for the advertised sheriff job. The last three sheriffs apparently had been killed and one quit after less than an hour. Anyway they give him the job, and he puts on the badge under his coat, and walks out the door to start trying to end a mass brawl that was going on. Naturally their first question was, “who do you think you are?” Then he flashes his badge, and everyone laughs until he shows them that he has his ways to control things. Fun movie.
So here is Paul, and the first thing he needs to do here is flash his badge and show them he has the authority to say the things he is about to say. He is an apostle of Christ Jesus. What exactly is an apostle? It means he is a messenger. He did not invent or intuit or gain this knowledge through brilliant study. No, it is someone else’s message, and he is simply the messenger. Even further, he did not choose to be the messenger or even volunteer to be the messenger. God willed it, not Paul. Paul was travelling with malicious intent to persecute the church, and God struck him blind and converted him (Acts 9). The short and the long of it is, this is God’s message and Paul was chosen through the mercy of God for the maximum effect of showing that God is sovereignly spreading this message by using extremely unworthy awful people.
Paul is not writing this for the general populace at Ephesus. he is writing to the “saints” in Ephesus who are “faithful in Christ Jesus”. Only the créme dela créme were supposed to read this letter, right? Only saints, and only the faithful saints at that. All of you carnal Christians, you less than saintly, who are faltering in your discipline and not so faithful, go read something else!
Not so fast there Mr. Exegesis! “Saint” is the Gr word “hagios”. According to my Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary:
“In the NT the word hagios, when used as a noun, usually refers to members of the Christian Church. It is used once in the gospels (Matthew 27:52) of the saints of the former age. The other references are in Acts and later. All believers are called ‘saints’, even when heir character is dubiously holy.” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 5 page 217
Furthermore, according to The Bible Knowledge Commentary put out by Dallas Theological Seminary, the phrase “faithful in Christ Jesus” actually should be rendered “the believers in Christ Jesus.”
So what Paul is saying here is that he is writing this letter to believers in Christ in that are part of the church in Ephesus, any member. There’s no idea that someone has to be saintly or particularly diligent and faithful in service for the things in this letter to apply. I think this is a very important point. It implies that all of the great promises and proclamations about to come are meant for you, my unsaintly unprogressively-sanctified believing friend!
Grace and Peace to You
Here is where Paul puts the entire epistle here in a nutshell. The point of this letter is to convey grace and peace to them – not from Paul or any other human, but straight from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I think this dual blessing of grace and peace is very important to dwell upon. God can and does have tremendous grace towards us. We are about to get drenched in a veritable ocean of grace in the next three chapters! But if we do not have the eyes of our hearts opened to grasp these things, if we do not functionally believe them, we will not have peace. After all, he does not say here “grace and peace in general be established on principle.” He says, “grace and peace to you. He means to bless our subjective everyday experience with grace and peace. That is the aim of this letter.
The world is constantly battering us with judgments and infirmities and calamities and world upheavals. But the aim of God our Father is to demonstrate grace towards us in a way that confers peace upon our souls. Grace says we are safe after all, despite the tumult around us and especially despite our unsaintliness. We may feel fearful and shameful and hopeless, but God in Christ has established a great great love towards us that cannot be overcome. And God is concerned that we receive that grace and rest in it. God’s love for us is very real in our hope of heaven and eternity, and that is very very important. But God’s love for us is also aimed to give us peace right now. I find that a very great comfort indeed.