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A Greeting from God

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Our Father, who art in heaven,Hallowed be thy Name.Thy kingdom come.Thy will be done,On earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread.And forgive us our debts,As we forgive our debtors.And lead us not into temptation,But deliver us from evil.[For thine is the kingdom,and the power, and the glory,for ever and ever.]Amen.  PSALM 401     I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.  2     He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  3     He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.  1 

My translation

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

Thus ends the reading of God’s word, let us pray.

I want to look at four things contained in this verse, we will consider Paul, what the word apostle means, what the word saint means, and finally what it means to be faithful in Christ Jesus.

            Paul opens this letter with a greeting to the church at Ephesus. This is the word of God so this is a greeting from God himself. Certainly Paul wrote this letter but it was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul in person, pouring out his heart in praise and thanksgiving. What he writes is in very fact the product of his own meditation and reflection. It is both a spontaneous utterance of his heart and a careful composition of his mind. But this heart and this mind are so thoroughly Spirit-controlled that the ideas expressed and the very words by means of which they are conveyed are also the ideas and the words of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the word of Paul is the Word of God.

Who is Paul?

Paul’s exact date of birth is unknown. It is reasonable to surmise that he was born within a decade of Jesus’ birth. He died, probably as a martyr in Rome, in the mid- to late a.d. 60s. Paul’s birthplace was not the land Christ walked but the Hellenistic city of Tarsus, chief city of the Roman province of Cilicia. Tarsus, modern-day Turkey.

Some insist that Paul had personal knowledge of Jesus during his earthly ministry. Hengel goes so far as to assert that it is almost probable that the young Saul even witnessed Jesus’ death. In any case, only a couple of years after Jesus’ crucifixion (ca. a.d. 30), Paul’s hostile attitude toward the latest and most virulent messianic movement of the time underwent radical change. He traveled the 150 miles from Jerusalem to Damascus armed with legal authority to hunt down Jewish Christians (Acts 9:1–2),

1     Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

2     and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way(Christians in the years immediately following Christ’s death were referred to as followers of the way), both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

As he traveled a bright light and a heavenly voice stopped him dead in his tracks. It was Jesus—to Paul’s chagrin not a dead troublemaker but the risen Lord.

His Hebrew name was Saul. Saul was a Pharisee. Saul persecuted the Christians. After encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus he began identifying himself by his Roman name Paul. The name Paul means “small,” and while that may have matched his physical stature, spiritually he was anything but small. He wrote almost half of the books we have in the New Testament. He was truly an apostle of Christ Jesus and as so his authority was almost matchless among men.

We know of Paul’s former life persecuting the Christians from his other writings, in Galatians chapter 1.  In writing the Galatians Paul is combating heresy put on them by the Judaizers so Paul goes to great lengths to show he understands Judaism. In vs. 13 he says:

For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;

14     and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.

Paul knew the religion of the Jews as well as anyone.

That is a very brief biography of  Paul.

 Next Paul says he is an apostle. What does he mean by this?

The Greek word ἀπόστολος has a rich heritage of meaning. In classic, pre NT times it carried the meaning of a naval expedition and more probably of the commander of the ship. In isolated cases it refers to persons who are dispatched for a specific purpose. Sometimes it performed functions expressed in such Eng. terms as ‘ambassador, delegate, messenger.’ This last word is the basic meaning of the word in the NT messenger, or sent one.

There are three ways the new testament uses the word apostle.

1.   In Hebrews 3:1 Jesus himself is called an apostle

2.   James, Barnabas, Junias and Andronicus as well as many others are called apostles.

3.   Finally the twelve called by Jesus are called apostles.

It is in this last category that Paul is placing himself.

Paul opens his address to the Galatians writing, “Paul, apostle not by men and not through the agency of man, but rather through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead” (Gal. 1:1). The first words, Paulos apostolos (Παῦλος ἀπόστολος) by which Paul >identifies his authorship and his authority are overlooked, and taken for granted by modern< readers. Paul regularly, though not always, states his apostolic position at the beginning of his letters to punctuate the authority by which he writes. His Galatian readers understood the significance of his office even though we have lost perspective on apostolic authority.

Whereas, a simple messenger (angelos) delivers the specific words given him by another of higher rank, an apostle served as an actual representative of the higher authority, given the trust both to proclaim a message and to interpret and apply it as well. He basically represented the interests of the one commissioning him. Lightfoot writes, “The ‘Apostle’ is not only the messenger, but the delegate of the person who sends him.” The apostle is one given the right to speak on behalf of the one appointing. Although we see instances in the New Testament where men are commissioned by other men or by churches, Paul was appointed by God through Christ. Therefore, when Paul is speaking from the authority of his apostolic office, he is speaking on behalf of God, and his words are God’s words spoken by God’s authority.

 As one who was witness to the risen Christ. Paul, on the road to Damascus, going to murder more followers of the way, encountered Christ in his glory and was immediately converted. When Paul says “an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God” he is putting himself in a category with the twelve. This is a commission by God for the purpose of delivering the message of salvation. But this not only indicates a commission, but it indicates possession as well. Paul was sent forth by Christ and belongs to him also.

So we learn two things from looking at this word apostle, First, Paul claimed to be an apostle given divine authority and sent on a divine mission. Second, the office of apostle was created with a practical purpose in mind, not for self-exaltation or ceremony. Apostles were not high churchmen, but lowly instruments chosen to carry a message. K. H. Rengstorf writes:

An objective element, the message, thus becomes the content of the apostolate. Full and obedient dedication to the task is demanded. Action accompanies speech in demonstration of authentic commissioning. The works are not a subject of boasting or evaluation but of a joy that expresses a complete ignoring of the person and absorption in the task.

The office of apostle was never intended to be perpetual in the Church. It was a unique position, in a unique time, serving a unique purpose. Apostles were not to be living icons afforded our worship and veneration, but were to be slaves of Christ (Rom. 1:1), slaves of God (Titus 1:1), and men obedient to the will of God (Eph. 1:1), chosen to bring about the faith of the elect (Titus 1:1). As bondservants to Christ, they were to be bondservants as well to Christ’s body—the Church.

Now that we have an understanding of  Paul and what an apostle is, let’s look at this word “saint.”

The Israelites, under the old dispensation, were called saints, because they were separated from other nations and consecrated to God.

No word in the New Testament has suffered more than this word saint. Even the dictionary defines a saint as a “person officially recognized for holiness of life.”

When popular culture refers to saints they usually mean in the Roman Catholic sense of the term, meaning those who in death and upon confirmation of a miracle are then sainted by the Pope.

The inclusion of saints in the church calendar began in the 2nd century. Originally these were local observances of the death-days of martyrs. The dedication of churches to saints began in the same way, with churches built over the tombs of martyrs. As the fame of martyrs and saints spread, observance of their festivals became more widespread, and universal calendars of saints for the Western and Eastern churches eventually resulted. Biblical saints who were not already commemorated as martyrs were inserted, and in the East this included OT saints. After the Nestorian controversy, feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as being the theotokos (bearer of God), became especially numerous and popular.

In the Church of Rome, a saint qualifies for inclusion under that title in the calendar when he or she has been canonized by the pope. The requirements for canonization are heroic virtue and miracles wrought in response to the saint’s intercession. Heroic virtue contributes to the ‘treasury of merits’ (see Purgatory). Miracles are believed to occur at the saint’s tomb or through his relics or images, or at shrines where the saint is said to have appeared, and these miracles are attributed to the saint’s intercession.

This is not what the bible says about saints.

In the Bible 3 words are translated as saint:

(1) קדושׁ kathosh

(2) חסיד kasith

      (3) ἅγιος hagios

. Of these words kasith has in general the meaning of righteousness or goodness, while kathosh and hagios have the meaning of consecration and divine claim and ownership. They are not primarily words of character, like kasith, but express a relation to God as being set apart for His own.

The term we are concerned with here is Hagios, for it is the Greek term, the word Paul uses when he talks about saints.

In opening his letter to the Romans Paul says in chapter 1 verse 7:

“to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He says to all called as saints, he does not say to those worthy of being saints, but those called. If you are a saint it is because God has called you to be a saint. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with God.

Also in his introduction to the Corinthians Paul says;

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling”

He says saints by calling, not by working. No one achieves sainthood through their lives. I hate to break this to you but if mother Teresa is a saint it is because God called her, not because of anything she did in this life.

And finally we see later in our epistle we are looking at today, in chapter 2 of the ephesian letter Paul says this:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,”

Paul is telling the Ephesians they are no longer counted among the condemned but are actually counted among any  they think of as saints and are in God’s family.

In the New Testament the word is applied to believers, not merely as externally consecrated, but as reconciled to God and inwardly purified. The Greek word from which the word 'saint' is derived signifies 'to cleanse,' either from guilt by a propitiatory sacrifice or from inward pollution, and also to consecrate. Hence, saints are those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, and thus separated from the world and consecrated to God.

What it comes down to is this, a saint is a Christian, that’s it. If you are a believer you are a saint.

Now on to our last term “faithful” and not just faithfull but faithfull in Christ Jesus. First lets note that these faithful are not a separate group, those who Paul call saints he also calls the faithful in Christ Jesus. Plenty of people in our day say they have faith. Faith is not really the problem, what they place their faith in, is the problem. You see faith is only as good as it’s object.

I once lived with an agnostic. An agnostic is someone who does not know if there is a god or not and apparently do not feel overly compelled to find out. Anyway we had many “spiritual” discussions and one day the topic of faith came up. I probably brought it up but at one point he said he had faith. When I asked in what he said he did not know. I told him his faith was useless if it does not have an object and he got madder at that than at anything I have ever said to him. He was more upset when I called his faith worthless than when I told him he was going to hell!

You have to understand this, if your faith originates within you and is placed in anything created it IS worthless.

to quote Charles Spurgeon:

A man may say, “I have faith.” But another question arises: What have you faith in?

“Well, I have faith in what I have felt.”

Then get rid of it, for what you have felt is not an object of faith, nor to be trusted in at all.

“I have faith,” says another, “in the doctrines which I have been taught.”

I am glad you believe them, but remember, doctrines are not the Savior. A creed cannot save. What is the object of faith, then? It is a person, a living, divine, appointed person. And who is that person? He is none other than Jesus.

So when Paul speaks of the “faithfull in Christ Jesus” let us be sure we know what he means. He does not mean all those who are without sin, no not at all. As a matter of fact he means all those wretched sinners who realize the depths of their depravity and through faith in Christ are reconciled to God.

What does it mean then to realize we are sinners?

Our problem today is we, as a society, do not recognize sin for what it is. Things we call “lifestyle choices” or “personal preference” or “pro-choice” are things God condems.

5702 What Is Sin

Man calls it an accident; God calls it an abomination.

Man calls it a blunder; God calls it blindness.

Man calls it a defect; God calls it a disease. 

Man calls it an error; God calls it an enmity.

Man calls it a fascination; God calls it a fatality.

Man calls it an infirmity; God calls it an iniquity.

Man calls it a luxury; God calls it a leprosy.

Man calls it a liberty; God calls it lawlessness.

Man calls it a trifle; God calls it a tragedy.

Man calls it a mistake; God calls it a madness.

Man calls it a weakness; God calls it willfulness.

Label It “Sin”

The late Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman used to tell of a Methodist preacher who often spoke on the subject of sin. He minced no words, but defined sin as “that abominable thing that God hates.” A leader in his congregation came to him on one occasion and urged him to cease using the ugly word. Said he: “Dr. Blank, we wish you would not speak so plainly about sin. Our young people, hearing you, will be more likely to indulge in sin. Call it something else, as “inhibition,” or “error” or a “mistake,” or even “a twist in our nature”.”

“I understand what you mean,” the preacher remarked and going to his desk brought out a little bottle. “This bottle,” he said, “contains strychnine. You will see that the red label here reads “Poison.” Would you suggest that I change the label, and paste one on that says, “Wintergreen?”

I do not preach sin to focus on your felt shortcommings, this is the trick of the brainwasher, but rather to measure your lives by the holy law of God. To be convicted of sin does not mean you are an all-around failure but to realize you have offended God.

Francis Schaefer has said, “People often say to me, What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you had just an hour to talk to him about the gospel? And I’ve said over and over, I would spend forty-five or fifty minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma — to show him that he is more dead than even he thinks he is; that he is not just dead in the twentieth-century meaning of dead (not having significance in this life), but that he is morally dead because he is separated from the God who exists. Then I’d take ten or fifteen minutes to preach the gospel.”[1]

I am not standing here preaching to you to get you to make a decision for Christ.

I am not standing here preaching to you so you will choose to follow Christ.

I am not standing here preaching to you to keep you from going to hell.

I am standing here preaching to you because it is glorifying to God.

I am standing here preaching to you because I have been called by God to preach.

It is my job to preach the word of God

It is God the Holy Spirits job to convict you of your sins.

It is God the Holy Spirits job to give you faith and the ability to repent and believe.

It is your job to repent and believe, if you are sitting there, fully aware of the desperate wickedness in your heart, fully aware that left to yourself,  you are without hope, fully aware that Jesus Christ died for you, then the Holy Spirit is working in you, changing your nature, giving you faith and expecting you to repent and believe.

Let’s briefly look at what it means to repent. Most today think that repenting is being sorry, this is not what repentance meant to the Greek speaking culture. The most common meaning of the greek word μετανοέω is a change of mind, a turning from one thing to another, a turning from sin to God. The second most common definition is to “be converted.” Not convert yourself, which is active, but to be converted, which is passive. Repentance flows naturally out of conversion. The two go hand in hand, if the Holy Spirit saves you and converts you repentance is the inevitable outcome.

Brothers do not think you are too depraved for God to save you. No one is too depraved.

Well, you say, if you knew the sins I have committed and what is truly in my heart you would not be saying that. You are right, I would not be saying that, if I knew what was in your heart I would say there is no way you could be saved. But providentially, God does not let me know what is in your heart. But He does know what is in your heart, and guess what? He sent Jesus Christ to suffer and die upon that cross anyway!

Think about it. Everyone of you has a child, or a brother, or a sister, or a mother, or a father, someone who means so very much to you, someone you would die for. Put the shoe on the other foot. What if that person had to suffer for what you have done. What if that person were beaten with a whip until their flesh was hanging off in ribbons. What if that person were then nailed to a cross and underwent the pain of slowly losing all of their blood! Just so your flaws were not taken notice of.

Now I hate to be rude here but whoever it is you are thinking of has no power to do this, they are not able to atone for your sins, but God does, God the son, Jesus Christ, God incarnate not only can do this but has done this. This is the gospel, this is the good news. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us became one of us, took on flesh and lived a perfectly sinless life, fulfilling the law becoming righteousness for us. His perfect obedience is reckoned to our account and then our disobedience is reckoned to his account when he paid the penalty for us on the cross. And then as if this were not enough, after three days he was raised from the dead giving us assurance of an eternal life with God. This truly is good news.

If this sounds like good news to you and you know you have never repented and believed this is a sure sign of the God the Holy Spirit working faith in you. Once you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit you must repent and believe. He will give you the faith you are sure you do not have and you will have eternal life. This is not magic, you will not instantly become healthy or wealthy or get rid of all your addictions, your pain, your envies, and your murderous thoughts, but He will give you the strength to, not just, endure these but to count it a joy to suffer for Christ. I urge you today to repent and believe.

You have to get the thought out of your head that God would not save someone like yourself, that is a lie from the pit of hell. There is no question, if God has stirred your soul, convicted you of your sin, and given you faith then repent and believe for he HAS suffered and died for you and nothing can get in the way of your salvation.

This is where I originally ended the sermon but it occurs to me many of you sitting there are truly regenerated and I don’t want to risk giving you the impression that there is nothing in this sermon for you since it seems as though I have been talking to the unconverted. So what is the message for you, the believer? Well frankly it’s the same. You too are a sinner, you do not keep God’s law, you are disobedient.

The only difference between you and the unconverted person is I can take out the conditional if. You are a sinner but God sent Jesus Christ to live the perfect life you fail to. Christ gets nailed to the cross to bear your sins, Jesus rises from the dead on the third day assuring you of eternal life. So what is your response to be? The same as the unbeliever, repent and believe. Do not sit there and think “well I have already done that,” as if it is a one time act. Who among you would say, “I already believed, I don’t need to do that any more.” Of course none of you would say that. The same thing applies to repentance. You have repented, you repent, you will go on repenting. Whether you were saved today, or twenty years ago repent and believe Christian, for Christ has died for you.

Let’s pray.


[1]Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer : A Christian Worldview. (Westchester, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996, c1982).

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