Ephesians #2: The Greeting to the Ephesians
Ephesians 1:1, 2
Some of you may be old enough to remember the TV show “What’s My Line?” The basic point of the show was to bring in a person and tell the audience what his or her profession was, and then make a panel of celebrities guess what that profession was by asking questions about the profession or the person who was being interviewed. And of course the point of the show was the identification of the “mystery guest”. And one of the reasons the show was so popular (aside from the fact that there was not very much else to watch) was that that it made viewers stop and think about their own identity.
Let me ask you a question: How do you think other people see you? What is your “identification” in their eyes? Well, believe it or not, the first few verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians has a real bearing on that question. But first let’s look at an overview of chapter 1:
In verses 1 and 2 we have an extension of salutations. Then in verses 3 through 14 there is an examination of salvation. And finally in verses 15 through 23 there is an expression of supplication.
So let’s begin our study with Paul’s extension of salutations in verses 1 and 2. And the first thing mentioned is the writer of the greetings. Look at verse 1:
“Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God . . .”
Paul actually had two names during his lifetime. Before being saved he was called “Saul” (Probably after Israel’s first king.) But after his salvation he was always referred to as “Paul”. And even those names have some spiritual significance (intended by God, whether by his parents or not.) The Greek word “Saul” means “great one;” while “Paul” means “little” or insignificant.” And perhaps this suggests that before his salvation his emphasis and his hope was upon himself – he was going to be great. But after salvation he realized how really insignificant he was in the grand scheme of things. But notice that he also refers to himself as “an Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
Paul was an official Apostle. There were few requirements for Apostles listed in Acts 2:21,22. They had to have accompanied Jesus in his travels and sat under his teaching, and they had to have seen the risen Christ. Paul had seen the risen Christ on the Road to Damascus, and most Bible scholars believe that when he spent some years in Arabia soon after his conversion the Lord Jesus was personally teaching him and preparing him for his ministry as the Apostle to the Gentiles. So in that sense he met the qualifications.
Parenthetically, there is some debate about whether Paul should be considered one of the 12, or a special “apostle to the Gentiles.” But there is hardly any disagreement that he legitimately held the title. The best example of that use of the term is right here in Ephesians 2:19-21:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow
citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
(20) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, (21) in whom the whole
building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord . . .
The emphasis in this verse is on the fact that he was an apostle “of Jesus Christ.” There was really no need to specify this – the term “apostle” spoke for itself. But he specifies Jesus Christ for a practical reason. The word “apostle” literally means “a sent one;” and, by implication, “a representative.” So what he is saying here is that, besides any official capacity that he might have, his function is to “represent” Jesus Christ. And, you know, that same thing should be true of us – “representatives” of Jesus Christ. Everybody represents something to other people. For some it is the company they work for, for others it is the hobby or sport in which they are most interested. For Paul it was Jesus Christ. What is it for you?
Then in verse one we also find “the recipients of the greeting” specified – “to the saints who are in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Now as we saw in the previous study, the words “who are in Ephesus” are not in the best manuscripts. So the actual address is “to the saints . . . . and the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Now the term faithful in Christ Jesus” doesn’t refer to some class of super Christians – the “really” faithful. Rather it is actually a definition of the word “saint”. Who is a saint? A saint is one who is full of faith in Jesus Christ – a believer. But this carries another important implication: the only ones who can receive God’s message are believers. This is only implied here in Ephesians, but it is spelled out First Corinthians 2:14:
But the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to Him; nor can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.
The word “natural” here is the translation of the Greek word “pseuchikos,” which means “soulish.” The soul is the immaterial part of man – the mind, emotions and will. It is what separates man from the animals – and by the way, let me digress for just a moment to say that man is not one of the animals. We are separate creations made by God to have dominion over the animals. The Genesis account of creation makes this distinction very clearly. We will see before we are through with our study of Ephesians that it is the soul gives man the ability to understand the concept of God, among other things.
But coming back to verse 14 again, notice the word “receive.” It is a translation of a Greek word that means “to receive inwardly,” or “to understand the essence” of something. Now what this means is than unless you are a believer in Jesus Christ you will never understand the concepts of this book. This why unbelievers can’t fully understand Christians and Christianity.
Now the implication is this: unless you are a believer in Jesus Christ you will never understand the concepts of this book. Why unbelievers so badly misunderstand Christians and the Word of God. But verse 15 goes on to say that the “spiritual” man can understand these things. Look at that verse: But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no man.
Romans 8:16 says that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Thus becoming a child of God gives the ability to understand spiritual things. And how do you become a child of God? By believing in your heart that Jesus Christ was sent to this earth to be punished and pay for the sins that you would someday commit. John 1:12 says that “as many as received Him to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believed on His name. And if you have never done so before what better time to believe in Him right now at the beginning of our study?
It seems that nearly everybody in the world today is concerned with identity, self worth and self acceptance. One author has accurately described this phenomenon as “The Search for Significance.” In fact, not only are adults concerned about this subject, in recent years they have even brought their children into it. In many schools today a major emphasis is on convincing the students that they are great; that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. And it has even gotten beyond the classroom and moved out onto the playgrounds and athletic fields. Many children’s’ athletic organizations don’t even keep score in their games because they don’t want the children to experience the disappointment of losing. And I’m sure that most of us have heard of sports teams in which everybody gets a trophy because the adults want every child to “feel like a winner.”
Dale Carnegie, with his seminars on “How to Win Friends and Influence People” pioneered this genre 50 years ago and he would probably be shocked to see how many others have followed his lead. One of the best selling books on the market a number of years ago was entitled “I’m Okay; Your Okay.” How profound! (And what a simple way to settle the whole matter.) But it should be no surprise, because most of these programs are just sophisticated ways of saying that whatever you want to do is all right after all!