Summary: In this extraordinary introduction, Paul introduces us to his letter to the Ephesians with a blessing of grace and peace - two words which neatly describe what Christ has done for us and which Paul develops in his letter to the Ephesians.
As many of you know, for the last few years we lived in the former Soviet Union. I remember one morning a young man came up to me, wanting me to translate a letter from Russian to English for him. He had some acquaintance in an English speaking country and he wanted me to translate this letter for him. Now it was a year or two ago, so I dont remember exactly what the letter said, and I dont remember the names, but I have reconstructed below something like what his letter was like.
Дорогой друг Джон в нашем любимом Иисусе Христе, который за нас умерил на кресте,
Поздравляю тебя с глубокой радостью в сердце и хочу выразит глубокое уважение,
Бог благослови тебя!!!
С уважением твой брат а друг в нашем спасителе Христе Иисусе,
So I set to the task of translating it for him. And literally translated, it came out as something like:
Dear friend John in our beloved Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us,
Greetings to you with deep joy in the heart and I wish to express my deep respect,
God bless you!!!
With respect, your brother and friend in our Saviour Christ Jesus,
Hmmm how does that sound to our English speaking ears? A bit flowery? Somewhat over the top? We just dont greet each other like that do we? I told this fellow Vladimir that his greeting didnt really translate well into English. John would be quite confused if he got a letter like this. So Vladimir asked me to translate the general meaning, how we would say it in English. So I did that for him and this is how it came out, when I reduced the flowery Russian language to how we say it in English.
POWERPOINT TYPED LETTER
God bless you!
His whole page letter had become 6 words in English.
In the English speaking world, we are not into flowery greetings, at least when we write to each other. But the Russians are. And so was the Greek speaking ancient world. We can see this in the greetings in Pauls letters in the New Testament. When we see Pauls greetings in the New Testament we tend to see them as flowery. As superfluous. Our natural instinct is to compress them.
Lets have a look for instance at the greeting in Ephesians, the book we will be exploring over the next few months.
Please open your Bibles and read with me.
EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: EPH 1:2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NIV)
When we read these verses too often we skip over them. We translate in our minds: From Paul to the Ephesians. After all, its just a greeting, and we jump into verse 3 where the real stuff starts.
But lets take another look at Vladmirs letter to John. In reality, this letter is much more than, Dear John, God bless you! Vladimir. The letter speaks of a shared relationship in Jesus Christ. It mentions Vladimirs faith in Christ. We also see some of Vladimirs theology of why Christ died. We also read of his emotions in writing the letter and his respect for John.
So too even more so we can see that Pauls introduction to the Ephesians is much more than a greeting.
Over next few months we will be looking at Ephesians. It is a wonderful book with so much in it. Ephesians deals with the fundamental problem of our time. In fact, of all times. We live in our world wracked with problems.
Ephesians deals with these sorts of problems. It deals with racism, sin, breakdown in family relationships, marriage, bringing up children, work. It deals with them the only way they can be treated in Christ.
Ephesians speaks of our relationship with Christ. It speaks of our need our utter hopelessness without Christ and how God has redeemed us in Christ. It speaks of how God has redeemed us in order to change us to be holy and to do good works.
Ephesians speaks of the church and its role in Gods plan. Through the church that is, the community of Gods people, God brings Jews and non-Jews together into one people. The church is Gods instrument for bringing about His purposes not just here on Earth but also in the heavenlies.
And we will be exploring these things in depth in the coming months. Now the first two a preview of the book as a whole. An introduction if you like.
Lets look at them.
Firstly Paul introduces himself.
Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.