Ephesians 2:14-22

“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees”.

Notice the God action relayed here, it is God who made both Jews and Gentiles into one new group. This is a God generated peace, accomplished when Jesus destroyed the hostility that existed between faithful Jews and faithful Gentiles. He “destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility”; Paul uses descriptive language to portray the work of the cross. Some scholars think this is a description of the physical dividing wall in the Temple courts that kept Gentiles, the uncircumcised, separated from the inner courts that were only accessible to circumcised faithful Jews. But we should understand that the language in this verse refers to much more than that particular wall, it seems to also refer to a spiritual separation, a hostility that existed at that time between Jews and Gentiles within the church.

Remember that it was that physical wall in the Temple courts and the very real hostility between Jews and Gentiles that landed Paul in prison in Rome writing to the church in Ephesus. Acts 21 records the encounter; Paul was doing everything that was required by the Law to present himself in the Temple and to facilitate reconciliation between the hostile factions in Jerusalem and the church. Then some Jews from Asia stirred up the crowd in the Temple courts against Paul, falsely accusing him of bringing uncircumcised Gentiles into the restricted area, a riot ensued and Paul was arrested and beaten by the Roman guards. After 2 years of imprisonment in Caesarea, the shipwreck on Malta, Paul and his companions are currently under house arrest in Rome waiting for his trial before Caesar.

There was and continues to be some serious hostility between Jews and Gentiles, but Paul explains how Jesus Christ destroyed this barrier, “when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees”. Nullified means to render inoperative, some translations use the word “abolish” but that word implies complete destruction which is not Paul’s intended meaning. The meaning we should understand from this phrase is that Jesus caused the law to lose its power or effectiveness; specifically the purity laws that kept Jewish and Gentile Christians separated and hindered their worshipping together.

“There are many barriers that can divide us from other Christians: age, appearance, intelligence, political persuasion, economic status, race, theological perspective. One of the best ways to stifle Christ’s love is to be friendly with only those people that we like. Fortunately, Christ has knocked down the barriers and has unified all believers in one family. His cross should be the focus of our unity. The Holy Spirit helps us look beyond the barriers to the unity we are called to enjoy”. LIFE Application Bible

“Jesus nullified in his flesh of the law of the commandments in decrees”, this is not to be misconstrued to mean that God’s Laws are no longer valid. Jesus said Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!”

From Paul’s letter to the Galatians we learn, “Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed. Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.” In Roman culture, the sons and heirs would be put under the custody of a guardian usually a slave whose duty was to conduct the boy in all his education and duties until the youth came of age and was no longer needed a guardian to direct their activities. From this illustration we can understand the use of God’s law in our lives, it is the law that defines our sin which keeps us separated from God, and thus reveals our need of a Savior.

Both Jew and Gentile are condemned by the law, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Only Christ, who perfectly kept the law, was able to present himself as the perfect Passover lamb to cleanse us of our sins, He did this once for all. Jesus in his flesh nullified the law, from Romans 8:3-4, “For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Paul continues to describe God’s purpose, “He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed”. Notice a few things here, this is a new corporate entity united in Christ, not a “Judaized” Gentile nor a “Gentile-ized” Jewish church but a new creation, a united church. This language reminds me of God’s plan for marriage; the two become “one flesh”, a new entity similar to Paul’s description of “one new man out of two”. Additionally, Paul uses the word “create”; this reminds me of the creation when God said, “let us make man in our image”. This new man described in Ephesians, is the church, it is God’s creation made in his image.

Paul continues in Ephesians saying, “And he (Jesus) came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

The result of this message of peace is that both Jewish and Gentile believers have access to God the Father by one Spirit. Notice the work of the Trinity here; believers have access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit because of Christ’s death on the cross. We are no longer strangers or outsiders; we have full access because we are members of God’s household. Paul continues saying that this new building “is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone”. We belong here, in this new home where God is using us, all of us, as the building stones align rightly to and built up from Christ alone. We are being built together, joined together to grow “into a holy temple in the Lord”.

What a beautiful picture, the spiritual temple joined together by believers from all over the world and throughout the generations. 2 Peter 2 relays this same principle, “So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ….But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.

Think of how the Levites and High Priest worked in the Temple in Jerusalem, they rotated continuously to keep the incense, oil lamps and bread and sacrifices before the Mercy seat, the throne of God. They were always turned toward the LORD; their entire life was directed towards service, prayers and sacrifice to the LORD. Now God has declared that we who are believers are a chosen race and a royal priesthood. All of us, not just the professional clergy should have our lives turned towards the LORD, living confidently as a chosen race and serving as a royal priesthood.

Meditation for Donna Jean Jones Dec. 17

Luke 10:38-42 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”

This is a familiar story for us ladies, but I would like for us to consider a few new thoughts as we look at it this morning. First, this narrative was never intended to be reduced to a rivalry between the Marys and the Marthas in the church. When we study this we typically simply say “Are you a Martha?” – The worker bee or “Are you a Mary?” – The contemplative prayerful sitter; Martha bad – Mary good!

Also, this narrative was not intended to be only about busy women in the church – the underlying truths are not gender specific, the truths revealed are for everyone. Additionally, I think the narrative also applies to the seasons in our life, for example when we are in the midst of our busy lives, starting careers or we have children at home – we all seem like Martha, then when we are older and have more quiet time or when we are limited by our energy or health – we all seem like Mary.

Last, this narrative directly follows the parable of the Good Samaritan, which ends with Jesus saying to his disciples and the expert in the law – “Go and do likewise”

Martha was doing likewise; she was busy doing what needed to be done. What I want us to notice is that Jesus identifies Martha’s real problem, she was distracted by the preparations – she was worrying about the many things of life, then by the time she speaks to Jesus she is exasperated and demands that Jesus send Mary to help her!

When Martha complains to Jesus, He sees through her hurt and harsh words to the heart of the problem. “Martha, Martha you are troubled about many things”. Jesus isn’t criticizing her for her good works, but he is concerned that she is anxious and troubled – worrying about the things of life. We should also note that Martha wasn’t the only one who was worried in this group; later the disciples try to discourage Jesus from going to Jerusalem because they too were worried about the plots to kill Jesus.

Notice too that Jesus wasn’t commending Mary for her lack of action, He was commending her for being a disciple, for listening and learning – Listening and Learning are important! This should be our priority.

Jesus was inviting Martha to move from being distracted to be attentive to Him. When we busy ourselves out of fear or anxiety – we become too busy to listen and learn. When we are troubled about many things – they crowd out what is most important. Jesus was inviting Martha to reconsider what is really important, to realign her priorities to what is of first importance. I think we can see that Jesus’ words to Martha are an invitation rather than a rebuke.

Mary wasn’t worried about “all these things” like Martha, she was hanging on every word from Jesus and she was very bold to sit at his feet, the place traditionally reserved for male disciples. Mary broke through the barriers in life to listen and learn at Jesus feet. Like the woman who risked rejection just to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment in order to be healed. They both risked rejection, they boldly put aside the worries and troubles of that day and were both commended by our Savior.

When Donna came into our fellowship it was easy to see that she had a heart like Mary; Donna took every opportunity to study and hear God’s Word and to sit at Jesus’ feet. She would often say to me that she was sorry she couldn’t do more, but what I observed was that in this season of her life Jesus allowed her the great privilege to sit, to meditate study and pray at Jesus’ feet. She was a disciple who was listening and learning. Donna delighted in our JOY of Living bible study group, often when we were engaged in discussion she would quote from memory scripture that we should remember and consider. She was a disciple who learned, listened and remembered the goodness of God.

Later Martha, who as we have noted is best known as being too busy to sit down and talk with Jesus, is revealed as a woman of deep faith in the Gospel of John. Martha, Mary and Lazarus are at home in Bethany when Lazarus becomes very sick, they send a message to Jesus asking him to come quickly saying, “The one you love is sick”. Now, Jesus was not that far away and we remember that Jesus has already demonstrated that he has the power to heal the sick and raise the dead. In Luke 7 – Jesus raises to life the dead son of the widow of Nain when he sees the funeral procession. In Mark 5 – Jesus brings back to life the daughter of Jarius’ from a great distance. But this time Jesus stays where he was for two more days. By the time Jesus arrives at Bethany Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days.

This time Martha runs to meet Jesus while Mary sits in the house. Martha expresses her great faith saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.” Lazarus’ death meant more than grief and sorrow to the sisters, he was their source of their financial security – even though he was young he was the male heir. Additionally, we are told of the great love Jesus had for this family. The gossip among the mourners was negative, some of them said, “This is the man who caused the blind man to see! Couldn’t he have done something to keep Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus replied, “Your brother will come back to life again.” Martha said, “I know that he will come back to life again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha considers Jesus’ words as a customary statement of comfort in her mourning, but is she again worried about many things? – I would be.

Then Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.” John 11:25-26

Jesus responds to Martha’s grief with profound truth and powerful action by demonstrating his great love for this family and His great love for each one of us. Note it is not just time for grief and comfort – but time for action – go and do likewise. In this resurrection from the dead Jesus demonstrates what God will do for us. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead because Jesus is the RESSURECTION! Jesus is the LIFE that gives us hope, He is “the way the truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through the Son”, Jesus. Our HOPE is the same as Donna’s HOPE. Our HOPE was forever guaranteed when Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. If death could not hold Jesus, then neither will it stand between us and our Savior. Our hope of life beyond the grave is grounded on Jesus’ promise, and His promise is certain because of His power over death and the grave.

At this time of the year, I would like to challenge us to think like Mary even when we need to act like Martha. Do not become so busy worrying about the things of life, our grief and our to-do list, to be distracted from heart of God. Be a disciple of Jesus, listen and learn from Jesus and go and do likewise. Jesus’s words to Martha are the same to us “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die”.

Jesus says to us what he said to Martha – Do you believe this?

I will end with the Lyrics of a praise song we sang on Sunday, it reminded me of Donna and her life of being a disciple of Jesus –

From O Come to the Altar, by Elevation Worship

Are you hurting and broken within?
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin?
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself?
Do you thirst for a drink from the well?
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes, a new life is born
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today, there’s no reason to wait

Ephesians 2:7-13

Paul continues with “But God!” when we were dead in our sins God made us alive with Christ, God raised us up and seated us together with Jesus. This was all done by God’s grace, because of His great love for us. We now learn why God did this, He did this to demonstrate in all time “the surpassing wealth of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus”. God provided the way for mankind to be put back into a right relationship with our Creator, through Christ’s sacrifice and the demonstration of God’s power in His resurrection we are transferred from death to life.

God’s kindness towards the entire world including all mankind is clearly seen in creation, in the beauty of earth, the changing seasons, new life, the knowledge to make advances in science and the creativity to produce art. When we have an attitude of gratitude for all blessings from our Creator God we put into practice a proper Christian worldview of thankfulness for these blessings. At times our imagination can drive our expectations about what we deserve to great heights, and then when reality is revealed we can become stuck in our disappointment, driving us to negative thoughts and destroying relationships. When we actively practice thankfulness we reject the strivings of our culture that says we deserve more. We are reminded that “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ”.

In addition to the natural blessing we receive from God, He has extended His blessings further to redeem us from our sin. “For by grace you are saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast”. It is important to note:
1. This is the perfect tense in Greek which indicates both completed action, “you have been saved” and continuing results, “you are saved”.
2. Faith is not a “work.” Faith does not merit salvation; it is the means by which we accept God’s free gift of salvation.
3. The source of my salvation is not me; the source of my salvation is God alone; it is a free gift from God – grace.

“When someone gives you a gift, do you say, “That’s very nice—now how much do I owe you?” No, the appropriate response to a gift is “Thank you.” Yet how often Christians, even after they have been given the gift of salvation, feel obligated to try to work their way to God. Because our salvation and even our faith are gifts, we should respond with gratitude, praise, and joy”. LIFE Application Bible

Next Paul directs our thoughts to our actions, we are not saved by our works, but once we are saved by grace we learn that “we are God’s creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we can do them.” Remember from the beginning of chapter 2, we are told that before we believed we “were dead in our offenses and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path.” Previously we walked in the ways of the world, but now that we believe we are to walk in the ways of God, join God in His work, following God’s laws and His leading is the very best life God has prepared for us.

“No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing”. Ephesians 2:10 – The Message

From 2 Corinthians 9:8-12 we learn “God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work”. God provides what we need, His grace will overflow to us and we will overflow in every good work all this will result in overflowing thankfulness to God. From 2 Timothy we learn that “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work”. It is important to note that walking the path God has for us is doable, we are equipped, we have enough of everything we need and His grace will overflow to us.

Paul returns to the topic of who we were before we believed, “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands. That you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world”. But we remember that earlier in this letter Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love. Now we are told how this happened, “But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

This reminds us of the instruction from God for the Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, for the purposes of forgiveness of sin and restoration into a right relationship with the LORD. When the people of God presented an unblemished animal for sacrifice at the Temple they would place their hands on the animal’s head to transfer their sins to the animal. Then the animal would be killed and their blood sprinkled on the altar, “According to the law almost everything was purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.

Hebrews 9 explains how Christ did this for us, “He has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice…Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many to those who eagerly await him he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation”. But God! We who were separated from God because of our sins, are now brought near to God, we can now stand in God’s presence because of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. When we say His blood this means Christ’s death, His sacrifice, Jesus died for us so that we can be made clean and stand tall before the LORD of the Universe washed clean from the stain of our sins.

Ephesians 2:1-6

Chapter 1 concludes with Paul’s beautiful prayer for the saints in Ephesus praying that they would know the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To know God means to have an intimate relationship with Him so that we might see Him, know Him, feel His love, discover His wisdom, draw on His strength, and rely on His power.

As we begin chapter 2 we are resting together in confidence of our salvation, in the love of the Father who saved us by grace. Then Paul uses an incomplete sentence that leaves the readers in suspense while they wait for the solution to their spiritual dilemma. “And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins…..” The readers are being reminded of their former pagan existence before they received new life in Christ. The truth revealed about the life of unbelievers is that it is marked by sin, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. They are under the influence of the world, ruled by Satan who continuously spawns rebellion against God and the things of God.

“And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…”

Notice the plural of these words, “transgressions” and “sins”; this indicates repetitive involvement in sin and deliberate acts of rebellion against God. Paul attributes a life marked by sin to two factors: the influence of the fallen world and the forces of Satan in our culture. Paul refers to Satan as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” and those under his influence as “the sons of disobedience”. From Genesis through Revelation we have many description of Satan and his activities. He is the one who holds the power of death, the devil; he is the one who practices sin from the beginning from the past and continuing to his present actions still in progress; he is the ancient dragon who deceives the world with his minions and he is currently energizing the sons of disobedience. Paul is clear, before we believed we, all of us, “lived our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest”.

“So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them. But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices”. Colossians 3:5-9

Remember that the letter to the Colossians was written at same time as Ephesians, it supplies a good list to explain the “sinful nature” that dominates our life before we believe. It is important to note, that we are too often focused on what is acceptable or defined as sin in light of our current cultural beliefs rather than on what God has declared about these actions. We need to be aware of the efforts and directions in our world by “the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience” that is in direct contradiction to what God has declared as sin. Often we think our opinion about what is sin and what is not sin has more value that what God has declared as sin. Paul is building his argument for our hopeless condition: we lived in sin and we lived among sinful people. This is as true today as it was in the first century; nothing has changed about the world’s path or the sons of disobedience.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!” Paul moves from our gloomy, hopeless condition of mankind to the two most welcome words in all of scripture: “but God. God could have left us spiritually dead, in rebellion against him and in bondage to our sins. But he didn’t. He did not save us because of, but rather in spite of, what he saw in us.” It is all about God, it is God that acts on our behalf because of His great love, it is God who is rich in mercy, it is God who made us alive in Christ – by grace you are saved! We have a new position, we are now “alive in God”, in contrast to the dark doom of being “dead in our transgressions”.

Now that we are “alive to God” we are “dead to sin” which means being “set free from sin”. From Romans 6:12-14 – Paul says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Ephesians 1:15-23

This next section begins Paul’s prayer for the saints, once again verses 15-23 is one long sentence in Greek. “For this reason I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints”. This phrase “for this reason” points us back to the preceding section, Paul knows that the Ephesians are true believers and they have received the “spiritual blessings” from the previous paragraph. The blessings are election, predestination, adoption, grace, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, knowledge of the mystery of His will, the sealing of the Holy Spirit and their inheritance. Now Paul prays that the readers will know God personally and intimately.

Paul praises the Ephesians for “their love for all the saints”; this concept can be quite confusing in our current culture. What does it mean to love your brother or sister in Christ? 1 John 2:6 declares, “the one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked. So our example of how to love our brothers and sisters is Jesus’ life and ministry. 1 John 4:20-21 follows up with stating that “if anyone says ‘I love God’ and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too.”

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a good list of how to love. “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, endures all things. Love never ends….and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”.

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, –since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened–so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength”. (17-20)

Paul prays for “spiritual wisdom and revelation” for the Ephesians, wisdom gives insight into the true nature of things and revelation is the unveiling of things of God Himself. The purpose in having this wisdom and revelation is that you may know Him, God, better. This request is not for special information, but for a deeper perception and knowledge of God as he is revealed in Christ. The “knowing” related here is not an abstract knowledge of God or objective facts about God, but knowing Him personally and intimately. It includes the intimate awareness of God’s character and will.

“Paul prayed for the believers to know God better. How do you get to know someone? By reading biographical information or historical data about him? That will help you know a lot about that person, but it won’t enable you to actually know him. If you want to get to know someone, you have to spend time with that person; there is no shortcut. The same holds true with God. Reading the Bible, great works of theology, and devotional material is wonderful, but there is no substitute for knowing God personally. What about you? Do you really know God, or do you just know about him? The difference is in spending time with him. Study Jesus’ life in the Gospels to see what he was like on earth two thousand years ago, and get to know him in prayer now. Personal knowledge of Christ will change your life”. LIFE Application Bible

From 2 Peter 1:1-2; 3:18 we learn that “God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence”. And that we are called to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. We are to grow in grace and knowledge so that we will understand three things, the hope of His calling, and the wealth of His glorious inheritance and the extraordinary greatness of His power.

This paraphrase from The Message helps me to understand these concepts. “But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!” Ephesians 1:17-19

One of the things we are to know about God is “the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe as displayed in the exercise of His immense strength”. Paul continues by explaining “This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”. The point we are to understand is that the power to live a life pleasing to God is the same power that raised Christ from the dead. That same power is already at work in the lives of believers, we need to remember that God is always at work, even when we don’t “see or recognize” God’s work.

“The world fears the power of the atom, yet we belong to the God of the universe, who not only created that atomic power but also raised Jesus Christ from the dead. God’ incomparably great power is available to help you. There is nothing too difficult for him”. LIFE Application Bible

“And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and he gave him to the church as head over all things. Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (20-21). This picture of all things being under Christ’s feet conveys that the work of Christ is completely finished, all things are now under Christ’s rule and dominion: death, resurrection, every ruler, all authority, power and dominion and every person forever. The work completed God gave Jesus Christ the church, as head over all things. “Head over everything” means that Jesus is the ruler and master of everything that exists, including the church. “Him who fills all in all” means that Jesus is present, active and has influence in the church and the world.

“Having been raised from the dead, Christ is now the head of the church, the ultimate authority over the world. Jesus is the Messiah, God’s anointed one, the one Israel longed for, the one who would set their broken world right. As Christians we can be confident that God has won the final victory and is in control of everything. We need not fear any dictator or nation or even death or Satan himself. The contract has been signed and sealed; we are waiting just a short while for delivery”. LIFE Application Bible

“No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 8:37-39

Ephesians 1:13-14

As we previously noted Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence in Greek. Paul purposely combines all these profound theological truths to describe and amplify the work of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Verses 3-6 explain the sovereign election of the Father: the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, He chose us before the foundation of the world, and He predestined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ.

Verses 7-12 develops the redemptive work of the Son: He freely bestowed grace on us in his dearly loved Son, through Jesus have redemption through His blood, we have the forgiveness of our sins and have been gifted with wisdom and insight, He revealed the mystery of God’s will that He will bring all things together in heaven and on earth in Christ and He claimed us as His own possession according to God’s purpose to the praise of His glory.

The final two verses focus on the work of the Holy Spirit:
“And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation)–when you believed in Christ–you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.”

Paul’s letter is addressed specifically to the Gentile believers, assuring them of their share in God’s inheritance. We understand the truth that God’s promises are not limited to Jewish believers; the Gentile believers are also “God’s own possession” as His “Chosen People”. We also learn is that at the moment that we “believe in Christ” we are marked with the certification of genuineness, the seal of the Holy Spirit that indicates our security, authentication and approval in Christ. This “seal” is a deposit or a down payment with a guarantee of more to come. In essence this deposit “is a little bit of the heaven in our lives today with a guarantee of much more to come”.

“The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we belong to him and that he will do what He has promised. The Holy Spirit is like a down payment, a deposit, a validating signature on the contract. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us demonstrates the genuineness of our faith, proves that we are God’s children, and secures eternal life for us. His power works in us to transform us now, and what we experience now is a taste of the total change we will experience in eternity”. (LIFE Application Bible commentary)

From Romans 10:17 we learn that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”. Additionally, from 1 Peter 3:15 we understand that we should “always be prepared to give an answer (with gentleness and respect) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. The “Word of Truth”, also called the message is defined as the “Gospel of your Salvation”. From 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 we can summarize the gospel message as “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures”. With these few but precise words Paul clearly explains that we are all in need of forgiveness, not one of us measures up to what is required to reconcile us to the Holy God. That Jesus really died, it was not a hoax or fabrication of His disciples, Jesus was crucified, dead and buried then was raised to life on the third day all done according to God’s plans and recorded in the Bible for us to understand. When Christ conquered death He confirmed for us His promise of eternal life, confirming the plan and process of how each one of us can be reconciled to the Creator of the Universe forever.

This process that God set forth is that first we will hear the word of truth, the gospel message; then we believe, have faith in the work of Christ and are marked by the Holy Spirit and sealed as a “down payment of our inheritance until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory”.

The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is astounding; Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit as “another Advocate to be with you forever” and as the “Spirit of Truth” who resides with you and in you. The Holy Spirit will “prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”, “He will guide you to all truth”, and He will receive from Jesus and “tell it to you and tell you what is to come”.
This depiction of an advocate that leads us into all truth, reminds me of the presence of the Spirit of God that was with the Israelites in the desert directing their path and teaching them how to become the people of God. This same power and insight is available to us and in us, when we believe and thus sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1:7-12

Our last lesson ended with the revolutionary truth that we are not an afterthought in the plan of God; we are in fact chosen by the Father and selected to be members of His eternal family. We find this truth to be amazing, just think of how much more would these former slaves, oppressed women and downtrodden pagans respond to this glorious news.

This one long sentence continues with “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”. Redemption means to gain or regain a possession in exchange for payment. The Ephesians would be very familiar with the Greco-Roman practice of the redemption of slaves who could be freed by the payment of a ransom.

The redemption price to free us from the bondage of sin and death was the death of Christ; this is what “through his blood” means. In the OT sacrificial system, the forgiveness of sin was only accomplished through the shedding of the perfect, unblemished animal’s blood. Now we are forgiven of our sins and redeemed from our slavery to sin by the perfect unblemished Lamb of God’s death on the cross.

We should not attach a mystical quality to this phrase “through the blood”, it was not Jesus’ physical blood that saved anyone, but his real and total payment for the sins of man in His whole person and death on the cross. “Jesus does not redeem us by His sinless life or His moral example, but only by His death in our place – ‘through His blood’”.

We have been redeemed from the stain of sin, the sins we have done and the eternal consequences of that sin, our separation from God. Christ who was sinless took on our sins; He became cursed in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would be made available to the Gentiles. Our redemption means that we have been adopted as sons with full rights; we are no longer a slave but a son and heir through Jesus. Additionally, Jesus’ sacrifice has delivered us from the power of sin and darkness; it sets us free from every kind of sin and purifies us to be His people. Therefore we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. What a glorious work Jesus did for us!

All this work was accomplished “according to the riches of His grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight”. “We’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need”. (The Message)

Grace is defined by God’s unmerited favor; in Hebrew “favor” means to bend or stoop in kindness to another, as a superior to and inferior. This grace, the favor that the Creator of the Universe has lavished on us, the superabundance of his grace is emphasized by Paul. “He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ”.

The “secret of his will” is translated as “mystery” in the NIV and “letting us in on the plans” in the Message. “Mystery” is something which has formerly been kept secret in the purpose of God but has now been disclosed. The next verse reveals what this mystery is: to bring all things together, things in heaven and on earth under Christ Jesus as the head. Then it is revealed when this will happen, when the times reach their fulfillment – “the fullness of times”. When the time is ripe for the consummation of God’s purpose, God will make that happen at just the right time.

“In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will”. Just as the Jews have been known as God’s Chosen People, we now know that part of the mystery is that the Gentiles will also be “God’s own possession”; all this was predestined before the foundations of the world.

“God’s purpose is to offer salvation to the world, just as he planned to do long ago. God is sovereign; he is in charge. When your life seems chaotic, rest in this truth: Jesus is Lord, and God is in control. God’s purpose to save you cannot be thwarted, no matter what evil Satan may bring.” God in His great mercy has granted us who could not save ourselves, salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus. We have been redeemed from slavery and given the honored position of firstborn son and heir to the blessings of God. What a blessing, our response should be unending praise of His glory!