Sermon on Ephesians 1 for May 10 2009, Hutchinson Friends Church

Sermon on Ephesians 1:1-14

1 Read Ephesians 1:1-14

2 back story

I think it would be productive to compare the situation of Romans to the situation of
the Ephesians, the reason why is I was introduced to Salvation through a systematic
overview of Romans, however no one thought to introduce me to the reality of
Christian life by studying Ephesians – though, what is taught there is most useful.
The difference in there setting is quite telling.

2.1 Romans

The Romans are best described as not getting it – Paul states the problem that he
faced in his ministry to the Gentiles in a very clear way when he wrote a letter to the
Corinthians:

For the Jews ask for signs, Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach
Christ crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks,
but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the
power of God and the Wisdom of God. I Corinthians 1:22-24

The Gospel Paul teaches tells us that God became man, and in doing so – man
became holy. For:

Jesus has given his divine power to us, through him – those of us who are dead in
our sin can become alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1). Paul called people to give up
their life, obey Jesus and take up the cross – and become living Sacrifices – knowing
that if our lives are tied up in Christ, he also not only forgives us – but “his
divine power has given us everything we need for live and Godliness” 1 Peter
1:3

The Greeks of course wanted a new Philosopher, not a holy God. The gods of the
Greeks were known to walk in human form, and the most devout of the Greeks would
not call them holy… powerful yes, holy no. Some philosophers such as Plato reasoned
that maybe a one perfect God existed – but, the god of philosophy was
an ideal, not something that had a reality in the sense that we do. Many
Greeks loved the practical Philosophy of this new Jesus, and the way he
pointed out the craziness of our lives… but, they needed a lot of help – and,
the rumors of Christ brought many wrong ideas. Romans is one of many
books written to explain the gospel to “Those called to become saints” (from
Romans). Romans speaks of salvation through Christ as what can and should
happen.

2.2 Ephesians

Ephesians is different. Ephesians speaks of salvation as what did happen. The book is
not written for those who need to learn that they need Jesus, it is practical advice for
those who’s lives are already tied up with Jesus. Ephesians is written to those who
have already received their new name… and I for one thank God that Paul did not
leave the question “Ok, I confessed my sin, invited Christ to live in and through me…
I’m forgiven, I am a new person – but now what?” Ephesians speaks to the the “Now
what?” question.

It is written near the end of Paul’s life. Ephesus was a providential capital in an
area growing in importance, it was a temple city for the Greek goddess Artemis.
Paul ministered there for three years, and his ministry was disastrous to the
wealth of those who made their living through pagan worship, so there was a
riot.

In all Paul had a successful ministry of three years in Ephesus. When he left, he
put Timothy in charge of this ministry, and after Timothy, Tychicus. John, who
wrote the book of Revelation also devoted a significant part of his ministry to
Ephesus. The very writers who teach us who Christ is, and why it is important for
salvation devoted the bulk of their time to this city that lead the region’s culture and
trade. The Church in Ephesus understood everything Paul explained in his book to
the Romans – he is writing to a bunch of Christians who are in the same place as

we are. This was a ’last message’ of Paul, and many assume that it is a
general letter, not only for Ephesus but for all Christians everywhere. His
message is certainly for us… who realize that Christ is more than a good
teacher.

3 You are saints

If I were to summarize the book, it would simply be the phase, “Christ has made you
into Saints, You are saints.” When we read the book, we notice that everyone
that the book is directed to are ordinary people. We see husbands, wives,
parents, children, workers, and masters. Ephesians is written to people who live
secular lives, yet have taken a holy identity… this is a challenge, because the
fact that even the secular was made holy through Christ is easy to forget.
Paul wanted to remind everyone “You are Saints” I think Paul was most
clever to set the tone of the whole writing with the very greeting. The mind
moves forward as he is talking, and instead of seeing a a half dozen disjointed
topics, we see that it is a unified whole that contains implications for all of
life.

A person could spend a good portion of his lifetime speculating on some of the
details in just this one chapter, one of the biggest debates in protestant Christianity
comes from doing just that. As much fun as it is to speculate… and as good as it is to
explore possibilities, in this case more speculation is simply beating the same
horse that Calvin and Arminius beat… and then Wesley and Whitfield beat.
Unfortunately, those who speculated sometimes did not realize that we are not
required to understand the details, and there is room for speculation. If
we manage to step past the language that is used in arguments, and grab
the truth that both sides agree on – it is that our salvation: that which
changed us from sinners to saints is not in any way from ourselves, but it is
wholly divine. If we jump ahead to the second chapter, we see that even our
faith did not come from us, but by God’s divine gift. John 6:44 tells us that
Jesus said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw
him”

It is not only easy for someone someone to forget his identity in Christ, it is easy
for him to forget that his neighbor is holy, and should be treated in that way. Most of
Ephesians is talks about living in a way that is appropriate… if you really believe
that you are with a bunch of Saints.

I know, this is hard, as it was hard in Ephesus. Period material tells us that
there were personality and power struggles there. People were jealous of
one another, Ephesus was not immune to the issue of racism that plagued
the first century church, nor the elitism that plagued the whole culture –
the solution Paul offered to each of these problems (and he did mention
them one by one) was to recognize “We are saints – made holy by Christ’s
holiness.” Look at you neighbor, tell your neighbor “You are a saint”. Hear your
neighbor, and hear yourself. Through an understanding of identity, we are
taking a step in living life as a Christian. Through Christ the wall of secular and sacred is broken – he has made your life and your work holy… though,
this is sometimes difficult to see – it is Paul’s gospel for Christians. When
we understand fully – we will see as our Father in heaven sees. We will be
able to look past the human faults and bad habits of one another, and see
Christ.

I recommend a close reading of Ephesians to all who forget their identity. I know
– today is mother’s day… there is nothing I can think of more ordinary, or more holy
to honor than mother’s. Paul, for example gives credit to Timothy’s mother (and
Grandmother) for raising such an excellent man. I can think of no greater hope or
pride that God has chosen to raise people up to become holy… and that he came to
raise humanity so that Holy becomes the ordinary. I thank God for holy parents that
live an ordinary life, and make the home a holy extension of Christ’s kingdom.
Friends, it is the ordinary parts of our lives, such as the life lived by mothers,
children and workers where we bring a little bit of heaven into the world.

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6 comments on “Sermon on Ephesians 1 for May 10 2009, Hutchinson Friends Church

  1. […] A Good Point By blahblahblahger “Ephesians is written to people who live secular lives, yet have taken a holy identity… this is a c…“ […]

  2. LAR_Northman says:

    That everyone is the image of god and deserving of respect may be a harder teaching than, ‘No one has come to Christ but that he has first called them.’

    • Harder for the American church, yes. Somehow I think that the gospel of ‘you can be better than your neighbor’ is much more popular than that of Jesus. Even the most liberal of us seem proud to be better than their neighbors — Christianity gives no room for such attitudes.

  3. […] started reading me because they were searching for sermons and found me I noticed that my sermon on Ephesians 1:1-14 is quite well […]

  4. […] a new sermon, even after starting what I hoped would be a series, so this follows my sermon on Ephesians 1. For those who want a second opinion, I recommend the one delivered at Emporia Friends, or if you […]

  5. […] if you remember, Ephesians is not only about one person’s identity, it is about everyone Christian’s […]

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