Last week we set the stage for the study of the book of Ephesians by recognizing that Ephesus was a major city with a metropolitan culture. Theater, Universities, artists, mathematicians and Greek Culture, capped off with a mix of eastern pagan culture, Judaism and Christianity. This was a City from which Paul established as many as 14 separate Churches, but Ephesus was the Mother House, the lead church in Asia Minor. But then we came to the conclusion that the Book of Ephesians was probably an encyclical letter, sent to be read to each Church in the area, with the name of the local Church filled in as the letter was read. It was a letter to establish a common base doctrine for the Church leaders to follow. So today let’s dive right into the letter without further ado.
Last week I hope that I convinced you that the book of the Ephesians was probably an encyclical letter written to all the churches in Asia Minor that Paul had established during his missionary journeys there. Remember that he was under house arrest in Rome at the time he wrote the letter and although under arrest he had great liberty and received many visitors and guests from Asia Minor. Since this was a period in his life, one of the few, when he was not busy traveling from place to place, and he could not travel far, he had plenty of time to contemplate the concepts of Christianity which he probably would not have had time to fully explain while establishing the churches.
Remember that while under house arrest in Rome, he also wrote letters to several of the other churches in Asia Minor and also wrote the pastoral letters to some of his protégés. This brings me to one other aspect of the book of Ephesians which I think is important to understand. One of those letters was the letter to the church in Colosse. This is the New Testament book we know as Colossians. While Paul had all this time to reflect and to hear from representatives from these churches that visited him in Rome and while he took time to write letters of correction back to some of these churches, it is during this time that the book of Ephesians was written. It is quite interesting to study the book of Colossians and find that it was as a letter to that church telling them of some of the errors of the development of their church and giving them some corrective direction. In the process up writing that letter it appears that he formalized some of the teaching and doctrinal form that he establishes in the Book of Ephesians.
If you compare the book of Ephesians to the book of Colossians, and if you were to do that in the original Greek, scholars indicate that 75 of the 155 verses found in Ephesians are identically found in Colossians. It seems likely that Paul wrote Colossians and then with many of the same thoughts in mind but without the specific correctives, then wrote the basic doctrine found in Ephesians.
So while he was busy writing these corrective letters to the churches and supportive letters to his protégés, I think he had plenty of time to recognize all of the questions and confusion in the minds of the new Christians in the new churches, and took this opportunity to write a document of doctrine to send to them to help them in their growth as new Christians and as new churches.
So as you read this letter, try to imagine that you are a new Christian in one of those churches, perhaps even the church at Ephesus, as the elder of the church stands before the congregation and reads this letter on behalf of Paul who was a dear friend and whom they considered to be a great Christian teacher. Something like, "This is a letter from Billy Graham to our class at Hoffmantown".
As a presenter began to read the letter, of course, it would be important to clarify from whom the letter was sent, so Paul begins the letter with an introduction of himself. It is as if there is an implied "this is a letter from " imputed at the beginning of the letter. With that imputed introduction by the reader of the letter, the letter begins:
Remember a few weeks ago we studied the meaning of the word apostle and came to the conclusion that an apostle is an emissary for someone or something. We decided to use the idea that an apostle with a capital 'A' was used to reference those men specifically designated by Jesus to represent him. And since we know that Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus and personally designated him to represent him in spreading the gospel to the Gentiles, then we can consider Paul to be an apostle with a capital 'A', and he clearly considered himself to be an apostle with a capital 'A'.
He made it very clear on a number of occasions that he had been sent personally by Jesus to spread the word.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, --1 Timothy 1:12.
So Paul starts off by reminding them that he was a designated representative of Jesus which of course they knew, but which for the purposes of introducing this doctrinal letter was even more important to establish for the written record.
Also note that not only was he an apostle of Jesus Christ, but that he recognized that his apostleship was not by his will, or even if it can be differentiated by the will of the Son, but by the will of the Father. If there was ever anyone who did not choose to be an apostle of Jesus, it was Saul of Tarsus, the one who tried to kill all the Christians he could find. Only after being blinded on the road to Damascus did he become an apostle of Jesus. It was Paul's belief and claim that God himself had designated Paul to be an ambassador for Jesus and to spread the gospel. Paul did not choose his occupation.
Did you choose yours?
There's an interesting application here that perhaps we should stop and look at. From Paul's perspective, the important fact was not that he was an apostle of Jesus. He could have decided to be an apostle of Jesus and proceeded on as a teacher, preacher and missionary out of his own a drive and decision. But without the will of God, it is clear to me that Paul would have considered that fruitless and would not have expected any great result. His statement that he was an apostle of Jesus by the will of God shows that he understood who is in charge, who was making the decisions and from where the power was coming.
Who decided that he should be an apostle of Jesus?
For each of us that raises a very serious question. If we are spending our lives in relationships, in jobs or avocations which are not in the will of God; which are not what God would have us do in relationships, jobs and avocations, then perhaps it is not surprising that there's not much fruit, not much fulfillment. If we want our life to have meaning and it doesn't; if we expect our relationships to be meaningful and they're not; if we expect our avocations to be rewarding and they're not: perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves if what we're doing is what God wants us to do: if where we are is where God wants us to be.
If you’re a janitor by the will of God, then there is no higher calling than to be doing what God wants you to do.
I think Paul recognized that his success was because God told him what to do, to be an apostle of Jesus, and therefore he did it with great success. I think that is why a Paul was so confident in his work to a point of sometimes almost being cocky. So . . .
Base doctrine No. 1: If you spend your life with people and doing things that are "by the will of God ", I think Paul's doctrine would teach that your relationships will be rewarding and your life will be productive. And this is just in his declaration that he wrote the letter. He has not even started teaching yet.
The reader continues . . .
This letter was written about 61 AD. Jesus was crucified about 33 AD. So there had been about 28 years since the crucifixion and resurrection for the Church Leaders to build the Church. During that time, we had all the great early Church leaders: Peter, James, John, Paul, Barnabas, Silas and several others.
By the time of this letter, how many of these great Christians do you think had been canonized by the Church? [None.] Then who are the "saints" he is addressing?
Throughout the New Testament, the writers use the word saint to refer to Christians -- not just church members, but the true believers. The people who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and have turned their lives over to him. What we would call “born again” believers.
Paul used the word saint nine times just in Ephesians. The Church does not make saints, God does. The Greek word used here translated as saints is “Hagios”. It means sacred, consecrated, set apart for God. God sets apart those who accept Jesus. That makes them saints.
Believers are called "disciples" in Acts 9, several times; we are called "people of the Way" in Acts 9:2; and we are called "saints" in Acts 9:13, 32 and 41.
After Saul was blinded on the road to Damascus, the Lord told a man named Ananias to go find Saul. "Woah! Just a minute!" Ananias said to the Lord. "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem."
Ananias knew what Saul had been doing to the new Christians, killing them. Not the canonized Church leaders. (There were none).
While Paul was out teaching, Peter was traveling around teaching also. At one point he healed a crippled man in Lydda, in Acts 9:32. It says, "As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda.
The new believers are called saints.
While he was healing the cripple in Lydda, Tabitha had died down in Joppa which was nearby, so the people there got him to come to Joppa. When he did, he resurrected her from the dead and Acts 9:41 says: "And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. He called all the believers around to show that she had been brought back from the dead.
In this case, the NIV is translated as "believers", the NASV as "saints". It is the same Greek word “hagios.”
So the "saints" to which this letter is addressed are the believers.
But Paul was even more select in his audience
He is writing a doctrinal letter to the believers who follow through on their belief, who are faithful. He is talking to the heart of the churches, to the faithful core. Not to the fringe in the church who believe but stop there. He is teaching the faithful few, the heart of these new churches, so that they will not stray from the teachings of Jesus.
It is obvious here that he is saying, "Hello, good morning, hello good friend". This is a general salutation, but it is also much more. Let’s dissect it, and let’s start with his salutation of “peace.”
As I am sure you know, when a Jew meets a friend, he greets him with Shalom. This has been the greeting between Jews for as long as we have records. Shalom is a Hebrew word which means peace, or more completely, "may God have peace on you". It is a request for a divine blessing on the friend. So, Paul said “shalom”, right? No. What language was this letter written in? Greek. The word translated here as peace is the Greek word “Eirene” which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word shalom. It literally means peace, prosperity. "May God grant you peace and prosperity." For a Greek speaking Jew, eirene was the Greek equivalent of shalom. So Paul was saying, in effect, as one Jew to another, shalom, hello, may God have peace on you.
Now let’s turn to the word grace. Paul includes grace in his greeting. The word translated as grace here is the Greek word “charis”, which means to act graciously, especially with regard to a spiritual divine influence on the heart, for God to grant you a gracious heart. This was the traditional greeting of one Greek when meeting a Greek friend, just like shalom or eirene was a normal greeting for Jews. So by saying "grace to you", Paul is saying, as one Greek to another Greek friend, hello, may God grant you a gracious heart.
So what you can read into his greeting of grace and peace, Paul is saying, as a Greek (he was raised as a Greek) "to my Greek friends and as a Jew" -- (He was a Jew) -- "to my Jewish friends, Hello, greetings". The significance of this is that it clearly shows that the church was composed of both converted Jews and converted Gentiles. It was a mixed church, and he was addressing this as a body of Christ, but with mixed backgrounds. On another level, and in Ephesians, Paul writes on several levels, Paul is starting the letter with the mention of grace and peace, concepts that he will go into in several places in the letter and two of the main themes of the book. Each is mentioned about six times just in this book.
The Source of Both:
He completes the greeting with the fact that both grace and peace come from God and Jesus. Even here in the introduction, he makes it clear that the grace and peace that Christian friends wish for each other in a friendly address is really the grace and peace that comes only from God and from Jesus. As I mentioned, he will address this further and develop it, but even in the salutation he makes it clear that the grace and peace he is talking about is the grace and peace that can only be obtained as a Christian; as a believer.
We will start with verses 3-14, one long complex Greek sentence.