May 1, 2013

Ephesians - Chapter 1: Sealing the Deal!

Welcome!  Let's discover Ephesians together, where we find that He is our Riches!

When I first saw it, my heart skipped a beat.  It looked flawless....the '72 Olds Cutlass  with the 350 V8 Rocket engine, was everything I wanted in a first car in 1976.  Although it was pre-owned for a few years already, it looked like it had just come off the factory floor, with a fresh coat of bright orange paint. The color stunningly contrasted with it's black vinyl hardtop. 

I did the calculations, gathered up the money for the deposit, then marched into Dan Kane's, the Windsor GM dealership with dad and I plunked down almost all of my hard-earned cash.  We "did the deal" at $3,200.  A deposit of $1000, sealed our agreement and the Cutlass was all mine!!  No one else could buy it because it was me who put down the deposit, absolutely "sealing the deal". 

I came back a few days later with the rest of the financing and drove it home off the dealer's lot, feeling like I was floating on air!  That car and I were immediately fast and furious friends for many years....I think I drove that thing beyond what the designers had ever imagined it would do.  (I am still thanking the Lord for his protective hand on my life, and shudder when I think of my youthful experiences at extreme speeds in this vehicle. )

Now, you might be asking yourself where we are going with this, so sit still, and I'll explain.

We will be studying Ephesians.....and we are looking at...

...the riches we have in Christ Jesus! previous Ephesians's bible tours, have been significant and quite memorable times in my life; this was especially so when I discovered Ephesians Chapter 1 verses 13&14!

"13When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.   (Ephesians 1)

It's sort of like me putting the down-payment (deposit) on the beautiful orange Cutlass that I admired...the intent was to return later and complete the transaction and take the car home!  I did return and claim it.

Here in Ephesians, Paul teaches how God has placed his Holy Spirit inside me when I first believed on Him for my was his"deposit";  Just pause & imagine,  ....the God of Heaven has made a significant deposit of himself in our lives, ....he "purchased" me through the death of his Son; claimed me as his own and his intention is that he will return one day to take that which is his!!! ....and in the meantime, he's given me his Holy Spirit to be resident within me !!!  

...Seriously....How COOL is that???

> Next: Chapter 2: Salvation is a Gift!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus from prison.  He wrote majestically in what is often termed "the doctrine of ecclesiology" or simply, the doctrine of the "church".  

  1. God has reconciled us to himself, and then furthermore...
  2. We are to be reconciled to each other through "the church", the christian community that God calls "The Bride of Christ".  

You may want to think on this the next time you are tempted to put another brother (or sister) "in-line" from where you think his viewpoint should be compared to yours!!!

 Unity is far more important than who is right and who is wrong!  

Paul even had to explain to the Ephesians that Gentiles (non-Jews) could be partakers in the grace of God, just as well as the Jewish believers, as they seemed to think otherwise.  Imagine seems so strange that Paul had to explain to them something as simple as that!

Recently I visited a community of 40,000 people in the USA for several days in the so-called "bible-belt".  One thing that stood out was that on nearly every street..... (and this went on for street after street after street) there was yet another small church, in most cases just a few thousand feet from another small church.  I probably could have counted over 150 churches of every stripe and notion.  Each one had their own brand, their own little sign and little community going on.  My suspicions were that whenever a point of contention arises, or somebody has a different viewpoint (or ____fill-in-the-blank), half of the congregation packs up and moves on to start another church, instead of work together to iron out their differences and collectively stand to be the church.  This is not the spirit of Paul's teaching whatsoever.  Instead he explains we are to be in unity, "one-in-Christ".  In other scripture, he teaches "forbearance", which roughly translated means to "put-up with each other".   Similarily, Paul encourages "deference", which perhaps is easily explained as "in all humility, consider others, and the needs of others, as being more important than yourself and your needs".  I realize these teachings are probably not popular in today's "me-first" generation, but this is what Paul's teaching in scripture is, and we are to learn and apply it reconciled!

    But my favorite part of Chapter 2 is where Paul explains to us the way God reconciled us to himself.  "It was a gift ..." Paul says:
    8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

    If ever you want to in-graft a passage of scripture into your memory ... Ephesians 2:8-10 would be one of the most fundamental, and a constant reminder to you that it was all of what God has done for us and not something we have achieved.  

    Some cults try to convince you that you need to "work" your way to God or heaven by "doing" something (often something which benefits their organization).  However here Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit tells us here that our salvation is all a work of God's grace.  It isn't something that we can "do" or work towards.  Christ Jesus has done it all for us...all we have to do is to believe on Him!

    > Next: Chapter 3: God Gives Grace to the Humble...Want some more?

    7 ....I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me (Ephesians 3:7,8)

    Grace "TO" Us...
    In Ephesians chapter two and again here in chapter three, Paul references God's grace to us .... God's gift to us by believing.

    Grace Through God's Spirit "IN" Us...
    God's Spirit working in our lives gives us grace ...the power to do the right thing !!!  The energizing power needed to live the entire Christian life is called in Scripture, "the grace of God"

    • 11For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11,12)
    • 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect (1 Cor 15:10)

    *God gives a certain amount of this grace to every person, ...but the proud resist the grace they get and lose God's power.  How do we get more grace?

    Whole volumes have been written about God's grace.  It is one of the most significant topics that we will only touch on here in light of the references to grace in Chapter three.  As God demonstrates his love for us through how gracious he is to us, we become aware that he wants us to be gracious, or full of His grace.
    The success of our lives is entirely related to how much grace God gives us.

     "13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose"  (Phillipians 2:13)

    *How do we receive this grace?   There is only one way - by being humbled.

    But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud
    but shows favour to the humble.” (James 4:6)

    Nothing is more humbling than experiencing conflicts we cannot solve, especially when others know about our problems.  But it is this very experience that God uses to break our pride and give us grace. God allowed all his servants in Scripture to experience conflicts, and it is this very reason that we go through them as well.

    When you are in conflict, when someone has offended you, when someone sees the situation different than you careful of your gracious, instead of lashing out in retalliation... humble yourself ....God promises to give you more grace. This I believe is a secret of successful christian life!

    *from IBLP

    Next: Ch. 4 - So How Are Your Relationships?


    noun, the state of being one; oneness. /  a whole or totality as combining all its parts into one / oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement 

    Psalm 133
    1How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
    2It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
    running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.
    3It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
    For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.

    My study bible commentator says that "...the oil of Aaron's (the high priest) anointing saturated all the hair of his beard and ran down on his priestly robes, signifying his total consecration to holy service.  Similarly, brotherly harmony sanctifies God's people."  When I read Ephesians Chapter 4, I am reminded of this Old Testament passage in Psalm 133 exclaiming "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!"

    This letter of Ephesians that Paul wrote to Ephesus, was written from a Roman prison.  Paul had plenty of time to write, and he carefully developed his letter as the Holy Spirit guided him.  As we look into Ephesians chapter 4, we can quickly see Paul's focus ....he developed his letter as overseer to address the needs of the church, and his focus here is definitely on "unity in the body of Christ".   As mentioned earlier in our study of Chapter 2,  
    • first, RECONCILIATION with God, and 
    • second, RECONCILIATION with others (church).    
    Frankly, if this isn't describing how you or I are conducting ourselves around our brother's and sisters in the Lord...then something in our lives need changing.  Let's read the text and let it speak for itself!

    Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

    1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph.4:1-6)

    In 1983, I was the team leader for a group of six pilots and mechanics for a para-church organization relief project in Africa.  Employed with Mission Aviation Fellowship, our mission was to fly food grains into the very isolated famine afflicted rural areas throughout rural Ethiopia for World Vision, utilizing the DeHavilland Twin Otter.   This was the project that through the BBC reporter we carried in 1984, brought the world's attention to bear on Ethiopia in a huge way, bringing rocker Bob Geldof into the picture with his relief concert series.  This was however,  "back in the day" before fax or computers or internet email or cellphones were even invented.  Telephone services in backwoods or "down-country" Ethiopia were few and far between.  When we came back to Addis Ababa for scheduled maintenance, we had access to teletype machines. Our Support/Ops in California required regular reporting on our project's progress, and so when we gathered our reports together we'd breathlessly watch the teletype machine deliver the synopsis, reporting on our endeavors.  Because of our isolation, everything we did, we did together. We worked together, ate together, toured together, vacationed together, laughed together & yes, we fought together... and it was very intense.  There were few secrets...everybody knew exactly everything about each other...warts and all.   It was perhaps an ideal setting for what we now term "reality television".   While our filed reports provided HQ, who were 11,000 miles away with a vague idea of our accomplishments, they had only a few clues as to how we were really getting along with each other inter-personally.

    As long as I live, I will never forget the first question that our department head asked me when he stopped in for his six-month overseas visit and began to interview me on how the program was going.  The main question he had as he looked into my eyes was "...So how are your relationships?"

    His question floored me!  Obstensibly, our stats were amazing.  We delivered the goods with extreme preciseness and regularity....we set ops and safety records that to this day HQ uses to brag on us to other NGO's (non-governmental organizations).  We achieved unparalled utilization that got the attention of the manufacturer, DeHavilland, even though we operated to our home-made airstrips up at 10,000 feet above sea level (ISA  +20C / 13,000' density altitude conditions) with consequent ops & logistical challenges while an ongoing civil war raged a few miles distant.  Hmmm...Yes, we really performed!

    The truth however was, being young and around christians 24/7 wasn't really all that easy in such an intense isolated situation so far from home.  We were immature.  When we didn't get our own way, we battled, argued and fought.  We would put ourselves first instead of second..."deference" was sometimes the last thing on our minds.  We would "make-up" from time-to-time, though...yet the cycle would repeat as our humanity overtook us, ....we really hadn't developed our inter-personal or conflict management skills.

    Contrary to what many think, good relationships don't just happen....they are forged.  That is, they are willfully, intentionally banged out like a silversmith making jewelry, with a hammer and an anvil,  one step at a time.    The Holy Spirit's instruction to us here in Ephesians 4 is a masterful recipe for church relationships and kingdom conflict resolution.

    • live a life worthy of the calling you have received
    • be completely humble
    • be gentle
    • be patient
    • bear with one another in love
    • make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
    • re: verse 4 ...when your done your rant against someone else's theology or viewpoint remember  "...there is one body and one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all"

      Psalm 133
      How good and pleasant it is
      when God’s people live together in unity!
      For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
      even life forevermore.

      Do you want a blessing?  What can you do to promote unity in your church? my Aunt Doris used to say..."if it's going to be, it's up to me!"  Nothing much in life happens except through relationship!

      > NEXT: Chapter 4b - "Christianity 101"

      The book of Ephesians is the first of the prison epistles that Paul wrote and is considered by many scholars to be the most majestic of all the  epistles.  Ephesians is fundamental to the "doctrine of ecclesiology", or the study of the church.  

      11And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; 15but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; 16from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love (Eph. 4:11-13).

      So many themes come to light in this chapter, and they flow so eloquently under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as Paul chained to a Roman guard, is faithful in recording them. Let's selectively look at a few of many highlights.

      Purpose of the Church
      In chapter 4,  he describes some of the spiritual gifts that God gives the church.  Here in verse 12 to 16,  Paul also reveals the purposes God has  for the church.  It's for the "perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ, till we all attain unto the unity of the faith".  The primary purpose of your local church is not necessarily to evangelize the world, it's to assist people and equip them for the work of ministry, enabling them towards maturity. 
      In Acts chapter 6,  we see the early church delegate their various duties in such a way that those best equipped [full of the Spirit and wisdom], were given the responsibility to "give attention to prayer and the ministry of the word", while others took care of  other necessary aspects of the church. Again, we see that

      ...the primary purpose of the church is to equip the saints.

      Christianity 101 ....Forgive!
      In our last study, we highlighted how significant good relationships are in the life of the child of God.  Again the Holy Spirit here is consistent in reinforcing how relationally we need to be,   "...speaking the truth in love".   When I'm angered,   I initially, often want to speak the truth directly and harshly,  really only displaying my selfishness and arrogance as I seek to put the other person in their place.  I can't be like that....I need to consider the needs of others around me and when necessary, confront in a loving way that builds each other up, and doesn't tear down relationships.  We need to be renewed in our attitude (v23).  The "old man" needs to be "put off" and the "new man" put on, which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  (Do these words move you, like they move me?  ...these are radical and powerful instructions from the Holy Spirit that I need to employ in my life....starting now!)

      As we read the last paragraph in this chapter, the instructions on relationship and reconcilliation to us become even clearer!  If we continue in wrong relation with people, we "grieve" the Holy Spirt.  .....verse 32. states what should be obvious to us, yet we so easily overlook... 

      Men, we are to be kind and forgiving towards someone who has wronged us.  Put quite simply ...Forgiveness is Christianity 101!  

      Ephesians Chapter 5
      Paul has spent previous chapters explaining all the foundational riches and blessings that we have in Christ Jesus.  Now Paul begins to tell us how we need to act, walk and live.  Paul begins Chapter 5 by exhorting us to "live a life of love,  but then addresses something that isn't so loving.

      3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:3 &4

      Paul begins his list of un-loving things by starting with "fornication"  and we see how Satan has deceived us and distorted things, because the world equates fornication with love.  In fact they use the term" let's make love" when they are really referring to fornication.  Here in Ephesians we see that fornication is something that is lacking in true love.  A person who entices someone into an act of fornication, is not really considering the other person, but really only considering themselves and their own desire for some kind of fulfillment;  emotional, sexual or otherwise.  They are not considering that they are leading the other person into a damning sin, into one of those works of the flesh that Paul says "they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God".  So it is really a very unloving thing to lead a person into something that is so destructive to that person's spiritual walk in life!  ...this is total disobedience to the ways of God, so it is not considerate or loving towards the other person.  It is a very un-loving act.  It would only be Satan's deception and lies that would lead a person  to think that it's an act of love.  It is rather, ... an act of lust.  True love is not involved, as if you really loved the person, you would be considerate of their conscience and their feelings;  you would not want to place them under the guilt that they would feel afterwards, the shame and other negative feelings that they would experience as a result of the relationship.  Paul places fornication at the top of his list of unloving acts.  Instead he says, "walk in Love".

      *adapted from Chuck Smith's expositional on Ephesians

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