Ephesians Study Part 1. Royalty Training.
Prince William of England is the heir apparent to the throne of England. Although the position of King is more symbolic than powerful in that country- it is a very important and influential position. If we took note of the life of William, we would observe that he is and has been all of his life in training to become what his birth destined him for- royalty. He has served in the military ( the Royal Navy) and most recently spent the last two years learning how the country operates in regard to : legislature; the legal system; and the great offices of the state. He is well versed and involved in the many charities they participate in. He is educated in liberal arts, languages, customs and the history of the monarchy. He knows how he is to behave in social and civil situations. He is a king in training. He is learning through a well-developed apprenticeship program how to become and carry out what he was born to be
We are, as the born again children of God, a member of the Royal Family. We are the adopted children of the King of Kings. As His adopted, legal children- we must undergo training for our destiny and calling as sure as Prince William. This means discipline, learning, hardship, adversity which non-royal children do not have to undergo. We are told whom the Lord loves He disciplines. He punishes everyone He accepts as sons and daughters. We are told in Hebrews 12: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. On that truth we can claim Romans 8:28.
The book of Ephesians is our text for Royal Training, as is much of the New Testament. It contains not only a detailed will of what we have inherited as Gods children. It lists the riches we have at our disposal. This letter tells us what we possess and how we claim and enjoy our possessions. The first three chapters tell us what we possess as His children, the last three chapters tell us how we ought to live as His Royal Children.
We need not live as spiritual paupers for we are princes and princesses, a royal priesthood, a holy people who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms. It is our spiritual bank account. It is our heritage and our destiny. In fact, since the Bible tells us we have been saved and we are being saved, I like to think of it as our spiritual savings account. And this spiritual savings account is more than adequate to cover our past debts, while providing us with sufficiency for our present liabilities and meeting all our future needs So great are our assets that God has provided we truly can never exhaust them.
Paul wants us to have confidence in these facts, these provisions that God has so richly lavished on us.
The Lord Jesus initiated and provided the resources for a new way of living. He fulfilled the law of the Old Testament Covenant in order to establish the new covenant.
Most people at some point realize they need a certain degree of confidence to succeed in life. A faith in something that can stand the tests of time.
What many of us mistakenly do is place our confidence in ourselves and in our abilities.
God knows we need a measure of confidence and He will provide it. Lets consider the life of the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus.
As Saul, his confidence was in himself. Listen as Paul describes the reasons for his self confidence in Philippians 3:
If anyone else thinks he has reason to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the 8th day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; ( Paul, aka Saul, says I have confidence in my ancestry, my family) in regard to law, a Pharisee; ( he had confidence in his religious training, education); as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.( Paul says I was a moral person, following and keeping the law perfectly- or so he thought as Saul.)
But listen to what Paul learned after his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus and the beginning of his life long pursuit to know the Lord : Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He (God) made us competent as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. ( 2 Corinthians 3:4-6)
Paul goes on in Philippians, to write how he now regards any of those things he depended on for confidence in the flesh as dung, worthless.
Jesus came to not only save us- but to show us how we ought to live in complete dependence on the Father as He did. This is the abundant life. Apart from Him we can do nothing. But we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us with His very life in us.
You see, Saul of Tarsus was trying to do his best for God by confidence in his flesh and thereby gain his self worth.
But the Lord showed Saul, (later to change his name to Paul), how God wanted to perform His best through Pauls life.
When we get saved, we are completely dependent on the Lord to do it. After we are saved we have a tendency to go about trying to live this new life in our own strength, in our own abilities, the life that only Christ can live thru us. We were trying to do our best for God, when God was trying to do His best thru us. One of the most common mistakes all believers make and continue to make.
We do need confidence to have any degree of success. The person who has no confidence lives a frustrated life, always fearing to try anything for fear of failure. But our confidence is to be in Him. Paul will use the word or words that imply in Christ numerous times. For our confidence is in Him. In His promises, In His provisions, In His Person, His Character , In His word, and in His Spirit. The Spirit that indwells us and trains us for royalty.
We cannot keep the law in our own strength and thus claim salvation on the basis of self righteousness. Do you know what the law does? It causes a spirit of rebellion in us. That is why we cannot keep it. Here is an example: when the posted law says we cannot go over 30 miles per hour in a certain area- do you resist the law and want to go faster? Do you think it is a stupid law or should only be applied at certain times?
Paul, who was a very intelligent man, a well educated man with great energy and zeal says our competence, and thus confidence, comes from the God. He has given us what we need. Let us discover the riches that are our possessions then how to lay claim of our God given possessions. For what is true for Paul is true for us
This letter was written by Paul between 60 and 62 A.D. while in prison. In the original language, the verses from Ephesians 1;3-14 are one continuous sentence. In fact from verse 3 all the way through Ephesians 2:10 is one paragraph.
Verse 1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
The word apostle means sent out. In the New Testament, this term is used often in reference to the original apostles or disciples. Paul now claimed his authority based on the authority and will of the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father. Previously as Saul of Tarsus, his confidence was in his flesh( Phil3); but now his confidence is in Christ who has called him out.
The inside address tells us who this letter is intended to : the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. A saint is a word to be applied to all true believers for in Gods eyes we are holy, set apart. Do not miss the two locations mentioned here: a geographical location- in Ephesus. Ephesus is located in what today is known as Turkey. It was one of the most important cities in Asia Minor. A commercial center, an intersection of trade routes and known for its pagan temple dedicated to Diana. But the second location is of more importance- it is a spiritual location- IN CHRIST. As believers we are in Him and He is in us. A mystery that we attempt to explain by the illustration of the branch in the vine. The branch draws its very life from the vine. The branch is in the vine and vine is in the branch with its life giving and life sustaining sap. Apart from the vine the branch can do nothing it withers and dies.
Verse 2: A familiar greeting of that day- grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace- the unmerited favor is for those who are in Christ Jesus and peace is a byproduct of our relationship. As believers we are told since we have been justified we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ though whom we have gained access by faith into this grace we now stand.( Romans 5)
In the upper room, Jesus told the disciples and us- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ( John 14)
Now in the original Greek,verses 3-14 were one continuous sentence. It is from these truths we will gain our confidence. God is not only the blessed One, He is the blesser and we are the ones receiving the blessings. We will look carefully at these blessings for they are what we possess. Quite often we ask the Lord for a provision He has already provided, which we evidently do not know He has provided or have not taken possession of what is rightfully ours. Remember our enemy is a thief- who wants to steal from us what God has given us.
We are told God the Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Notice first where we are blessed- in heavenly realms. What is the significance of this location? This is where Christ is- seated at the right hand of God in heaven. And since we are in Him then our blessings are in Him in heaven. Heaven is an eternal place, earth is temporary. My citizenship is in heaven. In fact, I am in heaven in Him. Jesus said He would not leave us as orphans. He said on that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me, and I am in you.( John 14) In Ephesians 2 we are told we were raised up with Him and seated in Christ Jesus in heaven. These blessings will be enumerated as we study this letter. So the location tells me these blessing that are available to me are in heaven, an eternal place. A place where they are safe from moths, rust and thieves. The Bank of Heaven is eternally secure, it will never fail.
He also writes we are blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing. Jesus told us if you fathers who are evil know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in heaven give you, even the Holy Spirit. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. ( 2 Peter1:3) Are these blessings spiritual only or do they also include material? Well- he says everything we need. Jesus said in Matthew 6 this included food and clothing. The Trinity is a mystery to me, but I know the Holy Spirit resides within me and His relationship to God the Father is so close that His prayers of intercession for me do not even need to be in audible words- for God knows the thoughts of the Spirit. He knows what we have need of before we ask Him. I am sure Prince William has everything supplied he needs to carry out his duties and his resources are plentiful- from an abundance of the royal familys wealth. But they dim in comparison to what we possess as members of Gods Royal Family.
The next statement is one that I cannot explain nor completely understand- but that I believe. For He( God) chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. I do not want us to get bogged down in Gods Sovereignty and mans free will which seem irreconcilable to us- but not to God.
First of all, the fact that God chose us tells me salvation is all from God. Salvation is my response to Gods choosing. We see the Lord Jesus invited many from the individual like the rich young ruler- to open invitations to those who thirst; those who are tired or weary He invites them to come to Him. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all will come to repentance, Peter tells us. Jesus said as he entered Jerusalem- O Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets how I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks but YOU WOULD NOT. (Matthew 23:37) These verses speak of our Lords sincere offer and invitation, but a declining of the invitation. This is clearly the teaching in the parable of the wedding feast as those invited did not RSVP but declined the invitation to the feast for various reasons. (Luke 14) In John 3- where we have that great verse in John 3: 16, only verses later Jesus tells us: This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but men loved darkness INSTEAD of light because their deeds were evil. Instead is a word of choice a word describing preference.
So here is what I can conclude- God chose us before the foundation of the earth. In other words in eternity past, God devised the plan of salvation for whosoever would believe. The important point here is no one who is saved can say that he is saved primarily because of his own choice of God. His or her salvation is in response to Gods choice of him or her. On the other hand, no one who is lost can say I am lost because God willed me to be lost. For God is not willing that any should perish. Man is without excuse. Man has received the external witness of creation and the internal witness of the conscience so that he has enough light to respond to. Peter says we are the elect according to the foreknowledge of God.(I Peter 1) Does not God have all knowledge? Did He not know me in my mothers womb? Did He not see my last day before the first one ever came to be? Foreknowledge is simply knowing with certainty before something happens it is going to happen. For example: scientists can tell you in advance before it happens, the exact time and place an eclipse is going to occur. Their foreknowledge did not cause the eclipse to happen, only knew it would happen beforehand.
Gods ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts. He has infinite knowledge, we have finite knowledge. Gods sovereignty and mans free will seem to be opposite and irreconcilable to us. They are not to God. (See Acts 2:23) When we try to reconcile them- we compromise the truth in one way or the other or weaken both by compromise.
Next let us look at the purpose for which God chose us, which is to be holy and blameless in His sight, This is our position. This is what God sees when He sees us for we are in Christ. Paul refers to this position of being in Christ often. Our lives are not holy and blameless- but our position is. Matching our practice with our position is the struggle we face in our daily lives. Having been justified but not yet glorified; God is working in us in the sanctification process to conform us to the image of His Son. In other words God is chipping away everything that does not resemble His Son like sculptor chips away stone. He is circumcising the flesh from our hearts that we may love Him with all our heart. (Deut. 30:6)
Do you see the purpose of God at work here? His purpose is holiness. He has made us holy and blameless in Him, ( Jesus Christ). Holiness is demanded by God. We are to be holy as He is holy. Since we cannot do this on our own- God did it for us in Christ.
Our life is found in God. Our life is sustained by a relationship with God and His Word. Our well being depends upon trusting Him and obeying Him. We are complete in Him.
Having done this, verse 5 tells us now God adopts us as His children. In love , He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will- to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. Now we know that adoption is a legal process by which a parent chooses a child to become a legal member of their family- given their name and rights as an heir. It is a process that is always initiated by the parent. God initiated this process and chose to adopt us and give us full rights as His children. So we are not only citizens of heaven, we are heirs, joint heirs with Jesus.
The KJV says this adoption process was done according to the good pleasure of His will, ( continuing the thought into verse 6) to the praise of the glory of His grace.. Ever hear the phrase for our good and His Glory;? That is exactly why God does what He does and has done- for our good and His Glory. The glory of His grace- amazing, all sufficient grace. We were created to give God glory. When we praise God for His Amazing Grace- it brings not only pleasure to Him, it is a form of worship that brings completeness to us. For we are fulfilling the purpose for which we were created. We were created to praise Him, worship Him, Love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the purpose driven life. A life with meaning.
It is interesting to note the Gospel of John, the first mention of blessings we have is to those who have receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God ( John 1:12) In His first resurrection appearance to Mary, Jesus said he was going to my Father and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God. ( John 20) From this emphasis and these verses in Ephesians, we come to realize the supreme gift of Gods love is our adoption as His children with full rights. In Jesus resurrection statement He says He is my Father and your Father, my God and your God. We see in the life of Jesus what this relationship meant and how it worked and it applies to us equally.
The Fatherhood of God implies authority in our life. Jesus said he came to do the will of the One who sent Him. He said he could do nothing apart from His Father.
Not only does it imply authority it also implies affection. God loves you and me just as He loves His Son.
There is fellowship from this relationship of Father and child. He will never leave us or desert us or stop loving us.
So we should honor Him with our obedience. Not just to escape the discipline of disobedience- but from a love and gratitude for adopting us. In doing so, we will experience the happiness and fulfillment that sin can never provide.
Now whereas some of these things were done in Gods pre-creation plan, before the earth was formed in eternity past, the next step took place in time and history. The birth of one Jesus of Nazareth is a historical fact. God had put on flesh, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It occurred over 2000 years ago. His arrival on earth was carefully noted by Luke as occurring in the days of Caesar Augustus. His life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection are well documented by numerous reliable eye witnesses. Sir Thomas Arnold, noted Oxford historian, said: I know of no one fact in human history which is proven better or more fully than the resurrection of one Jesus Christ.
In verse 7, we are told: In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins... Redemption was a familiar word and practice in the day of Jesus. Redemption or redeem- meant to liberate a person held in slavery or bondage by paying their redemption price to set them free. Quite often this was done by a kinsman. Thus the term, kinsman redeemer. Slaves often became slaves when they for whatever reason could not pay their debts, they sold themselves to their debtor for a period of time in order to settle the debt.
We were slaves to sin. Every person born since the Fall in the Garden of Eden has come into the world enslaved to sin, as surely as those born in Egypt in the days of Moses were born in captivity. We were in bondage. Not only were we in bondage, the penalty for sin is death.
Understand that sin is mans captor and the price demanded for release is death. Christ redeemed us with His precious blood which Peter described as more valuable than silver or gold.
So in Gods blueprint that was drawn up in the counsel of heaven before the foundation of the earth we see the following elements: the redemption plan; the redeemer; the redemption price; the results.
When we realize we are powerless over sin, it is a result of having been convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment by the Holy Spirit. We are then directed to the One and only who can redeem us. His payment is His blood more precious than silver or gold.
The result is : forgiveness of sins, blessed assurance of acceptance and wisdom and insight.
- We will go further into these in our next lesson. In these first few verses we begin to see the depth of his richness and the glorious inheritance.
- It all begins when we are in Christ.
- Having established that eternal relationship we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realms, which means they are secure.
- We are chosen in Him to be holy and blameless. This is our position.
- We are adopted into Gods family.
- We are redeemed through His shed blood.
- We have forgiveness of our sins.
Pauls desire was for each believer is to grasp how wide and long and high is the love of Christ, and to know the love that surpasses knowledge. And Paul wanted us to know this so that we might be filled to the measure of all fullness of God. And that as we will see is how we are to live- to live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. We are in training to rule and reign with Him- we are royalty in training.