If God be for Us – A study of Ephesians
One New Man
After reminding the Ephesians that they had been “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Paul expresses yet another blessing: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (vs.12-13)
Like the Ephesians, we “gentiles” had no basis upon which to relate to God at all. We were aliens and strangers to His covenants, and doomed to wander through life in the dark prison of our own fallen nature. But the moment we bowed our repentant heart before the throne of grace and received Jesus Christ as our redeemer, we were made nigh to everything God has for His people.
We couldn’t earn enough money in a lifetime to buy such a privilege. We don’t have access to the covenants of promise because of our good looks, or the family we were born into naturally. It is a blessing beyond anything we could possibly muster. It’s available to us simply because we’ve partaken of His wonderful love.
How was such an unspeakable blessing accomplished? Because Jesus “abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances: for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (vs.15-16, 18)
This refers to the separation under the Mosaic law of the Jew and the Gentile. Jesus broke down that division of the two nationalities through His shed blood because it takes just as much of precious His blood to redeem a Jew as it does to redeem a Gentile. Therefore, all nationalities are made one, that is, equal in Him, and as far as God is concerned, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal.3:28) Every separating and distinguishing barrier has been broken down in Christ.
Consequently, we can’t excuse ourselves and claim that our nationality limits what we can receive from God, nor can we claim that our nationality provides an advantage for us. We can’t excuse ourselves, nor claim advantage because of where we were raised or where we are living now. Christ has broken down every “wall of partition” that man can contrive.
God is not making a new Jewish man, and neither is He making a new Gentile man. He is making of all the “twos” one new man. The Jew has no advantage over the Gentile and the Gentile has no advantage over the Jew. The rich have no advantage over the less fortunate, and the educated have no advantage over the unlearned: God is making one new man in Christ from every station of life and from every nation, tribe, kindred, and tongue on earth.
There is also just one Holy Spirit given to all nations to be our comforter and guide. There is not a Holy Spirit for Jews and another for Gentiles. Neither is He limited by our native language! There is just one Spirit by which we all have access to the Father.
What a blessing! We don’t need to go to Jerusalem to know God. We’re no longer excluded because of where we were born, nor by the circumstances of our birth. We’ve all been made “nigh” to God through the blood of Christ and consequently we can have boldness to enter into His presence because we’re part of that one new man He is making. Remember, the ground at the foot of the cross is level, and when you kneeled there, you had just as much accessibility to God as anyone else—regardless of their station in life.
The Household of God
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone;
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (vs.19-22)
Not only have we been made nigh to God by the blood of Christ, we’ve been made part of His household—His family! We’re fellow citizens with the saints of all ages! Such glorious status is not on the basis of our color, creed, race, or our nationality: it’s because of who we are in Christ. What a priceless blessing.
Citizenship of a country carries with it both privileges and responsibilities. We like to talk about the privileges of our heavenly citizenship, but we often shrink back from the responsibilities that go along with it. However, privilege without responsibility breeds contempt.
Not only are we citizens of the heavenly realm, God has chosen to build us together for His own eternal habitation! What a consideration!
This is the same God who spoke the word and light came out of darkness; it is the God who spoke another word and the sun and moon and stars filled the galaxies. This is the very God who drew the line on the seashores and told the thundering seas, “You can come this far and no farther.” It is the same God who will keep on creating through the ceaseless ages to come. This great God has chosen to build us together for His habitation!
There is something important to note about a house: it reveals the characteristics of the people who live in it. Because of this principle, God is not going to inhabit His house until it fully represents who He is. His house must be as holy, as pure, as eternal as He is. You and I are called to be His house, and consequently, everything He does in us and everything He provided for us is in preparation of building that habitation.
Have you ever meditated on that? Have you ever lain awake at night and wondered what it will be like to be completely filled with the God of the universe? We already have a foretaste and a vision of what it will be like because He put His Spirit in us. However, He will not fully move in until the house is as incorruptible and holy as He is.
Blessing after glorious blessing and unimaginable privilege is within our spirit because of who we are in Christ. We don’t deserve them, neither could we ever live long enough and earn enough money to purchase even one of them. They are ours through God’s fathomless grace and abounding love for us. What a marvelous God we serve!
After enumerating the blessings in the first two chapters, Paul inserted the entire third chapter of Ephesians as a parenthesis. In it he elaborated on the mystery that had been hidden from the previous ages about how God was making a new man of the Jews and Gentiles and how His covenant was being made available to the people of all nations. He again mentioned how he prayed for his readers that they could comprehend the glorious riches available to them, and that they would “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” and “be filled with all the fulness of God.” (3:19)
Having reemphasized the mystery related in the previous chapters, Paul plunged ahead in the fourth chapter and began writing about our responsibilities in Christ: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Eph.4:1)
The word “therefore” looks back on all the blessings, the provisions, the calling, the plan, the love, the mercy, the grace, and everything else God made available to us in Christ. In light of all those provisions, Paul petitions the Ephesians—and us—to walk in manner of life that is in keeping with the wonderful calling we’ve been given.
After all that God has freely made available to us, blessings that have cost us nothing and that we can’t possibly deserve, shouldn’t there be some responsibility on our part? Doesn’t even common sense tell us there are must some accountability to God for all He has given, he pleads.
The Amplified Bible states it well: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called—with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service.”
Here is the second posture we find in Ephesians. First, we’re seated in heavenly places, and now Paul lays out how we’re to walk (conduct ourselves) in light of where we’re seated and the calling we have received.
Walk in the Spirit
The word “walk” is used seven times in Ephesians, and in each place where it is used it gives a different and progressive picture of the way we’re to live. It is used first in the second chapter where a contrast is made between the way we used to live and how we’re to live now.
“Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air….” Paul said that in the past we’ve all lived that way, walking “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.” (Eph.2:3)
God has ordained that we walk differently now that we’re joined to Him. We’re called to live a quality of life that is appropriate and in keeping with the grace He extended toward us. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (vs.10) The life we’re to live now separates us from where we were before we came to Christ.
We’re now called to walk in good works. These are not our works; they are the works of God. We walked in our own works (our own ways) while we were separated from God, but now we’re to walk as His workmanship, that is, we’re to be a demonstration of what God is producing. He is bringing forth righteousness and holiness in the earth and we’re to be the example of what He’s doing.
The next reference we’ll look at is in chapter 4:17-18. “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:”
We’re to walk in the Spirit, not in the vanity of our minds as the unregenerate do. The life of God is in us so there should be an obvious distinction between the way we live and the way those live who are alienated from His life. We should walk in a manner that is appropriate to our calling.
Sometimes I want to apologize to God for the anemic way we live as Christians. If an unregenerate person listened to our talk and watched our lives, they would often be hard pressed to observe much distinction between us and themselves. This should not be.
When we consider the price that has been paid to provide the blessings we’ve received, we should be totally committed to Him who made them available to us. Let’s commit ourselves to walk in a manner that is distinctly separated from those who are alienated from the Life of God.
Ephesians 5:2 encourages us to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”
How do we walk in the unconditional love that Christ demonstrated?
The only way we can walk in unconditional love is to forget about ourselves and acknowledge that Christ alone is our life. If we can get our attention off ourselves and get focused on Him, and become more concerned with the people around us, we can walk in such love. But as long as we’re still concerned with preserving our own life, we’ll never walk in the quality of love Jesus demonstrated.
Shouldn’t our life express some appreciation for what we’ve been given in Christ? As Paul admonished the Romans, shouldn’t it be our “reasonable service” to present our bodies to the Lord in light of all He has done for us? (Rom.12:1)
The next text regarding the way we’re to walk is chapter 5:8 “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
Walking as children of light is a choice on our part. No one can make the choice for us; we must make it for ourselves. Let’s choose to walk as a revelation of the light of God in us.
This world is getting darker by the day and iniquity is flowing about waist deep. It’s getting so dark that gross darkness is covering the minds of the people, and they love to have it so. It won’t be very long until the only light in this world will be the light in a people who have a renewed mind.
How does our mind get renewed? By making right choices long enough. It won’t happen the first time you make a right choice, but that is the first step. You’ll have to wrestle with your mind and keep bringing it back to what you know in your spirit is a right choice.
Our mind is the only thing in us that is being changed at this time and it’s being changed as it comes into alignment with our redeemed spirit. That’s the reason scripture says so much about a having renewed mind. So regardless of the situation before you, choose to walk in light because you are a child of light.
The next reference in Ephesians to our walk encompasses the previous admonitions: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (5:15-16)
To walk circumspectly means to walk surefooted and carefully. The picture this word presents is of a deer or mountain goat as they scamper on narrow ledges, their back feet stepping right into the print of their front feet. Although it is a natural walk for them, it is a practiced and disciplined walk for us.
If we’re to walk circumspectly we must redeem the time. Time is the only commodity that we all have the same amount of—not necessarily in years, but in hours of a day. The devil doesn’t have to get you to sin in ways that are an abomination to God in order to destroy your relationship with the Lord. All he needs is your time and he can keep you defeated. So be careful how you spend your time. Be careful what you read, what you watch, what you listen to, and who you associate with. As evil increases in society it becomes increasingly necessary that we discipline our use of time to walk in the footsteps of Him who has walked before us.
A Proper Focus
As Paul continued in chapter four, he revealed the attitude we need to adopt as we walk in a manner fitting the calling we’ve received. He said we’re to walk “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forebearing one another in love.” (vs.2)
We can only walk with such an attitude after we’ve allowed God to deliver us from our self-centered concern of wanting to preserve our own life. This is accomplished as we learn to rest in God’s abundant provision and get an understanding of who we are in Christ. With that understanding, our focus will shift off ourselves and to the needs of others. The overwhelming realization of all we have in Christ will humble us, causing us to have a patient, loving concern for others who have not yet come to such knowledge.
Humility is not weakness. Humility is knowing who you are in Christ and resting in that understanding. Consequently, you no longer need to be concerned for yourself and are thus freed to unselfishly respond to others.
Paul then makes a statement that begins to put the whole book of Ephesians into proper perspective in light of all we have in Christ. He said we should be “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Because, he said, “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (4:3-6)
Notice that Paul didn’t say we were to endeavor to GET the unity of the Spirit but that we are to KEEP it in the bond of peace. We don’t need to struggle with brethren to become one in the Spirit: we are made one in Christ. If there is any struggle it is to keep what we already have in Him!
We’ve been raised up and seated together in heavenly places so all we need to do is maintain our position. The church has been fragmented and divided practically since the beginning because brethren lost sight of the truth that we’re seated together in Christ. We don’t need to pray and struggle to come into the unity of the Spirit, we just need to agree with where God put us!
Brethren will differ on doctrine, but notice that Paul didn’t say we were to keep the unity of the doctrine! You might believe that you need to drink beet juice three times a day to be in a right relationship with God—if so, drink your juice faithfully! That’s between you and Him. Doctrine is not the basis of having a relationship with God, or with brethren. There will very likely always be differences in the way brethren understand doctrine, but that can provide a healthy balance as “iron sharpens iron. (Prov.27:17)
Scripture says the time is coming when the watchmen will see eye to eye. (Isa.52:8) However, that might mean they agree on everything, or that they have come to the same stature in the Spirit! Of course, there are a few basic principles that we all need to embrace just to come into a regenerate state, but that’s not the issue here.
Our unity of Spirit is to maintained in the bond of peace. That doesn’t mean peace at any cost, nor agreement for the sake of agreement. It means standing in the unity of the Spirit, and if there is disagreement among brethren, we’re to remain agreeable in spirit even though we disagree on an issue. As someone has wisely stated: “The issue is not the issue; the issue is the relationship.”
The reason this is so important, Paul said, is because there really is just one body, and one Spirit, and one hope. There is only one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, he continued, as well as only one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. If we agree with our position in Christ we certainly won’t need to try and become one, we’re already one! All we need do is labor to maintain what we’ve been given.
The rest of chapter four, all of chapter five, and the first few verses of chapter six lays out principle after principle of how we’re to relate to others in light of the glorious calling and position we have in Christ. We’re instructed how to relate to the Lord, how to relate to others in the Fellowship we’re part of, and how to keep ourselves built up in the faith. There are instructions for how husbands and wives are to honor and respect each other, and how to nurture children. Proper work ethics of employers and employees are addressed. All of the instructions are given to show us how we’re to “walk worthy of vocation wherewith ye [we] are called.”
Stand in Grace
We’ve looked at the first two spiritual postures in Ephesians and now we go on to the third. The first one was that we’re seated in heavenly places in Christ. The second is our responsibility to walk in a way that is appropriate with where we’re seated, and the third, standing, is the conflict we’ll face in doing so. In other words, we need to stand so we can walk where we’re seated!
In preparation for the instructions on how to stand, Paul wrote, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” (Eph.6:10)
Most of us are strong in our own strength and might. We’re strong in our intellect and we’re strong in the things we’ve experienced, but we’ve not yet learned how to be strong in the power of His might. Paul gave a key to being strong in the power of the Lord in his second letter to Timothy. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (II Tim.2:1) We become strong in the Lord as we stand in the grace of God.
How do we stand in the grace of God? We step into God’s grace when we get to the limit of our own ability in a given situation, and then take another step forward in faith. Once we’ve stepped into the grace of God we’re only “limited” by the limitlessness of God’s grace to us.
The grace of God breaks all human limitations and restrictions and takes us beyond the abilities and inabilities that we have naturally. Grace enables us to walk into the vistas of glory and opens up dimensions in the Spirit that are otherwise unattainable. Coupled with the anointing, grace enables us to taste the inheritance that is just beyond the veil of our flesh.
We need to become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. We do that by stepping beyond our limitations and drawing on His grace! Most people draw back into their comfort zone when they get to the boundaries of their own limitations, and consequently, they stay in the confines of their own puny abilities. Then they wonder why they’re defeated so often in the face of temptation and adversity.
Our greatest strength is to realize our own weakness. Because in that realization we’ll reach into the grace of God and stand in the power that He alone can provide. God loves us so much that He continually brings circumstances before us that tax our limits so we’ll launch out into His grace. As we do, we’ll learn that His grace is always sufficient for the situation at hand.
The key to Jesus’ effectiveness was that He limited Himself so severely that He could do nothing of Himself. Consequently, everything He did was done as a demonstration of the grace and power of God He drew upon.
If you’re faced with a mountain, don’t go around it: Step into the grace of God and conquer it. Is there a river before you that is impossible to cross? Don’t build a boat: step into the river and let the grace of God part the water! If you’re faced with what looks like a consuming fire, don’t draw back from it: Step into the grace of God and let it “fireproof” you. Get an understanding that God nurtures incorruptibility by exposing what is corruptible to His refining fire.
Stand in Conflict
If we’re to stand in our calling we must be wearing the armor of God. As Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (6:11)
Second Corinthians 10:4-5 provides a key to the warfare we’re in: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
The primary spiritual warfare we encounter takes place in our mind. The battle centers around an ongoing barrage of challenging taunts: “You’re not very spiritual today. Do you believe God loves you? Do you believe God meant what He said? Do you really believe you have everything in you that He says you have? If you’re so spiritual, why are you so bothered with your circumstances?”
All such devilish challenges are irrelevant. The only matter of importance is what God says about us. It doesn’t matter what we feel like. It doesn’t matter what our circumstances try to dictate to us. It doesn’t matter how inadequate we see ourselves. The challenge we face is to stand in the grace of God in the face of every strategy the enemy devises against us. That’s the reason we need to bring every thought into captivity and into obedience to what the Lord has said.
We need to agree with God. If He says we’re holy, then we’re holy and we need to live like it. If He says we’ve been accepted in the Beloved, then we need to agree with Him. If He has forgiven us of past sin, then we need to forgive ourselves (by agreeing with God) and no longer receive condemnation for it. We need to stand in the grace He extends to us. Anything less than agreement with God is to supersede His wisdom with our own, which is the folly of follies!
We must understand that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (vs.12)
These high places are the same heavenly places in which we’re seated. They’re the same places where we’ve been given every spiritual blessing! The enemy is right there in that same spiritual realm seeking to rob us of everything we have in Christ. Of course, he can’t take anything “out” of Christ, but he certainly can challenge our confidence in what we’ve been given.
Notice the analogy Paul used here for our conflict with the enemy—wrestling. Wrestling is a one-on-one struggle. It’s a “hands on” conflict and a direct contest of the strength and skill of each opponent. Because wrestling is so direct and personal, it implies that the enemy devises specific strategies against each of us. What might faze you won’t faze me, and vise versa.
Many people are finding themselves in a personal and spiritual conflict like never before. Many are having serious struggles with health, family, finances, and other adverse circumstances. It seems as if every time they turn around another challenging conflict faces them. There are times when they wonder where God is in it all and whether they’ll survive the seemingly overwhelming plot against them.
If this describes your situation, stand strong in the Spirit and in the power of His might. Press through the limits of your endurance and step into boundless grace of God. That is, if you wish to maintain what you’ve been given in Christ.
God is allowing the enemy to throw everything he has against you to shake anything that can be shaken in “heaven and earth.” The struggle isn’t designed to keep you from getting what God has for you: He is allowing you to be tested to see if you really appreciate what you already have, and whether you’ll compromise the truth and agree with the enemy.
Hold Your Position
“Therefore, put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly] in your place.” (vs.13 Amplified Bible)
Although the Amplified Bible renders this verse better the King James, an even better way for this verse to be translated would be, “Take to yourselves the whole armor of God that ye may be able to hold your position in the evil day, and having overcome all, stand.”
Hold what position? The position of being seated in heavenly places and having been given all spiritual blessings in Christ.
The enemy’s strategy is to rob us of what we’ve been given. He doesn’t try to keep us from getting what we need from God, because in Christ we already have everything we’ll ever need. He just tries to convince us that we don’t have it yet. He doesn’t want us to enjoy our privileges because he knows that if we agree with God and make use of what we already have, he is forever defeated.
It’s the same strategy Satan used with Eve in the Garden of Eden. He just planted a seed of doubt in her mind by suggesting that God was holding out on her and had not given her everything she needed. What she needed, he cooed, was more wisdom and her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. And to get that wisdom, he promised, all she had to do was to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and provide it for herself — essentially disagreeing with God’s provision. The rest is history.
Every strategy the enemy uses against us is designed to get us to question God’s loving provision for us in Christ. The Apostle Paul spoke to this in Romans 8 when, after showing the tactics used against us by the enemy, he wrote, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (vs.37)
We’ll never stand victorious in a battle with the enemy unless we can stand in the conscious awareness of God’s love for us. The moment we lose sight of His love, His mercy, His grace, and His provision, we’ve lost the battle with the adversary.
That’s the reason the enemy constantly challenges our spiritual position in Christ and assaults us emotionally to see if he can get us to accept condemnation for past deeds. If those tactics fail to cause us to question what we have in Christ, he brings adverse circumstances against us and whispers, “If God really loved you, these things wouldn’t be happening.” If he can get us to agree with him and question God’s love, we’ve lost the battle.
Although space won’t allow me to write about the particular pieces of our spiritual armor, suffice it to say that we’re never to take it off! We’re to stand in the Spirit, having our “loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness…. Praying always with all prayer and supplication is the Spirit, and watching….” (vs.14, 18)
If we’re to successfully hold our position in Christ, we need to become a praying people. All the knowledge and revelation of the many blessings we’ve been given won’t benefit us in the end, unless we bathe that understanding in fervent prayer. “Praying always” is not just prayer when we’re faced with adversity, but prayer that becomes a way of life.
“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Lu.21:36)
Perhaps the best way to illustrate what Ephesians lays out for us is with an allegory. Suppose you just received word that you’ve inherited the most magnificent estate you could ever imagine. It’s all yours and the only thing you need do to claim it is to accept it and take up residence. You approach your mansion via a wide circular driveway that threads itself through the most beautifully manicured grounds you’ve ever seen. As you walk through the elegant front doors, your breath is almost taken away by the exquisite appointments greeting you. Enraptured with the splendor, you can hardly imagine what might be beyond.
You walk through your new home inspecting room after beautiful room. Then as you open a door to one of the bedrooms in a distant wing of the mansion, you’re surprised to find someone already living there. “It’s OK” they quickly tell you, “we know you’re the heir, but we’ve been here a long time and we can coexist. Enjoy the rest of the house, we’ll stay back here and not bother you in the least. We’re just part of the territory.”
A bit baffled, you walk through the magnificent gardens and out toward the back of the estate. Again, you’re surprised to find a small group of squatters living in tents along the boundary of one of the rolling pastures. When they see you, their response is just as their cohorts in the house: “We know you’re the heir, but we’ve been here a long time….”
Do you get the picture? Would we tolerate such imposters who would dare to infringe on part of our natural inheritance? Of course not.
Why then should we, who are called to be the household of God, tolerate the lies of some puny spirits trying to tell us we can cohabit with them in heavenly places? Though it might be a “big house,” it’s certainly not large enough for them and God! Stand strong in the grace of God and send the unwanted charlatans packing! It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been hanging around our inheritance, it’s time for us to take full possession.
Rise up in the Spirit and in the power of His might. No one can do it for you—you must do it by His grace. You’ve been seated in heavenly places in Christ, now live your life in way fitting such a lofty position. Stand steadfast in your position so you can walk where you’re seated!
If God be for us, who can possibly be against us?