Study in the Book of Ephesians
What Does It Mean To Be a Saint?
By Stacy R. Wood, Jr.
What is a Saint?
The Lord continues to speak to us through Paul's letter to Ephesus. The result of teaching from this epistle in a seminar setting is always very rewarding. Recently, someone asked if we had any of the teaching from Ephesians available in writing. Recognizing the need for greater insight into this apostolic writing, we decided to publish these lessons. This is the first study in a series we have written on the book of Ephesians.
How Does the Book of Romans Compare to the Book of Ephesians? The book of Romans complements the book of Ephesians. Paul's letter to Rome is in fact foundational to understanding his writing to Ephesus. Both set forth-doctrinal principles as a guideline for the believer. The writing to the Romans concerns the knowledge of humanity and how they are justified. The writing to the Ephesians concerns the knowledge of God and what He has done, in blessing, for those whom He has justified. Romans establishes the position of the sinner as, dead, buried and risen with Christ Jesus (Chapters 5-6). The epistle to the Ephesians takes us a step further. It teaches that in God's sight and purpose the believer is now seated in Christ in the heavenlies. (Eph. 2:6). The book of Romans ends with a reference to the unveiling of the mystery (Rom. 16:25). Ephesians takes up that subject to unfold the great mystery to us (Eph. 3:4-5, 5:32). The doctrinal portion of Paul's letter to Rome ends with the eighth chapter. It is this chapter, which contains the foundation upon which to build the truth contained in Ephesians.
A study in Ephesians will help to fortify and to establish the believer so he can fulfill his purpose and calling in God. The aim of this epistle is to confirm and to equip a maturing church. It presents a balanced view of the body of Christ and its importance in God's economy. Furthermore, the book of Ephesians verifies God's ongoing intention for the whole creation.
What is the structure of the book of Ephesians as a whole? Doctrine occupies the greatest portion of Ephesians. Half the teaching in this epistle relates to our standing, and the remainder of it effects our condition. All too often those who teach from this book bypass all the foundational instruction and go directly to the closing chapter. It is this chapter that emphasizes the warfare or the struggle of the saints. However, to benefit fully from the contents of this epistle's one must begin at the beginning of Paul's instruction in this letter. First, the follower of Christ must fully understand who God declares him to be. He must also become grounded in the knowledge of God's accomplishment for all humanity. Next, our present existence and walk must become exercised and strengthened. This must continue until we no longer totter or stagger back and forth with every spirit of teaching and subtlety of men. Who in their right mind would consider sending a newborn child to the battlefield before it gained self-confidence or could walk and run with stability?
This writing breaks down into three main segments. (1) Chapters one through three introduce principles with respect to God's accomplishment. (2) Chapters four and five put forth principles regarding our present existence. (3) Chapter six presents principles concerning our daily struggle.
Each of the above primary segments breaks down into three more subsections. The first section with respect to God's accomplishment for Humanity includes (1) The achievement of God in the Personal Christ; (2) the objective of God in the sinful human race; (3) the purpose of God in the Mystical Christ. The second segment regarding our present existence and walk deals with (1) The believer's walk within the Church; (2) The believer's walk within the world; (3) The domestic walk of the believer. Division three with respect to our daily struggle teaches us to (1) Trust in the Lord's ability; (2) Stand with a comprehension of the Adversary's strategy; (3) Stand to resist the evil day.
What Is the Scope of the Book?
The opening words of Ephesians give us insight into the primary focus and extent of this writing. Unmistakably the scope of the book is heavenly. This epistle shows that God seated Christ Jesus in the heavenly realm. (Eph. 1:20). It further reveals that He blesses and seats us with Christ in the same heavenly domain. (Eph. 1:3, 2:6). It also reveals that through the Church God presently makes His manifold wisdom known to the principalities and authorities of the heavenly sphere. (Eph. 3:10). Finally, the believer stands daily in a struggle against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly domain (6:12).
What sacred secret does the apostle Paul unfold in the book of Ephesians? John Chrysostom [AD 347 - 407] wrote concerning the teachings in this epistle. He said, "The lofty thoughts and doctrines found in this writing are things which he (Paul) scarcely anywhere else utters, yet here he expounds." In the book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul begins to expound the revelation of the mystery he received from the Lord. Paul shares many thoughts in this epistle that he has not elaborated previously in his other writings.
It is in this writing Paul refers to "the mystery of God's will." (Eph. 1:9). He also writes concerning "the great mystery of Christ and the church." (Eph. 3:4, 5:32). Moreover, he refers to "the mystery of the gospel." (Eph. 6:19). God kept the sacred secret of His age enduring intention hidden from generations throughout the ages. Now in this epistle the Apostle Paul explains the great mystery of God's aeonian purpose. That is, God summons individual sinners from both the Jews and the Gentiles. (Eph. 3:3-5). He calls into His objective those who have a precise knowledge His covenant. He also summons those who live without knowledge of their involvement in the covenant. Through the blood of Christ, God broke down the wall of division caused by dogmatic commandments. Moreover, Jesus Christ brought the two factions together into one body through the cross. (Eph. 2:11-18).
It is in this epistle that Paul introduces Christ personal as the Head of the Church and Christ mystical as the body. That is, those whom God calls He also forms into "the Church, which is the body of Christ." (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23). This glorified church becomes the object lesson of God's intention. For through it God will express His aeonian purpose to all creation. Think about it! God is unfolding His infinitely diversified wisdom through the Church. (Eph. 3:10-11).
Paul intended all those that long for Christ like maturity to receive this writing. (Eph. 1:23; 3:19; 4:12-13; 5:25-27; 6:13). Enclosed within its pages is the discipline needed to develop true sons of God. Furthermore, God destined Christ Mystical to become so united with Christ Personal that discord cannot exist between any individual member of this glorified body. (Eph. 4:13-16, John 17:21-23, 1 Cor. 1:10). This bond of unity will enable them to comprehend the love of God, which is beyond knowledge. (Eph. 3:16-19). Moreover, their vision will no longer blur with double mindedness. (James 1:8). For these will perceive with singleness of the eye, the one new humanity. (Eph. 2:15). Exposing the scared secret of God's will, Paul says, "God purposed in the economy of the fullness of time is to head all up IN Christ." (Eph. 1:9-10, 23, Gal 4:4). This fullness of Christ is the means through which God has determined to bring His plan of the ages to completion. (Eph. 1:22-23).
What does the salutation reveal about the writing of this epistle? No doubt the Apostle Paul was the author of this epistle. He wrote it during his first imprisonment in Rome (61-63 AD). This is why most teachers call it one of the "Prison Epistles." The other letters written at this time include Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and possibly another, not now extant. (Col. 4:16). Bishop Lighfoot felt Paul wrote this letter after the writing to the Philippians. This would date the epistle near the end of AD 62. That is, approximately twenty-five years after Paul's conversion. It also shows us the Apostle Paul wrote Ephesians after his life and ministry came to maturity. Such awareness has caused some to call these writings "The Perfection or Maturity Epistles."
What is it that makes this epistle different from Paul's other writings? This writing differs considerably from Paul's other epistles. First, he has addressed it differently than his other writings. Next, it does not contain any of the usual personal greetings. Moreover, this letter does not deal with particular problems or news as most of his writings do.
In the oldest manuscripts the words "in Ephesus" do not appear. This causes it to look as though Paul left it open so someone else could fill it in later. Some believe Paul wrote this as a general epistle so it could circulate among all the churches in Asia Minor. Ephesus itself was the most important of these churches in what we now know as western Turkey. Copies of this letter have been found addressed to Thessalonica, Laodicea, and Ephesus.
Where is the personal greeting and awareness normally in Paul's writings? To establish Paul wrote this epistle to the universal church let us look at the internal evidence. The book of Acts acquaints us with Paul's ministry in Ephesus. He lived and labored in the city for many years. (Acts 19:1-20, 20:31). It seems strange he would write to a church where he had been involved in the ministry and had many friends but gave no personal greeting to anyone. Consequently, the absence of the personal greeting suggests he wrote this letter to circulate among several churches.
The absence of personal awareness of both Paul and the believers also leads us to believe it is an open letter to the Church. Paul writes, " . . . I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints." (1:15). Again he says, " . . . you heard of the dispensing of the grace of God, which God gave me toward you . . . " (3:2). Considering Paul's involvement with the Church of Ephesus it seems odd he needed someone to tell him of their faith and love. Furthermore, the indication is that someone else informed the believers he was writing also of the dispensing of God's grace given to him for them.
We believe the absence of the personal greetings and awareness, coupled with the open address, establish this epistle as a general letter to the Church. Paul most likely let the address remain open for a scribe to fill-in as he copied it for distribution. This makes the book of Ephesians personal and fresh to the Church in every generation. It is just as viable for the Church today as it was in Paul's day. Furthermore, because of the open address this letter can be personally filled-in to the Church in any geographical location. Therefore, let us substitute Ephesus with the name of your own city. This makes it a personal writing to the maturing church in your own locality.
What distinctions did Paul make when he addressed this epistle? It makes no difference what area receives this Epistle the specifications are always the same. Paul intended the saints, even those who are the faithful in Christ Jesus to become its recipients. Anyone who wants can read this letter. The message contained within its pages is valuable to all that study it. However, to comprehend spiritually and to benefit from the depth of this epistle one must be a saint even a faithful one in Christ Jesus.
The apostle Peter said, "Our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him. His epistles contain some things, which are difficult to understand. Those who are unlearned and unstable strain and twist these things to their own destruction, as they also do the other scriptures. Therefore, beloved, seeing you know this before hand, be on guard so you do not become led away with the error of the lawless and fall from steadfastness. However, grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:12-18).
What qualifies a person to be called a saint? The English word "saint(s)" always comes from the Greek word "hagios." Notice that the translators rendered this word "saint(s)" sixty-two times and "holy" one hundred and fifty-seven times.
Vine's Expository Dictionary says, "hagios, fundamentally signifies separated. Among the Greeks it meant dedicated to the gods. Therefore, in the Scripture in its moral and spiritual significance it means, separated from sin, and consequently consecrated to God."
Paul intended this epistle to bring a sanctified, sacred, and venerated people to maturity. His focus was upon those whom God separated, consecrated, and dedicated to Himself before the disruption of the cosmos. Therefore, the principal greeting in this writing is to God's holy ones who show themselves faithful in Christ Jesus.
What is the basis for considering a believer as being holy? The sainthood to which Paul directs this epistle is not the outcome of human attainment. Neither is it an appointment by the hierarchy of Babylon after someone's death. No one ever became a saint through his or her own efforts. Instead, sainthood is the state of being into which God calls people by grace. The call of God and His grace operates according to the determination of His own desires. (Eph. 1:11). God fully bases our sanctification on the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even when we make the correct choices, it has not been our own doing. It is God who makes active within us the ability to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13). It is because of this that no one can boast in his or her own achievement. That is why the Scripture says, "He who boasts, let him boast in the Lord." (Jer. 9:23; 1 Cor. 1:29-31; Eph. 1:4).
Other scriptural terminology's that refer to God's chosen ones as holy are "holy temple," "holy priesthood," and "holy nation." The last two can be found in the writings of the Apostle Peter. Concerning believers Peter said, "You, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 2:5). Again regarding believers he said, "You are a chosen generation, a kingdom of priests, an holy nation, a people purchased for God's own possession; that you should show forth the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Pet. 2:9).
What does it mean to become the temple of the living God? What truly is the value of becoming the dwelling place of God in the Spirit? What is the significance of Christ dwelling in man, as the expectation of glory? Let us briefly look into the thoughts contained in being a "holy temple." (Eph. 2:21, 1 Cor. 3:17). Gaining a better understanding of this Eastern thought should help us comprehend more fully our holy standing before the Lord. (Eph. 1:4).
The Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah concerning the building of God's house. He said, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where then is a house you could build for me? Where is the place I may rest?" (Isa. 66:1-2). God questions mankind's ability to build a house suitable for Him in this passage. However, many still look with great expectation for the reconstruction of a man made temple in Jerusalem. Some believe this will become "the temple of God," in which "the Antichrist" will seat himself. (2 Thes. 2:3-4). Others recognize "The temple of God," as people who are the body of the Lord. However, these often frustrate themselves by attempting to build the Church according to their notions of holiness.
For more than thirty-five years I have personally heard the rumors that have circulated through Christendom concerning this matter. The story, as with most gossip, always claims someone knows somebody who knows someone else who saw the plans and materials for the rebuilding of this temple. To date the building has not begun.
However, if sometime in the future the building of "a temple" or "a great synagogue" takes place in Jerusalem, it will never become the temple of God. Stephen clarified when by the Holy Spirit he interpreted Isaiah's prophecy as having said, "The Most High does not dwell in temples made with human hands." (Acts 7:46-49). The apostle Paul also agreed with this interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy. (Acts 17:24-25).
The prophet Haggai announced, "The glory of the latter house will be greater than the glory of the former." (Hag. 2:9). It is generally accepted the former house the prophet referred to was the temple of Solomon. Without a doubt Solomon's temple was magnificent, even the glory of God's presence manifested within it. Moreover, the Lord Himself called Solomon's temple His dwelling place (1Ki. 8:10-11). However, since the destruction of Solomon's temple God has not placed His approval on any other house formed by human hands. Neither has He so splendidly displayed His glorious presence within a particular earthen temple.
Remember, in the former covenant God used the natural realm to foreshadow the reality of spiritual things (1 Cor. 10:1-22, 13:11-12; Gal. 4:21-31; Heb. 10:1). The latter house Haggai spoke of will not be some building manufactured by humanity. In reality God not only formed, but also chose His own dwelling place long before the disruption of the cosmos. It is in the life of Jesus that we discover the Corner Stone of the temple that contains the greater glory (2:20-22; Joh. 1:14, 2:19-21; Heb. 1:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:3-8).
What constitutes a temple becoming holy? The writing of the Bible took place within the culture and mindset of the East. The customs, way of life, and thinking of the people of Bible Lands often greatly differs from those of the West. Relating to the Scripture through the Western mind often serves to confuse the matter. Thus, considering the mentality of the East to grasp the poignant meaning of the writers of the Scripture is important. Perceiving what the apostles and prophets intended, when they used the phrase "temple of God," is crucial to the believer's understanding and growth in Christ Jesus.
In the mentality of the East the temple of a god is as significant as the god himself. For the temple and the god who inhabits the temple exist as one. Therefore, if the God of the temple is holy then the temple itself is holy. If the God of the temple is living then the temple of the God is also living. The Apostle John showed he clearly understood this principle when he said, "As He (God) is (love) so are we (his temple) in this present world." Peter agreed by quoting the Law, saying, "You shall be holy: because I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2, 1 Pet. 1:15). Paul also revealed this union of God and temple when he wrote; "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit." (1 Cor. 6:17).
We must understand this fusion of God and temple begins the day the Holy Spirit makes His home within our life. Jesus said, "In that day," (when the Holy Spirit comes), "you will know I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you." (Joh. 14:1-20, Rom. 8:8-9). Paul expressed this thought when he wrote to the Church in Colossae. He said, "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (Rom. 8:18-25, Col. 1:26-27, 3:1-8).
This should help us to understand the old covenant temple of natural stones and mortar is not what we are to expect. For God now gathers living stones and building them together He forms His own habitation in the Spirit (2:21-22, 1 Pet. 2:5). The entire creation eagerly anticipates the appearing of the blessed hope within the true and living temple of the Lord. They all earnestly look for the glory of our great Savior God, Christ Jesus shining forth from within our lives (Tit. 2:13). This will take place when He comes "to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them who are believing in that day." (2 Thes. 1:10). This knowledge leaves us to question, "Who can endure the day of His coming?" "Who can stand when He appears?" (Mal. 3:1-3).
In this appearing the Lord comes without hesitation to His temple to become fully united with it. He is like the refiners' fire and fullers' soap. He takes His place upon the throne of our life to deal with us as a smelter and purifier of silver. The intention of God's judgments is to correct whatever is out of line with Himself. First He begins with His house, purging the sons of the royal priesthood. He refines them like gold and silver, so they may present to the Lord an offering in righteousness (Mal. 3:1-3).
Therefore, do not become united with the unfaithful, for what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony has Christ with Belial, which is to say, "Worthlessness?" What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God has said, "I will dwell in them and walk in them. I will be their God, and they will be my people." " Therefore, come out from the midst of unfaithfulness, unrighteousness, lawlessness, darkness, worthlessness, and idolatrous imaginations and be separate." says the Lord. "Do not touch what is unclean, and I will welcome you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me," says the Lord Almighty. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness (or sainthood) in the fear of the Lord." (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
Two states of existence are present in the universe and all humanity fits into one or the other. No fence to straddle and absolutely no middle ground when it comes to mankind's relationship with God. For each of us is either dead to sin or dead in sin. (Eph. 2:1-5; Rom. 6:1-2; Col. 2:20-21; 3:1-5).
Furthermore, if God dwells within us by His Spirit, we are His temple. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to God. (Rom. 8:9, Col. 1:27). One brother puts it this way, "A man is either a saint or an ain't because there is no other classification."
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