Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ephesians 6:21-24

21Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. 23Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Paul now writes in his own handwriting one final word to the congregation, and in v21-22, he tells us about Tychicus and why he is sending him. In the course of commending Tychicus, Paul also reveals his own heart. He cares greatly for the church in a practical way (2 Corinthians 11:28) and thus is always working to cultivate unity, fellowship, and shared life for her members.

Tychicus (Colossians 4:7-8), whose name means “Lucky,” likely wrote and delivered this letter or at least followed up on each intended destination for it. The lack of specific personal greetings at the end is solid evidence that the letter was a circular letter, not solely intended for the church at Ephesus. Paul’s purpose in sending Lucky to deliver and/or follow up on the content of this letter was to inform his audience of his circumstances and condition. Everybody in Paul’s sphere of influence wanted to know how he was faring in the prison environment. And rather than occupy the body of the letter with those details, Paul chose to send someone who was with him to tell them in person. Knowing that they were anxious about him, Paul wanted to comfort and encourage them in person, not merely by letter. It’s a way that Paul practically strives to unite the Body of Christ into a more intimate relationship. And we could do the same with a phone call or personal visit rather than an e-mail or voice mail or text message or facebook post.

This style of Paul’s reminds me of Acts 20. Paul’s a busy man, always on the go, and he stops to write letters and meet with people. On his way from Greece to Jerusalem, he informs the elders in Ephesus of his plans and they come to meet him at the halfway point. Their love for one another was so strong that they end up crying and praying, and Paul has to tear himself away from them to continue his journey. Paul is not mechanistic; he’s relational. And that’s how Jesus was; that’s how God is. We ought to be as well.

Now we come to Paul’s double benediction, or word of blessing from God to the audience. His trademark was “grace and peace.” Here Paul starts with “peace to the brothers,” and then he adds “love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And he wraps up with “grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Paul wants God to continue to bless His people with peace (the end of hostility / prosperity and harmony / reconciliation and the shalom rest) and love (the full and fatherly and benevolent and overflowing love of God) with faith (the continued indwelling of the Holy Spirit that brought us to and preserves us in Christ) and grace (God’s riches at Christ’s expense / free and undeserved favor). Calvin says, “From this prayer we learn that faith and love, as well as peace itself, are gifts of God bestowed upon us through Christ – that they come equally from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” through the Holy Spirit.

But who are His people? For whom is this benediction intended? We find out at the very end: “Those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” The word undying means sincere and incorruptible. In other words, a sincere love for Christ is one that never ends and can’t cease to be strong. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be on him.” The only hope we have is to love the Lord. And Paul writes that message here. That Ephesians began with God the Father’s predestination and election, covered the total depravity of man, expounded on the purpose of the atonement of Christ, elicited prayers for the essential and effectual work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to faith and sustaining us in faith and growing us in sanctification through faith, and concludes now with the doctrine of perseverance of the saints in no surprise. God has chosen and elected and predestined a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to unite in Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit according to His vast riches of grace for His eternal glory – and those people who have freely come to love Christ through that power will never cease to do so, because He graciously sustains them in faith and love to fulfill His eternal purpose. That some deny these teachings of Paul, known commonly as the five points of Calvinism is surprising, given Paul’s clarity. But this is the consistent teaching of Paul in his epistles and, I believe, the clear teaching of all of Scripture.

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