To Whom It May Concern...
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”–Ephesians 1:1
Some manuscripts do not have “in Ephesus,” instead, they just say: “to the saints who are also faithful in Christ.” Whether this was written to Ephesus or to the saints also faithful in Christ in the surrounding area, we know Paul was writing to believers who were faithful to Jesus. I do not know about you, but for me, this makes me wonder what an epistle to the also faithful in Augusta would say. Or the also faithful in any one of the cities throughout our nation or the rest of the world today. It got me to thinking about how in Paul’s day the Church consisted mostly of gatherings that were held in people’s homes. In many ways, they were akin to Francis Chan’s house church concept, or even some churches idea of home-groups or community groups. I believe Life Church calls them Life Groups, New Passion calls them Community Groups, your church might call them something else. But, in Paul’s day, especially in Ephesus, there were believers who gathered outside of the Synagogue in these home-churches, and they also went to the Synagogue where they heard people such as Paul and Apollos teaching about Christ (Acts 18:18-28).
So, we can see this idea of smaller groups studying and doing life together, while also going to a centralized place to hear teachings from the Scripture. In Paul’s day, a Synagogue would have been that centralized place, and since the Jews might not have taken kindly to a letter being read aloud there that did not pertain to them (they were not believers in Jesus, after all), Paul’s letters to places like Ephesus or Rome most likely were passed around and read in these various house churches whenever they got together for dinner and a Scripture-study. Today, if Paul were alive and writing, passing a letter around all of the small groups could be as simple as an email chain, Insta Story, or post on FB. But I imagine Paul being somewhat Old School, and preferring the letter be passed around from congregation to congregation and read aloud from pulpit to pulpit. Which if we think about it, we still do that with Paul’s letters today anytime we open up the Word and hear a message from them on Sunday.
I share these thoughts on the introduction of Ephesians because while things have certainly changed in the last 2,000 years, we can also see how they have remained quite similar. Many churches still have groups that gather in our homes for the fellowship of Christ. We also gather corporately to hear the Scripture taught. Yet, what would Paul say to us if he were to write to our area? Would we be called the faithful of Jesus? Or would he call us the so-called faithful? What if he, guided by the Holy Spirit, were to write to you specifically? Would he rejoice in how you have been living for Christ? Or would he say that you are like one drowning in sin?
In these days of COVID-19, injustice, and uncertainty, we have to examine our lives in the light of the Word and turn our hearts over to His care and control. As we move through the coming week, let us seek His truth in the Scripture and ask ourselves if Paul was writing to our small-group, our church or our area, what would our walk look like in a letter-opening from the Apostle?
Until Next Time,