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Ephesians 2 v 1 - 10. "In Christ".
In the first chapter of Ephesians Paul spoke of God's eternal purpose, wherein all who are "in Christ" are "blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places." In chapter two Paul continues to enumerate these great blessings and further expand on what God has done for us in Christ. As we study this chapter we are sure to conclude that "the Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad" (Psa. 126:3 NKJV™).
Raised to Share God's Life.
The key words in both of the first two chapters are "in Christ". Paul begins chapter two by showing us what we were outside of Christ, before listing the benefits that are now ours by virtue of our union with Him.
1. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.
Before we came to know Christ we were dead in trespasses and sins, having no spiritual life. Hundreds of years before Paul wrote this epistle, the prophet Isaiah made the reason for this quite clear:
"But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" (Isa. 59:2).
Before we came to know Christ our sin separated us from God, and therefore His life. Without Jesus Christ in our hearts we have no life in us (John 6:53), for Christ is the life (John 14:6). That is, He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).
In the first chapters of Genesis, we read that God warned Adam that disobedience would lead to death. When Adam chose to disobey he began to die physically, but he died immediately in the spiritual sense, being separated from God by his sin. Ever since then, alienation from God has been the position of the whole human race. As Paul writes in Romans:
just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12).
When we receive Jesus Christ as Saviour, the sin which alienated us from God is taken out of the way, having been nailed to His cross; and so that we are reconciled to God (Col. 1:21 ; Rom. 5:10). In Christ we are "made alive", quickened by the Holy Spirit from spiritual death to eternal life (John 5:24). Being born of God and therefore alive to God, we can enjoy all the benefits of knowing Him and His abiding presence.
2,3. In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
In our previous condition of being alienated from God we lived "according to the course of this world." Every man and woman outside of Christ, without exception, follows this course, living as part of this sinful age. It is the universal condition of fallen man, which is why John writes that "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." (1 John 5:19 NKJVTM). The powers of darkness, led by Satan, are continually at work in the lives of those who are "disobedient" - that is, those who do not believe and obey the Gospel of Christ. Our sinful nature is such that it is subject to their rule. One might say that since fallen man has become alienated from God and Satan, too, is the enemy of God, they make suitable companions for each other; just as "birds of a feather flock together".
The fact that we were walking this path of enmity with God was clearly demonstrated by our actions, as rather than seeking to do God's will, we sought only to gratify our craving for sin. By gratifying the sinful desires of our bodies and minds we revealed our nature to be utterly morally and spiritually depraved. We were enemies of God (Col. 1:21), deserving His punishment -"objects of wrath".
4,5. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
But while we were still in this sinful condition, God loved us. God did not wait for us to change before He loved us, for He loved us when we were dead in sin and still His enemies, meritting His wrath. Paul describes God's love as "the great love with which He (God) loved us". It is a love for all the wrold, and can only be measured in terms of the gift it was prepared to give for us. God's love for sinners moved Him to send His only Son to die for the salvation of all mankind. Christ's atoning death displays God's mercy - that is, His kindness offered to the guilty. It is not by any good that we have done, but by His grace (undeserved favor) that we have been saved. Christ's death and resurrection are sufficient to raise all who believe on Him from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:25).
6. And raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
All those who are "in Christ" have been glorified together with Him; we share His risen life and have been made "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Since Christ came from heaven, He posseses a heavenly nature, and those who share His nature share citizenship of heaven with Him (Phil. 3:20). Jesus claimed while walking on earth, to still be "in heaven" (John 3:13), and so there is a sense in which the believer, even whilst still in the world, is not of the world, and sits in those same "heavenly places." Christ, being exalted to God's right hand, shares this same priveleged position with those who are joined to His body.
Saved to Share God's Grace.
7. That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
God chose to reveal Himself to us in a way that would prove His loving kindness, so that through eternal ages we might thank and worship Him accordingly. The all-surpassing riches of God's grace will be an unquestioned fact in heaven for this reason: that we are there. We who were once His enemies are now made His sons; we who were once dead in sins are now alive with Christ eternally; the Church will be the show piece of God's grace throughout all eternity.
8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
Here is the wonderful news of redemption's story: "by grace you have been saved". God's salvation is offered freely to all on the basis of Christ's work and is received individually by faith in Him. Nor can anyone can boast that they have faith to be saved, for that faith itself is the gift of God; being graciously created in the heart of those who are receptive to hear His Word (Rom. 10:17).
God, through the Gospel, is reaching out to all men in love at all times. At some point during every life, God will bring each person to a point of decision concerning His salvation. The Holy Spirit will graciously move on the heart of those who are open to His Word to enable them to believe; yet those who accept salvation have nothing to boast in. At the same time, those who refuse God's offer of mercy have no one but themselves to blame.
9. Not of works, lest anyone should boast.
No one can boast of having earned salvation, for it is offered freely to all, and we are all completely undeserving. Paul writes to Titus that it is "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy he saved us" (Tit. 3:5).
What we may boast about, however, is the One who saved us. When we were completely unable to help ourselves, God intervened in the person of Jesus Christ, who is both the giver and embodiment of the grace of God; "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
Created to Share God's Nature.
10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The new creation is the work of God realized in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God has created us again in His image so that we might live as He wants us to, producing the fruits of obedience. These are the "good works" which He has created us to do. Those who continue to live in sin whilst claiming to be God's workmanship (born again) are deceiving themselves.
He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4 NKJVTM).
The words "prepared beforehand" reveal that God has a will and purpose for every individual Christian's life. As God said through Jeremiah:
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11).
It is as we learn to walk in obedience that these plans are fulfilled in our lives.
Ephesians 2 v 11 - 22. God's People - A New Creation.
In this passage Paul examines particularly how the distinction between Jew and Gentile (non - Jew) has been done away with in Christ.
No Distinctions Among God's People.
11. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands.
In the Old Testament we read the historical account of how God brought the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and made them His own people. He gave them His laws and made known to them His promise to send Christ. Before Christ's coming those of us who were not born into the nation of Israel, and were not circumcised (the sign of the covenant relationship between God and the Jews), were not, and could not be, part of God's people.
Paul, always eager to defend the truth of the Gospel, refers to the Old Testament practise of circumcision as that which is "made in the flesh by hands". There were many Judaisers in Paul's time, who argued that Gentile converts should be circumcised and obey the law of Moses, a practise which Paul insisted was entirely unnecessary. Under the New Covenant, circumcision no longer counts for anything, but only a new creation.
12. That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Before Christ came, those outside the commonwealth of Israel had no claim to the promises of God and no relationship with Him. The Jews, on the other hand, were privileged in many ways. God had revealed Himself to them by His word and given them a means of approaching Him for worship. Paul lists their privileges in full in Rom. 9:4 - 5, and these are explained beneath:
Who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Rom. 9:4-5 NKJVTM)
The Jews are the descendants of Jacob (Israelites) to whom God made certain promises, including "I will make you a great nation, and I will give your descendants this land" (Gen. 28:13 - 15).
With great power God brought Israel out of Egypt to be His own special people (the adoption).
Because of this, God was called their God (the Glory - Psa. 106.20).
God had entered into covenants with Israel. He promised Abraham to give his descendants the land and to be their God. This covenant was attested by circumcision (Gen. 17:4 - 14).
The covenant at Sinai (Ex. 24:7 - 8) was to be ratified by their keeping of the law; including keeping the Sabbath as a sign that Israel was separated for the Lord (Ex. 31:13 - 16).
They received the law itself, the living Word of God, which taught them God's standard of holiness and revealed the way of salvation.
They were given the service of worship via the priesthood in the tabernacle and later the temple.
Mathew Henry says, "while other nations were worshipping and serving idols of their own invention, the Israelites were serving the true God in the way of his own appointment."
The many promises were given by God to His people, and in particular the many prophecies by which God made known to them the manner of Christ's coming.
They had the faith and example of their ancestors to follow.
Most importantly of all, it was from Israel that Christ came, according to the flesh - the one whose name is Immanuel - God with us, the forever blessed God. This was the reason why the nation of Israel was chosen and separated.
God had not given these privileges to any other nation (Psa. 147:20). Those nations who did not have the Scriptures may not have been aware of the promise of Christ's coming, and even if they had been it was generally supposed by the Jews that God's blessings, and the coming Messiah, would be for Israel only.
13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Now, through Jesus Christ, a new way of approaching God has been revealed for Jew and Gentile alike. We were far from God and dead in sin, but have been reconciled and brought near to God; not by any religious ritual, nor because of our national identity; but by the blood of Christ; that is, His life willingly offered for the sin of the whole world. Therefore the differences of race and religion are no longer relevant - they are nullified by the cross.
The covenant which God made with Israel was only until Christ came. The Old Testament scriptures revealed how Christ would bring a new covenant through which the blessing of God's salvation would be made available to the whole world. God promised Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3).
(For an Old Testament reference to this New Covenant see Jer. 31:31; and for its being available to the whole world see Isa. 49:6).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul takes greater pains to illustrate the same truth, which in Ephesians he states far more simply. Since all (Jew and Gentile alike) have sinned, all need to be reconciled to God through the death of His Son.
14. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.
Christ is our peace, the unifying force between Jewish and non-Jewish believers. Through Him we both have equal access to God. Christ has abolished every distinction of race, age, and gender. (Gal. 3:28).
The Old Covenant was made with Israel, but the New Covenant is open to all nations, that the peace which Christ has obtained through His cross between man and God might result in peace between believers of every background.
In the temple of Jerusalem there was a wall separating the court of the Gentiles from the inner courts (where only Jews were allowed to enter). The penalty for a Gentile entering the inner court was death. Paul himself narrowly escaped death on one occasion when he was falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into this inner court (Acts 21:28).
This distinction between Jew and Gentile has been forever annulled "in Christ".
God's Eternal People.
15,16. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
The division which once existed between Jew and Gentile was caused by the fact that the old covenant, or ceremonial law, was only made between God and the nation of Israel. But now, since the new covenant is not based upon the old, the barrier against Gentiles entering His presence has been forever removed. (Heb. 10:19).
By making a new covenant, God has made the first obselete (Heb. 8:13). Christ fulfilled all the righteous demands of the law throughout His life; and then on the cross He willingly took the punishment which it proscribed for law breakers. In this way He has nullified the law's power to condemn those who are justified by faith in Him.
It is no longer on the basis of our observance of the law, but on the basis of Christ's shed blood that both Jews and Gentiles are admitted into the presence of God. In making this new covenant, God purposed to make one new people for Himself, taking men and women from every country and transforming them into new creations in Christ Jesus. Christ, the basis of our peace with God (Col. 1:20), is also the source of peace between fellow believers.
17. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
It was to the Gentiles "who were afar off", as well as to Jews "who were near", that Christ came with a message of reconciliation and peace between God and men, brought about by faith in His blood.
18. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Whilst it is the blood of Christ which makes our access into the presence of God possible, it is the Holy Spirit who makes it tangible. Upon our initial faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit makes us children of God. So although Christians may be at different stages of spiritual growth, they remain equal in their relationship with God, for all are equally sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26), and all have been given the same Spirit to drink (1 Cor. 12:13).
It was the fact that God had poured out His Spirit (with the accompanying miraculous signs of tongues and prophecy) on the other Gentile believers at Cesarea which finally convinced the elders at Jerusalem that God had "granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18).
Since the inclusion of the Gentiles to the Church was so recent an event, one can well appreciate the importance of Paul's teaching on the subject and the reason why he gave it so much prominence in his letters.
19. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
Those who believe in Christ are no longer foreigners but are joined together as part of God's people. Bruce says that non-Jews who believe "are not merely suffered to be together with Israel, but are equal ranking citizens with all equal privileges as those Jews who believe."
Paul uses three pictures to illustrate the unity of all believers:
We are "fellow citizens" of the heavenly city. The "New Jerusalem" is a body of people who have become new creations by faith in Christ. By faith, Abraham looked forward to the inauguration of this city (Heb. 11:10), as did Moses (Heb. 11:26). All who believe in Christ qualify to receive full rights as citizens of this city.
Being sanctified by Christ Jesus, every believer is a "saint" or "sanctified one". Paul informs the Christians at Philippi that "our citizenship is in heaven" (Philip. 3:20).
As the "household" or "family" of God, we are all born of the same Father, being equally first born sons (Heb. 12:23). In spite of our sins and failures, as members of our Father's household we treated as His children and not as His enemies! To have a place in God's family means eternal security, for Jesus said, "a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever" (John 8:35).
The fact that we are members of the same family brings a unity greater than our differences, whether of age or ability (Eph. 4:4 - 6).
A good friend told me of his boyhood days in Sheffield, England. It seems that almost every day he fought with his younger brother for some reason or another. But whenever anyone else dared to hurt the younger brother, my friend would rush immediately to his defense. When asked why this was so, he replied "the family is bigger than the quarrel!"
Paul's message of unity still brings hope to a sadly divided Church. The family of God really is "bigger than the quarrel."
20. Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
We are all built together by God to be a holy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit - a place in which God will dwell eternally (Rev. 21:3). God's eternal purpose was to redeem a people that would be His forever, and that purpose is being accomplished by Christ. Just as a building cannot stand without a foundation, so we could not be part of God's building if it were not for Christ's redemptive work. The existence of the whole building depends on Him, therefore He is the Chief Cornerstone.
After Christ's ascension to heaven, God committed the making known of His salvation firstly to the apostles and prophets. By proclaiming it, they carried God's purpose further forward towards its completion. Only in this sense are they are described as those who laid the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11). But the Gospel is still being proclaimed and the Church continues to grow with new believers added every day, each one becoming a living stone in God's Temple (1 Pet. 2:5).
21. In whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
The Temple of God grows like a living being. Paul later develops this idea, describing the Church as the "body of Christ", with every Christian being part of that body; a body created and held together by God, with every part in its proper place (1 Cor. 12:24).
22. In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Every individual believer finds his or her place in this living building, which is Christ's Church. If you are a born again believer, then you are part of this body and have within it a particular place or function ordained by God.
It is in this building, the Church, that God has chosen to dwell; and not only in some future day, but amdist all the problems of our present lives, God dwells among His people. As Bruce says, "it is not in any tangible structure, but in the midst of His people, that God makes His dwelling-place on earth."
The tangible presence of God within His Church may correspondingly be considered in terms of the Church's dwelling in God.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psa. 46:1 NKJVTM).
LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations (Psa. 90:1).
Only in heaven will the wonder of God's dwelling in and among His people be fully and finally realised.
Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God (Rev 21:3).
Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk