Posts tagged ‘salvation’

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 1:9-10 – God’s secret plan

Paul continues his lengthy spiritual blessing by writing about God’s secret plan…

v.9,“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.” Paul now starts to write about God’s secret plan and how God is now decided to reveal it to us. “God has now revealed to us” or “made known” NIV which means something that was formerly hidden but is now made known. The idea behind God’s secret plan was it was not revealed to us yet because God chose not to reveal it. “Us” is believers, all believers. The reason Paul says it is now revealed to us is because up to this point “his mysterious will regarding Christ” was just that, a mystery. Paul is writing about the plan of salvation for all mankind and up to this point the whole plan has been a mystery. This mystery is God’s plan or God’s will. God has chosen to finally reveal his secret plan to the world which was only possible because of Christ. In the NIV it uses the phrase “according to his good pleasure,” it pleased God to make known to all believers the mystery of his will.

v.10,“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.” This verse is a continuation of v.9, Paul starts to reveal “the plan” or in the MSG “long-range plan” referring to God’s plan finally to be revealed. “At the right time” is talking about God’s timing. Sometime in the future that God only knows. “He will bring everything together” or “put into effect” NIV is talking about administration. This is referring to management of a household or in this case God’s management of his secret plan. Christ will put everything into effect according to God’s timing. “Under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth” is a time in the future only God knows (a universal reconciliation) where all creation will be brought back to its rightful owner and creator, under the authority of Christ. Sin holds people in bondage and caused all creation to fall from the perfect state in which God created it. One day in the future God will fix everything. When that day arrives everything in heaven and on the earth will be brought back under one head which is Christ. Examples in Scripture are: Rev 7:11 (angels), Phil 2:10-11 (every person – in heaven and on the earth – even under the earth) and Rom 8:20-21 (creation). 

Doctrine of universalism: in the verses above it doesn’t mean God will eventually save everyone. In the end, every knee WILL bow, but for some, it will be too late. Because they have refused to believe (Jew or Gentiles) they will face the consequences of their unbelief (Matt 25:31-46).

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO ME? God has chosen to complete his secret plan through Christ, in his timing (only when he knows). Where all creation, both in heaven and on earth, will be returned to where it belongs, under the authority of Christ. Nothing happens on chance, God has a plan for everything, even me. So I can trust him to guide me as I live my life for him.

WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  Because of God’s plan I know that someday this terrible world we live in will be redeemed. Eventually every knee will bow and every person will realize that Jesus is Lord. But they will not all be saved from the consequences  of their unbelief, so I need to get the word out. I need to be a missionary for God wherever I live. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20.

June 2, 2020 at 12:09 PM Leave a comment

New believers @ City Centre!

Yesterday God worked in an amazing way at City Centre!

After many years being a church two of the regular attenders of my church accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. Two new members of the family of God! Two new Christians! One adult and one teen.

I wanted to tell you the stories behind these two new salvations …

Adult: The first person’s story is unbelievable because she comes from a Buddhist background. She met her husband who was a Christian. They got married and she believed that there should only be one religion in her household, so she decided to “convert” to Christianity. However she never embraced Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. Fast forward many years later (actually more than 20 years) and she had two daughters, both who became committed Christians along with their Dad.

One day the oldest daughter was talking to her Mom and said “Mom, you believe is this stuff do you?” (referring to salvation through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection). The Mom said “no.” And the oldest daughter said with tears in her eyes, “that’s makes me said because I won’t see you in heaven.”

This conversation motivated the Mom to go to one of the classes we offer at City for people who are interested in getting to know the beliefs of Christianity called Discover Christianity. She joined and at the very first class shared with me the conversation she had with her oldest daughter (above). From that point I have been praying God would use the six classes I was going to teach in the next number of months. Yesterday after learning about the most difficult topic of hell and answering the question “how can a loving God send people to hell?” I finished off our class with two ways to respond: if those in the class hadn’t every accepted Christ, they could do so today. Or it is our responsibility to go and tell all our friends about Christ and de-populate hell (stop those who are headed from hell and tell them about the Gospel. Jesus is the only way to God and he died, rose again and because of that our sins are forgiven.

At the end of the class everyone left except this lady. I went up to her and asked if she wanted to talk to me. She told me she wanted to accept Jesus as her Saviour and Lord. Of course, I was overjoyed and we prayed together. Then we went to see her family and I watched as she told her oldest daughter of her new decision. They hugged and cried together. So happy to be apart of the most important decision anyone can make. Next step is for her to go into a discipleship class for new believers called Fresh Start and eventually baptism. She is very excited about her new life!

Teen: the next person’s story is very simple but just as exciting. She grew up in a Christian home, has heard the truth for the past 12 years or so but never has completely understand the Gospel. Last night after a couple of weeks of learning about the resurrection this teen was given the chance, along with a number of others, to make a decision to accept Jesus into her life. The leader of the class prayed at the end of the class and told the girls if they had made a decision to please tell her before they left for home.

At the class there is a question box for the teens to put questions in that they wanted answered. This morning at the bottom of all the regular questions was a sheet of paper that said “I wanted you to know I accepted Jesus into my life. And I wanted you to know that I finally understand what Jesus did for me. Please call me.”

The teacher of the class told me this morning about the sheet of paper in the question box and said she was so excited when she read it. She also told me she is going to call her today to connect with her to talk more about her decision. Hopefully she will be getting baptized at the same time as the adult who also accepted Jesus that same day.

God is so good and I am so excited about what God is doing in our church among our congregation and church family. Awesome!

November 7, 2011 at 10:40 PM Leave a comment

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