The Receiver of Grace

In “A Gracious Greeting 1,” we studied about Paul, the apostle, who was The Messenger of Grace. In this post, we note the recipients of this grace.

To the saints who are in Ephesus,  and faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1, New King James Version, NKJV)

The Saints in Ephesus. A young girl who just accepted Christ as her personal Savior applied for membership in a local church.  “Are you still a sinner?” inquired an old deacon.  The girl answered, “Honestly, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.”  “Then what real change have you experienced?” the deacon joined.  “I don’t quite know how to explain it,” said the girl, “except that I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I’m saved, I’m a sinner running from sin.” (Our Daily Bread)

That’s a good picture of a saint in Christ.  Paul calls the Ephesian believers “the saints,” using the Greek article, tois.  They are not merely saints, but “the” saints, indicating their identity as separated ones in Christ.

“Saints” is from the plural Greek word, hagios, “set apart to or by God, consecrated; holy.” (Barclay M. Newman, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, s. v. αγιοις, in Bible Windows CD) How were they set apart, separated, consecrated, or dedicated unto God?  Who sanctified them?  In 2 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, “God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (World English Bible).  No group of religious men pronounced to each of them, “He is now a saint.”  Rather, God made each of them saints.  They did not sanctify themselves.  God set them apart through the Holy Spirit.  When did this happen?  Paul said, “through belief in the truth.”  At the moment they trusted Christ as their Savior, the Holy Spirit set them apart and devoted them unto God.

Now these saints were living saints, not dead ones.  Paul called them saints, not by official church pronouncements after their deaths.  Rather, Paul called them saints while they were still alive and well on earth.

These saints were living in Ephesus (now in modern Turkey).  Saints are separated unto God, but situated in this world.  They are in this world, but not of it.  They did not live like the people of Ephesus.  The Ephesians worshiped Diana, the goddess of sex and fertility.  But the saints in Ephesus worshiped the true God of holiness.  The pagan Ephesians bought and displayed graven images.  But these saints were dedicated to the God who is spirit, who compares to no other (Acts 19:24-26).  The Ephesians practiced witchcraft.  But these saints rejected it.  They lived in Ephesus, but they did not live like the Ephesians.  They did not drink and dance like the Ephesians, sing like the Ephesians, and think like the Ephesians.

If you have Christ in your heart today, you are a saint in Christ.  The Spirit of God has set you apart to God.  You are consecrated to God alone.  So live like one!  Practice outwardly what you are inwardly.  Present your body as a living sacrifice to God, reflecting your spiritual status of sainthood in Christ.

The Faithful in Ephesus.  John Newton, the author of one of the beloved hymns in history, Amazing Grace, once lived a sinful life of profanity, gambling, and drinking.  As a young man, he was confused about religion.  He went into business–selling slaves.  One day at sea, a violent storm changed his life.  Moments after he left the deck,  the crewman who replaced him was swept overboard.  He later said that realizing his helplessness, he concluded that only the grace of God could save him. (www.authographmagazine.com/tabid/76/itemid/296/pageid/2/John-Newtons-Amazing-Grace.aspx. Accessed Jan. 3, 2009) Years later, Newton put his faith in Christ.  Afterwards, he wrote, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not the man I hope to be.  But by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.” (www.en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Newton. Accessed Jan. 3, 2009)

Paul uses the article, “the” (tois), each for “saints,” and “faithful.”  Hence, both groups are identical and one and the same.  Paul addresses the saints who are also faithful in Christ. (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 282) On the one hand, they are made “saints” by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  On the other hand, they are called, “faithful,” by their belief and active obedience to the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).  Thus, we see 2 sides of our salvation in Christ.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in Christ, while we lay hold of that salvation by our faithfulness (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 1:17).

Sanctification (setting us apart as holy unto God) then is  positional, practical, and final.  Positional sanctification is that at the moment you trust Christ, you are sanctified by the Spirit instantaneously.  Practical sanctification happens during your walk with Christ, as you live in holiness.  This  means that you are not yet what you ought to be right now.  But you are not what you used to be, for as you continue to be faithful in Christ, the Spirit keeps changing you to be conformed to Christ.  Final sanctification is at the point of glorification–when we will receive our glorified bodies when Jesus comes again (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14).

Truly saved people are sanctified and faithful in Christ Jesus.

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.


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