The Epistle to the Ephesians is, in many ways, the crowning glory of the New Testament. But perhaps this letter ought not to be called "Ephesians" for we do not really know to whom it was written. The Christians at Ephesus were certainly among the recipients of this letter, but undoubtedly there were others. In many of the original Greek manuscripts there is a blank where the King James translation has the words "at Ephesus;" just a line where the names of other recipients were apparently to be filled in. That is why the Revised Standard Version does not say, "To the saints at Ephesus," but simply "To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus..."
God at Work (Ephesians 1:1-14)
We turn now to The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, one of the greatest letters of the New Testament. We will study Chapters 1 through 3, thus completing the exposition of this book begun several years ago with Chapters 4 through 6 -- messages which are already available in print.
I hope that, as we begin this doctrinal portion of Ephesians, your heart will be anticipating tremendous truth. I would like to urge you to read this letter through once a week during the time that we are engaged in studying these first three chapters. Read it through in various versions, and in different ways. Read it through at one sitting the first week, and then the next week take a chapter a day. Other weeks read it in some of the paraphrases. Let this truth come to you afresh in new and different language. I can guarantee that if you will do this faithfully until we finish our study you will never be the same person again. This truth has the power to change you, and it will!
The Foundations (Ephesians 1:3-14)
In the epistle to the Ephesians we are still working together today with the great statement in Chapter 1 in which Paul is setting forth for us the great, fundamental facts of our faith in Jesus Christ. This letter to the Ephesians is really nothing more than a description of the riches that we have in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul emphasized these riches a great deal. As he traveled about the Roman empire he came to colonies and to cities where people were spiritually and materially impoverished -- they were poverty-stricken people. Many of them were slaves. They had nothing of this world's goods. They were depressed, discouraged, beset with fears and anxieties, jealousies and hostilities. They were under the grip of superstition and filled with the dread of the future. They had no hope of life beyond death. And it was the apostle's great joy to unfold to them the riches available to them in Jesus Christ -- riches which, if accepted as facts, would free them, would transform them and make them over into wholly different people, would bring them into a sense of joy and love and faith and radiant experience. That happened again and again. So the apostle gloried in these exceeding great riches in Jesus Christ.
Liberated! (Ephesians 1:7-8)
In this first chapter of Ephesians we are trying to understand thoroughly the basic, foundational facts which underlie our faith and, therefore, underlie the experience of our lives. After all, what we are examining here is not mere theological doctrine; it is a revelation of things as they really are. It is the way God runs his universe. And to believe it and to act upon it is to return to reality, to become realistic once again.
The Mystery of Unity (Ephesians 1:9-12)
Today, in the first chapter of Ephesians, we will be examining a great question with which men continually wrestle in our day, as they have all through history: The question of whether or not there is a purpose in the universe. Do the events of history make any sense? Is the record of human events -- with its concatenation of tragedy and happiness and misery and heartache and joy -- to any real effect, is it moving toward any one goal?
The Word and the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14)
As we return to Ephesians this morning, we are still occupied with the great summary of this letter which Paul gives us in Verses 3 through 14 of Chapter 1. This is one unbroken sentence in the original language, gathering up in one vast statement all the tremendous themes of this letter to which Paul will return again and again. This is the way with these apostolic letters. They usually begin with a summary and then are broken down into detail, enabling us to focus very carefully upon the truth presented, to see it in its broad sweep and then to come back and work our way through it, and thus to grasp it and understand it.
Turned on by Prayer (Ephesians 1:15-18)
With Verse 15 of Ephesians 1 we leave the great doctrinal passage in which the Apostle Paul has been teaching the great facts underlying the Christian faith, and we turn now to his prayer. This study will be a helpful revelation of the place of prayer in the Christian experience, especially in believers who are maturing, and in relationship to the study of Scripture. This brings prayer and the Scriptures together. The apostle, having finished the great passage in which he has set forth what the three-fold God is doing for us, now adds these words addressed to the Ephesian Christians: