THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 3-9-2003
LESSON TITLE: PAUL'S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS: "AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK"
Here we are together again on another fine Lord's day! We are so glad you have chosen to be with us today, as we commit this time to our creator. Having the privilege to study God's Word and to sing praises to His name is something we all should be very thankful for. May each of us today do our part in this collective offering to God. Now, let's approach His supreme throne in prayer!
Our first song of the morning talks about this world which we live in. But what is it that makes this world so beautiful and marvelous? The obvious answer is God. So, won't you join in with the congregation at this time and do your part in song to God, as we together sing, "This Is My Father's World!"
(SONG # 1)
Do you ever get tired or run down and you just don't know where the energy you need is going to come from. This usually happens when you have something you need to do. Maybe it's time to go to work or school. Sometimes it hits us when we actually have a day off and we think that we are going to get some extra things done around the house. I'm sure we all have these days where we just feel worn out, lazy, and like we really can't do anything.
So, where can we get the strength we need to live our daily lives and to be productive. Well, the obvious answer is that we can take care of ourselves by eating well and getting enough rest so that we will be physically and mentally ready for everything that comes our way. However, let me remind you of another wonderful place that we can find great strength and power. You guessed it - this greatest strength is found in our God.
The great prophet Isaiah put it this way, "But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:31." In this verse we are told of the continued strength we receive from the Lord. However, also notice that this strength comes with a condition. The writer there said, it is "those who wait on the Lord," who receive this energy.
Notice the examples he gave to help us understand the abilities we have through God's help. He said we will be able to fly high with wings, as the eagle. Being above or elevated has always been a sight of strength and power throughout history.
He also mentions that we will run, but we won't grow weary. Wouldn't that be nice? Furthermore, we can walk as far as we need to, yet we will not faint.
I think all of these thoughts are truly summed up in one of Paul's writings in the New Testament. In Philippians 4:13, we all will recognize these familiar words, where he said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You see, truly the strength and power we need to be faithful Christians comes from our Lord - He strengthens us and gives us the ability to do all, as He is with us and by our side. Are you relying on God for strength in your daily life? Because all things are truly possible with and through Him.
Today, we want to start a new series of study. Since we have had such a good response from our last series on the book of Galatians, I have decided to consider another important inspired writing from God's Word. Thus, our new series for consideration will be entitled, "Paul's Letter To The Ephesians." Our specific topic of the day will deal with, "An Introduction To The Book." So, please continue with us this morning, and after our next song together, I will return to lead this discussion from God's Word. Now, won't you join in our second hymn together as we sing the song, "Walking Alone At Eve."
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ray Sullins
Thank you so much for staying with us this morning as we now have an opportunity again to go to the pages of God's Word. I think we've had just a good series together on the book of Galatians and we've looked together at so many things that Paul had to say to the church of Galatia. I think we've been edified and encouraged really in the things that they were told because obviously we know as Christians that the very same things also apply to us today. Today though as we begin our new series we will continue to look at some of these ideas, these letters, if you will, that are written primarily this time by Paul to different churches, sometimes even to individuals as we try our best to find out exactly what it was that God wanted of those who were followers, those things that He approved of, those things that He disapproved of, the things that at times people were encouraged and honored for and those things that they often were rebuked for by Paul as well as other writers in the Bible.
So as we look at the book of Ephesians, we certainly again want to look to a book that was written by a man, a man named Paul. In fact, if we ourselves go to the text, we find clearly that it tells us even in verse 1 of chapter 1 that it says, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the Will of God to the saints who are in Ephesus." Here clearly it says that Paul was the author of this book. He was writing to the church of Ephesus. Furthermore, you might notice as we continue on to note that even in chapter 3 and verse 1 that he says again, "For this reason, I Paul the prisoner of Christ." Here there again clarifying that "I am Paul." The one who is the apostle, the follower, the prisoner, the individual who is doing the things of God according to His Will now right unto you. In fact, these people were no strangers to Paul as we will see in a little bit later in our discussion, that basically they did know him and they were well aware when he says, "I am Paul," of who he was talking about.
We will look now to Paul being the author of this book, the tenth book that is placed really in the order of the New Testament books that we have today, the Canon, the Bible that you and I carry around and that we use and consider as God's Holy and infallible Word. As we continue to look at these books, we look basically after Galatians at letters now that are referred to often as prison epistles, and I thought I would just take a few moments to help us understand exactly what was being spoken of here as really a prison epistle as it is called. In fact, we really have to go back to the book of Acts to understand exactly what was being said. You might remember there in the book of Acts, I believe around chapter 25 that it was there that Paul actually made the declaration of being made a Roman citizen, an appeal to Caesar. They were charging him and possibly wanting to harm him and imprison him and he approached them and said, "I am a Roman citizen and I have the right to be judged there only in the capitol city there of Rome, to go back and to ask Caesar and his council exactly whether I am guilty or not." And so they accepted that and then the following chapters then all the way up to chapter 28 talked about how that he was trapped and at one point shipwrecked. Finally at chapter 28, we see that it begins to talk about how he finally was then dwelling at Rome. He arrives there around verse 11, and after that we find in verse 16 that he was brought in with other prisoners but there was something different about his imprisonment. In fact, verse 16 says, "Now when he had come to Rome, the Centurions delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him." So all of these criminals, so to speak, or those who were brought to Rome to be tried were delivered primarily to the captain of the guard, most likely of a prison to be imprisoned, but Paul somehow finding favor and possibly because of the type of charges against him, not being very heinous, but maybe just thoughts and his beliefs, he was allowed to just remain with the guard.
And where did he live? Well verses 30 & 31 tell us clearly that he lived in his own home. In fact it says there, "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house and received all who came to him teaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concerned the Lord Jesus with all confidence, no one forbidding him." Two years now in a rented home with soldiers there guarding him so that he might not escape or go AWOL and get away and not be found when it came time for trial. For two years he was there. And for two years he really was preaching and teaching without any restrictions the things of God to those who would come to him and those that he came in contact with. So with that in mind, as he was imprisoned for these two years and we say in prison, but really it was a much lighter type sentence as he was there being guarded in his own rented home and able to basically still live a fairly comfortable life and do those things that us as normal individuals in our own homes would be able to do. We see that it was during this period of time, a two year period, most historians, those who are commentators say this was probably around 60-62 AD when this book, Ephesians was written, when Paul was in prison and this is just put in perspective of all the other things that took place in Acts as well as the different New Testament books in the order that they came and in the historical facts, the information that is found therein. In fact, if you'll remember the book of Acts also gives us a lot of information about rulers of the day and those who really he went before like Felix and Agrippa and others at that time. So we are able to place this date somewhere probably around 60-62 AD that is after Jesus Christ had come to the earth and now was actually, after living had instilled in His apostles like Paul the things that they should teach and preach and proclaim to all men.
So then after Galatians being a letter to the Galatians, as these prison epistles were written, what is it that really confirms to us that these letters were different or during that two year period around 60-62 AD when Paul would have written these churches and actually sent them by the hand of a man that we know as Tychicus is clarified for us in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 and verse 21.
Well what I would like to do just briefly again is to look at several of these occurrences in each book to see clearly that these were written in a time when Paul was in prison. I don't have time to look at all of them but I certainly want to suggest and mention a few of those to you. If you'll notice first of all in Ephesians chapter 6, we'll notice there in verse 19 and 20 as well, "And for me that utterance may be given to me that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel which I am an ambassador in chains that in it, I may speak boldly as I ought to speak." Here he says, "I am an ambassador of Christ." In what? In chains.
I want you also to go to Phillippians with me, and in Phillippians the 1st chapter, and other verses as well but primarily the 1st chapter we'll look at and verse 12 and 13 we read the following, "But I want you to know brethren, the things which happened to me have actually turned out for a furtherance of the gospel so that in it has become evident to the whole palace guard and to all the rest that my chains are in Christ. Here again, the reason that Paul was in chains and being held there in his home, he tells the Phillippian brethren is the very reason that everyone certainly knows as I continue to preach and teach the gospel of Christ, they all know that's why I am in chains and that's why I was arrested. So again he was continuing the work that he had been called to do by God Himself.
In Colossians chapter 4, if you'll look there with me, in verses 2-4 notice again what he says. "Continue earnestly in prayer being vigilant with all thanksgiving meanwhile praying for us that God would open to us a door for the world to speak the mystery of Christ for which I also am in chains once again, as I am preaching and speaking." Here he pleads to the Colossians that they pray that God opens even more doors. He's not satisfied with just the few things that he's had so far and the opportunities. He says, "Open more doors in my chains as I am in prison that I might continue to do the work of the Lord."
Even the book of Philemon is believed to have been written during this time. In fact, if you look at the book of Philemon we see the reference in verse 1 about him being a prisoner. We see there in verse 10 another reference about him while he was in his chains and how he had met there on Onesimus. We see in verse 22 the concept where it says that he is requesting prayers and that his fellow prisoners greet the brethren there who are with Philemon.
So again in all of these situations, we now understand I hope from Acts 28 when he was in prison that he was not only preaching the gospel and teaching but he was even writing letters such as these letters, the ones to the Ephesians, the Phillippians, the Colossians and also the personal letter that was given to Philemon in relationship to the slave Onesimus who had left his master's side. In all of these things though, we see that as he wrote these things and he really brought them about as an inspired man of God that he was trying to help these churches to be better people. He was trying to help them to be better followers. And he was trying to help even Philemon to be a man who really lived by principles of Christ Jesus and remembered he was a Christian no matter come what may and no matter what the things of life might have thrown to him.
So then as we look at these books, we see different emphasis which really are placed really on them. For instance, we might say that the book of Colossians clearly deals a lot with Christ and how that he is the Lord and how He is the head of the church. But really the book of Ephesians as we will see in our study together over the next many weeks really here is dealing more primarily with Christ's church, that is being the body, being the heart of what God came to establish, and institution that would be set up that would be based on the very blood of our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now I would also like to look in our few remaining minutes at a few ideas, concepts if you will, about exactly some points that will be brought out of primary interest throughout these different chapters. But before that, I would like to again remind you that obviously this was being written as the book is entitled to the brethren at Ephesus as was well worded there in verse 1. "To the saints who (basically are or) meet at Ephesus, Christians, those in the church at Ephesus." Basically in relationship to the authorship, in relationship to who was receiving the book, the church at Ephesus. There really isn't a whole lot of disagreement. Those even great historians even after the church just after 100 AD like Iranaous and Tritullion, all of these men agreed as historians that truly Paul was the author and this was an authentic book written in this time period basically to the church at Ephesus. As well, in the passages themselves we see clearly that Paul is the author according to his inspired gift of God that was given to him. As well, Ephesians and the brethren there at Ephesus were certainly those who were to again receive these wonderful things that were given there in the church.
Then as we look at the book of cc, I certainly want to encourage you to realize that we're going to understand a lot of things, a lot of things that really were already being primarily set forth even in the book of Acts. In places like Acts 18 and Acts 20, we see there clearly that the church at Ephesus was first visited by Paul and later was visited again and how that even individuals that we might be reminded of like Priscilla and Aquilla were doing the work and preaching and telling people what they needed to know more perfectly about Jesus Christ.
And then we'll find out even the idea of how that he went and dwelt there for a period of time and really committed the word of God and helped them to know those things that they should know.
But then as we look at all of these things together and as we determine exactly what it is that God has asked us to understand through the writings to the Ephesians, then we've got to ask the question: Why was it written? What were the primary purposes? Again it doesn't seem like as we look in the book of Galatians that it was dealing with a lot of doctrinal problems as far as maybe the flesh and those things that are spiritual, but it seems here more that he was trying to help them understand more about Jesus and exactly what the church was all about. It seemed that he was much more interested on a personal level of communicating with those beloved ones that he had taught in the past and to again encourage them to do more and to follow more in relationship to what Christ would have them to do, to understand that really the church was very special and precious. Why? Because it was based and purchased and owned by God Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ and in that fact, he was trying to remind them of how wonderful it was and how it was through that institution, that body, that church and the great gift of Christ that made these things possible that truly they as well as all men by the grace of God might be saved, that they might have all things that they need. Certainly this is what Paul was trying to help the brethren at Ephesus to see. Certainly this is what he was wanting them to understand and to know because in all things he wanted them to be pleasing to God. And why wouldn't he? We certainly remember that Paul was one who had taught them, who had labored in the work of the Lord and loved them enough to live there and to visit over and over and over and to let them know what God wanted. So certainly he would want the best for them. Certainly he would want to continue to write them and edify them and let them know that in all things they had to give God His due.
Well certainly as we look at this book we'll further see that it gives clear pictures as to what God defines as a follower of His, a clear picture as to what it takes to be a follower of His, what it takes to have a happy day, as we'll sing in just a moment, to be able to enjoy the great blessings of God as followers, as Christians in His service. So the book of Ephesians is going to answer all of these things for us and help us clearly to put the pieces together of the full puzzle of the church and understanding exactly what God would have us to do after we hear the gospel and respond to it, responding in order that we might be those who confess the great name of Jesus Christ as being the son of God, the purchaser of the church, an ability to repent and turn from sin and then allow the Lord to add us to that church, that institution, to put Him on through baptism and the great gift of His son.
I hope this morning you will realize the great blessings through this book and others as we continue to study the Word of God.
(SONG # 3 - "O Happy Day!")
Thank you again for choosing to be with us today, as we gave this time to God. It is always a blessing to have you with us. We invite you to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to doing the things of God in His Way!
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May we always look to God's Word to find out what He has said through His inspired writers to His church. By studying these things and putting them into practice, we will all be able to be more pleasing in God's sight.