Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ephesus - You've Got Mail (Part 2)

Sermon:     GM17-201

Series:         Ephesians: The Divine Purpose of God in Christ



Subtitle:     Ephesus – You’ve Got Mail! (Part 2)

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 three (3) 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 2)
Ephesians 1:1-2


John Stott writes, “The letter to the Ephesians is a marvelously concise, yet comprehensive, summary of the Christian good news and its implications. Nobody can read it without being moved to wonder and worship, and challenged to consistency of life.” [1]

This letter has been the favorite of many believers since it was written. Many people have written beautiful and moving descriptions of its content, of its effect on their mind and souls, and how it blessed beyond mortal words.

[For example…]

·        Ephesians was John Calvin’s favorite letter

·        Armitage Robinson called it ‘the crown jewel of Paul’s writings’

·        Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, ‘it was the divinest composition known to man’

·        John MacKay, former president of Princeton Theological Seminary stated, ‘To this book I owe my life’

·        Someone once wrote of Ephesians, ‘it is the crown & climax of Pauline theology

·        It has also been described as the sublimest communication ever made to man by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

·        It has been called, ‘the believer’s bank, the Christian checkbook, the treasure house of the bible ( MacArthur’s NT commentary; Eph: vii)

·        Someone has called Ephesians ‘the Queen of the epistles’

·        When John Knox was dying he had Ephesians read to him often

To summarize the glorious things that have been said or written about his letter, Klyne Snodgrass wrote of Ephesians, ‘Pound for pound Ephesians may well be the most influential document ever written.” [2]

I don’t think we have to think too hard to come to the conclusion that this letter is a mind boggling, soul stirring, and life changing, letter from God. It behooves us to seek by the HS of God a deep love and intimate relationship with this letter.

What do you need to understand and grasp in order to fully appreciate this letter?

Tonight’s message provides four (4) aspects of strategic information that will enable you to fully appreciate, assimilate, and actuate the treasure trove of truth in this letter written to the Ephesian Church.


Before we begin, let’s take a moment and remind ourselves what God through His HS taught us last week. We looked at five (3) key points in our introduction. Let me just briefly remind you of those key points:

A.      The Classification of Ephesians

It is crucial to properly classify the genre of the book or passage that we are studying for proper interpretation. This is because each book of the bible is classified by a type or genre and each genre has different rules for properly interpreting it. Ephesians is classified as an epistle, it is a letter. We looked at some rules or principles of interpretation for epistles or letters.

If you missed those principles you can ask me later and I will gladly give them to you.

B.      The Circumstances of Ephesians

You need to learn about the world of the text. It is also crucial to know 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?
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.

C.      Consideration

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.

D.      The Contention of Ephesians – (aim)

As you dig in and dig down into the book you are studying you must determine what is the purpose or the objective of book? What is that the author wanted to accomplish? At the end of the day, when you have determined the genre, background, main point, you must answer the question what does God want you to belief and how does he want you to behave?

E.      The Composition of Ephesians (division or structure)

When I speak of composition I am referring to the structure or the divisions of the book that you are reading. IOW, you must outline the book. Outlining enables you to determine the overall theme of the book and to see the theme of each paragraph in the book and how they are related and support the main theme.

So, last week 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.

[Now, that we have caught you up and we have been reminded of the ground we covered last time, let’s move on to our…]


I propose for your consideration vital strategic information which will enable you to appreciate, assimilate, and actuate the principles of this letter to the Ephesians.

The question then is, what do you need to know in order to fully appreciate this letter?

This message provides three (3) aspects of strategic information that enables you to fully appreciate this letter to the Ephesian Church.

[The first aspect of strategic information need to appreciate, assimilate, and actuate the principles in this letter is knowing…]

1A     The Author of Ephesians (Vs. 1a)

Paul wrote Ephesians from prison in Rome between AD 60 & AD 63. He also wrote the books of Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon at the same time.

Acts 28:16 tells us that Paul arrived in Rome and was put under house arrest. He was able to live for two years in a rented house chained to a Roman guard. 

There is an interesting description of Paul in a non-biblical book called The Apocrypha Acts of Paul and Thecla: A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged, well built, with eye-brows meeting, rather long nosed, full of grace –for sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel.”

This may or may not be accurate. It was not inspired by the HS, but it may be a means of knowing something about this unique and interesting man.

[The text says…] “Paul, an apostle…”
1B     Apostle - apostolos

                   1C     What does this word mean?

                             First of all, it meant to send away or to send off.

Second, when there was a delegation for a specific purpose, the reason or cause for sending someone off or away was usually obvious within the word itself.

Third, the one sent off or away had full power or authorization which stemmed from the one who was doing the sending, and was a personal representative of the one doing the sending away.

apostolos from the root apostellw, originally was used to describe the sending out or commissioning of a cargo ship or military ship. It also was used of an envoy, a naval expedition, or even of colonists being sent overseas to colonize a territory.

Fourth, whatever it was used of it conveyed two things:

o   A direct & specific commission was given

o   There was absolute authority given by sender

o   Our word is used some 132 times in the Greek NT.

And, so, Paul informs the Ephesians as the author of this letter that he is an envoy, an ambassador, or one who has been sent with absolute authority. Where did he get that authority? “…of Jesus Christ, by the will of God.”

2C     What are the marks or the signs of an apostle?

First – they had to be part of the group of disciples from the time John’s baptism to the ascension of Christ

Second – an apostle had to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Third – he must have been specially called to be an apostle.

3C     Why does this matter? Why can’t just anyone claim to be an apostle?

The apostles claimed that they were speaking with absolute authority from God.

They claimed to be representatives from God.

The application of this point is to recognize that Paul was God’s representative with the necessary divine authority to effectively speak on behalf of God.

Therefore we can’t ignore nor shrug off what the apostle tells us in this letter. We must accept Paul as we would God. IOW, this letter contains God’s words.

          2B     “…of Jesus Christ, by the will of God…”

                   This phrase tells us two very important things:

                   1C     Paul belonged to Jesus Christ

He was subordinated to Christ. He is the great efficient Cause who saves (in the fullest sense) by his Word, by his blood, by his Spirit. To him, therefore, must be all the praise of salvation. "Unto him that loved us."

 But yet he stood in an important relation to him as an apostle. He was not the only apostle, but he was as much an apostle as any. He was sent from Christ (with special authority), as Christ was sent from God. With special powers his mission was to bring the salvation that was in Christ to man, and to build up the Church.

2C     Paul’s calling was by the will of God

This was at once his abasement and his support. He had no personal merit entitling him to the position of apostle. At the same time, that position was not a self-chosen one. It was the will of God that Christ (such is the idea) should station him, now here and now there, among the Churches. And whether he was anxiously engaged in the composition of an Epistle, or whether he was pleading tremblingly with his voice for Christ, he was supported by the feeling that he was acting at the Divine instance and under the Divine authority. 

Paul’s calling was that of a special ambassador or messenger sent by Jesus Christ himself. (1 Corinthians 15:8-11)

[So, the first aspect of strategic information is that Paul is the author. The second aspect of strategic information needed to appreciate, assimilate and actuate this letter is knowing…]

2A     The Audience of Ephesians (Vs. 1b)

The first thing we have to ask ourselves is who did the Apostle Paul write this letter to? The second part of verse one (1) tells us that Paul wrote…

“…to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus.”

1B     To whom was Ephesians written?

Right off the bat we have an interpretative challenge.
It seems that there is a difference of opinion among scholars, teachers, and theologians over this issue.

The sad truth, at least to me is how big a case most of these scholars make out of where I consider to be very little and highly suspicious information. By the way, the audience, or the recipients of this letter was virtually unchallenged throughout church history. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that a serious attack on the audience or recipients was launched and waged.

There are three (3) manuscripts that are “considered” to be very early, very old manuscripts. The prevailing thought of course because these three manuscripts are so old and so early that they are more accurate & authoritative. Then there are two (2) more manuscripts more recent that are used to challenge whether this letter was actually written to the church in Ephesus.

In Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and what is called a Chester Beatty papyrus, the words en Efesw ”in Ephesus” are not in the manuscripts.

So, the prevailing thought is that this letter was actually written and designed to be passed around several churches in Asia Minor, or maybe more specifically in the Lycus Valley.

Once the letter had been read, and maybe even copied, it was to be sent on to the next church, and the next and the next until it made the rounds of a number of churches.

So, scholars and theologians think that it went to Ephesus first, then to Smyrna, then to Pergamos, all the way around and ending up in Laodicea.

The idea is that since Paul told the Colossians to read a letter from the Laodicean church, they think the letter to the Ephesians is that letter. They think somebody at Laodicean inserted that name into the space reserved for the audience or recipients.

The scholars & theologians also believe the following reasons which they use to deny this letter entitled to the saints in Ephesus was not written to Ephesus:

·        They state the lack of any personal greeting to people in the Ephesian church proves that Paul didn’t write this specifically to them

·        They state the lack of any church problem or issues not addressed proves that the letter was meant for a broader audience than Ephesus

·        They state that the use of the word “heard” in vss. 1:15; 3:2; & 4:21 prove that Paul only had an indirect relationship or knowledge of these believers rather than a personal relationship

So, the hypothesis of these scholars is that Paul would have greeted his many friends and converts in the church of Ephesus and that he would have personal knowledge of them and their circumstances and wouldn’t have stated that he had “heard of them.”

But here is the problem with this position and hypothesis:

·        There are no Greek manuscripts extant, or in existence, that have any other name of any church or location in the space that would occupy the words “at Ephesus.”

Why didn’t a church insert their name or location in that spot? If they did why hasn’t at least one of those letters been found?

·        Second, the majority of Greek Manuscripts have the words “at Ephesus” included in them in the space normally allotted for the addressees.

·        Third, the majority of the early church fathers wrote or commented that this letter was sent to the church at Ephesus. 

2B     What is the solution?   

So, why does it seem to be so impersonal with no greetings, remarks, or comments by Paul?

·        First of all, Paul wrote this letter some seven (7) years after he left Ephesus. There must have been a huge number of new believers and members added to this church over those seven years and Paul would not have known them.

·        Second, the subject matter of this letter does not lend itself to a personal letter. The theme is so majestic, so huge, and so elevated that it would seem to require a different approach in its writing. Paul is writing about the unique, divine, spectacular, holy, blood bought church of Jesus Christ.

I am convinced that this letter was written to and intended for the believers in Ephesus. By the way, there wasn’t one large building where all the believers met as a church. This letter was sent to the many house churches that were scattered throughout the large metropolitan area of Ephesus.

Secondly, even if it were proved that this letter was a general encyclical letter for all the churches in the Lycus Valley or in Asia Minor, it would not change the content, teaching, or validity of this letter.

          3B     Who are the saints & faithful?

Notice too how Paul describes those to whom he is writing.  He says, “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”.

If you think of a saint as someone with a hallo around their head or as a figure in a stained glass window, it may surprise you to learn that all Christians are saints, though, sadly, not all Christians live like saints! Paul is not writing to a few very holy, specially-gifted individuals. He is writing to all believers. The fact we are called ‘saints’ does not mean that we are perfect – sadly, far from it. We are ‘a work in progress’ –the work may take rather a long time. Yes, we as believers still have our faults & our weaknesses. We still fail.

We still fall into sin, but, hallelujah, we have been saved by grace. We will find out a lot more about this later in Ephesians.   
The recipients of this letter and the children of God are called saints. The word for saint means, ‘one who has been set apart.’ Believers have trusted the gospel message when they heard it.

It is related to the word we know as ‘sanctified’ which means also, ‘set apart.’ Every person who has been converted, saved, washed by the blood of Jesus Christ is immediately sanctified, set apart for Christ by the act of the HS. Every believer belongs to God through Jesus Christ.

And so, believers are made holy and set apart for God. Believers are consecrated to God as his own people. God calls believers to reflect his own purity and holiness.

So, the Apostle Paul is the author of this letter and the Ephesian Church is the audience to whom this letter was written. We now will consider our third and final aspect, and that is…

3A     The Appellation of Ephesians (Vs. 2)

          “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

This Paul’s common greeting to those to whom he writes. But it is more than just a greeting.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “No two words are more important in the whole of our faith than ‘grace’ and ‘peace.’ Yet how lightly we tend to drop them off our tongues without stopping to consider what they mean. Grace is the beginning of our faith; peace is the end of our faith.”

1B     Grace (Read 2:4-7)

Grace and peace have been called twin virtues. Grace always precedes peace. This was a common greeting in Paul’s day.

Grace is the word translated caris it was used to convey the idea of joy. The word came to include the joy that comes from God’s underserved favor or kindness.

Grace is always acknowledged as bestowed upon someone who is lessor by someone who is greater. Grace is freely given to us by God.

When Paul used this word, he probably used to include all of the favors and gifts of God that he gives to his children.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We deserve judgment, but God saved us and then blessed us. When God bestows his grace on us by the cross of Christ, He becomes our Father and Jesus becomes our Lord.

Now we can come to God, we can come near to Him and he will not reject us.

Grace cannot be earned – it is completely undeserved & unmerited!

Matthew Henry wrote, “Grace is the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind.”

John Newton said, “I am not what I ought to be; I am not what I wish to be; I am not what I hope to be; but by the grace of God I am what I am.”

          2B     Peace (Read Philippian 4:4-7)

Dante wrote, “In thy will is our peace.” The only people who know peace know God.

Our sins have brought to us the enmity and hostility from a holy and righteous God. In Christ peace is granted.  
Peace with the holy God is the basic need of every sinner. We cannot appease God by our own sacrifices, good deeds, or self-righteousness. None of these things can ever wash away the awful stain of sin.

Listen to Paul, “For He himself is our peace…” God reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ. God gives to us peace within our hearts demonstrating that he has made peace with us.     

My purpose today was to provide you with some strategic information which will enable you to appreciate, assimilate, and even actuate the principles of this magnificent letter. I hope this portion has simulated your appetite for an in-depth study of this almost indescribable letter to the Ephesian church.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


Paul’s opening greetings emphasizes his authority as an apostle to instruct these believers in Ephesus. He writes to believers in Ephesus who God has set apart as his people and who should demonstrate this fact by the way they live. They believed the gospel and now their lives are to be defined by their relationship with Jesus Christ. As God’s people they are recipients of God’ grace and peace, peace with God and peace with other believers, whether Jew or Gentile.

All of these blessings have come through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ dominates the mind of the Apostle Paul – as He should dominate our minds.

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!

[1] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1979), p.156
[2] Klyne Snodgrass, The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 17

No comments: