THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD FROM GOD DEFINES THE HIGH CALLING OF BELIEVERS WHO ENJOY HIS GRACE AND PEACE
Klyne Snodgrass: Letters in the ancient world followed a set form. They began by identifying the writer and the readers or addressees. This was usually followed by a greeting and a prayer or wish for health (even in secular letters), then the body of the letter, and finally the closing, which contained any details about the sending of the letter and another greeting. An example of this form appears in Acts 15:23–29 (without the prayer).
Christian writers adapted this set form to their purposes, “christianizing” it by changing or expanding the traditional elements. The author and recipients are not merely identified; they are also described by their relation to Christ. The greeting was also made specifically Christian. Instead of merely “Paul to the Ephesians, greetings,” Paul described himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” and his readers as holy (NIV, “saints”) and “faithful in Christ Jesus.” And instead of using the standard word “greeting” [chairein], through a play on words Paul changed his greeting to read “grace [charis] and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Frank Thielman: Paul’s opening salutation emphasizes his authority as an apostle to instruct even Christians whom he has never seen and does not know. At least implicitly, he begins his instruction with the way he formulates the opening of this letter. He writes to those in Ephesus whom God has set apart as his people and who show this by the way they live. They believe the gospel, and their existence is defined by their relationship with Christ. As God’s people they are recipients both of God’s grace and of the peace that his grace brings, peace with God and peace with others. God the Father has given his people these blessings through the Lord Jesus Christ.
David Thompson: EPHESIANS BEGINS BY EMPHASIZING THE FACT THAT EVERYTHING WE HAVE IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IS BY GOD’S SOVEREIGN GRACE.
Now when you look at these two opening verses it is very clear right at the outset that Paul wants us to realize that everything we have in our salvation, in our sanctification is all by sovereign grace given to us by a sovereign God.
Benjamin Merkle: Paul writes this letter in accordance with the authority he received as an apostle of Christ Jesus. His apostleship signifies not only that he belongs to Christ but also that he is fully authorized as Christ’s messenger to proclaim the good news of the one who sent him. Paul’s calling to reach the Gentiles with the gospel is not something he gave himself but is something to which he was called by the sovereign plan of God. In fact, prior to his call, Paul was striving to find and arrest Christians proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah. It was “by the will of God” that Paul received his apostleship. This phrase reminds us that it was God’s unmerited favor and grace that saved Paul and called him to serve. He received his position not through his own personal accomplishments or good works but through God’s gracious plan (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15–16), and the same is true for us. Thus, although Paul received a unique calling as an apostle, the mercy he received is an example for us as we remember that God chose us not because of something desirable in us but because of his love and grace found in Christ Jesus.
I. (:1) AUTHORITATIVE AUTHOR
Andrew Lincoln: The only unusual feature of the form in comparison with the other Pauline letters is that Paul alone is named as sender. Elsewhere, with the exception of Romans, the letters generally considered to be authentically Pauline all mention co-senders.
A. Authority Reflected in His Calling
“an apostle of Christ Jesus“
He had every right and obligation to address them with authority and provide such instruction and exhortation.
MacArthur: The apostolic duties were to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), teach and pray (Acts 6:4), work miracles (2 Cor. 12:12), build up other leaders of the church (Acts 14:23, and write the Word of God (Eph. 1:1; etc.).
Klyne Snodgrass: The term apostle carried several connotations in the early church, all of which were true of Paul. It referred to someone who had seen the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1), to those sent out by the church with a missionary task, or more broadly to anyone who functioned as an agent or representative. This self-description emphasizes the authority with which Paul wrote. If he was an apostle because of the will of God, what he wrote must be seen as communication from God.
Harold Hoehner: 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.
Frank Thielman: God had set Paul apart as a particular type of apostle. He was called to preach the gospel to non-Jewish peoples (Rom. 1:5; 11:13; Gal. 1:1, 15–16). This kind of apostleship often meant traveling with the gospel to distant places (Rom. 1:5–6, 13–14; 1 Cor. 4:9, 11; 9:5; 1 Thess. 2:1–2, 7) and frequently entailed the kind of suffering that Paul was experiencing as he wrote Ephesians (1 Cor. 4:8–15; 1 Thess. 2:1–2, 7, 9; cf. Eph. 3:1, 13; 4:1; 6:20). It also sometimes meant using letters to exercise oversight of Gentile believers whom he did not personally know (Rom. 1:5–6; 11:13; 15:15).
Van Parunak: Application: This was Paul’s particular gift (cf. Eph. 4:11). Each of us has our own gift (1 Cor 12:7). None of us is an apostle of the Father or of the Son; some might be sent by the Spirit through the church on a mission of one sort or another, as Antioch sent out Barnabas and Saul. We should rejoice in the gifts God has given us, and cultivate them, as Paul exhorted Timothy (2 Tim 1:6).
B. Authority Reflected in His Submission
“by the will of God“
Guthrie: Paul was deeply conscious that God had overruled his life, from his conversion, and throughout his missionary call… Paul’s tone, therefore, is not that of pride but rather of sheer amazement and humble obedience.
Klyne Snodgrass: The will of God is an important theme in Ephesians, appearing more frequently here than in any other letter. The concern is not about Christians finding the will of God; rather, the emphasis is on God’s purpose with his actions for humanity. The point here is that Paul was an apostle because God wanted him to be.
Harold Hoehner: The picture is not that God was capitulating to the whims and desires of human beings but that his will was being worked out in Paul.
II. (:2A) RARIFIED RECIPIENTS
A. Defined by Their Calling and Distinctiveness
“to the saints“
called to be holy; to be different; to be set apart to be God’s people
Hoke: Don’t be misled by the mistaken idea that sainthood is something which can only be conferred upon certain dead people by some ecclesiastical body. According to God’s Word, all believers are already saints. From God’s perspective, we are saints, not because of who men say we are, but because of what Christ did for us. We are not holy because of our own good works or righteousness.
David Jeremiah: We are set apart for a higher purpose . . . which is the literal meaning of the word holy. All believers in Christ are saints—adopted children of God who have been given the blessings of God’s eternal kingdom.
Andrew Lincoln: The writer will expand on the implications of this term ἅγιοι in 1:4 where he sees holiness as the result of God’s election and in 5:26, 27 where he views it as an effect of Christ’s death on behalf of the Church.
B. Defined by Their Physical Location
“who are at Ephesus“
R.C. Sproul: The majority of surviving manuscripts contain the words ‘in Ephesus’. That is the reason why, for centuries, the church kept this particular designation and variant in the English version of the New Testament. There are only two or three significant copies that do not have these words. The unfortunate problem is, however, that two of the very finest and most trustworthy of the surviving manuscripts from the ancient world are the very copies that don’t have the words ‘in Ephesus’. For this reason, the evidence is almost equally weighted for and against the inclusion in the text of the term ‘in Ephesus’. So it is possible that the designated destination was never part of the original epistle. . .
The majority viewpoint today is that, in all probability, the epistle to the Ephesians was written originally as a circular letter. Rather than the apostle writing a specific message to a particular congregation concerning a definite problem that had arisen, Paul wrote an epistle that he intended would be circulated to all of the churches in Asia Minor.
David Thompson: In a very technical study of this issue by Harold Hoehner, he ends his discussion by saying “In conclusion, both the external and internal evidence favor the inclusion of εν Ευεσω” (in Ephesus) (Ephesians, An Exegetical Commentary, pp. 144-148).
Now the Apostle Paul had an amazing relationship with the Ephesians.
1) He first visited Ephesus in the fall of A.D. 52 on his second missionary journey. He had been in Corinth and he took Priscilla and Aquila with him to Ephesus and he left them there when he left (Acts 18:18-21).
2) After returning back to his home church of Antioch, he took off on his third missionary journey and eventually ended up in Ephesus in the fall of A.D. 53 (Acts 18:23; 19:1). Paul taught in the synagogue for three months and then taught for two more years (Acts 19:8-10). According to I Cor. 16:8, Paul intended to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (June 56), but he left a little early and traveled to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 19:21; 20:1-2).
3) Paul spent three winter months in Greece (Acts 20:3) and then headed toward Jerusalem desiring to celebrate Pentecost there (Acts 19:21; 20:16, 22). On his way he stopped in Miletus and sent for the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:3-16) and they came to meet him (20:17-18a).
4) Paul went to Jerusalem and caused such a stir that he ended up in jail in Rome in A.D. 60-62 and from there he wrote this letter to the Ephesians.
Stedman: The Epistle to the Ephesians is, in many ways, the crowning glory of the New Testament. But perhaps this letter ought not to be called “Ephesians” for we do not really know to whom it was written. The Christians at Ephesus were certainly among the recipients of this letter, but undoubtedly there were others. In many of the original Greek manuscripts there is a blank where the King James translation has the words ‘at Ephesus;’ just a line where the names of other recipients were apparently to be filled in. That is why the Revised Standard Version does not say, ‘To the saints at Ephesus,’ but simply ‘To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus…’
Clinton Arnold: When we think of Ephesus, it is important not to think of one church in a building that held 250 people. Paul is addressing all of the Christians in a city of a quarter million people and, as the metropolitan center for Christianity in western Asia Minor, the intended readers probably span a sizeable radius outside to the north, east, and south of the city. In other words, the letter is probably intended for dozens of house churches throughout the city of Ephesus and in many nearby villages and cities. By writing to Ephesus, Paul can address a great number of believers in western Asia Minor.
C. Defined by Their Spiritual Connection
“and who are faithful in Christ Jesus“
Clinton Arnold: He also describes these saints as “believers in Christ Jesus” (καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ), a phrase paralleled only in Col 1:2. The adjective is best understood in the active sense of exercising belief or trust, especially since the object of that faith is explicitly stated as “in Christ Jesus.” Although the word could also be taken as “faithful,” this is doubtful because Paul is not making a distinction in the letter between faithful and unfaithful Christians at Ephesus. The topic of faith in Christ becomes a major theme in this letter (Eph 1:13, 15, 19; 2:8; 3:12).
Stott: To be ‘in Christ’ is to be personally and vitally united to Christ, as branches are to the vine and members to the body, and thereby also to Christ’s people. For it is impossible to be part of the body without being related to both the Head and the members. Much of what the epistle later develops is already here in bud… to be a Christian is in essence to be ‘in Christ’, one with him and with his people.
Frank Thielman: As the people in Ephesus whom God has set apart as his own, and who believe the gospel, they live within the sphere of existence that Christ defines.
Van Parunak: “in Christ Jesus” — Might define the object of their faith, or (more likely, in view of the theme of ch. 1) their position in Christ, and thus the spiritual environment in which they now live.
Application. — Notice the change in position implied by these titles. They have been separated out of the world, and placed in the Lord Jesus. This notion of our spiritual position is an important one for Paul. We saw it throughout Colossians, and shall see it again in Ephesians. Do not think that as a believer, you are free to live as the world lives. You are different now, and your life should reflect that difference.
David Thompson: Satan has done his very best to keep most of Christianity in total ignorance of what Spirit baptism actually is because he knows if you actually and accurately understand it, your spirituality will soar and your grasp of grace causes you to worship an amazing God. This is vital theology. Spirit baptism is not about tongues or experience; this is a theological doctrine that is critical to grace.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit in which He places the believer into the family of God by permanently uniting that believer and identifying that believer with Jesus Christ and everything He accomplished. The Holy Spirit actually and really places a believer into Jesus Christ.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a feeling or an experience; it is a theological reality wrought by the sovereignty of God.
III. (:2B) GRACIOUS GREETING – CONVEYING GOD’S BLESSING
A. Substance of the Blessing
“Grace to you and peace”
Clinton Arnold: The importance of the term “grace” for Paul’s thought is seen partly in the fact that it appears 95 times in his letters, occurring multiple times in every letter. Of paramount importance is the fact that God’s grace is the source of justification (Rom 3:24) and that this is a free gift (Rom 5:15, 17) stemming from the grace of Jesus Christ. Grace truly is unmerited favor from God in providing salvation for sinners. But grace is also an ongoing provision from God, enabling his people to live in conformity with the ethical expectations of life under the new covenant and to undertake the ministry and service that God has entrusted to them. Thus, the Lord encourages Paul by telling him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). This aspect of grace therefore overlaps with the NT understanding of God’s enabling power and his provision of the Spirit. . .
Both grace and peace are major themes in this letter, with grace occurring twelve times (1:2, 6, 7; 2:5, 7, 8; 3:2, 7, 8; 4:7, 29; 6:24) and peace eight times (1:2; 2:14, 15, 17 [2x]; 4:3; 6:15, 23). The source of these new covenant blessings is not only God the Father, but also the Lord Jesus Christ. Because he has risen from the dead and has been invested with power and authority from the Father (Rom 1:4), Jesus is now “Lord” (κύριος). Paul stresses the lordship of Christ and explains it in new and significant ways in Ephesians, especially as it relates to the unseen spiritual dimension of the principalities, powers, and authorities. Every chapter of this letter contains references to this exalted title of Jesus.
Charles Swindoll: Though Paul thought it important to assert his apostolic authority, his greeting to the Galatian believers centers mostly on the content of the gospel message itself. He wishes his readers “grace” and “peace” from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:3). Typically, letters in the Greek-speaking world began with the word chairein , “greetings” (Acts 15:23; Jas. 1:1). Paul, however, began his letters with a unique greeting that sounded similar but had more profound theological significance: charis . . . kai eirēnē [5485, 2532, 1515](grace . . . and peace). Salvation comes purely by grace and results in peace with God. That’s the cause and effect of the gospel summed up in just two words.
Van Parunak: Paul wishes them “grace and peace,” as the root and its fruit.
- Grace, God’s unmerited favor where his wrath is deserved. Ephesians will emphasize for us as few other scriptures that it is God who saves sinners, not their own works (cr. 2:8-10). Our salvation is undeserved, unearned, resting entirely on this marvelous character of our great God.
- Peace, the relation we now enjoy with him, replacing the state of enmity that existed before as the result of our sin (2:15).
These great gifts he traces to the work of the Father and the Son. Meditate on the role of each of them:
B. Source of the Blessing
“from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Stedman: The two great heritages of the Christian are grace and peace. These are two things you can always have, no matter what your circumstances. Grace is all God’s power, all his love, all his beauty, available to you. It is a marvelous term which wraps up all that God is and offers to us. It comes from the same Greek word from which we get our English word charm. Grace is charming, lovely, pleasant. It is something which pleases, which imparts charm and loveliness to a life. Peace is freedom from anxiety, fear and worry. These are the two characteristics which ought to mark Christians all the time:
- Grace — God at work in their life; and
- Peace — a sense of security, of trust.
Grant Osborne: Here he is saying in effect, “What you have been hoping for in your very greetings—divine grace and peace—is now being offered to you in Christ Jesus.” For these believers these sacred promises from God have been realized. They already have God’s grace and divine peace in their lives. This is called “inaugurated eschatology,” the view of the early church that in Jesus the future has been brought into the present. Here future hope (for God’s eternal grace and peace) has become a present reality in Jesus.
The reason such incredible blessings can take place is their source. They don’t stem from Paul or just from the church but come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The fatherhood of God and the lordship of Christ undergird these heavenly gifts and guarantee their reality. The “Abba” (intimate Aramaic word for “father”) theme stresses the love and care of God, and “Lord” stresses the sovereign power of the exalted Christ exercised on the believers’ behalf.