Stephen Caswell © 1999
Our Position in Christ
The story is told of a wealthy London businessman who searched many years for his runaway son. One afternoon he was preparing to board a train to London when he spotted a man in ragged, dirty clothing begging for money from passengers along the station platform. His first impulse was to avoid the beggar, but there was something strangely familiar about him. When the beggar approached and asked if the man could spare a few shillings, the businessman realized he had found his long lost son, crying " A few shillings? you are my son - everything I have is yours! "
That pictures many Christians who are ignorant or negligent of their spiritual resources. They are children of the King yet live like spiritual paupers. Ephesus was a wealthy city when Paul wrote this letter. It was considered to be the bank of Asia at that time. The worship of the goddess Diana helped the city acquire much wealth through tourism and the sale of idols. However, Paul explained to the Ephesians that they had far greater wealth in Christ. He wanted them to draw on their inheritance and use it for God's glory.
I. The Apostles Purpose
i. The Author
There is no doubt about who wrote Ephesians. Ephesians 1:1a Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God. The apostle Paul wrote this letter. An apostle is one sent with authority. Paul says that he received his Apostleship from God. He had divine authority to instruct them.
ii. The Assembly
Ephesians 1:1b-2 To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Who were these Ephesian believers? How was the church in Ephesus started? In Acts 18:19-21 Paul passed through Ephesus whilst returning from his second missionary journey. He stayed a short time and preached the gospel. The Jews desired him to stay longer, but he couldn't since he wanted to reach Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. However, Paul returned to Ephesus on his third missionary journey and spent 3 years ministering to this large city ad 53. [20:31]. All who dwelt in Asia heard the gospel because of Paul's ministry [19:10]. Many people believed the Gospel turning from the goddess Diana to the Lord. Paul performed numerous miracles in this place and cast out many evil spirits.
In ad. 62 Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church. The Christians at Ephesus are firstly called saints, then the faithful. The word saint does not mean a dead person who has been canonized because of good works and miracles. The word hagios from which we translate holy or saint means some one or something set apart for God. This refers to believers consecration to God. All believers are saints; set apart for God's use. When God saved us, He did so that we might serve Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. The word faithful speaks of trust and fidelity. Believers should be loyal to God in whom they have placed their faith. Paul says, to the saints who are in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus. They lived in Ephesus, but they were alive in Christ Jesus. He had given them new life, a new sphere in which to dwell.
Paul gave the Ephesians a greeting of grace and peace. This is because they had believed the Gospel. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. The Ephesian Christians had received God's gracious salvation. When people receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, He reconciles them to God. They are no longer at war with Him but now have peace. He saves them from sin and certain judgment. Romans 5:1 Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Relief of Forgiveness
In certain places on Alpine summits the way is peculiarly dangerous on account of the frequent falling of avalanches, and the traveler walks in dread of instant destruction. Samuel Rogers puts it this way: Then my guide lowering his voice addressed me: "Through this gap and On, say nothing; lest a word, a breath, Bring down the winter's snow, enough to overwhelm An army." Thus when alarmed by an awakened conscience people walk in fear from hour to hour, trembling lest a thought or word of sin should bring down on them the impending wrath of God. Happy is he who has traversed that awful gap of terror and now breathes freely because their sin is pardoned and therefore every apprehension is removed.
iii. The Aim
Why did the Apostle Paul write his letter to the Ephesians? Where was he when he wrote the letter? Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome. Although Paul was in prison he still cared for the Churches that he had planted. He wrote to encourage the Ephesian believers and instruct them concerning the Christian life. Paul particularly wanted them to know just how rich they were. The word riches is used five times along with inheritance and fullness, both four times. Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, The word blessed or blessing is used three times in verse 3. Paul doesn't offer his usual thanksgiving for the recipients here. He does this in verses 15-16. Why? Because as Paul wrote of God's blessing on the Church he was overwhelmed by God's grace to us. V 3-14 are a hymn of praise to God for His many blessings.
Like the chorus says, " To God be the glory for the things He has done. " All three members of the trinity were involved in man's salvation. Verses 3 to 14 forms one long paragraph where Paul describes the work of the Godhead in our salvation. Verses 3-6 speak of, The Father's Selection, verses 7-12, The Son's Sacrifice and verse 13-14, The Spirit's Seal. Each of these sections closes with, to the praise of His glory. Specifically how has God blessed us? Paul describes this as he now talks about the:
II. The Fathers Selection
i. He Chose Us - This speaks of our Salvation
Ephesians 1:4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
a. The Father Chose Us In Christ
Verse 4 speaks of God's election of people for salvation. God chose us, we did not chose Him. No one seeks the Lord. God seeks the sinner. Why did He choose you and I and not others? Why are some privileged to receive God's grace and others aren't? This is a very complex question and one that we struggle with because of our finite minds. God is infinite and He has no struggle with this issue. God in His sovereignty chose to save some, although He was obliged to save none. However man is responsible in all of this. He must obey the gospel to be saved.
God's Sovereignty and Man's Will
"An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty. On board the liner are scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port. Both freedom and sovereignty are present here, and they do not contradict. So it is, I believe, with man's freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God's sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history." All the while people too make choices concerning Jesus Christ the Savior.
The Gospel is centered in Jesus Christ. In fact it is in Jesus Christ that the Father chose us. Those who are saved, are saved through Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus Christ are lost forever. Acts 4:10,12 “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” God's sovereignty and human responsibility are two sides of the same coin. Both are taught in the Scriptures, both are correct.
God chose to save people through Jesus Christ. Was God's choice made on the basis of the response He knew people would make? This is possible. 1 Peter 1:2 says: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: God does know how people will respond beforehand. But one thing that is for certain from all of these verses, no one will be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. God knows beforehand those who will be saved, but they are still born again of the Holy Spirit through their obedience to the Gospel. This enables them to have their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ. Christ promises to save all who call upon His name. This phrase in Christ is used through out Ephesians. God's plan of salvation is worked out through Jesus Christ.
b. The Father Chose Us Before Time
For God to choose us before time proves He knows all things. He knew that man would sin and yet He chose to save us. He also knows those who will obey the Gospel and those who will reject it. Since the choice was made before time it shows God's great love and concern for mankind. It also highlights His grace, since He chose us before we could do anything that might arrest His attention for good or bad. His choice was made simply on the basis of grace.
c. The Father Chose Us For Himself
God chose to save us that we might stand before Him in love. He has planned that we might spend eternity with Him, before Him. This is man's privilege, not God's. Yet He longs to bless us by sharing eternity with us. God wants to reveal himself to us. The basis of this new relationship is love. Only those who love the Lord will be able to stand before Him. Sinners cannot stand.
d. The Father Chose Us For Holiness
Because God chose us for Himself, it is only natural that He wants us to be holy. God is holy and hates sin. Therefore His people have been chosen for holiness. The word translated holy here is the same word translated saints in verse 1. Saints are set apart for God's use. The negative way of saying this is that we should be without blame. God's saints are without blemish or fault.
But not only did God choose to save us
ii. The Father Also Adopted Us - This speaks of Sonship
Ephesians 1:5 Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
The word predestined means to ordain beforehand, to predetermine. Salvation wasn't a last minute response to man's sin. God planned this all before. He wasn't surprised when sin entered the world, He knew it would happen and planned accordingly. God worked out this plan in eternity past. Having chosen to save us through Jesus Christ, the Father's plan included adopting us as His children. When God saved us He transferred us from being His enemies to being His subjects. But through adoption we become members of His own family. Again God has done this through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
When we believe in Jesus Christ we are born into God's family through the Holy Spirit. But a child cannot draw on his inheritance. So God also adopts as sons of God so that we can draw on His wealth immediately. We inherit this wealth by faith and invest it by works. Galatians 3:26, 29 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. It pleases God to adopt people into His family. He wants to make us rich. The last part of the verse says, according to the good pleasure of His will. God's plans for His creatures is always for their best interest. But He also knows that only those in a right relationship with Him can enjoy this blessing. Man was made to serve God and enjoy Him in doing so. It is God's will that all His creatures might know His blessing but He will not force people to come to Him. They must choose this themselves. You can become a part of God's family today. By receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior you become a child of God.
iii. The Father Has Accepted Us - This speaks of Security
1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
God has accepted us in Christ. The word accepted literally means begraced. This carries the idea of enduing with special honor, to highly favor, to make accepted. There is nothing that man can do to make himself acceptable to God. Salvation is totally a work of grace, God's undeserved favor. 1500 years of law didn't bring man any closer to God. Our righteousness' are like filthy rags in His sight. We are accepted by God for Jesus' sake. Jesus Christ, is the Father's Beloved Son. The word Beloved means to delight in, to esteem, to value. The word Beloved is a perfect participle. Jesus is the Beloved now and always will be. This means that we will always be accepted too. The Father is totally satisfied with His work of salvation. Anyone in Christ is eternally secure. They will always be acceptable to God because of Jesus.
Romans 8:28-32 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Blessings That Just Keep Coming
A benevolent person gave Mr. Rowland Hill a hundred pounds to dispense to a poor minister a bit at a time, thinking it was too much too send him all at once. Mr. Hill forwarded five pounds in a letter, with only these words within the envelope, "More to follow." In a few days' time, the good man received another letter; this second messenger contained another five pounds, with the same motto, "And more to follow." A day or two after came a third and a fourth, and still the same promise, "And more to follow." Till the whole sum had been received, the astonished minister was made familiar with the cheering words, "And more to follow."
Every blessing that comes from God is sent with the same message, "And more to follow." "I forgive you your sins, but there's more to follow." "I justify you in the righteousness of Christ, but there's more to follow." "I adopt you into my family, but there's more to follow." "I educated you for heaven, but there's more to follow." "I give you grace upon grace, but there's more to follow." "I have helped you even to old age, but there's still more to follow." "I will uphold you in the hour of death, and as you are passing into the world of spirits, my mercy shall still continue with you, and when you land in the world to come there shall still be more to follow."
What should be our response to God's glorious grace? We should be thankful and praise Him for His goodness to us. We didn't warrant anything except God's judgment and punishment. But God in His grace has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Do you give thanks for God's glorious grace? Let us continually be thankful for the riches of God's grace, His undeserved favor.
I. The Apostles Purpose
i. The Author
Paul stated he received his Apostleship from God. He had been given authority to instruct them.
ii. The Assembly
Paul started the church at Ephesus on his third missionary journey. Paul refers to them as the saints in Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus. The Ephesians had received the Gospel and place their faith in Christ. They may have lived in Ephesus but they were alive in Christ through obedience to the Gospel.
iii. The Aim
Paul wanted them to know how rich they were in Christ. Ephesus was a wealthy city in Asia but this wealth was nothing compared to the spiritual blessings they received in Christ.
II. The Fathers Selection
i. The Father Has Chosen Us - This speaks of Salvation
God has provided salvation for mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ. Have you received Him as your Savior? He will certainly save you if you ask Him to. God has provided the means to save you. But it will not happen automatically, salvation requires your obedience. You are responsible to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Have you made this choice?
ii. The Father Also Adopted Us - This speaks of Son ship
Not only has God saved us from our sins, He has adopted us into His family as sons that we might share His great riches. Are you drawing on the Father's resources or living like a pauper?
iii. The Father Has Accepted Us - This speaks of Security
God has also made us accepted in the Beloved. He delights in His children and esteems them to be of great value. We are loved by God and this will be our position for all eternity! Do you thank the Lord for His glorious grace? Do you enjoy this position as a child of God? Do you have this assurance in your life? If you have become a part of God's family then you can.
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.