Verse for today – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).”
In the second half of verse 1 Paul identifies his audience. Paul describes them as the saints who are at Ephesus. There is a good deal of confusion in our day about the word saints. Some religious groups have essentially redefined the word by setting huge requirements for the qualifications on becoming a saint. However, in the New Testament, the word saint generally refers to Christians—people who belong to Christ. Unfortunately, some caution is now required even when using the word Christian. In the 21st century many people assume you are born Christian if you live in a “Christian” country. But, is this how someone comes to belong to Christ? Is it something you inherit from your parents? Is it something you inherit from your country? Why do some people think it is automatic while others believe something miraculous has to happen to produce a Christian?
In addition to the word “saints” Paul also identifies his audience as “those who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” The idea here is people who follow Jesus Christ; hence they are faithful to Him. The remainder of Ephesians will help us better understand these words, but for now keep these two ideas in mind. Paul is writing to people who belong to Jesus and who follow Jesus.
What about you? Do you belong to someone? Your parents? Your country? Your spouse? Yourself? Your political party? Do you belong to God? Could there even be another option? Could it be that you belong to someone evil? Someone who is using you and others for wicked purposes? The thought makes me shudder! But there are obviously wicked things taking place in our world. Where do they come from? How do I know which side I am on? As Americans, at least Americans from the 20th century, we take great pride in the idea that we were born free. We don’t belong to anyone! At least that is what we’ve been told. Is that still an option?
We will talk more about some of these ideas and questions as we go through Ephesians. For now, just keep in mind that the letter is written to people who believe they belong to Jesus and who are trying to follow Him. In the words to follow we will quickly begin to see enormous benefits promised to this group of people! The extent of these benefits is overwhelming. And, we will be immersed in them for some time; even before we begin to discover how these people came to belong to Christ. Just a quick hint before we close for today… the Christians were not born that way!