Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 3

Below is part 3 of 4 of a sermon I preached on 7/22/07 on Ephesians 1-3

The glory of God displayed in our present lives

Well, God’s purpose of displaying His glory is not limited to things God has done in the past, but also includes what He has done and is doing in our lifetimes. Look at chapter two, beginning in verse 1:
Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We’ve seen reflected on how God has satisfied the punishment of sin through the death of Jesus Christ, but here in verses 1-3 we see that our problem with sin goes far deeper that we ever imagined. Our problem with sin goes right down to the core of our heart. Paul describes us as being “dead” in our trespasses and sins. Of course, he’s not speaking of a physical death, but a spiritual deadness. It means that we had no desire for God, no love for God, and not even the ability to generate those things within us. This is why Paul describes us being enslaved to “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”. Not only that, but the “prince of the power of the air”, Satan, was also at work to ensure that we would remain enslaved to sin. We see in verse 3 that our condition was “like the rest of mankind”. We might look at the drug dealer or terrorist or dropout and think, “My life isn’t so bad”. But the truth is that all of us, left to ourselves, were at one point under the same deathly bondage to sin as they are. And as a result, all of us were by nature children of wrath; we were destined for God’s everlasting wrath.

But in verse 4, we see two amazing words: “But God”. We have made a mess of our lives, but now God steps in the picture. Read with me beginning in verse 4:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Rather than treating us as our sins deserved, God loved us and made us alive together with Christ. He exchanged our heart of stone for a heart of flesh. He opened our blind eyes to see the glory of Christ and trust in Him. He caused us to be born again. All these phrases are different pictures that the Bible gives us to describe God’s transformation of the human heart so that it no longer hates God, but is now able to love and trust God. God has raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places so that our affections and our longings are no longer here on earth, but are now focused on Christ. He is the one whom we follow and serve. How is this possible? Is it because God has seen something lovable or good in us? Look at vs. 8 - “For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. No, there is no boasting in our salvation. There was nothing in us that earned God’s approval, but God has saved us by His sheer grace. So my dear friends, put to death your human instinct to earn God’s approval and rest in a salvation that has been wrought entirely by God.

Yes, our condition was infinitely terrible…BUT GOD! Yes, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, BUT GOD made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we once followed the prince of the power of the air, BUT GOD raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places! Yes, we were once destined for eternal wrath, BUT GOD saved us so that now He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!

Well as we keep reading chapter 2, we see that God’s glory is not limited to our individual salvation, but is also shown in the way He has created a Church by bringing people together under Christ. Look at verse 11:
Eph. 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
One of the effects of our sin was not only that we were separated from God, but that we were separated from each other. We see in the Old Testament that God’s intention from the beginning was for the people of this world to reflect the glory of God in their unity, but instead, because of sin, humanity ended up using their unity to cooperate in their rebellion against God. So in judgment, God confused peoples’ languages and the world splintered into thousands of different tribes and nations.

Yet, God remained faithful to His plan, and decided to show His grace to the nation of Israel, and it was through this nation that He promised bless all the nations of the earth. It was to this nation that God made all His promises for salvation and blessing, but as we see history progress throughout the Old Testament, its not entirely clear how exactly these promises would be passed on to the rest of the world, especially since so many of Israel’s laws were designed to separate them from the rest of the world. In the Old Testament, we see that the fundamental division within humanity was between Jews and Gentiles, between those who had the promises of God, and those who didn’t.

But now in Jesus Christ, we see God’s amazing promises fulfilled. Through Christ, God has united Jews and Gentiles into one, tearing down “the dividing wall of hostility”. How exactly has he done that? Look at verse 15: “by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two (i.e. Jew and Gentile), so making peace.” Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the way we get to God is no longer through the law of commandments and ordinances, but simply through faith in Christ. Therefore, the law that once separated Israel from the rest of the world has been fulfilled in Christ. And now through the Gospel, within the Church, God is creating a new humanity, whose primary identity, primary allegiance, is not any ethnicity, or culture, or political party, but rather is their identity with Christ. In the Church, God is beginning to undo the effects of sin by uniting all of humanity under Christ.

Now, I want to be clear that the unity within the Church is very different from the kind of pluralistic, relativistic unity that the world advocates. The unity of the Church is based on a message, namely the Gospel. This is why Paul emphasizes in verse 20 that “we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone”. In other words, the only true unity that we’ll find is grounded on the testimony and teaching of the apostles about who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished. Be careful of anyone who would compromise Biblical truth in the name of unity. Unity without truth is a false unity. The only true unity that we’ll ever find is a unity that is based on a true faith in Jesus Christ. In the Church today, we are seeing the fruits of the amazing wisdom of God in orchestrating redemptive history to destroy the dividing walls of this world and to create a glorious new People comprised of men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

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