Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Called by the Will of God (Ephesians 1:1)

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 1:1, NASB95)

Ephesians is one of thirteen recorded letters canonized into our Bible which were written by Paul, and its authorship is proclaimed right from the get go. The very first word of the letter is “Paul” making that claim, and there is no reason to doubt him as the author. Paul was not like the other apostles. He was not personally called by Jesus to walk with Him during His years of ministry and preparation. He was not one of those that Jesus prayed in front of on that last night as being given to Him by the Father with none of them being lost other than the one given to betray Him. He was not a believer when Jesus died. Rather, Paul came later after Jesus’ resurrection. But Scripture records for us nonetheless that Paul was indeed called and set apart by Jesus Himself for ministry and used by God in an incredible way to record much of our New Testament as he was sent to bring the good news of salvation in Christ to the Gentile world.

In Acts chapter 1, while waiting on the Spirit to come, the disciples took upon themselves to appoint another to replace Judas. In considering who would be a viable candidate they laid out these criteria, “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1:21–22, NASB95) And using this as their guidance they prayed and then drew lots with the lot falling on Matthias (Acts 1:26) who was then added to the eleven. This is the last we then hear of Matthias. But as we move through the book of Acts we soon read that God had prepared and was drawing to Himself another. This other person was aware of Jesus, and in fact was one of His greatest foes after His death. It was the man named Saul who first appeared at the stoning of Stephen and was so zealous for persecuting followers of The Way that he sought special permission to arrest them and bring them back for trial. In Acts chapter 8 we read of him, “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3, NASB95) And then in chapter 9 we read, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1–2, NASB95)

It was while on that road we continue to read, “As he [Saul] was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:3–9, NASB95)

Saul did as he was instructed, and he waited. In the meantime the Lord spoke to another individual (Ananias) and told him to “rise and go.” But Ananias knew Saul’s reputation and he questioned the Lord for sending him to one such as Saul. The Lord replied to Ananias saying, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15–16, NASB95)

Later, Paul would say of himself, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8, NASB95)

Ephesians begins with the words, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God….” Jesus appeared to Saul [Paul] and personally stopped him in his tracks. Jesus spoke to Ananias and told him to go to Saul who was waiting because “he [Saul/Paul] was a chosen instrument of Mine [Christ]” who was called with a purpose. As Paul begins this letter to these believers he established this unshakable truth that he indeed was who he was doing what he was doing not because of his own discovery of a better way, but because God had a plan for him and He revealed it to him so that he might walk in it. And it is with this confidence that Paul would write in various words in his letters that same instruction to each of us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)

Knowing this vital truth that God initiated the work in Him, Paul also knew that he was then expected to respond in obedience and faithfully live by the power which comes from Christ. One commentator wrote of this system of reciprocity, “…in the divine-human relationship God always has the initiative, humans always respond.” He later went on, “Further, when humans respond rightly, it is only because God has enabled them to do so” (Colossians and Ephesians by Charles H. Talbert, 2007, p. 24). Paul wrote in verse 1 of chapter 4 of this same letter,

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:1–7, NASB95) 

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