Ephesians 1:1-3 – Opening Greetings

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POSTED 08 FEBRUARY, 2018

reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume II

“Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Messiah Yeshua: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah.”

The Epistle of Ephesians has many high laudatory remarks to the Believers in Asia Minor about the work of Yeshua the Messiah in their lives, and how they have lived appropriately for Him.[1] Paul opens his letter with an assertion of how his audience is not just to be classified as “saints” or “holy people” (NLT), but also how they have been found faithfully trusting in the Messiah: “Paul, an apostle of Messiah Yeshua by the will of God, to the saints who are also faithful in Messiah Yeshua” (Ephesians 1:1, PME).[2] This is followed by the more formal, opening greeting, “Grace to you and shalom [peace] from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (Ephesians 1:2, CJB/CJSB).

Within the opening greeting of Ephesians, one sees how Paul commonly uses some specific terms for the Father and Son, referencing God as “Father” (patēr) and Yeshua as “Lord” (Kurios). This is, to be sure, very significant, given how the title Kurios was used in the Greek Septuagint to render the Divine Name YHWH. It would not have been improper for Paul to have employed the term basileus or “king” to refer to the Son, with Ephesians 1:2 instead reading as, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the King Yeshua the Messiah.” But with the Son referred to as Kurios, the term used to represent the Divine Name YHWH in the LXX, it demonstrates how Paul’s theology of the Godhead is carefully balanced, with a close relationship between the Father and Son recognized. The Father is mentioned first as God,[3] but Yeshua is also recognized as a part of the Godhead as “Lord.” By no means does Paul simply consider Yeshua to be a human master by calling Him Kurios. By being referred to as Kurios, Yeshua is regarded as being integrated into the Divine Identity.

Following this, some of the relationship of the Father and Son is elaborated upon, as God the Father is issued blessings, and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah is asserted to be the means by which those who have trusted in Him, are blessed: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah” (Ephesians 1:3, TLV). Readers should be able to see an important parallel between the blessing emphasized in Ephesians 1:3 and Colossians 3:1-4:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Messiah, keep seeking the things above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

The location of the spiritual blessing is tois epouraniois or “the heavenly places” (NASU). This is a different description when compared to the more common ouranos, which can refer to the sky, the stars, or Heaven as the realm of God, each contingent on context. Here, the “heavens” (HCSB) are a more general description of where God’s blessing resides. While God’s residence is by no means excluded, Victor Paul Furnish points out, “it is also a realm where the powers of darkness and evil are still active (3:10; 6:12).”[4] Witherington considers that here in Ephesians 1:3 it is akin to “the invisible spirit realm,”[5] which includes both good and evil.

Some have thought that Paul’s emphasis of God’s blessing originating in the (general) Heavens are delivered to combat Gnostic thoughts of a multi-leveled Heaven, yet are still largely blessings which are unattainable in the present world. Peter T. O’Brien, however, would emphasize “The blessings of salvation which believers have received from God link them with the heavenly realms. These gracious gifts are not simply future benefits but are a present reality for us, since they have already been won for us by God’s saving action in Christ.”[6]

While those of us who affirm a high Christology of Yeshua being integrated into the Divine Identity, may find some strong support from the greeting of Ephesians 1:2, the praise issued to the work of the Father in Ephesians 1:3, realized via the work of His Son, does demonstrate that the Son is the Father’s agent. The only way that mortals can realize “every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies[7]” (LITV) is to be “in Messiah” or “in Christ.[8]” At the very least, as proponents of a low Christology of Yeshua being a created agent of the Father would widely conclude, this requires Yeshua to be uniquely supernatural and multi-dimensional. Proponents of a high Christology, would conclude on the basis of a wide number of statements and assertions seen throughout the Apostolic Writings or New Testament, that while the Son is indeed the Father’s agent in His mediation of redemption to human beings—that the Son has authority, can perform activities, and has a nature that points to Him being far, far more than just a created, supernatural entity.


NOTES

[1] This entry has been adapted from the author’s commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic.

[2] Various early witnesses of Ephesians 1:1 lack en Ephesō or “in Ephesus” (among major versions, see RSV). This points to the letter called “Ephesians” ultimately being a circular epistle written to assemblies in the vicinity of Asia Minor.

[3] Cf. D. Guthrie and R.P. Martin, “God: God as Father (2.2),” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 357.

As is noted in this article: “In the opening salutation in all the letters under Paul’s name God is described as Father. It forms a basic assumption behind all that the apostle writes in these letters.”

[4] Victor Paul Furnish, “The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians,” in Charles M. Laymon, ed., The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1971), 836.

[5] Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 232.

[6] Peter T. O’Brien, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 97.

[7] Grk. pasē eulogia pneumatikē en tois epouranois.

[8] Grk. en Christō.


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