1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Though I am always tempted to rush past these first two verses of Ephesians, the Lord has used them to teach me to look for deep lessons in unexpected places. I would have never guessed that I could learn as much as I have from the opening of a letter. And yet, there are two very important lessons for me in Paul’s opening greeting to the Ephesians:
In every role the Father has for us:
- He establishes us
- He equips us
He Establishes Us
If you’re really honest with yourself, do you sometimes wish for a different life? In the frenzied frustration of work, kids, errands, home, marriage, ministry – all at the same time – do you sometimes question the roles that God has ordained for you? Are you single, but wish to be married? Married, but wish to be single? Parent of one? Parent of many? Parent of none? Do you work full-time, part-time or no-time? Are you unemployed, under-employed, or over-employed? Do you quietly question whether God really meant for you to be in the place where you find yourself now?
In this opening verse of Ephesians 1, Paul proclaims that he (Paul) is an apostle, by the will of God. Well, if Paul’s role as an apostle was established by the will of God, aren’t my life’s roles also established by the will of God? Yes – I believe so.
By the will of God, I am a wife.
By the will of God, I am a mother to five children.
By the will of God, I am a worship leader.
By the will of God, I am a project manager.
Does knowing God has established me in these roles change the way I approach both the challenges and the triumphs I face in them? YES! In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus tells us God’s will on earth is the same perfect will with which He rules in heaven, and so therefore, we should pray: “Your will be done.” God’s will on earth does not contain mistakes. His will on earth is not Plan B. God’s will on earth is as it is in heaven – it is perfect.
Therefore, while there may be difficult, complicated, confusing, painful, gut-clenching-heart-breaking circumstances to face as I do life, work and ministry in each of my roles, I am confident that by God’s perfect will, He has established me in each one “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
He Equips Us
But as is God’s loving way, He does not establish us in these roles and then leave us to fend for ourselves. In verse 2, God assures us that He equips us with all we need in order to function in the roles where He has established us. It is so simple, I almost missed it.
I’ve often wondered why Paul starts so many (all?) of his letters out this way: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why? Why does Paul repeat this phrase over and over? Because Paul knew he had received grace from God, so he had peace with God. And Paul knew that the recipients his letters (including us!) also need grace from God in order to have peace with God. And likewise, these are the two provisions we need to operate in the roles where God has established us:
Grace from God. And Peace with God.
Let me share about those one at a time, but in reverse order.
Peace with God is fairly straightforward. God is holy and we are not – we have a sinful nature. This nature (our “natural-born self”), left unchanged, separates us from God – for now and for eternity.
But, not only is God holy, He is just – He requires “justice.” So, in order to be brought into a “right” relationship so that we can know God now and for eternity, He requires “justice” for our sin: a sacrificial payment – an “atonement” (Romans 3:25-26).
Again, however, being sinful in nature, no sacrificial payment we could ever provide would be “good enough” to make ourselves holy in God’s sight. Even our sacrifices are insufficient to meet the requirement equal to God’s righteousness.
So, God provided a perfect sacrifice for us. He sent His beloved son, Jesus, to earth – causing Him to be born as a baby, live as a man, die as a perfect sacrifice for all of the sin of all of humanity, and then be raised again on the third day to reign for all eternity as King. And God promises, that for those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, and King, they will have peace with Him as His children – now and forever (John 1:12).
By providing the way for us to be restored into “right” relationship with Himself, God equips us (by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection) with what we need to have peace with Him.
But, what about grace?
John MacArthur, in his article “What is Grace?” defines grace in three short words: “God’s unmerited favor.” And not just His “unmerited favor,” but, MacArthur writes, “favor bestowed on sinners who deserve wrath.” In fact, as Christians, we stand in grace – we remain in His grace (Romans 5:2). Grace is not once and done. We deserve punishment and death and yet, God continues to show us His favor instead.
Here are just a few examples from Scripture:
- We are saved by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8)
- We are strengthened by God’s grace (Hebrews 13:9)
- We learn by God’s grace (2 Peter 3:18)
- We live “upright and godly lives” by God’s grace (Titus 2:11-12)
So, follow me here:
By God’s grace, by his unmerited favor, I have peace with God. And because I have peace with God, by His grace, I am able to be strengthened, to learn, and to live rightly in the roles in which He has established me.
Paul writes extensively to the Ephesians about grace, so this is surely not the last time I will share what the Lord is teaching me about grace. But here, in just these first two verses of Chapter 1 that I’m always tempted to breeze past, I receive tremendous assurance that God has indeed established me in my life’s roles and He has equipped me with what I need to live, learn and be strengthened there: grace and peace.
Think About It:
- By the will of God, what are your roles?
- How does knowing God has established you by His will in your life’s roles impact the way you receive the rewards and the challenges of those roles?
- How have you seen God show His grace to you?
- Do you have peace with God?
- Being equipped in grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, how will you approach the roles where God has established you today?