My friend Chuck and I have a sort of shorthand when we talk. We’ve been through so many experiences together, that now just a single word can bring to our minds the fullness of that time, with all of its tears and laughter. Someone listening to one of our conversations might not get the full impact, but we sure do!
It’s the same way when we read one of the Apostle Paul’s letters. He is writing to a church or an individual with whom he had a rich, personal experience. So when he alludes to something, those friends who went through that experience with him recall all of the fullness. When reading the letter to the church at Ephesus, you can experience some of that fullness by reading about Paul’s experience in that city in Acts 19.
In Acts 19 you will meet the followers of Jesus who were already there and see them get baptized in the Holy Spirit … watch Paul teach for three months in the synagogue before the Jewish troublemakers run him out … see Paul lecture for the next three years in the Hall of Tyrannus, so that everyone in that province heard the Word of God … see how God authenticated Paul’s ministry with miracles … experience those who tried to counterfeit what Paul was doing … see many in that city turn from their witchcraft and idol worship … and finally experience the tumult of a near-riot started by the merchants who were losing their income on sales of mythological trinkets because so many were turning to Christ.
With this backdrop, you can then understand why Paul uses such specific language in the opening greeting of his letter to Ephesus (see Ephesians 1:1-3). By doing so he is contrasting the followers of Jesus with the followers of Artemis—
- Christians for whom God has a specific plan (“by the will of God” [1:1a]; see also 1:4 and 2:10) versus Artemis’ followers who felt like they had no choice (Acts 19:26).
- Christians who are called saints (set apart for God’s special use) and faithful (trusting Jesus implicitly [1:1b]) versus those followers of Artemis who are self-serving (Acts 19:24, 25).
- Christians who experience God’s grace and peace (1:2) versus those followers of Artemis who did not even know why they were there (Acts 19:32).
But the most specific language is in Ephesians 1:3—Praise be to THE God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis added)….
- Not “a” god, but “THE” God.
- Not a god that needs to be appeased, but THE loving Father.
- Not a god that may or may not be able to respond, but OUR Lord Jesus Christ Who overcame death, hell and the grave so that our sins can be forgiven!
The question Paul invites the Ephesians to consider is the same question we must consider: