Read Ephesians chapter 2 Last time we where together, we looked at Ephesians chapter 1. Thistime with Gods grace we will look at chapter 2 and see what God has in store for us. Let us look briefly back at what we saw in Chapter 1. Those of us who have trusted in Christ have been chosen in him to be adopted as children. He has not chosen who will or will not be saved, but those he knew through his foreknowledge would accept, he has chosen us to a life of holiness; to be conformed into the image of his Son. This is based on his work of redeeming us through his blood and forgiving our sins. We have the pleasure of seeing ourselves as already possessing our inheritance, first in the down payment of His Holy Spirit which is the “proof of purchase” until we are finally redeemed in the flesh. We did not thoroughly examine verses 15-23 of chapter one which comprises one sentence let us briefly look at these verses then move on to chapter two, our text for today.
15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 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: 22 and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
We can see that Paul is moved by the testimony of the Ephesians to give thanks for them and praying to God that they might better understand the power which lies behind our hope. This power was manifested to the world through His resurrection and ascension to heaven. He was not merely revived as Lazarus but resurrected. His life was different; we are told that the life was in the blood but the resurrected Jesus did not bleed. He said to put your finger in the nail prints and thrust your hand in his side but we read of no blood; there was no drops of blood on the road to Emmaus observed by the two disciples. When he appeared in the midst of the disciples and they feared he was a ghost, what did he say?“See, I’m just flesh and blood like you.” No, but rather, Luke 24:39 behold my hands and my feet, that it is myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. No blood, and of course there should be none; His blood was all shed at Calvary– he poured out His life for you and for me. Therefore, we can see that the power of the resurrection is different than reviving the dead to a natural life. Now for our text. Wherein in times past we all walked according to the course of this world Paul says we all you and me, that's all of us. When Paul says “We”, he included himself. And he was a good Jew. We can see from Philippians chapter 3 Paul’s qualifications. A Pharisee, a Benjamite, a student of Gamalial circumcised in the flesh, a Hebrew of Hebrews. If Paul would see himself as a person in need of reform when he was by worldly standards (at least Jewish worldly standards) man of high breeding, education, and religious standing, than which one of us, who know ourselves so well as sinners of very little worth feel that we did not indeed walk in a way that was according to the course of this world. Verse 1 of the chapterand you hath he quickened, has a series of words in your bible which are in italics. This means that these words are not in the original text which the translators of the King James used for translation. And this is with good reason. If you examine the passage you will notice that there is no predicate in the sentence which runs all the way from verse one until the end of verse three. These italicized words are added for clarity. And they are just. Verse 5 repeats the statement and it is in the original thereby showing that the translators did not just pick out what they wanted to make the English make sense. We may feel that Paul, or perhaps we think of ourselves, as not too bad. But what standards are we going by? We are going by our own standards of what we think of as being good which is usually by comparing ourselves with others who we think are worse than we are. But we need to use a different standard to judge ourselves. A short story to make a point; – Lets say that you are trying to put a large steel beam in place and when you finally have it in place you measure and discover that it is measuring 2' 2"from the wall when it is just supposed to be 2' exactly! What are we going to do? Well, what we should do is re-connect our crane and pick the beam up and move it to the correct place. But that is a lot of work, so what we could do which is lot easier is to move the tape measure back a bit until it measures exactly 2'. Or you can take a stick, and line it up with the end of the beam and write on it with black magic marker 2’. “But,” you say “ how can you say its right when all you did is moved the rule to try and make it right? Moving the rule doesn’t make it right if its wrong! And neither does making your own yard stick make it right!” But I say, “All I’ve done is to change the standard.” We all know that that is foolish, and yet that is exactly what we are doing when we change our moral standard and say what was once wrong is now right! In Gods eyes things never change and what was once a sin is always a sin. While ordinances of the Old Testament may now be void because of the work that Christ did, sin is still sin even if we try to change the standard. Two feet is two feet no matter how I may move my tape measure around, the truth of what two feet is, is the same because it is based on a perfect standard. Truth in Gods sight is also true no matter what man may try to do in making a ruler that suits him better. That is because it is built on Gods ultimate standard of truth. And what Gods standard is made to do is help man to function as he ought to function. The problem is that man is incapable of functioning as he ought to: we would rather move the standard. Gods solution is different. Since we cannot live up to His standard, He made the way open by the work of His dear son, Jesus Christ. Anyway lets get back to our main topic for today. What exactly do we know about the Ephesians? Well we know that the Ephesians were one of the churches that Paul had much to do with in the book of Acts. We know that Paul was very much concerned with what would happen to the church in Ephesus when he was no longer there to guide them. His last statement to them was that grievous wolves would come into they’re midst in the near future. Paul's care for the Ephesians was as that of a father for his children. He thereby set the example for church leaders of the future. Any of us that have the pleasure of standing before Gods people to give the message of his word would do well to emulate Paul’s example. Now to be quickened is to be made alive; and the reason we had to be made alive is that we were “dead in trespasses and sins”. According to this, we were dead and now we live. Outwardly we look just the same. Indeed in various countries to acceptChrist will result in your physical death! Yet Paul says “you hath he quickened.” To fully understand what is meant by this, we must first understand how it is that we were dead. As already noted, physically, you were and are alive. And I believe that as children, we were also spiritually alive. David believed his first son through his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba , the one who died as a punishment would precede him into heaven. Lets read the passage. II Sam. 12:19-23 David had been fasting and lay all night upon the earth while the child lay dying. His grief was so apparent for this baby that when the boy finally died the servants were afraid of what David might do when he found out he was dead.
Vs. 19– But when David saw that the servants whispered David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Vs. 20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: Then he came into his own house, and when he required they set bread before him and he did eat. Vs. 21 Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? Thou didst fast and weep for the child while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. Vs. 22 And he said, While the child was yet alive , I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? Vs. 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
It seems apparent that David fully expected to see his son in glory and I believe that as that innocent child never had the understanding to accept or reject Jesus, that he would be under grace. Let us remember, that as under the new dispensation we look back to Christ’s work on the cross, under the old covenant, the believer faithfully looked forward to Christ through the ordinances. But at some point, had this child lived, he all others would have had to decide what to do. Eventually they (and we) all become accountable. Paul expresses this thought in Rom. 7:9. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. Paul became accountable and for himself, like the rest of us it was an account which he could not settle. Let us read further:
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
And let those gentiles among us who were without the law remember Paul’s words in Romans 1:19-20
19 because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; that’s in them, not to them for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 for the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and God head; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
We all know right from wrong, and we are all thus accountable and dead in our sins. But again remember; this was not a physical death; that is yet to come, if the Lord should tarry. It is a spiritual death. Yet Paul now declares, you hath he quickened; you were dead but now are you quickened. And how were you dead; how did we know that spiritual death? We were in trespasses and sins.
As Paul says “2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Our very life showed by its actionsthat we were indeed dead. We were not as I have said before merely struggling in sins but rather wallowing in them. Any shame we had was not because we did not want to be doing them, but was shame, because of our conscience, that we might get caught. Indeed has no one heard the expression that “speeding isn’t wrong unless we get caught?” If its against the law, and you speed, then you are a law breaker, whether you are caught or not. In today’s world, there is a subjective idea that there is no absolutes; no right or wrong. If I want do something I may unless it hurts someone else. But if we go further in that line, why is it wrong if I hurt someone else? If there are no rights or wrongs, then that hurting someone else is also not right or wrong. Of course anyone who believes this is the first to complain if you were to do them harm because of course, that would be wrong. It seems that this philosophy goes in just one way; my pleasure comes first. Back to the text. When Paul says our conversation he means our way of life. It shows what we believed and how we acted on what we believed. If you are a trained paramedic, and you see someone in distress, then you do what is necessary to help them; whether it be to help someone who is hurt or perhaps distraught after an accident. If someone like me happened on an accident seen, we could do very basic things, but that is all. A person who’s a paramedic would swing into action because that is what they are trained to do, and their automatic responses take over. The automatic response of the man who is dead to sin is to think of self! He has not got the Holy Spirit, so it is just the flesh which works in him; he fulfills the 3 desires of the flesh and of the mind. That is quite a statement, the desires of the mind. I think we could talk long about the desires of the mind, but at the end of the day all comes down to one thing; self. If we have the Holy Spirit, then we will have a desire to please God. But this still takes training, just as with the paramedic, we need to discipline ourselves to make our responses that please God automatic. I think a good training ground could be found in Philippians chapters two, three and four. Lets just skim through a few verses:
Chapter 2 fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better them themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in the fashion as a man he humbled himself, and became obedient unto the death of the cross. Go to chapter three, verse 13, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press on to the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. 17 Brethren, be followers of me and mark them which walk so as ye have us for ensample. 18 (for many walk , of whom I have told you often, and now even tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from hence we also look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Now let us read 4:6–be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known unto God. 7 And the peace which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
We could go on. Paul goes onto talk of what he has learned (vs. 11) and of what he has been instructed (vs. 12) and so forth. While were in that state, we were the children of wrath. But thankfully, God did not want to leave us in that state, His love for us that while we were those sinful children of wrath, he sent his Son to die for us. We were then quickened which is to say given life. After the first Adam was formed out the dust of the earth, God blew the breath of life into the man and he became a living soul. Likewise, while we are spiritually dead, God makes us alive by giving us the Holy Spirit. And as we read last time we were together, we are spiritually seated with Christ in heavenly places. Verse 7 teaches one of the reasons why he has done this for us. That in ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Let us let this sink deeply into our minds: part of his work was to show how great is his grace. As we said last time, all of this is his work. There is no room for boasting on our part. Lets turn for a moment to Romans chapter 3 staring at verse 27; where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes of the Gentiles also: 30 seeing it is one God, who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make the law void through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Simply put there is no place of boasting left for us. Our own works mean nothing other than the fact that others can see my faith by my works. They are also part of our growth process as we move towards Christ likeness. Further more it comes to mind about the parable that Christ told about the servant that came in from the fields after doing his days work and was expected to first prepare his masters meal before sitting down to his own meal. Afterwards there is no place of special gratitude for the servant as all he was doing is what is expected of him. There is also the story of a young man hired to watch the boiler as a threshing crew was threshing out the grain. After some time, the young man noticed that the temperature of the boiler was dangerously high. He warned the crew who shut things down and added water to the boiler to cool it down. During the dinner break the young man was telling everyone how good it was that he was there to spot the dangerous temperature. Finally his boss had enough of his talk and said plainly that all he was doing is what he was hired to do and should not expect a special congratulation for simply doing his job as everyone else was that morning? And so it is with us; when we succeed in living a righteous life, we are just doing what we were created in Christ to do. Shame on us if we be found not doing what is expected of us. Let us pray for the Spirits guidance to live as we ought to live. Now after saying that in ages to come, he would show the riches of his grace, he explains; 8 for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. Our salvation is Gods work not ours as we saw in chapter one. Some say “yes but we have work to do, we must believe.”True, but God shows a distinction: by grace, that’s the work and God has done the work, but “through faith” which is the channel of Gods work. Indeed, we believers are said to be “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” We are a new creation designed to do good. Therefore when we do good we should never be proud for we are just doing what we are made to do. Further more it is not our doing but the Spirit working in us to so his good will. Paul then calls on us to look at what we were.
11 Wherefore, remember, that ye being in time past gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in this world.
That is the description of us before our conversion, before we were made new creatures in Christ Jesus. 13 but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. What I would like to bring out is this: In the flesh there are two peoples; those who are circumcised and those who are not: the Jew and the gentile. In the spirit, there are also two peoples; those who are circumcised in the heart and those who are not. Those who are circumcised in the heart ( a spiritual circumcision) are comprised of both of the peoples for whom circumcision is or is not of the flesh, so that in the world today there are actually three peoples: those circumcised in the flesh, those uncircumcised in the flesh, and those circumcised in the heart. Or as scripture says: the Jew, the gentile, and the church of God. Let us look at some references:
Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskins of your heart and be no more stiffnecked. Lev. 26:41 If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they accept the punishment of their iniquity: 42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob and also my covenant with Isaac and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. Ezek. 44:7..ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised of heart and uncircumcised in flesh. Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Col. 2:11 In whom ye are also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Rom. 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God.
In these passages we can see Gods call to the Jew to move beyond the outward symbol of Gods covenant to an inward circumcision of belief and hope in Gods plan of salvation. In the temple was the court of the gentiles where those gentile who wished to worship could enter, beyond which point they were forbidden. Christ’s spiritual circumcision takes away the spiritual partition between Jew and gentile making a new man. Verse 14 of our text: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of the partition between us;15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in the ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; We can also see in the feast of Pentecost the same idea being expressed. Two loaves with leaven being brought together. Leaven often symbolizes sin in the scripture. These two loaves were brought together and waved before God. The church was born on Pentecost and it is apparent that this feast is showing these two peoples being brought together in their sin (remember the leaven) to become one new people before God. For hundreds of years the Israelis kept this feast, which I believe is the only one in which leavened bread was used, and did not realize the importance of this feast. This now brings us to a very important question: of which group are we? Which group are you.? We must all stand in judgment one day. Will we be judged for our rewards, or will we be judged as those whom the Lord has not known? Each and every person here today has to do something with the Saviour. We will all one day recognize him as Lord and bow the knee. Why not do it today while we still have the chance. If we put it off, we will still acknowledge Him as the one and only Lord of the universe, but it will be as the lost of this world departing to a Christ-less eternity in hell fire. Please don’t put it off until its to late. And so we see that Jesus united through his blood all of those who call upon his name and look to Him as Lord of their life, trusting in His work for the forgiveness of sins. 17 And [He] came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Its interesting that the text says he preached to us. How is that so? The Spirit uses His servants to preach to us; it is in fact the Lord preaching to us through them. And this wonderful work has been going on in a continuing fashion since the word was first spread. I don’t mean I some sort of apostolic succession as the roman catholic thinks (that all authority comes in a steady line down from Peter the popes, and their priests through their ordinations, but through the line of the Holy Spirit as the word is preached by his people; from the greatest evangelist down to the mouths of spiritual babes speaking in simple wisdom as led by the Holy Spirit. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;21 in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 in whom ye are also builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been working through his people since the days that Jesus walked on the earth proclaiming faith in him two thousand years ago. Please make sure that you are part of His building, then let us go from here and spread His light in this dark world while there is still time. Lets pray.