Final Greetings

Ephesians 6:21-24

5/11/2008

Audio Version

One Peanuts cartoon shows Linus and Charlie Brown talking together, and they are talking about the Bible. Linus is talking about Paul’s letters, and he says that it always feels strange reading Paul’s letters, since it feels like he is reading someone else’s mail. It certainly does feel that way when we hear from Paul’s letters about people we don’t know very well, like this Tychicus. However, there are lessons we can learn from Tychicus, as well as from the final benediction. Final greetings often sum up the message of the whole letter. So we also will reflect on the message of Ephesians as a whole, now that we have gone through the entire letter.

Firstly, what do we learn from Tychicus? From the four other times his name is mentioned in the Bible, we learn these important facts: Tychicus was in Ephesus on one of Paul’s missionary journeys, and was quite possibly one of Paul’s first converts. Tychicus was from Ephesus itself, and was therefore known to the other believers in Ephesus. Secondly, Tychicus was one of two people Paul took with him on his third missionary journey (the other being Trophimus). Therefore, Tychicus was a fellow missionary with Paul. He went through the same trials that Paul went through. He was someone as close as a brother to Paul. He never abandoned Paul like John Mark did. Therefore, he earned Paul’s undying love and trust. Tychicus was almost certainly the one who carried this letter to the Ephesians, and might even have been involved in writing down what Paul wanted to say. Paul also sent Tychicus to relieve Timothy and Titus successively. So, Tychicus was a very versatile worker. Paul could send this jack of all trades anywhere to do anything. He was therefore a right hand man to Paul. No wonder Paul calls him “the dear brother and faithful servant.” I suspect that when Paul told the Ephesians that Tychicus will tell them everything, that that even includes some kind of explanation of what Paul meant in this letter. Certainly, it also included a description of how Paul was doing, and what Paul was doing. At the very least, encouragement was necessary, since the Ephesians had heard that Paul was in prison. They needed to know how Paul was doing in prison.

So, how do we evaluate Tychicus? Certainly, Tychicus was essential to Paul’s ministry. He was kind of quiet. He didn’t write anything that has his name on it, even though he may have been involved in writing Ephesians and Colossians. He was a courier for the Word of God. He carried the Word of God. This shows us that everyone has their part to play. If Tychicus had not done what God had called him to do, then the Ephesians Christians would never have heard from Paul. We would have lost this letter and Colossians, if not for Tychicus. Tychicus might not even have been aware of the fact that this was an inspired writing. And yet, he carried it. He did his small part for the kingdom of God. And we find out that it is not so small after all. In fact, there are no small, insignificant callings in the body of Christ. Take motherhood, for instance, appropriate on Mother’s Day. Many people today think that a career is much more important than being a mother. I would argue that Scripture states that a mother’s most important job is to be a mother. But it is not really a job, after all. It is a calling. If you are a mother, it is because God has called you to be a mother. You have God’s own blessing on your motherhood. You were meant to be a mother. It didn’t somehow happen by accident. You know, one of the Ten Commandments is about honoring parents, and if God wants parents and parenting honored, then so should we honor our parents, and we should also honor parenting itself. Let no one despise motherhood. Let no one value a career over motherhood if they are in fact mothers. But the example of Tychicus applies to all honorable callings. If God has called you to do a task, then it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant you think it is, it is not small or insignificant. If you are taking out the garbage,you should do that to the glory of God. If you go to school, you should do that to the glory of God. If you can find a way to help other Christians exercise their spiritual gifts, then that is certainly to the glory of God. In fact, it is in those small things that the glory of God is most important, because it s the small things that take up the majority of our lives. And God cares about how we do them.

Moving on to the benediction, we can see four words that help us summarize the message of Ephesians. Those four words are peace, love, faith and grace. We’ll start with grace. Paul took great pains in the first chapter and a half to talk about the fact that we are saved by grace. We cannot even take any credit for the faith which God gives us. Salvation is of God, and from God. Of course, we are to respond to this great gift of salvation by doing those good deeds which we were predestined to do. But God gets all the glory for our salvation. Then, in chapter 2, verse 11 through chapter 3, Paul tells us about the peace we have with God that leads to the peace we have with one another. He tells us how those two aspects of peace are related. Peace with God results in peace with fellow believers. Then in chapter 4 through the first part of chapter 6, we see how we are to love one another. We are to imitate God, seeking unity in the body of Christ, submitting as we ought to those in authority over us, and loving those committed to our care as Jesus Christ loves us. Then, in the armor passage, we are called to faith. In faith are we to stand against the devil and against his schemes. So, then we can see that these four words: grace, peace, love, and faith are a summary of what Paul wants to tell us in Ephesians. These words all operate in the context of the church, which is the one great theme of Ephesians. Ephesians is about the body of Christ. In a way, it is also fitting that we remember Pentecost in this final sermon on Ephesians, since it was on Pentecost that God established the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in power with His church.

So, in considering grace, peace, love, and faith in the context of the church, we have to ask these very important questions: how important is the church to you? It was the early church father Cyprian of Carthage who once said that you cannot have God as your Father without having the church as your mother. John Calvin said the same thing. On Mother’s Day, do you remember that the church is your spiritual mother? Do you remember that it is the church that nurses you with spiritual milk? Do you remember that it is the church that eventually gives you spiritual meat from the Word of God? You might remember that the fifth commandment tells us to honor our father and our mother. Included in that commandment is the command to honor our spiritual Father, who is God Almighty, and to honor our spiritual mother, the church. It is not honoring to your spiritual mother to neglect the attendance of weekly worship, or any other opportunity to fellowship with God’s people and to learn from God’s Word. We should desire to come to every service or Bible study that the church offers. How about the evening worship service? That is a time when the church wants to feed you. Where is your hunger? If your children are not hungry, do you not begin to worry about their health? In the same way, if you do not hunger for the Word of God with every fiber of your spiritual being, then the church starts to worry about you. Come to the feast morning and night. There is no real reason why we all cannot come to the evening service, is there? Honor your spiritual mother church by coming whenever she offers food. She wants to bless you, not to burden you. She wants you to feel the blessing of beginning and ending the Lord’s Day in worship of God, and in hearing from Him. She wants you to grow as much as you can by eating all that you can. And by the way, there is no such thing as gluttony of eating the Word of God too much. You can never have too much.

You will hear about grace, peace, love, and faith in the church. You will hear about Jesus Christ as the answer to our spiritual problem of sin and spiritual death. You will hear about everything God has done in the pages of the Bible, the whole counsel of God. We should strive to want to hear the whole counsel of God.

So that is Paul’s message. God has given grace to us in order that we might have peace. As the letter began with grace and peace, so also does it end with grace and peace. This results in our love for God and our love for one another. And in this way, our faith grows and grows, as we hear about all the things that God has done for us. So Paul says farewell to us for a while, until we look at another one of his letters. But it is only the beginning for us to put into practice what Paul has told us, what God has told us through Paul.
 

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