Paul, a messenger of Jesus Christ by God’s choice, to all faithful Christians at Ephesus (and other places where this letter is read): grace and peace be to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)
The first thing we need to understand here is how Paul identifies himself as a messenger of Jesus Christ. But he adds that was God’s choice to send him. He wasn’t sent by any men or committee, but by Yahweh Himself sent him.
But there is an interesting Hebrew word used It is the word shaliach, or a “sent one.” Some versions translate that, “Apostle.” I say it is an interesting word because it is often understood. A “shaliach,” or an “Apostle” would be sent on a mission to represent someone and to accomplish a specific task on that person’s behalf. These aren’t specially endowed, spiritually superior, unique individuals. Think of the parable that Jesus told regarding a landowner who owned some land and hired some folks to farm it for him. Later, he sent out a shaliach to collect his share of the produce:
But they took the servants. beat up one, killed another, and drove off a third with stones. Then he sent some more servants, a larger party than the first, but they treated them in just the same way.
Finally he sent his own son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ Yet when the farm-workers saw the son they said to each other, ‘This fellow is the future owner. Come on, let’s kill him and we shall get everything that he would have had!’ So they took him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those farm-workers?”
See, the apostles, the shaliachs, were sent out on tasks to collect what was due to the Landlord.
The Sanhedrin did this. Often they would send out “apostles” on missions to the Jewish world living in the Diaspora. If you remember Paul’s testimony, the Sanhedrin had originally sent him out to track down any of those “Jesus followers.” It just happened that Jesus met him on his journey and knocked him off his horse. What began as a journey of an “apostle” for the Sanhedrin became a journey of an “apostle” for the Kingdom of God! Cool!
That is the reason Paul referred to himself as a messenger, an apostle (the sent one) of Yeshua the Messiah to the Gentiles! The error we make is when we see the role or ministry of an apostle as something super-spiritual, with a special calling and anointing. Once you understand the actual meaning of the term (just like the other gifts to the church), you gain a renewed concept of the five-fold ministry mentioned and explained later in this letter (see, Ephesians 4:11-13).
We also need to understand that Paul did not learn what he knew about the gospel by discussing it with the other apostles. Nor did he run off and attend a Seminary or Bible School. Paul didn’t go check in with Peter and James and John and others of the twelve. Everything he is teaching us in his letters, he learned directly from Jesus Christ!
Don’t be shocked by that statement. A long time ago, I realized that there is nothing special about the Seminaries and Bible Schools. They don’t give you any special anointing or power. No, those institutions are nothing more than crutches the churches use because they are not doing their jobs of teaching and training.
The diploma the Seminaries give you might hang on your wall, but it doesn’t provide a calling or give you a special “unction” to teach or pastor or anything else.
Teaching and training for ministry are only available from the Holy Spirit. He responsibility is to teach and remind us of everything that Jesus taught. And, just to underline my point, that same Holy Spirit that is Paul, is in YOU! He is to be your teacher; He is to lead you into all the truth. I’ll tell you what, you need to start allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you . . . Then, as Paul wrote in another letter, you can teach others about God’s care and love for them! Take a look:
“But Jesus’ priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he is working from a far better plan. If the first plan – the old covenant – had worked out, a second wouldn’t have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said,
Heads up! The days are coming when I’ll set up a new plan for dealing with Israel and Judah.
I’ll throw out the old plan I set up with their ancestors when I led them by the hand out of Egypt. They didn’t keep their part of the bargain, so I looked away and let it go.
This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I’ll be their God, they’ll be my people.
Now, here it is:
They won’t go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called ‘God in Five Easy Lessons.’ They will all get to know me firsthand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean.”
Isn’t that cool?
The Holy Spirit is to be our instructor! And that was Paul’s authority. When you read all those powerful statements Paul made, you are reading the writing of an authorized spokesman for the Lord Jesus. He speaks with the authority of Christ. He makes this clear in every one of his letters.
I often see the brazen temerity of people who read a section from one of Paul’s letters and say, “Well, I don’t agree with Paul.” Well, dear Lord, that’s a shame. Paul willingly submitted himself to the instruction of the Holy Spirit, and, as a result, he became an authorized spokesman. What he says is what he has heard. So, if you don’t agree with Paul, you don’t agree with the Lord either! That is something you need to remember any time you read one of this letters.
Paul was always amazed by the fact that it was “by the will of God” that he was an apostle. He couldn’t imagine a greater honor or Glory in his life than what he received from his God. And it all came through the amazing wonder of our Father’s Grace, and this is the same Grace we have received.
Before Jesus entered his life, Paul was a bitter, intense, nationalistic persecutor of the church. Suddenly, as I mentioned above, he was traveling to capture some “followers of Jesus,” Jesus stopped him, not intending to bring him into the fold but to put an end to the persecution of His people, and, as you can imagine, this encounter changed Paul forever!
It was at this point that Jesus told him he would be prepared to be sent out an apostle, a messenger, to the Gentiles. Paul could never get over that: “Called by the will of God!” It became the most significant influence in his life! But, he didn’t provide any other credentials. He never referred to his training at the feet of Gamaliel, nor his Hebrew background of his pedigree. He never mentioned his brilliant intellect, nor anything else. He simply says, “I am a messenger of Jesus Christ by God’s choice. That is the ground on which I write.”
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