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Please turn in your Bibles this evening to Ephesians chapter 1 as we continue our study through the Word of God and we begin our study of this powerful and practical letter. As you read through this letter you will see two main reasons why Paul wrote this letter and it is how the book is divided up.
First of all Paul shows us the riches we have in Christ. We have been adopted into the family of God. We have been accepted in Christ. We have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins through Christ. We have the wisdom of God. We have a Godly inheritance. We have the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance in Christ. We have abundant life. We have the grace of God. We are citizens of heaven. In short, we are rich in Christ, every spiritual blessing is at our disposal, we see these blessings in Ephesians chapters 1-3, and this section deals primarily with doctrine.
Information is important and correct information in regards to our spiritual life is vital. But it does not end there with just information. Thus, Paul shows us how we are to apply these things to our life, how we are to walk since we have been blessed with all these spiritual blessings! So Paul speaks of our unity in Christ. The use of our spiritual gifts in Christ. Our growth in Christ. Our human relationships as we are in Christ. How we are to work in Christ. Our spiritual weapons that we have in Christ. In other words, as Paul said in Ephesians 4:1, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." We will see these in Ephesians chapters 4-6, and this section deals primarily with the application of these things, how we are to walk in Christ.
Paul visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey for a short period of time and you can read of this in Acts 18:19-22. Then, on Paul's third missionary journey he spent 3 years teaching them the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Acts 20:31 tells us. And you can read of some of these things Paul did and what he encountered during those 3 years in Acts chapter 19.
Ephesians is a group of letters known as the prison epistles, written while Paul was in prison in Rome in 60-62 AD. These prison epistles include Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Most scholars believe Paul was the author of this letter and only recently has there been any controversy over who wrote this epistle which I don't believe has any real evidence to support their claim that it wasn't Paul. It seems that this letter was written early on in his imprisonment, maybe in 60 AD and delivered by Tychicus according to Ephesians 6:21-22. Tychicus also delivered Paul's letter to the Colossians as Colossians 4:7-9 tells us along with Onesimus, a slave of Philemon who escaped and was saved by Paul and returned to his master Philemon, a Christian who then released him.
The city of Ephesus was an important commercial center because of its harbor. Thus, many people came and went from this city, which was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia. The population of Ephesus was some 300,000 people and besides its busy harbor, people came to see one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Diana.
Diana, called by the Romans, and Artemis by the Greeks, was a fertility goddess and the worship of this goddess was centered around sexual promiscuity and prostitution. The temple of Diana had some 1,000-temple priestesses, which were nothing more than prostitutes that would come out at night and sell themselves to support the temple. This cult was so big that the silversmiths made a great living by making little idols of Diana and selling them.
Not only do we see idolatry, sexual promiscuity going on but also witchcraft. Like many or most of the societies of that time, everyone did what was right in their own eyes because there was no king, the Lord, on the throne of their hearts. Their lives were out of control because they did as they pleased and the Bible tells us that the heart of man is wicked and that is what will flow unless it is changed by the Lord, unless He rules and reigns in our life.
Thus, as Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus, lives were changed, so much so that in Acts 19:18-20 we are told, "And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed."
Not only did they do that, but they were not buying their
idols anymore which made the silversmiths mad, so much so that
a riot almost broke out! We are told in Acts chapter 19 starting
in verse 24, "For a certain man named Demetrius, a
silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small
profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers
of similar occupation, and said: Men, you know that we have our
prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only
at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded
and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which
are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger
of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess
Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all
Asia and the world worship. Now when they heard this, they were
full of wrath and cried out, saying, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians!'
So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the
theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus,
Macedonians, Paul's travel companions. And when Paul wanted to
go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. Then some
of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading
that he would not venture into the theater. Some therefore cried
one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and
most of them did not know why they had come together. And they
drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward.
And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense
to the people. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all
with one voice cried out for about two hours, 'Great is Diana
of the Ephesians!'" Acts 19:24-34.
What a change for the Ephesians, they found out that idols dont set them free, bring joy into their lives but a person who gives themselves to the Lord can have that freedom, that joy and what the Ephesians found out is still true today, that a relationship with Jesus Christ, making Him your Lord and Savior is what really matters and once you have that your relationship with your fellow man will be in line!
With that as our background for this letter, lets begin reading in Ephesians chapter 1, starting in verse 1 and see what the Lord has for us as we begin this section that deals with doctrine, correct information regarding the Lord and what we have in Christ. Thus, this is very important for us to understand and apply to our lives.
Pauls opening greeting is short and to the point but it is typical of his greetings as he speaks of the grace of God or the unmerited favor of God upon our lives through Christ and since we have made peace with God through Jesus Christ we can enjoy the peace of God in our lives no matter what may come our way or in spite of what comes our way. You see, this peace is not based on outward circumstances but upon the inward reality of God being in control of our lives! It has been said, to put this into perspective, God in His mercy doesnt give me what I deserve, and God in His grace gives me what I dont deserve. You see, we deserve death and He gives us life. The end result of that is peace with God and with the brethren. It is a oneness that Paul is going to build upon in this epistle.
Paul also tells us that he is an apostle by the will of God. It was not something that he manufactured. I have seen people try to do that and it is horrible. It was not by the will of men who pushed him into that position, which I have also seen and it doesnt work. This was the will of God and Paul took those steps of faith. You see, none of us are qualified but God who called you into a ministry is also the God who will empower you to fulfill that ministry!
Tragically today we see Christians walking aimlessly, not doing anything. They have no idea what direction they are moving and instead of being involved in the things of God, they are content doing nothing. Their mentality many times is When the Spirit moves so will I as long as its where I want to go, what I want to do! That is how the world responds; but we are to pattern our life after Jesus who said, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Mark 10:45.
Now as we move into verses 3-14 of Ephesians chapter 1, in the Greek this is one long sentence. My English teacher would have called this a run-on but Paul is making some powerful points here and he just keeps going, and going, and going!
Paul says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word for blessed is EULOGETOS (yoo-log-ay-tos) and it means, to speak well of and in the New Testament it is used or applied only to God. We recognize all that God has done for us, His goodness, His kindness, all the spiritual blessings are ours, but there is a catch. You see, unless you are IN Christ, none of these blessings are yours. Pauls letter to the Ephesians takes us into the heavenly places to show us our resources in Christ and then starting in chapter 4 we are to take those spiritual resources and apply them to our lives, live what we believe, walk accordingly!
Some feel that they were chosen by God because they were worthy, they had some value but Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundations of the world were created, before we did good or bad. Then why did God choose us? We have no idea, but Gods decisions are perfect. Dont try to figure out the hows and whys of God, but be thankful He chose you. Some of you may be wondering, How do I know He chose me? The answer is simple, are you a Christian? If you are He chose you. But what if I dont want to be saved? Then God didnt choose you! Thats not fair! Sure it is, we do have a choice to make. Some may say that if you are going to be saved there is nothing you can do to stop it and if you are not going to be saved there is nothing you can do to be saved. I disagree, you see, God predestines us election; and then there is our free will, 100% of both. I dont understand it fully, but I believe it by faith! It is not based upon our goodness or our worth, but His goodness!
God not only chose us for salvation but for holiness to be holy and without blame before Him, we call it the sanctification process. God is molding and shaping our lives down here to fit in up there and it is a lifelong process but in the end, as John tells us, Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. I John 3:1-3.
In verse 6 Paul says we are accepted in the beloved. And the Greek word accepted is CHARITTO (khar-eeto-o) and it means highly favored or full of grace. That is what we have in Christ for Paul tells us that the key for this blessing of acceptance is being in the beloved or being in Christ! It is as Jesus said in John 15:5-7, I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Again, in Christ we have redemption which conveys the idea of delivering a man from a situation in which he was totally powerless to liberate himself from or to release him from a penalty for which he could never pay. Keep in mind that in Pauls day there were over 6 million slaves in the Roman Empire. For a slave to be set free someone would have to liberate him. In saying that, listen to what J. Vernon McGee had to say regarding slavery and redemption from it. He tells us:
I heard this story many years ago, and its the kind of story that you are not supposed to tell today, but I still tell it . . . it illustrates a great truth. In the south, and I hate to say, in the days of slavery there was a beautiful girl who was put on the slave block to be sold. There was a very cruel slave owner, a brutal fellow, who began to bid for her. Every time he would bid, the girl would cringe and a look of fear would come over her face. A plantation owner who was kind to his slaves was there, and he began to bid for the girl. He outbid the other fellow and purchased her. He put down the price and started to walk away. The girl followed him, but he turned to her and said, You misunderstand. I didnt buy you because I need a slave. I bought you to set you free.
- J. Vernon McGee, Ephesians, p. 44
Not only have we been redeemed by the blood of Christ, set free in Him, but we also have the forgiveness of our sins, APHESIS (af-es-is) in the Greek. It speaks of a dismissal or the canceling of our sins, something the animal sacrifices could never do, they were just a temporary covering for sins. Paul put it this way in Hebrews 9:11-14, But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
What happened to our sins? Paul tells us in Colossians 2:13-14, And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. They were nailed to the cross with Christ and thus, as the Psalmist tells us, As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12. And in Isaiah 43:25 we are told, I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
When we are saved God opened our eyes and gave to us wisdom or intellectual knowledge and prudence or practical knowledge of the things of God, which we continue to grow in, not because we deserve it, but because of His rich grace that He bestows upon us!
Paul now shows to us how awesome Gods plan is and what our place in that plan is. Paul speaks of it being a mystery which was something that was once hidden but now has be revealed to Gods people. What is that mystery that Paul is speaking of? That God is working to bring all things back into unity, beauty, all the wrongs will be righted, all matters resolved. Paul put it this way in Romans 8:18-22, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
That is Gods plan and now our place in that plan as we are in Christ is that we have obtained an inheritance which in the Greek is one word, KLERRO (klay-ro-o) and it is in the aorist passive indicative which basically means it is a future event that was so certain to happen that the Greeks spoke as if it had already occurred! Thus, our salvation is certain, it cant be stolen away, lost, left and because of what God has done, we are to bring praise unto Him, it was what we were created for as Revelation 4:11 tells us and this is from the King James Version, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
You see, the end result of our redemption can be seen in the life of the slave girl who was bought by the kind plantation owner and he set her free. He told her, I bought you to set you free. As she heard those words she stood there stunned for a minute. Then she fells on her knees and said, I will serve you forever! That is how we should respond to the Lord for all He has done, the blessings He has bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus, that He has set us free from our sins, we are no longer slaves to sin, we are free and we turn around and are bondslaves to Christ, serving Him out of love!
Notice they trusted in God after they heard the Word of God, not miracles, signs and wonders, but the Word of God which is living, which is powerful and which can transform our lives as we have all seen in our own lives! How do we know we are saved? Because God has given to us His Spirit not only showing us we are saved but also He is the guarantee that the Lord is coming to receive us into glory. The word guarantee speaks of earnest money or a down payment made which will ensure that He is coming back for us!
That word can also speak of an engagement ring, which I like. The Holy Spirit is our engagement ring given to us by Jesus and as He goes and prepares a mansion for us, a new home for our spirit and soul to dwell in, and when He is ready He will return for His bride, the church and we will forever be with Him! Folks, you can take that to the bank, it is going to happen!
Notice that because of their faith in Jesus it was manifested in the love of the brethren. It is as Jesus said in John 13:34-35, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. But Paul realizes that this is a spiritual battle and he is therefore praying for them that they would continue in the faith with the fruit of the Spirit flowing from their lives LOVE!
Paul now shares with the Ephesians some of the things he is praying for them. What an encouragement this must have been for these dear saints and what an encouragement you are to me knowing that you are praying for me and I hope I encourage you knowing that I am praying for you!
Paul prays that they would know God. How important it is for us to understand that God is in control of our lives, that we understand Gods will for our lives. Peter admonishes us to You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. II Peter 3:17-18. So the first thing Paul is praying for is that we may know God, intimately, deeply, not a superficial knowledge of God!
Secondly, Paul is praying that we may know the hope of His calling. That is, God has a specific calling for our lives that He wants us to fulfill. He has called us and we must step forward. And in the end, the hope of His calling is our glorification as one day we will . . .be conformed to the image of His Son . . . Romans 8:29.
The third point of his prayer is that we may know His riches. Yes, eternal glory but also present riches in Christ, all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places are at our disposal!
The fourth point of Pauls prayer is that we may know His power, that He is all-powerful, and we can rest in that, take comfort in that. Paul, in Philippians 3:10 tells us, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. We tend to think of creation as Gods greatest work, but that was nothing. It was His resurrection that was Gods greatest demonstration of power and His love. If death did not conquer our Lord then He will not let it conquer us!
Jesus is the head of the church and we as believers are His body. Thus, if Jesus is not in control, then we are running around with our heads cut off! Let us be guided by Him. What a great prayer for the church in Ephesus and for us as John MacArthur tells us, The point of this great petition is that we might comprehend how secure we are in Christ and how unwavering and immutable is our hope of eternal inheritance. The power of glorification is invincible and is presently operative to bring us to glory.
And I close this evening we have seen that the Father has placed His Son, Jesus Christ, in charge over all things. He is to be the head of the body of believers and if He is the head then that means there is a living connection between the head and the body. They need to work together with the body taking its direction from the control center, the brain, which is Jesus Christ.
If God has given us all things in Christ then He has given us the power also. We as Christians need to appropriate that power in our lives and instead of being a flicker of light for Christ we should be a strong burning light to a world that is in darkness. It is as Paul said, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3. May we not forget those blessings that God has for us!