INTRODUCTION & SALUTATIONS
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).
Ephesians is an epistle. That doesn't mean it is the wife of an apostle. Rather, it means that it is written as a letter. We are used to getting letters mailed to us in an envelope which contains the address and the return address and the stamps. Since that was not the norm, a letter would begin with the name of the person who was authoring the letter.
It has been customary to think that Paul CHANGED his name from its original "Saul" to "Paul" so that he could better identify with the Gentiles (Saul is a Hebrew name, while Paul is a Latin name). However, I do not believe that this is completely the case. In the days in which Paul lived, all Roman citizens had THREE names.
As I said, all Roman citizens possessed three names. Here are a few well-known examples...
- Gaius Julius Caesar
- Publius Cornelius Scipio
As you have seen in the above examples, PAULUS was a cognomen. It was ALWAYS used as a cognomen. As such, it was a family name.
Although Paul was a Jew, he had also been born as a citizen of Roman. At some time in the past, one of his ancestors has been "adopted" into one of the families of Rome and given a Roman name. Thus, when Paul uses this name for himself, he is not making it up. He is merely using one of his names which would serve to better identify himself with the Gentiles.
In addition to the Praenomen, Nomen and Cognomen, the Romans also occasionally used an AGNOMEN. This would be a special title of honor and/or authority.
Paul also uses an Agnomen. He calls himself an "apostle." Apostolos is also the Greek translation of the Hebrew "sheliach." A well-known Hebrew proverb states: "The authority of the send one (sheliach) is equal to that of the sender." Thus authority is inherent in the term "apostle" from both its Greek and Hebrew backgrounds.
While the word "apostle" comes from the root verb "to send from" it seems to have a more specific meaning. Indeed, the Greeks of the Peloponnesian Wars used this as a military term for the admiral of their fleet who was "commissioned" with a special duty.
When used in this sense, it seems to speak of one who is sent out with special AUTHORITY. The authority of which he speaks is that which is given to him directly by Jesus Christ - this is the meaning of the phrase "by the will of God." Paul was not an apostle because he decided to become one. He did not appoint himself to be an apostle. His own will did not make him an apostle. He is an apostle "by the will of God."
TO THE SAINTS
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1b).
When Paul addresses his letter, he is probably not speaking to two different groups of people. It is not as though there were one group who were SAINTS and another group who were FAITHFUL. This is a description of the believers at Ephesus. They are described in these two ways.
That tells me something about what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is one who can be described in these two ways.
1. A Saint.
When we use the word "saint" we are inclined to think of a picture on a stained-glass or someone who has been dead a long time. But the Biblical idea of a "saint" is different. The word "saint" comes from the same root as the words "holy" and "sanctify." They ALL signify the idea of that which is "set apart for a special purpose."
God's people have been set apart. They are special - not because they are so good in themselves, but because the Lord has declared them to be HIS own special possession. Of course, because He has DECLARED them to be special, He also COMMANDS them to be what He has declared them to be.
"You are holy!"
"Now I want you to BE holy!"
What does being holy involve? It involves being "faithful." It involves believing in Christ and seeking to serve Him to whom we have entrusted ourselves.
2. The Faithful.
This can refer simply to those who are in the process of believing something. We could simply translate it as "the believing ones." Indeed, for the first half of this epistle, Paul is only going to tell the Ephesians to do one thing - to believe what it is that God says about them.
But in chapter four we shall see a change. In chapter 4 and through the rest of the epistle, we shall see that simple belief brings about a response. It brings about faithfulness. If you really believe, then you will grow in faithfulness.
The words en Epheso ("in Ephesus") do not appear in the Chester Beatty Papyrus designated Papyrus 46. This manuscript dates to about 200 A.D., making it the very oldest copy of the Pauline epistles. While the words DO appear in the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus, in both cases there are scribal notations in the margin which makes it evident that this reading was not without question. The words also appear in the Alexandrinus.
It is possible that, while the epistle WAS originally written to the Ephesians, it was recognized that the message contained therein had a wider application so that early on it was recopied without the phrase "in Ephesus" and distributed to that wider audience.
The city of Ephesus was located at the mouth of the Cayster River on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). She had been a historic trading city in the past, though recent silt deposits in her harbor were bringing present economic pressures to bear. The harbor would eventually become completely clogged and unusable and the city would ultimately be abandoned.
In Paul's day, Ephesus was the seat of the local Roman proconsul. It was also the center of a pagan cult which was associated with a meteorite thought to have fallen down from the god Zeus (Acts 19). The most significant feature of the city was its temple to the goddess Artemis (Diana of Roman mythology), the fertility huntress-goddess. This temple was said to be four times the size of the Parthenon at Athens. The religion of Ephesus reflected both east and west in that it was a mixture of Greek paganism and oriental mysticism.
Paul had first come to this city with Priscilla and Aquila during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). After preaching in the Jewish synagogue, he had been invited to remain, but he had declined the offer, continuing instead to Caesarea and then to Antioch. Priscilla and Aquila did remain in Ephesus where they met and discipled a young preacher named Apollos.
Paul returned to Ephesus during his third missionary journey (Acts 18:1) and stayed for a period of three years, teaching daily Bible classes in the school of Tyrannus so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 18:10). Paul's ministry was so successful that the silversmith trade which manufactured pagan idols fell sharply. The local idolater's labor union staged a picket line and even went so far as to incite a mob to demonstrate against the Christians. The New Testament tells us that the great theatre at Ephesus (pictured here) was filled with demonstrators before finally being dispersed.
Paul returned to Miletus near Ephesus a final time on the last leg of his third missionary journey. He called for the elders of the church at Ephesus and they traveled to Miletus to meet with him and be exhorted and encouraged by him (Acts 20:17-38).
Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:2).
This was Paul's typical greeting. It was a combination of the typical greetings of the Greeks and the Jews.
However, I think that Paul's use of these two greetings goes far beyond a mere combination of ethnic greetings. There is a definite order of their arrangement. Peace always comes after grace. Without grace there can be no peace. Grace is the undeserved favor of God directed toward man. It excludes all human merit. It is the sum total of all that God has done for you.
This is the problem with the world today. The world is seeking for peace without grace. It is only as man meets the grace of God and accepts it that he can find peace with God and them peace with himself and with others.
Paul says that the grace and peace comes from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is the source of all grace and peace. Note that these are not two separate sources. The Father and the Son are not two separate or competing sources for grace and peace. They are the same source.
God offers His grace and peace to you. If you have never experienced the peace of God, then you can do so today. You can accept the grace of God through faith in His Son.