Archive for the ‘Ephesians’ Category

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2 is a  power chapter where Paul breaks down the reality of life with and without Christ. His statements are long with a lot of words and pacted with truth, but they give us a true picture of how things truly are. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, 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—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”.  Based on our own efforts, we are toast.  We are sinners following an enemy in a life of disobedience without a future or a hope.

But God offered us a different option.  Not because He had to, but because He loves us.  “But God, being  rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”.  How does God love us?  With His mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and His grace (giving us what we don’t deserve).  That’s His love in a nutshell.

Then Paul shares the simplest reality of salvation in all of scripture.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.  God’s offer of salvation is freely given and can only be received through accepting it as the gift through which it was offered – a faith relationship through Jesus Christ.  There is nothing we can do to earn or achieve salvation on our own – no matter how hard we try.  Salvation does not result from how hard we work or what we do.  It comes only through faith and personally receiving Christ as God’s gift of grace to cover the penalty of our sin.

Does that mean we can just receive Christ through faith and then sit around until we die?  Not hardly.  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.  Doing things don’t save us, but are certainly a result of being saved.  When we receive Christ, our heart becomes focused on serving God and others – fulfilling the Great Commandments that Jesus taught – and we are motivated to serve others.  We transition from being “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” to a place where everything changes when we are saved.  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”.

 Paul shares the reality of life with Jesus.  “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility….For  through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and  members of the household of God….In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”.  When we receive Jesus He tears down the walls that keep us from God because of our sin, and builds in us a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.  But it only happens when we make the step of receiving Christ as Savior and Lord.  We have to make God’s gift of grace and mercy our own.  Until then, we live lost and apart from God’s glorious plan for our life!

Advertisements

Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1 has Paul writing to the church at Ephesus which was filled with people “faithful in Christ Jesus”.  Paul spends the chapter encouraging them in the faith they have in Christ “who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing….even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him”.  This is important to understand – believers are chosen by God, and they are chosen before they have done anything or have been anything for God.  God draws us to Himself for the purpose of not only saving us, but also for holiness.  God doesn’t just want us saved, He also wants us to walk with Christ in obedience that leads us to righteousness.

Paul makes it clear that God chooses us to become part of His family, into a place that we can not lose.  Once we become a child of God, we’ll always be a child.  We may strain the relationship based on how we live, but it doesn’t change the reality of God making us part of His family through Christ. “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved”.  This plan is God’s doing, not ours.  This plan gives glory to God’s grace.  It’s all His idea and His plan.  We merely are drawn to Him with the opportunity to receive His free gift of grace which will make us a son and provide eternal life.

Paul tells us the power of receiving Christ and becoming a son of the Father in three long verses about what happens when we receive God’s offer of grace:

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

These three long statements tell us what happens ‘in him’ – the result of our acceptance of Jesus as not only Savior, but also Lord.  God has an amazing set of benefits that He bestows on His children when they become part of His family.  But not one little thing is the result of our efforts.  They are all gifts from the Father when we come to receive His gift of grace through Christ.

Paul goes on to tell the church how he prays for them.  The list is long, but if you want to know how to pray for someone, check out Paul’s prayer:  “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us 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, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”.  Paul’s prayer focuses on these things as he lifts up the faithful in the church:

  • A spirit of wisdom
  • Knowledge of Christ
  • Eyes that are enlightened
  • Understanding of hope
  • Riches of glory
  • Inheritance of the saints
  • Immeasurable power
  • Unlimited authority
  • Eternal relationship

Paul speaks a lot of words here, but the focus isn’t what our prayers often are, where we cry out to God to fix our problems and give us what we want.  Paul’s prayer focuses on Christ and the relationship we have with Him and through Him.  Prayer isn’t about us.  It’s about lining up our heart and our will with the Father.  That’s what Paul is focused on in the words he writes here.

Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6 begins with some more direction on how God designed the family.  He tells young ones “children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right….honor your father and mother…..that it will go well with you”.  Kids are to live obediently with their parents.  Not just sometimes – but obedience means all the time.  So how does that work?  It starts when we model obedience to the Father and make that clear to our kids.  We often get exactly what we give God – partial obedience.  I remember my kids going through the phase of watching the speedometer and asking me how come I was speeding.  Of course I explained it away – the speed limit is guidance – not something we have to obey completely.  Then I wondered why I got the same from my kids.  We get what we sow my friends.  It starts with us modeling the truth.

The next thing Paul reminds fathers of is “do not provoke your children to anger”.  I was guilty of this one – and still am at times.  As dad’s we should not provoke our kids – we should again model obedience because scripture tells us to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”.  How come we fail on that – because we first of all don’t know what the instruction is – we haven’t studied the Word enough – and then we fail to discipline consistently and correctly – we leave it to our wives to do so much of the correction.  We have big responsibility placed on us as fathers.  Don’t neglect what Paul writes here.

He goes on to tell slaves to “obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling”.  That obey word sure shows up a lot doesn’t it.  Slaves can be interpreted pretty broadly.  Many would say that employees fall into that bucket today.  There needs to be respect and obedience to the desire of the boss.  All these relationships – starting with husbands and wives – then children and parents – then slaves and masters – all these relationships are so important in living out our faith.  We can’t truly walk as Christ Followers if we don’t live right in these relationships. 

Paul then gives us teaching on how to deal with the enemy.  “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might”.  Remember that our battle is  not won by our own ability but that of the Lord.  He tells us to “put on the whole armor of God….that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil”.  We have a suit of preparation that allows us to deal with the enemy.  But we have to put it on – we have to use it – and then realize that the battle is about schemes – not brute force but often about deception and lies.  We have to be ready.  We aren’t facing an army like you might think of it – this enemy consists of “rulers….authorities….cosmic powers….spiritual forces of evil”.  It is a battle of spiritual magnitude and we won’t win it if we go it alone.

Paul ends the chapter giving us our fighting orders.  He tells us that since God is in control, has already won the victory, and will lead us to overcome – we need to “take up the whole armor of God”.  What does that entail – Paul lists the pieces here:

–       “belt of truth

–       breastplate of righteousness

–       shoes for your feet….the readiness given by the gospel of peace

–       shield of faith

–       helmet of salvation

–       sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

We have been equipped by the Father to win.  Our job is to “end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints……opening my mouth boldly”.  God will handle the details of winning.  We need to put on the armor and then be ready to do battle.  Are you?  Do you recognize the enemy?

Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5 is jam packed with truth that matters.  Paul begins by telling us how we should live – “be imitators of God….beloved children….walk in love…..as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us”.  We are to become like God.  That is what an imitator does.  He becomes like the object of his imitation.  And for us as Christ Followers – that object we are to imitate is God Himself.  It isn’t our pastor, or some TV evangelist, or some other great figure in the history of the church.  As a believer we are to imitate God.  How are you doing with that?  When people see you do they see God?  That is what true imitation will yield – they won’t be able to tell the difference.  There is no doubt that none of us have it quite down that well, but that has to be our goal.

Paul then gives us a list of things that we need to avoid doing – in fact he says it strongly – he who does these things “has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”.  Does that mean that our salvation is lost if we fall to these temptations?  I don’t think that is what Paul is saying.  I do believe he is telling us that these things are not godly actions and if we are truly Christ Followers we will not participate in them.  This is serious stuff.  So what made the list?

–       “sexual immorality

–       Impurity

–       Covetousness

–       Filthiness

–       Foolish talk

–       Crude joking

Not the worst sins you can think of – are they?  In fact many of them we just blow by as no big deal – even in the church.  Basically sin is sin and has no place in the life of a Christ Follower.  Paul goes on to say “do not associate with them” who do these things.  In other words, don’t hang out with sinners.  They will pull you in the wrong direction.  Scripture tells us over and over just how important it is that we live lives of obedience.  It really is clear that life matters.  In fact, Paul’s words here say exactly that:  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”.  I love this verse – it reminds us of the very important value of time.  We have to choose wisely how to use our time.  It matters!

Paul does go on to tell us how we ought then to live.  “Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”.  He calls out four things here that we need to do as we are filled with the Spirit:

  1. Address one another with God’s wisdom
  2. Sing and glorify God with all your heart
  3. Give thanks always and for everything
  4. Submit to one another

It all starts with being filled with the Spirit.  We need to allow God to control our lives – He has sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and through us as part of His gift of grace when Christ went to the cross.  When we are filled with the spirit – great things happen in our life.  Mostly we lose self and focus on God and others.  Two of those things relate to God – two relate to others – none focus on self.

Paul concludes by once again giving God’s order and plan for the family.  Some strong words about what we are to do in our role as husband and wife.  Here are his very direct words: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord……Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…..let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”.  It really is a pretty simple formula on paper.  Men – we need to love our wives like Jesus loved us – willing to sacrifice self and all for her.  There is no room for selfishness in that command.  We give it all to love her.  Wives – you need to submit completely to your husbands as if you were submitting to the Lord.  It is God’s plan.  It doesn’t sound fair, or equal or right for many – but it is absolutely God’s plan.  Submission means you respect and fall under the authority of – not that you are a doormat that is of lesser value – but as one who is protected by the authority of a loving husband.  If we could get these simple commands right – our society and marriage would look so very different.  The divorce rate would be drastically reduced.  There is little doubt that failing to follow God’s plan isn’t working – so maybe – just maybe – we should go back to doing it His way – the way He created it to work.  It happens one couple at a time.  Men – are you loving your wife like Jesus loved us?  Wives – are you respecting and submitting to your husband as unto the Lord?  That is how we begin to win the battle with the enemy regarding marriage – one home at a time.  Let’s be the ones that start the wave!

Ephesians 4

 Ephesians 4 begins with Paul telling us how to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”.  Do you ever think about that?  What it means to be worthy of being a Christ Follower?  Sometimes I think we forget that it is a privilege, not a right, to follow Jesus.  It is a gift God has given us through grace – not something we have earned or deserve.  Do you consider it that way?  Paul gives some characteristics about what it means to be worthy of that call:

–       “Humility

–       Gentleness

–       Patience

–       Bearing with one another in love

–       Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit

Does that sound like you, or your church body?  Unfortunately I’m afraid it doesn’t really sound all that much like a lot of Christ Followers I know, including me some days. 

Paul goes on to camp on the unity topic.  “There is one body and one Spirit……..one Lord, one faith, one baptism…..one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”.  Did he say it clearly enough.  There is NO division in Christ or His church body.  None, nada, just unity.  So how are we supposed to actually get along?  “Grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift”.  Once again it is not about us.  God gives us grace – each of us have a measure of it – and that is how we can live in unity. 

Paul goes on to tell us what the job of church leadership is – primarily that of pastors and teachers.  Pay attention here – we get this wrong so often: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry…..for building up the body of Christ…..until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,,,,,,to mature manhood,,,,,,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,,,,,,so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”.  Pastors are not to DO the work of the ministry – they are to train you and me to do it.  We think that since they are paid employees it is their job.  Not so according to scripture.  They are to teach you and me to do it and to grow up and become full of Jesus.  They are the equippers, not the doers.  They are the ones who are to prepare us to minister and do the ministry.  So many of us get this wrong.  We want to  be spectators and watch our ministers do the work.  That is not God’s plan.

What God does want to do is grow us up.  Paul gives us the secret to that in this chapter.  Here is the formula we are to follow: “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”.  We have to put off our old self and put on the new.  It means we stop doing the sinful things in our life and replace them with godly habits and actions.  You can’t just stop doing something without replacing it with something else.  This means we must be intentional – we must really focus on replacing the bad stuff in our life with godly stuff.  It has to happen if we are to really become what God desires.  He calls out falsehood, lying, stealing, corrupt talking, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander.  We need to stop those things and replace them with kindness, tender hearts, forgiveness and godly behaviors.  That is what God has called us to as Christ Followers.  That is how we achieve worthiness to be His.  It is intentional and hard work.  But God has called us to that life!

Ephesians 3

 Ephesians 3 has Paul’s explanation of his call to the Gentiles.  God gave Paul a mission to take the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.  And he makes it clear that they are:

–       “fellow heirs

–       Members of the same body

–       Partakers in the promise in Christ Jesus

The message is pretty clear here – we are all part of one body and the gift of grace that God presented to the world is for all people.  Sometimes we forget that.  We think it is reserved for a few in the church, or that it is for those of us in America.  God’s gift of salvation for Jesus is for all people and we are to carry that message to all corners of this planet.  Paul says it this way: “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things”.  Catch that word?  “Everyone” is the target audience of the gospel.

Paul goes on to tell us how we should present this truth.  Check out what he describes for us:

–       “boldness

–       Confidence through our faith

–       Not to lose heart

We should not be sharing quietly or cautiously, but boldly and with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Yet so many of us as Christ Followers don’t share it at all.  We don’t even live our life in a way that others can tell that Jesus is our Savior and Lord.  Why is that?  We have the “riches of His glory” upon us and we walk like we are on egg shells and don’t want to let others know about our faith.  Can’t talk about it in the workplace?  Actually that is a lie of the enemy for the most part.  We are wimps when it comes to being strong in our faith.  We blink when the enemy throws a cheap punch our way.

The reality is that we will be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” when we let Jesus have control of our life.  He is more than ready to come in and take control.  When we allow Jesus to be in the driver seat, when “I bow my knees before the Father” some amazing things can happen according to Paul.  But it starts with putting ourselves in the right place – at the feet of the Father.  We have to realize that life is not about us.  It is about serving the Creator of the universe and living for Him.  Once we do then “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”.  What a promise.  We can begin to understand the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us when we put Him in His right place – on the throne of our lives.  God loves us unbelievably much.  And He desires to fill us with fullness.  Not just a little bit of Himself – but fullness.  But we have to get over ourselves and let God have His place to experience that fullness.  Where is God in your life?  Is He just off to the side on standby in case you need Him?  Or is He truly the center of your life – on the throne where He belongs?  When we put Him there amazing things happen.  He is King!

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2 is contains some of the greatest words on salvation in all of scripture.  Paul paints a picture of our life – “you were dead in the trespasses and sins….in which you once walked….following the course of this world…..following the prince of the power of the air.”  Sin equals death.  Scripture tells us that clearly in Romans and Paul repeats it here.  Sin separates us from God for eternity.  And we are all guilty of walking in sin – it is our nature and where we are lead by the enemies of God – primarily Satan himself.  What it means really is that we are focused on “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” – it is all about me, myself and I – and the focus is on doing what I want, when I want, how I want, if I want.  It is all about me.  That is sin and the lie that we are told by the world and the enemy.  Life is not in fact about you.  It is about God. 

What Paul tells us next blows my mind.  “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.  Did you catch this?  God loved us even when we were sinners – rebelling against Him and His plans for us to live a godly and holy life – yet even then He loved us.  We are dead without Christ.  God doesn’t have to do anything – He doesn’t owe us salvation – but love drove Him to send Jesus to the cross to allow us to be saved by grace and to raise us up to be seated with Him in the heavenly places.  So a righteous God, because of love, has made a way for us who are dead to be set free from our sin and to spend eternity seated with Him in heaven.  That is better than any Walt Disney movie ending ever thought of being.  God loves us enough to make a way for us. 

Paul tells us the importance of grace when he writes “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.  Salvation is not about you or me.  It is totally a God thing provided freely to us through the death of Christ on the cross.  Nothing more, nothing less, than Jesus and Him alone.  Grace is being given something we totally don’t deserve.  Jesus went to the cross while we were yet sinners – we didn’t deserve that gift – but God’s love drove Him to make a way for us even when we didn’t deserve it.  That is the gift of grace.  And our salvation is not anything we do on our own.  It is a gift – totally given by God – not a result of anything we can do – so that we have nothing to boast of – only an opportunity to speak gratitude to a God who loves us so much.

But salvation is not the end of the story for us.  The goal is not just to get saved and then coast on into heaven.  Paul tells us “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them“.  God has a plan for us once we are saved – to be involved in walking with Him and living out life as a Christ Follower.  There are good works on our plate – things God wants us to accomplish for His Kingdom.  We need to be seeking His throne to identify how we are to walk and live and to share with those “having no hope and without God in the world”.  We have the keys to the Kingdom – the answer to the life and death problem of sin – and we need to share it with those who need to find God’s grace.  But more than that, Paul reminds us that “you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit”.  We are part of God’s Kingdom – and are fellow citizens of His household for eternity once we receive the gift of salvation through Christ.  And as such, we become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit who comes into our life upon salvation and lives in us to help direct and guide our walk as a Christ Follower.  What a blessing.  What a promise.  What a God we serve!

%d bloggers like this: