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Sunday, September 19 2021

What hope is there for various groups of people who are without hope and without God? Paul reminded the Gentile Christians in Ephesus that they were once “separated from Christ” and alienated from Israel because they were the “uncircumcised” and strangers to God’s covenants (Ephesians 2:11–12). Therefore, the apostle noted that they had “no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). 

What is the answer for those separated from God and His promises? The faithful of all nations are now “in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:13). Paul had already noted that all the spiritual blessings from God are for the faithful who are “in Christ” because they heard and believed the gospel. As God promised to bless all nations, God predestined those who are “in Christ” to be holy and blameless by His forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:3–14). No matter one’s ethnicity, followers of Christ are to unite in Christ.

How can many people from different backgrounds unite in Christ? The apostle Paul revealed that those in Christ from other nations were “once far off” but now “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). For this reason, Paul declared that Christ is peace because He unites all ethnicities in one body, the church (2:14). Jesus broke down the dividing wall between the Jews and all other nations by annulling the law of commands and ordinances given to Israel (2:14–15). Furthermore, Jesus revealed that He came not to abolish God’s Law but to fulfill God’s Law (Matthew 5:17). Christ brings together people of all ethnicities through the cross (2:16). The apostle noted that Jesus came preaching peace for all people (Ephesians 2:17). Jesus put an end to the hostility of all peoples bringing peace to all nations who remain faithful to Jesus. Through Christ, all have access to God the Father in one Spirit (2:18). While cultures differ, all can unite in Jesus Christ.

What foundation does Jesus give to unite people among all nations? The church has no strangers and foreigners within, but all are members of the household, the family of God (2:19). The church is God’s people built like a house of gathering with “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (2:20). Paul taught that the church is symbolically a house and a structure joined together as a holy temple for God’s dwelling by His Spirit (2:21). In other words, God dwells among His people in this world. Jesus does not separate churches by ethnicity. Christ has set the foundation for all people to unite upon one faith (4:4–6).

What is the conclusion then? Unity for the sake of unity is futile and meaningless. However, Jesus has brought peace and unity among all peoples. Christ is the head over the church as His body and He is the cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 2:20). The church has Christ as the foundation of being one body, so we must strive to maintain unity in the bond of peace (4:1–3).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 12 2021

What is it like being dead, spiritually lifeless and separated from God? Life is empty without God and we feel despair when we can’t find something more to distract us. The apostle Paul wrote to the faithful in Ephesus, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1 ESV). The good news is that this death in trespasses and sins was in the past. However, the apostle uses this state of lifelessness in sin to remind the Ephesian church of where they once were and how they once lived. Paul noted, “You once walked, following the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2).

Why do we so easily listen to the world and ignore God? In the past and now, many believers listen to the world, the media, and the “experts” over God’s Word. When people follow the world, they are following the ruler and spirit that works in the descendants of disobedience to God (Ephesians 2:2). This is the life of living in “the passions of the flesh” and “the desires of the body and mind” (Ephesians 2:3). The apostle Paul revealed that those living by the way of the world were “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). They were not going to escape justice by God's judgment. No one can escape and release oneself completely from this death without some powerful life-giving influence.

What does the Creator of everything have to give to humanity? God is abundant in mercy because of His great love for humankind (Ephesians 2:4). God makes those who trust in Him “alive together with Christ” when we were once “dead in our trespasses” (2:5). This is salvation by grace. In other words, God rescues the faithful because He favors those who believe and trust in Him (2:5). In this life, God raises the faithful from death in sin to life with Christ (2:6). This is an enactment of Christ’s resurrection in hope of the coming resurrection on the last day (Romans 6:3–7; cf. John 5:28–29; 6:40). Furthermore, God gives us this blessing as we are with Christ who is in God’s heavenly dwelling (Ephesians 2:6). This was all a part of God’s plan to demonstrate “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2:7). God’s kindness is to make us alive despite the death that we brought upon ourselves.

Of all of God's riches, what has He given us? Paul declared, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). In other words, the faithful are saved now and God’s salvation is His gift to those who trust in Him. The apostle noted that this is not the doing of works of anyone, but salvation is the gift of God (2:8–9). Because salvation is not from our works, no one can boast. Furthermore, God’s grace has made the faithful into God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” and so the faithful walk in those good works (2:10).

The grace of God changes those who believe and accept it through repentance and baptism (Romans 6:3–7). The apostle Paul taught more about the good works that are based on God’s grace and Christ’s salvation from death (Ephesians 4:17–6:9). God’s mission for the church is to do good works and make the gospel known as Paul taught throughout his letter to the Ephesians (3:9–10). Thank God for His salvation through Christ so that we now live to do good works giving glory to God.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, September 05 2021

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9 ESV). By viewing the world with knowledge of God, people can see reality, purpose, and meaning. The psalmist declared, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God’s Word displays reality for all people from the highly educated and the wise to the simplest thinker and the mind of a child. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:105, 130).

Jesus enlightens the eyes of the faithful. By Jesus, Christians are able to know and perceive by their hearts the eternal blessings from God. The apostle Paul prayed that God give “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation” to Christians (Ephesians 1:17). The apostle explained that the Spirit of wisdom and revelation comes by the knowledge of Jesus Christ that enlightens of the eyes of the heart (1:17–18). This light within hearts by Christ is to know the hope of the riches of the glorious inheritance that Christ calls the faithful to receive (1:18). In other words, knowing Christ gives light to see the blessings of eternal life. God works all these great eternal blessings through Jesus’s resurrection and His authority over all at the right hand of God (1:19–21). For this reason, Christ is over all things to the church (1:22–23).

Knowledge of Jesus’s resurrection gives light to reveal hope to faithful Christians. For this reason, Paul declared that the Christian hope is Jesus (1 Timothy 1:1). Jesus resurrected so that the faithful would physically rise to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20–22; cf. 6:14). Paul revealed, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:23–24). The apostle reported, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:53; cf. Philippians 3:20–21). When Jesus returns, He will resurrect the dead to physical life again (John 5:28–29; 6:40). Paul taught, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). For the resurrection of bodies, Christians wait for the place that Christ promised to prepare (John 14:2–3). Christians await the city built by God in the heavenly country where they will live in their changed immortal bodies (Hebrews 11:10, 16).

By the light of Christ, the faithful see reality (John 8:12; 9:5). We see that the Creator will restore the bodies of the faithful and His creation from corruption and death unto an incorruptible state. God gives life again (Isaiah 26:19). Because God has created everything, nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17). In this hope, Jesus has enlightened the eyes of hearts to know the hope of eternal life for this we live by faith and rejoice for God’s love (Ephesians 1:17–18).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email