2004-12-14 - Preoccupation
Ephesians 1:1,2 "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: Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
For the first time ever, this Sunday, 7-25, I got to hear someone preach, to whom I used to teach Sunday School. About seven years ago, he was in a high school youth group I lead, and now, having gone to Seminary, there he stood, preaching an excellent sermon and leading the congregation in prayer. My experience with him has almost nothing to do with his training for the ministry, but I could not help but wonder how Paul must have felt in writing to the church at Ephesus. As Paul had planted the church, he must have felt a deep affection for the people there. This letter shows his concern both for what they believe, and for how they put what they believe into action in their lives. These are both concerns we ought to have also.
Notice how doctrine starts in verse one. Paul says he is an Apostle by the will of God. He does not say that it is something he aspired to. He does not say that this is something he is proud of. He takes no credit. He says that his position in the church is from the will of God, not his will.
In some denominations of the Christian faith, it is popular to speak of seeking deliverance. What we need is deliverance from the preoccupation with ourselves. We are so focused on our desires and our struggles that it is common for us to neglect the duty of submission and pursuit of God's will instead of our own. Paul says here, at the outset, that he does what he does, and is who he is, because it is God's will that it be as it is. He does not say that he is an Apostle in spite of all the hardships he has undergone, and thus take some credit for himself, but rather he simply says that it is God's will. It is important for us, no matter what our situation, to know, believe, and apply this truth. Lastly, by saying that he is an Apostle by the will of God, Paul is also asserting that he has the authority to write the things he is about to write to them, and that he is qualified to do so.
The salutation we have here, in verses one and two, is typical of Paul's writings. We don't need to look for more here than there really is. It is as if Paul had said "Good morning," or "Greetings." He just opens his letter as an Apostle and spiritual father.
I don't know if you have ever read the letters found in the Bible, with a view to learning and understanding how to write letters (or e-mails) to others, but it would be an interesting study. Imagine what it would be like to receive a letter that even had a hint of Scripture writing tones throughout it. The letters of Samuel Rutherford have been called the closest human writings ever penned to the words of Scripture. I have sometimes wondered if Rutherford was trying to emulate the writings of Paul when he wrote his letters. I commend them, and the challenge of emulating Paul in his writings, to you.
Soli Deo Gloria,