Friday, December 30, 2016

Ephesians 4:1-6

In the first three chapters we were edified by the knowledge of our spiritual wealth in Christ. In the last three chapters we are exhorted to have a spiritual walk through Christ (4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). In these chapters Paul exhorts us concerning the good works that God has ordained for us to walk in (Eph. 2:8-10). Many try to separate doctrinal teaching from practical preaching, but they go together and both are necessary. The strength of application is a solid doctrinal foundation. Sound doctrine has a life changing effect when it is believed and obeyed (Rom. 6:17). 

[1] I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

The law commanded, but grace beseeches. To “beseech” basically means “to plead with.” Paul used that word about twenty-three times in his epistles, which is fitting since he is the apostle of grace. 

The word “vocation” refers to our calling. We must know the “hope of our calling” (Eph. 1:15-19). We have a “high” (Phil. 3:14) and “holy” (2 Tim. 1:9) calling. The goal of spiritual growth is getting our state lined up with our standing. In order to do that we must first know what our standing is, which is why Paul dealt with that first in this epistle. How can we walk worthy of a vocation that we are ignorant of? To walk worthy of our vocation is to live in a way that is becoming to the sound doctrine we profess to believe (Titus 2:1, 10; Phil. 1:27).  

[2] With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 
[3] Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

This is how the members of the Body of Christ are to treat one another (see also Phil. 2:1-5; Col. 3:9-15). Believing Jews and Gentiles now have a common bond in Christ (Eph. 2:11-18). A true spiritual knowledge of all God has done for us by grace in Christ Jesus should humble us. Our high calling demands a lowly walk! A superficial knowledge will just puff us up (2 Cor. 12:7). Knowledge without charity is nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). We cannot make the unity of the Spirit (positional standing), but we must endeavor to keep it in our practical state.  

[4] There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 
[5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 
[6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

This passage is often misused to teach that all professing Christians should be ecumenical and come together in unity despite doctrinal differences. God is not asking us to form some kind of unity, but rather to recognize the unity that He Himself has made in Christ. This is the unity of the Spirit and not the uniformity of the flesh (the Roman Catholic Church is a unified religion of the flesh). 

There are seven spiritual things listed here that form the basis of the unity of the Spirit. The number seven is God’s number of perfection. Ephesians is the pinnacle of revelation for the Body of Christ, like the book of Revelation is for Israel. The number seven is used repeatedly in both books. 

The first chapter revealed seven spiritual blessings and the last chapter speaks of seven pieces of spiritual armor. In between we find the sevenfold unity of the Spirit. 

1) One body – There are many local churches (Rom. 16:4), but there is only ONE Body (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:13; Eph. 2:16; Col. 3:15). There are many Christian organizations, but there is only one spiritual organism that is being built by God in this age. 
2) One Spirit (Eph. 1:13; 2:18; 1 Cor. 6:17) – The Holy Spirit baptizes, regenerates, indwells, and seals every member of the Body. 
3) One hope of OUR calling (Titus 2:13; Phil. 3:20) – Christ catching us up to heaven before the tribulation period begins is the heavenly hope of the Body of Christ. Paul instructs us to look for Christ from heaven, not the antichrist from earth.  
4) One Lord – Christ is the Head of the one Body (Eph. 1:20-23 Col. 1:18). 
5) One faith – “The faith” (e.g. 2 Tim. 4:7) is the body of doctrine revealed in Paul’s epistles for the Body of Christ. This “one faith” reveals the “faith of Christ” by which we are justified. Our faith is to based upon this “one faith.” 
6) One baptism – There are various baptisms in the Bible (see Matt. 3:11 for three baptisms in one verse), but there is only one that makes us members of the one Body (Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12). The baptism by the Spirit that takes place upon salvation and puts us into the Body of Christ is the only baptism that matters today. How sad it is that the professing church is greatly divided over a water ceremony that God never even commanded the Body of Christ to practice! The apostle Paul never commanded water baptism like Peter did (1 Cor. 1:17). 
7) One God and Father – He is above, through, and in all believers. God is not the Father of the lost (Gal. 3:26). The Father, Son, and Spirit are all in the believer. 

Notice that the three members of the Godhead are mentioned in vs.4-6, and that Christ is central. The trinity is found in every chapter of this book (1:3-14; 2:18; 3:14-17; 4:4-6; 5:18-21; 6:18), which is fitting since Ephesians is the pinnacle of divine revelation. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ephesians 3:14-21

In the latter part of this chapter we find Paul’s second prayer which concludes the doctrinal section of the epistle. Paul’s prayers for the Body of Christ recorded in his prison epistles are all about spiritual things. He does not pray that we would receive things we don’t have, but rather that we would understand and enjoy all that we do have in Christ. 

[14] For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
[15] Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 

Bowing the knees in prayer is a symbol of humility (Acts 20:36). It is not necessary to always bow the knees when praying (Neh. 2:4). The most important thing is to bow the heart in true humility before God. Scriptural prayer is to the Father, in the name of the Son (Eph. 5:20), and in the Spirit (Eph. 6:18). All believers are in the same spiritual family of God (Gal. 3:26). Christ called the Father "Abba" when He prayed (Mk. 14:36). The Spirit of Christ in us gives us that same intimate access to the Father (Gal. 4:6). 

[16] That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

How does God strengthen us with might by His Spirit in the inner man (2 Cor. 4:16-18)? By the word of God (Col. 3:16). Yet, Christians spend much more time praying about the outward man which is perishing. 

[17] That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Christ is in every believer (Col. 1:27), but does He dwell in our hearts in the sense of making Himself at home there?

[18] May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

Most take this to be referring to the love of Christ, but v.19 seems to differentiate the love of Christ from what he is talking about here. I think he is referring to the mystery (vs.8-9). The mystery is not something that can’t be known, but rather a secret that was hid in God and has now been revealed. God wants us to see it and comprehend the dimensions of it:
Breadth – ALL men
Length – eternal purpose  
Depth – based on the deep love and grace of Christ 
Height – heavenly places 

[19] And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

How can we know something that passes knowledge? It passes human knowledge, but we may know it by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 2:9-13). Christ is the fulness of God (Col. 1:19; 2:9). We are to seek to live a FULL Christian life (Eph. 5:18; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11). If you are filled with the things of the flesh and the world you will not desire to be filled with things of God (Prov. 27:7).

[20] Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 
[21] Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

These last two verses of the chapter divide the book in half. The first half is about our standing or position in heavenly places and the last half is about our state or practice on the earth. In first three chapters believers are edified as to our spiritual wealth as members of the body of Christ. In the last three chapters we are exhorted as to what our spiritual walk should be in light of that standing (Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). As we read the first three chapters we wonder how it is that God could give sinners like us such great blessings. Then as we read the last three chapters we wonder how it is that we can live up to the standard of life that He has set for us. The answer is in vs.20-21. 

This “present evil world” must end. The “world to come” is without end. In the “world to come” (Heb. 2:5; 6:5) Israel will reign on earth and we will reign in heavenly places (Eph. 1:21; 2:6-7). 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ephesians 3:1-13

In chapter one we discovered some of our spiritual blessings as members of the Body of Christ. In chapter two we learned how we were made members of His Body. In the first part of the third chapter Paul shows that the Body was a mystery that was first revealed through him.

This passage is a key in understanding Paul’s distinct message and ministry as the apostle to Gentiles in this age of grace. If words have any meaning, there is a dispensational difference between the ministry of the twelve apostles and the ministry of Paul.

Consider these basic distinctions:
1. The twelve were chosen by Christ on earth (Lk. 6:13-16), but Paul was chosen by Christ from heaven (Acts 9:3-6).
2. The twelve were appointed to lead Israel (Matt. 19:28), but Paul was appointed to lead the Body of Christ (Col. 1:24-26).
3. The twelve represent the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28), but Paul represents the one Body (he was both a Hebrew and a Roman citizen, Phil. 3:5, Acts 22:28).
4. The twelve knew Christ on earth (Acts 1:9), but Paul knew Christ from heaven (2 Cor. 12:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:8).
5. The twelve were sent to proclaim and offer the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 10:7, Acts 3:19-21), but Paul was sent to preach the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).
6. In the kingdom commission water baptism was required and signs were the evidence of salvation (Mk. 16:15-18), but Paul was not sent to baptize (1 Cor. 1:17) and he knew the signs would cease (1 Cor. 13:8-13).
7. The ministry of the twelve was based on covenants and prophecy (Acts 3:19-26). After Israel is blessed, the Gentiles receive blessings through them. The ministry of Paul was based on a mystery (Rom. 16:25-26, Eph. 3:8). The Gentiles blessed through fall of Israel (Rom. 11:11-12, 15) and there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the body (Gal. 3:28)
8. The twelve restricted their ministry to the circumcision after God raised up Paul. Their leadership decreased as Paul’s increased (Gal. 2:1-9). Paul overshadowed the twelve after Acts 7 when Israel officially rejected the kingdom. From Acts 13 on, Paul is the focus and his ministry is magnified.

[1] For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

It was Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles that led to him becoming a prisoner (Acts 22:17-24). He considered himself a prisoner of Christ instead of a prisoner of Rome (Eph. 4:1; 2 Tim. 1:8; Phile. 1, 9). In v.14 Paul will resume what he started to say in v.1 (“For this cause”) before he went on a divine digression in vs.2-13.

[2] If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

Here we are nearly 2,000 years later and the majority of professing Christians still haven’t heard of the dispensation of the grace of God that was given through Paul to the Gentiles! Satan has been working hard to keep people blinded to this vital truth. God dispensed the message of grace through Paul’s ministry (1 Cor. 9:17; Col. 1:25) and the grace that he needed to make it known (vs.7-8). He needed much grace because he suffered much to fulfill his ministry.

[3] How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 
[4] Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
[5] Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The glorified Christ from heaven literally appeared to Paul in order to directly reveal the mystery to him. His knowledge in the mystery of Christ may be understood when we read the scriptures that he wrote by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 2:7). The mystery of the Body of Christ was kept secret in other ages, but it is now revealed to our understanding by the Spirit as we read what Paul wrote. The “apostles and prophets” (v.5) he referred to were those who ministered to the Body of Christ. The mystery was revealed to them “by the Spirit” when they heard Paul; which is a different thing than Christ revealing the mystery to Paul first.

[6] That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

That Gentiles would be saved was not a mystery. There examples of it in the Old Testament (e.g. Ruth) and the the prophets spoke of it (e.g. Isa. 60:1-5). The mystery that Christ revealed through Paul is that believing Gentiles would be fellowheirs (Eph. 1:11) in the SAME BODY. In time past the Gentiles were only blessed through Israel, but now we are blessed without Israel. Israel does not have a position above the Gentiles in this age. All believers are made members of the same spiritual Body (Eph. 2:13-16). The Body of Christ is one new spiritual man in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:27-28). We become members of this Body “by the gospel.” This is obviously referring to the gospel that Paul received by revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12). We are made partakers of the Holy Spirit of promise when we believe Paul’s gospel (Eph. 1:13). Most Christians believe the Body of Christ began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). How could the Body of Christ begin before the gospel, that we must believe in order to be in the Body, was revealed?

[7] Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.

The apostle Paul was given a twofold ministry (Col. 1:23-29): to every creature with the gospel (Col. 1:23) and to the Body of Christ with the mystery (Col. 1:24-26). He was able to finish his course (2 Tim. 4:7) by the grace and power of God.

[8] Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

That Paul had much to say about himself and his ministry did not make him an egomaniac because he wrote by inspiration of God. Paul magnified his office as the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13), but he knew that as a man he was nothing. He knew that he did not deserve to be an apostle (1 Cor. 15:10) and he considered himself to be “less than the least of all saints.” His ministry was totally by the grace of God.

The unsearchable riches of Christ concerns spiritual truth that cannot be found by searching the Old Testament or fully grasped by the human mind.

[9] And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

The “fellowship of the mystery” is our unity as the Body of Christ. It was the goal of Paul’s ministry to make all men see this blessed truth, but sadly most believers today seem to be blinded to it. The mystery was not hid in the Old Testament, it was hid in God. No one knew it until God revealed it through Paul. Yet, many preachers claim to find this truth in the Old Testament. If words have any meaning, the mystery cannot be found in the scriptures written before Paul. Therefore, we know that the Body of Christ is not the subject of what transpires in Acts 1-8 because those events were in accordance with what the prophets spoke about since the beginning of the world (Acts 3:21).

That the Godhead created all things, both visible and invisible, by Jesus Christ proves the deity of Christ.

[10] To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
[11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

The mystery of the Body of Christ is a great demonstration of the wisdom of God. In this age angels are not teaching us, but we are teaching them. The mystery was not some kind of emergency plan that God came up with after Israel fell. We are His eternal purpose that He planned before the world began but kept secret until after Israel fell.

[12] In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

What an amazing statement! As members of the Body of Christ we have boldness and access with confidence in the presence of God (Eph. 2:18). What a contrast with how God dealt with Gentiles in time past! We do not have this privilege because of our faith. We are justified by the faith of Christ (Gal. 2:16). We are to live by the faith of Christ (Gal. 2:20). We have access by the faith of Christ. Yes, we must place our faith in Christ. However, our spiritual blessings are based upon what Christ accomplished by HIS faith for us.

[13] Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Christ suffered to purchase our salvation and Paul suffered to proclaim it (Col. 1:24). It was Paul, not Peter, who filled up the afflictions of Christ for the Body’s sake. Peter suffered, but for a different ministry. By the grace of God, he never fainted in all his tribulations (2 Cor. 4:15-18). He encourages the Body of Christ not to faint at his tribulations. Some were ashamed of his chains (2 Tim. 1:8). It was for our eternal glory that Paul endured all the things he faced (2 Tim. 2:10). 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ephesians 2:11-22

[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 
[12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

In latter part of this chapter (vs.11-22), the apostle Paul shows the clear dispensational change in Gods dealings with the Gentiles in this present age. God never changes in His person, principles, and promises (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8), but He does change in His dealings with man. The Bible is a complete revelation, but it was given progressively and not all at once. All scripture is profitable for us, but in order to gain the profit from God’s word that He has placed in it for us we must study it His way (2 Tim. 2:15). All the Bible is the word of truth, but we must recognize and consistently maintain the divisions that God put in His word if we are going to understand it. What was truth for Israel under the law may not be truth for the Body of Christ under grace. This is the dispensational approach to Bible study. 

A “dispensation” (used 4 times in the Bible, all by Paul) is basically a dealing out, distribution, or dispensing of something. It is an administration. Dispensations are not periods of time. Ages are periods of time (“other ages,” “ages to come”). Dispensations operate within ages. Each dispensation revealed in scripture is marked by five things:
1) Divine revelation (bring clear changes in God’s dealings with men)
2) Human spokesman (e.g. Moses and Paul)
3) Human responsibility to the revelation (a testing) 
4) Human failure (every dispensation ends in apostasy except the last one)
5) Divine judgment

It is not enough to be biblical. We must also be dispensational. For example, tongues are biblical but not dispensational for today. It is dangerous to misplace things in the scripture. In the context of 2 Tim. 2:15 the apostle Paul warns about the dangerous doctrine of saying that the resurrection is past already (2 Tim. 2:16-18). Those false teachers were putting a biblical subject (resurrection) in the wrong place. 

Notice the dispensational phrases in this chapter: 
Time past (v.11)
But now (v.13)
Ages to come (v.7)

The New Testament is arranged according to this dispensational order: 
Time past (Matthew through early Acts)
But now (Romans through Philemon)
Ages to come (Hebrews through Revelation)

The terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” identify a basic physical, racial, and social distinction; one that was in the flesh and made by hands. In times past the Gentiles were spiritually alienated from God and thus said to be “without Christ.” That was their condition because they were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” and “strangers of the covenants of promise.” The physical distinction only pointed to the more important spiritual alienation the Gentiles occupied in times past. Gentiles could come to God, but they had to come through Israel (e.g. Ruth). Gentiles were not blessed if they did not first bless the seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; Num. 24:9). God gave circumcision to Abraham (Gen. 17) as a sign of the covenant that He made with him and his seed after him. It was an outward sign of the spiritual privilege God had given to them and was a required mark of their identity and covenant privileges. It was the beginning of a middle wall of partition that God put up between Israel and the nations (Num. 23:9). When He revealed the law through Moses, that wall was strongly reinforced (Deut. 4:5-8). 

Therefore, when we find God making this distinction in the scripture we KNOW that we are not reading about this present age. Most Bible believing Christians understand this about the Old Testament, but few understand that is also the case with the Gospels and early Acts (Rom. 15:8; Matt. 10:5-6; 15:24; Lk. 24:34; 24:47; Acts 1:6; 2:14, 22, 36; 3:19-26; 11:19). This distinction will once again be in place after the rapture of the Body of Christ.  

[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 
[14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
[15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
[16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 
[17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. [18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

This is one of several very significant “but now” passages in Paul’s epistles (see Col. 1:24-26 for another example). The Body of Christ was a mystery (or, secret) that was first revealed to Paul. Some try to use this passage to teach that the Body of Christ began historically AT the cross. Not everything that Christ accomplished through His cross was revealed or carried out at that time. For example, He destroyed Satan through His death and resurrection, but Satan is still loose and at work (Rom. 16:20). The Body of Christ is made possible “by the blood of Christ” (v.13) and “by the cross” (v.16), but entrance into this Body is “by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6) and “by one Spirit” (v.18; 1 Cor. 12:13). 

The main characteristic of the Body of Christ is not that we are “in Christ,” but that we are made “ONE NEW MAN”. There is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (Col. 3:11). We are not under the ordinances of the law (Col. 2:8-17). How could God reconcile both Jews and Gentiles in one body before He cast away Israel (Rom. 11:15)? Peter was not referring to the Gentiles in Acts 2:39, but to the scattered tribes of Israel (Dan. 9:7, afar off geographically). If Peter knew the truth of the one Body of Christ in Acts 2, explain his attitude in Acts 10. The only place in the Bible where read about Jews and Gentiles being in one spiritual Body is in Paul’s epistles. It is in his epistles alone that we find the specific doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the church which is the Body of Christ. 

[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 
[20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 
[21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: [22] In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Instead of aliens and strangers, we are now fellowcitizens with the saints! We gained this status WITHOUT Israel. In times past the Gentiles could only come to God through Israel. 

There is one household of God made up of all the saints who are redeemed by the blood of Christ (Eph. 3:15). But in this household there is a difference between Israel, Gentiles, and the Body of Christ. Christ is the chief corner stone to both the kingdom church (1 Pet. 2:4-12) and the Body of Christ. 

The apostles and prophets Paul is referring to are ones that Christ sent after He ascended to heaven (Eph. 3:5; 4:8-12). Christ is the one foundation, but Paul was the first to preach Him according to the revelation of the mystery (1 Cor. 3:10; Rom. 16:25). 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ephesians 2:1-10

The first chapter was about our possessions as members of the Body of Christ. This chapter is about our position as members of the Body of Christ. The first chapter was all about what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. In this chapter we learn how we become members of the Body of Christ. It is not by anything that we are or that we can do. It is totally by the GRACE of God! Only God can take a dead sinner and make him a living saint. There is a stark contrast between the way this chapter opens and closes. Those who were once a habitation for the spirit of Satan (v.2) are made to be a habitation of God through His Spirit (v.22).

The first part of the chapter deals with sinners as individuals (vs.1-10) and the later part with Gentiles as a group (vs.11-22). Both passages outline themselves: 

I. Who we were (vs.1-3)
II. But God (vs.4-9)
III. Who we are now (v.10)

I. In times past (vs.11-12)
II. But now (vs.13-18)
III. Ye are (vs.19-22)

[1] And you hath he quickened , who were dead in trespasses and sins; 
[2] Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 
[3] Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

We should not dwell on our past, but it’s good to remember where we were and how God saved us (Titus 3:1-7). The Bible has nothing positive to say about the flesh (see Rom. 1-3, bad news before the good news). All lost sinners are dead in trespasses and sins. There are different kinds of death mentioned in the Bible and none of them mean annihilation. Death is a separation. Paul is talking about spiritual death, which is separation from the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:17-19). Those who die physically in a lost condition will suffer the second death (Rev. 20:14-15).  

Notice three destructive forces that worked in our lives as lost sinners: 
1. World – The course of this present evil world is according to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). 
2. Devil – It is a course that is set by Satan who is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan’s primary habitation is in the second heaven (Eph. 6:12). He is cast out in the midst of the tribulation period (Rev. 12:9). Satan is a spiritual being. If we are going to stand against him, we must put on the spiritual armor of God and use the spiritual weapon of the word of God. 
3. Flesh – This verse defines lusts as desires. The flesh desires to fulfill its desires in an unlawful manner. We are sinners by nature (Rom. 5:12). It is in our human nature to disobey God. You don’t have to teach your children to sin (Ps. 51:5). Children of disobedience are children of wrath (Eph. 5:3-6). 

Notice the “we all” in v.3. George Williams (1850-1928) wrote, “The Apostle Paul prior to his conversion lived a blameless life of religious rectitude; the Ephesians prior to their conversion wallowed in an appalling abyss of idolatry and obscenity. Yet the Apostle says that there was no moral difference between him and them. They were all alike corrupt by nature, they were all alike dead in sins, sons of disobedience, led by the spirit of Satan and under the wrath of God (vs.1-3). These are fact revealed by the Holy Spirit Who is infallible; but these are facts that man denies, and the assertion of which enrages him.” 

[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 
[5] Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 
[6] And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 
[7] That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 
[8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 
[9] Not of works, lest any man should boast.

“But” is a little word that makes a big difference in the Bible! Especially when it says, “But God!” God makes all the difference. When a sinner trusts Christ for salvation he is instantly quickened (made alive spiritually), raised up, and seated with Christ in heavenly places (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:1-4). Our position will be in heavenly places throughout the ages to come (as trophies of His grace). All of this is accomplished by spiritual baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:5). Ephesians is further revelation from Romans which taught us that we are crucified, buried, and risen with Christ (Rom 6:3-6). How could a righteous God do such wondrous things for unrighteous sinners? It is because of Christ (Eph. 4:32; Rom. 6:23). 

Note: “with Christ” (v.5); “in Christ” (v.6); “through Christ” (v.7). 

Rich Mercy – He never runs out! He has enough mercy to save any sinner! God’s mercy may be defined as an outward manifestation of His pity and compassion by which He relieves the misery of the sinful and suffering in their distress. Mercy presupposes misery. Mercy is God NOT giving man what he deserves.
Great Love – Proven by the cross (Rom. 5:8). 
Abounding Grace – Grace has to do with what God freely gives us in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 8:9). Grace and works are mutually exclusive in our salvation (Rom. 11:6; Titus 3:5). We cannot earn salvation by merit or forfeit it by demerit. God has always been gracious, but there is a difference between grace in a dispensation and a dispensation of grace (Rom. 5:20-21). Noah found grace (i.e. favor) because he was perfect in his generations (Gen. 6:8-9). Paul is the pattern of salvation for this present age (1 Tim. 1:11-16). Does “that not of yourselves” refer to salvation or faith? Both. We are justified by the faith of Christ.

[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Good works do have a place in salvation. The problem is that many put them in the wrong place. Good works are not the means of salvation, they are the fruit of it. You can’t even do good works unless you are saved (Rom. 8:8-9). Salvation is not reformation of the old nature, but a creative work of God (4:24; 2 Cor. 5:17). We do good works through Christ in us (Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13). God did not save us to just keep us out of hell. He saved us unto Himself (Eph. 1:4-6; Titus 2:11-14). 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ephesians 1:15-23

[15] Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 
[16] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 

Paul was always thankful to hear about the testimony of real Christians. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love unto all the saints are hallmarks of authentic Christianity. 

In the first part of this chapter (vs.1-14), the apostle Paul mentions seven spiritual blessings. In the latter part of the chapter (vs.15-23), he prays for the Body of Christ in regard to these blessings. He does not pray that we would be able to obtain these blessings, but rather that we would know that we already have it all in Christ! 

Due to their ignorance of the Pauline epistles, most believers today are seeking for things they already have in Christ and are therefore not enjoying the Christian life as they should be. They lack peace and joy because of their failure to know and believe who God has made them in Christ. For example, most believers are trying to obtain blessings (v.3), forgiveness (v.7), and acceptance (v.6) from God when He has already given us these things in Christ. 

The first three chapters reveal doctrine about the Body of Christ:
Chapter One – Our spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ 
Chapter Two – How we are made members of the Body of Christ
Chapter Three – The Body of Christ was a mystery revealed through Paul

There are two prayers in this first section, and they are both about believers having a spiritual knowledge of the truth set forth in these chapters (1:15-23; 3:14-21). The prayers in Paul’s prison epistles are spiritual (see also Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-14). We may pray about physical things, but surely the emphasis in our prayers should be on the spiritual. Spiritual knowledge of God is our greatest need! 

[17] That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 
[18] The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
[19] And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 

The knowledge Paul is talking about is a spiritual knowledge that only comes by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16). Many churches today are caught up in the vain philosophy of, “Know thyself,” but Paul prays that we would know:
1. God (v.17) – Our great goal should be, “that I may know him” (Phil. 3:10). 
2. The hope of HIS calling (v.18a) - There is one hope of our calling (Eph. 4:1, 4). Our calling is “high” (Phil. 3:14) and “holy” (2 Tim. 1:9). We are called by Paul’s gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). The Body of Christ is a called out assembly. We are assembled in Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Yet, many claim that a church can only be local. Our hope is to be caught up and glorified with Christ in heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4; Titus 2:13). Our position is eternal in the heavens (Eph. 2:6-7; 2 Cor. 5:1). The hope of Israel’s calling concerns a kingdom on the EARTH. The far majority of believers today think they have the hope of Israel’s calling. 
3. The riches of the glory of HIS inheritance in the saints (v.18b) 
4. The exceeding greatness of HIS mighty power (v.19)

The apostle Paul was given a twofold ministry for this present age: to every creature with the gospel and to the church with the mystery (Col. 1:23-29). Satan knows what God is doing in this age and is working to keep the lost blinded to the truth of the gospel of grace and believers blinded to the truth of the Body of Christ. Based on Paul’s prayer (v.18), it is possible for believers to be blinded to spiritual truth. What blinds believers to God’s truth? Very often it is the religious TRADITIONS of men (Col. 2:8). 

[20] Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 
[21] Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 
[22] And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 
[23] Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Most people seem to be only interested in what the power of God can do FOR them in a visible and tangible way. God is not doing signs and wonders in this age. However, His mighty power is at work IN us spiritually (Eph. 3:20). We have the resurrection power of God that enables us to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3-4). 

Christ went down into the lower parts of the earth (Eph. 4:9), but is now exalted far above all heavens (Eph. 4:10). He is seated far above all principality, power, and might, and dominion; both visible and invisible (Col 1:16). As members of His Body, we are seated with Him and will reign with Him over all things eternally.  

The first church that I ever “joined” was a Baptist church. They taught me as a young Christian that there is only a local and visible church on earth that is entered through water baptism. The Lord used vs.22-23 to show me that there is one true spiritual church made up of all believers in this age. It is the church, which is the Body of Christ. There are many local churches, but there is only ONE BODY (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:4). Christ fills all the members of His Body with all spiritual blessings. All believers in this age are baptized by one Spirit into this one Body upon salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ephesians 1:1-14

[1] Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul’s name is the first word in every epistle that he wrote (2 Thess. 3:17). God put an emphasis on Paul’s distinct ministry. Many of his epistles state something about his apostleship in the first sentence (e.g. Gal. 1:1). He was given a distinct ministry from the twelve apostles and therefore his apostleship was constantly under attack.

All believers are saints (sanctified in Christ). It is God’s will that we are part of two churches in this age. We become members of the church which is the Body of Christ upon salvation and we should also assemble together locally with other like-minded believers for service (see also Phil. 1:1-2; Col. 1:1-2). 

Commentators make a big deal about the words “at Ephesus” supposedly not being in some of the ancient manuscripts. They talk about how this was to be an encyclical letter. All of Paul’s letters were copied and passed around to the brethren (Col. 4:16). 

The record of Paul’s ministry at Ephesus is found in Acts 18-20. He spent three years there and the ministry continued on after his departure with the help of Aquila and Priscilla and Timothy. There were Gentiles saved after Paul left because he mentions that he heard of their faith (v.15). 

Perhaps Paul refers specifically to the “faithful” because in this letter he is speaking to the spiritual saints that can bear the meat of the word. 

By the way, comparing this letter with the letter to the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7) proves that they are different churches under different programs (the seven churches in Rev. 2-3 are future Jewish churches in the tribulation period). For example, compare Eph. 1:3 with Rev. 2:7. 

[2] Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace precedes peace (Rom. 5:1). Paul says more about the grace of God than all the other Bible writers combined! Have you ever noticed that Paul never sends greetings from the Holy Spirit? We are sealed with the Spirit (v.13). Compare this with John’s greeting to the tribulation saints (Rev. 1:4). 

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

We ought to bless God for all His blessings (Ps. 103:1-2)! In vs.3-14 the apostle Paul outlines some (not exhaustive list) of the spiritual blessings we have from the Father (vs.3-6), Son (vs.7-12), and Spirit (vs.13-14). Each member of the Godhead is active in salvation. It has been accomplished and made available by the will of the Father, the work of the Son, and the witness of the Spirit. Each section is one sentence and ends with praise to the glory of God. 

Most Christians never come to understand the plain truth of this verse:
We are blessed with ALL blessings the moment of salvation (Col. 2:10)
These blessings are spiritual
These blessings are in “heavenly places” (1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10)

Most professing Christians seem to think they are God’s earthly people in a covenant relationship! They claim the blessings of Deut. 28:1-14, but conveniently forget about all the curses in vs.15-68.

Israel                               Body of Christ
Material Blessings              Spiritual Blessings
On Earth                              In Heavenly Places
Based on Performance       Based on Position

[4] According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

We are chosen “in Christ” (2 Tim. 1:9). Christ is God’s elect (Isa. 42:1-4). When did we get in Christ? When we trusted Him as Savior (v.13), NOT before the foundation of the world (else we were in Christ, out of Christ, back in Christ)! God foreknew that we would trust Christ. Nobody is predestinated to salvation or damnation. Those who are saved are predestinated unto glory. The standing of the Body of Christ before God is that we are holy, without blame, and in His love. We certainly don’t have to keep ourselves in the love of God (compare Jude 21 with Rom. 8:38-39).  

God has a twofold purpose that is revealed in His word (v.10; Gen. 1:1). 
1. Heaven (Body of Christ) – planned BEFORE foundation of the world (1 Cor. 2:7), kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:9) 
2. Earth – (Israel) prophesied FROM foundation of world (Matt. 25:34), spoken since the world began (Acts 3:21)

Satan, whose primary habitation is in the heavens, was focused on defeating God’s plan for the earth and had no idea about God’s plan to reconcile the heavens to Himself! Israel will inherit the earth, but we live eternally in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1). We will replace the fallen principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10; Rev. 12:7-9). 

[5] Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

The word adoption is not used here in the sense of making someone a child who was not born into the family (always a hindrance to read modern and western definitions into Bible words). We were born into the family of God upon salvation. Adoption, as used by Paul, is about position rather than relationship. It is the full placement as a son. It has to do with position and the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with that position (Gal. 4:1-7). 

Being complete in Christ we have this position now, but we have yet to fully enter into the experience of all that it means to be a son of God. The apostle Paul speaks of adoption in relation to the Body of Christ in three passages and applies it in three tenses:
1) As to the past, we were predestinated unto adoption (Eph. 1:3-6)
2) As to present, we now have the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5-6)
3) As to the future, we are waiting for adoption (Rom. 8:23)

"Abba" is Aramaic and is an intimate term for father, like our English word “Daddy”. This is what Jesus called the Father when He was praying in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:36). We are accepted in the beloved! 

Note that predestination is for God (“to himself”) and according to the good pleasure of His will (v.9, 11). This does not mean we have no will in the matter! By our will we can only receive salvation, we cannot accomplish it (Jn. 1:11-13). 

[6] To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

God made us accepted by His grace (2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 1:12)! Christ is the Beloved (v.7; Matt. 12:18, note beloved and elect). God accepts us as He does Jesus Christ! This has to do with our standing Christ. However, as to our state, we must labor to be accepted as a servant (2 Cor. 5:9; Rom. 14:17-18). 

[7] In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

To be redeemed is to be purchased with a price. What was the price? The precious BLOOD of Christ. There could be no redemption without His blood! How many sins did He forgive? ALL of them: past, present, and future (Col. 2:13)! The riches of His grace has given us unsearchable riches (3:8, not measured by human mind, cannot be searched out in OT prophecy). 

[8] Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 
[9] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 
[10] That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

The mystery was no afterthought or plan B! It was His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11). It is a demonstration of His great wisdom (Eph. 3:10; 1 Cor. 2:7). One of our spiritual blessings is knowing the mystery of God’s will concerning the dispensation of the fullness of times. Anti-dispensational preachers accuse us of teaching that God failed in trying to establish His kingdom through Israel. They claim Christ preached a spiritual kingdom only and that His promises are being fulfilled spiritually in the church. Those that spiritualize the scripture tell spiritual lies. Israel failed, not God! He knew they would fall and He planned that through their fall He would reconcile the world to Himself (Rom. 11:11-15, 32-36). 

The word “dispensation” is found four times in the Bible (Eph. 1:10; 3:2; 1 Cor. 9:17; Col. 1:25). A dispensation is simply a dispensing of divine revelation. It is a dealing out, administration, or economy. Some think the dispensation of the fulness of times refers to the kingdom age. I believe it is the eternal state after the creation of a new heaven and earth. There is one family of God (Eph. 3:14-15), but there will be a distinction throughout eternity between the things in heaven and earth. All the redeemed are “in Christ”. A person can only be “in Adam” or “in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:22). Christ is the foundation to both programs (“chief corner stone”, Eph. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:6). So the fact people were in Christ before Paul (Rom. 16:7) does not prove the Body of Christ began before his ministry. 

Notice the absence of “things under the earth” in v.10 (Phil. 2:10; Col. 1:20). There is no universal salvation. Those who die lost will remain lost for eternity. 

[11] In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

How amazing that we Gentiles, who were strangers from the covenants of promise, have obtained such a glorious inheritance (Eph. 2:11-13)! Every member of the Body of Christ has a guaranteed inheritance in Christ. However, we may add rewards to that inheritance (Col. 3:24). 

[12] That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

That Christ would save us and give us a glorious inheritance is to the praise of HIS glory! All we did was trust Christ (depending not on our works but His perfect and finished work). 

[13] In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 
[14] Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Salvation is in a Person (“In whom”). We are saved by grace the moment we believe on Christ. To believe on Him is not merely a mental assent that He is the Saviour. It is to TRUST Him alone as your personal Saviour. 

This is a great verse to explain how to be saved. We hear the word of truth, believe, and are sealed with Spirit. What is the gospel of OUR salvation? It is the good news that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). In “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) we must rightly divide the different gospels revealed in scripture. There is only one gospel by which we are saved in this age (Gal. 1:6-12). The word of truth for Israel to be saved (Acts 2:38) is not the word of truth for all men in this age of grace (Acts 16:31; 1 Cor. 1:17). 

The Spirit of God does various things for us upon salvation. He:
1. Circumcises (Col. 2:13)
2. Regenerates (Titus 3:5)
3. Baptizes (Col. 2:12)
4. Indwells (1 Cor. 3:16)
5. Seals  (Eph. 1:13; 4:30)

A seal speaks of ownership, a finished transaction, and security. We are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9). By the way, that Paul calls Him the “holy Spirit of promise” does not mean he is referring to the prophesied baptism WITH the Holy Ghost (Lk. 24:49). There are two different spiritual baptisms as we shall see in chapters 3 and 4. What he means by “promise” is explained in v.14. An earnest is a promise to complete a transaction. 

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, earnest means, “First fruits; that which is in advance, and gives promise of something to come. Early fruit may be an earnest of fruit to follow. The first success in arms may be an earnest of future success. The Christian’s peace of mind in this life is an earnest of future peace and happiness. Hence earnest or earnest-money is a first payment or deposit giving promise or assurance of full payment. Hence the practice of giving an earnest to ratify a bargain. This sense of the word is primary, denoting that which goes before, or in advance. Thus the earnest of the spirit is given to saints, as a pledge or assurance of their future enjoyment of God's presence and favor.” 

The earnest of the Spirit guarantees our future glory (2 Cor. 1:22; 4:13-5:8). We are awaiting the redemption of our body. We are the “firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:23). 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Introduction to Ephesians

The apostle Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians contains 6 chapters, 155 verses, and 3,022 words. This is not a detailed commentary on every verse, but rather a collection of my personal study notes on this great epistle. Due to a busy schedule, time has not been spent on editing for grammatical and spelling mistakes. Thank you in advance for overlooking them. I do not claim complete originality for everything written in these notes. I appreciate the help that I have gleaned from others. 

It is my goal in these notes to help you gain a basic understanding of what each passage says and teaches as you study the book for yourself. Of course, this will not be possible unless you personally:
1. Believe the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13)
2. Submit to and rely upon its Author (2 Tim. 3:16)
3. Consistently follow His rule of study (2 Tim. 2:15)

The Pauline epistles are not arranged chronologically but according to a divine order for the spiritual edification of the Body of Christ. According to 2 Tim. 3:16, we must have doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction to be edified in the faith. The apostle Paul wrote nine epistles by inspiration of God to seven churches (Galatians actually written to a number of local churches in the region of Galatia). 

Salvation in Christ 
Romans - doctrine of salvation by grace through faith: justification & sanctification
1 & 2 Corinthians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Romans (sanctification)
Galatians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Romans (justification)

Body of Christ 
Ephesians - doctrine of the one Body of Christ: the Head and His members
Philippians - reproof for not living by the doctrine of Ephesians (lack of unity, members)
Colossians - correction for listening to doctrine not in line with Ephesians (“not holding the Head”)

Coming of Christ
1 & 2 Thessalonians - doctrine, reproof, and correction concerning the coming of the Lord

Taken together these epistles provide the “form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) for instruction in righteousness for the Body of Christ in this present mystery age. The apostle Paul also wrote four epistles to individuals. The epistles to Timothy and Titus concern the proper order for the church. The second epistle to Timothy deals with the apostasy of the last days. The epistle to Philemon is fittingly placed last because it illustrates the doctrines of Paul's epistles through a real-life situation.

Apostasy is a willful denial and departure from the truth. It is apostasy in this present age to deny the distinctive message and ministry of the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 1:13-15). Satan attacks the three main doctrines of the church epistles like nothing else. A study of church history shows a clear departure from and resurgence of Pauline truth.  

Ephesians is built upon the doctrinal foundation laid in Romans. The last verses of Romans mentions the great mystery that Ephesians unfolds (Rom. 16:25-27). Ephesians is the pinnacle of divine revelation. In Romans we learn that we are crucified, buried, and risen with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4). In Ephesians we learn that we are ascended up and seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). 

The six chapters of Ephesians are naturally divided in half (Eph. 1:3; 4:1) and provided a perfect balance between doctrine and practice:

Ephesians 1-3             Ephesians 4-6
Wealth                     Walk
Standing                     State 
Calling                     Conduct
Blessings             Behavior 
Riches                     Responsibilities 

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