Peninsula Community Church
Book of Ephesians: Finding Our Identity
July 13, 2014
Ephesians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This morning we begin a new and exciting study. Over the next several weeks, and perhaps for a couple of months, we will take a journey through the book of Ephesians. This is a great study for the church and it is a great study for individuals as well. The theme for this study is “Finding our identity” as individuals and as a church. The Book is divided into two primary parts. The first part, Ephesians 1-3, focuses it readers on the doctrinal aspect of our relationship with God and Christ. The second part, Ephesians 4-6, focuses on the duties and ethics of living this Christian life out in way that honors God, encourages the church, and expands the kingdom. To put this another way. The first section tells us what we are do, while the second section tells us how we are to live it out. Paul intimately understands that we do not just need to hear about the benefits which are ours in Christ but we also need to understand how we live this out in both practical and spiritual ways. Through the letter to the Ephesians, he accomplishes this.
For today, let’s focus our attention on the first two verses of this letter. The letter to the church of Ephesus begins with an introduction of the author, an acknowledgment of who was to receive the letter, and a salutation. In this verse we find that Paul is the author. To most this may not seem to be very important but when we remember the story of Paul life, we are reminded of the miraculous conversion experience Paul had (Acts 9). To refresh our memory, Paul who was once known as Saul, was a tormentor of the church (Acts 8:1-3). He hated the church and he hated what the church stood for. It was Paul, if you remember, that stood at the feet of Stephen when he was stoned to death (Acts 7:53). But through his conversion experience, Paul was changed and empowered with the Gospel. This gives us hope today because it speaks to us that no matter what we have done in the past we can be covered by the blood and the power of forgiveness exerted upon the cross. If Paul can become a pillar of the church and an effective force for Godly good, then we all have that opportunity. No one is beyond the touch of God’s amazing grace.
Paul also identifies himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God. There are a couple of things that stand out here. First, we find that Paul is an apostle. In our modern culture, the idea of an apostle has been distorted or diverted from its original intent. In the days of Paul, the idea of an apostle was that of an envoy or emissary sent on a mission. In classical Greek, the term most often referred to a ship that was sent out for cargo or on a military expedition. In classical Greek, the word rarely referred to an individual person. But as Christians adapted this term, they began to use it for those called of God for a specific purpose or calling. Therefore, it carries the idea of one being sent on a special mission. We find here that it is not only the idea of the sending of a messenger but also the authorization of the messenger’s task. Paul wants to let the church that he is an official delegate possessed by Christ for the purpose of propagating His message. Paul purports that he is not only owned by Christ but he is a fully authorized ambassador sent out by Christ. In essence, Paul is giving the church his credentials. It is his resume of sorts.
It is amazing when people understand that you have been given the credentials to accomplish a task. As you may know, I was asked to be the chaplain for Sussex County Emergency Medical Services. Once I accepted that role I noticed something different occurring. Prior to accepting that volunteer position, I would wear my street clothes when I would do a ride-a-long. I had little or no interaction with the people I encountered. But, immediately after becoming the chaplain, I was given a uniform that I wear when I am riding. I have watched an immediate difference in how people accept me and interact with me. I am received much better when I am identified as having authority and that I am a representative of SCEMS. This was the point and reasoning that Paul was giving. By his credentials, he was asking to be received and accepted.
How did Paul receive this commission? It was by way of the will of God. God called and placed Paul in this position. Notice that there is no self-elevation or self-promotion in this. There is no presumptuous human ambition displayed here. It is simply an acknowledgment that his calling comes from God. It was God’s will that he be in the place that he was in. He did not necessarily choose this but it had been thrust on him. Though thrusted upon him, he willingly accepted the call to be an ambassador for Christ.
Secondly, Paul identifies those to whom he is addressing this letter. He states that he is writing to the church at Ephesus. The city of Ephesus was a major city of commerce, religion, and political power. In terms of commerce it provided access to the harbors of the Mediterranean Sea as well as roadways that allowed the easy transport of goods and people. In terms of political power, Ephesus was established as one of the provincial capitals of Asia Minor. Religiously, Ephesus was effected by emperor worship and the worship of Artemis. Paul by direction of the Holy Spirit chose this city as a point of ministry as it was both influential and had the capacity to spread the Gospel by way of the multiple visitors and guests that entered the city.
After announcing his credentials, Paul now describes the church for us. He uses two adjectives to describe the church. First, they are described as saints and secondly they are described as faithful. These defining words are important. The first is the word “saints.” This is a common word in the writings of Paul. It is noteworthy that Paul uses the term saints to identify the recipient of the letter even when the church he is writing to has issues and problems. For example, we see this introduction used with the church of Corinth in both of Paul’s letters to them. The actions seen in the Corinthian church were not worthy of the title saint. They were not inherently holy in themselves, but they had been given the position of saint as a result of the work of Christ in them. As a believer in Christ, we are empowered to approach God only because we have obtained a righteous standing or position on the basis of Christ’s work by faith. In other words, we stand as saints not because we are perfect but because we are called of God as saints. As a believer, you are a saint today. Your position as a saint is not based on who you are as much as who He is and how He sees you.
The second word Paul uses here is the word “faithful.” Paul in fact was stating that even in the difficulties faced, they were still faithful. The idea communicated here is not so much that they had been completely faithful but they were trusting in God and in Christ’s work to guide them. Paul once again was looking at them as God saw them and not how they were living things out in their present setting.
Thirdly, Paul greets the church of Ephesus. Here he defines what God has done on behalf of the church at Ephesus. He uses two words that are often used in the Pauline epistles. The first word used is the word “grace.” Throughout the Bible the word grace is interpreted as the unmerited or undeserved favor of God given to mankind by way of providing salvation to sinners through Christ’s sacrificial death and empowerment of the believer. Not only do we receive salvation by grace but all of our gifts and abilities are a work of grace as well. In this one simple word, grace, the whole message of salvation is contained. By grace we are saved. We did not deserve it and we were powerless to achieve it without an influence greater than us. The focus of this grace is you. Imagine that you are the benefactor of grace. We have grace today. We live in grace. The wording here implies that Paul desires that the Ephesians would appreciate, accept, and appropriate God’s undeserved favor in their life. That is the call for us today. We must be in the position to appreciate God’s grace and all that means to us. We must accept His grace. And, we must appropriate all that grace has to offer us. We must make God’s grace our own.
The second word used here is the word “peace.” While grace expresses the cause of God’s work, peace shows us the effects of God’s work. “The grace of God that brings salvation to sinners effects peace between man and God, and that same grace enables believers to live peaceably with one another.” You see the work of grace effects our relationship with God and it effects our relationship with one another. How do we live out this life? We do so by grace that brings peace.
Finally, there is one last item to look at in this verse. Paul notes that this grace and peace comes from God the father. But notice that He is not just a father, He is our father. This denotes personal relationship with God and with His son. And if we are God’s children then, in the church we are brothers and sisters. We are living live together because we are born into a fresh and new kingdom of sons and daughters. We are a part of the family of God.
So what do we learn from this today?
- We are called of God to be ambassadors or apostles.
- We all have a testimony of God’s grace in us.
- God looks at us as faithful saints, even with all of our faults, blemishes, and failures.
- Through the appreciation, acceptance, and appropriation of God’s grace we find true peace.
- We are children of God which means God is our father and Christ is our brother.
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom