Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison in Rome (Acts 28:30–31; Eph. 3:1; 6:20). He is facing an uncertain future, yet this letter expresses great confidence in God. Paul knows two things about his circumstances.
Firstly, he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. He has seen the Lord and he therefore speaks with authority (Gal. 1:1). His message can be trusted and is foundational for the church and its ministry (2:19–20).
Secondly, he knows that this is by the will of God. Paul never forgets that he has been saved and his life turned around by divine grace. No wonder he speaks of this grace in such glowing terms (vv. 6, 12, 14).
In verse 1 he describes the Christians he is writing to in these four ways:
They are ‘holy people’ – people set aside to belong to the Lord. In the darkness of Ephesus they are called to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13–16). We must not conform to the world, but separation does not mean isolation.
They are ‘in Ephesus’ – Ephesus was a large, cosmopolitan and sophisticated city, where Paul planted a church (see Acts 19:1–22). Christians do not opt out of the world. While God calls us out of it, He then sends us into a particular place and time in the world to glorify Him there.
They are ‘faithful’ – by God’s grace they have followed Christ and have not lost their saltiness.
They are ‘in Christ’ – all the blessings of God come to us through Christ. Notice how many times Paul uses the phrase ‘through him’ or ‘in him’ in Ephesians.
Paul’s greeting to them contains the two gospel blessings of grace and peace (v. 2). These two words summarise the salvation we receive in Christ. Grace is God’s unconditional good will and unmerited love in action towards people who deserve His judgement. God moves Heaven and Earth to save sinners who could not save themselves. Peace is the result of grace. Even though we were once His enemies, we are now reconciled to God.
Read verses 3–14 and notice the way in which the three Persons of the Trinity are interwoven in Paul’s benediction. How should our knowledge of God and His purposes (Rom. 8:28–30) affect the way in which we behave in this world? Ask the Lord to help you to be aware of your position in Christ.
You are where you are because God put you there and He wants you to be faithful there. God is at work in all circumstances.