1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus thought the will of God to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The epistle to the Ephesians has occasioned argument for years regarding its authorship. For the first 1700 years of the Church, no one questioned Pauline authorship. But the Enlightenment brought with it the age of Modernism—the hermeneutic of suspicion, the denial of miracles, the dominance of reason over revelation. However, the rise of evangelical scholarship in the 20th century led to sharp criticism of this criticism, and the evidence of Pauline authorship is substantial. There are many great works that detail this 200-year-old debate, and time will prevent us from going into that detail here. However, the position that we will take, based on this evidence, is that the apostle Paul wrote this letter. This devotional will employ my own translation from the Aland Greek Text, 4th Revised Edition, and will be in dialogue with the following voices throughout the family of Christ:
- Multiple commentators from the first 7 centuries of the Church, compiled and edited by Thomas Oden in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Vol VIII (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians).
- Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Harold Hoehner)
- Ephesians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Francis Foulkes)
- The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 12: Ephesians-Philemon (William W. Klein)
- The Story of God Bible Commentary: Ephesians (Mark D. Roberts)
- Evangelical Exegetical Commentary: Ephesians (S.M. Baugh)
The story of this book begins in Acts 19, when Paul first visits Ephesus in in AD 53 in Asia Minor (19.1), and preaches there in Jewish synagogue. However, some refuse his message and become obstinate (19.9). So he moves to a private lecture hall and proclaims the gospel for 2 years. Many Jews and Greeks hold Jesus’ name in high honor because of miraculous deeds done in His name (19.17). After establishing a church, developing leadership, and shepherding them through crises that make them stronger, Paul continues his “planting” travels. Later, when he is in jail for his first Roman trial, he writes this letter to the church at Ephesus; the time is around AD 60-62.
His letter begins with a standard salutation: he identifies himself and his addressees, and then pronounces an apostolic benediction for grace and peace. Though this is epistolary literature (a letter), Paul is nonetheless contributing to the major story of God’s dealings with man, and embedded in the prayer of blessing in today’s readings is evidence of that story. If you look closely, you will see the story of what God has done, beginning “before the creation of the world” (1.4) and ending in eternity (1.10, 6.24). God, who is identified as our Father and the Father of Jesus Christ (1.2-3), is the primary actor in this story. A major theme of Ephesians is the togetherness of all of us in this mission (Roberts 14). This concept is introduced in the first two verses.
Paul identifies himself as an apostle, or (“one sent,” ἀποστολος). He highlights the divine nature of this appointment when he adds the phrase δια θεληματος—“by the will of God.” This is classic Paul; he references his apostolate in nine of his letters, and in doing so here he gets in front of any potential smarty-pants false leaders who might want to argue about any of the stuff he’s writing in Ephesians. It is telling that he carries such a high view of authority in the local church; that is almost a foreign concept in modern American evangelicalism. He writes this letter to the “holy ones” or “saints” (ἁγιοις) in Ephesus. This term means that they are separated for God’s use. They are born-again believers who are set apart for God’s purpose; they no longer live for their own purpose. His identification of God the Father as OUR Father should be seen as the most extraordinary privilege imaginable. Marius Victorinus writes that “grace and peace remove contention. They convey the will of God. Since therefore they were in the grip of error, grace was first sought on their behalf, in order that they should know God and fully obey God and Christ, putting all trust in Christ and nothing else…then he also adds ‘peace from God.’ The one who wills ungraciously creates severe discord.” (Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.2).
You and I belong to a very big family called the Body of Christ. This Body has many members, called “churches.” Each member behaves in faithfulness the same way that the big Body behaves in faithfulness. We are part of one another, and we live not for our own purposes but for His. He has set us apart from the rest. Jude warns Christians to stay away from those who “are their own authority,” and that pretty well describes the state of American evangelicalism today. If we truly affirm our fallenness as human beings, why would we trust ourselves to hear the truth of God, when we know that our egos will always get in the way? That’s why God has set us in community with one another. The enemy’s paradigm is “I’m my own authority.” God’s way is the opposite—witness Paul reminding the Ephesians that they should listen to what he has to say because he is a legitimate authority (1.1). Moreover, if we are part of one family and God is our Father, our dealings with one another should be in grace and peace, rather than strife and division.
To what extent are you living as one who is set apart for God’s purposes today? The answer to that is another question: to what extent are you living as a member of a family, rather than a temporary visitor who is guided by his own authority? Another great applicational question to ask from this passage is: to what extent does grace and peace mark my presence in the lives of others in my family? Paul prayed for grace and peace to be upon his brothers and sisters. When I am dealing with the church, does my presence leave them with grace and peace, or stress and anxiety? This might be an area of growth for me.
Be honest with yourself about these questions. One major theme of Ephesians is the “togetherness” of us in this moment. Are we truly “together?” Or, like Jude warned, are we of that tribe who “reject authority” and “rely on dreams” and generally reject the established revelation of the historic faith, once handed to the saints (Jude 1)?