Last week we began our study of the book of Ephesians. It was E. J. Goodspeed who said Ephesians is the "Waterloo of biblical commentators." This characterization of Ephesians suggests to us that this book has proven to be greater than the minds of those who have studied it. Ephesians is one of those books which, like Yahweh of whom it speaks, is beyond the grasp of the finite minds of men.
We began to introduce the letter to the Ephesians last week. We spent some time discussing the idea that Sha'ul was a Hebrew Rabbi and most likely wrote this letter in Hebrew. I said that I believe that all the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew. I'm not alone on this; many scholars are coming to see this view, men such as Bivan, Blizzard, Grant, Loisy, Schonefield, Trimm, Minge, Segal, Dam and many others.
Some might ask, "Why is it important to ascertain in which language the New Testament was written?" It is because a language possesses innate meanings, an inner structure, idioms of its own, and brings with it a cultural background with inherent ideas and meanings that can be lost if one attempts to interpret the writings with an entirely different cultural collective consciousness. If one wishes to understand more precisely and with any real depth the language of Yeshua and His disciples, one should read His words with "Middle Eastern glasses." We must seek to understand the Bible from a Hebraic point of view.
You might say, "But most scholars believe the New Testament was written in Greek." If the scholars got it dead wrong about the Hebrew language being a dead language during the time of Yeshua and his disciples, then it is highly likely that they are dead wrong about the original language of the New Testament. The Aramaic language view is no longer tenable. Hebrew was very much alive among the Jews post-Babylonian captivity. There is also both internal and external biblical evidence that supports the belief of an original New Testament written in Hebrew (not Aramaic or Greek or Latin).
We spent all our time last week talking about the first word in this letter, "Paul." We saw that Paul was Sha'ul the Jewish Rabbi. Now let me ask you: Who do you think wrote Ephesians? Most people think that Paul did, but I think...just kidding, I believe Paul wrote this letter, but some don't.
Ephesians was indisputably accepted in the history of the early Church to have been penned by the Apostle Paul. Two times in this letter, Paul claimed to have been its author (Ephesians 1:1 and 3:1). If you don't read the commentaries, you probably would not even expect that the authorship of this letter is questioned. But it is. I think that you have to deny the undisputed text of Ephesians to question the authorship of this Epistle.
Some have questioned the Pauline authorship because his letters to Galatians, Philippians and Corinthians were personal, addressing specific problems and questions; this letter is impersonal. There are no personal greetings here with reference to this Church. He doesn't start out like he does in so many of his Epistles by speaking of how thankful he is for the Ephesians, and how he remembers their work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope, but he just begins talking about God and talking about Christ. We'll talk about why this may be in a minute. The letter claims to be written by Paul, and there is no textual evidence to question that.
Let's ask the question: Who is this letter written to?:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Yeshua by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Yeshua: Ephesians 1:1 NASB
It seems clear that it was written to the believers in Ephesus. Doesn't it? The problem is that the words "at Ephesus" are not in some of the oldest manuscripts of the Epistle to the Ephesians. In verse one, there is a marginal note in some versions like the NASB, which indicates to us that some manuscripts omit "at Ephesus." There are a very few (three to my knowledge) which omit it, and hundreds which do not. The problem is that these few manuscripts also happen to be the oldest. Some conclude that because they are the oldest, they are also the most reliable texts. So, naturally, one wonders if Paul really wrote this to the Ephesians.
There are internal reasons why many scholars doubt that this letter was intended exclusively for the Ephesian Church. Paul had spent more than two years laboring in Ephesus, resulting in the Gospel spreading throughout the entire region:
This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. Acts 19:10 NASB
He would have known not only the leaders of the Ephesian Church, but also many of its members. Yet in Ephesians, there are hardly any personal references, and there are some verses that seem to indicate that Paul and his readers were not well acquainted:
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15 NASB
The message of Ephesians is much more general, and much less personal than some of his other Epistles. Some Epistles were occasioned by problems, which the letter seeks to correct, but in this letter he does not address any specific problems that may be traced to that particular congregation.
There is no local mention of any person in this entire letter. There is no mention of any city in this letter. There's no statement about any individuals at any congregation. There's nothing personal or local or geographical in the whole thing. Thus many scholars believe that Ephesians was a letter intended for distribution among several of the churches in western Asia Minor. It's possible that this was a circular letter. It was possible that this letter was sent to all the churches of Asia Minor, including the 7 churches addressed in Revelation 1:20-3:22 and Colossae and Heirapolis, and the apostle just left the location out, because he expected each of the churches to insert their own name.
Another theory is: In his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to a letter from Laodicea. Many feel that this is that letter:
And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea. Colossians 4:16 NASB
There has been much debate over the identity of the Laodicean letter. It has been variously identified as a letter from the Laodiceans to Paul, a letter written by Paul from Laodicea, the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans, and a genuine letter of Paul to the Laodiceans that is now lost. And it has been suggested that Paul here refers to the book of Ephesians. It's not without scholarly support that the "letter to the Ephesians" is sometimes regarded as the missing letter to Laodicea, even though the evidence for such an assertion is far from conclusive.
On the other hand, it is possible that the words "at Ephesus" were genuine. We cannot be absolutely certain at this point. But it really doesn't matter that much, because the Epistle is a very general one. It is "to the saints" and so most of its message and its application apply as directly to us as it did to its first recipients. Most of its message? Yes, I said "most." What in this letter would you say wouldn't apply to us?:
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22 NASB
We must keep in mind that this letter was written during the transition period. That transition ended in A.D. 70. We are not "growing into a holy temple," that process is complete. We are the temple, we are the dwelling of God in the Spirit. So we must be aware of what time it is. Knowing the time, we can make a proper application of this letter.
If you don't know what time it is, you'll apply things that don't apply. For example John MacArthur writes, "Some people are amillennial, they don't believe in any earthly kingdom. We do. We believe God's promises to Israel will be fulfilled. We believe God's promise in the book of Revelation will be fulfilled." So he believes that God will fulfill his promises made in the book of Revelation, but he doesn't believe that God will fulfill them in the time that He said He would:
The Revelation of Yeshua the Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, Revelation 1:1 NASB
The Greek word translated "soon" here is from the Greek word tachos. According to the Arndt and Gingich Lexicon, tachos is used in the LXX and certain non-canonical writings to mean: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste." John uses the same word in Revelation 2:16; 3:11; 22:6,7,12,20. John also uses the Greek word engus:
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 NASB
Engus, which is translated here as: "near," is also used in Revelation 22:10. This term speaks of temporal nearness, and John uses it to bracket the book.
To deny that God will fulfill His promises is to deny the inspiration of Scripture. Do you agree? Well, I believe that to deny the time statements connected with many of the promises is also to deny inspiration.
When did Paul write this letter? Paul stated three times in this letter that he was a prisoner:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Yeshua for the sake of you Gentiles-- Ephesians 3:1 NASB
He also said this in 4:1, and 6:20. Most scholars believe that it was during his imprisonment in Rome that Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon:
When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. Acts 28:16 NASB
And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Yeshua Christ with all openness, unhindered. Acts 28:30-31 NASB
For this reason, these letters are referred to as the "Prison Letters." If such is truly the case, then Paul wrote Ephesians around A.D. 60-63 from Rome. The indication is that the Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon, and the Ephesians were carried to their destination by Tychicus and Onesimus:
But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Ephesians 6:21-22 NASB
Alright, now that we know who wrote this letter, and that among other places it was sent to Ephesus. Let's look at the salutation:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Yeshua by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Yeshua: Ephesians 1:1 NASB
The first thing that Paul states is that he is an, "Apostle of Christ Yeshua"--the term "apostle" is rendered "emissary" in the CJB. It means: "a sent one," but it came to be used in an official sense of one who was commissioned by another as his representative. This included special credentials and the responsibility to carry out the orders of the one who sent him. Our term "ambassador" adequately gives the basic meaning.
Apostle is used in a general sense, in some passages in the New Testament, of a person who is sent someplace. But in its technical sense, it refers to those we know as "the Apostles"--particularly the 12 and Paul. These were men selected by God to have a unique ministry in establishing the Church. They were men who had to have seen Yeshua Christ after His resurrection from the dead. Some at Corinth were challenging whether Paul was an apostle. Paul's response was:
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Yeshua our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 1 Corinthians 9:1 NASB
You had to have seen Yeshua Christ after His resurrection so that you could be an eyewitness. Paul is the last of the apostles. 1 Corinthians, chapter 15 opens with Paul recounting the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to those whom Christ appeared after His resurrection from the dead. Then Paul concludes that list by saying:
and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Corinthians 15:8 NASB
"I'm a unique case," Paul said. "I'm the last of the apostles. But He did appear to me, and that happened on the Damascus road." The apostles had the ability to perform miracles:
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB
It was necessary that the apostles could do signs, wonders, and miracles, because they also were the recipients of new revelations from God. When Paul says that he is an apostle of Yeshua Christ, he is one who represents Yeshua Christ. He is in a unique position. He is going to be speaking for God. He has that position.
Have you ever heard someone say, "I don't agree with Paul." Well, that makes me tremble. Paul is speaking as an apostle. An apostle is an authorized spokesman. To doubt or oppose what Paul wrote as an apostle is to doubt or oppose Yahweh--there is no difference. This letter is from the mind of Yahweh, and Paul was a mere instrument by which He delivered His revelation. Yahweh can write on tablets of stones, speak in a voice from heaven, enable a donkey to talk, make stones cry out, or cause a man to write His words. But the bottom line is that Yahweh is the one who speaks and writes.
Paul says that he is an apostle "By the will of God"--even a casual reading of the account of the conversion of Saul will reveal that Paul was not an apostle of Yeshua Christ by his own initiative. Rather, he was an apostle by divine appointment. God spoke to him from heaven. God interrupted him while he was on his way to kill Christians. God, in effect, spoke to him in sovereign grace and transformed him, turned him around.
Saul did not care to be an apostle. He cared with everything in him to rid Israel of these troublemakers. But when God "willed," Saul changed. And notice that he doesn't focus on the fact of his apostleship, but on the how of His apostleship. It is because of his God-centered world view that Paul seeks to show God as the pursuer of him, and as the One who established his apostleship.
So much of our theology today is anthropological: men begin with men. And the result is a pelagianism or arminianism or that kind of theology in which the human is stressed. But in the Bible, the apostles, our Lord, and the Prophets begin from the standpoint of God. They don't do away with human responsibility, but they look at it from the standpoint of God. So, Paul is a "sent one" of Yeshua Christ, by the will of God.
So this letter is from Sha'ul, the emissary Yeshua the Christ:
"To the saints who are at Ephesus"--as we have already said, we are not sure where these saints are, this is probably a circular letter. But we do know that it is to the "Saints." This idea of being a saint, or being holy, or being set apart, is important because of its connotations in the Tanakh:
'But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.' Daniel 7:18 NASB
Saints is from the Hebrew qaddysh, which means: "holy or set apart." We see from the Tanakh that it is Israel that was "set apart." They were "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation":
and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel." Exodus 19:6 NASB
"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 7:6 NASB
Israel was a holy nation and a holy people to Yahweh. But now, Paul, an Israelite himself, is using this same designation for those not physically descended from Abraham. He is writing to those in Asia, some of whom were Gentiles who were not under the Mosaic Covenant. But, they are united with the seed of Abraham, Yeshua the Messiah. They are spiritually sons of Abraham, because of their relation to Yeshua:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Yeshua. Galatians 3:26 NASB
"Saint" is probably a very familiar word to you, but it's often understood wrongly by many people. The term "saint" is loaded by so much that is not representative of its biblical meaning. Most people don't think of the term in its New Testament sense. We might be reluctant to say, "I'm a saint," because we live under the assumption that someone who is a saint lives on a much higher spiritual level than we do. We don't want to sound proud. People might misunderstand what we mean if we say we're a saint, especially if they have any kind of Roman Catholic background.
In Roman Catholic theology, which has tended to dominate the definition of the term saint, a saint is a super-person. Roman Catholic theology says, "A saint is one who has exhibited unsurpassable devotion to Christ." If you take that definition of a saint, you might be reluctant to call yourself a saint. It would be hard for you to say, "My devotion to Christ has no capability of being surpassed by anyone, anytime." At least I hope it would be hard for you to say that.
These things make us very uncomfortable with being called a saint. However, you might be interested to know that Paul's favorite word for Christians is the word "Saint." He uses it forty times in his Epistles. And when he speaks of saints, he is referring to ordinary Christians.
Every believer is a saint. We are in Christ, separated from sin, unto God, for holy purposes. There should be no reluctance in your mind of calling yourself a "saint." Our only reluctance might come from the fact that we're not living as a saint should live-- holy. The title "saint" we deserve by virtue of our being in Christ. Paul uses this title for the most messed up believers in the New Testament:
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. 1 Corinthians 5:1 NASB
The Corinthians are saints? They were being very divisive, living in immorality, suing one another, and getting drunk at the Lord's supper, just to name a few of their sins. Yet Paul calls them "saints"! Was he crazy? No, they were saints! With all of their sin, some of which was worse than unbelievers, Paul still calls them "saints":
Paul, called as an apostle of Yeshua the Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Yeshua, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2 NASB
Paul says they are, "saints by calling." The word "called" is kletos, which means: "appointed to." We could translate this: "called to belong to Yeshua Christ."
Why is it so important that we understand that we are saints? It's important because you are a product of your thinking. We must learn to think biblically about ourselves. We must understand our identity if we're going to make progress in practical holiness. We are: in Christ, we are righteous, we are saints! Believe this! And walk like a saint!
"And who are faithful"--the word may mean: "faithful," which stresses, of course, their activity; or it may mean: "believing," which would stress their trust in the Gospel of Christ. The latter is probably the force: "to the faithful, that is to the trusting ones, in Christ Yeshua." Hendriksen argues that since the definite article is not repeated before
the second word (faithful), the first and the second, therefore, form one unit, and that both of them should be taken as nouns and not adjectives. Thus he translates, "to the saints and believers who are in Ephesus in Christ Yeshua." Hendriksen, p. 70.7
No one is saved apart from trusting in the Lord Yeshua Christ. He is the object of our faith, and so we must understand who He is and what He did when He died on the cross.
Paul says that these believing saints are "in Christ Yeshua"--this expression is so strange that one of the great grammarians of the New Testament has spoken of this expression as containing a "mystical dative." That is, the preposition "in" followed by the "dative case," and the thought, "being of a mystical kind of union," a spiritual union, and being so strange that he wanted to give a different grammatical category for it, to speak of the "mystical dative." But while that may not be real justifiable, the thought of union with Christ is the preeminent thought. To be "in Christ" is to be in union with Him. And that, of course, means a spiritual union.
When God opens our blind eyes to see our own guilty condition and also the beauty and glory of the person of Yeshua Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, we cease from our efforts to save ourselves. We cast ourselves totally on Christ. God places us "in Christ Yeshua," so that all that is true of Him becomes true of us. As Paul puts it:
But by His doing you are in Christ Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30 NASB
Notice that it is God who creates the union. "By God's doing you are in Christ Yeshua." Literally, "From Him you are in Christ Yeshua." He creates the union by His grace. We embrace it by faith.
Notice the importance of this union with Christ. If you are in Christ, by God's doing, Christ becomes for you "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." All that Christ is for you, He is for you because you are "in Him." Because you are united to Him.
I think of all the things that Paul writes, this union that Believers enjoy with the Lord Yeshua Christ, is probably the most important thing. It reminds us of the fact that the Lord Yeshua was the representative head of His people who went to the cross, and died there, and in His death we died. And when the representative head came forth from the grave, we came forth from the grave in Him. And when the representative head ascended to the right hand of the Father, we have come forth and have ascended to the right hand of the Father, "in Him." Our union with Christ is what we must understand.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Christ. Ephesians 1:2 NASB
Here we see Paul's desire for them: "Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Christ." We find this same greeting throughout most of the Pauline Epistles. But this is the briefest salutation in any of Paul's letters.
Where do you think that Rabbi Sha'ul got his ideas of grace and peace? His ideas definitely were not Greek. Are grace and peace concrete or abstract concepts? Can you experience them with the five senses?
"Grace"--the word "grace" is: "CHEN" in Hebrew, and "CHARIS" in Greek. Let's examine the pictographic Hebrew script that was used to originally write the word "chen." The first letter is the letter hhet, which was written as a picture of a wall and had the meaning of "separation"--as the wall separates the inside from the outside. The second letter is the letter nun, which was written as a picture of a sprouting seed having the meaning of: "continue" as the seed continues a lineage to the next generation. When these two letters are combined, they have the idea of: "the wall that continues." So picture grace as a wall that continues.
The verb chanan is often translated as: "to be gracious" or "have mercy," however, these are abstract terms. One of the best tools to use to find the more concrete meaning of a word is to look at how that word is paralleled with other words in poetical passages. Such as:
"Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper." Psalms 30:10 NASB
Here "be gracious" is paralleled with "helper." If you look at the different words that chanan is paralleled with you see such ideas as healing, help, being lifted up, finding refuge, strength, and salvation (literally rescue). From a concrete Hebraic perspective, CHEN means all of this, which we can sum up with "providing protection." How does Yahweh provide us protection? In Yeshua Ha'Moshiach, He is our wall of protection that continues.
"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10 NASB
The word "grace" here is CHEN, we could say continuing protection. Yahweh says that He will pour out this spirit of continual protection on the house of David. So that: "They will look on aleph/tav whom they pierced," as it says in Hebrew. Whenever you see a Aleph Tav in the Bible, it is the personal signature of Yeshua Himself! Who does Yahweh pour out this spirit of continual protection on? The house of David. Who does that include? Us, Gentiles! Notice what James said:
"Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. "With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 'AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,' SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO. Acts 15:14-18 NASB
What Peter has done, taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, is the fulfillment of what Amos said. Amos said that the Tabernacle of David would be restored "in order that" the Gentiles may seek after God. The Gentiles were now being saved. So what does that tell you about the Tabernacle of David? It was at that time, in the first century, being restored.
"Peace"--is also an abstract; to understand what peace is we have to see it as a concrete. In Hebrew it is shalom. It comes from the root shalam, and it is used most often of restitution, which means: "to make someone whole." It literally means: "to make one whole and complete." Shalom Aleykhem is saying, "May you be whole and complete. May you have everything you need to be whole and complete."
In the ancient Hebrew the word shalom was made up of four letters. The "shin," which looked like our capital W. It represented teeth, and meant: "to consume or destroy." The next letter is the "lamed" and it looked like a shepherd staff. It stood for: "control or authority." Then you have the "vav" which is the nail. It has the idea of: "connecting or attaching." The final letter is a "mem," which pictures water. It means: "chaos or mighty." So peace means: "to destroy that authority attached to chaos." When you destroy what is bringing chaos, you will have peace. What is it that brings chaos into our lives? It is sin. Yeshua destroyed sin bringing us peace with Yahweh.
We also see the importance of grace and peace in Paul's thought, because if we skip to the end of the letter (6:23-24), we see Paul making a "chiasmic inclusio," ending the letter with the same emphases with which he began it.
The preposition "from" introduces the entire expression, "God our Father and
the Lord Yeshua the Christ," suggesting that the two are on the same level. The Christ of the Bible was God, who took up a human nature, and sacrificed Himself for those whom God had chosen in eternity.
Grace and peace are ours because of our union with Yeshua.
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