Ephesians 1 1-3 (an introduction)
Apr 30, 2017 // By:Dave // No Comment
The letter to the Ephesians is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. It is written to a flourishing church established in the greek city of Ephesus. This was perhaps the most important city in Asia Minor because of the fact that it had a harbor opening to an attached waterway giving access to the Aegean Sea and also because of an intersection of major trade routes.
This city, as a result of the saints in Ephesus, offered some excellent evangelical opportunities to many traders and travelers.
Paul writes this letter not to correct any problems occurring (as he later addresses in Rev 2:1-7) but for a different purpose altogether. This letter serves to open the eyes of the saints in Ephesus to give them a better understanding of God’s purpose and goals for the church. He spends the first three chapters telling them what God has given them and follows with the three remaining chapters of what they should be doing with these things (with His empowerment to use them). I always describe this book as a big “if-then” statement! IF you have this, THEN do this. Another way to look at this book is “three chapters of God’s goals for the church” followed by “three chapters of “steps towards their fulfillment”, or (doctrine followed by application)
Paul starts with his typical introduction (common writing form of the time) which consists of the following three parts which he would expand or contract as the situation saw fit:
- identifying himself (the writer)
- identifying the recipient (or reader)
- some expressions of greeting or courtesy
Eph 1:1-2 shows these three in sequence. It is interesting to bring our attention to his description of himself in verse 1; “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”. Remember, Paul (originally Saul) was not in the company of Jesus as the first 12 were. These 12 (leaving out Judas who would have made 13) were in the physical presence of Jesus of Nazereth for three years to learn from Him firsthand. Paul was not there. He shows up later at Stephen’s stoning (Acts 7:57 – Acts 8-1) and again on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6 ) to arrest believers and bring them back to Jerusalem (likely to be stoned). He was not an ally of God or the believers, but he thought he was doing God’s will. After God reveals to him that he has been working against the very God he worshipped, he spends 3+ years in Arabia (many scholars believe this was his “wilderness experience” in Gal 1:15-18.
I see this theme common in Paul’s introductions; specifying that his authority as an Apostle comes directly from God, rather than a man-given appointment. He was called by God, to obey God, teach about this God with God’s words and under the authority of this same God. He had already had enough of man’s authority (from his first appointments as a pharisee to kill christians, all the way to dealing the the first heads of the growing church who insisted that gentiles fall under the law and even be circumcised). He had a clear calling from God, what he was to do, to say, and where he would be going to do it (culminating his voyage in Rome itself). As we begin reading this book and unpacking all that it gives to us, let us always be mindful of Paul’s underlying message; GOD gives these things, God plans these things, and GOD expects you to DO these things. It’s all from God, nothing from man. So who should we be concerned with pleasing? Right !! GOD !!
This is the lesson Paul had to learn the hard way and this is the letter Paul is trying to write to the believers in Ephesus. “Please see the big picture of what God is wanting to do here and get on board! There is so much more, higher, greater things to happen in this kingdom you have entered into by His grace.” (while I will not explore every “bunny trail” available, I will check out an occasional one since that is the best way to catch the “tasty rabbits” LOL
I would be worth mentioning that his usage of “saints” and “faithful” in verse 2 are not what we would call “fluff”.
- ἁγίοις = saints = sanctified (seperated for special purpose, and not be used for previous purposes again) EBC comments that this “denotes inward, personal consecration to God”
- πιστοῖς = faithful = reliable, stableMatthew Henry Commentary had this to say on the topic:Ephesians 1:1, 2. All Christians must be saints; if they come not under that character on earth, they will never be saints in glory. Those are not saints, who are not faithful, believing in Christ, and true to the profession they make of relation to their Lord. By grace, understand the free and undeserved love and favour of God, and those graces of the Spirit which come from it; by peace, all other blessings, spiritual and temporal, the fruits of the former. No peace without grace. No peace, nor grace, but from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ; and the best saints need fresh supplies of the graces of the Spirit, and desire to grow.- MHC
Reading this, it becomes apparent that many people going to church on Sunday mornings might not fit this description. After all, Paul describes believers as santified and consecrated to God, and reliable and stable in their talk and walk. (the obvious implication is that this inward sanctification expresses itself 24/7 (not just on Sundays)
Paul gets off to a running start in Eph 1:3. Look at the second half of verse 3; “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Εὐλογητὸς (translated “Blessed be”) is the greek work eulogetos meaning “praise be to” and this word is only used in the NT when referring to worshipping God (not praising man).
Expositors Bible Commentary reminds us that “Blessed be God” was a customary Jewish introduction to an ascription of praise.
“Blessed be God . . .” was the customary introduction to a Jewish ascription of praise. “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is a distinctively Christian addition arising out of a unique relationship. God who is to be blessed has already blessed all his people in Christ through the saving events of his life, death, and resurrection. – EBC.
The Focus of the passage is what God has done in Christ (the focal point of the entire christian body of theology and practice).
These benefits (blessings) are spiritual (pneumatikos) in nature because they are communicated to us through the Holy Spirit, whose function it is to make over to the believer all that God has achieved in Christ. They have already been secured “in the heavenly realms” (en tois epouraniois, cf. Eph 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) where Christ now reigns, having triumphed over “the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph 6:12) that threatened to usurp control. Their value is measured by the price that was paid to obtain them when on the cross the Son of God fought satanic opponents and disarmed them (Col 2:15).
We’ll look at Paul’s beginning of outlining these blessings (bought and paid for by Jesus Christ) next time in Eph 1:3-14. Suffice to say in closing today is to quote an old hymn “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe …”
We were nothing before Christ, we have nothing apart from Christ, and we can do nothing without Christ.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
Let us not settle for shallow satisfactions of this world, but to focus on all that Christ has done for us, and all that He is willing to do in us and through us.
εν διακονια τω θεω, Dave Cadieux