Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 1:1-2 ESV)
Paul addresses this letter to the “saints who are in Ephesus”, although as we learned in the introduction to this letter, some manuscripts do not have “in Ephesus” indicating this may have been a circular letter.
The saints were the believers in Ephesus. Every believer in Jesus Christ is a saint. The Greek word for saint is ηαγιοσ (pronounced: hag’ee-os) which simply means “to be set apart; to be holy”.
Most people have an misunderstanding of who a saint is due to the widespread, erroneous doctrine of the Catholic Church which teaches that a saint is some sort of super-Christian who has lived an extremely exemplary life on earth and who continues to do so after death (how they know this is a mystery). Catholics elevate these people to sainthood based on man-made criteria. But this doctrine is false as it is not supported in the Bible.
The truth is every human being who expresses belief in Christ – and nothing more – for the forgiveness of their sins is saved from the penalty of those sins and is going to heaven for all eternity. These people are set apart by God – they are His children [John 1:12]. God considers them to be holy because their sins are now 100% forgiven; He views them as having no sin. These are the people who, by God’s definition, are saints.
Notice that believers are “in Christ”. These two words will be very important throughout the rest of this letter as Paul describes to the Ephesians (and us) what it means to be a saint. Paul will use this phrase 9 times in the first 14 verses and about 30 times in the entire letter as he describes the plethora of blessings and benefits that go along with being God’s adopted son or daughter.
By being “in Christ” every believer has the exact same standing before God that God’s son – Jesus – has. If every American citizen has, by law, certain freedoms (religion, speech, etc) then if I am “in America” – if I am an American citizen – then I have those freedoms too. In the exact same way what is true of Jesus is also true of those who have been adopted into God’s family and who are “in Christ”.
This means that believers:
- Are viewed as completely righteous and without sin by God [Ephesians 1:7]
- Have a residence in heaven awaiting them [Ephesians 2:6]
- Are loved by God with a love that cannot be measured [Romans 8:38-39]
As well as having many, many more blessings. Paul will describe what it means to be “in Christ” in more depth as we read this wonderful letter.
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