Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:1

Mosaic, Ruins, Ephesus, Ancient, Roman
Ephesus Floor Mosaic

Well, I’ve decided to start doing this thing where I read a passage from the Bible and try to figure it out and then write down what I learned about it or write to learn about it. I don’t some people might call it a Bible study or whatever. I’m just calling it, ‘figuring stuff out.’ I don’t know fully why I’ve decided to do this now. It’s been years since I’ve graduated college and even longer since I went to Bible college. I suppose it’s partly because I feel like I’m wasting my education by not writing something and by not telling people about the good news of Jesus. My BA is in English and my path of study in Bible college was Evangelistic ministry…. Pleas don’t judge my grammar and spelling, by the way. I am a bit rusty.

Anyway, I’ve decided to start with the Book of Ephesians. I’m not really sure why I decided to start here. I suppose because everyone says how great it is, but I know every time I’ve tried to read it my brain just floats off in the language. Okay, that might be for most of the books in the Bible, but Ephesians is that one that one where I’ve always felt like I’m really missing something.

And as usual, as soon as I got past the first two verses my brain shut off. So, at that point I realized I was going to have to stop and really dissect and analyze almost every word in order to grasp this letter. So, hold on folks this may take awhile. I don’t even know how many posts it’s going to take to get through it. I will do my best to keep it interesting. So, let’s get into it.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Eph1:1

Right away there are four words in this verse I had to stop and contemplate. What is an apostle? I mean I know from Bible school that it’s a missionary or a sent one. Now, he’s writing to the Ephesians, people he had spent roughly two and a half years with preaching, teaching, fellowshiping, and living. Why did he feel it necessary to mention this in his letter? Was he just being formal? If they new who he was why was it necessary? I don’t know there may have been some formality to it. However, I have a feeling when he was writing he wasn’t writing to his close personal friends in the church but probably to a larger audience, people he may have never even talked to or met, people who may have become converts since he left Ephesus. Some of them may have not ever even know that Paul was the one, the guy, the dude who brought the gospel to Ephesus. “Who’s Paul?” “You know, Paul, he’s the dude that’s the reason we’re sitting here listening to this letter.” “Oh right right right kool kool kool kool. Cary on.”

by the will of God

So, there’s a lot of talk in the Bible about ‘will’ God’s will, man’s will, free will, etc. But what does it mean. It actually comes form the Greek word Thelema and it is not a forceful word like an absolute decree, but more along the lines of a heart’s desire or a preferred disposition toward a specific matter. So, Paul isn’t saying here that God decreed him to be an apostle, like either he does it or dies. No, God gave Paul the opportunity to be his chosen messenger to the non-Jews. Could Paul have said, “No thanks I’m just going to stick with persecuting them.” Yeah, of course! He could have been like Jonah. Do I think God would have him swallowed up by a giant fish? No. It still probably wouldn’t have worked out so well for him. God probably would have been like, “Well, okay, you probably better get a cane and a seeing eye dog then.” No, that’s a joke. God just used the blindness to get his attention, to show him that he was walking around blind spiritually. God chose Saul/Paul for a reason. God knows our hearts. He knows them better than we do. He knew Paul would turn and he knew Paul’s personality, passion, fire, and intelligence were just what he needed for the job of reaching non-Jews with this crazy new Jewish religious belief. So, it was God’s heart desire and preferred disposition that Paul be a missionary of the gospel to non-Jews.

to the saints who are in Ephesus

Saint is a simple, yet often, misunderstood word. We here it all the time, “Oh she is a saint.” “He’s a saint!” “The Saints lost again.” Even though in the Bible calls all followers of Jesus Christ saints in several different places, Christians still think of the the word in terms of the Catholic veneration of saints. However, that is not the case. All Christians are saints. But what is a saint, what does it mean? The Greek word for Saint is hagios. The most simple definition is an individual who has been set apart as in one who is sanctified or one who is holy. It implies a consecrated devotion and service to God, wherein we will share in God’s purity from the worlds defilements that are contrary to his will and nature. So, Paul is saying that all Christians are set apart, are sanctified, are holy, and are pure. This was probably a pretty big deal for them to hear. They most likely came from various pagan religions and probably even some former Jews. They were not use to be told they were holy and pure. They probably only thought certain priests would be able to attain this, or maybe if they had donated enough money to a certain temple, or made a large enough sacrifice then they may be able to temporarily share in sainthood. Yet, Paul starts right in by assuring them that they are saints, that they are holy, that they are pure. Why does he do this? Simple because they needed to hear it. Because of the world they lived in they needed to hear it. We need to hear it. Christians now days need to hear it. Oh yeah, “We’re so much more advanced.” No, we are just as depressed, just as tired, just full of shame, just as full of guilt, just as beat down.

and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Faithful? Full of faith? Faith? What is faith? Oh boy! If you continue to follow me, you’re probably going to hear me talk about this definition a lot. The Bible college I went to was a Word of Faith school, so it’s kinda what we talked about the most. So, faith is a persuasion, a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon something one has heard, and acceptance of that thing heard as truth. I can’t remember all of the sources my instructors used to compile that definition, so don’t even ask. That is a definition I just remember by heart. Now, you need to understand a couple key terms in this definition. First is heard. What does heard refer to in this context? It refers to stories. Stories are extremely powerful. I don’t mean just novels or short stories. I mean all stories, narratives, meta narratives, poems, symbols. The American flag is a symbol with a story of a nation. As an English major a story is an idea with a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, what does that have to do with the definition? Which that brings us to the second term truth. Truth in the context of faith is very loaded. It ones accepted reality. So, one hears a story and they accept it or reject it as truth. They accept it or reject it as their reality. I’m sure some people aren’t going to to like hearing this. Even people I went to Bible college with because we didn’t typically venture this direction in class. Anyway, truth in this context is subjective. That’s not to say objective reality doesn’t exist. God is the ultimate objective reality. And, yet, people reject God everyday.

So lets tie this whole verse up. What Paul is saying, “Hi it’s me Paul! I know some of you may not remember me and some of you may have never seen me, but I’m the one God sent to tell y’all in Ephesus about my main man Jesus the Messiah of all mankind. God thought I’d be a pretty good candidate for the job, so it was His heart’s desire that I be the one to come on up there and tell y’all that story of Jesus. And I just want to exhort you a little here by reminding you that because you accepted the story of Jesus the Messiah as your reality that you are now set apart, holy, and share in God’s purity through the story.” I know that’s a lot of exposition for such a small and seemingly insignificant verse. But again this writing really more for me to figure this stuff out. And well that’s just kinda how my brain tends to over analyze details. Well, I at least hope you learned something.

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