Imagine a city with me for a moment. It’s a prestigious, major world capital. Being a bustling financial centre means it is quite a wealthy city as well. To throw something else into the mix, there are all kinds of spirituality on tap in this very pluralistic society.
By God’s providence, you have the opportunity to write one letter – what do you write? I think if Paul were to write a letter to the Church in London, England (where I call home) in 2016, he’d probably write a little something like Ephesians and I imagine most cities and towns where my readers live would be little different.
This is the first in a series of devotional expositions in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and before we jump headlong into meat of the letter, it’ll be good to get some background to what we’ll be reading and studying – and the first two verses give us some pegs upon which to hang our thoughts.
Ephesians 1:1-2 [ESV] Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the opening two verses, we are introduced to three crucial elements that we need to grasp to get the most out of our study of Ephesians:
- PAUL THE EMISSARY
- THE PEOPLE OF EPHESUS
- THE PLOT LINE OF EPHESIANS
1. PAUL THE EMISSARY
Our passage begins:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…
Paul is an amazing character. Missionary, church planter, pastor and theologian – author of 13 (maybe 14) NT letters. How much do we really know about Paul? There are three parts to Paul’s life:
a. He was blinded to the Light
The first time we meet this man is in Acts 8:1. Stephen has just been martyred and what do we read?
Acts 8:1–3 [ESV]
1) And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2) Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
3) But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Paul hated the Church!
He hated their Christ, he hated their message and he was happy to invest his life in tearing this sect down. But then we catch up with Him in Acts 9…
b. He was brought down by the Light
Acts 9:1-9 [ESV] But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
So Paul is on his way to nab and grab some more of these Christians… and then their Christ appears! A Light shines and a voice speaks! “WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME?!”
This was no whimpering request to ‘stop hurting my divine feelings!’ This was a thundering, piercing inquisition into a man’s very soul! Paul had no choice – like Aslan, this was no tame lion the Pharisee persecutor was up against! THIS WAS GOD! No one meets God and stays high and mighty for long.
Paul’s response is killer – “Who are you, LORD?!”
Something had flipped in the mind and heart of this man because now He realised this Man Jesus was more than a man – He was LORD!
c. He was a believer and broadcaster of the Light
Paul soon takes up the preaching ministry and becomes Christ’s emissary – His sent one with His authority. The second half of Acts will be taken up with the early years of His ministry as an apostle. Think about that, an unbeliever blinded to the Light is brought down from his unbelief by the Light and becomes a believer and broadcaster of the Light…
NO WONDER HE COULD SAY HE WAS AN APOSTLE OF CHRIST JESUS BY THE WILL OF GOD!
That’s the man we meet in Ephesians 1 – Paul the Emissary. The next question is, to whom exactly was he writing?
We’ll pick that up in the next study.
This is Part 1 of the “Walking Through Ephesians” devotional series. Please check back next week for Part 2…