the Benefits of Being in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-4)
Pastor Terry Inman
Today we begin a new study series in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It is full of timeless principles and practices of our faith. It’s God’s e-mail to us!
Ephesus (modern Turkey) was a world class Grecian city. It was a commercial costal port on the main highway to Rome. As the gateway to Asia, Ephesus was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. Much like the Bay Area it was a melting pot of humanity.
It was a place of wealth and luxury. The culture was given to the mystery religion of the Greeks. Their half human-animal mythical gods and goddesses were like mutated marvel comics. It was star wars on steroids. It was a city full of artisans, sorcerers, magicians, philosophers, temple prostitutes, and palm readers.
It was the center of worship of Diana the Roman name for Artemis. She was the mythical Greek goddess of fertility. Today there are few remains of the Temple built for her veneration. The size of two football fields, it was know as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
There was also a massive coliseum that became a gladiator’s graveyard. The facade of the city’s ornate public library stands today.
Paul invested his longest mission stay in Ephesus. He planted a great church then turned it over to Timothy and the local elders. His last visit there was very emotional. He knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. Acts 20.36-37 (NIV)
This church was Paul’s primary work in Asia. He spent some time there in prison for his impact on the economy. The sale of silver figurines of the Goddess Artemis fell off drastically as artisans and buyers listened to his teaching and became followers of Jesus. Acts 19:23-41(NIV)
Paul began teaching in a small Jewish synagogue. “He went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” Acts 19:8 (NIV)
When he was not longer welcome there he taught daily for two years in the school of Tryannus. As a result, “All who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” Acts 19:9–10 (NIV).
Paul’s ministry had such an impact that many of the magicians publicly burned their books. “The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” Acts 19:19–20 (NIV)
The brief messages addressed to the seven churches of Asia in the book of Revelation included one to the church in Ephesians. They were commended for their faithfulness to truth and purity. They were challenged to return to their first love. Rev. 3.2-3 (NIV)
Paul had established a mature powerful church. It was influencing the culture. This letter certainly contributed to churches understanding of God’s plan for them and their impact on the pagan culture.
Now imprisoned in Rome on the last leg of his life’s mission Paul writes this incredible letter to this church he established and loved dearly. Written somewhere around AD 60-62 this epistle clearly lays out the beliefs and behaviors of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Nations rise and fall, cultures come and go, temples become artifacts but this letter is testimony to the prophetic scripture declared by Peter.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. 1Peter 1.23-25 (NIV)
So this letter to the Ephesian followers of Jesus is an open letter to believers of all the ages. It like e-mail that arrived in your inbox today!
There’s clearly a part one and a part two to Paul’s correspondence. The first half of the letter is doctrinal the second half is practical. It’s about the beliefs and behaviors of our faith.
Both temples’ the center of pagan goddess worship and the Jewish synagogue were obviously in his mind. He lays out God incredible design for the invisible Church of Jesus Christ. It is infinitely more glorious than anything made my human hands. We are the temple built on Jesus Christ, home to God’s Holy Spirit.
The Greeks believed their image of Diana had fallen from the sky. Paul’s architecture is cosmic it fills the universe; it links all of heaven and earth.
So let’s go to the cloud and open our email. The opening two verses are the address line. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 1.1-2
Paul doesn’t hesitate to call himself an apostle. The title Apostle was first given by to Jesus’ to his disciples after he sent them as his messengers. It is a word often translated “sent ones”. It was also the designation given to the first missionaries. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas were sent out as Apostles to extend the kingdom on two continents.
Apostles were given authority to speak and act on behalf of Christ. They had been with Christ and continued the powerful work of Christ. There were some that questioned Paul’s claim to this calling because he was not one of the original 12 apostles. That’s why he says, Paul the Apostle of Christ, “by the will of God”.
He experienced the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ and was called to be an apostle when he was actually persecuting the church. “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” Gal. 1.1(NIV)
He also manifested the other powerful signs of an apostle. “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” 2 Cor. 12.12 (NIV)
By using this title he isn’t trying to impress with labels. He is simply stating where he gets his authority to author these life-changing words.
The recipients are also given a meaningful title. They are called “saints” the faithful in Christ Jesus. Saints are clean, pure and holy. We are not holy because of our external religious performance or perfections. Jesus Christ makes us inwardly consecrated through his cleansing sacrifice.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Titus 3.5 (NIV)
Paul adds that the saints are the “faithful in Jesus Christ”. These are the true believers that have exercised their faith in Christ. The great reformer John Calvin said, “No one is a believer who is not holy, and no one is holy who is not a believer”!
In verse two, the salutation is a blessing in two different languages and cultures. “Grace” is a Greek expression for God’s favor and “peace” is Hebrew for well-being. These blessings are from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
This pushes Paul’s pen into a litany of spiritual blessings we receive in Christ!Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: Ephesians 1.3 (NIV)
These spiritual blessings Paul is praising God for are not fairy-tales like the fertility goddess that fell out of the sky. These are gifts we receive in the heavenly realms in Jesus Christ. These are the benefits of being in Christ!
This is a big package to unwrap. His favor falls under three categories. We are preferred. We are restored. We are repurposed.
We are preferred. Do you know how if feels to really be a preferred customer? Not because you have the money but because you are treated with favor. Well that’s what goes on here. We are in first class in the heavens, chosen 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. Eph. 1.4-6 (NIV)
We are not an after-thought. Our Father purposely planned ahead to make a way for us to be reconciled to himself through the sacrifice of his own son. He adopted us into the holy family by his sovereign choice. Because he wanted to, because it pleased him, He chose us, he preselected us and He preferred us, at no cost to us. He just preferred to show us His favor!
We are restored. 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. Eph. 1.7-9 (NIV)
Redemption means to be repurchased or reclaimed. It is to be fully restored and recovered. There is a cost. The blood of Jesus was the purchase price that bought our forgiveness and our freedom.
It was an expensive gift! We are very valuable to Him. Paul says, God was lavish but not foolish. This over-the-top grace wasn’t irrational it was intentional. It was done with “wisdom and understanding”. God knew what He was doing. He has an incredible plan!
We are repurposed. To that ancient culture taken up with mysteries he redefines their secretive codes as God’s reveled destiny for man. 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. Eph. 4: 9-10 (NIV)
We may not always understand what is going on in our daily lives or in our chaotic world. But God is making sense of it all. He not overwhelmed by anything. He is as work, executing his plans for an orderly universe ruled by his Son. What is really incredible is that we will all have a role in it.
The apostle writing from imprisonment wasn’t intimidated by Rome’s oppressive power or even his own emanate death. He says there is an intelligent and fully ensured plan and purpose for his preferred people.
He refuses to be a victim of the temporal he is part of an eternal hope. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined (prearranged) 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.” Eph.1.11-12
Now don’t let the Apostle’s run-on sentences and dangling modifiers bog you down he is bringing this all down to a phenomenal conclusion
You are God’s preferred, restored, repurposed person. You are part of his plan. You are his saint. His made holy one. All you have to do is believe his word. Put your faith in Jesus.
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. Eph. 1.13-14 (NIV)
Simply stated, when we put our trust in Jesus Christ. When we choose to follow him. God deposits his Holy Spirit in us. That seals the deal. We are guaranteed all these spiritual blessings in Christ.
We are preferred, restored, and repurposed in Christ. Bless You!