Main Text: Ephesians 1:1-3
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful1 in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 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,
This week we begin a verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter study through the New Testament book of Ephesians. To a young church needing a fuller knowledge of Christ, the author, Paul, sent a call to Christian maturity. His letter to the Ephesians carries priceless truths about our new identity in Christ and our special calling to live new.
I am convinced that as a result of this study over the next months, that you will be more confident in your position in Christ’s Kingdom and more confident in living your life for Jesus Christ. God thinks a whole lot more of you than you do of yourself. God is for you always! I can’t wait for the reality of this to sink into us as a community of faith.
Our text today allows us to discover the context of this life-changing letter written 2000 years ago.
Verse 1 tells us the people that were involved in this correspondence – the Apostle Paul and the Christians living in the city of Ephesus.
Paul is the author of the letter. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Ephesians is one of thirteen letters that Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul calls himself an apostle, which means, “a messenger sent with a commission”.
In the book of Acts, we discover that Paul, born a Roman citizen, was a devout Pharisee (Acts 5:34 & 22:3). He was violently opposed to the idea that Jesus was the Messiah (the long awaited King of Israel). Those who proclaimed this were severely persecuted under Paul’s jurisdiction and with his full consent (Acts 8:1).
While on a murderous rampage, Paul was struck blind one day and encountered Jesus while he was on his way to Damascus to round up disciples of Jesus to bring them to Jerusalem. Through a series of divinely orchestrated events, Paul’s sight was restored and more than that, his heart was made new. Now he saw Jesus for who he was and committed his life to glorify God through making disciples of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. Paul’s heart was radically changed and he turned from persecutor to persecuted overnight (Acts 9:1-31).
Paul traveled through the known world at that time, going into synagogues or well-known places of discussion and commerce to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. He was a missionary and traveled on three separate journeys through the regions of modern-day Turkey, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Syria and others. Paul trained up leaders to pastor churches in the cities he visited that accepted him.
Ephesus and the Ephesian Saints
Ephesus was a vital port city, located on the coast of Asia Minor, now due to the silting of the Aegean Sea, it sits about 4 miles inland, in what is now modern-day Turkey. The city was most well known as the location of the temple of Artemis (Greek) or Diana (Latin). The spiritual dynamic of Ephesus was especially dark. It was a center for magic and sorcery and was a sex-saturated society. A strong indicator of the prevalence of magic in this city is noted by the economic value of the magic books that were burned in Acts 19:19.
Paul had been a missionary for about 17 years before he reached Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21). After two of his fellow-missionaries had prepared the ground for several months, Paul came to Ephesus for long-term ministry (Acts 19-20). Paul and his colleagues founded a network of house-churches that spread to several cites in Asia. Paul’s first converts were both Jews and Gentiles (known as God-fearers). Head of households would choose Christ and wives, slaves, and children did so with him.
Paul and his team spent 2.5 years in Ephesus making converts and training leaders. While in Ephesus, Paul wrote letters to similar church networks he had founded earlier in Galatia and Corinth helping them to settle disputes and church policy. After leaving Ephesus, Paul had a series of arrests and releases. During one imprisonment he wrote this letter to the Ephesians. Paul was eventually tried and executed (Acts 21:27-28:31).
So Paul wrote this to those in Ephesus and in Christ. These are two different worlds and the challenge to live in both the world and in Christ is the tension that every follower of Christ should possess.
Verse 2 states Paul’s prayer for believers in Jesus. Paul began all 13 of his letters with a prayer for grace and peace. This should get our attention. Grace comes through faith in Christ and is from God the Father. It is unearned, undeserved favor. God the Father and Jesus Christ are also the source of true peace – peace with God, peace within, and peace with others.
Verse 3 praises God for blessing us “with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places”. We are rich with God’s blessings. You are rich with blessings in Jesus Christ.
- What has God done? He has blessed us.
- What has He blessed us with? – with every spiritual blessing.
- When do I get this? He has already blessed us through what Christ achieved through the saving events of His life, death, and resurrection. It is yours through faith and repentance.
These spiritual blessings are secured “in heavenly places” where Christ now reigns. The value of these blessings is measured by the price Christ paid for them – the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).
God is for you! Every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year of your life God is for you! Paul is setting the stage here to tell us the specifics of these blessings in the verses to come. He is setting the stage to tell us the breadth of our blessings given to us in Christ. Without Christ we were doomed. With Christ and in Christ we have everything!
Next week we will read the breadth of specific blessings that come to those who are “in Christ”.
We have been made new to live new!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section as an aid in discussions that may be planned or unplanned during your week. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Acts 19:1-20
Who did Paul preach to in Ephesus?
Describe the religious flavor of Ephesus. What idol did they have and in what way(s) do we see this idol embedded into their cultural framework?
How is Paul’s message a gross offense to the Ephesians, who worshipped Artemis (Diana)?
What idols do we have in our society? What idols do we have within our churches?
Many times idols are actually good things that we make god in our lives. Describe some of these types of idols in your life.
Take a moment to address the stark contrast between the truth of the Gospel and the worship of idols.
How does the Gospel not leave any room for idols and idolatry?
How is all of sin ultimately idolatry?
In what ways does the Gospel show you that God has saved you from your idolatry?