Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul resumes to his prayer for the Ephesians saying, “For this reason I kneel before the Father”. Paul is referring to his former statement that he is a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles. Paul prays that the church will be strong to overcome resistance, why? Because they are becoming discouraged, Paul does not want the Ephesians to “lose heart” because of his sufferings.

Paul paints a picture for us; he is prostrating himself before God, on his knees with his head bowed to the ground, as one making obeisance and bringing a matter of utmost urgency to a powerful king. The usual position for Jewish prayer was standing; Paul wanted to convey the impression of God’s power by describing his position in prayer.

Paul’s writing to the church is turning their conventional wisdom on its head. Customarily a person in prison was a great disgrace to their family and community, Paul states clearly that it is not Rome that has control over his life, it is Christ Jesus who controls his situation. Plus the truth that is contrary to common thinking is that Paul’s suffering brings glory not shame to the church, specifically the glory of new believers being added to God’s family every day. Paul is conveying a voluntary act of obedience, he is in full submission to the will of God, knowing this could end in his death, with a reverence for the power of the LORD, allowing God’s will to work in his life whatever the consequences.

This reminds me of Paul’s writing about Christ in Philippians 2:5-11, “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”.

Paul describes God as “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”. God is the Creator of all groups of living beings and as the one who sovereignly gives each its individual ‘shape’ and role. In Hebrew tradition, for God to give creatures their names is not merely to provide them with a label, but to determine what they are.

All people are God’s creation but not all people are God’s children. John 1:12-13 affirms this saying, “But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name —he has given the right to become God’s children —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God”. Romans 8:15 emphasizes the love, security, acceptance and provisions from our Heavenly Father to each of us. “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’”. Led by the Spirit we are firstborn children of God, with full rights of inheritance, we are not slaves and we don’t live in fear. We can approach the throne of the King of Heaven with confidence and address Him as “Daddy”; this verse conveys a close personal relationship with our Creator.

“I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he will grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person”. Paul was praying for the believers in Ephesus and surrounding areas to be strong in the power of the Holy Spirit. Most students think of the “inner person” as the life of our soul, our heart or our inner thoughts. Some commentators suggest this phrase “inner man” should be render as a title, “Inner Man” as a title for Jesus the Messiah who dwells in our heart. Through faith, Christ Jesus dwells in believers’ heart, that is He takes up residence in our lives, we invite Him to be “at home” in every area of our life, not just a frequent visitor, but living daily with us as our King.

Paul writes often about the importance of prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 he writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. He often wrote that He was praying for the church and he also asked for the believers to pray for him as well. From his prison cell Paul encourages the church to pray for kings and all those in authority, with petitions, intercession and thanksgiving. He instructs us that we are to confess our sins in prayer and know that even when we cannot pray, because of our circumstances, that Spirit intercedes for us with words we cannot express in our grief and sufferings.

Paul prayed for the Ephesians “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit”. Paul wrote often about God’s power. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul records what Christ told him, “‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me”. In Philippians 4 he explains how he applied this truth in his life, “I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me”.

Paul continues explaining, that through the indwelling of Christ through faith you will be able to comprehend “what is the breadth and length and height and depth and thus know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you will be filled up to all the fullness of God”. This amazing sentence is stated in the perfect tense, indicating past action and continuing results. Paul restates this same thought in Romans 8:35-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 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”.

Paul wants the Ephesians to understand and experience God’s love and to be “filled up to all the fullness of God”. He echoes this same thought in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in him all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and you have been filled in him, who is the head over every ruler and authority”. Paul concludes his prayer by praising God, “Now to Him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”.

Ephesians 3:7-13

Paul identifies himself as “a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace”. The word servant used here as rendering service, like a waiter, a servant who executes the commands of his master and king. Paul clearly sees his purpose as receiving the commands from Jesus Christ and fulfilling the directions given to him by His LORD.

Paul continues saying that “although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people (saints), this grace was given to me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ”. Paul views himself as the most unworthy object of Christ’s redemption, he confesses why in 1 Corinthians 15, “because I persecuted the church of God”. Paul acknowledges his great sin, and the abundance of grace given when the risen LORD Jesus revealed Himself to Saul to save him from his iniquities. Paul was on the road to destruction with false righteousness, thinking that he was doing “God’s work” in killing Christians; the risen Lord Jesus interrupted Paul’s momentum and transforms him from murderous thinking into the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul continues saying that this position of “servant of the gospel” was a gift, “given me through the working of His power”. Ephesians 1:19 describes this power: “what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength. This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”. God gave Paul “this grace” to preach, proclaim, enlighten and make plain the message of God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in His manifest plan. God chose Paul to share the good news with the Gentiles and gave him the power to do it.

Paul describes the gospel he was called to preach as “the boundless riches of Christ”; some translations use the word unfathomable or unsearchable. We should understand that this phrase points us to the greatness of God and not towards the idea that we cannot know God rather that God’s grace is without boundaries. Isaiah 55: 8-9 helps to understand this phrase: “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds,” says the LORD, “for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans”.

“Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things”. Paul has been given the task of bringing people to see this cosmic mystery which is at last revealed, and how God chooses to work out His eternal purpose. The verb used here “make plain” means “to enlighten” this can be best understood as “fog of spiritual darkness” about to be dispersed by God’s truth. Imagine an early morning fog, which has completely obscured the trees and houses from your sight, then the morning sun breaks through and disperses the fog so you can clearly see. The Holy Spirit provides God’s truth which shines through our spiritual fog to make plain and disperse false teachings and convict us our sins.

Paul continues, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory”.

Paul discloses that God’s plan was to reveal “the boundless riches of Christ” through the church. The descriptive word “manifold” in Greek refers to a beautiful embroidered pattern of various colors in flowers. What a glorious way to describe the church, the new church of Jews and Gentiles woven together into a new creation. This new creation, the church, serves as an object lesson of the wisdom and beauty of God to the angelic hosts “in the heavenly realms”.

Paul believes that the church is to be a central witness to the gospel. This reminds us of the prayer of Jesus for his disciples in John 17. He prayed that the unity and love between the disciples would reflect and be a witness to the unity and love between the Father and the Son. “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one— I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me”. John 17:20-23

Paul concludes this section saying, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory”. Through faith in Christ believers have the right, freedom, courage and confidence to approach the throne of God – they have the right of access. What an amazing privilege to be able to approach the Lord of Creation, with confidence. By Christ’s death and resurrection the curtain in the Temple was torn in two and we now have access to God that previously was reserved to the High Priest only once per year. Believers today have that same access; we can approach God with confidence.

Paul’s last statement in this section is “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory”. In the ancient world, Paul’s imprisonment would be a disgrace, dangerous and something to dissociate yourself from. But Paul turns that concept on end – his sufferings were for their “glory”. Paul has been in prison for about 3 years, I can imagine the believers in Ephesus are starting to get discouraged and fearful of Paul’s impending sentence. But Paul says this is all for their glory, because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, in which Paul reveals God glorious plan to include the Gentiles for redemption.

Ephesians 3:1-6

The Apostle Paul is under house arrest in Rome, chained night and day to a Roman soldier, but Paul declares that he is “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”. Paul begins this section with the phrase “for this reason”, which naturally draws our attention to the previous verses and the discussion about the divide between Jews and Gentiles that is now abolished because of Christ’s sacrifice. Paul states clearly that he is in prison because of His message, the gospel; he is imprisoned for preaching about Christ.

The religious leaders in Jerusalem felt threatened by Christ’s teachings, they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah and pressured the Romans to arrest Paul and bring him to trial on false charges of treason. Paul appealed his case to Caesar which was his right as a Roman citizen. Even though he was under arrest, Paul maintained the firm belief that God was in control of all that happened to him. Paul declares in 2 Timothy that even though he is imprisoned, “God’s message is not imprisoned!” and from Philippians he states “that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel”.

Paul writes that by God’s grace he was given the commission to bring God’s message of truth to the Gentiles; this revelation was made known to Paul, revealed to him by the risen LORD Jesus on the road to Damascus. In Acts, we learn that Jesus said to Ananias, “this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name”. Paul is very confident of his calling, in his letter to the Galatians he says, “But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach Him among the Gentiles”. Even though Paul has been restricted in his travels, for more than two years, first confined in Caesarea and now in Rome, God has provided many opportunities for him to preach Christ. He continues to make converts to Christ during this time; there are many new believers even extending into the imperial guard and Caesar’s household. Now Paul is encouraging all believers to stand firm, to continue to be faithful and to not be ashamed of the Gospel, even though his circumstances are not good his ultimate goal continues; the Gospel is advancing.

Paul is hoping that this letter will help the Ephesians to understand “my insight into the mystery of Christ which was not disclosed to people in the former generations”. “That God would bless the Gentiles, then, was not a new revelation, what then was the new revelation, the mystery hitherto concealed? It was this, that God’s blessing of the Gentiles would involve the obliteration of the old line of demarcation which separated them from the Jews and the incorporation of the Gentile believers together with Jewish believers, without any discrimination, in the new comprehensive community of God’s chosen people”. (F.F. Bruce) The mystery that Paul is speaking about is that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus”.

Jesus said in Matthew, “But your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it”. What a glorious privilege we have in this generation, to be able to study and understand these deep mysteries of God that our faithful ancestors and prophets longed to understand. We know and understand because it has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will cause you to remember everything I said to you”.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that had been kept secret for long ages, but now is disclosed, and through the prophetic scriptures has been made known to all the nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be glory forever! Amen. Romans 16:25-27

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.”