Essay / Theology

Christ Himself, The Whole Sphere of the Believer’s Life

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:     ~Ephesians 1:1

We begin today the study of what is in some respects the most profound and wonderful of Paul’s letters. A rich treat is in store for us as we study it.

Some scholars have tried to show that the letter was not written to the saints at Ephesus, but either that it was written to the Laodiceans, or that it was an epistle for general circulation among the churches of that vicinity.

But the arguments against its being written to the saints at Ephesus do not stand careful scrutiny, and the proofs that it was written to them are overwhelmingly conclusive. Quite likely it was also intended for general circulation, which would account for the omission of the words, “at Ephesus” in some of the manuscripts. If these words were not in some of the early copies of the letter there must have been a blank space to be filled out, for the words, “To the saints which are” are in these manuscripts where the words “at Ephesus” are omitted, and of course, some word indicating a place must be supplied. But the whole atmosphere of the epistle and many things in it prove conclusively that it was originally intended for the Ephesians, though it may have very likely been intended for a wider circulation also.

Of course, it does not matter much any way to whom it was written originally; for it is in any case intended for you and me today, and we shall get great profit from what God says to us here by the mouth of His Apostle Paul. The letter was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, about 62 A. D. Paul in opening makes a very brief reference to his apostolic commission and authority. He was “an apostle (i.e. one sent) of Jesus Christ through the will of God.” That is to say, he was not an apostle from his own selection to that office, he was a properly accredited ambassador from the court of heaven, and what he has to say is as much a message of God and of Jesus Christ as if They had spoken it with audible voice from heaven. How few of our modern critics seem to realize this in their treatment of Paul’s words.

All Christians are spoken of as “saints” (cf. I Cor. 1:2). Every believer in Christ is a “saint,” i.e. God has sanctified him, set him apart for Himself, and has cleansed him from all guilt of sin by the atoning death of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:10, 14), and is cleansing him day by day from the presence of sin in his heart and life by the Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word (cf. John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; John 17:17; I Peter 1:2).

Paul also characterizes the believers in Ephesus as “faithful.” The word translated “faithful” means primarily “believing.” As a result of their believing in Christ they became worthy to be believed in themselves, “faithful.” The sanctification which God works Paul places before their faith and faithfulness, which is the result of this sanctification which God has wrought. Their faithfulness was “in Christ Jesus.” “In Christ” (and synonymous expressions, “in Him,” etc.) is one of the most characteristic and noteworthy phrases in this epistle. The significance of the phrase “in Christ” is that Jesus Christ Himself is the whole sphere of the believer’s life and blessing: the believer is in the sphere which Jesus Christ Himself is, in Him he lives and moves and has his being (cf. v. 3). We have nothing and are nothing except “in Christ.” Out of Christ, so far from being “faithful” we are faithless.

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[This was written by R.A. Torrey for his regular column, “Daily Devotional Studies in the New Testament: For Individual Meditation and Family Worship,” published regularly in Biola’s magazine The King’s Business from 1915-1918. These comments on Ephesians have never been republished since their original appearance there in the June, 1918 issue.]
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