Christ set us free from the law of sin and death and we are “not [to] submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Since we have died to the world in and through Christ, Paul wonders why we “submit to regulations” of the world as if we were still alive to the world. (Colossians 2:20) “For [we] are called to freedom, brothers, only [we are] not [to] use [our] freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love [we are to] serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13) In love, we serve one another and so fulfill “the whole law.” (Galatians 5:14)
In our efforts to conform to regulations which “indeed have an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but have no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:23); sometimes we attack one another. “But if [we] bite and devour one another, watch out that [we] are not consumed by one another.” Instead, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Notice Paul calls us to “do good to everyone.”
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
“The Lord of Hosts swears, ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand… This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:24,26-27)
God has a plan. He has a purpose concerning the whole earth. No one is able to annul God’s plan. No one is able to turn God back from His intention.
What is God’s purpose?
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says God’s purpose is to bless us — that is, Christians — “in the heavenly places. even as He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:3,4) God’s purpose is also to “put all things under [Christ’s] feet” and to make Christ “head over all things” to the benefit of His church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22,23)
God’s purpose is to “bring many sons to glory” through Christ “for whom and by whom all things exist.” (Hebrews 2:10) God’s purpose is for us — the sons of glory — to “enter His rest.” (Hebrews 4:1) “For we who believe enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:3)
Now God “desires to show convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of His purpose, [so] He guarantees it with an oath.” (Hebrews 6:17) He swears by Himself in that “it is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18) Therefore, “we have this sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.” (Hebrews 6:19,20)
Who can annul God’s purpose; who can turn Him back?
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, makes us alive together with Christ — by grace you are saved.” Paul says, God is rich in mercy and filled with great love for us. God “makes us alive” and seals us “with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14) God “raises us up with Him and seats us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6) “For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) I pray you “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
Lord, make us strong so that we may know the gift of Your grace, the richness of Your mercy, and the immensity of Your love, so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Amen.
Jesus tells us, “Pass no judgment, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; acquit, and you will be acquitted; give, and gifts will be given you.” (Luke 6:37-38)
Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, reminds that at one time all of us “were dead in [our] sins and wickedness, when [we] followed the evil ways of this present age, when [we] obeyed the commander of the spiritual powers of the air, the spirit now at work among God’s rebel subjects.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) “We too were once of their number: we all lived our lives in sensuality, and obeyed the promptings of our own instincts and notions. In our natural condition we, like the rest, lay under the dreadful judgment of God” (Ephesians 2:3)
Of course, the gift we have received is that of God’s grace: His rich mercy, His great love. Paul encourages us; reminding “how immense are the resources of His grace, and how great His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7-8) “For [Christ] Himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14) Of course,”there is nothing for anyone to boast of” (Ephesians 2:10) because our salvation “is God’s gift, not a reward for work done.” (Ephesians 2:9) “For we are God’s handiwork.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Since we are God’s handiwork and not rewarded our salvation for works performed, we have cause neither to boast nor to judge others. We are not qualified to judge others for we ourselves were once of their company. We cannot boast for we also were lost in our sins, separated from God, dead in our condition. “But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins; it is by grace [we] are saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
Therefore, judge not. Neither boast, except of the Lord.
“For at the very time when we were still powerless, then Christ died for the wicked [that is, for us]. Even for a just man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one might actually brave death; but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s own proof of His love towards us.”
When did God’s Son die for us? “When we were still powerless.” When we were “wicked,” “while we were yet sinners.” Why did God send His Son to die for us? Christ’s death “is God’s own proof of His love towards us.”
We didn’t earn God’s love. Rather, “in Christ He chose us before the world was founded, to be dedicated, to be without blemish in His sight, to be full of love; and He destined us — such was His will and pleasure — to be accepted as His sons through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-5) “For it is by grace [we] are saved, through trusting Him; it is not [our] own doing.” (Ephesians 2:8) “God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our sins; it is by grace [we] are saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
“And although [we] were dead because of [our] sins and because [we] were morally uncircumcised, [God] has made [us] alive with Christ. For He has forgiven us all our sins; He has canceled the bond which pledged us to the decrees of the law. It stood against us, but He has set it aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
We are free from the law of sin and death because Christ died for us — the ungodly, while we were still powerless. Praise be to God, our Lord and Savior.
“We have redemption in [Christ] through His blood.” Yes, our redemption is through Christ’s blood, and not through the Law, not through our good deeds, not through our own efforts. Rather, we are given “the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavishes on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7-8) Christ’s grace is the cause of our redemption; this grace which He continues to “lavish on us.” Imagine the richness of the love a mother lavishes on her newborn baby — a pale reflection of the love and grace Christ lavishes on us “with all wisdom and understanding.”
And “the gift is not like the trespass.” “Where sin multiplies, grace multiplies even more so that, just as sin reigns in death, so also grace reigns through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Romans 5:15, 20-21)
“What are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31) “Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35)
“Examine me, O God, and know my thoughts; test me, and understand my misgivings. Watch lest I follow any path that grieves [You]; guide me in the ancient ways.”
“Lord, [You] examine me and know me. [You] know all, whether I sit down or rise up; [You] discern my thoughts from afar. [You] trace my journey and my resting places, and are familiar with all my paths. For there is not a word on my tongue but [You], Lord, know them all. [You] keep close guard before me and behind and spread [Your] hand over me. Such knowledge is beyond my understanding, so high I cannot reach it. Where can I escape from [Your] spirit? Where can I flee from [Your] presence? If I climb up to heaven, [You] are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, again I find [You.]” (Psalm 139:1-8)
God knows me from before the creation of time and space, before I was conceived and certainly before I was born into the earthly realm. I belong to Him always; there’s never been a time I was not His. “[God] it was who did fashion my inward parts; [He] knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13) “In Christ He chose [me] before the world was founded, to be dedicated, to be without blemish in His sight, to be full of love, and He destined [me] — such was His will and pleasure — to be accepted as His son through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-5)
God understands “my misgivings.” He tests me every moment to see how much my character is molded to His Son’s; how close I am to being like my brother, Jesus Christ. I pray for Him to continue to “keep close guard before me and behind and spread [His] hand over me.” I am glad that I am incapable of fleeing “from [His] presence;” that wherever I go, God is there. I am always able to find Him because He always knows my location, my thoughts, my weaknesses. And, I know — despite my failings — He loves me just as He loves my brother, Jesus.
Jesus prays for all believers before His death on the cross of Calvary. First He prays for His disciples, then He takes time to pray “for those who believe in [Him] through [the] message” of His disciples. He prays to His Father, requesting, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I Am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” (John 17:21)
“Holy Father, protect them by Your Name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.” (John 17: 11) “I pray for them… for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10)
Believers belong to God, the Father. We have belonged to God from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), having been “predestined…to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)
Believers are “also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession,” once again, “to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Finally, “together with Christ Jesus [God the Father] also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6-7) “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.”
We hear “the message of truth, the gospel” and we “believe in Him.” Simultaneously, we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Jesus promises the Comforter, the Helper to His friends. And Paul calls “the promised Holy Spirit” the “down payment,” the guarantee of “our inheritance.” God’s plan is to redeem us “to the praise of His glory.” And His seal is much superior to any other guarantee.
Odd how we trust that our funds are federally insured in a bank when we see the seal of the FDIC; that we believe our meats are safe if approved by the United States Department of Agriculture. We see the seal USDA and we believe.
Yet, many of us doubt our salvation. We doubt that God has redeemed us, set His seal permanently upon us. We seem to forget we are purchased with the blood of God’s own Son, that nothing interferes with God’s ultimate goal to bring all things together under one head, that is, Jesus Christ.
We belong to the Lord. Therefore, “I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.” (Ephesians 1: 18-19)
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 4:30pm
Paul gives us a negative and a positive command here in Ephesians 4. He tells each of us to “put off [our] old self” (Ephesians 4:22) and to “put on the new self.” He speaks of denying “deceitful desires” while simultaneously making our selves “new in the attitude of [our] minds.”
The latter is the key — Paul elaborates: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” (Ephesians 4:17) What is futile thinking? Paul says Gentiles, i.e. non-believers “are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God.” He points to “the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) Of course, this is our “old self” which we must “put off” in that this self has nothing in common with “the life of God.” Paul laments that this “old self” is right there with him when he wants to do good. He writes, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:14-15) He speaks of “sin living in me.” (Romans 7:16) This is the “old self” which we must “put off” in that this self has nothing in common with “the life of God.”
Paul commands us to “put on the new self.” The only way to accomplish this is to be “led by the Spirit of God.” (Romans 8:14) And the best method of “being led by the Spirit of God” is to remain in God’s Word. As we remain in God’s Word, we stay close to “the life of God.” Why? Because “the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) The Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of [our] hearts.” The Word enables us to “put on the new self” by altering, shaping, creating our “thoughts and attitudes.” We are made new by the Word of God.
Paul reminds us that “[we] are weak in [our] natural selves. Just as [we] used to offer the parts of [our] bodies in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now [we must] offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19) “[We] have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God.” And, “the benefit [we] reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Romans 6:22)
Therefore, let us renew our minds through the Word of God. Let us invite the Spirit of God to direct us. “We are [God’s] house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” (Hebrews 3:6) Amen.