Salutation and Benediction—Chapter 1:1, 2.
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
These opening verses hold riches of spiritual wealth that are well worth mining, and the workman in the Word will be amply repaid for any labor expended in study, as God by his Spirit reveals one rich vein of truth after another.
“PAUL” His name was originally “Saul” and it is interesting to note the transformation of this man’s life, and the circumstances under which his name was changed. Only as we understand Paul’s conversion from his former life will the glory of the message of grace shine out in full splendor.
Philippians 3:5 gives us the information that Saul of Tarsus was “Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews: as touching the law, a Pharisee.”
The Pharisees were the strictest sect of the Jews’ religion, a group of “separatists” with an “holier-than-thou” attitude; who not only strived to observe the law but endeavored to go beyond its ceremonial requirements and sought justification in the carrying out of the traditions of the elders. Saul was behind none in meeting the exacting demands of his religion. Listen to him in Galatians 1:14—“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own Nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers,” and could say as touching the righteousness which is of the law he was blameless.—Philippians 3:5. His zeal in his religion knew no bounds. Persecuting the early Christians he wrought havoc in the assemblies—(I Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). Acts 7:57 and 58 and Acts 8:1 tell of how the infuriated Jews, who stoned Stephen, found this man Saul consenting to their murderous actions and more than willing to take care of their clothes.
To the end of his days Paul never forgot the grace of God which so gloriously transformed his life from the chiefest of sinners into the Apostle of the risen and ascended Lord. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ”—“Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (I Timothy 1:15 and 16)
The passage of Scripture which records his change of name is also very significant. In Acts 13:7 the name of his first Gentile convert is mentioned, “Sergius Paulus” This man desired to hear the word of God, but Elymus, a Jew, sought to turn this Gentile away from the faith, whereupon Saul, vindicating his apostleship to the Gentiles, under the Holy Spirit, performs a miracle of judgment and blindness upon the offender, one of his own kin, Elymas, the Jew. From this time the Hebrew name “Saul passes from the record and the Apostle to the Gentiles is called by the same name as his first Gentile convert—“Paul”. Is it not also singularly significant that this incident is typical of Saul’s ministry?—I Thessalonians 2:14 to 16—“The Jews . . . Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway, for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” And in Acts 28:27 and 28, after the rejection of the message by the Jews, Paul pronounced the judicial sentence of blindness upon, his own people; and the word of salvation is sent unto the Gentiles.
The name “Paul” means “little”. Is not that suggestive of humility and the outstanding characteristic of this Apostle, who so conscious of his unworthiness, expresses himself as being “less than the least of all saints?” Yet to such an one is grace given to make known truth which has been hid from ages and generations: “the untraceable riches of Christ”—Ephesians 3:8.
“THE APOSTLE OF JESUS CHRIST BY THE WILL OF GOD”
The origin of Paul’s apostleship is “the will of God” and so is his message. That which is to be dispensed in this Epistle, through the Apostle (one sent) to the Gentiles, is all in accordance with God’s will for the working out of his own eternal purpose in Christ Jesus, which he planned in his infinite wisdom “before the world began”. Notice how this phrase is made the background of the truth of the first chapter: Ephesians 1:1, Paul’s apostleship is by “the will of God”; Ephesians 1:5, we are given the “son place” “according to the good pleasure of his will”. Ephesians 1:11, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will”. It is well to realize that the unique truth of this Epistle has its origination, revelation, manifestation, and consummation in the will of God.
“TO THE SAINTS WHICH ARE AT EPHESUS AND TO THE FAITHFUL THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS:”
Whether or not this Epistle was sent just to the church at Ephesus or was a circular letter sent first to the Ephesian saints and then passed on to other places, is a subject outside the scope of our study and must be left to others. We are looking for the teaching of the Epistle.
“Saints” and “faithful”—all believers are called “saints” and are made one with the Lord Jesus in death, burial, resurrection and ascension. They are therefore “in Christ Jesus”. But not all who are saved by his grace are “faithful”. Notice how Paul closes this Epistle—Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” God’s best can only be given to the “faithful” and only the faithful will pass on that which God reveals. In this respect Paul gave the commission to Timothy (II Timothy 2:2), “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”
BENEDICTION—”GRACE BE TO YOU, AND PEACE, FROM GOD OUR FATHER, AND FROM THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.”
Glory to God for such a benediction! Separated from God by sin, doomed and lost, yet by the provision of his mercy, “grace” and “peace” come from God to span the gulf between us made. And nothing but God’s grace can span that gulf. There is no peace apart from the blood of Christ’s cross. Oh, how futile is man’s effort to bridge the distance between himself and God by his own works. Man cannot accomplish it, but God has done it; and in the Son of His love, I can call God “Father”
“Grace”! Who can fathom its depths? “Peace”! Who can fully express its satisfaction? “Grace” is the source of blessing, “peace” is the crown. They never come in reverse order. God never gives peace apart from grace; neither can the sinner experience peace until he has accepted grace.
Such is the salutation of this wonderful Epistle and the best is yet to come: as the wonderful theme of His marvelous and matchless grace is unfolded.