2004-07-20 - Ephesians: 1
Ephesians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:"
I hope today to embark on a study of the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is a tough book, but a deep study in it should be rewarding. As S. T. Coleridge says in his Table Talk (London, 1835), "It embraces every doctrine of Christianity." In fact, one of the interesting aspects of Ephesians is how it is divided. The first three chapters largely concern Christian doctrine, and the last three chapters are mostly concerned with the application of Christian doctrine in the Christian's life.
The epistle of Ephesians was written by Paul and is often thought of, as C. H. Dodd says in his commentary on Ephesians, as "the quintessence of Paulinism." Rather than being a typical epistle of Paul, Ephesians is really "like a commentary on the Pauline letters," E. J. Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians (Chicago, 1933). These are all cited in F. F. Bruce's work on Ephesians in the New International Commentary on the New Testament, and they should give a good idea why so many have viewed Ephesians as a significant portion of Paul's New Testament writings. I hope as we study this book, that the text will speak for itself, and it will become self-evident to us all why Ephesians teaches us both how to believe and how to live as a Christian.
Paul planted the church at Ephesus. John Brown of Haddington says it was known "for human wisdom and knowledge, but more for idolatry, lasciviousness, and magical arts." Albert Barnes goes further, as he explains what Ephesus was like. He says, "Its people were distinguished for amiableness and refinement of manners, and also for luxury, for music and dancing, and for the seductive arts that lead to vicious indulgence." An interesting place to plant a church, and yet probably this makes the book of Ephesians all the more appropriate for our times today.
We notice here in Ephesians 1:1, that this epistle is written to the "saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus." Paul is writing to the faithful, and is going to seek to establish the Ephesians in the Christian faith. He will seek to do this by giving them a more exalted view of God's eternal love. He will seek to show them that no matter how sinful they were, their salvation is through the grace of Christ. ("And you were dead in your trespasses and sins," Ephesians 2:1.) He seeks to encourage them to remain faithful, and reminds them how much he has suffered for the truth. He will tell them how he has prayed for them, and finally he will seek to motivate them to practice those things that become a follow of Christ.
The book of Ephesians is really a guidebook for Christians who seek to know what the truth is, and then apply it to their lives. It is as applicable to us today as it was to those to whom it was written almost 2000 years ago. It is my prayer that God would edify and encourage you through this study, and that He may receive all the glory.
Soli Deo Gloria,