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1. How to Live in Praise, Even in Trials

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

How can we live a life of constant praise? First Thessalonians 5:18 calls for us to give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for our lives. Ephesians 5:18-20 calls for us to be filled with the Spirit, to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making a melody in our hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God for everything. Christians are meant to be a people of praise and worship.

Why do we often fail at this? Why is our praise often so shallow? Some people only worship at church. Others praise God only in good times, but not when things are bad or difficult.

In this text we see the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which starts with praise to God. Chapter 1:3-14 is one long run-on sentence in the Greek. But not only is it one sentence, it is one long praise to God. In verse 3, Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In verse 6 he says, “to the praise of his glorious grace,” and finally in verse 14, he says, “to the praise of his glory.” Many theologians believe that Paul is actually singing a song that models a Hebrew blessing song in verses 3-14.1 These blessing songs always began with “Blessed are You, Lord God.” Similarly, Paul here declares, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.3).

At this time, Paul was imprisoned in Rome for preaching the gospel, but his heart was not in prison. While chained next to a Roman soldier, his heart was free and lost in worship. And he seeks to draw the Ephesians and us into continual worship as well—worship not dependent upon our circumstances.

In this song, Paul praises God for the great riches given to believers in Christ (v. 3). This would have resonated with the Ephesians, as Ephesus was considered the bank of Asia. The Temple of Diana, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was there. It was not only a center for idolatrous worship, but also a depository for wealth, housing some of the greatest art treasures of the ancient world.2

However, Paul is saying that the wealth of believers is even greater than that of the city. Therefore, they should praise God no matter their circumstances. This is true for us as well.

How can we live a life of ever resounding praise regardless of our circumstances? How can we develop consistency in our worship?

Jesus says in John 4:23 that the Lord seeks worshipers who worship in spirit and truth. In this, I believe we see why we often do not worship God. One of the components necessary for worship is truth, or doctrine. We cannot truly worship what we do not know or understand. We cannot worship someone if we don’t know how worthy he is.

Sadly, many Christians lack true worship and true joy because they lack doctrine. They lack theology. Often people say, “Don’t give me doctrine! Give me Jesus!” However, they are one and the same. John’s favorite title for Christ was the “Word” (John 1:1). He was the communication of God, as he taught the words of God (John 12:49). If we do not know God’s words, if we do not know theology, then we cannot truly worship him.

To compound this situation, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 describes how in the last days people will not be able to stand sound doctrine, but instead will “gather around them … teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” We are in a season of church history where people don’t want doctrine. Therefore, the teaching in the church is often weak and our worship suffers.

Paul’s praise is full of theology; it is full of doctrine. His focus is not on his circumstances, but on the wonderful grace of God. This is worship that an immature Christian can never really offer; it is rich in doctrine. As we study this text, my hope is that we also may worship more fully as we understand what God has done for us and what he is doing in us, and begin to focus on those things.

Big Questions: What does Paul praise God for in his blessing song? How can we implement worship in our daily lives, especially when going through trials?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on Their New Home—the Heavenly Realms

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

Interpretation Question: What does the term “heavenly realms” refer to, and how are believers related to it?

The first aspect of Paul’s praise that must stand out is the believers’ new home. He says that we have been blessed in the heavenly realms; this can be literally translated as “the heavenlies.” This is the first of five times this term is used in Ephesians, and it is not used anywhere else in Paul’s letters.3

What does he mean by the heavenlies? In Ephesians 1:20, he says God raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the heavenlies. In Ephesians 2:6, he says we are seated with him in the heavenlies. In Ephesians 6:12, he says we battle with powers and principalities in the heavenlies.

This is the paradox of the believer’s existence. Even as we are right now literally on the earth, we are also literally in heaven. This is because of our position in Christ (Eph 1:3). We are there with God our Father and Christ our Lord. We are dual citizens of earth and heaven (Phil 3:20-21).

While in prison, Paul contemplated this reality and worshiped God the Father because of it. How this positional reality really works, I don’t think we can be sure. However, if we are going to worship as Paul did, we must first believe it. We must accept it as true. It’s not figurative; it’s not metaphorical. Not only is Christ there, but we are there with him. Hebrews 12:22-24 says this:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The writer of Hebrews says this is our position and company now, not sometime in the future. We are seated in the heavenly realms with the angels, the church, the saints of the Old Testament, God and Christ.

Secondly, we must focus on it. Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Our hearts must be set on things above. Sadly, most Christians have shallow worship because their hearts are set on money, on the treasures of this world, on the trials that distract them, etc. If we are going to worship, we must be consumed with heaven and the King of heaven—God (Matt 6:9-1110). We must be consumed with the agenda of heaven, building the kingdom on this earth (Matt 20:18-19). We must be consumed with the law of heaven—God’s Word. We must be consumed with developing the character of heaven. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We must be consumed with the coming Savior from heaven. Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Is your mind consumed with the heavenlies? Have you set your mind on things above and not on earthly things? Or are you consumed with the things of this world? If you’re consumed with the things of this world, your praise will be weak.

If we are going to live in praise even while going through trials, we must be consumed with our heavenly home.

Application Questions: How can we focus more on our heavenly citizenship instead of our earthly home? What disciplines will help us with this endeavor?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on Their Spiritual Blessings

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

Interpretation Questions: What does the phrase “every spiritual blessing” refer to? And what is the practical application for believers?

The next aspect of Paul’s praise to God (while in prison) focuses on every spiritual blessing of believers in the heavenly realms. What does Paul mean by “every spiritual blessing”? “In the New Testament pneumatikos (spiritual) is always used in relation to the work of the Holy Spirit.”4 In fact, it can be translated “all the blessings of the Spirit”—referring to the Holy Spirit of God.5

While in prison, Paul was probably not only hungry, but also lacking in basic comfort, freedom, and other physical blessings. But that did not stop him from praising God for his blessings! Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from pain and suffering in this world. In fact, many times it increases pain and suffering. However, God does promise innumerable blessings from the Spirit.

What do these blessings from the Spirit include? We will consider many of them as we go through Ephesians 1:4-13: election, predestination as sons, redemption, etc. However, this list is not exhaustive. There is much, much more. Spiritual blessings include the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Paul worshiped in prison because the Holy Spirit gave him joy, regardless of his circumstances. The Spirit gave him love for the churches. The Spirit gave him patience to faithfully endure his trials and deal with difficult people. The blessings of the Spirit are legion, and we should rejoice in them daily. Christ describes those who believe in him as having rivers of living water flowing “from within them” (John 7:38-39). He describes them as those who will never thirst again (John 4:14). That sounds like people who should be rejoicing!

Interpretation Questions: What about physical blessings? Does God promise to give us physical blessings as well?

In light of the above, does this mean God will not supply our physical needs as well? Contrary to the tenets of the prosperity gospel, God does not promise us earthly wealth and health. But, he does promise to meet our needs according to his riches in glory (Phil 4:19). Christ declares that we have a Father who knows our needs, and that we shouldn’t worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear (Matt 6:25-34). Paul says that since God has already given us his best—his Son—surely he will give us all things (Rom 8:32). Yes, we can be sure God will meet all our needs on this earth. Charles Spurgeon says,

“He that gives us heaven will surely give us all that is needful on the road thither.” And, “We shall have enough spending money on the road to glory; for he who has guaranteed to bring us there will not starve us along the way.”6

With that said, how do we receive these spiritual blessings in the heavenly places? How can we access the wealth that the Spirit of God supplies to believers?

Application Question: How can we access the blessings of the Spirit in our lives?

1. We access the blessings of the Spirit by abiding in Christ.

Paul said all these blessings are “in Christ” (1: 3). This means we have them positionally because of our union with him, but the Spirit applies them as we abide in this relationship. Christ says, “‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

We must abide in Christ through being in his Word, prayer, and the gathering of the saints in order to receive joy, peace, love, and patience. Are you remaining in Christ? Or are you simply visiting him on occasion?

2. We access the blessings of the Spirit by persevering in prayer for them.

Certainly, asking God for them in prayer is part of abiding, but it will benefit us to consider this aspect of abiding separately. Christ says this about the Holy Spirit to his disciples in Luke 11:11-13:

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

When Christ says God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him, he is talking to the disciples, who are believers. They already had the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what is he talking about? He is talking about God blessing the disciples with the ministries of the Holy Spirit. One commentator says this about verse 13:

In the original Greek, verse 13 does not say that God will give the Holy Spirit, but rather He will “give Holy Spirit” (without the article). Professor H. B. Swete pointed out that when the article is present, it refers to the Person Himself, but when the article is absent, it refers to His gifts or operations on our behalf. So in this passage, it is not so much a prayer for the Person of the Holy Spirit, but rather for His ministries in our lives.7

Do you lack peace in the midst of your storm? Ask. Do you lack joy in your trial? Ask. Do you lack love for someone whose behavior is unlovable? Ask. Luke 11:9-10 says,

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

This literally means to ask and keep asking, seek and keep seeking, knock and keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. We must not only ask, but we must persevere in asking.

Some don’t receive because they don’t ask. James 4:2 says, “You have not because you ask not.” Some don’t have because they give up asking. They don’t persevere like the widow who approached the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).

Don’t stop asking God! Don’t stop praying! And God will give you the blessings of the Spirit that are already yours in Christ.

This is the reason worship can arise from within prison walls. Every spiritual blessing was Paul’s, and they’re ours as well.

Application Questions: How should the reality of this wealth of spiritual blessings encourage you daily, especially during trials? What spiritual blessing is God currently calling you to persevere in seeking?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on Their Union with Christ

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

The next thing we must focus on if we are going to live in praise is our union with Christ. This is the sphere of our blessing—the reason we receive them. Scripture teaches that when we were born again, we were united with Christ. First Corinthians 12:13 says, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” When we were saved, we were united with Christ and became members of his body.

Now God no longer sees us in our sins, but he sees us in Christ. We are not accepted because of anything we have done; we are accepted because of Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We are the righteousness of God because God sees us in the Son. First Corinthians 6:17 says, “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.”

Commentator William MacDonald adds:

When a person is converted, God no longer looks upon him as a condemned child of Adam. Rather He sees him as being in Christ, and He accepts him on that basis. It is important to see this. The believing sinner is not accepted because of what he is in himself, but because he is in Christ. When he is in Christ, he stands before God clothed in all the acceptability of Christ Himself. And he will enjoy God’s favor and acceptance as long as Christ does, namely, forever.8

This is our new position; we are in Christ. And Paul’s focus on this is seen in how he refers to our positon in Christ, in various ways, eleven times just in Chapter 1.9 Here are a few examples:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Ephesians 1:1)

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

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (Ephesians 1:4)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:7)

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)

Why should we continue to praise God? We should praise him because he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. We should praise him continually because we have been redeemed from sin. We should rejoice because we have every spiritual blessing in Christ. In Adam, we had sin, condemnation, and shame. But in Christ we have forgiveness, honor, and power—every spiritual blessing.

This must be our focus and our joy while on this earth. We must rejoice in our position in Christ. Are you still rejoicing in your position in Christ?

Application Questions: How can we discipline ourselves to focus on our new position in Christ? How should this reality affect our daily lives?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on Their Election

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love … (Ephesians 4:4)

The next reason we should continually praise God is for our election—his choosing us for salvation. This doctrine has often been a source of anger and dispute; however, this is not the way it is handled in Scripture. Rather, it is a source of continual rejoicing. In this text, Paul praises God for the election of himself and other saints. Similarly, in Peter’s letter to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor, he simply calls them “God’s elect” (1 Peter 1:1). This was a common title for Christians in the early church.

This tells us something. If it was a cause for singing for the early church and a title they called one another, then it must be something tremendously good. If it is a source of bitterness and tension in the modern church, it is only because we don’t truly understand it or have corrupted it.

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the teaching that God chose us before the creation of the world?

It can mean one of two things.

  1. First, some believe it means God selected us because he saw we would believe in the future. They say God looked down the corridor of time and saw we would have faith and therefore chose us. However, this really negates God’s selection of us. Salvation then becomes based on man’s initiative—man’s choosing—instead of God’s.
  2. Second, others believe that God chose us based solely on his sovereignty. As God, he has the right to choose, and he did.

Which is correct? I believe the second view has more scriptural support.

Interpretation Question: What are some scriptural supports for God’s election based solely on his sovereignty and grace?

  • Scripture teaches that because of his sin, man cannot choose God, apart from grace.

Even though many boast in free will, the reality is that sin makes us a slave. And as slaves, we need someone to redeem us, to set us free. Consider what Paul says about man’s condition because of sin.

Romans 8:7 says, “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” The natural mind cannot submit to God’s will. It is at enmity with God.

Romans 3:10-11 says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” Sin affects man in such a way that he will not seek God. He will not come after him. God had to take the initiative. Christ came to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10). We cannot seek him and couldn’t find him if we did—we are lost.

First Corinthians 2:14 says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Apart from the Holy Spirit, we cannot accept or even understand the Word of God.

This leaves only one possible way for man to be saved. Salvation has to be wholly from God. Man’s eyes are blinded and his mind is clouded. His will is bound by sin, and he cannot accept the things of God. Election does not mean that God foresaw faith in us before he created the world. It means he foresaw how sin would so ravage mankind that we would be eternally lost. If any were going to be saved, God had to take the initiative. He had to choose some. He reached down into the slave market of men where all were bound by sin, and saved a few.

What other evidence is there for this view?

  • Scripture teaches that our faith is a gift from God, apart from any work of our own.

Consider Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Sometimes this verse is misquoted. Sometimes people say we are saved by faith. No, we are not. We are saved by grace—God’s unmerited favor. In fact, this verse says that the very faith we put in Christ is a gift of God. Because man could not respond to God, God had to give some—the elect—faith. Therefore, no man can boast in their salvation or even in their faith. It is a gift from the sovereign God, who elects some to salvation. 

Interpretation Question: What about those who never get saved? Were they elected to damnation?

Well, this creates a further complication. What about the lost—those who never will be saved? Did God elect them to damnation? No. Scripture never teaches God’s election of the lost. He doesn’t need to elect the lost, because our own sin condemns and separates us from him. He needs to elect some to salvation.

Certainly, this is a complicated and difficult doctrine. One professor says, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!” 10 Yes, election is a difficult doctrine, but it does show God’s mercy. As a just God, he could justly allow everybody to go to hell for their sin. But in his mercy, he chooses to save a few.

Interpretation Question: How does election fit with human responsibility?

What about human responsibility? Why do we preach the gospel if God has already elected some to salvation? This is the mystery of election. Scripture teaches these two seemingly conflicting doctrines together. It says God elected, and yet, at the same time, it says man is responsible—he is responsible to respond to the gospel. In fact, we see them both in one verse. John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Do you see that? All that the Father gave Christ (the elect) will come to Christ (human responsibility). Even though they are elected, they will choose of their own “free will” to come to God. This is how we know they are elected. Human responsibility and God’s sovereignty somehow fit together. The mystery is in our minds—not God’s. I believe we fall into wrong doctrine by emphasizing one over the other. Some emphasize God’s sovereignty to the point where man makes no decision. Others emphasize man’s responsibility and lower God’s sovereignty. We must teach them side by side, for in some way or another, they are both true.

Purpose of Election

Interpretation Question: What is the purpose of election?

Now, what is the purpose of election? Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” God elected us so we could be holy and blameless; he elected us for sanctification. 

“Positively it is ‘to be holy’ — that is, set apart from the world, separate, different. And negatively it is to be ‘blameless’ — literally, without spot or blemish, a sacrifice to be presented to God.”11 God elected us to be separate from the world. We must be different. He also elected us to be pure and righteous before him. Believers were elected for the purpose of sanctification—to become more like Christ (Rom 8:29).

If we think we are saved, but we are not different--our language and desires haven’t changed, we don’t desire the Word of God or want to worship God and know him better, and we still live in sin and enjoy it--then maybe we are not really elected. In 2 Peter 1:5-10, we are commanded to make our election sure by growing in godliness.

Are you sure about your election? Are you growing in godliness?

If we are elect, our lives will be continually changing. Yes, it may be a slow process, but it is a process every believer is engaged in. God has promised to complete the work he began in us (Phil 1:6).

Those professing faith in Matthew 7:21-23 called Christ “Lord,” but their lives were not holy. Here is what Christ says about such people:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

What was their problem? They were living sinful lives—their “faith” had not led to change, so there was no election. Election leads us into holiness and blamelessness.

Has your profession of faith changed your life? If not, you might not be elected. Salvation is not just positional (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), it is actual—it actually changes us (cf. James 2:17).

Application Question: What are some ways the doctrine of election should affect us?

1. The doctrine of election should create humility.

Salvation is by grace, and there is no place for boasting in our wisdom and knowledge; even our faith is a gift of God.

2. The doctrine of election should lead us to worship.

Our only boasting should be in God. As mentioned, understanding theology—doctrine—should increase our worship. Why did God set his loving affection on us? The answer lies in his sovereignty—simply because he chose to do so. It had nothing to do with us. It was amazing grace. This should lead us to worship.

3. The doctrine of election should motivate us to evangelize.

Some think this doctrine hinders evangelism. However, they are wrong. Rightly understood, election should motivate us to preach the gospel. Fear of rejection often hinders believers from sharing their faith, but it shouldn’t. God has chosen the elect, and they will come to Christ (John 6:37). I can preach with confidence because I know that before time God chose some to be saved, and they will eventually respond. Listen to what Acts 13:48 says: “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy: “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10). Paul was indeed motivated to reach the elect.

4. The doctrine of election is evidence that Scripture is divine.

If Scripture were man made, these types of contradictions might not be present. However, if it is truly divine, then we would expect there to be many things we cannot fully comprehend. How can God be three separate persons and yet one? How can Christ be fully God and fully man? How can God be sovereign and yet man have human responsibility? These doctrines simply attest to the divine origin of Scripture. Finite man cannot and should not expect to fully comprehend an infinite God.

Application Questions: Why is election such a controversial doctrine? What view do you take on the subject and why?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on Their Adoption as Sons

he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— (Ephesians 1:5)

Interpretation Question: What is the difference between election and predestination?

The next thing we should focus on to live a life of praise is our adoption as sons. God predestined us to be in his family. But what is the difference between predestination and election? Aren’t they the same thing?

The word [predestination] simply means “to ordain beforehand, to predetermine.” Election seems to refer to people, while predestination refers to purposes. The events connected with the crucifixion of Christ were predestined (Acts 4:25–28). God has predestined our adoption (Eph 1:5), and our conformity to Christ (Rom 8:29–30), as well as our future inheritance (Eph. 1:14).12

God’s purpose in electing and predestining us was to make us his sons—his children. God could have just saved us; he didn’t need to make us part of his family. How can we apply this truth?

Application Question: What applications can we take from our adoption as sons?

1. Adoption means that we are absolutely new people—our past is behind and our identity is in Christ.

Commentator William Barclay says this:

In Roman law, “When the adoption was complete it was complete indeed. The person who had been adopted had all the rights of a legitimate son in his new family and completely lost all rights in his old family. In the eyes of the law he was a new person. So new was he that even all debts and obligations connected with his previous family were abolished as if they had never existed.”13

The people who Paul wrote to would have immediately thought of this. A person adopted into a wealthy family was completely new. All debts and ties to his old life were canceled. And this is true for us as well. We are new in Christ.

We are no longer obligated to live in sin—no longer obligated to follow the ways of the world. We are free to follow Christ and enjoy fellowship with him, and we can leave our past lives behind—which includes our sin. Therefore, even when we fall, we should remember our adoption, confess, repent, and continue to follow Christ (cf. Rom 6:11).

Are you bound to some sin? Let it go—for you have been adopted into God’s family. You are new.

2. Adoption means we receive God’s inheritance.

No doubt this was a cause of much rejoicing and praise on Paul’s part. Under Roman law an adopted son would receive the rights and privileges of a biological son—including an inheritance—and we receive every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3). Romans 8:17 says: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Whatever Christ has is ours as well. God has committed all judgment to him (John 5:22), and Scripture says that when he returns, we will reign and judge with him. Scripture teaches we will judge the world and the angels with him (1 Cor 6:2-3). Is this not something to praise God for? Adoption means we receive Christ’s inheritance.

3. Adoption means we have a new family.

Christ says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” We are now part of the family of God. We have brothers, sisters, moms, and dads all around the world. And one day, we will all be together in heaven.

In fact, Paul taught that even here on earth we should treat people in the church as family. First Timothy 5:1-3 says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

To add to this, Scripture teaches that though Christ is our God, he is also our brother. Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Christ is the firstborn, the chief amongst the family of God and all creation (Col 1:15)—and we have been adopted into the family of God.

4. Adoption means we get a new nature.

Now, this reality is foreign to the practice of human adoption. Adoptive parents can make a child part of their family, and give him wealth and many other benefits, but they cannot impart their DNA into that child. However, this is exactly what God does with us. We are adopted not by legal action but by a new birth (John 3:3). God has given us his nature through the Spirit. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

We have been given his Spirit. The Spirit draws us to call God “Abba”—”Daddy dearest.” He also gives us a desire to read the Word and to see souls saved. As he gives us holy affections, we start to hate sin and love righteousness. In adoption, we receive the nature and characteristics of our Father.

How could Paul not sing while in prison? He had been adopted into the family of God. He was a new person; he had received a new inheritance, a new nature, and a new family. As we contemplate these realities, it should draw us into worship as well. Praise God for our wonderful adoption into his family! Thank you, Lord!

Application Question: In what ways is God calling you to apply this reality of being an adopted son and having a new family in Christ?

In Order to Live in Praise, Believers Must Focus on God’s Abundant Grace

to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:6)

Next, Paul worships God for his glorious grace. Every gift mentioned—the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places—have come to us because of God’s grace. It was by unmerited favor we were elected, predestined, and adopted. It is unmerited favor that daily changes us and sustains us. In Christ, we have received abundant grace. And this grace is the very thing Paul prays for in the beginning of his letter: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2).

And just as wonderful as the grace we have received is the fact that God wants to give us more. James 4:6 says, “He gives us more grace.” How can we not praise God as well? He is the fount from whom all blessings flow—from him come blessings evermore.

Are you contemplating the Lord’s wonderful grace? Are you petitioning him for more? The worshiping believer is one who stands in awe of God’s overflowing and abundant grace, even in the midst of trials, and drinks deeply from it.

In verses 7-14, we will see further works of God’s grace.

Application Questions: Paul praised God for his grace while in prison; have you found any other disciplines helpful in cultivating a lifestyle of worship? What things tend to distract you from worshiping God for his glorious grace?


How can we live a life of praise, even during trials? How can we sing songs of praise even when wrongly accused and in prison? We must have doctrine that draws us to sing. We must not only worship in spirit (with the right heart), but in truth. We must know the truth about God. We must know his Word. Let us leave this portion of our study with this challenge in mind: If we don’t have theology, then we won’t have doxology—worship. If we don’t study him—his mysteries and his works in us—then we won’t know how worthy he is of our worship and praise.

Are you worshiping him with truth throughout the day like Paul did, even during trials?

  1. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on their new home—the heavenly realms.
  2. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on their spiritual blessings.
  3. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on their union with Christ.
  4. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on their election.
  5. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on their adoption as sons.
  6. In order to live in praise, believers must focus on God’s abundant grace.

Copyright © 2016 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV or AKJV are from the King James Version or Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentators’ quotations have been added.

1 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (pp. 16–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 10). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

3 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 35). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 8). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 9). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

6 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (p. 19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1413). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

8 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1907). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

9 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

10 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 11). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

11 Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians: the mystery of the body of Christ (p. 25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

12 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 11). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

13 Guzik, David (2012-11-26). Galatians and Ephesians (Kindle Locations 3742-3745). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.

Related Topics: Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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