A study in the first three chapters of Ephesians.
Where do you live? (Ephesians 1:1-3)
In EPHESUS: a major commercial centre, chief city of Romans Province of Asia, (Western Turkey today); no city in Asia more populous, or wealthy, or famous. Boasted several magnificent civic monuments, including one of the seven wonders of the world - the Temple of Artemis/Diana that towered over the whole city; and a theatre which could seat 20-25,000 people. Paul lived here 53-55AD, during which time he taught daily for two years in the lecture hall, and he also fought wild beasts here (see 1 Corinthians 15:32)
AND IN CHRIST JESUS - that is the most significant thing about you. As the root in the soil, as the branch in the vine, as the fish in the sea, as the bird in the sky, so your place, our place, our natural environment, so to speak, is in Christ.
SAINTS IN CHRIST JESUS- FAITHFUL IN CHRIST JESUS = one of the great defining statements of what a Christian is in the NT.
A CHRISTIAN doesn’t only believe in Christ and follow him: in a very real sense, he/she is IN CHRIST, UNITED to Christ, JOINED to him. Thus
• We are members of his body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians
12:12-37; Ephesians 4:13-16; Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 1:18,
• We were all originally in Adam who acted as the representative
head of the whole human race - but CHRISTIANS are now in Christ and he is our new Head
• When Christ was crucified, so were we; when Christ was buried, so were we; when Christ was raised, so were we. God has raised us up to sit together with Christ (Ephesians 2:6ff). All that the Lord Jesus has done has become part of us.
THEREFORE I am a part of Christ I belong to Christ I am a member of Christ’s body I am not my own. I have been purchased with the price of his own blood. I am in Christ. He is my Head - And there is a VITAL connection, an organic mystical UNION between us. “And of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. “ (John 1:16) He is the Vine (EVERYTHING) - we are the branches.
Don’t focus on your weakness/helplessness - Christ is your life and you are one with him.
Standing out in the great terrible desert of wealth, paganism, sorcery and immorality, which is Ephesus, was THE CHURCH = “the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus” - IMPOSSIBLE to conceal who they were. Are we that OBVIOUS in our witness and walk?
You live in Christ. And all your strength, all your wisdom, vitality, love, joy, peace and power comes from your being united to him. Being in Christ and being one with him you receive FROM HIM a CONTINUOUS flow of blessings.
And that in part is what we shall be exploring together over the next few days.
“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)
ADOPTION as a Christian doctrine and experience is not often taught. Why? 1) A fable view of what makes us a child of God; and 2) the belief in Universalism, where no one goes to Hell. Biblically, we are ALL CREATURES of God, created in his image; but we are MADE children of God through ADOPTION. John 1:12,13 could not be clearer: “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to BECOME children of God, even to those who believe in his name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man.” Understanding that God has adopted us as his sons and daughters should enrich our Christian lives no end. Our sense of the great goodness of God will be significantly increased.
Strangely enough, in the OT, no legal provision for adoption can be found.
So in the NT, adoption is to be seen against the background of ROMAN LAW. It is no surprise then that Paul makes use of the idea in letters he wrote to churches which were found exclusively in Roman provinces and under Roman rule - Galatia, Ephesus and Rome itself. (Though the idea is found in John’s epistles - see 1 John 3:1, which The Message paraphrases as, “What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we’re called children of God!”)
Five things happened in Roman culture when a son was adopted:
1. The child lost all his old rights. He gained completely new
rights. He gained a new father and a new family
2. He became heir to his new father’s estate - possessing more
rights than the natural children
3. His former life (parentage, debts, failures, even crimes) all
wiped out - as if they never existed. He had become a new
4. The son was seen by everyone in society as the son of a new
father, and there was nothing peculiar about this
5. The son was wanted, chosen, accepted and inherited.
What happens when God adopts us as his sons:
The world has its honours/heroes/celebrities, but the fashion of this world is PASSING AWAY. WE, on the other hand, as CHRISTIANS, receive the highest expression of God’s love; and we receive a reward like none other, that can never PERISH, SPOIL, or FADE, kept for us.
We BEHOLD Christ’s glory (full of grace and truth). We get to be in the INNER CIRCLE of the Trinity itself, where we can see our Saviour face-to-face. The glory may be unseen at the moment, but it is no less real for all that. The glory of God is seen in Christ and he is the OUTSHINING of God’s being - he is FULL of DOXA (weight). So we are not so much a mirror unchanged by the reflection seen in it, its outward surface unaffected; but like a filament in a light bulb that is set glowing. We become what we behold.
We BEAR the name of God
We are GIVEN the Spirit of God
We are made JOINT HEIRS with Christ
We LOOK FORWARD with certainty to the complete REDEMPTION of our bodies, souls and spirits - guaranteed.
Destined even to JUDGE ANGELS (1 Corinthians 6:2,3) Oh, the indescribable heights of such love!
A. We have a new STATUS, access to God’’s presence, familiarity
and intimacy with the Holy Trinity, boldness and liberty to pray
B. We have a new sense of GOD’S LOVE, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). We can
cast all our ANXIETIES on him because he CARES for us
to reign with God, going to be ‘at home’ with God
“Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) HOPE HOLINESS
2 Thanksgiving and Prayer (Ephesians 1:15-23)
Do we really see and understand the greatness of what has happened to us in Christ?
We are part of a MASSIVE LOVING PLAN to unite EVERYTHING in the universe under THE HEADSHIP OF CHRIST. There won’t be an inch of the cosmos which doesn’t belong to Christ by right. He shouts “MINE!” over the lot.
Paul writes, “..because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Are we as well known for our FAITH and our LOVE for all GOD’S PEOPLE?
Paul continues: you are saved and you know Christ, but you need FURTHER REVELATION, of how much God wants you to know, of how much more he wants to give you - he is not a reluctant giver, he is not a miser in the distribution of his blessings, and he wants to bless all.
So Paul prays that the Ephesians might know:
1. The HOPE to which God has called them (18). Hope in the NT
is not vague in the way we use it - rather it is a JOY-FILLED CONFIDENT CERTAINTY that what God has PROMISED in his goodness, through his WORD, will come true. So we hope to be free of sin, free in our worship, free as children of God, free from fear and worry, holy and made like Christ, part of the new heavens and the new earth. We are CALLED to these - this is God’s work in us.
2. The GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, which is, among others, the deposit of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, our heavenly rewards, eternal life itself, becoming like Christ, knowing the very love the Father has for the Son (John 17:26), and sharing in the LIFE and LOVE of the Holy Trinity (the fellowship of the Holy Spirit)
3. The IMMEASURABLE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER, which is staggeringly great, thus it is measured in 4 ways: 1) The MIGHTY POWER OF DEATH has been DEFEATED. Death has rights over us (we all owe God a death); and death is the salary we are paid for our sins. Death even dragged Christ down to its depths. BUT GOD HAS GREATER POWER. God took Jesus higher and higher until King of the Universe, and seated him at the Father’s right hand, from where he executed the Father’s will - and he is REIGNING NOW, far above every conceivable power, above anything you can put a name to ...When we feel overwhelmed by sin or weakness or fear or anxiety CHRIST REIGNS, and he has conquered all demonic power. He is far above all. 2) God’s power is at work on behalf of his people - all power of sin and all CONTRARY circumstances are defeated by the Risen Christ. Not under the circumstances, but OVER them! 3) This risen resurrected power of Jesus flows into the CHURCH - for we are joined to him with all his life and energy - we SHARE in his resurrection power. What is there about us which can ONLY be explained by the fact that we know Christ is ALIVE, that he LIVES in us, and we know his resurrection power? 4) The church “which is his body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way”. Christ does the filling - we are not meant to be full of ourselves! Fullness = that which makes us complete. All these are meant to describe the immeasurable greatness of his power which is at work within us.
Now do you see why we need our hearts opened to perceive this?
Now do you see why we need greater revelation that we may know God better? There is ALWAYS MORE.
But the lack of HUNGER, the lack of FAITH, and our sheer UNBELIEF indicate a terrible spiritual sickness within most of us. We need to repent and come before the Lord in humility.
3. Ephesians 2:1-10.
Three questions that trouble the mind of the thinking person:
1. What is wrong with the world?
2. What is wrong with people?
3. What is wrong with me?
“Know your disease; know your cure”. (John Wesley)
When you go to the doctors, you are given
• A DIAGNOSIS, in which your symptoms are examined and a
cause is sought for them being present
• A PROGNOSIS, in which the doctor has to judge how serious
your sickness is, and where it is likely to lead
• A PRESCRIPTION, in which the doctor tells you what is going to
relieve the symptoms or cure them.
Ephesians 2:1-10 is God’s diagnosis, prognosis, and prescription of the human condition.
Vice = wrong against yourself
Crime = wrong against society
Sin = wrong against God... have you ever asked yourself how God FEELS about your sin?
A: DIAGNOSIS: or, how you can tell whether someone is affected with the disease of sin. 1) The presence of death: spiritually insensitive; spiritually unresponsive; without appetite for God, worship, prayer, or reading the Bible; ignorance of what God requires; and ignorance of how offensive sin is. 2) How did people get this disease? The world (an anti-God mentality, polluting worldview opposed to the Biblical worldview, we breathe it in); the flesh (self-life, heredity, mind, body, affections, desires, sin,
iniquity and transgression) the devil, prince of the power of the air, evil organised.
B. PROGNOSIS: or, not at all good :( We all stand under the dark thundercloud of God’a anger. How do we see this at the moment? God takes the brakes off our lives and says to each of us, in effect, ‘do what you want and see what happens’. God gave them up as we read in Romans 1:18ff, the presence of all these sinful lifestyles and conditions indicate a society ALREADY under God’s judgement. But a day of terrible anger and judgement against sin and injustice and everything demonic is coming, a day when God confronts all that is wrong with the world, with people ...but what about me? “Flee from the wrath to come!” (Luke 3:7) and those terrifying words from Revelation 6:15-17.
The gospel is bad news before it is good news.
C THE PRESCRIPTION: or, since we are dead in our sins, what do we need most? Christ makes us ALIVE when we were utterly and entirely powerless to make ourselves alive again. Christ the SAVIOUR steps in - we need RESURRECTION - we need QUICKENING.
And as he begins to give us life we begin to notice some things: we see things we have never seen before in the Bible; we begin to hear him speaking to us through his Word; we begin to really pray’ and we start to love worship.
God raises us as high as Christ is now - where he is seated in the heavenly places - our spirits (if we are made alive) are already there and are merely awaiting the day when our bodies will join them.
How do we get this life?
1. “BUT GOD BEING RICH IN MERCY...” God loves to give what we don’t believe; he loves to help the undeserving; the gospel is his INITIATIVE. If God only has justice, if God only has fairness then no chance!
2. “BY GRACE...” Offensive to many, for we never get the cure by anything good we have done - good deeds can’t help us to be cured; and bad deeds need not hinder us being cured. God’s grace is his free generous love and acceptance.
3. “THROUGH FAITH...” A gift has to be received - unbelievably some people won’t take it, thinking it is not for them - BUT IT IS, stretch out your hand take your rescue
4. “FOR GOOD WORKS...” Not that I am doing good in order to get to heaven. BUT I am doing good because I have eternal life and I am living down here in the love and service in which I will live in the new heavens and the new earth. We are his WORKMANSHIP - his work of art - God has already worked in us and he has already planned for us the good deeds we are to be doing by his grace and his power.
There are only two categories of people in the world:
Dead or ALIVE
Outside of Christ or SITTING IN HEAVENLY PLACES WITH CHRIST
You and I are either dead with a disease which one day will inevitably cause us to suffer the terrible wrath of God
We are alive in Christ, seated with him, and recreated for good works.
Which are you?
4: Ephesians 2:11-22.
Here is the basis for Christian UNITY - God has BROKEN DOWN every BARRIER and hostility between us.
Divisions abound today: nationality, wealth, class, colour, caste, temperament, gender, religion.
Paul seems to be saying that divisiveness is the feature of every community without Christ - but what about the church today?
A: Verses 11,12, ESTRANGED HUMANITY: In Paul’s world there was no sharper division than between JEW and GENTILE. The Gentiles were the uncircumcised strangers to God’s promises; they were exiled from the commonwealth of Israel; they were without hope and without God in the world; they were separate from Christ. The Jews were circumcised, heirs to Abraham and therefore inheritors of all the promises of God, members of the covenant people of god, to whom God had given his prophets and his Law.
The trouble was that neither Jew nor Gentile realised (despite the promises in God’s word) that God had promised to include the Gentiles ONE DAY. The Gentiles were suppressing the truth about God by their idolatry. they therefore had no knowledge of God and no fellowship with him.
We are to REMEMBER - what we were before God’s love reached us; and how God’s forgiving, rescuing love and his transforming grace changed us.
B: Verses 13-14, the Peacemaking Christ: BUT GOD... BUT NOW, contrast between FAR (Gentile) and NEAR (Jew)
But both groups have been brought near “BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST” = the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross for our sins, by which he RECONCILED us to God and to each other.
Christ the PEACEMAKER shed his blood and tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. [The temple in Jerusalem enclosed 3 inner courts for priest and laypeople of Israel. Beyond there and on a lower level the court of the Gentiles. Between the inner courts of the Jews and the outer courts of the Gentiles a dividing stone wall barricade, measuring 1 1/2 metres high. Gentiles might look into the court of the Jews but must not on any occasion enter, on pain of death.] This was the wall that was torn down in effect when Christ died on the cross.
OUR GOD DOES NOT KEEP HIS DISTANCE
OUR GOD DOES NOT INSIST ON COMPLICATED RITUAL TO APPEASE HIM - through JESUS CHRIST by the power of the Holy Spirit we have ACCESS to the Father.
SINCE GOD DOES NOT KEEP HIS DISTANCE NOR SHOULD WE.
C: Verse 15 The Old Abolished and the New Created:
The Law was “set aside” - but what law? The law’s commands and regulations concerning ceremony, food, cleanness; and though the MORAL LAW is pleasing, good and perfect yet it too is set aside as A WAY OF SALVATION.
It was set aside “in his flesh” - meaning his Incarnation and his death and ONE TRUE HUMANITY formed - Christ by his death does away with all social distinctions and inequality - Galatians 3:28 is really about justification -not distinctive roles - THROUGH UNION WITH CHRIST.
D: Verses16-18 Peace and Access
These are now CREATED through the RECONCILIATION Christ won for us on the Cross - he put to death all hostility we had against God and each other - God’s wrath against sin dealt with. Christ came and PREACHED PEACE, he who is our peace.
Reconciliation is both an EVENT (God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself) and a CONTINUING RELATIONSHIP (therefore be reconciled).
Now in the new unity between Jew and Gentile there is a new model in the way we should live - new human community, new humanity, new brothers and sisters who LOVE GOD and EACH OTHER.
E: Verses 19-22 God’s Kingdom and God’s Household:
Gentiles were no longer strangers, no longer foreigners in God’s family - status has changed - no longer visitors without rights.
No longer stateless, international, interracial, new stability as CITIZENS OF GOD’S KINGDOM. Intimately connected with God and with each other, invited to sit and eat with Christ, with Christ our elder brother and sharing in the family likeness and inheritance as MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY.
The geographical carnality of the Temple in Jerusalem is no loner appropriate so a new TEMPLE is being built of LIVING STONES, built on the foundation of the APOSTLES and PROPHETS, heeding their instruction and teaching, being Biblically shaped and fashioned and obedient to the faith as they received it.
The chief Cornerstone being CHRIST HIMSELF - the capstone which covers at right angle where 2 walls meet and joins them together - a new building of Jew and Gentile finding their identity in Christ, and becoming A DWELLING for God to live in by his Spirit - OUR SUPREME RESIDENT, living before an AUDIENCE OF ONE.
What is your church like?
Are its members joined together in unity?
Is there peace in your church?
Are we living together in love as one family?
When other people look at our church what do they see?
What do the angels and archangels see of God’s ways in our church?
What does God see?
It should not be, it cannot be that we live in DISUNITY once we have grasped all that Christ has done to make us one.
5: Ephesians 3:14-21, especially verse 18,19.
How often have you thought of Christ’s love to you? How often have you mediated on it?
“I pray that you...may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and 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.”
VASTNESS: How can we know something which is unknowable? How can we define something which is so great it cannot be defined?
Paul wants us to KNOW - ALL OF US - that though the love of Christ can never be fully computed or ever reached, YET it is our business, our joy and our delight to learn and know as much of it as we possibly can contain - and in the world to come to continue to be astounded by its immensities and infinities, and to ENJOY ever more of it.
A: The Width
of people that can NEVER BE FULLY COUNTED from every TRIBE,
TONGUE, PEOPLE, and NATION, numbering 10,000 x 10,000 and 1000s of 1000s. And in these days when the Church appears so weak and few in number it is easy to be discouraged but TAKE HEART - numbers coming to faith today - you are part of a thronging multitude, part of an army, who will spend eternity in the presence of the victorious God, the knowledge of whose glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
This conveys the endless character of the love of God. 185 times in Scripture it says “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” God wants to DRAW US therefore with cords of lovingkindness - and that can be a slow process.
This love began in eternity with what is called the covenant of redemption, planned between the members of the Holy Trinity, in which the Son agreed to go into the world to redeem the lost and bring them back to the Father. You and I were saved before the foundation of the world - what dignity it gives to our lives! What worth! This lengthy love of Christ is an UNBROKEN love, a PATIENT love, a love that NEVER GIVES UP or LETS GO, it is a love that is ALWAYS THERE FOR US. This love was then expressed in what is called the covenant of grace, in which FORGIVENESS and ACCEPTANCE are won for us, and in which we see that Christ is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him.” NOTHING LEFT UNDONE as far as our salvation is concerned. NOTHING LEFT TO CHANCE.
No matter how far you fall, no matter how deep your disgrace, “underneath are the everlasting arms.” No matter, God’s love goes DEEPER.
Think of all that Christ suffered - his incarnation, hunger, thirst, weariness, scourging, the Cross (describe) - dead - buried - WHY, OH WHY? Because he couldn’t help himself - in his acrobatic love he went to the very limits of GODFORSAKENNESS to bring us back home. He LOVES US MORE THAN HE LOVES HIMSELF.
D: The Height:
God’s final and ultimate purpose for us is not just that we should have our sins forgiven, or that we should have a new birth, or even that we should be made good - but rather that WE BECOME LIKE HIM, making us heirs with Christ, sharing his GLORY.
He is going to save our bodies (Philippians 3:20,21); he is going to glorify our bodies even as Christ is glorified.
And he wants us with him forever. “We shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Feeling sorry for yourself?
Feeling spiritually lethargic?
Feeling depressed by the state of the world? Knowing attacks of the devil?
Oh, the knowledge of this love will make you mighty.
Mediate often on these verses
Worship God for the truth of them and that he wants you to know them by experience
Pray these verses into being for you NOW and throughout ETERNITY.