The Power of God’s Will
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Paul, in his typical style, introduces the letter with a greeting we might be tempted to overlook when trying to get to the heart of his argument. But if we do, we miss the starting point. In these few words, we can gain insight into Paul’s identity as well as God’s purposes.
Remember, Paul is writing a letter of encouragement to a band of Christians surrounded by structures of earthly power. From the awe-inspiring temple of Diana to the imperial cult, the Ephesians and all of Asia Minor live in a world dominated by manifestations of political and spiritual power. To compete with these heavyweights, one must be impressive.
In seed form, Paul introduces this letter with potent words that unfold throughout the letter to reveal the beginning and end of all reality. This grand drama proceeds from the will of the Father, through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Saul was a Hebrew of Hebrew whose passion for Israel led to the persecution of the church. This holy warrior meets the Lord of Glory and becomes a follower of Jesus. Over time, his ministry becomes focused more and more upon proclaiming the good news outside the Jewish world among the gentiles. Paulus, his Roman name, gradually becomes the name his uses instead of his Hebrew name. Paul opens this letter to the Ephesians using his name.
He takes his stand in the name that reveals his calling to the Gentiles. By using this name, Paul accepts his calling and takes a stand in it. This simple act demonstrates to us the power of standing behind our name in all we say and do as people called by God.
Paul uses the word apostle in an original manner. His meaning appears to derive from two different cultures and applications.
Apostolos – This is a Greek word that originally referred to sending out a fleet on a military expedition. Over time, the meaning became applied more generally to a variety of naval enterprises. Eventually the word extends beyond fighting to exploring and colonizing.
Saliah – This is a Hebrew word indicating the legal authority a messenger carries on behalf of a person or a community. Take for example, Abraham’s servant who goes on mission for Isaac. He carries the legal authority to represent Abraham in the marriage negotiation.
Paul brings the idea of legal authority into the idea of being sent on an expedition. But he develops the expedition into a missionary event. Then he infuses the word with a meaning that suggests the authority of the apostle is located in the truthfulness of the message—not simply in a legal appropriation by the community.
Paul is both a herald and a colonizer. He is announcing the gospel (Good News) of the new king who rules over all. He is also establishing colonies of heaven whom he referred to as ekklesia or called out community and we call the church.
Paul’s apostleship is not based on a human command but on the will of God. Unlike the Hebrew saliah Paul’s authority comes from the message. The “good news” carries authority and power. And every time the “good news” is faithfully proclaimed it comes in power.
Paul speaks as a herald of Jesus. The name Jesus derives from the name Joshua, which means Yahweh Saves. In the Old Testament Hoshua (meaning salvation) is chosen by God to succeed Moses and lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. But before he can take his position as leader, God changes his name. He simply inserts his name YHWH (or JA) into Hoshua’s name, so that the salvation becomes YHWH Saves.
Joshua’s mission will embody the presence of God as the true deliver and savior of the children of Israel. The writer of Hebrews suggests that the work of entering the Promised Land was not complete.
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Jesus comes as the second and final Joshua. He comes to fulfill the call and mission of Joshua. In his own name, Jesus bears the reality of his prophetic mission. He comes to Israel with a message: YHWH will redeem his people. Jesus himself is the prophetic message for he comes bearing the presence of YHWH in the midst of the people. Jesus literally is “YHWH saves.” Everything about him communicates the redeeming, restoring, active power of YHWH that fulfills the mission he began with his people when he led them out of Egypt. Jesus will save the people from their sins.
Jesus will restore the people to their proper position as kings and priests of YHWH. Bearing the light and power and glory of the Creator as they reveal his covenant of love to all people.
The word Christ is not Jesus’ last name. This is his title. It comes from the Hebrew word Messiah – someone ceremonially anointed for office. In the Old Testament there are two messianic offices (or two offices that derive their authority from of a specific ceremonial anointing: the King and the High Priest.
Jesus stands in both offices. He is the High Priest who forever stands at the mercy seat interceding on behalf of the people of God. Yet he is also King. In fact, Jesus is the final Hebrew King. He completes both offices: King and High Priest. As King, he fulfills the line of David kings and restores the people of God to their proper status as Lords of Creation.
He does not simply restore the Hebrew nation but opens the doors for all nations to enter into Hebrew history as descendents of Abraham on the basis of faith. Thus he is king of completely new race of people: made up of Jew and Gentile, forming one new man.
This new man, this people of God, now become the body through which Jesus reveals his kingdom and glory and power to the cosmos.
The whole world exists and is governed on the basis and power of God’s will. Everything depends on the will of God, his will sets the world in place, his will keeps the sun shining, his will sustains us each moment of our life—this world is not simply an amalgamation of natural laws is the express will of God: Jesus is the express will of the Father—the Holy Spirit precedes Him and proceeds from Him.
His will is his intention and purpose as well as his action in history. From the loving communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God conceived all creation. He created all things from nothing. He spoke the world into existence and upon His word all things remain.
In the mystery of his wisdom and purposes, he chose to give man a will that could resist the purposes of God. This ability to resist also contains the possibility of yielding in a way that far exceeds instinct—man had the capacity to respond in love. On the one hand, we might think the story of human history is the story of man’s squandering this precious gift of freedom.
This story of man’s sin corrupting the glory of God’s creation but in the end, all things proclaim the glory of God. Thus, whether man is in submission or resistance, God’s will still accomplishes his purposes and in the end his glory will shine so brightly that all living things will recognize his rule and proclaim his glory.
Jesus completely yields his will to the will of the Father, thereby expressing the will of the Father in all actions and all words—thus he is the image of the invisible God. His will is also his rule. He has created us free beings—we respond to him freely by the power of his Spirit. It is his Spirit that is transforming us that we might will and do the will of the Father: that in the grace and peace proceeding from King Jesus and revealed in the power of the Spirit, we might become express images of the will of God. Power of God’s will; Expression of God’s will in love
This comes from the word hagios, which indicates holiness. Holy is an ancient Mesopotamian word that various Semitic tribes used to indicate the nature of their gods. Holy indicates a state of terror. The gods are powerful and terrifying. Also all element and rituals used in service of the gods were considered holy: separate.
It did not have a moral component until the ancient Hebrews applied it to YHWH. They suggested that God is not simply powerful but he is all-powerful—there is no god beside him. Plus his terrifying, otherworldly power is completely pure, completely just, completely trustworthy, completely loving. So they equated absolute moral purity with holiness. If YHWH was holy, so they should also be holy.
The understanding of holiness develops over time among the ancient Hebrews. Hosea comes to realize that it is the holiness of God which can embrace the un-holiness of man:
The opposition of God’s holiness to Israel thus works itself out in His love which is quite incomprehensible to human nature. In Hosea, therefore, the concept of holiness takes up into itself as the fullness of deity the thought of love — an insight never again attained in the OT. As Hosea himself in his shattered happiness learned to know love as the indestructible force which could save even his lost wife, so Yahweh’s holiness as the sum of His being must contain the creative love which slays but also makes alive again (cf. 6:1 f.). In the older Hebrew concept the divine stands in mortal opposition to the human and especially the sinful. This opposition remains in Hosea’s view of God, but it is absorbed into the opposition of holy love to unholy nature. What God in virtue of His holiness may do to love unholy nature, no man may do, and therefore the antithesis between God and man consists in the very love which overcomes it.
(from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Copyright © 1972-1989 By Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)
If YHWH forms relationship with his people, then they must become holy. His power works to purify them. Otherwise, they cannot stand in his presence (No man can see God and live.) So God in his holiness is God the redeemer.
Notice this passage says to the saints: plural. This is to the holy community of believers gathered around Jesus Christ (that is faithful followers of King Jesus). We as a people are being transformed into a state of holiness, but Paul refers to the community in their final state—not in their current expression. He is calling forth their destiny. We are destined to be holy—not simply to be pure but to image God; to reveal the express will of God in our thoughts, actions and desires. We are becoming reflections of His glory—thus we are becoming saints: this is an awe filled and beautiful destiny.
We are faithful to one Sovereign (for you cannot serve two masters: God and Mammon). We are faithful subjects of King Jesus. We may be Americans but our ultimate loyalty is bound to King Jesus. All human power structures will pass away: none of them are permanent. But the rule of King Jesus will never end.