A DAILY DEVOTION FOR MARCH 1ST
READ THE SCRIPTURE: EPHESIANS 1:1-2
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This salutation is the briefest in any of Paul’s letters, yet it includes three simple things to which I will call your attention. First, Paul’s credentials: Notice how he describes himself, an apostle… by the will of God. An apostle was one sent with a message. Paul gloried in the fact that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ. And, as he tells us in his letter to the Galatians, the Lord Jesus appeared to him directly. Paul did not learn what he knew about the gospel by discussing it with the other apostles. The truth that he imparts to us here he learned directly from Jesus Christ, and that is his authority. Therefore, when you read Paul you are reading an authorized spokesman for the Lord Jesus. What he says is what he has heard. So if you don’t agree with Paul, you don’t agree with the Lord either!
Paul was always amazed by the fact that it was by the will of God that he was an apostle. He had no other glory in his life than that God, in the amazing wonder of His grace, had called this man, who was such a bitter, intense, nationalistic persecutor of the church; had arrested him and changed him; and had sent him out to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Notice that he gives no other credentials. He doesn’t refer to his training at the feet of Gamaliel or his Hebrew background and pedigree or the brilliance of his intellect or anything else. He simply says, I’m an apostle by the will of God. That is the ground upon which I write.
Then notice how these Christians are described: saints… the faithful in Christ Jesus. Saint is a word at which we all shudder a little. We don’t like to be called saints because we have such a plaster idea of what a saint is. We think of them as being unreal so holier-than-we, so unlike ordinary human beings. But the saints of the New Testament are people like us, people who are beset with struggles and difficulties, who have disturbances at home and problems at work and troubles everywhere else. But one thing is remarkable about them: they are different. That is really the basic meaning of this word saint. In the Greek it is derived from the word for holy. And holy means distinct, different, whole, belonging to God and, therefore, living differently. Holiness is the mark of saints. It isn’t that they don’t have problems, but that they handle them in a different way. They have a different lifestyle.
Then comes the invariable greeting of Paul to these believers: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The two great heritages of the Christian are grace and peace. You can always have grace and peace, no matter what your circumstances. These are the two characteristics that ought to mark Christians all the time.
Father, help me to comprehend these great themes that have changed the history of the world. Help me by Your grace to rejoice, to lay hold of Your provision, and to be a responsive instrument in Your hand.
There is a great, life-changing heritage available to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are our lives characterized by God’s gifts of grace and peace?