Greeting Ephesians

Out of the Darkness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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walking through the book of Ephesians


Themes in Ephesians:

This epistle is about God and his grace and what happens to people on whom that grace is lavished. A couple of weeks back we talked about the open chapters of Genesis and we noticed how easy it is to become twisted and caught up in thinking that we are the main characters of the universe…but we are not…there is one that eternally predates us and we were made by Him.
This epistle is about Him and what He has done to span the chasm that our rebellion made between we the creature and He the Creator.
This epistle paints a portrait of the great lengths God traversed in order to redeem and restore all of creation.
John Stott - The letter focuses on what God did through the historical work of Jesus Christ and does through his Spirit today, in order to build his new society in the midst of the old.
The new society of the called out redeemed children of God were made specifically for a time like this. This world is reeling in it depravity and struggles for power and it’s futile quest to establish the utopic life of the promises of the Kingdom of God on earth, but with out the King of kings and Lord of lords reigning in the center.
Beloved, we have been summoned into a relationship with the living God through the work of the eternal Son of God and are now empowered by the Spirit of the living Christ that lives in us (He dwells in our hearts through faith Paul’s says in chapter 3). We are indwelt and sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life. We have been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light and because of the truth described in this epistle, Christians have an unobstructed view of seeing things how they really are and who all this belongs to and what all of this is about.
We can’t just sit back and watch all this burn. We have to reject our natural tendency to run and hid in the hills when things get hard. There may be no more critical of a time in our nations history for people to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Well who is going to display that? Who is going to showcase those attributes in our world today? Even if people wanted to showcase those virtues, who among the inhabitants of the world could ever really consistently pull that off? It would take a miracle or something superhuman to display that time of mindset and behavior. And I say, your right. It can’t come from us in our natural selves. And so Jesus looks at us, like He looked at Nicodemus and say, “You must be born again.” and some of us in this room have…and to you I, “let your light shine.” Don’t hide it under a bushel…NO. Let it shine. Show a spiraling world how magnificent it is to let Jesus be the King. Entrust yourself to your faithful Creator, like Jesus did when He willfully laid down His life.
Philippians 2:14–16 ESV
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Do you know what this broken, twisted, corrupt, world wants most? They want a King that can rule and reign with true justice…but they think that they are next in succession in the royal line. But they have fallen short. All of us have fallen short. They are seeking the right thing, but will never find it because they are on the broad road that leads to destruction. Beloved of God…show them! Show them Christ in you the hope of glory by living out your new identity. Let Jesus rule and reign you as your King! The contents of Ephesians is about GOD and what He has done and is doing to bring about restoration and redemption to a broken world, to the praise of HIS glorious grace. We have to get this right.

Ephesians is about God’s purposes, God’s mysterious ways and ultimately about His Grace.

We we see contrasting literary concepts in the book of Ephesians: The great reversal...
We were once a cursed people, but now we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing.”
We were once born dead and a slave to the devil, but now we are “alive and seated in the heavenly places.”
We used to “carry out the desires of the body” (2:3), now we “put off our old self which belongs to our former manner of life…which was corrupt through deceitful desires” (4:22).
Instead of begin caught up in the current of the desires of our bodies that are corrupt…we now plant our feet on or should i say “in” the solid rock of Christ which is the foundation of the river and with our footing secure we no longer get carried away by the desires of the body, we turn and head up stream and we put our old way of living to death. The desires of the body may still be, surely will be, strong and pounding up against you and they are seeking to sweep you off of your feet and carry you away to a flood of debauchary, but we don’t have to give in…because we now follow in the footsteps of the one who has gone before us and paved the way through the valley of the shadow of death and has emerged on the other-side victorious over sin and Satan and so we grow past those things we are formerly known as and walk into the good works that God has prepared before hand for us to walk in. THAT IS WHY WE WERE CREATED.
Key Verse
Ephesians 5:8 ESV
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
We once “followed the course of the world, and the prince of the power of the air”, but now we are walking in a manner worthy of our calling.
In this letter we will see how our Christian doctrine should empower our Christian duties particularly in our UNITY, in the way we SPEAK TO ONE ANOTHER, in the way we RELATE to our brothers and sisters in Christ, our spouse, our parents, our employee / employer relationships. EVERYTHING WILL BE ADDRESSED. Even how do we make war with our former capture Satan. How can we make war with Him? All of it, addressed in 6 chapters. This is why it is John Calvin’s favorite epistle.
That is why it is called by one historian an ‘infinities and immensities’. There are simply some things that we will just not be able to comprehend and grapple not matter how hard we try. We will touch on that next week.


What was Ephesus like? Pagan - they worshipped false God’s (Artemis) - as we preach through the epistle we may occasionally pop into Acts to see Paul’s interactions with the Ephesians, but there is so much glory in the first two verses today…that we can’t take time to talk about background stuff. I do exhort you to read through Acts 18-20 this upcoming week.
Read the Text:
Ephesians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is our text before us today and this is far more than a formal introduction. This isn’t just some unnecessary greeting. This isn’t just a greeting that you can rush through as if it was an appetizer. These first two verses are not just finger food that you have to tolerate in order to get to the main meal. In fact the first two words in the text, when rightly understood, will be more than you can chew. If we try to take in all the ramifications of just the first two words we will need to push the plate away and unbuckle our belts and unbutton our pants for comfort sake!
Stop being so hyperbolic! So dramatic…come on. Wait are you for real? Is there really more there than meets the eye here? Is there? There is?!
What is it? Well to see the beauty of what is there…we have to notice what is not there. Because what is there in the Greek are the words,

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος

You can imagine what that might mean in English right?
Paul, apostle.
Well what’s the big deal? I barely need to chew on that. That is finger food…I don’t even need to chew that…i will just swallow it whole. Ok good for you…that is what is there and in the black and white…but now let’s consider what isn’t there that should be there.

Σαῦλος Φαρισαῖος

The first two words should be Saul, pharisee. Chew on that. The author of all these infinities and immensities has undergone a crisis. This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. This isn’t just a ghost writer. This is a new creation. A metamorphosis has taken place. Like the caterpillar that has turned into a butterfly.
Philippians 3:5–6 ESV
5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
The first two words of the letter to the Ephesians are of paramount importance. “Since meeting Jesus, everything had changed for Paul. He had a new name and a new calling. This epistle is all about “newness” because of Jesus. What would you like to see “renewed” in your life?
These credentials should been at the beginning of a letter to the Ephesians. This is certainly how he won over the favor of the high priest in Acts 9 to get permission to persecute the followers of the way. Hey High Priest, I was circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, I HATE THOSE GUYS - they are a threat to our way of life and our well being, as to righteous under the law, blameless…do i have your permission to murder? Go for it!!!
In Philippians 3:4-6 Paul lists his credentials and counts them all as rubbish. What things do you take pride in that give you a false sense of value, worth and identity?
Paul recounts his former way of life on two occasions in Acts. Once in Acts 22 when he was in Jerusalem.
Acts 22:3–4 ESV
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,
Acts 22:5 ESV
5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
That is who he was...And then again before King Agrippa
Acts 26:9–10 ESV
9 “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.
Acts 26:11 ESV
11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
This is who Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee WAS. And outside of the mysterious, effectual grace of God that was lavished on Him on the Damascus road, this is who he would have been.
But God…changed all that…to the point where Paul puts pen to paper and opens his correspondence to those in Ephesus with these two words...

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος

Everything about this man has changed…
And now we arrive at the textual idea of the passage.
Paul was not who he once was…and not only that but the Ephesians were not who they once were either. And that is the Fundamental Fact that is held out before us in the text today. By an act of God’s sovereign will and through His sheer grace...

Main Idea: We, who believe, are not who we once were.

Along with Paul and the Ephesians, we have been given a new identity. (Paul / saints / In ephesus / in Christ)
Along with Paul and the Ephesians, we have been given a new calling. (apostle / believers)
Along with Paul and the Ephesians we have been given grace and peace.
And NONE OF THIS, NONE OF THESE BLESSINGS WERE OUR OWN DOING, it was by the “will of God.” And we marvel.

We see these fundamental facts in Paul.

Paul was given a new identity.

First of all we see that Saul is renamed, Paul. He was formerly know as Saul, but now he was Paul. He was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus and now he was Paul the Apostle. He was formerly identified as one who was “in the tribe of Benjamin” but now he was “in Christ.” He was a new creation…he was now identified as one who was “in Christ.” Look at what he writes to the Galatians...
Galatians 6:14–15 ESV
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
Look…I am a new creation. I have a new name. I have a new identity. He said you can hang that flag at half mass. The man I used to be is dead. He says earlier in...
Galatians 2:20 ESV
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For Paul, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.
Is it hard for you to trust that your fundamental identity has changed from “sinner” to “saint?”

Paul was given a new calling.

Here we see that Saul is not only renamed, but he was given a new calling. He went from Pharisee to Apostle. Is there any greater polar opposite calling? This is what repentance looks like. I was heading one way…then I stopped and now I am heading another way. Saul of Tarsus, the well trained Pharisee who once vilified the saints is now Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. The one who once sought out permission from the authorities to kill Christians has been given authority, by the one he once persecuted to go make disciples! He was seeking authority to kill. Jesus reveals his glory to him. Now he was given authority by Jesus to be an official spokesperson for the only one who can bring true life. This is night and day. Not only is he commissioned by the Risen Christ to go preach the message he once persecuted, but now he himself will be persecuted for preaching this new message! Talk about a plot reversal. Everything changed on a dime for Paul. He was zigging and then all of a sudden he was zagging. And it all happened at the moment of his conversion.
He was blinded on the road to Damascus by the glory of Jesus. Then he was led into Damascus by those with him. It is revealed to Ananias, a follower of Jesus, that Saul would clearly need some help. Ananias says…that guy is evil…do you know the evil he has done to the Christians in Jerusalem…
Acts 9:15–16 ESV
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Saul, once carried letters of authority to be a persecutor of the followers of the way, but became the one who would carry the name of Jesus to the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel and be persecuted and suffer for it!
He was on a road to Damascus to induce suffering…but now he would spend the rest of his life travelling roads of Miletus, Ephesus, Neapolis, Philippi, Berea, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Galatia, Phrygia and even roads of ROME while being persecuted. AHHHH!
I could go on and on about this and look at (2 Corinthians 6, and 11) and play this reversal out even more, but we don’t have time. Paul was given a new name and a new calling.
Now that is well and good for Paul, but what about those he was writing too? and what about me?
Paul initial call to ministry involved a call to suffering (Acts 9:15-16). Have you ever experienced suffering on behalf of following Christ? If yes, please explain. If not, why not?

We see these fundamental facts in us as well.

We, who believe, are not who we once were because we have been given a new identity.

Ephesians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Ephesians are called “saints.” You and I, as bonkers as this sounds, are identified as “saints” in Scripture. And you scratch your head and say, “What?” That can’t be. Surely, Paul doesn’t know me that well. No, he does know you…but more importantly He knows Jesus and the grace that is channeled through Him to you. And so he addresses the Ephesians as saints. And you and I, because of Jesus are saints. And our “sainthood,” our “holiness,” our “set apartness” isn’t up to us…it was granted to us “by the will of God.” It was God’s will that we were made holy by the one who died in our place.
It is not up to you to be initially and effectually called a “saint,” a holy one, a set apart individual. This was and really still is God’s doing. If it was up to you to set yourself apart through an act of your own volition, you wouldn’t do it. And even if you wanted to you couldn’t. Why do we make resolutions every year? Because we want something in the way we feel, or think, or act, or appear that we want to be different…and so we resolve to “live differently,” distinctly and in a set apart way…and we fail time and time and time again. Get this…we fail with the things we DESIRE to do…how do you think that we could make ourselves holy and blameless and above reproach before an all knowing, all mighty God? We can’t. How are you doing 17 days into this new year with the changes that you have desired to bring about? any of you fail yet? and that is with what you WANT to change. What if I said who wants to make a commitment and resolve to count it a privilege to suffer this next year for the sake of the Gospel? Who would want that? Who could do that? That would not come natural to any of us…but if there is any inkling to be united to Christ even in his suffering, like Paul said to the Philippians in chapter 3 where he desires to “share in the sufferings of Christ to be like him in his death” that MUST come from above. That is a work of God.
Paul was formerly know as Saul…and you are I are formerly known as “sinner,” but now we are primarily known a “saint.” Yes we still battle with our former way of thinking and conducting ourselves in the world, but that is no longer our identity. We will battle with the “old nature,” Paul is going to make all that clear and actually give us our marching orders on how to do battle with it in chapters 4-6…but that old nature is our OLD nature. Our new nature, our new identity is “saint.” Look at what the verse says:
“to the saints in Ephesus” - yes they are still residing in Ephesus, yes you and I are still residing in a “body of death” as Paul says…but the Ephesians real residency, our real primary residency is in the second phrase of that verse: “in Christ.”
Our primary residency is not in who we once were, or in whatcom county, or in Washington state or in the USA. Yes, you reside in your bodies, in whatcom county, in Washington state and in the USA…but you are fundamentally, according to Scripture, “in Christ.” Everything about your identity has changed. You have a birth name, but now you are call “beloved of the Lord.” (Deut. 32:12).
Do you identify more with being a resident of whatcom county, washington state or a citizen of the USA more than being “in Christ?”

We, who believe, are not who we once were because we have been given a new calling.

Ephesians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
At one time the Ephesians were the opposite of faithful they were “faithless.” In chapter two Paul says they were at one time, “without hope and without God,” but here he says describes them as “faithful” or “believing.” Well what are they “faithful in” or “believing in.” Well “in Christ Jesus.” Those who responded to the apostolic message when Paul was there had turned from “believing in” the local pagan goddess of Artemis, and started believing in the Jewish Messiah…Jesus. This monumental shift in Ephesus, was perceived as such a threat to the livelihood of the local “shrine building business” of Demetrius, one of the local blacksmiths, that he elicited a riot! If people stop believing in Artemis and start believing in Jesus i will go broke. And that is what was happening. The Ephesians were expressing “faith” or “belief” in Jesus. They had a new calling. They no longer “believed” in Artemis, they “believed” or were being “faithful” to Christ Jesus.

We all, who believe, are not who we once were because we have been given grace and peace.

God the Father, through the work of the Son, has given grace AND peace.
All of us in this room, who believe have been given grace.
All of us in this room, who believe have been given peace.
Word order is important here. There is no peace if grace doesn’t come first.
Grace comes to us from God and not by the work of our hands. (otherwise it wouldn’t be grace).
Peace comes to us from God and not by the absence of difficulties. If peace only came in the absence of difficulties then what would the purpose of peace be? Peace is really only profitable to us when there has been a war going on. At one time we were God’s enemies and far off, but now we are brought near…the war is over. We have peace with God. Good I am glad I have peace with God…but there is another war going on…its in me.
It was said, “Peace is really only profitable to us when there has been a war going on.” What internal or external wars are fighting that you would like some relief from?
The war is going on inside of me.
If God was able to bridge the unthinkable chasm that separated us from Him and bring those of us who were far off near and establish peace between that which was holy (Himself) and that which was unholy (us), what do you think He can do for the much more winnable war inside of you.
Colossians 3:15 ESV
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Some of you need to stop identifying with your old nature. I have heard this so many times in pastoral ministry. “Well that’s just who I am.” and what I want to say is, “Well that just not okay.” Some of you last week came up to me and started applying the message right away. You let me know your name. Some of you have decided to print up the old photo directory and put it on the wall in your house so that you could start learning names. Some of you reached out via email and introduced yourself to me…and mentioned that you emailed some others in the congregation and started to get acquainted with others in the flock here. They did that despite the fact that they haven’t felt comfortable coming to in person services since the begin of the restrictions. Don’t tell me you can’t experience community. You can try! You can make “every effort.” You can be like that, or you can be like the people who said to me this last week, “You know, I’m not good with names.” I don’t get angry when i hear that, but i want to add a phrase to it. “You know, I’m not good with names, but by the power of Christ that works mightily in me, I am going to start trying.”
Some of you need to stop identifying with who you once were. Some of you need to escape the crushing load of guilt that you experience every time you remember that one thing you did that one time…or that one thing you did a dozen times, or hundreds, or thousands of times. All of us need to move past those things we were formerly known as.
Some of you need to change from being a Pharisee to being a “sent one.” Some of you need to stop breathing our murderous threats of judgement and start sharing only that which is good for building up the body. Paul was no longer Saul the Pharisee, he was the “apostle.” What can account for such a life change? He met Jesus. When you meet Jesus your life changes. Actually to phrase it better your life begins. Paul went from He from being religious to someone who loved Jesus. He went from pointing his finger at himself as the standard for living, and started pointing his finger at Christ. He went from rule keeper to someone who would count everything he was formerly as, as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ. Some of you need to go from Pharisee to sent one.
All of us need to realize that we have been given grace that is undeserved and peace that is unmatched and not just present in the absence of problems.
In what ways do you need to stop begin a Pharisee, someone who thinks they have righteousness in themselves and start being a “sent one,” someone who proclaims the Good News of the righteousness found in Christ alone?
Final Observation:
Ephesians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If the first two verses of this letter Jesus is mentioned three times and God the Father is mentioned twice. In two verses, two members of the Godhead are referenced 5 times. and we are mentioned once. Do that math. One outweighs the other. This book is about what our God has done, is doing and will do for His beloved children. In these two verses, our God is appointing, willing, representing, dispensing his grace AND peace. Wow. This is our God. This book is about God…to the praise of His glory.
Let’s Pray
Colossians 1:20 ESV
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
- Open communion table…
- For those who have received Jesus Christ…
- The elements: the bread and the cup…
- if you have children...
I. Admonition:
- The apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians issues this admonition to all who consider partaking in the bread and the cup:
o I Corinthians 11:27-29 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
- It is a matter of hypocrisy – are you part of the body of Christ… repent and put your faith in Him…
- As the elements of the bread and cup are passed, please note that both elements are contained in two cups stacked together. As we prepare to partake of the bread and the cup together please hold both elements as you are served, we will then thank the Lord for the bread and the cup separately. At this time, I would like to invite the Elders to come forward to serve. As they come, please take this time of preparation to be in prayer, examining your own heart before God, seeking His forgiveness and deliverance, renewing your commitment to Him and remembering with thanksgiving His sacrifice for you on the cross as He paid your penalty for all of your sins once and for all.
II. Distribution of the Elements (After the elders return to the front, the pastor will serve the elders.)
III. Communion
- Lord’s Prayer
9 …Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
- As Paul has written to the church at Corinth: I Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
- Let’s pray for the bread which was broken for us.
Please take and eat.
- 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
- Let’s pray for the cup which was poured out for us.
Please take and drink.
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
And all God’s people said… AMEN!
- Would you please stand as we close our service...
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