Archive for August, 2020

Ephesians 2:8-9

In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul gives us one of the greatest promises in all of scripture. He sums up God’s plan for our forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to Him. He begins by reminding us that God’s plan is all about grace. We don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. We can’t contain or control it. It’s an offer God has made to all mankind. Even out faith doesn’t save us – it’s all God. It’s all His grace. Foulkes explains “The precise form of words here stresses two things. As consistently emphasized by Paul, it is entirely of His grace, His free, undeserved favor to mankind. Then also this salvation is presented as an accomplished fact.”

This isn’t dependent on anything we do. God has offered to every person on the planet. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…..” Guzik explains it this way: “We can think of water flowing through a hose. The water is the important part, but it is communicated through the hose. The hose does not quench your thirst; the water does. But the hose brings water to the place you can benefit from it.” God has turned the spigot on and the hose is connected to a supply that will never run dry. His grace is sufficient. His grace is never ending. His grace is forever. And all we have to do is activate it by receiving it through faith.

Paul makes clear that salvation is a gift from God. “….And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It’s not our own doing. Even our faith is a gift from God. We cannot even believe in Jesus unless God does a work in us. On our own, we are blinded by sin and will never come to receive this gift. This shows us the essential place of prayer in evangelism. God Himself initiates salvation, so we need to pray and ask God to move in people’s lives so they might be given the ability to see and believe in Jesus Christ through the gift of grace God provides. The power of prayer is an important part of sharing God’s offering of grace.

Clarke wrote “But it may be asked: Is not faith the gift of God? Yes, as to the grace by which it is produced; but the grace or power to believe, and the act of believing, are two different things. Without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with that power the act of faith is a man’s own. God never believes for any man, no more than he repents for him; the penitent, through this grace enabling him, believes for himself.” God’s the One who helps mankind understand the need (through conviction) and the way (through grace) to salvation, but each individual must take the step of receiving God’s grace through faith to make it their own. This is an amazing promise of salvation through God’s grace. It’s now our effort, it is merely our recognition of needing a Savior and receiving God’s gift of grace to make that eternal saving relationship our own!

Ephesians 2:5b –7

In Ephesians 2:5b –7 Paul continues to teach us the amazing plan God has for our future to give us a hope and a way to get to eternal life with Him. That plan is Jesus, based on His never ending mercy and love. Paul makes clear that God’s motivation is grace. “….by grace you have been saved….”

And what is grace? Here’s an acrostic I like to use to define it:

  • God’s
  • Riches
  • At
  • Christ’s
  • Expense

Grace is all about God’s work and in no way has anything to do with what we do beyond accepting this give. Our salvation – our rescue – from spiritual death is God’s work done for the undeserving. And the result of that grace is overwhelming. “….and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus….” This is the present position of the Christ Follower. We have a new place for living, a new arena of existence – we are not those who dwell on the earth but our citizenship is in heaven. This earth is not our home, just a current place of waiting until we are called to our eternal home.

We don’t sit in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, or at least not yet. Instead, we sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Clarke explains “And now we sit in heavenly places – we have a right to the kingdom of God, anticipate this glory, and are indescribably happy in the possession of this salvation, and in our fellowship with Christ Jesus.” Paul goes on to talk about what our future looks like. “….so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God will never stop dealing with us on the basis of grace, and will continue to pour out its riches on us through eternity.

Spurgeon wrote “So is it with the grace of God: he has as much grace as you want, and he has a great deal more than that. The Lord has as much grace as a whole universe will require, but he has vastly more. He overflows: all the demands that can ever be made on the grace of God will never impoverish him, or even diminish his store of mercy; there will remain an incalculably precious mine of mercy as full as when he first began to bless the sons of men.” God wo wants to pour His gift of grace upon us. God never gives up on us, even when we refuse His grace and mercy and even His love. He persists and pursues us until the very end!

Ephesians 2:4-5a

In Ephesians 2:4-5a Paul explains what God has done to respond to the pathetic situation we find ourselves in as humans – sinners with no future without a big save. And he begins this explanation with ‘But God’ which indicates that God does have a plan and can give us victory over the world and the deception of the enemy. Why does God care? After all He made it clear what the expectations are through the Law. But humankind falls short and needs another way. And that’s when the very nature and character of God comes to our aid. “But God, being rich in mercy….” – the first quality God has that comes to our rescue is mercy.

So what is mercy? It is simply God not giving us what we deserve. We are sinners, all of us. And the wages of those sins according to scripture is death. Not just physical death, but eternal spiritual death which equates to forever being separated from God. Clarke explained “As they were corrupt in their nature, and sinful in their practice, they could possess no merit, nor have any claim upon God; and it required much mercy to remove so much misery, and to pardon such transgressions.” God alone is the answer to our sin problem. We’ve all blown it based on our own efforts. We’ve all fallen short of the requirements God has put in place. But His mercy caused Him to take action through Jesus…..

And Paul continues to the second part of God’s nature that allowed him to say ‘but’. It actually explains God’s mercy as Paul says ‘because’. “….because of the great love with which he loved us….” Behind the good news of God’s salvation offered in Jesus is the fact that this mercy and love is extended to us. Not because we deserve it, but because of who He is. Every reason for God’s mercy and love is found in Him. We give Him no reason to love us, yet in the greatness of His love, He loves us with that great love anyway. We need to stop trying to make ourselves lovable to God, and simply receive His great love while recognizing that we are unworthy of it. This is what grace is all about – where we receive what we don’t deserve.

Paul then explains just how far we were gone in our journey of life – we were ‘dead’ – not on life support or just ill. We were dead. Paul explains the past, present and future of God’s plan for us. “….even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….”

God turned up the love for us when we were completely unlovable, guilty of violating His standards and requirements, and headed to a destiny that was apart from Him. This is the requirement for being saved. You must first be dead, dead to every attempt to justify yourself before God. Guzik explains “This is what God did to those who were dead in sin. He shared in our death so that we could share in His resurrection life. The old man is crucified and we are new creations in Jesus with the old things passing away and all things becoming new.” Jesus is the only way we receive eternal life!

Ephesians 2:2b-3

In Ephesians 2:2b-3 Paul continues explaining to the church of Ephesus. The world will lead us astray if we follow it. The enemy has more than a foothold and will use any means available to guide us away from God and into sin. “….following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience….” Note that Satan is called ‘the prince of the power of the air’ which is a unique title that refers to his authority (prince) and his area of influence (air) which refers to the environment where he is active and unfortunately successful in leading people away from God’s ways.

Satan is not the ultimate ruler in any way, shape or form, but he is a prince as Trapp explains in the sense that “Evil men set him up for their sovereign, and are wholly at his beck and obedience.” All of us were at one time living ‘in the passions of our flesh’ which is a nice way to call us all sinners. Paul points our that as humans we are weak in dealing with the lust of the flesh driven by our human nature. “….among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind….” But while we are weak in the flesh, we are not helpless to overcome those desires and live in obedience to God’s will.

The struggle happens between our old self (full of sin) and our new self (based on our relationship with Christ). Because we usually surrender to the pull of our old self, the world and the devil, Paul refers to us as ‘children of wrath’. “….and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Scripture is clear that we are all sinners, doomed for eternal separation from God if we go it alone. We rightfully deserve God’s wrath because of our disobedience to His law and missing the mark. Even though it is part of human nature, we don’t get a by, but will have to stand before God and face our Maker and be found guilty of sin that disqualifies us from entering heaven.

Then comes a very important word in Paul’s letter – ‘BUT’. He just spent the last three verses pointing out that as humans we are going down the wrong path and are missing the mark on the road to eternal separation because of our sin. Now he shifts to tell us about God’s process of personal reconciliation that turns all of the history of the law on its head. ‘But God’ is the segway into seeing how God has responded to mankind’s failure to be able to enter heaven based on our own merit requiring God to create a different path to eternal life. “But God, being rich in mercy….”. We need to be so very thankful that God didn’t give up on us, but made a way. Jesus Christ is the answer to mankinds sin problem, and Paul will explain it in the next verses. 

Ephesians 2:1-2a

In Ephesians 2:1-2a Paul begins by continuing his thoughts on Jesus and His authority and place not only in the church, but as ruler of the universe seated at God’s right hand. He reminds the church that they are dead in their sin without Jesus. That’s the reality of where they have come from. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked….” It’s incorrect to assume that being dead describes every aspect of being unsaved. Scripture refers to the condition of the lost in these ways:

  • Blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
  • A slave to sin (Romans 6:17)
  • A lover of darkness (John 3:19-20)
  • Sick (Mark 2:17)
  • Lost (Luke 15)
  • An alien, a stranger, a foreigner (Ephesians 2:12, 2:19)
  • A child of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
  • Under the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13)

So in some ways someone who has not addressed their sin is spiritually dead, but in other ways they are still clinging to life. That is why we should never give up sharing the Good News of Jesus as long as anyone has breath. Wood explained “The most vital part of man’s personality – the spirit – is dead to the most important factor in life – God.” And as long as there is any life remaining, we need to point people to Jesus and His saving grace that was created through His shed blood on the Cross. It’s never too late to share Jesus with a sinner. And we need to keep proclaiming that truth until there is no more breath.

The word ‘trespasses’ means that we have crossed a line, challenging God’s boundaries. The idea behind the word ‘sins’ is that we have missed a mark, the perfect standards of God. Stott explained further “Trespasses speaks of man as a rebel, sins speaks of man as a failure. Before God we are both rebels and failures.” The bottom line is that we’re doomed without dealing with our trespasses and sin. God cannot overlook that. His standard is set and we can’t meet it on our own – no matter how hard or how long we try. We will fall short and come face to face with that reality on judgment day. It’s going to lead to eternal separation from God if we don’t deal with sin before we stand before God on judgment day.

As humans we tend to walk in trespasses and sin with a lot of help from our enemy, Satan. He’s still very active in doing all he can to make sure we continue the ways ‘in which you one walked’. But Paul is reminding us that as Christ followers, that should no longer be the way we live. Guzik explained “A dead man feels comfortable in his coffin; but if he were to be made alive again, he would instantly feel suffocated and uncomfortable. There would be a strong urge to escape the coffin and leave it behind. In the same way, when we were spiritually dead we felt comfortable in trespasses and sins; but having come to new life we feel we must escape that coffin and leave it behind.” Have you changed your walk to do it only with Jesus?

Ephesians 1:21-23

In Ephesians 1:21-23 Paul wraps up the first chapter in his letter to the church at Ephesus. He has just reminded us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, and Clarke reminds us that “The right hand is the place of friendship, honour, confidence, and authority.” We have an ever loving Lord and Savior sitting right next to the Author and Creator of the universe pleading on our behalf and interceding for us. Paul goes on to tell us the Jesus is “….far above all rule and authority and power and dominion….” There is nothing or no one that is above the power of Jesus Christ.

We don’t completely understand the ranks of the angelic realm, but we do know that Jesus is raised above them. Alford explains “We know that the king is above all, though we cannot name all the officers of his court. So we know that Christ is above all, though we are not able to name all His subjects.” The reality is that Jesus Christ is at the top of the org chart. No one ranks higher or has more authority. “….and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” And His place and position is not temporary or ever up for review. He will be sitting on the right hand of the Father for all eternity.

Moule wrote “Think of the paradox. The Apostle is speaking of a Personage of history, of recent, almost contemporary, history… He had worked with His hands, He had walked from place to place like other men, and man could no doubt accurately describe His look and manner when He talked… He is now ‘seated at the right hand of’ Almighty God, on His very throne.” God has placed Christ above all things. “And he put all things under his feet….” This is not a limited power or scope of duty for Jesus. He is above all and has authority and power over all. God has made Jesus head of all, including the church.

But Jesus is more than the authority over the church, He is the ultimate gift to the church. “….and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” If Jesus is the head of the church, then the community of Christians make up His body. The idea of the fullness of Him here is connected to the way Jesus fills His church with His presence and blessings. All things in the universe are under His authority and power, but as Christ Followers and believers – we are joined to Him as the Body and are part of God’s eternal plan for the church. God is so very good!

Ephesians 1:18b-20

In Ephesians 1:18b-20 Paul wanted them to know that there are few things give us a more secure and enduring hope in life than simply knowing that God has called us and has a specific calling for us to fulfill. “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you….” The focus is on the future and as Christ Followers we have a glorious future of resurrection, eternal life, freedom from sin, perfected justification, and glorious elevation above the angels themselves. God hasn’t offered us an ‘ok’ future with His gift of grace – salvation through Christ. God’s offering us an amazing and unbelievable future.

Paul continues by reminding us just how great our inheritance will be. Not only will we receive our inheritance from God, but Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand that they are so precious to God that He considered them His own inheritance. “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints….” Guzik explains “Knowing our spiritual poverty, we wonder how God can find any inheritance in the saints. Yet God can make riches out of poor men and women because He invests so much in them. He has invested riches of love, riches of wisdom, riches of suffering, riches of glory. These things accrue to a rich inheritance in the saints.”

And Paul goes on wanting us to know how great God’s power is for those who believe. Christ Followers should know they serve and love a God of living power who shows His strength on behalf of His people. “….and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe….” Spurgeon explained “The very same power which raised Christ is waiting to raise the drunkard from his drunkenness, to raise the thief from his dishonesty, to raise the Pharisee from his self-righteousness, to raise the Sadducee from his unbelief.” God offers us access to His power – and we gain that through our prayers.

Paul goes on to explain more about the power that God offers to all who believe. “….according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places….”  The power that works in us is the mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead. With this mighty power available to us, there never needs to be a “power shortage” in the Christian life. It is the mighty power that raised Jesus to heaven after His resurrection, raising Him above all demonic foes and every potential enemy of all time — this same power is at work in us as Christ Followers.

Ephesians 1:15-18

In Ephesians 1:15-18 Paul now shifts from talking about “In Him” where he shared the power of our walk with Christ to “For this reason”. He’s changing from schooling us on the facts of our walk as a believer to the impact the Ephesians were having on his ministry to them. When Paul hears of the faith and love of the church at Ephesus, it brought the only response it could – thanksgiving for them. “For this reason, 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….” Faith and love do not earn us participation in this great work of God. They are evidence of our participation in God’s plan.

Paul gives thanks not only for their love of the Lord but also for their love for all the saints. The real evidence of walking with Christ is how we love people, especially those in the Body of Christ. But Paul doesn’t just give thanks, he prays for them. “.…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation….” Paul prayed that God would grant the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and that He would give them revelation. But these are not so they may see into the lives of others, have the ability to predict events, or do what we commonly think of as “prophet stuff.” He wanted them to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation simply so that they would have a better knowledge of God.

Our Christian life must be centered around the purpose of knowing God as He is the truth, as revealed by His Word. We also must correct our false, idolatrous ideas of who God is. “in the knowledge of him….” It is important for us to have an accurate knowledge and understanding of who we are. Yet it is far more important (and beneficial) for us to know and understand who God is. Spurgeon wrote “the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”

Paul then prays that they would understand everything God gave them in Jesus Christ. “….having the eyes of your hearts enlightened….” For the Ephesians to know all God has given them in Jesus, it will take a supernatural work of the Spirit. Guzik wrote “Too many Christian hearts have no eyes (places where they gain real knowledge and understanding), and too many Christian eyes have no heart — God wants both to be combined in us.” The word ‘heart’ means our very core and center of life. Alford explains that is “where the intelligence has its post of observation, where the stores of experience are laid up, and the thoughts have their fountain.” We need to both see and feel as God does!

Ephesians 1:11-14

In Ephesians 1:11-14 Paul continues to school us of what we have “In Him”. He begins by reminding us that Jesus is not a judge, but the One in whom we have an inheritance as Christ Followers. We see three aspects of God’s plan working together.

  1. It begins with His purpose
  2. then the counsel of His will
  3. and finally results in His work

God made His plan carefully according to an eternal purpose, taking counsel within the Godhead, and then He works with all wisdom.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” Morgan wrote “Our God is a God who not only wills; He works; and He works according to His will… The word counsel stands for deliberate planning and arranging, in which the ways and means of carrying out the will are considered and provided for.” God has a plan and we are part of God’s plan for the world we live in and the humanity we are engaged with. We are here to fulfill His purpose following His will doing His work.

God’s purpose in all this is so that those who have trusted Christ will live to praise Him in all His glory. The goal of God’s ultimate plan is to glorify Him. And God involves all mankind in this plan. Here He speaks of Jewish believers. (those who were the first to hope in Christ) The words “you also” in Ephesians 1:13 speak of Gentile believers. God’s great plan has a place for both Jew and Gentile, and it brings them both together in Jesus. We are all on the planet for the same ultimate outcome – to spend our lives following His purpose living out His will doing His work that we may live a life pleasing to God filled with praise and glory unto Him.

Paul continues with the next thing we will receive “In Him”. After we hear God’s Word, understand salvation and believe in Jesus, we are sealed by the Spirit to a guaranteed inheritance. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Gaebelein explains “The seal is therefore the Holy Spirit Himself, and His presence in the believer denotes ownership and security. The sealing with the Spirit is not an emotional feeling or some mysterious inward experience.” We have this guarantee until we “acquire possession” by God through resurrection and glorification — again, all to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:7-10

In Ephesians 1:7-10 Paul continues to walk through a series of statements about the impact of Jesus on believers. He uses the term “in Him” multiple times in this chapter. Paul reminds us that ‘In Him’ we have redemption that can come from nowhere else. There is no possible redemption outside of Jesus and His redeeming blood. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

He begins by reminding us that through Christ we have redemption. Redemption always implies a price being paid for the freedom that is purchased. It uses the ancient Greek word lootruo, which means, “to liberate on the receipt of a ransom.” (Gaebelein) The price of that redemption is His blood, showing that the blessing from the Father and the Son comes not only from a divine decree, but it also comes according to His righteousness and holiness. Jesus does not redeem us by His sinless life or His moral example, but only by His death in our place — by His blood. Spurgeon wrote “Observe, it is not redemption through his power, it is through his blood. It is not redemption through his love, it is through his blood.”

That redemption available in Him, through His shed blood on the cross leads to forgiveness based on the riches of God’s grace. It’s not some simple act of redemption on the Cross, but full of God’s riches and His love for us. God doesn’t offer grace in a limited fashion, but pours it out ‘lavished upon us’. Even as guilty sinners in need of a Savior but definitely deserving of one, God pours out His grace above and beyond all that we should ever receive. God’s choice was not a mistake but was done ‘in all wisdom and insight’ through which He exposed us to the ‘mystery of His will’. This is a love story to the max.

God calls us to consider the greatness of His great plan for the ages and our place in that plan. Clarke explains the strategy reflected in God’s plan: “The plan which the master of a family, or his steward, has established for the management of the family… it signifies, also, a plan for the management of any sort of business.” God’s ultimate plan is to bring together — to ultimately connect — all things in Christ, either through Jesus as a Savior or Jesus as a Judge. We’ll all have to give account to what we’ve done with Jesus. This happens on the day when every wrong will be righted and every matter resolved according to God’s holy love and justice. For believers, Jesus is not a judge, but the One in whom we have an inheritance.

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