Lesson 3: Ephesians Study
- Paul in his letter to the Ephesians provides clear, sound doctrine in the first part of his letter. Then in the latter part of the letter, he provides practical outworking of that doctrine in our lives.
In this first chapter, Pauls teaching is about what we possess which provides instructions for the mind. But after detailing what we posses in this relationship, what is ours- Paul now turns to prayer to enlighten our hearts. These are two conditions that must be present for our spiritual growth. Knowledge of the promises, the possessions we possess and enlightened hearts to motivate us to act. As we previously discussed, an enlightened heart stirs emotions, fans the flames of faith to enable the will to act. The enlightened heart is our motivator for action. For it is with the heart one believes. It was the heart that burned within the disciples on the road to Emmaus when the resurrected Lord opened the scripture to them. Dont miss the response caused by the burning heart- they rose up the same hour and returned to Jerusalem to tell the disciples what had occurred. They were no longer tired or defeated or slow of heart- they were excited. We can experience the same burning heart as Jesus walks with us and talks with us as we travel along the road of life and He thru His Spirit opens the scriptures to us.
Herein lies the problem- the lack of motivation which leads to lukewarm ,lethargic, apathetic believers. How did we become lukewarm, lethargic, and apathetic? We become lukewarm when we get away from the source that caused us to be hot. Hot coffee left setting on the counter will soon become room temperature. Room temperature means it has taken on the temperature of its environment. This is exactly what the world,our environment wants to do to us- conform us to the temperature of the environment surrounding us. We are not to be conformed but transformed by the renewing of our mind. This is the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
We have all this that God has given us as described by Paul in verses 3-14. Peter summarized these possessions with this sweeping statement: His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these, He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.: ( 2 Peter 1: 3-4)
When we look at the Lords comments and instructions in Revelation 3 to the church at Laodicea we see not only the causes of lukewarmness but also the cure for the lukewarm condition. The cause for their condition was their pride in their material wealth, their sophisticated culture, intelligence, education. productive economy, and their medical expertise.( Sounds eerily familiar doesnt it?) They believed they were rich, having acquired wealth and possessions and in need of nothing. This pride had blinded them to their real spiritual condition- they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked said the Lord Jesus. They had so trusted in their own abilities and possessions they had left the Lord out as we see He is standing outside the door of the church knocking to be let in. Nothing happened at the church at Laodicea except what man did in his own strength and ability. A lukewarm church and a lukewarm believer go through the motions, having a form of godliness but denying its power. They depend on their own abilities, talents and intelligence creating clever programs that are carried out in human strength. They tend to fall into one of two categories- legalist who add to the law; and liberals who take away- both forbidden and warned against in the Word of God.
His cure is clearly laid out in His counsel in Revelation 3: I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see. Do you see the cure? Buy from me(Jesus). He, the Lord Jesus is to be our sole resource. He is to supply all our needs. Why? Apart from Him we can do nothing. If we are to be rich, we must buy gold refined in fire. What is this gold and why is Jesus the only source? We are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish. I believe His blood shed at Calvary is the gold refined by fire and the things of the world are corruptible and insufficient to redeem us from our sins.
What does it mean to buy from me? Jesus taught the kingdom of heaven was like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. He also compared it to a pearl of great value that a merchant looking for when he found this one, went and sold all he had and bought it. These verses teach the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else we can have and a person must be willing to give up everything to obtain it. (Matthew 13). When the Spirit of Truth reveals this to us- we realize as missionary, Jim Elliott did: a man is no fool to give up what he cannot keep for that which he can never lose. It is the Great Exchange.
The white clothing represents the righteousness of Christ . Our self righteousness can be described two ways- as filthy rags or as God views it- shameful nakedness.
Furthermore, as Jesus, the Great Physician continues his diagnosis, he prescribes a salve that opens our eyes to see, understand spiritual truths.(this salve is a picture of the Holy Spirit who opens our spiritual eyes to reveal spiritual truths.) True value and worth is not in possessions but in a right relationship with God.
So we must seek the proper physician. This requires the services of the One and Only Great Physician, the Lord Jesus, the Balm of Gilead.
Second we must recognize our real condition.
Third we must follow the treatment plan or else more drastic measures will have to be taken.
This is what Pauls prayer is about- it is about dealing with the problem of motivation. It is about dealing with a common condition that occurs in the life of a believer- the lukewarm condition that can come after a hopeful beginning. Pauls prayer will specify three things. He is praying for the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened to see the : HOPE OF HIS CALLING, THE RICHES OF OUR INHERTIANCE, AND THE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER that God has provided. Paul knows these are what we need to keep sight of if we are to stay on fire for the Lord.
The hope of His calling is Gods plan of redemption and His future plans for us. Hope is a powerful emotion. Hope is always in the future. Hope is in things not yet realized or seen. The reason I describe this emotion as powerful is because when one is without hope, hopeless- it is a devastating place to be. Hopelessness is quite often the reason for depression, suicide, and many foolish, tragic decisions. It is one of the favorite strategies of the enemy to whisper to the lonely, the suffering, and the weary- that things will never get better, there is no way out, you will never overcome this problem. It sweeps in with fear and doubt. I know for I have been there, as I know many of you have been at times in your life. Paul prays for believers through the ages for God to enlighten them about these magnificent truths: adoption, spiritual blessings, forgiveness, wisdom, insight, understanding, indwelt and sealed in Christ, awaiting our inheritance. In the meanwhile, the Lord Jesus said He came to not only give us life, but give us life more abundant here and now. Instead of the hopeless end- He has become our source of endless hope.
How does one acquire this hope? Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) tells us: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. I want you to notice three words; now, sure and certain. Notice when faith is: NOW- in the present. Hope is always in the future, but to secure it in the present we use faith. Faith is always in the present and it is by faith we can be SURE of the hope of his calling. Since hope is in the future and cannot be seen- we can be CERTAIN of what cannot be seen- again with the eyes of faith that Paul prays will be enlightened. In fact Paul tells us the things that are seen are temporary but the unseen are eternal. When God enlightens the eyes of our heart- we are able to see( understand) the spiritual and eternal. That is why we are told to put our eyes on things above not on the things here on earth. I love these three words: NOW, SURE AND CERTAIN. So once I was blind, but now I can see. Once I was without hope- for to be without God is to be without hope. Of that I am certain.
These great truths in Ephesians summarize Gods master plan for the redemption of mankind and His eternal plan to bring mankind back to Himself through His own Son and adopt us as His children. We sing a hymn that states: now I belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to me- not for just a moment but for all eternity. This is the sure hope of Gods calling
We are new creatures, we have a new identity that Paul wants all believers to fully realize. But the Lord Jesus told us we also have a thief who wants to steal and kill and destroy. If he can steal your identity he can take away your hope . We need to comprehend who we truly are in Jesus Christ. It is not what we do that determines who we are; it is who we are that determines what we do. We are the children of God- we are royalty, blessed with every spiritual blessing. This earth is not our home- we are just passing through. That is why when a believer has died, fallen asleep, we refer to them as having gone home to be with the Lord. Home is where the heart is and where your heart is there will your treasure be also.
The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints is so magnificent that words cannot adequately describe it. Only the Spirit of God can reveal it to us through illumination. The sad thing is many of us believe in the future inheritance and heaven one day but miss the fact that we have all of these possessions now. These possessions enable us to live out the life of abundance in the present that comes through faith in His promises and obedience to His commands.
The third truth Paul wants all believers to comprehend is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places.. Notice Paul did not pray for power to be given to believers. He prayed we would have a Spirit- revealed awareness of this power we already possess in Christ. This is the power by which we overcome temptation and the trials of life. This is the power the Lord Jesus promised to the disciples before His ascension when He told them and us: you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. ( Acts 1:8)
This is power Paul wrote about (in Phil. 2;13) when he said: It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure. This is the supernatural power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him in heaven at the right hand of God. It is the power that Paul later describes in Ephesians 3:20: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the POWER THAT WORKS IN US..
It is this power of God Almighty that is able to keep us, secure us and fulfill the hope that is ours in Christ.
Let us underscore this power as Paul describes the greatness of Our Lord Jesus by informing us that He is far above all principality and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head of all things to the church, which is His body the fullness of Him who fills all in all. ( Ephesians 1:21-23)
Pauls description of the Lord Jesus greatness leaves no room for doubt there is none greater than He. No wonder the Lord Jesus confidently proclaims- neither shall anyone snatch them(His sheep) out of my hand. This all powerful person, the Son of God, indwells us in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. This is the excellent treasure Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 4:7: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
Oh that we would see and remember the greatness of the Person, the Lord Jesus, God the Son who lives within us. If we truly believed and understood the power and greatness of the Living God who lives within us- why would we ever be discouraged, worried or anxious? Why would we be fearful? It would be because as Jesus said- you have little faith;. faith in this Almighty, all powerful, all wise God who lives within each believer. Again the song writer captures this in the words of this song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His Wonder and Grace.
Is your focus on the things of this world? I know mine is sometimes. It is almost like I forget who I am. And remember it is not what we do that defines who we are; it is who we are that defines what we do.
Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world- but to rejoice for He has overcome the world.
Peter told us we should not consider it strange when we endure fiery trials. For it is fiery trials that refine our faith. It is adversity that James said we should rejoice in for it works in us patience that matures our faith And without faith I cannot please God.
I know we all face times of sorrow, and trials and tribulations. But if we can remember who indwells us- if we can remember the greatness of the Person and His Power that lives within us then we can realize- greater is He who in you that anything this world, the devil and the flesh can throw at us.
Therefore- we will be hard pressed at times on every side- but not crushed. In fact these times of pressure are times of shaping these vessels for His Good Pleasure and Purpose. Ever watch a potter shape a vessel on a potters wheel? He places pressure on the outside and the inside to obtain the shape he has in mind for this particular vessel and its use. These times of pressure are used to shape us for His use.
We may become perplexed-( that is puzzled by our circumstances) but not in despair. That is we will not lose hope for the Lord Jesus is the anchor of our hope that holds in the storm.
Persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. For when we have the eyes of our heart enlightened to see-( understand and comprehend with wisdom and insight) we know that things are not what they seem. ( 2 Cor. 4)
Do you know what is amazing? Verse 22 and 23 tell us Christ is the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL.
Do you see that not only does He fill us giving us the fullness our hearts desires- because He is the head, He is not filled until He is united with us. It is our honor to bring glory to Him as His body. We are His treasure and He takes pleasure in us.
He is completely over us and completely in us. This power, this unbelievable truth that God has chosen to live within us and us in Him so that we are complete in each other- the head and the body is a truth that should lead us through the darkest valleys.
He has given Himself to us! Can you believe that? A King who died for His subjects.
In turn- He wants us to give ourselves to Him. Complete surrender. Submission.
In fact- do you not see this is mutual submission? He has not ask us to do anything He, Himself has not done- He gave Himself for us and wants us to give ourselves to Him.
Is this not the way love should be? Love that suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. ( I Cor. 13)
So does it surprise you to know that the One who asks you to love Him with all your heart, soul and mind has loved you first with all of His all. Did you know that my heart and your heart mean more to Jesus than anything? That is why we are told to guard our heart with all diligence for out of it come the issues of life. ( Prov. 4:23)
Does it surprise you that He loved you first and loved you and me before we loved HIM?
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! ( I John 3:1)
For God so LOVED the world He GAVE his only beloved Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Salvation is FROM sin- we are saved by grace through faith unto good works. It was grace that saved us- but it was this indescribable love of God for us that brought it down to mankind.
Peace is the flag that flies from the castle of the heart when King Jesus is on the throne!