Inside the Esterhazy Baptist Church

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Ephesians 4.1-16 – Together, we grow.

Oct. 17, 2021.  Esterhazy Baptist Church

 

Call to Worship: Jesus said, “Allow the children to come to Me; do not forbid them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Mark 10:14; Matthew 18:3 Amplified Bible

Hymn: #213 Because He Lives

Verse 1 – God sent His Son they called Him Jesus, He came to love heal and forgive. He bled and died to buy my pardon, an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Chorus – Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.

Verse 2 – How sweet to hold a newborn baby, and feel the pride and joy he gives. But greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain days because Christ lives.

Verse 3 – And then one day I’ll cross that river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain. And then as death gives way to vict’ry, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

CCLI Song # 16880 Gloria Gaither | William J. Gaither © 1971 Hanna Street Music (Admin. by Gaither Copyright Management) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394 

     Today in our series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are beginning chapter 4. Chapter 4 transitions from teaching about what God has done, to applying these truths to our situations. 

     In chapters 1 -3 Paul marvels at God’s incredible plan to offer redemption, forgiveness and adoption into his family to both Jews and Gentiles through the shed blood of Jesus Messiah.  Chapter 3 ends with Paul praying that God having rooted us in Christ’s love through faith would allow us to begin to grasp the breadth of his love for us and his incredible power at work within us.

     In the remaining 3 chapters Paul will apply these truths to our daily lives.  Here is Eph. 4:1-16 from the NIV: “1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:1–16 (NIV).

     Paul begins in chapter 4:1-16 by calling us to grow together in unity, starting with the Unity of the body of Christ (vv. 1-6), first with an appeal to unity (vv. 1-3).

I.  The unity of the body of Christ (4:1-6)

A. The Appeal for unity (4:1-3)

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1–3 (NIV).

     At first glance we may not see it, but these verses are full of God’s “turn your world upside down ideas!” 

     Paul begins by first appealing to us as “a prisoner for the Lord”? Why would he choose this title instead of using his authority, for e.g.: “As an Apostle of the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of your calling…” I don’t think he wants our sympathy; rather it is to remind his readers of how invested he is in his calling – which is to include the Gentiles in God’s salvation plan!  It’s a way of reminding us that God’s salvation plan is so important it is worth staking one’s future on – Paul has, what about us, are we willing to?

     Paul then, as a prisoner for Christ, establishes his right to challenge us to evaluate our own commitment to God. How does one respond to God’s incredible love and grace which not only saved us from eternal judgment, but welcomes us into his eternal home as sons and daughters?  Should I pledge to become a missionary or will my estate to the church when I die?  Both of these are fine if that’s what the Lord calls you to do, however that’s not what Paul asks of his Jewish & Gentile readers. 

     In verses 2 & 3 Paul begins with our heart, calling us to display the fruit of the Holy Spirit within, in our relationships with each other for the purpose of Christian unity.  We read these verses and think, ok, standard Christian directives, what’s next?  Paul’s readers would have been staggered by this!  It would have caused enormous reflection and discussion.  William Barclay says: humility… is actually a word which the Christian faith coined. In Greek there is no word for humility which has not some suggestion of meanness attaching to it.  …before Christianity, humility was not counted as a virtue at all. The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised.

     …In the days before Jesus humility was looked on as a cowering, cringing, servile, ignoble quality; and yet Christianity sets it in the very forefront of the virtues. …what does it involve?

(a) Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. …true humility comes when we face ourselves and see our weakness, our selfishness, our failure in work and in personal relationships and in achievement.

(b) Christian humility comes from setting life beside the life of Christ and in the light of the demands of God.

God is perfection and to satisfy perfection is impossible. So long as we compare ourselves with second bests, we may come out of the comparison well. It is when we compare ourselves with perfection that we see our failure.  …the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection—and against that standard there is no room for pride.

(c) Humility comes from the constant sense of our own creatureliness. We are in absolute dependence on God.

…We are creatures, and for the creature there can be nothing but humility in the presence of the creator.

Christian humility is based on the sight of self, the vision of Christ, and the realization of God.[1]

     This is just a glance at the attribute of humility!  Each one of the attributes Paul is calling us to display as part of a life worthy of the calling we have received, is only possible in its fullness as we submit to the power and authority of Almighty God.  As we do so in love to God and to one another, unity is the result.  Paul likely had Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in mind as he called us to unity:  John 17:11. “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (NIV)  John 17:20–23. ““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (NIV)

     Why is it important that we approach the subject of unity with humility, gentleness, patience and love?  Because it is not our plan, but God’s plan for us that we, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, are to work to keep. 

     Ephesians 4:4-6 gives the foundation of our unity.  Paul highlights seven reasons, all bathed in the Trinity of God.

B. The Basis for unity (4:4-6)

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4–6 (NIV)

·        One body – Paul has explained how God the Father, in Christ has brought believing Jews & Gentiles together to make one church, Christ’s body. We are interdependent!

·        One Spirit – The Holy Spirit of God who indwells the body of Christ, his Temple.

·        One hope – God is in control and Christ is returning to make all things right.

·        One Lord – we are united by our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

·        One faith – the foundations of our faith in Jesus and what he has done for us.

·        One baptism – our identification with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

·        One God and Father of all – Therefore we are to allow nothing to be god or lord over us than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

II. Unity through giftedness (4:7-16)

     Next, Paul looks at the unity we have as demonstrated through the gifts of the Spirit and their purpose.

     Paul, inspired by Psalm 68:19, first celebrates that Christ Jesus as he ascended victoriously to the Father, sent down gifts via his Spirit for his body the church.

A. Christ gives gifts to the body (4:7-12)

     These gifts are not for our individual edification but to unite the body of Christ in faith to for works of service to him. 

B. Gifts unite and mature the body (4:13-16)

     The purpose of the gift of these offices is for the ongoing unity and maturity of the Church. “13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:13 (NIV).  This Spirit nurtured maturity that enabled the church to survive 2000 years of storms, is the only kind of unity which will enable us, to continue to flourish as we await our Lord’s return.

Hymn: #284 “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” (1,4).

Verse 1 – We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord. We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord, and we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

Chorus – And they’ll know we are Christians, by our love by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Verse 2 – We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand. We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand, and together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.

Verse 3 – We will work with each other, we will work side by side. We will work with each other, we will work side by side, and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

Verse 4 – All praise to the Father from whom all things come, and all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son, and all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.

CCLI Song # 26997 Peter Scholtes © Words: 1966 F.E.L. Publications. Assigned 1991 The Lorenz Corporation (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 NIV).



[1] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 135–137). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

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Ephesians 3.14-21 – Reasons to be thankful.
October 10, 2021.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.
 

Call to worship:  Shout praises to the Lord! He is good to us, and his love never fails. Everyone the Lord has rescued from trouble should praise him, You should praise the Lord for his love and for the wonderful things he does for all of us. Honor the Lord when you and your leaders meet to worship. Be wise! Remember this and think about the kindness of the Lord. Psalm 107:1-2,31-32,43 (CEV).

Song:“Give thanks with a grateful heart”

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.  Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son.

And now let the weak say I am strong, Let the poor say I am rich, Because of what the Lord has done for us.  And now let the weak say I am strong, Let the poor say I am rich, Because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One, give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ His Son. Give thanks.

CCLI Song # 20285 Henry Smith © 1978 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Integrity Music) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Ephesians 3:14–2114 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (NIV).

     The Apostle’s Paul’s letter to the Ephesians follows his usual format in that to address his reader’s practical struggles he first reminds them of what God has done for them, and then in the second half of the letter helps them apply those truths to their current situations.  Ephesians is unique in how Paul teaches us about what God has done for us.  Rather than reading a sermon (lecture) we are reading outburst of praise to God and then prayers to God on behalf of his readers.  In doing this, we learn of God and glimpse what is possible in a relationship with him as we listen to Paul’s heart.  Paul has been a little further down the relationship road with God, he knows what is coming as our faith, love and trust grow in our Lord.

     Today is Thanksgiving Day Sunday.  We have SO much to be thankful for.  The time of Thanksgiving after the harvest season naturally calls our attention to how God provides for our physical needs, in order that we may provide for our families, communities and country.  For all this we are truly thankful!

     In this letter to the churches in the region of Ephesus, Paul is drawing our attention to the loving activity of God, planning before creation to offer us salvation by grace through the substitution freely given by Jesus, the Messiah.  Incredibly, not only for those originally chosen, the Jews, but full rights to God’s kingdom are also available to all non-Jews who respond – an astounding act of grace!  This is what inspires the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21; a prayer for unity of Jewish and Gentile Christians based on a growing appreciation of God’s love which made the two one.  Paul prays that we would experience the power of God, the presence of Christ and the perception of his love, for which we have reason to be thankful!

I.      Thankful for the Power of God (v. 16)

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 (NIV).

     First of all, Paul prays that God would strengthen his readers with the glorious riches of his power.  As we think about all that Paul has told us about the God’s great pre-creation plan, we may feel overwhelmed by his greatness and hesitant to approach him.  A young boy was feeling this way after hearing that his father had just been made a brigadier general.  So he asked his mother, “Do you think he will mind if I still call him Daddy?”  This prayer of Paul’s not only reminds us of the bounty of resources God has available for us, but it also invites us to draw near to experience them through a personal relationship with God as our Father (3:14). 

     On our own the thought of true unity between such diverse groups is an impossible dream, but we are not on our own!  Just as Paul claimed God’s power as the source of his ability to be an Apostle to the Gentiles (Eph. 3.7-9), now he asks God to supply his readers with the strength they will need deep within to be the unified family God has made them to be (2:14-18).  The power to do this doesn’t come from within us, but from God whose resources are unlimited.  During the construction of one of the East River bridges in New York, the engineers were baffled by an old sunken barge. It lay embedded in the river bottom. Powerful engines, steel cables, derricks, and rafts—all were powerless to remove the obstruction.

     A young man just out of technical school received permission to try his hand. At low tide he had a large barge towed out to the spot. The ends of it were fastened on the sunken vessel. As the tide came in from the Atlantic, the barge rose, bringing with it the submerged wreck. The young engineer had linked to his task the limitless power of the ocean tides. So we have the infinite power of God available to help us. Do you understand the power available to you from God to love those you once scorned?  It is real, life changing and available to you through a relationship with Jesus Christ as your sin forgiver and life leader as you depend upon him and not yourself.  Thank God for his power available to all disciples of Jesus.  Be humble to ask and then bold to act! 

II.     Thankful for the Presence of Christ (v. 17a)

 “17a so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Ephesians 3:17a (NIV).

     In verse 16 Paul prays that God the Father would through the power of the Holy Spirit working deep within them, in their inner being, and continues that thought praying for Messiah to dwell in our hearts through faith.  This is where the true battle with sin and self is fought and this is where we need Christ’s presence.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 we are told that while people look at one’s outward appearance God can see one’s true self, the heart.  Paul is not now praying that we would know about Christ, but that through our growing faith in him we may experience the reality of his presence ruling at the core of our being!  The word Paul translated as dwell means “to settle down” and carries the idea of a long-term resident.  “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV).

III.     Thankful for the love of Christ (v. 17b-19)

17b And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17–19 (NIV).

     Paul’s prayer is not for us to love Christ more, instead we wants us as disciples of Jesus, to consider the vastness of his love for us, which is so great it is beyond our comprehension.  William Barclay says: It is as if Paul invited us to look at the universe—to the limitless sky above, to the limitless horizons on every side, to the depth of the earth and of the seas beneath us, and said, “The love of Christ is as vast as that.”[1] Paul wants the love of Christ to “take our breath away” as we try to understand how immeasurable it is, and for this to lead us gratefully into the loving arms of our God to experience his loving presence!  Know that you are secure in God’s love, rooted and firmly established on Christ love, expressed before the foundation of the world (1:3-6) and love which brought us life in Christ (2:4-5).  Harold Hoehner in the Cornerstone biblical commentary says:  To fully comprehend the sacrificial love of Christ is beyond the capability of any human being. His continued love for believers is equally incomprehensible. In fact, no matter how much knowledge believers have about Christ, his amazing love surpasses that knowledge, and the more we know of that love, the more we should praise him for it.[2]Amen, thank you Lord Jesus!

1939 He Merely Showed Hands

     William Dixon lived in Brackenthwaite, England. He was a widower who had also lost his only son. One day he saw that the house of one of his neighbors was on fire. Although the aged owner was rescued, her orphaned grandson was trapped in the blaze. Dixon climbed an iron pipe on the side of the house and lowered the boy to safety. His hand that held on to the pipe was badly burned.

     Shortly after the fire, the grandmother died. The townspeople wondered who would care for the boy. Two volunteers appeared before the town council. One was a father who had lost his son and would like to adopt the orphan as his own. William Dixon was to speak next, but instead of saying anything he merely held up his scarred hand. When the vote was taken, the boy was given to him.  —Neil Strait[3]

     “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV).

     As we accept Jesus Christ as our sin forgiver and life leader we have so much to be thankful for:  The love of God greater than our sin.  The presence of Christ within us, guiding, changing and helping us to share live out his love to others.  The power of God which, as we trust and obey him, enables us to do what he calls us to do!

Hymn: #67 “The love of God”

Verse 1 – The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. It goes beyond the highest star

And reaches to the lowest hell. The guilty pair bowed down with care, God gave His Son to win. His erring child He reconciled and pardoned from his sin.

Chorus – O love of God how rich and pure, how measureless and strong. It shall forevermore endure the saints and angels song.

Verse 2 – When years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall, when men who here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call. God’s love so sure shall still endure all measureless and strong, redeeming grace to Adam’s race, the saints and angels song.

Verse 3 – Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made. Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.

CCLI Song # 18448 Frederick Martin Lehman | Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV).



[1] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 132). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] Hoehner, H. W., Comfort, P. W., & Davids, P. H. (2008). Cornerstone biblical commentary: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, Philemon. (Vol. 16, p. 75). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[3] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 495). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

 
 
 

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The honour of being chosen by God.  Ephesians 3.1-13

Esterhazy Baptist Church.  October 3, 2021

Call to worship:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1:3–7 (NET).

Song: “Refiner’s fire”

Verse 1 – Purify my heart, let me be as gold and precious silver.  Purify my heart, let me be as gold, pure gold.

Chorus – Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for You Lord.  I choose to be holy, set apart for You my Master, ready to do Your will.

Verse 2 – Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within and make me holy.  Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within.

CCLI Song # 426298 Brian Doerksen © 1990 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Integrity Music) Vineyard Songs Canada (Admin. by Integrity Music) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Today we are looking Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, 3:1-13.  Paul wrote this letter to the churches in and around Ephesus while he was in prison.  Many scholars feel he wrote this letter while under house arrest in Rome following his appeal to Caesar (Acts 24:1-12).  Paul was being accused by the Jewish leaders of breaking their laws concerning the Gentiles and of preaching that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah).  To help us understand this passage better, I will start at 2:19 and read until 3:15.  To his mostly Gentile readers, Paul says:

     “19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

      3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

      7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

      14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” Ephesians 2:19–3:15 (NIV).

     Despite the fact that Paul is incarcerated solely for preaching about Jesus Christ, the tone of this letter is one of rejoicing over God’s amazing salvation plan.  In Ephesians 3:1-13 Paul is expressing his honour over being chosen by God for his service.  First of all, we see Paul is:

  1. Honoured to Knowthe mystery of Christ (3:1-6)

     In these verses Paul explains God’s special plan unfolding through Christ Jesus, which has now been revealed by God to the apostles and prophets (3:5).  This revelation, called ‘the mystery of Christ/Messiah’ was hinted at in the past but only fully seen now and Paul is honoured to have been included in the revealing of this mystery (3:3).  Verse 6 explains the revelation: “6 And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 3:6 (NLT). 

     We (Gentile Christians) have become so used to this truth that we forget there was a time when it was stunning to those who first heard.  It was literally unbelievable that God would open the doors of his Kingdom to the ignorant of God’s ways: godless gentiles without first requiring them to enter through the “door of Israel”!  This truth was first revealed to the apostles and prophets (Peter, Paul…) and then taught to the church.  Paul was honoured to have been chosen by the Lord Jesus to be in on this incredible news from the start – in spite of his previous distance from the gentiles as a Pharisee!

     Not only had Paul been given insight into God’s plan to redeem all of humanity, God in grace, chose him to lead the way in bringing this message of Christ’s saving grace to the Gentiles.

  1. Honoured to Sharethis good news with the world (3:7-12)

     In Eph. 3:8 Paul writes: 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ (NIV). 

     It is fascinating that the word translated “less than the least” in the Greek was coined by Paul.  He didn’t choose available words like little or less or even least.  He added onto the word “least” giving it the meaning “less than the least” or “leaster.”[1]  When given special honour most people experience some pride and even arrogance to have been selected.  What kept Paul so humble?  He realized how unworthy he was of the task and also how inadequate he was to fulfill it!  Then what was it that made Paul bold enough to do it anyway?  Look at Eph. 3:7 – 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.   Paul realized that his call to serve Christ was a work of God’s grace and his ability to preach about Christ to the Gentiles only came as a gift of God’s grace.  In other words:  Since this is what God called me to do, I will trust him to empower me to do it!

     I am reminded of Jacqueline Peeace’s message to us last Sunday from John 6:1-15 where fed over 5000 people – do I trust God to be able to use me?  It takes humility and boldness to say: “I am only one person; I can only give $10; I’ve never done this before… but I trust you!  I am the servant, you are almighty God!”

     Are you honoured to know God’s salvation plan?  Are you honoured to share it?  Honoured to share the incredible news of hope that God the Father has revealed by his Spirit concerning his Son that will change peoples’ eternal destiny if they respond to it?

III.     Honoured to _______ –                                                  (3:1, 14, 13)

     What could be the third thing Paul is honoured with in this passage?  Keep in mind how this passage started: 3:1 “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…”  This refers back to 2:19-22 where Paul rejoiced over the Gentiles being fully included into God’s household. After the parenthetical statement in vv. 2-13, Paul returns to this thought in v. 14 “For this reason I kneel before the Father.”  In verse 14 Paul is returning to his focus in 3:1 – “…Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”, but notice how he links this “digression” back into verse 14. Listen to vv.12-13: 12 In him (Christ Jesus) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.  14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name…

     Why does Paul not want them to be discouraged because of his suffering to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles? Because he is doing so as a servant, a prisoner not of Rome, but of Christ Jesus, and Paul is Honoured to Sufferfor Jesus Christ!

     The idea of suffering for Christ as an honour may be a difficult concept for us.  Usually, suffering is something we want to avoid!  Large parts of our nervous system are designed to alert us of danger using pain, so we can respond before more suffering occurs.  For example, touching something hot hurts and makes us pull our hand away in pain.  We may get a blister, but the pain and our response to it prevented greater damage.  So how does Paul understand suffering as an honour?

     Paul felt honoured to be so identified with Jesus as to receive the same treatment as Jesus for following him, because Jesus told his followers to expect it (Jn. 15:18-21; 16:33)!  William Barclay in his commentary on this passage says:

      If a man is in prison for some great cause he may either grumblingly regard himself as an ill-used creature, or he may radiantly regard himself as the standard-bearer of some great cause. The one regards his prison as a penance; the other regards it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we may either regard ourselves as the victims of men or as the champions of Christ. Paul is our example; he regarded himself, not as the prisoner of Nero, but as the prisoner of Christ.[2]

      Paul regarded himself as a sufferer for Christ. He did not expect the way of service to be easy; he did not expect the way of loyalty to be trouble-free… F. R. Maltby used to say that Jesus promised his disciples three things—that “they would be absurdly happy, completely fearless, and in constant trouble.” When the knights of chivalry came to the court of King Arthur and to the society of the Round Table, they came asking for dangers to face and dragons to conquer. To suffer for Christ is not a penalty; it is our glory, for it is to share in the sufferings of Christ himself and an opportunity to demonstrate the reality of our loyalty to him.[3]

     In the communion service we remember our Lord’s suffering for our sake.  The bread reminds us of his body broken for us.  The cup, his blood, shed as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.

     Paul was honoured to have received the amazing news of God’s grace extended to him and ALL of humanity.  He was honoured to have been empowered by God to share this good news with the world.  He was also honoured to endure suffering to proclaim the life changing news of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus.

     How about you and I?  Have you responded to the mystery of Christ, that no one is excluded from the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins and become part of God’s family?  If you have accepted Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader, are you honoured to share this good news with those around you?  Are you honoured and willing to suffer for the name of Christ Jesus if called upon?

     As I read the many stories about Muslims coming to Christ in closed countries, the common thread was: excitement over the opportunity to received God’s gift of salvation by grace, which encouraged them to tell others.  Even with the likelihood of suffering, the good news they had discovered was worth any pain they might face on this earth!  Let me close with Paul’s words from Romans 8:35-39

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35–39 (NLT).

Song: Knowing You, Jesus

Verse 1 – All I once held dear built my life upon, all this world reveres and wars to own. All I once thought gain I have counted loss, Spent and worthless now compared to this.

Chorus – Knowing You Jesus, knowing You, There is no greater thing.  You’re my all, You’re the best, you’re my joy, my righteousness, and I love You Lord.

Verse 2 – Now my heart’s desire is to know You more, to be found in You and known as Yours.  To possess by faith what I could not earn, all surpassing gift of righteousness.

Verse 3 – Oh to know the pow’r of Your risen life, and to know You in Your sufferings.  To become like You in Your death my Lord, so with You to live and never die

CCLI Song # 1045238 Graham Kendrick © 1993 Make Way Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!  Revelation 5:12-13

 

[1] Briscoe, D. Stuart Let’s get Moving, A Bible Commentary for Laymen, Ephesians. pg. 69.  ©1978 Regal Books Division, G/L Publications, Glendale, CA.

[2] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 122). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

[3] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 124–125). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

To listen to this message visit:  Podbean or call our Dial-a-sermon number for the weekly sermon: 1-306-985-9001 (this is a Regina number and long distance charges may apply).

Ephesians 2. “What a mighty God we serve.”

Sept. 19, 2021.  Esterhazy Baptist Church.

Call to Worship: “God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is. He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning. God sent Jesus Christ our Savior to give us his Spirit.” Titus 3:4–6 (CEV).

Hymn #206: “There is a redeemer”

Verse 1 – There is a Redeemer Jesus God’s own Son, Precious Lamb of God Messiah Holy One.

Chorus – Thank You O my Father, For giving us Your Son, and leaving Your Spirit till the work on earth is done.

Verse 2 – Jesus my Redeemer name above all names, Precious Lamb of God Messiah O for sinners slain.

Verse 3 – When I stand in glory I will see His face, There I’ll serve my King forever in that holy place.

CCLI Song # 11483 Melody Green © 1982 Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) Birdwing Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Ears To Hear (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Ephesians 2 (NLT)

     1Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

       4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

       8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

       11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

       14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

     19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

     Ephesians begins in chapter one with a song of praise followed by a prayer for spiritual insight into all that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has done to make our salvation possible.  Ephesians chapter two then makes it personal, by getting us to remember our situation before God reached out to us in Christ (vv. 1-3) and finishing with the blessing of being part of God’s reunited family in Christ (vv. 19-22).  We have been brought from death to life, from an outsider to a member of God’s household, and from deserving God’s wrath to receiving God’s grace.  How did this happen and how did we get here?  Ephesians chapter two is a celebration of the answers to those questions, summarized in Ephesians 2:3b-10:

     In this passage we see what God demonstrated through us, did for us, and designed us to be.

  1. What God demonstrated through us (vv. 4-5):

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

     When we think of our salvation may we always be in awe of God’s mercy, love and grace that he extended to us.  In our deliverance from sin the magnificence of God’s character is on display as he shows his mercy to us undeserving rebels (see Eph. 2:2-3)!  Why does he extend us such grace?  Because he loves us so much!  “The distinctive word for “love” here is agapē (γαπη) which speaks of a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the one loved, a love that impels one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the object loved. It is the love shown at Calvary (John 3:16).”[1]

  1. What God did for us (vv. 5-8):

A – God saved us (v. 8)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

     God saved us from the penalty of sin as a gift of his grace and not because of anything we have done.  As we grow in relationship with him and live in the power of his strength we are being saved from sin’s power over us.

B – God gave us life in Christ (v. 5)

that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

     Eph. 2:1-3 shows us our condition before Christ; we were spiritually dead in our sin.  When Jesus willingly laid down his life for our sins and God the Father raised him from the dead, we were given life in him.  Paul shows us this in Romans 6:1-4 by reminding us that our baptism pictures our burial with Christ and then our resurrection from the dead to new life with him.

C – God raised us with Christ & seated us with him in the heavenly realms (v. 6)

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

     Our identification with Christ Jesus continues.  In Eph. 1:20-21 we read that Christ Jesus was raised and seated in the place of authority in the heavenly realms.  Here in 2:6 we see that because we are united with Christ, we are seated with him in the heavenly realms.  We not only share in Christ’s life, but we now share in his victory over those things which once ruled over us! 

  1. What God designed us to be (vv. 7, 10):

A – Exhibits of his grace (v. 7)

So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

     Stuart Briscoe in his commentary says: “Some parts of His creation, like the infinite reaches of the galaxies, will be exhibits of His power. Others, like the angels, will demonstrate His holiness.  But only redeemed sinners will be able to show forth His grace…In eternity all things will have their place showing the many splendored majesty of our God.  But you will be in the grace department.” [2] 

B – Examples of his workmanship (v. 10)

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  In the original Greek the word order in the first sentence emphasizes whose we are, sounding something like: God’s masterpiece are we!  The word translated masterpiece/workmanship is the Greek word from which we get our word ‘poem.’  Paul is saying that we are examples of God’s creative genius!  He goes on to explain that we were crafted by God for a purpose, “to do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  Our good works cannot save us; they are like oil stained rags.  However when we accept Jesus Christ as our sin forgiver (Saviour) and life leader (Lord), we are remade, becoming and able to accomplish all that God intended us to be.  These good works are now in response to God’s amazing grace which brought us from death to life.  What are these good works?  In a nut shell it is to reflect the character of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for us.  We have been blessed to be a blessing and we go out under the authority and protection of our Lord Jesus Christ!  What a mighty God we serve!

Closing Song:  “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”

Verse 1 – Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

Verse 2 – ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed

Chorus – My chains are gone I’ve been set free, My God my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood His mercy rains, unending love amazing grace.

Verse 3 – The Lord has promised good to me, His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be As long as life endures.

Verse 4 – The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine, but God who called me here below, Will be forever mine. Will be forever mine, You are forever mine.

CCLI Song # 4768151 Chris Tomlin | John Newton | Louie Giglio © 2006 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Vamos Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: You have been given every good gift for proclaiming God’s presence and God’s love. The world is thirsting for this good news. People struggle for words of hope and peace. As you have been blessed, now go to be a blessing in God’s Name. AMEN.

[1] Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 4, p. 65). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

[2] Briscoe, D. Stuart Let’s get Moving, A Bible Commentary for Laymen/Ephesians. ©1978 Regal Books Division, G/L Publications, Glendale, CA. 

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God’s blessings to us in Christ.  Ephesisans 1.

Sept. 12, 2021.  Esterhazy Baptist Church

Call to Worship: “How good it is to give thanks to you, O Lord, to sing in your honour, O Most High God,  to proclaim your constant love every morning and your faithfulness every night,” “Your mighty deeds, O Lord, make me glad; because of what you have done, I sing for joy.” Psalm 92:1–2, 4 (GNB)

Hymn: #66 “To God be the glory

Verse 1 – To God be the glory great things He has done So loved He the world that He gave us His Son Who yielded His life an atonement for sin And opened the life gate that all may go in

Chorus – Praise the Lord praise the Lord Let the earth hear His voice Praise the Lord praise the Lord Let the people rejoice

O come to the Father through Jesus the Son And give Him the glory great things He has done

Verse 2 – O perfect redemption the purchase of blood To every believer the promise of God The vilest offender who truly believes That moment from Jesus a pardon receives

Verse 3 – Great things He has taught us Great things He has done And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son But purer and higher and greater will be Our wonder our transport when Jesus we see

CCLI Song # 23426 Fanny Jane Crosby | William Howard Doane © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com CCLI Licence No. 1348394

     Today we are resuming our look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians by taking another look at chapter one. Here it is from the New Living Translation:

Greetings from Paul

     1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.

I am writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus, who are faithful followers of Christ Jesus.

         2 May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Spiritual Blessings

         3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

         9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

         12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom

         15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

         19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. Ephesians 1 (NLT)

     Ephesians 1:3-14 is a single sentence song of praise to God for his actions to save us and adopt us into his family (vv. 13-14).  It is from this praise that Paul builds his prayer request for these Gentile believers that form the purpose of his letter, explained in vv. 18 & 19.  I would paraphrase it as: “That the Spirit of God would enable you to grow in your understanding of the hope, riches and power God has made available to Christians through Christ Jesus.”  Paul wants his readers to understand that God is on their side and is supplying everything they need to live a life which brings glory to God.

     Paul reminds us that an example of the power of God he speaks of was witnessed as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and given authority next to God in the heavenly realms.  This was for the benefit of Christ’s representatives on earth, Christ’s body, the church (vv. 19-23).  This is incredible, God is on our side! 

     In his song of praise in vv. 3-14 Paul marvels over the hope and inheritance given to believers in Christ.  Let’s take a closer look at our Spiritual blessing in Christ:

  • Because we are united with Christ we are spiritually blessed (v. 3).
  • God loved & chose us in Christ to be holy (v. 4).
  • God foreordained us to be adopted into his family through Christ (v. 5).
  • We are overwhelmed with God’s grace to us through Christ (v. 6)
  • We are brought to God & forgiven of our sins through Christ’s shed blood on our behalf (v. 7).
  • We are part of God’s plan to unify everything together under Christ’s authority (vv. 9-10).
  • Being united with Christ, we will receive an inheritance from God (v. 11).
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit within us confirms we will receive all God has promised us in Christ (v. 14).
  • God has called out a new people for himself from both Jews & Gentiles, the church to praise & glorify him under the authority of Christ Jesus (vv. 12-14).

     There are so many blessings, and yet our salvation is not the end of the story, but a part of God’s plan to bring the whole cosmos under Christ.  We have been chosen, in order to be a blessing to the world that our Lord is reaching out to.  A number of Bible commentators feel that in this song of praise Paul is rejoicing in God’s work to fulfill the ultimate Exodus, freedom from bondage to sin.  God plan in saving Israel’s descendents from slavery in Egypt was so they as his people would represent him to the nations.  Now in Christ, God has chosen us, Jews & Gentiles together in the church, to bring the news of his redemption to the world. 

     The Lord Jesus willingly became our Passover lamb, shedding his blood to free us from slavery to sin.  Now we are on our way to receive our promised inheritance (v. 14) guided and protected, not by a pillar of cloud or fire, but by the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing the fulfillment of God’s promise to us.

     It is amazing to get even a glimpse of God’s great salvation plan and our part in it.  It is no wonder that Paul prays that the Holy Spirit would grant us spiritual insight to grasp the scale of what God is doing around us and in us and through us!  It all makes me ask “What do we need to do?”  Some people are highly motivated by incredible goals.  Others of us are overwhelmed, wondering why even try to do anything; we are in way over our heads!

     To deal with this dilemma, let’s remind ourselves how this letter of Paul’s began: 1a This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.   Paul begins his letter by reminding us, already in his greeting, that this is all God’s idea, part of his gracious and powerful plan!

1-  Paul was chosen by the will of God.  We might not give much thought to this phrase, but Paul cannot forget what he was like when God chose him!  Paul, in sinful arrogance was trying to impress God with his ‘perfect’ life.  However, his obsession with keeping man’s interpretations of God’s laws led him to hate Jesus and persecute his followers!  Paul deserved God’s judgment but instead God forgave Paul, choosing to adopt him into his family – what an amazing display of God’s grace!  Listen to 1 Timothy 1:15–16.  Paul writes: 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. (NLT) We need to realize that when Paul claims he was chosen by God, he is not expressing pride but amazement!  This truth is the same for every single Christian!  Our salvation is a work of God, through Christ Jesus and not of ourselves.  We have been saved through an act of God’s grace as we express our faith in him.

2 – Paul recognizes he is an apostle of Christ Jesus.  William Barclay says this would have meant three things to Paul:

(a) That he belonged to Christ.  His life was not his own to do with as he liked; he was the possession of Jesus Christ, and he must always live as Jesus Christ wanted him to live.

(b) That he was sent out by Jesus Christ. The meaning of apostle is ‘sent one’. It can be used, of a naval squadron sent out on an expedition; it can be used of an ambassador sent out by his native country… The Christian all through life is to see themselves as a member of the task force of Christ. People on a mission, the mission of serving Christ within this world.

(c) That any power he possessed was a delegated power. The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In matters of religion the Sanhedrin had authority over every Jew in the world. When the Sanhedrin came to a decision, that decision was given to an apostolos to convey it to the persons whom it concerned and to see that it was carried out. When such an apostolos went out, behind him and in him lay the authority of the Sanhedrin, whose representative he was.

     The Christian is the representative of Christ within the world, but we are not left to carry out that task in our own strength and power; the strength and power of Jesus Christ are with us.[1]

     Paul through his introduction, praise and prayer wants us to see that salvation is a work of God that we have been chosen to be a part of.  Relax in his plan and care.  Trust him to provide the wisdom and strength to accomplish all that he was planned!  I close with this summary from N.T. Wright: Look back over the story which Paul has told as an act of worship. God has taken the initiative; God has done what was necessary, at great cost to himself, to buy us back from the slavery of sin; God has given us the spirit as a sign and foretaste of the whole renewed cosmos which awaits us as our inheritance. Discovering that you are to receive an inheritance like that should change your whole life. How can you not join in the hymn of praise? [2]

Hymn: #350 “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus”

Verse 1 – ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know thus saith the Lord.

Chorus – Jesus Jesus how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. Jesus Jesus precious Jesus, O for grace to trust Him more.

Verse 2 – O how sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to trust His cleansing blood. Just in simple faith to plunge me, ‘Neath the healing cleansing flood.

Verse 3 – Yes ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, Just from sin and self to cease. Just from Jesus simply taking, Life and rest and joy and peace.

Verse 4 – I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, Precious Jesus Savior Friend. And I know that Thou art with me, Wilt be with me to the end.

CCLI Song # 22609 Louisa M. R. Stead | William James Kirkpatrick © Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain For use solely with the SongSelect® Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. www.ccli.com  CCLI Licence No. 1348394

Benediction: 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15–17 (CSB).

[1] Barclay, W. (Ed.). (1976). The letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 74–75). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (pp. 13–14). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.