PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

What Church is All About; Ephesians

01/01 New Years; What the Church is All About; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170101_church-ephesians.mp3

I’ts New Year’s Day. Often a time of reflection, looking back and looking forward; resolution making. So I want to ask some big picture questions today. What are we all about? What is church all about? If we know what our purpose is, we have a better chance of being more intentional about achieving our goals. If we each know what we are aiming at, it can help reduce frustration so we are not pulling in conflicting directions. If we know what we are about (or are supposed to be about) we can each make our individual contribution that helps to move us together to our goal.

Our Identity in Christ

I’d like to look in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians for help in defining our purpose as the church. To understand our purpose, we must begin by understaning our identity, who we are. And that is how Ephesians, as many of the New Testament letters, is structured. The first half of the book goes in to detail describing who we are in Christ. Only after that is firmly established, does the author move on to how we are to live out our identity.

Ephesians 1:1 begins by addressing us as ‘the saints’, literally, the holy ones, those set apart for a particular purpose. Did you know you have purpose, meaning, you are meant for something? That you have been set apart for a particular purpose? You are a holy one, a saint.

He also addresses us in verse 1 as ‘faithful’, trustworthy, true. Well, that rules me out. He must be addressing only a select few, only the faithful believers. There are faithful believers and unfaithful believers. And I’m not very trustworthy. But this is not what he is saying. He is not talking about our conduct, but about our identity. Maybe we don’t always act like saints, maybe we aren’t always faithful, but that is who we are. That is our identity. We are not faithful in and of ourselves. We are faithful in Christ Jesus. We are believers in Jesus Christ. We are trusting in Jesus. Faith and belief are different translations of the same Greek New Testament word. We are faithful because our faith is in Jesus. We are believable because we believe. We are trustworthy not because we are innately trustworthy, but because we are trusting in the one who is ultimately trustworthy. We are dependable because we are depending on another who is infallibly dependable.

We are ‘in Christ Jesus.’ We are identified with Jesus. We are hidden in him. We beong to him. We are united with him. Our identity is his identity. Our righteousness is his rightousness. Our purpose, our future is his future. We are in him, connected to him, inextricably linked with him. We have experienced grace – the good we don’t deserve – in him. All the good we experience, we have because we are connected with him.

Look at verse 3. In Christ God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing in Christ! Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ. He picked us! This is not something to argue over, this is something to worship over! He chose us for a purpose; to be holy and blameless in Christ in his presence for eternity. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons. Loved! Adopted! Look at verse 7. In Jesus we have redemption – we have been purchased to belong to him – purchased through his blood. We have forgiveness of our trespasses. We have forgiveness as a present possession. The accuser may point to my sin and say ‘but what about that?’ and I can point to the cross and say ‘I have forgiveness for that.’ Look at verse 11. Our adoption includes the privileges of sonship. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance. Not only loved, accepted, included, (as if that were not enough!) but we are made co-heirs with Christ in his inheritance!

Only Believe

Verse 13 tells us how this works. You heard the good news of salvation in Christ. You heard the word of truth. You believed. How great is that? This is good news indeed! Jesus paid it all. In full. I hear and I believe. I throw myself on this good news. I lean, I trust, I depend completely on Jesus. He is my only hope. This is indeed good news of rescue. Chapter 2 (v.1-3) goes into detail about my condition, my need. I was dead. Dead walking in trespasses and sins. Dead pledging my allegiance to the evil one. Dead and disobedient. Dead pursuing the passions of my own flesh. By nature a child of wrath. Later in chapter 2 (v.12) it tells me that I was separated from Christ, alienated, a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God. But then I heard good news. Gospel of salvation to sinners like me. I believed. That’s it. I trusted in, I depended on the good news of the finished work of another. And I was sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing is mine in Christ. Chosen in Christ. Loved. Predestined. Adopted. Purchased. Forgiven. Destined for an inheritance. Sealed with the Holy Spirit. This is our identity as believers in Jesus, the saints.

Chapter 2 tells us that God is rich in mercy – not eager to pay back the punishment we deserve. It tells us that he has great love with which he loved us. It tells us he made us alive together with Christ. He saved us. He saved us by grace – the good we do not deserve. He puts us on display as trophies of grace; showing off for all eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. We are saved by grace. We are saved as a gift from God. It is not our own doing. It is not a result of works. There is nothing we can take credit for. It is through faith – depending on the work of another. We are his workmanship. We are a new creation in Christ, spoken into existence by the word of God, with a grand purpose. We were created in Christ Jesus toward good works. Good works prepared in advance by God. Good works, that because of our identity in Christ, we can now walk in them.

At the end of chapter 2, Paul uses the metaphor of architecture. We are a building. We are fellow-citizens with the saints. We are members of God’s household. And we are being built together into a holy temple in the Lord. Built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. We are meant together as the church to be the place where God lives. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The structure takes its shape and trajectory from the one and only cornerstone, Christ Jesus himself.

Knowing Together

Chapter 3 Paul extolls the mystery of the gospel of God’s grace. He prays in verses 14-21 for strength for us, the saints, that, anchored in love, we would have strength to comprehend together with all the saints the immeasurable love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. See here there is a collective comprehension. We are to know together. We are to take eagerly, to sieze together upon the incomprehensible riches of Christ.

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This is our root, this is our foundation. To know together the love of Christ. To cling together to the immeasurable multi-dimensional love of Christ. To know that which goes beyond knowledge. He prays that we would be spiritually strengthened to know together the love of Christ and that this would be our root and our foundation.

Paul doesn’t mention communion here, but that is a God-ordained way that we can comprehend together, sieze upon together, treasure together as a church the immeasurable love of Christ in the good news of grace. ‘Do this’ Jesus said, ‘in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24-25). As a church, we are to remember together our identity in Christ. We are to actively cling to and continually seek to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ for us in the gospel. As the root, everything else must grow out of this. As the foundation, everything else must be built on this. Paul spends 3 chapters laying the foundation of our identity in Christ so that we don’t miss the fact that everything else grows naturally out of this.

Therefore

The encouragement and exhortation in chapters 4-6 is built on the truth of our identity in Christ laid out in the first 3 chapters. Paul says ‘I encourage you, therefore’. All that comes after is built on all that has gone before. This incomprehensible salvation, freely given, by grace, totally unmerited, not of works, now overflows in good works that God prepared in advance for us to walk in them. Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Walk now in a manner consistent with your new identity in Christ.

With all humility. The means of our salvation eliminates pride. We did nothing to deserve the good we have been given. If we truly comprehend our salvation, our lives will be characterized by an appropriate humility. With gentleness or meekness. God has treated us gently, with restraint. We must extend this gentleness to others. With patience or longsuffering. God has placed his righteous wrath at a great distance from us. We ought to extend the same patience toward our brothers and sisters. Bearing with one another in love. In God’s great love for us, he patiently endured while we were a long time dead in trespasses and sins, aligning ourselves with his enemy, carrying out our own lusts, children of wrath. In love, we can endure much with our brothers and sisters who wrong us.

Unity

We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Are we eager to find things to divide over? Are we eager to set ourselves apart from others? Or are we earnest and diligent to defend our unity? The unity we are talking about is unity of the Spirit. When we heard the gospel and believed in Jesus, we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Is our unity centered on who Jesus is? Is our unity defined by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified? Do we divide over which English translation of the Bible we use, or what style of music we prefer, our favorite teacher, our personal convictions on matters of conscience, denominational distinctions, what position we take on secondary doctrines? Unity is what we are to earnestly pursue. Not unity that ignores the gospel or undermines the gospel, but unity that is rooted in the gospel. We, very unique, diverse personalities, are held together by the bond, literally the ligament or tendon of peace. This peace is the peace of Ephesians 2:14-17; our reconciliation to God through the cross. Jesus Christ is our peace. We all have access in one Spirit to the Father. Jesus has made us one. We are to be diligent to defend our blood bought unity. There is one body and one Spirit. If you are believing the good news of salvation through Christ crucified, if you embrace this one hope, if you are united to Jesus by faith, you are part of the one body that is called the church. If you are sealed with the one Holy Spirit, if you surrender to the one Lord Jesus, if you are under the one God and Father of all, if you embrace the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, you belong to the one body. Our passion must be to lay down our preferences and diligently guard this gospel unity.

Grace-Gifts

Look at verse 7

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Every believer is uniquely gifted by God with spiritual gifts. There is a variety of gifts but one Spirit. No one should boast about his or her gifts, because they are gifts of grace; they are undeserved. Paul gives a very short list of gifts here, but he is clear about what the gifts are for. Look at verse 11.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

What we might view as more public gifts are meant to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Every believer is a minister; every believer is called to serve, and a primary function of the local church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The gift of shepherd/teacher is meant to supply the saints with the tools they need to serve effectively in the unique and diverse ways they each have been called to serve. They are meant for building up the body of Christ. We learn in 1 Corinthians 12 that all the gifts are given for the common good (12:7). 1 Corinthians 14 makes it clear that all the gifts are meant for ‘building up the church.’ The gifts are given for the benefit of others, to be used in service to others. The goal is stated here; until we all attain the unity of the faith. Gifts in the body are meant to bring about unity of the faith. They are meant to bring about the knowledge of the Son of God. They are meant to bring about maturity in Christ. They are meant to guard against being deceived or led astray by changing doctrine. All the gifts are to be used in love, and are meant to help us grow up into Christ. The gifts properly functioning knit the body together in unity and allow for healthy growth as the saints are built up in love.

Put Off – Put On

Chapter 4 goes on to describe what the walk that flows out of our identity in Christ ought to look like.

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Because we are new creations in Christ, the way we live will be different that it was before. Paul paints a picture of what we once were, that we should be no longer. Darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God, ignorant, hard hearted, callous, given to sensuality, greedy for impurity. We have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer to be characterized by attitudes, desires and actions of what we once were. We are responsible to identify and set aside those things that are characteristic of our former manner of life, and to put on new ways of thinking and living. Replace falsehood with truth. Be angry, but do not let it lead to sin, and do not let it last too long. Do not steal but do honest work so that you have something to share. Do not let your mouth corrode but instead let it build up and give grace. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Set aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice. Instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving as you have been forgiven. Walk in love as you have been sacrificially loved by God. Sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking must be replaced by thanksgiving. Seek in all things to please the Lord. Replace folly with wisdom. Replace drunkenness with a Spirit controlled life. Sing to the Lord and to one another, give thanks always for everything. Submit to proper authority. Wives respect your own husbands. Husbands sacrificially love you own wife. Children obey parents. Parents do not provoke but discipline and instruct your children. Servants serve as to the Lord. Masters serve your servants as to the Lord. A transformed heart must evidence itself with transformed desires, transformed attitudes, transformed thinking, transformed priorities, transformed actions.

Gospel Armor for Spiritual War

Paul closes with a reminder that our fight is not against other people. We are in a spiritual battle, and we must depend on God’s strength and stand firm in the gospel. We are to be girded with gospel truth, protected by a gospel rightousness not our own, a righteousness imputed to us by Christ. We are to stand firm in and be prepared with the gospel of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to protect ourselves with the shield of faith; gospel confidence in the promises of God. Let gospel salvation guard your mind. Take up the gospel word in the power of the Spirit as your only offensive weapon. Let all be permeated with the gospel access to the throne of grace in all prayer at all times with all perseverance.

As a church, we are to comprehend together our identity in the immeasurably great love Christ has for us. (Eph.1-3)

As a church, we are to be eager to guard gospel unity. (Eph.4:1-6)

As a church, we are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, each using our gifts to build up one another. (Eph.4:7-16)

As a church, we are to put off that which is characteristic of our former passions and put on new desires, new thinking, new attitudes and actions that evidence a transformed heart. (Eph.4:17-6:9)

As a church, we are to recognize that we are in a battle, that it is spiritual, and to stand our ground in the gospel realities that belong to us in Christ. (Eph.6:10-20)

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 5, 2017 - Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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