College & Career Class Lesson Summary, May 27, 2018
Today, we began looking at the book of Ephesians. Ephesians is a small letter of the apostle Paul, containing only 6 chapters. We noted that the city of Ephesus is known for many things in history, but we would save looking at that until later in the series. We wanted to dive right into the book, and that we did.
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul affirms his apostleship of Christ was not of his own choosing, nor of the will of other men, but was solely by the will of God. The will of God is simply the expression and manifestation of the desires of God. It was God’s desire to call Paul into His fellowship and afford Paul the opportunity to be an apostle of Christ. We noted that Paul was a pharisee who had been persecuting the believers of his day, yet God declared that Paul was a “chosen vessel unto Him.” (Acts 9:15) Paul often opens his letters declaring the authority of his apostleship as being of Christ, for indeed Paul was the chosen vessel to bear the Name of God (Jesus Christ) to the world.
The audience of the letter are the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, who are physically at Ephesus. We noted that a saint is not a title bestowed upon an individual by democratic vote nor by any sort of religious organization. Saint means, “most holy thing”, and it is not for any other than the Most Holy One, Jesus Christ, to declare such a reality. Paul addresses the believers at Ephesus as what they are – saints. They were made holy in Christ. To be holy is to be separate or distinct. The fact that believers are no longer identified with Adam but are now identified with Christ is a supreme and eternal distinction. We were separated from Adam and joined completely to Christ Himself.
Paul also calls this group “faithful.” Now, we noted that he isn’t addressing two different groups – the saints and then, the faithful. Often in scripture, we find a literary style known as a doublet. The doublet seeks to restate the same thing, just in a different way – usually for emphasis. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are prime examples of a doublet as they both recite the creation account, yet there are subtle differences in their content – not because they disagree, but because they are drawing on different angles, depending on the author’s focus. When Paul says that he is writing to the saints and the faithful, it is indeed the same group.
Were these saints faithful because they persisted in a flawless performance of the so-called “Christian life”? No, not at all. We didn’t mention this in class, but recall in the book of Revelation that the Ephesians were not persistently “performing” –
Revelation 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
We noted that God does reward faithfulness, as Hebrews mentions:
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
However, we wanted to be sure that we didn’t become too hasty in concluding that ‘faithfulness’ is synonymous with following a bunch of religious rules. Why? Because as we saw, Paul was counted faithful, by God, BEFORE Paul was a believer.
1Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
To be counted faithful is God’s declaration based on God’s intentions. God counted Paul faithful because of what God was going to accomplish in and through Paul. In like manner, being a saint by being in Christ affords us the same status as faithful. We took God at His word about His Son and God immediately counted us faithful – full of faith. Going forward, therefore, we are ever in the person of Christ and are ever faithful, not because we perform to a certain standard, but simply because Christ performed anything necessary and we are fused to His very accomplishments.
Ephesians 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every letter of Paul begins with an appeal to the grace and peace of God. This is the motivation that Paul writes and the very truths that are governing his thoughts as he writes. At some point in the series, we’ll look more at grace, but really, the entire letter to the Ephesians should be understood to be within the confines of grace and peace.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Right away we see the grace of God at work. God didn’t owe us anything by having Christ die for us – He further didn’t owe us anything of the riches of His storehouse. Yet, out of the compelling goodness of His very Being, God opened the spigot of His grace and has already blessed each believer with all spiritual blessings in Christ. We’ll see as we move through Ephesians what all of these blessings entail, and although there will many of these blessings highlighted, Ephesians is certainly not an exhaustive list. Suffice it to say that there is not a spiritual blessing that God is waiting to give you. All that you would ever need or would want to have, God has already given it to you. Whether or not we allow that to govern our thinking, however, is certainly a different matter altogether.
We also noted that these blessings are given us IN Christ. Although salvation often is rendered down to just a status, we should recognize that salvation is all about location. Prior to belief, we were in the domain of Adam – that was our identity. Yet, by faith, we have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13) and have adorned a new identity – that of Christ. Just as being in America identifies us as Americans, so too being in Christ identifies us as Christians.
God determined to bestow all spiritual blessings IN Christ. God already decided where these blessings would be operative. Based on this, Paul reminds us that this wasn’t a split decision by God, but was something that God had already set in stone before the foundations of the earth were laid.
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Paul is not talking about God arbitrarily choosing who would be in Christ, but is rather describing the reality of what is true about those who are in Christ. God sent the invitations out and for those who respond (by faith), they are joined to Christ and being in Christ affords them all spiritual blessings and this is all according to what God decreed would be so, having decreed it prior to the laying of the earth’s foundations. He likewise determined that by being in Christ, we would be holy (‘separate’, ‘distinct’) and without blame. God doesn’t put us on the stand and cross-examine us – we are already standing before Him without blame. And, all of this happens within the boundaries of the matchless love of God.
Not only this, but God predestined us to be adopted as children of His. Adoption has a very important meaning in scripture and it differs from the modern idea of adoption that we may be more familiar with. Modern adoption is the transaction of bringing a non-biological child into your family and (legally) declaring your intentions to provide for their needs as if they were one of your biological children. Now, this idea isn’t necessarily foreign to us in Christ (having been brought into the family of God), but, the idea that Paul would have had in mind is different.
Adoption in scripture is a promotion. A father would set a tutor or a governor over his children and the role of the tutor was to teach the children so that at some point, the children could be turned over as productive members of society, etc., representing the family and the father responsibly. The child would then, by the decision of the father, be promoted to a son. As a son, he was able to represent the family for the father determined it right and appropriate. This is the idea that Paul would have in mind.
Christ is indeed the Son of God and by being in Christ, we have been promoted to a son of God ourselves. We have been given charge over the family business, to represent the Father responsibly. Note – we are not called to represent the Father through our own concoctions. We are called to bear HIS testimony, not ours. God has promoted (adopted) us in this fashion.
Next week, we’ll review this very briefly and continue on in Ephesians 1. It’s going to keep getting better and better as we continue in the book. Reflect on what God has done for you – just in what we’ve read in these first 5 verses.
Our story continues…