In Ephesus

Taken from a sermon that I preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lufkin, TX on November 30, 2014.

When people find out that I’m a Presbyterian pastor, I get asked if I believe in predestination. On one such incident, I told the man that asked me the question that I did believe in predestination and election. He then asked me for my support of such a belief.

I immediately said Ephesians 1. To me, there is no sweeter passage concerning the topic of election and predestination than Ephesians 1. I can remember reading the words for the first time as a believer: Blessed (worthy of blessing) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as (because) He chose us (to choose out, to select) in Him before the foundation (from all of eternity) of the world, that we should be holy and without blame

I almost wept over the words, for in them, I found the greatest comfort I had ever experience in my 29 years of living. The realities of that passage sang to my new-found heart. My entire being was filled with joy and I blessed the Father in response. I was not just an evolutionary byproduct of a mindless universe. There was a God, and He had chosen me before the foundations of the world to be His, holy and blameless. What precious words.

Yet, this was not the response I got from the man who inquired. He immediately said that Ephesians 1 was not written to us, but was only written to those in Ephesus.

I was quite taken aback. I knew there were those who had problems with the book of Ephesians, but this was a completely new argument to me. Usually, most people try to distance the book by saying it wasn’t written by Paul, therefore not authoritative. This man wasn’t denying Paul’s authorship, but was saying it wasn’t for us. It was only for the people of Ephesus during Paul’s day.

The problem with this line of thinking is that you can deny every book of the Bible with the same argument. Yet, Jesus never uses the Old Testament in such a way. Paul never uses the Old Testament in such a way and the church never used Paul’s letters in such a way. In fact, the common practice was to receive the letter, copy it, and then pass it on to the other churches in the area because the truth of who we are in Christ was just too good to keep to themselves. So there were a lot of copies made of the book to the Ephesians.

But here is the kicker to this man’s argument against the book not being to us, and only to the original recipients: the earlier manuscripts for the book do not include the words “in Ephesus…” Therefore the words could read: To the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus. Who is it written to: the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus. The key is “in Christ Jesus.”

The focus of Paul’s letter was not to a people in a geographical location, but to those who are spiritually in Christ. This means the words found in this precious book are for all believers in all locations because of who they are ontologically, not geographically.

It does boggle my mind that so many will reject the doctrine of election/predestination on such thin arguments. But I guess when they are looking for any reason to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, any excuse will do.

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