Ephesians 1:1-2

As you can see from my last post, I was jumping in to what I thought was the meat of this epistle, and bypassing the standard, “boring” greeting that Paul and other first century writers put at the beginning of their letters. But then, as I was reading commentaries in order to delve deeper, and to more fully understand Paul’s letter, I came across a series by Pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel in Yuma, Arizona. Though he passed away in 2013, his messages live on, pointing the way to Jesus, and helping people like me (and hopefully you), to see the grace and beauty of God’s Word in a deeper way.

What struck me, in the very first sentence, was Pastor Smith’s thought of us writing this letter. The first part of the first verse, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” says so much more than just the words. And I never realized that until Pastor Smith suggested substituting your own name. For me, it would read, “Bonnie, a motor vehicle cashier by the will of God.” Wow! We are not all apostles or teachers or Whatever, but we are all called to Something by the WILL OF GOD. And no matter what that something is, we are called by His Will, and we are all ministers in one way or another within that calling. We are in the place God has put us, for a reason. No matter the job, remember what Paul said later in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the LORD, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).

In the second half of verse one, Paul states whom he is addressing with this letter. In the ESV version of the Bible,, it says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”┬áThe King James Version, however,┬ásays, “to the Saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” There’s been lots of speculation from experts about this sentence. In some of the old manuscripts the city of Ephesus is there, and in others it’s not. Some experts, such as F. F. Bruce, say that this is what they call a “circular letter,” meaning that it circulated from city to city within Asia Minor, and each city inserted their own name.

When it comes to the difference in those in Ephesus “and faithful in Christ Jesus” (ESV) , or “and TO THE FAITHFUL in Christ Jesus,” (KJV), I know which one I pick to be right. I have no idea if it is or not, but I pick the King James Version. If this is correct, then this letter is actually written to all of us. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Gill says that the Arabic version says, “and to them that believe in Jesus Christ; with all of their hearts, to the saving of their souls; who look unto Him, venture on Him, rely upon Him, and trust in Him for life and salvation, and who shall certainly be saved.” (My emphasis added). So, from this standpoint, this letter is to each and every one of us. It’s not just for those in the churches at ancient Ephesus, or Asia Minor, it is for all who claim Jesus as their personal Savior, then, now, and forevermore.

And then Paul calls for grace and peace. Chuck Smith points out that it’s always grace first, then peace. Everywhere in the New Testament, grace and peace are paired, and grace comes first. He posits that we can not know the peace of God until we fully understand His grace. And that, my friends, is a subject of a different post! Grace and peace, coming soon. Or, perhaps you want to begin exploring that on your own.

Here are some things for you to think about until the next post:

If you were writing this letter, how would the opening greeting read? Are you in “the will of God” in your job? If not, can you get there? Can you bring glory to Jesus in your present position? Do you know the peace of God, or are you still seeking after His grace?

 

Ephesians 1:3-10 Who am I?

Once again, I’ve had a long blogging dry spell. However, it’s not because I haven’t been writing. I just haven’t been writing here. I’ve written some stories, two of which are being refined for possible publication. I wrote a novel’s worth of words in November, though I’ve not yet completed a novel. And, as always, I continue to journal in an effort to keep myself on track with the Lord. I pour my heart out to Him on a regular, near daily, basis.
Now, though I have several projects still in the works, I’m feeling drawn to dig in to a Bible Study again. My current class is on the epistles written by Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. As I read through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, I was impressed, again, with how much is there, for new believers and mature alike.
So I’ll begin again, writing a bit of Bible Study. No promises on how often. No promises on how long. The only promise I make is to put my heart into it. All the love I have for the Lord I pour out to you. My prayer is that my heart and His will be so entwined that His words spill from my fingers to feed all who are hungry and wanting more. I also pray, as Paul does in Ephesians 1:17, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

In the passage we will be looking at here, Ephesians 1:3-10, Paul begins by blessing God who blesses us with the gift of His Son. Every blessing in Heaven is to be ours. We’ve been adopted into the family of God. We are equal inheritors of all that He has. He’s our Daddy, our Abba, and He wants us to have everything He has to offer. And since He is God, the Creator of the Universe and all it contains, absolutely everything is His. He wants us to have it all.
Verse four says that He chose us before the foundations of the world. Remember the scene in Toy Story, when Buzz Lightyear enters the claw machine with all of the little Martian stuffed toys? And when the claw comes down and picks him up and Woody tries to hold him back, all the Martians go, “He has been chosen!” Well, it’s kind of like we are in a great big claw machine, but God has an infinite number of quarters to play the game with and an infinite amount of time to play the game. And He’s going to keep playing the game, because He wants us all. He keeps dropping the claw and scooping us up, one by one. But we have to latch on to the claw as well. If we kick at the arms of the claw, we can drop out of His grasp. He will not drag us, kicking and screaming into His will. We have to say “Yes.” And once we say “Yes,” we have available to us all that He has to offer, which again, is everything, not the least of which is to be holy and blameless before Him.
And what does that mean, to be holy and blameless? Holy, according to thefreedictionary.com means “Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power”. However, the 1828 version of Webster’s Dictionary defines it as, “Properly, whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections.” God purifies our heart, removing our sin, crucifying it on the cross with His Son, Jesus, making us holy and blameless in His sight, so that we can be with Him in those Heavenly places.
We are redeemed, forgiven of our sin, (pre)destined for adoption, all through the blood Jesus shed on the cross. When we say our “yes” and associate ourselves with Him, we receive all the rights and privileges He received as the Son of God. And, yeah, that’s pretty heady stuff. But let’s face it, having Jesus as your adopted sibling is pretty heady.
And sometimes we might wonder what God was thinking. Is He crazy, adopting me? I know I’ve wondered that, lots of times. But verse eight says, “that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Yeah, He knows what He’s doing. We may not, but He does. And that, my friends, is a part of the mystery that is spoken of in the next verse. He moves us from one level of knowing to another as we grow in our knowledge of Him. As it says in Second Corinthians 2:18, we are “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” As we grow and mature, we gain a deeper understanding of things. It doesn’t mean that the things we learned before are wrong, we simply gain a deeper insight to things, and experience a deeper level of our need for forgiveness, grace, mercy, and His love. Just as with anything, we learn more as we mature. Math, science, life, and love, the more we learn, the more we realize how little we really know. The deeper we delve into the mysteries, the more we realize how deep they truly are.
The ultimate goal of God, voiced in verse ten as “a plan for the fullness of time,” is to “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” The New Living Translation says, “And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.”
So, do we really know, believe to the very depth of our being, that we are God’s children, entitled to all the benefits He has? If you don’t yet know it, or you know it in your head (you know the words) but don’t yet feel it in your heart, read this part of Ephesians again. Meditate on it. Read it several times, write it down, practice it. Let it sink into your spirit. And thank God for this precious gift. Think about how truly incredible it is. Keep going back to it until it starts to settle in. And trust Him. He doesn’t make mistakes.