Ephesians 2:4-7 – God’s action plan for humanity

In the first three verses of chapter 2 Paul gives the bad news about humanity. Here in the next few verses he gives the good news which is God’s action plan for humanity.

v.4,“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much.” After what seemed like a hopelessness for all humanity in the first three verses, Paul starts this section with “but God.” With these two simple words Paul lays out an amazing plan that God puts together  how sinful humanity is not left to hopelessness which ended in death. God acted on behalf of humanity because he is “rich in mercy.” “Mercy” is sometimes referred to as God’s compassion or lovingkindness towards people even though they don’t deserve it (ex. Ps 51:1, Jonah 4:2). The word “rich” means that God is bountiful in mercy, he has an inexhaustible storehouse of it. He also acted on behalf of humanity because “he loved us so much.” I love this translation, it really makes us realize that God chose to help sinful humanity because of his deep love for us. “Love” in the Greek is agape it means selfless love that seeks the best for others. Sinful humanity can’t even approach a Holy God, but God extended his love to them because he alone can give them salvation. This love is beyond human understanding. This love was directed toward “us” which means Jews and Gentiles, everyone!

v.5,“That even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead (it is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Paul repeats himself from v.1 and reminds the believers “even though we were dead because of our sins…” Now Paul finishes his thought from v.1 “…he gave us life.” Another way of saying this is God “made us alive” NIV which means to be “saved.” Unbelievers were dead in their sins, but they were made alive because of what Christ did on the cross, he died for their sins and God “raised Christ from the dead.” The only way spiritually dead people can have a relationship with God is to be made alive. God is the only person who can accomplish this, which he did through his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ defeated sin and death by is death and resurrection to give sinners (spiritually dead) a chance to be made spiritually alive (Rom 6:8-11, 8:10-11, Gal 2:20, Col 3:12-13). “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” Paul is going to expand on this phrase in v.8 but here he says a quick thought so that the believers know it is only because of God’s grace (unmerited favour) they are able to be saved. The Greek is only three words “you are saved” in order to convey the idea that salvation is accomplished and its effects are continuous upon the believer. And salvation is by grace alone, not by anything we sinners can do to save ourselves. Paul will explain further in v.8 and v.9.

v.6,“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” From 1:20 we learned Christ was raised from the dead and this was only accomplished by God, himself. As believers, God “raised us from the dead.” Both physical resurrection, in the future, and the new resurrection life from the moment they believe (Col 2:12). As Christ was raised from physical death, believers are raised from spiritual death, and they are assured of resurrection from that death and eternal life with God. Also as believers, God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms.” Again back to 1:20 God has seated Christ in a place of honour at the right hand of God the Father, indicating Christ’s finished work and his victory over sin and death. Here, Paul makes it clear that “us” believers’ seating in the heavenly realms is not a future event but a here and now. Believers share in the victory now. The best way to describe this is as a statement of God’s purpose for his people (believers). A purpose which is going to happen no matter what, that it can be spoken of as if it has already happened (Rom 8:30). Believers, who are heirs with Christ, are spiritually exalted from the moment of conversion. They (we) have a citizenship in heaven, no longer just the earth (Phil 3:20). The power that raised and exalted Christ to a place of honour, is the same power that works daily in the believers’ lives. Helping believers to live and work for God during this time on this earth. “United with Christ Jesus” refers to the fact that all believers by virtue of their union with Christ actually share in Christ’s resurrection, ascension and exaltation.

v.7,“So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” In v.4 Paul starts simply with because “God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much”, which is the first reason why God put his action plan in place mentioned in my commentary on v.4. Then in v.5-6 he lays out his plan…making us alive, raising us, and seating us along with his Son (Christ) in the heavenly realms. Here in v.7, Paul gives one more reason for God’s action plan on behalf of humanity. God wants to “point to us…as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us.” In the NIV the word “show” is used instead of in the NLT “point to us.” “Show” actually means display. In the same way an artist might display his painting to reveal his skill, so God displays his church (believers) to the universe to demonstrate his grace and kindness. This is the same grace and kindness that is demonstrated in Christ death and resurrection for the whole world. By raising and exalting believers (the church) God displays “the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness towards us” which he will continue to do “in all future ages” and on throughout eternity. Believers are a living evidence of his grace and kindness where believers will point people away from themselves and to him who they owe salvation. And the evidence of his grace and kindness towards us is “as shown in all he has done for us” which is of course he resurrected us and exalted us to the place of honour with his Son.Again this was accomplished only for those “who are united in Christ Jesus.” Without Christ’s sacrifice, there would be no hope for a relationship with God (Jn 3:16).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God has put together an action plan because of humanity’s hopelessness. This action plan is done because of his love, mercy, grace and kindness and was done so that we as believers could be a display of God’s grace and kindness to the world. His action plan is to make us alive in Christ, raise us from the dead and exalt us with his Son in heaven.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  I am also thankful because of God’s love, mercy, grace and kindness he put together an action plan for my salvation. I want to point my unsaved friends and family to Christ and be a shining display of God’s grace and kindness no matter how they react to the Gospel and me.

June 14, 2020 at 3:12 PM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:1-3 – Life without Christ

Paul starts chapter 2 describing what believers’ lives were like without Christ, before their conversion. It’s like he was starting by telling the Ephesian believers the bad news…first. Then eventually is the rest of the chapter he gets to the good news. You know what I mean? Do you want to hear the good news or bad news first?

v.1,“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.” When referring to being “dead” Paul is specifically talking about spiritual death. Those who are spiritually dead can still be alive physically. They just have chosen to not have relationship with God. Their “disobedience” and “many sins” have rendered them spiritually unresponsive and alienated from God and incapable of experiencing the full file that God could give them (Rom 6:23, 7:10). Sin is a failure in any sphere to be what we ought to be and could be. Other translations uses words like trespasses, transgressions, wrong things, bad things, and  things you did against God. They all mean the same thing “missing the mark.” It is a archery term where the mark is the bullseye but no matter how many times you try to hit it you miss. This is true of sinners, our natural tendency is to continue to sin and no matter what we do we will always miss the mark of being sinless. Because of our inability to stop sinning our sins, disobedience and rebellion against God lead to spiritual death.

v.2,“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—commander of the powers of the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” Before the Ephesian believers became believers they “used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world.” Instead of living for God they were living and acting like the rest of the sinners of the world. They’re lives were full of sinful acts, immoral lifestyles and godless motives. Just like the rest of the world they were “obeying the devil—commander of the powers of the unseen world.” Of course Paul is speaking of Satan. The NIV says “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” or AMP says “the prince of the power of the air.” Paul wants the believers to know Satan is real and he is the evil ruler with some amount of control in the world. The word “air” or in the NLT “unseen world” refers to the darkness of the world, which the devil prefers to work and where the evil spirits are, this is Satan’s sphere of influence. The idea behind the word “air” is that Satan is both invisible and powerful. It’s one thing to fight an enemy you can see, but its a whole different battle against a powerful enemy you can’t see. Paul again mentions that Satan is the “the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” Satan is the ruler over the world order and the hearts of disobedient people. Paul is referring to unbelievers when he says “those who refuse to obey God.” Before people became believers they were under the controlling power of evil spirits that led them to disobey God, instead they obeyed Satan.

v.3,“All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Paul includes himself in the state of the believers were before they chose to follow Christ, he writes “all of us used to live that way.” He uses this phrase to include both Jews and Gentiles, himself included (Rom 3:23). “Passionate desires and inclinations” refers to things they did that felt natural to them. “Sinful nature” refers to unbelievers’ natural state without God (human nature, the flesh). It is self-centred and enslaved to it’s own desires. People all around the world commit sins everyday, this proves everyone has a sinful nature. Because of our sinful nature or “very nature” we are “subject to God’s anger.” This means that we deserve God’s judgment which is a personal, righteous, condemnation of evil and refusal to compromise with it. Paul finishes with we are “just like everyone else” meaning we are all in the same boat, we all are sinners like everyone else on the face of the planet, and because of our sin we deserve God’s judgment.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Paul describes in detail what all unbelievers are without Christ in their lives. They are spiritually dead because of their are disobedience and sin that runs rampant in their lives. They obey Satan (he is real) the prince of the power of the unseen world. Paul includes everyone in the last verse to say we all used to live this way following our sinful nature and sinful desires. Because of this we deserved God’s judgment, just like all the sinners of the world. But, the main point of Ephesians (good news), is not these three verses, but that God will not stop seeking us out. There is still good news to learn.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  Before I go on, I want to make a specific note to say this is the “bad news” from Paul about what people are before they accepted and met Christ. Or without Christ. But Paul eventually gets to the good news. These three verses are a great reminder to me that I can easily get back to living for my sinful nature and sinful desires if I am not staying closely connected to Christ. I need to be in the Word every day and constantly on my knees before him.

June 13, 2020 at 12:37 PM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:20-23 – Paul’s praise for God’s power

Paul concludes this chapter with a prayer for the Ephesian believers. I am going to break the prayer down into three parts: v.15-16: thanksgiving prayer, v.17-19: intercessory prayer and v.20-23: praise for God’s power.

v.20-23,“This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or any else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” After describing the completeness of God’s power in v.19a Paul points out three instances where God’s mighty power was working: raised Christ from the dead; seated Christ in the place of honour at God’s right hand and appointing him head over the church.

v.20a,“Raised Christ from the dead is a clear working of God’s power. Only God can bring someone back from the dead. Christ’s resurrection assures us that God will raise our bodies from the dead in the future (Rom 6:8-11). His resurrection is an inauguration of the final resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-24). The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to all believers for spiritual strength to live the Christian life. It is transmitted through the head (Christ) to the body (the church, believers).

v.20b-21,“Seated [Christ] in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” is also a clear working of God’s power. This phrase refers to Ps 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honour at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” Here in v.20 it shows that God exercised his power in raising Christ and then seating him in a place of honour at God the Father’s right hand in the heavenly realms. The right hand signifies a position of equality. Christ is equal with God, he is God. In v.21 Paul writes “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or any else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.” Christ’s ultimate authority will be “far above any…” Paul names all of the possible authorities “any ruler or authority or power or leader…” He even ads a generic phrase “or anything else” to clarify whatever power exists, both in heaven or on the earth, it will be under the authority of Christ.With this list Paul wanted the believers to know Christ has no equals and no rivals. He is supreme over all beings (good and evil, both in the present and future)! And he will be exalted above and rule over all of them. This is an exalted position with all authority. As a result of Christ’s death and resurrection (victory and authority), his power has reduced all evil forces. They no longer can exert any power over the believer who has identified with Christ.

v.22-23,“God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. The third instance where God’s mighty power was working is in the church, which Christ is the head of. In v.21 Paul states that Christ was placed in the position of honour and authority at the right hand of God. Here in v.22 Paul makes it clear that God placed “all things under the authority of Christ.” And God gave Christ, who has all authority over everything, to the church. This implies that Christ has authority over the church as well. The “church” is speaking of the whole assembly of believers everywhere. By giving Christ to the church God demonstrates his care for the church. First he gave Christ to the church to sacrifice him for their sins. Now he gives Christ to the church for their spiritual well-being. In v.23 Paul states that the “church is his body” of course speaking of Christ, “his” body is the church. By adding Christ (the head) to the church it is “made full and complete.” Paul says the the body (the church) is being filled and made complete with Christ, who in turn is being filled wholly, entirely, in every way by God. As Christ’s body, the church, manifests Christ to the world, but it can only do so as he fills it with himself. Christ who fills the church also “fills all things everywhere with himself” which includes filling the whole universe because he is the fullness of God.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God’s power is something we as believers (the church) have access to because of Christ. This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead, put him in a place of honour and all authority at God’s right hand put all things under his authority including the church and the universe. That’s power! And we get to be filled and be made complete by this power through Jesus Christ.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  Not to take God’s power for granted. Because of this power I have salvation through faith in Christ’s sacrifice. And I have a great privilege of being part of the body of Christ (the church) again because of God’s power. I am so thankful for both. Praise God!

June 12, 2020 at 7:53 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:17-19 – Paul’s intercessory prayer

Paul concludes this chapter with a prayer for the Ephesian believers. I am going to break the prayer down into three parts: v.15-16: thanksgiving prayer, v.17-19: intercessory prayer and v.20-23: praise for God’s power.

v.17,“Asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” Paul moves from his prayer of thanksgiving to an intercessory prayer. He starts his prayer praying to the only One truly capable of hearing and answering his prayer: “God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul seems to be repeating himself from 1:3 where Paul introduces the letter praising “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here he uses the word “glorious” to describe the “Father” to say glory only belongs to God the Father because he the source of glory. All things have been created to glorify him. Then Paul gets into his prayer for the Ephesians. Paul asks that the believers be given the gifts of “spiritual wisdom and insight.” Other translations including NIV say “Spirit of  wisdom and revelation.”  Paul is praying God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit), already given to the believers, will continually give wisdom (practical ability to act on what they know and believe) and revelation (grasping or understanding the truth of Scripture). The idea “you might grow in your knowledge of God” is talking about growing closer to God, getting to know him more deeply. Paul wanted the believers to spend more time with God and prayed the Holy Spirit would continually give them wisdom and discernment to know God and the truths of his Word so as to practically apply it to the believers lives.

v.18-19,“I pray your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” In many translations including the NIV the phrase is used “eyes of your heart may be enlightened” unlike “your hearts will be flooded with light” as the NLT translates it. The term “eyes of your heart” is a better descriptor to what Paul is trying to convey. He is referring to the spiritual eyes of our heart that all human beings have. Even though all believers have opened their eyes of their heart to receive Christ as their Saviour at conversion, they still must seek God to enlighten (or open) the eyes of their heart to come to a deeper understanding of these crucial truths he mentions next. Our “heart” refers to our total inner person, which includes our intellect, our emotions, centre of thought and the will. In order to understand wisdom and revelation, God must open the eyes of the heart of the believer. Before believers’ conversion their heart’s eyes were closed to the things of God. At the moment of conversion, the eyes of the heart are opened somewhat, but this is just the beginning. Paul asks God, through the Holy Spirit, that the eyes of the Ephesian believer’s hearts would be continually opened (“enlightened”) more and more to the fullness of God’s truth and that it will dwell in them fully. Paul simply was praying the believers would grow in their faith each and every day. That they would become more and more like Christ and they would do this with the help of the Holy Spirit. Now Paul prays the believers would know three essential truths  about their salvation through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit: confident hope, a glorious inheritance and greatness of God’s power. 

Paul prays the believer would be enlightened with the truth about their future confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people.” The “confident hope” in AMP says “divine guarantee, the confident expectation to which he has called you.” Paul wants the believers to know the significance that God’s call (or choosing them) has on their future. God has guaranteed a future destiny for all believers, that is eternity with Christ which they can be confident in this future hope. By knowing the hope that is set before them, believers are motivated by the certainty that their work in this world and their care for people is not in vain. This future hope should change the way they live now.

“Who are His rich and glorious inheritance. is referring to the believers’ present spiritual riches in Christ in being freed from sin and made ready for fellowship with God. Also refers to the believers’ heavenly possessions of riches and glories of God. Such riches are part of the believers’ inheritance. And Paul doesn’t assume the believers anticipated this inheritance or are thankful for it so it prays that they will know it, the glory of it and the riches of the glory of it.

The third truth is “you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.” Paul wants the believers to know the truth that God is incredibly powerful, so powerful that his power accomplished the resurrection of Christ. It proved that God’s purpose cannot be stopped by any human action. It proves God is still in control. Paul’s desire is that the believers will know this great power is available to them and he prays they will understand it.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? Paul’s intercessory prayer is asking the Holy Spirit to open the spiritual eyes of the Ephesian believers to three truths: their confident hope of eternity with Christ, their glorious inheritance and the incredible power of God that they all can experience because they believe. Paul wanted the believers to grow in the faith to be more Christlike, and this should be my prayer as well, for me, to be more like Christ in all I say and do and think.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  The whole Christian life involves an continual opening of the heart’s eyes to the things of God. As long as sin is in my life it will cloud my thinking, my desires and affections. There will always be part of me that needs to be opened more and more to let the fulness of God’s truth dwell in me. I should pray both for myself and my fellow believers this prayer of Paul each and every day.

June 8, 2020 at 9:31 PM Leave a comment

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