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

Powered by God (Ephesians 1:19-23)

The very same power that God used to raise Jesus Christ from the dead is at work in the life of every born-again Christian. It is that resurrection power which first quickened our spirits to see the awfulness of our sin and the holiness of our God. That power showed us the amazing mercy and grace that we were given when Jesus died on the cross for every one of our sins and then rose from the dead in forever victory over both sin and death. God and His ways were not beautiful to us before, but now that we are alive “in Christ,” we want to worship and serve and seek and obey the Lord. That is the work of God’s Holy Spirit! Whenever we see sin-hardened hearts softened and turned to God in repentance and faith and love, we see the resurrection power of God in action. As Christians, we are truly “powered by God” to live lives pleasing to Him from the moment we first believe until the day that we meet Him in heaven.

God wants us to know and experience that resurrection power. Paul’s prayer in today’s passage is certainly God’s desire for us. Remember from Ephesians 1:15-18 that Paul was continually asking God to open the minds and hearts of his Christian audience to deeply understand all that God has done for them in Christ, specifically all the blessings that he had just described in verses 1-14. Now he finishes his prayer by getting us to realize that the same power that the Father used for the Son in raising Him from the dead and placing Him back in the glory of heaven as the King of Kings is the power that is now saving our souls. When you became a Christian, you became part of Christ’s invisible church. We are now part of His spiritual body, and He is our head and captain, our leader. When we follow and abide in Jesus, we can experience the power of God every day. We access that power through meditating on His Word, praying honestly and openly, enjoying fellowship with other growing believers, and doing God’s will. My prayer for all of us today is that we would experience His resurrection power in all that we do.

The Text (Ephesians 1:19-23)

19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Questions to Think About

1. Have you ever felt powerless as you tried to live for God? Look to Jesus today and seek HIS power to live the Christian life today! Jesus said that apart from Him we can nothing, but if we abide in Him (rest in, spend time with, focus on), we will bear fruit and so prove to be His disciples (John 15:1-8).

2. Have you ever tried to start reading the Bible regularly but struggled to get something out of it? You might need to change your approach. The Bible is meant to be read slowly and thoughtfully. You might need to reread a passage three or four times in one sitting, humbly asking God to help you understand it. Ask Him, “What are you trying to teach us (remember, the Bible was written for all believers, not just you!) in this text? What do you want Christians to know, believe, or do?” I would encourage you to give this a shot by going back and reading Ephesians 1 again and really seeking the Lord’s help in meditating on His Word. See what happens!

Notes

• In Ephesians 1:20, Paul discusses the resurrection power that raised Jesus physically from the dead. In Ephesians 2:5, we will see an awesome connection as Paul explains that as Christians we have been raised from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive in Christ. Listen to God’s Word and believe it: “Even when we were dead in trespasses [sins], [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

• The mention of Jesus being “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” in verse 21 is Paul’s way of saying that Jesus is better and stronger than EVERYTHING. Jesus is greater than all the human kings and rulers that have ever lived on this earth. Jesus is master over all the obedient angels of heaven as well as every rebellious demon of hell. For all the ages to come forever, Jesus will ever be Lord over all. As Christians, that idea fills us with joy as we marvel that God would allow us to be not just His servants but His adopted sons and daughters in Christ’s eternal kingdom.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Keep Opening the Eyes of Our Hearts (Ephesians 1:15-18)

So many Christians go through so much of their lives living like spiritual beggars. This is not God’s plan for us! As Paul continually prayed for his beloved spiritual children in the first century AD, so we continually pray for you students today, that God would keep showing you more and more each day how truly rich you are in Christ. Our salvation experience is not the end of our spiritual journey! It is true that we will never be more justified or accepted by God then we were the moment that we first trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation. As we learned in Ephesians 1:13-14, that divine miracle of our conversion was marked by the sealing of the Holy Spirit in our lives, God’s promise to us that we will always be His. But our understanding of that salvation event, our understanding of what it means to be “in Christ,” will keep developing all of our lives. Our comprehension of how beautiful and kind and gracious our Heavenly Father is to us, our vision of His kingdom and power and glory, that will keep growing until the day that we meet the Lord in eternity.

Never be satisfied and complacent with where you are in your walk with Christ! We will not arrive where God wants us to be spiritually until we join all His other pilgrims in heaven. We urge you today, seek the Lord. Pray along with us that God would keep showing our hearts and not just our heads “what is the hope of His calling” for our lives (verse 18). Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, to know You and Your ways more today and every day!

The Text (Ephesians 1:15-18)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

Questions to Think About

1. Did you know that your teachers and other Christians are continually praying for you to know Christ more and more each day? How does knowing this encourage you in your walk with the Lord?

2. Why is it important for Christians to see their salvation experience as the beginning rather than the end of their spiritual journey? What do you say to a friend who claims to have accepted Jesus but shows no interest in their own spiritual growth?

3. Have you ever struggled with knowing what to pray for? Let today’s passage show you a great daily prayer request – that our minds and hearts would be open to seeing the Lord more and more.

Notes

  • We notice again with verse 15 that Paul is writing this letter to believers. All the great blessings of salvation, being chosen, forgiven, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and secured forever by God, are only true of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. People who have trusted in Jesus begin to live like Him and for Him. If you realize that there is no evidence in your life of a saving, personal relationship with Jesus, then your business is with the cross. To received all the blessings of Ephesians 1, you must repent of (turn away from) your sin and selfishness and let Jesus have control of your life. He died on the cross in your place and then rose from the grave to set you free from sin and give you new life. You need to humble yourself, ask His forgiveness, and put your faith in Christ. Once God breaks your pride, then you will find the promises of God’s Word to be sweet to your soul.
  • Some translations of verse 18 include the wording “the eyes of your hearts” rather than “the eyes of your understanding.” Both translations together give the full sense that Paul intends. Spiritual growth is a ongoing renewing of the mind by the combined work of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. As we daily study the Bible and pray, our faith and personal holiness grow. But our progress in Christ also includes an ongoing transformation of our hearts. We believe, trust, and obey Jesus Christ more each day not just with our heads, but with our hearts. May both your mind and spirit be renewed today!

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Bought and Paid For (Ephesians 1:7-14)

As Christians, we belong to God. The moment we trusted in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation, we were forever redeemed, or bought back from sin and death, by His blood. Because of His amazing love and grace, the Father chose to forgive all of our sins by accepting the one time sacrifice of His only Son in our stead (vv. 7-8). This glorious truth of Jesus taking our place to buy our souls back from hell was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament, but now it has been fulfilled and revealed to us in the New Testament (vv. 9-12). All the angels in heaven rejoice with us over our redemption and join with us in giving all of the glory to God through Jesus Christ. In His great wisdom, God has guaranteed us a home with Him in heaven in forever. The down payment for that home is the Holy Spirit, who came to live in us the instant we first believed in Jesus (vv. 13-14). The Spirit will never leave us. His presence and work in our lives is the “seal” or sign of God’s certain promise that we now belong to Him forever. When God looks at us, when He looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His Son Jesus and the mark of His Holy Spirit and says, “Bought and paid for – mine for all eternity!” Do you struggle to accept that all this could be true? Read about these promises below and believe what God says!

The Text (Ephesians 1:7-14)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you ever struggle to believe that God has forgiven you of all your sins through Christ? Take your doubts to God in prayer and memorize verses like Ephesians 1:7 and Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”) to quote whenever fear assaults you. God gave us such Bible verses because He knew that when our sin-weakened hearts tried to condemn us, we would need the power of His Word to give us certain hope and confidence in our salvation.
  2. What evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work have you seen in your life since you accepted Christ?
  3. How can knowing that God’s Spirit will never leave you help you in your daily walk with the Lord?

Notes

• The “mystery of His will” that Paul discusses in verse 9 is probably talking about the spiritual blessings described in the rest of this passage. We don’t totally understand everything about God’s final plan of redemption for Christians and the world through Christ. However, enough of the gospel has been revealed for us to be saved and then understand the meaning of that salvation for our own relationship with God and our destiny in His kingdom.

• The “we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ” in verse 12 is most likely a reference to Paul, the apostles, and other disciples in the first group of people to become Christians. This group was mostly made up of converted Jews. The “and you also were included” group in verse 13 would then be a reference to those who came to faith in Christ later, many of whom would have been Gentiles. But we should not make too much of this difference. The promise of a certain inheritance in heaven is true for both of these groups, just as both groups received the Holy Spirit as the sign of their salvation. And for all Christians since then (including us!), these promises remain true.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Blessed Beyond Belief (Ephesians 1:1-6)

Like their parents and grandparents, students often wrestle with the big questions of life. Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose for my life? Is there hope for me after I die? If you have ever found yourself wondering about these important topics, then the book of Ephesians is for you! Paul wrote this letter to Christians of his time and all time to help us find our meaning and purpose both now and forever. God does not want us to wander through life, being “tossed to and fro” by false beliefs and lies of the world and the devil (Ephesians 4:14). No, God’s will for Christians is that we know who and whose we are through our relationship with Jesus Christ. When we really understand and find rest in our identity in Christ, we are freed to joyfully grow into the mature believers that God wants us to become. It is our great prayer for you that through our study of Ephesians this semester, you will truly “know what is the hope of His calling…the riches of the glory of His inheritance…and the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18-20). If you are willing to read these devotions and this precious book of the Bible with an open heart, God can do an amazing work in your life!

We begin our Ephesians series by looking at all of the blessings that belong to those who are “in Christ.” Check out all the things that are true of those who have trusted in Jesus for salvation:

  • Being “in Christ” means that you have been blessed beyond what you can ever imagine.
  • You have been chosen to be made “holy and without blame” in the sight of your Creator.
  • Through your faith in Jesus Christ, you have been adopted as a son or daughter of your Father in heaven.
  • God has set His love on you forever, not because you were good, but because He is good and kind and gracious.
  • No matter what you were like before trusting Christ for salvation, no matter how much you have messed up and sinned since then, you remain totally forgiven and accepted by your Father because of your spiritual union with His perfect Son Jesus Christ.
  • As we will see in the next post, your connection with Christ is forged by God’s own Holy Spirit, so it can never be broken.

Like your parents and teachers, you may struggle at times to believe that all of these things can be true about you. In fact, we should seem crazy in thinking that people as sinful and selfish as us could always stay loved and forgiven and accepted by God. But His Word tells us these things are true! Read it yourself below and believe what God says about you!

The Text (Ephesians 1:1-6, NIV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Questions to Think About

  1. Before becoming a Christian, did you ever struggle with who you are and why you exist? Have you ever wrestled with finding your purpose in life since becoming a Christian?
  2. Try this as you read through Ephesians. Every time you see the word “you” or “us,” insert your name instead. How does it make you think and feel when you realize that these promises are not just true for other Christians, but for you, too?
  3. If you could wake up every day reminding yourself that you are completely loved and accepted by God no matter what, how do you think that knowledge might change your everyday life?

Notes

  • Some early Greek copies of this Bible book do not contain the words “in Ephesus” that are found in verse 1. For this and other reasons, many scholars think that this letter was meant to be sent around to many Christian churches and not just the one in ancient Ephesus of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Whenever we read a New Testament epistle (letter), we should remember that it was written to a specific church audience for specific reasons, but also that the letter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach all Christians since then.
  • We cannot avoid the doctrine of election that is taught in verses 3-6. Both new and mature Christians often wrestle with concepts like God choosing Christians for salvation “before the creation of the world” (verse 4) and our spiritual adoption as God’s sons and daughters being “predestined” based on God’s wisdom and kindness (“His pleasure and will” – verse 5) rather than our own faith or goodness. Our best advice on this would be to study the Scriptures yourself and let God’s Word rather than man’s philosophies shape your understanding of this important doctrine. Notice, however, why Paul is teaching election in this passage. He wants his Christian readers to have confidence in who they are as God’s loved and accepted children. If our being loved and accepted were based on our own efforts, than we could fear losing that love and acceptance whenever we sin and doubt God. But if our being loved and accepted is based on what God has done for us through Christ simply because of His love, mercy, and grace, than it can never be lost even on our worst days. Election is always taught in Scripture to give Christians confidence and assurance of our own salvation and unchanging standing with our Father, not to cause us to question and argue with God about how He treats others.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel