Ephesians 1:1 1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 

The opening of the letter is straight forward and simply stated. This letter begins in the typical fashion by giving the author as Paul. Unlike other letters, there is no mention of a co-author, although Tychicus was with him according to 6:21. It is unknown where Paul was when he wrote this, but there are hints in the letter that he was in a prison (4:1). He gives his favorite title for himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus. The word “apostle” could refer to Paul’s mission of going to the Gentiles with the good news of Jesus Christ. The word also carried some degree of authority within the early church. Both of these are important themes in this letter as Paul tries to be unity between Jews and Gentiles and also to clearly state the gospel in order to preserve orthodoxy and promote unity in the church.

Paul’s mission and message were about Christ Jesus. Christ was the focus of Paul’s life. This letter contains some of the most significant Christology (teaching about Christ) of any of Paul’s letters. The first chapter provides one of the most profound explanations of who Christ is and what he has done for humanity. Paul’s apostleship came by the will of God. The word by can also be translated as through and expresses the agency by which Paul became an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul believed that this mission was God’s plan before he was born (Galatians 1:15). Everything in his life led to this mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. This was not something Paul had planned but he was captured by Christ on the road to Damascus.  His connect to Christ Jesus and his appointment by the will of God provide Paul with the authority to direct the Ephesians in their spiritual development. What he writes in this letter is the authentic and authoritative gospel.

The intended audience of this letter is described in two ways. First, they are the saints who are in Ephesus. “Saints” can simply be translated as holy ones. It was one of Paul’s ways of describing Christians at the beginning of his letters and elsewhere (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2). Believers become holy through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus and trusting in the salvation God offers through Jesus. Persons become holy the moment they believe through God’s gift of justification. Believers are then called to work out this holiness by full commitment and consecration. God has promised to sanctify completely those who come in humble obedience to the call to die to the old way of life. Paul will discuss holiness in several places and in different ways in this letter.

These saints are located in the city of Ephesus. Paul spent significant time there, planting the church and helping it mature (Acts 18-20).  This statement of the recipients has caused some discussion among scholars because of some manuscript differences. Some of the earliest manuscripts do not contain the word “in Ephesus.” The assumption by some interpreters is that this letter could have been intended to be circular. This has even raised doubts about whether Paul wrote the letter, but there are good reasons to accept authenticity. The insertion of the name Ephesus does not impact the meaning of the letter and also helps anchor it to a historical setting and story. The grammatical structure of this statement flows better with the name of the city included.

The second description for the audience is to those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. This statement also is a bit unclear. The question could be raised, is this the same group as the Ephesian saints or is this another group? The grammar suggests two separate groups since there are two separate dative clauses, but there could be two phrases that modify the “saints”: they are in Ephesus and they are faithful. This last option makes the best sense. These believers have remained faithful to the message after Paul left. The church has grown stronger in their faith in Christ Jesus. God has raised up leaders who are learning to train up the church. They still have challenges, such as unity and certain ethical issues which Paul will address in the letter, but they are making good progress through the grace of God.

This statement also has a key phrase Paul will use many times in the letter in various forms: in Christ Jesus. The reason we have been created is to be in Christ, to be found in deep, profound, intimate, and life-transforming relationship with him. This will become one of Paul’s key points in the next section.

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