Ephesians doesn’t begin with the long and luscious opening statements of, say, Galatians or 1 Corinthians. Paul was already well known to the believers in Ephesus and had already taken them from curiously believing to committed Christian living (Acts 19.1-10). Paul is uncharacteristically brief with his opening words (leading some to suggest this was most definitely a circular rather than a targeted letter) and simply signs the letter
“From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”
(Ephesians 1.1a, NET)
Some ancient manuscript copies of the letter omit the words we read in v.1b:
‘To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus’.
This, some argue, is further proof that this letter was not a specific piece to a specific church, but rather a general treatise on God’s work.
V.2, however, is typically Pauline and wishes the Ephesians (and all who read the letter) grace…and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If we think for a moment that the letter could well be a circular – or at the very least meant to be read in Ephesus first and then surrounding churches, cf. Colossians 4.16 – then what does this do for us?
If indeed it is meant for a wider audience we can, for understanding and identification’s sake, insert our own home’s name in the blank space left by ‘in Ephesus‘. For me that would be
‘To the saints who are in Bahrain and are faithful in Christ Jesus’.
Reading a letter that begins like this is much easier to identify with: right off the bat we feel included and feel addressed. For you, it could be any of a vast and varied number of places in the world. We know that God has people everywhere (Acts 17.26, Revelation 7.9) and so yes, to a degree, reading the letter as if addressed to us, alongside its primary recipients and purpose, is a good thing. For my own two cents’ worth, I think Ephesians was written to the church in Ephesus (first at least, see the note here) but that in this particular case we can, and should, read the letter as both to them and to us.
So, as we move through Ephesians day by day together, read it as written to a church in Ephesus almost two thousand years ago, but read it also to you and your church wherever you are in the world right now.
‘To the saints who are in _________ and are faithful in Christ Jesus’.
The truths are the same, the exhortations still stand, as does the grace…and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that we will see at every turn.