Home > Uncategorized > The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (part 1 of 155)

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (part 1 of 155)

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

See here for an explanation of what we are doing in this series.

Ephesians 1.1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Paul is an apostle of Christ Jesus–let’s think first about what that means. Jesus had many disciples, but only a few of them were ever called apostles. I think I read once somewhere that the requirement for being an apostle was to have seen the risen Christ. Or, at least, this was one requirement. It says somewhere that over 500 people saw Christ raised, and I do not think that they were all considered apostles.

I think we can say generally that an apostle is someone with authority and a mission from God. Paul is an apostle “by the will of God.” This authority is derived from the call itself, from God himself, and doesn’t have anything to do with the intrinsic qualifications of the person called. In many ways, this is what is so interesting about Paul’s apostleship–it is mysterious as to why God called him to do what he did.

God did not call him because he is intrinsically trustworthy, for instance. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is a common experience for people to respond negatively to the writings of Paul, and his unique character in general. Indeed, much that we find in his letters is bizarre or confusing, though some of this is, no doubt, merely a result of our lack of context and our experience of an alien culture and social customs. But, simultaneously, some of the most beautiful, God revealing passages in all of scripture occur in these epistles, and so often it is abundantly clear that the Spirit of God is the one behind these letters, behind Paul himself as he is writing. I’ve thought for a while that perhaps God wants us, the Church today, to share in the same experience that the early Church had with Paul himself: a man who indeed seems hard to trust, and yet is so clearly, because of the events surrounding him, chosen by God and guided by his Spirit.

Paul himself does not seem to know very well why he has been chosen for such a role, though at places he has a few remarks on this. It was God’s good pleasure. But I think that as we come to understand better Paul’s writings in the New Testament, and also the history of the early church, we do begin to have glimpses of the deep wisdom behind the choice, and grow in our knowledge of God’s beautiful yet mysterious plan of salvation and how individuals fit into it.

So Paul is an apostle by the will of God, and is writing to the “saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” This seems fairly straightforward, though I am not quite sure why the clause “and are faithful in Christ Jesus” is there at all. Is Paul simply rejoicing in this fact, that the saints there have been faithful? Or is he clarifying that the letter is meant only to those saints who are, in fact, faithful? I think it is probably something along the lines of the former.

Anyway, a saint is a person who is set apart for God, though for a more common role than that of an apostle, though it is no less of a blessing to be so chosen. All believers in Jesus are saints, and are those who are being sanctified and transformed into the image of his Son. These saints are faithful “in Christ Jesus.” This makes me think of the body of Christ, how those saints of Ephesus are literally a part of it, they are in him, Jesus Christ our Lord. And consequently their faith is in him, and they are faithful to him as a result of him. And their being in him also brings to them what is offered in the next verse, which we will look at tomorrow:

1.2: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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