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Ephesians 1-3

SEEING THE CHURCH FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE –
SEEING THE RICHES OF GOD'S GRACE!

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
EPHESIANS

 

your riches in God's grace (1-3)

1. We are rich! (blessed in the heavenlies) (1:3-14)

2. We cannot experience our riches until we believe that we
are rich. (1:15-23)

3. We must remember that our riches were not earned, but were
graciously given to us by God. (2:1-22)

4. We are rich in the heavenlies even when we are poor and suffering in the worldlies. (3:1-13)

5. If we are to experience God's riches to the full, we must humbly bow before the Father and pray that we would be filled to full with the fullness of God. (3:14-21)

 

INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION ABOUT EPHESIANS

The author: Paul introduces himself as the author.  In the first verse we find: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God."  He reveals that he is the author in 3:1: "for this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." See also 3:7,13, 4:1, 6:19-20  Paul probably wrote this letter while he was in the imprisonment in Rome recorded in Acts 28:16-31.  It was probably written at the same time as the books of Colossians and Philemon (about A. D. 60).

The recipients:  The letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus in the first verse: "To the saints at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus."  Not all of early manuscripts contain the words: "to the saints in Ephesus."  This letter may have been a circular letter that went first to Ephesus and then to the other churches in the region.  It may have been the letter to the Laodiceans that is mentioned in Colossians 4:16.  The fact that nothing in the letter is addressed to the specific needs or problems of any one church supports this theory that it was a circular letter.

The city of Ephesus was one of the key cities in the world at the time that Paul wrote this letter.  It was the largest city in province of Asia Minor (our modern-day Turkey).  It was known for its temple of Dianna—the goddess of fertility.  The temple was 425' long and 220' wide.  The founding of the church at Ephesus is described in Acts 19.  Paul taught and sought to build up the church for over two years. See Acts 19:8,10  Paul may have rounded off the 2 years and 3 months as 3 years.  There is also a description of the church at Ephesus given by Jesus in Revelation 2:1-7.

The theme: In Ephesians Paul describes the church's spiritual riches by God's grace in chapters 1 through 3, and then he exhorts us to live a life that is worthy of these riches in chapters 4 through 6.

 

THE MESSAGE OF EPHESIANS

How do we look at our local church?  Do we see it as our church?  Do we see it as the pastor's church?  How do we look at the universal church?  Do we see only denominations and many buildings?  The book of Ephesians describes how the Apostle Paul looked at the church.  He sees the church from God's perspective.  It is God's church; not man's church!  Paul realized that the Ephesians Christians would need to have their spiritual eyes opened to see the church from God's perspective.  "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:18-23)
 
We will see in the book of Ephesians that the church exists only because it was God's sovereign choice to bring it into existence, and it exists entirely because of His grace toward us.  We will also learn that we are incredibly blessed because of God's grace.  The problem is that because of our self-centeredness, we do not see how blessed we are.  We often see the church as little more than a group of people who come to a building once a week (or more than once a week for some of the more faithful members).  May this study of Ephesians help to open our spiritual eyes to see how blessed we are as we seek to see the church from God's perspective.

The book of Ephesians can be neatly divided into two halves.  Ephesians 1-3 is the doctrinal half of the book and Ephesians 4-6 contains Paul's exhortations that are based on the doctrinal teaching of the first three chapters.  The pattern is similar to saying to a friend, "You seem hot and tired, and we have a swimming pool; I encourage you to go for a swim."  You are hot and we have a swimming pool is the doctrinal part, and the encouragement to go for a swim is the exhortation.  In Ephesians 1-3, Paul summarizes all that God has graciously blessed all who are members of His church with—our new position with Him and His new life in us.  Then, in chapters 4-6, Paul urges us to live like the new people that we now are.

Exhortations that are not based on the doctrines of God's sovereignty and grace become a demand that we live up to someone's legalistic standard for us.  For example, we should love one another.  Yes, we should, but why should we and how can we?  We should love one another because of how much we are loved by God.  We can love one another because God has brought our old unloving self to an end and has made us to be like Him.  Now, that we understand the doctrinal truths, it is appropriate that someone would urge us to love one another.

When we see the church from God's perspective, we will see that we are blessed by God because of and through Jesus Christ. "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7)  From God's perspective we have been identified with God's Son, Jesus Christ.  In the book of Ephesians we will learn how rich we are because we are now identified with Jesus Christ.

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

Thought Question: What is there in Paul's introduction that would be an encouragement to you if this letter was written to you?

 

 

Paul begins this letter by stating that he became an Apostle not because he willed himself to become an Apostle, but because it was God's choice that he become an Apostle.  Then, he states what God, Whom he represented, willed for the Christians that he was writing to: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."  Since, it is very like a circular letter to churches in general, the Apostle also reveals what God wills for every church and to each of us who are Christians: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes that this letter was not written to Christian scholars, but to "ordinary Christians."  "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"  So, the book of Ephesians was written to each of us and is capable of being understood by each of us.  Watchman Nee wrote a book on Romans titled, The Normal Christian Life.  The book of Ephesians was written to the normal Christian who is not very normal when he or she is compared to the normal non-Christian.

Notice that Paul addresses them as "saints."  The Catholic Church distinguishes between ordinary Christians and "Saints."  Paul, on the other hand, addresses all Christians as "saints."  Each of us who are Christians is set apart for God's holy purposes.  We will discover what God's holy purposes are for the church and for us as we continue on in this letter to the "faithful in Christ Jesus."  We will see the church and will see ourselves from God's perspective.

YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (1-3)

1. We are rich blessed in the heavenlies (1:3-14)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."

Wuest comments that it is "possibly the longest sentence of connected discourse in existence."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  This sentence is Paul's spontaneous expression of praise to God for all He has done for all of us who have become the greatly privileged members of God's eternal family.  Paul's obvious purpose was to include the Ephesian Christians along with him as he expressed his heartfelt praise and thanksgiving to God for how richly God has blessed them and him.

a. Praise to God (1:3a)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,"

The Greek word for "praise" and "blessed" is the word from which we get our English word, "eulogize."  Webster's interprets it to mean: "To speak or write in high praise of; extol."  Paul praises and extols God who has graciously and greatly enriched each of His spiritual children.

b. Who has blessed us (1:3b)
"who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."

Thought Question:  Why can you be excited that God has "blessed" you with in the "heavenly realms"? (Would you rather be rich in the worldly realms?)

 

 

"who has blessed us"  The same verb that was used above for "praise" (or "blessed" in many translations).  The Greek word can be broken down
into eu – good, and lego – speak; thus "to speak good of."  Here, it refers
to God doing good for us, whereas in the beginning of this verse, it refers
to us speaking good of God.  We speak good of God, because He has
done good for us.  Praise to God is a very appropriate response for Christians to make toward God!

Beginning in this verse, Paul is about to reveal to us our spiritual inheritance.  It is as if a very rich relative has just died and we are about to hear what he has left for us in his will.  Jesus did die for us and as a result of His death, we have gained a very great and wonderful inheritance from God.  We are about to hear how rich we have become—how "blessed" we now are!

When we learn of our riches in God's grace, we also, with Paul, will shout praise to God for how much He has "blessed" us.  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes that this spirit of praise will be what most characterizes Christians if we fully understand how blessed we are.  Consider Paul and Silas when they were jail in Philippi: "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them."  The world is full of grumbling and complaining; we are to be full of praises. See Philippians 2:14

"in the heavenly realms"  Paul was in prison as he wrote these words, so he was not "blessed" in the visible and worldly realm; but he was "blessed" in the invisible and heavenly realm.  Paul was desirous that the Ephesian Christians would recognize that the heavenly riches, which are eternal and internal, are much superior to the temporal and external riches of this world!  "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5) See also Philippians 3:20; I Peter 2:11; Colossians 3:2

When we first became a Christian, we realized that we are somehow now in touch with this heavenly realm.  These words, "heavenly realms," is used by Paul in Ephesians five times: 1:2,20, 2:6, 3:10, and 6:12.  In our identity with Jesus Christ, we died with Him, were buried with Him, were raised to new life with Him, and finally we are now seated with Him in the "heavenly realms." (1:20, 2:6)   Spiritually, this is true of each Christian right now.  One day, it will be true physically also.  Right now, we have access spiritually to the Father, and we receive our spiritual life from Him.

"with every spiritual blessing"  We are rich spiritually.  Some might say, "I would rather be rich materially."  But, would we really rather be rich materially than rich spiritually?  Often people pursue after material riches because deep inside they are empty spiritually.  Years ago, there was a Christian song that asked the question: "Is there something missing?"  What is missing is the spiritual life that God provides to each Christian.  We are very rich compared to those who do not know God.  Those who are not Christians do not really know what they are missing.  Each Christian has been "blessed" by God spiritually.

How rich are we spiritually?  We have spiritually all that we need: we have complete forgiveness from God, and exalted position with God, and everything we need to live a godly life.  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4) 

"in Christ"  "Every spiritual blessing" that so greatly enriches us comes to us because of Jesus Christ and through Him.  His death for us and His life in us has raised us to a whole new and rich level of life.

Later, I will be sharing about an unforgettable time in Africa where I shared with a group of Ugandan Christians about how rich we are in Christ.  We may feel poor, but the Ugandan lady I will be sharing about in particular was much poorer than most of us, yet she learned how rich she is in Christ.

c. For we are chosen and predestined to be God's adopted son. (1:4-6) (God the Father's role in our salvation)
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."

Thought Question:  What is there in these verses for which you can genuinely from the heart praise God?

 

 

A Christian, spiritually speaking, is much like a vagabond bum who has been adopted into the family of a millionaire.  We were chosen "before the creation of the world" to be spiritual trillionaires.  In these verses, we learn that God intentionally and purposely chose each of us who are Christians to be just like His Son.  In Romans 8:29, we learn that we are "predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, so he might be the firstborn among many brothers." See also Colossians 1:27 and I John 1:3:1-2

Just like the vagabond bum who is adopted into the family of the millionaire, we are totally unworthy of the riches that we have received; it is a gift given to us from the loving heart of God.  Is it hard to understand why Paul repeats throughout these verses: "to the praise of his glorious grace"?

These verses open up one of the most controversial issues within Christianity.  In short, does God choose us or do we choose God?  These verses appear to answer the question.  Here, we find stated in clear words: God chose us.  Yet, in Romans 10:13 (a quote from Joel 2:32), we read these words; "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  So, the answer is that we choose God.  Does God choose us or do we choose God?  The answer, if all Scripture is considered, is both: God chooses us and we choose God.  A number of sections of Scripture emphasize both God's choice and man's choice at the same time: Acts 2:23, 4:27-28; Luke 22:22; John 6:40; Philippians 2:12-13; I Peter 2:8; Romans 9 (God's sovereignty) and Romans 10 (Man's responsibility).  Both man's responsibility and God's sovereignty are clearly taught in the Bible.  The problem comes when someone focuses on only one side or the other, thus eliminating what the Bible teaches on the other side.  An emphasis on God's sovereignty to the exclusion of man's responsibility can result in Christians who do not see the need for passionate Christian service in prayer and outreach to the lost.  After all, God has already determined who will be saved.  An emphasis of man's responsibility to the exclusion of God's sovereignty can result in Christians who believe that unless they somehow persuade people to become Christians, they will be forever lost.  After all, it is totally up to men's choices whether or not men are saved.

Here in Ephesians 1:4-6, we see the Divine side of it.  God chose us and everyone who becomes a Christian "before the creation of the world."  The balance is that it is our responsibility to pray for, be a good Christian testimony to, and share the gospel message with those who do not know Christ; but we also can believe that people will only come to God who have been chosen by God.  For example, we plant seed, but the crops only grow because God has predetermined that the seeds will produce a crop. See also I Peter 1:2; Romans 8:28-30, 9:1-29; II Thessalonians 2:13-14 for verses that emphasize God's sovereign choice of us.  See Romans 1:18-33, 2:5-11, 9:30-33, 10:13, 16-19; I Timothy 2:3-4; II Peter 3:9 for verses that emphasize man's responsibility.

Let us now focus on what these verses have to say about how each of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ is "blessed in the heavenly realms."  "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."  We see in this verse that being "blessed" by God did not start when we became a Christian; the certainty of our being "blessed" started "before the creation of the world."  God has an eternal purpose that we as individuals would "be holy and blameless in his sight." See Romans 8:28-30

What is meant by "holy and blameless"?  He could be speaking of our present state as Christians of being legally cleared of guilt before God through the blood of Christ.  If he were just referring to our being freed from guilt through the blood of Christ, it is likely that he would have stated that specifically.  It appears, then, more likely that the "holy and blameless" Paul speaks of here is that we who have been chosen will actually one day be "holy and blameless" in our actual character and lives.  "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)  "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)  "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)

"Without blame" means that all of the moral impurities that are now present in our lives will be completely removed and there will be nothing in us that anyone can find fault with.  "Holy" means that we have God's holy character.  How does this truth about our future impact our lives today?  Listen to I John 3:3: "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."  This truth about our Christian future also explains why Jesus said the following: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  Our destiny is holiness, so it is reasonable that we should seek after it now.  Holiness is what our heart yearns for.  It is what we will experience fully when we stand in the presence of Jesus Christ.  We will be finally full and complete when we are "holy and blameless" in His sight. See I Thessalonians 4:3

"In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,"  God chose us to be his "sons."  But how did we actually become His "sons"?  Romans 8:28-30 describes how we actually became His "sons":  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)  God used everything that has occurred in our lives to bring about His eventual goal for our lives.  Some see predestination as God "irresistibly" drawing His elect to Himself by regenerating them prior to their choice to receive Him.  According to them, we had no desire to become Christians, then God regenerated us, and, as a result, we now choose God.  From this viewpoint, God does it all and we have no part in it at all.  Others, at the opposite extreme, see God as completely passive.  He waits for us as we decide whether or not we will receive Him.  He foreknows those who will ultimately make that choice.  Although few are at these opposite extremes, those who lean on one side or the other tend to classify those who disagree with them as being at the other extreme.  The Bible, however, presents neither God nor us as being passive.  God actively draws us to Himself and we continually make real choices until, for the elect, God draws us to the state of heart and mind where we are ready to choose Him.  His predestining us includes both His part and our part.  God chose Abraham.  He reached out to him at Ur of the Chaldees and worked in his life throughout his life.  Abraham also made decisions all of his life.  God's ultimate purpose for Abraham was fulfilled, even with Abraham making a life full of choices.  God's ultimate purpose for us will also be fulfilled, even with us making a life full of choices.

"to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ,"  Paul was a Roman citizen.  "Under Roman law adoption secured for the adopted child a right to the name and to the property of the person by whom he had been adopted.  The moment a child was adopted by a person, that child had the legal right, an absolute legal right, to make such claims.  On the other hand Roman law granted to the person who adopted the child all the rights and privileges of a father.  It worked both ways." "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"

Martyn Lloyd-Jones also points out that in the Roman government the true child of a father did not receive the legal rights as an heir until the time prescribed by his or her father.  We have been "adopted" into God's family and now possess the full rights of an adopted child.  "What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:1-5) See also I John 3:1; Romans 8:16,17; Matthew 5:9; Galatians 3:26

"in accordance with his pleasure and will"  Why did God choose us to be His "adopted" "sons"?  It was not because we earned it or because we were irresistibly lovable.  The very opposite is true; for we have earned only God's wrath and our sinfulness is despicable to God.  Rather, God chose us because of what is in His heart.  "He was moved by His own grace, mercy, and compassion." "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"

"to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."  We are told in these verses what should forever be true of us as we contemplate these riches in Christ that are now ours: we should praise and glorify God for His wonderful grace.  The song by John Newton, Amazing Grace is the most famous Christian song of all time.  It is sung all over the world every day.  The reason for its popularity is certainly because John Newton captured in the words of this song how amazing it is that any of us wretches ever is blessed so wonderfully by God.

"in the One he loves"  At the Lord's baptism, the Father spoke these words: "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)  At the transfiguration on a mountain, the Father spoke these words: "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (Matthew 17:5)  Martyn Lloyd-Jones powerfully asks his readers to see Jesus' life, persecution, and death from the eyes of His loving Father; as He sees what evil men do to His beloved Son.  It helps us to see how blessed we are that the Father would allow "the One he loves" to go through all that He went through for us.  Yes, we are blessed "in the One he loves"!

Listen, as Lloyd-Jones seeks to capture what it was like for the Father as He saw what was happening to His beloved One:  "He sees men reviling His Son, He sees men laughing at Him, He sees men taking up stones to throw at Him, His Beloved . . . but let us hasten on to Golgotha, we see Him nailed to a tree.  The Father is still looking down upon it all.  The Beloved is finally rejected, despised of men, spat upon, scourged, hated, reviled, nailed to the tree.  We cannot conceive the agony, the suffering, the shame that were involved.  The Father looks at his Beloved as He endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself.  That is the measure of God's love." "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"

d. This was made possible because we were redeemed (ransomed from the penalty our sin by Christ's blood) (1:7-8)
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." (Jesus the Son's role in our salvation, Part I)

Thought Question #1:  What is there in these verses for which you can genuinely from the heart praise God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by the word "redemption"?

 

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that many in liberal churches and even many in evangelical churches do not grasp the importance of the "blood" of Christ.  They would say that the Father forgives us like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son. See Luke 15:11-32  God the Father has a loving heart toward us and merely chooses to forgive us.  But, they can only come to that belief out of context of what the entire Bible teaches.  God loves us, but because He is also totally righteous, our sin produces the absolute need In Him that all our sin must be righteously dealt with.  The full penalty for our sin must be paid! 

"According to the Bible (I speak with reverence) the forgiveness was a tremendous problem for Almighty God.  I do not hesitate to assert that the forgiveness of our sins is the only problem with which God has ever confronted." "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books."

The only solution to our sin was the cross and the blood of Christ.  They speak with great power of the great sacrifice that was made to satisfy a righteous God and to enable us to justly become His sons and daughters in Christ!  God's full and just anger because of our sins was poured out on Jesus on the cross, where His blood poured forth from His sinless body!  Oh, the great injustice of it all that the One who is pure should die for us who are so impure!

The result of the cross? "forgiveness of sins"!! "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)  "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22)  "Then he adds: 'Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.'" (Hebrews 10:17)

What does Paul mean by: "we have redemption"?  What is "redemption"?  In Paul's day, slavery was common; primarily as a result of the Roman conquests where those who were conquered often became slaves.  There were hundreds of thousands of slaves in the Roman Empire:  "Redemption" occurred when a prescribed amount of money was paid and a slave was set free.  In John 8:34, Jesus said that "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" and in II Peter 2:19, Peter said that men are slaves "to whatever has mastered" them.

We sin and we are, therefore, "mastered" and enslaved by our sinfulness.  We are redeemed or bought back from this slavery to sin and separation from God by the only ransom price that can deliver us from our bondage to sin: the "blood" of God's Son! See Titus 2:14; I Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 9:13; Revelation 5:9

"in accordance with the riches of God's grace"  As I mentioned earlier, my wife Shirley and I recently traveled to Uganda in Africa.  We were there for 2 ½ months.  During that trip, I traveled with a group from a church in Kabale, Uganda, to a lady's home.  Her home was located near the top of one of the very tall hills surrounding Kabale.  I was asked to teach one of the lessons I had taught at the church on our riches in God's grace.  One of the verses I covered at that time is this verse.  The people of Kabale, for the most part, are very poor.  Particularly, they are very poor compared to us rich Americans.  Apart from the church people building her this home, she would not even have had a home.  She had no electricity or running water, and her possessions were very meager.  Nevertheless, because she is a believer in Jesus Christ, she is very rich.  As I mentioned earlier, one of the deacons of the church told me as we descended down the hill that my teaching time had persuaded this lady who felt that she was very poor, that she actually is very rich.  May these words persuade us who may also feel very poor that we are also very rich.

These verses in chapter one and throughout Ephesians should overwhelmingly convince us that we are very rich!  We are legally free from all guilt before God—no longer condemned (See Roman 8:1); we are at peace with God (See Romans 5:1); we are reconciled with God (See Colossians 1:21-22); we are adopted as God's son (see Ephesians 1:5); we are aware of God's mystery (See Ephesians 1:9,10); we are raised and seated with Christ (See Ephesians 2:6); we have immediate access to God's throne (See Hebrews 4:16); we are able to call God "papa" (See Romans 8:15); we are co-heirs with Jesus Christ to all of God's riches (See Romans 8:15-17); we are new creatures (See II Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-14); we are temples of the Holy Spirit (See I Corinthians 6:19); we have God's transcendent power to live a godly life (See II Corinthians 4:7; II Peter 1:3,4);and we are no longer sinners by nature (See I John 3:1-2,9,10).  We who are God's children are truly and eternally rich. See 1:18, 2:4-7, 3:8

As was mentioned earlier, the most popular Christian song of all time is Amazing Grace.  But, Christians have sung of God's grace in many songs throughout the centuries.  Music provides us a way to express our joy over what God has graciously done for us.  Yet, we need to admit that what God has so richly given to us, we will not fully understand until we are with Him in glory.  When we are there, we will understand and praise Him fully for Who He is and what has done for us.  "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" (Revelation 5:13)

"that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding"  As has been already pointed out, God has not only forgiven us of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, He has also graciously chosen to make us members of His eternal family with all the riches that go along with that incredibly great privilege.  He has truly "lavished" His grace upon us.

We are told here by Paul that all of this was done with "all wisdom and understanding."  Scientists spend their lives seeking to understand the wonders of nature.  What they are seeking to understand is the great and unsearchable wisdom of God. See Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:8  God's grace toward us is also a matchless work of God's "wisdom and understanding."  The Bible itself contains a record of God's "wisdom and understanding."  How can we who are so stubborn and blinded by pride be reached with God's grace?  Romans 8:28 tells us that God uses everything that happens in the lives of those "who have been called according purpose" to bring them to Himself.  His ultimate goal is that His chosen ones (we who have believed in Christ) will "be conformed to the likeness of his Son." (Romans 8:29)  How does He do all of this?  He does it with great "wisdom and understanding."  Will it not be exciting to learn in eternity what God used in our lives to bring us to Himself and shape us into the likeness of His Son?  You and I are greatly blessed to be some of those who are the beneficiaries of God's wonderful and infinitely wise plan for us.

e. This is all part of God's eternal plan and purpose (1:9-14)
"Andre Aurois says: 'The universe is indifferent.  Who created it?  Why are we here on this puny mud-heap spinning in infinite space?  I have not the slightest idea, and I am convinced that no one has the least idea.'"  "G. N. Clark, in his inaugural lecture at Cambridge said: 'There is no secret and no plan in history to be discovered.  I do not believe that any future consummation could make sense of all the irrationalities of preceding ages.  If it could not explain the, still less could it justify them.'"  "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by the Westminster Press."  "Jean Paul Sartre, influential novelist and playwright or our times wrote:  'Every existence is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.'  Bertrand Russell, the English atheist-mathematical-philosopher with strong pacifist views, said, 'Man . . . his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs, are both the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feel can preserve an individual life beyond the grave.'"  "Taken from Terminal Generation by Hal Lindsay.  Copyright 1976 by Fleming H. Revell Company"  Macbeth of Shakespeare said that life is a "tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing."  Someone else has said, "We are born crying, live complaining, and die disappointed."  And still someone else has said that "Life is a game at which everybody loses."  This is all that life is to many, but the Christian has been given a profound insight into the meaning and purpose of life!

(1) God has revealed to us His eternal plan and purpose (1:9-10)
"And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."

 

 

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what is the purpose of life?

 

 

What is God's ultimate purpose?  It is to fix that which is horribly broken.  Some of us have had an older car that has become completely broken.  We have it towed to our mechanic.  It seems like there is no hope, but the mechanic begins to work at his purpose—to repair that which is broken.  God's purpose is also to repair His creation that is now horribly broken because of our sin.

Today, in our world we see division everywhere—divisions between nature and man-pollution, between races-bigotry, between nations-war, between marriages-divorce, and the lists goes on and on.  God's ultimate purpose is "to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head."  He has already been working toward His purpose since the first man and woman gave in to temptation in the Garden of Eden and separated themselves from Him by their sin.  An essential part of God's purpose was accomplished on a cross in Jerusalem.  For there He provided total forgiveness of sin for all who believe in the crucified One, Jesus Christ.  God is working out everything to accomplish His good purpose. See Romans 8:28 

Paul reveals to us in verse 9 that God's purpose, which He has revealed to us who have believed in Christ, is a "mystery."  When we think of a "mystery" in our culture, we usually think of a murder mystery in a novel or a movie.  Someone committed the murder, but it is a mystery as to who did it.  In the culture of Paul's time, a "mystery" usually refers to a "mystery" religion that had secret rites and knowledge that were only known by those initiated into that religion.  Today, we have fraternal groups and cults that have secret rites that only their members know.

What does Paul mean by "mystery"?  This term "mystery" is used a number of times in the New Testament.  Jesus told a series of parables that He said reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom. See Matthew 13, Mark 4; and Luke 8:4-10, 8:11-15, 10:23,24  See also Ephesians 3:2-5; Romans 16:24,26; I Corinthians 2:6,7; I Timothy 3:16

So, what does Paul mean by this "mystery" that has been revealed to each Christian?  First of all, it is a part of God's plan that He had not revealed to people in the past, but He has now revealed.  The church itself, which is a mixture of Jews and Gentiles indwelt by the Son of God, was not revealed fully in the Old Testament and at one time was a "mystery."  Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, was commissioned by God to reveal this "mystery."  See Ephesians 3:2-6

Lloyd-Jones gives this added insight into Paul's meaning of the word "mystery":  The term "mystery" means that the human mind "by its own efforts and endeavors can never arrive at it . . . but when it is revealed to him he is able to understand it.  The Apostle Paul refers to it as 'God's wisdom', and as 'hidden wisdom'." "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"  In my younger years I knew about the teachings of the Bible, but I did not really understand what God reveals in the Bible until God's Spirit opened my mind to God's mysteries. See I Corinthians 2:6-16

What is the particular "mystery" that Paul reveals here?  It is that God is going to complete His purpose one day and "all things" will be "under one head, even Christ."  One day, "at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11)  One day, Jesus will conquer all of God's foes.  Some will joyfully bow before Him and willingly submit to His rule; others will be thrown into a place of eternal judgment. See I Corinthians 15:24-28  The angels and man's rebellion will on that day be completely overthrown and conquered completely and the universe, angels, and man will harmoniously and gloriously be under the rule of our righteous and loving King!

Doing a task for a purpose is an important part of life.  The car mechanic does not wonder what His purpose is; he knows that his purpose is to repair cars.  The restaurant cook does not wonder what His purpose is; his purpose is to prepare meals for those who come to the restaurant where he is employed.  But they and even most are not aware of the ultimate purpose of life.  Just before I became a Christian at the age of 27, I concluded that life had no purpose at all; or at least there was no purpose that I was able to discern.  I was in graduate school at the time and had heard a good deal of what the educated world had to offer.  I had also concluded that life was "full of sound and fury signifying nothing."  Then, I lay on my bed in a college fraternity house and cried out to a God that might be there to come into my life and make Himself real to me.  He did miraculously make Himself real to me and that day my life began.  As I eagerly poured over the pages of the Bible in the coming weeks, I joyfully learned of the purpose of life.  That purpose is summed up in these verses; "to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ."

Today, once again in our world we see division and disunity everywhere.  There will be a time in the future when God's plan will reach its fulfillment when there will be no more division.  And it is in God's eternal plan and purpose to bring about this unity under the Lordship of God's Son Jesus Christ.

(2) We have been predestined to be part of God's eternal plan and purpose. (1:11-12)
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."

Thought Question:  What does it mean to you that you were chosen and predestined by God?

 

 

God has predetermined that we will bring Him glory.  What brings Him the greatest glory?  According to Psalm 19, the "heavens declare the glory of God."  But certainly the ultimate glory is the holiness and the glorious unity within the Trinity.  And God has predestined us to be part of that unity and holiness.  In John 17:21, Jesus prayed for future Christians (including us), "that all of them might be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you."  Some might think that Jesus' prayer has not been answered, for is not the church divided into hundreds of denominations?  But Jesus' prayer will most certainly be answered, for it is God's purpose for His church to be fully united under the Headship of Christ.  God is now deliberately working to accomplish that purpose.  "According to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  God is working in everything that happens to accomplish His ultimate purpose.

Deists see God as passive.  To them, God created the world and then left it to run on its own.  They see God as being like the watchmaker who makes the watch and then leaves the watch to run on its own without any further contact with its Creator.  But here in Ephesians and in Roman 8:28, we learn that God is always working in the world to accomplish His purposes.  The Bible reveals some of the ways God has worked in the world through the years to accomplish His purposes.  For example, He worked in the world by choosing Abraham and by giving him a son in his old age.  He chose Moses and used him to deliver Israel from Egypt.  In short, God was very active then, and He is also actively working in the world today to accomplish His ultimate goals.  He is even using you and me for His purposes.

This purpose that God is working out is not something that He is coming up with as He sees what we choose to do; He has predestined it to happen.  Before the world began, the infinite God's plan was already formulated.  A big issue that divides Christians is "Do we really make free choices?"  The answer is that, within certain limitations, men do obviously make choices.  The next question, then, is "How can we make choices and God also be the completely sovereign Ruler of the universe who is totally in charge of all that happens?"  The answer is that God is so infinitely beyond us that He is totally in control of all that happens even though we still do make free choices.  Just like many of the issues within Christianity, it is not either/or, but both/and.  God can and does use our often aimless sheep-like wanderings to accomplish His predestined plans. See Isaiah 53:6; Philippians 2:12-13

"in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."  Here we find what the result will be when God completely accomplishes His purpose: we will be to "the praise of his glory."  In Colossians Paul states: "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  Romans 8:29 explains what God is going to accomplish in us: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)  I John 3:1,2 makes this promise to us: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:1,2)  Yes, God will accomplish His ultimate purpose and one day each of us who has become a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus will be to "the praise of his glory"!

(3) We have already received the first installment on our inheritance as members of God's family, the indwelling Holy Spirit. (1:13-14) (The Holy Spirit's role in our salvation)
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."

Thought Question:  In what way are these verses an encouragement to you?

 

 

Here, Paul says, "you also."  The words "were included" were not actually in the Greek text.  The NIV translators included it because it is inferred.  But all that is present in the Greek text is, "you also."  The "you also" is contrasted with, "In him we were also chosen" in the previous section of verses.  Paul appears to be contrasting the Jewish believer-"we" with the Gentile believers in Ephesus—"you also."  This is an important emphasis in this letter to the Ephesians—the Jewish and the Gentile Christians had already been united under one Head, Jesus Christ: " Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:11-18) See also Galatians 3:28-29

"when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."  A divide between Calvinists and non-Calvinist Christians is the order in which faith and regeneration occurs in the salvation process.  These verses clearly give us the biblical order.  The Ephesian Christians first heard the gospel; then they believed the gospel; and then they were regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  This was clearly the order when the very first Christians believed: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.'" (Acts 2:27-39)  Those who listened to Peter were convicted of their sins; they repented and believed in Christ's death for the forgiveness of their sins, and became indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones uses six chapters in his commentary on these verses to explain that the "sealing of the Holy Spirit" is not regeneration by the Holy Spirit, but it is a second blessing experience given by the Holy Spirit after salvation.  He uses the experience of a number of famous Christians of the past to substantiate his view.  Nevertheless, the plain and obvious teaching of the Bible is that the sealing of the Spirit occurs immediately when we become Christians.  Consider the plain teaching of the following verses: "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Ephesians 4:30)  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)  "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:15-16)  These verses speak of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, a sign of ownership by God that we are God's possession, and it occurs when we first believe and become a Christian.  It is an assurance to us immediately of our salvation.

We find a number of predictions that the Holy Spirit was going to indwell believers in a new way previous to the beginning of the church.  Peter quotes one of the promises in the evangelistic sermon that started the church: "In the last days, God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. . . .'" (Acts 2:17)  See also Ezekiel 36:26-28  John the Baptist predicted that the Holy Spirit would come upon men and women as a result of Jesus' ministry: "John answered them all, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'" (Luke 3:16-17)  "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13) See also John 7:37-39; Galatians 3:14

"marked in him with a seal,"  Paul tells us that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives means that our relationship with God has been sealed by Him.  "Sealed" according to Billy Graham, "translates a Greek word that means to confirm or impress."  He continues: "it seems to me that Paul had two main thoughts in mind concerning our seal by the Holy Spirit.  One concerning security and the other ownership.  Sealing in the sense of security is illustrated when the king sealed Daniel into the lions' den so that he could not get out.  Also, in ancient times, as when Esther was queen (Esth. 8:8), the king often used his own ring to affix his mark or seal to letters and documents written in his name.  Once he had done this, no one could reverse or countermand what he had written. . . . yet this sealing with the Holy Spirit signifies more than security.  It also means ownership.  In the Old Testament we read that Jeremiah bought a piece of property, paid for it in front of witnesses, and sealed the purchase according to the law and custom (Jer. 32:10).  He was now the owner.  The allusion to the seal as the proof of purchase would have especially significant to the Ephesians.  The city of Ephesus was a sea-port and the ship masters of the neighboring port carried on an extensive trade in timber, stamped it with his own signet ring---an acknowledged sign of ownership.  In due time the merchant would locate all the timbers that bore the corresponding impress, and claim them.  Matthew Henry sums it up 'By him [the Holy Spirit] believers are sealed; that is separated and set apart for God and distinguished and marked as belonging to him: you and I are God's property forever!'" "Taken from The Holy Spirit by Billy Graham.  Copyright 1978 by Word books."

"who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."  The Greek word for "deposit" is arrabon.  "The arrabon was a regular feature of the Greek business world.  It was part of the purchase price of anything, paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest would in due time be paid.  There are many Greek commercial documents still extant in which the word occurs.  A woman sells a cow and receives so many drachmai as arrabon. . . . what Paul is saying is that the experience of the Holy Spirit which we have in this world is a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven; and it is the guarantee that someday we will enter into full possession of the blessedness of God." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by the Westminster Press."

"guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."  God has paid the full ransom price for our redemption from our slavery to sin.  We have experienced part of that freedom from slavery, but in the future we will experience the full and complete freedom from sin and death.  At that time we will experience in full God's ownership of us. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Philippians 3:20) See also II Corinthians 5:1-5; Colossians 1:27

2. We cannot experience our riches until we believe that we are rich.
(1:15-23)
Someone has said, "Few men have imagination for the truth of reality."  Paul is saying here that the Christian cannot grasp the reality of his riches in God's grace apart from God revealing it to him.  Paul knew that those he was writing to did not grasp how rich they were in Christ, and so he follows his description of their riches in Christ with a prayer that God would open the eyes of their hearts so that they might believe the truth about their spiritual wealth.

a. Paul first of all establishes that he knows that they are truly Christians – they pass two tests (1:15)
"For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. . ."

Thought Question:  According to this verse, how can we tell if someone is a believer in Jesus Christ?

 

 

(1) Test #1: "your faith in the Lord Jesus"
It is significant that Paul was confident that they were Christians because of what he had "heard" about them.  Both of these two tests are based on what Paul had "heard" about them: "because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel." (Colossians 1:4-5) See also Romans 1:8; II Thessalonians 1:3

First of all, Paul heard about their "faith in the Lord Jesus."  In John 6:60-66, we read that many of those who were following Christ left when He did not miraculously provide them with more bread, but said that He was the "bread of life." (John 6:48)  Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, "You do not want to leave too, do you?"  Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:67-69)  The multitude of followers that left Jesus showed by their action that they did not believe "in the Lord Jesus."  The Twelve, with the exception of Judas, showed that they believed by their actions that was based on their faith.

Notice that Paul speaks of their "faith in the Lord Jesus."  In Colossians 2:6, Paul says: "So, then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him."  The idea that we can come to Jesus as Savior and then at some later time come to Him as Lord is not taught in the Bible.  When we come to Him, we can only come to Who He is: "the Lord of Glory." (I Corinthians 2:8)  We do not come to Jesus the man and then later come to Him as Jesus the Lord.  He is both man and the Lord, united in one Person.  The first test that we are truly a Christian is that we believe that Jesus is Lord: "Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be cursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes that "our faith in the Lord Jesus" is the opposite of putting our faith in ourselves:  "If a man tells me that he has faith in the Lord Jesus, he tells me that he has no faith in himself, that he has come to see that all his righteousness is but refuse, filthy rags, useless, worthless.  He has no confidence in the flesh, no confidence in himself; he relies entirely and utterly on the Lord Jesus Christ and His work on his behalf. . . . Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ means, then, that I cast my entire hope upon Him and what He has done on my behalf; it means that I have no confidence in my own life, in my own acts, not in those of anyone else; that I realize that I am a hopeless and lost sinner, and that I am saved only because of 'Jesus' blood and righteousness.'" "Taken from God's Ultimate Purpose by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1978 by Baker Books"

(2) Test #2: "your love for all the saints"
It is the day after Christmas as I write these words.  The Christmas Eve service was particularly impactful on me this year.  I took a friend who is without a car to the service and my wonderful wife followed in her car, as she was taking care of a 99 year old friend who has been a close friend of the family for over 30 years.  My friend wanted to sit up front on the left side of the church.  Since, because of some responsibilities during our morning service I usually sit in the back on the right side, I was concerned that Shirley would not be able to find us.  I turned around to look for her, and row after row waved at me with big smiles.  I was greatly warmed by the love they showed toward me.  Later on, we had a greeting time.  It was an amazing expression of the love that we have for each other.  The pastor had a very difficult time getting everyone's attention so we could continue on with the service.  It is this type of "love for all the saints" that Paul is talking about that passes the second test by those who are truly Christians.

John uses this as a test of true Christianity.  At the end of I John, John explains the purpose of I John: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13)  The whole book is a description of authentic Christianity.  A major test of true Christianity is found in I John: "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him." (1 John 2:9-11)  "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (1 John 3:14-15)  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (1 John 4:7)  "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:10-12)  "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:20-21)  It is absolutely clear that those who are truly Christians will love one another. See also I Corinthians 13

Thought Question #1:  Do you and your church pass this test?  Give some evidences that you can find in your life and in your church that you and they are truly Christians.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How then does I John 3:16-22 apply to you?  ("This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him." 1 John 3:16-22)

 

 

b. Paul, then, responds to his confidence that they are truly Christians  by thanking God for them and continually praying for them. (1:16)
"I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,"

Thought Question:  What do you learn from this verse about how we are to pray for our fellow Christians?

 

 

As Paul learned of their faith and love, he was filled with gratitude for what God had done in their lives.  Are you also overflowing with gratitude for what God has done, for example, in the lives of those in your church?  Sometimes, it helps me to remember that God brought those in our church, including me, to faith in Him.  I am, then, encouraged that those I witness to may also be drawn into a relationship with God by His Spirit and a presentation of the gospel message, just as He has drawn so many in the past.

Paul also may have been encouraged as he heard of the faith and love of the Christians in Ephesus.  It encouraged him to persevere in sharing the gospel with others.

What he heard about these Christians also encouraged him to pray continuously for them.  Is it proper for us to tell other Christians that we are praying for them?  Did not Jesus say that when we pray, we are to pray secretly and not be boastful about whom we pray for and how often we pray for them?  Because Paul tells these Ephesian Christians that he prayed continuously for them, it is proper to tell people that we pray for them.  The question, though, that we should ask is, Are we telling them that we are praying for them so that they will look more highly on us or are we telling them that we are praying for them to encourage them that they are constantly being prayed for by someone who cares about them?

Finally, the fact that Paul prayed for them gives evidence of Paul's genuine love and concern for the Ephesian Christians.  The obvious question for us is, "Do we express this type of prayerful concern for other Christians?"  We are clearly taught in the Bible to continually pray for other Christians as Paul prayed for these Ephesian Christians.  For example in this very letter, Paul exhorts his readers to pray for each other continually: "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18) See also I Thessalonians 5:17

c. We will not experience our riches in Christ until God's Spirit makes them real to us. (1:17-18)
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,"

Thought Question:  What do these verses teach about us?

 

 

The people of Jesus' time saw Him from a human perspective.  Their need was for a Messiah to conquer all of Israel's enemies.  Their need, as God saw it, was for a Messiah to conquer Satan and free them from their guilt and bondage to sin.  They did not "get it."  We often do not "get it."  We need God's Spirit to enable us to see life from God's perspective. See I Corinthians 1:18-2:6  It is also true that even we who are Christians need God's Spirit to enable us to see and understand from God's perspective how rich and blessed we now are as Christians.

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father,"  Here we learn to whom Paul was continuously praying.  He could have simply said, "I keep praying for you," but he tells them in great detail about the One to whom he was continuously praying.

First of all, Paul was praying to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ."  We are taught by Jesus that we can go to God the Father in His name: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14)  "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:24)  So, when we pray, we go to God the Father in Jesus' name.

Also, Jesus who is both God and man is the Mediator for us between God the Father and us.  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men . . ." (1 Timothy 2:5-6)  So, we can now approach God the Father through His Son the "Lord Jesus Christ."  Jesus' blood changed God's throne of judgment into a throne of grace.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)  Like Paul, we pray to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"the glorious Father,"  In Psalm 19:1, we are told "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."  In the video, The Privileged Planet there is a bonus feature that takes you on a trip from earth to the farthest reaches of space.  You travel from the earth to the edge of our solar system, then to the edge of our galaxy the Milky Way, and then way beyond.  You are filled with awe as the earth and then our galaxy shrink in size and then disappear from sight as you travel at the speed of light deeper and deeper into God's infinite universe.  This is the "glorious Father" we speak with as we come to him in our regular prayer times!  May God's Spirit enable us to recognize what an amazing privilege it is to approach such an awesome God?  May we also come to Him with great reverence, just as Paul approached Him so many years ago.  May we realize that there is not anything that is beyond this God's ability to do.

"may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation"  For 27 years I lived in spiritual ignorance of God and His ways.  Then, on May 24, 1968, my spiritual eyes were opened by God's Spirit and I saw for the first time that all that is written in the Bible is God's actual words about Himself.  You may have had a similar dramatic realization that you had been spiritually blind and that God had opened your spiritual eyes so that you could understand Him and His ways.  We can tell here in these verses that this opening of our spiritual eyes is not meant to stop at the new birth.  We still need God's Spirit to further open our eyes so that we can see and understand what God wants us to know about Him and His ways.  "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)  We learn in these verses that we need to pray to God for ourselves and for others that we will be enlightened by God's Spirit so that we will further understand God, His ways, and how God has blessed us and enriched us.

"so that you may know him better." See also Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12  The Greek word translated "know" is epignosis.  The epi attached to gnosis or knowledge implies an increased or deeper knowing of God.  Even Paul, who certainly knew Jesus Christ, sought to know Him better: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11) 

May we pray for our self and for others that we may know God more fully.  The word epignosis also implies more than an intellectual knowledge about God; it also speaks of a deeply personal and intimate knowledge of God.  It speaks of a growing relationship with God.  There is a significant difference between knowing about some individual and actually getting to know that individual as a personal friend.  And relationships can grow even closer.  I speak from the experience of having been married 38 years at the time that I am writing these words.  The relationship between my wife and I has grown deeper each year that we have been married.  May we also get to know God more deeply and intimately every year.  We should pray regularly that this will take place in our lives and the lives of other Christians. See John 17:3

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart my be enlightened"  Paul reminds us once more that this knowledge of God and His new gracious and rich relationship with us can only be understood as God's Spirit enlightens our understanding and we go from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight.

Notice, Paul speaks of the "eyes of your heart."  He is not speaking of seeing physically or even of understanding with our minds, but he is speaking of a spiritual seeing and understanding that impacts our hearts and our whole outlook of life.  There are those who have a great intellectual knowledge of the Bible and what it teaches about God, but it has had little impact on their hearts or their lives.  Paul prays that the Ephesian Christians will grow in their heart knowledge of God.

"in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you"  In Colossians 1:27 Paul says: "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."  What is "our hope of glory"?  Romans 8:28-30 gives us the answer: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."  Our hope is that we will "be conformed to the likeness of his [God's] Son."  Our sure and certain "hope" is that we will one day share the "likeness" of God's Son. See Philippians 1:6  We need to pray for each other that the eyes our hearts will be enlightened so that we will be confident of our hope.  John in I John says that this hope will have a purifying effect on us even today: "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:2,3)

the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,"  Because Paul had heard of their faith and love, Paul was confident that they were heirs of God's fortunes; so, he did not cease to give thanks to God for this.  But he was not confident that they grasped how wealthy they had become in God's grace, so he prayed that God would give them something they did not have, the ability to grasp how wealthy they had become in Christ.  He prayed that God would open their spiritual eyes so they could understand God's view of their new relationship to Him.  This new perspective on life will enable us also to see us as He sees us.  As we look at life from His perspective, we see that He is not part of our plans but we are part of His plans.  We will see ourselves as part of a plan that encompasses all of existence and all of eternity.  When we understand this new way of looking at our self, then we will have begun to become aware of how rich we are.

We see here that this new spiritually enlightened outlook on ourselves will enable us to realize that we are part of the "riches of his glorious inheritance." See Deuteronomy 32:9; I Peter 2:9  Paul refers to "the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints."  What do we normally think of when we think of when we think of "riches"?  As a young person our high school went to the Beverly Hills basketball tournament in Beverly Hills, California.  During that time, members of our basketball team stayed in homes in this wealthy community.  They talked in awe about the homes they stayed in.  For example, one home had a bowling alley in the basement.  Some years ago, there was a television show that took you to the estates of the rich and famous.  Most of us think of this type of wealth when we think of "riches."  Because we do not yet see clearly, we do only partially realize that we are headed toward infinitely greater "riches" than the world's riches.  It is the "riches" of God's "glorious inheritance."  How can the man-made riches of this world compare to the God-endowed riches that are ahead for us who are Christians?  When we come to experience these "riches," the troubles in this world seem small in comparison to them:  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

d. We will experience our riches until we have recognized that the same power that lifted Christ from the is at work for us. (1:19-23)
The pattern in the book of Ephesians is for Paul to first describe what is true of us because we are in Christ, He is in us, and He is the supreme head over all who are members of His body the church.  That is particularly true in these verses.
"and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:19-23)

Thought Question:  What do you find in these verses that will change your confidence in what God can do in you and through you?

 

 

In verse 19, Paul chooses to compact together six words to describe to his readers God's strength and power toward us who are God's children.  The six words are the following:  (1) The first word is "incomparably" huperballon.  Notice the huper or "hyper" at the beginning.  As Wuest states, it literally means "a throwing beyond." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"  "Surpassing" is a good translation of the word.  (2) The second word is "great" megathos.  Notice the mega at the beginning, like our megaton bomb.  (3) The third word is "power" dunamis.  Dunamis is the Greek from which we get our "dynamite," "dynamo," and "dynamic."  (4) The fourth word is also translated "power," but the Greek word is not dunamis, but energeia, the Greek word from which we get our word "energy."  (5) The fifth word is "mighty."  (6) The sixth word is "strength."

What was Paul seeking to communicate to his early readers and what does it communicate to us today?  There is an extremely great amount of strength that is available to us as Christians!  Paul goes on to say that this power is the power "which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms."  So, this power with all of the superlatives Paul uses in verse 19 can simply be called "resurrection power."  Ray Stedman says this power works best in a cemetery." "Taken from Riches in Christ by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Ray Stedman"  It works best when we rely upon God's resurrection power and not on our deadness apart from God's power.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes that every Christian experiences this power the moment that they become a new person in Christ.  There was a song some time ago that had the line: "I believe in miracles.  I've seen a soul set free."  It is a miracle of God's great power toward us when we are transformed into Spirit-indwelt Christians: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. . . . For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:1-2,10)

The resurrection power of God that is mightily working toward us has already raised us from the dead just as it raised Jesus from the dead.  This is the power that rescued Jesus from the depths of defeat and raised Him to the height of victory.  How can we experience God's great power?  We experience His great power as we wholeheartedly seek His goals rather than our own goals.  Jesus is presently "seated" at God's "right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power, dominion and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but in the one to come."  In Colossians 3:1-2, Paul urges the Colossian Christians with these words: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."  We can only experience God's power as we are living in union with God's goals for Christ's body, the church. 

"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."  How can we experience His great power?  We find the answer to this question throughout the book of Ephesians.  We experience His great power as we seek His goals rather than our goals.  As we submit to Him as the Head of His body, the church; as we love because He is at home in our hearts; as we seek to maintain the unity of His body, the church; and as we forgive because He has forgiven us; we experience God's power to live His type of life.

We often think of God's power as being able to be impressive in some way, such as dynamically speaking or in working a miracle, but God's greatest desire is that we persevere in living a godly life.  "And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light." (Colossians 1:10-12)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasized that this power is not something we need to pray for so that we will get more of it, but we should pray so that we will realize and fully believe that we already have this power.  Watchman Nee in his book The Normal Christian Life is making this point in the title of his book: the normal Christian life is a life empowered by God:  "Do you know, my friends, that the Spirit within you is very God?  Oh that the eyes were opened to see the greatness of God's gift!  Oh that we might realize the vastness of the resources secreted in our hearts.  I could shout with joy as I think, the Spirit who dwells within me is not mere influence, but a living Person; He is very God.  The infinite God is within my heart!  . . . All the worry and fret of God's children would end if their eyes were opened to see the greatness and the treasure hid in their hearts.  Do you know, there are resources enough in your own heart to meet the demand of every circumstances in which you will find yourself?" "Taken from The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee.  Copyright 1957 by Christian Literature Crusade."

Let us consider some ways that we already experience this great power from God that is working in each Christian.  First, if we want to obey and serve God, we need to recognize this desire is a result of the working of His mighty power within us.  If you have ever been helped to be effective in any area of Christian service, this is the working of His mighty power.  For example, you have taught a Sunday School class and you felt extra strength to share the truths you were seeking to convey to the children.  If you have grown as a Christian and you are not the person you once were, this is the working of God's power.  Have you loved someone who is difficult to love and yet you really cared for that person?  This is the working of God's power.  You persevered in a difficult trial, that is the working of God's power in you.  And there is even much more of that power available to you that you have not yet experienced.  May we all continue to realize the greatness of God's power that is always working toward each of us "who believe."

An important part of understanding how we experience God's power is the need to understand that we are part of the body of Christ and Jesus has been exalted as our Head.  The reason that Paul continually prayed that the eyes of Christians' hearts would be opened to this truth is that we so often think in terms of "What's in it for me?"  When we look at a group photograph in which we are included, who is the first person we look at?  We do not "get it" about God and His ways because we do not see our lives from His perspective.  We think about how it all affects us, and we typically do not think about what God is seeking to accomplish through Christ's body.  We think about what God can do for us, not about what God can do through us.  What does He want to do through us?  He wants Jesus' life to be expressed through us!  We are to be Christ's body to our world in a very practical way.  He wants the church to be the "fullness of him [Christ]." See also 3:14-19

3. We must remember that our riches were not earned, but were
graciously given to us by God. (2:1-22)

a. Remembering our sinfulness and God's grace will eliminate any basis for us to boast. (2:1-10)

(1) Remembering who we once were will eliminate any basis for us to boast. (2:1-3)
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."

Thought Question #1:  List everything you can find in these verses that describes what you were like before you knew Christ?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by "dead in your transgressions and sins"? (Does it mean that you were unable to do anything but do every sin you were able to do?)

 

 

How can we who were once dead to God, devil-controlled, and doomed eternally find any reason for boasting?  Before God's grace toward us, we were in a hopeless state of slavery to sin and heading toward God's wrath; what is there to boast about in that?  We once were in desperate shape and completely needed God to be gracious toward us.

First of all, Paul tells us that we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins."  What is meant by "dead"?  Death is simply the absence of life.  We know that we were not physically dead before we became Christians (our physical bodies were alive), so what type of death is Paul speaking of?  When Adam and Eve sinned, they had been warned not to eat of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."  They were told that if they ate of the fruit of this tree, they would "surely die."  We know that they did not immediately die physically when they ate the fruit, so they must have died spiritually.  When they ate of the tree, they separated themselves from the life that God's Spirit had been giving to them.  When we become Christians we become once more united with the life that comes from God's Spirit that Adam and Eve had experienced before they sinned.  We went from spiritual death to spiritual life.

What, then, is meant by this spiritual death?  What could we do and what could we not do when we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins"?  First of all, we will look together at what it does not mean.  It does not mean that non-believers in their deadness are not responsible for their moral decisions.  For the Bible teaches that non-believers are held responsible for their sins and their rejection of God: "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God 'will give to each person according to what he has done.'" (Romans 2:5-6)  It does not mean that non-believers who were born into this spiritual deadness are incapable of knowing the truth about God:  "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:19-23)  Non-believers know the truth and know what is right and wrong, but choose sin over God and choose lies over the truth.  We also know from Scripture that fallen man is able to choose how sinful we are going to be: "(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)" (Romans 2:14-15)  "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:28) 

Some Calvinists liken this being "dead" to a corpse who is completely incapable of doing anything.  This is obviously not a good illustration, as a corpse is unable to know the truth (spiritually dead people still have a mind), unable to choose to reject it or make any choices at all for that matter (spiritually dead people still have a will).  I once heard a missionary explain that once we become a Christian, we become like a corpse with regard to sin.  He was speaking on Romans 6 where Paul says "we died to sin."  All of us who are Christians know that we are not like a corpse when it comes to sin's attractions.  We are still very capable of sinning and sin still appeals to us, but we are dead to sin in that our new nature in Christ is no longer a sinful nature which is hopelessly enslaved to sin.  So, it is important that we do not simply accept that "dead" means that we are unable to do anything just like a corpse is unable to do anything.  If we were unable to do anything but sin, we would not be accountable, for we would not be able to resist doing any and every sin that we were tempted to do.  "Dead" in sin did not mean that we had to do every sin that we were capable of doing.  We may have wanted to do every sin we were capable of doing, but we chose not to do some sins for various reasons; guilt, fear of consequences, shame, and other concerns stopped us from doing many sins that we wanted to do.  Not everyone becomes a Charles Manson.

The death that is true of people who are not Christians is that they have what is left over without God's spiritual life in them; they are spiritually dead, but they retain the faculties of their physical body.  What they do with this condition of death is up to them.  That is why they are responsible for the choices they make.  Here in Ephesians 2, we are told that we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins."  In Ephesians 4:18, Paul explains that we were "darkened in [our] understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in [us] due to the hardening of [our] hearts." (Ephesians 4:18)  The "hardening" of our hearts is a choice that we made.  When we were "dead" to the life of God we chose to live according to our fleshly and worldly nature, we regularly chose sin over goodness, and as we regularly chose sin, we "hardened" our hearts and "darkened" our minds more and more to the truth that we previously to that time did know.

The reason that we were "dead" is that we were born in Adam's condition, and we were dead to the Spiritual life that we can only receive from God's Spirit.  This deadness does not mean that we were a corpse that could not respond to God, but that we were sinners separated from God's life who by nature chose sin and godlessness over righteousness and God.  "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. . . the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so." (Romans 8:5,7)  In our pre-Christian state, we had nothing in us that desired to obey God.  God's truth and ways were like liver is to some of us; we hated it and had no desire for it.  We hated what was good.  Nevertheless, we knew that it was good and true, but we had no desire within us to choose it.  So, we regularly chose to do what we knew was wrong, and as a result, our hearts became darkened by our own sinful choices until God's good became our evil and God's evil became our good.  We were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins." See also I Corinthians 2:14

The reason that the distinction is made between a corpse who cannot choose and an unbeliever separated from God's Spirit who chooses to reject God is important is that a dead corpse is completely unable to choose.  So, the Calvinist concludes that a corpse needs to be given spiritual life before he or she can make any choice that moves him in God's direction.  "Paul says the man is dead.  He is not merely drowning, he has already sunk to the bottom of the sea.  It is futile to throw a life preserver to a man who has already drowned. . . But we are not talking about puppets.  We are talking about humans who are spiritual corpses." "Taken from Chosen by God by R. C. Sproul, p. 116, 118.  Copyright 1986 by Tyndale House Publishers."  In other words, regeneration or being born again must precede someone choosing to believe the gospel. 

But, can someone who is "dead in transgressions and sins" see their deadness and sinfulness and want something different for themselves?  Although the Bible says that no one seeks God, does God actively do that which will lead men and women to see their need for Him?   That seems to be what happened in Acts 16, where a jailer in Philippi thought that all of the prisoners that he was responsible for had escaped and cried out: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul's response is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved."  The jailer's cry to be saved came before he was saved and not after it.  See also Act 2:37-38  Jesus appears to be saying in a number of places that there are those who hunger and thirst and need something to satisfy their hunger and their thirst (See John 6:35, 7:37-38); there are those who see that they are burdened and need rest (See Matthew 11:28-30); there are those who see themselves as poor and need spiritual filling (See Matthew 5:3).  Although men do not want to seek God; God does that which brings them to a place where they see their slavery to sin and their emptiness without God until they recognize their need and are ready to cry out: "God be merciful to me a sinner!"  Still, there are also those, in spite of all God does to humble them, who will never humble themselves. See Zechariah 7:11-12 and Acts 7:39, 51

Next in 2:1-3, Paul says that we, in our fallen state, "followed the ways of this world."  Here, "the world" that Paul speaks of is not the earth that we live on, but "the world" system that John describes in I John 2:15,16: " Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."  The world lives as if this world is all there is.  They live as if there no God and no judgment after their death; so they conclude that we are to "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die."  Before we were Christians, we were living like the rest of those around us. See Romans 12:1-2

Then, Paul says we "followed the ways" of "the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is not at work in those who are disobedient."  In a recent conversation, someone told me, in short, that it is possible to end all wars if we simply choose as a country not to fight in any.  She did not appear to believe what these verses teach; that there is an evil one who empowers the evil that goes on in this world.  Before we were Christians, we were a part of his evil government. See Ephesians 6:10-13  9/11 are 2 numbers that have become infamous.  What was behind the plot that resulted in the death of thousands of non-military people dying a horrible death?  It was not just men who came up with that evil; behind the men was the evil one with his evil legions.  This type of hate does not just come from men, but from the one who is hate by nature. See Ephesians 4:16,27  Before we became Christians, we were ruled by this evil one.

He is called "the ruler of the kingdom of the air."  In short, he rules in the invisible world, but we can see the results of his kingdom in men and women who are opposed to God and His ways.  We see it when movies portray Christians as monsters; when professors rail against Christianity and Christians in their classes; when legal groups seek to eradicate Christian influence from our country; and when immorality is declared moral in our society.  Satan controls the prevailing thinking in this world; He controls its philosophy, its values, its morals, and its goals.  Satan certainly is at this time, "the ruler" of this world; and we once lived under his rule.

"All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts."  Life in this world has been summed up by "the world, the flesh, and the devil." The NIV translation, "the sinful nature" would have been better translated by the words, "the flesh."  What does Paul mean here by the "cravings of the sinful nature [flesh]"?  The flesh and its desires are the natural desires of our flesh such as the desire for food, water, and sex.  We were created by God with these desires, but they were not meant to control us, but to be controlled by us.  There is a difference between having desires and those desires having us.  They were to be our slaves; we were not meant to be their slaves.

A fact of life is that if we who are Christians are not controlled by the desires of the Spirit, we will be controlled by the desires of the flesh.  "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5)  "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." (Galatians 5:17)

The "cravings" is more familiarly translated "lusts."  It is a compulsive and strong desire.  It can refer to a strong desire for something good or a strong desire for something that is not good.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones succinctly sums it up as follows:  "If you pay attention to the context you will find whether the meaning is a good one or a bad one.  Generally speaking the term 'lusts' in Scripture has reference to a strong urgent craving for something which is prohibited or forbidden." "Taken from God's Way of Reconciliation by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1972 by Baker Books."  It is being controlled by tyrannical desires that take us where they want to take us.  We were "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." (II Timothy 3:4)  Paul puts it this way later in Ephesians:  "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:19)

"Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath."  We were the very opposite of what pleases God.  In fact, we were that which God in His holiness hates.  In Revelation 14:14-20, we learn that at the end of time evil will have increased to the degree that God's wrath can no longer be restrained.  When God's full wrath against sin is expressed, it is described as "the great winepress of God's wrath." (Revelation 4:19)  Although we did not experience God's full wrath against our sin, God hated our sin.  If we had not turned to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, we would have one day experienced God's wrath, for "we were by nature objects of wrath." See John 3:36; Ephesians 5:6

(2) Remembering that who we are now is completely because of God's grace will eliminate any basis for boasting (2:4-7) (We are resurrected with Christ, raised to a heavenly type of life, and rich in God's grace.  Though we are deserving of God's wrath, God chose to give us mercy and grace!)
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."

Thought Question:  Can you think of any way that you are presently experiencing being "raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms"?

 

 

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved."  People who are dead becoming alive!  How can this happen?  Does it happen?  Every Christian is someone who was dead, but is now "alive"!  Earlier, I mentioned the popular Christian song of years ago that had these words in it: "I believe in miracles, I've seen a soul set free."  Every Christian is a walking-resurrected miracle.  He or she was dead and God has made him or her come alive with His life. See II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:19-20  How did this happen?  It is because of God's love for us; it is because God "is rich in mercy" and it is because of God's "grace."  In short, we totally do not deserve it, "but" God did it anyway.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,"  According to Paul, we have been "raised up with Christ" and we are right now "seated" "with him in the heavenly realms."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks a key question: Is this something we can experience now or is it just something we must take by faith even though we cannot experience it at all?  Paul, in the book that he wrote at the same time as Ephesians, answers this question very clearly: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)  Paul's purpose in these verses in Colossians is to urge us not only to believe we are "raised" up "with Christ," but also to now actively live out this new heavenly type of life.

Each of us who are Christians experiences our new life that is "raised up" "with Christ" "in the heavenly realms." more than we realize.  It has become so common to us that we can lose the wonder of what is happening.  There are certain aspects of our lives that have been raised up above this worldly life where we now have begun to live as we will in heaven.  In heaven, we will talk to God regularly, but today we have already begun to talk to God regularly.  We call it prayer.  We talk to God and we believe that He is listening and responding to us.  In heaven we will get to know God, but today we are already getting to know God through reading the Bible and through benefiting from the teaching ministry of God's people.  In heaven, we will completely love God's people, but today we are beginning to love God's people.  We do all this because God has "raised us up with Christ . . . in the heavenly realms."

What is the "heavenly realms" that Paul describes in these verses?  In the time that Paul was writing, they believed that there were three heavens.  The first heaven was the sky that the birds fly in; the second heaven was the universe that contains the stars; and the third heaven was where God and the angels reside.  Paul refers to this third heaven in II Corinthians 12:2-4:  "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."  It is to this "third heaven" that we have been raised up with Christ and where we are presently seated.  We are to live our lives with this in mind: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:1-3)

Another aspect of being "raised up with Christ" is that we are no longer under the ruler of the ruler of this world: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)  We have a new Lord and we have been raised up to live in His realm.

"in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  A story is told of a poor man in England who had inherited a very large amount of money.  After a wealthy lady died, immediately a search began to find her closest heir.  This poor man was her closest living heir.  The only problem is that this man who was little more than a derelict knew nothing about the riches that he had inherited.  Those who were given the task of finding him traced him from one flop house to another.  Tragically, when after a long search they finally found him, it was too late; he had also died.  So, though he was a very rich man, he died never knowing how wealthy he was.  We as Christians are much wealthier than any rich man on this earth.  In the ages ahead, we will learn how rich we are as God shows us "the incomparable riches of his grace."

What are these "riches"?  We have already begun to experience some of these "riches": friendship with God the Creator, answers to our prayers, our needs being met, His Spirit living inside of us, the richness of fellowship with Christian brothers and sisters, and many more.  And all of this is just the beginning: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  We are incomparably rich!

Why oh why has God done all of this for us who are so unworthy of these "riches"?  It is because of "his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."  I recently asked a class if it was possible to love someone without making any sacrifices on that person's behalf.  They agreed; love will always be accompanied by sacrifice.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his commentary on these verses spent a chapter focusing on the sacrifices Jesus made so that He could, in His "kindness" toward us, provide us with all of these "riches."  Consider what sacrifices He made to become a man, to live in this sinful world, and to endure the pain, humiliation, condemnation of man and Satan while He was on the cross.  And He did it all so that He could have the joy of sharing His "riches" with us. See Hebrews 12:2

(3) As we respond to God's grace in the appropriate way, we will demonstrate that we have nothing to boast about. (2:8-10)

(a) For we are saved by God's grace and not by our works (2:8-9)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is always the appropriate attitude for us to have as we consider that we are Christians and others are not Christians?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What exactly is the gift of God that Paul talks about here?

 

 

We must never forget who we were, who we now are, and how we have become who we are.  "For it is by grace you have been saved,"  I became a Christian quite suddenly.  One day I was a member of a college fraternity, and the next day I was a full-fledged member of God's family, indwelt by Jesus Christ and eager to learn all about what had happened to me.  How could such a dramatic change of who I am and where I am going so suddenly take place?  It was a wonderful gift from God to me.  Immediately, I realized that it was too good to be true.  It is still too good to be true.

In Romans 3:21, we find these words: "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify."  And then in Romans 3:23-24, Paul adds these words: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."  Not much is free, and when someone says something is free, we immediately are suspicious that there is some type of angle, where in the end it will cost us money.  But, God's heart is totally pure.  He gives forgiveness and a new abundant life because He loves us.  "For it is by grace you have been saved,"

Faith is putting your trust in something.  We do that all of the time.  Right now, I am sitting on a chair as I write these words.  I am not trusting in my own abilities to hold myself up in the sitting position; I am resting confidently on the chair that is holding me up.  Also, I am not depending on anything in myself for my relationship with God; I am resting confidently in what God has graciously done for me for my eternal relationship with God.

"and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God"  Many believe that Paul is saying here that the "this" here is "faith," and "faith" is "not from [ourselves], it is the gift of God."  Calvinists believe that we are born again or regenerated first and because we are already born-again, we are able to have faith.  So, in their interpretation of this verse the "faith" is a gift of God since, according to them, we are only able to have faith because we have first been born again.  There is at least one problem with this interpretation.  In the Greek language nouns and pronouns have gender: masculine, feminine, and neuter (neither masculine nor feminine).  The pattern in the Greek language is for a pronoun (here, "this") to match in gender the noun to which it refers.  So, by looking at the gender of the pronoun "this" we can tell whether or not it refers to "faith."  If "this" refers to "faith," it will be in the same gender as "faith."  In this case "faith" is feminine and "this" is neuter.  It appears, then, that "this" refers to our salvation being a "gift of God" rather than being "by works."  Ironically, even Calvin interpreted this verse in this way: "And here we must advert to a very common error [refute a common error] in the interpretation of this passage.  Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone.  But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment.  His meaning is not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God." "Taken from John Calvin's commentaries volume XXI, pp 228-9."  The Greek scholar A. T. Robertson agrees: "And that (kai touto).  Neuter not feminine and so refers not to pistis [Greek word for "faith"] (feminine) or to charis [Greek word for "grace"] (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."  The Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest also comes to the same conclusion: "The word 'that' ["this" in the NIV] is touto, 'this' a demonstrative pronoun in the neuter gender and therefore touto could not refer to "faith."  It refers to the general idea of salvation in the immediate context . . .That is, salvation is a gift from God." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"

"not by works, so that no one can boast."  Calvinists state that if "faith" is something that we do, then it is a human achievement and deserves a merit that we can boast about. Romans 3:27 states that the very opposite is true.  We become aware that we need to put our faith in someone else when we realize that we are a hopeless sinner who cannot do anything to save our self: "God have mercy on me a sinner." (Luke 18:13)  That is what precedes faith, which is putting our total faith in Another; it provides us with absolutely no basis for boasting: "Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith." (Romans 3:27)

(b) Any good works that comes from us also comes to us by the grace of God. (2:10)
"For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Thought Question:  How should the words of this verse affect the type of life that you live?

 

 

 
There has been a great amount of emphasis on our self image or self identity for a number of years.  Who am I?  Who are you?  If you are a Christian, you "are God's workmanship."  The Greek word for "workmanship" is poiema.  It is the word from which we get our English word "poem."  We are God's "poem;" we are His masterpiece.  We are not to compare ourselves with others to determine who we are (See II Corinthians 10:14), but we are to discover who our Creator says we are.  And Paul says we are "God's workmanship." 

"created in Christ Jesus"  In Galatians 4:19, Paul says: "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you."  Now that we have become Christians our identity will forever be intertwined with Jesus Christ: "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)  The new birth birthed Christ in us.  Now, we are to grow in our new identity which is Jesus Christ.  God uses everything that takes place in our lives to move us toward Christ in us so that we will be conformed to His image: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28,29) See also Philippians 1:6  We learn here also that God has created a specific and unique work for each of us to do.

"which God prepared in advance for us to do."  We are not saved because of good works, but we are saved so that we will do the good works that God has designed for us to do that are described in chapters 4-6 of this book.  We will see in these chapters that God does not force us to do these works, but we are urged to do them: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1)

b. Remembering that we are saved by grace and not by works will eliminate the barriers between us. (2:11-22)
God in His mercy had chosen to bless the nation of Israel through Christ.  But God chose also to bless the Gentiles (all of the nations outside of Israel).  This gracious blessing of the Gentiles was not easy for the Jews to accept, for they enjoyed feeling superior to the Gentiles. See Romans 2:17-20  These verses tell us how Jesus' blood not only removes barriers between God and us, but His blood also removes barriers between us and others.

(1) We were once excluded (on the outside looking in). (2:11-12)
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world."

Thought Question:  Have you ever been in a foreign country where you felt like a foreigner?  Have you ever been in any setting where you felt like an outsider?  How does it feel now that you are no longer an outsider and are a member of God's eternal family?

 

 

Prior to Christ, only Israel was God's favored group.  The Messiah was promised their nation and not to the Gentiles.  God rose up Israel and gave them His wisdom to guide them in every area of their lives.  God promised the forefathers of the Jewish nation that their people would be blessed; the Gentiles received no such promises.  And, so the Gentiles were "excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world."

The Gentiles of Paul's time were seen by the Jews as separate from them, and the Jews were proud that they were the "in" group and the rest of the world were the "outsiders."  They arrogantly divided the world into "the uncircumcised" and the "circumcision."  Paul points out here that this physical sign in the flesh was not something that God had done, but it was "done in the body by the hands of men."  In other words, this work of man is an outward sign that is performed by "men" and is not a cause for them to feel superior to other men.  Also, in the context of these verses where we are told that all men are saved by God's grace, which gives no one anything that they can boast about, the Jews' attitude that they were superior to the Gentiles was inappropriate.  They should have seen themselves as those who were undeserving, but nevertheless blessed by God.  They should have welcomed the new reality that God had now also blessed the Gentiles by His grace as He had blessed them by His grace; but they didn't want God to bless anybody but them. See Romans 2:17-29

Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it like this:  "To them [the Jews] that [circumcision] was everything, that was all important and nothing else mattered.  They had misunderstood the entire purpose even of circumcision itself; and thereby created the great barrier and obstacle in the ancient world." "Taken from God's Way of Reconciliation by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1972 by Baker Books" We were once the "them"—the excluded ones.  We were, at that time, not part of God's people.  As we read on, we will see how that has changed!

Before we move on, though, Paul lists a number of ways that we were the separated ones.  We will not look at each one of them.  We were (1) "separate from Christ."  There is a problem here, though, for was not even Israel "separate from Christ"?  After all, Jesus Christ was not born when, for example, Moses and David lived.  Actually, though, everyone who has ever lived could only come to God through Christ.  So, men and women who had the faith of Abraham were not "separate from Christ."  In fact, they were looking forward in faith to Him coming as the righteous King, the Messiah.  Before, we believed we were "separate from Christ." 

We were (2) "excluded from citizenship in Israel."  Previous to the church, the nation of Israel was God's people.  Although the Jews did not understand that being a true citizen of Israel required that one humbly acknowledge their sinfulness and receive by faith God's solution to their sinfulness—the sacrificial blood atonement that comes through the death of God's Son for our sins.  At one time, being in the company of the saved was being part of the "citizenship in Israel."

(3) "foreigners to the covenants"  The "covenants" that Paul is referring to here were God's proclaimed agreements to bless Israel.  God made a covenant with Abraham, Moses, and David.  He affirmed and added on to those "covenants" at other times. (Abrahamic Covenant-Genesis 12:1-3,7, 13:14-17, 22:5-18) (Mosaic Covenant-Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:32-33, 28:1-2,15)  (Davidic Covenant-II Samuel 7:12-16; Psalm 89:-4, 34-36; Jeremiah 33:23,25,26)  These covenants were made primarily with the nation of Israel.  The Gentiles were not included, although God did promise to bless "all people on earth" through Abraham (Genesis 12:3). 

(4) "without hope"  Prior to 1968, these two words described me.  I, at that time, concluded that life had no purpose and that I lived in a selfish world where each person was really only interested in himself or herself.  The hardest part to accept is that I was just like everybody else.  To make matters even worse, I really had no hope beyond the grave.  I was "without hope."  Many people deaden themselves to this reality with alcohol, drugs, constant busyness, and anything else that will help them not to have to face this reality.  But at that time, I learned that I could face reality because of Jesus' death on the cross for me and His resurrection from the dead. I, like thousands of others, went from "with hope" to hope!

(5) "without God in the world."  Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania.  I heard him share about his 13 years in prison because he proclaimed his Christian beliefs publicly in a Communistic country.  It was a week long Campus Crusade for Christ winter conference that I attended shortly after becoming a Christian.  During that week, Pastor Wurbrand took us through the 13 years and at the end, we literally felt as though we walked out of prison with him.  He said he did not thank God that he was out of prison, but he thanked God that He had been with him through those very difficult 13 years.  He was with God and not "without God."  All of us at one time were "without God," but for those us who have put our faith in Jesus Christ, it is no longer true of us.  We are now with God!

(2) But God's grace now includes us who were once excluded. (2:13)
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."

Thought Question:  What in this verse helps you to believe that you can confidently approach God in prayer?

 

 

But, "through the blood of Christ, we who once "were far away" from God "have been brought near" to God.  "When the Rabbis spoke about accepting a convert into Judaism, they said that he had been brought near!  For instance, the Jewish Rabbinic writers tell how a Gentile woman came to Rabbi Eliezar.  She confessed that she was a sinner and asked to be admitted to the Jewish faith.  'Rabbi,' she said, 'bring me near.'  The Rabbi refused.  The door was shut in her face; but now the door was open.  Those who have been far from God were brought near.  And the door was shut to no one." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by The Westminster Press."

We who once were on the outside have been "brought near" to God.  The Phillips New Testament translates these words in the following way:  You are now "inside the circle of God's love."

This drawing "near" to God has been made possible for both the Jew and the Gentile through the "blood of Christ."  This access to God was symbolized by the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple.  It was only through the "blood" sacrifice that the High Priest of Israel could draw near to God and enter the Holy of Holies where he came into God's presence.  When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem miraculously tore in two from the top down.  Jesus' "blood" gained for us access into the Holy of Holies.  Now, we who believe in Jesus and believe in what His "blood" accomplished for us can now draw "near" to God "through the blood of Christ."  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) See also Hebrews 10:19-22 and James 4:8a

We must ever remember and never forget that it is only "through the blood of Christ" that we can draw "near" to God.  It is a new covenant in the "blood of Christ."  Jesus instructed us to regularly practice the Lord's Supper until He comes.  It serves as a regular reminder that it is only by "the blood of Christ" that we are able to enjoy close communion with God and each other.

(3) God's grace has united those who were once divided. (2:14-12)

(a) God's grace removes the basis for arrogance and hostility that came from using the law to gain superiority over others. (2:14-15)
"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,"

Thought Question: What can you think of that has divided you from some group of people or one individual?  What is there in this verse that can help you to have the hope that you can become united with that group of people or that person?

 

 

The "dividing wall of hostility" is a picture from the Temple in Jerusalem.  It existed in Jesus' time and probably still existed when Paul wrote these words (the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A. D. 70; it is believed that this letter by Paul was written in about A. D. 60).

"The Temple consisted of a series of courts, each one a little higher than the one that went before, with the Temple itself in the inmost of the courts.  First there was the Court of Gentiles; then the Court of the Women; the Court of the Israelites; then the Court of the Priests; and finally the Holy Place itself.  Only into the first of them could a Gentile come.  Between it and the Court of the Women there was a wall, or rather a kind of screen of marble, beautifully wrought, and let into it at intervals were tablets which announced that if a Gentile proceeded any farther he was liable to instant death. . . . In 1871 one of the tablets was actually discovered and the inscription on it reads:  'Let no one of any other nation come within the fence and barrier around the Holy Place.  Whosoever will be responsible for the fact that his death will ensue." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by the Westminster Press."

Obviously, there was a "wall of hostility" that prevented Gentiles from drawing near to God, and it also divided Gentiles from the Jews.  Paul, himself, was arrested because of that "wall of hostility": "When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, 'Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)" (Acts 21:27-29)  Did God intend to divide Jews and Gentiles in way?  Are there instructions in the Bible for the Court of Gentiles and the Court of Woman in the Temple grounds?  No!  The Jewish men built these walls in God's Temple out of pride in their self-importance.  The Law of Israel should have humbled Israel as they failed again and again to obey it.  Instead, they had become proud and divided themselves from the Gentiles, thinking that they were superior to them.

But did not God divide Israel from the nations?  He did divide Israel from the nations so that He might use them to show how all men can come into a relationship with Him.  Israel, a nation separated unto God was to show mankind how each person could be restored to a relationship with God.  Instead, they took unjustified pride in their special privilege and corrupted God's plan until they communicated the very opposite of what God intended them to communicate.  Instead of them showing men how they could come into a relationship with God, they communicated that only they could draw near to God.  "Only they were the special people; everyone else was despised by God."

There are also many walls built by pride today that divide people: racial, political, national, social, and many more.  What can bring "peace" to men and women who are splintered into these many divisions?  The answer is given in these verses: "He himself is our peace, who has made the two one."  There had been a barrier in the world of Paul's time between owner and slave, but when both owner and slave became "one" in Christ, the barrier began to dissolve.  Paul said the following to a Christian brother whose run-away slave had become a believer: "Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord." (Philemon 15-16)

How did Jesus abolish "in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations"?  First of all the "commandments" demonstrated that all men were unable to unite themselves with God: "What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.'  Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:9-12, 19-20)  The Jewish law that was added to God's Law gave the impression that there were those who could actually become righteous before God.  "For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless." (Philippians 3:3-6)  But, Paul had come to realize that though he had kept the Jewish humanly-contrived requirements, he was a sinner, even the worst of sinners: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15)

So, Jews and Gentiles had become hopelessly divided.  God's commandments were meant to demonstrate to us our inability to be united with God, but the Jewish corruption of the law had further divided Jews from Gentiles.  The Law should have shown both Jew and Gentile that we are all hopelessly separated from God unless God somehow intervenes on all of our behalves.  What has been God's solution to unite Jew and Gentile?  We recognize each time that we participate in a communion service that it is only through the New Covenant in Christ's blood that we can be united with each other.  Through the New Covenant in Jesus' blood and Jesus indwelling in each of us, we are individually united in Christ's body.  We are each the same: we have become a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ and we have Christ in us.  Jesus, through His death for us on the cross, fulfilled the Law's requirement in our place and has transferred us from being under the law to being under grace. See Romans 7:1-6

Notice also that we are no longer Jews or Gentiles; we are now "one new man."  We are each a new type of humanity; we are each a Christian no matter what race we are part of.  We are something that did not exist before Christ died on the cross and resurrected.  We, whatever had caused divisions between us, have now become united because each of us has become the same type of person; each of us has become a Christian. See I Peter 2:9

Finally, what is meant  "he himself is our peace"?  "Peace is the Greek word eiro, it means 'to join'; the noun eirene, refers to things joined together.  To make peace, therefore, means 'to join together that which is separated." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Jesus united the Jew and the Gentile, the owner and the slave, the person of color with the Caucasion, and many other previous divisions into "one new man."

(b) God enables men of both sides to become equals in one body. (2:16)
"and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility."

Thought Question:  Thinking once again of that group of people or person that you have been divided from, what does this verse say about how you can become reconciled with them or with him or her?

 

 

The key word in this verse is certainly "reconcile."  It is the Greek word apokatalasso.  The normal Greek word for "reconcile" is katalasso.  In the word that Paul uses here, the preposition apo or "from" is added to the Greek word katalassoApokatalasso means "to reconcile completely . . . a stonger form of No. 1 [katalasso], to change from one condition to another, so as to remove all enmity and leave no impediment to unity and peace, is used in Eph 2:16, of the reconciliation of believing Jew and Gentile 'in one body unto God through the cross;'" "Taken from Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. W. Vine."  The intensified Greek word for "reconcile" implies not just a reconciliation through the solving of a disagreement between individuals, but a complete union of two individuals into oneness where all previous barriers have been removed.

Presently, there is a continual hostility between Israelis and Palestinians.  One solution that is offered is for the one nation to become two nations with a peaceful relationship—Israel and Palestine.  Even that solution appears at this time to be unlikely.  But even that solution is not the type of unity that Paul speaks of in this verse.  Real unity would occur if Israel and the Palestinians formed one new country.  For example, this would occur if both the Jews and Palestinians all became Christians and then formed a new Christian country that was neither Jew nor Muslim.  This side of Jesus returning this will never happen, but it is what the church is.  In the church there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is, instead, the one new person—the Christian.  This new union was made possible through the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

(c) The church brings together at the foot of the cross: with one message—the gospel of the cross (2:17); with one access to God—the cross (2:18a); with one Spirit (2:18b); as one people and family (2:19); built on one foundation with Jesus as the  cornerstone (2:20); and forming one building in which Jesus lives (2:21-22) (2:17-22)
"He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

Thought Question #1: According to these words of Paul, you are a member of God's church; what is there in these words that excite you about being a part of this building of God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that there are "apostles and prophets" today?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near."  The gospel message is the great equalizer—for the rich and the poor, the scholar and the uneducated and all races come to God through the cross.

There is difficulty, though, in interpreting this verse, for it says that "He"---Jesus---"preached peace."  We can see from the previous verses that that the "he" refers to Jesus and the preaching is preaching about the cross.  Paul seems to be looking back to Jesus' preaching of the cross.  Did Jesus preach about the cross to both Jews and Gentiles?  Jesus' ministry, teaching, and preaching were directed almost entirely to the Jews.  It is a fact, though, that His preaching continues today, for people all over the world hear about His teaching through the four Gospel accounts of His life as well as the fact that teaching about Him is found throughout the Bible.  Also, all the people in the world now hear how they can have "peace" with God through evangelists, pastors, missionaries, and through other Christians that share with them the gospel message.  Possibly the most well-known book of the world-famous evangelist Billy Graham is titled Peace with God.  Both Jew and Gentile learn of the cross and many turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  He is preaching "peace" today to those who are "far away" and to those who are "near."

Paul undoubtedly had in mind a verse in Isaiah when he wrote these words: "creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. 'And I will heal them.'" (Isaiah 57:19)  What Isaiah did not know that Paul knew is that the "peace" to those who were "far and near" comes through the cross of Jesus Christ. See I Peter 1:10-12 and Psalm 148:14

We are united at the foot of the cross.  "For through him we both have access to the Father"  The only way to gain access to God's presence is through the blood of the cross.  "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)  "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)

We are united at the foot of the cross as we together approach God by one Spirit. (2:18b)  "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit."  There is much in the Bible about the Holy Spirit's role in the Christian's life:  "because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." (Romans 8:14-16)  "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will." (Romans 8:26-27)  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Each Christian is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)  God the Spirit is present in our lives and leads us as we come into presence of God through Jesus' blood. "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." (Ephesians 6:18a) See Jude 20 There is a complete difference between when a person who is not a Christian tries to talk to God and when a Christian prays.  A major part of the difference is the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we pray.  This cannot really be explained to the non-Christian.  I can remember my brother who had become a Christian trying to explain it to me while I was not a Christian.  Paul explains why I was unable to understand at the time in I Corinthians 2:14: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."   Each of us who are Christians are together united in that we each are able to come to God "by one Spirit."

We are united at the foot of the cross as one people and one family. (2:19)  "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,"  One year ago from the time that I am writing these word, my wife Shirley and I began a 2 ½ month mission trip to Africa.  We were warmly welcomed as visitors into an evangelical church in Kabale, Uganda.  We stood and introduced ourselves explaining where we were from and why we were there.  They sang a welcome song to us as we stood.  The pastor then explained that from that time on we were no longer visitors, but part of their church family.  And it was not just words; we did become part of their church family.  We were "foreigners and aliens," but we had been welcomed into their church family.  That is also true for each of us who are Christians, we were once "foreigners and aliens" and not part of "God's people," but now we are part of the international family of God of all time.

We are now "fellow citizens with God's people."  For many of us in this country, somewhere in our ancestry there were those who were immigrants to this country.  They came as foreigners from another country.  On my dad's side they came from Scotland and on my mom's side they came from a small country that no longer exists called Bohemia.  Somewhere and at some time that special moment occurred—they became citizens of this country.  Being a citizen of this country has not been as special to me, for I have always been a citizen of the United States of America.  But, everyone who is a Christian was at one time in the kingdom of darkness, but now is a "fellow" citizen "with God's people."  May we realize what an infinitely special privilege it is, by God's amazing grace, to be a full-fledged member of God's people:  "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10) See Psalm 87:5-6

The nation of Israel was a nation of God's people.  But this nation of God's people was meant to be a physical picture of God's heavenly kingdom; a kingdom which is much greater than the physical kingdom of Israel.  We are now citizens in God's heavenly nation:  "You have not come to a mountain [Mount Sinai where the physical nation began] that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: 'If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.' The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, 'I am trembling with fear.' But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Hebrews 12:18-24) 

Next, we are "members of God's household."  Being a member of a family is even more significant to us than being a citizen of a country.  We are not just part of God's nation; we are even closer to Him than that; we are "members" of His very own family.  We are united within our country by the ties of mutual citizenship, a shared national history, and a common government; but we are united within our family by a mutual bloodline and by a family history.  The family bond is closer than the national bond.  We have a family bond with God and with all those who are fellow members of the Christian family.

When we traveled in Uganda, we met fellow Christians who are citizens of Uganda.  They are much closer to us now than citizens of the United States who are not fellow members of the family of God.

What does it mean to be members of the family of God?  It is an even closer bond than a human family experiences.  We each in the family of God are indwelt by God and are each experiencing His life in us: "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4)  We will learn more about this unique relationship with God as we move on to the final verses in chapter two.

We are united at the foot of the cross because we are built on one foundation with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone.  "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."  We often, without thinking about it, say that we are going to church, meaning that we are going to the church building.  Here we learn that we who are Christians are the building; Christians together are like a building in which God dwells.  God once dwelt in a Temple building in Jerusalem, but now He dwells within His people.

Where did all this get started?  He tells us that it was first of all built on "the foundation of the apostles and prophets."  Who are these people who are the "foundation" of the church?  The twelve disciples became the twelve Apostles.  Paul also was called of God to be an apostle.  Paul defended his standing as an apostle in the following ways: (1) He was called of God to be an apostle.  Paul described his calling by God in Acts 26:15-18 when Jesus miraculously appeared to him on the road to Damascus:  "Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'"  (2) He saw the resurrected Lord:  "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?" (I Corinthians 9:1) (3) He was given the sign that he was an apostle—the power to work miracles:  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (II Corinthians 12:12)

Next, who were the "prophets" that were also the "foundation" of the church?  There is some disagreement about whether Paul is speaking here about of the Old Testament "prophets," the New Testament "prophets," or both.  The context indicates that Paul was speaking of New Testament "prophets."  If he were speaking of the Old Testament "prophets," he would have most likely have listed them first rather than second; "on the foundation of the prophets and apostles" rather than as he put it, "on the foundation of the apostles and prophets."  Also, later in this letter, he is clearly referring to New Testament "prophets":  "which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets." (Ephesians 3:5)  "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers," (Ephesians 4:11)

Who, then, were the New Testament "prophets"?  In both the Old and the New Testament, God gave some men and women direct revelation from Him.  In the New Testament, we are told of a number of those who were New Testament "prophets." See Acts 11:27, 13:1, 15:32, 21:8-10

How are the "apostles and prophets" the foundation of the church?  Certainly, the church is built on the teaching which was given to them by God.  We still are to base the church on the teachings of the "apostles and prophets."

There are those today who believe that that there are still "apostles and prophets" who are getting new revelation from God.  This verse states, though, that the "apostles and prophets" were the foundation stones at the beginning of the church.  The foundation is not continually being added to a building, it is the very first part of the building that is laid. 

"with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."  The "cornerstone" of a building determines where the building will be located and the strength of the building's foundation. "For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" (1 Peter 2:6) See also Isaiah 28:16

The building that is the church is an unusual building for it is being "built" right now.  Each time a person comes to Christ in faith, a new building block is added to God's building.  "As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5)

We are united at the foot of the cross because we are forming one building in which Jesus lives. (2:21-22)  " In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."  The words "joined together" are one Greek word.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that it is a word that is "only found here and in the sixteenth verse of the fourth chapter of this Epistle in the entire Bible.  It is not found anywhere else.  But there is something that is still more interesting about it.  It is a word that was obviously made and invented and formed by the apostle Paul himself.  He did not borrow it; he had not seen it anywhere else.  This is the first use of the word that is known. . . .  Actually, the word used by the apostle means 'harmoniously fitted together.'  It is . . . three words put together and made into one.  The fundamental word means 'binding' or 'joint,' and that in and of itself suggests coming together.  But on to that he put a prefix sum which means simply 'together,' the same idea you have in 'symphony,' . . . And then he adds a third word which really means 'to collect' or 'to gather' or 'to pick out.'" "Taken from God's Way of Reconciliation by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1972 by Baker Books."  Paul was saying that each of us who are Christians are chosen by God and then are being fit in with other Christians to form this living building, the church, that is being built by the Master Builder.

Today, we have brick building being built where the bricks are each mass produced and identical.  In Paul's time the builder chose stones that were of all different sizes and then he fit them into his building.  God is building His building, the church, by choosing people who are of all different types of sizes, giftings, and personalities to form His church.  Consider the twelve apostles.  Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax-collector were on opposite sides of the political world of Jesus' time (anti-Rome versus pro-Rome), but Jesus chose them to fit into the church.

The stories of how those in the Bible become believers in Jesus Christ are all different.  We are observing the building of God's church as He chooses very different people in very different ways, fits them into His church, and then builds them up together. See I Corinthians 12:12-26

4. We are rich in the heavenlies, even when we are poor and suffering in the worldlies. (though Paul was in prison, he was a victor and not a victim!) (3:1-13)
Paul now deals with a reality in his own life that seems to be a contradiction to his assertion that we as Christians are rich and greatly blessed: Paul did not seem very rich and blessed, for he was in prison when he was writing this letter. If we are members of God's family, why do we also experience human suffering?  Paul answers this question in these verses.  Paul knew that the Christians who read his letter would be questioning the whole Christian life because he, the leader of Christianity, was in prison.  The problem was they were looking from a human perspective rather than from a divine perspective.  Paul helps us here by explaining how he looked at his imprisonment and his life.

a. He was not a prisoner of man, but a prisoner of Christ. (3:1)
"For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Paul considered himself a "prisoner of Christ Jesus"?

 

 

Even though it was men that had imprisoned him, Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of men.  He saw himself as a "prisoner of Christ Jesus."  Paul had known that if he boldly proclaimed Christ, pursued God's goals, and worked at building up the church, that imprisonment was inevitable.  Jesus had told him the cost from the beginning.  Here is what Jesus told Ananias, the Christian He sent to Paul: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:16)  God's Spirit also revealed to him that he would be imprisoned: "I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." (Acts 20:23)  So, Paul was not shocked when he was imprisoned; it was part of the cost he had been willing to pay from the beginning to follow Christ.  Jesus had suffered; he was willing to share in the sufferings of Christ. "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (Philippians 3:10)  Philippians 3:10, that I have just quoted, was also written during Paul's same imprisonment in Rome. See also II Corinthians 6:4-10; 11:23-28; John 19:10-11 

The reality is that this world is enemy territory.  The Christian message is only welcome to the elect.  The rest of the world hates the gospel message and all that it means.  Suffering is inevitable: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12)  If we believe that following Christ will smoothly lead to what has been called the American dream with ever greater and greater success and with minimal difficulties or no difficulties, we are heading toward great disappointment and disillusionment.  Paul, instead, expected trouble and he was not surprised at all when it came.  I heard somebody say recently: "There are some things too big to fix."  The sin problem and the Satan problem in our world was not fixed by nor will it ever be fixed by our best efforts in God's strength.  Nevertheless, we have a job to do in spite of the opposition, struggles, and suffering that we will experience in doing it. See also I Peter 4:12-14; Philippians 1:27-30

b. Because God had disclosed him and included him in on the greatest mystery of all, His eternal plan for man, Paul was rich even though he was suffering as a prisoner (3:2-6)
"Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."

Thought Question:  Paul looked at the great privilege that God had given him rather than at the suffering he was experiencing in prison; how can Paul's attitude help you in your present circumstances?

 

 

Even though Paul was in prison, foremost in his mind was the great privilege that he had been given by God.  He had been enlisted by God Himself to share the greatest message the world has ever heard.  It was a message that was uniting Jews and non-Jews together into one body and into one family.  With such a marvelous and distinct privilege given to him by God, how could Paul feel sorry for himself?  Though Paul was imprisoned, he had been given insight into the next great step in God's plan and had been used by God to spearhead that plan by reaching out to the Gentile world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly."  His words remind us of some good news that someone has just heard.  He is sure the next person he sees has heard about it already, but nevertheless, he is so excited about what he has heard that he must tell others the good news one more time.  "He never got over the marvel and the wonder of it, that he who had been a blasphemer and a persecutor, a man who hated Christ and His cause and who thought he was doing God a service by persecuting the Christian church---that he had been give the dignity, this honor, this privilege of being called by God Himself to be an apostle of this message, a dispenser of this truth, one who was called to propagate the astounding good news that has come to the world though our Lord Jesus Christ." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."

"In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets."  Paul, the former blasphemer, had been given an incredible gift by God.  He had been made one of the apostles of God and God had revealed to Paul what had previously been unknown to men.  That is the Biblical definition of a "mystery."  What was in God's mind and plans but has not yet made known to men is a "mystery."  And God, to Paul's amazement, had revealed to him the "mystery of Christ" along with revealing that mystery also to the other "apostles and prophets." 

How had God revealed this "mystery" to Paul?  God specially revealed Himself to Paul in a number of ways.  First, Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and spoke directly to him. See Acts 9:3-6  There were still other times when Jesus Christ spoke directly to Paul. See Acts 16:9; II Corinthians 12:1-4; Galatians 1:11-23  Paul also was given direction and insight by the Holy Spirit. See I Corinthians 2:6-13

What is the "mystery of Christ""This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."  The word that stands out in these verses is "together": "heirs together," "members together," and "sharers together."  No longer are we who are "Gentiles" on the outside looking in; we are equal "heirs" and equal "members" of the same body with Israel and equal "sharers" of God's promise with Israel.

c. Because God had empowered Paul to preach "the unsearchable riches of Christ" to the whole world, Paul was rich even though he was suffering as a prisoner. (3:7-13)
"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory."

Thought Question: Paul was excited and felt greatly privileged to share about God's grace to all who believe the gospel; what is there in his words about God's grace that excites you and makes you feel greatly privileged?

 

 

It is clear that Paul is not crouched in the corner of his place of imprisonment bemoaning about how he had been so mistreated.  Instead, he exulted in the great privilege God had given him to serve and even suffer for the great message that he, less than "the least of God's people," was given to preach.  Paul was concerned that they know this, so they would "not be discouraged."  What he was going through should not be a discouragement for them, but they should be encouraged that he was willing to suffer for God's purposes and for their "glory."

(1) He, the "least of God's people," was give the greatest of messages. (3:7-8)
"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,"

God's power had transformed Paul from the persecutor of the Christians into Paul the apostle of the Gentiles.  He had gone from contempt for Christ to love for Christ, and from seeking the death of Christians to seeking the birth of Christians.  Notice that Paul's description of himself had changed from "the least of the apostles" in I Corinthians 15:9, to "less than the least of all God’s people" in these verses in Ephesians, and to the "worst of sinners." in I Timothy 1:5.  Is this progression the result of Paul gaining greater insight into the greatness of God's grace toward him through the years?  Though Paul does not specifically state that this was the case, our own experience of learning more about the depth of our sin as we grow closer to Christ gives us good reason to believe that Paul had the same experience through the years.

"What can turn any man from being a hater of God into one who loves God?  What is it that can turn the natural man, to whom the things of God are 'foolishness', into a man who delights in them, and enjoys them, and lives for them, and whose highest ambition is to know them more and more?  According to the Apostle there is only one answer; it is the 'effectual working' of the power of God." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books." See Colossians 1:29

"to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,"  In Colossians 1:27, Paul describes our present relationship with Christ in the following ways: "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."  In Romans 8:29, Paul tells us that our certain hope is "to be conformed to the likeness of his Son."  As Christians, by God's grace, our futures are now forever bound to Jesus Christ.  In Romans 8:16, we learn that "we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ."  In Him we have obtained "unsearchable riches."  What are those "riches"?  Paul says here that they and we are rich beyond what we are presently capable of searching out.  But, whatever our present circumstances may be, ahead lies "riches" beyond our greatest dreams—"riches" of knowing God; being like God in character; and sharing in His infinite wisdom, love, creativity, and power.  And it has all been made possible through Jesus' death and resurrection from the dead for us. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)

(2) He was to "make plain" a message that was previously "hidden in God." (3:9)
"and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things."

Today, there is much that God has not revealed to us.  "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law." (Deuteronomy 29:29)  "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)  Paul explains here that this wonderful message about the "unsearchable riches of Christ" was once not known to him, but then was revealed to him; and he had the amazing privilege of bringing it into the light so that men and women could know about it.  Preaching this message that came straight to Him from God Himself had resulted in him being in prison.  Does he wish that he had avoided prison by not preaching this message?  Paul' clear answer throughout the book of Ephesians is a definite, "No!"  In fact, when he was released from prison, he preached it again and landed in prison once again.  He was in prison for the last time when he wrote II Timothy: "May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains." (2 Timothy 1:16)

(3) Paul's message resulted in the formation of the church, through whom the angels were learning of God's wisdom. (3:10)
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,"

The Scriptures are clear that the angels are observing us right now, as they see what is occurring below them; they are recognizing God's great "wisdom" as He accomplishes His purposes before their watching eyes. See I Corinthians 4:9; I Timothy 5:21; I Peter 1:10-12   As the angels watch, they see that God is working all things together "for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)  They saw glory come from the shame of the cross; they see trials producing character in God's people.  The angels are watching the greatest epic drama of all time unfold before their eyes.

What they are seeing is the "manifold wisdom of God."  The question can be answered in this way:  How can God take men with their rebellious and sinful ways and reunite them with Him and have them do it completely willingly?  He does it in many wise ways.  God has an infinitely wise and diverse plan for restoring each of us defiant people who ultimately love Him and His ways.  How did you come to love God?  That was part of the 'manifold wisdom of God."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the following observation:  "For anyone who has an eye to see, the wisdom of God can be seen in a marvelous manner in things that are made.  Take any flower and dissect it, and you will find that it has been built up and constructed in a very definite plan and design." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."  So, God has "a very definite plan and design" for accomplishing His purposes with mankind.

It is typical for us, though, to constantly critique what God's is doing.  Why did You allow this?  Why didn't You do that?  But, in the end, when we see the final results, we will agree together it could not have been done any better than the way that God did it.  We will marvel, with the angels, at the "manifold wisdom of God."

d. Because through the message Paul preached Jew and Gentile may now approach God with "freedom and confidence," Paul was rich even though he was suffering as a prisoner. (3:11-12)
"according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."

Paul is lost in the wonder that he is part of a ministry that has led to people being able to freely and boldly enter into God's holy presence.  How can Paul, then, be bothered that it has resulted in him being in prison? 

How can we completely sin-polluted people enter boldly, fearlessly, and confidently into God's holy and fearful presence?  Recently, on a number of different teaching occasions I have said, "What if on the other side of that door you would enter immediately into the very throne room of God?  What would you do?"  It has been a very frightening thought for those I have presented it to; as it has been a frightening thought for me.  How can we boldly and fearlessly enter God's presence?

Consider what the nation of Israel under Moses' leadership thought about entering into God's presence.  "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.'" (Exodus 20:18-19)  Consider also what happened when Isaiah entered into God's holy presence: "And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:3-5)

How, then, can we enter God's holy and awesome presence with confidence and without fear?  The Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple pictured how we can approach God's holy presence.  It is only through the blood of a sacrifice that a sinful man can approach a holy God.  All the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the sacrifices of God's Son Jesus Christ.  When He died on the cross, the curtain in the Temple ripped from the top to the bottom.  This rending in two of the Temple curtain symbolized what occurred when Jesus' blood was shed for us: when He died the curtain that was between man and God was ripped apart opening access for sinful man into the presence of God in all of His holiness.  "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Hebrews 10:10)    "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)  We can boldly approach God's presence because Jesus' blood has cleansed us from sin and made us holy.  Now, unholy people can boldly approach a holy God.  What a message Paul preached!  What a message we can also preach!

This gospel message is true, but often we do not feel it is true.  ". . . we must realize that we must not rely upon our feelings or moods or states.  This is quite basic.  When you kneel to pray, have you not often found that you suddenly become hard, and that your mind seems to wander far away?  You do not feel like praying, you are full of doubts and uncertainties, your sins are brought back to you, and you feel that prayer is almost impossible.  If you listen to such moods and thoughts, you will never pray." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."  He goes on to say that these condemning thoughts can often come from the devil.  Instead, we need to believe that the blood of Christ gains us access to God so that we can boldly enter His presence.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

e. Therefore, the readers of Paul's letter should not be discouraged because of his suffering and his imprisonment. (3:13)
"I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory." (Ephesians 3:13)

Paul was clearly not discouraged, so they should not be discouraged either.  Clearly, Paul was a victor and not a victim.  This is the essence of gentleness.  This is the perspective on life that enables us to face the difficulties in life in faith and with rejoicing, rather than in frustration and bitterness!

5. If we are to experience God's riches to the full, we must humbly bow before the Father and pray that we would be filled to the full
with the fullness of God. (3:14-21)
In these concluding verses, given to us by Paul, of the doctrinal truths that describe for us all that we are and all that we now possess as Christians, Paul prays that they may be filled to the full with the fullness of God.  Then, in chapter four he makes the very appropriate transition to exhorting them to live like those who are filled with fullness of God.  We find in these words of Paul's prayer some of the most eloquent words ever written.

a. How Paul prayed they might experience the fullness of God: with humility, boldness, and faith. (3:14-16a)
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches,"

Thought Question:  What insights do you learn from these words of Paul about how we are to pray?

 

 

"For this reason I kneel before the Father,"  What is this "reason" that Paul has for going to the "Father" in prayer?  Is it because, though he was a prisoner in Rome, he still sees himself as one of the most blessed men in the history of mankind (which he was)?  Is it because the Gentiles were now united through the church with Israel, the nation of God?  The answer appears, in both cases, to be, "Yes."  He likely is referring to all he has been saying in Ephesians up to this point, along with the fact that the Ephesian Christians still needed "to grasp" (3:18), "to know" (3:19), and to experience their new and rich relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  It is one thing to be rich; it is quite another to live and enjoy one's riches to the full.  "For this reason" Paul kneeled "before the Father."

In just a few words, Paul conveys that his prayer was (1) humble—kneeled "before the Father"; (2) full of adoration of God—for "his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name" from Him; and in faith—the answer to his prayer would come "out of his [God's] glorious riches."  It was humble, for Paul's posture described what was in his heart.  Unfortunately, posture in prayer can degenerate into an empty form.  But, with Paul, it was an expression of his whole-hearted devotion to God.  Paul kneeled "before the Father" of the "family" of God to ask that He might grant His children to experience the riches that had been made available to them through Jesus Christ.

Paul's example of kneeling in prayer should not be seen as a requirement for prayer.  There are examples of people of God praying in many different positions—lying on the ground (II Samuel 12:15-17; Matthew 26:39), standing (Mark 11:25), and lifting up one's hands (I Timothy 2:8; Psalm 28:2).  Our heart attitude should guide our posture as it did with Paul.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes the following: "The best teaching in the world is useless unless the Holy Spirit takes hold of it and applies it and opens our understanding to it, and gives it a deep lodging place in our whole being." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."

I can remember Ray Stedman emphasizing to us when he was the pastor in residence at the seminary I attended how he saw praying that God's Spirit would open up people's hearts as essential to his preaching and teaching.  When we pray, we are humbly acknowledging our complete inadequacy to accomplish anything of any spiritual or heavenly value without God enabling it to take place.  Paul, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Ray Stedman recognized prayer as a practical necessary essential for their Christian ministry.  Certainly, we could add thousands more in the ministry over the centuries who have recognized that without God opening people’s hearts to His ways, all of their efforts in ministry would have been futile.  May we also be those who place prayer for those we minister to as an essential of our ministry.

Paul was in adoration of God, for he saw that He is the "Father" of a great "family."  Every being, earthly and angelic, was fathered by Him.  Even angels are referred to as "sons of God." See Genesis 1:6, 2:13. See also Acts 17:29  He is the Creator of the angelic world and the human world, but He is the Spiritual "Father" of all whom have become part of His heavenly "family."  We, therefore, can pray as Jesus led us to pray: "Our Father." (Matthew 6:9)  We are part of God's Spiritual and eternal "family."  This "family" certainly derived "its name" from Him.

Finally, Paul prayed with great faith: "I pray that out of his glorious riches."  Paul saw God as gloriously rich, but also generous toward us with His riches.  Recently, I read a book on prayer that asked and sought to answer the question:  "Does God answer our prayers?"  I have also read a book on prayer a number of times titled: Praying Backwards by Bryan Chappel.  The reason many of our prayers are not answered just as we ask them is that we often pray for what we believe we need or want rather than seeking God's wisdom so that we will, as Paul does here, pray in faith for what God desires to happen.  Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus would be "filled to the fullness of God" (3:19).  That is a prayer that Paul believed that God would answer; that He would desire to enrich the church of Ephesus "out of his glorious riches."

b. What Paul asked for in his prayer: that from their inner beings they might experience, with power, every dimension of the love of Christ and "be filled with the fullness of God." (3:16b-19)
"he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Thought Question #1:  Why does Paul pray that "Christ may dwell in [their] hearts"; did not Christ already "dwell in [their] hearts"?

 

 

Thought Question #2: If you prayed this prayer for your church and God answered this prayer, how would it change and affect your church?

 

 

"he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,"  Martyn Lloyd-Jones notices that Paul did not pray that he would be removed from prison or that the Ephesian Christians would be rescued from trials, but he prays that they would be strengthened in their "inner being."  God uses the trials of life as part of His transforming work in our lives. "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." See also Romans 5:3-5, 8:20-21,28-29; James 1:2-8; Hebrews 12:1-11  What each of us needs is God's power and strength on the inside of us so that we will be enabled by God to stand strong in the midst of the trials that would have crushed us if we did not have God's strength in us.  Paul, as he wrote these words was in prison.  God's strength in him had enabled him to endure in these trials, but they also enabled him to be more concerned about the Ephesian Christians than he was concerned about himself.  Can you see how this applies to us in our day?  When trials come into our lives, our focus often shifts to our needs and away from others' needs.  We need God's strength so that we will, like Paul, continue to focus on the needs of others.  Paul, though he was in prison, continually prayed for others.  We, also, need to be in continual prayer for others.

Jesus told a parable about two houses.  One house was built on sand, and the other house was built on stone.  The house built on stone was able to stand when the storms came. See Matthew 7:24-27  We need God's strength in our "inner" man so that we will be able to stay strong and loving when the storms of life come. See Nehemiah 8:10; II Corinthians 4:16

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge"  What does Paul mean when says, "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts"?  He is writing to Christians; isn't Christ already in their hearts?  Yes, he is in the heart of every Christian, but that does not mean we have yielded every part of our heart to Him.  You and I can invite someone into our home, but that does not mean that they have been given complete access to every part of our home.  "Dwell" means to be "at home."  "The word "dwell" is kataoikesia, made up of oikeo 'to live in as to live in a home,' and kata, 'down,' thus to settle down and be at home.'  The tense is aorist showing finality.  The expanded translation is; that Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts."  "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company"

Is it possible to be in someone's home and not feel comfortable there?  We have all been in homes where we did not yet feel comfortable.  As we can and cannot completely open our homes to others, we can and cannot completely open our hearts to Christ.  The little booklet, My Heart Christ's Home by Robert Munger was written specifically to illustrate these verses.  In the booklet, the author dramatizes how we can open certain areas of our heart/home to Christ and shut him out of other areas.  In chapters 4-6 of this letter to the Ephesian Christian, Paul instructed his readers on specific areas where they needed to obey Jesus Christ so that they would yield that area of their lives to God.  For example, they were to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  Jesus Christ is not settled down and at home in a heart filled with bitterness.  Paul is praying that "Christ [would] dwell in [their] hearts."  If Christ does "dwell" in our heart, there will, for example, be no bitterness there.  The fact that Paul exhorts these Christians not to be bitter tells us that you and I can be bitter if we do not choose to remove any and all the bitterness that is there, and if we do not choose to be empowered by His life so that we can be genuinely "kind and compassionate" to others.  Because Paul exhorts them to not be bitter, we learn that there can be bitter Christians who choose not to remove bitterness from their hearts. 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his commentary on these verses quotes Charles Spurgeon to point out that a Christian who has Christ dwelling in his heart is much different from a Christian who has yet to have Christ at home in his heart:  "There is a point in grace as much above the ordinary Christian as the ordinary Christian is above the worldling." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."

A Christ-indwelt and loving Christian is much different from a Christian who is not yet experiencing Christ's strength to love others with Christ's love.  Paul prayed that these Christians would experience God's strength to love as Jesus Christ loved. See John 14:21; Galatians 2:20

"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."  It is only "through faith" that we can experience in our hearts the presence, power, and love of our invisible Lord.  "Faith" is "being . . . certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)  Previously, Paul prayed that God would give them the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation" and "that the eyes of [their] heart would be "enlightened" so they might know and experience "his incomparably great power for us who believe." (1:17-19)  Our experience with Christ is increased and heightened only as we see with the eyes of our hearts.  This can only take place "through faith."  God must open our hearts to this invisible reality so that we can be as confident that it is true as we are confident that the ground or floor that we are walking on is there and will hold our weight.  God must open our eyes to see the invisible reality so that we can confidently depend on His life within us to love others with His power and His love.

"being rooted and grounded in love."  I John is a description by John, the apostle that Jesus loved, of the Christianity of the earliest Christians.  "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete." (1 John 1:1-4)  The "eternal life" that they experienced came from a relationship with the God who "is love." "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)  "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11)  The love the first Christians had toward others was "rooted and grounded in [the] love" that Jesus had toward them and because of the love that God had put in their lives from Christ being in them.

The book of Philippians was written at the same time as the book of Ephesians.  Listen to the way Paul urges the Christians of Philippi to love each other:  "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:1-4)

Now, let us focus on the words that Paul used to describe how we are united with God's love.  First of all, we are to be "rooted . . . in love."  We all are in union with God's love as a tree is "rooted" in the ground.  Recently, we needed to have a very large tree removed from the front yard of our home.  To remove the water main, we needed to cut through roots of that tree; that weakened the root structure of the tree and endangered our house.  As we have tried to cultivate the area that previously surrounded the tree, we continue to run into the roots of the former tree.  We have learned how firmly "rooted" into the ground that tree was.  We want the roots of our lives to grow deeper and deeper into God and His love.  As we do this, our love for others will become stronger and more like God's love toward them.  With our life "rooted" in God, we will be able to show by our love toward them how God loves them.

Next, we are to be established in love."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes that the taller a building is to be, the more important it is that it has a good foundation.  He further observes that "the island of Manhattan is more or less solid rock." "Taken from The Unsearchable Riches of Christ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1979 by Baker Books."  If we want to be a Christian who exhibits a Christ-like life and Christ-empowered love, we must build our foundation on a growing and deepening relationship with Him and His love.  In I John, John speaks of a "completed" love (I John 4:12,17) and a "perfect love" (I John 4:18).  Our love is "complete" and "perfect" when it begins with God's love for us and we complete the cycle by loving God and by obeying Him and then loving others with the same type of love that we are loved by Him.

A definition of love that I have developed from the description of love found in I Corinthians 13 is as follows: "love actively seek another's best no matter what the circumstances and no matter what the cost."  "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  This type of love can only exist when it is based on a very strong foundation.

"may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,"  Why do we need God's power to love?  It is because it is so hard to keep seeking the best for others when we have for so long focused almost entirely on seeking after our own best.  We need power so that we can see beyond our nose and put our Spirit-empowered focus on God, on His love, and on the needs of others.  As we do this, we will recognize how hard it is for anyone to keep on loving us.  We will see God's power as He continues to love us.  We will recognize how much power and strength was necessary for Jesus to continue to hang on the cross while He was dying and men were mocking Him.  We need and should want this type of power so we can love those who are selfish and self-centered as we are.  As we learn of God's love for us and His love in us, we also need His strength to love others with a love that "always perseveres" and "never fails." (I Corinthians 13:7-8)

"together with all the saints"  As our country is the cumulative heart of the people in the U. S., so the church is the cumulative heart of the people in Christ's body.  Paul's prayer was that each of the hearts of the Ephesian Christians would be filled with the love of Christ so that together they would express every dimension of Christ's love toward each other and toward those outside the church.  Together, we have the Spirit-empowered potential of actually demonstrating to our world what Jesus Christ is like. 

"to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,"  With God's enabling, we will seek to focus on each of the dimensions of God's love.  First, we will focus together on the width of God's love for us.  We learn in the book of Revelation that God's church includes people "from every tribe and language and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9)  God's church includes male and female.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)  It includes Paul who considered himself the greatest of sinners. See I Timothy 1:15-16

Next, we will reflect on how long God's love is.  How long has God loved us?"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. . . ." (Ephesians 1:4-5)  We were loved long before we were even born and before the world was even created.  "The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'" (Jeremiah 31:3)  We were loved when we were born.  "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'" (Jeremiah 1:4-5)  We were loved even when we were in rebellion against God.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  We have been loved since we became a Christian.  "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!" (Romans 5:9-10)  How long will God love us?  "And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:17)  God has loved us in eternity past and He will love us in eternity future.  That gives us a small understanding of the length of God's love for us.

Now, we will reflect on the height  of God's love: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1:18-21)  Because of God's love for us through Jesus Christ, God has raised us up from the depth of our sin and has raised us way up to His throne in heaven.  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)  Consider how high God is going to raise us up:  "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21)  "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-3)  "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:29)  That gives us a small understanding of the height of God's love for us.  He has taken us from the lowest low and has raised us up to the highest high.

Finally, let us reflect together on the depth of God's love.  How deep was God willing to go in His love for us?  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:5-8)  God loved us so much that He gave His Son to take our judgment in hell on Himself.  His Son went from the height of glory to be born in a lowly manger.  The Lord of all washed His disciples' feet and allowed Himself to be mocked and jeered. As He hung on the cross, He did not powerfully remove Himself from it and show the human pipsqueaks before Him who it was that they were dealing with, but He continued to hang there until it was finished.  He even uttered words of forgiveness while He was on the cross.  That gives us a small understanding of the depth of God's love.

We will not see and fully understand God's love this side of heaven.  "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

"and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Today, we say that there are things that words cannot express.  My brother Lynn became a Christian before I became one.  I could tell that he had changed, but I did not understand what kind of change it was that happened to him.  He was unable to explain it to me in words that I could understand.  He was experiencing the beginning of a spiritual love relationship with God.  I was standing on the shore and had not yet gone into the ocean.  Three weeks later, I went into the ocean.  But I had just gone into the ocean of God's love but a few feet.  There are vast depths of His love that I have yet to experience.  As we look out at the expanse of the ocean and the limitless depth of the universe, we recognize we are just making our first pioneering steps toward understanding all.  We are also just making our first pioneering steps toward understanding "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ," for His love "surpasses knowledge."  This does not mean that we should give up and not seek to understand God's love, for Paul prays here that they might "grasp" and "know this love that surpasses knowledge."  Paul's prayer is similar in Philippians 1:9:  "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."  Growth in the Christian life is primarily growth in understanding more fully God's love and loving others with this type of love.

There appears to be a distinction between "to grasp" this love and "to know" this love.  "To grasp" can be translated "comprehend," implying an intellectual grasping of God's love; whereas "to know" can be translated "to know by personal experience."  Paul, then, would be describing an intellectual understanding followed by a more personal experiencing of God's love.  It, then, would be similar to a man enjoying getting to know information about a young lady and having this knowledge lead to a personal and intimate love for her.  This second stage of love, the intimately knowing another, "surpasses knowledge."  Knowing God's love is greater than understanding and words can ever express.  Poets attempt to express the love between man and a woman.  They use figurative language and flowery language, yet it always falls short of what the man and the woman experience between them.  So, words cannot express God's love which is beyond words.  Our hymns and choruses, though, are often an attempt to put into words what we feel and understand about God's love.

"that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God."  Are we experiencing all we can experience in the Christian life?  A question: are we "filled" yet with "fullness of God"?  That is the ultimate goal of each Christian and of each church.  Christians are not to be satisfied with mediocrity and lukewarmness.  We are to be "content whatever the circumstances." (Philippians 4:11), but we are never to be satisfied with our present relationship with God: " Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, "the fullness of God" is not mere hyperbole, it is actually the goal for Christ's church.  We will never reach it, but we are ever to seek to experience God's fullness more fully.

The "fullness of God" that we are to seek after is the "fullness of God" that was present fully in Jesus Christ—the full character of God.  "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form," (Colossians 2:9)  We are to seek after His holiness, His power, and His love.

Now, how can we seek to experience the "fullness of God" more fully?  There are many verses in the Bible that clearly exhort us to wholeheartedly seek first after God's quality of life:  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)  We are to continually choose to be "filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18).  We are to be dedicated to pursuing God's truth so that we might be "transformed."  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)  We are to pray for God's strength as it teaches in these verses.  Jesus taught that we are to "deny" the whole self-driven life and replace it with a Christ empowered life:  "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)

Also, pursuing God requires us to humble ourselves.  Unless we recognize our complete inability to experience God's fullness apart from God enabling us to experience His life, we will pursue God's fullness in a wrong and futile way:  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10)  "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Finally, God uses our trials to refine us and change us.  "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6,7)

The question that we need to ask ourselves is the following:  Are we will to pursue after God's fullness wholeheartedly, whatever the cost.  Here is the words of Zimbabwe pastor who died as a martyr in that pursuit:  "I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  I have the Holy Spirit's power.  The die has been cast.  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made--I'm a disciple of His.  I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.  I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, famed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.  I no longer need preeminence, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.  My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven.  My road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable and my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.  I won't give up, shut up or let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.  And, when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me...my banner will be clear."

It is only as we experience God's fullness that we will truly be filled.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

c. Why Paul believed that they could experience the fullness of God: God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (3:20-21)
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Thought Question:  What are some times in your life where God has blessed you "immeasurably more than" you asked or imagined He would?

 

 

Paul's readers may think: "Paul, you have a nice dream, but let's be realistic."  Paul's response is that God is "able."  God is not only able, but he is huperekperissou able.  Huper is like our "hyper," meaning that God is hyper-able; God is much more than able.  Ek intensifies the verb still further.  And perissou itself means "exceeding."  So, God is exceeding-perissou, beyond exceeding-ekperissou, and way above and beyond exceedingly able—huperekperissou.

Was Paul being realistic?  He would not have been realistic if he had a small God who was not able to do anything beyond what normally happens.  But, Paul was not focusing on his abilities or on what normally happens, he was focusing on what the God who created the infinite star-filled universe and raised Jesus from the dead could do.  As Paul says here, this God has power that is more than we can imagine!  Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes a stanza from one of John Newton's hymns. "Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring; For His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much."  "For nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)

"according to his power that is at work within us,"  Do we realize that God and all of His immeasurable power is inside of us?  What God has already done is beyond amazing.  He has started out with those who are hostile to Him and transformed us into members of His eternal family who love Him.  Is that not amazing?  Ultimately, we will be completely like Him. See Romans 8:29; I John 3:1,2  There is really no limit on what God can do in us.  May we pray with Paul's type of faith for our church, our fellow Christians, and for our own lives.

"to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."  The angels have observed Paul's prayer being answered.  God's church has been bringing Him glory for 2000 years.  God has transformed the lives of countless millions.  The church has been salt and light throughout the world.  The church is powerfully at work in godless communistic China—the largest country in the world; it exists in Islamic countries; and is still transforming lives in our humanistic western world.  The church has brought glory to God "throughout all generations," and it will continue to express God's glory "for ever and ever!"  May we be awed that we are part of that church.  May we pray for the church today as Paul prayed for it with faith and with passion many years ago; may we pray that we also today might be strengthened with God's mighty power so that we and the world of our time will see the love and the life of Christ powerfully expressed through us!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Ephesians