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.
Paul begins his letter by pointing out that the Ephesians he is writing to are “saints.” What does this mean for the Ephesian Christians preoccupied with a racially and religiously diverse, affluent, big business culture? We will look at three aspects of this calling over the next few weeks.
First, this calling shows God’s majesty in its costliness (1:1 – “saints”)
- Saint is a packed Old Testament term meaning “holy ones”, signifying the fact that God calls out a people to be in relationship with Him.
This OT idea is rooted in God’s command for his elect people: “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Lev. 20:26) This vision for Israel has been stated since her inception, unfolded throughout the Old Testament, and now is seen in the greatest way through Jesus’ purchase of his people by his blood. Peter makes this link in 1 Peter 1:10-16, when he connects the gospel of Jesus Christ with the holiness of the Church – God’s called out people. Now that we have been bought with the blood of Christ, Paul writes, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:20) God’s holy people are called to live holy lives in order to show the truth of Christ that all people may see the Church’s godly conduct and hear the Church’s gospel message and be saved by the Church’s loving Groom, Jesus Christ.
This was a most costly thing to God – to give up his only son for the sake of preoccupied people who could care less. But, both God the Father and God the Son, looked forward to it with joy. Jesus accomplished what we could not – perfect obedience. And they offered the merit of Jesus’ accomplishment to preoccupied people who would rather chase their own dreams than come under the loving care of their Creator. Yet, counting the cost, they proceeded and accomplished it with the fullness of joy that we might have the fullness of joy in living true life.
- Called as “saint” by God means that the things you were once preoccupied with in life are now overtaken and obsolete through your new pursuits rooted in your identity in Christ.
An ordinary citizen of Ephesus would be pursuing wealth through big business endeavors, soaked in idol worship of 50+ gods to obtain their blessing for their own personal gain in life, trying to provoke and control their gods through magical spells and incantations, and accepting any life or spiritual beliefs that are thrown out there.
Today, as an ordinary citizen of affluent suburban Missouri, we are encouraged to pursue wealth and comfortable living through academic success (and massive debt), encouraged to pursue religion in attempts to be socially and morally accepted by the community, attend church services, events, and ministries in order to persuade God to give you nice things for comfortable and safe living, and not judging other religions or professing believers when they disagree with you on issues, however important.
Things in the world haven’t changed, but God’s calling means that you have most certainly changed. So live a life that shows it. All your old pursuits are now under the control of Jesus Christ. Some must die. The rest must be transformed to serve Christ. What in your life, saints, have you left untransformed? Are you still living as a preoccupied suburbanite, using your time and resources for things that will one day wash away and decay – as did the city of Ephesus? What things in life are eternal? What things in life show forth the majesty of God? Live for these things. Use your life for an eternal purpose. Show off the majesty of Christ wherever God puts you. This is where faithfulness comes in, which we will discuss next time.
For now, perhaps it would be good to connect with your Savior in prayer and ask him to remind you of the gravity of your calling and give insight through the Spirit and the Word on how you can live as a true servant of Christ in an affluent, suburban context. This is where he put you. This is where he has called you to live. This is where you show off the majesty of God in Christ. Be the Church.