Sunday, 10 July 2016
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15
Paul’s wording here is very close to the wording of Colossians 1:4. It is known that Paul had visited Ephesus and that he had not visited Colossae. For this reason, some look at this letter as not being written exclusively to the saints at Ephesus. However, he uses similar terminology in Philemon 1:5 also, and so the address solely to the Ephesians is not necessarily to be considered a later addition, nor is this a reason to dismiss this letter as a forgery.
“Therefore” is based on verse 13 which concerns their having “heard the word of truth” and then “having believed.” Based on this, they were “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Because of these things, he says, “I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints…” He will state in the next verse what the result of these things are. For now, it is sufficient to concentrate on the words at hand.
“After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus” are the words scholars lean on to state that the address “to the saints who are in Ephesus” is a later addition. As Paul had been there and personally seen the faith of those in Ephesus, the logic is that there would be no point in stating this. But as was seen above, he uses the same terminology in Philemon. Instead, this is speaking of their faith which obviously continued to grow, both in number and in maturity. Paul had not been to Ephesus for some time. When hearing of their status, his words of elation make complete sense.
The words translated here as “your faith” are literally, “the faith among you.” It is the only time he uses this phase, and it therefore lends credence to the thought that this letter was actually addressed to the Ephesians. As he has been gone, and as “the faith among” them had expanded, it is natural to think that he would have heard of it after it occurred. He is pleased to have learned of the state of the Ephesian church.
The words, “in the Lord Jesus” do not give the same idea as “towards the Lord Jesus.” Faith towards Jesus is centered on Jesus; whereas, faith “in the Lord Jesus” embodies much more. It signifies a faith which acknowledges God’s work, in Christ, and thus it is a faith which includes the plan of God the Father as well as the work of the Spirit. Each of these have already been noted in his opening words (e.g. see verses 3 & 13).
Paul is especially elated to hear of both this faith as well as their “love for all the saints.” This is an evidence of their faith in Christ. It is the expression of that faith being worked out among those who are also “in Christ.” It is the mutual respect that all believers should have, but which is sorely lacking among the redeemed in today’s world. Doctrinal differences lead to immense divides in the church. Among the Ephesians, such problems may have existed, but their love remained strong towards all believers. It was, therefore, of exceptional note.
Life application: With the Bible written, we have our source of doctrine for proper Christian conduct and belief. Because of this, divisions within the faith are certainly more pronounced. When a congregation practices something which clearly violates Scripture, it is rather hard to continue to show them fraternal love. They are demonstrating disregard for the word, and thus for God who gave the word. It will be good when Christ returns and sorts out our many differences, both petty and great.
Lord God, You ask us to demonstrate love towards all, especially those who are of the household of faith. But it sure can be hard when they refuse to heed Your word. It can be even more difficult when their doctrine isn’t in accord with Your word. Such willful disobedience to the precepts You have laid down shows a lack of care for You who gave that same word. It will be marvelous when You come back for us and sort us out. May that day be soon. Until then, give us hearts to love others, knowing that we too are not perfect in our faith and practice. Amen.