Listen to this study with Real Audio TH2144
Please turn in your Bibles this evening to Ephesians chapter 2 as we continue our study through the Word of God. As we saw last week in chapter 1, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN Christ, that of course being the key, these blessings are only for those who are saved, the children of God.
Ephesians chapter 1 is truly an overview of Gods plan of uniting believers together in Christ who is the head of the church. As we move into chapters 2 & 3 of Ephesians we continue to look at doctrine, the truths of God but now Paul explains how God is going to take a sinner and make him into a saint, for that is what places them into the body of Christ. With that as our background, lets begin reading in Ephesians chapter 2, starting in verse 1 and lets see what the Lord has for us this evening.
Here is the problem today of every person who is not in Christ, they are dead. Now Paul is not speaking of physical death or the separation of the spirit from the body. Paul is not speaking of eternal death or those who have rejected Christ and His free gift of salvation and will be cast into the Lake of Fire or Outer Darkness for eternity. They rejected God in this life and they will spend eternity apart from Him!
Paul is speaking of spiritual death, that we are insensitive to the things of God because our sins have separated us from God. You see, if you kicked a dead person, punched them, they would not feel it, they are insensitive to it because they are dead and the same is true in regards to our spirits. trespasses or PARAPTOMA (par-ap-to-mah) in the Greek speaks of going the wrong direction while sins or HAMARTIA (ham-ar-tee-ah) in the Greek speaks of missing the mark and the mark is perfection. In archery it was the bulls eye!
Thus, all have missed the mark and all are spiritually dead to the things of God outside of Christ. They are like spiritual zombies walking around. And yes, you can dress them up, put a hat on their head; a cigar in their mouth but the fact of the matter is that dead is dead! Many, even in the church today, may look good outwardly, all dressed up, but they are spiritually dead, they are unable to feel or be sensitive to the things of God. In Isaiah 59:1-2 we are told of this condition, Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
For those who are spiritually dead, what do we see their lives like? Lets read on and we will see.
Paul tells us that outside of Christ people meander through life according to the course of this world or the worlds system of values apart from God. And isnt that exactly what we see in the world today as people try to satisfy their fleshly desires. In fact the word desires implies that they are seeking after these things with great diligence, it is a willful act on their part and because of their sin the wrath of God will come upon their lives!
Here are three enemies of man: SATAN who is the prince of this world that is in rebellion against God and he uses us as pawns to be drawn into the lusts of this WORLD that is opposed to God through FLESHLY lusts. Sin is dangled in front of us as if it is some prize to obtain but in the end it only brings about death. May we be aware of Satan, the world and the flesh so we wont be drawn into its deception.
Now I do realize that many dont want to hear that they are sinners. They are afraid it might hurt their fragile self-esteem. In fact, in some churches today the word sin cant be spoken because it is too negative, it might offend someone and thus, they water sin down to make it more tasteful to the people, not so offensive to them. That is tragic and it is wrong.
The late Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman used to tell of a Methodist preacher who often spoke on the subject of sin. He minced no words, but defined sin as That abominable thing that God hates. A leader in his congregation came to him on one occasion and urged him to cease using the ugly word. Said he, Dr. Blank, we wish you would not speak so plainly about sin. Our young people, hearing you, will be more likely to indulge in sin. Call it something else, as inhibition, or error, or a mistake, or even a twist of nature.
I understand what you mean, the preacher remarked and going to his desk brought out a little bottle. This bottle he said, contains strychnine. You will see that the red label here reads poison. Would you suggest that I change the label, and paste one on that says, Wintergreen? The more harmless the name the more dangerous the dose will be.
Amen to that, it is time more would stand up and call sin what it is, SIN!
Now if Paul concluded here, we would all be in trouble, it would be very depressing. But Paul doesnt end here and with just two words he changes our whole outlook on the situation we are in and he gives us hope. Lets read on and see what Paul has to say.
Do you see how those two words; But God changes everything! People want to clean up their act before coming to God, be more lovable to God but you cant, He already loves you so much that He died for you! We were spiritually dead and God, because of His great love for us, made us spiritually alive, not because we deserved it or were worthy of being saved, but by His grace or unmerited favor that He has bestowed upon us. Now we are sensitive to the things of God, the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts as we read the Word of God, as we hear the Word of God, and-so-on.
Now there is one requirement that we all must have before God can do this, and that is we must be dead, dead to all our attempts of being justified before God by our own efforts. It is as Jesus said in John 5:24, Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. We were dead but Christ has given us life, eternal life with Him!
Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we are pilgrims and strangers on this earth, just passing through but our citizenship is in heaven with our Lord. And for eternity Gods exceeding riches of His grace will be displayed in us because folks, we dont deserve this gift, but God has freely given it to us! We are, in a sense, His trophies and as the angels look at us they will be saying, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like Joe!
How are we saved? Some would say through baptism, or confirmation, or church membership, or keeping the Law, or being good, or living by the Sermon on the Mount, or giving to those in need, or communion and the list can go on! No, that is not how you are saved. You see, dead men, spiritually dead men cant have faith it is only by Gods grace or unmerited favor that He bestows upon us. The only thing we have added to the work of salvation is sin, God did the rest by saving us and our salvation is only found in Christ and it is through Christs finished work that grace is given to us! Paul put it this way in Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus, the basis is grace, the means is faith and it is a work of God!
Now if salvation was of works then we could boast about what we have done to be saved, and that would be ugly. But it is a work of God and all we can do is boast in what He has done in our lives!
If works dont play a part in our salvation, why did James tell us, Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:17. Works dont save us but they are the fruit of our salvation, they show that we are saved! And I love this, Paul says that we are Gods workmanship or POIEMA (poy-aymah) in the Greek which can speak of a poem or of a tapestry, a masterpiece. When you look at the back of a tapestry it is a mess, it is ugly with threads going in all directions, you cant tell what you are looking at. But, when you look at the other side it is a beautiful picture, a masterpiece. God is making us into a beautiful masterpiece and when we look at it through this side of heaven it may look like a mess, but when we get a heavenly perspective we see that God has made our lives into His beautiful masterpiece, what He began in us He will complete!
As I finish up this section, listen carefully. God has created good works for us to do in this life, He has prepared the works for us and then He has prepared us for the work and He tells us to then walk in them, do them. But it is our choice to walk or make excuses why we arent walking like, Im too tired! or I dont have the time! or I am not called into that ministry! or whatever! God prepared the work and thus, we are to walk accordingly as Paul says in Philippians 2:13, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. If you dont God will use someone else but you will miss out on the blessings of serving the Lord!
Here is another one of those depressing sections if Paul didnt finish up with a but. And we will see that in a minute. The Jews were the children of God, entrusted with the Words of God, and they looked forward to the coming Messiah. But, in speaking of the Gentiles before Christ came, before God became man and dwelt among us, the Gentiles had no Messiah, they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel or they were on the outside looking in, they were strangers to the promises of Gods covenants that He made to His people, and thus, they had no hope! To give you an idea of the hopeless condition they were in, four hundred years before the birth of Christ, Socrates, the renowned Greek philosopher, drank the poison hemlock and lay down to die. One of his friends asked him, Shall we live again? And this dying philosopher could only say this, I hope so, but no man can know. And folks, every person outside of Christ is in that condition, they dont know where they are going and are grasping at things that dont bring them life, but they dont have to be. Listen to what Paul says in the next verse.
God not only saves individuals but He unites groups of people together. Think about a zealot and a tax collector left alone in a room together, they would try to kill each other. The zealot was pro-Jew, stood up for the things of God while the tax collector collected taxes for Rome and made a big profit off the people by charging them extra and yet, Jesus united these two together, they were two of His disciples! Not only that, but God has brought Jew and Gentile together into one body in Christ. The Gentiles could partake of the blessings of God and they too could have hope! You see, by being brought near to God through Jesus, reconciliation can take place between families, friends, groups of people, but only God can truly do that!
Gentiles knew the Jews did not accept them unless they became a Jew, a proselyte. In fact, in 1871 archaeologists discovered an inscription that was located on the wall separating the court of the Gentiles from the court of the Israelites in the Temple that Herod built. This is what the sign said, No Gentile may enter within the barricade which surrounded the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.
In Acts 21:26-32 we see Paul accused of bringing a Gentile in the court of the Israelites and we are told, Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place. (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
If this is true, that Jew and Gentile are to be one, then why did God separate the Jews from the Gentiles in the first place? Because through the Jewish people the Messiah was to come. He was not separating them for saving the Jews alone but both groups of people. In fact, the court of the Gentiles should have been the place where the Jews would win Gentiles to God, share their faith in the true and living God but instead it was a place where Gentiles were separated and the money changers were ripping the people off who came to worship God by charging them high exchange rates. It was a place of thieves and robbers instead of a place of witness and worship.
Many churches are doing the same today, keeping people from God because they dont dress a certain way or act a certain way. Here at Calvary Chapel all are welcomed and as we go out into the highways and the byways we compel people to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Notice the Law kept Jew and Gentile apart and Christ has come and abolished the Law of commandments that the Jews used as a source of righteousness and the Gentiles didnt keep! The Law doesnt save it just shows us our condition, sinners separated from God and only Jesus can save us from that condition as we receive Him as Lord and Savior. And as we do, that middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile is broken down; dont start putting it back up again brick by brick! Thus, the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23 is fulfilled. Jesus prayed, I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Now we can negate that prayer of Jesus by building up those walls between people or groups of people or we can allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and fulfill that prayer! You see, those walls are forever broken down! It is as Paul said in Romans 10:12-13, For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
As I close this section, let me say that this is a partial fulfillment of what Paul spoke of in Ephesians 1:7-10, In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him. It not only is part of Gods eternal purpose of bringing both Jew and Gentile together, but all of creation, one day, when He returns, will be united, they will return to the unity they had when God created the heavens and the earth!
There was not a Gospel for the Jews and a Gospel for the Gentiles; it was the same good news. Paul, in Romans 1:16-17 tells us, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith. The Law has been abolished in Christ; His finished work on the cross of Calvary has paid in full the penalty for all our sins!
Remember when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, for the Jews debated that issue. And He responded by saying, . . . You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 21:37-40. Notice how Jesus concluded His point here, On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. You see, it all goes back to the cross for without it there is no hope. Everything that the Law and the prophets spoke about was seen in Calvary. Thus, as our relationship with God is restored in Christ, then the fruit that is born out of that relationship with God should be for us to love our neighbor!
And so both Jews and Gentiles have access to God through Jesus Christ, He is the mediator between God and man, the bridge-builder you might say, and thus, both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ!
Gentiles are no longer second-class citizens with the Jews but full citizens and are equal members of Gods household! Some may wonder, How can that be? It is because we are built upon the same foundation and it has been laid down for us by the apostles and the prophets with Christ being the chief cornerstone or the supporting structure. Now that the foundation has been laid, the primary office of apostles and prophets has passed off the scene.
In speaking of the chief cornerstone, Peter, in speaking to the Jewish religious leaders, said in Acts 4:11-12, This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. For both Jews and Gentiles salvation is only found in Jesus, and I think Paul made His case for that and it is very clear in this chapter. Outside of Christ there is no salvation!
If you remember when Solomon was building the Temple all the stone cutting was done away, far away from the Temple so that the sound of the hammer or other iron tools could not be heard and then the finished stone was brought to the Temple, (I Kings 6:7). That is what God is doing with us, it is called the sanctification process where He is chiseling, molding and shaping our lives to be like His. It is as Peter tells us in I Peter 2:4-5, Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
You may remember the story of the Christian man who lost his job, his wife died, he lost his home, he had nothing, just a horrible situation. As he was walking down the street one day, trying to figure out what was happening to him, what God was doing, he saw a man who was working on a building and he was cutting this little stone. Curious, he asked the man what that was for, what he was doing and the man responded by saying, I am cutting the stone down here so that it will fit in up there! as he pointed towards the top of the building. When he heard that he realized that God was working on him down here also, so that he will fit in up there, in heaven. Folks, that is what God is doing with each of us, may we not resist but surrender to the Master and allow Him to finish His work in each of us. And this building that God is putting together is made up of Jews and Gentiles, people from all walks of life because Christ has broken down any wall of separation and we are one in Him!