Missions of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America

A Description of God's People

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This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.

A Description of God's People

Meditation on Ephesians 1:1,2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

A blessing was spoken by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus. This letter was written while Paul was in prison, either in Caesarea or in Rome. Paul could have begun his letter with a rehearsal of his many accomplishments or even a reminder of what he had personally endured to bring the gospel of Christ to Asia. Paul did not this. Instead he introduced himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

He was an apostle. The Greek word literally means ‘to send’. Paul was appointed by the Lord Jesus to go and proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was an apostle “by the will of God.” This means at least two things. First, this letter that is written is not to be regarded as other letters might be, just a friendly letter by a man or woman. This is God’s own revelation . It is from God. Therefore it is all true; it speaks with authority. Second, this letter told his readers how Paul came to be an apostle. It was not by his own will but “by the will of God.” Indeed, if it had not been for God’s sovereign and efficacious will , Paul would not have be an apostle. He would not even have been a Christian! Left to himself, apart from the grace of God, he fought against God and attempted to destroy His church. Is this not a picture of each and every one of us?

The Apostle Paul wrote to believers at Ephesus. He identified them as “the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” This phrase contains three definitions of believers, what constitutes a Christian.

First, Christians are saints! The Apostle Paul could have addressed them as the church of Jesus Christ. But he did not. He called them saints. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that a saint is one of a few particularly holy persons who has proof of at least one miracle, declared by the church to be a saint by ecclesiastical procedure. This is false. To be a saint means that a person has been redeemed and sanctified. This is true of all true believers. Ephesus was a capital city, an old city, that is now in ruins. It was a city that was very idolatrous. These believers were those who were set apart from the world. It is something that God does quite apart from human merit. They are set apart by God in sovereign election, by the redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the work of the Holy Spirit. A Christian is set apart when God reaches down through the person and power of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and thus draws him into the company of God’s church. Every true believer is a saint, set apart from the world. It is not that we are taken out of the world. We are still in the world, but removed from belonging to the world. We belong to God and are set apart to holy service for God.

Second, believers in Jesus are called “the faithful.” There are two ideas in this. The first and primary meaning of the word “faithful” is exercising faith. A Christian is one who has heard the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and who has then exercised faith in that gospel or believed it. There are two parts in faith. Faith is a sure knowledge of all that God has revealed in His word. Believing, there is a certain assurance or confidence that not only to others but to me also is freely given forgiveness of sins, righteousness and the hope of eternal life. There is a second idea, that of perseverance and the preservation of the saints in Christ Jesus. They “continue in faith.” Because God is faithful, he preserves His saints. He does not let them fall away. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion. Therefore, a true believer perseveres; he runs the race set before him. He fights the good fight of faith. He will receive the crown of righteousness when God takes him out of this vale of tears.

Third, believers are “in Christ.” I will not say much about this now, but this is an idea that is characteristic of this book and of Paul’s writings in general. The phrase, “in Christ” or “in him” occurs nine times in the first three chapters of Ephesians and occurs 164 times in all of Paul’s writings. It describes the sphere in which the faithful are placed. To understand a little of what this phrase means, there are numerous images to teach us. There is the union of a man and woman in marriage (Eph. 5:22-33), and the union of the vine and the branches (John 15: 1-17). We have the picture of Christ as the foundation of the spiritual temple and believers as lively stones built upon Him (Eph. 2:20-22). Finally, there is the picture of the human body. Christ is the head, and believers are the members of the body in one organism (I cor. 12:12-27).

From the brief introduction to this letter, what a beautiful description we have of believers: ourselves and our fellow believers in the church! May we keep this in mind as we live our lives and as we deal with one another in the church.

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Spriensma, Audred T.

Rev. Audred Spriensma (Wife: Alva)

Ordained: January 1981

Pastorates: Atwood, MI CRC - 1981; Bethany, S.Holland, IL CRC - 1984; Grandville, MI - 1992; Missionary to the Philippines - 2002; Kalamazoo, MI - 2007; Byron Center, MI - 2010; Home missionary (Byron Center PRC), 2017

Website: www.prca.org/missions/domestic

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