An Introduction to Ephesians, God’s Letter of Encouragement in our Salvation in Christ (Ephesians 1:1-2)
Prepared and preached by Rev. Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Evangelical Friends Church in Poland, OH
Sunday, July 2, 2017
It is good to be here. It is wonderful to begin my pastorate with you on this day. Pastor Bobby has served faithfully as your pastor for twenty-nine years, wow! He was about my age when he was called as your pastor, maybe a couple years older than me. When I retire as your pastor I will be about his age as well. I hope to serve as your pastor a long time. I praise God for Pastor Bobby’s many years of service. To put it in perspective I think I was seven years old when Pastor Bobby was called as your pastor. I look forward to serving the Lord alongside Pastor Bobby and building a close relationship with him. I look forward to serving the Lord alongside all of you.
Today, I wish to introduce Ephesians to you.
Think about the freedoms we have.
In the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, VA, there’s a special display for a rickety, home-made aluminum kayak. This tiny, makeshift boat seems oddly out of place in the midst of displays for impressive Navy vessels and artifacts from significant battles on the sea. But a bronze plaque tells museum visitors the story behind this kayak’s heroic makers. In 1966, an auto mechanic named Laureano and his wife, Consuelo, decided that they could no longer live under the oppression of Cuba’s totalitarian regime. After spending months collecting scrap metal, they pieced together a boat just barely big enough for two small people. Then Laureano jury-rigged a small lawn mower engine on the back of the kayak. After months of planning and on a moonless night, they set out into the treacherous straits of Florida with only their swimsuits on. They had enough food and water for two days. After 70 hours, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued the couple just south of the Florida Keys. Was it worth the risk? Laureano said, “When one has grown up in liberty, you realize how important it is to have freedom. We live in the enormous prison which is Cuba, where one’s life is not worth one crumb. Where one goes out into the street and does not know whether or not one will return because the political police can arrest you without any warning and put you in prison. Before this could happen to us, we thought that going into the ocean and risking death or being eaten by sharks, is a million times better than to stay suffering under political oppression.”
The Los Angeles Times reported several years ago the story of a man and wife who died in their fifties and they found them dead in their apartment and the autopsy revealed they both died of malnutrition. What was interesting was that when the police found their bodies, which had already begun to decay by the time they were discovered, they searched the apartment and found in the closet a whole pile of little paper bags and they opened the little paper bags and found a total of $40,000. It’s a little ridiculous to die of malnutrition, and have $40,000 in paper bags in your closet.
Understand that you are all spiritually rich. You are wealthy in Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior and He has blessed us with spiritual wealth. Ephesians teaches us of our awesome salvation in Christ.
My theme today: Paul writes Ephesians and encourages us about our rich salvation.
I have an application for you: Be encouraged by your salvation, surrender to the Lord and share Jesus with others.
Read with me Ephesians 1:1-2:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Let’s talk about the passage.
- The passage begins with “Paul.” Paul is the sender. He is the author. Some more recently have challenged his authorship for various reasons, though they do not hold any water. It is very clear by Biblical Scholars that Paul wrote this letter inspired by the Spirit. Some people say that Paul did not write this letter because he does not talk about specific people and issues. Some say he did not write this letter because he acts like he does not know them.
- One of my sources addressed that:
- The Gospel spread so he would not have known everything about the groups it spread to in modern day Turkey. The question of Paul’s apparent unfamiliarity with his readers can easily be explained. The ESV Study Bible says: Ancient archaeological evidence has shown that Ephesus controlled a large network of outlying villages and rural areas up to 30 miles (48 km) from the city. Also, Acts 19:10 reveals that reports of Paul’s preaching during his stay at Ephesus had radiated out to “all the residents of Asia.” Hence, Paul would not have been personally acquainted with newer pockets of believers in the Ephesian villages and rural farms that had sprung up since his stay in the city a few years before the writing of this letter.
- Moreover, many have suggested that Ephesians in its present form stems from the Ephesus copy of a circular letter to several Asian churches that Tychicus was delivering in the course of his journey to Colossae, along with the letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7–9). Therefore, the absence of personal greetings is no cause for surprise.
- The passage continues, “Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus…”
- As an application Paul was an Apostle of Christ Jesus (verse 1), this means we must take this letter seriously.
- Paul was an Apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will (verse 1), this means that he writes with authority over the church.
- As an apostle, which means “one who is sent,” this can mean that one is sent in a general sense, like a missionary. This can also mean, and in this case it does, that one, Paul, is sent in an authoritative position over the church.
- This behooves us to listen to these words.
- Verse 1 also means that God has a will.
- This verse combats deists and open-theism. Open theism teaches that God does not know the future.
- Deists believe that God set up the world like a watchmaker who winds a clock and lets it go. The Bible teaches the opposite. God has a will. God is intimately involved in His creation.
- If God has a will then we must seek Him and seek His will.
- The passage continues: To the saints who are at Ephesus and who arefaithful in Christ Jesus: Paul wrote this letter to saints. It is encouraging to know that we are saints in Christ Jesus.
- In the New Testament we are always called Saints, not sinners, after salvation. As Christians, or, as I prefer to say, Christ-followers, our trajectory is towards Jesus, not sin. We are called to follow Jesus. We will miss up, but hopefully we are growing in Christ Jesus. Hopefully, the pattern is towards Jesus.
- How is that working out, let’s help each other out.
- Paul calls them faithful. You know as I read that and I think about an application, I hope I can be faithful in Christ Jesus. I will pursue faithfulness.
- Notice, we must be faithful to Christ Jesus. Faithfulness to family, to work, to our spouse, to our neighbor all fall under faithfulness in Christ. Jesus is our most important relationship. We must not make an idol of our job. We must not make our spouse our idol. We can do that. Jesus wants us to be faithful to our spouse, but He is first and most important.
- The passage continues: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Paul gives them grace and peace. This is from God, who is our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are in a father-son, father-daughter, relationship with God, that is encouraging. We are family. Jesus is our Lord, this means surrender.
- We are so loved by God that He invites us into his family. This is called “adoption.” We have privileges of family. See 1 John 3:1).
- How awesome is it to be saved. As we get into Ephesians we see that the first few chapters are all about our salvation. Ephesians is rich in what is called “soteriology.” This means the study of salvation. Don’t miss this. We make many errors in Theology, like heresy errors, because we do not care to understand our salvation.
- I know, sure, some would say, “I don’t care how I am saved, as long as I am saved.” I can understand some truth to that. But, then how do we know we are saved?
- How do we know how to lead others to salvation?
- Do we know if we have to do anything to saved?
- Do we have to do anything to stay saved?
- Do we have to be concerned of losing our salvation?
- What are we saved unto?
- What is our relationship with our Savior?
- Ephesians gets into these topics, not completely, but in many ways. The first three chapters of Ephesians are ripe with wonderful, glorious Theology. They are ripe, like a beautiful garden with our salvation.
- You know what it is like when everything is dead in the winter, no life in the trees, or the grass, yet no snow either. But then comes spring, everything is green and blooming and colorful and vivacious. That is Ephesians. Ephesians is blooming with salvation which means it is blooming with life.
- How many of you have seen the Sound of Music? Remember the beginning when it shows all these beautiful images of The Swiss Alps? That is Ephesians, it is rich, beautiful, wonderful!
- Mercedes, my five, almost six-year old daughter was with me looking at a newly paved parking lot and she said, “This parking lot is beautiful.” She had seen the old terrible parking lot at Wal-Mart and now she saw the new, fresh parking lot and just thought it was beautiful. Ephesians is beautifully written about our new life in Christ.
- We learn about our free gift of salvation.
- We learn that this gift is opened to everyone.
- Grace is a gift. Ephesians chapters 1-3 are all about our gift of salvation in Christ. By God’s mercy we are saved. We must share this salvation and we must also be encouraged to live for Christ.
- Let’s talk briefly about the location:
- The date: Because Paul mentions his imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), this letter should be dated to c. a.d. 62 when Paul was held in Rome (Acts 28)
- Let’s talk briefly about the overview of the book/letter
- Chapters 1-3 are Theology
- Chapters 4-6 are practical church matters encouraging unity and godly living and unity
- Constable writes: Norman B. Harrison considered Ephesians, Philippians, and Colosians as written to the spiritual man, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians as written to the carnal man, and Romans as written to the natural man
- There are many themes but I wish to name a few: One scholar in Christ shares: For example, chapter 1 verse 7 talks about the riches of His grace, at the end of the verse. Chapter 3 verse 8 talks about the unsearchable riches of Christ. Chapter 3 verse 16 – the riches of His glory. So you have the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory and the riches of His Son. In other words, God is unloading all of His riches in the book of Ephesians. The word grace is used 12 times. And the word grace means God’s unmerited, undeserved kindness and favor. Grace is behind all of this lavishness that God pours out. So the word grace is used 12 times.
- The word glory is used 8 times. The word inheritance is used 4 times. The word riches is used 5 times. The words fullness and filled are used 7 times. And the key to everything is the phrase “in Christ” which is used 27 times. It is because we are in Christ that all of the fullness of all the riches of the inheritance of the glory of His grace is ours. Do you see? Because we are one with Christ in His church, because we are redeemed, this incredible fullness is ours. Maybe the sum of it all is in chapter 3 verse 20 – “That you might be filled with all the fullness of God.”
There was a lady known in American history known as Hetty Green. Hetty Green was called “America’s Greatest Miser.” When she died in 1916, this is a long time ago, when she died in 1916 she left an estate value at $100 million. That’s a lot of money in 1916. But Hetty Green was so miserly that she said she ate cold oatmeal because it was too expensive to heat the water to warm it. Her son had a severe leg injury and it was so severe that she was delaying trying to find a free clinic where it could be treated and she delayed so long it had to be amputated. In fact she got apoplexy one time and hastened her own death by arguing the merits of skim milk because it was cheaper than whole milk. Now that’s a strange lady, folks. To die with $100 million in your estate and your son loses his leg and you actually encourage your own death and eat cold oatmeal all your life – that’s really not understanding how to use your resources.
Remember in Jesus you are rich. Understand and be encouraged by your great and awesome wealth in Christ.
But, don’t forget your first love. The church at Ephesus forgot their first love: listen:
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’
How are you doing with Scripture memory? I propose we memorize this short letter together. Between now and the end of October I think we can do it.
Let’s learn Ephesians 1:1-2 in the next week.
Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23
God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)
Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)
Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)
Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)
Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)