Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When most church members read the New Testament, they read it as if it were dissembled points of theology. Pastors and teachers open a book, reach in and pull out a “point of theology” they wish to build their thought around. Then they shut the book and put it away. Seldom do people read a book of the Bible from start to finish in one sitting in order to get the sense of the author. Few people realize that chapters were put into the Bible around the 13th century. Verses were beginning to show up around the 16th century. The books and letters of the Bible were meant to be read as a complete book or letter in order to get the “gest” of the thought. When Paul wrote a “letter” to a church, they read the whole letter, not just a few lines of it before putting it away. That is the reason people have such distorted concepts of the Bible; they are reading texts out of contexts.
Most simply rely on others to do the “research” and tell them what they should know. This is very dangerous. People, denominations and churches have their own agenda and push that agenda to get a following. What may seem “right” at first, if studied carefully, they would discover a totally different understanding. This is why Paul told Timothy to study for himself. “Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision. However, avoid pointless discussions. For people will become more and more ungodly, and what they say will spread everywhere like gangrene.” “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good action.” 2 Timothy 2:15-17; 3:16,17. Paul didn’t tell Timothy to go to church. He didn’t even tell Timothy to study what Paul wrote. He told him to study the “Word of Truth” which, to Paul, was Old Testament.
On the flip side of that is the statement from Paul, “avoid pointless discussions. For people will become more and more ungodly, and what they say will spread everywhere like gangrene.” And that is exactly what is happening today in our churches. Why are they becoming more and more ungodly? Because they are getting farther and farther away from the Old Testament. Churches and church members are involved mainly in the New Testament. Church members are simply letting the pastor, church or denomination tell them what to believe.
As an example, the church of Christ’s day was teaching circumcision as important for salvation. The rite became more important than the keeping of the Ten Commandments. Christ brushed it all aside. Today, baptism has become important for salvation. People are not looking into the Bible for truth. Rites, rituals, traditions and services have nothing to do with eternal life.
In our study of Ephesians, we will attempt to bring to light some concepts the churches and denominations have refused to accept and see.
Ephesus was the center for the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis. This cult was extremely popular and beloved. Paul is attempting to bring the Christians at Ephesus to an understanding of the high calling they have in turning away from idol worship to the true God. He wanted them to understand that they could be citizens and members of God’s household. What a privilege! However, that privilege came with obligations to their new Christian family.
Today, we have our own gods and goddesses called churches, pastors and beliefs. They are all popular and very beloved. But they are turning people away from the true God and His truth.
Remember the peril the early Christians at Ephesus were in? Acts tells us how the whole city was stirred up and became furious and began to shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. They rushed together and dragged some of the Christians to the center of the theater. You can read about this in Acts 19 starting with verse 23. Not much has changed since then. Change “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” to “My Body, My Choice”, or how about, “My church”, or “My denomination”, or “This is my belief”. You can see the devil is always working in mobs and riots. He doesn’t want people thinking, only reacting, preferably his way. God wants mature thinkers. He tells us, “Come now, let us reason together.” Isaiah 1:18. Ephesians 1:1 to Ephesians 1:14 From: Paul, an apostle of the Messiah Jesus by God's will. To: His holy and faithful people in Ephesus who are in union with the Messiah Jesus.
First of all, the people he is writing to are “holy and faithful” and “in union with the Messiah Jesus”. He is not writing to a “church” filled with people who are just “going to church”. These are people who have a desire to be in union with Jesus and His truth, not a “church”. These are people who want to be holy and faithful. Not much of that going around in our churches today. These are concepts I’m struggling with. Our generation has grown up without any living examples of holiness or faithfulness to Jesus. Everything is being faithful to a church, denomination or religion.
May grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, be yours!
That word “grace” is going to be paramount in this letter to the Ephesians. Why? Because they were living in the midst of pagans who were very devoted to their cult. The Christians needed God’s grace to remain faithful and in union with Jesus
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah! He has blessed us in the Messiah with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, . . .
This is the theme of every writer in the Bible. That Jesus Christ, in both Old and New Testaments, wants to bless us with every spiritual blessing. This is the theme of the Bible. The devil wants to hurt and destroy us, why? Because we were created by Jesus and loved by Him. Therefore, Lucifer is throwing at us everything possible to take our attention off of the blessings God wants to give us. He wants to hurt Jesus through us, His creation.
. . . just as he chose us in the Messiah before the creation of the universe to be holy and blameless in his presence.
There it is. He starts out with the theme of God’s heart: He wants us to be holy and blameless in His presence. Why? Because if we are not blameless and holy, we cannot stand in His presence and will die eternally. God wants us to live. This is what He predestinated us to be. Sin hurts. Sin destroys. God predestinated us to live eternally in His presence as holy and blameless individuals.
But that brings up a problem. We live in a world of sin. We have sinned. How is God going to bring about that predestination plan He has for us?
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself through Jesus the Messiah, according to the pleasure of his will, . . .
Paul is explaining how we can meet that predestination plan Jesus had for us. Jesus wants to take us sinful beings and adopt us into His family. That is His pleasure and His will. He loves us so much He is hungry to adopt us into His family and bring us back into the predestined plan He had for us before the creation of the universe.
. . . so that we would praise his glorious grace that he gave us in the Beloved One.
OK, what does He want from us? “Praise to His glorious grace”. Why do we need grace? He will tell us. The churches, pastors, denominations and religions of the world today have accepted the devil’s understanding of grace to mean, “Saved by Grace” eternally. But that is not what grace is. So, why praise His glorious grace?
In union with him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our offenses, according to the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us, along with all wisdom and understanding, . . .
Because sin separates us from God, we are literally dead in our sins. How can God forgive us so we don’t die. Remember, the wages of sin is death. Therefore, why are you still reading this? Why are you alive right now? Because of God’s grace that He has lavished on us. Grace doesn’t save us eternally, it saves us physically from death, right now, when you sin, in order for you to be forgiven of your offenses and receive redemption through His blood. If you sinned, and died for your sin, you would have no opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. However, to receive the “redemption through His blood”, you must be “in union with Him”. To be in union with Him you must desire to live as He lived: perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping. Praise God for His grace that keeps us alive in order for us to find His redemption and forgiveness. That is something to praise God for.
Remember and keep in mind that “grace” means “unmerited favor”. That means you cannot do anything to receive grace. It is “unmerited”. It is given to everyone. Otherwise it would be “merited” and worked for. Therefore, that is why grace cannot save us eternally since all have grace. But it does “save” us from immediate death when we sin.
. . . when he made known to us the secret of his will. This was according to his plan that he set forth in the Messiah to usher in the fullness of the times and to bring together in the Messiah all things in heaven and on earth.
Sin separated us from God. His plan was that if sin should enter the world, He would provide us with grace. That is the “secret of His will”. Before sin there was no need for grace. Since He doesn’t want us to die eternally He has provided grace to every sinful living human in order for us to find the love of Jesus, repent and turn from our sins and live His perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping life. That is His predestined plan.
In the Messiah we were also chosen when we were predestined according to the purpose of the one who does everything that he wills to do, so that we who had already fixed our hope on the Messiah might live for his praise and glory.
Keep in mind, God predestined everyone according to His purpose to be saved and live eternally with Him. But predestined doesn’t mean controlling. He can’t control you to live eternally with Him. All He can do is give you grace, give you parole, in order to give you time to accept His predestined plan for you. But you can choose to reject His predestined plan for you.
You, too, have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed in the Messiah, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until God redeems his own possession for his praise and glory.
Many claim that once you are sealed you are saved eternally and can’t lose your salvation. When we hear the “word of truth”, the gospel, to live the perfect, sinless and Commandment keeping life, believing it by living it in our lives, the Holy Spirit lives in us. He is the guarantee of our inheritance because we are living as He commands us. But if we step away and refuse to live in obedience to the Ten Commandments, then we lose the Spirit of God and lose our inheritance: the predestined plan of God. This is where Hebrews 10:26 comes into play, “For if we choose to go on sinning after we have learned the full truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” No there is not. God’s predestined plan for us is forfeited. We must continue in the sealing in order to be redeemed. We must continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12).
Therefore, because I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I mention you in my prayers.
So, what does faith in Jesus produce? “Love for all the saints.” Without love you have no faith in Jesus. It all works together as a whole. Remove any part of the whole and it all collapses. Let us never stop giving thanks for our love for each other. What a horrible world this is becoming since most have left the love of God for love of self.
And again, Love is the keeping of the Ten Commandments. They are love. They are righteous. They are our life. Do away with the Ten Commandments and you do away with love, righteousness and life.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the most glorious Father, would give you a wise spirit, along with revelation that comes through knowing the Messiah fully.
God wants to give us revelations. All we have to do is get to know Jesus fully. Not just doctrine. Not just a set of beliefs. No rituals, rites or services; no church or denomination. No, we must know Jesus as a personal Friend in our lives. We must talk and walk with Him daily. We must lay our plans before Him and listen to Him as He gives us our course of action for the day. Step by step we are to follow Him.
Then, with the eyes of your hearts enlightened, you will know the confidence that is produced by God having called you, the rich glory that is his inheritance among the saints, . . .
Most have never experienced the “confidence that is produced by God having called you”. I wish all of you could experience what I have gone through in being called by God. Each of you can, in your own way. It is a “rich glory” that many haven’t found yet. For most it is just an intellectual concept. They still haven’t found Jesus as a Person in their lives. I pray you do.
. . . and the unlimited greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his mighty strength, . . .
There is such power in His name for us who actually believe. Over and over again in my own life I have experienced His power. It humbles me and confuses me and empowers me and frightens me and gives me hope. It is all the “working of His mighty strength” in my life. So amazing!
. . . which he brought about in the Messiah when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realm.
Again, I go back to earlier discussions about the raising of Jesus from the dead. I couldn’t understand the significance since many have been raised from the dead. But when I realized that Jesus is the only recorded person who has been raised from the grave without seeing corruption, then I began to understand. He is the only person in recorded history to have met the criteria of the prophecy perfectly. Our faith in Jesus rests in knowing prophecy. In everything Jesus did He kept pointing people back to the Old Testament and the prophesies that pointed to Him. If we study the prophesies our faith will have a deeper foundation that will never be shaken.
He is far above every ruler, authority, power, dominion, and every name that can be named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Remember, Ephesus was where the worship of Artemis was. She was believed to have fallen from sky to earth. “A god who came down to live with us.” Get the point. So Paul is contrasting a statue with the living God. A myth with the reality. Nothing is equal to Him. Nothing! In their thinking, Artemis came down from the sky and sat in a temple. Paul was telling them of Jesus who came down from the sky and walked among men displaying the character of God.
God has put everything under the Messiah's feet and has made him the head of everything for the good of the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills everything in every way.
The pagans had their temples. The Jews had their temple. But the Christian didn’t need any building. We have a “living” God and can be united with His living Body “who fills everything in every way”. Each of us is the “temple” for the indwelling of God. No need arguing over which denomination or religion is of God. No need arguing over what kind of building to build. We are the church. Every time we kneel in worship, we are kneeling with millions of our members around the world in His body. We don’t need to congregate in any specific place. We can be on the phone, via video conferencing, through letters (as Paul did) or in person in the forest, at the lake, on a mountain top or in the desert where this ministry is. “Church” is where we meet with Jesus in His fullness, not the fullness of any denomination or religion or church or rites, rituals, services or traditions. May the fullness of Jesus fill each of you.