Pastor Jacob looks at the first verse in Ephesians. Who wrote it? What can we learn about the Christian's walk based on who wrote it? What does it mean to be an Apostle? Do Apostles still exist today? (Originally given on 12/27/2020)
Greeting - Did everyone have a good Christmas?
Today is Sunday December 27th
Today is the last Sunday of the month which means that the Older Class will be staying upstairs this morning, while the younger kids get to go and watch movies and have snacks.
The first Announcement, is that we need Lynn Ball to come up
17years as Secretary!
Gift from the Church to say thank you for your service
We don’t yet have a start date for the Virtual Bible Study ----- but we will let you know once you do.
Next Sunday is the first Sunday of the month, which means we’ll be taking Communion together;
So make sure to bring your own Bread and Wine
With that, the younger kids, and I guess any adults that would rather have snacks and movies then listen to me, are dismissed.
If you weren't here last week, a little catch up to what we’ll be talking about today, and every Sunday through until the Spring----- because we are going to go verse by verse through the book of Ephesians.
Some Sundays will be a few verses that all go together
Other Sundays will be a whole paragraph that contains one or two ideas in it
And some days, like today, were going to focus on one single verse
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:”
( → → Opening prayer ← ← )
Like we said last week, this is one of Paul’s “Prison Epistles”
He is writing a letter to the Church in Ephesus
However, unlike a letter that would be written today, with the writer identifying themselves at the very end…. back then, they started off, right at the beginning, identifying the writer.
However, he not only tells them his name, but his title, and how he got that title----
An apostle of Jesus Christ ----
By the will of God ----
He isn't just some well known or famous Pastor in some other country ----
He isn't the guy who used to be our Pastor a few years ago, and is just checking up ----
He is an Apostle of Jesus Christ ---- who was appointed to that position, by God Himself.
So that brings up a question then, doesn't it ----
What is an apostle?
And why does being an Apostle mean they have authority?
Those are good questions.
But first----- we need to talk about who Paul is and then we’ll talk about why he is an apostle, what an apostle is, and why they have authority.
The first time we see Paul in the Bible, is in the book of Acts chapter 7, verses 54-58
This is after Jesus has been crucified and raised again, and then ascended into heaven.
The Jews are furious that Jesus followers are worshiping him and teaching about him---
And then the first Christian martyr, Stephen tells them all why Jesus is the Messiah, and that they killed the one their ancestors had been telling them about.
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
That young man, Saul of Tarsus, will soon become Paul.
His name was Saul, he was from the city of Tarsus, but his name is going to change
You see, before Paul was a Christian, before he was an apostle ----- he was a Pharisee.
In his own words in the book of Philippians, he tells us that he was a hebrew of hebrews.
He considered himself faultless in regards to the law---
He was a self righteous, self inflated, law following, holier than thou, pharisee----
In fact, young Jewish boys back then, had as part of their schooling, memorizing the first 5 books of the Old Testament.
He knew the Scriptures ---
He was trained by one of their most revered and respected Rabbis ---
He was smart --- Educated --- Trained --- would have read the Old Testament every day and committed a large portion of it to his memory----
He was a the quintessential Pharisee----
So much so, that those same verses in Philippians, tell us that he persecuted the early Church for the same reasons that the Jews put Jesus to death.
He believed deep within his heart of hearts that what he was doing was honoring God --- by wiping out the Christians
You see, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven -----
His followers became the Church.
They would meet and worship and learn and teach and preach and do all the things that the Church does----
But the Jews were not going to have any part in that ---- so they made a practice of hunting down and killing any followers of Jesus.
It says this in Acts 8:1-3
And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Going from house to house, Saul would hunt down Christians ---- imprison them, or approve of their death.
This is who we are talking about.
He was an enemy of the Church
He hated Christians
He hated Christianity
He hated Jesus
He hated Jesus’ teachings
Something happened ---
There was a change in him ---
Did he simply hear a really good preacher ---- and decide to change his mind?
Did he study the Scriptures that they had (The Old Testament) an extra time more than he already studied them to be considered a pharisee ---- and came to the conclusion that everything he believed was wrong and he needed to raise his hand the next time a preacher asked if he was ready to give his life to Jesus?
What could have happened, to a man like Saul of Tarsus -----
Someone that had large portions of the Bible memorized ----
That tried his absolute hardest to follow every single law that was written ----
That went to synagogue every Saturday ----
What could have changed his heart and his mind about who Jesus Christ was ----
I've heard people today say that us being loving and being kind to one another ---- is all that is needed to convince people of who Jesus is ---
If you just yell Bible verses at them, it will be enough to convince them that Jesus is real---
I've heard that if people just read their Bible over and over and over again ---- then that alone will be enough to convince someone of who Jesus is ---
Maybe ---- right?
I mean --- who knows?
Could those things work? Yeah sure there's a chance----
There's also a chance you won't die if you don't buckle up, but you still buckle up, soooooo
Is that all we tell people who don't already believe in Jesus?
If you just go to Church --- If you just say the right words ---
If you just get baptized --- if you just sing the right song ---
If you just read a Bible ---
If you look at the science ---
If you think about it philosophically ---
If you look at the examples of OTHER people who believe in Jesus ---
If you do all those things, then you yourself will be able to come to a place in your heart and in your mind, where you yourself will be able to throw away the things you yourself chose to believe at one time, and then you yourself will now choose that you believe who Jesus is ----
Is that honestly what we think it takes for someone to come to know who Christ is?
Especially someone like Saul of Tarsus?
Someone educated beyond belief in their own religion ----
Who hates Jesus and hates Christians?
Is this honestly what we believe when it comes to someone believing in reality?
Well…..let's look at Saul of Tarsus.
What happened to him to make him believe?
Did he go to a weekend tent revival meeting?
Did someone hand him a track and say a couple of memorized christian lines?
Did the guitar player jam out a really smooth solo while the smoke machine made some thick clouds?
What happened to make someone like Saul of Tarsus believe?
What could possibly convince someone like him?
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
What happened to convince Saul of Tarsus that Jesus Christ is God?
God himself intervened in Saul’s life ----
It didn't come from Saul first, and then God responded ----
It came from God, and then Saul responded ----
Not that all those things I was critical about, cant serve a good purpose ----
Handing out tracks----
Witnessing to non-believers----
Except smoke machines and guitar solos in a Church service
If you visit a Church with a smoke machine ---- run away as fast as you can
People can and have had their eyes opened after reading tracks or being prayed for or having spent time in Scripture and in Worship -------
But it all starts with God ------- always
He moves us to preach----
He moves us to teach
To go on missions trips
To be an example in our daily life
And then He uses those means to reach into the lives of people
It all starts with God, not us.
Now this ---- is big, right?
This implies some pretty deep and profound truths ----- that were going to talk about when we get to verses 4 and on -----
To summarize it really quick though ------ like I just said ---- the manner in which we or anyone else, your neighbor, a death row inmate, a billionaire CEO, are saved, starts with God, not us.
So hold that in your head and in your heart, and you can even read ahead in Ephesians to see where that comes into play -----
After this event in Saul’s life, he starts going by Paul, and preaching and teaching about Jesus everywhere he goes------
So much so, that he gets imprisoned for it ----- which is when he writes the book that we are studying.
So ------- That is who wrote the letter to the Church in Ephesus
And we are now 1 WORD into the first verse ------
Saint Paul --- Formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.
But that's not the only way he introduces himself.
He could have just said Paul, and everyone in that Church would have known who it was.
Like we talked about last week, Paul was in Ephesus for 3 years teaching and preaching and discipling and serving.
People knew who he was
But then he adds in: “...an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”
He puts this in there----- to give the readers the reason they need to trust the authority of his words.
He is an apostle ---- his words carry weight
He is an apostle ---- what he has to say and what he writes, need to be looked at as if they are authoritative
So much so ----- that even today ---- we are looking at the words written down by the pen of Saint Paul ---- and we say that while yes they are his words ---- but they come from the mind of God.
Because that is what an apostle was -----
Someone who brought the word of God to the Church
1st Corinthians 14:37
7 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.
When Paul wrote to these Churches----- it was from God
2nd Peter 3:15-16
15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
The words of the apostles ------ are on the same level as other Scriptures ------ meaning the Old Testament.
When an Apostle wrote letters to the Churches ----- it was the word of God.
This is so important to remember, because the words that he writes later on in his letters, must be taken as authoritative, so he starts off ----- right at the beginning, by telling them that he is not only an Apostle of Jesus Christ ----- but that he holds that office, that he holds that position, by the will of God.
One of the reasons why we say that the Bible is the word of God, and we take it as the final authority over all things spiritual and all things needed for salvation -----
Is because God spoke through the writings of the Apostles
Well then ----- what makes them special, right?
Was it just anyone?
Could some random dude who believed be considered an Apostle?
If God lives within the hearts of all believers, and someone says things and writes things about God ----- are they considered an Apostle?
Or even if they are a Pastor ----
A well respected, well educated, super smart, humble, compassionate Pastor
Is that person considered an Apostle?
What if a whole bunch of Churches get together, and all their leaders all say that this one person over here----- is an Apostle ----
Does that mean his words come from God?
In order to answer that ---- we need to clarify and define what the Bible says about being an Apostle
The word here, Apostle, is the Greek word “apostolos”
Meaning - a delegate
Someone sent out
Someone commissioned by another, to represent them to someone else
So if we are going to go simply off of the detached definition free from any context ---- then anyone who carries the message of Jesus Christ, would be an apostle.
But if you ever heard me stress anything from the pulpit ----- it’s CONTEXT
And when we look at where this word is used, we can see some qualifications
Mark 3:13-15 says that an apostle was specifically selected by Jesus Himself
Not a local church ---- Not a denomination
Not a fellowship ---- Not a bunch of super holy people
An apostle is someone personally selected by Jesus
Galatians 1:11-13 says that an Apostle is someone who was taught directly by Jesus Christ
Not a Bible college ----- Not a church
Not a denomination --- Not a bunch of Churches
Not someone who spends 23 ½ hours a day reading and praying and fasting ---- and they themselves have come to a deeper understanding of spiritual things than anyone else
And finally; Acts 1:21-22 says that an Apostle is someone who has seen the resurrected Jesus Christ.
When we look at the context, we can see that an Apostle is someone who meets three criteria:
They are someone who:
Jesus Christ Himself personally selected
Jesus Christ Himself personally taught
And someone who saw Him after he came back from the dead
These three qualifiers, are what makes Paul’s words that we will be reading in Ephesians, authoritative.
The words we read in the Bible ----- come directly from God
They were written by the Apostles
They were written by the hands of people who were personally selected by God
Taught by God
And saw His resurrected body
In fact --- later on in Ephesians, in chapter 3, it says that these Apostles are the foundation of the Church ---- and Jesus is the cornerstone.
We as a Church stand on them and their words ---- because their words came from the heart of God.
They weren't really well liked and popular Pastors
They weren't people that a denomination selected after hours and hours of prayer
They were people ------ and I'm repeating myself ----- selected by God to write HIS words down .
In closing ---- there are two reasons why I just repeated myself a dozen times over.
#1 - Because there are some people today, who claim that they are Apostles, or claim someone else today is an apostle
They say they have apostolic ministries - and if they mean they simply carry a message, that's fine ------
But if they say they speak for God ----- run away from them even faster that you would run away from the Churches with smoke machines
If they say they have special revelation ----
If they say God told them something that He didn't tell everyone else -----
If someone says they are an Apostle, without meeting the criteria laid down by Scripture ----- ignore them
#2 - The second reason this is important, is because of the things they had to say.
When we read through Ephesians or Romans or Galatians -----
When we read through the writings of the Apostles ------
There is life changing ---
Soul level stuff there.
There are things that we may disagree with ---
Things that make us mad and react in anger
Things that make us happy and filled with love
We’ll read things that challenge how we understand God
How we understand life
How our Churches operate
How families should operate
How society should operate
How governments should operate
How nations can stand and build or fall and brake
The manner in which we are called to live our life and how this world is to exist ----- is written within the pages of the letters penned by the Apostles -----
And we must understand that these men were chosen by God Himself to fulfill the purpose of writing His words down for us to read.
The foundation is built -----
The Church is established -----
Our God left nothing up to chance when He built His church.
Not the people in it
And not the words that would guide it
Read the words of God written by the hands of the Apostles, and apply them to your life.
( → → Closing Prayer ← ← )