Third Sunday after Trinity – June 28, 2020
“11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?”
16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
SLIDE 3-title slide
- Who are you? How do you determine who you are? By the kind of work you do, the country where you were born, your race, your achievements? Who are you?
- Neuroscientists have discovered that your identity—whom you perceive yourself to be—is the single most determinative influence on your character, your relationships, your maturity and your level of satisfaction in life. Your identity is processed in places in your brain like your cingulate cortex, which also has a significant bearing on how well we get along with others.
- One of the key themes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is our identity as Christ-followers. What he has to say in the verses we will cover today and in future weeks is vital to our having a healthy and accurate perception of what God has done in drawing us to himself, uniting us to Christ and making us new creations in Him. It is no exaggeration to say that what Paul teaches here is life-changing. If we internalize the message of this short letter—if we get it worked into our hearts and minds—it will change us into people who are more joyful, more relaxed, more confident, more gracious and forgiving of others, and more deeply connected with God and those around us.
- Last week, we began looking at this NT book we call Ephesians. SLIDE 4 We examined the historical, cultural and geographical backdrop of the letter. Here you see the location of Ephesus situated on the west coast of present day Turkey; this fabulously wealthy and important port city on the eastern edge of the Agean Sea. You see Jerusalem there in the lower right hand corner, Rome off to the left to give you some perspective.
- We also began SLIDE 5 our detailed look at the first chapter by exploring the first part of the Prescript, the prologue or salutation, in the first half of verse one: “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”, or, as we saw, it might be better rendered: an apostle of the anointed one, Yeshua, by the will of God”.
- Today, our plan is to finish up v.1 and all of v.2. In the process, we will learn some vitally important truths about who we now are in Christ.
- Let’s begin with prayer.
Exposition of v.1b-2
- “To the holy ones in Ephesus, the trusting ones in Christ Jesus.”
- Paul identifies the believers in Ephesus using three descriptive terms: 1) holy ones, 2) trusting ones, and 3) ones in Christ Jesus (or…in union with Christ Jesus).
- Let’s begin with holy ones
- Your bible version might say “saints” which is not the most helpful translation of the Grk. adjective hagioi, plural for hagios, meaning “holy”; the plural lit. means “holies” or “holy ones”
- That begs the question: What is a holy one? All Jews in Paul’s day knew the answer to this question. A holy one was a created being who is qualified to live in the holy presence of Yahweh. A holy one could be a spiritual being in the heavenly realms or a human being here on earth.
- In the Hebrew OT, word for “holy ones” was qedoshim (or, in Aramaic, qedoshin). When the OT was translated into Greek in the 3rd century BC in a work called the Septuagint, the Heb. term qedoshim was translated with the Greek noun hagioi. Both mean “holy ones”.
- The OT uses the term “holy ones” to refer to faithful Israelites in covenant relationship with God and to spiritual beings in the heavenly realms.
- An example of the first use is Psalm 34:9: SLIDE 7
“Oh, taste and see that Yahweh is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him?
Oh, fear Yahweh, you His holy ones,
for those who fear Him have no lack!”
- An example of the second use, “holy ones” used in reference to spiritual beings, is in Psalm 84:5-7 SLIDE 8
“The heavens praise your wonders, Yahweh,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with Yahweh?
Who is like Yahweh among the sons of God?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.”
- In this case, the author is clearly talking about holy ones in heaven: spiritual beings in the council of God, or in God’s “assembly”; sons of God, part of the council of God.
- Another interesting feature of this text is in verse 5: the word “assembly”. The word in Heb. is qahal. In Grk., that translates to ekklesia. Does that ring a bell? What does ekklesia mean in the NT? It means “Church”! The spiritual beings in heaven, the holy ones before his throne, are the church in heaven. The human beings on earth who trust Jesus for their salvation are the church on earth. One day, the two will become one: that is the message of Revelation 21.
- Paul says the people receiving his letter are holy ones. In other places, the NT claims all of us are holy ones. Let’s talk about this idea of holiness. You might be thinking to yourself right now: What do you mean, I’m a holy one? How can I be holy? I don’t act holy! I mess up all the time.”
- What makes you a holy one is not your actions. What makes you holy are the actions of Jesus Christ.
- Holiness is not an ethical standard that you must try to achieve and maintain. (In fact, the word is used in the OT to refer to furniture, tools, certain days… even temple prostitutes who were involved in idolatrous worship). So holiness is not a moral standard that a believer must achieve.
- Holiness is a ritual qualification that every believer in Jesus is freely given. Look at Colossians 1 and Hebrew 10: SLIDE 9
“… giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.” (kikanoo = “to make sufficient, render fit, to equip one with adequate power to perform one’s duties”)
Hebrews 10:10b, 14
“…we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all… For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being made holy.”
- Last verse is especially important: we are being made holy in our behavior bit by bit, day after day. It’s ongoing, it’s incomplete. It will never be fully accomplished in our present life. But, when it comes to our relationship with the Father, we are already made holy.
- Does this mean our behavior is unimportant? That God doesn’t care about our moral lives? Not at all! God cares deeply about the whole of our lives, including our moral choices. God makes us holy people, and he calls us to live in a way that is consistent with that new identity. We are to live righteous, holy, moral lives because he has changed our nature and given us the power through his indwelling Spirit to bear a very different kind of moral fruit than we did before we were made new. But it is not this behavior that saves us. The behavior is the fruit. The root is our new, holy standing in Christ before the Father.
- So, listen to me carefully: You are, this very moment, a holy one; you have been ritually qualified once and for all through the ministry of the Lord Jesus to live in the presence of the Father and the Son in the Spirit. Never forget that. Ask the Lord everyday to help you live into and out of that reality.
- Paul uses a second term to describe the recipients of his letter. They are holy ones and SLIDE 10 they are believing ones, trusting ones in Christ Jesus.
- “Trusting ones” translates the Gk. adjective pis-‘tos, usually translated “faithful”, which can be taken in the passive sense of being reliable or trustworthy (someone faithful in keeping their promise); or in the active sense of exercising trust or belief in something or someone. Scholars are generally agreed that it is the active sense that best fits the context here.
- Being a “believing” or “trusting one” is the flip side of being a holy one. God makes us a holy one, qualifying us to live forever in his presence. The result is that we find ourselves able to fully trust this one who is so good, gracious, kind and generous to us.
- So, the people to whom Paul is writing are people who have put their confidence, their faith, their belief, their trust and hope in Jesus, the one chosen and anointed by the Father. This is a distinguishing feature of being a Christ-follower. It means we recline or rest all of our weight on Jesus. We trust Him to help us, bless us in every area of our lives: our relationships, our finances, our jobs, our health, our happiness… everything. Doing so makes us “trusting ones” or “faithful ones”.
- The third term SLIDE 11 Paul uses to describe the recipients of his letter is the prepositional phrase: “in Christ Jesus”, or, as we’ll see, “those in union with Christ Jesus”.
in Christ Jesus
- En Christo Iesou is a prepositional phrase used 7x in Ephesians (1:1; 2:6,7,10,13; 3:6,21). Other similar expressions occur all throughout the letter, especially in these early parts. This is a major theme of the letter and really stands at the heart of Paul’s theological project: He wants Christians to know that when they put their trust in Jesus Christ, they are taken into the closest possible relationship with Jesus. They share the same empowering, life-producing Holy Spirit; their spirits become one with His Spirit; and they are joined to him in covenant marriage (a metaphor Paul will develop later in chapter five).
- This is a game changer. If we can see ourselves as “ones in Christ Jesus” located within the person of Christ, we will never be the same. It redefines us. We’re not going to go further with the concept now, but we will come back to it and flesh is out in coming weeks.
- So, to summarize Paul’s description of the Ephesian believers (and his understanding of all believers everywhere), they are: holy ones, trusting ones and one’s united to Jesus Christ by his Spirit. Paul now goes on to pronounce his opening benediction:
v.2: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”
- This is a favorite opening benediction of Paul’s, found in many of his other letters. In most of his letters he combines two forms of greeting: one Greek and one Jewish. Remember that Paul is a Jew, whose Hebrew name was Saul. But he grew up in modern day Turkey among Greeks, so he also had a Greek name, Paul. He was well acquainted with both cultures.
- So in his letters, Paul greets his recipients with the Greek noun charis (grace) which he substituted for the typical Greek greeting, chairen, meaning “greetings”. He would also, use the Jewish form of address “shalom”, translated “peace”: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Grace is a favorite word of Paul’s. Of the 155x it’s used in the NT, 100 of those times it is used by Paul. It is used 12x in this letter.
- One scholar describes “grace” as “…the Gospel in one word” (Hoener, 149).
- Christians formed in the evangelical tradition unfortunately tend to reduce the word to a legal transaction on the cross, when Jesus died for his people’s sins. You may have heard that Grace is “getting what we don’t deserve”, “God’s unmerited favor” or grace is G-R-A-C-E: “God’s riches at Christ’s Expense”. Now, grace includes all those things. But it is not limited to any of those things. Grace is far more rich and nuanced and beautiful and a mere legal transaction.
- Charis or grace actually embodies two key ideas:
- The first is divine favor – charis was well known in Greco-Roman world and was often used to denote the favor of the gods or the emperor toward a particular individual. The OT conceptual background is found in the Hebrew terms hen (translated grace or favor) and hesed (lovingkindness, love, mercy, faithfulness). So, God’s favor is His radiant smile, His shining face, his delight in us, his joy in us that causes him to rejoice over us with singing (Zeph 3:17). To be favored by God means God says to you: “You are special to me. You can’t be substituted, you are unique and irreplaceable because I made you, I knit you together in your mother’s womb.” Think of God’s favor as his eyes sparkling as he looks at you, the way a groom looks at his bride when she walks down the aisle; the way we grandparents look at our grand kids. God looks on you this same way, friends. He initiated a covenant relationship with you. This was unheard of in ANE for any god anywhere to enter into a covenant with people. But God has done precisely that in Jesus as an expression of His favor on us.
- The second key idea embodied in the word “grace” is divine power: Clinton Arnold writes: “Grace is also an ongoing provision from God”. And it is this ongoing help that enables his people to successfully live lives in the kingdom of God as members of God’s new covenant community. It is grace that gives us God’s power to bear virtuous fruit as we see in Gal 5; power to displace evil spirits, to bind these powers and loose those held captive by them; power to understand God’s word; power to grasp God’s incomprehensible love; power to declare the Gospel; power to heal; power to exercise certain Spirit-given gifts for the good of God’s people. All of these enablements or powers are expressions of God’s grace.
- So, the grace given to the Ephesians and to us is comprehensive in scope, it expresses God’s favor toward us, his smile, his delight in us, and it grants to us all the power and help we need to live for Him in our present situation.
- So, Paul pronounces a benediction of grace on the Ephesians. He then blesses them with God’s peace.
- “Peace” translates the Gk. noun Eirene (ir-RAY-nay), which translates the Heb. word, shalom. Shalom is conceptually one of most beautiful words in any human language.
- We usually translate shalom as “peace” (absence of strife), but it is so much more than that. It embodies a whole constellation of ideas: rest, relational harmony (with others, with God, with the whole of creation), inner peace, well-being, happiness, health, joy, salvation. Best modern translation might be “flourishing” or “human thriving”. Shalom means for everything to be as it should be, as God intended it to be.
- Now, our peace with God begins with our justification. This is necessary for anyone to be reconciled relationally and legally to God. Our sins must be paid for; our debt of guilt cancelled. And our deficit of righteousness must be supplied for us. This was all done by our Lord through his live, death and resurrection. Paul teaches in Rom 5:1: “Since then we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- The sacrament of Holy Communion that we observe each week is a celebration of this peace or shalom. In the ANE, two individuals, tribes or nations formerly at odds with each other would, once peace was established, make a covenant where they would pledge their loyalty to each other. They would seal the covenant with a meal. This is one of the many beautiful meanings of the Eucharist.
- Shalom is a foretaste of heaven. It captures in a word what we will experience in the life to come: the joy, rest and thrill of living on a recreated earth, surrounded by loved ones and glorious spiritual beings, in uninterrupted communion with the Father and the Son in the Spirit. Shalom is what Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would give us as the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6). Zechariah predicted Jesus would “speak peace to the nations” (Zech 9:9-10). And the angels announced to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14).
- No wonder “Shalom” became the go-to Semitic greeting. Even to this day, Jews greet each other with “Shalom”, which is a way of saying “May you flourish, my friend, in everyway”. The Apostle John expressed this beautifully in 3 Jn 2 when he wrote: “My beloved friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” That’s shalom.
- And that’s what we want for people, isn’t it? For our family, our friends, even our enemies. We want them to get right with God, to change inside and out, to experience God’s blessing, become authentically human and to thrive. See, to love our enemies is in essence to wish them God’s shalom.
- Grace and peace. Notice the order: Grace precedes peace. This is cause and effect: God’s favor leads invariably to human flourishing. Without God’s favor, there is no thriving.
- A great OT summary of grace and peace in the OT is found in the birkat kohannim, the priestly blessing of Num 6:24-26:
– Yahweh bless you and keep you;
– Yahweh make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you (to make one’s face shine is to smile; there’s grace);
– Yahweh lift up his face upon you and give you shalom. (there’s peace)”
- And who makes this grace and shalom possible? Two persons are named by Paul in this letter: “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We’ll end with this observation.
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
- Notice Paul writes: “OUR Father”, our shared Father, the Father we share with Jesus and each other, making all of us brothers and sisters to Christ and one another. As Jesus modeled and Paul taught us: God the Father is our Abba, this wonderful Aramaic term of honor and endearment.
- But it’s not the Father alone that is the source of the grace and peace. Paul adds, and the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, grace and peace are things shared between two persons. Grace and peace characterize the eternal Father-Son relationship. They are constantly showing one another favor, constantly deferring to the other, smiling on the other, loving the other.
- And, incredibly, it is into this eternally shared, infinitely full grace and peace that the Father and Son have invited us to be a part.
SLIDE 16-black blank
- As we wrap up today, let’s revisit the question I asked at the outset: who are you? Hopefully now, the answer is clear.
- You are a holy one, made that way by God, who qualified you to share his eternal presence forever on a renewed earth.
- You are a trusting one, having been given the gift of faith in God the Son, our Savior.
- You are one who is in Christ Jesus, intimately joined to him in covenant relationship and spiritual union, in the closest possible way.
- You are a “favored one” through God’s grace: smiled upon and rejoiced over, lavished with love and imbued with God’s power and help.
- And you are You are the beneficiary of God’s rich, multifaceted shalom: infinitely blessed with his goodness, rest, joy and thriving, imperfectly experienced in this life, but fully experienced in the life to come.
- This is who you are, my friend. And this is who I am. Now, let’s help each other to live that way. Amen?
- Let’s pray
Quick reminders – Tom
- Community group meets Tuesday night at 7pm
- “Take out and dine in” this Wednesday at 6pm: sign up online
- Can give online or by sending in a check SLIDE 17-Giving
- Next week, bring bible, bread and grape juice/wine for communion
Benediction – Craig