Ephesians Week 2 - Commentary

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In our study last week, we learned that Paul - the author of this letter - was an Apostle. We learned how that came about and what that meant. He was God's messenger and he became a messenger by the COMMAND of God - by the WILL of God for the PLEASURE of God and for the GLORY of God.
In this letter, he will address the Ephesians - The faithful believers in Jesus who live in Ephesus.
Paul starts off this letter to the Ephesians in his usual way - "flashing his apostle badge" so to speak. Then, we see who he is addressing: "Saints" who are faithful IN CHRIST Jesus. During this lesson, we will be looking intently at that phrase - IN CHRIST - and what it means.
And hey - did you notice Paul addressing believers as SAINTS? I think that maybe many of us hear that word and think of "super believers" - famous for their deeds and their faith. Paul, however, considers all believers in Jesus to be saints! Are you trusting in Christ? YOU ARE A SAINT! :)
Next, he extends Grace and Peace to them from God the Father and The Lord (Jesus the Messiah). Now this is one of those things that we can tend to run right past without giving it another thought but it, like this whole book, is RICH in meaning. First, the meaning of the words themselves would have been refreshingly sweet to the ears of the believers who were in this city of Ephesus where there was little grace towards them. As you may have watched in the video clip that I posted at the beginning of the study (you can find it again HERE), Ephesus was an extremely important city in the Roman Empire and it was also home to the temple of Artemis  - goddess of the Ephesians. Christians were confronted every single day with people bowing down and praying to not only this “goddess” but also to the Roman Emperor who was to be worshiped above all.
There is also an underlying message in these two words grace and peace.  As we will see later in this letter, Paul tells us that was given the special responsibility of taking the message of Jesus’ payment for sin to all people. This Good News of Messiah was for EVERYONE - not just for the Jews. By greeting them with the traditional Greek greeting (GRACE) and the traditional Hebrew greeting (PEACE), he was – from the very beginning of his letter -  showing that these two people groups were now UNITED as one new man IN CHRIST.
This letter to the Ephesians is a distinctive letter in that it does not address a specific "issue" that needed correction as many of his other letters did. (Have ya read Galatians 5:12? Paul had a very specific false teaching that he was aggressively addressing there!!) This letter to the Ephesians, however, spends no time addressing any errant or false teaching. While there are some general instructions on Christian living toward the end, most of this letter is a beautiful exposition of the Trinitarian God and His love for His bride, the Church. It has often been heralded as THE definitive theological letter of Paul. Charles Spurgeon called it "a complete Body of Divinity."
In it, Paul gives us lots of information about God. In verses 3 – 14 we have a beautiful witness of the tri-unity of God. God is: The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our freedom was purchased with the blood of his Son Jesus. As believers, we are sealed or “marked” with the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know about y’all but I have come to see that Ephesians is SO rich in it’s language that it really requires a word-by-word parsing out of the truth that lies in it. There is a tendency to rush through it because it is so chock full of heavenly language and we are Earth bound but the truth is, we are spiritual creatures and we have been given God’s heavenly nature. We must slow down and read Ephesians with our hearts full of the desire to have spiritual things revealed. In fact, that’s exactly what Paul prays for the readers of this letter in the second part of chapter 1.
Here’s just part of what we learn about our God in this part of this letter:
·        God has:  Blessed believers with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.  

·        God blessed believers because: HE WANTED TO and it gave Him great pleasure.  

·        When did God do this: Before He made the world. (By the way, Paul says here that GOD MADE THE WORLD. It's really hard to read any book of the New Testament and not see the clear affirmation of the first words of the Old Testament - Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.)

·        God causes believers In Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

·        God decided (in advance, again referring to before the Earth was created) to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. By saying that we were chosen IN ADVANCE, we see that His choosing of us had nothing to do with US and everything to do with the fact that HE WANTED TO choose us. (We will see more of that in Ephesians 2:8-9). By the way, when we think about adoption we must realize that before an adoption can take place (when a child now belongs to someone new) they first originally belonged to someone else. We will also read more about that in chapter 2.) And also of vital importance... The plan of redemption was not “Plan B.” This is a crucial truth. God chose that He would adopt a family for himself BEFORE the world was created. BEFORE the garden, BEFORE the fall, BEFORE sin. This is extremely difficult for MY human mind to conceive but with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, we are able to perceive these spiritual truths. The wisdom of God is foolishness to those who are perishing.  

·        Because of his rich grace, He purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Similar to the point earlier about adoption – when you purchase something, it first belonged to someone else. Other parts of Ephesians touch on this notion more but I just wanted to get us thinking about this theme of REDEMPTION or being PURCHASED as it will be a key point in chapter 2.

·        What was God's purpose in choosing us? Was it for our benefit? Well, yes... Of course we benefit from his graceful choosing of us but if you look closely at verse six you see that God did this "for the praise of his glorious grace." - God is always ultimately all about His Glory. We were chosen so that His grace would be praised - magnified, marveled at. Have you MARVELED at His amazing Grace lately!?

Also, relating to this point of being purchased – What were we purchased with? THE BLOOD OF JESUS. Please let me hang out here for just a second. If someone is preaching a bloodless gospel it is HERESY! We were purchased with THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. There is an errant teaching in our day that would suggest that God would not sacrifice His son if he really loved Him. This bloodless gospel teaches that it was not necessary for Jesus to die on a cross but that He willingly died and suffered - not to pay the penalty for our sin - but rather to be able to identify with us in our sufferings. Dear friends, this is false teaching and I pray that if you encounter it you will recognize it as what Paul refers to as a “doctrine of demons” and refute it. Scripture is abundantly clear that all are in need of salvation; no one can earn salvation, and without the shedding of blood there is no remission (or taking away) of sin.

·        He has showered (poured out on us) all wisdom and understanding so that now we can understand his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. We, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, have the supernatural ability to comprehend the mysteries of God. (This especially is one of those statements that you have to read through slowly and deliberately to even BEGIN to comprehend the hugeness of the truth that is being relayed.)
·        God has shown us His glorious plan for the fullness of / reconciliation of all things. In the Garden of Even, everything was perfect and then sin entered the world and everything was broken, altered, and remains in it’s current state. We are promised, however, that there is an appointed day and hour in space in time that He will RESTORE everything and bring everything under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Now….. is Christ in authority at this moment? Is He seated in a place of authority and reigning now? I can respond to that with a resounding “Absolutely, positively YES!” Christ is at this very moment seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty far above all authority. And HE is interceding for us and we are IN HIM. That is mind blowing is it not? BUT…We look around us and clearly see that not everything is submitting to Christ. We can clearly see that the Evil one is at work and is not bowing his knee to Christ. But is he subject to Christ? Yes – But He is in rebellion. Here is where we enter into the concept of the “already / not yet” reality of this life that we are living. He HAS already in authority in Heaven and on Earth but everyone and everything is not YET submitting to that authority- they are in a state of rebellion against Him. This state, however, shall not persist forever. There IS an appointed time when every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I don’t know about you all but I LONG for the day that the prophet Habakkuk (and so many other prophets) foresaw – “For the Earth WILL BE filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” God exists outside of space and time. There is not past, present or future. Jesus “was and is and is to come” as we see in Revelation. God sees the end and the beginning of time as WE know it in a totally different way. So… All that to say this: Yes, Christ has all authority NOW but we do not see that manifested as of yet. We as believers submit to that authority now and there will be great reward for us in Heaven because we do. The rebellion, however, will not be permitted to continue indefinitely. As the Apostle Peter would tell those that he was writing letters to, God is slow in bringing this appointed day to pass because he is patient and loving!  Scripture also tells us that we are to be certain of this fact: There WILL come a day when Messiah’s authority WILL be made manifest (be visible to all) and His authority WILL BE asserted and enforced. We can be certain that EVERY being in Earth and in Heaven (even those angels who rebelled) WILL come under His authority and this will bring praise and Glory to God the Father. Believers have the awesome blessing of being under Jesus’ authority NOW. We are seated with Him in Heavenly places NOW and we are promised that we WILL ONE DAY reign with Him as Kings and Priests.
·        Those united with Christ have received an inheritance from God. He chose us in advance to receive this inheritance and he makes everything work out according to his plan. What is this inheritance that Paul is speaking of? First and foremost, this “promised inheritance” is that when Jesus returns to reign, believers will inherit the blessings of eternal life WITH HIM! FOREVER! We will be permitted into His presence because we are covered in Christ! CHRIST IS OUR INHERITANCE! That is primary and everything else is secondary but I would be wrong if I didn't confess that I am looking forward to all of the "fringe benefits" that come along with "inheriting" Jesus (including new bodies that will never die). These promises are MORE than amazing! We are promised that like Jesus, we will have IMPERISHABLE resurrected bodies. Jesus was the first to be raised with an incorruptible body and we will be given one just like His. This is not flowery, poetic, symbolic language. WE WILL HAVE BODIES JUST LIKE JESUS’ RESURRECTED BODY. Paul refers to this promise of a real, tangible resurrected body in several of His letters. I say all that to emphasize this:  the promise of things to come is not one of some ethereal “floaty” intangible place primarily of a spiritual nature. There is a promise of a perfect future BODY that will be the new perfect “container” that houses our spirits that have already been made perfect. We currently live in a perishing “tent” (a temporary, unstable dwelling) as Paul calls it but one day we will be clothed with a “building” (a firm, solid, lasting dwelling).
OK – So I’d like to throw something out here for further thought for us in regards to this inheritance that Paul was speaking of. Remember, Paul was a Jewish man bringing the Good News of the Jewish Messiah to all nations. What was the promised Messiah supposed to do? What were the promises of old? What was the covenant that God made with Abraham? As I read the scripture – particularly the Old Testament, I am struck more and more by the language of the prophets that foretold of a coming Kingdom. A real, tangible physical Kingdom ruled by a real person seated on a real throne and visible to all the nations of the Earth. This was PROMISED by God over and over in the Old Testament and God is a promise keeper! Has the Earth ever been filled with the knowledge of the Lord? Has there ever been a time in history when all the families of all of the nations on Earth have bowed to one ruler who ruled in justice and righteousness? My question for you to ponder is this: When Jesus returns from Heaven (as is promised REPEATEDLY by Paul and all of the writers of the New Testament and Jesus Himself!), is this not what He will do? And – we are told that we will rule and reign with Him. Is this not the same promise that FILLS the pages of the Old Testament? Are these not the covenants and promises that we have been “grafted in” to? The Jews were looking for a promised of Savior who would reign over all the Earth as King. Was it not Paul’s stated mission that He was to be the messenger that all of the covenant promises once for only Jews was now for ALL who would believe in Messiah?
Now - I will be the first to say that there is significant debate about this within Christendom and it is really not my intention within this study of Ephesians to go into a long discussion about the different views of Christ’s Kingdom (and there are many) but it is one that I would encourage you to do further personal investigation on. It’s a WONDERFUL topic of study and regardless of what view you end up coming to (a view that there will be an Earthly and / or a Heavenly Kingdom) it’s tremendously uplifting to seek out the things that God has in store for us! If you think about the Lord's Prayer - How does it go? What did Jesus teach His disciples when they asked Him, "Lord! Teach us how to pray?!" He sais - "Pray this way... - Our Father in Heaven - Hallowed by thy name. May your name be hallowed - made FAMOUS! and then you pray - THY KINGDOM COME! Let God's Kingdom come to earth! May it be on Earth as it is in Heaven!" So - Again - I would encourage you - this is a wonderful topic of study and one that has blessed me tremendously - God has some seriously glorious things planned! His Glory WILL fill the whole Earth and we WILL rule and reign with Him forever and ever to the praise of His glorious grace!

OK – On to the rest of these rich descriptions of who we are IN CHRIST.
·        When we believe in Christ, He identified us, “marked us” as his own. How? By giving us the Holy Spirit, who is God’s guarantee – down payment - that he will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be his own people.

Now - this "mark" of the Holy Spirit - this "down payment" language speaks of "earnest money" - A guarantee for full payment to come later. The Greek word for earnest is "arrabon" - The modern Greek word for this is "arrabona" and it is the word for ENGAGEMENT RING. Do you see that, beloved? This language is the language of BETROTHAL. There's is in this a PROMISE that "I will come back for you!"
In the Jewish Wedding customs, when someone is betrothed, they are considered married all except for the consummation of the marriage. This is why Joseph considered divorcing Mary when he found out she was pregnant. They were not yet married - the marriage had not been consummated - but they were bound to one another nonetheless. Just like that - we are BETROTHED to Christ now and we have this promise (by the guarantee, "bridal dowry" so to speak of the Holy Spirit) that guarantees that what He has purchased (US!) will be bought in FULL at the time of His return - at the consummation of all things! This being "IN HIM" and Him being "IN US" will be made complete when He comes. We are marked with a seal as His own. The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that the things that are realities now in a Spiritual sense (being with with Christ in the Heavenly Realms NOW, etc.) will become more real - it will be made complete when He returns for us, His bride! The wedding, the consummation, the completion WILL COME! All things will be fulfilled!

The last part of Ephesians Chapter 1 is a Prayer that Paul offers for the church. Please re-read verses 15 - 23 and that will be a portion of what we will focus on in next week’s discussion.

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