Our text is Ephesians 1:1-2,
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.
Today is the first of many Sunday’s that we will come to study this book.
Will we come with hearts that are receptive and full of anticipation?
Will we come with humility and a sense of your great need?
Will we come rejoicing and with a heart full of praise and thankfulness?
Will we be quick to address any indifference or apathy in your hearts?
Will we allow the Word to bring itself to bear upon our heart and our conscience?
Consider the following verses from Psalm 19:7-9,
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes: the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”
Notice, ‘The fear of the LORD’ is used synonymously with: law, testimony, statutes, commandments and the judgments of the LORD. The Word of God can be described as ‘the fear of the LORD’ for three reasons:
the scriptures are the very words of God,
because of the subject matter in the scriptures
and because they are true and trustworthy.
John Calvin once said, “We owe to the scriptures the same reverence which we owe to God because it has proceeded from Him alone, and has nothing of man mixed with it.”
If we desire to respond in reverence as we study Ephesians, it will require the grace and peace that Paul is extending to us today in Ephesians 1:2 when he says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We ought to come to the Word of God each week with fear and trembling. This will remind us that we need to receive by faith the grace and peace being offered to us.
Listen to what Philip Powers, concerning this. “The Word of God is intended to be, not a fear-creating, but a fear–dispelling word. No doubt it warns us about ourselves – our own weaknesses, our nothingness, and our entire liability to fall – but this is only to prevent our being set upon the wrong basis of self and our own strength. ‘Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.’ But once off your own basis, there is no more mention of weakness. ‘Be strong in the LORD, and in the power of His might’ is the word.”
My desire this morning is simple. It is that we will come to love and cherish the letter as so many others have. We will begin by looking at Ephesians 1:2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dr. John Stott says of these words, “Much of the message of Ephesians is adumbrated (or outlined) in the apostle’s opening salutation. True, this was the customary greeting with which he began all his letters, a Christianized form of the contemporary Hebrew and Greek greetings. Yet we may safely say that nothing from Paul’s pen was ever purely conventional.”
Dr. Harold Hoehner, in his Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians, would agree with Dr. Stott. He says, “It is no mere introductory cliche. It is the gospel itself...Grace is God’s unmerited or undeserved favor in providing salvation for sinners through Christ’s sacrificial death and enablement for the believer. Peace, in the book of Ephesians, predominatly has the idea of the sinners peace with God and the believers peace with one another.”
Finally, let us consider the words of Dr. Sinclair Ferguson who writes, “Paul’s conclusion at the end of this letter (6:23-24) reverses the order of his introduction. There he wishes peace and grace. Is this a hint that, between the two bookends of this letter, grace will lead to peace, and peace will always rest in grace? How marvelous!”
This little letter makes many great boasts!
It claims that dead men can live,
that sinners can be forgiven,
that traitors can be part of God’s kingdom,
that the guilty can have eternal life,
that we can be transformed by the grace of God
This letter made great boasts to the Ephesians...
The Ephesians needed to know that they were secure –
They lived under dark and sinister powers –
They were surrounded by the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil –
They were confronted daily with peganism –
They lived among false temples and idolatry –
They lived in an ungodly society –
They saw life, marriage, family and business being corrupted –
They were under attack from the devil and the forces of darkness –
There have been many people throughout history that have testified that Ephesians not only makes great boasts but that there is enough grace in it to fulfill these promises. Let me give you three examples of such men.
Example #1 - John Calvin, said that the letter to the Ephesians was his most favorite book in all of the bible. This is significant when you consider all of the books of the bible that John Calvin studied and preached from throughout his ministry.
Example #2 - When the Scottish reformer, John Knox, laid on his death bed he asked his wife each day to read to him two things. First, he wanted to be read the scriptures. Secondly, he wanted to be read John Calvin’s forty-eight sermons from the book of Ephesians.
Example #3 - Dr. John Mackay, the former President of Princeton Theological Seminary said, “To this book I owe my life.” He went on to explain that as a young boy of fourteen years old he came to Christ while reading the book of Ephesians. He said, “Everything was new, I had a new outlook, new experiences, new attitudes toward other people. I loved God. Jesus became the center of everything...I had been quickened; I was really alive.” Dr. Mackay remained indebted to the book of Ephesians for the rest of his life. He never lost his fascination for this small epistle and he taught from its pages often throughout his life and ministry.
In these three examples, Calvin, Knox and Mackay, we see that this letter can be the instrument that God uses to accomplish three things in the heart of a person:
it can bring us to salvation
a constant source of great grace for all of life
a source of great comfort in sickness and even in death
Surely all of this would not be possible apart from the grace of God. Consider Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised up with Him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is the new life that Dr. Mackay experienced as a fourteen year while reading this letter one day.
The book of Ephesians can also captivate our hearts at every stage of life and in every circumstance in life. This is why Calvin found this epistle to be his favorite book in the bible. Calvin could come to this book and never exhaust the riches that it contained and the grace that it offered to his soul.
Consider Ephesians 1:17-21, “...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of the glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
It will not take us long to see why John Knox was so comforted by this book even as he lay uncomfortably on his own death bed. Consider Ephesians 1:11-14, “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.”
To whom am I speaking today? Can you identify with Mackay, Calvin or Knox?
There may be some here who cannot testify of a life that has been radically changed by the grace of God.
Perhaps your attitude and thoughts have not been changed.
Perhaps your outlook and experiences have not been fundamentally changed.
Perhaps to this very moment it cannot be said sincerely of you that you love God.
Perhaps Jesus Christ in not the center of your life.
Perhaps your heart has not been regenerated through the Word by the Spirit of God.
If you have not had such an encounter with the gospel, then the book of Ephesians will give to you the same opportunity that Dr. Mackay had.
There may be some here today who need to have their hearts and their minds once again captivated by the Word of God. Perhaps you have lost your joy, your peace, your comfort, your stability, and your passion for Christ and His Word. Despite the condition of your soul right now, you need to know that it does not have to stay that way. The same beauty and gracious power that made Ephesians John Calvin’s favorite book is here for you to enjoy and experience as well.
Consider Ephesians 3:14-19, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to now the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
If you still doubt if this letter can be of any benefit for you. Consider what the apostle Paul goes on to say to the Ephesians, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Perhaps, like John Knox, you find yourself in a season of great suffering and the possibility of death. You too can find comfort in this book.
Consider Ephesians 1:2. It states, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul does not say,
grace and peace is only for the young and strong.
that it is only for the rich.
that it is only for the smart and educated.
that it is only for a certain group or nationality.
No, Paul simply says, “Grace to you”. This grace and peace is available to everyone who will receive these words by faith. All who will look to Christ will receive these wonderful lasting, eternal and heavenly gifts. They will be brought into a right relationship with God.
In this letter Paul is writing to the entire church in Ephesus. And he offers them all grace and peace from God. Although Paul had spent three years ministering in Ephesus, he writes as though there have been new converts whom he has not met. In Ephesians 1:15-17 we read, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” And yet, even to these who Paul has not yet met, he offers them these wonderful gifts without any hesitation.
Secondly, notice that these blessings are from ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ These are not earthly gifts that men give to us. Nor are they earthly gifts that can rust, spoil or perish. These are heavenly gifts that God and Jesus bestow upon you and I.
Will not our confidence be strengthened to see that Paul says that it is given by ‘God our Father’. Will a father withhold from you and I our greatest need? I think not! (Luke 11:13)
Phillip Power says these wonderful words in his book entitled, “A Book Of Comfort For Those In Suffering, “The needs of the time of sickness and death may be many; they can be known to but one, that is, to God; and He who knows the needs is the one to provide the supply. The little infant that is sent into the world, so strange to it, has everything provided for it by the one who sent it; those who are sent by the same one into another world (heaven) shall not be worse off.” Our Father will bestow much grace and peace as you and I begin our study of this book.
We are further encouraged by the fact that these spiritual blessings come from the Lord Jesus Christ. We receive these things from the Promised Messiah who suffered and died for sinners. So that, He might freely give to you and I this grace and peace. Consider Ephesians 2:13-16, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Grace and peace have been offered to us today by God through the apostle Paul. But what are we to do with it? How are we to apply what we have received today?
Can we not apply it as we come to Communion. As Christians, we tremble as we come to the Word, to the Cross, and as we come to Communion. We do not partake in communion because we are worthy in and of ourselves; but because of the grace and peace that we have received from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 99:1 we read these words, “The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!”
Interestingly, this trembling and this quaking in the life of a Christian is not to paralyze us in fear; rather, it is to make us receive the grace and peace that enables us to draw close to the LORD by faith and worship Him.
Consider Psalm 99:5, “Exalt the Lord our God; worship at His footstool! Holy is He!”
Or Consider Psalm 99:9, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy mountain for the LORD our God is holy!”
We do not come to communion today in a light and casual manner. We come trembling that we might be comforted by God. Do not allow your fear to remain. Grab on to grace and peace by faith and draw close to the LORD as we celebrate communion.