Ephesians 1:1-14: Our Eternal Salvation
Ephesus, the 5th largest town in the world when Paul wrote this letter. A town that would have been a difficult place to be a Christian, and so the church there was in need of encouragement. Ephesus, was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and a bastion of the Emperor Cult, where deifying the Roman Caesar was a badge of patriotism. A clash between those who thought the Caesar was Lord and Jesus is Lord is inevitable. It was also the centre for Diana/Artemis worship, the temple of this goddess of fertility was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In Acts 19:21-41 we see the city wide riot as a result from Paul’s preaching where silversmiths were losing business due to people converting to Christ. The battle for the hearts of the Ephesians for Diana or Jesus was visceral. Being a port town it was a place of the typical sins that go with that situation. It was prosperous, it had lots of different cultures, it was a centre for witchcraft, it was a place a lot like today where materialism, competing worldviews, and a growing animosity were the battlefield for the Ephesians to try and live out their faith.
Paul writes this letter as a prisoner to a church in the fire. Apart from the obvious need of the Ephesian situation there does not seem to be a clear occasion that Paul is writing to address. There is a very clear theme to the letter to the Ephesians, it is all about the church, more specifically, God’s work in Christ to make a new humanity for a new creation. If Romans is all about the gospel, then Ephesians is the letter all about the church. As you read through the letter you can see how it is structured to serve this purpose.
After the introduction of 1:1-2 we see a description of the new life we have in Christ in 1:3-2:10; then Paul describes the new family that we are in Christ in 2:11-3:21, in particular the idea of Jews and Gentiles in one body; then in 4:1-5:21 that new standards that we are to live by in Christ; 5:22-6:9 describes our new relationships in Christ, and 6:10-20 our new struggle with the devil in Christ.
V1-2, ‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ These introductory verses introduce us to the author, Paul, we are told that he is an apostle, that is a handpicked eye witness of the resurrected Christ who has been specially chosen to be an instrument of revelation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Being an apostle means that Paul speaks as God’s mouth piece. He tells us that this is not a self-made position, he is an apostle by God’s will. We know the story of how he was a persecutor of the church and was arrested by Christ on the Damascus road and put into service. These introductory verses also tells us about the recipients, there is a twofold description, ‘the saints in Ephesus,’ and ‘are faithful in Christ Jesus.’ These descriptions remind us of our identity on earth, we are saints, God’s holy ones, a description first given to Israel indicating a priestly role, but we are in Ephesus or in Timaru or Temuka. God’s consecrated ones living in a hostile environment. But we are also in another place, we are seated with Christ at the right hand of God in Christ. And we are the faithful in Him. This could mean those full of faith, or those whose faith is in full action. And finally Paul gives his traditional greeting, ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Grace and peace sum up the saving work of God and its effects. Our salvation is by grace not works, it is of God not of us, we contribute nothing, God does it all. And when we are saved by grace there is peace between sinners and a holy God, peace between brethren in Christ, and peace within our own hearts.
So as we begin think about what Paul would want to say and need to say to a church in the Ephesians position. We will see in 1:3-14 that Paul encourages them with the blessings they have in Christ. Let me note a few features of this section before we get stuck into it. Firstly, it is all one sentence in the Greek. It is an overflow of the mind of the apostle who is amazed at the riches of the salvation we have and it comes as a single breathe. Secondly, it is Trinitarian in structure, this is hinted at in v3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.’ You will see reference to the Father, and the Son, but also to spiritual blessings. This is a reference to the blessing of the Spirit, and He is the one who applies all of God’s blessings to us. Things are always done from the Father, through the Son and by the Spirit. As Paul describes the salvation we have you will notice that v4-6 talks about the Father’s past planning of our salvation; v7-10 speaks of Christ’s present accomplishing of our salvation; and v11-14 speak of the Spirit’s future securing of our salvation, and these will be our three points for the sermon if you are a note taker. Thirdly, you will notice that all our blessings come to us in Christ. This is a common theme in Paul. Jesus is mentioned 15 times in these first 14 verses, and 11 times Paul speaks about our being blessed in Christ. Fourthly, as you look at the whole of chapter 1 you will notice that v3-14 is Paul’s praise to God for this salvation, v3 begins with the word blessed indicating Paul’s worship; but v15-23 is a prayer to God for the Ephesians to grasp this amazing salvation. This means that we are studying that which moves Paul’s heart to worship and should move our own as well.