Sunday, 26 June 2016
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Ephesians 1:1
Welcome to the book of Ephesians! It is comprised of 155 verses, and so it will take us (one day at a time, just like your vitamins) about one half a year to analyze it. I hope you will be blessed as each day unfolds with new insights into this beautiful epistle from the mind of God and through the hand of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
He begins by introducing himself right off the bat. The letter bears his name and though many have challenged the authenticity of his authorship in this and in all of his letters, there is no valid reason to suggest that he is not the true author. He is the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the letter is written to a Gentile-led church.
He next identifies his apostleship with the words, “an apostle of Jesus Christ.” He is a messenger of the Lord, having been called by Him personally to perform this weighty duty which has been so amazingly fruitful for the past two thousand years. This is his one claim to the authority of writing a letter of doctrine to them, and it is with this authority that he thus writes.
After this, he notes that his apostleship is “by the will of God.” This is the same phrase as is seen in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Colossians, and 2 Timothy. It is what further defines his calling and which affirms his authority. It also is a note of humility in that he was selected, and therefore it was not of his own merits. Instead it was by the sovereign decision of God that he is so designated an apostle.
In his letter to the Romans, he gave a more formal declaration of his commission, and in Galatians the opening statement was considerably more direct and even abrupt. In other letters, the opening varies as well. The opening statement is given in each epistle to set the tone for the rest of the letter.
Finally, he states that the letter is written specifically “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus.” They are to be the initial recipients of this beautiful letter of doctrine, and they are to be blessed with having been the first to read the subject matter of which Paul felt it necessary to put into writing for the instruction and edification of those in the church.
However, the intent of Paul’s letters is not that they would be read and then secreted away for only the Ephesians to refer to. Rather, the anticipation is that it would be circulated among the churches, having copies made and having sessions where the content could be repeated and analyzed. This is seen in the words, “…and faithful in Christ Jesus.” The Ephesians are the main addressee, but all who are faithful in Christ are also included in the words from Paul’s hand.
This is seen in the truth that we have, in fact, a copy of the letter before us now. It became well known enough to be considered for inclusion in the Bible, and its contents made it rightly selected for that same purpose. Each step of the process was guided by the Holy Spirit to ensure that we have the sure and perfect word of God to refer to.
Life application: As Paul wrote, he probably didn’t think that we would be reading his words two thousand years later, but the personal nature of the note includes us in the epistle nonetheless. It is a letter directed to each person as an individual who would pick it up and read it. Consider this as you read it, or truly any portion of Scripture.
Heavenly Father, it is so welcoming to know that Your word was written through the hands of the prophets and apostles, speaking to people thousands of years ago; and yet it was also written to each one of us who is willing to pick it up, read it, and cherish the content which comes directly from Your heart into our minds. Help us to hold it in reverence, to refer to it often, and to cherish the precepts that it contains. Help us in this, O God! Amen.