We share our opinions and insights at SBC Voices, but we believe that the Voice that matters most is the one that comes from God’s Word. We present these daily expositional devotions, beginning with a tour of Ephesians called, “Walk Worthy,” in hopes of encouraging our readers to remember to Voice above every voice.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will: To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2, CSB
There are massive consequences to intentionally opening and reading mail that isn’t meant for you. Here in our text we see that this letter is to the Ephesians. Is it right for us to open this letter and apply it to our own lives? Or is this comparable to opening someone else’s mail? If this is only meant for the Ephesians (or even those intended to read this as a circular letter) then none of these promises belong to us, and neither do the exhortations.
But this isn’t someone else’s mail. This is our mail. Yes, the original recipients were the Ephesians. But the letter is also written, by God, to us. Think of this less like a private email and more like an open letter or a blog post. It might have a specific audience in mind but it’s ultimately written for the edification of all who read. John Calvin is correct:
When we read the epistles which St. Paul wrote to a variety of places, we must always consider that God meant they should serve not only for one time alone, or for certain people only, but for ever, and in general for the whole church. And truly if a man considers well the doctrine that is contained in them, it will be easy to discern that God’s intention was to be heard in the things that are spoken there, even to the world’s end; and also that he has such a care for us that he has not passed over or forgotten anything that might further our salvation. (Source)
So what does it mean that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is our letter?
Part of what it means is found in Paul’s designation as an apostle of Christ Jesus. These are not the words of a man who is speaking on his own authority. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is ultimately Christ’s letter to His beloved Church. This means that as we faithfully exposit the words of Ephesians we aren’t simply proclaiming the opinions of a man but the very words of God Himself. Paul is writing in the name and authority of Christ Himself. Therefore, we must heed this word.
Secondly, we heed this letter as those who have two addresses. For the original recipients, their address was Ephesus–a prosperous port city known for its temple to Artemis. But this wasn’t their most important address. Yes, they were “at Ephesus” but more importantly they were “in Christ”. I appreciate these words of Klyne Snodgrass:
To speak of Paul’s sense of ‘geography’ is an attempt to describe the ‘place’ where he thought Christians live. In Paul’s mind, just as these Christians live literally in the region near Ephesus, they also live in Christ. The terrain, climate, values, and history in which people grow up and live helps to define who they are. As really as this region near Ephesus defines who they are, Christ defines who believers really are. He is the ‘sphere of influence’ or ‘power field’ in which they live and from which they benefit and are transformed. That is, his Spirit, values, character, history, and purposes shape their lives. People can live in other spheres (cf. 2:1-3), but Christians live in Christ. Jesus Christ must never be depersonalized by such language, but we will not understand Paul unless we learn to think of life as lived in Christ” (Snodgrass, NIV Application Commentary, 40)
Regardless of where you lay your head at night, one thing is certain if you are a believer–you are “in Christ”. This is our most important citizenship. This is a key component of our identity. So as we walk through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians let us be reminded that we do so as those who are secure in Christ. All the blessings and promises outlined here are ours, not because of our record but because of Christ. All the exhortations in this letter are for us, not simply “at Ephesus” but as those “in Christ”. He gives us the power to accomplish that which He calls us to do.
This isn’t someone else’s letter. It is ours. The grace and the peace offered is to be enjoyed not only by those in Ephesus but every person in Christ. As we walk through Ephesians in the coming weeks our goal is not to master this text but to be mastered by this text. Our goal is to enjoy and to drink deeply of all that Christ has purchased for us. The only grace and peace which matters is that which comes from the hand of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Spirit of God enliven our hearts to partake of this precious river called Ephesians.