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Series Introduction: Several years ago an elderly couple was found dead in their apartment. Their autopsies revealed that they had both died of severe malnutrition. When authorities searched their home, they found several paper bags filled with cash; some $40,000.00 in all. How foolish is it to die of starvation when you have plenty of money to buy food?[i]
In 1916 a woman named Hettie Green died. When she did, it was discovered that she had left an estate valued at 100 million dollars. That is an enormous amount of money today; it was an astronomical amount in those days. Hettie Green may have been wealthy, but she was known as Americas greatest miser. She would often eat cold oatmeal because it was too costly to heat the water to cook it. Once, when her son suffered a severe leg injury, she spent so much time looking for a free clinic that the leg had to be amputated. She even hastened her own death by allowing herself to get worked up into a fit of rage in an argument over skim milk, because it was cheaper than whole milk.[ii] Hettie Green was a woman who possessed great wealth, but she did not have the ability to tap into it.
The book of Ephesians was written to people just like that. This letter was written sometime around 61-63 AD when Paul was imprisoned in Rome. The city of Ephesus was located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea. It was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia. It was a wealthy city known as a political, commercial and educational center. It was called The Queen City of Asia. A massive temple to Diana was located in Ephesus. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In Pauls day, the city boasted a population of around 300,000 people. Yet, it was a city steeped in deep paganism, immorality and wickedness.
In Acts 16:6, as Paul was about to commence his second missionary journey, he thought about going to Asia (Ephesus), but the Holy Spirit did not allow him to go there. Sometime later, the Gospel made its way to Ephesus, probably taken there by Aquila and Priscilla, Acts 18:18-19. Near the end of his second missionary journey, Paul finally made it to Ephesus, spending some three years there preaching the Gospel and helping the fledgling church get on its feet.
Timothy followed Paul as the preaching elder in the church at Ephesus. Under Timothy, the church was plagued by the false teaching of Hymenaeus and Alexander, 1 Tim. 1:20. The church also has problems with legalism, false doctrine and foolish arguments among the members.
So, here is a young church, best with problems. They are like the elderly couple I mentioned earlier. They are like Hettie Green. They are rich in the things of God, but they do not know. This book came to them to let them know just what they had in Jesus; who they were in Jesus; and how to spend what they possessed in Jesus!
Verse 1 addresses this book to the saints which are at Ephesus. This letter was written to this church, but not to them alone. Many scholars believe that this was a circular letter. That is, it was copied many times and sent to all the churches in Asia Minor. Many ancient copies of this letter do not contain the word Ephesus. In many of them, there is a blank where the name would go. This would explain why there are no personal or geographic references in the letter. It is a letter, not just to one local congregation, but to, as verse 1 says, the faithful in Christ Jesus. This book was written to us too!
Ephesians was written to teach us all about whom we are in Jesus Christ. What we have because of our relationship with Him. And how to use what He has given us for the glory of God.
Today, we will begin a series of sermons that will take us paragraph by paragraph through the book of Ephesians. In this first sermon, I want to introduce the book and tell you about some of the great truths we will uncover here.
This book has been given many soaring titles. It has been called The Alps of the New Testament; The heavenly epistle; The crown and climax of Pauline theology[iii]; Samuel Coleridge called it The divinest composition of man.[iv]
Ephesians falls neatly into two parts. Chapters 1-3 are doctrinal in nature, while chapters 4-6 are practical. The first three chapters tell us what we have; the last three chapters tell us what to do with what we have. The first three chapters reveal our riches in Christ; the last three tell us how to spend what we have been given in Jesus.
Someone has called Ephesians The believers checkbook. Imagine having an account upon which you could write checks as often as you wished, in any amount you wished, and that account would never be diminished. That is what the believer has in the book of Ephesians.
This book reveals the riches of Gods grace to the believer. It teaches us about what we have because of who we are in Jesus. Then, Ephesians shows us how to spend what we have been given in Christ. This is a book about riches.
· 1:7 – The riches of His grace
· 3:8 – The unsearchable riches of Christ
· 3:16 – The riches of His glory
This is also a book about the fullness we enjoy in Jesus.
· 3:16 – be filled with the fullness of Christ
· 4:13 – to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
· 5:18 – be filled with the Spirit
These riches and this fullness arise from:
· 1:2, 6, 7; 2:7 – His grace
· 1:2 – His peace
· 1:5 – His will
· 1:9 – His pleasure and his propose
· 1:12, 14 – His glory
· 1:18 – His calling
· 1:19, 6:10 – His power and strength
· 2:4 – His love
· 2:10 – His workmanship
· 3:16 – His Spirit
· 5:2 – His offering and sacrifice
· 6:11-13 – His armor
Ephesians mentions riches five times. Grace is mentioned twelve times. glory is mentioned eight times. fullness or filled is mentioned six times. in Christ or in Him some twelve times. The idea of in, with or through Christ is found some thirty times. This is a book about the overwhelming, infinite wealth we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers are amazingly rich because of their relationship with Jesus, Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 1:4.
Ephesians is a book about riches and fullness, but it is also a book about a divine mystery. When the Bible refers to a mystery it is speaking of a truth previously hidden, but now revealed.
When it comes to God, there are many mysteries. These mysteries fall into three primary categories. First, there are mysteries that no one but God has ever, or will ever, know. These are divine secrets that God reveals to no one, in any place, at any time, Deut. 29:29.
The second type of mystery includes those things that are hidden from most people, but revealed to a select group. All men know something about God, Rom. 1:19-20, but they do not know understand the deeper truths about His Word and His nature. They cant know these things because they are dead and blind to the truths of God, 1 Cor. 2:14. The redeemed, on the other hand, do understand these truths and they know more about God than lost people can ever know.
A third kind of mystery revolves around truth that has been hidden for a time and then revealed to the people of God. That is the kind of mystery we find in the book of Ephesians. The word mystery is found in Ephesians six times, 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19. The mystery Paul is talking about is revealed in 3:1-6. It is the mystery of the church.
The ancient Jews were looking for a Messiah. They were looking for a King Who would come to Israel to reign. They were expecting a King to come who would deliver them from their enemies and establish an eternal kingdom on the earth.
When their Messiah came, He as not Who they expected Him to be. They rejected Him, John 1:11, and they refused to recognize Him as their King. When Jesus was before Pilate, they said, We have no king but Caesar, John 19:15. Then the Jews watched as their King was crucified in a Roman cross. The Jews went on looking for a kingdom and for a King. They are still looking for Him today.
What the Jews failed to see was the age in which we are living today. The Old Testament prophets never saw this day. The Jewish scribes and scholars never saw this day. We are living in a divine mystery. We are living in a sovereign parenthesis.
No one ever imagined that there would be at least 2,000 years between the arrival of the Messiah and coming of His eternal kingdom. The truth is, while there is no physical kingdom of God on the earth today, the kingdom of God is real, active and powerful. We are waiting for the Lord Jesus to come to the earth to establish His kingdom here. But, while we wait, the Lord Jesus rules His kingdom from Heaven right now. He rules His kingdom as He lives through His people.
In the Old Testament Gods people were known by many metaphors. They were called a vine, Isa. 5:2. They were called a bride, Hosea. They are called a flock, Isa. 40. They were also called a kingdom, Ex. 19:16.
Those same metaphors apply to the people of God in this day as well. The church is a vine, John 12. The church is His bride, 2 Cor. 11:2. The church is called a flock, Luke 12:32. The church is also called a kingdom, Col. 1:13.
The church is called something in Ephesians that it was never called before. It is called a body. Believers are literally the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:27. He dwells in us through His Spirit. He energizes us with His life. As we yield to Him and allow Him to live through us, Jesus Christ is actively seen moving and working in the world today. He rises up in us, lives through us, and accomplishes His will in the world. It is this mystery of the church as the body of Christ that is revealed in the verses of this wonderful book.
I want to take a look at the first two verses today. In these verses, Paul illustrates what I have been trying to get across as I introduced this book. As Paul begins to write, his words are a vivid example of the fullness and the riches we can expect as we study this book together. As Paul writes, he doubles up on everything he says. He wants his readers to know that Gods blessings are exceedingly great and abundant.
Lets consider the author. His name is listed as Paul. This name means little. His original name was Saul. He was named after the most famous of Benjamites, the first king of Israel, King Saul. Saul was well educated in the school of Gamaliel, Acts 22:3. He was a rabbi, a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a prominent Jewish leader, who hated the followers of Jesus Christ, Acts 22:4-5. He was on his way to arrest Christians when Saul of Tarsus has a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 9:1-9. The Lord saved Saul of Tarsus and God used him to preach the Word of God around the known world. Paul became the greatest preacher of the Christian era. He is responsible for writing 14 of the 27 books of our New Testament.
Now that we know a little about the writer, and about what He is going to writer about, lets look at what Paul has to say in these first two verses.
I. A WORD ABOUT AUTHORITY
· Paul reveals a dual source of his authority. He writes as one who must be heard. He writes as one who has been sent for the purpose of declaring new truth.
· Paul identifies himself as a apostle of Jesus Christ. The word apostle translates the Greek word apostolos. It refers to a sent one. The word is used in the New Testament to refer to those men who were chosen to be the foundational leaders of the fledgling church, Eph. 2:20. They were the men who received direct revelation from God and gave it to His people. They gave us the apostles doctrine.
There are only fourteen men in history that can wear the title of apostle. There were twelve apostles originally, until Judas defected. In Acts 1:26, Mathias was chosen to replace Judas. Paul became the fourteenth apostle, 1 Cor. 15:8. Paul met the requirements for being an apostle, that ism he saw the risen Christ, and he was included in their number. 1 Cor. 9:1. There are no apostles today! Anyone who calls himself an apostle is a deceiver and a false prophet.
· Paul was a man sent from God for a special mission with divine authority. He also tells us that he is an apostle by the will of God. This reminded his readers that Paul has not chosen this path for himself; the Lord had chosen him for this path. Pauls own testimony reveals what he knew to be true about himself, 1 Tim. 1:12-15. Pauls use of the word does not arise out of pride, but out of profound humility that he had been counted worthy to be an apostle.
By the way, Paul knew that his first priority was to be a servant of Christ, Rom. 1:1. But, God had placed His hand on Paul and called him to a special place of service. He does the same for every one of His children. None of us will ever be apostles, but we have a place within the body of Christ where we are expected to serve. When we are all in our place, serving the Lord, the body of Christ functions as it was designed to function, 1 Cor. 12:7.
· When Paul mentions his apostleship, he is not throwing around titles. He is merely stating his divine authority to deliver truth to the people of God. Paul constantly had to defend his apostleship, 1 Cor. 9:1ff; Gal. 1:1.
I. A Word About Authority
II. A WORD ABOUT THE ADDRESSEES
· Having written about the dual source of his authority, Paul issues a dual designation concerning the recipients of his letter. He calls them saints and he calls them the faithful in Christ Jesus. Lets examine these two titles for just a moment.
· We are called saints. When people hear that word, they think of dead religious people who have been exalted by the church. If you are from some religious backgrounds, you might think of statues to which you pray in times of need. Those ideas do not even come close to what the Bible means when it calls believers saints.
The word saint means a most holy thing. It speaks of something that has been sanctified and set apart for Gods exclusive use. It speaks of how God sees us! Every child of God is a saint. Every person who is saved by the grace of God and washed in the blood of Jesus is a holy thing, set apart for the glory of God and for His exclusive use in this world.
The word saint describes what the Lord has done for us in Jesus. When we came to the Lord Jesus by faith, God saved our souls and He imputed the righteousness of Christ to our accounts, Rom. 3:21-22; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9.
· Then, Paul calls the saints the faithful in Christ Jesus. While the word saint describes our standing before the Lord, the word faithful describes our activities in the world. Because we have been saved and sanctified by God, we are new creatures in Jesus, 2 Cor. 5:17. As a result, we live a distinct, different life than the world around us. In other words, those who know the Lord are His holy saints, who live faithful lives in a world that does not know the Lord.
I. A Word About Authority
II. A Word About The Addressees
III. A WORD OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
· Do you see the fullness Paul is describing? He mentions a full authority. He mentions a full designation for the believer. Now, he offers a word of full acknowledgment, or greeting to the recipients of this letter. Paul extends a double blessing to his readers.
· Paul greets them by first saying, grace to you. The word grace translates a word that means good will, loving kindness, favor. We use the word to speak of the Lords work in saving us, keeping us and changing our lives. We all know that grace refers to the underserved love and favor of God for lost sinners. In that day it was a common greeting.
When we meet we say things like Hello; How are you?; or What are you doing? All of which mean absolutely nothing! When people in that culture met, they would say, Charis, which is the word translated grace. In other words, when they met they said, I pray for you the best God can offer. Thats a lot better than what we say, isnt it?
If we would learn to greet one another that way, it could change the world. It would be an opportunity to acknowledge the grace of God that bought us. It would be a prayer for Gods grace to be upon those we meet. It would open the door for us to witness to the lost. Try that tomorrow!
· Than, Paul says peace. John MacArthur says, grace is the fountain of which peace is the stream.[v] Because of the grace of God, we can have peace with God. Because we have peace with God, we can have peace with our fellowman. It is the grace of God that brings us to God, and when we come to God, His grace is able to give us boundless peace in our hearts, Phil. 4:7; John 14:27.
I. A Word About Authority
II. A Word About The Addressees
III. A Word Of Acknowledgment
IV. A WORD ABOUT THE AGENT
· Everything Paul has said thus far flows from this source. Pauls calling and apostolic authority; the sainthood and faithfulness of the believers; the dual blessings of grace and peace, all come to us through our relationship with God the Father. A relationship with God is only possible through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, John 14:6.
· When we trust Jesus as our Savior, all the riches of God become ours in Him. We become instantly wealthy in the things of God. Here is how Paul said is in 2 Cor. 8:9, For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
Conc: We are in for a glorious journey as we move through this special book. I trust the Lord will feed our souls, challenge our lives, and change our church as a result of this study. Come praying for God to speak, and He will! If He has spoken to you today, you know what it is that you need to do. Some now, as He calls!