Summary: Some say that you could do all your biblical counselling from Ephesians alone. This is said because Paul, in Ephesians, places so much emphasis on our identity being in Christ alone. As Christians, we live from our identity, not for it.
“I Am a Saint in Christ”
(Eph 1:1-2, Phil 1:19-29)
Some say that you could do all your biblical counselling from Ephesians alone. This is said because Paul, in Ephesians, places so much emphasis on our identity being in Christ alone. As Christians, we live from our identity, not for it. We are defined by who we are in Christ. That’s why Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians this way, he defines himself, and he defines his listeners, both with relation to Jesus.
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians are known as Paul’s prison Epistles and were to the churches established in modern day Turkey and the north Eastern tip of Greece. He was in prison in Rome around 60 AD so these are probably the last letters he wrote to his churches though he did write the Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus after this.
Looking at just these four prison epistles Paul uses the term “saints” in all of them except Galatians. Galatians was a group of churches probably including Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium, and it seems he didn’t use the term saints here because they were not being faithful to the true Gospel and were being led astray. Where he uses the term saints in the other letters he also speaks of their faithfulness, so to get an idea of what he means with these greetings, it’s that he sees saints as Holy, set apart, and faithful people.
The Galatian believers on the other hand are chastised immediately for deserting so quickly him who called them. They were being influenced by those who wanted to distort the gospel. Let me just say that this letter is incredibly relevant to the North American church today where we are under incredible pressure to distort the gospel. In fact the word for church which is ekklesia, literally means called out ones. Anyway, this is likely why he wrote the letter to the Ephesians and the other churches. To warn them of the teaching that was coming their way from the Galatian area. And to remind them who they are in Christ, something the Galatians were forgetting.
Ephesus especially would have been prominent as it was a huge metropolitan centre of about 250,000 people which would be akin to our modern day LA or Chicago. There was a lot of wealth and a lot of pagan worship as the great temple of Artemis was found there. So many people would come from other places to worship this other god there. The churches apparently needed reminding of who they were in order to stay holy and faithful in a place like this, just as we do today in a culture of increasing wealth and non-Christian worship.
So what is a saint, and are we saints according to Paul’s usage of the term?
Let’s first look at Paul’s introduction of himself in the fist verse of Ephesians. He says he is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. First, apostle. That word means delegate, representative and messenger of Jesus. And that this is by the will of Jesus. In other words he is very clearly saying that he was chosen or called out to be this apostle of Jesus, and it was not by Paul’s will but by Jesus’ will. That’s important. Do you feel that becoming a Christian was completely your choice, or were you compelled to come to Christ
Now by that term we could say that all faithful Christians are technically apostles of Jesus, but here Paul is distinguishing it from the people in the church by calling them saints not apostles. His use of Apostle indicates his authority along with the original 11 that Jesus chose. But what does unite them is the fact that they are called out by Jesus whether saint or apostle.
Galatians are not called saints, and Ephesians are, and what distinguishes them is what is relevant for us in defining ourselves.
The first thing mentioned is that the Galatians are distorting the gospel, how? The first ten verses in Galatians cover this, and it’s essentially that they are deserting the true authoritative gospel that was brought to them by Paul. And a major component of that is seeking to please man instead of God. Primarily as we see from the rest of the book, by turning to religion of works of the law. In chapter three he says, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
And listen to this, in case you think he’s saying that works are not important at all, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles amoung you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith – just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?” Then those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham.