Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 May 22, 2016
“The Ephesian Valedictory”
Text: Ephesians 6:21-24
Today, after more than a year since the start, we finish our punctuated series through Ephesians. We have covered in this letter that which is characteristic in all of Paul’s New Testament letters—to wit, what to know and what to believe (chapters 1-3) and what to do in light of what we know and believe (chapters 4-6). We come now to the final four verses of the epistle, and, in view of those verses, we finish with a valedictory—a farewell speech.
We hear many valedictories happening just now as we attend the various spring graduations taking place. Paul gave one in Ephesus face-to-face with the Ephesian elders some five years earlier (ca. A. D. 57, see Acts 20:17-38)—and it is difficult indeed to read those poignant verses and yet remain unmoved. In today’s text, at the very close of a letter to people whom Paul recalls fondly, he gives another farewell speech. Let us examine that content—and, as we do, let us hear from God Himself as He speaks in this portion of His Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Paul begins his valediction with information. Tychicus shall come to Ephesus. This Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, has served the Lord (and, to no little degree, Paul) well over the years. He likely was present at Paul’s emotional face-to-face farewell at Ephesus, for he traveled with Paul from Greece, through Macedonia (i.e., northern Balkan Peninsula), eastward to Syria. The New Testament record shows that, before the curtain falls on Tychicus’ earthly work, Paul will sent him to Ephesus twice and to Colosse and to Crete once each. Tychicus ministers in these places generally by providing his hosts both information and encouragement—such as Paul indicates here. Tychicus will tell how Paul and his companions are—and he will tell what they are doing. This news, in addition to other remarks and deeds Tychicus may offer, will have the cumulative effect of encouraging the Ephesians. This information and hope thus concluded, Paul turns to another part of his valediction—a welcome part indeed.
Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, turns from information to benediction. Let’s look more closely at what Paul wishes the Ephesians—which, after all, is what the Lord extends to us. First, the Lord extends to us peace. The Greek word rendered peace (eirene [eirhnh]) is the root of our English word irenic, which means peaceful or peaceably disposed. Recall now, when we learned that Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), all that His peace means. Christ’s peace brings cessation of hostilities from man toward God. We who were His foes have been made His friends by His power. His peace also brings increasingly cessation of hostilities between individuals and groups—especially between fellow Christians. The peace of God also may involve tranquil circumstances, but it also brings inner tranquility—a tranquility all the more remarkable when it abides during stormy times. The Biblical sense of peace is best conveyed by the Hebrew shalom, literally meaning peace, but more dynamically translated, “It is well with me.” The peace of God makes all things well with me, and the Lord gives it to us.
Second, the Lord extends to us love. The special New Testament word that Paul uses for love (Greek agape [agaph]) has certain senses that other words for love do not. Agape describes the love the members of the Godhead have for one another. This is the love that God sheds abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us (Romans 5:5). This is also the chief love that God calls forth from us who love Him to one another in His Body, the Church. It is other-directed: foremost to God and secondarily to others—and, consequently, is wholly self-sacrificing. This is how God loves us, and He extends it to us again in this portion of His Word.
Third, the Lord extends to us faith (Greek pistis [pistiV)]). Faith, simply, is trust in God to complete reliance on Him alone for salvation. Faith involves intellectual cognition and assent, to be sure, but it is far more than this. It is, to quote the Lord through the human author of Hebrews, “…the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). Moreover, this faith bestowed on us by God here is not merely passive, but somewhat (if not extensively) active. It trusts God for every promise God Himself has made, and it apprehends that which God has promised as already present. Now that is faith, and such faith the Lord gives us generously.
Fourth, the Lord extends to us grace (Greek charis [cariV]). Grace is favorable esteem and treatment from God—and that wholly unmerited on our part. There is nothing so noteworthy in us that we can command His favor, and there is nothing so charming in us that we can curry His favor. God’s grace—His favorable esteem and treatment of us—is given without regard to merit or, more appropriately, to demerit. This is what makes grace grace. We both get mercy when we don’t deserve it and we don’t get condemnation when we deserve it. This the Lord extends to us—and how welcome it is to our needy souls.
We have heard today Paul’s final well-wish to the Ephesians expounded. Therefore, let us sum what the Lord graciously and bounteously gives to us. May you know the encouragement that He has for you through His servants in various times and places. May you also abound in the peace, love, faith, and grace of our triune God.