She had gone down in history as "America's Greatest Miser," when she died in 1916, "Hetty Green” left an estate valued at over $100 million. It was said she ate cold oatmeal to save the cost of heating it. Her son had to have his leg amputated, because she delayed so long in looking for a free clinic an infection had spread. Hetty Green was wealthy, yet she chose to live like a pauper. Eccentric? Yeah! Crazy? Maybe - but nobody could prove it. Mrs Green was so foolish that history says she died while arguing over a trivial subject.
Hetty Green stands as an illustration to some Christian's today. They have unlimited wealth at their disposal, and yet they live in poverty. It was to this kind of Christian that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Ephesus was located in Asia Minor on the western shore of modern day Turkey just across the Aegean Sea from Athens. Ephesus was a thriving port city of great commerce. A cosmopolitan city with a very diverse population. Within the heart of the city a great Roman temple to the goddess Diana, (Greek) or Artemus (Asian). Today there stand amazing ruins of that temple, that is considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. This Diana / Artemus, was a deity devoted to sexual perversion, she was worshiped by temple prostitutes, who nightly went into the city to raise money for their goddess.
Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul about 60 AD, and given to several churches in the area. Paul wrote this letter while he was under house arrest. Perhaps you remember that he had appealed to Cesar because he was beaten for his faith -- now Paul was under arrest for the crime of following Jesus Christ. From that place of captivity he pens out several of the Epistles in our bible, from that place of loosing his freedom he writes about the freedom we have in Jesus Christ.
Paul had visited the city of Ephesus twice (Acts 18/ 19). The first time was a brief visit on his first missionary journey, where he worked with his friends Priscilla and Aquila and leaving them there is Ephesus to continue a work for God. The second time he goes to Ephesus he finds many believers there and stays for over three years where he lays a great foundation for the church.
The church in Ephesus reflected the demographic of the city, it was a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, but all of them had come for backgrounds where they did not understand the grace of God, so Paul's letter is clearly divided into two parts.
First chapters 1-3 are doctrinal, then chapters 4-6 give our duty. Why that order? Its very important that we as modern day believers get this, Paul goes into doctrine first because if he started with practical life application, then it would become very burdensome. I all we had were the duty of chapter five - “husbands love your wives, wives submit to your husbands, salves obey your master.” If we only have rules without understanding of what you are/ and who you are in Christ, those rules would become such a burden. You might end up saying: “how can I love her – you don't know her” or “how can I submit to him, he as bum.”
But when you understand what we will see in the first three chapters of Ephesians, that we are alive in Christ. We are empowered by Christ, we are chosen by God, then loving our wives, submitting to your husbands, honoring your parents, being a good employee, or fighting spiritual warfare becomes not a burden, but a blessing.
Eph 2:4 ... Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.
So Paul begins this letter with doctrine so we might have a foundation of who we are in Christ. Doctrine so we might see how much God has lavished on us. Doctrine that tells us of God's great mercy and his wonderful grace. Then after giving us a foundation of right teaching, the Paul gives us the practical application so that when we serve the Lord, it is never a burden, but a blessing for we know who we are and what God has done for us.
READ THE TEXT EPHESIANS 1:1-2
Paul's salutation sets a foundation for the opening chapter as he tells us his calling as an Apostle is by the will of God. Notice what he says about who he is addressing Paul calls them Saints, living saints not dead guys who have been canonized by a group of Bishops. But living saints, who are the faithful church of Jesus Christ.
The Ephesian church had a few problems, later Jesus himself would send them a message in Revelation chapter two. That they were doing a lot of good things, feeding and caring for the needy, testing false prophets. Yet Jesus says to them, I hold this against you-- you have forsaken your first love. He tells them they need to go back to what they first held in priority. Go back to Jesus, go back to sound thinking, go back to the Spirit filled life and leave the dead life you are living. I think this drifting away from just loving the Lord is reflected in the first few chapters of Ephesians.
So Paul greets them with a foundation of Grace and Peace. Paul often uses those greetings, and he always puts them in that order. Because peace will always come from God's Grace.
READ THE TEXT EPHESIANS 1:3-14 --- LIVING SAINTS
Paul moves from his salutation into four important doctrinal points. Now some people think of the word doctrine, and they think, rules. Maybe when you hear the word “doctrine” and you think “boring.” Or you think - its not important. But Doctrine is not rules, the word Doctrine it means teaching – doctrine is a systematic way of understanding the teachings of our Lord and of the Apostles. Doctrine is not rules for living, doctrine is understanding of what is true. Think of doctrine as a foundation to build your faith upon.
Years ago there was a great line in a Peanuts cartoons. It is raining "cats and dogs" outside the window when Lucy asks a profound question. "Boy, look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?" When Linus, answers her with great truth. “A worldwide flood is impossible since Genesis chapter nine promises that God will never again flood the earth.” In relief, Lucy sighs, "You've taken a great load off my mind. . . ." Linus's turns to her and says: "Sound theology has a way of doing that!"
So sound theology, good doctrine has a way of bringing relief, and taking a load off of our hearts.
Paul's fist point of doctrine, is to take us to what Christ has done. “He has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing.” What does that mean? Every spiritual blessing? When God spoke to Abraham about his promises to him, he said: “Abe, count the stars if you can, so shall your descendants be.”
2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises , so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
It is important to know that in Christ, you have every spiritual blessing. Why? Because when things get tough, if your marriage is not going well, when your job is hard, when you health is failing – if there is spiritual warfare ---you can rest on the promises that God has given you in Jesus Christ. Promises like “I will never leave you”, promises like “draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” Promises like “where I am going you shall go also.” Wonderful promises, all come from doctrine of what Christ has done. That is what living saints understand.
One of the best cartoons I ever saw -- showed a pompous looking lawyer reading a client's last will and testament to a group of greedy relatives. The caption read: "I John Jones, being of sound mind and body, spent it all!"
When Jesus Christ wrote his last will and testament he blessed his church, and made it possible for us to share his spiritual riches. Instead of spending it all, Jesus Christ paid it all. His death on the cross and his resurrection make possible our salvation. Jesus wrote us into his will, then he died so the will would be in force. Then he arose again that he might become the advocate (lawyer) to make sure the terms of the will are followed!
This is the longest sentence in the bible, in it Paul names just a few of the blessings that make up our spiritual wealth. Two important concepts that Paul lays out for the church in Ephesus, and for us today.
1. CHOSEN & PREDESTINED
This is the doctrine of election. A seminary professor once said, "Try to explain God's election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your heart!" Sound doctrine, Salvation begins with God, and not with man.
John 15:16 (Jesus said) You did not choose me, but I chose you.
The bible tells us the men and women without God are lost / far from God- left to their own ways, no one seeks God rather -- God in his love seeks them. In fact Jesus said that was his mission.
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost ."
Notice how Paul words this: “That God chose us even before the creation of the world.” Doesn't that speak of how salvation is completely by God's grace and not on the basis of anything we ourselves have done. God chose us and he chose us for a purpose: “to be holy and without blame.” In the Bible, election is always unto something. God's chose is a privilege that carries a responsibility.
The big question seems to be “does a sinner respond to God's grace against his own will?” Personally I don't think so.
Warren Weirsby “ People do not respond to God's grace against their own will, they respond to God's call because God's grace makes him willing to respond.”
The mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility will never be solved in this life. Both are taught in the Bible – I believe both are true, and both are essential. Yet from our perspective they seem election and free will seem to be opposed to one another.
Dr. D.L. Moody said. “I'm so glad God chose me before I as born, because I don't think He would have chosen me after I've lived!” (I say amen!)
Lev 19:2 (God commands) “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
What was an impossible command from God, becomes possible only because of God's election. Wanting a holy people for himself, God knew he would have to choose them because as Romans 3 declares “There is none who seeks after God.”
The mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility may never be totally understood in this life yet I find both are real and both are essential.
Joshua say, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Jesus says, “Whosoever will, let him come.” Yet Jesus also said, “you have not chosen me, I have chosen you” Our text says: “We are chosen in him before the creation of the world.” How can this be? How can two seemingly opposing doctrines stand together and both be true? I like this example:
Those who walk through the doors of God's kingdom, looking above the door read the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:17 “Whosoever will, let him come.” Then walking through those doors, looking back on the old life left behind above the inside of those same doors we read the words of Paul. “Chosen in him before the creation of the world.”
What is the purpose of God's choice? V4 “That we might be holy and blameless in his sight.” Just like God spoke to Moses in Leviticus 19. First how Christ blessed us with every spiritual blessing - Election/ Chosen/ Predestined. The second word we see is.
Adoption is a wonderful thing. Think about worldly adoption, some of you in this room are adopted. You were chosen over all the others. Someone chose you, they chose to love you, chose to care for you, and chose to raise you, and because they chose you – you have become their heir. That is a small picture of God's adoption. When any man/ any woman is born again, when you give your life to Jesus Christ you become a child of God. A child -- not like a little baby-- but adopted as a full grown adult with all the rights of inheritance.
Biblical adoption has a two meanings, a present meaning and a future meaning. You do not get into God's family by adoption. You get into His family by regeneration, being born again. Adoption is God giving those who are born again, an adult position in the family. Why does God do that? So we can immediately claim our inheritance and enjoy these spiritual blessings Paul speaks about. A baby cannot use his inheritance but an adult can. What a great thing, you don't have to wait until you are an old dead saint to claim your riches in Christ. We are living saints.
The future aspect of adoption is found in Rom 8, in the glorified body we will have when Jesus returns. We already have our adult standing before God, but the world doesn't see it. When Jesus returns, your adoption will be made public for everyone to see!
The bible speaks of three purposes for God's predestination of believers.
First right here: “To be adopted as children-- according to his good pleasure and his will.
Second Rom 8:29 “To be conformed to the image of Jesus.”
Thirdly in V11 “That we might be to the praise of his glory as we represent him.”
I personally find no where in the scriptures where God has predestined anyone to hell. Yet I take great comfort to know that God chose me before the foundations of the world 1. To be adopted as his son-- 2. To be conformed to his likeness – 3.To live for the praise and glory of his name. So God in election has predestined our adoption guaranteeing our future inheritance.
We have considered two doctrinal issues. What Christ has done, and how Christ did it.
Eph 1:6 To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
God freely gives us his grace in Jesus. Remember our acronym for Grace? God's Riches At Christ's Expense! Freely salvation is offered to all who respond to the call of God. Then all who respond bring praise to the grace of God, to the name of God. It's a wonderful thing to think that you and I were created to bring praise to God. To worship God. Now some of you have a hard time with that.
John 4:23-24 (Jesus said) ...”A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth , for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit , and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth ."
What an amazing truth, that God is seeking after those who will worship him in spirit and truth. He is seeking out those who will lay down their lives here on earth and seek God with a life offered to him as a living sacrifice.
Rev 4:11 KJV Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things , and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Col 1:16... all things were created by him, and for him.
So what does your life of worship look like? What does your worship reflect? Are you a worshiper of God? Do you put the things of this world before God? Are you sitting at the throne of material blessings? Do you worship before the idols of lust? Are you following after the pursuit of power and fame?
It has been said everyone worships something. What you worship is the thing that defines your life, what you worship will be what you become in this life. So what are you worshiping?
Why did Christ choose you? Our text says “for the praise of his glorious grace.” God chooses us that his name, that his grace, might receive praise from his people -- and from the world at large. Peter said to some Christians who were undergoing severe trials.
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Three doctrinal points: What Christ has done, how Christ did it, and why Christ did this -finally.
Look at the important words we find in this section and we will see some of the spiritual blessings he has blessed the living saints with.
To redeem means "to purchase and set free." When Paul wrote this letter there were over 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, often they were bought and sold like we sell cars. Still someone could purchase a slave and set them free if they wanted, and this is what Jesus did for us.
1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
What you have in Christ is that you were a slave to sin, and now you have been redeemed.
The word forgive means literally means "to carry away." This reminds us of the Jewish Day of Atonement – on that day the high priest would send a scapegoat into the wilderness. First the priest killed one of the two goats and sprinkled its blood before God on the mercy seat. Then he confessed Israel's sins over the live goat, and had the goat taken into the wilderness to be lost.
What a picture of Jesus Christ who died to carry away our sins so they might never be seen again. Did you know that if Jesus is your Lord and Savior, there are no written accusations against you? All your sins have been taken away! When sin made us poor, grace makes us rich.
What we have in Christ. Redemption/ Forgiveness!
3. WISDOM/ UNDERSTANDING
The bible tells us that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God and that there is no one who understands God. But in Christ, with Jesus as your Lord, God imparts wisdom to those who follow him. Wisdom to know God, and wisdom to live a life pleasing to God.
James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Godly wisdom comes as Jesus Christ is your Lord.
What we have in Christ. Redemption/ Forgiveness / Wisdom and Understanding.
4. MYSTERY OF HIS WILL
The word mystery means a "sacred secret.” Things that were once hidden are now revealed to God's people. Believers are in God's "inner circle" Christians know the secret -- that God will one day unite everything in Christ. More then twenty one times the new testament takes what was a mystery and reveals it. Because of Jesus Christ things hidden from past ages are now revealed.
1 Cor 15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery : We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Col 1:26-27 The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery , which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
The ancients longed to see what we have seen, they longed to know what we know, in Jesus the mystery of God's will is revealed.
What we have in Christ. Redemption/ Forgiveness / Wisdom/ The mystery of his will.
5. SEAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. V11
The seal of the Holy Spirit is so important because it speaks of a finished transaction. To this day when legal documents are processed, they are stamped with the official seal to show the transaction is complete. A seal implies ownership/ speaks of security and protection -- so God has put his seal on his followers because he has purchased them as his own.
John 14:16-17 (Jesus said) ... I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
The Holy Spirit will be with the believer forever, although the scriptures say by our actions we can grieve the Spirit and move away from the blessings of the Holy Spirit, yet the Spirit does not leave us.
This sealing of the Holy Spirit speaks of authenticity. Just like your signature on the back of a credit card, attests to the genuineness of the card, so the presence of the Spirit proves the believer is genuine.
Rom 8:9 ...If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
It is not simply lip profession, or religious activity, or even our good works, but the witness of the Spirit that makes our profession authentic. The Spirit living in us makes us living saints.
Our text says the Holy Spirit is the deposit or the “Earnest.” That means "the down payment to guarantee the final purchase of some commodity or piece of property." Just like you might give a down payment on a home or a car, its earnest money. So the Holy Spirit is God's first installment to guarantee he will finish his work and eventually bring you to glory. But that word deposit or earnest can also mean "an engagement ring." The promise of something good that is coming.
What we have in Christ. Redemption/ Forgiveness / Wisdom and Understanding/ The mystery of his will/ The seal of the Spirit. Finally.
The church is called Christ's body, his building, and his bride, living saints, and living stones built by the master's hands. The church is the future inheritance of our Lord. We are "joint-heirs with him, and that means that he cannot claim his inheritance apart from us!
All those doctrinal words are for one purpose, “for the praise of his glory.” So are you a living saint today? Does your life bring praise to God? What does your life speak of the great things God has done? When you think about the important teachings of this things. When you see how much God has done, when you understand that salvation is of the Lord and not by works that we have done. Suddenly our lives are for his praise, for his glory, for praise of his glorious grace.
PRAY, INVITE, BENEDICTION, SING
Series: Ephesians -Through the Bible
(C) High Sierra Fellowship 2008