Series Title: Part 1 (1-3): Our Wealth / Part 2 – Our Walk / Part 3 – Our Warfare
Lesson Title: Introduction to Ephesians
Text: Eph 1:1-2
Intro. I’m incredibly excited about the journey we are about to begin as we study this great Epistle. I don’t really know what God is going to do through this study but I know what He wants to do and can do. All that I could ever dream of Mt. Zion being as a church is becoming very clear to me as I study this Epistle. So my desire is that by studying it, and understanding the principles, it will form the character of this church.
Listen to what others have said: “this is the crown climax of Pauline theology.” / the sublimest communication ever made to men,” / the quintessence of Paulinism, / Dr. Arthur T. Pierson called Ephesians Paul’s thrird-heaven epistle.” Another likened the book to the Grand Canyon and the Alps of the NT. Even in all of Paul’s evident command of language, he’s still really inadequate to accurately express these concepts completely.
Far be it from me to try and compete with those who have tried to describe this book, but it is important in looking at an overview of this book to take note of certain words which are characteristic of it and which Paul uses more frequently in it than any other Epistle.
Here is just few illustrations: (Eph 1:7) talks about the riches of His grace, at the end of the verse. (3:8) talks about the unsearchable riches of Christ. (3:16) ‑ the riches of His glory. So you have the riches of His grace, the riches of His glory and the riches of His Son. In other words, God is unloading all of His riches in the book of Ephesians. The word grace is used 12 times. And the word grace means ‑ God's unmerited, undeserved kindness and favor. Grace is behind all of this abundance that God pours out.
The word glory is used 8 times. The word inheritance is used 4 times. The word riches is used 5 times. The words fullness and filled are used 7 times. And the key to everything is because we are in Christ (10 times). That is why all of the fullness of all the riches of the inheritance of the glory of His grace is ours. Do you see? Because we are one with Christ in His church, because we are redeemed, this incredible fullness is ours. Perhaps the sum of it all is in chapter (3:19) ‑ "That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." It's an incredible thought that literally the believer can be filled with all the fullness of God Himself. That we would know the unsearchable riches of Christ. That we would be able to do exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think according to the power that works in us. You see, it's all such noble, grandiose concepts ‑ fullness, riches, inheritance, wealth, resources ‑ all in the book of Ephesians.
Another way in which the characteristic of this great Epistle can be stated is that it is a letter in which Paul looks at salvation from the vantage point of the heavenly places. Although Paul, in all of his writings, expounds and explains the way of salvation; he mostly is dealing with particular heresies, and with arguments or controversies that had arisen in the churches. But here, Paul seems to be, as he puts it, in the heavenly places, and he is looking down at the great landscape of salvation and redemption.
So, we will see very little controversy; and this is because Paul’s great concern here was to give to the Ephesians, and us a high bird's-eye view of this wondrous and glorious work of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now Luther says that the book of Romans is “the most important document in the NT, the gospel in its purest expression.” In many ways I would agree that there is no clearer, purer and plainer statement of the gospel as given in Romans. But if Romans is the purest expression, then Ephesians is the most majestic. Folks there are places in this book, especially toward the end of the 1st and 3rd chapter that Paul is carried away out, above and beyond himself, and loses and abandons himself in a great outburst of worship and praise and thanksgiving. By the way, that’s also my prayer for you and I. That we would dive into this book with great expectation, and at times, I hope it will be difficult for you to speak of it in a controlled manner because of the greatness and because of its grandeur.
Let’s begin by taking a general view of it, and by doing so and having a firm grasp of it we then will not get lost in the details. By the way, we are going to look at both (general/particulars). But I have found that the greatest wealth has been mined from the details.
I. (v.1) The doctrine of God. The general theme is seen right from the onset. Paul is always quick to his point in his letters. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God – there it is! The theme of this letter, first and foremost, is about God the Father. (v.2) grace be unto you and peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. (v.3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… That’s where we all need to begin. This is the theme that controls everything else – the starting point. Paul knew that everything is of God, and by God, and that to Him the glory must be given.
The Bible is God’s book, it is a revelation of God, and our thinking must always start with God. Much of the trouble in the Church today in this 21st century is due to the fact that we are so interested in ourselves, so egocentric. We have forgotten God, yet the message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to god, to humble us before God, and to enable us to see our true relationship to Him. This Epistle; it holds us face to face with God, and what God is, and what God has done; it emphasizes throughout the glory and the greatness of God – God the Eternal One, God the everlasting, God over all – and the indescribable glory of God.
(v.5) Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
(v.9) Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.
(v.11) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
God, the eternal and everlasting God, self-sufficient in Himself, from eternity to eternity, needing the aid of no-one, living, dwelling in His own everlasting, absolute and eternal glory, is the great theme of this letter. We must start with God, and forget ourselves. In this letter, Paul wants to take and give us a view of the glory and majesty of God. As we read this, I trust as I have, you will hear the voice as it came to Moses from the burning bush saying, Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place wheron thou standest is holy ground (Ex 3:5). Folks, we are in the presence of God and His glory; so we must tread carefully and humbly.
a. The Sovereignty of God. Within this doctrine of God we see three things the first being we are at once face to face with the sovereignty of God.
Def. his absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure (1 Chron 29:11; Dan. 4:25, 35; Rom. 9:15–23; 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 4:11). God’s rule and authority over all things. The supremacy of God
How little today do we hear these great expressions of true Christian doctrine and theology. How little are we told of the about the glory, the greatness, the majesty and the sovereignty of God! Our forefathers delighted in these terms; these were the terms of the Protestant Reformers, the terms the Puritans and the Covenanters. They delighted in spending time contemplating the attributes of God.
Look again how Paul immediately recognizes this. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. – not by his will! Paul did not call himself, and the Church did not call him; it was God who called him. He states this even clearer in Gal 1:15 When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace. There is always emphasis on the sovereignty of God, and will see it throughout this letter. It is God who has chosen us in Christ, predestinated us. It is a part of God’s purpose that we should be saved. There would never have been any salvation if God had not planned it and put it into execution. It is God who so loved the world, it is God who (Gal 4:4) sent forth his Son, made of a woman, mane under the law. It is all of God and according to His purpose. It is according to the counsel of his own will (Eph 1:11) that all these things have happened.
Throughout this Epistle it will tell us that we should always contemplate our salvation in this way. We must not start with ourselves and then ascend to God; we must start with the sovereignty of God, God over all, and then come down to ourselves.
We also find that God is the God of the time element. As you have read through the OT have you ever wondered why it was that all those centuries had to pass before the Son of God actually came? Why was it that for so long only the Israelites had what Paul calls the oracles of God (Rom 3:2) and the understanding that there is only one true and living God? The answer: it is God who decides the time when everything is to happen, and so He reveals this truth which had since been a mystery. It’s just another example of the sovereignty of God. He determines the time for everything to happen. God is over all controlling all, and timing everything in His infinite wisdom. At such a time as this (Korea, Afgan, Iraq, Economy, Iran…) I know of nothing which is more comforting and reassuring than to know that the Lord still reigns, that His is still the sovereign Lord of the universe and that though the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing (Ps 2:1; Act 4:25), yet He has set his Son upon his holy mount Zion (Ps 2:6).
A day will come when all His enemies shall lick the dust, and become His footstool and be humbled before Him, and Christ shall be all in all (Eph 1:23; 1 Cor 15:58). So the sovereignty of God is emphasized here in the introduction and is a theme that is repeated throughout because it is one of the cardinal doctrines without which we really do not understand our Christian faith.
b. The Mystery of God. Now, having said all that, Paul proceeds to deal with the mystery of God. The word mystery is used six times in this Epistle and more frequently than any of his other Epistles. So, I believe that this too is one of the major themes. This mystery of God as it relates with respect to us, the mystery of His will. (Eph 1:9) Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself. I often wonder whether we realize this as we should. The mystery of his will! He is infinite and eternal, and we are finite and sinful, and cannot see all and understand it totally.
If you ever feel tempted to say that God is not fair, I advise you to put your hand, as Job did, on your mouth and to try and realize to whom you are speaking. (Job 40:4) Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
I trust that as we approach these great themes you are filled with a sense of divine expectancy, and will desire to go further into them. One of the most wonderful aspects of the Christian walk is that in it you are ever going on. You think that you know something, and then you turn a corner and suddenly see something you had not know before, and on and on you go. That is why the apostle writes about the riches of his grace; it is this incredibly mystery which He has been pleased to reveal to us by His Holy Spirit.
c. The grace of God. The next theme is the grace of God; and this word is used 13 times. He just can’t seem to stop repeating it. In verse 2 he starts with it; Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the theme above all else that is developed in this letter. God’s amazing grace to sinful man in providing for man’s salvation and redemption. The grace of God; yes, and the abundance of it in particular - the riches of his grace. That idea is found here more than anywhere else – the riches of his grace. (v.2) Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. In this Epistle we are given a glimpse into the riches, the abundance, the super-abundance of God’s grace towards us; and if we don not look forward to an examination and investigation of this with the greatest possible anticipation, then it is doubtful as to whether we are saved. Most people are interested in wealth and riches; we like to go to the Biltmore House and even pay a fee to see all the wealth and riches. That’s exactly what Paul does in this Epistle as he leads us in, and gives us a view and a glimpse of the riches of the grace of God. It all starts with God, God the Father who is over all.
II. Jesus Christ. Having said all that, we move on to what invariably comes second in the whole of the Bible – the Lord Jesus Christ. (v.2) Grace be to you, and peace, from god our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you’ve been reading this book as I have asked you to you can’t help but notice how often the Name occurs (19 times), the Name that was so dear and blessed to Paul. He says: The Apsotle of Jesus Christ, / Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ. And I could continue on and on…
In verse 1 Paul tells us immediately that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ. It sounds almost ridiculous to have to say it, and yet it is so essential to emphasize that there is no gospel and no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. It is necessary because there are people who talk about Christianity without Christ. They talk about forgiveness but the Name of Christ is not mentioned, they preach about the love of God but in their view the Lord Jesus Christ is not essential. It is not so with the Apostle Paul; there is no gospel, there is no salvation apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel IS especially about Him. All God’s gracious purposes are carried out by Christ, in Christ, through Christ, from the beginning to the very end. Everything that God in His sovereign will, and by His infinite grace, and according to the riches of His mercy and the mystery of His will – everything that god has purposed and carried out for our salvation He has done in Christ.
There is no Christian message apart from Him. We are called and chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, we are reconciled to God by the blood of Christ. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. This is why the purpose here at Mt. Zion is “Igniting a Passion for Christ.”
We are all interested in forgiveness, but how are we forgiven? Is it because I have repented or lived a good life that God looks at me and forgives me? I say with all respect and reverence that even the Almighty God could not forgive my sin simply on those terms. There is only one way whereby God forgives us; it is because He sent His only begotten Son from heaven to earth, and to the agony and the shame and the death on the Cross: In whom we have redemption through his blood. There is no Christianity without the blood of Christ. Not only is it the Person of Christ but in particular, His death, His shed blood, His atoning substitutionary sacrifice! It is in that way, and that way alone, that we are redeemed. In this Epistle Christ is shown to be absolutely essential.
And we will find that we chosen in Him, called by Him, saved by His blood. He is the Head of the Church as this 1st chapter reminds us. He is (v.21) far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. He is (v.22-23) the head of the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And He is the right hand of god with all authority and power in heaven and on earth. Jesus, our Lord, is supreme; He is the Son of Go, the Savior of the world. That is to be our theme. Are you beginning to look forward to it – to look at Him, to gaze upon Him in His Person, in His offices, in His work, in all that He is and can be to us?
So we have looked at God – His sovereignty, mystery and grace. Then after God we saw Jesus. And now we can see God’s purpose in Christ is the practical side of this book. We find that in verse 10. That in the dispensation (plan) of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him. There is God’s purpose and Paul goes on to tell us that this purpose has always been necessary because of sin. In chapter 2 we will find that he tells us about the problems that harass the mind and the heart of man, and how they are due to the fact that (v.2) the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: is controlling fallen man.
He tells us that God’s plan of redemption is necessary because of the Fall of man, and how that was proceeded by the fall of that bright angelic spirit called the Devil, who has become the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the prince of the power of the air. This terrible power is the cause of the enmity and the dilemma and the havoc that has been characteristic of the life of the human race. There is nothing new about this, it is all the result of sin and the devil’s hatred for God. It’s the loss of man’s true relationship to God. Man sets himself up as God and thereby causes all the disruptions and confusion in the world. However, we are shown how at the very beginning, even in Paradise, God announced His plan and began to put it into action.
The OT is an account of how God began to work it out. First, He separated unto Him a people called Jews. In their history we see the beginning of His purpose of redemption. Out of the wallow of mankind God formed a people for Himself. He then called a man named Abraham and turned him into a nation. There we have the beginning of something new. But then there was a great rivalry between the Jews and Gentiles, so one of the major themes of this Epistle is to show how God has dealt with this matter. The great theme here is that He has revealed Himself not only to the Jews but to the Gentiles; (v.14) the middle wall of partition has gone; God hath made both one (v.15). There is a new creation; something new has come into being; it is called the Church; and this work of God is to go on increasing, says Paul, until when the fullness of the time shall have arrived God will have carried out His entire plan, and all that is opposed to Him shall be destroyed.
Everything shall be united together and made one in Christ. That is one of the major themes of this Epistle. At first Jews only, then Jews and Gentiles, then all things. And all is to be done in and through Christ.
a. The Church. This all leads us to the other major theme, which is the Church. God’s purpose is seen most clearly through the Church, His great purpose of bringing together all nations in Christ. In her are formed different people, different nationalities, coming from different parts of the world, with different experiences, appearances, and yet all are one in Christ.
This is all what God is doing, until their shall finally be (2 Pet 3:13) a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness and Jesus shall reign for ever more.
Nothing is more encouraging and wonderful than to see the Church in that light, and to see, therefore, the importance and the privilege and the responsibility of being a member of that Church. It is because of this that we must live the Christian life; and so in chapter 4 and to the end of the letter, Paul emphasizes our walk which is expected of Christians because they are what they are, and because that in the plan of God, and they must manifest His grace in their daily life and living.
In Closing. Let me summarize them in a simple, practical manner. Why am I calling your attention to all this? It is because I am overwhelmingly convinced that our greatest need is to know these truths. We all need to look again at this glorious revelation, and to be delivered from our morbid pre-occupation with ourselves. If we but saw ourselves as we are depicted in this epistle; if we but realized, as Paul expresses it in his prayer (17-19), that we are to know what is the hope of our calling, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according t the working of his mighty power, WHAT a difference it would make!
Are you a miserable, unhappy Christian feeling that the fight is too much for you? And are you on the point of giving up and giving in? What you need is to know the power that is working mightily for you, the same power that brought Christ from the dead. If we but know that we are meant to be filled with all fullness of God we should no longer be weak and ailing and complaining, we should no longer present such a sorry picture of the Christian life to those who live around us. What we need, primarily, is to realize what we are, and who we are, what God has done in Christ and the way He has blessed us. We fail to realize our privileges.
Are greatest need is still the need of understanding. Our prayer for ourselves should be the prayer of Paul – (v.18). That is what we need. In this Epistle the exceeding riches of God’s grave are displayed before us. I ask you to look at them with me, and let us take hold of them and enjoy them. Especially in times like these, how vital it is that we should have some new and fresh understanding of God’s great plan and purpose for the world as the rest of the world wonders what the future will bring, what a privilege it is to be able to stand and look at this revelation, and see God’s plan and purpose behind it all and beyond it all. Folks, it’s not to be brought about by presidents or the UN but through people like ourselves. The world may ignore it, and even laughs and mocks at it; but we know for certain with the Paul that (v.21) all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, have been set beneath Christ’s feet. Remember, the Lord Jesus was rejected by this world when He came into it; they dismissed Him as this fellow, this carpenter; but he was the Son of god and the Savior of the world, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the One to whom (Phil 2:10) every knee shall bow, of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth.
Thanks be to God for the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the riches of his grace!