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Ephesians

May 16, 2009

Background

I. Introduction Eph. 1:1-2

II. Our Riches in Christ Eph. 1:3-3:27

  1. His Gifts                        Eph. 1:3-10
  2. His Plan                         Eph. 1:11-14
  3. Paul’s Prayer                  Eph. 1:15-22
  4. His Justification and Sanctifying Work Eph. 2:1-10
  5. His Unifying Work            Eph. 2:11-22
  6. His Commission             Eph. 3:1-11
  7. Our Resource                 Eph. 3:12-15
  8. Paul’s Prayer                  Eph. 3:16-19
  9. His Greatness and Goodness Eph. 3:20-21

III. Our Responsibility toward His Riches Eph. 4:1-6:20

  1. Walking in Unity                          Eph. 4:1-16
    1. Characteristics of Unity  Eph. 4:1-3
    2. Foundation of Unity        Eph. 4:4-6
    3. Grace of Unity                    Eph. 4:7-10
    4. Organizing for Unity        Eph. 4:11-16
  2. Living in Unity                           Eph. 4:17-6:20
    1. Personal Attributes           Eph. 4:17-5:21
    2. Marriage Relationships    Eph. 5:22-33
    3. Family Relationships        Eph. 6:1-4
    4. Work Relationships           Eph. 6:5-9
    5. Your Uniform                      Eph. 6:10-17
    6. Pray                                        Eph. 6:18-20

IV. Closing Eph. 6:21-24

 

Background

There is no clearer letter with respect to defining
who we are and how we are to live and relate to one another than this letter
of Paul’s to the Ephesians which is believed to have been written from Rome while Paul was in prison in around 60-61 AD.  See also the short background information to Colossians.


Introduction                                                  Eph. 1:1-2

Paul claims to be an Apostle, a person who personally witnessed the life of
Jesus, who was present at His death and resurrection, and who was personally taught
by Jesus Christ [see Acts 1:21-22; and Galatians]. It was not an office, position,
or vocation he sought but, rather, it was willed [commanded of God] at his conversion.
It didn’t happen immediately, but only after he was trained and taught by Christ
in the desert and accepted by the Church leaders in Jerusalem.

This letter is from Paul, the former pastor at Ephesus, to the Ephesian Church;
that is those who were faithful. This letter was probably read at several of
the churches in the area [see Rev. 2-3].

He requests, on their behalf, grace and peace which only comes from God the
Father and Christ the Son. True peace comes only as we recognize and acknowledge
God’s grace.

Our Riches in Christ                                        Eph.1:3-3:27

His Gifts                                     Eph. 1:3-10

We are to praise God for His Spiritual Blessings in the heavenly realms which
are:

  1. His desire that we be holy and blameless, to have fellowship with Him, to
    be like Him; created in His image. LIKE HIM
  2. Love for us so great that He wanted us as sons through Christ’s death and
    resurrection [redeemed] through faith in His Son, His Plan, and His Promise.
    IN HIM
  3. The ability to worship, to praise, and to thank Him for His Son. FOR HIM

In other words we have been gifted:

  1. with redemption through His blood
  2. with forgiveness of sins by His grace and
  3. with a thankful loving heart.

Our blessings are a result of His plan, revealed in His Word, and through
His Son. The culmination of all this is eternal life with Him in heaven when
He will once again be sovereign over all.

His Plan                                Eph. 1:11-14

We were also chosen according to His plan and His will; all of which was predestined.
Because we were chosen, we also hope in Christ. Prior the godly had hope in
a Promise. Now the godly have hope in The Person, praising Him and bringing
glory to His name. All are included who hear the Word [God], believe in the Word [Son], and are sealed by the Word [Holy Spirit]. Our inheritance is guaranteed because we believe and because we are God’s adopted children. We have much to praise Him for.

Paul’s Prayer                        Eph. 1:15-22

Paul gives thanks because:

  1. They have been chosen, they believe, and they are sealed.
  2. Their faith is known.
  3. They show love to fellow Christians.

Paul asks the Lord that:

  1. They be given wisdom and revelation so as to better know God; to grow and
    mature in His knowledge, His way, and His will.
  2. They be given understanding and insight into eternal life [what it is and what it means to possess it] and into His great resurrection power which He showed in His Son.

Remember, God has gifted us with eternal life through faith in His Son who
rules over all. We are under Christ; we are in Christ; we represent Christ;
we are the fulfillment of Christ in the world. We are chosen to be like Him,
in Him and for Him
. Praise be to God!

His Justification and Sanctifying Work                 Eph. 2:1-10

Paul talks and reminds the Ephesians in Chapter 2, following his prayer on
their behalf, just how far they have come because of God’s mercy; because of
their spiritual blessings.

  1. They were dead in transgression and sin [disobedient, gratifying their sinful
    nature], following Satan.
  2. They were objects of God’s wrath.

But God’s love for them, His mercy, made them alive [to live for, to witness
of, to love, to stand fast, to rejoice, to hope] though they were dead—-by
His grace. They are already with Christ in heaven, assured of their inheritance,
so that we may be His witness of His grace. We are saved by grace, through faith,
not of works. We are recreated for His glory, to be His witness, for good works
on His behalf.

So Paul’s point is that we are not only like Christ, in Christ, and for Christ,
but we are also with Christ and sent from Christ.

  • Like Christ              Eph. 1: 5                adopted as sons
  • In Christ                  Eph. 1: 7, 11          redeemed through His blood, chosen
  • For Christ               Eph. 1: 12               to praise Him
  • With Christ             Eph. 2: 4, 6           raised to be with Him in heaven
  • From Christ            Eph. 2: 10             His workmanship for good works

His Unifying Work                  Eph. 2:11-22

Paul goes back again and says not only were you sinners but you are gentiles,
excluded from any promise, without hope and without God. They did not have any
knowledge of the true God. But Christ changes all that. Christ became their
source of peace and is our source too. By His grace we receive salvation. All
barriers, cultural and spiritual, are razed and they [we] have His peace. They
[we] are no longer in conflict with or unacceptable to Him. In fact they [we]
are most welcome. The law is gone. We have unity [oneness] by the cross and
the abolishing of the law at the same time. It’s the same for both Jew and Greek.

Thus the gentiles are God’s people too; citizens of God’s family. The foundation
is the gospel taught by apostles, prophets, and Christ Himself. In Him we are
God’s holy temple on earth. God’s Spirit lives within us.

So we are like, in, for, with, from for the sake of UNITY; unity in fellowship,
unity in worship, unity in Spirit, and unity in praise for all to see.

His Commission                                Eph.3:1-11

“For this reason”……….This could mean for all the
reasons given before [the riches we have in Christ] and/or it references our
unity in Christ written in Chapter 2:11-22. I prefer the later because vs. 6
of Chapter 3 re-emphasizes that particular point as the reason for Paul’s special
ministry. It is no longer Jew or Greek but Jew and Greek through the shed blood
of Christ making them one people of God indwelt with His Spirit.

So Paul is a prisoner of Christ, not the Romans, even though he is in prison.
He is there for their benefit. He was given special grace. Christ was revealed
to him on the Damascus road by the Holy Spirit. The gospel is for Jew and Gentile
alike. There is no exclusive club but one inclusive club mad up of those who
were once excluded because of their sinful nature.

It is only through God’s power and grace that Paul became a servant. It was
not his doing. In fact he was specially commissioned to preach to the gentiles
about the riches of Christ. This is true for every believer and not just Paul.

The church, Jew and Gentile alike, is to tell forth [prophecy] about the wisdom
of God [His plan of redemption] to angels. This implies both the angels of God
and the angels of Satan. We are not only to witness on earth but we are to be
a witness to the heavenly beings, just like the stars of heaven are a witness
to believers and unbelievers about the sovereignty and creative power of God.

I even believe one of God’s purposes is to redeem Satan and his fallen angels
too. The Bible doesn’t clearly say so because the Bible was written specifically
for us. Read Job and Revelation. Consider the access Satan has to God and the
patience God will have during the tribulation. God is exercising great latitude
and patience [grace really] in hope that all His creation will repent and worship
Him. Unfortunately, there are those who refuse to repent, including Satan. They
will occupy hell instead of heaven.

Our Resource                            Eph. 3:12-15

Because of our Unity with Him we can approach God at will and with confidence.
Don’t be discouraged. God is in control. He is our Resource and Power. And Paul
bows to Him on behalf of the Ephesians. Likewise, we are to bow before God on
behalf of our fellow believers. Prayer is an important means toward encouraging
and supporting one another; bearing one another’s burdens; loving them

Paul’s Prayer                        Eph. 3:16-19

Paul states his prayer for the Ephesian church based on the riches of Christ
made available to every believer. He prays:

  1. That they will be strengthened with power through His Spirit which indwells
    them. That is; greater faith, greater love, greater unity, greater witness,
    greater steadfastness, greater joy, greater knowledge etc. so Christ will be
    more real and alive in their hearts.
  2. That they will have power to grasp the full love of Christ. They know Christ’s love now but Paul asks for a deeper understanding beyond the knowledge of His death and resurrection [see Philippians 2 and John 3]. Paul wants them to intimately know God, Christ, and His love.

One can paraphrase Paul’s prayer as follows:

I pray that God will use His great wealth to empower you through the Holy Spirit
who dwells within you; that your faith may grow and enable Christ, in all His
fullness, to fill your heart and life.

I pray that you will be like a seedling, planted and watered with the love of
Christ. I pray that you will grow strong along side your fellow Christians and
that you will support and protect one another from the storms of life; understanding
and comprehending that our fellowship reflects God’s vast and great love. I
pray that you will mature to bear much fruit, making God’s glory visible and
available to all.

His Greatness and Goodness                            Eph. 3:20-21

Paul closes this section with a benediction of praise and worship calling
attention to God’s greatness and goodness. God’s work through us for His Glory
will be greater than we can imagine.

Summarizing Chapter 3:

Picture an orchard. God has taken Delicious apples [Jews] and Roma apples
[Gentiles] and grafted them into the True Vine [Jesus Christ]. The result is
Wealthy apples [Church]. As members of His Church we are one in Christ [equal
members and of equal importance] for His eternal purpose of redeeming His creation;
that all would know Him personally [ His Grace, His Love, His Motives] so His
name is glorified. As His Church we are heirs together, members together, and
sharers together. Therefore we have equal rights, we have equal responsibilities,
and we are equal recipients.

Or consider the Church as God’s orchestra on earth. We all have a part/instrument
to play in Divine harmony and according to the conductors’ cue [priorities/will].
The music played is broadcast to those on earth and in the heavenly realms so
that all the saints and angels in heaven may applaud.

The wisdom of God centers on the truth that Christ redeems, Grace abounds,
and the Holy Spirit reveals. Empowerment from the Holy Spirit goes beyond the
supernatural and miraculous deeds. It is expressed daily in our love, compassion,
and kindness to others. It teaches us spiritual understanding through His Word.
And it influences our decisions; where we work, where we live, leisure activities,
setting priorities, etc.

In summary, we are to comprehend our mission, draw on His resources and follow
His lead.  Or as Jesus said; “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me”.

Our Responsibility toward His Riches                              Eph. 4:1-6:20

Walking in Unity                                Eph. 4:1-16

Characteristics of Unity                                  Eph. 4:1-3

Since we are one in Christ [Chapter 3], Paul exhorts us to walk/live in unity,
as one in Christ, just like we have been called. Unity has several characteristics
namely:

  1. humility
  2. gentleness
  3. patience
  4. forbearance
  5. love
  6. diligence in unity [making it a priority]
  7. peaceful

In other words, all things are to be done tactfully, lovingly, organized, without
anger or malice, without gossip, without chaos or disruption, for the sake of
promoting and preserving unity of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean you can’t have
disagreements and different opinions but they must not lead to disunity of the
Spirit which equates to disunity toward God.

Foundation of Unity                                   Eph. 4:4-6

Here Paul lists the areas in which there can be no disagreement; defining
just what unity of the Spirit is. So there is:

  1. One Body…………………….the Church
  2. One Spirit…………………….Holy Spirit
  3. One Hope…………………….Justified unto eternal life
  4. One Lord……………………..One Savior, Jesus Christ
  5. One Faith……………………..in Christ who died for our sins
  6. One Baptism………………….for confession of sin, repentance, and cleansing
  7. One God and Father………….One God, the Triune God

It centers on Christ Jesus, who was God in the flesh, incarnate. He is the
foundation and cornerstone of the Church. He sent the Holy Spirit to teach and
comfort us. He is the Lord who we follow and imitate. He is whom we place our
faith for cleansing from sin. He is the one we proclaim and confess as Lord.
He is God Almighty. There is no negotiation or changing these facts. They are
the source of unity; the foundation of our unity.

Grace of Unity                                   Eph. 4:7-10

We, each one of us who are in Christ and born again, have been gifted with
the full measure of Christ’s grace; grace that will pardon all of our sin. There
is no question about this fact. We have been redeemed, pardoned, justified to
participate in His riches, His inheritance, and His home. We are members of
His family forever. Christ’s sacrificial gift saw to that.

Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 and explains what it means. He gives a somewhat prophetic
interpretation in that Christ must have descended in order that He may ascend.
Some say this refers to only His incarnation and death before being raised from
the dead and ascending 40 days later. I agree with this position and believe it is supported by the context. The fact that some say He descended into the lower parts of the earth means He descended into hell/hades as stated in the Apostles Creed. I Peter 3:18-20 references Christ preaching to unbelievers during the time of Noah which brings additional interpretations. It seems most modern conservative Bible scholars have difficulty accepting the possibility that Christ preached to the dead unbelievers upon His death. They would probably have difficulty accepting the Apostles Creed today too if it were being debated in conference. In fact, that statement “descended into hell” was not in the original Apostles Creed. But I have no problem accepting the interpretation that Christ, dying on the cross with the sin of the world [past, present, and future], did indeed descend into hell. Because He was blameless, sinless, the perfect Lamb of God, death could not hold Him nor could hell. God is so loving I can imagine He would be willing to give dead sinners before His incarnation another chance. There is a reference in Matthew 27:52-53 that tombs were opened upon His death and saints came forth. Are they possible saints upon hearing Jesus’ message in hell/hades? Or were they just a special limited witness of the resurrection of believers? There are a number of interpretations of our resurrection such as how many, when, OT vs. NT saints etc. This is a subject unto itself. It’s best not to get too tied up in the details. He tells us what is going to happen but not necessarily who and when. He does say “the dead in Christ will rise first and after that, those who are in Christ and alive”. Above all, remember “The just shall live by faith.” Without faith we do not believe. Without belief we do not see or hear. Without seeing or hearing we do not accept His gift. Without accepting His gift we die for “the wages of sin is death”. Those who accept, believe, and have faith accept His resurrection; accept the fact that He is able to resurrect us unto eternal life with Him.

Organizing for Unity                                         Eph.4:11-16

Paul returns to his theme of unity from verses 4-6 where he stated there is
“one faith” to stating that there is an organizational structure for
promoting this unity. It is made up of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors,
and teachers whose purpose is to train and equip the saints for good works;
building up the body of Christ in number, in the knowledge of Him, in His wisdom,
in unity, in maturity, in the fullness of Christ, and in love.

These important gifted individuals are necessary to prevent deception from
destroying the Church, to strengthen its witness and faith, and to make it a
strong deterrent to the evil one all for the glory of God. The unity of believers
in the Church has the unique responsibility to continue carrying out the ministry
of Christ on earth with the help of the Holy Spirit. The power and strength
of the witness concerning Christ is founded on the unity and maturity of believers.
Once again we see Christ’s desire come to the forefront; that the purity of
the message and the purity of the messenger [believer] is a critical factor
to the Church’s witness.

Living in Unity                                         Eph. 4:17-6:20

Personal Attributes                                             Eph. 4:17-5:21

That very theme is continued here, particularly the purity of the believer.
We are to live changed lives, anti-cultural so to speak; not with hardened hearts
thinking only of ourselves, our sexual desires and lusting for more. This is
not only the sexuality issue but materialism too. Materialism is a desire to
get all that we can get without regard to how we get it or what affect our getting
has on others.

Instead we are to adhere to the truth taught by Jesus. We came to Christ repentant,
humble, recognizing only He can save; only He is the way, the truth and the
life. We are to change our attitudes, our habits and desire to be like Jesus;
living in righteousness and holiness as He did on earth. Our focus is not to
be on ourselves through deceitful practices but to be on Him and then to love
and serve our fellow man.

Before Faith in Christ
After Faith in Christ
deceitful desires new attitude
falsehood speak the truth
anger reconciling
stealing work
hording sharing
unwholesome talk encouraging talk
bitterness don’t grieve the Holy Spirit [don’t disappoint God]
rage kindness
brawling compassionate
slander and malice forgiving

Paul begins Chapter 5 by summarizing vs. 20-32 of Chapter 4, stating we are
to be imitators of God, loving and giving oneself to others; even unto death
just like Jesus. Because Christ has given us His riches [like Him, in Him, for
Him, with Him, and from Him
] we are to be ambassadors, witnesses of those riches.

Paul gets even more specific concerning imitating Christ.

  1. no hint of sexual immorality
  2. no impurity of any kind [truthful, honest, trustworthy, having integrity]
  3. no greed
  4. no obscenity
  5. no foolish talk or coarse joking

These items clearly show the condition of your heart. Instead we are challenged
to BE THANKFUL.

Here then is the test discerning whether or not you are unified in Christ.
A change in lifestyle, a change of heart must be apparent for one to inherit
the Kingdom of God. Consequently, we who believe and place our faith in Christ
are not to associate with those who do not believe. But we can not ignore them.
We must befriend and respect them. We just are not to have close personal relationships
with them. People of faith have little in common with people who do not have
faith. Our only commonality is that once we all were sinners.

Paul now switches from the negative to the positive pointing out that we are
not people of darkness but people of light. Therefore we practice:

  1. goodness
  2. righteousness
  3. truthfulness
  4. seeking His will [pleasing, obedient]
  5. exposing the deeds of Chapter 5:3-7
  6. avoiding drunkenness
  7. letting the Holy Spirit fill us
  8. speaking to one another in psalms and hymns
  9. being joyful
  10. being thankful
  11. being submissive and reverent [worshipping the true God]
  12. BEING UNIFIED IN THE SPIRIT OF GOD

Marriage Relationships                        Eph. 5:22-33

Acting like “children of the light” [which we are] and not like
the “children of darkness” [which we aren’t] plays out in how we approach
relationships with others. Paul first considers the relationship of husband
and wife.

Wives are to let husbands lead just as the Lord leads us. That doesn’t mean
wives don’t have a say in the household; just that the husband has the final
say after all things have been considered and discussed OPENLY. This is just
like the relationship between the Church and Christ. The Church prayerfully
considers and discusses all options concerning Christ’s ministry but ultimately
we lay it at the feet of Jesus and seek His wisdom.

The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church; a life of love,
devotion, service, sacrifice, even death for the sake of his wife. All the husbands’
actions are to be so honorable as to not elicit any complaint from the wife.
Husband and wife are to adore, encourage, edify, and love one another in unity
as we are united in Christ, as the Church is united in Christ, as Christ was
united in the Father. Marriage models the spirit of unity between the Church
and Christ, between Christ the Son and God the Father.

Acting in this manner facilitates agreement instead of disagreement. Very
seldom will a decision have to be made alone. Decisions will have a mutual understanding;
an understood reason for the particular decision. It is more apt to be a unanimous
decision; a decision based on unity.

Family Relationships                                Eph. 6:1-4

Paul now moves into the relationship between parents and children, again for
the purpose of modeling unity. Here he references the fifth commandment. Although
we are no longer under the law but under grace, the law is still valid for defining
a lifestyle that is pleasing to God. Children are to obey their parents. Through
obedience, children learn acceptable behavior, right from wrong, safety from
danger, acceptance versus stress, unity from disunity. These obviously lead
to a more peaceful, less stressful, safe, and rich life which results in longer
life and an enjoyable life. Order, not chaos, is important for maintaining peace
and unity. We must learn to live making decisions for the good of all, not just
ourselves.

Training and instruction is necessary when obedience is desired. We must answer
the question “why”. There is/must be a good/logical reason for doing
what we say. It must be done in love and not in a tyrannical fashion. We must
teach the consequences of improper behavior so the child understands the difference
between living in stress and living in unity. The child must learn the joy of
living in unity, peace, love, intimacy. Only then can the child appreciate what
Christ has done on the cross for him. In so doing, we are to give our children
a strong foundation concerning right and wrong, good and evil, and Biblical
Truth. We must also train them to “fly on their own”.

Work Relationships                                         Eph. 6:5-9

The next relationship concerns slaves and masters. Note that we have gone
from very personal relationships to less personal relationships. Paul started
this discussion between you and the Lord, then you and your spouse, then you
and your children, and now between you and your boss in the workplace. He states
that the very same relationship you have with Christ should be modeled with
you master/boss. It is a life of honesty, integrity; of joy and thankfulness
[see comments on Chapter 4 and 5]. In other words be the best you can in the
best way you can. Look for rewards from God for He is just, He is right and
He is faithful.

Likewise, masters/bosses are to treat their employees with respect and dignity
they deserve. Your employees should not work in a threatening environment. If
you want to be a successful businessman, a productive, inventive, profitable
business; treat your employees in this manner. Coach them. Don’t beat them up
or harass them. Discipline them justly with fairness. Reward them in the same
manner. Don’t play favorites. Treat them as equals with each other and with
you.

Your Uniform                                                     Eph. 6:10-17

To accomplish/do this in a Christ-like fashion not only requires a special
relationship with God but requires a special uniform to remind us who we work
for and who we are fighting against because the lifestyle of the Christian [a
lifestyle of devotion, commitment, peace, and unity with God] is different than
the lifestyle of the world. So while we strive to live in peace, we are actually
at war. The question is ” How is that possible?” Only through His
strength and mighty power [vs. 10] can we be steadfast in purpose and secure
in our promised victory over the evil one. Note that our victory is over the
evil one, not all evil for evil is all around us. Only in Christ do we have
the power, strength, and fortitude to resist the evil one and his schemes. Our
victory is a personal victory. Evil will not disappear until Christ comes again.
And even then it raises its ugly head again until it is finally destroyed and
a new heaven and a new earth appear.

We live in the “last days” which are defined as those days between
Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension until He comes again to reign. Our
day of evil is now. Satan and his army will attack each one of us. The day of
evil is coming when Satan will rise up and attempt to take over the earth [the
tribulation period]. Many have written eloquently on this passage but simply
put, we are to remember what we have in Christ Jesus:

  1. Truth
  2. Righteousness
  3. The Gospel of Peace
  4. Faith
  5. Salvation
  6. The Word of God

Pray                             Eph. 6:18-20

Finally, we have the ability to pray; to ask God for help and to ask that
He intervene in our lives. We ask Him to protect us with His strength and mighty
power, to give us wisdom. We pray for us and all saints. We are to pray for
those specially commissioned to preach the gospel, that they be fearless and
clear in the presentation of Truth.

Closing                                                                                 Eph. 6:21-24

Tychius is the courier of this letter and will personally relay the details
of Paul’s work in prison. We can write letters, talk on the phone, send e-mails
and send pictures but nothing takes the place of a personal visit, a spontaneous
relaying of personal information, answering questions etc. It is personal, it
is rewarding, it is true fellowship, it is friendship, and it is encouraging.

Paul closes with a special benediction, a blessing, and a prayer for peace,
love and faith, and grace. In other words, bless them with the blessings of
Christ Jesus Himself; Peace [inner and outer], Love for God and the brothers,
Faith [steadfastness], and the memory of what Christ has done for us; Grace.
We are His by Grace through Faith and not because of what we have done but only
by what He has done for us.

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