I’d like to focus your attention on the wonderful grace of God in our redemption. This post is the first of an expository series on the spiritual blessings of salvation. Our definitive text is Ephesians 1:1-14.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:1-2, English Standard Version, ESV)
Paul wrote Ephesians from a Roman prison (AD 60-62; Acts 28:30-31). (American Tract Society Dictionary, ATSD). This letter was 1 of his 4 prison epistles, including Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Paul’s intent was “to display the scope of God’s eternal plans for all humanity–for Jews and Gentiles alike.” (Introduction to Ephesians, ESV) The first 3 verses introduce a benediction–a word of blessing to believers.
The Messenger of Grace
Paul. Paul introduces himself in the beginning of the letter. This was the custom of the day. Paul was his Gentile name, while Saul was his Hebrew name. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5). (Easton’s Bible Dictionary, EBD) He was trained by Gamaliel, a great theologian of his day. He became a member of the Pharisees and a die-hard defender of Judaism, the religion of his birth. Soon after, a bitter passion to stamp out the followers of Christ consumed him (Acts 9:1-2; 26:9-11). At Damascus however, Christ converted him (Acts 9:3-19). Saul, the persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the preacher of Christ. He devoted the rest of his life to proclaim Christ, planting many churches in 3 missionary journeys. Harassed and flogged many times, he was imprisoned twice. The emperor Nero sentenced him to death. (ATSD) He wrote half of all New Testament books.
I wonder what is your name today? Are you Saul or Paul? Are you Saul, who continues to defend the religion of your birth and resist the work of the Spirit in your life? Or are you Paul, having trusted Christ as your personal Savior, and growing in knowing and serving Him?
Like Saul, many people today say, “I was born in this religion and I will die with it.” Closing their ears to the true Gospel, they’d rather risk their eternal future with their religion. But religion will not bring anyone to heaven. Religion will not earn the forgiveness of God. God will forgive you only in Christ! Throw yourself upon Christ and find grace and mercy only in Him!
Apostle. What is an apostle? A story is told of a Bible study leader who asked his group, “What is an apostle?” Somebody raised his hand and said, “An apostle is the husband of an epistle. And an epistle is the wife of an apostle.” The word is from the Greek noun, apostolos, “one who is called by the Lord, commissioned by Him and carrying His authority.” (Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon Rogers III, The New Linguisitic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, 346) Several qualifications make Paul a true apostle of Christ. One, he saw the resurrected Lord in the flesh (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8). Two, God authenticated his apostleship with miracles (2 Cor. 12:12; Rom. 15:18-19; Heb. 2:3-4). Three, Paul received, taught, and wrote the inspired Word of God (John 14:26; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:5). Such revelation became part of the New Testament, forming the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). That is why there are no true apostles of Christ today. Because nobody, after the last apostle, has seen Christ after He resurrected. The book of Revelation is the final revelation of the apostles, completing the Word of God. There are no more apostles today, but there are ministers in the church. Every believer is a minister, if he or she will use his or her spiritual gifts to minister to somebody.
An Apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul is not just an apostle. He is an apostle “of Jesus Christ.” In the Greek, this can mean, “the apostle that Christ sends.” Paul is the apostle whom Christ sends with authority. In Hebrew thought, the sent one carries the same authority as the sender. This is somewhat similar to the authority of an ambassador today. This means that the word of Paul carries the same authority of Christ who sent him. You might not be an apostle today, but the Gospel word you share is the word of Christ. Jesus commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, ESV). As you go and share the Gospel message, you go with the full authority of the Christ who sent you.
An Apostle of Jesus Christ By the Will of God. In the Greek, the will of God can indicate possession–“the will that belongs to God.” It can mean source–“the will coming from God.” It can also mean production–“the will that is produced by God.” So Paul is not only an apostle by position, but also by the plan of the will of God. He did not appoint himself an apostle. No church or group of men commissioned him. Rather, his apostleship began in the will of God. (John R. W. Stott, 2 Timothy, Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1984, 24).
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