If we receive a letter from someone with authority, we would pay close attention and read it many times to understand its message clearly. From the earliest days of the church, Paul’s letters were considered authoritative (2 Peter 3:15–16). Ephesians begins by identifying the writer as Paul (1:1).
“An apostle of Christ Jesus.” An apostle is a “sent one”; the title specifically designates a person who had seen Jesus and was appointed by Him. Paul states his credentials as an apostle of Christ Jesus. He did not write on his own authority and initiative, but on an authority that was given to him by the Lord. In Acts 9:15, the Lord said of Paul: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name . . .”
“By the will of God.” Paul’s appointment was in accordance with the Father’s will and purpose. The phrase reminds us that the Son of God does nothing outside of or contrary to the Father’s will (Hebrews 10:7). Likewise, nothing in the will of the Father excludes the Son of God—Father and Son work together in perfect unity and purpose. This means that Paul’s appointment as apostle had heaven’s full endorsement, and therefore enjoyed heaven’s authority and resources. The recipients (“the saints”, or believers) had two addresses:
“In Ephesus.” Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor, was famous for its temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It had a grand theatre, an impressive stadium, and a bustling marketplace. It was also a centre for magic and the occult (Acts 19:19). Like many cities in the Empire, Ephesus promoted sexual immorality, greed, and idolatry (5:3–5). It was such an important city that Paul spent over two years teaching there.
“In Christ Jesus.” While the saints lived in a challenging and uncertain context, they also had a permanent address—“in Christ Jesus”. This is one of Paul’s favourite phrases. It means that our lives are to be centred on Christ and placed under His authority.
We too have two addresses: one temporary and earthly, the other permanent and heavenly. In this world we have trouble, but in Christ we have peace (John 16:33)—the peace that comes through divine grace (Ephesians 1:2). The secret of living faithfully in a troubled and troubling world is to live in Christ.
Reflect on God’s call in your life. What is your attitude to this calling (or appointment), and how are you living it out?Why is it important to remember that your permanent address is in Christ Jesus? What does it mean to live in Him? How will this help you to live faithfully and effectively in the world?