Monday, October 12, 2015

Introduction to Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians

The epistle to the church at Ephesus was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Biblical historians have narrowed down the dates to A.D. 60-62. It was during this imprisonment that Paul continued to write, and penned what have now been called the Prison Epistles. These include – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. As with the other epistles of Paul, each of these letters serves a purpose of either dispelling heresy that has arisen in the local churches or like the Epistle to the Romans, of teaching the believers in the church the grand truths of God and the gospel.
While many of Paul’s letters addressed specific heresy that had crept into local churches, Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians served to describe the truth of God that would affect the whole body of Christ, not just a local church. The book of Ephesians has been historically broken down into two sections. In the first section, Paul describes the positional truths of the Christian life. In this, he describes the theology of the body of Christ, in essence, he describes the doctrinal basis and foundation for all Christians. The last three chapters then describe what we should do with those theological moorings. These last three could also be called the practical truths of the Christian life.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.”As Paul starts his letter, he begins in typical first century greeting style with the author’s name at the front of the epistle. He then moves on to describe himself with two statements. The first statement establishes his authority as an Apostle. There were only 14 Apostles on the earth, the original 12, Mathias (who was chosen to replace Judas), and Paul. These Apostles served as the leadership of the early church and established the doctrine that Jesus had taught them personally. They were the penmen of Scripture, and served to spread the gospel around the world after Jesus left. Paul was a member of this elite group. According to 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul was an Apostle that was “one untimely born.” He was not chosen along with the other disciples, rather, Christ personally chose Paul on the road to Damascus and added him to his band of Apostles.
Paul continued his self-description with “by the will of God.” This is an impressive claim. He was not an accident. Rather, the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God of the universe had chosen Paul to be an Apostle. It was the very will of God that Paul serve the church as an Apostle. Paul had been a religious zealot before in Judaism, but after his conversion, he was now an Apostle of Jesus Christ, because God had willed it to be so.
“to the saints…and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.”Paul continued his introduction by describing his audience. These truths that would follow were written for “the saints.” The word used here is hagios and it means “holy.” In addressing the believers in Ephesus and the rest of Asia Minor, Paul calls them “holy ones.” This is not because they were sinless, but because even from the outset he was establishing what we already mentioned – the positional truths of those who are Christians. Those who have placed their faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ are truly “holy” and have been declared righteous by God. These believers have been declared holy, and are now being fashioned into practical holiness by God. The next descriptor Paul uses helps us to understand further that truth, “the faithful.” These holy ones (saints) are living lives that are full of faith. They live every day trusting in the saving work of Christ to help them to live as they ought in holy and righteous ways. Their positional seating causes them to strive in the day to day for the practical outworking of righteousness. Perhaps as we explore Paul’s encouragement to the holy and faithful believers in Ephesus, we can find some comforting and warming truth for us.
Reflect: In your own words, connect the doctrinal truth for believers who are “saints” and how they are “faithful.”