Sermon: Reason to Rejoice (Ephesians 1:1-2)

Reason to Rejoice

 

Ephes. 1:1-2 (ESV) 

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we begin the Book of Ephesians, I want us to make sure we get it right. When we’re done with the book, we should be living more like the way God wants us to live based on the truths given to us in the book. God reveals to His children truths through His written Word. Don’t wait for some mystical word from God, we have all we need in the written pages of His Holy Word…the Bible.

Paul highlights three main points throughout the book. These main points help us understand his purpose for writing:

1. He wants to show that God has brought together Jew and Gentile to form a new group, the church. In God’s sight there is no longer Jew and Greek but believers of all races that make up the Church. Jews and Greeks are now brought together through the blood of Jesus and reconciled to God. It would be wrong to think that there is going to be some great revival of national Israel and that the Jewish Nation would somehow experience a revival apart from the institution of the Church. Christ died for the church not for Israel.

2. Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness on behalf of the church and how the Holy Spirit plays a key role in that.

3. Christian behavior that reflects unity in the body of Christ…the Church.

So, Ephesians is all about the work of Christ on behalf of the Church. I thought it would be very fitting to begin here as a new church plant to learn together the value Jesus places on His Church.

To take the truths of Ephesians into our hearts and to live them out daily will change our lives forever. We truly have Reason to Rejoice.

I. Paul Has Reason to Rejoice (Eph. 1:1a)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

Paul celebrates his apostleship. He is exuberant because his position came about by God alone. It wasn’t by the will of Paul that he was in this position; he states that it is by the will of God.

Remember what Paul set out to Damascus to do? Do you remember that he was the arch enemy of everything Christian? Remember that he had authority from the high priest to bring back all who named Christ? Paul is rejoicing because he personally has been given grace and that he has be set apart by God as an Apostle.

It’s important that we look briefly at the word, apostle. What does Paul have in mind when he uses the word? Generally, the word apostle means, “One sent by God”. Or we could say a messenger of God. An apostle in many ways is similar to an OT prophet. In the NT God didn’t speak through prophets but He spoke through apostles. Like the OT prophets who spoke for God, so the NT apostle speaks for God. When the apostles wrote Scripture, they were writing the words of God. A good way to look at our Bibles is to say what the Bible says, God says.

Because the Bible is closed, there is nothing else being added to it, there are no more prophets or apostles.

The Prophets spoke about the Messiah who was to come and the apostles spoke about the Messiah who had come. Everything that needed to be said had been said and we have it in our hands when we hold our Bibles.

When Paul spoke or wrote, he had the authority of God Himself. It’s vital for us to view the Bible as God speaking to us.

One example of Paul’s apostleship comes to from his own words. He is recounting the experience on the Damascus Road and what Ananias spoke to him.

Acts 22:12-15 (ESV) 

    “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,  [13] came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him.  [14] And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth;  [15] for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 

He spent his whole life doing what God had for him to do.

The account of Paul and his conversion will surface again as we work our way through the Book of Ephesians.

So, Paul celebrates that his right standing before God and his apostleship came completely by the will of God.

Not only does Paul have Reason to Rejoice, but the church has Reason to Rejoice.

II. The Church Has Reason to Rejoice (Eph. 1:1b-2)

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul declares an amazing truth here in this text. He states that we, all believers, are saints. The word saint is found in the Greek OT referring to the people of Israel. Now Paul takes that same word and applies it to the new Israel…the Church. Those who were born in pagan lands could now have the privilege that in former days was reserved for Israel. To apply this to Gentiles is an extremely important transition for the Church. Now both Jews and Greeks who are found to be in Christ can be called saints. Paul is showing the world that Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled to God based on the work of Jesus Christ.

The term saint means holy ones, those set apart by God. All believers are saints. The Roman Church has perverted this truth. All Christians are saints. It’s not like the Catholic Church teaches. They teach that saints are special Christians that had extra merit with God and that by praying to them you may receive some of their abundant works. Paul clearly is calling the entire Church…saints.

The Church has Reason to Rejoice. God has given us a great privilege through Jesus Christ.

This brings us to a very important side note:

From this section and from many others, we should see that the Bible is addressed to the Saints or the Church. It’s not written for the world, it’s written for the Church. Every epistle is addressed to the Church. They are not addressed to humanity in general but the new humanity that God formed through the death of Jesus.  So if you’re here today as a called out believer, then the words in the Bible are addressed to you as well because you are a part of the Church.

Not only does Paul call those who belong to Christ saints, but says that those who belong to Christ are also faithful…and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

What the Apostle has in mind here in this verse by the term faithful are those who are currently exercising faith. These believers were full of faith and their faith was being exercised. They were Christians because they were currently believing. If you want to know how you can have assurance of your salvation, ask yourself, Am I currently exercising faith in the work or Christ alone on my behalf? In other words, are you currently believing? Assurance doesn’t come from an event that you were a part of. It doesn’t come from walking an aisle or being baptized or from praying a certain prayer. Assurance can be real if you are believing and exercising belief through obedience to the Word of God. If that’s you then you can have assurance.

Another meaning Paul had in mind when using this word was that these believers were consistent in their Christian walk. They could be counted upon. They were not here today and gone tomorrow. These believers were persistent and could be relied upon for the long haul.

With these two ideas in mind, where do you think you stand? Are you currently exercising faith and is your faith consistent? If trouble came to one of our church members could you be counted on to help? Is your faith a working faith and are you trustworthy to exercise that faith?

Then Paul uses another very important phrase to describe the Christians in Ephesus, in Christ Jesus.

Simply put, a Christian is not just someone who believes in Jesus Christ, but he is one who is in a real sense, in Christ. What Paul means is that a true Christian is one who is forever united with Jesus, he belongs to Him and is joined to Him.

Ephes. 4:15-16 (ESV) 

    Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Jesus is the head of the Church and we are the body. To be in Christ means that we are a part within the body called the Church. If that’s true of you, then being in Christ also means that when God looks at you He sees Jesus’ righteousness. So, to be in Christ means that whatever benefits God has for Jesus, he has for you as well. That’s why we can also call God…Father. Because of our eternal union with Jesus we will be forever loved by God and treated as His adopted children.

Because of all this, the Church truly has Reason to Rejoice…but that’s not all!

[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the ancient world of the early church when two people met they would greet each other with the word chairein, which meant greetings. Paul took the normal greeting of the day and placed a Christian twist on it. His greeting wasn’t chairein but charis, which means grace.

Remember, one of Paul’s purposes for writing was to show how Jewish and Gentile people were brought together to form a new people called the Church. So, he Christianizes the common Gentile greeting and then couples it with the common Jewish greeting of the day which was shalom or peace to you. Because the Church is made up of Gentiles and Jews, Paul greets both together in his opening words. What a privilege we have as believers, the greatest apostle of all time wishing us grace and peace as fellow heirs with Christ. The reality is even more amazing. Paul is not really speaking for Paul here in this text. Who is he speaking for as an apostle? He is speaking for God. From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  

God desires to extend to His children grace and peace.

By grace the Lord means unmerited favor, favor you do not deserve, favor you receive but to which you have no right to in any way. By grace the Lord means that He desires the Church to receive favor to which they are completely unworthy to receive.

That’s why here at Grace Reformed Fellowship we love the Doctrines of Grace. Most folks want to try to somehow earn God’s love. The bottom line is you cannot earn it. In understanding how desperate out situation is and understanding that there is no way we can ever do anything that will make God like us, we place ourselves at His mercy. Grace is not grace if you try to add works to it.

God also desires to give His Church peace. God’s peace is not simply an ending of hostility but a showing of love toward His former enemies in Christ.

Why does man need God’s grace which leads to peace? In showing us what we receive as the Church we are shown that we lack something very vital.  Speaking to the Church Paul writes,

Ephes. 2:12-14 (ESV) 

    remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 

God desires that His children be reconciled to Him through the work of Christ. We, as the Church, are God’s family. We are adopted and are fellow heirs with Christ.

Ephes. 3:6 (ESV) 

    This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephes. 1:7-8 (ESV) 

    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 

When God extends grace to a sinner that sinner every time will experience peace. God is not bound in any way to extend grace to anyone. He is the most powerful Being that exists so He’s not doing it because someone is forcing Him to. God gives the sinner grace because the sinner has no hope apart from God working first and it is the best way God is glorified.

If we could earn it we could glorify ourselves for being such good and upright people. When God alone works and gives grace to the sinner, God is the One the sinner loves and glorifies.

 Before we can fully appreciate grace we must see our state without it. We must also see that it was Christ’s work on the cross that gave it to us.

Romans 5:6-8 (ESV) 

    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

There is no greater love God could show than what He has so richly shown to the Church. As we continue verse by verse through this tremendous Book of Ephesians I pray we will together see more and more of the riches God has in store for the Bride of His Son Jesus Christ.

May these truths drive us to obedience and love for our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

So we saw together…

I. Paul Has Reason to Celebrate (Eph. 1:1a)

God forgave Paul so much. Paul was on a mission to destroy Christianity and the Lord overpowered him and created His greatest missionary.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

II. The Church Has Reason to Celebrate (Eph. 1:1b-2)

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: [2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are set apart as saints and God has so richly poured out His grace upon us that we experience His peace.

Praise be to God. We have more than sufficient Reason to Rejoice

May we leave now in service to Him.

Amen

%d bloggers like this: