Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Introduction to Ephesians

Part 1 of a series through the book of Ephesians



Introducing Ephesians

A brief introduction to the book of Ephesians:

The author: Paul. Paul refers to himself by name in 1:1 and 3:1.

The date: around A. D. 62. Paul probably wrote Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome (cf. 3:1; 4:1).

The recipients: the Ephesians. Ephesus was an important city in Asia Minor (present day Turkey). Paul knew the Ephesians well (cf. Acts 20:17-38). Many scholars claim that Paul could not be the author of Ephesians because of its impersonal nature. However, Ephesians could have originally been a circular letter (intended for several other churches in the area). The words “in Ephesus” are missing from a few early manuscripts.

The purpose: to teach proper theology and behavior. Ephesians is about our riches (chaps. 1-3) and our responsibilities (chaps. 4-6). “The whole letter is thus a magnificent combination of Christian doctrine and Christian duty, Christian faith and Christian life, what God has done through Christ and what we must be and do in consequence” (John Stott, God’s New Society, 25).

The genre: letter. 


Grace, Not Religion 

The book of Ephesians praises God for His grace, not us for our religion. “Grace” means “undeserved kindness.”

Religion is about what I can do. Grace is about what God has done

Even the opening of Ephesians reveals that Christianity is all about grace, not religion.

1. Because of God’s grace, Paul was an apostle. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God (1:1a).

An “apostle” is “one who is sent.” In the NT, the term “apostle” is used in three different ways: (1) office (the original Twelve who had been with Jesus during His earthly ministry and had seen Him after the resurrection, Acts 1:21-22), (2) gift (men like Barnabas, Acts 14:4, 14; 1 Cor. 9:5-7), (3) Paul (an exception to the rule, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, [Jesus] appeared also to me,” 1 Cor. 15:8). As an apostle “of Jesus Christ” Paul possessed authority. “An apostle was an official delegate of Jesus Christ commissioned for the specific tasks of proclaiming authoritatively the message in oral and written form and of establishing and the building up of churches” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians, 136).

Paul was an apostle “by the will of God.” He didn’t pursue the office of an apostle. The first time we find Paul (Saul) in Scripture, he is present at the stoning of Stephen. “And Saul approved of his execution” (Acts 8:1; cf. 22:20). “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3; cf. 22:4-5). “I [Paul] not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them” (Acts 26:10). When Paul was converted, he was one his way to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 8:1-9). A persecutor of the church (cf. Gal. 1:13, 23; Phil. 3:6; 1 Tim. 1:13) was the least likely person to be an apostle. Paul declared, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:9-10; cf. Gal. 1:15).

2. Because of God’s grace, the Ephesians were saints. 

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus (1:1b).

“Saints” are not a special class of Christians (Catholicism). Every believer is a saint. “Saints” are “holy ones.” But we don’t become saints by being holy. We are saints because we are “in Christ Jesus.” The phrase “in Christ” (or the equivalent) occurs nine times in 1:3-23 and 164 times in all Paul’s writings (James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians, 6). We are united to Christ (head/body), so what is true of Him (holiness) is true of us. Because we are holy by our position, we should be holy in our practice. In other words, saints should act saintly.

3. Because of God’s grace, sinners can have peace with God and believers can have peace with one another. 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2).

Grace is the cause. Peace is the effect. Without God, were are helpless and hopeless. We needed to be rescued.