Monday, April 19, 2010

EPHESIANS: Born Into God's Family


EPH 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel 

A group of brothers and myself have for a while now, been in downtown Tucson on Friday nights, preaching on the streets and sharing the Gospel. It occurred to us that we should start up a Bible study where those of us who are called to teach can exercise their gift, and this would also serve as a means of discipling any potential converts that will no doubt be coming our way.

One of the two books we've been looking at is the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians; for the past two weeks or so I've come across different passages here and there in my goings about, and these have all been verses from this book, and they've spoken quite powerfully!

So I thought I'd whet my whistle a bit and do a short series on this book, beginning (of course) with chapter one.
But first . . .

SOME BACKGROUND -

The city of Ephesus was at one time extremely prosperous as it lay along old trade routes, and it was gifted with a considerable harbor there in Asia Minor (Turkey). It was also a highly religious center for the various pagan deities of the day, particularly Diana (Artemis in the Greek culture), the Asian goddess of fertility.

The Temple of Diana in Ephesus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, such was its opulent splendor. Devoted servants of Diana donated their gold and jewels, among these masses were Potentates and prostitutes alike.


Paul the Apostle came and ministered in this city for three years and laid the foundation for one of the strongest Christian churches of the first century.

In the book of ACTS, chapter 19, it states that magicians heard the gospel preached by Paul and brought their paraphernalia before him, confessing their deeds, and burned their books in an act of repentance, so powerful was the work of the Spirit there.

There were many adversaries as people forsook the worship of Diana in favor of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth; Demetrius, the silversmith was so noted for one that opposed Paul. Once Paul moved on, Timothy, his young protege along with John the Beloved (Apostle) carried on the work there in Ephesus, along with six other churches in the area.

Christianity advanced, and the pagan worship of Diana declined until finally in 262 A.D. her temple was plundered and burned by the Goths. It, along with all other pagan temples, was closed by the Edict of Theodosius.

Within a century, silt that persistently washed up along the shores of that city, eventually clogged up its harbor and Ephesus declined in importance from then on. Paul probably wrote this epistle around 60 A.D. or so; his first visit is recorded in ACTS 18:18-21; his second in ACTS 19:2-7 where he continued the work there with great success, though there were also great conflicts.

His final farewell exhortation is recorded in ACTS 20:17-35 where he warned the Ephesian elders of what was to come:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (vv. 28-31).

An exhortation and warning we would be wise to take heed today in our world, as well! The LORD Jesus likewise addresses the church at Ephesus in REV 2: 1-7. It was the habit of Jewish believers to ostracize their Gentile counterparts who themselves were Christians and thus spiritual brethren; Paul wrote to encourage them in their Christian unity, thus a key verse in this epistle is EPH 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (other references along these lines are 1:10; 2:6, 14-22; 4:3-16).

Christian unity is nothing that we as saints need to create in an ecumenical sense, for that would be by the intent and will of human effort, and such is not only superfluous, but quite unnecessary, and quite probably dangerous (as is any work of the flesh [self-will] where the work of the Spirit in the body of Christ is concerned).

No, Christian unity must only be maintained as its already been created by God through Christ Jesus in the work of the Holy Spirit; such is evident in the passages found in this epistle.

KEY WORDS and PHRASES -

EPH. 1:10; 2:5,6; 2:22
In the study section of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible for the book of Ephesians, various key words/phrases are used to demonstrate the unity of believers through Christ Jesus: Together - "gathered together" in 1:10; "quickened together" in 2:5; "raised up together", "sitting together" in 2:6 and "builded together" in 2:22.

EPH. 2:15-16, 18; 4:4-6
One - indicating unity; "one new man" in 2:15; "one body" in 2:16; "one Spirit" in 2:18; "one hope" in 4:4; "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" in 4:5-6.

"In Christ" - EPH. 1:3, 6, 12, 15, 20EPH. 2:10, 13; EPH 3:11; EPH. 4:21

"In heavenly places" - EPH. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10.

Riches - "of grace" in EPH 1:7; 2:7; "of glory" in EPH. 1:18; 3:16; "of Christ" in EPH. 3:8.

Concerning Christian unity which is not in man to orchestrate or maintain by his own powers, but "in Christ" and by His Spirit, this is a vital doctrine as any general commanding an army will tell you. The old tactic of "divide and conquer" is quite effective, and it's a tactic that the enemy, Satan, has used for ages, and is every bit as effective today as it was any time in the past! Therefore as the premiere epistle that elaborates on spiritual warfare (ch. 6) the practical aspect of obtaining victory in Christ rests upon this unity.

Thus the body of Christ will know unity, just as our LORD prayed for in our regard in JOHN 17:21-23 "That they may be one even as [We are one]." Think of how astounding that is: that we may be one even as the Father and the Son are one! How could there possibly be any greater unity that this? How is such a thing to be achieved? ONLY by the Spirit of God!!

How practically is this worked out in the life of the believers?

COL 3:14 And above all these things put on [love], which is the bond of perfectness.

In Christ we possess our spiritual unity, and equally in Christ we are enabled to fulfill the command of Christ as mentioned in JOHN 13:34-35.

This is yet another astounding verse, in that we are commanded by the LORD Jesus, the Head of the body, to love one another as HE LOVES US! Again, this is impossible in the flesh or will power of the individual (in fact the self-will or flesh must die, we must reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, if the Spirit is ever to have the liberty to exercise His power in and through us); if it isn't a work of the Holy Spirit, then its an impossibility.

So as we can see, the Christian life is not merely difficult: it's impossible except through the power of Christ in us. This is what we must remember as we traverse the length and breadth of this epistle, as well as our continued discipleship in the Word of God, seeking its manifestation in our lives through obedience by His Spirit.

Chapter One then can be broken down as follows:

vs. 1-2: The salutation.
vs. 3-6: The Divine origin of the church. The plan of salvation-
vs. 7-8: Through the redemptive work of Christ.
vs. 9-10: Universal in its scope.
vs. 11-14: Insuring a rich spiritual inheritance.
vs. 15-23: Prayer that believers might be fully enlightened as to the riches of its provisions. Let's dig in and see what the LORD would speak to us!

EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul declares his office as an apostle of Jesus Christ, and this commission was granted to him by the will of God, not by any of the original apostles or by some church body. The authenticity of his apostleship was never questioned by any of the other apostles; if it had been, it certainly would have shown up in the writings of the New Testament, and surely there would have been mention of it in the Council in Jerusalem in Acts ch. 15.

The fact that his writings were considered as authentic scripture, particularly by Peter, reveals that Paul was universally accepted by the church (with notable exception by those who, while saved (?), held to the dogma of circumcision, a.k.a. the Judaizers);

See 2 PET 3:15-16 and vs. 16 specifically as Peter notes a comparable equity between Paul's scripture and "the other scriptures", lending equal weight to both.

The epistle is addressed "to the saints at Ephesus", those Christians who are by spiritual birthright separated from the world, and any allegiance to such, and for the LORD God in special relationship and allegiance to the Kingdom of God. This is a blessing enjoyed by all who are born of the Spirit and baptized into Christ (thusly included in the body of Christ, the Church universal). It is likewise addressed to "the faithful in Christ Jesus" and so while addressed specifically to a certain church body, its also addressed to the Church universal (Catholikos).

EPH 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Its worth noting that both the grace and peace mentioned in this verse is from the Father as well as from the LORD Jesus Christ. That the same quality and essence of this grace, and of this peace, should proceed from both the Father and the Son is highly suggestive of their equality, that is, from God the Father, and from God the Son. Grace (Charis) is the common Greek salutation, whereas peace is the common Jewish salutation (Shalom).

As has been mentioned repeatedly by countless commentators and expositors, we must experience the grace of God before we can ever experience the peace of God. Its when we receive God's grace in salvation, specifically justification from sin, self, judgment, death and hell that we experience peace with God (see ROM 5:1).

Once such a spiritual relationship is established between the Holy God and the repentant sinner, now endowed with the Spirit of grace "whereby we cry, Abba, Father", as adopted sons of God (see ROM 8:15-16, GAL 4:6-7) we can then experience the peace of God (PHIL. 4:7 and COL. 3:15)!

The word "shalom" carries far greater weight than merely peace, but encompasses a far reaching parameter of health, strength, protection, prosperity, soundness of mind as well as body, blessing, vitality and wholeness (and peace).

EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

These spiritual blessings derive from the very salutation, that is, the grace and peace from God, and these are found in the Person of Christ Jesus in Whom all such blessings are bequeathed to the beloved! Such a rich treasure house as this was never known by any monarch, Pharaoh or Emperor, and even their meager wealth is one of horribly temporal condition, whereas the inheritance of the saints is "eternal in the heavens" and "fadeth not away"!

On a side note, how tragic that those of the Word-Faith/Prosperity Movement are involved in such a half truth as what they proclaim: the prosperity that is ours in Christ (true!) can be found by faith (true!) in acquiring anything heart can wish for in the blessings of this world (false!).

The church is NEVER promised prosperity in the things of this world; here, in this renegade planet we who are the righteous and the godly of Christ Jesus are promised persecution instead! This is not to say that God doesn't bestow His blessings and favor to His own in this world, but even these are fleeting and never considered our birthright as is those spiritual blessings that are ours both now and in eternity!

EPH 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

God chose us, according to this verse, when? Before the foundation of the world, that is, before God ever said "Let there be light"; before God ever brooded on the waters, or caused the Earth to come into form and being, God in 'eternity past' chose us, the members of the Church, in Him (Christ).

This brings up a controversial issue that can get quite involved (I can't afford a lot of time on this either!), and in fact as compelled many a theologian and philosopher to write books that literally fill libraries the world over; this issue is predestination vs. free will.

While in the church there are both perspectives present and supported, those of predestination (sovereignty of God) and those of free will (sovereignty of man), as is so often the case, I believe the truth resides somewhere in the middle.

When asked by others, Do you believe in predestination or free will? I consistently reply, Yes! This creates an expression of confusion on the inquirer's face.
These two points of view are only contradictory if one attempts to examine them within the framework of our physical universe, particularly that aspect which we know as 'time'.

Time is just as much a physical aspect of this universe as is the monitor through which you are reading this blog at the moment. Time is effected by mass, acceleration and gravity; its an integral part of creation as much as space, matter (space tells matter how to move, matter tells space how to curve) and energy!

Yet God is transcendent of His creation; He is not bound by the constraints of time. To God, the future is as certain as yesterday's news (even more so as reporters sometimes are erroneous in their reporting!). He sees all that transpires, He knows each individual and recognizes their speaking and actions before we ever actuate them!

Thus God in His foreknowledge, knows those who are His, knows those who will decide to receive Christ as LORD and enter into the kingdom, and those who will not. So from His vantage point, according to His foreknowledge, we are predestined. From our own vantage point however we all were once confronted with the Gospel and made a decision without coersion, without a Will imposing its power upon us.

Nor were those who reject the Gospel wrestled into their decision by a Deity that decided for them to reject His grace. It's quite enough for our purposes here that God in His sovereignty is SOVEREIGN ENOUGH to allow His creatures to use their power of choice and volition to either accept or reject Him, and for all that, He still accomplishes His Divine purposes; such are His resources and eternal power and authority and foreknowledge!

Glory to God!

EPH 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

In verse 4 it states that "we should be holy and without blame" and this ties in with our adoption as children [of God], for as with any father, his children share in his attributes. Even more so with God our Father, who in the Person of Christ invests in us His own divine nature.

As we Christians partake of this divine nature through the Spirit, the attribute that becomes evident is love and holiness and a yearning desire for such! See 2 PET 1:3-4.

For the Christian to assume that such holiness is not necessary as a practical working out of our daily living, for, they say, we are saved by grace and any sin committed can easily be repented of afterwards is dishonoring to the LORD Jesus (and His empowering grace which alone enables us to walk in holiness)! Paul had a scathing rebuke for such thinking:

ROM 6:1-4 
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Holiness, and our pursuit of such in our daily living should endeavor to climb towards that lofty positional holiness we all acquire at the point of salvation. Once justified by Christ's Holy Blood, we are considered by the Holy God, Judge of all the Earth, as Holy, purely and thoroughly.

No one, not even Paul, can attain that perfection while still in this mortal body of corruption, born into sin; yet such is our mandate (see 1 JOHN 2:6)!

God commands us to "be holy, for I am holy". He didn't say "You are holy, as I am holy" for Peter is addressing our practical need for holiness that will reveal itself in our character and exemplify Christ-likeness.
"BE[ing] holy" therefore is not some legalistic burden, but rather an obedient heart that says "not I, but Christ liveth in me."

The fact that my life, as a Christian is predestined by God brings a deep well of peace and restful joy in knowing that He has all things in hand, and has assured me, though the road I sometimes travel is pitted and rough, that He has secured my spiritual heritage and future; He will see that my life as a follower of Jesus Christ will be completed at the end, according to His predestination.

As Paul declared in:

PHIL 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [Gr. epiteleo - complete, to accomplish perfectly] it until the day of Jesus Christ

EPH 1:6-7 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Here is where we will end this portion of the study, and what a place to come to rest, and meditate on these sublime truths! What a joy to ponder such blessings as these!
To know that His grace which is freely given to us is glorious, that its a manifestation of God's goodness, His holy nature; His abounding, unconditional love, His limitless passion and all-consuming desire for fellowship with us! How Great Is Our God is the song that comes to mind when I meditate on these things!

To recognize that God is not against us, He is not our enemy (yet while in our sin nature, we ourselves are at enmity with Him), that He longs for an intimate, loving, tender relationship with us and has PROVED THIS by making us ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED. ACCEPTED!

Think of Heaven with all its pomp and stellar royalty, its pure holiness, unmarred by any corruptive influences, God-breathed and scented with sanctity and glory! In this eternal domain Holy Angels of such power as to be deemed god-like, who humbly bow their knees and for the brilliance and glory that proceeds from the very Throne of God, dare not raise their eyes, even if they could penetrate that glorious Light, for the Holy One that rightfully rests there with scepter and crown adorning Him!

It is in this place, "in the heavenlies" as stated in vs. 3 of our text, that we who were terribly tainted with treacherous transgressions and scarred by the consumptive sin deep within our souls, that are washed clean, whiter than snow by the blood of the Lamb!

We who were once paupers of perdition have become ACCEPTED in the Beloved! We have become Princes of the Divine Potentate, and readily received by our Righteous Advocate and the Royal High Priest of the faith!

The riches of His grace are so abundant that it not only cancels out the mountains of sinful debt for the entire human race, but vastly exceeds that debt to bless us with glories both untold and unfathomable; so extraordinary are these riches that if we were exposed to them while still in our mortal bodies, they would overwhelm and undo us!

Saint, if saint you are, blood bought and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, do not let the enemy once breath condemnation upon you and thereby falsely accuse God in your ears, that He no longer loves or desires you... that you have transgressed once too often and that He is finished with you!

Come boldly, that is, with confidence, to the very Throne of Grace, and find mercy and grace to help in time of need! Know that you are supremely LOVED by God our Father as He has purchased you with the blood of His BELOVED Son: what greater proof of His love could He possibly provide?

HEB 4:15 
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


Only now, walk worthy of that vocation with which you are called, as one who is already ACCEPTED INTO THE BELOVED, which is your reasonable service!

ROM 12:1-2 
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

May the LORD Jesus bless and keep you walking in love, truth, holiness and grace and peace! brother James Fire

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