Sermon #1295 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians
Text: Ephesians 1:1-6:24
Subject: The Grace of God in the Book of Ephesians
Date: Sunday Morning and Evening - September 21, 1998
Tape # U-5 and U-6
Reading: Ephesians 3:1-21
I do not need to inform you that Paul’s letter to the Church at Ephesus is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. I would not exalt one portion of Scripture above another. Yet there are some portions more specifically suited to constant meditation and study than others. For example, I know very few people who have memorized or spent much time studying the first chapter of Numbers, which records the numbering of the children of Israel in their genealogies. Though those genealogies are very important, they are not exactly designed for daily meditation. The first chapter of Ephesians is different. Here we are brought immediately into the counsel chambers of the triune God, caused to thinking about electing love, blood atonement, effectual grace, and preserving mercy, and made to worship before the august throne of our triune, covenant-keeping God, our Father in heaven, our beloved Savior, and our Divine Comforter. I have preached so often from this blessed Epistle that I have not been able to keep track of all the sermons I have preached from it. Today, I want to do something a little different, something I have never done before. Today I want us to take an overview of the entire book. Normally my text is not more than six words, or six verses. Today my text is six chapters. So, obviously, when I say we are going to take an overview of the book, I really do mean an overview. We are going to simply skip along the surface of these deep, deep waters, like one of those birds you see, swooping down here and there for an invigorating dip in the cool water, a refreshing drink, or a tasty morsel of meat. We will just wade along the shore, picking up the most obvious nuggets of gold. Before we wade into these waters, while you pull your shoes and socks off and roll your britches up, let me tell you why Paul’s Letter To The Ephesians is such a delightfully precious to me and why it is such a constant source of meditation.
I love this book because of the Person of whom it speaks. When I open the book of Ephesians, no matter where I am reading, no matter where I sit down, no matter where I walk in this treasure house, I feel as if I am immediately in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. I read it again yesterday, marking the places where the words in Christ”, “in him”, “by Christ”, “through Christ”, “for Christ”, or other words with the same meanings are used. I am sure I missed some, but I counted fifty-five. Fifty-five times the Holy Spirit reminds us that everything we have from God, everything we are by grace, and everything we hope to enjoy in glory is in Christ! In Christ God has given us all that he can give and all that we can enjoy. He has given us himself!
I love to muse upon the things written in these pages because of the people to whom this book was written - THE EPHESIANS. Ephesus was a large, wealthy, metropolitan city of Asia Minor. It was called, “The Light of Asia”. It was a city filled with brilliant, wealthy people. It was the envy of the world in its day. Tradesmen, scholars, philosophers, and orators flocked to Ephesus. They thought it had everything a man could want. But Ephesus was a godless society. Actually, that is not true. They had gods galore. But they were altogether without the knowledge of God. Like the society in which we live, idolatrous, man-centered religion walked hand in hand with superstition, immorality, lasciviousness, and utter decadence. The great temple of Diana at Ephesus, just like the religions of our day, openly promoted every moral perversity imaginable. Yet, from among these hell bent pagans, the Lord God was pleased to raise up a people, objects of his everlasting love, to whom he revealed his gospel, in whom he revealed his Son, and by whom he made known his grace.
What a contrast there is in the very first verse of the epistle between the person who wrote it and the people to whom it was written. It is a contrast which singularly displays the great sovereignty of our God in the exercise of his grace.
Not many of the wise, the mighty, and the noble are called, but a few are. Most of God’s servants, most of the prophets of the Old Testament, most of the apostles in the New Testament, and most gospel preachers today were nobodies and nothings when God called them, shepherds and fishermen. But Paul was one of the most brilliant and most highly educated men of his day. Like Isaiah in the king’s court, this man was a man whose words were respected and heard. Yet, before God saved him, he Saul of Tarsus would not have allowed himself to even come into contact with these pagan Gentiles at Ephesus, for whom he later risked his life, that he might preach the gospel to them!
· Truly, God is no respecter of persons. He has mercy on whom he will have mercy!
· God’s servants are just messengers. It matters not whether the messenger has an eloquent, trained and polished, baritone voice, which uses perfect grammar, or has a coarse, gravely voice and obviously does not know the difference between an adverb and an adjective. God’s messengers are not sent to impress, but to instruct, to deliver a message.
· Paul considered himself nothing but God’s messenger, and counted it his highest honor to be such (Eph. 3:8).
I love the book of Ephesians because it brings me into “heavenly places”. The words “heavenly places” are found nowhere else in the Bible, except in the book of Ephesians. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use this term five times (1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Most modern translations use the word “heavenlies” instead of “heavenly places”. Which ever way it is translated, this term, “heavenly places”, refers to heavenly things, heavenly words, heavenly doctrines, heavenly promises, heavenly possessions, and heavenly experiences belonging to God’s elect in Christ.
1. “Heavenly places” refer to the place of eternal, covenant blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3).
2. “Heavenly places” speak of the place of our great High Priest’s royal, kingly intercession, advocacy, and sovereign dominion (Eph. 1:19-21).
3. “Heavenly places” identifies our spiritual union and communion with Christ as well (Eph. 2:6).
There he is, yonder, at the Father’s right hand, seated, accepted, blessed. But here is something more. Yonder I am, seated, accepted, blessed, at the Father’s right hand. Frequently, I do not feel so close to my God. Indeed, I often feel far off from God. But my faith does not rest in my feelings. My comfort and assurance are not derived from the cracked cistern of my feelings. My faith is in and my comfort, hope, and assurance are founded upon the Word of God. And God says in his Word, right here in Ephesians 2:6, that I am with Christ in heavenly places”. And I prefer what God says to what my lying hearts says!
Near, so very near to God, nearer I cannot be,
For in the Person of His Son, I am as near as He!
4. “Heavenly places” are those places in which we are taught of God by Divine revelation (Eph. 3:10).
This passage of Scripture refers to this gathered assembly of God’s saints and all others like it around the world as “heavenly places” of spiritual instruction. Here, as you sing, and pray, and worship, and receive instruction in the knowledge of Christ by the gospel of the grace of God, the angels of God are also instructed in the wonders of blood atonement, pardoning love, and saving grace!
5. “Heavenly places” are the place of spiritual privilege and stern perplexity, blessed assurance and bothersome anxiety, sweet communion and stubborn conflict (Eph. 6:12 margin).
The world is the enemy of our Father. The devil is in arms against our Master. The flesh is at war with the Spirit. Our carnal hearts are enmity against God. Therefore, we need not be surprised to find our daily experience an experience of unceasing, constant warfare.
And I love this blessed book of Ephesians because it talks so much about grace, God’s free, sovereign, saving grace in Christ.
All right, you’ve got your shoes and socks off and your britches rolled up. Now, let’s go wading for just a little while. Wherever you see a diamond or a nugget of gold, if you care to pick it up and put it in your pocket, you are free to do so. If you see an inviting deep pool, just dive in. Everything here in this treasure filled ocean is yours, if you are Christ’s.
Proposition: All grace is ours in Christ by divine purpose and joyful experience to use for one another’s good and for the glory of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Divisions: In these six chapters of Ephesians, want to call your attention to these six things…
1. The Explanation of Grace,
2. The Experience of Grace,
3. The Enjoyment of Grace,
4. The Education of Grace,
5. The Exercise of Grace, and
6. The Exhortation of Grace.
I. The Apostle Paul well understood the fact that men and women who were steeped in religion needed thorough instruction in the doctrine of grace, if ever they were to know God. Therefore he began this epistle and used the entire first chapter to give THE EXPLANATION OF GRACE.
As I said, we are just going to touch the high points this morning. But these high points are vital. Be sure you get each of them. Make yourself as familiar with these things as you are with the keys on your key ring. Use them as keys to unlock the storehouse of Holy Scripture. Here are ten words essential to any biblical understand of the doctrine of the grace of God, ten words essential to any clear knowledge of the gospel.
The grace of God flows to us from the three persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
· The Father’s Plan.
· The Son’s Purchase.
· The Spirit’s Power.
B. Predestination (1:3-5)
Predestination is God’s sovereign, eternal, unalterable arrangement of everything that comes to pass before anything came to pass for the everlasting salvation of his elect.
C. Praise (1:6, 12. 14)
Judge all doctrines, all religions, all religious activities, all religious songs, all religious ideas by this standard: WHO GETS THE PRAISE? According to this Book, everything that is true declares everything to be for the praise of his glory!
D. Position (1:6)
Here is our position. We are in Christ, and being in Christ from eternity, we are accepted in the beloved, accepted in the beloved from eternity!
E. Purchase (1:7)
There are some sinners in this world who have been purchased out from under the wrath of God, out of the hands of Divine justice, redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Any preaching that does not declare redemption accomplished and obtained by Christ for God’s elect is not biblical preaching and is no gospel preaching. Where there is redemption accomplished there is also…
In fact, Paul seems to explain what he means by redemption by saying, redemption means forgiveness.
Grace does not proclaim a redemption that offers pardon, but a redemption that demands pardon! Justice satisfied means pardon granted.
G. Providence (1:10-12)
Listen to the way in which the Holy Spirit explains the intricate details of God’s adorable providence.
H. Performance (1:13)
Grace is not a proposition, but a performance. Grace is not something God offers, but something God does. We do not believe as the result of God’s offer, but as the result of God’s operation. And this operation of grace, by which we believe, has an intimate, indivisible relationship to the word of truth, the gospel of salvation accomplished in Christ.
1. The gospel is called “the word of truth” because it reveals the Truth.
2. It is called “the gospel of your salvation” because it reveals salvation accomplished by Christ.
3. It is called “the word of life” because it is the means by which God the Holy Spirit conveys life to dead sinners.
Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? If you do, it is because God the Holy Spirit has revealed Christ to you and in you by the gospel (2 Tim. 1:9-10).
Where the Holy Spirit has performed his work of grace in regeneration he also performs his work of grace in…
I. Preservation (1:13-14)
A seal implies four things.
1. Privacy - That which is sealed is private, secret. And we rejoice to know that the secret things belong to the Lord.
2. Property - That which is sealed is the property of the one whose seal is upon it.
3. Preciousness - Any item that is sealed is of value.
4. Preservation - When a thing is sealed it is preserved from harm or spoilage.
J. Power (1:18-20)
Here are three things hidden from all natural men that I trust God will graciously give you eyes to see and know by personal experience.
1. The Hope of His Calling - Christ’s Obedience!
2. The Riches of The Glory of His Inheritance in the Saints - The Complete Satisfaction of the Father’s Purpose, Christ’s Obedience, and the Spirit’s Operations!
3. The Exceeding Greatness of His Power to Usward - The Sovereign, Irresistible Grace of God by which We Believe.
Grace is power sovereign, omnipotent, effectual, irresistible power!. According to the words of our text, it takes the very same power to cause a dead sinner to live and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as it took to raise the dead body of our crucified Redeemer from the grave! It is my prayer that God the Holy Spirit will exercise that great power toward you and upon you today for Christ’s sake.
Illustration: Ezekiel’s Vision of Dry Bones (Ezek. 37:1-14).
II. In chapter two the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle to give us a detailed description of THE EXPERIENCE OF GRACE.
The grace of God as we experience it in this world involves two things. I stress the fact that I am talking now about our experience of grace in this world. In the experience of it grace involves regeneration and reconciliation. It involves the new birth and the consequent reconciliation of our hearts to God in Christ. We must be born again because we were all born in spiritual death by nature. And we must be reconciled to God because we all hate God by nature. Ephesians 2 deals with these two aspects of grace: Regeneration and Reconciliation.
A. Regeneration is the sovereign work and operation of grace performed in the hearts of chosen, redeemed sinners by God the Holy Spirit, sinners who are by nature both dead and depraved (Eph. 2:1-10).
The new birth is not accomplished by man’s will but by God’s power, not by man’s choice but by God’s purpose. It is not something God offers but something he does. The new birth is a resurrection from the dead. It is that first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:6, of which we are told, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years”. Look at Ephesians 2:1-10.
1. Here is THE CONDITION OF MAN (2:1-3).
Man, by nature is spiritually derived, spiritually depraved, and spiritually dead.
2. Here is THE CALL OF GOD (2:4-6).
a. The reason for this call is the love of God (v. 4).
b. Regeneration is the effect of God’s call (v. 5).
c. The result of this call is union, communion, and fellowship with Christ in the power of his resurrection (v. 6).
3. Here is THE CAUSE OF MERCY (v. 7).
4. Here is THE CHARACTER OF GRACE (vv. 8-10).
B. The result of regeneration is reconciliation (2:11-22).
Remember, I am talking now about the believer’s experience of grace. We were legally reconciled to God at Calvary by the death of his Son (Rom. 5:10-11). But our hearts were still enmity against God until he conquered us by his grace and graciously forced us to bow to him in reconciliation. Let me show you three things in these next few verses.
1. A FACT TO REMEMBER (vv. 11-12)
2. A FACT TO REALIZE (v. 13)
Here is that blessed phrase again - “IN CHRIST”. To be in Christ is to be…
· Chosen In Him.
· Redeemed In Him.
· Justified In Him.
· Called in Him.
· Sanctified In Him.
· United To Him.
· Accepted In Him.
3. A FOUNDATION THAT RECONCILES (vv. 14-22)
Not only does the grace of God experienced in the soul unite and reconcile us to God in Christ, it also unites and reconciles us to one another in Christ. All rocks in a building, built upon on foundation and connected to one cornerstone are united to and connected to one another. So, too, all who are built on Christ are fitted together.
Illustration: The Hewn Stones of The Temple
This is Paul’s doctrine: That which God requires of us God alone can do for us!
· Atonement For Sin (2 Cor. 5:21).
· Perfect Righteousness (Matt. 5:20).
· Spiritual Life, A Spiritual Nature - The New Birth (John 3:7).
· Faith in Christ (Heb. 11:6).
These are the things the Lord God almighty has done for us and in us by his grace in Christ.
III. In chapter three Paul describes what I will call THE ENJOYMENT OF GRACE.
There comes a time, sometime after you are converted, as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you begin to really enjoy the grace of God. Much like a husband and wife really begin to truly enjoy one another, comfortably and confidently enjoy one another only after they have been married for a long time, believers, while never getting over the wonder of grace, do not really enjoy grace until they have lived in it and experienced it a while.
A. Though it cost him his very life, as it will every faithful gospel preacher, Paul considered it his greatest honor, highest privilege, and most delightful joy to preach the gospel of Christ (3:7-8).
B. As a faithful gospel preacher, as a pastor with a pastor’s heart, Paul wanted those people to whom he preached to know, in the fullest way possible, by experience, all the blessedness of God’s abundant, free grace in Christ (vv. 9-21).
I know exactly what Paul’s words express in this chapter. As he expresses the desires of his heart for these Ephesian saints, my own heart echoes the same desire for you. It is the burning passion of my soul, as I endeavor to study and preach the gospel to you, to make you see…
1. The manifold wisdom of God in the scheme of grace (vv. 9-10).
2. The eternal purpose of his grace (v. 11).
3. The free, accessibility of his grace (v. 12).
4. The infinite superabundance of grace (vv. 18-21).
IV. The fourth chapter of Ephesians shows us THE EDUCATION OF GRACE.
Again, I can do no more than skim the surface here; but this is a rich, rich chapter. I hope the things I mention will inspire in you a desire to study it in greater detail. Let me just point out three things for you.
A. AN ENDEAVOR (4:1-6)
We ought always to strive and labor to promote true unity among true believers.
B. AN ENDOWMENT (4:7-16)
In the church and kingdom of God there is no room for and no basis for envy and jealousy. Each of us are given specific gifts to use for the glory of Christ, the interests of the gospel, and the benefit of God’s elect.
When the Lord Jesus Christ ascended up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high, he received gifts for men and gives those gifts to men as he will. One of the gifts with which he has endowed his church is the gift of the ministry (4:8-16). Look at verses 11-14.
C. AN EDUCATION (vv. 17-32)
The gospel of the grace of God and the grace of God experienced in the soul teaches believing men and women to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil world for the glory of Christ. We are totally free from the law; but believers are not lawless. Saved sinners seek to glorify God in all things. If your religion promotes, permits, or allows room for lasciviousness, greed, and deceitful lusts, your religion is not the religion of grace.
A. Grace teaches people to bridle their passions and their tongues (vv. 25-29).
B. Grace causes saved sinners to fear the thought of grieving the Holy Spirit (v. 30).
C. Grace makes people gracious (vv. 4:31-32).
V. Ephesians chapter five describes THE EXERCISE OF GRACE by people who have been taught by grace.
Children of God, we who have been the recipients of grace ought to always take care to magnify the grace of God with our deeds as well as with our words.
A. Love one another (5:1-2).
B. Ever seek to live in a manner becoming saints (vv. 3-13).
C. We must endeavor, for Christ’s sake, to shake ourselves from our natural tendency toward lukewarmness, indifference, and indolence in spiritual things, and buy up every opportunity to worship and serve our Master (v 14-17).
D. If we would live for Christ in this orld, we must ever seek to be filled with the Spirit (5:18-6:9).
Being filled with the Spirit is not some Charismatic fit or Pentecostal spasm. To be filled with the Spirit is exactly what verses 18-33 tell us it is. To be filled with the Spirit is to…
1. Offer thanks and praise to God in all things, for all things, in your heart.
2. Submit to one another in the will of God.
3. Imitate Christ in all things: As Husbands, As Fathers, As Masters, As Servants.
VI. The latter half of chapter six concludes this blessed book with THE EXHORTATION OF GRACE (Eph. 6:10-24).
A. Be strong in the Lord.
B. Stand! Having done all stand!”
C. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
In verses 14-21 Paul tells s what the believer’s complete, sevenfold armor is.
1. The Girdle of Truth.
2. The Breastplate Of Righteousness - Imputed Righteousness!
3. The Hob-nail Sandals of The Gospel of Peace.
4. The Shield of Faith.
5. The Helmet of Salvation.
6. The Sword of the Spirit.