Posts tagged ‘believers’

Ephesians 2:13-18 – A new people–the church

God in his mercy and grace did not leave the Gentiles in their hopeless condition described in v.11-12. No, he explains in this section how he has brought all Gentiles near through the blood sacrifice of his Son, Christ Jesus. But Paul explains further this sacrifice is for all human beings to have a relationship with the Father and be saved and become a new people—the church.

v.13,“But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him though the blood of Christ.” Paul starts with “but now” to contrast all that he just explained in detail the Gentiles were before their conversion in Christ (v.11-12). Paul again reminds the Gentiles “once you were far away from God.” This described who the Gentiles were in relationship to God before their conversion. “But now you have been brought hear to him” is a description of the Gentiles presently in relationship to God after their conversion. The means by which the Gentile believers are “brought near to” God is “through the blood of Christ.” His sacrificial death on the cross where his blood was shed is what brought all who believe near to God (salvation). Without the shedding blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22). However, in this verse Paul is specifically speaking of Gentiles.

Gentile believers: it is not an afterthought that Gentiles are now included in God’s family. This theme may seem to be secondary in the Old Testament, but it is there. God’s covenant with Abraham had in view the Gentiles as well (Gen 12:2-3). Here Paul makes what seemed secondary (Gentiles being included in God’s family—the church), now primary.

v.14,“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Christ through his death on the cross destroyed the barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, bringing “peace to us” and “united Jews and Gentiles into one people.” This made way for peace between the two groups. But more importantly Christ reconciled them both to God. Those who believed in God would be made “into one people”—believers! Paul describes the peace that Christ had made between these two groups as a “wall of hostility” that he “broke down.” It was no secret that there was a great hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, a cultural and religious hostility that only God could break. The dividing wall Paul is referring to is the wall in the Jewish temple that separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the temple, which only Jews could enter. When Christ died on the cross this wall was broken down (not literally but spiritually). The actual wall wasn’t broken down until the Romans entered Jerusalem in AD 70. It also symbolizing Gentile alienation from God being removed, as well.

In the next two verse Paul answers the questions we all have, how did Christ do this? How did he get rid of the hostility between Jews and Gentiles? Between man and God?

v.15-16,“He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility  toward each other was put to death.” Paul gives us four ways Christ through his death and resurrection, destroyed the hostility between Jews and Gentiles and between God and man.

  1. “Ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations.” This statement sounds contradictory to what Christ says about the law in Matt 5:17 in his Sermon on the Mount where he said he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Paul is not talking about “ending” the law as the Word of God or as a moral guide. What is ended or abolished is the law as a set of “commandments and regulations” (for sacrifices, circumcision, dietary regulations, ritual cleansing and regulations regarding the sabbath, etc) that exclude the Gentiles. The moral instructions of the law will continue but it will no longer exclude Gentiles or require them to become Jews (Deut 31:11-13). In Christ’s death and resurrection, he made the law ineffective to make people right before God. Christ abolished the law’s way of salvation. We can’t obey the whole law no matter how hard we try. So it separates us from God and from each other. But Jesus perfectly obeyed the law in his life and in his death took on the consequences of our disobedience. Acceptance with God is now only through faith in Christ alone for both the Jews or Gentiles. Christ will accept the Gentiles on equal footing as he does the Jews. The law was a barrier between all of us (Jews and Gentiles) and God, but faith unites us, since all have come to God through Christ in the same way.
  2. “By creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” Paul of course is talking about the church. This “one new people” was created by Christ when he abolished the divisive law (mentioned in point 1) on the cross. In this new people group there is no discrimination because they are all one in Christ (Col 3:11, Gal 3:28). Believers are no longer Jews or Gentiles but now Christians. A whole new group is formed and the result is peace between the Jews and Gentiles (v.14).
  3. “Reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Here the hostility is between God and man (both Jews and Gentiles). It is not just our attitude and sins towards him has been an issues, but also his wrath and anger toward us because of our sin. It is only through Christ death on the cross that both of these hostilities has been reconciled. 
  4. “Hostility toward each other was put to death” The hostility was also between the Jews and Gentiles (mentioned earlier in v.14). And again, by Christ death on the cross that hostility was also put to death and no matter who we are if we believe, we are part of the family of God, united as one in Christ.

v.17-18,“He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” The “Good News of peace” which is another way of saying the “Gospel” was “brought” or preached equally both to the “Gentiles” and the “Jews.” In the NIV the word “preached” instead of “brought” (NLT) is used which could refer to Jesus’ earthly ministry (before his crucifixion and resurrection) where he preached the Gospel to those he came in contact with. It also could simply mean Christ act of his death-burial-resurrection-exaltation. Peace was achieved and access to God the Father was made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice. The Gentiles “were far away” from God because they knew little or nothing about him. And the Jews “were near” to God because they already knew of him through the Scriptures and worshipped him in their religious ceremonies. Because both groups could not be saved by good deeds, knowledge, or sincerity, both needed to hear the Gospel was available to them only through Jesus Christ. “All of us” (Jews and Gentiles) are free to “come the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done.” Rather than “can come” is better translated “have access.” Christ provides the access to the Father by the “Holy Spirit” who helps us when we pray and who baptizes and unifies us into the body of Christ. Notice the emphasis on the Trinity in these verses. All three persons of the Trinity are involved in redeeming humanity (salvation). God the Father developed a plan of grace for salvation through faith. Christ’s carried out the plan through his sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. The Holy Spirit became the means of immediate access to God the Father.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? The hopeless plight of the Gentiles is redeemed by God stepping in through Christ. The Gentiles who didn’t know God can now have a relationship with God and only because of Christ’s shed blood that access is available. Then Paul switches gears to talk about all of humanity. Christ brought the Gospel of peace to everyone (Jews and Gentiles) through his sacrifice and resurrection. He broke down all barriers that were in the way of allowing the Gentiles to have a relationship with God. He did this by ending the rules and regulations of the law to exclude Gentiles. Christ brought peace and access to salvation to both Jews and Gentiles through his sacrifice. He also broke down the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles. And by his sacrifice he also created a new people (one body)—the church or Christians or believers.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  The only thing I can do is praise God for stepping in and not leaving me to die spiritually. Because of his grace and Jesus’ sacrifice I can be saved and have a relationship with the Father. I now have access to the Father and I can be part of the family of God—his new people, the church!

June 29, 2020 at 11:48 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 2:8-10 – Salvation by grace through faith

Paul presents a very clear presentation of the Gospel in these three verses. He include grace, faith, salvation and even good works. He doesn’t leave any doubt that salvation is not anything we can earn but a gift from God.

v.8-9,“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Obvious these are very familiar verses and most believers have memorized them. I prefer the version I memorized as a child NIV: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul is repeating himself from v.5 and elaborates on it by adding the two words I underlined. He says “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” “Grace”, again is God’s kindness towards undeserving humanity without them having merited it by their actions. God was not required to offer sinners salvation. He would be justified in condemning all people to eternal separation from himself.Salvation is a personal act from a personal God to sinners. “Grace” is the method by which we are saved. So the means by which salvation is appropriated, the means by which we are brought into a saving relationship to Jesus Christ, is “through faith.” We are save by grace though faith. There is a total absence of any consideration of merit. The source of our salvation is the grace of God. And the instrumental cause by which that salvation is appropriated is faith. “You can’t take credit for it” or in the NIV “this is not from yourselves” is referring to the idea there is nothing we as sinners can do to save ourselves from spiritual death. Another way of saying this is “not on the basis of works you can do.” Paul adds this phrase just incase anyone thought “faith” was a necessary work that people must perform in order to receive salvation. He uses the words “this” and “it” to refer to all of he has just spoken of … “saved”, “grace” and “faith.” They are“not from yourselves” and are a “gift of God.” Paul is very clear that nothing is of our own doing, not salvation, not grace, not even faith that is exercised to receive salvation, everything is a “gift of God.” And to make sure the believers understand what Paul is saying he adds “salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done” or in the NIV “not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul wants the believers to realize they can do nothing to earn their salvation, and a person’s faith itself is not to be considered a “work” or a reason why anyone “can boast.” Paul was including in the the word “works” the “works of the law” which he refers to in Rom 3:20 and Gal 3:10. The believers needed to know that there was no effort on their part to earn their salvation, even obedience to the law. And if they were successful, their efforts would lead to boasting, bragging and spiritual pride which Paul wanted the praise to only go to God (Jer 9:24) not to man.

v.10,“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Paul doesn’t want there to be any misunderstanding as the believers read these verses so he adds one more affirmation here before moving on to the next topic. Paul has already stated that salvation is not the sinners achievement or a reward for anything we can do or have done. Here he goes one step further to leave no doubt. He states “we are God’s masterpiece”  can be translated “we are the result of God’s activity.” Paul is talking about salvation and new life are God’s work, humans didn’t cause it but are recipients. Salvation is God’s masterpiece, work or art, new creation. If we could earn our own salvation we would not be a work of God, we would be a work of our own selves.“He has created us anew” is important language because only God can create. He created the universe from nothing (Rom 1:20), now he creates old, dead, sinners into new, alive, new creations (2 Cor 5:17). This new creation take place “in Christ Jesus.” This new creation is based in Christ’s resurrection, he is the source of this creation. “So we can do the good things [good works AMP] he planned for us long ago.” Sinners become Christians through God’s undeserved favour (grace), not as a result of any efforts, merit or acts or good deeds. Even though no good work can help us to obtain salvation, God’s wants our salvation to result in acts of “good works”, service or kindness to serve Christ and build up the church (other believers). Good works don’t produce salvation but are the evidence of salvation (Jam 1:22; 2:14-26). “He planned for us long ago” meansGod had prepared a path of good works for Christians to do even before we were born. These good works will be done along life’s way while believers walk by faith. This means that God does a good work through us (not we do it for him) as we are faithful and obedient to him. Everything that is good that is done through us will be recognized as his work and not our own.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? We were sinners, spiritually dead and doomed for eternity without God. God extended his grace toward us to save us from our sins and eternal separation from God. And he accomplish this through his Son Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, without our help. Salvation was a gift from God (including God’s grace, our faith, and Jesus’ sacrifice). There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, not even our own faith—it is also a gift from God. As well Paul wants all sinners to understand that salvation is also not a reward for anything we have done because he doesn’t want us to have pride in any part of our salvation. It is only from God through Christ! Lastly Paul reminds the believers that salvation or new life in Christ is God’s masterpiece, work of art and produces good works in us which God had prepared before we were born. All the good that is done through us will be recognized as his work and not our own.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  There is more to salvation that just “getting saved.” Though accepting Christ into my life is the beginning of my life as a believers, that is not the end. I must realize that God has created me to live a life of faith that is demonstrated in good works. That is serving my fellow believers at church. That is serving those in need, the poor. And being kind, loving, supportive and giving to anyone in need. My good works should be the outcome of my salvation, not they are my salvation!

June 21, 2020 at 6:45 AM Leave a comment

Ephesians 1:11-14 – The believers’ inheritance

Paul concludes his lengthy spiritual blessing by writing about the believers’ inheritance from God. Both to the Jewish believers first, and then to the Gentile believers.

v.11,“Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” Paul when writing “we are united with Christ” is specifically referring to the Jewish believers (himself included). Paul writes that God chose the Jewish believers in advance or predestined beforehand to receive “an inheritance from God” before he included the Gentiles (Rom 1:16). The Jews were were given God’s inheritance as God’s chosen people (Deut 4:20) or they were claimed by God as his portion.“He makes everything work out according to his plan” is talking about everything is under God’s sovereign control. Because God controls everything, he will carry out his plan “according to his plan” or “in conformity with the purpose of his will” NIV and bring it to completion in his timing. God’s design was that the chosen people or the children of Israel or the Jews would bring salvation to the rest of the world but he had chosen the Jews as his personal possession or his portion first (Deut 32:9). Paul uses “we” to refer to the Jewish believers but later on this this passage he uses “you” to refer to the Gentile believers.

v.12,“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God.” Now it is clear when Paul uses “we” he is specifically speaking of the Jewish believers. Salvation was first brought to the Jews, they “were the first to trust in Christ.” This means that the Jews were the first to believe in Christ because the gospel was preached first to them and that the gospel message would then be offered to the Gentiles through the Jews which brought unity in Christ to all believers, resulting in bringing “praise and glory to God.” God’s ultimate plan for all of his creation was to glorify himself.

v.13,“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, who he promised long ago.” Now Paul writes specifically to the Gentile believers using “you.” The Gentiles “also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves” which simply was speaking of “the Gospel of your salvation” NIV. The Gospel conveys the “truth”, which is able to save the believer. But while “hear[ing] the truth” brings knowledge, it does not bring salvation. These people also “believed in Christ.” When they believed, “he [Christ] identified you as his own” showing that they were included “in Christ.” How did he do this? He “stamped [them] with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit [the One promised by Christ] as owned and protected [by God]” AMP. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is a once-for-all act at conversion, that gives believers continued assurance that they are saved—believers.

v.14,“The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” Paul is using a term “guarantee” for the Holy Spirit that was used in ancient time to describe an engagement ring. It is like a promise to your fiancée that you are planning to marry them. In the same way God’s deposit of the Holy Spirit in believer’s lives is like an engagement ring that shows that we belong to Christ until we go to be with him forever in heaven. Our “guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people” is that God, unlike most people, never breaks his promises. If you have trusted Christ, you are his forever! “He did this so we would praise and glorify him” is a phrase Paul has used in the past (1:6, 1:12). Paul is saying the reason for this guarantee is so that God will be praise and glorified.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God has given all believers (Jews and Gentile believers) an inheritance, that is being saved from our sins if we believe in Christ and his sacrifice. And the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that we will receive this inheritance. And all of this was to bring praise and glory to God.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  So thankful that God chose to give me an inheritance and that the Holy Spirit guarantees it. I have assurance of my salvation and I want to give all honour and praise to God for it!

June 3, 2020 at 7:19 PM Leave a comment

Day 78…1 Corinthians 10:1-11

I Corinthians 10:1-11: Learn from others’ mistakes

Paul now switches gears from using himself as an example of a mature Christian to now in chapter 10 uses the children of Israel as an example of spiritual immaturity, hoping we can learn self-discipline from both.

v.1, a perfect example of believing the false notion that one can be saved and then live a faithless, God-less life can be seen in what happened to Jews’ “ancestors in the wilderness long ago.” The book of Exodus contains the records their miraculous escape from Egypt and how God guided them by “a cloud that moved ahead of them” during the day and a pillar of fire during the night. These two guides where referring to God’s presence. When they came to an obstacle in their way like the Red Sea, God brought them through as “all of them walked through the sea on dry ground” (Exodus 14).

v.2, this next verse seems very difficult to understand because Paul uses the word “baptized” but not the way we are used to understanding it, immersion in water. He uses it to suggest identification and allegiance with their spiritual leader of their community: “Moses.” “In the cloud” represented God’s presence and glory, indicating his protection. “In the sea” represented God’s salvation of his people through the Red Sea as they crossed safely to freedom to escape the pursuits of the Egyptians. “All” of the children of Israel experienced this “baptism” but the common experience did not keep most of them faithful to God in the days to come.

v.3-4, Further miracles along the children of Israel’s journey sustained them, like the “spiritual food” or manna from heaven. Paul said it was spiritual because God provided it for them. The “spiritual drink” referred to the water Moses obtained for them from a rock, another provision from God. Paul refers to “Christ” as the “spiritual rock that traveled with them,” meeting their needs for them wherever they went.

v.5, the children of Israel got to experience so many miracles performed by God, setting them free from slavery, guiding them through the Sea, and giving them food and water in a barren wilderness. After all this, “most of them” rebelled against God and “God was not pleased” so“their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” Only Joshua and Caleb lived long enough to enter the Promised Land.

v.6-10, Paul then gives a warning to the believers in Corinth, “these things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did.” Paul didn’t want the believers in Corinth to fall into the same trap as the children of Israel did. Paul goes on to give them a few more examples from the life of the Israelites: v.7, worship of the golden calf while Moses from receiving the Law on Mt. Sinai, v.8, men engaged in immoral sexual activity with Moabite women and 23,000 died in one day. v.9, When people complained against Moses and God about the hardships in the desert and God punished them sending poisonous snakes where many were killed that day, v.10, they complained against the leadership of both Moses and Aaron and God punished them with a plague that came from the angel of death.

v.11, All of “these things happened to them [Israelites] as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.” Paul wanted us all (first century believers and believers today) to remember when the Israelites disobeyed, they rec’d punishment, likewise, when we as Christians sin with no repentance, no desire to change, we too will be punished.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  The most vivid thing I want to take with me from today’s study is I am no different than the Israelites and the Corinth believers. So I need to heed the warning Paul gives and the examples of what happened to the Israelites because they complained and disobeyed. I want to remember all the amazing things God has done for me like life and health (being a cancer survivor), food, family, my ministry and of course friends. And be grateful for those things he has provided for me instead of complaining about the things I don’t have and want.

January 15, 2013 at 4:37 PM Leave a comment

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