A New Race of Human…Commentary on Ephesians, Pt. 1

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series A New Race of Human

His purpose was to make in Himself one new man (the Church) out of the two (Jew and Gentile), thus making peace and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which He put to death their hostility. (Ephe 2:15-16)

The history makes it so clear. God and humans simply could not dwell together. When they tried, our sin eventually drove God away, lest He destroy us. For a time He did OK as long as He kept Himself locked up in that little room they called the Holy of Holies. But all during that time, only one man, the High priest, could visit there and him only once a year and then only after great ceremonial preparation. Some say they actually tied a rope around the High Priest’s ankle so they could pull him out of there if he did anything wrong and God had to destroy him. Even that eventually failed and it wasn’t the kind of relationship God wanted with His children anyway.

In order to dwell in the presence of God, we have to become as perfect as God is, otherwise it won’t work. God knew all this before the beginning of time, of course. He didn’t try to live with us so that He could see if it would work. He did it so we would see that it can’t. We had to conclude, as God has always known, that there’s no circumstance under which sinful humans can exist in the presence of a Holy God. He knew that until we did, we wouldn’t come to Him for a remedy.

The Epistle to the Ephesians outlines God’s remedy for our dilemma like no other document. It was written to believers in one of the strongholds of paganism in the Middle East. Ephesus was home to the Temple of Diana / Artemis, an edifice so remarkable that it required 220 years to complete. The city was populated on almost every street corner by healers, magicians, and fortune tellers from every imaginable religious persuasion. Paul had spent two years there preaching and teaching, developing a thriving Christian community of which John would later be the Bishop.

Paul wrote the letter from a Roman prison cell in 60 AD specifically to expand the horizons of the believers in Ephesus to help them get a better grasp on the magnitude of God’s Grace, and a clearer picture of the church’s destiny.

Many of us have a view of Jews in Biblical times as being arrogant, suffering from superiority complexes caused by their favored position as God’s chosen people and their belief that their own righteousness had saved them. It’s been said that if Christians truly understood the scope of the promises detailed in the Book of Ephesians, we’d be even more so. This view of the extraordinarily blessed Church in the Heavenlies is simply unparalleled in Scripture.

Let’s Get Started

Following his greeting, Paul launched directly into a declaration that, in the words of Martin Luther, carry us to “the most sublime heights of New Testament worship from eternity past to eternity future.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory. (Ephe. 1:3-14)

Sometimes called the Doxology of Ephesians, the above is all one sentence in the Greek and begins with blessings we’ve received through the father (Eph 1:3) continues with those that come through the Son (Eph. 1:4-13a), and concludes with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13b-14). We were chosen before the creation of the world to be adopted as His children. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and by His grace, our sins have been forgiven. At the moment we first heard and believed the Gospel, the promised Holy Spirit was sealed within us and our inheritance was guaranteed. These blessings are for all who come to faith, Jew, and Gentile alike, and from God’s perspective is an accomplished fact.

In these few verses, predestination and free agency are clearly reconciled.   The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is tied to our belief, the doctrine of Grace is credited, and the notion of eternal security is confirmed.  Still the most raucous theological discussions you’ll hear anywhere in the church center around whether these promises are true or not.

Do You Get It?

Paul then began to pray that the believers in Ephesus would be given the ability to comprehend all this.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephe.1:15-22)

Let’s Get Personal

Having told us what’s been done for us, Paul now gives us an understanding of how we, who up until we first believed had been children of the devil, came to be children of God.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

But 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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephe 2:1-10)

The power that energizes our salvation is the same power God used to raise Jesus from the dead and establish Him as the supreme authority in the Universe, Paul said. And now he makes the unbelievable claim that by this same power we too are raised up and have been seated there with Him. Not will be, but have been. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, with authority over any power you can name, and we’re right there beside Him!

How Can This Be?

This is so that God can demonstrate the incomparable riches of His Grace to the ages yet to come. By accepting the pardon He purchased with His own blood, a pardon that expunges the record of all your sins, past, present, and future, you have become God’s work of art, the very highest example of His creative capability. (See also Colossians 2:13-15.) For all eternity you will be on display to all who came before and all who will come after, a living testimony to the incomparable riches of His grace. This is the good work we’ve been prepared for!

As hard as it was for those of Jewish heritage to comprehend this, the notion was absolutely beyond anything the Gentiles had ever imagined, even in their wildest dreams. To be forgiven for past sins was hard enough to understand. What had they ever done to deserve that? (At least the Jews had tried to keep God’s Law.) But then to be forgiven in advance for present and future sins, how could that happen? But wait, there’s even more. Forgiveness of our sins just brings us back to even. Now He’s adding incomprehensible blessing to the mix. Blessing that effectively makes us co-regents with the Lord Jesus in ruling the Universe. No way.

Yes way. We who were far away have been brought near. We who were foreigners to the covenant, without hope, and without God, have been given citizenship through the blood of Christ. We who were strangers and even enemies have become more than friends. We’re brothers in the family of God. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away (Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (Israel). For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephe. 2:14-22)

With that Paul has informed us that both The Father and the Holy Spirit dwell within us. Jesus had already indicated that He dwells there too. (John 17:23). With this distinguished trio going everywhere we go doing everything we do, it’s no wonder Paul felt compelled to provide a 3 chapter directive on how we should behave. (Ephe. 4-6) But we’ve got a lot more ground to cover before we get there. See you next time. 08-01-04