But Now In Christ Jesus…
There are two things in the Christian’s life that they must learn to develop a love for and those things are God’s Holy Word, the Bible and Doctrine. The Bible in II Timothy 2:15 challenges us to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” What does this mean? Well, let’s break this verse down before moving on here tonight. Turn there with me. Let’s start with that first part – Study to shew thyself approved unto God. The implication in English is the study of the Scripture. Though the end of the verse sets forth that thought, the idea rather is of being diligent to present oneself approved by God. The word translated as study has the sense to ‘endeavor’ or to be ‘diligent.’
To that end, we are directed to not only endeavor to present ourselves as approved by God, but also as a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. Paul is admonishing Timothy that he be a worker not ashamed of his work record. He concludes by noting, Rightly dividing the word of truth. Here, the Word of God clearly is in view. The word translated as rightly dividing literally has the sense of ‘making a straight cut.’ The idea is of properly or correctly understanding God’s Word.
While a careless carpenter might make a sloppy cut or cutoff a piece of wood short, making it useless. A skilled craftsman rather makes clean straight cuts to the right dimension. That is how we are to so understand and apply the Word of God. So what this verse means is, we ought to be careful to show ourselves approved by God in being a good worker and by correctly understanding His Word.
Now the only way that we will understand His Word is if we study it! That is why it is important for you to be here for Sunday School and Wednesday’s Bible Study. Listen, we just don’t call it Sunday School or Bible Study because every other church calls it that! No, we call them these names because that is what they are to reflect. Both of these are times of learning, of study, and they differ from the preaching services! A preaching service is used to bring lost sinners to Christ, yet challenge, and encourage the Christian. Sunday School and Bible Study while they can see the same results as a preaching service, the goal is to teach you the Word of God! So be here for Sunday School and Bible Study!
Now when you develop a love for studying the Word of God, you will begin to learn Bible Doctrine. Doctrine very simply is what we believe as Christians! You say well, why develop a love for Bible Doctrine? Simple! Doctrine is important and it is important for you to know how to defend against False Doctrine and folks believe me, False Doctrine is out there.
Ephesians where we find our text for our Bible Study tonight deals with major Doctrine. The first half also where we’ll be has particular Doctrinal focus with the key concept being in Christ.
Two great truths are found in this chapter: (1) the essence of regeneration by grace through faith and (2) the mystery revealed how both Jew and Gentile alike have been united into one in Christ in the church.
Verse 1 shows us our state before salvation – we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” The verb were is actually present tense with the sense of ‘being.’ The literal thought is, ‘And you, being dead in trespasses and sins.’ The word translated as trespasses has the sense to ‘lapse’ or ‘deviate’ from truth or righteousness.’ It is a general synonym for unrighteousness. The word translated as sins is translated from the common word (‘amartia) hamartia. One definition thereof is to ‘miss the mark.’ The greater thought is that prior to being saved, we were spiritually dead through unrighteousness and sins.
In Verses 2-3 Paul sets forth the three influences by which unsaved people operate and how you and I operated before salvation: (1) the world, (2) the devil, and (3) the flesh. Sadly, those perverse influences remain unto this day. But thank God for the next verse!
In Verse 4 with the backdrop of a dark evil world, with its leader, its residents, and its very nature; Paul sets forth a brilliant contrast. It is introduced with a major, but. Implicit is a major contrast. That contrast is, But God, who is rich in mercy for his great love wherewith he loved us. The brilliance of His glory is evident, shining through the dark clouds of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is not just merciful, He is “rich in mercy.”
The word rich here means abounding or overflowing. Mercy means kindness or good will toward those in miserable estate. More specifically, it refers to a willingness to deal kindly with one that is guilty. That, praise God, is what He has done for us. He is rich in mercy because of “his great love wherewith he loved us.” God’s mercy emanates from His love. If He is rich in mercy, how much more must be His love!
Yet while that is the case, Paul reminds us we were dead in sins. Verse 5. Prior to the regenerating power of salvation, we were dead spiritually. That is, we were dead in our relationship to God. But even then, He “quickened us together with Christ.” Allusion is made to the resurrection of Christ. Though He was dead, nevertheless, God quickened Him.
Quickened together literally means to ‘make alive together.’ Not only have we been given new life spiritually when we were saved, we were so regenerated along with Christ. The same power that brought Him to life in His resurrection is the power which regenerated us. What a singular blessing. We have been quickened together with Christ. The basis for this all is noted: “By grace ye are saved.”
With this Paul touches upon and begins to develop one of the great truths of the New Testament, the grace of God. It is a broad concept. Here, however, the focus is restricted to God’s grace as it relates to our salvation. The word translated as grace has the sense of good will, lovingkindness, and favor. Perhaps its most succinct definition as it relates to salvation is ‘unmerited favor.’ It derives from God’s love and is the practical outworking thereof. Someone has constructed the acrostic, G-God’s, R-righteousness, A-at, C-Christ’s, E-expense. It is only by the grace of God toward us that anyone of us might be saved.
Verse 6 continues the idea of resurrections with two parallel resurrections in view. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is alluded to. But our spiritual quickening in Christ has allowed us to be seated positionally in heaven with Him, because we are now in Christ. Thus, as far as God is concerned, to that degree we are already in heaven. Strongly hinted at is the security and seal of our salvation. As an alternate thought, our physical resurrection may be in view, but in prospect. It hasn’t happened yet, but we can rest assured of its promise because we are in Christ Jesus, who already had blazed the way for us. And because of that, our seat in heaven is awaiting us. One day we will be with Christ! Now folks, that is shouting ground! Something to be excited about!
Verse 7 deals with the fabulous future we have in Christ! What a future it is! Truly there is hope of glory. Even after we get to Heaven we see that God will continue to display the boundless riches of His grace toward us – ‘in kindness on us in Christ Jesus.’ Once again, the blessings of the ages to come will be poured out upon us because we are in Him.
Verse 8 shows us the basis for these blessings. For by grace are ye saved through faith. God’s grace here is focused and we see it is faith in Jesus Christ. These two concepts are interrelated because we are altogether lost, it is only by the grace of God that there is any hope of salvation and our only recourse therefore is in simple faith to trust Him and His grace. Because salvation is by God’s grace, the only means of appropriating it unto ourselves is by turning to Him and trusting in Him.
And because it is Him, we see it is not of ourselves. It is zero percent of us and one hundred percent of God. Because of His wonderful grace and mercy, it is the gift of God. A gift by its very nature is offered through the grace of the giver. By its very nature, a gift is not earned nor is of compensation. Rather, it is free. It therefore can only be obtained by freely receiving it. The gospel is profound in its simplicity. Christian, you better watch out for those who seek to complicate the simplicity of salvation! It is as simple as reaching out and receiving a free gift.
Verse 9 shows us our salvation is not of works, lest any man should boast. Boast here means glory. The thought is simple. If we could somehow or other merit salvation through some sort of work, then we could claim the glory rather than God. But it is not of works. Therefore, only God can receive glory for saving us.
Verse 10 is a very interesting verse as it calls us Christ’s workmanship. This has the idea that we are His creation, his production. He not only saved us, He has made us a new creature in Christ and because of that we have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” God’s purpose in saving us, in part, was that we might serve Him thereafter. We are not saved by good works. But we surely have been saved to do good works after salvation. God has thus “before ordained that we should walk in them.” God’s will, His plan, is for us to live our lives in serving Him and to be conformed to His image. That’s Predestination! Predestined to serve and be like Him! That is so very clear throughout the entire New Testament. I Corinthians 15:58 and Titus 3:8. So see folks, after salvation, we are to work and serve God not to earn salvation but because we now have salvation!
Verse 11 we see that Paul’s focus now returns to where he was in chapter 1 and the mystery (1:9). The remainder of the chapter will further unfold and explain that mystery. His readers here seem to be primarily gentiles and they were urged to recall that in the past when they were called “uncircumcised by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands.” This is speaking of Jews which had accused these gentile believers of being uncircumcised and in a sense calling them spiritually unworthy. Now this likely was before they were saved as the next verse will show us but in any event, shows us the division and apparent friction which existed between Jewish and gentile believers in the church.
Going on in Verse 12, Paul reminded them how at that time before salvation they had been (1) without Christ, (2) being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and (3) strangers from the covenants of promise, (4) having no hope, and (5) without God (6) in the world. The thought is how that gentiles prior to salvation were not only without Christ and God, but also were outside of the covenant promises made to Israel. The overall thought is how there thus was a gap between Jews and gentiles.
But thank God for Verse 13! The thought here is a simple one and that is that in Christ, gentiles who once were separated from God have been made near through the shed blood of Christ.
We now see what brings the Jew and gentile together, what unites them, Verse 14! Jesus Christ has now become the focal point of reconciliation between Jew and gentile. He has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The final phrase has evident symbolism. In the Temple at Jerusalem, there was a wall in the Temple court partitioning off the area in which gentiles were allowed. Paul here alludes, by way of this metaphor, to how Christ has eliminated the barrier between Jew and gentile in the church.
Verse 15 shows us how He did it and it was by abolishing the law that kept the two apart. Jesus Christ abolished it all! Why? “to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.” The new man indicated is the new body of both Jews and gentiles in the church. In so doing, He effected peace between both. He brought them together out from under the law and into grace!
Now see folks this is very important. It is the grace of God that saves us and brings us together, not some set of manmade rules and regulations! Don’t get me wrong rules, regulations, and standards are needed for the Christian and the Bible teaches us that but while they may be necessary, they are not tools of change and the reason they are not tools of change is because sin is a matter of the heart. Mark 7:21-23. So since sin is a matter of the heart, it is only the Holy Spirit of God that can change the heart and that is changed by the tool of the Holy Spirit which is the Word of God!
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.
And again we see the importance of being in church when the doors are open! The teaching and preaching of God’s Word is what the Holy Spirit will use to convict us of changes that need to be made in our lives! If you are not reading your Bible on a regular basis and in church on a regular basis, I guarantee you that you will be at the same stage of your Christian life instead of growing and going for God!
Moving on, Verse 16 we see Christ’s goal. Christ’s work on the cross, among other things, was intended to evaporate, do away with the hostility between Jew and gentile in the church. Why?
Verse 17. Both Jew and gentile were still unsaved. One was afar off, the gentile and one was near, the Jew but both were still lost in their sins! In His coming, Christ preached peace to those who were afar off (unbelieving gentiles) and them which were near (unbelieving Jews). That is what they had in common and that is what we have in common and what churches all over have in common!
We close with Verse 18. Through Him both the Jew and gentile have access “by one Spirit unto the Father.” For there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Jesus is the common denominator for both believing Jew and gentile. This is the mystery Paul alluded to earlier in Ephesians 1:9.
Folks, this is why we are urged time and time again in the Word of God to be a people of unity, a people that speak the same thing. Here tonight, it does not matter if you are red, yellow, black, or white. It doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, man, woman, boy, girl, or whatever else! What we all have in common is that we are all sinners and what brings us together is the fact that we have a need! A need of a Saviour! What brings us together is the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood on Calvary’s tree! It is because of Him we can come together as body of believers to sing His praises, open His Word, and bring our prayers to Him in times of prayer!
We are admonished in Colossians 1:18 that in all things he might have the preeminence. Folks, if we live that verse as church, keeping Christ first, remembering that He is what brings us together in the first place, we can do great things for God and Good! No, you may not always like the preacher or the way things are done but folks as long as Christ is the center, as long as we’re indeed trying to do please God, that’s all that matters! That’s why we come to church in the first place, for God!
BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS…
WE BOTH (ALL!) have access by ONE (WE’RE NOW ONE) Spirit unto the father (ONCE SAVED!)