A Charter & A Prison Letter

In 1980, Canada and its provinces began procedural meetings to establish its Constitution which had been originally founded in Britain. Their desire was ultimately to establish a Charter of Rights and Freedoms to bring legislative independence and assure Canadians certain fundamental rights. An approval was requested from Britain and in return accepted. Queen Elizabeth II visited our beautiful country and signed the Canada Act on April 17, 1982, in Ottawa. This gave Canada control over its Constitution and guaranteed the rights and freedoms in the Charter as the supreme law of the nation[1]. Now, lets try to imagine if one of us Rogues was able to go back in time and we showed up at the Parliament in our nations capital on that day in 1982 to sign this declaration in the stead of the the Queen and our then Prime Minister. Let’s say we beat the signatories to the punch and signed the Charter of Rights and Freedom. How legitimate would this document be? My assumption is that our signature would mean very little to our left-wing neighbours and quite honestly, we’d probably see protests flaring up in the streets of Ottawa leading to the eventual burning of the Charter. Now, to be fair, they’d be correct in not accepting the authenticity of this signature. The point I’m trying to make is that the ones who signed the charter gave it its legitimacy. The document’s validity is based upon who is backing it up and the weight of their title. Nothing short of a high level bureaucrat, a prime minister or the Queen herself could have authenticated this document for it to be accepted as our national declaration of rights.

The Prison Letter

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2)

Written between A.D. 60-62, during the time that the apostle Paul was held in prison (3:1; 4:1), the epistle to the Ephesians as it’s called begins with a traditional introduction where the author and recipients are named followed by a greeting. Much like the authentication of the Charter of Rights & Freedom, Paul authenticates the letter by mentioning that he is an apostle of Christ Jesus. What we must not miss in this is that the apostleship of Paul by the will of God gives the letter its substantiation. Why should they believe the content of the letter unless it is coming from a revelation of God at the hands of one of His representatives? An ambassador may speak on behalf of a government leader only if he’s been appointed by this official and in return given the authority to speak on his behalf. This letter really means nothing unless it comes from an authoritative source. The apostleship of the followers of Christ was a divinely appointed office and there was a special designation for the original apostles known as “The Twelve” (Luke 6:11-16; John 6:67,70; 1 Corinthians 15:5). Being an apostle was not reserved for the 12 apostles (Matthew 10:2-4; Acts 1:13) who were eyewitness of His resurrection but could be used in a wider sense such as for Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:5-7), Apollos (1 Corinthians 4:6,9), Silvanus or Timothy. They were men who had the task of representing Jesus Christ the Lord and Paul saw himself as an equal with the twelve (Romans 1:1,5). It is generally thought that once the twelve went into eternity that the passing of apostleship ceased although some maintain that it is still alive today. The uniqueness to his apostleship is that he was sent particularly as an apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:8). The title apostle of Jesus Christ is significant since Paul the authority to speak on Christ’s behalf. Paul was sent directly by Jesus after being blinded and thrown off his horse (Acts 9:1-31). His calling as an apostle was by the will of God. This wasn’t a matter of self-nomination, but it was by divine determination that Paul was appointed to the task. Like the twelve, he was personally appointed directly by the Lord Jesus, the final direct appointee of this representative power. Our Lord Jesus can even take a persecutor of His people and transform him as a servant to His purposes. If you think yourself to be too awful to be used by God, think again!

Mamertime Prison

1st Century Roman Prison

To Ephesus?

The recipients of the epistle can be challenging to identify depending on how we deal with the textual variant “in Ephesus”[2]. While certainly meant for the church in Ephesus, most agree that it was probably meant for several local churches. It is distinguished for its impersonal tone which lead many to believe that its destination was never meant uniquely for Ephesus keeping in mind the personal interactions Paul had with the Ephesian church (Acts 20:17-38). Some have even attributed it to Laodicea. The lack of personalization does at least hint that it may have been meant for a wider audience. It’s important to note that the letter was found in Ephesus and there is no evidence of it being at any other destination or attributed to another church. We can at least claim through the balance of probabilities and latter textual data that it was meant to be read by believers in Ephesus but perhaps elsewhere also. For our study, we’ll continue with the tradition of Ephesian destination. Regardless, the letter was written to saints who were faithful to Jesus Christ. The holy ones (saints) were blessed as a people who were set apart from the world. To be holy meant to be distinguished in a very special way. The people of God under the Old Testament were not simply referred to as a people, but as a holy people (Exodus 19:6) and a holy nation (Leviticus 19:2). These beneficiaries are described as faithful in Christ which denotes their identity as believers who find their unity being brought together in Christ. The terms saints and faithful are deemed as almost synonyms of a people who are at the same time set apart and devotees. This expression “in Christ” will be explored much further in the following passages.

As an apostle, Paul is granted an ambassadorship that gives him an authority to speak on behalf of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He opens the letter with a greeting coming from the Father and the Son, a word of blessing to communicate favour and of the great shalom from Yahweh[3]. Grace and peace were already a reality in the life of these believers, but Paul’s blessing demonstrates that there is a desire for them to experience it more abundantly. While peace was certainly a more known among the Jewish believers there, the term “grace” was familiar to the Greeks. Grace was the unmerited favour of God whereas He lavishes His goodness upon an undeserving sinner to which these believers in Ephesus would have been quite aware. The apostle will speak a lengthy phrase of 202 words to define clearly what exactly that grace looks like.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

[1] https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/rfc-dlc/ccrf-ccdl/learn-apprend.html#:~:text=In%201980%2C%20Canada%20and%20its,to%20develop%20the%20final%20Charter.

[2] The manuscripts that omit this phrase “at Ephesus” are P46, Aleph, B, 6, 424 and 1739.

[3] This is a similar pattern of greeting attributed to the apostle Paul: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:2 etc.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s