Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ephesians 1:1-2

V1-2 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins by giving his apostolic authority to declare the truth within this letter. He is an apostle of Christ Jesus, an office not granted to every minister of the gospel (Ephesians 4:11). This has come about not by his own declaration or appointment – for “no one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God” (Hebrews 5:4) – but by the very will of God – as testified to by Paul’s (then Saul’s) Damascus Road conversion experience, which is possibly the most clear illustration of monergism in all of Scripture (Acts 9). As Ligon Duncan points out, “We must listen to the message of Ephesians with an appropriate attention and humility, because this message does not come to us from the ideas of man. This message does not come to us from a private individual acting on his own. This message doesn’t even come to us from someone who was a gifted teacher, or one of our missionary heroes. This message comes to us, because God called and set apart and appointed Paul to bring this message to us; and, therefore, when you hear Paul speaking in this letter, you are in fact hearing the message of God Himself that God appointed Paul to bring to you.”

If this letter is specific to Ephesus, then it reads at stated, “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ;” however, if Ephesus is absent, as in some early manuscripts, and the letter is general and circular, then Paul is writing to “the saints, the believers who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Either way, he is defining for us what it means to be a saint. Being a saint and believing in Christ, having faith in Jesus, are synonymous. So when the Roman Catholic Church canonizes saints, it is discounting, even denying, what Paul is saying. If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you have faith in Him as He is presented in the Bible, then you are saints. Paul is not the only one who makes this declaration. See 1 Peter 2:9-12. We who believe in Jesus Christ are not among those destined for stumbling over Him; rather, we are the chosen ones of God, called to be holy. And so we, as strangers in the world, must pursue holiness (distinctness) with nothing less than the whole of our very lives, unto the glory of God. Paul says that the saints are faithful, literally, full of faith. But it’s not a faith in faith, or a faith in sincerity, or a faith in self. It’s a faith “in Christ Jesus.” When Paul says “in Christ,” he has in mind “union with Christ;” he’s thinking of the personal, saving union to Christ by grace through faith, which is a work of the Holy Spirit. And it’s part of the Biblical definition of a Christian.

As is typical with Paul, his salutation includes a benediction, a blessing of grace and peace from God “our” Father, and from “the Lord” Jesus Christ. It’s not just a bunch of words; Paul means it. He wants his audience, the saints, the faithful who believe in Christ, to have the grace and peace of God through Christ. (You can’t have the peace of God apart from Christ!) Grace refers to the undeserved favor of God despite our demerit; peace (shalom) is referring to all the blessings of God, including but not limited to the end of hostility, as we’ll read in Ephesians 2 that we once were alienated from God as His enemies, spiritually dead in our sins. God has made us alive, reconciling us to Himself through Jesus; and the result for us is objective peace – by grace. Peace means that we experience complete wholeness and satisfaction no matter the circumstances of life in this world; it’s not subjective. That’s what Paul wants for his audience,
and he’ll spend the rest of this passage cataloging the “peace” of God, the blessings that we have from God in Christ, the fruits of God’s grace bestowed on us.

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