Sunday, October 1, 2017

Ephesus - You've Got Mail (Part 1)

Sermon:     GM17-200

Series:         Ephesians: The Divine Purpose of God in Christ



Subtitle:     Ephesus – You’ve Got Mail! (Part 1)

Scripture:   Ephesians 1:1-2

Subject:      Introduction to Ephesians

Scope:        Paul demonstrates pastoral concern for these believers by writing a letter to them, wishing upon them blessings of God’s grace and peace.

Scheme:      To provide strategic information which enables you to appreciate, assimilate, and actuate the principles of this letter to the Ephesians.

Scrutiny:    What do you need to know in order to fully appreciate this letter?

Solution:    This message provides five (5) aspects of strategic information that enables you to fully appreciate this letter to the Ephesian Church.

Sketch:       Part 1 – The Welcome of the Genuine Believer (1:1-2)                 

1A     The Author of Ephesians
2A     The Audience of Ephesians
                             3A     The Age of Ephesians

                   Part 2 - The Wealth of the Genuine Believer (1:3-3:23)                
                   Part 3 – The Walk of the Genuine Believer (4:1–6:9)
                   Part 4 – The War of the Genuine Believer (6:10-20)
                   Part 5 – The Windup of the Genuine Believer (6:21–24)

Part 1 – The Welcome of the Believer

Ephesus, You’ve Got Mail!
(Part 1)
Ephesians 1:1-2


Several years ago the Los Angeles Times carried a story of an elderly man and his wife who had been found dead in their apartment. An autopsy was performed and the doctors determined that the couple had died of extremely severe malnutrition. Unfortunately many people, including poverty-stricken or poor people today die of severe malnutrition.

But what makes this an even more tragic story is the fact that this couple was not poor. They were not homeless nor vagrants. They were not impoverished at all. As the investigators searched and processed their apartment they found more than $40.000 dollars stored in paper bags in their closet.

In another tragic case a woman named Hetty Green was named as “America’s Greatest Miser.” When Hetty died in 1916 she left an estate that was valued at over $100,000 million dollars – that was a fortune in 1916. But she was an extreme miser.

[For example…]

·        She ate cold oatmeal so she should would not have to pay for heating the water

·        When her son had a severe leg injury she took so much time in finding a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of the advanced infection

·        She even sped up her death by arguing so violently about the value of skim milk vs whole milk because it was cheaper, she went in to an apoplectic attack

We could go on about and on about misers and there ridiculously and tragic means of pinching pennies. We all know these stores and people, many who were products of the great depression. We know them and we shake our heads when we hear them, and we even condemn either the people or their practice.

But let me tell you something that is an even greater tragedy. Spiritual misers. People who live in spiritual poverty.

The book of Ephesians was written to believers who were very prone to treating their rich and plentiful spiritual resources just like the miserly couple or Hetty Green. Believers are constantly in danger of suffering from spiritual malnutrition because they do not take advantage and make use of the great storehouse of spiritual wealth. Sadly, many believers are ignorant or unaware of all the spiritual resources that we possess as children of God.

Ephesians contains the great truths of our riches in Christ; namely our redemption, or reconciliation, and all the resources that we need to live godly in Christ Jesus. Ephesians was written for believers who might be tempted to ignore all of the spiritual resources that are available to the believer; to you.

Before we begin looking into our text for tonight let’s take a few minutes and set the stage so to speak for our study of this fantastic letter.

[First thing that we need to see to set our stage is…]

A.      The Classification of Ephesians

In order to properly interpret a book of the bible you must determine its classification. IOW, you must identify the genre.

Genres are categories of literature, each with their own tone and techniques. The Bible uses a handful of genres—narrative and law, prophecy and letters, poetry, and apocalyptic literature. Understanding which genre the passage is written in can help guide our reading.

Understanding genres is important because they impact our study of Scripture. Before we ever get into the actual text of a biblical passage, we need to understand what literary genre the text is in so that we can properly observe, interpret, and apply that text.

The Bible is much more than a piece of literature.  But it’s certainly not less.  We need to understand the Bible in its literary context, just like anything else we ever read.

The rules or principles vary from genre to genre. Interpreting the epistles has some different rules or principles than narrative or historical genres.

Ephesians is classified as an epistle. So to properly interpret this letter we need to first know that it is a letter and we second, we need to use the principles that apply to interpreting a letter.

Let me very briefly give you at least four (4) principles for properly interpreting New Testament letters:

1.       Letters were considered to be substitutes for the personal presence of the author.

For an Apostle of Christ a letter functioned as an extension of their authoritative presence. With the limitations of travel and technology in the New Testament times a handwritten letter was the most efficient way of communicating beyond physical reach.

2.    New Testament letters were occasional or situational.

We always hear- ‘interpret a text in its context’; this is the reason. New Testament letters were written to address specific situations faced by real churches. Knowing the situation or occasion of the New Testament church will allow you to identify the theological principles within the letter as was intended. (This would clear up any discussion of the Paul vs. James on works; knowing that Paul was addressing a church dealing with legalism, and James was dealing with people who had become lazy and needed a reminder that real faith produces works). 

3.       New Testament letters were meant to be read aloud over an over to specific congregations.

In our day we read letters silently and privately. This was not the case in New Testament times. Letters were read aloud, therefore they lend themselves to oral presentation. Plus, they were not composed quickly as we compose emails. A letter was written with careful thought- they designed each letter for maximum impact on those particular listeners in particular situations.

4.       The Letter’s opening often included clues for interpreting the whole letter.

If you notice, some letters begin with an affectionate tone ‘beloved’, or ‘saints’; while others don’t (Galatians). There is a reason for this. Also, watch for commands in the opening of a letter. A New Testament letter usually follows the opening- body- and conclusion outline. Watch for strong signals as to their purposes in writing the letter. (Copied from the Matt Cap blog,

So, know your genre, identify the classification of the book of the bible that you are going to read, study, and interpret. The classification or genre of Ephesians is an epistle.

[Second thing that we need to see as we set our stage is…]

B.      The Circumstances of Ephesians

Again, in order to properly interpret any passage or section of scripture you must know the background or what circumstances your passage was written from.

The first thing we note about the circumstances or background about Ephesians is that there is some obscurity or uncertainty underlying the writing of Ephesians.

You need to learn about the world of the text. What can be known of the historical situation prior to and during the time the biblical book was written?
 How did society function at that time, e.g., what was the status of women, children, or slaves in the culture, what religions existed at the time of writing, or what were the main cultural values in society?

What other passages in the bible might be like the book that contains your passage from the same time period? Are there other passages that might help you understand your passage? The Bible did not float down from heaven untouched by human hands. Rather, it was written over a long period of time, by real people who lived in real homes, with real families in real cultures.

Since most letters were written to churches we look to see what problems might be occurring in those churches, what heresies or false teachings were being taught, what controversies were taking place, or what instructions were needed by the church to function according to the purpose and will of God.

[For example…]

What was the background to the letter to the Colossians? In a nutshell, Epaphras, the founder and pastor of the Colossian church reported to Paul that there were some serious doctrinal issues disrupting the church. So Paul wrote the letter to the Colossian church to correct those doctrinal issues and to explain the person and the work of Jesus Christ.

When we examine Ephesians carefully we don’t find any controversies, heresies, false teachings, or problems. Paul doesn’t address doctrinal difficulties, rather he records the most sublime dissertation on the church triumphant and on the Christian life that has ever been produced.

This is why at the bare minimum you need to have next to your bible is a reliable Bible Handbook or commentary. Either one will help you ascertain the historical background of the passage that you are studying. 

But we do know that:

·        Paul had a three (3) ministry in Ephesus after spending eighteen months in Corinth.

·        Paul came to Ephesus with Aquila & Priscilla who began an outreach to the city while Paul traveled on to Jerusalem

·        Paul returned to Ephesus in the spring of AD 52 and built up the church until late AD 55.

·        Ephesus is a metropolitan city, very multi-cultural.

·        Ephesus is called the mother city of Asia due to the influence that she had over:

o   Politics
o   Commerce
o   Religion
o   Economics

·        Ephesus was the headquarters for the Roman proconsul

·        Ephesus was a major port city for the west coast of Asia

·        Major highways ran North, South, and East & converged in Ephesus

·        The population at the time of writing is estimated at 250,000

·        Ephesus was very pluralistic religiously, with the prominent religion being the Cult of Dianna

·        The temple of Dianna was considered to be one of the seven (7) wonders of the worlds

·        Ephesus was a major city of the occult and the practice of magic

·        Ephesus had a very large Jewish population, estimated at 10 to 20% of the population

[Thirdly, in order to properly set out state we need to examine…]

C.      The Consideration of Ephesians

It is vitally important that you determine the consideration or the argument of the book that you are studying. As we have said, once you understand the historical background of your book you should be able to discover and determine the argument or theme that the author is putting forth.

The consideration or argument of the letter to the Ephesians is a bit difficult to determine because of the obscurity of the historical background. But it seems that Paul wrote this letter:

…to demonstrate his pastoral concern for these believers by writing a letter to them, wishing upon them blessings of God’s grace and peace.
Paul argues that the universal body of Christ is a living organism who head is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul develops the theme of God’s glorious plan to bring the Jews and the Gentiles from every tribe, nation, and country together in Christ into one body. So we see in these pages the gathering of all things into Jesus Christ.

The glorious theme, or argument, or consideration of this magnificent letter gives life to the glorious work of God in Christ to bring together all things into one unified body of believers.

Even more specifically we can see the argument that Paul is strengthening and encouraging the Gentile believers in this church by assuring them of their place with the eternal plan and purpose of God. And as a result he encouraged and instructs these believers to bring their lives into conformity with this divine plan as he sums up all things in Christ.

[The fourth thing that we need to examine as we set the stage for our study is…]
D.      The Contention of Ephesians – aim

What is the purpose or the objective of this letter to the Ephesians? What is that the apostle Paul wanted to accomplish? At the end of the day, when the church as read this letter what is that Paul wants these believers to belief and how does he want them to behave?
Well, I think there are at least four (4) things that these believers and each one of us must believe and act upon.

·        The threat of spiritual powers of the enemy is to be seen in light of the superior power of God which has been imparted to and lives within the people of God. Paul focuses on the nature of the struggle or warfare which believers face from their supernatural enemies.

·        The powerful cultural pressure of the animosity of the Gentiles towards the Jews must be overcome by the church on the basis of the atoning work of Christ which unites both, Jew and Gentile in to one body. There cannot be a division. There cannot be a Jewish church and a Gentile church.

There is one body universally and there should only be one body locally representing that one body. To segregate them is wrong. It is in opposition to the purpose of Christ.

·        The new Gentile converts needed encouragement and assistance in their quest to put to death their immoral practices and to establish a lifestyle consistent with the holiness of God. We struggle with this today. We must put to death the deeds or works of our flesh and live our lives consistent with God’s holiness.

·        Believers need to be well established in the understanding of their identify in Christ and what that means for their spiritual struggle, their relationship to each other, in order to live out the moral imperatives of the Christian life.

Ephesians is a pretty heavy letter. The implications of this letter are life changing.

In the “Introduction” to his series on Ephesians, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote this:
“It is very difficult to speak of [Ephesians] in a controlled manner because of its greatness and because of its sublimity. Many have tried to describe it. One writer has described it as ‘the crown and climax of Pauline theology’. Another has said that it is ‘the distilled essence of the Christian religion, the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of our holy Christian faith’. What language! And it is by no means exaggerated.
. . . . the peculiar feature and characteristic of the Epistle to the Ephesians is that here the Apostle seems to be, as he puts it himself, in ‘the heavenly places’, and he is looking down at the great panorama of salvation and redemption . . .

The result is that in this Epistle there is very little controversy; and that is so because his great concern here was to give to the Ephesians . . . a panoramic view of this wondrous and glorious work of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

. . . Luther says of the Epistle to the Romans that it is ‘the most important document in the New Testament, the gospel in its purest expression’, and in many ways I agree that there is no purer, plainer statement of the gospel than in the Epistle to the Romans.
Accepting that as true, I would venture to add if the Epistle to the Romans is the purest expression of the gospel, the Epistle to the Ephesians is the sublimest and the most majestic expression of it. . . .
There are statements and passages in this Epistle which really baffle description. The great Apostle piles epithet upon epithet, adjective upon adjective, and still he cannot express himself adequately. There are passages in [the] first chapter, and others in the third chapter, especially towards its end, where the Apostle is carried out above and beyond himself and loses and abandons himself in a great outburst of worship and praise and thanksgiving. I repeat, therefore, that there is nothing more sublime in the whole range of Scripture than this Epistle to the Ephesians.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. God’s Ultimate Purpose—An Exposition of Ephesians 1, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1978, pp. 11-12

o   This letter summarizes what it means to be a Christian

o   This letter explores the dynamics of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

o   This letter sets forth the overall plan of God for the church of Jesus Christ

o   This letter draws out the implications of what it means to belong to Christ

The study of this letter is life changing. I hope that it truly changes the life of each and every one of us.

[Well, there is a fifth and final item to consider as we set the state for our study of the letter to the Ephesians and that is…]

E.      The Composition of Ephesians (division or structure)

When I speak of composition I am referring to the structure or the divisions of this letter. In order to study Ephesians we must break it up into manageable parts or pieces.

Most commentators and theologians divide this letter into two (2) major divisions, chapter one (1) verse one (1) to chapter three (3) and verse twenty one (21).

They call these two (2) divisions by various names:

·        Part 1 – the Calling & Part 2 the Conduct
·        Part 1 – the Doctrine & Part 2 the Duty
·        Part 1 – the Wealth & Part 2 the Walk
·        Part 1 the Position & Part 2 the Practice

A couple commentators go a step further and they divide Ephesians into three parts – the calling, conduct, & conflict; or the doctrine, duty, & defense; or the wealth, walk, & warfare, or the position, practice, and power.

I have divided Ephesians into five (5) parts:

Part 1 – The Welcome of the Genuine Believer (1:1-2)        

                   Part 2 - The Wealth of the Genuine Believer (1:3-3:23)
                   Part 3 – The Walk of the Genuine Believer (4:1–6:9)

                   Part 4 – The War of the Genuine Believer (6:10-20)

                   Part 5 – The Windup of the Genuine Believer (6:21–24)

                   We will look at each section or division as a separate unit.

As you can see I borrowed the divisional titles. They come from Ruth Paxon. She was a Moody Bible College graduate, an authoress, and missionary to China in the 1920’s. She wrote several books including devotionals and a book on Ephesians called The Wealth, Walk, and Warfare of the Christian. I like her divisions so I borrowed them.

The truth that I propose for your consideration is that Paul demonstrates pastoral concern for these believers by writing a letter to them, wishing upon them the blessings of God’s grace and peace.

It is my purpose to provide you with strategic information which will enable you to assimilate, appreciate, and actuate the principles of this letter to the Ephesians.


Today we determined that the genre of Ephesians was that of an epistle, or letter; the background was somewhat obscured with no doctrinal issues, internal problems, or sin to deal with, but Paul developed the idea of the universal church under the headship of Christ where both Jew and Gentile were formed into one body through the atoning work of Jesus and facilitated by the ministry of the HS, with the purpose of enabling each believer to live according to their standing in Christ which is demonstrated in the various divisions of the letter entitled, The Welcome, the Wealth, the Walk, the War, and the Wrap-up of the believers.

Let’s pray! J

Our Father, we thank You first, for this majestic and glorious letter that you gave to your church. Secondly, we thank you for giving the church such a man as the Apostle Paul. The account of his life reminds us that You are the founder, the head, the protector and provider of this thing we know as the church of Jesus Christ.

And it is because we have come to believe that gospel that salvation is provided for all who repent and all who believe in You through the work of Christ on the cross, and we believing that come to celebrate that.

We thank You, O God, for the provision You’ve made in Christ. We thank You, blessed Holy Spirit, for giving us life and faith even as You gave to the Ephesians to put our trust in the one Savior. Thank you for your unmerited favor & peace!


nashvillecats2 said...

This was an eye opener for me as I live completely alone, no-one speaks and my family are still estranged. What worries me is that being Epiletic no-one would know if I was on the floor and couldn't get help.
Thanks for this post Gregg.

Gregg Metcalf said...

You are welcome. I hope you have someone who can check on you, it is hard to be alone.