This Grace That We’ve Been Given (Ephesians 3:1-13)

The apostle Paul never got over the grace that God had shown to Him. He had been Saul, an enemy of the church, a persecutor of Christians, and a legalistic man blind to his own self-righteous pride. But in His amazing grace, the Lord had confronted Paul on the road to Damascus, broken his angry heart and stubborn will, and given him a new life and second chance through a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He went from being Saul, a destroyer of God’s people, to Paul, a missionary and church planter. Overnight he went from being super passionate about his Jewish heritage to being Christ’s first great ambassador to the nations, suffering all manner of hardships, prison sentences, and even death for the sake of the Gentiles he once condemned. Paul considered His divine calling to preach the gospel to all the known world to be the greatest possible privilege. That he could help swing open the door of salvation for peoples to whom the One True God had been a stranger for many centuries constantly brought Paul to his knees in thanksgiving and praise.

In today’s passage, Paul is about to tell the Ephesians once again about his unceasing prayers for their spiritual growth and well-being. That’s what’s happening in verse 1 of chapter 3, a thought which he starts and then will continue in verse 14. But he interrupts himself in verses 2-13 to reflect on his call and ministry. He wants the Ephesians to understand the great mystery that was predicted in the Old Testament but was then being fulfilled in his lifetime, namely that Gentiles who had been without God could now join God’s family of believing Israelites through their shared faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Most of Paul’s audience, like most of us today, were Gentiles, people from nations and tribes who had been outside of the covenants of promise that God had made with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David. They had been lost, alone, and without God. But through Jesus, they now had a hope of salvation, too. And Paul was blessed to be able to bring that message of Good News all over the eastern Mediterranean world, just as we, too, are blessed to be able to carry the gospel of peace to everyone we meet.

The Text (Ephesians 3:1-13)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people,this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purposethat he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Questions to Think About

1. How can you avoid taking your access to the gospel and the Word of God for granted? How can you help yourself to stay grateful for the many opportunities you have had over the years to hear about Jesus and respond to the gospel in repentance and faith?

2. Do you consider it a great privilege to be able to share Jesus with the unbelievers in your life? Do you consider witnessing about Christ to the lost to be one of the great responsibilities of being a Christian? Why or why not?

3. In what ways have you seen God’s works of grace in your life?

Notes

• The word translated as “mystery” in this passage does not mean a deep riddle or puzzle that no one can ever figure out. Instead, Paul uses the term “mystery” to describe something that was a hidden secret in the past that has now been fully revealed. The expansion of salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews) was hinted at throughout the Old Testament, but it was not fully understood, demonstrated, and explained until the beginning of the church era as we see in the book of Acts and Paul’s letters to the churches.

• Notice in verses 11 and 12 that understanding our new position in Christ should give us confidence and assurance as we approach the Lord in prayer and live out our new Christian lives in humility before Him who saved us from our sins. The epistles constantly use doctrinal teachings about who we are in Christ to urge us on to living in ways that honor Him.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Christ Our Peace (Ephesians 2:14-22)

Well does Jesus Christ deserve the title “”Prince of Peace,” for He brings peace to all who trust in Him. Christ gives His followers peace with God, taking away the penalty and burden of the sin that once separated us from our Creator. He gives us peace within ourselves, offering us rest for our souls from the cares and worries of life and strength to endure its trials. And Jesus gives us peace with each other, tearing down the walls that once kept us apart in self-centered isolation and rivalry. In today’s passage, Paul says that the power of the cross put to death the hatred and conflict that had kept the Jews, “those who were near” to God, bitterly divided from the Gentiles, those who did not have the blessings of the covenants of promise and were “afar off” from God (Ephesians 2:17). The two groups have now become one new, unified body as God’s church. Jesus Christ Himself is the cornerstone of this new, living house of believers, having come to fulfill all the promises laid down by the prophets and now explained by the apostles (vv. 20-22). Believing Jews and Gentiles have together become the Lord’s temple on earth, filled by the peacemaking, bonding work of His Holy Spirit.

This same work of reconciliation and unification continues today among all of us who are believers in Jesus Christ. Whatever conflicts we are having with other Christians, the blood of Christ can bring us healing and peace. If you find yourself fighting with other believers, resolution is possible if both sides will take their eyes off themselves and put their eyes on Jesus. When we repent of sin and put our faith in Jesus, we should see more peace and unity in our relationships. May the Spirit of the Lord make us one through a shared faith in the Prince of Peace.

The Text (Ephesians 2:14-22)

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever had peace with God? Are you experiencing His peace in your life right now? Why or why not?
  2. Do you have any conflicts with other believers right now? Through your shared faith in Christ and the bond of the Holy Spirit, you should be able to make peace with each other. However, if one or more of you is immature or backslidden in your faith, or if the issue is very serious, then you may need mediation help from a more experienced believer like a parent, youth pastor, Bible study leader, or teacher. Ask the Lord to help you find peace in all your relationships through the power of the cross.
  3. Have you seen more peace and unity in your grade now than there was a year ago? Explain.

Notes

  • The “dividing wall of hostility” in verse 14 was a literal physical barrier that kept Gentiles out of God’s temple. These Gentiles did not practice all of the religious and ceremonial laws of the Jews (verse 15), so they were seen as being outside of the promises of God’s love and salvation. But through Jesus Christ, that wall has been torn down and those Old Testament laws (not the moral commands like the Ten Commandments, but the stuff related to the temple and priests and such) have been abolished forever. What counts now is faith in Christ working through love. Peace is now available to people from every tribe and tongue and nation who are willing to repent of their sins and selfishness and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.
  • The image of Christians as God’s living, growing house is also found in 1 Peter (check out the post “We Are God’s House” for an explanation). This metaphor is used a lot in the New Testament to remind us that the church is not a collection of buildings. No, God’s people are His church, and He lives in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We joined that building of faith when we got saved, and we continue to grow together as the Lord works in our lives to make us more like the cornerstone, Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

No Longer Strangers to God (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Have you ever imagined what life would be like without the light of the gospel? Without the hope of heaven? Without the peace and purpose of having a personal relationship with a loving God? Well, that was the case of Paul’s first century readers before they trusted in the precious blood of Jesus Christ for their salvation. And that is the heartbreaking condition of so many lost souls that we encounter every day. All around us, in our neighborhoods, in the stores where we shop, on the ballfields, courts, and rinks where we play, there are people who “have no hope” and are “without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). And such were we before we met the Lord.

The world, our sin nature, and the devil do their best to entice unbelievers with one passing pleasure after another, always distracting them from their lost and wandering condition. If you were saved recently, you might remember what that lost feeling was like – continually looking forward to the next thing, never being fulfilled by what you’re doing now, always feeling empty and like there must be more to life. Then you found Christ, or rather He found you, and you were no longer alone in this world! Today’s text pushes us to remember that trying to live our lives without Christ at the center is truly a meaningless and lonely existence. The passage also touches our hearts with compassion for those around us who are still spiritual aliens and strangers. May we pray for opportunities to help the wanderers in our paths to find the saving relationship with Christ that we so often take for granted.

The Text (Ephesians 2:11-13)

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Questions to Think About

  1. When you think about your life before accepting Christ, did you ever feel lost and alone? Did you ever feel like your life was without purpose and meaning? Explain.
  2. Have you ever had a non-Christian friend, relative, or teammate talk about feeling lost or alone in this world? How could you use today’s passage as a way to share Christ with some of the unbelievers in your life?
  3. Have you thanked God recently for rescuing you from a life of wandering without purpose? How are you seeking for His will and purposes to be done in your life right now?

Notes

  • The references to “the Uncircumcision” and “the Circumcision” in verse 11 point forward to verses 14-22, where Paul will explain how Jesus Christ brings both Gentiles and Jews together in one new body called the church. Most of Paul’s audience seem to have been Gentiles, but he does not want them to feel like that makes them lesser Christians than the Messianic Jews. They are not inferior because outward religious rites like circumcision do not save people; it is the inner circumcision or changing of the heart that matters to God.
  • We should not overlook the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, a favorite topic of the New Testament authors. Remember in Ephesians 1:7 (a GREAT memory verse!), that in Christ we have both “redemption” and “the forgiveness of sins.” Now, in Ephesians 2:13, we see that Jesus’ blood is what brings sinful people like us from being “far off” to becoming “near” to God. His blood allows Christians to approach a holy God without the fear of being condemned, so that we can now “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Let the blood of Christ encourage us all throughout our day and especially whenever we come before the Lord in prayer.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

God’s Works of Grace (Ephesians 2:7-10)

From beginning to end, Christians are God’s unique works of grace. Our lives in Christ are the masterpieces of our all-good, all-wise, all-powerful Father in heaven. His work of grace began with us before the creation of the world, when He lovingly decided that He would choose us to become His adopted sons and daughters. In love and kindness, He knit us together before our physical birth, and in mercy and grace He redeemed us from slavery to sin by giving us a spiritual birth through repentance and faith in Jesus. We began to experience this salvation when we finally heard and understood the gospel in our hearts and first believed. And his work of grace continues each day as we grow in Christ, slowly becoming in this life what He has already declared us to be in the court of heaven: holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4).

In today’s passage, Paul reminds his Christian audience of arguably the greatest theme of the Bible – that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9; Revelation 7:10). Salvation is a gift that God gives us because He is kind and loves us, not because we are good and deserve it. The very definition of grace is that it is unearned – that’s why it’s called GRACE! Even if we could do enough good works to build a ladder to heaven, what would we do when we got there? Heaven is a place where Christians will worship God forever and ever, constantly praising the One who has saved us from our sins and the consequences we justly deserved (that’s called “mercy” – when you don’t get the punishment that you ought to get). A person who made it to heaven through his or her own goodness (which, remember, is impossible), would have no reason to praise Jesus! Christians will do good works (Ephesians 2:10), but these are the evidences of our faith, not the cause of our faith. Good actions and attitudes pour forth naturally from a soul that has been made new by the Holy Spirit; these character traits are called “the fruit of the Spirit.” We serve the Lord and do good to others out of joy and thankfulness because He has saved us, not so that He will save us. This vital difference is not just a wrangling of words – it is literally the difference between heaven and hell, between everlasting life and eternal death and suffering. May the Lord open our minds and hearts to see His hand of grace in our lives today, and may we praise Him for His grace forever and ever!

The Text (Ephesians 2:7-10)

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Questions to Think About

1. When you think back on your life before your salvation, what evidences of God’s grace can you see?

2. When did you first begin to understand your salvation as the work of God’s grace and not your own efforts?

3. Why do think that the concept of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is so offensive to so many people? In other words, why doesn’t everyone want to be saved / become a Christian?

Notes

• Our salvation is indeed the result of work. But it is not our work which saves us, but the work of God on our behalf. God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins with His death on the cross. Then the Father raised the Son back to life and sent God the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and give us the power to believe in the Son and receive eternal life. That’s some incredible work by God both for and in us!

• While verses 8-9 are famous memory verses from today’s text, verse 10 is also very important. Paul concludes this passage by explaining that as Christians, we are God’s “worksmanship,” or “works in progress.” By the power of His Holy Spirit, the Lord is at work in His people, transforming us from the inside out to become more like Jesus as we grow and mature in our faith. That process is called “sanctification,” and it will produce good words and actions in our lives that should be visible to those around us. These works do no save us, but they are the proof or fruit by which others recognize us as followers of Christ. When a person claims to have been saved for many years and yet does not show any evidence of being one of God’s works in progress, we have a right as Christians to lovingly question the reality of that person’s faith. This verse harmonizes with what James is talking about in James 2:14-26, when he argues that we show our faith to others by our works and that “faith” without works is dead and cannot save us.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

From Death to Life (Ephesians 2:1-6)

To enter heaven, people must be converted, or born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. While chapter 1 of Ephesians describes so beautifully the many spiritual blessings that God has given to His chosen and adopted children, the beginning of chapter 2 gives us a sobering reminder that these amazing riches of God’s grace only apply to those who are alive in Christ. None of us came out of our mother’s womb praising Jesus! No, we were all born “dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1). No matter how nice a person seems, the default spiritual condition of all people without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ is the same – dead in sins. The appearance of some people’s sinfulness may be better hidden than it is with others, but in the heart that has never been born again by the Holy Spirit, the condition is the same – dead in sins. The person without Jesus on the inside, no matter how nice they may seem on the outside, is a follower and prisoner of Satan (the “rule of the kingdom of the air”) and the deceitful belief system of this wicked world (v. 2). Every person without Christ is ultimately a slave to their own selfish desires, both the sins of the flesh (what they do and say) and the mind (what they think and want) – they are dead in sins (v. 3). And because of their sinful deeds and words and thoughts that pour forth from their sinful hearts, people without Christ are under God’s just sentence of punishment and condemnation (v. 4). They are headed for the hell that they rightly deserve.

If the passage ended here, all would be hopeless and lost for us. But praise God for verses 4-6! By the power of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from physical death, anyone who repents of their sins and trusts in His work on their behalf can be saved from their awful condition of spiritual death. Every born-again Christian has this testimony in their heart, that God has raised them from being dead in sins to being alive in Christ. If you are a Christian, you were delivered from death to life the moment you trusted in Jesus for your eternal salvation. You are no longer a dead man or woman walking, but a living, breathing bearer of God’s resurrection power. By God’s love and grace, you have forever passed from death to life and are headed for heaven.

The Text (Ephesians 2:1-6)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Questions to Think About

1. Have you passed from death to life as described in today’s passage? How can you tell?

2. How does remembering our sinfulness before we were saved make us more thankful for God’s mercy and grace in our life?

3. Are there any friendships that you need to reconsider and reevaluate right now based on today’s passage? Is it possible that you have been spending time with spiritually dead people and not known it? Proverbs 13:30 warns us that, “He who walks with wise men [and women] will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” When it comes to picking your closest friends, choose carefully.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel