Paul, and apostle of Jesus Christ through God’s will. To the saints: the residents in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul uses three terms to denote the recipants of his letter: saints, residents, and faithful. I found it very difficult to determine the exact relationship between these three denotations, and I found that most translations simply skipped the second (residents). But I feel that this misses the relationship between being ‘in Ephesus’ and ‘in Christ Jesus’ which is a bit more obvious in the Greek, and I wanted to tease this out.
Though the purpose of this text is to say hi essentially, Paul always likes to squeeze in a little theological teaser into the salutation. In this case, I would say that it is the introduction to the concept of being ‘in Christ’ which we will hear a lot about throughout the book. If we take the concept of being in Ephesus and believing in Christ Jesus as an intentional contrast, we get a sense of the ecclesiastical dominance of the image of Christ.
The word ‘resident’ in the Greek is literally ‘being’, which doesn’t really mean the same thing in English since this word can also mean ‘a belonging’ or ‘a resident’: connotations which our word ‘being’ doesn’t have. By ‘the beings in Ephesus’ it means the ones who are physically present in Ephesus. This is compared to the phrase ‘the believers in Christ Jesus’ or those who are faithfully present in Christ. Now, how is one faithfully present in Christ?
This reminds us that in Scripture, there is a sense where the church is an extention of Christ Himself. Throughout Hebraic thought, there is a sense where the found of the people is the people, and the people is an extention of the person. We see this in how the OT relates the Israel the nation to Israel the person, or Edom to Esau like the famous Malachi text: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-5). The same is true here. In the same way that those in Ephesus belonged to Ephesus, so do we belong to Christ, and exist within Him as His people.
This union of Christ and His people is strong, and as such, if you reject His people, you are rejecting Him, and visa versa. Now we all know that sometimes the church isn’t as faithful to Christ as Christ is to them. Nor is the church as faithful to each other as they should be.
But the book of Ephesians calls us out on this very reality anyway, and Paul introduces us to the concept of the Church being Christ off the bat to establish a theological foundation for church harmony, grace, and peace. Are we being faith to the church which is Christ? Or are we only as faithful to the church as the humans within it are faithful to us? If we remember that Christ is the church, then we do not judge the church’s worth purely on its membership, but also by its head, and we treat the church in a higher form than it leaves for we see the spiritual reality of the church which is beyond our perceptions.
Therefore, this week, and especially tommorrow, I call you to love the church, and be devoted to it. Love the church as you love Christ, for through such love, you’ll recieve the love of Christ in return.
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