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1. An Introduction To Ephesians (Ephesians 1:1-3)

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A number of years ago, a madman, called Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait, bringing death and destruction. Knowing it would be next on Saddam’s hit list, Saudi Arabia called Washington and asked for help. On that occasion, President Bush was at his best. He picked up the phone and called England, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, and many other countries and built the famed coalition.

Men and women from different backgrounds, races, classes, cultures, and personalities all gathered in the Gulf with one focused agenda – to serve notice on this madman, demanding that he not take more territory and that he relinquish the territory already taken. The coalition was to inform him his days of rule in the Gulf were over.

Another mad person in history is called the Devil, against whom God, too, has built a coalition to wage war – it’s called the church. If we’re going to be a vibrant, successful force for God in the world, and if we’re going to have victory over the prince of the power of the air, then the church is going to have to function as an allied coalition.

When there is a common goal based on a common authority to set forth a common agenda, then we can have a common success. God has created one body made up of different persons, all of whom have received a common call from God in Christ.1

This is what the epistle to the Ephesians is all about - the unity of the church, a coalition of people with different religious, racial, and social backgrounds into one body to live as a powerful force for God in the world.

Paul calls the church a “mystery” (1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). That’s why we have titled this series, “United We Stand: The Mystery of the Church.” The church was a mystery because it could not be conceived how God, in and through Christ Jesus, could create one body, the church, to form a new people of God in which both Jews and Gentiles stand united.

For Paul, the “mystery” of the church is breathtaking. He is rejoicing as he tries to express the mysterious unity that God has effected in the church through Christ and the spiritual blessings that are ours as a result - 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 (1:3).

Notice that our spiritual blessings have their source in God the Father and flow down to us through the Lord Jesus Christ 2 As we study this epistle together, you will see repeatedly its thoroughly trinitarian structure.

Paul is bursting with adoration to God for our spiritual blessings, so much so that he writes the entire first section (1:3-14) in one unstructured sentence which “rolls on like a snowball tumbling down the hill, picking up volume as it descends.” 3 Wave after wave of praise comes crashing onto the shore of his heart. You can hear the crack of gun fire as volley after volley reaches its target.

Christians are prone to talk about their differences. This series in Ephesians will talk about what we have in common. The church is a united community. Together we have:

I. A United Position in Christ (1:3-3:21)

1. Our United Blessings in Christ (1:4-14)

a) The blessing of our election (1:4)

b) The blessing of our predestination (1:5-6)

c) The blessing of our redemption (1:7-10)

d) The blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14)

e) Prayer #1: Prayer for spiritual enlightenment (1:15-23)

2. Our United Transformation in Christ (2:1-10)

a) Before we knew Christ, we were condemned to spiritual death (2:1-3)

b) When we know Christ, we are transformed to spiritual life (2:4-10)

3. Our United Relationship in Christ (2:11-3:21)

a) The mystery of our united relationship has been accomplished (2:11-22)

  • A distant relationship is made near (2:11-13)
  • A hostile relationship is made peaceful (2:14-18)
  • A foreign relationship is made familiar (2:19-22)

b) The mystery of our united relationship has been revealed (3:1-13)

  • The revelation of the mystery of Christ (3:1-6)
  • The declaration of the mystery of Christ (3:7-13)

c) Prayer #2: Prayer for spiritual empowerment (3:14-21)

II. A United Practice in Christ (4:1-6:24)

1. Walking Together In Unity (4:1-6)

a) It’s demanded by our common calling (4:1)

b) It’s displayed in our common character (4:2-3)

c) It’s driven by our common confession (4:4-6)

2. Growing Together In Maturity (4:7-16)

a) Growing together in maturity through Christ’s servants (4:7-11)

b) Growing together in maturity for Christ’s service (4:12)

c) Growing together in maturity in Christ’s likeness (4:13-16)

3. Pursuing Purity Together (4:17-5:21)

a) Contrasting principles of living (4:17-24)

  • Don’t live like the ungodly in corruption that stems from deceit (4:17-19)
  • Live like Jesus in purity that stems from the truth (4:20-24)

b) Contrasting practices of living (4:25-32)

  • Speaking truth not lies (4:25)
  • Exercising self-control not anger (4:26-27)
  • Working not stealing (4:28)
  • Speaking constructively not destructively (4:29-30)
  • Showing kindness not animosity (4:31-32)

c) Contrasting programs for living (5:1-21)

  • Live a God-centred life not a self-centred life (5:1-7)
  • Live as light not darkness (5:8-14)
  • Live carefully not recklessly (5:15-21)

4. Living Together In Harmony (5:22-6:9)

a) Harmony of husbands and wives (5:22-33)

b) Harmony of children and parents (6:1-4)

c) Harmony of servants and masters (6:5-9)

5. Standing Together In Victory (6:10-20)

a) The power and provision for spiritual battles (6:10-13)

b) Preparation for spiritual battles (6:14-17)

c) Perseverance in spiritual battles (6:18-20)

God has effected all of this “in Christ.” In Him, we are chosen (4), redeemed (7), made heirs (11), brought to faith (13a), and sealed (13-14). And all of this flows from God's eternal will (5,11), the riches of his grace (7), and his good pleasure (9). It is God’s will to form a new people in Christ into one body, the church. What once would have been considered impossible (hence, a “mystery”), God has done in Christ. He has united together in one body all the people of faith, both Jew and Gentile.

The epistle begins with this magnificent statement of our blessings:

1. The source of our blessings is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (3a)

2. The scope of our blessings is “every spiritual blessing” (3b)

3. The sphere of our blessings is the “heavenly places in Christ” (3c)

Our spiritual blessings originate in heavenly places (1:3), that place where Christ sits at God’s right hand; that place of eternal relationship between believers and Christ (2:6). And these spiritual blessings come down to us on earth (See 4:8; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1). They are in Christ (a phrase that Paul’s uses 10 times in this paragraph) in that we receive the benefit of them because of our position in him.

My proposition to you is that “Our only appropriate response to God for his blessings is to praise him with all our hearts for what we have in common in Christ.”


1 Tony Evans, Preaching Today, Tape 189.

2 Cf. William Hendriksen, The Epistle to the Ephesians, New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 73.

3 Hendriksen, 72.

2. Our United Position: Blessed Together in Christ (Eph. 1:4-14)

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Introduction

In this article we are examining the first three foundational blessings that unite us in our common position in Christ:

1. The past blessings of our election and predestination (1:4 and 5-6)

2. The present blessing of our redemption (1:7-10)

3. The future blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14)

These blessings comprise our common spiritual “roots”. An aunt of mine in England traced our family roots. She found that we came from a line of Spanish Jews who came to England during the Spanish Armada. That’s my family’s “roots” according to her research. The family of God has its roots – our blessings in Christ.

The first foundational blessing, then, that we share as believers, and for which we praise God, is…

I. The Blessing Of Our Election (1:4)

He (God) chose (elected) us in Him (Christ) (4a).

When political elections are planned, nobody knows what the outcome will be until all the votes are in. In a past eternity God called an “election” and he knew exactly what the outcome would be. In fact, he guaranteed it because...

1. The Nature Of Election Is… God’s Sovereign Choice

God chose us. He selected us, picked us out for himself. That’s the nature of God’s election – it is his sovereign choice. There were no other voters; God was the only “voter”. It was his election. Nobody forced him to make the choice; he made it freely, sovereignly.

Do you remember when you used to pick sides at school to play a game? It always seemed cruel to me that the best players were picked first and as the choices got fewer and fewer it was obvious and embarrassing that nobody wanted the poor players. But God chose us without reference to our inadequacies and he made no distinction between us - we are all equally precious to him.

So, the nature of election is God’s sovereign choice, and…

2. The Subjects Of Election Are… God’s Special People

God chose us, not anybody or everybody but us, the “saints” (1) - those who have been set apart by God to glorify him; those who have embraced him by faith. Out of all the people of all history, God chose us to be his sanctified people, to live to his glory, to be his special people, his united coalition, his church.

How we should praise God that, of all the people, he chose us! C.H. Spurgeon said that this “ought to make us on our very dullest moments sing for joy.”1

3. The Foundation Of Election Is… God’s Beloved Son

God chose us in him, in Christ. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our election. Just as God has “blessed us” in Christ (3), so “he has elected (chosen) us” in Christ (4a).

Why and how did God choose us in Christ? What does this mean? It means that he didn’t choose us because of anything in us but because of everything we would have and be in our position in Christ. In ourselves, we were enemies of God by wicked works (wandering away from God; separated from him), but in Christ we are brought near to God, made acceptable to him.

Our election in Christ is founded on what God saw in a past eternity. He saw the work of Christ as complete and he saw us as righteous in Him. He saw Christ take our place, fulfilling the righteous claims of God against us. And it was on that basis that he could and did choose us.

To be in Christ means that God sees him as our surety. We are safe in him. Just as we might keep valuable documents in a safety deposit box which is all locked up and kept secure in the vault of a bank, so we are in Christ, our “safety deposit box.” We are inside him, safe and secure.

But there’s more about election in which we can and should rejoice…

4. The Time Of Election Was… God’s Past Eternity

God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (4b). Our election wasn’t an afterthought. It wasn’t something God decided to do when he saw what we were like. Nor is it a question of God foreseeing the spiritual choice we would make. Rather, our election was before the foundation of the world - when the plan of atonement was conceived in the chambers of eternity; when Christ said, “Here am I; send me” (Isa. 6:8; Heb. 10:7), and God declared, “I have found a ransom” (Job 23:34).

As one commentator has said: “If already before the foundation of the world those destined for everlasting life were elected…then all the glory for their salvation belongs to God and to him alone.”2

5. The Purpose Of Election Is… Our Present Holiness

… that we should be holy and without blame before him (4b). God did not simply choose us for salvation but to change us so that we could live in holiness before him. God did not choose us because we were already holy, but in order that we should be and could be holy. Holiness and blamelessness are the fruits of our election to salvation.

The immediate purpose of election is that we should be holy and that we should be blameless. To be holy means to be separated, morally and spiritually, to God; consecrated wholly to God. To be blameless means to be without blemish in character and conduct.

The measure of this holiness is not man’s, but God’s, to be examined by God and be found faultless before him. As Christians, we must give evidence of our spiritual standing before God. Because we have been saved doesn’t mean that we can live any way we want. There are ethical implications to the Gospel, you know.

Let me ask you, how do you measure up to God’s standard? Are you living before God in submission to him, allowing him to conform you to his Son, transforming you “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18)?

So, the first foundational blessing is that of our election. Closely associated with election is…

II. The Blessing Of Our Predestination (1:5-6)

As John Phillips explains it, “Election has to do with the past and predestination has to do with the future.” 3 God chose us for a purpose – that’s predestination.

1. We Were Predestined For A New Relationship (5)

having in love predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ for himself (4b-5a). We were elected (chosen) for salvation and on that basis we were predestined for sonship. In his unfathomable love toward us, God predestined us to a new relationship with him, the relationship of “adopted” children. He chose us for himself, to be in his family because of what Christ has done, a place to which we had no right or title (cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5).

Some families have both biological and adopted children. Sometimes, someone might ask, “Which one is adopted?” They make a distinction between the biological child and the adopted child. But God makes no such distinction. When God adopts us into his family, he treats us as his very own with no regard for the past.

Though we were born in sin and “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3), yet God takes us into his family and wipes out the past (Jer. 31:34). And further, he does something that no earthly adoptive parent can do - He gives us his own nature and character.

Thus, this new relationship is one which carries the dignity of sons and daughters. It imputes to us a new identification, a new status, a new family, a new appearance (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18), a new nature, a new character, and a new inheritance. That’s what it is to be adopted into God’s family. We have a new relationship with God and God’s people.

So, how does this adoption take place? It’s by Jesus Christ for himself (5a). Through Christ we are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18, 20; Col. 1:21) and made part of his family, not because of any goodness on our part nor because of any obligation on God’s part, but because God predestined us to this relationship solely according to the good pleasure of his will (5b). It was a matter of God’s will and pleasure. God did what he wanted and delighted to do in us.

So, the question is: Is your behaviour consistent with your new relationship? Do you act like God’s adopted child? All parents want their children to exemplify their values and attitudes. Any child who does not do this misrepresents their parents and brings dishonour on the family. Let me challenge you to examine your lifestyle, your behaviour, your attitudes, your values and priorities in the light of your adoption into God’s family and in the light of your position of dignity as a son or daughter of God.

We were predestined for a new relationship and…

2. We Were Predestined For A New Occupation (6)

… to the praise of his glorious grace (6a). Our election by God coupled with his predestination of us to adoption is a summons to the praise of his glorious grace.

Surely, that should be our spontaneous response to God for his unmerited favour to us who are so undeserving. The final goal to which all of redemptive history points and to which we are predestined is the praise his glorious grace. This is the ultimate goal for which God has chosen us - to praise God for the excellence of his matchless grace by which he made us accepted in the Beloved (6b). Only by the glorious grace of God do we find favour before God and by which we are accepted in the Beloved. Our eternal standing before God is founded in his beloved Son, the one in whom the Father finds all his delight (cf. Matt. 3:17; Jn. 1:29; Matt. 17:5; 2 Pet. 1:17, 18).

III. The Blessing Of Our Redemption (1:7-10)

The first thing we notice is…

1. The Source Of Our Redemption Is… God’s Dear Son

In him (the Beloved) we have redemption (7a). Just as our election is in Christ, so our redemption is in him. He is the source and means of our redemption - it is in him. Because of what he has done and the relationship into which he has called us we have redemption in him. Redemption cannot be found in anyone else, “for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”(Acts 4:12). Neither charitable deeds nor good living can earn your redemption. It has its sole source in the person and work of Christ - it is in him. And because our redemption is in him, no one can take it away.

We “have” redemption. It’s our present possession. If you have trusted Christ as your Saviour, you have redemption now – the present possession of eternal life. It isn’t future (not something we’re working for or hoping for) but something we now possess.

We didn’t and couldn’t do anything for it. It’s not “by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saves us(Tit. 3:5). We couldn’t pay for it nor earn it. God has freely provided it for us in Christ, who gave himself a ransom for many”(Matt. 20:28). Redemption is the freedom obtained by payment of a ransom. It’s a term that was used primarily for the release of slaves. In spiritual terms, redemption refers to our ransom from the curse of sin, from sin’s power and penalty (cf. Jn. 8:34; Rom. 7:14; 1 Cor. 7:23; Gal. 3:13).

The object of our redemption was to buy us back from sin’s slavery, to redeem us from Satan’s control and deception. The result of our redemption is our liberation. We’ve been emancipated - the price has been paid. We’ve been ransomed, and, as a result, set free from the bondage of sin - released from the tyranny of the law.

So, the source of our redemption is God’s dear Son…

2. The Means Of Our Redemption Is… Christ’s Blood

… we have redemption through his blood (7b). Christ has ransomed us from the slave market of sin. He paid the price to set us free by giving his life for us, by dying the death we deserved. And the evidence of the payment of that debt was the shedding of his precious blood. That was the mighty ransom price – his life, his blood. That was the utmost price that could be paid. It wasn’t the blood of a sacrificial animal as in the O. T. sacrifices (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). It was his blood, “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19).

Dr. Paul Brand in his book, “God’s Forever Feast,” writes: “I used to think it strange that the Bible keeps talking about the cleansing power of the blood. It seemed to me that blood was messy stuff. I needed to wash my white lab coats if they became stained with blood. Today, I love the analogy; it is so true of the body. The blood is constantly cleansing every cell and washing away all the debris that accumulates all the time.”

No animal’s blood could ever cleanse us from sin. Only Christ’s blood was sufficient to remit our sins. Not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).

Have you ever thought about what this means, that God’s own Son shed his blood for your redemption, that he was willing to die to cleanse you from sin? “Scarcely for a righteous man will one die…yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).

How often do you thank God for your redemption? This will be our wonderful theme in heaven, when we will say: “You are worthy…for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9-10). It is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all our sins (1 Jn. 1:7).

The means of our redemption is his blood and…

3. The Result Of Our Redemption Is… Our Forgiveness

Redemption would not be complete without forgiveness. The grand object of redemption is our freedom and the key to freedom is forgiveness. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins (7c).

Forgiveness is the complete removal (remission) of our sins (Isa. 44:22; Jer. 3:34; 1 Jn. 1:9). Through faith in Christ, we are forgiven (cf. Col. 1:14). Once we were bound by sin. We were held hostage by it, completely absorbed by it, unable to help ourselves because of it. Such was the power of sin over us that we were its prisoner, incarcerated in trespasses and sins. But through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, we are set free because our sins are forgiven.

We know the source of redemption, the means, and the result, but what was the reason? Why did God redeem us?….

4. The Motivation For Our Redemption Is… God’s Grace

according to the riches of his grace (7d). Forgiveness and grace go together. Forgiveness is only offered to us by God because of his grace. Notice that it does not say that forgiveness was given to us “out of” the riches of his grace, but according to (in the measure of) the riches of his grace. Something can be given “out of” someone’s riches, but it may not be necessarily lavish because they may have limited riches, or because they may hold some back. But God has provided our redemption to the full extent of the riches of his grace - he has held nothing back.

Our forgiveness is according to the riches of God’s grace of which there is no end. The enormity of what he has done is reflected in the fullness of our forgiveness and the inexhaustible supply of his grace.

The motivation for our redemption is God’s grace, which he lavished upon us (8a). His grace is no mere trickle, no puny supply. Rather, he lavished his grace upon us. This is extravagant grace, outrageous grace, exorbitant grace, superabundant grace from God’s inexhaustible riches.

How is this abundance of God’s grace made manifest to us? in all wisdom and insight (8b). In his matchless unbounded grace, God ransoms us from our sin. That in itself would surely be enough, but no, there’s more. He pours into our souls wisdom and insight. Why does he give us wisdom and insight? So that we can understand what he has done for us in Christ and so that we can live in the good of it. He has redeemed us and forgiven our sins, and now he floods our souls with the wisdom and understanding that go along with our new position in Christ.

So, the sequence of thought here is this…

1. The source of our redemption is God’s dear Son.

2. The means of our redemption is Christ’s blood.

3. The result of our redemption is our forgiveness.

4. The motivation for our redemption is God’s grace.

And finally…

5. The Consummation Of Redemption Is… Christ’s Headship

making known to us the mystery of his will (9a). In God’s grace he has revealed the mystery of His will (which we can understand through the wisdom and insight he has given to us), that the consummation of redemption will be the universal and glorious headship of Christ.

What was formerly a mystery he has made known to us and he has given us the ability to understand it and appreciate it. That’s his grace!

God wasn’t forced to unveil this secret. He freely revealed it according to his good pleasure, which he set forth in Christ (9b). Just as it was the Father’s pleasure to predestine us to adoption in Christ (5), so it was his good pleasure to make known to us his eternal purpose (i.e. “the mystery of his will”) concerning the eschatological headship of Christ.

So, what is “the mystery of his will”? … that in the administration of the fullness of the times, he might unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (10). This is the consummation of God’s plan of redemption. The redemption that Christ effected on the cross will culminate in his universal headship over all creation. God’s plan of redemption had in view our salvation and Christ’s ultimate headship over all things.

The fullness of time began “when God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4). That’s when the fullness of time began and it will end with Christ’s return in power and glory and judgment. And God’s purpose in all of this mystery which he has revealed to us is to unite all things in / under Christ (Col. 1:20; Phil. 2:9-11).

Everything centers on Christ so that everything in heaven and earth will ultimately be brought under His headship (See Rev. 20:4-5). This is the consummation of redemption. This is the event to and for which all redemptive history points and waits - the universal headship of Christ, when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11).

IV. The Blessing Of Our Inheritance (1:11-14)

Paul continues to be overwhelmed by the wonder of God’s plan to unite both Jews and Gentiles into one people of God through the redemptive work of Christ. He continues to praise God for uniting us in Christ – a united position that is founded on our united blessings in Christ (the blessings of our election, predestination, and redemption), and now he turns to the blessing of our inheritance.

During the 1996 Major League Baseball season, Chad Kruder, a reserve catcher for the Chicago White Sox severely dislocated and fractured his left shoulder at a play at plate. After undergoing surgery, the White Sox placed him on the 60 day disabled list. That’s the kind of thing that makes a back-up player feel even less like part of the team. But quite the opposite happened.

Apparently, Chad’s team mates had a strong liking for him because each player put Chad’s # 12 on his baseball cap to show support for him. Chad was a member of the team whether he played or not. As you can imagine that meant a lot to Chad.

Later in the season, when he was able to suit up again, Chad showed his appreciation by putting the numbers of each of his team mates on his ball cap.

Unity is a beautiful thing on any team, especially the church team. That’s what Ephesians is all about – the unity of the church, that mysterious union that God has brought about, a union that is composed of some very different people.

The difference between “we” (11-12) and “you” (13) is a very important change in pronoun. Up to this point in the epistle, “we” has embraced all Christians. But now the “we” of v.11 are the Jewish Christians – those “who first trusted Christ” (12) – and the “you” of v.13 are the Gentile Christians who “also trusted” Christ.” Finally, v.14 embraces all Christians again, both Jew and Gentile.

This is the prelude to the elaboration in chapter 2, which shows how two entirely different, even adversarial people could be brought together as one body in Christ, into a “United Position in Christ” – one body (2:16), one family of God (2:19), one building of God (2:20). That such people can unite under one banner is nothing less than the work of God – hence the title of this series of articles: “United We Stand: The Mystery of the Church.”

Our “United Position in Christ” is based on “Our United Blessings in Christ”: The blessings of our election (3-4), our predestination (5-6), our redemption (7-10), and now the blessing of our inheritance (1:11-14).

Not only do we have spiritual blessings in Christ in the past (our election and predestination which God decreed in a past eternity), and in the present (our redemption which God effected in the present day of his grace), but also in the future (our inheritance which God has promised).

1. Our Inheritance Is Assigned To Us…By God’s Sovereign Plan (11)

After choosing us, God predestined us to adoption into his family and having been predestined, in him also we have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (11).

In him also we have obtained an inheritance (11a). An inheritance refers to the rights and privileges passed on to heirs. An heir is one who by virtue of his family status stands to inherit the rights and privileges related to that family by being named an heir. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). In him we have obtained an inheritance. Our position in Christ is the basis of our inheritance, just as it is the basis of our election and our redemption. Based on our predestined position in Christ, God laid up an inheritance for us as members of his family, before we ever existed.

Our inheritance is all part of God’s sovereign, eternal plan, just like our election and redemption. He made the plan and by his sovereign power he also carries it out. What God has planned, he has the power also to carry out and complete. He works out all things according to his own eternal purposes and will, according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. Our inheritance is all of God, not of us. There is nothing that God has ordained that will not come to pass. He is not only the architect, he is also the builder, and nothing will delay, change, or stop his plans because he is all-powerful.

It would be one thing to know that we have all these spiritual blessings, but what good would they be if they don’t come to fruition? Sometimes people invest in schemes that never come to pass such as the scandal of “Greater Ministries Int’l Church”. This organization promised to double its donors’ investments in 17 months from profits in gold and diamond mines in Liberia and international trading in precious metals. The amazing thing is not that they made the promise but that people actually believed them! At least $100 million was reportedly invested in the scheme by over 15,000 Christians.

Sometimes people put deposits on things that they never receive. Either the company went out of business or they were “fly-by-nighters” who had no intention of delivering the goods. Older people are often ripped off by con artists masquerading as legitimate business people. Sometimes people lose money by investing in schemes that are fraudulent to start with. Other times the opportunity was genuine and the intentions were good but the other party just could not deliver on those good intentions.

But God will deliver our inheritance according to his purpose and will. Though my wife and I have taken great care to spell out clearly in our wills what is to happen to our assets, such as they are, in the event of our death, we cannot guarantee that our wishes will be carried out. Things may change between now and then; other people to whom we entrust the settling of our affairs may not act honourably; or, they may misunderstand what we want. But God himself settles his own affairs. He does not assign that responsibility to others.

Do you have implicit trust in God’s sovereign will? Do you believe that what God has promised he is able also to do? If you don’t trust God for the future, can you trust him for the past? Faith in the sovereign will and power of God is mandatory if you want to enter into the good of God’s promises and blessings now.

Our inheritance is assigned to us by God's sovereign plan…and…

2. Our Inheritance Is Secured To Us…With All God’s Chosen People (12-14)

The first persons whom God chose to trust in Christ were Jewish believers, we who first trusted in Christ (12a), that is, before the Gentiles trusted in Christ. “We,” Paul says (including himself) “have obtained an inheritance to which God has predestined us, not because of our national heritage, ancestry, or personal merit but because of his sovereign will.”

He says, “By God’s sovereign choice, he chose us, Jewish believers, as his very own people to live before him in holiness and blamelessness, and, in love, he predestined us to the relationship of adopted sons and daughters. As his children, we are his heirs with a glorious inheritance ahead of us. And the purpose of having been predestined to this inheritance,” he says, is that we might be to the praise of his glory (12b). God’s purpose for our redeemed lives is to be living praises of his glory in our thoughts, words, desires, and actions. Just as predestination to adoption summons the praises of his people (5), so their predestined inheritance calls forth his glorious praise. It is part of God’s all-embracing, eternal, sovereign plan that his people should praise him.

But is this inheritance, then, only for Jewish believers? No! God’s chosen people also includes the Gentile believers. The Jewish believers were the first in order of time to trust in Christ (12a) – to have hope in Christ - and then the Gentiles were brought into the church (Rom. 1:16). In whom you (the Gentile believers in Ephesus) also trusted (13a). The Greek doesn’t finish the sentence here – “you also” what? Some think it is “in him you also obtained an inheritance.” Others think it is “in him you also trusted” (NKJV). Or, it could be “in him you also were sealed by the Holy Spirit” (ESV). Grammatically, any of these options are possible but “in whom you also trusted (or, hoped),” referring back to v. 12, seems to make the most sense.

On what basis were the Gentiles brought into the church? On the same basis as the Jewish believers, who first trusted in Christ. We have the same salvation and inheritance on the same basis as they do. What is that? Trusting Christ by hearing the word of truth, believing it, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit.

These Ephesian believers heard the word of truth (13a) from Paul. He visited them on his second missionary journey (Acts 19:1-10), only to find that they were still O. T. believers, who only knew John the Baptist’s baptism. They didn’t know that the One to whom John pointed had come and in whose name they ought to be baptized. As soon as Paul explained this to them, they were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5) and became Christians, as evidenced by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was when they first heard the word of truth.

Like them, we also have “heard the word of truth” which is the gospel of your salvation. There are many false gospels in the world. The true gospel is the word of truth, not the word of error (1 Jn. 4:6). There are many voices in the world (1 Cor.14:10) all clamouring for our attention, all trying to convince us that they are telling the truth. The word of truth is the gospel - the gospel that reveals the truth about the human condition, that proclaims the consequences of rejecting Christ, that promises the only way of escape from judgement, that urges sinners to avail themselves of salvation now. It’s the gospel that Christ died for our sins, rose again the third day, and is coming back again.

The word of truth is the gospel of your salvation, “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). Hearing the word of truth is not enough. They also believed in Him (13b). Hearing the gospel precedes faith in the gospel (Col. 1:5; Rom. 10:14, 17). If, after hearing, you believe the message of the gospel and place your trust for eternity in the person and work of Christ, then you are saved and brought into the church!

Some people hear in faith; others hear in unbelief. It is our responsibility to believe. God doesn’t do that for us. God sovereignly chooses some for salvation because if he did not choose some, no one would be saved, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23. “No one is righteous, no not one”(Rom. 3:10). For that reason, God exercises his sovereignty and chooses some to be saved.

But, there is another side to the equation – human responsibility. God has provided the means by which you may be saved – i.e. the atoning, substitutionary death of Christ. And God has appointed the means by which you can know this salvation in Christ – through the preaching of “the word of truth,” for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When you hear the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, you are responsible for how you respond to it. God isn’t responsible for that – you are. So, if you reject the gospel of salvation and, by doing so, reject Christ, you will be held responsible for that on the day of judgment. And Christ, who has been ordained to judge the world (Acts 17:31), will righteously condemn you to hell for your decision.

Some of you today might have become immune to the truth. You’ve heard the Gospel so many times that it’s just an old wives fable to you. Your conscience has been “seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). You are totally insensitive to the truth of the Gospel. You have no spiritual feeling.

Jesus said: “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). Jesus’ message of the gospel of salvation is to those who hear in faith and believe: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24).

Have you heard the truth of the Gospel and believed? Is you ear open today to the truth of God’s word? Are you ready to receive Christ? Don’t turn away today without trusting Christ. It is all rooted in him and his finished work at Calvary. It isn’t a matter of head knowledge - that won’t suffice on its own. It’s a matter of faith. Do you have faith in him? Have you trusted Christ? Have you taken what you have heard and made it the object of your faith? Have you recognized that you cannot save yourself and that Jesus Christ is the only One who could pay the debt of sin for you? Have you trusted him by receiving him as your Saviour?

Well, when we hear the word of truth and trust Christ for salvation, God in turn secures us for eternity. We are secured by the sealing of the Spirit: …“having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (13c). Our salvation is based on Christ’s finished work of atonement and secured by the indwelling (sealing) of the Holy Spirit. This is an allusion to the ancient practice of sealing documents to identify them, to secure them, and to authenticate them.

Sealing is similar to branding or engraving today which identifies the owner. Legal documents and ancient letters used to be sealed by impressing a symbol or name into hot wax, usually with a ring. Today, documents are sealed by embossing a corporation’s or individual’s name on the paper with a die-cut seal. Personal possession may be engraved with some sort of identification in case they are stolen or lost.

Sealing declares the document as valid, authorized and original. It ensures that only the person to whom it is addressed opens it. If the seal is broken an unauthorized person has opened it. Today shipments of cargo are sometimes sealed with a special tag. Only the customs inspector is authorized to break the seal. This ensures that the cargo is not tampered with while in transit. Animals sometimes have seals put in their ears or around their legs as a mark of identification.

Sealing, then, is a mark of identification, authority, and security. The Holy Spirit seals Christians. God the Holy Spirit himself indwells us to form a seal that cannot be broken. Sealing takes place when you believe: Having believed you were sealed. At the moment of genuine faith, the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised (cf. Jn. 14:16, 17; 15:26), takes up residence in us and seals us.

The Holy Spirit is the seal that identifies us as God’s people, as genuine believers, authorizes us to speak God’s word, assures us of our salvation through His inner witness (Rom. 8:16), and secures for us our salvation for eternity by indwelling us (1 Jn. 3:24).

The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance (14a). He guarantees (insures) our inheritance in Christ. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22). He is the down payment guaranteeing our inheritance. He is the first installment, the security deposit, of what’s to come. A security deposit, or pledge, makes an agreement valid and obligates the purchaser to complete his commitments.

The Holy Spirit is God’s “security deposit,” a sign of his pledge, his surety that he will keep his promise and deliver our inheritance (2 Cor. 5:5). What a God we have that he would give us such a guarantee!

When I worked in business most of the transactions I did, totaling large sums of money, were verbal. We accepted our customers’ word as true and that they would do what they said. Only in some instances did we require a deposit to guarantee that they would complete the transaction. God could have just given us his word and that would have been enough. But the One who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18) not only gave us his word, He also gave us his Spirit as the demonstration of his good and reliable intentions toward us.

Furthermore, God’s guarantee is unconditional. His guarantee is good until our redemption is complete: …until the redemption of God’s purchased possession (14b). Sometimes a down payment is conditional - if the conditions are not met the deposit is returned and the deal is off. Sometimes new products come with a guarantee. But they are usually conditional. For example, a new car guarantee is limited to a certain mileage or a length of time and usually excludes defects related to normal wear and tear. But God’s guarantee is not limited to time or conditions. It’s good until our redemption is complete at the coming of Jesus Christ.

Not only are we a marked people (marked by the Holy Spirit’s seal), but we are a redeemed people (1 Cor. 3:23; Rom. 14:8; 1 Pet. 2:9), redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). But our redemption is not yet complete. We are still waiting for our bodies to be changed, to be glorified, to be redeemed body, soul, and spirit, to be translated into his presence, to be perfectly like Him. While we are waiting the Holy Spirit bridges the gap. He bridges the gap between what we already have in Christ (new life; spiritual blessings) and what we still anticipate (the fulfillment of all these blessings at Christ’s second coming).

So, the sealing of the Holy Spirit points to that future day (Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8:23) when faith will be replaced by sight, when our bodies will be transformed, when we will be freed not only from the power and penalty of sin but also from the presence of sin, and when we will express our gratitude to the praise of his glory (14c).

God’s ultimate purpose is wrapped up in this phrase, the praise of his glory” (or, his glorious praise). We were chosen in Christ “to the praise of his glorious grace” (6). We trusted Christ “to the praise of his glory” (12). And we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption to the praise of his glory (14).

Conclusions

Thus, the apex of Paul’s introductory doxology is reached. God has blessed us in the past, the present, and the future. In a past eternity God sovereignly decreed the election of his own special people. Down through the ages, he has been calling them to himself. Now he has chosen and called you and me through faith in Christ. Having chosen us, God also predestined us to adoption as his children.

In the present era of his grace, God put into effect his great plan of redemption through Christ’s work on the cross. And he has made known to us “the mystery of his will”, that at end, the consummation of the age, he will unite all things under Christ’s headship.

Finally, and most importantly, in the future, God will bring us into our eternal inheritance, the realization of all his promises and blessings, having been kept by the Holy Spirit for this very thing, even the eternal praise of God.

And those whom he has chosen and called he has unified into one body, the church. We are a part of his holy coalition that has been called out to worship him and that has been marshalled to serve him.

Let us never lose sight of what God has done for us in Christ. In Christ He has chosen us and predestined us to be his children. In Christ He has redeemed us, forgiven our sins. In Christ He has predestined us to an eternal inheritance. In Christ He has sealed us by the Holy Spirit until the completion of our redemption.

These are our common blessings in Christ which we enjoy together. How appropriate, then, that we should express our gratitude that, of all the people of the world, he chose us to salvation and adoption, to be part of his special people, the church; that in order to make this choice possible his Son had to die; and that all of this marvelous plan was conceived in eternity. May this challenge us to live “holy and blameless lives before him”, living as children of our heavenly Father ought to live, praising him for his glorious grace”.

Don’t you find God’s grace amazing? That God would care about us? That he would plan for our salvation in a past eternity? That he would choose us to be the beneficiaries of his redemption. And that now he has given us the ability to understand the grand scheme of things, the grand finale to which history is headed and for which everything was planned, namely, the pre-eminence of his beloved Son. No wonder Paul started this doxology by blessing the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”

What is your response today? Out of a heart that has been touched by his grace, will you respond with a burst of praise for his glorious grace which he has made known to us in the Lord Jesus Christ? Together let us say with Paul: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (3). Together we must respond to the praise of his glory for he is worthy.


1 C. H. Spurgeon, Quoting Spurgeon, ed. Raspantini, 45.

2 William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians, New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 77.

3 John Phillips, Exploring Ephesians, An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1995), 33-34.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

3. Prayer #1: A Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment (Eph. 1:15-23)

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Introduction

After describing in detail the blessings that are ours in Christ (1:3-14), Paul now goes to prayer on behalf of the Ephesians. This is the first of two prayers in this epistle. The first is a prayer for enlightenment; the second is a prayer for empowerment (3:14-21).

In this first prayer, Paul prays that the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ may be known and appropriated by us, that we will comprehend and make use of the blessings and resources that are ours. So, the theme of this prayer is that “prayer is the key to spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

This prayer starts with…

I. Thanksgiving To God For Salvation (15-16)

For this reason, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (15-16a).

Why did Paul give ceaseless thanks to God for them? He gave ceaseless thanks to God for them because he had heard of (1) their faith in the Lord Jesus, and (2) their love for all the saints. When he heard that they had been saved, and that they were demonstrating the reality of their salvation in their love for God’s people, he repeatedly gave thanks for them in prayer. What greater source of joy and thanksgiving could there be than the salvation of souls? Do you rejoice when people are saved? Or does it merely make you yawn? Do you have a passion for souls?

Paul gives thanks for the two marks of genuine salvation…

1. The First Mark Of Genuine Salvation Is… “Faith In The Lord Jesus

They had heard the gospel of salvation. They recognized it by faith to be the word of truth and they believed it (13). In particular, they expressed faith in the Lord Jesus.

They put their faith in the Lord. They submitted to his lordship over them. They acknowledged his deity. They recognized his sovereignty over their lives. This is evidence of genuine salvation – to be marked by saving submission to the sovereign Lord. Scripture is clear: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Furthermore, “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3) and only true believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling them (1:13-14).

Not only that, but they put their faith in Jesus, the one who came to be the Saviour of the world, the one who saved them from their sins. He was the object of their faith and the means of their salvation, for “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16).

2. The Second Mark Of Genuine Salvation Is… “Love For All The Saints”

Indiscriminate love for all the saints is a mark of a genuine Christian - not loving some and not others, but love for all the saints, loving them as Christ loves them. 1 John 3:14 is clear, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 Jn. 3:14).

Knowledge of God’s word must be balanced by love for God’s people. You can talk all you like about the truth and about theology, but without love your talk is just like “sounding brass or a clanging symbol” (1 Cor. 13:1).

True salvation is expressed in our oneness with all other Christians, a oneness that is characterized by love – not a love that is only a feeling which can come and go, not a love that is in word only, but a love that is in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:18) – i.e. practical, kind, genuine, and generous. Faith and love are inseparable in genuine believers. It’s sad to think that, as time went by, these believers in Ephesus kept their faith but lost their first love (Rev. 2:2-4).

Faith without love is lifeless. Love without faith is permissive. A loveless faith is cause for doubt about that person’s salvation. So, examine your own heart. Do you love all the people of God? Or, do you love some and not others? Do you love those whom you find attractive, nice, but despise those whom you find offensive? If the church is to be united in practice and not just theory, we must love all the saints, embrace them in our prayers and do acts of kindness for them. It’s not enough to merely say you love the people of God. That statement must be supported by action or it is empty.

There are so many ways that you can show your love to the saints. You can visit those who are shut in by virtue of old age or sickness. You can help to financially support the poor. You can encourage the down-hearted. You can serve others in many different ways through the various ministries of the church and personal acts of kindness.

After the thanksgiving for their salvation, this prayer continues with a…

II. A Petition For Spiritual Understanding (17-23)

… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (17).

Paul’s prayer is addressed to and invokes the blessing of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. This expression takes us back to Ephesians 1:3, where the same description of God is used. In using this expression, Paul distinguishes between God the Father and God the Son and in so doing emphasizes the divine nature of the Son, who is equal to, and one in essence with, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Here, however, Paul adds the descriptive phrase, the Father of glory. He probably adds this to indicate how the glory of the Father is so prominently displayed in the blessings which he has bestowed on us (1:4-14).

The request in this prayer is specifically for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (17). The subject of the petition is that the same God who has blessed them with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3) will also give them a full and accurate comprehension of who they are in Christ and what they have in him, by giving them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

There is much debate among commentators as to whether the word “spirit” refers to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit. There are several arguments that push me towards understanding this phrase as a reference to the human spirit in the sense of “a disposition, influence, attitude”.1

  1. Jesus used the word “spirit” in this way when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).
  2. The noun “spirit” is not preceded by a definite article, so it literally reads “a” spirit not “the” Spirit.
  3. It would not make sense that Paul would pray that God would give them the Holy Spirit, when he has just said that they already have him (1:13). F. F. Bruce explains, “As in Col. 1:9 the object of intercessory prayer is that the readers ‘may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will together with all wisdom and spiritual understanding,’ so here prayer is offered that the readers may be given ‘a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.’”2

Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that such a spirit cannot be exercised without the work of the Holy Spirit. As John Phillips puts it, “The spirit of wisdom and revelation that gives us the knowledge of Him must come from the Holy Spirit.”3 This is a request that the wisdom and insight that God has already supplied to us (8) may be continuously communicated to us in ever deeper ways by his Spirit (Col. 1:9). Again F. F. Bruce writes, “A ‘spirit of wisdom and revelation’ can be imparted only through him who is the personal Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”4

Thus, Paul is praying that the Ephesian believers would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation (insight, understanding) in the knowledge of Christ. This is a prayer for practical knowledge and right conduct, which only the Holy Spirit can give. This is a prayer that God will grant the spiritual ability to understand His blessings toward us in Christ and to live in the good of those spiritual resources. This is a prayer that the Holy Spirit who indwells and seals us (1:13) will give us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation, which is a special gift, manifestation, or application of the Holy Spirit.”5

To this end, it is also entirely appropriate to petition God for a spirit of revelation… in the knowledge of him. Revelation goes beyond wisdom. It has more the sense of spiritual understanding through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. “Only as God reveals by his Spirit can his people understand by that same Spirit.” 6 It is solely the work of God by the Holy Spirit (cf. 3:5), who opens up to us not new truth, but the meaning and application of the revealed truth about God that we already have. In this sense, revelation continues to be given by God through the Holy Spirit to all believers to enable us to understand what God has disclosed to us and how to live by it. Through the Holy Spirit, God reveals to us things that the natural mind cannot understand, namely the “deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:6-16).

In Christ, God has given us all that we need to know him fully and to live the Christian life properly. What we need is the right “spirit,” the right disposition, the right desire to comprehend the revelation we already have and to appropriate it for ourselves. So, don’t become distracted, looking for some sort of hidden spiritual treasure, some illusive key to spiritual blessing or power. We have it all in Christ. All we need to do is enter into all that God has given us – his grace, peace, forgiveness, future inheritance etc.

Therefore, the underlying thrust of our petitions should be, not for more blessings, more resources, or more power, but for more understanding in the use of all that he has already given to us at the moment we were saved; for the Spirit to be at work giving insight into and unveiling the purposes of God in Christ; and for growth in the knowledge of him.

This prayer of petition, then, is for the spiritual enlightenment of believers in the knowledge of God, the eyes of your heart (understanding) having been enlightened (18a). The heart in the ancient world was the centre of knowledge, of understanding and wisdom, the seat of the mind and will. The spiritual eyes of their hearts had been enlightened because they had heard the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (13). They had believed it and trusted Christ for salvation and they had been sealed with the Holy Spirit. Thus, the eyes of their heart had been enlightened; spiritual light had penetrated their understanding through the gospel, just as it did the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:31-32), to whom Jesus revealed in the Scriptures the things concerning himself such that their “heart” burned within them and their “eyes” were opened so that they could understand the significance of what had just been revealed to them.

Divine enlightenment turns information into truth which is understandable. Once enlightened by the gospel we can receive greater truth, a deeper, fuller understanding of the gospel. If you read the Scriptures and cannot understand them as I often do, pray that the Spirit of God will open your spiritual eyes so that the light of God's Word can pour into you heart, revealing to you its significance.

This petition for spiritual enlightenment in the knowledge of Christ has three specific purposes or objectives…

1. To Know The Hope Of God’s Calling (18b)

That you may know what is the hope of his calling. To know in a deeper, fuller way the truth of God’s call - our election, predestination, adoption as God’s children, our redemption and our inheritance. All that we are and have in Christ is due to God’s call in Christ, something we should never forget and something we should want to understand more and more. We need to go beyond merely knowing that we are saved to a full realization of who we are in Christ, what our position is in Christ, and how we should live for Christ.

God has called us for a purpose: to be holy and without blame before him in love (4); to live to the praise of his glorious grace (6); to know the mystery of his will (9); to look forward to the completion of our redemption (11); to live securely in the seal of the HS (13-14); to walk worthy of his calling (4:1-2). God has called us to a radical new way of life in view of a secure destiny. It is a call to obedience to Christ, fellowship with Christ and each other, and a glorious eternal future.

Notice, it’s not just knowing God’s calling, but the hope of his calling. God’s call gives us a sure and certain hope - the hope that what he did in the past has secured our future; the hope that our redemption will be consummated in glorification; the hope that our life now will soon be eternal life with Christ in glory.

The first objective of this prayer is to know the hope of God’s calling. The second is…

2. To Know The Riches Of Our Inheritance (18c)

That you may know… what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in / among the saints. The interpretive issue here is, whose inheritance is this referring to – God’s or ours? Is this our inheritance that God is going to bestow on us, or is it God’s own inheritance of his people which he will enter into? I think it refers to our inheritance which God will give us, an inheritance which is in / among the saints. Here are some of my reasons for drawing this interpretive conclusion:

  1. Paul has already outlined our blessings from God in Christ in the previous paragraph (1:3-14) – our election, our predestination, our redemption, which will culminate in our inheritance. In fact, he has written twice in the preceding paragraph of our inheritance: “In him also we have obtained an inheritance (11)… In him you also… were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (1:14, ESV). So it makes sense that he is referring here in this prayer (18) to the same inheritance, which God will give us on that day.
  2. In 2:6-7 he speaks again of the fulfillment of our blessings, when God will “show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward is in Christ Jesus.” Again, it is God who bestows this on us, not something that God inherits.
  3. The notion that God is waiting to enter into his inheritance just does not make sense. God has already taken possession of us in Christ - we are his own special people (1 Pet. 2:9) who have an eternal inheritance of which we will acquire possession (1:14) in a coming day.
  4. As John Piper clearly explains, in the three instances where “Paul wants us to see with the eyes of the heart and grasp in a profound way, it turns out that he uses the very same wording when they come from God or go toward God. For example, he wants us to see the hope of his calling, the glory of his inheritance, and third the greatness of his power…I think it would be really strange if the modifier his had a different meaning in regard to the inheritance than it has in regard to the calling and power. It’s his calling in the sense that he gives it. It’s his power in the sense that he has it and gives it. And it’s his inheritance in the sense that he gives it to us…Finally, if you do a word study and look up all the places where Paul uses the word inheritance or inherit or heir, you find that they never refer to God inheriting, God’s receiving and inheritance, or God’s being an heir.” 7

I conclude, therefore, that his glorious inheritance among the saints refers to our inheritance that comes from God and which is bestowed on us as a community of faith, the saints.

Paul prays, then, that we, believers, will know the truth about our inheritance from God. God “has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12), an inheritance that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:4), the final possession of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (14).

It’s not just knowing our inheritance, but the riches of it, for “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). The riches of this inheritance are beyond our imagination, but through the illumination of the Holy Spirit we can grasp them in a deeper, fuller way. The riches of this glorious inheritance are to see God, to be with and like Christ, to be gathered with all the saints from all time. One day the riches of this glorious inheritance will be ours as “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

Paul prays for believers to know God’s call in the past, our inheritance from God in the future, and in the present…

3. To Know The Greatness Of God’s Power (19-23)

That you may know…what is the exceeding greatness of his power (19a). God’s power is not only great but exceedingly great. God’s power surpasses all other powers – even those that are great. It is the power on which our calling and inheritance rely. To know that the entirety of our lives - past, present, and future - is controlled by the mighty power of God is very comforting and assuring.

God's exceedingly great power is exercised fully for our benefit: toward us who believe according to the working of his mighty power (19b). His power is exercised solely for the benefit of believers. We alone are saved and kept by his power and will be glorified by his power. His power is exercised to the full for us. His power is made available to us to the full extent of his mighty strength.

Notice it does not say “out of” but “according to his mighty power. He exercises the full measure of his might and power for us. Whatever power he has is available to us - not just a part of it but all of it.

His physical strength (ισχυος) is a mighty, manifested power, all of which he energizes and mobilizes for us. And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). All the strength of the greatest power of the universe, the Creator himself, is available and working for us.

So, how can we know God’s exceedingly great power?

A) We Know The Greatness Of His Power In Christ’s Resurrection From The Dead.

which he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead (20a). Only God has power over death. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is full and final proof of the exceedingly great power of God.

B) We Know The Greatness Of His Power In Christ’s Exaltation Over All Other Powers.

and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above every ruler and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (20b-21).

Christ has been exalted above all evil, opposing powers. In 1 Cor. 15:24-26 these powers are “enemies who are to be put under Christ’s feet.” Notice the allusion to Ps. 110:1 and 8:6. Eph. 6:12 explains that “the principalities and authorities are evil forces (cf. also 2:2) so that in this letter as a whole the powers are to be conceived as hostile beings,” 8 all of whom will be made subject to him according to the working of (God’s) mighty power.

God not only raised Christ from the dead, but he raised him to the position of universal lordship and dominion to exercise power on God’s behalf, at his right hand in heavenly places.

The scope of God’s power is far above any opposition or competition; far above every ruler, authority, power, and dominion, and (in case there may be any other force) far above every name that is named both now and forever, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

God’s power in Christ is absolute and pre-eminent and eternal. His rule is over every imaginable cosmic power. He is supreme over the whole universe. He alone has the power over death and evil. We cannot avoid death nor can we on our own overcome evil, but God in Christ has overcome them both and reigns supreme.

C) We Know The Greatness Of His Power In Christ’s Headship Over The Church.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all (22-23).

Christ rules the entire universe in the interest of the church. Therefore, nothing can prevent our resurrection and the realization of our inheritance. The church is Christ’s body (which he directs and indwells) and the church is his fullness. He fills it just as he fills all things – i.e. the universe.

This petition is not for power but for divine knowledge of that power. We do not pray for the power we already have but for the knowledge of how to appropriate it for ourselves, how to live in the good of it. Through divine wisdom and revelation we enter into the benefit of God’s power, we rejoice in it, we are secure in it. We need to understand God’s power, to rest in it, to avail ourselves of it. It has saved us and secures us for his service and his eternal enjoyment and glory.

The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise us up to glory (2 Cor. 4:14; Rom. 8:11). This eliminates any doubt as to God’s ability to complete our redemption. Therefore, how can we feel insecure? How can you think that you could be saved and lost again?

The power of God supercedes any other power in the universe, whether good or evil, and it is exercised on our behalf. No matter what opposition we may encounter in spiritual battles, God’s power is greater. He has raised Christ far above all of Satan’s hosts (the demons of darkness), far above the angelic hosts, far above every name in this age or the age to come.

Christ is the sovereign Lord of the universe and of the church. All his power is available in and for the church. So be strong and of good courage. No evil power is greater than God’s exceedingly great power.

Conclusions

I think that the structure of Paul’s prayer is most instructive:

I. Thanksgiving to God (15-16)

… for the testimony of their salvation in:

1. Their faith in the Lord Jesus (15a)

2. Their love for all the saints (15b)

II. Petition to God (17-23)

… for the knowledge of God (17):

1. To know the hope of God’s calling (18b)

2. To know the riches of God’s inheritance (18c)

3. To know the greatness of God’s power (19-23)

From this structure we can draw several practical applications to our prayer lives:

1. Prayer begins with praising God for his blessings (3-14). Do you remember to praise God for his blessings?

2. Praise leads to thanksgiving (15-16) and petition (17-23). When was the last time you thanked God for those who exemplify faith and love? When did you last ask God for a fuller knowledge of his ways with us - for the full knowledge of His past dealings with us; for the full knowledge of His future plans for us; and for the full knowledge of His present power toward us.

3. This prayer is not about feelings or experience but about knowledge - the knowledge of our incomparable hope in Christ, our inheritance with the saints, and God’s power toward us. Do you want more of the knowledge of God in Christ, of his blessings, his work, his resources, his plans and purposes? If you do, study God’s Word, pray for God’s enlightenment through his Spirit and you’ll grow spiritually in the riches of God. No wonder the apostle Paul could say: Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).

Do you want security, comfort, confidence, hope, and freedom? You can find it in what God has revealed to us by his Spirit in his Word. Pray that God would reveal these truths to you in a practical way.


1 John MacArthur, Ephesians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Institute, 1986), 44.

2 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians, The New Testament International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 269.

3 John Phillips, Exploring Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 49.

4 Bruce Bruce, 269.

5 Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), 165.

6 Bruce, 269.

7 (https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/ephesians-1-18-who-will-receive-the-riches-of-heaven). From an audio transcript of an interview with John Piper.

8 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 64.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

4. Our United Transformation: Made Alive Together In Christ (Eph. 2:1-10)

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“You were dead…but God…made us alive together…with Christ”

Introduction

Continuing his theme of our “United Position in Christ,” Paul now moves on from “Our United Blessings in Christ” to “Our United Transformation in Christ.” Just as all believers are united together in one body through our united blessings of election, predestination, redemption, and inheritance, so we are also bound together by our united transformation – a transformation from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Transformation involves a complete change. Sometimes the change may be so dramatic that you can’t recognize it. It’s like decorating a house. If you decorate a room in your house the change might be so drastic that you would say: “It’s transformed.” Perhaps the room has changed from a dreary colour to a bright colour, from being painted to being wall-papered, from an old-fashioned look to a contemporary look.

That’s transformation! And that’s what God has done to us. He has completely changed us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from the lusts of the flesh to the power of the Spirit. The truth is this: Only by God’s mercy, love, and grace are we transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Spiritual transformation involves radical change - a contrast between being “dead” (3) and being “made alive” (4-10); a change from what we were to what we are; a conversion from our old condition in the flesh (sin and degradation) to our new condition in Christ (a new life with good works).

All Christians experience the same spiritual transformation. We have the same “Position in Christ” not only because we share the same “Blessings in Christ” which bind our faith together, but also because we have experienced the same “Transformation in Christ.” We all had the same old life before we trusted Christ and we all have the same new life in Christ from the time of our conversion.

The flow of thought here moves from the reminder of our past condition of spiritual death (and its causes and effects) to the description of our present condition of spiritual life. Notice that…

I. Before We Knew Christ, We Were Condemned To Spiritual Death (2:1-3)

And you were dead in trespasses and sins (1). To be dead here means to be dead spiritually not physically. It means you have no spiritual life. You are alive physically but without Christ. It means that your life is dominated by trespasses and sins. So, how do you know if you are spiritually dead? What does a spiritually dead person look like? Paul says…

1. To Be Spiritually Dead Means That Your Behaviour Is Worldly (2)

Two activities describe worldly behaviour. First, you lived (walked) according to the course of this world (2a). Your walk refers to your moral conduct, your manner of life. Paul says: “Your lifestyle was characterized as being of this age (i.e. the age of fallen human existence), of this world (i.e. the world of sinful humanity) and, therefore, it is contrary to and apart from God.” It is a life that is entirely focused on self and not focused on God. It is a life that is “this-worldly” not “other-worldly.” The world is that system that is entirely opposed to Christ. It is a system that is under the dominion of “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). “All that is in the world…is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:16). There is no compatibility, no point of contact, no similarity whatsoever between what is “of this world” and what is “of the Father.” Indeed, the former (the world) excludes the latter (the Father). The former is temporal; the latter is eternal. The former is physical; the latter is spiritual.

To walk according to the course of this world means that you live in accordance with the world’s standards and objectives; that you have adopted the value system of the world. “And that,” Paul says, “is what your life was like before you knew Christ.”

To be spiritually dead means that your behaviour is worldly. One activity that describes worldly behaviour is living according to the course of this world.

The second activity that describes worldly behaviour is that you lived… according to the prince of the power of the air (2b). Satan is the prince of the power of the air. He commands the principalities and powers - his emissaries, evil powers of the spirit world, powers which have enormous sway over and in the world. The ways of Satan and his emissaries are the ways of the world. He is the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) and so the world is characterized by deceit and corruption. He is a “murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44) and so the world is marked by murder and violence. Satan is the ruler of this world (Jn. 16:11; see Eph. 6:11). Those who walk according to this world are in allegiance with the prince of the power (realm) of the air and are under his dominion.

To be under Satan’s dominion means that you are under the influence of his spirit, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (2c). It means that your life is lived in submission to Satan and disobedience to God. The pre-Christian state (i.e. what you were before you trusted Christ) is one that is under the control of Satan and, therefore, one that is entirely contrary to the will of God (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9; Acts 5:3). And all of us lived under Satan’s control at one time. We were sons of disobedience among whom also we all once conducted ourselves (2c-3a). We all lived as they did in trespasses and sins (1). The nature and conduct of man in the flesh is universally the same - we are rebels against God (regardless of race, color, or ancestry). “There is no difference (distinction) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

To be spiritually dead means that your behaviour is worldly. And…

2. To Be Spiritually Dead Means That Your Nature Is Corrupted (3)

Not only were we sinful externally in our worldly behaviour, but also we were sinful internally in our corrupt nature.

We Lived To Satisfy Our Sinful Appetites.

Just as we were all “sons of disobedience” (2), so we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh (3a). The lusts of the flesh are our sinful appetites and motives, the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21), which are in opposition to God. All of us at one time patterned our lives after our natural desires. We all had this tendency toward evil things that bring our flesh pleasure with no thought of God in them, nothing spiritual only sensual. Our main pursuit was satisfying our own self-interests, fulfilling the desires of the flesh.

Those who live in the lust of the flesh also live to fulfill the desires of the mind (3b). Fulfilling the desires of the flesh is not enough. They seek also to fulfill the desires of the mind, such that their entire being is occupied with their own sinful appetites. They do those things that appeal to the desires of the flesh and they occupy their minds with those things that appeal to their sinful imaginations. Their sinful pursuits are not limited to external behaviours but include also internal thoughts. Sin permeates even the hidden recesses of their minds. The mind by nature is alienated and at enmity with God (Col. 1:21) because it is puffed up with self-importance. By our natural minds we think we know better than God, just as Adam and Eve thought that they knew more than God in the garden. And where does such arrogance come from? It comes from the father of arrogance and lies himself, the devil.

So, to be spiritually dead means that (1) your behaviour was worldly and (2) your nature was corrupted. Because our nature was corrupted we lived to satisfy our sinful appetites. Also, because our nature was corrupted…

We Lived Under The Just Condemnation Of God.

Just as we were all sons of disobedience,” so also we were by nature children of wrath, just as the others (3c).

As natural children bear certain traits inherited from their parents (looks, behaviour, beliefs etc.), so we bear certain spiritual traits, prior to knowing Christ, through an inherited sinful nature (i.e. because of original sin). This sinful nature predisposes us to walk in the lust of our flesh, which incurs the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36). Hence we were by nature children of wrath. By following our natural instincts which are derived from our inherited sin nature (our flesh) we were subject to the wrath of God and doomed to his condemnation. We were under the fearful wrath of almighty God. What is true of all humanity was once true of all believers. “We, believers,” Paul says, “were by nature children of wrath, just as the others, just like the rest of humanity. We were no different.”

Perhaps you’re still living for the flesh like the rest of humanity. Your life is characterized by “the world,” by the “lust of the flesh,” by “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Perhaps your life is wholly centred on yourself - you have no time for God, no time for eternity, no time for spiritual things. All you care about is the here and now, physical gratification. Your motto is “I will pull down my barns and build greater…eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die (Lk. 12:18-19).

Remember, God holds you accountable. “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). There is a reckoning day coming. One day, God will say, “You fool. This night your soul shall be required of you” (Lk. 12:20). If your life ends up in disobedience to God you’ll be judged for it. He’ll say to you, Depart from me; I do not know you” (Lk. 13:27). That’s the end result of continuing in trespasses and sins, of walking wilfully and openly in disobedience to God.

This, then, is the picture of us before we knew Christ. Because our behaviour was worldly and our nature was corrupted, we were condemned to spiritual death. If the story ended there, we would be cast into despair. But that was then and this is now. Before we knew Christ we were condemned to spiritual death, but…

II. When We Know Christ, We Are Transformed To Spiritual Life (1:4-10)

But God (4a) marks a sharp contrast. We know what we were transformed from. Now we see what we were transformed to. It’s the contrast between our “dead” condition as disobedient sinners and our “alive” condition as saints. When we hear but God, we can breathe a sigh of relief. He is the solution to our desperate plight. God’s intervention is the key to our spiritual transformation that has taken place. When we became Christians, God transformed us to spiritual life such that…

1. Our Spiritual Transformation Is A Marvel Of God’s Mercy And Love (4-6)

The God of wrath is also the God who is rich in mercy (4a). His mercy overflows from his supply of riches - it is abundant. God does not extend mercy begrudgingly, stingily. He lavishes his mercy on us out of his riches.

I read once about an angry tigress which had become trapped in an illegal wild boar trap in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. She struggled for hours to free herself but could not. All conventional attempts to shoot the tigress out of the trap failed in the thick underbrush. Finally, five barbiturate capsules fired from Malaya’s only “mercy gun” by Game Warden Metcalfe put the beast to sleep and into a coma that lasted four days. That’s mercy!

God’s mercy too releases us from a trap - the trap of sin, from which we could not by our own efforts extricate ourselves. His mercy is not in the form of a gun but in the form of love - love that offered his own Son to be our Saviour, to take our place, to bear the consequences of our sin so that we could go free. That’s mercy! 1

The God whose mercy is rich is also the God whose love is great. His rich mercy flows from his great love with which he loved us (4b). He held out his mercy to us because he loved us even when we were dead in trespasses (5a); even when we hated him without a cause; even when we were wholly abhorrent to him; even when we couldn’t so much as cry out for mercy; even when we were devoid of spiritual life! That was when God made known to us the marvel of his mercy and love. God’s mercy and love are a marvel in two ways…

First, God’s Mercy And Love Are A Marvel Because Of Our Transformed Condition.

He transformed our condition by making us alive. God has made us alive together with Christ (5b). It isn’t that God reformed our deadness. You can’t revive or reform a dead person. No. He made us alive! While we were still dead in sins he injected new life into us, a life that is from God and responds to God; a life that forms the basis of the intimate union of believers with each other and with Christ. He transformed our condition entirely by his grace, for by grace you have been saved (5c).

To be made alive is to be saved, saved from our old condition and transformed into the new. And to be saved is to be the recipient of God’s grace. God saw us in our pitiful condition, in rebellion against him, and yet showed to us his mercy and love. That’s grace!

So, first, our transformation to spiritual life is a marvel of God’s mercy and love because of our transformed condition. And…

Second, God’s Mercy And Love Are A Marvel Because Of Our Transformed Position.

He made us alive together and he raised us up together (6a) to a transformed position. For someone to be made alive after death necessitates resurrection. What good would it do to give a dead person life (if you could) without raising him from the dead? The one necessitates the other. 2 We have been raised from the grave, loosed from our grave clothes, and set free. No longer are we confined to the tomb of spiritual deadness by the cords of sin. We have been raised from that old position, just as God raised Christ from the dead (1:20).

So, not only has God raised us up from our dead condition but he has also raised us up to a new position. He has enthroned us with Christ, made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (6b). He has given us the place of honour and power that he has given to his Son. We have been raised with Christ to the place where he reigns supreme, seated alongside him in his exaltation and power, sharing with him in his resurrection and victory. That’s the new position to which we have been raised together.

This is not referring to a future event only.3 This enthronement has already taken place in our union with Christ. What will take place physically at the end of time has already taken place spiritually through our union with him.

Our spiritual transformation, then, is a marvel of God's mercy. And…

2. Our Spiritual Transformation Is A Monument To God’s Grace And Kindness (7-10)

A monument is something visible and tangible that reminds us of a person or event – who they were or what they did. Our spiritual transformation is a monument to God’s grace.

It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Future Resurrection (7).

The great purpose of our spiritual transformation is that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (7). Our resurrection with Christ will serve throughout the ages as a permanent monument, a permanent show piece, a permanent testimony, a permanent tribute, a permanent display of God’s grace and kindness, its vastness and its wonder.

Our spiritual transformation is a monument to God’s grace in our future resurrection and…

It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Past Salvation (8).

For by grace you have been saved through faith (8a). Grace is the source of our salvation. By nature we were under the wrath of God but by grace we are saved by God. God's grace cannot be fathomed; it is beyond comprehension. The essence of saving grace is that it comes only from God and it is free. It is God extending his favour to undeserving humanity.

Imagine you have a six year old son whom you love dearly. Tragically, one day you discover that your son has been horribly murdered. After a lengthy search the investigators find the killer. Now you have some choices. If you used every means in your power to kill the murderer for his crime, that would be vengeance. If, however, you were content to sit back and let the legal authorities take over and execute on him what is proper (i.e. a fair trial, a plea of guilty, capital punishment), that would be justice. But if you should plead for the pardon of the murderer, forgive him completely, invite him into your home, and adopt him as your son, that would be grace. 4

Do you want to see the grace of God? Look at someone who has been born again, given new life in Christ. Look at someone whose life has been radically transformed by Christ. They are the eternal trophy of God’s exceedingly rich grace.

If, then, grace is the source of salvation, then faith is the means of salvation. By grace you have been saved through faith. Faith is the means by which God’s grace is appropriated. By faith, we not only passively surrender to God - submit to his lordship - but also by faith, we actively respond to his grace - trust him, receive his offer of salvation, repent before God and confess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

In no sense is salvation something that we can earn or merit, it’s a gift - not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (8b). God has extended to us a gift. What is that gift? What does “it” refer to – it is the gift of God? “It” is not limited specifically to faith as the gift of God (as you may think), since it is neuter and faith is feminine. Rather, it refers to the whole work of salvation, the entire previous clause – you have been saved by God’s grace through faith.

Since salvation is a gift from God there is no room for human pride. It is not of works lest anyone should boast (9). Both the work of salvation and the results of salvation are God’s work alone, not ours.

Our transformation to spiritual life is a monument to God’s grace in our future resurrection, in our past salvation, and thirdly…

It’s A Monument To God’s Grace In Our Present Condition.

We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (10). We are God’s re-creative workmanship in Christ Jesus. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, all things are made new (2 Cor 5:17). Just as our persons are God’s work, so also are our good works - not works for salvation but because of salvation. We are saved for good works and not by or because them. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not the root.

So, the result of salvation is that those who once lived for self (1-3) now live for God. Those who once walked according to this world now walk in good works (10b). There is more to salvation than just the forgiveness of sins. Once you’re saved, you’re called to a life of faith shown in good works. 5 In the end result, it isn’t only what we confess that proves the reality of our Christianity, it’s what we do. We have been transformed in thought, word and deed.

Is that what characterizes your life? Has your life changed? Is there a difference in how you think, speak, and act? The Bible tells us that unless there is a change, you have no right to think that you’re a Christian.

Conclusions

Christians are those who have been spiritually transformed, those who have been transformed from spiritual deadness to spiritual life, those to whom God shows his grace by offering them mercy, those who by faith receive God’s gracious offer through the work of Christ alone.

Christians are those whom God has made alive in Christ, raised and seated in heavenly places to participate in Christ’s victory over Satan, death, and hell.

Christians are new creations of God’s workmanship, those who display the work of God in their lives through good works which glorify God.

This is our united transformation in Christ. We have all been brought into the same spiritual blessings in Christ (ch. 1) and we have all experienced the same spiritual transformation in Christ (ch. 2). All because God, solely by his grace, intervened in our lives. This is cause for worship both here and in eternity. This is why we must prostrate ourselves at his feet.

When was the last time you thanked God for his mercy to you? How often does it touch your heart what God has done for you? Has your life been transformed by the power of God in Christ? Have you been raised from spiritual deadness to spiritual life? Do you know the grace of God in your life as expressed in his mercy toward you? If not, will you respond now?

John Newton was trained by his father for a life in the Royal Navy. But Newton mocked authority and ran with the wrong crowd. He went to Africa in his early twenties and made his living on the “Greyhound,” a slave ship that crossed the Atlantic. Newton poked fun at religion and made jokes about it. One day the “Greyhound” ran into a huge storm. Newton awoke to find his cabin filled with water. After working the pumps all night, he finally threw himself on the deck and pleaded: “If this will not do, then Lord have mercy on us all.”

Newton received mercy, together with the Greyhound and its crew. Later, he wrote “Amazing Grace” and other hymns. At the end of his life he said: “My memory is almost gone but I remember two things: I am a great sinner, and Jesus is a great Saviour. That’s the language of one who has been transformed by the grace of God.


1 Tom Olson, Now, quoted in “The Speakers Sourcebook II,” ed. Eleanor Doan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988), 256.

2 Ephesians expresses our dead condition as a result of sin, not, as in Romans, as a result of our identification with Christ in baptism. Nevertheless our experience of being dead in sins, being made alive in Christ, and being raised from that spiritual death parallels Romans 6:1-11, Col. 2:11-13, Col. 3:1-4.

3 Contrast with Matt. 19:28; Lk. 22:30; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 20:4; 22:5.

4 Source unknown

5 See James 1:22; 2:14-26; 1 Tim. 6:18; Tit. 2:7; 1 Pet. 2:12

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

5. Our United Relationship In Christ, Pt. 1: “The Mystery Of The One Body Accomplished” (Eph. 2:11-22)

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“You who were once aliens…are now fellow-citizens…”

Introduction

Believers share not only united blessings in Christ (1:3-14), and a united transformation in Christ (2:1-10), but also a united relationship in Christ (2:11-22). Our united blessings in Christ have the same roots – the same root of election and the same root of redemption – and we all anticipate the same inheritance based on the same confidence in Christ ensured by the same Holy Spirit, all for the glory of God alone. In Christ also we have experienced a united transformation. God in his mercy and grace has transformed our condition, making us alive in Christ, and he has transformed our position, raising us up with Christ.

But how can such people who were so different, even alienated, live together in harmony? How can our national and religious differences be set aside? How can we be united as one body? That’s the subject of this passage – how people who were formerly enemies of each other (Jews and Gentiles) and of God are brought together in one body to form the church, God's dwelling place on earth. This passage makes clear that through God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus, he has taken very different people and formed us into one new entity, one household, the church. All distinctions between us have been broken down such that…

…a distant relationship is made near (2:11-13)

…a hostile relationship is made peaceful (2:14-18)

…a foreign relationship is made familial (2:19-22)

What was formerly the exclusive relationship of the Jews to God as his elect people is now the common relationship of all believers.

Adopted children sometimes want to find their birth parents. I suppose this is because there is within all of us this inherent desire to be in relationship with others and there is no relationship so dear as the family.

When she turned 21, Tammy Harris from Roanoke, Virginia, began searching for her biological mother. After a year, she had not succeeded. What she didn’t know was that her mother, Joyce Schultz, had been trying to locate her for twenty years. According to an Associated Press story, there was one more thing Tammy didn’t know: Her mother was one of her co-workers at the convenience store where she worked!

One day Joyce overheard Tammy talking with another co-worker about trying to find her mother. Soon they were comparing birth certificates. When Tammy realized that the co-worker she had known was, in fact, her mother, she fell into her arms. “We held on for the longest time,” Tammy said. “It was the best day of my life.” 1

One of the best experiences in the Christian life is to enter into the most intimate and vital family relationship in the world – namely, the family of God. As we study this passage together, notice firstly that…

I. A Distant Relationship Is Made Near (11-13)

Again, the pronoun changes from “we” back to “you”. The focus is again on the Gentiles and their relationship to the Jewish believers and to God.

1. Their Former Relationship Was One Of Complete Distance

They were considered inferior by the so-called “circumcision”. Therefore remember that you were once Gentiles in the flesh called “the uncircumcision by what is called “the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands (11).

They were mere Gentiles in the flesh. They lacked the sign of God’s covenant people. That’s why they were called the uncircumcision (11a). The Jews had what they lacked – circumcision (11b), the mark of covenant relationship with God (Gen. 17:11). Even though circumcision was only a mark that was made in the flesh by human hands (11c), and even though it was only outward and physical (not inward and spiritual), nonetheless it was a mark of distinction for the Jews, a source of pride. That’s why they looked down on the Gentiles, held them in an inferior position, rendered them distant, hostile, and foreign. Listen to how the apostle Paul described the Gentiles before they became Christians:

1. They were Christless: 2 At that time, you were without Christ (12a). They had no relationship with him. They were living in the world under the influence of the ruler of this world. They were sons of disobedience, children of wrath and, thus, they were separate from Christ.

2. They were stateless: aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (12b). They didn’t belong to Israel’s community. They were outlawed. Therefore, they didn’t have the rights of citizenship nor could they participate in the national or religious life of Israel. 3

3. They were friendless: strangers from the covenants of promise (12c). They couldn’t claim or experience the covenantal faithfulness and promises of Jehovah.

4. They were hopeless: having no hope (12d). They had no hope of salvation through the coming Messiah whom God had promised would deliver his people. They had no hope in God because they had turned their back on God and chosen, instead, to “walk according to the way of this world” (2). Without a relationship with God, this “world” certainly couldn’t give them hope or comfort. 4

5. They were Godless: without God in the world (12e). If they didn’t have a relationship with God, either through national heritage or covenantal promise, they had nothing.

So, their former relationship was one of complete distance, but…

2. Their Present Relationship Was One Of Complete Nearness

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (13). How is complete distance changed into such nearness? How were those who were once without Christ (12) now in Christ Jesus (13a)? How were those who were once far off now brought near (13b)? A distant relationship is made near through the blood of Christ (13c).

The blood of Christ was and is the only means of approach to God. Just like the Gentile Ephesians we were alienated from God by sin. The only way for that alienation to be bridged was through the reconciling work of Christ (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21), who gave himself as a ransom for all (1 Tim 2:6), a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (1 Tim. 1:15; 1 Jn. 2:2; Jn. 3:16).

What is your relationship to God - distant or near? When you reflect on who you are and what life is all about, would you have to conclude that you are without hope, far off?

There is a general sense of hopelessness in the world, a universal despair and emptiness which nothing in this world can fill. It affects rich and poor, old and young, famous and unknown.

Michael Jackson, after returning from a $70 million tour in the East,               went on record as saying, “I believe I am one of the loneliest people in the world. 5 Paul Getty Sr., the wealthiest man in his generation, lived in a house protected by dogs, terrified of solitude and equally terrified of people, and completely bankrupt inside. 6

Speaking of the desperate confusion and void in the human spirit, Ravi Zacharias wrote: “Surrounded by vociferous and confident secular theories on life’s purpose and destiny, and becoming increasingly aware of radically different world-views from its own, there is a restlessness within and a frenetic search for some new idea that will assuage its impoverished spirit.” 7

If you feel distant from God and without hope, it’s because you are also without Christ. When you don’t have Christ in your life, you have no reason to live and no security for the future. Noel Coward, in one of his plays, put it this way: “The past depresses me, the present bores me, and the future scares me to death.” 8

That’s how life is if it is lived far off from God. You don’t know where you came from, why you’re here, or where you’re going. That’s the recipe for hopelessness and estrangement. But the good news is that you can be brought near because God has come near to us in Christ.

In Christ a distant relationship is made near and in Christ…

II. A Hostile Relationship Is Made Peaceful (14-18)

1. A Hostile Relationship Is Made Peaceful Through The Person Of Christ

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one (14a). The pronoun switches again – now from you / your to we / our. He is our peace, Paul says, “peace for the Jews as well as you Gentiles. We Jews also needed reconciliation with God, just like you Gentiles. We were alienated from God by sin, just as you were. We were enemies of God by wicked works just as you were. We needed to be brought near just as you did – despite our special relationship with God as a nation.”

But now, through the person of Christ all distinctions are broken down, whether racial, social, or religious, so that they could live together in a new community of faith in peace.

He himself is our peace. He is the Prince of peace (Isa. 9:6. See also Isa. 53:5; Mic. 5:5; Hag. 2:9; Zech. 9:10), the One who came to bring peace (Lk. 2:14), peace with God and peace with each other.

A hostile relationship is made peaceful through the person of Christ and…

2. A Hostile Relationship Is Made Peaceful Through The Work Of Christ

He broke down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances (14b-15a).

The law was a spiritual dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles. What the wall of the temple was physically, the law was spiritually. The wall of the temple had kept the two races apart physically and it separated them socially and religiously.

Similarly, the law had acted as a dividing wall spiritually. The Jews claimed the law as their exclusive means of approach to God. It was the spiritual barrier between them. But Christ annulled the power of the law (see Col. 2:14). He abolished the enmity that the law had made. Legal ceremonies were no longer the means of approach to God. Therefore, the law was no longer a source of distinction between Jew and Gentile, no longer a means of enmity or separation. Through the work of Christ, a formerly hostile relationship is made peaceful.

Christ annulled the power of the law to effect a new creation, to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace (15b). Now, “instead of enmity between two races there is peace; in place of two separate entities there is one new man (people).” 9 This isn’t the combining of two peoples but the new creation of a new entity, the church (cf. Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).

Christ annulled the power of the law to effect a new creation, and he annulled the power of the law to effect a reconciliation: …that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (16).

Reconciliation abolishes the hostility between the parties. It effects peace between former enemies. Through the cross, Christ accomplished two reconciliations. He reconciled both Jew and Gentile into one body (the church) and He reconciled the one body to God. The enmity between these two people was put to death and the enmity between us and God was put to death. Reconciliation was made and the peace treaty was announced. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near (17).

Through the cross, Christ bridged the gap between us. He achieved reconciliation and he announced that peace was made (cf. Isa. 57:19; 52:7; Jn. 14:27; Rom. 5:1; 10:15). The ground and the sign of this peace is that both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit to the Father (18). 10 Through the death of Christ access to God was opened up, the veil of the temple was torn in two (Matt. 27:51) granting us “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). Now through Christ “the door” (Jn. 10:7), all believers can approach God with confidence in / by one Spirit who indwells us and unites us together in the church.

People today long for a sense of belonging and unity. People desperately want nearness and peace, and the unity of the family. Instead, they experience distance, estrangement, divorce, and fights. Peace can only be truly known in all relationships through Christ. Christians are the only ones who can say that they are at peace with each other, with their families, with their co-workers etc. Christ is the only basis for peace with God and with man. Christ is the only one who can make opposing people at peace, united in thought, purpose, and action. And the church is the place where peace is to be modeled and proclaimed.

Through the work of Christ, a distant relationship is made near, a hostile relationship is made peaceful, and…

III. A Foreign Relationship Is Made Familial (19-22)

1. Through Christ, We Are All Citizens Of The Same Country

Now therefore, you (Gentiles) are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow-citizens with the saints (19a). Now those who were once strangers are family. Now those who were once foreigners (Gentiles) are fellow-citizens with the saints (Jewish believers). Now those who were once aliens are now permanent residents. We all belong to, and are citizens of, the same country.

2. Through Christ, We Are All Members Of The Same Household

Now, those who were strangers are family members, …members of the household of God (19b). It’s one thing to be fellow-citizens of the same country – that binds us together in a “national” kind of way – but our united relationship in Christ is far more than that. Now we are all members of the same family. We all have the same Father. We have a common bloodline, with a common nature. We have common family characteristics with a common heritage. We have a common inheritance. It doesn’t get any closer than that!

Now, those who were distant and hostile live in the same household. Those who were social and religious outcasts are now outstanding members of the body of Christ. Those who were considered inferior people are now family equals. Now those who were stateless belong to the community of faith. Now Christless people are “in Christ”. Now those who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (12) are fully accredited members of God’s family. Those who were strangers from God’s covenant of promise are now joint-heirs with all God’s family. Now those who had no kinfolk have a family of saints. Now those who were without friends have friends from every tribe and nation. Now the hopeless have an assured future. Now the godless are members of God’s household, God’s chosen people.

Now we have all been brought into the household of God. Not just citizens of the same country in good standing. Not just members of the same family in blood relationship. But now, in Christ, we belong to the same household – we live in the same home, the same building, the church.

NATO and the United Nations are organizations that have for years tried to make foreign, hostile nations at peace with one another. Not long ago, NATO desperately tried to stop the hostility of the Serbs against the Albanians in Yugoslavia, trying to work out an agreement whereby they could live as peaceful neighbours. Millions of dollars are spent each year in attempts to achieve world peace, but no matter how hard they try or how successful they might be, they can never make foreigners part of the same family. But in Christ, foreigners and strangers are made one household of God.

This household is a living building …having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (20). It is a living, spiritual building made of living building blocks (i.e. all believers), established on a living foundation - the apostles and prophets - and secured by a living cornerstone - Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-8; Ps. 118:22). He has the position of honour and headship. He is the stone from which all other stones find their proper function and relationship in the building (Cf. Col.2:7; Pet. 2:4-5). He is the One who binds the entire building together, giving it strength, alignment and unity. 11 He is the stone into whom the whole building (is) fitted together (21a).

This household is a dynamic buildingthe 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 (21b-22). If you watch large office towers being built, they gradually rise up out of the ground, appearing to literally to grow until one day they are complete and fully occupied. That is what is happening to the construction of the church.

It is a dynamic building because it is comprised of all kinds of different people - from different races, nationalities, languages, and societies, who are being fitted together. They are being fitted together because they did not previously fit together. They were at odds with one another. They were hostile, distant, and foreign. But now, each one is being perfectly fitted together in this building of God in a new relationship, the family of God.

It’s a dynamic building because it is growing. It is a growing building because the church is not yet completed. All the pieces are not yet in place. It’s still in process and will continue growing and being built until the end of the church age when it will be complete. Those who are being saved are still being added to it daily. As people are added to the church, so it grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

It’s a dynamic building because it is a holy dwelling place. This new, united entity, the people of God, are not only a growing building but they are a holy temple. The qualification for being part of this dynamic place of worship is not national heritage or family descent or religious tradition, but to be in the Lord. Those who are in the Lord are holy people, set apart exclusively for the worship and service of God. They are a holy temple in the Lord.

This temple is no longer the exclusive territory of the Jewish people, but now the Gentile believers are also included: … in whom you also (you Gentiles) are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (22). It’s not just Jewish believers who are being fitted together into this new building but Gentile believers as well. The building materials are diverse but the dwelling place is one.

God’s people are the dwelling place of a holy God, who no longer dwells in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24) but in his church, among his people. His people are his holy dwelling place.

It’s a dynamic building because God’s Spirit is there. God dwells among his people by his Spirit. Only those who are in the Lord and indwelled by the Spirit are those who comprise the habitation / dwelling place of God.

Concluding Remarks

It’s good when a distant relationship is made near. It’s better when a hostile relationship is made peaceful. It’s best when a foreign relationship is made familial, because the closest of all relationships is to be family, to be familial.

Ethnic hostility was a barrier in the N.T. church. Christ overcame that barrier at the cross and the church had to adjust to a new relationship and put that relationship into practice. This raises the question as to what are some of the barriers that have to be overcome in our churches today – e.g. relational, ethnic, theological, traditions, minority groups, generations (old vs young), music etc.

The church is the place where God dwells, where peace reigns. It is the household of God, his family dwelling place - not an empty, cold, distant place but a warm, friendly, inviting place. The family of God is the church. It’s the place where we enjoy nearness and unity through Christ. It’s the place where we have been reconciled to God through Christ. It’s the place where we have peace with God and each other through Christ. It’s the place where we are united together in Christ. It’s the place where God dwells by his Spirit.

A lady tells the story of attending a Bible study at church. Before attending the Bible study she would tell her 3-year old son, Chad, that they were going to God’s house. Each time they walked through the quiet sanctuary on their way to the nursery, Chad looked around in awe. One particular day, he stopped abruptly and asked, “Mommy, if this is God’s house, how come he’s never home?” 12

That’s what some churches feel like – empty, nobody home. May our churches never feel empty as though no one’s home. May our churches always be places of refuge, comfort, unity, solace, friendship, fellowship, support, care, love, and laughter because it’s home! When we meet together it is to meet with God in his house, to enjoy the nearness of relationship that we have with him.

The church is a place of unity that testifies to the world. That was Jesus’ prayer to the Father, that the church would be united so that “the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (Jn. 17:23).

Is this true of us? Is our unity such that those around us come to the conclusion that God is in our midst and that the gospel is true, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, and that he loved us as he loved his Son? Does the world see the love of God in us, binding us together and reaching out to others?

There is no other organization in the world like the church. There is no other organism where God dwells by his Spirit in his people. There is no other organization that is authorized and commanded to carry the good news of the gospel to the world. There is no other structure in which God is present and active in the world.

Let us resolve to be in practice what God has created us to be - his church, his body, his bride, his people, living in nearness, peace, unity, as his family.


1 Cited in B. Paul Greene, San Pedro, California, Finding Our Dearest Relative in “Leadership”, Vol. 15, no. 4. Copyright 1999, Christianity Today, Inc.

2 These categories are from William Hendricksen, Exposition of Ephesians, New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967), 129-131.

3 Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1990), 191.

4 William Hendriksen, 129.

5 Quoted in Michael Green, Follow in His Footprints (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 29.

6 Green, 89.

7 Ravi Zacharias, Deliver us from Evil (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996), 4.

8 Green, 96.

9 Patzia, 196.

10 This verse provides a wonderful confession of the Trinity.

11 This metaphor does not contradict 1 Cor. 3:11. It is merely a shift in the metaphor. Here the apostle is not speaking of “builders” (as in 1 Cor. 3) but of a “building.”

12 Karen Ketzler, Anybody Home? In “Today’s Christian Woman (Christianity Today, 1999).

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

6. Our United Relationship in Christ, Pt. 2: “The Mystery of the One Body Revealed” (Eph. 3:1-13)

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Introduction

What would you say to someone who claimed that Paul’s writings were fiction? Someone once told me that Paul fabricated the whole story of Christianity about the death and resurrection of Christ and that Christ is the Messiah. It’s just a fictional story by Paul, they said. Have you ever wondered where Paul got his teaching? Have you ever wondered about the significance of Paul’s ministry? Isn’t it good that Scripture gives us the answer?

We don’t need to be in any doubt about what he taught, where he got it from, or what its significance is. As the passage we are studying in this article shows, Paul’s ministry was unique in two ways:

1. Because to him God revealed the truth of the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2. Because by him the truth of the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ was declared to us.

That makes his ministry unique - none other like it. This man who said he was “one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8) was converted and commissioned into God’s service for a particular purpose. So don’t let anyone try to dupe you about the value and authenticity of Paul’s writings.

We find out about Paul’s unique ministry by way of a digression in Eph. 3:1-13. Sometimes digressions are confusing. Often the person forgets what they started out to say: “Now what was I saying?” But Paul’s digression here is full of significance. He begins a prayer, For this reason… (1), then digresses until verse 14 where he picks up his prayer again: For this reason I bow my knees (14). For what reasons did Paul pray?

1. Because of “Our United Transformation in Christ” by which we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life (2:1-10).

2. Because of “Our United Relationship in Christ” by which a distant relationship has been made near (2:11-13), a hostile relationship made peaceful (2:14-18), and a foreign relationship made familial (2:19-22).

For those reasons, Paul breaks into a doxology of prayer. But before doing so he digresses into this explanation of the mystery of Christ as declared in the gospel, the stewardship of which was given to him. Paul’s unique ministry was the revelation to him and the declaration by him of the mystery of Christ. The first aspect of Paul’s unique ministry was…

I. The Revelation Of The Mystery Of Christ (2-6)

This is the vertical unveiling of the mystery, the revelation of God to Paul. For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – since indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God which was given to me for you (1-2).

Paul was a prisoner, both literally and spiritually. He was literally a prisoner of the political and religious authorities, and he was spiritually a prisoner of Jesus Christ. The Jews had opposed Paul’s mission to the Gentiles and as a result he was now in prison (cf. Acts 21:17ff), but his imprisonment had a divine purpose – it was for them, on behalf of you Gentiles. Paul was a steward of Gods grace on their behalf and for their blessing.

A steward is someone who takes care of someone else’s affairs or assets. Paul was the steward of this revealed mystery, this revelation that was given to him by God specifically for them. He had been commissioned by God to deliver to them the gospel of the grace of God. This was his unique ministry.

We are all charged with a stewardship – stewardship of our gifts, calling, opportunities, resources, time, and truth. Adam and Eve were given the stewardship over God’s creation. And, like them, we are all held responsible by God for how we discharge that responsibility both spiritually and physically.

Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote:

“Go out into the field of your Lord and consider how even today it abounds in thorns and thistles in fulfillment of the ancient curse. Go out, I say, into the world, for the field is the world and it is entrusted to you. Go out into it not as a lord, but as a steward, to oversee and to manage that for which you must render an account. Go out, I should have said, with careful responsibility and responsible care.” 1

This responsibility reminds us of the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:12-30). Two servants used their talents responsibly but the other buried it in the ground. The master called him wicked and lazy. Are you exercising stewardship over what God has entrusted to you – your spiritual gifts, your assets, your time, your health, your relationships etc.?

Notice that the revelation of the mystery was unique to Paul for 3 reasons. Firstly, because…

1. The Channel Of This Revelation Was Through Paul’s Ministry (1-4)

…how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery (as I have already written briefly, concerning which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (3-4).

Paul was the channel to whom God revealed the mystery, the truth that all believers, Jews and Gentiles, have been united together in Christ. God chose to make this mystery known to Paul uniquely and it was about this mystery that Paul has written briefly to the Ephesians (presumably referring to chapters 1 and 2), which when they read it, they would understand that his insight into the mystery of Christ was from God.

The second reason that the revelation of the mystery was unique to Paul was because…

2. The Time For This Revelation Was During Paul’s Ministry (5)

…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets (5)

It was a mystery because, before it was revealed to Paul, no one knew it. The saints of previous ages did not know the full meaning and nature of God’s promise to Abraham that in him all the nations shall be blessed (Gen. 18:18; 22:18), or how God would make Israel a light to the Gentiles that you should be My salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). None of the O.T. saints had any concept of the church in which Jew and Gentile would be united in Christ. In fact it was incomprehensible to them even though their O.T. Scriptures teach it. 2

But now God had revealed this mystery to Paul uniquely and more generally by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets – i.e. the men who wrote the N.T. Scriptures through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The third reason that the revelation of this mystery was unique to Paul was because…

3. The Substance Of This Revelation Was In Paul’s Ministry (6)

…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, fellow members of the same body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ (6).

The substance of the mystery that was revealed by God to Paul has to do with the entire theme of this epistle, namely, the reconciliation and union of Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ. The substance of this mystery is this:

1. That the Gentiles have the same legal status as the Jews: fellow heirs…in Christ (6a). Those who were once excluded from Israel as aliens, strangers, and foreigner (2:12, 19) are now equal in legal standing before God, will enter into the same inheritance (Gal. 3:29), and enjoy the same blessings and the same relationship to God in Christ.

2. That the Gentiles have the same family status as the Jews: fellow members of the same body…in Christ (6b). They are equal members not second class citizens, not visitors, not landed immigrants, not distant relatives but members of the household of God (2:19), for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free (1 Cor. 12:13).

3. That the Gentiles have the same spiritual status as the Jews: fellow partakers of the same promise…in Christ (6c). They shared equally in all the promises of God in Christ, of present security in Christ, of eternal life in Christ, of future glory in Christ.

All these privileges are shared equally and fully by Jewish and Gentile believers…

1. By being in Christ – i.e. by being in union with Christ, formed into one community through “Our United Position”.

2. By the gospel – the message by which this mystery is proclaimed to us and by which we enter into its significance.

So, the first aspect of Paul’s unique ministry was the revelation of the mystery of Christ that was given to him. The second aspect of Paul’s unique ministry was…

II. The Declaration Of The Mystery Of Christ (7-13)

The first gift of God’s grace (2, 7) was the revelation of the mystery to Paul (2-3). The second gift of God’s grace was the declaration of the gospel by him to us. If the revelation to Paul by God was the vertical unveiling of the mystery, then Paul’s declaration to us is the horizontal unveiling of the mystery: of which I became a servant according to the gift of Gods grace given to me by the effective working of his power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given (7-8a).

No wonder Paul is overawed with the grace and power of God that was effective in him (8a; cf. 1 Cor. 15:9-10). He seems to say: To me of all people (can you imagine?) this grace was given. By the gift of Gods grace (7a) he had been commissioned as a servant of the gospel, no longer a persecutor of the church. By Gods power (7b) he declared a message despite being imprisoned for it.

He was fully conscious of the task which he had been given and his own unworthiness of it. It was all of God’s grace and he was deeply grateful for it. Just so, we should all be grateful for the privilege of serving God. We do not deserve it. It is all of God’s grace.

Notice three characteristics of Paul’s unique ministry of declaration. Firstly…

1. To Proclaim To The Gentiles Christ’s Riches (8b)

…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (8b).

The riches of Christ are those described in chapters 1 and 2 - what he has done for us and who we are in him (1:3-14; 2:1-22): our spiritual blessings of election, predestination, adoption, redemption, our inheritance, our spiritual transformation, our unity in the one body, our access to God by the Spirit, our citizenship with the saints, our membership in God’s household.

Such riches are unsearchable, beyond understanding, too vast to fathom, infinite. That was what he preached among the Gentiles by God’s grace and through God’s power.

Second, Paul’s unique ministry of declaration was…

2. To Clarify To Everyone God’s Plan (9)

…to make all people see what is the plan of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ (9).

The purpose of Paul’s declaration of the gospel was to make all people see the truth – to enlighten everyone, to reveal, to clarify, to bring to light the mystery of this united relationship in Christ. What had long been hidden in the mind of the Creator God was now made known. Paul’s purpose was to open people’s eyes (Acts 26:17-18), just as his own eyes had been opened to the truth, and just as God himself has enlightened us by shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Like Paul, we too have a responsibility to enlighten all people through the gospel, to bring the light of God’s truth to those who are in darkness (cf. Isa. 9:2).

The purpose of Paul’s declaration of the gospel was to clarify God’s plan, a plan to reconcile the Gentiles to himself and to Israel through their salvation and unity, a plan that had been hidden in God from the beginning of the ages, a plan of how the God who created all things through Jesus Christ would re-create a new humanity, making us new creations in Christ and forming us into one community of faith, one new society, one new humanity.

Third, Paul’s unique ministry of declaration was…

3. To Display To The Evil Powers God’s Wisdom (10-11) 3

… so that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places through the church, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (10- 11)

The ultimate intent of Paul’s declaration was cosmic:

1. That the hostile spiritual powers (the rulers and authorities in the heavenlies) would see in the redemption and unity of the church Gods many-sided wisdom.

2. That these hostile spiritual powers would see in the church the accomplishment of Gods eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, namely, that the death and resurrection of Christ is God’s means of reconciling people to himself and to one another in the church.

The church is God’s witness to the truth of this “mystery”. God has revealed the mystery to Paul, Paul has declared it to the church, and the church manifests it to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. These hostile spiritual powers, who now seek to frustrate God’s purposes by attacking the church and to denigrate God’s wisdom by puffing up their own human wisdom, are witnesses of what God is doing in and through the church. They are seeing the plan of God taking effect even now. Ultimately, the power of God which is currently displayed through the church will one day over throw them. And the praise of God which is currently rendered to God through the church will one say be rendered by them when every knee will bow.

The great purpose of the church is to glorify God by manifesting God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places so that the entire universe will ultimately give glory to God for his unfathomable plan of redemption accomplished in Christ, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him (12). Evil powers do not have boldness to come into God’s presence but believers do because of our standing in Christ.

Conclusions

Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory (13). “Don’t be discouraged that I have been imprisoned for you” Paul says, “but rejoice that, despite my tribulations, God has used me to declare this glorious truth, the mystery of Christ.”

Now you know the truth about Paul’s unique ministry, a ministry that was unique because of God’s revelation to him, a ministry that was unique because of God’s declaration by him. Now we are called to declare that truth to others…

1. To those who walk in darkness and do not obey the truth that they may be brought into the glorious light of Christ and trust him.

2. To those whose eyes are blinded to the truth of Christ, so that their eyes may be opened and turned from darkness to light.

3. To the evil powers of the darkness of this world, who see our lives and who hear our message, so that they would cower in fear at the manifold wisdom of God and the eternal purposes of God in the church which he has accomplished in Christ.

Does your life and your message bear testimony to this? Does Paul’s unique ministry form the basis of your confidence and faith in Christ? Are you eager that others should know the mystery of Christ that Paul has made known to you?

We are stewards of this great mystery, stewards to make known to the watching universe that Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth and that we, in the church, have bowed the knee to his lordship.


1 Citation: Bernard of Clairvaux from Book 2 of On Consideration. Christian History, no. 24.

2 Cf. Gen 12:3; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14 (Gentiles will be blessed by God); Ps. 72 (Gentiles will bless God); Isa. 11:10; 49:6; 54:1-3; 60:1-3 (Messiah will come to Gentiles); Hos. 1:10; Amos 9:11ff (Gentiles will be saved by the Messiah); Joel 2:28-29 (Gentiles will receive the Holy Spirit).

3 In Ephesians, the spiritual powers are evil forces who need to be subjected (cf. 2:2; 6;12)

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

7. Prayer #2: A Prayer for Spiritual Empowerment (Eph. 3:14-21)

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Introduction

Someone once said: “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger people! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.” 1

In the epistle written to the Ephesians, there are two prayers. The first prayer is “A Prayer for Spiritual Enlightenment” (1:15-23) - to know the hope of God’s calling, his rich inheritance in the saints, his great power toward us etc. This second prayer, which we are studying in this article, is “A Prayer for Spiritual Empowerment” (3:14-21).

It’s one thing to know who we are in Christ; its another thing to live like it. You can know a lot about something but never put it into practice. You can know a lot about the Bible but never put its truths into effect. You can know the truths of Eph. 1-3 but not live in the good of them. Head knowledge isn’t good enough. We must put what we know into effect in order to be fully functional Christians.

This is a prayer based on the knowledge of God’s will. That’s why Paul begins with For this reason… (14a) – i.e. for the reasons just mentioned in chapters 1 and 2. The only way we can know God’s will, God’s purposes, and God’s plans is by reading his Word. That’s why Bible reading and prayer go together because in the Scriptures God has revealed to us his will and in prayer we ask him to carry it out.

It’s a prayer uttered in dependence on God. The Jewish practice was to stand while praying (e.g. Lk. 18:10-14), but Paul kneels: I bow my knees (14b). Kneeling displays earnestness, total concentration, submission, reverence, the lesser before the greater. You see this when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:41) and Stephen at his martyrdom (Acts 7:60).

It’s a prayer addressed to the Head of the family: …to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (14c-15). Jesus’ Father is the Father of the whole redeemed family (some in heaven and some still on earth). We derive our identity from his name and he, as the Father, meets our family’s needs. 2

It is a prayer whose answer is rooted in God’s resources: …that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory (16a). God’s riches are limitless and that’s the resource that we draw on in prayer.

The theme of this prayer is: When you pray, pray boldly – pray boldly for progress in spirituality, for deepened understanding, and for growth in godliness. How bold are your prayers? Are you bold enough to ask God to answer your prayers in accordance with his glorious riches?

In 1540, Luther’s good friend and assistant, Friedrich Myconius, became sick and was expected to die very soon. From his death bed he wrote Luther a farewell letter. When Luther received the letter, he immediately sent back this reply: “I command thee in the name of God to live because I still have need of thee in the work of reforming the church…The Lord will never let me hear that thou art dead, but will permit thee to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.” That seems bold to our ears, but God apparently honoured the prayer. Although Myconius had already lost the ability to speak when Luther’s reply came, he soon recovered and lived six more years and died two months after Luther himself. 3

Don’t be brash in prayer but be bold, conscious of God’s will and God’s glorious riches. Perhaps you lack boldness because you lack comprehension of God’s riches, you don’t trust his resources, or you’re more focused on your own resources than his spiritual riches. Let’s learn to live as heirs of God’s unfathomable riches.

The story is told of a certain rich English eccentric named Julian Elis Morris liked to dress like a tramp and sell razor blades, soap, and shampoo door-to-door. After a day’s work he would return to his beautiful mansion, put on formal attire and have his chauffeur drive him to an exclusive restaurant in his limousine. Sometimes he would catch a flight to Paris and spend the evening there. Many Christians live something like Mr. Morris, spending their day-to-day lives in apparent spiritual poverty and only occasionally enjoying God’s vast riches. It’s tragic to go around in the tattered rags of our own inadequacy when we could be living sumptuously in the superabundance of God’s unspeakable riches.4 Pray that God would enable you to live according to the spiritual wealth that he dispenses on your behalf in Christ.

So, when you pray…

I. Ask For Progress In Spirituality (16b-17a)

Spirituality has been defined as “one’s connectedness with God.” We’re talking about the need for a deep, abiding, personal, day-by-day relationship with God - walking in step with the Spirit, manifesting the fruit of the Spirit, living in an attitude of prayer, conscious of God’s presence.

So, when you pray, ask for…

1. Progress In Experiencing The Spirit’s Power (16b)

…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (16b)

This is not the sealing of the Spirit at conversion but the experiential dimension of the Spirit’s indwelling. Many Christians never experience the strengthening of the inner man through the Spirit’s power. The inner man is the opposite of the “outer man”. The outer man is perishing, temporary, but our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). The outer man is our physical life but the inner man is our spiritual life. Just like our physical life, our spiritual life must grow and be strengthened. We do this by letting the Holy Spirit control us (Gal. 5:25), fill us (5:18), and empower us (cf. Rom. 8:5-6, 8-9; Gal. 5:16).

Paul is praying that we may know “the strengthening of the Spirit’s inner reinforcement” (JBP translation) that we may lay hold more firmly by faith on this divine strength in our inner being.

How can you obtain and exercise this spiritual power? By feeding on the Word of God, by prayer to God, by submission to the Spirit, by spiritual discipline and exercise. There is no quick way to spiritual fitness. It requires steady discipline. You can exercise this spiritual power by letting God take control, by being ruled less by your emotions and circumstances and more by God.

So, when you pray, ask for progress in experiencing the Spirit’s power. And pray for…

2. Progress In Experiencing Christ’s Indwelling (17a)

…that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (17a)

The strengthening by the Spirit is a parallel thought to Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9, 10; 1 Cor. 6:19) and when Christ indwells us by the Spirit (Jn. 14:16-18) he strengthens us. This is not Christ’s indwelling at salvation but in sanctification. Paul is not praying for something we already have but for the indwelling of Christ through the empowering of the Spirit that we experience by degrees throughout our Christian lives.

To dwell has the sense of being at home, settled, resident. For Christ to dwell in our hearts we must submit to the Spirit’s power. So, when you pray, ask God that Christ by his Spirit may be at home in your heart, control you, and strengthen you. For our hearts to be his home they must be cleaned up to suit him, the trash of our lives has to be put out to the garbage, our spiritual food must be pure and wholesome, our activities must meet with his approval, worldly activities must stop, and hidden sins in the closet cleaned out.

Don’t expect Jesus to be at home in your heart if it is dirty, or if it is cluttered with other guests and occupied with other things. He only settles down in a home that is cleansed from sin, filled with his Spirit, and nourished by his Word. Only there does he dwell in our hearts by faith, faith that trusts him as Saviour and submits to him as Lord. That’s where he reigns.

So, when you pray, ask for progress in spirituality. And when you pray…

II. Ask For Deeper Understanding (17b)

The only way our “connectedness with God” can be strengthened is by the Spirit’s power and through Christ’s indwelling as we have just seen (16-17). And it’s only through our connectedness with God that our understanding is deepened about the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ, the wonders of the mystery that has been revealed to us concerning the unity of the church and the love of God in Christ.

The ultimate purpose of these bold prayer requests is to deepen one’s understanding of, appreciation for, and response to Christ’s love. This, surely, must be the goal for every Christian – to obtain a deeper and deeper intellectual and experiential understanding of Christ’s love.

So, when you pray, ask for…

1. Deeper Understanding Of The Immensity Of Christ’s Love (18)

… so that you, having been rooted and grounded in love… (17b). The basis of an abiding connectedness with God is an interpersonal relationship with him and with each other, a relationship that is rooted and grounded in love. When the Spirit strengthens us and Christ indwells us, then his love anchors us. Love that is rooted and grounded does not change. It has deep roots (botanical imagery) and a firm foundation (architectural imagery). It is like a well-rooted tree and a well-built house – firmly established and enduring. Love is the deep root that gives stability and nourishment to our lives and relationships and spirituality. Love is the foundation on which our Christian lives are built. Our love must be a reflection of Christ’s love – strong, abiding, unwavering. Love is, after all, the essence of Christianity (Jn. 13:34; 1 Pet. 1:22) and the basis of our unity. We are all sealed by his Spirit, bound together in the same family, living for the same purpose, headed to the same eternal destination.

Do you have a deep, abiding love for God and for his people? Is the love you display rooted and grounded in the power of the Spirit and the indwelling presence of Christ in your heart. Are you firmly established in love? Is it the foundation of your life? Or, is it a fickle, transient, self-indulgent love that wavers depending on how others treat you?

God’s love for us in Christ generates in us a love for one another and it drives us to, and gives us a hunger for, a deeper understanding of Christ’s love. Only those who themselves are rooted and grounded in love can possibly have any sense or knowledge of Christ’s love. That’s why the assumption is here that we are first rooted and grounded in love before we can progress to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love (19a).

…so that you (having been rooted and grounded in love) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ (18).

A deeper experience and understanding of Christ’s love is one that we begin to grasp along with all the saints (black and white, Jew and Gentile, men and women, slaves and free). This is not something that is limited to an esoteric, spiritually elite group of people. Rather, Christ’s love permeates all the saints so that with them we experience and extend to others the love of Christ. It is a common bond between all the saints. As a community of faith, we begin to understand something of the scope of Christ’s love, its dimensional immensity. It is wide enough to encompass the whole world, Jew and Gentile (2:11-18), regardless of race, colour, or religious background. It is long enough to choose us before the foundation of the world and to last for eternity (1:4-5). It is deep enough to meet the need of the worst sinner (2:1-3). It is high enough to encompass every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (1:3; 2:6).

The immensity and strength and eternality of Christ’s love undergirds our love. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” No! Nothing can separate is from Christ’s love. For “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

When you pray, ask for a deeper understanding – a deeper understanding of the immensity of Christ’s love and a…

2. Deeper Understanding Of The Incomprehensibility Of Christ’s Love (19a)

so that you may be able… to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge (19a). This sounds like an oxymoron - to know the unknowable. We may comprehend it intellectually and theologically and enjoy it experientially and personally but nonetheless we cannot exhaust it because it surpasses knowledge. Just as God’s grace is exceedingly rich (2:7) and his power is exceedingly great (1:19) and his riches are unsearchable (2:8), so his love is immeasurable and incomprehensible.

Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. We can never plumb the depths or embrace the scope of Christ’s love. Eternity will not be enough for us to fathom it. Perhaps you’re reading Scripture and the love of Christ floods your soul – but there is still more to enter into because his love surpasses knowledge. Perhaps you’re struggling with sin and the love of Christ floods your soul – but there’s still more because his love surpasses knowledge. Perhaps someone gets saved and the love of Christ floods your soul – but there’s still more because his love surpasses knowledge. Perhaps you’re grieving the death of a loved one and the love of Christ floods your soul – but there’s still more because his love surpasses knowledge. That’s what it is to know the incomprehensibility of Christ’s love.

William Hendriksen expresses it this way: “The apostle prays that the addressed may concentrate so intensely and exhaustively on the immensity and glory of Christ’s love that they will come to understand that this love ever surpasses.” 5

Thirdly, when you pray…

III. Ask For Growth In Godliness (19b)

This is the ultimate result that we are striving for: …that you may be filled to all the fullness of God (19b). Do you see the progression here? The Spirit strengthens us, Christ indwells us, his love embraces us, God’s fullness grows in us. The Christian life is one of continuous progress in spirituality and growth in understanding. Just as we are growing to the “fullness of Christ” (4:13) and “being filled with the Spirit” (5:18), so we are to be filled with God himself.

This fullness (πληρωμα) signifies total dominance. Just as you may be filled with rage or happiness so that it dominates you, so you may be filled with the fullness of God - nothing left of self, no room for anything else, all of God.

We are to aspire to be filled to all the fullness of God, to be totally overtaken by his power and presence, his life and rule. God wants us to be fully like him. This will only be fully and finally achieved at our glorification when we will awake in his likeness (Ps. 17:15), when we will be filled with God to the full, when we will be fully like Christ who is the fullness of God. But that should be our desire even now, to grow in Christ-likeness toward that final state of perfection as we are being “transformed from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

So, when you pray, pray boldly for progress in spirituality, deeper understanding of Christ’s love, and growth in godliness. But prayer is not all about asking. It’s also about praising. So, when you pray, be sure to always…

IV. Give Praise To God (20-21)

We have noticed some of the superlatives that Paul uses in this epistle. What a wonderful way to conclude this prayer with more superlatives. So, when you pray…

1. Give Praise To God For His Inexhaustible Power

The God whose Spirit empowers us, whose Christ indwells us, whose love anchors us, and whose fullness dominates us, is the God who is able, because he is all-powerful, his power is inexhaustible.

This leads to a wonderful, concluding doxology. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (20).

Our God can grant these bold requests because he is able, he has the power (20a). He is able to do – he is alive and working. Our God is able to do what we ask – he hears us and answers us. Our God is able to do what we think – he knows our thoughts, our minds, even what we imagine and dream but do not ask for. Our God is able to do all that we ask or think – he knows it all and is all-powerful to carry it out. Our God is able to do beyond all that we ask or think – he grants us more than we imagine. Our God is able to do what we ask or think abundantly, according to his riches, his abundant grace. Our God is able to do far more abundantly – there are no limits to what he can do; he is a super-abundant God.

Our God grants these bold requests according to the power that works in us, the power of his Spirit who strengthens us.

2. Give Praise To God For His Inestimable Glory

The power is from God and the glory is due to him: to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (21).

Telling forth the inestimable glory of God is the universal privilege of the church. This surely should be the primary focus of our prayers – to adore God for who he is. Such praise should redound to God in the church by Christ Jesus. It is entirely because of what Jesus Christ has done for us in bestowing upon us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (1:3) and in showing “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (2:7) that the church can and must render continuous praise to God to all generations forever and ever. We will never come to an end of praising him. That is our inestimable privilege now and will be throughout the ages of eternity.

Concluding Remarks

This, then, is the pattern for bold prayers. When you pray ask for progress in spirituality through the Spirit’s power in our inner being and for the indwelling of Christ in our hearts by faith. Ask for deepened understanding of Christ’s immeasurable and incomprehensible love. Ask for growth in godliness, to grow to God’s fullness and perfection. How can we possibly expect to achieve such spiritual heights? Because God works powerfully in us and for us.

This prayer is a picture of all that God wants each individual and the church as a whole to be. And what does God want the church to be? A united people who are strengthened by the Spirit, indwelled by Christ by faith, rooted and grounded in love, understanding the immeasurable love of Christ, and glorifying God for his limitless power.

The obvious challenge is this: Are we the church God wants us to be? We can only be the church he wants us to be if we pray boldly for progress in spirituality, for deepened understanding, and for growth in godliness. When you pray…pray boldly, that’s the theme of this passage. If you’re prayer life isn’t bold, why not start now by asking for these things and watch God work as he empowers your inner being with his Holy Spirit, as he opens up your understanding of the fathomless love of Christ and as he fills you with himself.

To this God all praise is due! The power is from him and the glory is due to him.


1 Phillips Brooks, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.

2 Play on words: the family (πατρια) descended from the same father (πατερ).

3 Cited in John MacArthur, Ephesians, 103-104.

4 Ibid., 104.

5 William Hendriksen, Ephesians in “New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 173.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church)

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Da review 1/6/20

Primary Audience: Users who have gone through PathwayStart and Forward. They should already be very familiar with the gospel, but this lesson is intended to remind, refresh, and deepen their grasp on the gospel. 

Title: The Good News Unpacked

Series:  Discipleship in 3D

Image: No Need

Excerpt: No Need


Introduction

Jesus referred to the “Good News” or the “gospel” as the “keys to the kingdom” (Matt 16:13-20). The gospel is the one message that unlocks heaven’s doors to us when we turn from our sin and idols to wholeheartedly embrace the Lord and Savior offered to us in it (cf John 5:24; 14:6; 2 Thes 2:13-14). It ushers us into God’s presence wherein we receive the true knowledge of God, including His kind intentions toward us through His complete pardon and the new standing He gifts us (John 3:16; Eph 2:1-10). Through the gospel we experience God’s great love and His renewing power for a life lived in the enjoyment of His presence and the pursuit of the holiness that so pleases Him and is good for us ( Thes 2:13-14; 2 Cor 7:1; 2 Tim 1:7; Heb 12:1-2; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Again, Jesus called the gospel, the keys  of heaven. From this statement alone, we can assess the importance of grasping, digesting, internalizing, and clearly articulating this precious message. It is the very word of God, which through the Spirit, works so powerfully in our hearts (1 Thes 2:13; Heb 4:12-13). It is the very word of God preached to every creature under heaven (Matt 24:14: Col 1:6, 23), showing forth the only name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Every good thing from God, both in this life and in the next, flows to us by faith – faith that lays hold of Christ in the gospel (cf. Rom 8:28-39; 2 Tim 1:9-10).

Key Objectives for This Lesson

  • To understand the four aspects of the one message of the gospel

  • To summarize the gospel in your own words

  • To memorize a key gospel verse

  • To pray through the gospel in God's presence

  • To prayerfully share the gospel with others in your world

One Message - Four Aspects

The gospel teaches us that:

  1. God Created Us, Male and Female, in His Image
    We were created in the image of the One, Sovereign, and Majestic God - unique, holy, loving, wise, and powerful - in order that we might know, enjoy, and serve Him fully (Gen 1:26-27, 2:7). We were designed and therefore find our greatest delight in returning to Him continuous thanksgiving, praise and honor (Gen 1:26-27; 2:7). In short, the term image evokes related ideas of ownership, relationship, and representation. He owns us (1 Cor 6:19-20) and we depend on Him for our very existence (Gen 2:7). He desires a deep relationship with us (Psalm 73:25), and we for our part must faithfully represent His character, will and ways in the world He created (2 Cor 5:14-15). As image-bearers we are fundamentally accountable to Him for the purity and truthfulness of our worship, our character and lives before Him, and our actions and relationships in His world (Romans 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 22:12).

  2. But, We Have Rebelled against Him
    Our first parents turned away from Him, leading inexorably to the just judgment of God and plunging all of us into spiritual and physical ruin (death) - a ruin we freely and willingly live out each day (Gen 3:1-24; Rom 3:23; 5:12-14; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17ff). We continually suppress His glorious presence and transgress His commands, thinking it wise and lofty to despise Him and His rightful claim on our existence and lives (Rom 1:18-32). We have replaced Him with ourselves, exalting our will and desires over His, staunchly refusing to give Him thanks and relentlessly pursuing autonomy (idolatry). While His image in us remains, it is seriously corrupted and polluted. We foolishly entrench ourselves daily in a misery of our own making. In short, as a divine and just consequence of our rebellion and spiritual infidelity, we live separated from the One who loves us; we live in ruin, misery, and death, personally, corporately and historically (Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19).

  3. Christ Paid the Just Penalty for Sin
    God, because of His great mercy and love for His erring, image-bearing creatures, sent His Son - the perfect God-Man - to save us from the guilt and pollution of our sin, and God's just judgment against us (1 Thes 1:9-10). He willingly and freely offered Himself to the Father as the cross-ransom for our sin, paying the penalty we incurred before our Creator, delivering us from His just wrath against us. The penalty paid, Jesus rose from the dead, victorious over sin's judgment, and now reigns as Lord and Life-giver at the Father's right hand (Acts 2:36; Eph 1:20-22) .

  4. God Promises To Welcome Those Who Return To Him in Faith and To Judge Those Who Do Not
    God is working out His plan for human history (Eph 1:11) and is likewise summoning all people everywhere to repent from their sin and place their faith in Christ alone (Acts 4:12; 17:30-31). He freely and graciously promises to completely welcome, pardon and renew - now and eternally - all who turn to Him in faith (John 3:16; 5:24; Eph 2:8-9). He likewise promises judgment - present and eternal - to those who persist in their stubborn autonomy (Matt 7:21-23; 25:41-46; John 5:28-29; 2 Thes 1:8-10; Rev 14:9-11).

In Your Own Words

Try to put the gospel message into your own words, being careful to include the details of the four points. You can use the Notes pane to record your thoughts.

Memorizing John 3:16

You can use the translation that you're familiar with. Below is the NET translation of John 3:16.

3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Praying the Gospel in God's Presence

There are four main or principle parts to the one message of the gospel. Bring each one before the Lord in prayer with the following questions and thoughts in mind:

  1. Lord, what does it mean to have been made in your image? To give thanks and praise to you? To enjoy, serve, and joyfully submit to your ownership of my life? What does it mean that you created me to be free in you and to be accountable to you?

  2. Lord, I see sin - refusal to worship you, etc - in my life and I agree with you that I am accountable for it. Help me to see how much you love me and yet how sinful my sin really is in your eyes.

  3. Lord, give me understanding; how great is my sin if Jesus - the Perfect God-Man - had to die to secure my pardon and renewal? Help me see, Lord, how Jesus' death provides the complete cleansing for my rebellion and guilt, and the sure foundation for my relationship with you. Help me see how it is the hope for every person!

  4. Lord, you are summoning me to turn from my sin and embrace Jesus by faith. Help me to do this with my whole heart, knowing that you promise to receive, welcome, pardon and renew me fully. Help me to see Lord that I can return to you only through faith and trusting you, and that I dare not rely on my own autonomous effort to secure your pardon, for such would be to denigrate and render void the sin-cleansing cross of Christ. Strengthen me, Lord, to share your life-giving gospel - lovingly and wisely - with my friends and family.

Share the Gospel with God's Strength

Sharing the gospel with family, friends, co-workers and others is a great privilege. We have been called as Christ's ambassadors to do just that (2 Cor 5:20)! Therefore, let us learn how to communicate with greater skill, all the while learning to pray and trust God for the people we speak to about the gospel. Here are a few tips to assist you in sharing the gospel

  • Pray for Your Friends Who Do Not Yet Know Christ

  • Invest Time Listening and Asking Good Questions

  • Do Not Present Christ as a Therapeutic Solution Only or Primarily

  • Remember, Sharing Christ Is Often A Process

Summary & Go-Fwd

We were created for God and find our truest self in relationship to and with Him; He is most glorified in our dependence upon Him. He is glorified by our humble and willing obedience and we are most thrilled and joyful when bringing delight to Him (Psalm 149:4).

Our relationship with God, however, is not automatic; we are not born in relationship with Him, we are born separated from Him and need to understand and respond (repentance and faith) to His gracious offer in the gospel, lest we continue to expose ourselves to His wise and just judgment.

It is critical, then, to grasp the one, unified message of the gospel in terms of its four main aspects. Taken together they constitute the Christ-centered keys of the kingdom and God's gracious offer of forgiveness, restoration and renewal in Christ. To misunderstand, misstate, denigrate or deny any aspect inherent in the gospel is (1) to weaken or even destroy real, genuine, saving faith, for true faith lays hold of the one, true God according to His revelation in the gospel, and (2) to variously distort true gospel living. In short, everything claiming spiritual, moral, or eternal status is to be measured by the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim 1:11) and deviation from it justly exposes one to God's curse (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 6:17; 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Thes 2:13-14).

So the biblical gospel leads to phenomenal blessing, indeed, the blessing of the kingdom (cf. Gal 3:6-14). To enter into relationship with God through Christ (John 14:6), wherein He reigns through His Spirit and His word in our lives (Rom 8:9), is tantamount to entering the kingdom of God. The kingdom was inaugurated at Christ's first coming - through His incarnate Person and sacrificial death on the cross, leading to His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation to the Father's right hand (Psalm 2:6-7) - followed by His pouring out of the Spirit on all those who believe the gospel (i.e., the "good news")...

But, more about these amazing truths in the next lesson...

Gideon

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This three-part expository study was preached at Flagstaff Christian Fellowship in 2020. Audio and manuscripts are available for each lesson.

For permission to reproduce/distribute these resources from Steve Cole (including the Word document and audio files found on the individual lesson pages below) please see Bible.org's ministry friendly copyright and permissions page. Likewise, to reproduce/distribute PDF/audio versions of his messages which may be found on Flagstaff Christian Fellowship's website see their permission statement.

Related Topics: Character of God, Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

1. How God Works in Dark Times (Judges 6:1-24)

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Gideon, Lesson 1

January 12, 2020

If you keep up with the news, it’s difficult not to get depressed. Every day brings stories of human suffering through war, terrorism, natural disasters, or crime. In addition, I get daily emails that tell how the world is attacking our Christian faith from every angle imaginable. Even the news about Christianity reports many stories of Christian leaders and churches falling into sin or defecting from the faith. We live in spiritually dark times that can lead us to despair.

The book of Judges sketches one of the darkest spiritual times in Israel’s history. Joshua had led Israel out of the wilderness and into the promised land. Under his leadership, Israel had conquered much of the land which God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. But after Joshua’s death, we read (Jud. 2:10-13):

All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth.

Those verses describe the bleak condition of Israel 11 or 12 centuries before Christ. But they also can apply directly to us today. If you grew up in a Christian home as I did, it is a great blessing, but there is also an inherent danger: Your parents knew the Lord and experienced the power of the gospel in their lives. But the question is, do you know the Lord? Have you experienced the power of the gospel in your life? If you’re only a cultural Christian without a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are susceptible to following the idols of our godless culture even as Israel was doing in Gideon’s day.

But the encouraging message of the book of Judges is that God is at work even in the darkest of times and even with the weakest, most mixed up people, to accomplish His sovereign purpose for His glory. Gideon never would have done what he did if God had not taken the initiative. And so, Gideon is not really the hero of this story. God is the hero! But God chooses to work through some weak people whom He teaches to trust in Him. As Paul put it (2 Cor. 4:7), “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.”

In this message, we will look at Gideon’s calling (Judges 6:1-24). In the next two messages, we will see Gideon’s conditioning (Jud. 6:25-7:15a); and, Gideon’s conquering, followed (sadly) by his compromising (Jud. 7:15b-7:25; 8:22-35). Applied to us, the lesson from Gideon’s calling is:

Because God is at work even in the spiritually darkest times, we can trust Him to use us even in our weakness to accomplish His sovereign purpose.

1. God is at work even in the spiritually darkest times.

When you look around at the depressing news, it may seem that God has gone on vacation. But He never does. As Paul states (Eph. 1:11), we have been “predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” That was true in Gideon’s day as well. The book of Judges contains at least six similar cycles: Israel falls into sin; because of their sin, God brings an enemy that forces them into servitude; eventually, when the suffering seems overwhelming, Israel cries out to God in supplication; in response, God sends a “judge” who leads them to salvation. The judges were not like modern courtroom judges, but rather were leaders who provided military deliverance from Israel’s enemies and political oversight in limited geographical regions of Israel.

The fact that God was willing to repeat the deliverance of His idolatrous people over and over shows His great patience and grace. But the harsh servitude that He brought on His sinning people teaches us that sin never delivers on its promises. It promises happiness and prosperity, but in the end, it brings enslavement and suffering to nations, families, and individuals.

The theme of Judges is (21:25): “In those days, there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (see, also, Jud. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). Many of the judges were flawed men who showed that Israel needed a godly leader who could unify the nation in the worship of Yahweh. In the story line of the Bible, Judges follows the conquest of the land under Joshua and precedes the short story of Ruth, which shows how a Moabite widow trusted the God of Israel and was adopted into His covenant people. The punch line at the end of Ruth (4:17-22) tells us that she became the great-grandmother of King David. Then 1 Samuel tells how Israel finally got a king: first, the unfaithful King Saul and then David, the faithful king after God’s heart, whose descendant would be Jesus the Messiah.

In Gideon’s day, Israel was being overrun by the Midianites, a nomadic people who lived southeast of Israel. They were descendants of Abraham and his concubine Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2). During Israel’s time in the wilderness, the Midianites had joined with the Moabites under the counsel of Balaam to seduce Israel into immorality and idolatry (Num. 25:1-9). As a result, God told Moses to strike the Midianites in war (Num. 25:16-18).

In Gideon’s day, Midian would stay east of the Jordan River until harvest time. Then, with the Amalekites (another enemy of Israel) they would swarm into Israel like locusts, devour their crops, and steal their farm animals (Jud. 6:4-5). The Israelites did not have the military strength to fight off these hordes, so they had to hide out in dens and caves in the mountains and watch helplessly as the crops they had worked to harvest were consumed by these foreign raiders. This had gone on for seven years. The people were brought very low and finally cried out to the Lord (Jud. 6:1, 6-7).

Before God raised up Gideon as a military deliverer, He sent an unnamed prophet to confront Israel with their apostasy. After rehearsing God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the prophet reminded them of the Lord’s command not to fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land they lived. Then the Lord added pointedly (Jud. 6:10b), “But you have not obeyed Me.”

Next, we see the Lord at work when He showed up in Gideon’s village of Ophrah as “the angel of the Lord” (not “an angel,” but “the angel”). While some scholars dispute that the angel of the Lord was God Himself, I think that Scripture shows that He was the Lord Jesus Christ in preincarnate form (F. Duane Lindsey, The Bible Knowledge Commentary [Victor Books], ed. by John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, 1:381). He had the appearance of a man, but after He touched Gideon’s meal offering with his staff, causing it to be consumed with fire from the rock, He then disappeared. At that point, Gideon thought he would die because he had seen the angel of the Lord face to face (Jud. 6:22). Later, Samson’s father Manoah feared the same fate after he and his wife saw the same angel. Manoah calls the angel of the Lord, “God” (Jud. 13:21-22).

So even though Gideon lived in dark times politically and spiritually, God was at work. He was at work in disciplining His wayward people. He was at work to raise up a prophet to confront the people with their sin. He was at work to show up bodily in Gideon’s town and then to call Gideon to deliver His people. No matter how dark the times and even if you can’t see how the Lord is working, you can be sure that He is working to accomplish His sovereign purpose for His glory. How does He do it?

2. God uses weak people to accomplish His sovereign purpose.

God didn’t look for a man with renowned military skills, who was already a recognized leader in his community and nation. Rather, He picked a weak man who remained somewhat weak through the whole story and who (at the end of the story) finally failed. We see Gideon’s weakness in our text in at least five ways:

First, Gideon was defeated and cowardly. He was threshing wheat in a winepress. Normally, farmers would thresh wheat (to separate the wheat from the chaff) by using oxen pulling a heavy threshing sledge over it in an exposed area where the wind would blow the chaff away. But Gideon was down in a winepress beating the wheat with a stick “in order to save it from the Midianites” (Jud. 6:11).

Second, Gideon was dense spiritually. He either had not heard or not understood the message of the prophet, who attributed Israel’s abysmal situation to their sin. Gideon rehearsed for the angel how the Lord had delivered Israel from Egypt through mighty miracles. But he mistakenly concluded (Jud. 6:13), “But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” He was right about the Lord giving Israel into the hand of Midian, but he was wrong in saying that the Lord had abandoned them. As we’ve seen the Lord was working even in this spiritually dark time.

Third, Gideon was depressed. We see this in his complaint that God had abandoned Israel. Gideon had lost hope for any deliverance from this oppressive enemy that was literally eating Israel’s lunch!

Fourth, Gideon was down on himself rather than being focused on the Lord. When the angel tells Gideon (Jud. 6:14), “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian,” He was not implying that Gideon had the strength in himself to deliver Israel from the Midianites. Rather, Gideon’s strength was to be found in the angel’s rhetorical question, “Have I not sent you?” and in the angel’s promise (Jud. 6:16), “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” But Gideon was focused on his own incompetence rather than on the Lord’s power and presence. In verse 15, Gideon tells the angel (note the repeated “I” and “my”), “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

Fifth, Gideon was doubtful of God’s promises. The angel promised to be with Gideon and that Gideon would defeat the enemy. But Gideon needed a sign to confirm the angel’s word. God graciously complied with His weak servant’s request, first by incinerating Gideon’s offering; and then by making Gideon’s fleece first wet and then dry. Finally, knowing Gideon’s remaining doubts about attacking the Midianites, God graciously provided a final sign by allowing Gideon to overhear an enemy soldier telling about a dream in which Gideon was victorious over the Midianite army (Jud. 7:9-14). But up to that point, Gideon was marked by doubts.

Perhaps you can relate to one or more of these forms of weakness. Maybe you are defeated by some sin that robs you of the fullness of God’s blessing in your life. Or, you’re spiritually dense. You don’t see how God can possibly be at work in your dark situation. Maybe you’re depressed because of your circumstances. You’ve lost hope for any kind of deliverance. Or, perhaps you’re focused on yourself rather than the Lord. You feel as if you’re too weak and insignificant for God to use you. And maybe you’re doubtful of God’s promises to be with you and to give you victory over the enemy. In other words, you’re a lot like Gideon!

What’s the solution? It’s not, as the world tells us, to believe in yourself. It’s not to build your self-esteem or to follow some best-selling author’s steps to success. Rather, as C. H. Mackintosh wrote (Miscellaneous Writings [Loizeaux Brothers], 2:21), “If we can do nothing, self-confidence is the height of presumption. If God can do everything, despondency is the height of folly.” Or as the apostle Paul wrote (2 Cor. 1:8-9), “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” Trusting in God is the solution for weak people who want to see Him work in their dark situation.

3. The weak people God uses must learn to trust His mighty strength.

Paul wrote (1 Cor. 1:26-29):

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

Paul also told the Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:9-10),

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Besides Paul, throughout Scripture we see God using weak people who trust in Him. Abraham and Sarah were barren and beyond their ability to bear children when God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations. Jacob had to trust God to protect him from his stronger brother, Esau. Moses had to spend 40 years in the wilderness tending sheep to break him of his self-confidence. When the Lord then called him to deliver Israel, Moses complained that he was unable to speak well. He asked God to find someone else. Peter failed terribly by denying the Lord before the Lord used him to bring 3,000 to faith on the Day of Pentecost.

But trusting God can be sort of nebulous. Our text reveals five requirements of trusting God that helps bring it more into focus:

First, trusting God requires repenting of compromise with the world. The prophet whom God sent confronted Israel’s idolatry (Jud. 6:10). But their crying out to God for help was not the same as repentance. As we’ll see (Jud. 6:25-32), Gideon had to begin at home by tearing down his father’s idols before God could use him to rout the Midianites. At the heart of idolatry is using spiritual powers for your own advantage. In this sense, many professing Christians try to use God for personal success or to gain whatever blessing they’re looking for. If He comes through, they thank Him and put Him back on the shelf until the next time they need Him. If He doesn’t come through, they look for another god who can deliver the goods. But trusting God means repenting of trying to use Him for our own agenda and submitting to Jesus as Lord, even if it means suffering and martyrdom.

Second, trusting God requires knowing His power on behalf of His people in the past and His promise of power for what He calls us to do. The prophet rehearsed the familiar story of how God had delivered Israel from Egypt. Gideon knew that story, but he didn’t yet see how God would work in the current gloomy situation. The angel promised that he would “defeat Midian as one man” (Jud. 6:16), which either meant “all at once” or “as easily as one man could be defeated.” Repeatedly in Scripture God reminds His servants that nothing is too difficult for Him to do (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37).

Third, trusting God requires knowing God’s purpose for your future. I’m not talking about knowing all the details of how He will direct your future! Rather, I’m talking about knowing in some way how God wants to use you in His kingdom purposes. The angel first told Gideon (Jud. 6:12), “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” Gideon probably looked around to see if He was talking to someone else! At that point, Gideon wasn’t a valiant warrior. He was a defeated coward, threshing out wheat in a winepress. But God calls His servants by what He will make them, not by what they are when He first calls them. Jesus called fickle Peter “a rock” and promised to build His church on Peter’s confession (Matt. 16:16-18). Paul called the carnal Corinthians “saints,” or “holy ones,” even though at that point they were far from holy (1 Cor. 1:2). In Ephesians 1-3 he sets forth our glorious position in Christ before he exhorts us (Eph. 4-6) how to walk in light of that position. He tells us, “Here is who you are in Christ; now, live that way.”

The angel specifically told Gideon that He was sending him to defeat the Midianites (Jud. 6:14). You might wish that God spoke directly to you like that to clarify what He wants you to do. But in general terms, He says to us (1 Pet. 4:10), “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” If you don’t know what your gift is, start serving somewhere and the Lord will direct and refine you in the process. Your gift will be something you enjoy doing (not that it’s always easy!) and it ministers to others.

Fourth, trusting God requires knowing His presence in your daily life. Twice (Jud. 6:12, 16) the angel of the Lord promised Gideon that He would be with him. If God is with us and He is for us, then who can stand against us (Rom. 8:31)? Both David Livingstone, the intrepid missionary to the interior of Africa, and John Paton, who lived among the cannibals of the New Hebrides Islands, relied heavily on Jesus’ promise in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20), “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Livingstone said, “On these words I staked everything, and they never failed!” Paton buried his wife and a short time later, their infant son, not long after they arrived in the South Seas. He said that in danger and in grief, he was sustained by Jesus’ promise, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Both stories are in A Frank Boreham Treasure [Moody Press], compiled by Peter Gunther, pp. 107, 127-129.) Today the New Hebrides, now known as Vanuatu, is one-third Presbyterian, making it the most Presbyterian country in the world!

Fifth, trusting God requires knowing that we are at peace with Him through the sacrifice of His Son for us. It is not clear what Gideon intended by bringing the food offering to the angel. Perhaps at first he viewed it as a hospitality gesture. But when the angel touched the food and it was burned up and then the angel disappeared, Gideon was afraid that he would die, because he had seen the Lord. But the Lord told him (Judges 6:23), “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” Then we read (Jud. 6:24): “Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it The Lord is Peace.”

You cannot trust God to use you in serving Him until you know that you are at peace with Him through trusting in the sacrifice of His Son. Paul wrote (Rom. 5:1), “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If your faith is in Christ and His sacrifice for your sins, then you are at peace with God. Even in the darkest of times, He wants to use you in your weakness as you trust Him, to help accomplish His sovereign purpose for His glory.

Conclusion

Our world, our nation, and our community are spiritually dark. Perhaps you’re going through a spiritually dark time personally. You can know that God is at work even if you don’t see immediate evidence of it. He wants you to trust Him to use the gifts He has entrusted to you as a part of His plan to be glorified through His church. Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, said (goodreads.com/author/quotes/4693730.James_ Hudson_Taylor), “God uses men [he meant women, too] who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.” That’s how God works in spiritually dark times!

Application Points

  1. Think of a dark time in your life when you later realized that God was at work. What did you learn through this time?
  2. How can you discover your spiritual gifts so that you know how God wants to use you?
  3. Read a good biography of a missionary (David Livingstone, John Paton, Hudson Taylor; for others, see my bibliography on the church website). How did he or she trust God in dark times?
  4. Some Christian psychologists say that telling someone to trust God is “worthless medicine.” Agree/disagree? Why?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2020, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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