Ephesians 3:1-13 “What is this Mystery?”

Ephesians
In this chapter of Ephesians, Paul uses the word "mystery" several times.  He uses the word to describe the gospel itself, and to describe the unity of the Jews and Gentiles within the church.  In the New Testament, the word "mystery" does not necessarily mean what it does today.  There is nothing mysterious about the gospel.  It is very clear and forthright.  It is available to all, and preached to all.  So, why does Paul use the word "mystery"?  A New Testament mystery is a truth that was previously hidden, but which is now revealed.  It is kind of like a magician's trick.  Have you ever discovered how a magician does his trick?  When you watched a magic performance live, it was amazing.  You witnessed a magician saw his assistant in two!  You saw an assistant levitating in the air!  You knew it was not real, but you observed it with your own eyes.  Then, you discovered the trick.  The mystery was revealed.  There was a perfectly rational explanation for what appeared to be a mysterious supernatural occurrence.  That which was hidden (the secret compartment in the box, the nearly invisible wires, or the trap door) was revealed, casting new light on the entire performance.  The apostle Paul was no ordinary bystander.  He was an Old Testament scholar.  He knew the Scriptures as well as anyone else.  Yet, he had totally missed the "mystery" of the gospel . . .  until he met the risen Savior!  He never imagined the Gentiles joining together with the Jews in the church of Jesus Christ . . . until he became the greatest missionary to the Gentile population.  It was a rather hidden and obscure truth, until it was revealed to everyone.  The gospel of Jesus Christ was openly proclaimed to all, and the church doors were opened wide for Jews and Gentiles who accept Christ.  Once the truth was revealed, Paul looked at the Old Testament differently.  He realized that God's Word was full of prophecies concerning the Jesus, the Messiah, and concerning the salvation of the Gentiles.  They had been there all along, but they were hidden.  They were a mystery . . . until now!


Ephesians 2:13-22 “The Alienated Become God’s People”

Ephesians
After painting a miserable picture of life outside of Christ, Paul rejoices in the solution to the problem.  In Christ, we are accepted and brought near to God.  Through His blood, those who were separated from God were brought near to Him.  Jesus tore down the wall that separates us from God and from each other.  Our Savior brought peace where there was only hostility before.  He reconciled the two sides that were at war, and abolished the enmity that was raging between them.  Jesus really is the answer!  This new arrangement is demonstrated in Christ's body, the church.  Just like Paul used picturesque imagery to describe the horror of life without Christ, so he also uses beautiful pictures to portray our new relationship with Christ.  First, we are citizens.   "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens . . . "  (Ephesians 2:19)  The outcast have become citizens in the Kingdom of God, with all of the rights and privileges thereof!  It is a dual citizenship.  We still have our earthly connections with our home country, but now we also have a higher citizenship.  Secondly, Paul says that we are part of God's household, " . . . with the saints and members of the household of God."  (Ephesians 2:19)  We are adopted into the family of God!  Citizenship in a kingdom is great, but being part of a family is much more intimate and life-changing.  The third picture that Paul uses is the image of a building, particularly the Temple of God:  " . . . having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,  in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."  (Ephesians 2:20-22)  Brick by brick, and stone by stone, Christ is building His church.  And, the very glory of God dwells in the midst of His church.  Not bad for a bunch of hopeless outsiders!  God graciously chose those who were alienated, without hope, and without God.  He lovingly formed them into a glorious kingdom, a loving family, and His very own Temple.  In Christ, there is no reason to ever feel alienated again.


Ephesians 2:11-12 “The Condition of the Lost”

Ephesians
The recent movie "Gravity" told a fictional story of astronauts who experienced an unexpected crisis and became untethered from their ship.  It is a fascinating story of survival in space.  A German magazine decided to fact check the movie.  They wondered if "Gravity" was a plausible narrative.  They interviewed a German astronaut about the realities of life in space.  How long could an astronaut really survive in space with just his space-suit?  Wouldn't death come quickly and horrendously in space?  The astronaut speculated that death in space would actually be quite pleasant.  It is similar to mountain climbers who experience high altitude sickness.  In fact, he testified that he witnessed these effects in an altitude chamber during his astronaut training.  As the air thins and the oxygen dissipates, the result is similar to laughing gas.  The victim begins to feel giddy, and thinks that everything is funny.  The victim is relaxed and peaceful (and laughing!) as death approaches.  That is a great illustration of the condition of lost humanity.  Hurtling toward their own destruction, the unsaved person is quite happy and at peace, laughing as they draw closer to their ultimate judgment.  In just a few verses in Ephesians, Paul stripped away the veneer of tranquility and painted a dire picture of the reality of life outside of Christ.  He used five descriptive phrases to portray the condition of the lost soul.  1)  Without Christ  2)  Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel  3) Strangers from the covenants of promise  4) Having no hope  5) Without God.  It is not a pretty picture.  Most of the letter until this point extols the multitudinous blessings of being "in Christ".  Now, in vivid detail, he describes the horrifying prospect of life outside of Christ.  To be without Christ is similar to an astronaut abandoned and alone in space.  Without Christ, there is no hope.  Blissfully unaware of his predicament, the astronaut smiles and giggles as he drifts into oblivion.  And so, the unbeliever, blissfully unaware of his eternal damnation smiles and jokes as he plummets ever closer to the eternal flames.  Just when all hope is lost, Paul begins verse 13 with a beautiful phrase, "But now in Christ . . . "  The good news of the gospel penetrates the darkness of this world and the dulling of our senses.  The gospel awakens us from our oblivious stupor and calls us to a glorious salvation in Christ.  Now, our responsibility is to warn those who are still floating aimlessly, laughing their way through life, unaware that they are lost without Christ.


Ephesians 2:1-7 “The Walking Dead”

Ephesians

The first chapter of Ephesians is an ode of praise to the Sovereign God of our Salvation.  The second chapter takes a rather abrupt detour into negativity.  The first chapter views salvation from God's perspective.  He called us, predestined us, redeemed us, made us accepted in the Beloved, gave us an eternal inheritance, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit.  The second chapter reminds us what we were like before God saved us.  "Who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).  We were dead.  Death is a rather helpless condition.  No medicine can cure a corpse.  Proper diet and exercise is not the answer.  Watching an infomercial about the miraculous healing power of natural herbs will not improve the condition of a dead body.  We are hopelessly dead in our trespasses and sins.  "Trespass" means crossing the line, and "sin" means missing the mark.  We have all missed the mark of God's perfect standard, and we have all crossed the line into sin.  Even though, we were dead in our sins, we were still "walking".  "In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air . . ."  (Ephesians 2:2).  We were dead in sin, but we were still walking in those sins!  And, to make it even worse, we were in bondage to this world in which we live, and in bondage to Satan, the "Prince of the power of the air".  Physically alive, but spiritually dead, we were walking slaves.  The only thing worse than these outside forces of evil enslaving us, was the evil that was inside.  We were enslaved by the "lust of the flesh" and were "by nature the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).  This is a rather dark description, but it is perfectly accurate.  It is the precise picture of the lost soul apart from God's saving grace.  If you are saved, these verses describe exactly how you were before God saved you.  If you are not saved, then this describes explicitly how you are now.  You may not even know it.  Everything may seem alright on most levels.  But, you are walking dead.  You are a slave to the world, the Devil, and your own fleshly desires.  The only hope for you comes in the first two words of verse four:  "But God."  While you were walking dead, God was busy providing salvation for all who would believe!



Ephesians 1:22-23 “The Power of Christ’s Church”

Ephesians

When Paul discusses the awesome power of God, he emphasizes the roll that the church plays in God's sovereign reign.  God gave all things to Christ, making Him the " . . . head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."  (Eph. 1:22-23)  That sounds very impressive!  The church is the epicenter of God's power on the earth.  The church is God's muscle!  I didn't realize it until I started studying this particular passage, but there is some confusion over just what these verses mean.  In fact, there are three different ways of reading this one sentence.  Here are the three interpretations:

1.  The sentence describes Christ:  the church is the body of Christ, who is the fullness of God (the Father) who fills all in all.

2.  The word "fullness" describes the church actively:  the church is the body of Christ, and the church actively fulfills Christ, who fills all in all.

3.  The word "fullness" describes the church passively:  the church is the body of Christ, and the church is fulfilled by Christ, who fills all in all.

All three views are rooted in Biblical truth, and I am not quite sure which is the accurate interpretation.  To me, the simplest reading points to the third interpretation.  The church is the fullness of Christ in the sense that Christ completely fills the church.  And, He fills all in all.  Christ is all-powerful and sovereign over all things.  Yet, he has chosen to exercise His power through the church.  He could exercise His power directly.  In fact, one day (hopefully soon!) He will.  One day He will confront Satan personally and cast Him into the abyss.  He will personally seize control of the entire world and bring it under His loving sovereign reign.  But, until then, He exercises his power through the Church.  The Church is where all the spiritual power resides.  The Church is the instrument that God has chosen to wield His authority.  If you want a taste of God's power and authority . . . go to Church!  There is no other way to access God's power.



“The Power of Christ” Ephesians 1:19

Ephesians

Paul really wanted to tell us about the power of God.  In one sentence, he used four different synonyms for the word "power".  See if you can spot them all:  "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power." (Ephesians 1:19)  Paul just about depleted the thesaurus  in his search for words to describe God's wonderful power.  He used four different words for "power" along with some rather superlative descriptors like "exceeding" and "greatness".  You Greek scholars might appreciate the distinctive vocabulary that Paul used: " . . . His Power toward us who believe"    "Power" is "dunamis" which means "ability" or "might". " . . . according to the working"                   "Working" is "energeia" which means "active energy" or "effective". " . . . His mighty power."                              "Mighty" is "kratos" which means "mastery," "dominion," or "strength."

"Power" is "ischus" which means innate "ability" or "strength"

These words are synonymous.  They are different ways of saying the same thing.  But, they also tell us the same thing from a slightly different perspective.  Paul's struggle with words is indicative of the nature of God's power.  The power of God is so awesome, it can not be described by a single noun or even a series of nouns and adjectives.  The power of God transcends the ability of human language to describe it!  And, yet, Paul really wants us to know about God's amazing power.  It is something that we Christians need regularly. Too often, we feel powerless.  We see our culture casting off moral standards and celebrating sin, and we are powerless to save it.  Satan is alive and well, and we are powerless to confront him.  Our own sin nature beckons to us with irresistible temptations, and we are powerless to withstand it.  Indeed, we are powerless.  But God is ALL POWERFUL.  And there are not enough words in the thesaurus to express God's mighty power.  But, it is available to "us who believe."  Paul wanted us to know that we have an infinite stockpile of strength.  We may feel powerless.  But, God's power can transform our lives now.  And, God's power will some day transform the entire universe into God's perfect kingdom.


Ephesians 1: “Paul’s Oxymoron”

Ephesians

In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul lays bare his soul.  His heart is bursting with the fullness of Jesus Christ, and he wants every reader to understand the eternal fountain of blessing that flows from our Blessed Savior.  He cannot even mention the name "Jesus" without launching into a lengthy anthem of praise and worship.  "In Christ" we are blessed beyond measure with every spiritual blessing, we are made accepted in the beloved, we are redeemed through His blood, we are forgiven, we experience the riches of His grace, we abound in all wisdom, and we have attained an inheritance.  And that is just the beginning!  But then, Paul offers a prayer for his readers.  His foremost request is that God would "give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him". (Ephesians 1:18)  It is at this point, that there is an apparent contradiction.  It is similar to an oxymoron.  An oxymoron couples together seemingly contradictory concepts.  There are some great examples of classic oxymorons:  "cold heat," "civil war," and "definite maybe."  And, for the comedians out there, there are some hilarious oxymorons:  "congressional ethics" or "military intelligence" or "Microsoft Works."  Paul's contradiction is somewhat similar to these oxymorons.  Perhaps it can be summarized this way:  "You are completely filled with the fullness of Christ, yet you should hunger and thirst for more!"   Paul spends most of the chapter explaining how we are overflowing with the blessings of being "in Christ".  Yet, he prays that we will have more.  He prays that God would give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.  That is something that you can't learn from a book.  You can't learn it from experimental trial and error.  It only comes from God!  And, we need it desperately.  So, I embrace the seemingly contradictory statements.  I am indeed overflowing with the fullness of Christ.  And, I pray for more!  I desire a deeper knowledge of Him.



Ephesians 1: “Chosen in Him”

Ephesians

Paul's passionate and eloquent tribute to the doctrine of salvation is full of theological riches.  It also speaks clearly to an age-old controversy between the Calvinists and the Arminians.  The Calvinists emphasize the sovereignty of God in the plan of salvation.  The Arminians emphasize the responsibility of man to receive God's salvation.  Calvinism starts with the total depravity of man:  man is a sinner, unable to choose God.  Arminianism starts with general (prevenient) grace by which God enables sinful man to accept salvation (or reject it!).  According to Calvinism, God (in His great grace) chooses to save some of those who are totally depraved for His glory.  According to Arminianism, God chooses to make salvation available to all who will accept it, and (since He is the omniscient God) He knows who will accept it and who will reject it.  Calvinists believe that God saves us, and God keeps us secure (once saved always saved!).  Arminians believe that man has the freedom to choose salvation, and that man can change his mind and reject it later on (you can lose your salvation!).  I realize that this is an over-simplification, but this is only a brief devotional, not a theological text book!  And, the debate has been raging since the 1500's, so I don't think that we are going to solve the problem today!  Anyway, Paul did touch upon both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man in the first chapter of Ephesians. He began by saying the God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." (Ephesians 1:4) That sounds very much like the sovereignty of God.  I was not around at the foundation of the world, so I did not have a choice!  It all started with God.  Then, Paul used the word "predestined" twice in this chapter.  In verse 5, Paul said that God has "predestined us to adoption as sons".  And, in verse 11, God has given us an inheritance because we have been "predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."  It sounds like Paul is very clearly communicating that Salvation is of God, and that the Sovereign, All-Wise, Omnipotent, Omniscient God knows exactly what He is doing!  After establishing that, Paul then introduced man's responsibility.  In verses 12-13, he reminded his readers that they had "trusted" in Christ when they heard the gospel  and that they had "believed".  Then, Paul immediately returned to the sovereign God who "sealed" us with the Holy Spirit and gave us a "guarantee of our inheritance."  Again, that is something that God does, and we can not.  So, Paul acknowledged both the sovereignty of God in salvation, and the responsibility of man to accept it by faith.  Both are true.  But, which one did he emphasize?  How you answer that question will determine if you are a Calvinist or an Arminian!  I will let you decide.



Ephesians 1 “So Great Salvation”

Ephesians

God's marvelous plan of salvation was indelibly seared into the consciousness of the Apostle Paul.  Ever since that fateful day on the road to Damascus, he was never the same.  That day, he was breathing our threats and accusations against Christ and Christians.  Ever since that day, he lived and breathed and continually shared the gospel of salvation.  He loved God's salvation.  In his letter to the Ephesians, he gave thanks to God for all of His blessings (in verse 3).  Of course, the first blessing that came to his mind is God's salvation!  So, he took a deep breath and launched into an eloquent expression of God's salvation.  In fact, in the original Greek, verses 3 through 14 are all one sentence!  Fortunately, our English translators broke the monologue down into more manageable sentences.  Paul burned through 202 words (in the original Greek--267 in English!) in 12 verses before he finally rested with a period at the end of verse 14.  My fifth grade English teacher would be very upset at that run-on sentence!  But, Paul was not concerned with English grammar or sentence diagraming.  He just wanted to shout eternal praise to God for His indescribable salvation.  Consider this list of God's accomplishments that Paul included in one profound sentence:

    God chose us before the foundation of the world (verse 4)

    God made us holy and without blame (verse 4)

    God predestinated us (verse 5)

    God adopted us as sons (verse 5)

    God made us accepted in the Beloved (verse 6)

    God has redeemed us through Christ's blood (verse 7)

    God has forgiven our sins (verse 7)

    God has given us the riches of His grace (verse 7-8)

    God has made known to us the mystery of His will (verse 9)

    God will gather all things together in Christ (verse 10)

    God has given us an inheritance (verse 11)

    Those who trust in Him will receive the praise of His glory (verse 12)

    God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (verse 13)

    God has guaranteed our inheritance with the Holy Spirit (verse 14)

When your life is touched by the resurrected Savior, you are never the same!  Praise God for His life-changing salvation.



Ephesians 1: “Blessings in Christ”

Ephesians

So, we finished Daniel, and now we will begin a thorough study of the Epistle to the Ephesians.  It sounds pretty intimidating.  I mean, who are these "Ephesians" anyway?  And, what in the world is an "epistle".  It kind of sounds like a female Apostle!  There is no need to worry, though.  Paul wrote this letter (epistle!) to the saints who lived in Ephesus.  These believers were not some mysterious distant group of people.  They were Paul's friends!  He had personal spent two years in Ephesus preaching the gospel during his second missionary journey.  Two years was an eternity to Paul.  He usually started a church in a matter of a few weeks and then left town (or got kicked out of town!).  Acts 19 describes the events that took place at Ephesus.  When Paul arrived, he found a dozen faithful disciples of John the Baptist.  He spent some time mentoring these disciples and teaching them about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Great miracles occurred in Ephesus. Evil spirits were cast out and many sick were healed.  Paul had such wonderful success, that the idol manufacturer named Demetrius complained that nobody was buying his idols any more!  (Acts 19:24-27)  After Demetrius stirred up a riot, Paul was no longer welcome in Ephesus.  But, these Ephesians had a close bond with Paul.  He knew them and loved them.  He had personally led many of them to Christ.  He had taught them theology for two years.  They had witnessed miracles together and had suffered together.  Later on, he was arrested and awaiting trial in Rome.  From his confinement, he wrote several "prison epistles".  The book of Ephesians is one of them.  As a prisoner in Rome, he reflected on the variety of experiences that he had in Ephesus, and he concludes that it was all worth it!  He begins the letter with a long list of God's abundant blessings.  Serving God is awesome!  Even when you get run out of town and arrested.  As long as you are "in Christ" you have every conceivable blessing and even some inconceivable blessings!  "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."  (Ephesians 1:3)  Paul knew what it was to be abased, and he knew what it was to abound.  Praise God for His blessings in Christ!




         

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