In this sermon Tim Giovanelli kicks off our Ephesians series by introducing the letter of Ephesians, Paul and the grace & peace Paul received and gives as a welcome in the opening verses! This is a great way to start our series and understand the context and amazing story behind this letter!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday February 7 2021.
So, we are kicking off this new series in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.
- Going to go through the letter over quite a few weeks, but you can follow along the big picture of
this letter with the handout.
- The idea is that you can place what we are talking about in the context of the overall letter. So why
not circle each week where we are up to… and take notes…
- And Ephesians, you will see, is basically written in two parts.
- First there is chapters 1-3 where Paul reminds the church of Ephesus of the good news of the
- Eph 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved.”
- And then there is chapters 4-6 which basically describes how we are to live in response to the good
- Eph 4:1 “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
- So… Ephesians is something like… knowing the story that changes our story!
So we start with the first 2 verse today – Ephesians 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ
Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(just show where we are on the handout and slide)
So I want us to think about 3 things today
- Who were the Ephesians?
- Who was this Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus?
- And what did he mean by greeting them with grace and peace? (PAUSE)
In the same way that we long to visit the great cities of the world like New York or London or Tokyo
- Ephesus was one of the leading cities of the ancient world.
- Found where modern day Turkey sits.
- 3 kilometres inland from the Mediterranean Sea, it had a population of around 250,000 people.
- It has been described as the first and greatest metropolis of Asia Minor… competing with Rome
- And as it linked East and West, it contained people from all over the world.
- It was a mixing pot of religions and philosophies with a 24,000 person capacity amphitheatre.
But most striking to ancient visitors though would have been the temple for worship of the goddess
Artemis (or Diana as the Greeks called her).
- She was the goddess of fertility, and her temple was larger than any modern day stadium.
- And in its centre was a statue of Artemis, who was depicted as a woman with many breasts. There
you go… never thought I would say that word in church!
- And Artemis was also a goddess of power and the city was obsessed with demons and magical
practices and spiritual power.
- So the temple was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.
- And the city and life in Ephesus revolved around this temple and worship.
And interestingly, it also was the regional centre for the Imperial Cult of Rome.
- When Augustus became Emperor in 27 BC, he enforced worship of Caesar as God.
- And so another temple was built dedicated to Caesar Augustus… who called himself “the Son of
God”. He was Lord.
- And this was the glue that held together the Roman empire.
- And Augustus imposed order and unity upon the world. Indeed the calendar was changed, to start
from the beginning of his birthday.
But… starting in 52 AD… 52 years after the birth of Christ, 20 years after his death and resurrection, the
city began to change!
- Mired in superstition, competing philosophies, Imperial cult worship and idolatry
- Good news began to spread about a crucified saviour named Jesus, risen from the dead.
- And an Apostle, which simply means ‘sent one’ began preaching about undeserved grace and favour
and love that had come from the Jewish God to all humankind!
- And through this man Paul, people came to faith in Christ and came to a new understanding of the
- And so to us, who come to confess Jesus as Lord, as opposed to every other throne, philosophy and
- Things began to radically change.
So who is this Paul?
Paul is the name given to him after his conversion.
- But originally he was named after the first King of Israel… Saul, and importantly for his subsequent
arrest and trial, he was a citizen of Rome by birth
- Which among other things in the ancient world, entitled him to a fair trial.
- Saul was born in Tarsus – modern day Turkey. A university town… centre of learning… Pythagoras
spent time teaching there…
- And he grew up in a multicultural city of 500,000 people. Greeks, Romans, Jews all lived there.
At some point his family moved to Jerusalem.
- And he became a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel who we read about in Acts 5.
- And Gamaliel was the Grandson and successor of Rabbi Hillel – one of Judaism greatest thinkers and
- Saul was an excellent student and rose through the ranks of the scholarly Pharisees.
But here is what is interesting. The Apostle Paul was not initially drawn to the Gospel… indeed he was
horrified by the Gospel – the Christian message.
- Our first encounter with Saul is in Acts 8:1 where we find him giving approval to the horrendous
stoning death of Stephen.
- A saviour who had been crucified… awful.
- Risen from the dead – non sense. He made it his mission in life to stamp it out.
- The next we read of Saul is in Acts 9:1 where we find him still breathing out murderous threats
against Jesus’ followers.
And then one day… one remarkable, history changing day, Saul was on his way to Damascus to arrest the
early Christians and take them back to Jerusalem to be punished.
- On his way, around noon… a light from heaven, we are told, flashed around him.
- Doctor Luke tells the story In Acts 9.
- And Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
- He responds “who are you Lord.”
- And the voice says “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
- And Saul was changed forever… he took on the Greek version of his name Paul.
- But more importantly he is filled with the Holy Spirit, is baptised and immediately begins to preach
(Acts 9:20) that Jesus is the Son of God.
Just stop with me for a second and consider this. Because I see it as one of the greatest reasons for the
truth of the Christian faith.
- In that Damascus encounter, Saul, the murderous persecutor of Christians discovered grace.
- He hated Jesus. He hated those who followed Jesus.
- He was out to erase the name of Jesus from history…
- And yet… Jesus chose to love and reveal himself to Paul and use him to establish his church.
Paul discovers that Jesus is alive and risen. That he is merciful and kind.
- Paul discovers that Jesus is not awful, not non-sense… he is actually Lord.
- Indeed those were his first words in Acts 9 “Who are you, Lord.”
- Paul knew the meaning of that word Lord… in Greek “Kurios”… it was his people’s way of speaking
of their God.
- It was the way citizens of the Roman empire referred to their Emperor Caesar.
- Paul confessed, “Jesus is Kurios”… he is God, he is King.
And stop and think about this. The murderous, persecutor of the early church would pray this in
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy
people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that
surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
- He prays for the Ephesians that they would experience God’s love in Christ…
- Like he had! (Pause)
So Paul lived and served in Ephesus on 2 occasions…
- The one who in Acts 9:15 gets described by God as “my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to
- He goes to Ephesus. To spread the news that Jesus is alive and merciful
- Firstly a short trip in 52 AD which we read about in Acts 18
- And then in 53-56 AD for over 2 years which we read about In Acts 19 (top of handout).
First he taught and dialogues in the synagogue in Ephesus. Some Jewish people come to faith in Jesus
but he also comes up against hardened hearts.
- So Paul moves to the lecture hall of Tyrannus where he met and taught with people for 2 years in
person in the school.
- We are told in Acts 19 that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the Provence of Asia heard the word
of the Lord. All!
- And there is this great line in Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.”
- Imagine that! Imagine being there…
- Paul, the persecutor who had encountered the risen Jesus, now preaching the truth of the gospel
and authenticating its power with miracles.
So, many were won to the message of Paul and the good news of the gospel.
- And in Acts 19 as a sign of that – people broke with the city’s obsession with power and magic and
- Because the gospel always frees people from oppression and lies…
- We read people burnt their scrolls in the public square…
- This then leads to a riot led by the artisans who made silver shrines of Artemis, the city’s goddess.
- Jesus isn’t always good for business…
- Paul says the city was thrown into confusion… people are dragged out… but fortunately cooler
heads prevail and the rioting crowd is dispersed.
So Paul then leaves Ephesus, and 2 years later ends up in jail where he lives as a prisoner for 5 years…
- First in Caesarea… then after a harrowing sea journey to Rome where he is entitled to a trial as a
- And in 62 AD from prison, in Rome, Paul writes this letter to the church in Ephesus…
- Ephesians 3:1 “For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.”
- And that (my friends) is the story of how we came to have the letter to the Ephesians.
So finally today, back to those first 2 verses…
Hopefully we now know a bit about Ephesus, a bit about Paul… but what did he impart to them?
- What did he want them to know and receive?
- Well Paul, the transformed, sent one, from Jesus Christ greets them;
- Vs 1-2 “To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ, Grace and peace to you from God our
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So just to finish I want to conclude with that greeting, that impartation to the Ephesian church of grace
Paul reminds them what they have been given by God… grace and peace.
- In Christ, God’s people have been given grace and peace.
- Grace is the Greek word “Karis”… which we get words like Charity in English language. Means
unmerited favour… undeserved love. It is a gift.
- And then he imparts or greets them with Peace… it’s the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word…
shalom… it means wholeness and harmony and completeness.
- We are the recipients of unmerited favour and wholeness in Christ, grace and peace!
They say you cant impart of give away what you do not possess yourself?
- I could greet you with “riches and good looks…” but it wouldn’t mean much!
- Paul knows grace. Paul knows peace.
- He is simply giving to them, what he has received when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.
One of the most grace and joy and peace filled men I have ever met passed away from Covid 2 weeks
ago in Malawi.
- Hi name was Stephens Lungu and I had the privilege of meeting him and hearing him speak in
Australia, South Africa and Kenya.
- He radiated joy and grace and peace like no one else I have ever met.
- Stephen’s mum abandoned him as a young child in a public toilet as a child and he grew up in gangs
on the streets of Zimbabwe.
- He grew up full of hate, stealing, killing and intimidating to survive.
- One day his gang walked past a Christian meeting happening in a tent and they decided to blow it
up and shoot the fleeing victims.
- But he decided to go in and listen to the preacher for a few minutes to mock what he heard.
But Stephen would recall… never give God even 2 minutes…
- Because he heard about a crucified saviour who loved the least and most broken people…
- That night changed his life and he became a follower of Jesus.
- Now obviously it is a much bigger story and you can read it in his biography ‘Out of the Black
- But Stephen went on to be totally transformed from hate to love… not unlike the Apostle Paul.
- And he preached to millions of people over his life all around the world telling his story.
One more thing… many years later… Stephen was preaching at a major meeting when afterwards a small
older lady came up to him.
- She came to him and said, from what you have said, I think I might be your mother.
- They were reconciled and amazingly she came to live with Stephen and his wife until she passed
You see God is still in the business of giving away grace and peace to the most unlikely candidates.
- He gave it to Saul… he gave it Stephen, he gave it to me.
- And as we will discover in Ephesians, it is the story that changes everything about our story.
- It did in Ephesus, it can for you!
- As I finish I’d ask you, have you experienced grace and do you have peace?
- If not, Alpha is a great place to explore the possibility that there is a God who wants to give these
things to you.
- And I’d love you to join us this Wednesday night at 7pm here at church.