“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which arte 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.”
The time and place of the writing of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is approximately the same as of the epistles to the Colossians, Philippians, and’ Philemon— this is generally accepted. These epistles were written during Paul’s imprisonment at Rome.
Of interest is a comparison between the epistle to the Ephesians and that to the Colossians. A careful reading of them will reveal many points of similarity. The difference between them, however, must be borne in mind. Both epistles set forth the glory of the exalted Christ. But, ‘while the apostle in his epistle to the Colossians describes the glory of the Church of God as being in Christ, in his epistle to the Ephesians he dwells upon the glory of Christ as being in His Church In the epistle to the Colossians the glory of the Christ is set forth; the epistle to the Ephesians emphasizes the riches of His Church, who is His body. And the two epistles together, therefore, present a glorious unity.
In verses 1-2, which we discuss in this article, we have the apostle’s customary salutation to the church whom he addresses.
Paul introduces himself here as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” Paul was an apostle. An apostle, according to the literal meaning of the word, refers to one that “was sent”. He was sent by another to carry out a definite commission or mandate. Hence, this word implies, first of all, that a person was sent to perform a definite task. Secondly, he was appointed, received authority to perform that task. And, finally, he was qualified, enabled to perform that work.
The requirements of the apostleship, according to Holy Writ, are threefold. First of all, an apostle must be called directly by the Christ Himself. This appears from the fact that the apostles always introduce themselves as called by Jesus Christ. Besides, the calling of the twelve by Jesus Himself is recorded in Holy Writ. Secondly, an apostle must be an eyewitness of the resurrected Lord, and also, in particular, of Christ’s walk among us while He was in the flesh. This appears from. And, thirdly, only he could be an apostle who was infallibly inspired by the Holy Spirit in his speaking and writing. I need not, in this article, quote from the Scriptures to verify this The necessity for this threefold requirement of the apostleship is not difficult to understand. Fact is, their task was a unique task. They stood in a wholly unique relation to the Church of God. They were called to lay the foundation whereof Christ is the chief cornerstone, upon which the body of Christ rests, a foundation which could impossibly arise in the mind of mere man. This foundation must be God’s Word, not a human word, the infallible testimony pf God Himself, completely dependable and trustworthy, which would speak with Divine certainty. The Scriptures must be the Word of God, the only testimony of truth in the midst of this world which lieth in darkness and in the lie.
Notice that Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ. We need not dwell at length on the name, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, as is evident from the names, Jesus and Christ, is the divinely appointed and qualified head of Zion, glorified at the Father’s right hand, through the bitter and shameful death of the cross, who saves His people from all the power of sin and death and leads them into everlasting glory. That Paul is an apostle of such a sender surely implies that his work bears the same saving character as that of our Savior. Paul is Jesus’ apostle because the Jesus sent him. Jesus called him while he was on his way to Damascus and also at Damascus through a certain Ananias. But he is also Christ’s apostle because he was spiritually set aside and qualified unto the apostleship by Jesus Christ through His Spirit. Yea, for three years Paul was instructed by the Spirit of Christ Jesus. And also now he speaks, in this epistle, as Christ’s ambassador, through the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
Moreover, Paul is an apostle by the will of God. This means that the will of God is the all-determining cause of Paul’s apostleship. The will of God is God’s eternal and sovereign good-pleasure, the cause of all things, the counsel of His good pleasure. The text would not teach that Paul is an apostle and of Jesus Christ and by the will of God, but that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ, through the will of God, in the sense that the will of God not only determined his apostleship but also that he should be an apostle of, by Jesus Christ. God therefore willed apostleship of Paul. God determined and realized Paul’s qualifications for the office. And God willed that he should be an apostle of Jesus Christ. For it was by the will of God that Jesus Christ suffered and died, rose again, was glorified at the right hand of power, and called Paul unto his exalted office.
Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” It must be evident that Paul, in this text, is not addressing two groups of people in the church at Ephesus, saints and believers. On the other hand, these words must not be understood merely as repetition. The term “believers” explains the term “saints”. God’s people are saints because they are believers, united with the Christ through faith. Their holiness is rooted in this faith.
Paul in this text is not addressing a certain element in the church at Ephesus, the particularly pious element which had already advanced a considerable distance on the way of sanctification. Neither is it true that the content of this salutation is meant for everyone there, head of head. Paul here is addressing the church, the entire church at Ephesus, young as well as old, children as well as adults. Only, he is calling them by their spiritual name, or rather by the name which expresses the essence of the “church” at Ephesus, Even as a tomato plant bears the name of its essence in its kernel, so the entire Church of God in general and every church in particular bears the name of its spiritual kernel, the elect people of God. This is also true in this text. Paul is speaking to the entire church at Ephesus. They all bear the name of saints. But they bear this name because of their spiritual kernel. Consequently, grace and peace are enjoyed only by the people of the living God.
God’s people here are called “saint and faithful (believers) in Christ Jesus”. They are saints, holy. The word implies that God’s people are a peculiar people, separated from sin and dedicated to the Lord. God’s people are saints. Holiness characterizes them essentially. They are saints because they are faithful, or believers, in Christ Jesus. We are faithful believers in Christ Jesus because, by faith, we are in Him, engrafted into Him, spiritually united with Him, one plant and body with Him.
Paul directs the salutation of this text to this people of God at Ephesus, and to the people of God throughout the ages. This lies in the nature of the case. This salutation is intended only for the people of God. It is true that all men may and must be commanded to repent and forsake their evil way. One can never excuse himself when he walks in sin. But the salutation of the apostle, “Grace be to you, and peace” is surely applicable only to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus. It is quite impossible to declare that the grace and peace of God is upon the wicked. It rests only upon the people of the living God.
“Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” The concept “grace” in Scripture is a very rich concept. The word “grace” means literally “beauty, attractiveness”. Today this concept is generally understood as merely referring to an attitude; of God, unmerited on our part, and then as extending to all men. However, God Himself is the God of all grace. This signifies, objectively, that the Lord is the God of all beauty, and, subjectively, that He is eternally attracted to Himself. God is also the God of all grace for His people. Without at this time entering into details here, we may safely assert that the term ‘‘grace” in this text refers to the sum-total of all the blessings of God which the Lord bestows upon His people, whereby they become holy and attractive even as God Himself is holy. The gifts of justification, love, hope, faith, peace, etc., are implied in this term.
We also read of “peace”. The gift of peace must not be separated from that of grace. Peace is included in grace, is one of the gifts of grace. That Paul mentions this one gift of grace, after he already had mentioned grace in his salutation, is because the church of God needs particularly the blessing of peace. Peace is that gift of grace whereby we have peace of heart and soul with God and therefore with all things. It gives us the assurance that all is well between God’s people and God, and also that, whatever may betide, all things work together for our good.
The source of this grace and peace is “God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”. What the apostle means to say here we may express thusly: Grace be to you, and peace from God, our Father, and grace be to you and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ. God, the Father, is the Triune God in this text. Jesus Christ is referred to as the Mediator, the glorified Head of the elect, according to the human nature. The text does not direct us to two sources of our spiritual blessings, God and Christ. God, the Father, is the source. Jesus Christ is the medium through whom God, the Father, blesses us. God is the source. For that reason He is called our Father, because the idea of “Father” is primarily that of source. But God, our Father, blesses us through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who suffered and died for us, rose again and was glorified, Himself received the Spirit beyond measure, and through and out of whom we receive the blessings of grace and peace.
Finally, what is the implication of this salutation? Does the apostle here merely express a personal wish? We must bear in mind that he is an apostle by the will of God and1 that he therefore declares the will of God. First of all, Paul here declares a fact. It is God Who declares through him that His grace and peace are upon Hits people. And, secondly, these words also express the apostle’s prayer, which at the same time constitutes for us an urgent admonition. We possess this grace and peace only in principle and we walk in them only in principle. Therefore the apostle prays that the Church of God may ever receive grace and peace, grow in these graces, and consciously walk in them.