The Salutation - Ephesians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:1–2)
Intro. The letter is addressed to the church in the city of Ephesus, capital of the Roman province of Asia (Asia Minor, modern Turkey). Because the name Ephesus is not mentioned in every early manuscript of this letter, some scholars believe the letter was an encyclical, intended to be circulated and read among all the churches in Asia Minor and was simply sent first to believers in Ephesus.
Author and Date
§ Paul’s is indicated as author in the opening salutation (1:1; 3:1).
§ Written from prison in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) sometime between a.d. 60–62, the letter is, therefore, often labeled a prison epistle (along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon).
§ Ephesians may have been composed almost at the same time as Colossians and initially sent with that epistle and Philemon by Tychicus (6:21–22; Colossians 4:7–8).
Background and Setting
§ The gospel probably was first brought to Ephesus by Priscilla and Aquila, an exceptionally gifted couple (see Acts 18:26) who had been left there by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18–19).
§ Located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea, Ephesus was perhaps best known for its magnificent temple of Artemis, or Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
§ It was also an important political, educational, and commercial center, ranking with Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch of Pisidia, in southern Asia Minor.
§ Later, Paul firmly established this fledgling church on his third missionary journey (Acts 19), and he pastored it for some three years.
§ After Paul left, Timothy pastored the congregation for perhaps a year and a half, primarily to counter the false teaching of a few influential men (such as Hymenaeus and Alexander), who were probably elders in the congregation there (1 Timothy 1:3, 20).
§ Because of those men, the church at Ephesus was plagued by “fables and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1:4) and by such ascetic and unscriptural ideas as the forbidding of marriage and abstaining from certain foods (1 Timothy 4:3).
§ Although those false teachers did not rightly understand Scripture, they propounded their ungodly interpretations with confidence (1 Timothy 1:7), which produced in the church harmful “disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4).
§ About thirty years later, Christ gave the apostle John a letter for the church indicating that its people had left their first love for Him (Revelation 2:1–7).
Historical and Theological Themes
§ The first three chapters are theological, emphasizing New Testament doctrine, whereas the last three chapters are practical and focus on Christian behavior.
§ Above all, this is a letter of encouragement and admonition, written to remind believers of their immeasurable blessings in Jesus Christ, not only to be thankful for those blessings, but also to live in a manner worthy of them.
§ Despite, and partly even because of, Christians’ great blessings in Jesus Christ, they are sure to be tempted by Satan to self-satisfaction and complacency.
§ Thus, in the last chapter, Paul reminds believers of the full and sufficient spiritual armor supplied to them through God’s Word and by His Spirit (6:10–17) and of their need for vigilant and persistent prayer (6:18).
§ A key theme of Ephesians is the mystery (meaning a heretofore unrevealed truth) of the church—“that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (3:6), a truth completely hidden from the Old Testament saints (3:5, 9).
§ All believers in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, are equal before the Lord as His children and as citizens of His eternal kingdom, a marvelous truth that only believers of this present age possess.
§ Paul also speaks of the mystery of the church as the bride of Christ (5:32; Revelation 21:9).
§ Paul emphasizes the major truth that the church is Christ’s present spiritual, earthly body, also a distinct and formerly unrevealed truth about God’s people. This metaphor depicts the church not as an organization, but as a living organism composed of mutually related and interdependent parts.
§ Christ is Head of the body, and the Holy Spirit is its lifeblood. The body functions through the faithful use of its members’ various spiritual gifts, sovereignly and uniquely given by the Holy Spirit to each believer.
§ Another prominent theme is the riches and fullness of blessing to believers. Paul writes of “the riches of His [God’s] grace (1:7), “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (3:8), and “the riches of His glory” (3:16).
§ Paul admonishes believers to “be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19), to “come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13), and “to be filled with the Spirit” (5:18).
§ Believers’ riches in Christ are based on God’s grace (1:2, 6–7; 2:7), peace (1:2), will (1:5), pleasure and purpose (1:9), glory (1:12–14), calling and inheritance (1:18), power and strength (1:19; 6:10), love (2:4), workmanship (2:10), Holy Spirit (3:16), offering and sacrifice (5:2), and armor (6:11–13).
§ The word “riches” is used five times in the letter; “grace” is used twelve times; “glory” eight times, “fullness” or “filled” six times; and the key phrase “in Christ” (or “in Him”) twelve times.
In his salutation, Paul presents the…
§ dual source of his apostolic authority,
§ a dual description of believers,
§ a dual blessing for believers,
§ and the dual source of those blessings.
- The Dual Source of Authority - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, (1:1a)
- Paul wrote with the authority of an apostle. Apostolos means “sent one” and in the New Testament is used as an official title of the men God uniquely chose to be the foundation layers of the church and the receivers, teachers, and writers of His final revelation—the New Testament.
- The apostolic duties were to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), teach and pray (Acts 6:4), work miracles (2 Cor. 12:12), build up other leaders of the church (Acts 14:23), and write the Word of God (Eph. 1:1; etc.).
- Besides the original twelve and Matthias (Acts 1:26), who replaced Judas, Paul was the only other apostle, “as it were … one untimely born” (1 Cor. 15:8). Yet he was not inferior to the other apostles, having met all the requirements for that office (1 Cor. 9:1).
- Paul’s credentials were not his academic training or his rabbinical leadership but his being an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. Paul did not teach and write by his own authority but by the dual yet totally unified authority of the Son (Christ Jesus) and of the Father (God).
- In stating that truth Paul was not boasting of personal merit or elevating himself above other believers. He well remembered that he had been a blasphemer, a violent persecutor of the church, and an unworthy and ignorant unbeliever; and he still considered himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:13, 15).
- Like every Christian, he was first of all “a bond–servant of Christ Jesus” his Lord (Rom. 1:1). By mentioning his apostleship, Paul simply established his undeserved but divinely–bestowed authority to speak in God’s behalf—which he states at the beginning of each of his epistles except Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
- The Dual Designation of Believers - to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: (1:1b)
- From God’s side believers are those whom He has made holy, which is the meaning of saints. From man’s side believers are those who are faithful, those who have trusted in Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- Every Christian is a saint, because every Christian has been set apart and made holy through the perfect righteousness of Christ that has been placed to his account (Rom. 3:21–22; 1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9; etc.).
- When a person acts in faith to receive Christ, God acts in grace to give that person Christ’s own righteousness. It is Christ’s perfect righteousness—not a person’s own character or accomplishments, no matter how great they may seem in men’s eyes—that establishes every believer as one of God’s saints through saving faith.
- The Dual Blessings of Believers - Grace to you and peace (1:2a)
- This was a common greeting among Christians in the early church. Charis (grace) is God’s great kindness toward those who are undeserving of His favor but who have placed their faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
- To greet a Christian brother or sister in this way is much more than a wish for their general well–being. It is also an acknowledgment of the divine grace in which we stand and which has made us mutual members of Christ’s Body and of God’s divine family.
- Grace is the fountain of which peace (eirēnē) is the stream. Because we have grace from God we have peace with God and the peace of God, “which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7).
- Peace is the equivalent of the Hebrew shālôm, which, in its highest connotation, signifies spiritual prosperity and completeness.
- The Dual Source of Blessing - from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:2b)
- The dual source of blessing is the same as the dual source of authority—God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Those are not separate and distinct sources but two manifestations of the same Source, as indicated by the connective kai (and), which can indicate equivalence, and here indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ is deity just like God our Father.
Paul’s message throughout this epistle is that believers might understand and experience more fully all of the blessings granted by their heavenly Father and His Son and their Savior, Jesus Christ.