If God be for Us – A study of Ephesians
The book of Ephesians was written to a church where the Apostle Paul had once spent three years ministering. During his stay with them he “ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” as he declared to them “all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:31, 27) Although the same church needed to be admonished some years later to return to their first love, the Ephesians letter reveals some profound truth for us, especially at this end of the age.
Ephesians has long been a favorite book of mine. It is a section of scripture that I turn to time and time again for meditation and enlightenment. I’ve often encouraged people to read the first two chapters in the first person to get a clear perspective of who they are in Christ and who Christ is in them. Along with the privileges and responsibilities these great truths provide us, understanding who we are in Christ and who He is in us is some of the most essential truth we can ever learn.
The Spirit is focusing our attention on this basic understanding until these truths are firmly anchored in us. As spiritual pressure increases against the true saints of God and the warfare in the heavens intensifies, it will be essential that we have an absolute confidence and trust in Christ’s finished work.
It will also be vital to know that everything we will ever need from God is already in us through the perfect and complete redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. If anything could be added to what we’ve already received through that sacrifice, it would be an indictment against the perfectness of what He accomplished through His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
Although most Christians would readily confess that they believe the redeeming work of Jesus Christ was a complete and finished work, their actions often declare something quite different. This is confirmed by an insatiable appetite for, and the voracious consumption of, an endless stream of “how to” books and seminars being peddled in the glitzy marketplace of Christianity. Such activity falls into the category of the warning Jesus gave when He said that in the last days many would say, “Lo, here is Christ, or there” [is Christ]. However, He said, “Believe it not, for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and [they] shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt.24:23-24)
The elect won’t be deceived by the various claims and formulas paraded as the means of really knowing Jesus and finishing the work He began. They know they’ve already received everything they’ll ever need to come into a perfect and eternal relationship with Him. They also know that justification, sanctification, and glorification is within them through the vicarious death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that nothing can be added to what He has already provided. It is now just a matter of drawing out of their redeemed spirit what has been put there by regeneration.
All Spiritual Blessings
The first two chapters of Ephesians present a series of blessing and provisions that are ours in Christ. They also speak of the spiritual rest we’re to enjoy in Him, as well as revealing the first of three postures we’re to adopt in the Spirit.
After using just two verses for his greeting to the church, Paul plunged right into the “meat” of the letter. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (vs.3)
As I read and meditated on Ephesians in the past I’d wonder if scripture gave a list somewhere of what these many blessings are. Then one time as I was reading through the book again, it suddenly dawned on me that for two chapters Paul lists blessing after blessing that are ours in Christ. Although we’re blessed with many more provisions than just the ones listed here, these provide a good overview of God’s wonderful provision, as well as revealing our responsibility before God in light of what we’ve been given.
Paul said we’ve been blessed with all (every) spiritual blessings, and that these blessings are found in heavenly places (in spiritual places) in Christ. Although God has made an abundant provision for natural things as well, the book of Ephesians deals primarily with spiritual provisions connected with our calling and position in Christ Jesus.
When Paul said we’re blessed with all spiritual blessings and that those blessings are found in Christ, he meant that for the blessings to rightly become ours we must be in the Spirit. Ultimately, spiritual provision is only available to one who is in the same spirit in which the provision is given. For us to expect to obtain spiritual provisions without being in the Spirit is to stand in the place of a robber. As Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.’” (Jn.10:1)
We don’t deserve the blessings and spiritual provisions available to us in the heavenly realm, neither could we do anything that would qualify us to purchase them. They are provided as a direct result of God’s pleasure in the perfect redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Verse four continues: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:”
God has chosen us with a particular calling and for a specific purpose. That purpose is that we be holy as He is holy and that we stand blamelessly before Him in love. A basic search of scripture will reveal that this is the same word used to describe the quality-of-life Jesus laid down as “a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Pet.1:19)
This means we’ve been chosen to live in the same unblemished character and manner of life that Jesus demonstrated as the Son of Man. It is a calling that we’re not capable of calling ourselves into, neither do we merit it because of anything we could perform. God determined that we be enabled to live in such a blessed state as part of the covenant we have in Christ. It is another priceless spiritual blessing that is only available as we live in Him, that is, in the Spirit of Christ.
Adoption and Acceptance
Not only has God chosen us to be holy, He has “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (vs.5)
God’s good pleasure has foreordained that we be adopted as His sons. The phase “adoption of children” here is a bit misleading and should be translated “adoption of sons.” God does not “adopt” believers as children: we’re “begotten” as such through faith in His word. Biblical “adoption” is a term involving the placing of those who are already children into a position of being sons.
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, adoption means “‘to place as a son’ and signifies the place and condition of a son given to one to whom it does not naturally belong. In Romans 8:15 believers are said to have received “the Spirit of adoption,” that is, the Holy Spirit… and produces in them the realization of sonship and the attitude belonging to sons.
In Galatians 4:5 they are said to receive “the adoption of sons,” i.e., sonship bestowed in distinction from a relationship consequent merely upon birth; here two contrasts are presented, (1) between the sonship of the believer and the unoriginated sonship of Christ, (2) between the freedom enjoyed by the believer and bondage, whether of Gentile natural condition, or of Israel under the Law.” (end of quote)
This definition clarifies what it means to be placed as a son. We’re not yet sons of God: We’re children of God. We won’t be sons of God until we come forth in His incorruptible nature, i.e., after our body has been redeemed and “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” (Rom.8:23; Phil.3:21) The Lord wants to place us into His family as sons so that in the ages to come we can labor together in full partnership as “Father and sons and company.”
Again, we didn’t earn such a wonderful blessing and calling, it has been in God’s heart to bestow it upon His children from before the foundation of the world. However, it is only available in heavenly places in Christ.
Verse six and seven continue: “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
God has chosen to make us acceptable to Him in His beloved Son. What a tremendous consideration!
If we were to become aware that there is a breach between God and us and we no longer had any status with Him, what would it be worth to have that chasm closed so we could again be acceptable to Him? Nothing we could do, no amount of time, energy, money, nor precious commodity would be able to make us acceptable to Him. Our acceptance to God is strictly based on His determination in the matter. He chose us long before we chose Him—in fact, He chose us before time began.
We can’t make ourselves acceptable to God: we are acceptable to Him in Christ. It is a blessing that is ours in heavenly places. The truth is, anything we would attempt to do to make ourselves acceptable to Him causes us to be unacceptable instead! We’re already accepted in the Beloved. Let’s believe it, settle it, appreciate it, and go on in the blessedness of His loving grace.
Our part of the relationship is that we’re responsible to stay in the Spirit and maintain fellowship with Him, that is, we’re to walk in the light He has given us. As 1 John 1:7 puts it: “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” It is important that we understand the difference between our need to maintain fellowship with the Lord and the unmerited acceptance we have in Christ. Our acceptance is solely God’s part of the relationship, while maintaining fellowship with Him is solely our responsibility.
Not only are we accepted in Christ, we also have redemption through Him. It is a blessing beyond measure to be able to be cleansed from the sin nature we inherited from our parents and consequently not be accountable for things we weren’t responsible for in the first place. And it is just as great a blessing to know that what we might have done in the flesh just moments ago can be brought to the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ and we can also be cleansed from it. Thank God that we need no longer bear responsibility for that deed either. It can be washed away and we can be as clean as though it never happened.
This also is a blessing that is ours in Christ. We didn’t earn it. We can’t buy it. Neither are we good enough that it could be ours through some innate merit: It is ours as part of God’s wonderful provision to us in Christ and we can enjoy it because of who we are in Him.
“Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” (vs:8-9)
The redemption we received through Jesus Christ provided even more than just the forgiveness of sin—wonderful as that is. It also provided all the spiritual wisdom and understanding (common sense) we’ll ever need. It is the wisdom of God Himself!
Notice that the text doesn’t say that He just “trickled” wisdom and prudence to us, nor does it suggest that He only “splashed” us with it. It says He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom. Abounding in something means to have an “exceeding measure” of it. Interestingly, the word is also used is used to describe a flower going from a bud to full bloom! Everything a bud needs to become a beautiful flower is right there inside of it!
All of God’s wisdom is available to us. If you feel you need more than what you can presently draw upon, ask Him for what you need. He promised to give “generously to all without finding fault.” (Ja.1:5 – NIV) Instead of running to the wisdom of this world when you need some understanding beyond yourself, reach into your relationship with God and draw what you need out of your redeemed spirit.
In fact, scripture tells us that we don’t need to have any man teach us because we have an unction of the Holy One, and we already know all things. But the reason we have such a hard time believing this truth is because we can’t recall all things. We only know intellectually what we can recall to mind, but this glorious truth does not deal with intellectual knowledge, it deals with spiritual knowledge. Therefore, when we’re presented with truth that we’ve never considered before, we get a witness in our spirit that says, “I agree with that because it is truth.”
How do we know it is truth? Because we’ve known it all along—we just couldn’t recall it. But now that we’ve heard it, it registers in our spirit as truth and is ready to be recalled when we need it.
Our intellect is one of the greatest detriments to spiritual growth. If we’re not careful we’ll “filter” every truth we encounter through our intellect, experience, or context. However, neither our intellect, context, nor experience establishes what is truth and spiritual reality. Our experience can confirm what is truth, but truth itself is established within the integrity of God and by the immutability of His word.
In addition to the divine wisdom made available to us, God has also made the mystery of His will known to us!
It is an untold privilege and blessing to know the will of God. Not only has He revealed His will to us in a general sense, we can also be assured of knowing His will for us personally. At this very moment we can have absolute peace, knowing that we are in the center of His will. What a blessing it is to know that!
We don’t know the will of God because we are smart enough to figure it out, neither can such knowledge be ordered from some catalog. We can’t go to a shopping mall and buy it at a specialty shop, nor can we put it on a Visa or MasterCard. The knowledge of God’s will is only found in Christ!
Children and young people who give themselves to the anointing of the Spirit have a greater knowledge of the will of God than all the wisdom of the world put together. Ordinary men and women who have been disciplined in the God’s school of the Spirit know more about what He has done, is doing, and yet plans to do than all the graduates of carnal Godless seminaries in the world put together.
The knowledge of God’s will can’t be bought, it can’t be earned, and it can’t be learned: It is a privilege and a blessing that is only available because of His abounding good pleasure toward us!
The next blessing Paul mentioned is in verse 11: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.”
God has blessed us with an inheritance in Christ! An inheritance is not something you work for: it is given at the discretion of the one who has it to give. One can be born into a wealthy family and still not be given an inheritance. The benefactor bestows an inheritance to whoever he decides is to be the heir.
But there is also something else in the meaning of this phrase. The Amplified Bible states it well when it reads: “In Him we also were made [God’s] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will.”
Consider that! Not only have we received an inheritance in Christ, we are God’s inheritance as well! Why? So “that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (vs.12) Another blessing and priceless privilege in Christ!
God didn’t wait until sometime in the future to give us a taste of our inheritance. When we received Jesus as our Savior, He sealed us (marked us as His own) with the promised Holy Spirit, “which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”
He didn’t tell us He had an inheritance reserved for us out in the future and that we would just have to wait for it and ponder about what it might be like. He gave us a down payment, an earnest of the inheritance that we can enjoy right now. It is a genuine foretaste of the same nature and quality of life that is to be ours at the time of our complete redemption.
The foretaste we’ve received includes gifts of the Spirit. We can speak in tongues, we can prophesy, we can praise the Lord. We can lay hands on the sick and see them recover. We can discern what spirits are in operation in a given situation. We can stand in faith in the face of unimaginable odds. All this is just the earnest of our inheritance—a foretaste in which we can see and experience that the Lord is good!
What person in their right mind would want to turn back to the “slime pits” of the flesh after having tasted the goodness of such an inheritance? The inheritance is ours. It’s already in us in those heavenly places that are in Christ. Praise the Lord!
In the next couple of verses Paul shared his prayer for the Ephesian believers. He said continually gave thanks for them and prayed that God would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” and that their understanding would be enlightened to know “the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” (vs.17-18)
What a prayer for his brethren! We too should pray for each other that we get a full revelation of who Christ is in us and who we are in Him. Like Paul, we should pray for each other that we might really get an understanding of the riches God has invested in the saints—those who have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice. (Psa.50:5) Such a revelation would revolutionize our lives and completely refocus our outlook on life.
Paul continued his prayer, praying that the Ephesians would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” (vs.19-21)
Can you comprehend that the same resurrection power that brought Jesus Christ from the dead is working mightily in you? It’s not just barely working you: it’s working in you mightily! It’s the same power that raised Christ far above every principality and demon power. God didn’t have the philosophy when He raised Jesus from the dead as the proverbial little train expressed as it approached a hill, saying: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” and then when it topped the hill said, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could!” The resurrected Christ was raised far above every name that is named by the mighty power of God Himself.
How far is far above? I don’t know. But it is far enough that every knee bows and every tongue confesses that He is Lord and has pre-eminence over them. That same glorious power is in you right now working mightily in preparation of transforming your mortal body into the fashion of His glorious body. You don’t need to go somewhere and look for something else to get the job done. The “dunamis” power that raised Christ from the dead is within you! Can you believe it and allow it to finish its mighty work?
We need to stop living like paupers and begin drawing forth the life God put in us. If we’d just pray fervently enough and long enough for each other that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened so we could get a glimpse of the glory that is in us, we’d never be the same.
Have you ever considered the power and energy that it took to raise Jesus from the dead and into immortality? That same spiritual energy is down in your redeemed spirit. You didn’t do anything to merit having such power working in you. You didn’t buy it. You didn’t earn it. It’s not in you because of anything you could do naturally. It was given to you on the “silver platter” of redemption as part of unfathomable riches of God’s glory.
Although the same power that brought Jesus from the dead is in us, we must call it forth. It must be called forth just like Jesus called Lazarus forth from the dead. But we must first understand that it is in us before we’ll have the faith to call it forth.
I’ll say it again. That glorious resurrection power is in your redeemed spirit. You don’t have to wait to get it sometime in the future—it’s part of your covenant with God. It’s a gift and a blessing that is yours in heavenly places in Christ. As this age fades and loses itself in the dawning of a new day, and confusion reigns in the darkened minds of the majority of mankind; when the enemy throws everything in his arsenal at you, and your flesh seems to be getting the upper hand as you’re sinking into a mire of despair; call forth the resurrection power of God out of your spirit and dare to defy the clamoring dim of every miserly voice that seeks to keep you in bondage to the beggary elements of fear and disbelief.
Quickened and Seated Together
Paul continued enumerating various blessings in the second chapter of Ephesians. “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (2:1, 5-6)
From God’s perspective, we were dead in sin before we came to Him and there was absolutely nothing we could do to change our condition. But the love of God reached out in mercy and plucked us out of our darkness. He didn’t just prop us up so we’d look alive, but He breathed life into our dead spirit, and as with Adam of old, He caused us to come alive.
But God didn’t just quicken us and make us alive to stand on our own. In the process He mysteriously joined us to the risen Christ so that His life became our life and the life we now live is His life. It fulfilled what Jesus had told His disciples when He said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (Jn.14:19) This is a mysterious union that can only be understood with a renewed mind and an eye of faith. It is purely and simply the gift of God’s grace to us.
Scripture tells that when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven He sat down at the right hand of God. That was the final endorsement by God of the perfectness of the Lord’s offering for the sins of mankind. It indicated that Christ’s redemptive work was finished and there was nothing more left to do to make every provision man needed for restoration into a full and perfect union with his Creator.
Jesus sitting at God’s right hand is in stark contrast to the daily offerings of the priesthood of the Old Testament. Their work was never finished, and consequently, there no place for them to sit while in the administration of their priestly duties. They stood “daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (Heb.10:11)
God not only made us alive in Christ, He also raised us up and made us to sit together in Christ at His own right hand as well! This clearly reveals that we’re to rest in what the Lord has done for us. We’re not to strive with it, nor are we to labor for it. We’re to rest in the position He has placed us in Christ.
Rest in the security of that position in the presence of God. Rest in the understanding that everything Christ has in the Father, you have in Him.
Note also that we’ve not been raised up and seated as an aggregate of individuals: We’ve been raised together as members of His body and made to sit together as one new man. This joint seating is the first posture we encounter in Ephesians, but I’ll have more on this later in the article.
Saved Through Faith
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (vs.8)
Salvation is not anything we have earned. We have salvation because God put His eye on us and chose us, and we responded to His wooing. I’ll never forget how that a few years ago I was reading an article in a National Geographic magazine about some primitive culture somewhere. One picture in the article was etched vividly on my mind. It showed a man painfully making his way up a long incline to an altar in front of a temple. As he climbed the incline before him he was pulling a small contraption of logs as an offering to the god he served.
It was a close-up picture of the man and one could see the perspiration dripping from his pained face. He was in great pain because he was pulling his burden with four rather large hooks inserted through the flesh of his back! The weight and strain of it caused his flesh to be pulled back like little wings as he made his way step after painful step up the incline, hoping that when he reached the top it would appease his god.
God could have required something like that of us. Being God, He could have required anything He wanted of us and we would have needed to comply if we wanted to please Him. He could have said that if we wanted to know Him, we would need to walk through a hot fire, or perhaps walk barefooted through broken glass for a specific distance. Or He could have insisted that we make an annual trek to Jerusalem to sacrifice to Him.
But He didn’t. He said He would be satisfied if we’d receive the provision that He made for us in the shed blood of Jesus by faith! The salvation offered to us is a decision of His mercy and a demonstration of His wonderful grace. It is without complication and requirement of anything we could do to receive it, and it is so simple that we often stumble over it.
We don’t have to work up our salvation, but we are called to work it out. There is a difference! God made it available to us as an indescribable act of His grace. He could have required anything He wanted of us in order to relate to Him because He is God—and remember it was man who broke the relationship with Him in the Garden, not vice versa. Therefore, He has the right to determine what is required of us to restore the broken relationship. All He asks of us is that we believe in His provision in Christ and receive it by faith.
We don’t even have to muster up the faith to receive what God made available! Romans 12:3 tells us He has granted to every man the measure of faith. That means He put enough faith in the bosom of everyone who has ever been born to enable us to respond to His word when we come into contact with it.
What a blessing. What an unmerited privilege. The most eloquent words of mortals are simply inadequate to describe the tremendous provision God has given us. Nothing we could produce could ever come close to equalizing what we have been freely given in Christ. But there is more.
To be continued…