Exegetical Notes #6

Exegetical Notes, #6
Ephesians 3:1-13
By Louie Marsh

Chapter three is the final section of the first half of Ephesians. Paul has been laying out all that God has done for us in Christ. He continues and wraps this up in chapter three by doing two things. First he shows us how it has impacted his life, and then he prays one of the greatest prayers in all of Scripture for his readers.

Remember – Paul may not have known we’d be reading this, but that prayer is for us as much as it was for the original readers in Ephesus. But we won’t get the prayer till next week – so hang on and let’s get started.

In verses 1-6 Paul recaps what he just told us about the Mystery that God had revealed to him in Christ Jesus. But he puts a personal twist to it, showing us how it has impacted him personally.

I believe this is important because Paul knew, as all great communicators do – Jesus being the best example in history, that people remember and respond to stories. True stories most of all, but stories draw you in and make the truth relatable in ways that mere eloquence does not.

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:1-6 (NIV)

In my sermon I’m skipping all of this passage except for verses one, two and seven. The reason I did that is because the content is so repetitive from last week. I think one sermon made the point sufficiently, however in these notes I’ll go through each verse and see what they say.

Paul starts out with getting the readers attention by pointing out that he’s a prisoner.  Paul was probably in Rome when he wrote this. He had appealed to Caesar in Acts 25:10-12, and Festus sent him to Rome for a trial there. Paul had that right as a Roman citizen, and he took full advantage of it.

Now, sitting in a cell in Rome with a guard chained to him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, his very life on the line, a captive of the Roman Empire.  But that’s now what he says is it?

He says he’s “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  How interesting. Paul looks beyond his circumstances to what he sees lying behind them. From the human perspective Paul’s words are foolishness! He’s a captive of Rome and his only way out is through the Roman legal system.

But Paul cares nothing for that! He’s the Lord’s man, doing the Lord’s will, for the Lord’s purposes! He gave his life to Christ a long time ago, and has been a prisoner of the Lord ever since. Sitting in a cell changes nothing in that regard.

Beyond that Paul says the reason he’s captive isn’t because of Festus, or the plot against him or anything remotely like that. He says he’s a prisoner “for the sake of you Gentiles.” Amazing isn’t it?

Paul sees truly, he knows this is the real reason he’s been subjected to such fanatical opposition from some Jewish believers (often called Judeizers) They see him as a direct threat to them. Paul points out his leadership in this regard by writing in the Greek, “The prisoner of the Christ Jesus…”

He’s the point man in preaching this mystery to the Gentiles. In that sense he’s THE man and he’s THE prisoner!

A lot has been said and written in the last decade or so about the power of having a vision or dream from God and then working to fulfill it. Most of the great churches in the world have been created out of a vision or dream that God has given their leaders.  Rick Warren, to use one example among many, had a dream, and though Saddleback’s success, hundreds of churches are now trying to be Purpose Driven, and further through his Purpose Driven 40 Days Campaigns and the Purpose Driven Life best seller.

Who started all this? Paul did! That’s what he’s talking about when he says that God chose him to give the revelation too about the Gentiles and the Jews becoming one. He was given the vision, and then largely through his ministry it became a reality. Without the work of Paul, the church wouldn’t have penetrated the Roman culture as quickly and as deeply as it did.

So if you want to study the power of vision, and how God works through a ministry to fulfill the vision He gives, you can no better than to look at Paul himself!

People often wonder about Paul’s words here. After all the opening of salvation to the Gentiles is predicted in many places in the Old Testament. But as John Stott points out, what wasn’t predicted was the replacing of the Jewish nation as God’s People, with the new international and landless community known as the church. This new revelation was given to Paul and he took to the ends of the Empire and beyond through his disciples.

It’s in this context of serving God by following the vision He gives us that Paul says in verses 2 and 7 that he serves God through His Grace and His power! I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Ephesians 3:7 (NIV)

You aren’t just saved by Grace, you also serve by Grace! We are chosen to serve and receive the gifts to serve and are given His Spirit to empower us to serve, all by Grace! What a wonderful realization this is! I don’t have to scramble, and strain and struggle to find God’s place for me in His Kingdom – instead I know that God has a place for me, it’s part of His plan for my life.

As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. 1 Corinthians 12:18 (MSG)

I need to be proactive in finding the place He has for me that’s for sure. But its waiting for me to find and fulfill when and if I step out in faith!

We need to see how God and Christ centered Paul is, and how our life and service needs to be the same. When he looks at his life and service Paul isn’t nearly as concerned with other things as he is with the fact that it’s through the Grace of God given only in Jesus Christ that he’s been called to serve and that service is a gift of Grace that is accomplished by the Holy Spirit – a gift of that very same Grace!

If that doesn’t lift you up and make you thankful – there’s something wrong with you somewhere!

Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8 (NIV)

In this one amazing verse Paul shows us that because he understands and experiences God’s Grace, he has a proper view not only of himself, but of Christ as well.

HIMSELF:

Paul calls himself “the least of all God’s people” in the NIV. In Young renders it,  “to me–the less than the least of all the saints…”(YLT)

Here’s what John Stott says in his commentary, The Message of Ephesians, page 119. “It is a very striking expression. He takes the superlative (elachistos, ‘least’ or ‘smallest’) and does what is impossible linguistically but possible theologically; he turns it into a comparative (‘leaster’ or ‘less than the least’). Perhaps he was deliberately playing on the meaning of his name. For his Roman surname ‘Paulus’ is Latin for ‘little’ or ‘small,’ and tradition says he was a little man.”

Yes, Paul sees himself truly, a recipient of God’s undeserved Grace. Not just when he got saved either. Many Christians seem to have the idea that I get saved by Grace and then I handle the rest by myself. Judging from the state of the western church today I’d say all this self effort isn’t working to well!

Instead of that, let’s be like Paul and stop saying, “I’m a good person,” all the time. I hear that a lot. And here’s the Bible truth about that –

NO, YOU ARE NOT A GOOD PERSON, AND NEITHER AM I OR ANYONE ELSE!  If we were so good Christ would not have come and died and given us the Grace we need to be saved and to serve Him! Let’s just admit that without Christ we’re pretty bad, accept the human condition, rejoice that we can be born again, and move on!

But some say it seems that Paul is being contradictory here when you compare this verse to other things he said. Let ‘s look at them.

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV)

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV)

How does it make sense that in one breath Paul can say he’s the worst sinner, and in the next tell us we ought to imitate his example?

The simple answer is that this is the tension that all true believers live in. It’s the struggle between the old and new natures that Paul talks about in Galatians and other places.  So you can be fully aware of your innate sinfulness, and yet not be paralyzed by guilt. How? Because your sins are forgive in Christ and you have a new nature growing within you!

So I am both! And yes, saying that is humble!  If you don’t believe me look at how Jesus talked about Himself. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (NLT)

Jesus could call Himself humble – would you do that? I wouldn’t – at least not seriously. But that’s the way the Lord wants us to be.  Fully aware of our sinful nature, but rejoicing in God’s Work in our lives, and confident in His Spirit’s power to carry us through.

CHRIST:

That’s the proper view of ourselves, but what about Christ?

…this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8ab (NIV)

This is the proper view of Christ, but I wonder how many of us honestly experience this in our lives? Oh we’d agree with it to be sure, but do we actually believe it and sense it and experience it in our lives?

The word unsearchable is only used here and in Romans where Paul says, O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! Romans 11:33 (ASV)

The word unsearchable literally means “not to be tracked out.”

Paul saw Christ as containing endless amounts of spiritual riches. Indeed His resources are endless and eternal and constantly wonderful!  We should to, but instead we often live in spiritual poverty because we do not see Christ the way we ought too.

Now that we’ve seen how we ought to view Christ and ourselves, Paul next shows us what the church really is. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11 (NIV)

Notice that God’s eternal plan is centered around and in the church. It’s the church that is ground zero of God’s work in the world, and it is there that we ought to see what God is doing and wants to do in the world and among God’s people.

Who are these rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms? When we get to chapter 6 we’ll talk more about this. For now suffice it to say that we don’t really know all that much about them. Beware of those who take these titles and build then into very elaborate explanations of the demonic culture and power structure. Many do this, and all of them are creating their little charts and PowerPoint presentation on speculation and very little else!

This is not the way to interpret the Bible!

It’s enough for us to know that there is a spiritual dimension to all of life that we are usually completely unaware of. All of our lives is on display to the universe and all the creatures it contains. We live as example of God’s plan, power, purpose and Grace.

This is even truer of our ministries and our service to God. You may not think you are making a difference, you may think your service is unknown and not very important really. But you are wrong!

Living in a small town, and Pastoring a small town church, I am very well aware of this type of thinking, both in the lives of those I work with, and in myself as well.

Let’s face it, I’m never going to be on the cover of Christianity Today, I’m never going to preach to thousands of people in a huge church building each week. In fact I’ll be very blessed if I manage to get this church up into the several hundred level before my ministry ends!

But that doesn’t mean what I’m doing, and what all the other people who work so hard to serve God in this church are doing, isn’t important.  In fact I believe that all of our work and ministries are vital to God’s plan.

Since we are in a spiritual battle (more on this in chapter 6) let’s liken it to a war. We are in a war against terror now, and our country has fought many wars in the past. My father served in the Marines in World War Two and Korea. In the early part of WW2 he served in the 4th  U.S. Marine Raider battalion. The Raiders gained headlines during their short life, but most people have no idea of the many battles they fought in the jungles of New Georgia and other places.

Yet those battles were vital to the war effort. Almost no one knows the stories of the men who served on the supply ships that carried all the bullets and beans and other things men like my Dad needed to fight and win the war. Their service is unknown and couldn’t get much less glamorous – never the less we couldn’t have won the war with out them!

So no matter what your ministry is – remember we’ll lose if you don’t do it as well as you can in God’s Grace and Power. Cleaning the buildings and changing diapers and all those other low profile ministries are not exciting but they are vital to the growth of any church!

Your ministry matters and it’s all centered in the church! The church is the center of all of God’s work in the world – or at least it’s supposed to be! Let’s keep that in mind and help our churches to be more open to new outreaches, so we’ll have fewer para-church ministries, and more healthy churches reaching out with all the power of Christ to the world around them!

To this point we’ve seen our need to new all of life from a heavenly perspective; this will give us a proper view of Christ, ourselves and the church. Wow – that’s quite a lot isn’t it? But as usual in Ephesians Paul isn’t finished yet!

Seeing all of that then the next step is necessary, logical and oh so welcome! Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God’s presence, assured of his glad welcome. Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

See how the work of Christ changes every part of our life if we let it? Here’s it’s because of Him, and only because of Him, that we can boldly go boldly in the presence of God through prayer.

I don’t think you can read this verse without thinking of another one that carries the same joyous message. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Oh how blessed we are to have a wonderful Savior like Christ!  As believers we can always come before Him with boldness! Even when we’ve sinned we still come to Him to receive the forgiveness and new direction we want and need.

Note the expression  “assured of his glad welcome.” In the NIV it reads “approach God with freedom and confidence.”  It adds up to being fully at home with our Heavenly Father and completely open to Him about all aspects of our lives.

The good and the bad, the things that make us proud and the things that make us ashamed, all can be shared with our God and Father! That’s what Christ has done for us –  all of this comes to us as an incredible gift of Grace!

Our final verse today brings us into contact with how all this works out in the real world. As I said before Paul is beginning to shift gears, and so shows us how all these incredible blessings that are ours in Christ work out as we enter the world around us.

I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. Ephesians 3:13 (NIV)

I summed this up in the sermon outline like this – NEVER FORGET: Service = Sacrifice.

Why shouldn’t we get discouraged when life is unfair, as it almost always is? Because we live in a fallen world, how else should it be? The Bible makes it clear that our world is full of sin, run by the devil and hostile to God and His Gospel in every possible way.

So why be surprised by suffering? Like Christ we are called to suffer! It’s part of God’s plan, not because He likes to make His children suffer, but because it’s the only way salvation can be brought to the world.

God brings good out of suffering – as can seen in Jesus and throughout both testaments. Paul suffered to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. This vision he had of one new man in Christ was resisted bitterly by those who either didn’t understand it or simply refused to accept it.

He suffered and bled and ultimately died so that God’s call on his life could be accomplished.

The same principle is true for all of us – if you want a ministry that will really impact and change people’s lives, you had better be prepared to suffer and to sacrifice much. If you won’t make the sacrifices necessary – you won’t get the impact you want.

I tell people this all the time, more lately as it’s becoming more clear to me. Ministry involves sacrifice, and can’t be done with sacrifice!

The story I chose to illustrate this is taken from David’s life, and is found in 1 Chronicles 21:11-24. Read and meditate on it, it will show you how God centered David was, and how that works into suffering and the ministry.

The essence of David’s story is that he threw himself upon God’s mercy instead of man’s, and by doing that, and by being not just willing but eager to sacrifice to God and to pay for those sacrifices, is a wonderful example for all of us today!

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Exegetical Notes #6

Exegetical Notes #5

Exegetical Notes, #5

Ephesians 2:11-22

By Louie Marsh

Paul begins to deal with another topic starting in verse 11. Up to this point he has primarily been dealing with Authentic Spirituality from an individual point of view. He has shown us how every believer has been blessed, exalted, and empowered beyond human comprehension.

He’s also shown us that we didn’t start that way.  As we saw last week apart from Christ we are cut off from God, condemned and under God’s wrath. It’s only through the grace that comes from, in and through Christ alone that we can be saved, exalted and used by God to fulfill His plan for each of our lives.

But now Paul turns to the New Community that God wants to build and begins to unveil the mystery that he had spoken of earlier in chapter one.

When you find out what this mystery is, you will probably give a big yawn. It’s no secret or shock to most of us – but it was to them. But let’s try. In that way we can being to enter into the wonder of yet another accomplishment of the Cross of Christ!

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

Paul begins by telling us to remember, and he does this twice to emphasize how important it is to remember this. Remember what? Our blessings, how much God loves us, our hope of heaven, or the power of the Spirit in us? No. As he did last week Paul wants us to remember our status before we came to Christ.

The first thing that strikes the modern reader is how counter cultural Paul’s advice is. It’s the exact opposite of what we’re usually told in this day and age. From the pop culture guru’s all the way to most pulpits, we are told not to think of anything bad or negative, instead we must think positively!

Don’t worry – be happy!

So why is Paul again calling us to remember our dark past? All of the reasons we discussed last week apply here as well. We do well to remember because it’s true, and we often forget the real truth of mankind’s predicament apart from Christ.

We also need to remember this because it shows us just how wonderful the salvation found only in Christ really is. Like a painter splashing bright colors on a canvas, Paul knows wisely knows that those colors will appear even more striking if they are painted on a dark background.

And our background is about as black as it gets!

Even though Paul said this a few verses back we need to be reminded of this again, because now he’s not talking about us as individuals, but as a group.

From the Jewish or Old Testament perspective, there are really only two groups of people in the world:  Those who are Jews, and those who aren’t. Everyone who is a non-Jew is a Gentile. Your race, background, education, wealth, etc. don’t matter in this equation.

So now Paul reminds us that the entire Gentile world and culture was separated from Christ, excluded from God’s family and had no hope and no true God in this world! The term “without God,” in the Greek is atheoi the word we get atheist from.

Notice the term “uncircumcised.” It was a term of derision, what we might call today a racial slur. Even more than racial, we have many of those based on cultural background or wealth or social status.  Ever hear of the snooty rich, or trailer trash or hicks, or a generation of slackers etc.?  Of course you have. We are more like the first century Jew that we’d like to admit.

You see the Jewish nation had forgotten what God had called them to do. “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, Isaiah 42:6 (NIV)

But instead of being witnesses to the world of who the true and living God was, Israel looked down on the Gentiles, called them “dogs,” etc, and actually drove people away from the very God they claimed to serve and represent.

Paul continues to repeat the pattern from the first part of chapter two by saying, “But now…” reminding us of the more dramatic “But God…” he used a few verses earlier in the chapter.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 (NIV)

Here we see the wider implications of Christ’s death on the cross. He didn’t die just for individual persons. Salvation was not just intended to bring individual people to God and heaven, it was always aimed at bring together everyone into one huge Family of God!

This was done through the blood of Jesus. This is part of what Jesus meant when He said, When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 (NIV)

His work on the Cross finished the plan of God for all of us – as individual people and as a group as well.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)

Our peace is found only in Christ. This is true of any kind of peace you might want to pursue, but in this context he’s specifically referring to peace between Jews and Gentiles.

Paul uses as an example of this the Temple in Jerusalem. A great illustration for his Jewish readers, but one that’s pretty foggy for the rest of us!  To help you out here’s a model of what the Temple looked like during the first century.

cmi668_thirdtemplemodel_si

The large court that surrounds the wall you see enclosing the building is the Court of the Gentiles. You’ll notice there’s a wall with huge doors standing between that court and the inner courts that only Jews could enter.  The Jews took this separation very seriously, here’s what was written on a large limestone slab found in 1871, “No foreigner may enter within the barrier and enclosure round the temple. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”

Paul of course knew all about this not only by education, but some three years before he wrote Ephesians he nearly been killed by a mob on trumped up charges that he had taken a Gentle into the inner court. (Acts. 21:27-31) Interestingly enough that Gentile was Trophimus, and he was from Ephesus!

This physical wall was an example of the spiritual, cultural, emotional and attitudinal wall that separated Jews from Gentiles.  This wall was torn down by Christ, His death on the cross removed this barrier from between us and now we can be one in Christ.

But how? How did His death on the Cross remove this barrier? Why was it there in the first place?

The Jews were set apart by God to be His people. Not to be superior or arrogant, as so many of them became by the time of Christ, but to be examples of the Who and what the living God truly is.

The wall was set up because only those who were part of God’s people, forgiven accepted members of His Family, who had faith in Him and had accepted His covenant and bore the sign of that covenant (circumcision) were allowed to enter.

But that has all changed now – because there is a new way to God through the New Covenant that Christ has established through His death, burial and resurrection!

What did He do? He destroyed the Law as a Way to God! by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, Ephesians 2:15 (NIV)

He abolished it, did away with it, it’s gone!  There’s now only one way to God – and that is the way of faith in God’s Grace that only comes from and in and through Christ!

Doesn’t that contradict what Jesus Himself said?  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17 (NIV)

It seems like it might from the English reading doesn’t it? But let’s take a closer look at the words translated abolish.

In Ephesians 2:15 Paul uses the word kataryeo, “the basic sense cause to be idle or useless, the term always denotes a nonphysical destruction by means of a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect, as e.g. light destroys darkness.”

But in Matthew 5:17 Matthew used kataluo “the basic sense put down, loosen, of buildings w. their stones destroy, demolish, dismantle (MT 27.40); fig. as invalidating an institution such as law or sacrifice do away with, annul, abolish”

Do you see the difference? Jesus didn’t destroy the Law in the sense that He tore it down because it was bad or invalid. No! Instead He fulfilled in Himself by living a perfect life and becoming the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Then He did away with it by replacing it with a new and better way of salvation, a salvation that comes out of His fulfillment of the Law and His buying for all who will believe the grace that gives us salvation in Christ.

and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:16-17 (NIV)

Indeed that was His purpose. Peace has been proclaimed to everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, etc. You see because of Grace there’s no need for us to be hostile to anyone for all of us have the same situation before God, and all of us have the same recourse to God’s redemption in Christ.

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:18 (NIV)

You see that’s one of the most wonderful things about the Cross – it is the great leveler. It brings everyone together and makes all go through the cross of Christ to be saved. Rich, poor, educated or ignorant, beautiful or ugly, etc, etc, etc. all come through Christ

As the old hymn “God Leads Us Along” says, Some through the waters, some through the flood, Some through the fire, but all through the blood. (George A Young, 1903)

Here we have one of the greatest accomplishments of the Cross, past forgiveness anyway. All of us come to Christ the same way – or at least we’re supposed too. So there’s no place for pride or arrogance, because we are lost sinners without Christ and saved by Grace through Him.

Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ. This is the great mystery of the ages, that God has long worked towards and finally Paul gets to unveil to the world.

For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:18 (NIV)

I’m repeating this verse because I want you to notice that the Trinity again is here, in just one little verse, showing once again that if you don’t believe in and understand to a degree at least, the Trinity, you can’t really understand the New Testament or the depths of Christ’s salvation for us.

We are united by One Spirit, through One Savior, and have access to One Father! – that’s unity!

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s peopleand members of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:19-21 (NIV)

Paul says that all believers are now citizens of God’s Kingdom and more than that members of the King’s very family! He mentions these great blessings, but he doesn’t linger on them. Instead he moves on to the third metaphor he wants to us and briefly explains it, so we’ll look at it in a bit more depth.

Paul is comparing us to the Temple, again we see how he uses part of the Old Covenant to illustrate the New Covenant.

He tells us that we have a firm and unshakable foundation – the Apostles and Prophets. There’s not much disagreement on who the Apostles were – so we’ll just accept that this is a reference to the New Testament apostles.

But which prophets is he referring too? The Old Testament prophets, or the prophets in the New Testament ones?  There’s no sure way to tell, but given his emphasis a bit later in the book on the positions in the church of both Apostles and Prophets, I lean heavily toward the latter.

I believe Paul is saying that it’s through the supernatural ministry of the Apostles and Prophets (he was both of course) that the New Covenant has been delivered and is being established for all time.

Christ is the chief cornerstone, which means our new nation is build upon and centered around Jesus Christ. Once again we see how Christ Centered Ephesians is, and how Christ centered Authentic Spirituality must be.

This new humanity is also holy – which you may remember means set apart for specific use. Paul implies here what he said in verse 10 – we are saved and unified so that God can use us! No sitting around on cloudy playing harps folks – God is living and wants His Kingdom to conquer and more forward and be active!

Last point here, and like most of what we’ve already looked at is something Paul will return to in more depth later, is being Spirit filled, as he mentions up in verse 18.

This entire salvation in Christ depends on the Spirit’s power to be effective in our lives.

 

Exegetical Notes #5

Exegetical Notes #4

Exegetical Notes, #4

Ephesians 2:1-10

By Louie Marsh

VERSE 1:

It’s important as we begin this new chapter not to divorce it from the last one. All to often when we read and study the Bible the chapter and verses chop things up ways that not only aren’t helpful, but are a hindrance to our understanding the text.

Remember, the Bible wasn’t written in chapter and verses, they were added long after the New Testament was written. Here’s a quick summary of how we got our verses according to Answers.com.  http://www.answers.com/topic/chapters-and-verses-of-the-bible

The modern chapter divisions came about through Stephen Langton, a professor at the University of Paris and afterwards an Archbishop of Canterbury. He put the modern divisions into place around 1227 A.D. Since the Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 this pattern has been followed.

In the New Testament, the verse divisions were first added by Robert Estienne in his 1551 edition of the Greek New testament. In 1557, the first English New Testament with verse divisions where used in a translation by William Whittingham (c. 1524-1579). These divisions have been used by nearly all English Bibles since then.

The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible in 1560.

Okay – so how is this connected to Paul’s prayer in the second part of chapter one? Paul’s prayer ends by giving thanks to God for the resurrection and glorification of Christ. He’s been raised, exalted, and will bring all things together into the unity (integration) that God desires to see.

Then Paul says – “As for you…”  We turn from the death and resurrection of Christ to our own spiritual death and resurrection through Him.

The first three verses of chapter two are hard to take. Paul plunges straight down into the darkness of the human condition and he doesn’t spare us either! Stott says theses three verses are a summary of the first three chapters of Romans, and that’s an excellent insight.

Paul begins by telling us we’re spiritually dead. But what does that mean? It doesn’t mean unconscious, and it doesn’t mean nonexistence. The word dead in the Bible carries the basic idea of separation. Nekros –the Greek word used here, also means powerless and impotent and unresponsive.

The same is true of us spiritually with God. Apart from Christ we are powerless to respond to obeying God, impotent to obey and completely separated from God by out sins.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

What kills us? Paul uses two words that are essentially synonyms but do stress slightly different things. Transgressions refers to active sins, things we’ve deliberately done by stepping across the line of God’s Law. Sin is the usual word for sin and means to miss the mark. This refers to our more passive sins, sins of omission and also to what happens when we try to obey God in our own strength – we fail and sin!

So the human condition starts here – but it doesn’t end there! Apart from Christ we begin being separated from God! But it gets worse!

VERSE 2 – 3a:

Paul goes on to show us that  not only are we dead – separated – from God, but we are also enslaved! We are trapped in a vicious spiritual slavery. The news gets even worse, because like most addicts, we’re enslaved to, addicted to, more than one thing.

Paul outlines three things that hold us captive. The first one is the World. The NIV translates the first part of verse 2 this way – “in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world… Ephesians 2:2a (NIV).

Paul uses an unusual and interesting combination of words, “the ways” is the word aion, we get eon from this one. The word “world” is kosmos, cosmic comes from this word. So we are enslaved to following for a period of time the world we live in.

Kosmos does not refer to the planet, but instead to the organized system of the world. How things are put together. I like to summarize this word as culture. So for a period of time we are enslaved by our culture.

That period of time is our life time, unless and until we are liberated by Christ!

The second source of our enslavement, is the Ruler of the Kingdom of the Air – or Satan. Yes, there is a devil and he’s alive, well and controlling the world we live in. Being cut off from God we are helpless to avoid all of his snares. We may avoid some, but will fall into others (that’s what at work in those who are disobedient means), and are helpless to escape apart from God’s supernatural intervention into space and time through Christ.

Our final slave master is closer than the other two, and is indeed part of each one of us – it’s our old nature. Variously translated as, “sin nature,” by the NIV and “the flesh” by many translations, it refers to the basic human nature we all possess.

Flesh does not just refer to the body, and this isn’t an example of the Bible teaching that the body is evil! The Bible doesn’t teach that at all! It says the body is capable of being used in evil ways, and our bodily drives can enslave us and lead us into sin. However, the body by itself isn’t evil.

The flesh is our old nature. The unregenerate, fallen away from and separated from God, human nature in all of us!

So our culture, our spiritual nemesis Lucifer, and our very selves hold us captive apart from God! But if you think it can’t get any worse, just read on!

VERSE 3b:

Paul drives the final nail into our spiritual coffin (if you’ll pardon the grim expression) by telling us that we are also Condemned by God!

…Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. Ephesians 2:3a (NIV)

Here’s a statement that really set some people off! Bad enough being condemned as an object of God’s wrath, but to say we are that way by nature??  Outrageous!

Or is it?

A serious look at human history and the Bible will tell us that Paul is in fact correct, we do stand condemned and that condemnation comes about from what our very nature leads us to do and to be.

All Paul is saying is what God has said in many other places, we are objects of God’s wrath because we choose to follow our sinful nature. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 (NIV)

Now we’ve reached the bottom of the pit, and it’s very dark indeed. But before we move on to the next verse I want to deal with a question that I’ll be dealing with in the sermon as well. I’m going into this here because I think it’s such a vital question for the church in our culture and time that it needs to be looked at.

WHY IS ALL THIS SO IMPORTANT?

 Why did Paul spend all this time on such depressing stuff? Actually he only wrote three little verses on it, but to the modern mind it seems like a lot! And if you think this is bad, try reading Romans 1-3!

There are a lot of reasons you could bring forth as to why this is a vital topic to understand and incorporate into your life if you want to be Authentically Spiritual. I’ll deal with just a few that have struck me and that I’ve seen in my life and ministry.

First of all it’s important to be reminded of all of this because it’s true! Far to many modern Christians have fallen captive to the world system and try to think about only the things that make them feel good! They even quote Scripture like Phil. 3:8-9 to support their position.

But remember the same man who wrote those verses also wrote Ephesians 2:1-3. The truth is that we do not want to dwell on the darkness, but we do need to look at it every now and then, and to never lose sight of its true dimensions.

Why? That leads to my second reason that it’s so important to understand the plight of man in all it’s bleakness. If we choose not to see this and share this as part of the Gospel, then we end up demeaning the very Savior we claim to love and serve.

How? Well think about it. What did Jesus come to save us from? If you ask that of most Evangelical Christians they’ll quickly reply, “Our sins!” That’s true of course, but as this passage shows He came to rescue us from a lot more than that!

But by trying to always “be positive and to avoid at all costs damaging anyone’s precious self image, we down play this part of the Bible. Most Christians ignore it all together and actually don’t believe it!

So instead of seeing ourselves as helpless and hopeless – cut off from God, enslaved by the world, the flesh and the devil and living under God’s just condemnation – we paint a much rosier picture.

Things aren’t that bad, we say. In so doing we make the great sacrifice of Christ less than what it is. Instead of rescuing us from our helpless condition, He’s really just putting a few band aids on our cuts and bruises and boosting our self-esteem.

So we have this modern phenomena of people becoming Christians to address certain specific problems, and once that’s done they are off on their own again. Worse yet, if they don’t get the results they want, they are off too!

Our Savior is a mighty Savior, Who has rescued us from hell! We are indeed cut off from God, enslaved and condemned by God without His Grace to rescue us! This is the real picture of the human condition, and lacking that we are going to produce a lot of weak and deceived disciples.

Which is exactly what the Western Church does all too often in our times.

I know talking like this raises nightmares for some of returning to the bad old days of “old time religion,” that was legalistic, negative and destructive for so many. Believe me I do not want to go there, and in fact have spent much of my ministry fighting just such forces.

We do not want to dwell on this, as we’ll see in a moment Paul didn’t! But we must face this! Confess this to be true of ourselves and everyone else as well. Only then will we be in the position to welcome our Savior as the wonderful Liberator He is! Only then will we be filled with praise for such an amazing salvation. Only then can we truly begin to appreciate all He has done for us!

And that’s why this is so important, and why it’s taught regularly in the New Testament. And that’s what it’s important the modern church return to the Biblical balance of teaching it and believing it, but not wallowing in it or dwelling on it.

Indeed, no healthy Christian could ever enjoy dealing with such a dreary passage, but no healthy Christian would avoid or ignore it either. For we know this is part of what must be faced to find true spirituality. It’s part of the road to recovery, and it’s part of the road to Christ, for, in fact, they two are one and the same thing!

VERSES 4-6:

Having taken the plunge into the depths of human depravity, Paul now takes us on a ride to the heights of what man can become through the Grace of God.

We break into the light with two simple but oh so powerful words, “But God!”  Thanks be to God for those words! Human effort, philosophy, religion and theology have all failed us and left us hopeless – BUT GOD has delivered us!

In verses 4-6 Paul outlines both what God has done and why He has done it. Both of these are intermingled together in a beautiful exposition of God’s saving grace. By writing it this way we can see how everything is made one in Christ, and that unity and integration is one of the keys of Authentic Spirituality.

But to keep things easier to follow – we’re going to look first at what God has done, and then why He did it.

First God has made us alive with Christ (vs. 5)!  Not just in Christ – but with Him!  How is that possible? Christ was raised from the dead 2000 years ago, long before I was born, so what does Paul mean?

This is an interesting phrase. Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament says this, “First aorist active indicative of the double compound verb sunzōopoieō as in Col. 2:13 which see. Associative instrumental case in Christōi. Literal resurrection in the case of Jesus, spiritual in our case as pictured in baptism.”

“What God wrought in Christ He wrought, ipso facto, in all who are united with Him” (Ellicott).—Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament.

Like being blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and like something we’ll see in a minute, being seated with Christ, this is true in an invisible spiritual sense. That doesn’t mean it’s not real however! We are born from above, spiritually raised to a new life and that was done in Christ when He came back to life, and then became real in me when I believed and was born again. Baptism is a symbol of this incredible reality.

But that’s not all, even if it is enough. He’s also “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” (vs.6)

These last two components of salvation show just how great a salvation we have! Begin saved means a lot more than having fire insurance! It extends far beyond just the removal of God’s wrath. It brings us together with Christ to be blessed with every blessing He now enjoys in the heavenly places.

Salvation is in and through and with and all about Jesus Christ! Let us never forget that! We still live on earth, but spiritually we are raised and seated and alive in Christ.

What could have motivated God to do all this? Why would an eternal being, who needs nothing, is complete within Himself and can sustain Himself in perfection forever, why would He do all of this for creatures He has made and yet who reject Him?

Following his usual approach Paul uses several words to help drive home to us what drives and motivates God.

He says God is motivated by His Mercy (vs. 4a); Love (vs. 4b); His Grace (vs. 5&8) and finally His kindness (vs. 7).

We often talk about God in a manner that is far too simplistic. “God is Love!” we chirp as if that’s all there is to it! The New Testament shows us that is far from the case.

Oh yes, God is love, but He is also every other good quality we can think of and probably millions more besides that are beyond our comprehension! What a great God and a great salvation and a wonderfully marvelous Savior we have!

VERSE 7:

So we are saved but – we aren’t saved for ourselves! In our selfishness we often think that God did all of this for us. He did it for us – but there are purposes that extend far beyond us. In verse 7 Paul shows us just one.

that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:7 (Darby)

We are being put on display by God to be examples of how rich His grace and kindness really are. The entire universe, and all creatures physical and spiritual, will see and be amazed at how wonderful God is in Jesus Christ!

You may think that no one knows what you are doing and that you are unimportant and don’t matter. But that’s not true. You are on display, and ever devil in hell is watching you, as are all the angels and who knows what other kind of creatures might be looking in on all of this as well?

You are being watched, so live completely for Christ, because you never know how what you and I do will impact eternity.

VERSE 8-9:

We have just about arrived at the peak of our climb towards what man can become by grace. Verses 8 & 9 are probably the best known verses in the entire book of Ephesians. They are quoted often, but looked at in their context less often.

The question Paul answers here is – HOW did God save us? We know He did, and we know what motivated Him, so now How did He do it?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Paul says it’s BY grace. Yes, you read that right, by grace not faith! We’ll get to faith in a moment, but let’s look for a moment at grace.

Grace is a wonderful word, it means free gift of course. Its root referred to things that are not just free but good and healthy. The word for joy comes from the same root word as grace, so you can see that grace is the free gift of God, and that it always gives rise to a response of joy.

Our salvation is by grace, because it’s all from God! It had to be because we were separated, enslaved and condemned remember? If salvation were to come God had to act because we couldn’t.

So it’s by grace but its THRU faith! You see faith is where we come in. We see God’s offer of salvation, that free gift He offers us, and we either receive it by faith, or we reject it and suffer the consequences.

This does not mean we “work” for our salvation as some erroneously teach. It simply means that like all gifts God’s has to be received before it can be effective. If I buy you a gift for Christmas and you refuse to take it, it’s not going to mean anything to you is it? If I offer you an aspirin for your headache and you reject it and won’t take it, you can’t be healed can you?

Salvation is the same. Its God’s free gift as Paul says at the end of verse 8.  So this incredible salvation is by grace and through faith!

But then what does Paul mean when he says in verse 8, “and this is not from yourselves”?

And that (kai touto). Neuter, not feminine tautē, and so refers not to pistis (feminine) or to charis (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part.—Word Pictures in the New Testament

In New Testament Greek the words would have to the same gender to refer to each other, so it CANNOT mean faith as many try and make the text say. It doesn’t say that, and you could strap this verse to the wrack and torture it and it still wouldn’t say that!

I know that many of you believe that our faith in Christ is a gift from God as well, that nothing can be from us or else we’re somehow earning our salvation. You are free to believe that of course, even though I certainly don’t!

But whatever you believe, let’s not distort the text and try and make it say what it clearly does not say. You’ll have to look elsewhere to support the idea that faith is given us by God, because it doesn’t say that here.

Finally in verse 9 Paul tells us that this salvation is not from ourselves, it’s from God and designed to glorify Him not us! The source of salvation isn’t from within man, it’s from within God! “But God,” the Scriptures say, not, “But man!”

We can thank God for that as well! Look at how well mankind’s efforts to save ourselves have worked. Communism is just one glaring example of how man’s salvation always bring ruin, but God’s salvation bring about peace and joy in the Spirit!

VERSE 10:

Now we’ve arrived at the peak of this climb. For not only has God rescued us from all the darkness within us and around us, and not only has He done so by His grace through faith, setting us free from the Law.

But – God has structured this salvation in such a way that every one of us fits into His plan, and has a part in His eternal purpose, both in this life and the next.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

The first thing to note is how God centered Paul is as always! We are God’s! This comes from Him too, not from you or I! Stay Christ centered as we look at this verse else you’ll fail to understand it, and won’t be able to live it.

What’s this word, translated “workmanship” or masterpiece? The word “workmanship” (poiēma), used only here and in Romans 1:20 (where the niv renders it “what has been made”) denotes a work of art or a masterpiece.—Bible Knowledge Commentary

Think about that for a few moments. You – yes little old you – are not just a work of art – oh no! You are a masterpiece! You are a perfectly designed work. You could say we are God’s poems, since poem comes from this word.

And notice who masterpiece you are – God’s! There are no self made men or women in Christ! We are all to made by Christ and in His image to be used for His purposes in His Kingdom to do His will!

Note also how this plan of God’s for you and I to do good things for Him, were prepared long in advance of our showing up on the planet. Long ago, before the world began, God set up everything and now it’s our time on stage to see if we can fulfill the plan for which He made us.

Fulfilling this plan will make our lives the joyful experience God wants them to be, so living a Christ centered life focused on Christ’s purposes for you only makes sense!

I want to close this Exegetical Note with a great passage from Jeremiah. It’s one that quoted quite often, but when taken in the context of Ephesians 2:1-10 it becomes even more beautiful.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:11-14a (NIV)

Think on these things.

 

Exegetical Notes #4

Exegetical Notes #2

INTRODUCTION TO THE PASSAGE:

Paul is so full of God’s grace and the Spirit that when he begins writing to the Ephesians his joy and praise to God just gushes out of him. Verses 3-14 are one long sentence in the original Greek text. I have to say I just love that! The Holy Spirit inspires Paul in such a way that he writes a huge run on sentence!

Paul starts by using an interesting word, eulogētos. The word refers to a statement of praise of the character of someone. Here Paul is pouring out a eulogy to God, his words nearly tumbling over each other in his attempt to show the greatness and goodness of the Triune God.

 STRUCTURE OF THE PASSAGE:

 It may be a run on sentence, but it’s a well organized one! When you read this section carefully you’ll find that it’s constructed on the basis of God’s Triune nature.  Most commentators have noted this.

  •  Verses 3-6 – The Father Electing
  • Verses 7-12 – The Son Redeeming
  • Verses 13-14 – The Spirit Sealing

 You can see where one section of the pattern ends and another begins by the phrase (rendered differently by various translations) found in verses 6, 12, 14; “To the praise of His Glory” (or glorious grace).

 John Stott (one of my favorite commentators, read his book The Message of Ephesians if you are looking for a good commentary, shorturl.at/dgv45) says about this, “Although this is rather too neat to be probable, yet the Trinitarian content of the paragraph remains obvious.” (Pg. 33)

 I hate to disagree – but I in fact I do. It’s not that neat really; I missed it until I had it pointed out to me. I think it’s probable that Paul intended it that way. If he didn’t that’s still okay because that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit didn’t design it that way as He inspired Paul to write it.

 Don’t miss this because if you do you’ll completely misunderstand what this passage is teaching. I love it that Paul’s praise of God is built upon the foundation of Who God is.

 This shows us why the Trinity is such a vital truth. It’s not just a dry doctrine that isn’t relevant to our lives. Far from it! It’s the very foundation of understanding God, Christ, salvation, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, etc.

 If you watch for it you’ll see this Trinitarian structure all over the New Testament. It’s woven into the very fabric of the New Covenant Scriptures and is neglected or overlooked at your own spiritual peril.

 We constantly see the Father, Son and Spirit moving together in time, eternity, the church and our lives as well. It’s a sacred dance that we can just make out and don’t understand. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is true, and it’s critical not just to our knowledge, but to our walk in the Spirit of Grace as well.

 VERSE 3:

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

 “…has blessed us…” please note that’s past tense. It’s an aorist active participle which means it’s pointing to a specific point in time when these blessings become ours in Christ.

You already have these blessings – you don’t have to work for them! In fact you can’t work for them – you already own them in Christ!

It must also be pointed out here that these are spiritual blessings! In today’s spiritual environment it’s all to easy to lose sight of that fact as the Prosperity Preachers constantly rail at us about using our faith to get rich, “prospered,” etc.

Paul is saying that all spiritual blessings are ours once we are Christ’s. When you are saved you are given every possible kind of spiritual blessing you could ever need or imagine, and even beyond that!

“So where are they?” You might ask, “I sure don’t see them in my life!”  Honestly I don’t see nearly as many of them as I’d like to see in my life either! The text tells us where they are located.

“…in the heavenly realms…” You can also translate that “heavenly places.” Either way it’s an interesting phrase because it’s used five time in Ephesians and no where else in the New Testament.

So what are the heavenly realms?  Context is king when you try and determine what a word or phrase means, so let’s look at the context of the 5 usages of this term.

1:3 – Blessed in heavenly realms

1:20 – The Father seated the resurrected Christ at His right hand in the heavenly realms

2:6 – We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms

3:10 – God makes things known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms

6:12 – Standing against evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.

Some commentators try and say Paul is referring to the sky, or other primitive beliefs about the heavens. I completely reject that idea. It’s clear from the context that he’s referring to something completely different than anything human kind can see or completely understand.

Stott defines “heavenly realms” as “the unseen world of spiritual reality” (Pg. 35). I totally agree.

What else could it be? Both God and Satan are said to be active there. Our blessings and our status with God somehow reside there, and it’s the battlefield where we meet and take our stand against Satan.

It is true that all around us is a dimension of spiritual reality and activity we normally know nothing of. That does not make it any less real however.

“I Still Don’t Have My Blessings!” Well be patient, they are yours in Christ, but you have to grow into them.  You own them the same way a minor owns his inheritance, but you don’t get it till you are ready.

In the Roman world the minor didn’t receive his inheritance until either his father or the slave that was assigned to his care said he was ready. (See Galatians 4:1-7)

Our heavenly Father will decide when the time is right and when to let those blessings flow. Our task is to boldly follow Him in Faith, let the Spirit fill and move us, and live like Christ as much as we can. Then you’ll see some blessings!!

“..in Christ.” That’s the second time Paul has used the phrase in just three verses!

I want you to notice how Christ-centered Paul is in this passage. In the first fourteen verses of chapter one Paul mentions Christ, Jesus, Lord, Beloved, him or his etc, fourteen or fifteen times!

Authentic Spirituality is all about Christ!  Never forget or over look that!

Secondly note the phrase In Christ. Not only is the entire Christian life (and a real Christian life is Authentic Spirituality) all about Christ, it’s lived entirely in Christ! He is the sphere in which we live and move and have our being. Everything is in Him, about Him, for Him, of Him, by Him, through Him and because of Him!

He is the reason we are saved, He is the reason we live. It’s all in Christ.

That’s the simple way to know if you are doing God’s will and pleasing Him. Are you in Christ; is what you are doing and how you are doing it and the motivations for doing it in Christ? Then it is certainly God’s will!

Authentic Spirituality can only be found in Christ! That may not be popular, but it is true and we must take our stand on and in this truth forever!

VERSE 4-5:

 “He chose us…He predestined us…”

Every time I come to this topic I can hear Michael Buffer in my mind intoning, “Uhhhhh Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!”  Because nothing gets Christians fighting quite like the topic of Election and Predestination.  So let’s start by understanding the terms Paul used here.

Chose = (kathōs exelexato hēmās en autōi). First aorist middle indicative of eklegō, to pick out, to choose—Word Pictures in the New Testament.

Predestined = (Proorisas hēmās). First aorist active participle of proorizō, late and rare compound to define or decide beforehand.—Word Pictures in the New Testament

Both of these words refer to an event in the past that took place at a specific point in time (that’s the aorist tense).

The questions are why did God do this, and how or on what basis did He make this choice?

Let’s look at why first. Paul says he chose us for Himself, that’s what the middle voice means. But why would God do this? Because, as Paul says in verse four both election and predestination are “in accordance with His pleasure and will.”

This pleases God because of His very nature.  We know that God is love, Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)

Because He is love, He is always pleased with what is good and true. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)

Therefore we know that His choice of us is something perfectly good! It’s an expression of His goodness, not an arbitrary act of the will.

Which brings us to how He makes this choice. Peter explains this to us in very simple and concise terms.

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 1 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

God chooses us on the basis of His infallible knowledge that we will choose Him! Sounds strange but it’s true! God lives outside of time, and so can see all of time from beginning to end at one glance.

He sees what choices we will make, good and bad, and knowing that constructs His perfect plan for our lives. That’s what predestination really is, His Purpose and Plan for our lives, drawn up in advance, based on His perfect knowledge of what we’ll do.

That’s why down in verse 11 when Paul is talking about how God has chosen himself and the rest of the Apostolic company he says, In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:11 (NIV)

Notice that Paul says God works out everything according to His will! If God is God and all powerful why does He have to “work out” anything? Shouldn’t it just automatically happen as He decrees it too?

Yes, if not for free will. Because God has created us free moral agents, and that freedom is authentic and real, not just a sham, He has to let us make whatever choices we will. Good or bad, foolish or wise, holy or evil, it’s our call.

But once made then it becomes His turn to choose. So, before the universe began God knew everything that would ever happen. And through this maze of human choice and folly, He wove His will and Plan – which includes His Plan for your life by the way – and brought it to its perfect conclusion.

We do get completely free will – but so does God! And no created being’s choice is able to deflect His Will from being done! Think about all that the next time you pray the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus draws us right into His Father’s perfect plan, and makes that a matter of prayer.

VERSES 7-8:

These two verses are wonderful windows into the Grace and forgiveness that only comes through Christ.

Note that Paul points us back to the cross of Christ when he tells us that Redemption – being bought out of slavery – only comes through the blood. Then he points us to “the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us…”

Wow – can you feel the power of Paul’s heart here? It’s full of praise and wonder – and we ought to be filled with those feelings too. We aren’t just forgiven, as if God somewhat grudgingly says, “Okay, I’ll let it go this time – but watch it!”

NO – instead He lavishes forgiveness and being part of God’s family upon us – in a wise way at that! Oh how little we truly understand and appreciate our forgiveness in Christ! This is something to meditate on.

VERSES 9-10:

Please note that God’s mysterious plan for everything can be summed up in one word – a word that is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine – integration.  God wants all things to come together under Christ. The entire universe and all the creatures living in it will end up under the leadership and care of Christ!

How wonderful – but as I’m pointing out in the message, that also means that all of my divided heart, must be integrated into one life under the one Savior and the One God – Jesus Christ!

Note too how Christ-centered Paul stays – God’s eternal plan is summed up in Christ.

VERSES 11-13a:

Paul makes a sudden shift here for a moment and talks about himself and the Apostolic Company. How do we know this when he continues to use “we?”  Because the context makes it clear that’s what he’s talking about.

He says, “we were chosen, to be first fruits to the praise of His glory. And YOU were also”

Clearly he’s using himself and his companions as an example of how God works, and then hastens to include his readers – and that includes you and me – into the mix.

He only mentions it in passing, but note how Paul remains the Apostle of Faith by saying we were included when we believed.

VERSES 13b-14:

This amazing passage ends by focusing on the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Two slightly different aspects of His ministry are highlighted – being sealed with the Spirit and marked by the Spirit.

As Paul uses the terms here they are essentially the same thing, with slight differences. Being seal with the Spirit refers of course to the ancient custom that merchants used of marking their merchandise with a seal. That seal served as a way to identify their goods when they arrived at a port after being shipped.

In the heavenly realms we are recognized as belonging to God because the Spirit is on us – He is the one who shows all the other powers that we are God’s child, kept by Him!

We all know what a deposit is of course, it’s a way to say I’m serious about buying this house, car, land etc, and prove it by giving you this amount of money. God proves to us He’s serious about eternity and heaven by giving us a foretaste of it all – the Spirit in our lives.

As I said in the beginning of this Exegetical Note – the Father Chooses and Plans, the Son Rescues and Redeems, the Spirit Seals and Empowers (as we’ll see later in Ephesians).

I hope you’ve found this helpful – and not too long!  There’s a lot more I could say about this passage but in view of time and as an act of mercy to the few who’ve read this far, I won’t!

God bless, and see you next week with another Exegetical Note on Ephesians 1:15-23.

– Louie

John Stott’s book on Ephesians: The Message of Ephesians

Exegetical Notes #2

Exegetical Notes #1

Ephesians 1:1-3

Because I started out slow in Ephesians there’s not going to be too many notes for this first edition of Exegetical Notes.

Paul probably wrote this letter around 60-62 AD. This letter was probably delivered to the Ephesians by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21-22), who also took Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Col. 4:7-9).

Ephesus was a leading center in the Roman Empire. Paul had spent a short time in Ephesus on his way back to Antioch from his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-22). On his third missionary journey he stayed in Ephesus three years (Acts 20:31). When Paul returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey he gave his moving farewell address to the Ephesian elders at the coastal town of Miletus (20:13-35). This statement has been the model for the final sermon of thousands of Pastors down through the years.

Ironically enough one of the first real issues with Ephesians is the phrase in verse one “in Ephesus.” Those words are not in the Vatican and Sinaitic codices, the two oldest and best manuscripts.  Furthermore, in the 3rd century, Origen didn’t know about them either.

Scholars are divided about what this might mean. Could it mean that originally Ephesians was met to be circulated to several different churches in that general area? This might help explain why there are no personal greetings in the book, which are usually found in Paul’s writings.

No proof, either way, is available however, so all attempts to explain this mystery are simply conjecture. As such they are free and worth every penny!

So have at it!

Ephesians, like many of Paul’s books, is divided into two main sections. Of course you can divide it up in other ways when you are outlining it. For example there’s Watchman Nee’s famous three-part take on the book – Sit, Walk, Stand. (This is an excellent book, https://urlzs.com/z5cj ).

However the two main sections of the book are chapters one through three, which are doctrinal, and chapters four through six which are practical. Paul first lays out the theological truths we need to believe and then he applies them to our lives. [By the way – even Nee’s outline fits into the two main sections as Sit is the doctrinal section and Walk and Stand are the practical part.]

Paul likes to teach this way and you can see this basic structure in many of his books. For those of us who teach or preach it’s an excellent model to follow. First you focus on the Gospel and it’s implications in our lives, then you get practical and show it applies to every area of our lives.

Exegetical Notes #1

Exegetical Notes for Authentic Spirituality Introduction

INTRODUCTION:

The purpose of these notes is to provide the kind of information that I’d like to put into my sermons but just don’t have room for. The first Exegetical Note will be published this Sunday afternoon and will, hopefully, add some value to the sermon I’ll preach that morning.

I realize that many of you reading these notes might be surprised by what I’ve chosen to leave out. So let me start by saying that I believe quite strongly that there’s a huge difference between Bible lectures and sermons. Lectures can be filled with lots of details, not all of them important, and can cover all sorts of issues and information on a variety of subjects.

Sermons on the other hand are (or should be in my opinion) finely tuned instruments that are designed to drive a very few points home. My preaching tries to focus on the application of God’s Word to our daily lives, so there’s just not room for a lot of things that are interesting or important but off the point being made.

This is truer today than it’s ever been as modern people have ever-shortening attention spans. They simply won’t sit still for a lot of excess baggage in a sermon, nor should they. Today’s preacher doesn’t have the luxury of being either lazy or a windbag! Instead, we have to prune our material ruthlessly, taking everything out of our sermons that either hinders the message or distracts from it.

The end result is often decried as simple and shallow, not at all like preaching was back in whatever day the decrier thinks was the golden age of preaching. I disagree. The end result can be if it’s done right and I’m not holding myself or my sermons out as examples of this ideal, a message that looks a lot like Jesus sermons did.

Look at the Sermon on the Mount for example. How compact it is. Every phrase in it is pregnant with meaning, yet Jesus did not stop and unpack it. He left it there for us to ponder and explore, and 2000 years later we’re still doing it!

You could point to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as another example of being deep and pithy at the same time. That’s what I’m trying to do when I preach, which is why I try and stay around 30 minutes and rarely hit 45 minutes.

What I hope to include in these notes is exegetical information such as Greek word meanings, notes from commentators I’m using, cross reference material and points and meanings in the text that I’d love to put into the message but just had to cut. Historical information will also be talked about when I think it’s important, etc.

The goal is to give the reader many of the things needed to understand the text that I couldn’t or didn’t put into the sermon. I’m not one to pretend that one sermon can completely the meaning of any text of Scripture so these notes can serve to further educate and illuminate our understanding of God’s Word.

 

Exegetical Notes for Authentic Spirituality Introduction