Ephesians

Extended Benefits

“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Ephesians 3:1-6.

The Jewish story is now everyone’s story. We are all heirs of the same promise now through faith in Christ, the Messiah. We are all one family now, adopted by our Father in Heaven. This is why the Bible is the story of all mankind, and why it has impacted culture worldwide. All mankind has sinned and needs a Savior. And Jesus Christ was sent to take away the sin of the whole world, not just the Jews.

The Diverse United

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-22.

If you belong to Christ, you have no good reason for dividing into identity groups based on ethnicity, sex, or political affiliation. Such things are what the pagans do. Christ came to make peace, abolish hostility, and make us one identity: His.

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28).

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

Our Unbelief

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10.

In the divine perspective of Almighty God, who created the Universe and exists outside of time and space, your position and destiny were joined together with Christ. He knows the end of all things from the beginning. And He chose all mankind to be with Him forever through Christ. He sees it as done. All that is needed for you to experience it is to believe it. God’s grace is sufficient to forgive all sin for all time when faith is applied. It is also sufficient to enable us to fulfill all the works He has prepared for us when faith is applied. But it is our selective unbelief that causes us to live lives of partial obedience, partial blessing, partial healing and partial righteousness.

The old testament is full of examples of how people started in faith, but had bouts of unbelief that led them out of the path God made for them. The nation of Israel was saved when they killed the Passover lamb, put the blood on theirdoor posts, and followed Moses through the Red Sea on dry land. In 1 Corinthians 10 it is even said that they were all baptized into Moses through the sea. Moses represents Christ, and the parting of the sea represents baptism. All of this took faith in what God commanded through Moses. But when they reached the promised land, they dug in their heels and said they could not do it because there were giants in the land. Their unbelief shut out that entire generation for 40 years.

God has given us a kingdom that we are to express and establish on the earth. We are to do this by preaching the good news and making disciples. But too many of us are disobedient because of unbelief. We only believe in the God of some-day salvation, not present day victory and holiness unto the Lord. We are in the promised land now, but we do not convert and disciple God’s enemies. We merely coexist with them and slowly become like them.

Sunken Treasure

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:15-23.

Whatever happened to the Ephesians when they believed in Christ, it made an impact that Paul had heard about. This was the fledgling group of believers that he met in Acts 19, when he asked if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed.

“And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” (Acts 19:2-6).

I revisit that powerful encounter to point out that Paul was now praying for them to receive much more. Much more? How much more is there?? Apparently, there is quite a lot. Receiving the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophesying are only scratching the surface. Beyond that there is a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, etc. May we all want this, so that we will continue to be transformed.

Predestination

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:3-14.

Here is where I am about to run afoul of generations of theologians, entire denominations, and many religious publications. I don’t think predestination means what they think it means. And most important, I don’t think the New Testament, and Jesus Himself, agree with what they think it means. I will do the best I can to make the point in a couple of paragraphs, which is like reducing the Book of Psalms to a limerick.

To predestine simply means to plan. And God has planned lots of spiritual blessings, including eternal life, for every person on the planet. Every person? Yes. Because Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the whole world. And we were all chosen IN CHRIST before the foundations of the world. That is God’s plan. He has predestined all people to be saved. But people can opt out of that plan by unbelief. Even after you have believed.

Paul himself had already written that you can be cut off from Christ AFTER you were grafted in. (Romans 11:17-21). How? By unbelief. When we preach Christ, we are announcing that all of mankind’s sin has been forgiven IN CHRIST. The people who believe us are then IN CHRIST, where they have every spiritual blessing. They are then sealed (marked as with a signet ring, according to Strong’s Greek dictionary) with the Holy Spirit IN CHRIST.

Although Christ died for the sins of the whole world; although the whole world was crucified, buried, and resurrected IN CHRIST, only those who believe are going to receive the benefits that come with that. Stop believing, and we all know people who have, and you have opted out of what God has predestined for you.