I am starting a new sermon series that I am truly excited about it. It is nothing trendy, no catchy titles, just a straight forward walk through the book of Ephesians. I am really looking forward to this journey as I have never preached straight through this fantastic little book. Looking back over all my years of ministry I am not sure why I haven’t, because it is awesome book. That means I am starting from scratch in my studies and it has already been exhilarating! Martin Lloyd Jones preached 232 systematic expositional sermons on this book . . . the majority on Sunday mornings. My plan at this point is to be through by August.
I am also excited about this because Ephesians is full of rich, gospel saturated doctrine that everyone needs to know. Martin Lloyd Jones wrote “Much of the trouble in the church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric . . . Having forgotten God, and having become so interested in ourselves, we become miserable and wretched, and spend our time in “shallows and in miseries”. The message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to God, to humble us before God, and to enable us to see our true relationship to him . . . And that is the great theme of this epistle”
John R. Stott quotes Alexander Mackay who as a teenager was converted when he read Ephesians, when he wrote “This letter is pure music . . . What we read here is truth that sings, doctrine set to music. As the apostle proclaimed God’s order to a post-Augustan Roman era which was marked by a ‘process of social disintegration”, so Ephesians is today ‘the most contemporary book in the Bible’, since it promises community in world of disunity, reconciliation in a place of alienation and peace instead of war”
As is common to Paul, he opens this letter with a greeting or salutation. Every culture has some form of greeting and unfortunately every culture’s greeting can become a meaningless polite gesture. For example in North America it is common to greet someone with the question “How are you doing?” Most of the time the question simply rolls off our lips with little thought. Even more significant is our insincerity as much of the time we don’t really care how that person is doing, nor have the time to listen if they want to give a detail description of what hard or difficult struggle they may be going through. Unfortunately, we also read Paul’s greetings in the same way and miss a powerful reminder from God Himself.
Paul’s greeting in Ephesians 1:2 reads, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Grace and peace are key words throughout this letter. This is far more than a greeting as it is a powerful reminder of the gospel. We all need to be regularly reminded that grace always describes a gift that no one can obtain for themselves; one that they did not earn nor deserve. It is God’s free saving initiative from beginning to end! It is by grace that we have been saved and it is by grace that we overcome the power of sin.
Peace flows out from grace and points to the reconciliation of God to the sinner. This peace is not simply the absence of distress, and really is not depent on outward circumstances. Rather it is a peace with the God of all creation. He is not angry with us, and we can boldly approach His thrown of grace. John Stott summarizes it this way,
“In 6:15 the good news is termed ‘the gospel of peace’. In 2:14 it’s written that Jesus Christ himself ‘is our peace’, for first he ‘made peace’ by his cross (v.15) and then he ‘came and preached peace” to Jews and Gentiles alike (v.17). Hence his people are to be ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (4:3). ‘Grace’, on the other hand indicates both why and how God has taken his reconciliation initiative. For ‘grace’ is his free and undeserved mercy. It is ‘by grace’ that we are saved, indeed by ‘the immeasurable riches of his grace’ (2:5, 7, 8), and it is by the same grace that we are gifted for his service (4:7).
Now that is Good News!