The Lord's Day Evening
November 12, 2006
“God's New Family: An Exposition of Ephesians (LXI)
Conclusion: A Concern for Comfort and a Word of Blessing”
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
Amen. Please be seated. If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to
Ephesians 6:21. We come tonight to the end of our study of the Book of Ephesians. This is the sixty-first message that we have had in this wonderful book, and we have seen the Apostle Paul sketch out for us a big picture of God's purposes in this letter. He's done this by pulling back the curtain and showing us God's decree. In the very first chapter of the book he's reminded us that before the foundation of the world God had set His love upon His people. That's designed to remind not only those Ephesian Christians who were facing great obstacles and great persecution — they were marginal in their own society; they had perhaps become estranged from friends and family because of their profession of faith in Christ; they could have felt very unimportant, very overlooked, very vulnerable, very insignificant in their own place and time; and the Apostle Paul wants them to understand that it is precisely upon them, upon those who in the eyes of the world were a bunch of nobodies (actually, not a “bunch” of nobodies; a very little group of nobodies)… that before the foundation of the world God had set His love on them. It reminds you, doesn't it, of Jim Elliot's comment about Christianity: “Just a bunch of nobodies trying to praise Somebody — the Lord Jesus Christ.”
But he also had shown us God's picture by reminding us that it's not just about God's purposes for you but for His whole people, and that when He saved you out of darkness and into His marvelous light, He also saved you out of isolation and into His family; and that family includes both believing Jews and Gentiles – those of Jewish ethnic descent who had put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and those of pagan descent…those of no Jewish bloodline at all…Gentiles who had put their trust in Jesus Christ. They had been brought into this one family of God that God had been building since the days of Genesis 3:15 and the promise to raise up a Seed to that woman who would contend with the seed of the serpent and ultimately prevail…from the days of the promises of God to Abraham. And so throughout this book the Apostle Paul has been putting your life inside that big picture so that you can have a perspective on what the Lord is doing in your life that is not myopic, not too self-focused, focused in only on your particular concerns day to day, but you understand there's a larger scope to His redeeming work.
And then especially from chapter 4 on, the Apostle Paul, having told us of these enormous privileges that we have as Christians, wants to press home to us that along with those privileges come a responsibility to be who we are; to live out the realities which he's told us about in Ephesians 1, 2, and 3. And then as we concentrated on that glorious section on the full armor of God, towards the end of Ephesians 6, he's reminded us that we're in a battle. We live in a war zone, and we need divinely supplied armament if we are going to prevail.
And now he concludes his book, and the book concludes with a very practical statement. There is an introduction of this man Tychicus [gives example of pronunciation in Greek, Latin, etc], but in Greek the name would have been spelled, if I can transliterate it for you, Tukikos. So, maybe Tukikos. It's an interesting name. I’ll tell you about the name later. But this is apparently the scribe to whom Paul's been dictating the letter. Tukikos has been writing down the words. Now Paul takes up the pen to write one final word to the congregation, and he tells us something about this man; but in the course of telling us something about this man, he also reveals something about his own heart, something about the practical way that the Apostle Paul is always working to cultivate fellowship and shared life in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And then he pronounces a benediction, but it's a strange benediction. It's a double benediction. He gives you a benediction in verse 23, and then he comes back and he gives you another benediction in verse 24. And I want to look at those things with you tonight as we come to the close of this great book. Before we read God's word, let's look to Him in prayer and ask for His help and blessing.
Our heavenly Father, we thank You for the privilege of studying this marvelous letter for 61 Lord's Days. I don't know how long ago it actually was when we began, but coming to the end of this book, Lord, in some ways brings a sadness to the heart like I'm getting ready to part with a dear friend that I've come to know better. Heavenly Father, we pray that the truths of this book will linger in our hearts and resound, and be reflected in our lives long after our study together of this book is over. We ask that even these final words of salutation and departure and blessing would be encouraging as we study them tonight. Open our eyes to behold wonderful things in Your Law. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the word of God:
“But that you may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”
Amen. And thus ends the letter of Ephesians, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, inerrant and authoritative word. May He write its eternal truth upon my and your hearts.
Paul shows us even in this parting word his great love for the church. He shows his pastoral heart. He shows the way that he was able to sketch out the grandest visions and yet know how to practically implement them in the life of God's people. He shows his practical concern and His thoughtfulness of other people, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he shows his graciousness even in his gracious benediction. And I want to draw your attention to two things in particular tonight.
I. Paul's practicality
First of all, just Paul's practicality; and I want you to see that in verses 21 and 22, because the Apostle Paul not only was able in this book to sketch out a vision for God's new society — a new society of redeemed sinners brought out of the world and into God's family from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation…people that looked different, talked different, came from different backgrounds, but were united together in the Lord Jesus Christ and are going to be a part of that multitude that no man can number, that stands around the throne singing praises to the Lamb who was slain from before the foundation of the world. And he reveled in this glorious work that God was doing to bring together people that you would never have guessed would have come together at a human level. They are from different cultures, different backgrounds. They had different religious beliefs, and yet they had been saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had rested and trusted in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and now they were brothers and sisters. And they looked different, and they talked different, and they had different backgrounds, but they loved one another in Jesus Christ. They’d been brought together to share a life, to fellowship together, to have what the New Testament calls koinonia. They had communion with one another in their union with Jesus Christ, and Paul can sketch out that grand picture of what God is doing, and at the same time he knows practically that there are steps that you have to take in order to promote that in the life of God's people. But even in verses 22-23, he gives you a hint at some of the practical steps that he himself has taken to promote that kind of shared life. You see something of the concrete customs that the Apostle Paul employs to cultivate this communion, this koinonia, this fellowship, this shared life. Let me draw your attention to just a few things.
First of all, I have to tell you about the name of this beloved minister in the Lord. His name is Tukikos. Now, it comes from tyche, the Greek word for fortune, or fortunate. Do you get that? Paul's ministry partner is named “Lucky”! Now, is that a picture of the sovereignty of God or what? The guy who's writing the Book of Ephesians that talks about – what? God's predestination is named “Lucky”? Come on! This is too good to be true! Yeah! And it just shows you how the sovereign God can pull out of the pagan world one whose parents named him Lucky, who came to know that God's sovereign providence superintends and oversees all, even his own salvation and the blessing of this local congregation. And what does Paul call him? He's a “beloved brother and faithful minister.” Lucky — Paul's compadre.
But here's what I really want you to see in these verses.
First of all, notice Paul's desires for believers to know how he was doing, and to comfort them. He emphasizes it twice, first in verse 21: “But that you may know about my circumstances….”
Paul knows that the Ephesians are worried about him. “How's Paul doing? How's house arrest going? Where are we in the whole trial thing? Are you being fed well, Paul?” Paul knows that they’re worried about it. You know when we get reports from our missionaries that trouble is on the horizon, we pray fervently. It's one of my favorite things that we pray for on Wednesday nights, and that the group prays for on Saturdays, and at other times during the week. But when we get those reports then we're really, really interested to hear how things turn out.
When Lian Thombe was going just a few months ago to meet with the rebels who at one time had held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, and the bullet had not come out of the gun…when we were praying, when he was going back into the jungle to meet them, we had our own misgivings about Lian leaving his wife and his children to go meet with those rebels in the jungle. We were really interested to hear how it came out. Same thing with Paul. They want to know how Paul is, and the Apostle Paul is concerned to send them message of how he is, however difficult it may be to get word to them.
Why? Because it promotes fellowship. It promotes shared life. When he explains to them the difficulties he's facing, and then he reports God's answers to prayer; when he explains to them the obstacles that he faces, and then he reports God's answers to prayer; when he explains the duress or hardship that he is under, and then he reports to them God's answers to prayer; more and more, what happens? Their hearts are knit to his, and his is knit to theirs. And so he desires the believers to know how he's doing.
He says it again, by the way, at the end of verse 21: “When Tychicus comes he will make everything known to you.” And then he says it again in verse 22: “I've sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us.” And this is not because Paul's self-centered. (‘You know, it's real important for you to know about me.’) That's not what he's saying. He's saying ‘I know you've been praying for me. I know that you know what I've been up against. It would be selfish of me not to report back to you what the Lord was doing in answer to your prayers.’
But notice also he's concerned that Tychicus would do what? Comfort them. Now this is so Jesus-like, isn't it? It's Jesus on the cross, looking down at John and Mary: ‘John, let Me introduce you to your mother. My father's been gone for many years [Joseph apparently had died long ago]; I've been the one responsible to take care of My mother. John, it's your job now.’ He's hanging on the cross paying the penalty of the sins of the world, but He's thinking about His mother. He's thinking about His friends, and He's thinking about His disciples. If any man ever had a right to be self-preoccupied, it was the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, and even on the cross He's thinking about others.
Well, here's the Apostle Paul. He's the one in danger. He's the one who's in the bull's eye of Satan's attacks, and yet his concern is that the Ephesian Christians would be comforted. It's so Jesus-like. Paul had been captured by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so he is concerned that they would be comforted, and so he sends Tychicus to them.
Can you understand that what Paul is doing here is he is actually, through these concrete practices and customs, fostering shared life in the life of the church? When Rex Baker comes to visit us and we hear about what he's doing day to day, and we know what he's up against, and we know what the group that is giving oversight to Gateway Rescue Mission has a dream for, what does it do? It lets us know more how to pray for them. It gives us a greater capacity to rejoice when God answers those prayers. It gives us a greater earnestness, because we know more information about the things which are obstacles and challenges. And what happens? Our hearts get knit together.
That's why mission reports are important. That's why it's important to hear from our missionaries, from our campus ministers, from those who are church planting, from those who are preaching the gospel: because we're wanting to share life with them. And that's exactly what the Apostle Paul is doing in sending Tychicus. He is sending information that will foster prayer, but more than that, it will foster shared life.
He's not satisfied with sketching out the grand theory of God's new society: he's doing concrete things to put it in practice, and the three primary concrete things that we see that he does in the Book of Ephesians to do this is prayer — and you remember that we've said that half of the book is prayer in one form or the other…either prayer reports (this is what I've been praying for you, Ephesians); prayer requests (dear Ephesians, would you pray this for me and for others?); outlines of prayer; or actually, extended prayers for the Ephesians. So the book is filled with prayers, and those prayers are all designed to show the Ephesians Paul's heart for them and to cultivate in the Ephesians a heart for God's work in God's kingdom through Paul and through other faithful ministers. And so through prayer he cultivates shared life.
But then also through correspondence — the letter itself is one of Paul's acts of correspondence, but he was writing letters all the time. This is a man on the run, this is a man on the move, this is a man in prison; but he stops to write letters, and he does that because he's wanting to cultivate shared life.
And then of course the other way that he does this is through visits – visiting himself when he can. You remember it is to the Ephesian elders that he will send word in Acts 20: ‘Hey, I want you to come meet me at the coast. I'm on my way back to Jerusalem. This will probably be the last time we will ever see one another.’ And let me tell you, if you haven't read that in a while, go pick up Acts and read chapter 20, and you read the account of Paul and those Ephesian elders in that meeting together…and it ends with a bunch of grown men sobbing in one another's arms.
What's happened? Shared life has happened. Communion has happened. Paul's not just a guy out there doing something, he's us, and we're him, and we're all together in this…together.
So through prayer and correspondence and visits he cultivates the building up of Christ's body. He cultivates communion. He's been concerned about that as he speaks to us in this book, but he shows us that concern practically through these prayers, through the correspondence, through the visits, and even through sending Tychicus to send word of how he's doing. So that's the first thing I wanted you to see: Paul's practicality.
II. Paul's double benediction (23-24)
Now I'd like you to see his final words in this book: his double benediction. And it's a little bit different. It's not “grace and peace.” You hear that in the Bible all the time: “Grace and peace….” It's a standard Christian greeting. It's a standard greeting that goes all the way back to the Old Testament, “Grace and peace….” But here it's “peace and grace.” And notice, it's not just “peace and grace,” but in verse 23 it's “peace, love and faith” and then in verse 24 “grace.”
Now, you recognize part of this because I use this as the standard evening benediction, or at least a part of Ephesians 6:23 is the standard evening benediction here at First Presbyterian Church. (By the way, young folks, benediction just means good word. Literally, it's a blessing; it's a word of blessing.) The worship service begins with a word from Scripture — God in His word calling you to worship; the worship service ends with God in a word from Scripture blessing you. And benedictions have been used by the people of God since all the way back into Old Testament times. You’ll remember probably – the most famous Old Testament benediction comes from Numbers 6:24-26. It's Aaron's benediction:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
By the way, did you hear “grace and peace” even in that very old benediction that stretches back to fourteen centuries before Christ, in the days of Moses? The people of God have been saying “grace and peace” for three and a half thousand years to one another at least, and you see it in that Old Testament benediction.
You know, it's Paul himself who has given us more benedictions in the New Testament than anybody else. Pull your Bibles out for a second. Let me ask you to turn to some of these. Look at Acts 20. It's appropriate that we do so, in light of the fact that Acts 20 contains for us the record of Paul meeting with the Ephesian elders, and listen to the benediction that he pronounces on those elders when he meets with them(Acts 20:32):
“And now I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Among Paul's final word to the Ephesian elders, a word of God's blessing.
But then turn back in your Bibles to Romans 15, and if you look at Romans 15:33, you will see one of the standard forms of blessings or benedictions that Paul will use — Romans 15:33:
“Now the God of peace be with you all.”
But maybe the most standard form of Paul's benedictions is found in Romans 16:20. You go ahead and turn there, and let me tell you that you’ll also find it in I Thessalonians 5:28:
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
And he says it almost the same way in I Corinthians 16:23 —
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you”
the only difference being the substituted for our…“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
He does a similar benediction in the Book of Galatians, chapter six and verse 18, when he says:
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirits, brethren.”
Now, he’ll do Trinitarian benedictions, too. Maybe the most famous of them is
II Corinthians 13:14, which for some reason has come to be known in liturgical circles as the apostolic benediction, but there are of course many apostolic benedictions. It is actually mandated by our Book of Church Order that every General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America must end with this benediction — II Corinthians 13:14 :
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
You see the Trinitarian pattern: Father, Son, and Spirit — in this case, Son, Father, and Spirit.
You see another Trinitarian benediction in Ephesians 6:23, 24, the passage we're looking at tonight, which focuses on the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and faith — which elsewhere the Apostle Paul ascribes to the Spirit.
The benediction that I typically use on Sunday nights, by the way, comes from Ephesians 6:23, with the one change of focusing on that grace coming (or that peace coming) through the Lord Jesus Christ; and then it borrows from Hebrews 13:21, and from the Song of Solomon 2:17, where the beloved waits for the day to break and the shadows to flee away — a reference to the day when we come out of the darkness and into the marvelous light; when the kingdom that Peter talked about tonight with the children comes in all the fullness of its glory, and there is no more sorrow, there are no more tears, and there is no more crying, and there is no more night, for never-ending day will be ushered in, in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, turn in your Bibles to Philippians 4:23. Here the Apostle Paul gives another benediction similar to the ones in Romans, and I Corinthians and Galatians that we've mentioned. Philippians 4:23 :
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.”
In Colossians it's even simpler than that. Colossians 4:18 — “Grace be with you.”
Let me challenge you to do this. Go through the New Testament and see if you can make a list of all the benedictions that are listed there. Remember you’ll find both benedictions and doxologies. Doxologies give praise to God; benedictions are blessings from God to you, and some benedictions have elements of both doxology and benediction. In fact, the typical call to worship that I use on Sunday evening that comes from Psalm 134 actually begins with a call and ends with a benediction: “The Lord bless you from Zion, He who fills heaven and earth.” (And by the way, if you wonder “What translation is he using?” that is the oldest English translation: the Miles-Coverdale translation of that great passage. It's just so evocative and beautiful, and so I use that as a part of calling you to worship and remind you that you are blessed even as you come to bless the living God.
But in the passage that we're looking at tonight…you can go back to Ephesians 6…the things that I want to draw your attention to are two-fold:
First in verse 23, this blessing of peace. Now, you know that peace doesn't just mean the cessation of hostility. In the Bible, peace entails that enjoyment of the total well-being that God bestows on His people, and so when the Apostle Paul says “Peace be to the brethren,” he is saying “May you, fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (brothers and sisters because we have been united to Christ by faith, by the work of the Holy Spirit)…may you know the fullness of God's favor, having been reconciled to God so that you have peace with Him; having been reconciled to one another so that now you’re in His family; may you know together the fullness of the blessing that God bestows; the total well-being that comes from God's favor.”
“Peace be to the brethren, and love….” Now, is he talking about your love or God's love? God's love. What's he saying there? May you taste of God's love, His full and fatherly and gracious and free and overflowing love. May you know the total enjoyment of the well-being that He only bestows, and may you taste of His love.
“…With faith.” Ah! There you see, after all, faith itself is a gift of God. Paul is acknowledging that the Ephesians were believers. They had faith. But he's also acknowledging that they need to rely upon the Spirit for that faith to continue. “May God continue to grant you faith,” the Apostle Paul is saying.
Well, that's the first part of his benediction: “Peace, love, and faith.”
The second part has to do with grace. Look at verse 24:
“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an
Two things we need to see here. First of all, when Paul says “grace to you,” he is saying “May God continue His grace to you, His free and undeserved and unearned favor to you; a favor secured by Jesus Christ, but by nothing in you or done by you, but freely given to you; may God continue that free and undeserved favor to you.”
But then notice the final words:
“…Who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.”
And the Apostle Paul is reminding us there that God's peace and God's love and God's grace is for those, and only those, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who love Him to the end. That is, it is for those in whom by the powerful operations of the Holy Spirit there has been a divine work of new life done in their hearts, so that they rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone, and they never ever stop resting and trusting on Jesus Christ alone. And because they never ever stop resting and trusting on Jesus Christ alone, what happens? Their love for Jesus grows and grows, and grows, and it never stops growing.
There's an old hymn, More Love to Thee, O Christ, and the Apostle Paul's words remind us of that. That's the experience of every believer. When you realize what God has done for you in Jesus Christ, the only proper response is to grow in love for Christ. Love to Christ is the great index of the work of the Spirit in our hearts.
And so the Apostle Paul closes this great book with a benediction, and so we close our study of this great book with a benediction. Stand; stand and receive God's blessing.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.