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Showing posts from February, 2018

Ephesians 2:14: The Dividing Wall of Hostility

Ephesians 2:14 [14] For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (ESV) This verse speaks to the human condition so powerfully.  It seems that in every generation, and in every land, and in every people group there is some kind of dividing wall of hostility.  We reject people because of where they are from, or what color they are, or something that they have done.  This was very much the case at the time that Paul wrote these words to the Church at Ephesus.  The Jews not only viewed the Gentiles as "dogs," they also had a wall to separate them. “In Herod’s Temple there was a wall which separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple, and on that wall were inscriptions in Latin and Greek forbidding Gentiles to enter.  Josephus spoke of these inscriptions, and in excavations made in 1871 and 1934 two of these inscriptions were found.  They read:  “No foreigner may enter within the ba

Ephesians 2:13: Brought Near

Ephesians 2:13 [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (ESV) Do you know what it feels like to be an outcast?  I remember growing up and having very thick glasses.  Every day of school I was called "four eyes."  I also did not wear the latest fashions.  At that time all the kids that were cool wore Levi's jeans and Nike leather basketball sneakers.  I wore whatever hand-me-down jeans or K-Mart brand jeans I was given.  I was never part of the "cool" crowd.  In the school yard, I wanted to play football.  I was always picked last.  I was the one that a team got stuck with. I would have wished that someone would have stepped up and said, "Hey, Kevin is just as cool as us.  Let's hang with him."  It never happened. Now, my being excluded was unpleasant at the time, but not the end of the world.  The exclusion that the Gentiles experienced was a matter of life and death.  As we looke

Ephesians 2:11-12: You Were Separated

Ephesians 2:11–12 [11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (ESV) We do not like to be excluded.  Whether it is an elite club, a group of popular people, or even people who have certain skills that we lack.  We do not like to be left out.  Paul reminds the Ephesian readers that for hundreds of years they were the outcasts.  They were Gentiles.  In our modern society, we don't make much of the use of the word Gentiles.  But, that distinction was a very big deal. Paul goes into detail about just how big of a deal it was to be a Gentile versus being a Jew. Paul lists five distinct ways that the Gentiles were outcasts.  They were: Separated From Christ .  They

Ephesians 2:10: His Workmanship

Ephesians 2:10 [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. We know that the works that we do cannot save us.  In fact, they are actually offensive to God because we boast about them and attempt to steal the glory he deserves.  So, what are we supposed to do?  Do we just avoid doing any works?  Should we sit on our spiritual butts until Jesus returns.  Sadly, I think there are some who have chosen that option. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul talks about what we are to do since we are saved. In his description of what we are to do, he speaks of what we call sanctification.  What is sanctification? “The generic meaning of sanctification is "the state of proper functioning." To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is "sanctified" when used to write. Eyeglasses are "sanctified" when used to improve

Ephesians 2:9: Not a Result of Works

Ephesians 2:9 [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV) We have looked at what Paul said about our salvation being by grace in the previous verse.  Our salvation is not by works.  But, what's so bad about works anyway?  Well, in the right context, works are great!  In verse 10 we will talk about the right place for works.  But, let's look at works in regards to our salvation. Paul makes it clear here in today's verse that if our salvation was earned by our work we would boast about it. It's about who gets the glory for our salvation. Since God initiated our salvation, loving us first, and paying for the penalty of our sins, who do you think should get all the glory for our salvation? He does! Why does it matter that our salvation is not of our own works? Think about it for a moment. If we work, there is a response to working. Work generates credit, payment, reward. Some of you have a job. On payday, you do not go up to your boss and say, “Oh mos

Ephesians 2:8: By Grace

Ephesians 2:8 [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, There is a lie that seems to be continually perpetuated by people today who claim to know Jesus.  It is this idea that God saved us because we are so wonderful and he just couldn't live without us. That is not the case.  God loved us, in our unlovely, rebellious, sinful condition.  We are saved as a gift from God.  We are undeserving.  He is loving to the unlovely.  It glorifies him that he saved us.  We are not to receive glory for it. When Paul says that it is by grace that we have been saved he is talking about a work that God does for us. Grace is a gift. The faith required to reach out toward that gift of grace is also a gift! Salvation is given to us, not purchased by us. This doctrine is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. God initiates salvation. He takes the first step. He does the work. And I  believe that our sinful pride has an issu

Ephesians 2:7: Immeasurable Riches

Ephesians 2:7 [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (ESV) We have been exploring some wonderful truths in this Book of Ephesians.  We discover that in Christ we have been brought from death to life.  We have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.  It is very heady stuff.  If we are not careful, we can place the focus on ourselves and revel in all that we have.  I want us to see something here in this verse today. The immeasurable riches of God's grace are on display.  "So that in the coming ages he MIGHT SHOW. . ." Yes, we are the recipients of God's kindness. We have received all the blessings mentioned in God's Word.  But, the focus is to display for all the world, and for all ages, the glory of God!  God is to be glorified. That is what is most important.  Our response to what we have been given is to be of infinite gratitude.  We dare not take

Ephesians 2:6: Heavenly Places

Ephesians 2:6 [6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, (ESV) For many people the idea of becoming a Christian is the means by which they escape hell and enter an eternal heaven.  It is kind of like purchasing fire insurance.  You pay for it, and then don't think about it until you need it.  But, that is not the right perspective for us.  Paul tells us that part of what Christ has accomplished for us in our salvation is that he "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places." Paul talks about being raised and seated with Christ as a past tense event for the believer.  It has already happened.  No, we are not in our eternal heaven, but the spiritual realm where Christ dwells is now a place where we are with him also.  There is a spiritual battle going on.  The enemy of our souls, Satan, is called the "prince of the power of the air." We learned that just a few verses ago (Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:5: Dead in our Trespasses

Ephesians 2:5 [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (ESV) Every day we see people walking around.  They appear to be very much alive.  We have conversations with them.  We work with them.  They are everywhere.  But they are dead!  I am talking about people who have not been made alive by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ.  Paul tells us that we were dead in our trespasses, but then made alive with Christ.  It's almost like nonbelievers are spiritual zombies. They have temporary physical life, but the life that matters, their spiritual life is dead. Now, some can take great offense to this idea that we are dead in our trespasses, or sins.  I have even heard some very "religious" people claim that they did not sin at all.  They may make some mistakes, but no sins. These are some of the very dead people that I am talking about.  They do not know they are dead. I think a fair question become

Ephesians 2:4: But God . . .

Ephesians 2:4 [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (ESV) In verses 1-3 of this chapter we hear some really bad news about our life before Christ came to give his life for us.  We were spiritually dead, led by Satan himself, and objects of God’s wrath.  It is important to never forget about the original condition of every man and woman.  Without God intervening on our behalf, we are guaranteed to receive God’s wrath.  And the fact is, God is under no obligation whatsoever to be merciful.  But God . . . I love those two words that begin verse 4. “But God.”  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us.”  So many people are rebelling against a God that they do not know and do not understand.  If they actually knew him they would not want to rebel against him.  But, as we have already discovered, knowing God can only happen as God initiates that knowledge.  One of God’s divine characteristics is his me

Ephesians 2:1-3: Spiritually Dead

Ephesians 2:1–3 [1] And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (ESV) Many people do not fully understand what it means to be a Christian. They think that men are basically good.  And so, accepting Christ as their Savior is just a nice addition to a basically good life.  The Apostle Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, describes things differently.  In our passage today, he describes our spiritual condition before Christ saved us.  He describes us as dead in our sins, following Satan, and children of wrath.  This condition is a universal condition of all mankind. Let's briefly consider these three descriptions. First of all, we

Ephesians 1:20-21: Far Above All Authority

Ephesians 1:21–23 [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV) How do you view Jesus?  I was watching a movie with my family the other day, and in that movie there was a quote about God where someone said, "God and I are the best of homies."  We all laughed at how ridiculous that sounded.  But, how do we think of Jesus?  We know that he loves us. We know that he gave his life to save us and protect us from God's wrath.  But, I fear that we sometimes treat God trivially like he is our buddy in the sky.  He is there to do what we want him to, and he is never unhappy with us.  But, the Apostle Paul describes for us who our Savior is in these closing verses of Ephesians 1. He is above all rule and author

Ephesians 1:19-20: Divine Power

Ephesians 1:19–20 [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, (ESV) Every few years we get a storm that is so intense that power lines are down and a town will be without power for days, and maybe even weeks.  It is amazing how crippling that lack of electricity is to our way of life.  We cannot watch television, charge our smart phones, use our cooking stove, refrigerate our food, or even have running water.  Like it or not, we need power to do most of the things that we need to do in our lives. How about walking the Christian life.  Do you think we need power?  I say, Yes! In our verses today, Paul is telling us about God's power toward us who believe. In the previous verse he talked about our spiritual eyes being opened to the hope and riches that are ours in Jesus.  He now

Ephesians 1:18: Spiritual Eyes

Ephesians 1:18 [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, (ESV) I have childhood memories of wearing a hat in the wintertime.  Someone would come up from behind me and pull the hat over my eyes and say, "Where were you when the lights went out?"  From a spiritual standpoint, let's look at that very question.  Paul continues in his praying, by asking that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened, that we would know the hope to which he has called us, and the riches of our inheritance. This idea of spiritual blindness has two components.  First of all, we realize that no person comes to an understanding of the light of Christ unless God turns the lights on! Jesus himself said in John 6:44, " No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him." God the Father is the one who opens our eyes.  Where were you when the

Ephesians 1:17: The Spirit of Wisdom

Ephesians 1:17 [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (ESV) If you could gain all kinds of new knowledge, what would you want to know?  I have often wished that I knew more about carpentry and how to build things.  Maybe you want to understand the writings of Greek philosophy.  Perhaps, the world of scientific discovery intrigues you.  The Apostle Paul is praying that the church have more wisdom.  But, in what area are we to grow in wisdom?  In what field of study? Because the Apostle Paul loves the Church he prays that God would give us the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. There is no greater thing that we can know, than to know more about God! Moms and Dads, you might want to catch the importance here.  We can be so adamant about our children doing their schoolwork that we neglect the instruction in the knowledge of God.  Knowing God is far more th

Ephesians 1:15-16: I Do Not Cease to Give Thanks

Ephesians 1:15–16 [15] For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, (ESV) In the previous fourteen verses of this opening chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul has introduced himself and expounded on the mystery of the Gospel and true saving faith.  Now, he speaks directly to the Ephesians about how thankful he is for them.  So thankful that he does not cease to give thanks for them, remembering them in his prayers. Why is Paul so thankful?  What was so great about the church at Ephesus? He tells us, in verse 15. He has heard of their faith in Jesus, and their love for all the saints.  Their faith was not just talk.  It was real.  It resulted in loving one another.  Remember that the structure of this book of Ephesians is theological and practical.  The first 3 chapters being theological, tells us what it means to be a genuine believer. The l

Ephesians 1:13-14: Sealed with the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:13–14 [13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV) So many people struggle with uncertainty and fear in regards to their relationship with God.  How secure is our relationship?  Does God hold on to us no matter what?  Can I lose my salvation?  How can I know if I belong to Jesus?  In these two verses we find solid answers and real hope. Let's look at our responsibility and the Lord's responsibility in this relationship.  In verse 13 we discover two significant elements of our salvation that fall on us.  We must hear the Gospel, and we must believe the Gospel.  The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ gave his life in payment of our sin, and that his resurrection provided for our eternal life.  We must hear and believe.  There are many peo

Ephesians 1:12: The First to Hope in Christ

Ephesians 1:12 [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (ESV) Have you ever been the very first to experience an exciting event?  There is something special about being part of something new and exciting.  Paul is writing as the Church is in its infancy.  Everything is brand new.  There are not generations and generations of Christians. Rather, Christ has just been raised from the dead and ascended to the Heavenly Father.  The Church is in its very first generation of existence.  And Paul says that those who were the first to hope in Christ, which would be everyone who was a Christian at that time, are to be to the praise of his glory. From the very beginning of the Church the purpose of Christians is to glorify Jesus Christ.  We are to be the praise of his glory.  Generations and decades later the Church seems to be about all kinds of things.  We have rock bands leading worship.  We have videos.  We are active in various project

Ephesians 1:11: God Works All Things

Ephesians 1:11 [11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (ESV) There are two key words here in this verse that I want to look at today: "work," and "will." Paul is talking about God's working and his will.  And I want you to think of that in stark contrast to our work and our will. We may have the will to do something, but as we all know, the work does not always follow our will.  The flesh may be willing, but the rest of us is week!  Every time I look at the mess accumulating in the inside of my truck I declare, "I'm going to clean up this mess!" Now, it has gotten to the point that if a homeless man was living inside the mess I would be unable to find them. All silliness aside, I want you to consider the idea of our eternal salvation and right standing with God.  Even if a person would "will" to have a relation

Ephesians 1:11: We Have an Inheritance

Ephesians 1:11 [11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (ESV) Imagine, if you will, that you have worked your whole life barely being able to financially survive.  For some of you it might not be too hard to imagine!  You have never been able to provide the finer things for your family.  Others eat steak.  You hope there is enough in your cupboards for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The roof leaks.  The furnace is constantly broken. Your children's understanding of "new clothes" is when a relative gives them "hand-me-downs."  And then one day you go to the mailbox and open a letter that changes your future.  Your rich family member has given you their inheritance.  You are now rich beyond your wildest imagination.  Sounds great, doesn't it? The Creator of the whole universe owns all things.  All riches and possessions are his.

Ephesians 1:10: A Plan for the Fullness of Time

Ephesians 1:10 [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV) So many people today live in fear of the future.  Recently, I overheard some people talking about the problem of us using all of our fossil fuels and wondering how we could continue to live on this Earth without them.  It is a legitimate concern if you do not know that there is a God who has a divine purpose not only for our present life, but for our future. In Ephesians 1:10 Paul tells us that God has a plan for the fullness of time, which ultimately unites everything in Christ.  Let's talk about this phrase, "fullness of time."  In this verse, this phrase is referring to the completion of time. Let's back up a bit.  To understand the completion of time, we need to understand the concept of time in general.  Time is something that God created. It has a beginning.  It has an end.  God is infinite.  He exists outside of time and space.

Ephesians 1:9: The Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:9 [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  (ESV) There are so many in this life that think that God is a great mystery.  In fact, many view God as existing, but unknowable.  He is just too mysterious and above them that they fail to reach out and have a relationship with him.  I believe that many of those very people who claim that God is such a mystery want to keep him that way.  They have no actual intentions of solving the mystery of God. The late Christian singer, Keith Green, said: "You're so proud of saying you're a seeker But why are you searching in the dark You won't find a thing Until you soften your heart" To those who want to claim to be seeking out the mysteries of God, without sincerely seeking him, I have news for you.  You are missing out on the greatest revealed mystery of all time!  One of the things that amazes me about God is that he goes out of his way to

Ephesians 1:7-8: Riches of His Grace

Ephesians 1:7–8 [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (ESV) Throughout the eons of time, our amazing God has called millions and millions of people of every people, tribe and nation unto himself. It is staggering to think how abundant and amazing his grace truly is.  We were forgiven, as Paul says here in Ephesians, according to the riches of his grace. What an endless supply of grace he must have.  That grace that has saved so many is available to save even more. In our daily lives we get so overwhelmed. We are weak and fallen creatures.  The enemy of our souls whispers to us that God does not truly care about us.  But Paul reminds us that God redeemed us and and forgave us according to the riches of his grace.  He owed us nothing.  He gave us everything. Verse 8 expounds to us that not only is God's grace abundant in its totality,

Ephesians 1:7: In Him We Have Redemption

Ephesians 1:7 [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (ESV) Jesus Christ died for our sins. We are forgiven of our sins only through his blood. Scripture talks about Christ being the “propitiation” of our sins. The Apostle John writes: 1 John 4:10 [10] In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (ESV) That word propitiation means payment. Paul told the church at Rome, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)" Our sins have earned us death. That death is an eternal one. God’s wrath is serious stuff. You say, “Wait a minute, God is a god of love, isn’t he?” Yes, that is why he made a way through the blood of Jesus Christ, his own son. Do you want more love than that? That’s impossible. Let’s talk a little about blood, shall we? In the Old T

Ephesians 1:6: Praise of His Grace

Ephesians 1:6 [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV) To whom do you give praise?  We are prone to praise our children, our own accomplishments, or others who have been a help to us.  We praise musicians, artists of various kinds, and teachers.  While none of those things are necessarily wrong they can be wrong if we elevate them to a level that is above the praise of God's glorious grace!  In fact, I will go out on a limb and step on some Evangelical toes.  There are too many worship songs sung in too many churches that give praise to man and how wonderful we are that God just couldn't live without us.  This is wrong precisely because all glory is to go to God, not to us. We are to give praise to God, who is the giver of grace.  All glory goes to him. His grace has blessed us.  We have been saved as a gracious gift of our wonderful Father.  He provided Christ to be the propitiation for our sins.  Our debt is paid.  We

Ephesians 1:5: According to the purpose of his will

Ephesians 1:5 [5] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (ESV) Have you ever tried to discern what God's will is? I hope you have. God's will should always have preeminence in our lives.  We live to accomplish what he wills.  But, I want us to consider God's perfect will in regards to our adoption as his children of God. Paul says that we were predestined for adoption, according to God's will.  We often hear churches preach a Gospel that emphasizes us "choosing" God.  It implies a doctrinal position that we are in charge of salvation, and things hinge on our will.  But our adoption as children of God is in accordance with the purpose of God's will. Imagine God, as a ruler of the largest kingdom, looking at potential orphan children to consider for adoption into his family.  Do you think the orphans are going to call the shots?  No, the one doing the choosing is going to be the

Ephesians 1:5: Adoption

Ephesians 1:5 [5] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (ESV) I think adoption is a wonderful word. In fact, in a culture that promotes the destruction of unwanted babies so casually, adoption is a wonderful and godly alternative. We have all heard of stories where a child was raised in foster homes, always longing for some family to come along and choose them as their child. Perhaps you are an adopted child and you can identify with how wonderful it is to be chosen for adoption. The greatest adoption story is found right here in Ephesians.  God the Father predestined us for adoption.  He chose us to be his children.  I want you to imagine a scenario where a precious child is chosen by an adoptive family.  Everything is new.  They have their own room.  They don't have to live out of suitcases anymore.  There is a new stability in their life.  It's a big adjustment.  But, a bigger issue . . . what do

Ephesians 1:4-5:Predestined

Ephesians 1:4–5 [4] . . . In love [5] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (ESV) As a pastor, I have had many conversations with people. What people say helps me to understand just how deeply they understand the truths of Scripture.  At times people have made this statement to me: "I don't believe in predestination."  I kind of smile and reply, "Oh, then you're a heretic."  Of course, that is an invitation to a deeper discussion. One of the things we need to understand is that all of Scripture is true, even the parts we do not understand or even parts we do not like.  In this wonderful passage in Ephesians 1, Paul let's us know that "in love, God predestined us for adoption." To say that we do not believe in predestination is to say that we do not believe in the Word of God.  If you belong to God, you have been predestined. The great late theologian R. C. Sproul de