Ephesians 2:6-22; 3:1-11

 

[This is a sermon transcript of Pastor Joe Focht of Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, http://www.ccphilly.org.]  “Father we thank you for your Word, we thank you for the opportunity we have to come together and worship and study and travel through the Scripture.  But we know all of this is a means to an end, in a sense.  Lord we pray that all of this would be creating a greater reality in our personal relationship with you, that your Word, Lord, would do its work within our hearts and as we worship we would come in Spirit and truth.  And as we fellowship, Lord, we would think about those around us and how we might encourage them and stir up their faith.  Lord, please be with us as we travel through these high places, as it were, in the book of Ephesians, and certainly areas that you alone understand the value and the beauty of.  Lift our hearts Lord, that we might be encouraged.  We know we would be foolish to begin without coming to you and Father we pray in Jesus Name, Amen.”

        Ephesians 2:5-22, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath [he] 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: that in ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having 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.  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.  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.”

“We’re in Ephesians chapter 2.  We left off in verse 5, chapter 2.  We might as well begin to read from the beginning of the chapter down to there.  Paul says “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins, wherein in time past you walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, among whom we all had our conversation (our manner of living, conduct) in times past, in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:1-5).  So we said that Paul was telling us that in times past we were dead in trespasses and sins, we were under the influence of the world, the flesh, the devil, the course of this present age, the prince of the power of the air, the lust of our own flesh.  He really describes the arena that we existed in.  And again, that was not realized, of course, by us.  We at that point in time in our lives pursued the things that worldly people pursued, not realizing that they were not really choices that we were making, but things that were handed to us on the menu--the type of music that we would listen to, the type of clothes that we would wear, the standards that we would adopt, between peer pressure and styles, the course of this present world, the age and society we live in, the morals that are around us, Satan’s influence in all of those things--and then of course the desires within our own flesh agreeing with so much that was handed to us--we were in a state of being lost in trespasses and sins, it says, “by nature children of wrath” we were headed for damnation, hell.

        Then he brings in this great phrase, “But God”.  He’s telling us, of course, of God’s work now.  The fact that we were saved by grace, because of the degree of hopelessness that we lived in, and the inability of ourselves, he says, “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 are ye saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (verses 4-6).  Now what he says is that our salvation, again, came because of God’s very nature, ‘God who is rich in mercy, and wherein the great love wherein he loved us while we were yet sinners’ the very nature of God--mercy, love, grace--we’re saved by grace, he says that the first thing that lends itself to our salvation, we need to be saved by grace because of how lost we were, was the very nature of God.  Secondly, it was God’s action, it was God who was the one who quickened us, he’s the one who made us alive—we were dead in trespasses and sins.  He made us alive, and more than that, he made us to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Again, hard for us to imagine the implications of that as we sit here this evening, what that means.  And remember these first three chapters again, are from God’s perspective.  Again, some folks say, that we can be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.  But Paul evidently feels its important to be heavenly-minded.  But before he tells us about being earthly good he tells three chapters of things that are, as far as I’m concerned, fairly heavenly-minded.  Being chosen from the foundation of the world, being pre-destined, being called, being saved by grace--I mean as he goes through these things it’s obvious Paul’s pretty heavenly-minded.  And with the life that he experiences, it’s obvious why.    So it was God’s action whereby we were quickened and he’s the one through his own work that has caused us to be seated in heavenly places.  And again, take note in Hebrews chapter 1 that it says there that Christ, after he hath put away sin once and for all, after he had cleansed us with his own blood, he sat down at the right hand of power.  Very significant in the book of Hebrews, obviously, the book was written to Hebrews [Messianic Jewish believers], (that’s why it’s called ‘Hebrews’), and the book will portray Jesus Christ as our high priest, and a better priesthood of Melchizedek, and it’s interesting that it starts out by telling us he sat down, and again, as you study the tabernacle, and beginning in Exodus 25 you read through (by the time you get to the end of Exodus you don’t want to know any more about cubits), and it’s interesting, you read through what is an in-depth description [of the temple or tabernacle, which the temple was patterned after].  But there are no seats or benches described anywhere [except the mercy seat, which was for God alone]. Because the high priest was never allowed to sit down, his work was never complete, it was always the evening and morning sacrifice.  And Hebrews tells us that because the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, it was a continual work that he (the physical high priest) had to do.  And the description of Solomon’s temple, the same thing, there’s never a seat described, that he had.  But Jesus Christ, it says, after he dealt with sin once, sat down.  And he’s at rest--he completed the work, it’s never to be added to.  So, interestingly, God sees us, in other words we were in Christ on the cross 2,000 years ago, in the sense that he bore all of our sins, past, present and future, so we’re dead in Christ, we died in Christ, that was effective in our lives, we were participants in the sense that we contributed sin to the death of Christ 2,000 years ago.  So we were part of that.  And then we were quickened and made alive in him, where he died for our sins, was raised for our justification,--and then it says that we are now seated in heavenly places, and yet how many of us still wrestle with the issue of sin that has been settled once and for all, and from God’s perspective he sees us in Christ seated, that we don’t have to wrestle on our end to deal with sin any more--it was a once-and-for-all sacrifice.  And it was put away, once and for all.  That’s God’s action.

So it’s by God’s nature that we’re saved, by God’s action.  And then finally he says “For the purposes of God”, and of course, this reaches into the new heavens and new earth, and the ages to come.  And I believe personally, if you study the Scripture, that even then we’ll still be--and he says--he’ll still be revealing his mercy and his grace.  Let’s look at verse 7, “that in the ages to come”, now it’s God’s purpose, obviously too, that we’re saved by grace, he initiated.  Here’s his purpose.  “That in the ages to come” and the Greek indicates ‘coming’, like  wave after wave after wave after wave.  And I think God’s trying to describe to our finite minds the idea almost of timelessness.  “And the ages to come”, wave after wave after wave after wave after wave of ages that will come, in those ages “that he might show (or might be showing) unto us the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.”  So the idea is that there is a greater glory that Christ will enjoy because we were saved by grace--by God’s very nature, by God’s very action and by God’s purpose.  “That in ages to come”, and to me that means ‘after we’re there for billions of years, even though there won’t be time [if we’re living on a physically re-made earth and universe within the “time-space” realm or continuum, there will be time.  But we will also experience God’s realm outside of the “space-time continuum” as well, stepping into and out of space-time as he does--we’ll have that ability.  What does Revelation 21:1-21 tell us?]  We’re trying to talk about an idea here, that we will still be learning, about his grace and his mercy.  We will still not have comprehended infinite grace and infinite mercy, because we will always be created, never be infinite.  As the angels in heaven are created beings, God is the one who created us and made us, we owe our life and existence to him.  And we will always be finite, much improved, and he will always be infinite.  Even in the ages to come, we will still be ‘being conformed into His image and likeness’, never arriving, always approaching, always learning, always seeing something in him, after we’re there billions of years, that we had never seen before because there is no end to him, he’s infinite.  So in the ages to come, God’s purpose, that he may be revealing things to us about his mercy and grace expressed through Christ, to the glory of Christ.  So God’s purpose is involved in this.  Now you got to see, Paul is so heavenly minded.  To me he’s lots of earthly good, I like to read this stuff.

Conclusions here?  Verse 8, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it [this faith and grace] is the gift of God, not of works lest any many should boast."  Now by the way, if you’re in Bible school or you’re raking over these things in the original language, there’s a controversy here where scholars set up their own camps, and they’re divided with this word here “that” [in “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”].  Now I’ve got a king James, which says “for by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.”  Your translation may say this.  Well right there is where they get all snagged up.  Imagine this amazing chapter that we’re reading, and they get all bungled up on the word “that”!?  Because they say the gender is neutral and can’t refer back to faith because it’s feminine and so is saved and grace and they got this whole thing there.  So some scholars, even great scholars have said, ‘Well then what it means is God contributes the grace and you contribute the faith and kind of like we’re partners in salvation because of our great cooperation we’re going to get there, which is ridiculous.  Calvin, I believe, had it right when he said ‘The idea is by grace you are saved through faith and that--the word that is speaking of both grace and faith’--you know, let me tell you something, that’s what drives me crazy about Greek scholars and Hebrew scholars, and you read these guys, they don’t even agree with each other!  I think, ‘Lord, should I really give my life in the pursuit of this?  Because if I read Lindski or Weist or Vencant or Alford or Robertson, and I do, they don’t agree with each other, or Hendstonburg, and you know, they get so smart, they destroy simple faith.  And I’m convinced, personally, that I’ve got the book the way God wanted me to have it, right here.  And people say, ‘Well, the king James Bible, it’s so antiquated, it’s got these funny words, these thee’s and thou’s and all this stuff.’  Let me tell you something.  When they started to do English translations when Wycliff did it from Latin he had to invent English phrases because there were no phrases in the English language to communicate certain ideas that were in the Latin.  When Tyndale translated from Greek into English, from the eastern text, he had to invent English phrases to convey ideas that were in the Greek language.  And when the king James Bible, when you have Tyndale’s translation in 1537, when you have the king James Bible printed in 1611 you have a Bible that’s handed to a Victorian [Shakespearian] antiquated English speaking world, and the book was antiquated the day they opened it because there were phrases in there they didn’t understand, because it’s heaven’s English.  It’s not 16th century English, it was heaven’s English, there were phrases in there they had never laid eyes on before.  And it amazes me to read through a passage like this that starts by saying “we were dead in trespasses”--now have you tried to talk to a dead man?--If you do, you’re in sin because the Bible forbids it, to go to a medium or be involved with speaking to the dead.  Did you ever go to the cemetery and slap somebody around and say ‘Come on, I’m trying to communicate something to you? [laughter]  Well, that’s what it says, ‘We’re dead in trespasses and sins’, we had no capacity to hear anything spiritually, we had no capacity to see anything spiritual, that’s what it says.  We were suppressed by the flesh and the devil, and were by nature children of wrath.  But God saved us by grace.  And yet some of these guys [scholars] want to get in there something bad, ‘Well OK, God contributed the grace, I contribute the faith.’  We’re dead in trespasses and sins, read the chapter!  Did you [scholars] just read the word ‘that’!?!--and get stuck there? And then God takes the trouble to say in the next verse “not of works lest any man should boast” because he didn’t want to hear you bragging about that.  In fact, the Greek is “not of works lest any man ever should boast.”  Imagine going to heaven and having some guy there saying ‘Well, you know, God provided the grace and I provided the faith, I mean I made a reasonable evaluation of the fact that I was dead in trespasses and sins, I figured I’m dead, I’m here, I can’t hear, I can’t  see, I’m dead, I was suppressed by the world and the devil, and I realized that if I would believe, then all of my sins would…’  Now who wants to listen to that forever?  You know, one of the nice things about [being in the kingdom of] heaven is people won’t be talking about themselves there, they’ll be talking about Jesus [Yeshua], we don’t have to listen--imagine having to listen to that for eternity?  They’ll have to have a special place for those people, far away, you know.  And you know what?  Look, there are plenty of places in the Bible that put the responsibility on man to believe.  But I’m not going to take Ephesians chapter 2 and ruin it just because I want to be a knuckle-head and show how smart I am.  This really seems to be telling us that we had nothing to do with it, God did it all.  And I like that.  And when I get to heaven he can have all the glory.  In fact, if I get to heaven, he will!  You know what  I mean?  [laughter]  That’s why the plan works so well.  “Saved by  grace, through faith”, that whole process, salvation by grace through faith, not of yourselves—that, that whole sentence, not of yourselves, “not of works, lest any man should boast,”--reason--“for we are his workmanship.”  (It’s going to talk about works in verse 10.)

“We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works…”(verse 10).  Now those are his works through you, not yours, let’s get it straight.  Don’t start bragging right there again, because we just stopped you from bragging.  And it says ‘we’re created in Christ Jesus,’  it’s the, the “created” there is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word “bara” which means “create something from nothing.”  So don’t say “yes, we’re his workmanship created in Christ, you know, of course good works, look at the material you have to work with…”, no, no, it says “created from nothing.”  That’s us, that was your contribution, nothing, you were nothing, dust balls.  “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Not your works, that got you there.  This whole process, when we stand in heaven [or the kingdom of heaven--which will end up on earth, cf. Rev. 21:1-21]--all of the glory will go to Jesus Christ.  And it says ‘For we are his workmanship, created from nothing, in Christ Jesus.’  It says “unto good works.”  Now notice, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  The remarkable thing about this plan is he saves us when we can’t save ourselves—no man comes unless the Father draws him [John 6:44, 65], Jesus says.  He comes, saves us out of the world, gives us life, turns on the light, wakes us up, cleans us up, shapes us up, puts us in Christ, does a work through us, and then when we get to heaven, he rewards us for the good stuff he did through us.  You cannot beat this program!  That’s why it’s called the gospel, the Good News.  And how long have we sat in churches and feel like, you know, you leave after Sunday morning services and feel like it wasn’t good news, it was bad news?  You already know a thousand and one things you need to be doing that you’re not doing, why don’t you go back to church next week and find out one thousand and two things you need to be doing that you’re not doing.  I get beat up by Satan all week, why do I need to go to church on Sunday [or Saturday] morning and get beat up by the minister?  What a remarkable statement.  It says, because of all this, our salvation, by God’s grace, because we are his workmanship, again the word poema.  We get “poem” from it, obviously.  It speaks in the Greek of expression, it can be in the sense of music or poetry, we are God’s expression.  It’s only used in one other place in the New Testament and that’s Romans 1:20, where it says “that the invisible things of God can be known through the things that are made”--that word “made--poema”, “even his eternal power and Godhead.”  So, what it’s saying there is that unsaved people can’t claim to be an agnostic or an atheist because there’s enough of God revealed in creation, that every man has to admit something’s going on out there--there must be a Divine Being [that made all this we see around us, not to mention the vast Universe].  It doesn’t say that Jesus Christ and the gospel are revealed, but it says, God’s eternal power and his Godhead are revealed in creation.  Anybody who has a brain, who is willing to admit it, sees order.  Wildersmith, when he was here, Dr. Wildersmith said, he talks of Carl Sagen and these guys, and they get all these grants and funds for their radar telescopes and spend millions of dollars listening for signals from outer space.  And if they should pick up a signal, then they have evidence that there’s intelligent life outside of our world.  Now the criteria for a signal is if they pick up a pattern, a continued pattern, that means there’s intelligent life somewhere else.  Wildersmith told me, he said, “I told Sagen, ‘Look, trade in your radar telescopes for an electron microscope, come with me into the lab, and look at the helix in the DNA, and I will show you sequences that are digital codes that prove that there’s outside intelligence.’”  But they won’t hear about it.  They are willingly ignorant, the Bible says, because it says “God expressed enough of himself to man through the things that are made, but now since Christ has come and the church has come into existence, now you are God’s “Poema” [expression] to a lost world.”

It said in the beginning of this chapter that we walked according to the course of this world, walk, meaning to meander.  Your life and my life was without purpose.  I lived without purpose.  My purposes changed each day, they involved my own pleasure and my own satisfaction and my own goals, and I threw those goals away and picked up new ones as soon as I got tired of them.  And if I got into a relationship with someone that was a hassle, I got rid of ‘em, because I was a no-hassle kind of guy.  And I was completely self-centered.  And whatever the world and Satan handed me, my flesh was ready for, and I was meandering without purpose.  But now--God has come into our lives, he has saved us, and now we have purpose, we are the poema of God to a lost world.  We are the expression of God to a lost world, his workmanship.  And there are good works that are fore-ordained that we should walk, it indicates, in the sphere of those things.  And again, the thing that strikes me here as I go through this…it is the degree of parent-blaming that I hear in the church, the degree of saying ‘Well, I grew up in this kind of home, and dysfunctional is the big catch-word--my father was an alcoholic, I was sexually abused, I was in a foster-home, I went through this, I went through that--and you know, all of that pain is real, and the scars left by those things are real--but the point of all of this is, that now, because of the world that we have to minister to and convey the gospel to, is a world full of pain, and abuse and drunkenness, and hopelessness.  It is only fitting that God would take us, turn our scars into his brush-strokes, and that we would become his “poema” to a lost world, to be able to tell people, “I was sexually abused, but Jesus Christ was sufficient.  He will forgive you and give you life, and remove the sword of bitterness from your hand, and open your eyes.”  [And right here I want to add something.  There is a book titled “For Whom The World Was Not Worthy”.  It is about an evangelist couple in World War II Yugoslavia.  In the book the evangelists wife, also a woman of prayer, meets this old lady who had seen all her sons slaughtered and was handed a basket filled with their eyeballs by the perpetrators.  She went insane from grief and pain.  Upon this evangelist’s wife and the prayer-group with her learning of this woman’s plight of grief-caused insanity, they prayed over this elderly lady, and Jesus healed her and restored her sanity, and then she became a believer herself.  To say Jesus doesn’t heal our scars, which may seem small compared to this event, is ridiculous.  This is the type healing Pastor Joe Focht is talking about.  And this old lady was too far gone to be able to pray for herself.  She had to be healed before she was sane enough to ask Jesus into her life.]  I was raised [Pastor Joe talking about himself now] by an alcoholic father who caused hell in our home.  But I have a father now who was willing to give his own Son that I could have life.  I went from foster home to foster home, and to understand what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, to want to take a machinegun and walk into a McDonalds and blow everybody away.  But Jesus Christ has taken all of that away from me.  And you see, instead of, it says in Ezekiel 18, God says “I don’t want to hear you blaming that generation anymore.”  If your parents were idolaters and worshipped Molech and they offered children to idols—and yet you decide to follow me, you will not be punished for the sins of your parents but you’ll be accountable for your own walk.  But if your children are wicked they won’t receive the reward for your righteousness.”  Because each generation will give account to God for itself.  And God is sufficient for those things.  And again, we’re all members, we’re all adult children of sinning parents.  That’s the biggest group you can belong to.  And so will your kids, by the way.  And the remarkable thing, is that he can take us with all of our pain and all of our scars, and turn us into the answer that the world does not have and is looking for.  You know, if we all came from hunky- dory situations where everything was wonderful and everything was prosperous and if we all came from functional families--whatever they are, I’ve never heard of one--I’m not in one now, I’m doing my best, but you know--what would we know about the pain the world is existing in and wrestling with?  What would we know about the darkness they face, and the broken-heartedness and the bitterness and the pain?  The point is, that Christ is able to lift up our head out of the muck and the mire, and the life that we have is a life that goes on from this point into the future, not into the past.  You can go sit on the psychiatrist’s couch.  And you can sit there and you can tell him, ‘My Mom did this and my Dad did this, and I did this, and that happened and this and that, you can retrace all of this nonsense in your whole life that brought you to that couch and pay him $100 for him to tell you you’re nuts.  You knew that before you went.  You could have paid us $100 and we’d have told you. [laughter]  But that psychiatrist can’t take you any further than that.  And with Jesus Christ there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  And the psychiatrist doesn’t have that for you.  He can tell you ‘I can see that you are the sum of all of the insanity you’ve lived through.’  I can’t believe he went to college all those years to discover that about people.  [Sometimes going to those guys just makes you more bitter about your past, I know, my ex-wife went to this therapist guy, all he succeeded in doing was digging up all the past hurts in her life, which exaserbated her anger and bitterness.]  That’s what Nicodemus said to Jesus.  ‘Do I have to go back into my mother’s womb?’  ‘I am the sum of all the insanity of my life.  How do I do this over again?’  And Jesus Christ said ‘You have to be born of water and of the Spirit’, and it indicates to me all the way through the Bible that the cross of Christ and the new birth is sufficient.  And man, do we need to get our eyes off of our scars and off of our bitterness.  [We do that by handing them to Jesus in prayer and forgetting about them after that.]  You know, the point is, are we really willing to take what Christ has put at our disposal, and let go of the hatred, and let go of the bitterness, and let go of the pain, and set our eyes on the future where there is a world without end, where there is an inheritance that’s undefiled, that is kept, that fadeth not away, that is reserved in heaven for us.  Are we really willing to look around now and know that we’re in another family that is more functional, this [church] family right here is fairly functional, it ain’t perfect.  And if you look hard enough, you might find somebody like you, and get disappointed, a human.  But he’s given us a family, he’s given us his Word, he’s given us a future.  Everything about the life we have in Christ is ahead of us.  This is as bad as it gets [until the persecution of Matthew 10 & 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 comes—our final exam time], it only gets better from here on in.  This abundant life that we’re experiencing now is as bad as it gets.  And it says Jesus Christ has taken us, with all of those scars, and now through the work of his Spirit, through his salvation, we have become the ‘poema’ of God, the way that God expresses himself to the lost world.  That’s why it’s emphatic in Matthew when it says ‘You alone are the light of the world [Matthew 5:14-16], you alone are the salt of the earth [Matthew 5:13].’  No Buddhist and no Muslim and no Krishna--and I am not judging their motive or anything like that, I’m just saying--they do not have the answer.  You alone.  And that answer is, part of that answer is the fact that you and I, we all have our own story, we could all write our own book.  We all have our own pain, we all have our own little tales, but it really comes up in verse 4, where it says “But God…”  That’s where the past is cut off and the future begins.  All of the pain and all of the bitterness and all of that--“But God”, “But God”--butted into my life and changed it, and gave me a future, and released me, and cut the strings of the past, and the chains, so that now we’re not purposeless, we’re his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, a new creation, it says.  That’s what matters, the new creation, the new man in Christ.  The old man, one thing, the new man in Christ--we have the mind of Christ--“created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  And again, the only other place I find that in the New Testament, that idea “before ordained” is in Romans--Paul must have been on a roll as he was thinking about these things—in Romans it says that “what if God, willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath and fitted them to destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy”--that’s us here this evening--“which he hath before prepared unto glory.”  Same phrase, only other place.  And again, it says there, he has “before ordained us unto glory.”  Pretty amazing stuff.  It says here “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (verse 10)  “Wherefore” because of all this, “remember” the tense is “continually be remembering” “that you being in time past Gentiles in the flesh”--now that’s in the flesh--“who are called Uncircumcision in the flesh made by hands”--you can tell Paul’s digging a little bit here.  I mean, he’s the guy who’s got the revelation of the church and what it really is and develops [into] in the New Testament.  And he digs a little bit here, when he says “wherefore, remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh”--in other words, your flesh is Gentile flesh, it wasn’t Jewish flesh (he’s speaking to the Ephesians) “who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands, that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens”--now this is a description of the government and the politics and the media.  No  wonder things are so messed up--“being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers [foreigners] from the covenants of promise,”--they knew nothing about them--“having no hope, and without God in the world.”  Sad condition the world exists in today.  And here’s another “but”, verse 13, like the one back in verse 4. “But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh [king James word for “near”] by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of separation between us;”--and again, in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, there was a wall that separated the court of women and the Holy Place from the court of the Gentiles, and there in Hebrew, Greek and Latin [it said], “Any Gentile that passed that wall took his own life into his own hands” because it was punishable by death.  And Paul is playing on that now, saying that the ‘wall of partition has been broken down between Jew and Gentile—“having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in the ordinances; for to make in himself of twain [Jew and Gentile] one new man, so making peace.”  [Now the Stearns translation shows that this verse isn’t negating the commandments, but the enmity between Jew and Gentile]  That’s new in quality, that’s one new kind of man, that’s a Christian man.  So there is no more, in Christ there is no more Jew or Gentile [even though Paul, Peter, James, John all encouraged the Jewish believers to maintain their Jewish heritage and cultural ethnic customs of worship as believers in Yeshua, and for the Gentiles to maintain their own customs of worship that were developing.  Subsequent church history shows, deplorably, that the Gentile Greco-Roman churches squashed the churches of the Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua, so that only the Greco-Roman churches remained.  Now Messianic congregations filled with Jewish believers in Yeshua are springing up everywhere, bringing the gospel of salvation back into the Israeli nation and to all Jews worldwide.  This is as Paul, Peter, James and John would have wanted it--the two separate groups of believers, both one in Christ--making one new man.  Sort of like a man and a woman, making a new person, one flesh.  It takes the two to make one “complete” person.  And even here Pastor Joe concurs.]  And I thank God for some of the Messianic fellowships and outreaches that Jesus Christ has raised up.  But I want you to know this, you are not a 2nd class citizen because you are not a Messianic Jew [as any decent non-Torah observant Messianic Jewish pastor (or rabbi, as they call themselves) will wholeheartedly concur].  Because if you are, then so was Abraham, because he was a godless Gentile, it says in the end of Joshua, who worshipped idols on the other side of the Euphrates river.  And the idea is, now in Christ--maybe you had Uncircumcised Gentile flesh, they had Circumcised Jewish flesh, but the idea is we’re in the Spirit from another dimension where God’s family is named from, we’re all born of the Spirit of Christ--and the Spirit of Jesus Christ--and the Spirit that lives in you is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, is the same Spirit that lives inside a born-again Jew or born-again Muslim or anybody else who’s born-again. [And he’s referring to a Muslim person who has accepted Jesus as Savior.]  Israel is the apple of God’s eye nationally, and he has a special place for the Jew, and has a special promise that he will maintain and fulfill to the nation of Israel.  Romans 11 tells us about that.  But “in Christ” now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, bond nor free, we’re all one in Christ.  And you cannot improve on that unity, you can’t improve on it.  And he says here that ‘Christ has broken down and made one new kind of man, so making peace.’  “and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby, and he came and he preached peace to you which were afar off,”--Gentiles--“and to them that were nigh”--to the Jews.  “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (verses 16-18).  Now you’ve got to understand, Paul is the guy, you know.  Peter really doesn’t spend time on it, James doesn’t spend time on it.  Paul is really the guy who sees the church and is given the revelation of [about] the church, the body of Christ, that the middle wall of partition is broken down.  He’s going to tell us in chapter 3 that this was a secret, it was something that was hidden in ages past that even the prophets really didn’t understand--that God had taken Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and called him and appeared to him by grace, by election, and brought him into the land of Promise--Haberu, which we get Hebrew from, it just meant a nomad, a shepherd--and the promise was then given to Abraham whereby Isaac was born.  From Isaac through his seed comes Jacob, who’s name is changed to Israel, who has 12 sons who are [become] the 12 tribes of Israel, or the children of Israel, the children of Jacob.  And God takes the Jews and sets them aside from all other people on the earth as the apple of his eye, his covenant people, the people that he worked with on the earth, and desired that they would be a priest nation--to communicate to the rest of the world the truth about the one true living God.  And it was through the Jews that the Messiah has come.  So it tells us in Romans 11 not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, don’t be ignorant of this thing, that God has a covenant with the Jews.  And it’s because of their blindness that we have been grafted in.  And there should be a certain humility on our part toward Israel, realizing what it cost them as a nation to bring the Messiah into the world, that they were a special target of Satan throughout the history of the world, because it was through their bloodline the Messiah would come, who would destroy all of his [Satan’s] work and seal his future of being damned in the lake of fire. 

        But Paul is now saying, ‘Look, this now has been broken down in Christ. In Christ there is one new kind of man.’  We both [Jew and Gentile believers] have access to the Father in one Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus.  The Spirit of Jesus, you know, are you Jewish?  No, [but] our God is, I guess, I think Hebrew may be the language we speak in heaven, I’m not opposed [to that idea] at all.  I like swarma and I hope we eat it throughout eternity, and filaful, that’s fine with me.  “Now therefore are you no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God”--incredible family that we belong to--“and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone”--Now is it NT prophets or OT prophets?  You can pick, we’re all entitled to our opinions.  I feel like my life personally isn’t built on NT prophets.  I know about Aggabus, but I don’t really know about the rest of ‘em.  I mean, certainly my life is built upon the things Isaiah said and Ezekiel said and Elijah said, the minor prophets and Daniel and so forth.  So I think in context here of Israel and the Old Testament.  He will in chapter 3 make mention of NT prophets also.  I believe there’s a difference between the gift of prophecy and being a prophet.  I believe that Billy Graham is a prophet.  When we had lunch with some of the folks on his staff, they said when he wants to write he has to leave the country.  He lives in a cabin.  But the President has his phone number, Yeltsin has his phone number.  All these people from around the world call him and dump on him all the time.  And he can’t say ‘Ruth, tell him I’m not here…Hey, it’s Yeltsin, wanting to know what to do.’  And remarkably, these people get to the top of the pile and realize how empty it is, they find out what’s going on, on the scene, they find out about nuclear weapons drifting around the world.  They want to know what in the world is going on.  And he said every world leader since Winston Churchill has taken him aside and questioned him about the 2nd Coming of Christ, every world leader--Chinese, Russian, American, they all want to know--because they get to the top and they know it’s closer than they admit they know to us.  I think he’s a prophet.  He speaks to kings and to queens and world leaders.  So I think there are prophets today.  [And in spite of how disliked Mr. Herbert Armstrong was in the eyes of other Christian leaders, he was queried along these same identical lines.  He had met with a great many of the world’s leaders, kings and queens on many occasions toward the end of his life.]  I think you’ve got to look out for most of them though, especially if they’re trying  to convince you that they’re one.  Jesus said “As the Father has sent me so I send you.”  And I think what you want to take note about that is that Jesus said “I don’t bear witness on myself, but the Father who sent me, he bears witness of me.”  So, you know, you figure if a guy, why does he have this ad in the paper?  You know, ‘Healing! Evangelism!  Come see--hoops, seals, elephants!’…  You know, if he’s so great he doesn’t need advertisement in a newspaper.  So I would be a little cautious about those who claim the place of a prophet, especially when they want to prophesy in your life and tell you what God wants you to do.  Because God sent his Son to die so he could talk to you.  But I think they are around.  But I think here, back to the point, we’re looking at Old Testament prophets. 

        Verse 20, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”--here’s the important thing, we can all agree on this--“Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.”  The idea is, everything is measured off of Christ.  Doesn’t say he’s the capstone.  Some guys get out there [on the hairy edge of doctrinal interpretation] and say it’s the capstone on a pyramid, all this nonsense.  This is the cornerstone.  It was laid first, everything was measured off of it.  It’s part of the foundation.  Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone and everything else in the building is measured off of that cornerstone, everything else.   [And Jesus is called the Word, or Logos of God in John 1:1-11.  The Word of God in print is the Bible, Jesus in print, so who do you think inspired the Word of God through the Holy Spirit?--when speaking to or inspiring Prophets what to write?  2 Peter 1:20-21, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture [Tenach, Old Testament] is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  See how Jesus is the cornerstone both in the New and Old Testaments.  See Acts 2.  The very same Holy Spirit was inspiring the apostles who inspired the Prophets in the Old Testament or Tenach.  In other parts of the New Testament the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Christ, and alternately, the Spirit of the Father--one God in three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit--don’t ask me to explain--but that’s the connection.]  Everything in our lives should be measured off of Christ Jesus.  It’s an interesting thing, you know, because it will talk to us here about how we grow--we’re growing into this building, fitly framed together and so forth.  The interesting thing about Christ and your experience with Jesus Christ and the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, it’s so much different than all of the knowledge we’ve experienced.  Through life, as you went to school and you learned different subjects, biology and algebra, trigonometry…and you learned those things to a degree…but the interesting thing in learning spiritual things, we don’t learn through out senses, we don’t learn in the same way, through our five senses.  And you never learn all there is to know about Jesus being your foundation, that continues to expand.  It’s almost like the light comes on more and more, the more you know the Old Testament the more you understand the New Testament [and I am finding that so very true, having recently become an active member of a Messianic Jewish-Christian congregation.  Having a Jewish pastor, brought up learning the OT Scripture, the Tenach, but taught in the light of the New Testament, I am coming into so much more of an understanding of how the two, Old and New, are intertwined and meshed together--the deep symbolism in all the aspects of the Mosaic temple worship, directly pointing to Jesus Christ, his sacrifice and atonement for all of our sins, the church--and that God wants to dwell with his people, mankind, eternally--incredible symbolism of the Old pointing to its fulfillment and direct application in the New.  There is something vital Gentile Christianity needs to learn from their Jewish brothers in Christ, the Messianic pastors and rabbis in congregations spreading around the globe at this point in time.  Calvary Chapels are beginning to understand this, but other Christian fellowships and denominations need to start realizing the significance of this, and the significance of the Messianic movement itself.  For more understanding, log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/messianicmovement.htm .]  The more you read the New Testament, the more you understand the Old Testament.  The more you pray, the more you understand about Christ.  The more you have fellowship with the body of Christ--the idea is, it’s much different than a subject [in school], you know, the Bible isn’t like a biology book, once you get to the end of it, you’re glad, or Cliff Notes, that’s what I read when I was in high school, if I could get through them.  You know, I never read till I got saved.  Jesus does amazing things.  I used to sit in English class and hit my pencil, and my English teacher hated me, “Focht, stop it!  You’re driving me crazy!”  I sat up in the front row.  But you know, predicate, nominate and verbs…and I was sitting there thinking ‘Bell’s gonna ring soon and I’m gonna get outa here.’  That was just me.  I think it’s wonderful that there are people who understand those things.  I wasn’t one of them.  But when I got saved, God gave me an amazing desire to read.  And the amazing thing about the Bible is that it’s not like any other book.  I’ve read it cover to cover I don’t know how many times, but the idea is, every time I go back to places that I assume I’m familiar with, I find things I never knew were there.  It’s like an onion where you pull layer after layer.  The idea is there’s NO bottom, the depth to it is incredible.  And it uncovers other parts as it uncovers itself.  So the thing that I see that is different about our measuring everything off of Christ, all of life, measuring marriage off of Christ, measuring parenting off of Christ, measuring school and career and the value of money off of Christ--money, by the way, is a great tool to use against Satan, it really is--you know, measuring the way we spend ourselves and our resources off of Christ.  There’s this continually expanding experience in depth and height and in breadth.  He’s going to talk about the love of Christ and your spiritual growth with him.  It isn’t just one subject at a time, kind of like it was in high school or something.  And he talks about that.  He says first of all the foundation is Jesus Christ, the way it’s formed, the formation in verse 21, “In whom al the building fitly framed together--and continually growing (present perfect tense)--unto a holy temple in the Lord.”  And so this is where it’s saying, there’s this continual growing as it is measured off of Christ--as an individual, as a church, through the centuries--an holy temple in the Lord.  “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (verse 21).  Now that’s an incredible thing to say about human beings, isn’t it?--that God wants to live in you by the Holy Spirit.  By the way, this Holy Spirit didn’t come from a dysfunctional family.  You have the mind of Christ which doesn’t need healing of the memories.  He’s only got good memories.  And it says you’re being builded together for an habitation of the Holy Ghost [k. James].  That’s pretty incredible stuff, that God desires to be at home in you and that you can be at home in him.  And again, there’s this concept of a family, God drawing us into not cheap familiarity--and I think again, with almost reverence we step on that ground where we cry “Abba, Father”, can I really be that familiar?--does he really desire that kind of intimacy?  I can tell you without a doubt that he does.  Any of you who are parents have learned within the confines of those relationships that you have with your children, of what it means to love your children, to care about their well-being.  Again, I’ve learned more from my kids about the love of God than I have from any theologian or commentary.  We are part of that family, being builded together into a habitation of God wherein we would be comfortable in him, growing in him, and he would be comfortable in us.  Pretty incredible stuff, trying to communicate to us.” 

 

 

Ephesians 3:1-11

 

Now, “For this cause”, now you can go back to chapter 1 & 2 and pick whatever cause you want to.  We just read a lot of stuff.  ‘For this cause’, all this amazing stuff we’ve been coming through, verse 1, “I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…”  Now he’s the prisoner of Rome presently [when he penned this].  But he doesn’t see himself that way, he’s the prisoner of Christ and for the Gentiles.  If we trace him back to the book of Acts you’ll find out it was when he was standing on the steps of Jerusalem.  He had started a riot, some guys there accused him of stuff, a riot started and Paul started to speak to the crowd and they all quieted down, and because they heard him speaking in the Hebrew tongue--but when he got to the line where he said “and the Gentiles will receive through Christ [literally the word he used was “Messiah”, Christ is a Greek word] the riot started up again, they [the Romans] had to drag him away so that he wasn’t killed.  And the idea is, this imprisonment is in relationship with the Roman government and his appealing [as a citizen of Rome] to Caesar, has continued all along.  And he says “I’m a prisoner of Christ for you Gentiles,  because he would not back down amongst his own countrymen on the issue that Jew and Gentile were now one in Christ.  Now, by the way, I think that is an exhortation to us.  I think, you know, here we are in the last days, we really shouldn’t back down to our families either.  You know, I get a lot of questions, “My aunt and my Mom are driving me crazy, they want to get the baby Christened in the Church, should we do it or should we not?”  Looking at the issue, my response is “It doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t hurt anything (the kid might get a cold if they sprinkle too much water on him).”  I mean, it doesn’t accomplish anything.  It doesn’t hurt anything, but it doesn’t do anything.  And what you have to decide is will you be doing your family a greater service by standing up to their ideas and challenging them and freaking them all out, or do you think the Holy Spirit’s saying ‘OK, just play along and we’ll sink the knife in a little further down the line.’  I can’t tell you that, but I know Paul was not willing to compromise with his own countrymen, the people he loved and grew up around, and his fellow-students from the school of Gamalial and so forth.  He stood up for what was true.  And how we need to stand up in the day we live in. “For this cause, I Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles…”  And he kind of goes in this, takes a break until verse 13, where he goes off now.  Verses 2-5, “If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me to youward, how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in  few words, whereby when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)--reread that a few times, you’ll get it--“which in other ages was not made known…”  ‘You understand why I’m in this position, God has called me to that’ is what he’s saying.  “…which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”--there’s New Testament “prophets”, by the way.  Now, by the way, these are things we take for granted, you know them.  In Paul’s day this theology of the New Testament was developing in an incredible way, and being safeguarded by the Spirit and recorded, things that you and I take for granted.  Verse 6, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”  Verse 7, “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.”  Now he’s reflecting back to what he said as he finished up chapter 2 in the breaking down of this partition wall.  Verse 8, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  Doesn’t sound like a guy on UHF does he?  This is a guy who has encountered God.  ‘I am the least of all saints…’  Isaiah says ‘Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips’ when he encounters the Lord.  Daniel, ‘All my comeliness was turned to ashes when I encountered the Lord.’  John in Revelation, ‘I fell down as a dead man before him when I saw him.’  Anybody who’s had a real experience with God has himself in perspective.  That is, you don’t believe the press clippings, you don’t take yourself very seriously.  “Unto me” he says “who am less than the least of all the saints is this grace given”--speaking about the ministry--“that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  He uses a word here “unsearchable riches”, it means “unable to track the footprints.”  You know, it’s interesting, he says that’s the unsearchable riches of Christ--you can’t track the footprints of the whole thing, how it works and why he did it, and even though people spend years trying to do it--as we reach through chapter 1 & 2, it’s obvious, we can’t track the footprints of the whole thing.  We set up camp and say ‘Well I believe the footprints mean this, and I believe’--and I’m an Armenianist, and I’m a Calvinist--and Paul says ‘Hey, I’m the least of all the guys that he called and amazingly grace has been given to me that I should proclaim the unsearchable, the untrackable riches of Christ to the Gentiles--that I should take those things and try to communicate them--of what he understood and of what he saw of them.  By the way, that’s one of the problems we have as we speak to our unsaved friends and relatives, we’re taking unsearchable riches that they, because they’re dead in trespasses and sins, have no real capacity to appreciate.  So Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4 that the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.  But James tells us that the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much.  It means ‘On-target prayer.’  If you want to know how to pray effectively for your unsaved friends and relatives, especially in the Christmas season, the doors might open up to witness to them, you pray that God would bind the prince of this world, and that the blindness would be taken off their minds.  That’s an on-target effectual prayer, praying Biblically, according to Scripture.  And that they would be able to see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, and that it would shine in their eyes.  Because what you’re trying to communicate to people is the unsearchable riches of Christ.  What we’re trying to communicate to ourselves as we read the Scripture.  Verse 9, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”  The mystery of the fellowship, that Jew & Gentile would be one body, that this whole plan from Eden to the flood, from the flood to Abraham, from Abraham to David, and to the Prophets, and to the Messiah being born in Bethlehem of Judea and growing there and going down into Egypt and then coming up and ministering amongst the people and dying on the cross and being risen again and then calling out of the sea of humanity one people for himself of Jew and Gentile, he says this mystery of the fellowship has been hidden in ages past, he says, verses 10-11, “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifest wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  So he’s kind of winding this up and saying ‘You know, the remarkable thing is in all of this, that God has called the church to manifest this truth to principalities and powers, that the angels don’t understand.  You know, the angels watched the creation of the world, wherever they came in at--some day [in the way, way distant past] they were created, they looked around--here we are--and then they watched as creation was finished.  Man, then was created [millions of years later, after the fall of Satan and 1/3 of the angels] in God’s image and likeness, higher than the angels.  No angel, cherubim or seraphim is created in the image and likeness of God…There is greater beauty now revealed through God’s redemptive love, his grace was not seen in the original creation.  The greatest beauty of God is that he would then take sinning rebellious man, first create him [in front of Satan, the demons and all the angels], and then purchase him back to himself with the blood of his own Son.  And the greatest beauty of God was yet to be beheld.  And the angels don’t understand that because there is no angel savior.  No angel ever came and died on a cross for other angels.  And it says, “they desire”--1 Peter 1:10, around there somewhere it says--“they desire to look into the things concerning the heirs of salvation.”  They don’t understand.  And now it says that God has seen fit that the mystery of the things he’s doing may be made manifest to principalities and powers through the church--you know, they’re catching on, those angels, as they watch us.  That’s hard to believe, man.  That’s really amazing, that they’re understanding more of God’s purpose and God’s plan with the nations and with Israel, along with the Gentiles, as they observe what God with the Holy Spirit is doing.  How amazing it must have been for them.  I mean, when they had Jesus in Gethsemane, and Jesus said to Peter “put your sword away!  You know I could call 12 legions [of angels] right now—and they [the angels] were probably, saying “Yeah! Call us, call us!”  You know, one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night.  Imagine what 12 legions could have done.  They could have wiped out the globe in about 15 minutes.  And they’ve been on hold for a long time now.  They’re [the Romans] are beating him and pulling out his hair.  They [the angels] don’t understand.  But finally God’s going to say, “OK, go get ‘em!” and they’re going to have a picnic, that’s still ahead of us, that’s a great day.  So read ahead in Ephesians.  We’ll have to pick up here.  Not a good place to break off, but in Ephesians there’s no good place to break.

 

 

 

end