We now embark on the book of Ephesians (I must confess, it is one of my favorite books in the Bible). Paul begins by listing some of our spiritual riches as believers – in Christ. We read in v. 3 that we’ve actually been blessed with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING! I can’t list or elaborate on all that is here, but I was mulling through verses 3-13 (which are all one sentence in the Greek language) and here it is:
Chosen by God to be forgiven by God (4); Predestined and adopted as children of God(5); Accepted in Christ, to the glory of God (6, 12); Redeemed by the very blood of God (7a); abounding in the amazing grace of God (7b-8); Selected to the know the mysteries of God (9a); Blessed to be pleasing and part of the purpose of God (9b); Destined to one day live forever in the Kingdom of God (10); Willed to be joint heirs with the Son of God (11); and just to express the certainty of all this now and forever – we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of God (13-14).
In v. 15 Paul points to two aspects of genuine salvation – faith in God, and love for the brethren.
After Paul heard this about the people, he, from that point forward did not cease to pray for them. Verses 16-20 would be a great section to memorize and pray for those believers in your life – that God would open their eyes to realize the riches they have in Christ. I like the way the NLT translates v. 17 (NLT) “…asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”Paul wanted them to get to know God more, to get to know the great hope of our calling, the riches of our inheritance, and the “exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Do we truly, actually, and in all reality know that the same power that raised Christ from the dead, that lifted Him up above ALL demonic entities – lives in us! It’s vital that we come to understand our wealth(Ephesians 1-3) for that transitions into the faith to walkas Christians (Ephesians 4:1-6:9), end even waragainst the devil and his demons (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Before duty comes doctrine, before behavior comes belief, before the walk or the war, we must know our wealth.
We are the body of Christ, and He is our Head (v. 22) may this encourage us and even empower us to live and love like Jesus by drawing upon the infinite resources and riches that we’ve been freely given “in Christ.”
At one time I was on a slippery slope, without hope – “but God”came in and rescued my life. I wasn’t just spiritually sick, I was dead in my sins. I was under the impression that I was only doing my thing, but Paul sheds light on the fact that I was on this “track” – this course set by the fallen world (see 1 John 5:19), a world that’s under the influence of the devil himself, Paul calls him the “prince of the power of the air” (v. 2). All this evil just fed my fallen flesh, so that my three enemies – (1) the world, (2) the flesh, and (3) the devil were pounding me down, paving the way to hell, where I was in route to experiencing the eternal wrath of God, and justifiably so (I was by nature a child of wrath with all the rest).
Those two words in succession are some of the most beautiful words we’ll ever read or hear. God is rich in mercy (not set to give us what we deserve), He’s great in love (passionate for our best even when we’re at our worst), He’s amazing in His grace (lifting us up all the way to heaven). God didn’t just raise us from the dead and leave us in the cemetery, He’s raised us from the dead and seated us in the heavenlies…and it’s ALL Him – that’s why He gets all the credit and all the glory now and forever more.
Ephesians 2:8-10 are some of the most important passages in the entire Bible, worthy of memorization. We are saved by grace (undeserved favor), through faith (genuine belief/trust in the heart) in Christ. Salvation is a gift, it’s not something we earned in the past or will ever be able to earn in the future. It’s not by some ceremony, or sacrament, or any “work” of our own – on the contrary, WE are God’s work, we are His workmanship. The Greek word is poiēma from where we derive our English word poem. The truth is, God is working in us and through us to be the people and do the things He has planned – it’s a story He’s writing, that started…even before time began.
Paul then goes on to address the fact that the Gentiles (non-Jews) were at one time far away, without hope – without God. They were strangers to the Scriptures, they were people who didn’t know the promises, they had no covenant, without the commonwealth of Israel, but now they (we) have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ blood has broken down the middle wall of separation so that now there is no spiritual advantage whether Jew or Gentile, now there can be unity in Christ. No longer are the Gentiles aliens, stranger, or foreigners, spiritually speaking, but now they are fellow-citizens of heaven. This doesn’t mean that the church has replaced Israel (as some mistakenly teach “Replacement Theology” – see Romans 9-11 – God is still dealing with Israel) it just means that we Gentiles have been grafted in to God’s vineyard, we’re all part of one church, a church that is built upon the foundational teaching of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Himself being the Chief Cornerstone – a fulfilment of Psalm 118:22-25. The cornerstone (foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, it’s most important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure – that’s Jesus!
Paulwas not simply a prisoner of Rome, he was a prisoner of Christ FOR the Gentiles. God had called him to preach the Gospel to everyone, but his ministry would be most effective with the Gentiles. God had graciously opened Paul’s eyes and revealed to him the mystery – that the Gentiles would be grafted in to the Olive Tree of Israel (Romans 11:17). This truth was, to a very large degree, implicit in the Old Testament, but the Jews never saw it, it was hidden from their eyes. Paul was chosen to preach this truth explicitly, “…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in the Christ…”(3:6).
Paul had been chosen as the Apostle who would reveal many of God’s mysteries to the world, but it’s fascinating how he was never puffed up by this. On the contrary, it seems like the longer he served the Lord and the more he accomplished, the greater he grew in humility. As a younger man he compared himself to the Apostles and said he wasn’t worthy to be called an Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:9). Here in Ephesians he considers himself to be less than the least of all the saints (3:8). But a few years later, he grew even morein humility, calling himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). God help us to grow in humility.
I love what Paul writes concerning his responsibility as a preacher, to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. Part of our calling is to tell the people the blessings available to them, blessings beyond our wildest imagination. It doesn’t matter who you are, we need to know what God has done through Christ for both rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, all men and women, the criminal and moral, the gang member, the family member, the vicious, the religious – doesn’t matter, God has done a work for all to see (even angels and demons see God’s work – principalities and powers 3:10) it’s wonderful what God has accomplished in Christ – His forgiveness has flung heaven’s door wide open so that those of us who have placed our faith in Christ have full-on confident access to Him anytime (see also Hebrews 4:16).
This prayer of Paul’s (3:14-19) provide a ton of truth that we can also pray for each other; four things stand out:
- For inner strength by the Spirit.
- For Christ to feel at home in our hearts (our lives).
- That we’d be established through a better understanding and deeper experience of God’s love.
- That we’d be filled with the fulness of God.
Do you believe God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think? According to Paul, God IS able. This can refer to the work throughus – for the truth is, any of you can be called to be the next Billy Graham, but I have a hunch (when you consider the context) it refers more to the work inus. God is able to strengthen us, to touch our hearts, to make His love real to us, that our cups would overflow.
In a general sense, Paul now moves from doctrine to duty, from belief to behavior, from wealth to walk, and eventually to war (6:10-20). What a great salvation – how rich we are – and so Paul begs us to do our utmost to “cash-in” on those spiritual riches we possess and walk (live) in a way that lines up with our calling as Christians.
Let’s endeavor (make every effort) to walk in humility and unity, after all this is the truth about Christianity. Paul uses the word “one” seven times in verses 4-6 to emphasize our unity. This oneness holds true even today. Although there are many Christian denominations, as long as we hold to the essentials of the faith (who God is, the truth of His Word, and how we’re saved) then we’re all part of the same body – there’s only ONE body of Christ.
And then, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul mingles the message of unity with diversity and how we’re called to work together in ministry. In v. 7 we discover that each of us has been given a gift, by God’s grace. When Jesus died He went down, He descended to Abraham’s bosom (see Luke 16:19-31) and declared His victory and led the righteous to heaven; after which He ascended and through the Holy Spirit gave gifts to men (Christians). Not only did Jesus (by the Holy Spirit) give gifts to men, He also gave men as gifts to the church – these are those who called to equip the body – speaking God’s word to the church. Apostles (missionaries), prophets, evangelists, pastor-teachers. I don’t believe the church still has the office of Apostles and Prophets as we did in the building of the church (see Ephesians 2:20) but we do have the gift and function of an apostle or prophet, speaking God’s word, not things that are new, but things that are true. What these equippers do is speak the truth in love. In doing so, we build up the church, we edify the people so that they might be strong enough to discover, develop, and deploy their gifts. And when every part (person) does their share, all the people will be blessed, built up, and benefit to the point that we won’t be children tossed “to and fro,” on the contrary we’ll grow, to be more and more like Jesus.
If we’re saved, we should no longer walk like the rest of the world walks. They don’t know God, they’re in the dark by not knowing or understanding His Word, they don’t have the Holy Spirit, so they have no conviction, this is why they indulge in every kind of pleasure and are filled and flooded with greed.
If we’re Christians, than Jesus has taught us to put off the old man (our old way, our sinful nature and inclinations) and put on the new man. We’re not to be like the world; we’re not to be the way we used to be when we walked in the flesh.
So, we put off the old man (by not lying) and we put on the new man (by speaking the truth – 4:25). We don’t allow anger to fester, for in doing so we give the devil open doors and opportunities in our lives; on the contrary we work out our differences. We don’t steal from others any longer, instead we work hard to be generous and give. We don’t belittle others with our words, we build them up. Forgiving others as God has forgiven us might sound impossible for us – and it is – but it’s not too hard for God…and remember, He lives inside of us now (Mark 10:27; Philippians 4:13).
The Greek word translated “imitators” in v. 1 is the origin of our English word “mimic.” As God’s children we are to mimic Him by walking in love. True agape love is to be a characteristic that would summarize our lives. This love for God and others is to be unconditional, and sacrificial, even as Jesus gave Himself for us as a sacrifice and sweet-smelling aroma to His Father (see also Romans 12:1-2).
Over the years it’s heart-breaking for me to see the sexual sin that occurs in the church. Paul tells us that there shouldn’t even be a hint of these things, and while Paul mentions covetousness and course jesting in this arena, (yes they are sins in-and-of themselves) I believe the context is sinful sexuality – how a man can covet his neighbor’s wife. How often times there are those sexual jokes and innuendos (coarse jesting) that takes place among “the boys.” Paul gives a specific warning that people who live that type of life have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God, on the contrary they’re headed for the wrath of God, let no one deceive you about this.
We are to walk worthy (4:1), we are to walk in love (5:1), we are to walk as children of light (5:8) and later we’re told to walk circumspectly (5:15). To walk as children of light has to do with knowing God’s will (Word – Psalm 119:105), doing God’s will, and living as lights in a dark world (Philippians 2:15). As Christians who reflect God’s light we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather we are to expose them. Can you imagine a world without God’s people exposing and fighting the evil?
To walk circumspectly means to walk carefully – stay on the path, watch out for the stumbling stones, the holes, the mines. We must be careful with God’s time, redeem it – let’s not be too busy doing our own thing. It’s not time to be drunk with wine, it’s time to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This leads to a life that just flows with worship to God, fellowship with others, and mutual submission among the saints.
In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul deals with marriage and how the relationship between husband and wife are to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.
Wives are called to be submissive to their husbands, as to the Lord (see also 1 Peter 3:1-6). This doesn’t mean that men are better than women, because we’re not; it’s simply God’s order for the family to be able to function at its best. When a man knows that his wife prays for him, supports him and is willing to follow his lead, it actually helps that man to be a better man and leader. Of course, this is usually very challenging for a woman, because part of the consequences of the fall is that she is going to want to rule over her husband (Genesis 3:16). We must also keep in mind that a wife is not called to submit to her husband if he asks her to sin (Acts 5:29).
Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Most men have a tendency to be selfish, but we are to be the exact opposite as Christians, and especially as husbands. Put her, and her needs, and her wants, and her dreams before yours. Many men say, “We’ll, I’ll love her if she gets her act together,” and that’s the exact opposite of what true love is. Jesus died for His bride, earning Him the right to sanctify and cleanse her by the washing of the Water of the Word, and THEN He presents His bride to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish.
You see, guys? As we love our wives the way Christ loved the church, nourishing, cherishing and dying for her, she will bloom to be the beautiful woman you’ve always wanted.
Marriage is tough, because you essentially have two rebels under the same roof two sinners side-by-side. Marriage done God’s way can be a slice of heaven on earth, but if we do it our way, it can be a living-hell. God hates divorce and anything that would lead to divorce (Malachi 2:16) because He knows the damage and devastation it inflicts on everyone, so we want our marriages to go the distance. But we don’t want to simply survive, we want to thrive. We don’t want to end up as room-mates, we want to be soul-mattes.
How? By TRULY living according to God’s word.
Husbands, don’t ever under estimate the power of Agape love. Love your wife!
Wives don’t ever under estimate the power of your support, submission, and respect. He desperately needs it.
God gives us the keys that turn each other’s hearts that we may have a marriage that would reflect God’s love, beauty, and unity for a lifetime.
What a different place this planet would be – if only we did things God’s way. Makes sense to me, but we’re living in a world where the enemy has done everything he can to destroy the family, which is the very fabric of society.
After dealing with marriage Paul exhorts children to obey their parents, not superficially but from the deep places of our heart, for God calls us to also honor them. This command covers a wide spectrum – from esteeming them to a place of special value, all the way to taking care of them when they’re older (see 1 Timothy 5:4, 8). This is the only one of the ten commandments that comes with a promise, obedience to this command leads to a general principle promising longevity of life.
Paul then shares something radical in those days – he gives rights and respect to the children! Parents are not to provoke their children to wrath with unfair or inconsistent practices, on the contrary, we are to bring them up by not only teaching them but training them and encouraging them in the Lord.
Next the attention is directed to the work place. Employees are to foster the attitude and realize the truth that ultimately, they work for the Lord. I remember some of the people I worked with in the past, who only kicked it into gear when the boss was around. Paul teaches us that we may or may not get that raise or promotion here on earth, but God will reward us for working hard and doing good. We learn that these principles are not solely for employees, they’re also for employers…Paul tells them to “do the same.” We are all to work for the Lord, and those in positions of leadership must never forget that Christ is our boss, our leader, our Master, so we should never mistreat any one of our employees, for one day we also will give an account.
Up to this point in the book of Ephesians – God’s dealt with our wealth and our walk, He now deals with our war. We’ve covered our belief and our behavior, we now cover the battle. It’s critical to realize that we’re in a war, not against flesh and blood (other people) – no – we’re in a war against the devil and his demons. It’s a spiritual war (see also 2 Timothy 2:3-4) and we therefore need spiritual weapons (see also 2 Corinthians 10:4). We’d all admit that we’re no match for the devil, but we all know that the devil is no match for God – and it’s for that reason we need to put on the whole armor God has provided, each and every day!
Girding our waist with truth means we’re determined to be people of our word. The breastplate speaks of the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ. The Gospel of peace for our feet means we’re always ready to share the gospel with others, and at the same time, we believe it for ourselves. The shield of faith is the way we believe God’s word, His truth in a land of lies, ’cuz the enemy is a liar who bombards us with fiery darts – constant thoughts that pierce our minds that are not of the Lord. The helmet of salvation is the assurance of salvation guarding our minds from doubting it, and the Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, we swing it and hold to it just as Jesus did in Matthew 4:1-11. The armor is put on by faith and prayer, and it’s held on by praying always, even for our leaders like Paul, who asks the people to pray for him, for courage and clarity, to boldly teach the Bible. “O Lord, let my love be sincere” (6:24).