Ephesians is the ideal place to build upon your faith. In the book of Ephesians, we are taught the essence of the Christian faith. We see in the clearest terms what it means to be a Christian, and what it looks like to live like a Christian. We are instructed on the faith of the church, as well as the function of the church. Nowhere are these truths as concisely laid out as in the book of Ephesians. Martyn Lloyd-Jones referred to Ephesians as “The distilled essence of the Christian religion.” If Romans is Paul’s version of a systematic theology, then Ephesians is his “Basic Christianity.”
All that being said, the book of Ephesians cannot be studied without some difficulty. At times, the book can be controversial, saying things about election and submission that are hard to hear. At other points it can be confusing, testing the limits of our finite brains in understanding divine truth. And, almost all the time, it can be convicting, pushing us to grow our love for the Savior.
Some of the challenges of Ephesians can be overcome simply by making some proper introductions. Whenever I preach in a new place, I always take a minute to introduce myself and my topic. If people know who and what they are listening to, it is usually easier for them to listen. The same is true in Ephesians 1:1-2. Here Paul provides a proper introduction for this letter:
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. (Ephesians 1:1-2, ESV)
In these verses Paul provides an introduction that tells us quite a bit about where we are going with this study, and he helps us see why we should listen. Specifically, Ephesians 1:1-2 provides 3 introductions that will help us better understand the rest of the letter.
I. The Pastor of Ephesians (v. 1a)
We find the first introduction at the beginning of verse 1 where we are introduced to
the Pastor of Ephesians:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God . . . (Ephesians 1:1a, ESV)
From this it is clear that Paul wrote Ephesians. To deny the Pauline authorship of this letter is to deny the inerrancy of Scripture. However, Paul is more than just the author, he is also the pastor of this letter. When Paul wrote to Ephesus he did so as their pastor. For two years he had served in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Listen to Paul’s description of that time:
￼”You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to
you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. (Acts 20:18-22, ESV)
It was a dear time for Paul, and even after he left, the people remained dear to him. That’s probably why Paul sent his protege, Timothy, to pastor in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). All this is a reminder, as you study the book of Ephesians you are studying the heartfelt words of a pastor to his people.
A. Authoritative Pastor
Paul’s authority as a pastor extends well beyond the city of Ephesus. Paul has the credentials to speak authoritatively to us all. He is “an apostle of Christ Jesus.” The word apostle literally means “sent one.” It is an official emissary; an authoritative representative. In this case, Christ Jesus is the One who did the sending (cf. Acts 9:1-19). As a result, his teaching, along with that of the other apostles, is the foundation of our faith (2:20). This means that as we study the book of Ephesians, the words of this pastor are authoritative in our lives. The apostolic authority of Paul demands personal accountability from you. When Paul speaks in Ephesians, God speaks.
B. Providential Pastor
The fact that Paul spoke with divine authority is remarkable, but it has nothing to do with how remarkable Paul was. Paul was not an apostle by his own merit or ambition. Actually, his merit and ambition took him in the opposite direction (cf. Phil 3:1-8). Paul’s appointment was the result of the gracious will of God. He was an authoritative pastor because he was a providential pastor. This should resonate with all of God’s people, since everything we have received, including blessings and salvation, is the result of God’s gracious will.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12, ESV)
If Paul was a providential pastor, then we are providential Christians, here by the will of God. This also means that the words of Ephesians are providential words, here by the will of God. As we study this book, we must remember that these are the words God has for us. I don’t know where you are at in life now, or where you will be throughout our study, but I do know that God providentially provided the Pastor of
￼Ephesians to write these words for you.
II. The People of Ephesians (v. 1b)
In addition to introducing us to the pastor of Ephesians, we are also introduced to the
people of Ephesians:
. . . to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:1b, ESV)
There is some question about these words since certain ancient manuscripts omit the words “in Ephesus.” Some replace Ephesus with another city and others simply leave it blank. Additionally, Paul mentions very little, if anything, personal in this letter. One can’t help but wonder why, since he was writing to his beloved brothers in Ephesus. So what do we say to this? Biblical scholars have come up with a solution I think is the answer. Paul wrote Ephesians to be a circular letter that would be passed from church to church, and he gave the Ephesians the honor of being the first to receive it. This was a very strategic move on Paul’s part. Ephesus was the ideal city from which this letter could be disseminated throughout the region. It was the third largest city in the Roman empire, with over 200,000 people. Bolstering its importance, Ephesus housed the temple of Artemis (Diana), a leading god in Asia Minor. Paul intended his letter to arrive in Ephesus and spread throughout churches in the region. The real people of the book of Ephesians are the people of the church. Paul is writing to the church at large, all Christians in all ages. Notice the terms he uses to introduce the church.
A. People who are saints
Paul refers to the church as “saints”. The saints are the church, not a different class within the church. “Saint” is Paul’s normal way of addressing Christians (1 Cor 1:1; Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1). In fact, every time the word is used in the NT it refers to ordinary Christians. It has nothing to do with Catholic veneration or a class of “holier” Christians.
The word “saints” literally means “holy ones”. This is what God has chosen the whole church to be, not just an elite group within the church.God called the nation of Israel to be His holy people (Ex 19:6), but through their own human effort they failed. Only some Israelites were truly saved and made holy (Rom 9:6). This is not the case with the church. The difference is that now we have the call of God (1:4) and the work of Christ (5:26-27) to make us holy. The entire church is made up of saints — “holy ones”.
￼Our sainthood does not depend on the veneration of man, it rests in the victory of Christ. How else can we explain the fact that Paul called the Corinthians saints, twice? This doesn’t mean that as saints we will not be holy. Sainthood doesn’t depend on fruit, but it does produce fruit (5:3). Christ positionally and practically makes us His “holy ones.”
B. People who are believers
The next term Paul uses to introduce us to the church is “faithful.” The word used here can refer to “faithfulness” or “believing.” It is either having faith or being faithful. In this case it should be understood as having faith. Literally, Paul is talking about “believers.” He is not talking about faithfulness to God, but faith in God. This serves as a reminder that to be a part of the church you must believe. Apart from personal faith in the Gospel you cannot be saved and you are unequivocally not a part of the church. Heritage, attendance, giving, serving, or anything else, apart from faith, cannot make you a part of the church. Paul makes this explicit in chapter two:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)
Apart from faith you are not a part of the church, because the church is made up of believers.
C. People who are “in Christ”
Notice the final term Paul uses to introduce us to the church. He refers to the church as those who are “in Christ.” Grammatically, this term modifies both “saints” and “believers.” We are only saints because we are in Christ. We are only believers because we are in Christ. Our holiness is sufficient because in Christ we have His holiness. Our faith is all that is required, because we have His faithfulness. The church is the people who are “in Christ.”
Theologically, what we are talking about is union with Christ. This is the relationship between a believer and Christ from which every benefit of salvation is derived. This is our identification with Christ in the Divine economy. There is no doctrine more vital to our salvation, and more important to the book of Ephesians. Paul refers to it 16 times in 6 chapters. This doctrine will become clear as we progress through the book. For now, notice how it functions here. The church is those who are in Christ. These are the people of Ephesians—those for whom it was written.
III. The Point of Ephesians (v. 2)
We find the third introduction of this passage in verse 2. Here we see the point of
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2, ESV)
This verse is a general greeting for a general epistle. Paul was not writing to address a specific problem or deal with a false teaching. His subject, like his greeting, is general. Paul begins with the most basic Christian themes, grace and peace, and shows how they relate to the Christian life. As we noted above, Ephesians is the essence of basic Christianity. Paul wrote this to instruct the church on the basics of faith and practice. It contains what we are to believe and how we are to live. In fact, this is the way the book is structured. The first 3 chapters are on the faith of the church and the last 3 chapters are on the practice of the church. In this book we learn what it means to be saved into Christ’s church, and then how we are to live as Christ’s church.
Ephesians 1:1-2 provides a proper introduction to the epistle. It introduces the pastor of Ephesians, Paul. It introduces the people of Ephesians, the church. And it introduces the point of Ephesians, the basic faith and practice of the church. I trust these introductions will help you receive the truth God has for you in Ephesians. May the Lord “take His truth and plant it deep in us.”