Yesterday, I preached the first sermon through our series in the book of Ephesians.  As we began this expositional study, I wanted to point out some important facts about the letter penned by Paul and help us to be prepared for what we will learn and what we will be confronted with as a church.  In the book of Ephesians, Paul deals with two important subjects.  First, we see him explain the deep and rich doctrine of Christianity.  Secondly, Paul explains the duty of the church to live out their Christianity.  It’s one thing to profess to be a Christian today, but quite a different thing to live it out tomorrow.  James Montgomery Boice writes, We are told who we are, how we came to be as we are, what we shall be, and what we must do now in light of that destiny.” [1]

In the opening sermon, I covered Paul’s opening greeting from verses 1-2.

The Author of Ephesians

The opening word in Ephesians is the name Paul.  Once Saul of Tarsus, this once persecutor had become a preacher of the gospel and was literally turning the world upside down with the good news of Christ.  After being humbled on his way to Damascus, Paul’s live was dramatically changed.  Although he was a very capable and intellectually powerful Jew, after being converted by Christ, he became a powerfully humble force for Christianity.  He refused to boast in his own abilities (Phil. 3:4-6; 1 Cor. 1:31; 2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 12:9), for Paul — his boasting was in the cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14).

After being arrested in the temple (see Acts 21:27-36), Paul eventually ended up in a Roman prison.  It was from that very spot that Paul would prepare this letter to be sent to Ephesus.  Paul loved this church.  He had pastored it for a period of three years.  He had warned the elders regarding the attack that they would face and their responsibility to shepherd the flock of God (see Acts 20).  Now, Paul was writing to encourage and strengthen the church to remain faithful.

The Recipients of the Letter

Although the specific words, “in Ephesus” do not appear in the earliest manuscript, it’s believed that this letter was intended to be sent first to Ephesus and then likewise delivered to the neighboring cities near Ephesus and read to their churches as well.  Undoubtedly, Paul was intending his beloved church in Ephesus to receive this letter and to encourage them to find their identity and hope in Christ Jesus.

Paul refers to the church as saints (ἅγιος) and faithful (πιστός).  Apparently the church at Ephesus didn’t hold to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church regarding how a person is canonized as a saint.  Paul was writing to the general assembly of the church – not a special class of extraordinary people who were candidates for sainthood (for more on this see my article regarding Mother Teresa).  It’s quite clear that Paul expected the professing believers to remain faithful in the gospel.  Approximately 30-40 years later, this very church would receive another letter, but this time it would be from Jesus (Rev. 2:1-7).  What Paul feared came to pass. They had abandoned their first love.

The Spiritual Affection of Paul for the Church in Ephesus

Paul ends his greeting with words of affection.  He says, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Grace (χάρις) has the idea of God’s unmerited and undeserved favor in salvation.  Peace (εἰρήνη) is a reminder that these Christians are no longer at enmity with the sovereign God who rules the universe.  To be at war with God is to be in a constant state of unrest and to be in danger of eternal damnation.  Paul had lived that life and now he greets this church in Ephesus by reminding them of their position in Christ Jesus.

It very well might be that Ruth Paxson was right about Ephesians.  She referred to Ephesians as “the Grand Canyon of the Scriptures.” [2]  I’m thrilled not only to read Ephesians, but to study through it verse-by-verse and preach the grand truths and practical exhortations.

  1. James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988), 2.
  2. Quoted by James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988), 1.
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