Ephesians should be the bridal portrait of the church; it's not an illusion but a picture of how the church should look. Observe, through the first two verses in chapter 1, that we are not the first group to be called to be saints in a gross culture, that we must know truth before we can practice it, and that compromise is absolutely poisonous to our usefulness for Christ. We need to be faithful to study and practice chapters 1-3 so that God's hand will stay with us.
What He Has Done to Make Us One
Our Radical Problem... Our Right Response
But God... By Grace
I Pray You Believe It
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 5
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 4
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 3
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 2
If You Could Only Have One Sentence from Your Bible, part 1
Intro to Ephesians: The Call to Make a Difference in a Godless Culture
The Los Angeles Times reported a story a couple of years ago about a couple who was found in their apartment. Their bodies were decomposing, and their neighbors eventually noticed that the aroma that was in their apartment complex wasn't appropriate and called the authorities. They went in and opened the apartment, only to find these two people dead.
They had died, the coroner said, of malnourishment. Now this was kind of curious. When they went and they looked around their apartment, in their closet in grocery bags, they had over $40,000 in cash, yet this was a couple who decided they didn't want to use what they had put aside for provision. They were miserly.
There was a woman who lived in the early 1900s. Her name was Hetty Green. When she died in 1916, she left an estate in excess of $100 million. That's a lot of money now. It was a ton of money then. Hetty Green was the most famous miser of her time. She was so miserly they said she ate cold oatmeal so as not to suffer the expense of heating the water.
Hetty had some head problems, it sounds like. Hetty, at one point, was so careful with her money that she was slow in getting her son, who had suffered a severe leg injury, to a clinic. In fact, she wouldn't ever take him to a clinic and finally took him to a free clinic because of his incessant moaning.
By the time he got there, the infection was so bad her son had to have his leg amputated. Hetty Green would talk about the worthlessness of spending money on good food, so she prided herself in buying cheap food, only to die herself and have her death rushed on by the fact that she had let her body go to waste until a vessel ruptured in her brain and took her away.
Here are two stories of people who have more than enough to provide and to care for themselves, but because of a problem with their minds, because of the fact that they were locked into not using that which was there to provide for them, they suffered greatly and, in a sense, became a laughingstock.
The church often is mocked at because it's not able to do what the church was sent here to do. It doesn't seem like we in America as a part of the church universal are doing a very good job against the gates of hell. It looks like hell, in fact, is advancing toward us, and we see the results of that week in and week out in the body life all around this country and this world in the church.
The problem with the church is not that it hasn't been blessed, not that it hasn't been given everything necessary for success. The problem with the church is that it is a miserly old woman who will not tap into the resource, whether it be out of pride or ignorance, that God has provided for us that would enable us to live and be used like he wants us to be used.
We talked last week in our introduction to an introduction about how our world is looking for answers. I talked about the idea of the hundredth monkey theorem. Do you remember that? I talked about the idea behind the bumper stickers, "Visualize World Peace," and I was reading this week in some different things, and I came across a deal that the Washington Post had picked up.
This was the lead in their Washington Post article. It said, "They Came, They Meditated. And Everything Got Better." That's the way the Washington Post began its story on meditation and its effects on crime rates in Washington, DC. It says something to the effect of, "Practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation that came there took credit for everything that was good that happened this month, from Clinton's policies to friendly overtures being made by Castro and Gaddafi."
The meditators explained that violent crimes in the district dropped by 13 percent compared with the same eight-week period last year, but somebody went on to make this observation. "Scrutiny reveals some complications. While robberies dropped 19 percent and assaults were down 11 percent, according to the statistics they compiled from police and FBI records, homicides during the same period increased 50 percent, and rapes by 9 percent."
A man by the name of Patrick Ryan, a former member of one of the organizations that put on this Transcendental Meditation symposium in order to usher in peace in our nation's capital, said that TM experts are simply "painting the bullseye around the arrow." He says they look at 20 variables and circle the ones that make it look like their cause is working.
You see, our world is dying for homicides and rapes and burglaries and hatred to cease. Our society is looking for somebody to care for the homeless. Our society is dying for somebody to provide health care for those who can't afford it, to feed those who would go hungry not because they're ignorant and won't use their $40,000 or $100 million but because they are not able to provide for themselves, so our society looks a lot of places.
I found another little article in terms of where our society looks, this one from the Knight-Ridder News Service. It says this. "Now there's a new spiritual guide on the block. She's blonde, svelte, and loved by millions. It's the ubiquitous Barbie doll."
The article goes on to say, "Actually, it's dozens of Barbie dolls who communicate through channeling with their owner, Barbara Bell, does of San Anselmo, California." This lady offers to commune with any one of her dozens of Barbie dolls, who she says will advise people on everything from questions about God to career advancement, but there's a catch. It costs $3 per minute. Now I don't know who you'd ask for, one of her 12 Barbie dolls. If you're looking for where you should get less stress and relaxation, do you ask for a channeling from Malibu Barbie?
If you're confused about your wardrobe, do you call and ask for Fashion Barbie to give you insight? If you're worried about your weight, do you call Liposuction Barbie or Bimbo Barbie? I don't know. If meditation won't do it, maybe Barbie will. What about us? You know, it's easy to laugh at the TM'ers. It's easy to laugh at those who are waiting for Barbie through Barbara Bell to give them some insight into how to find peace, hope, significance, and security.
This week, I was also reading, and I came across a little article. This one is an excerpt from Cal Thomas. Cal Thomas is one of the columnists for the Los Angeles Times, and he was writing about the comment that Dole had made in reference to Hollywood and the movies. Cal Thomas says, "The fact is: Hollywood isn't destroying us." This man's a believer, an evangelical Christian.
He says, "As a friend of mine has said, Hollywood is simply 'the piano player in the whorehouse.' People are buying what gives them immediate satisfaction. Both liberals and conservatives want the quick fix. Liberals turn to government to repair all social ills, allowing those who claim concern for the poor to escape their responsibility by appealing to the state."
Then it gets to some of us who would like to consider ourselves conservatives. He says, though, and Cal Thomas is one, "Conservatives also increasingly turn to government, believing that all social ills, from abortion to bad language, can be fixed by legislation and having the 'right' president in office. Rather than disciplining ourselves and our children, we ask others to make us stop before we sin again. The devil may make us do it, but we want something outside of us to make us stop."
Are you guilty of that? See, I do believe that we as Christians in this society should participate politically. Whether you are a liberal or a conservative, God has given you that right in this country. In fact, he's given you that command, but I will tell you this. If you are going to government, whether it be to provide provision for a life of folly and irresponsibility or whether you are going to government in order to stifle sin, you are going to the wrong resource.
You are like that couple who, though they had $40,000, or like Hetty Green, who had $100 million available to her, you chose to check on something else to provide you security. You then, would be part of a body who is not a new community but an old community chasing after old idols, old lies, and the world will mock, even as we chuckled inwardly at the TM'ers hoping to stop rape through meditation and the fools hoping to find truth about God through Barbara Bell and her Barbie dolls.
We're about to study a book that is the answer to our inability to be what Christ has called us to be. The book is Ephesians. It's one of Paul's epistles. Turn there with me. It's in your New Testament. If you have not spent a lot of time in your New Testament, you'll just kind of hum past the Gospels. You'll go by Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and then you'll get to the go "eat popcorn" section, when you see Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, or Colossians.
Another way to remember those four books and how they go together is General Electric Power Company. You just find one of them. Plug in the P with Philippians, and you know you're looking for the E, so go back and get to Ephesians. Then put a big crease there in your Bible because we're going to hang out there for some time. We are going to study this book.
When you study the book of Ephesians, what Ephesians is, is a book that really is kind of a bridal portrait. I've gotten to do a few weddings lately. I see a few of the brides that I've married out there. Almost without exception when I go to do a wedding, when you walk in, either to the reception or to the lobby at the church, there is a beautiful glossy, you know, about 14 x 24.
I don't know what it is, but they're huge, and there's a bride there, and she looks good because she started getting good about eight hours before her time to get the photo shoot done. She's in the prettiest dress she'll ever wear. She's done more work with her hair and more work with her face than ought to be done in a lifetime, but she is ready for the picture.
She's smiling, and they take about 100 of them, and they picked the best one, when the sunlight was just right, the smile was just right, the eyes were soft, and the hair fell gently. You've got a bridal portrait, and that groom in his ignorance looks at that and goes, "Ain't I lucky." You have to tell the guy, "I'm sorry, son. That is not what you're marrying. That is a lot of work there, and it'll never happen again." It's done. She is never going to look that good again when she walks up that isle.
What you have in Ephesians, though, is our bridal portrait. It is Jesus Christ telling us, "This is what you ought to look like, except it's not an illusion. It is truth." The illusion is what we choose to lower ourselves to be a part of. I'm going to give you about seven different ways, maybe eight, maybe 10 different ways to put this book, to catalogue it in your mind.
We want to study and start by looking at Ephesians because, as we really hope to be more than just a body that has a neat time of worship every Sunday for an hour and 15 minutes… If that's what we're about, then we are not wanting to be about it long. There are a lot of things you guys can do for an hour, and as good as this is for an hour, if we're only about changing ourselves for an hour a week, that is not what God has called us to be a part of.
He has called us to be a part of a new society made up of new men and new women whose lives have been regenerated by Jesus Christ. That new society, that new community, can only look that way…not by meditation, not by forceful worship, not by strong intent…by the truth found in Ephesians.
Ephesians is a book that was written between AD 60 and 62, about 30 years after Christ had left us. Paul had finished his three missionary journeys, and one of the places he stopped at the very end of his second missionary journey was Ephesus. It was a city which the Greeks especially had colonized. When the Greeks would go and they would establish a colony, they would call it an emporium, and emporium literally meant a way in.
When you would go to a Greek colony, this emporium, they would pick certain spots to colonize their people, that they might have a way into this new land through which their nation and their infrastructure could greatly prosper. If you look in your map at Ephesus, or today it's in modern Turkey, it's right there along, I think, the Adriatic Sea. It is near Asia Minor, and it was the major port of its day.
This is a great book for us to study in Dallas, Texas, because Ephesus was a major city, as major a city as there was in the East. Ephesus was to the East what Rome was to the West. It was the center of all commerce, all industry. Ephesus (we'll look a little bit later), not only was a great port city… By the way, what they had was a channel that led six miles inland, and when that channel would come from all the commerce from the West, as it made its way to prosper from all that was awaiting up in Asia, they'd come through Ephesus.
There was a marble city right at the end of the harbor, a marble walkway, and that walkway would take them about a mile or two miles to a 20,000-seat theater. That's a long time ago to have 20,000 people. They just built the 20,000-seat stadium, the Dean Dome in North Carolina, now. People back then would go to this city of Ephesus to see great plays, great orators; to hear great philosophers in this city that was the center of commerce, that was the center of wealth.
This long marble walkway was lined along the way with shops and colonnades and tourism and hotels. It's where the Roman emperors would go to vacation. This was New York City and Orlando all wrapped up into one, and it was one more thing. It was not only New York City and Orlando, Ephesus was New York City, Orlando, and Salt Lake City all wrapped into one. In Ephesus, there was a goddess whose name was Artemis, and Artemis had a temple there.
Artemis is what the Greeks called her. Diana is what the Romans called her, but she was the great fertility goddess. Her temple in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Back then, they had built a temple to Artemis that was 130 yards long and 80 yards wide. That would cover your Dallas Cowboys. Inside of there, they would practice all different types of things to this woman they believed was a gift to them from the gods.
A meteor literally fell from the heavens, and from that, they sculpted this goddess, Artemis, who had a fruit basket on her head, a veil coming down with beasts on it, and a sheath on her legs with animals and multiple breasts all over her because she was the fertility goddess.
To worship her, you practiced things which would make your land fertile, and you would sleep with temple prostitutes, and there would be orgiastic rituals. If you were a priest who was involved in Artemis worship, you had very little trouble getting your people to come to church and coming on time. That's what Ephesus was. It was the center of all that. It was Salt Lake City, New York City, and Orlando all wrapped up into one.
Paul had visited there at the very end of his second missionary journey, and he realized this was a key place for the gospel to permeate. He left there, and he went back, and he kind of filled in all the churches that were supporting him and sending him on his way back in Israel. Then he started again on his third missionary journey. With the people he went and visited at Ephesus, he ended up spending three years. Paul spent three years at Ephesus. It is the longest he ever spent in one city.
These people knew more teaching than anybody else. These folks had heard Paul reason. These people were invested in by Paul, and when you go and read in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, the seven churches, those seven churches, Paul never visited probably those other six, but those other six all came out of this one because Ephesus was the gateway to Asia.
Those Asian churches which are talked about in Revelation are all church plants which came probably from Ephesus. Men that Paul discipled for the three years he was there would go back to Laodicea and other places and plant their churches. They'd go back to Laodicea and some of the other churches and would go and talk to these people and share what Paul had taught them.
What we're going to do as we study this little book is kind of put it in place. Now you need to know this, that there's some debate. Most books that Paul wrote, like the letter to the Colossians, which he also wrote at the same time he wrote Ephesus, were books that were really written to a specific church.
There is a lot of debate as to whether or not this book, this Ephesian epistle, is necessarily just to the church at Ephesus or rather, because it was the largest church and a key church from which all other churches got much of their training and doctrine, if Paul didn't just write a letter and start it at Ephesus and let it kind of make a circle around the Asian churches.
It really doesn't matter, but you need to know this. This was a letter that is not as personal as many of his other books, and that would kind of implicate that it wasn't just to this church because he spent more time here than anywhere else, but rather, what he wanted to do was to say, "This is the church at Ephesus, a key church for all of Asia, and this is what all churches need to look like. This is the bridal portrait. This is what a church ought to be."
We're going to find in study today that this not just Paul's opinion, but it's the opinion of the one who will one day wed himself to that church. Paul, after his three missionary journeys was in Rome, and it was the first time he was imprisoned in Rome, and while he was there, he wrote four different letters. They're called the Prison Epistles.
Just to throw them out to you, there's Ephesians, which we're going to study. There's Colossians, and you'll find that well over 50 verses in Colossians are very similar to what you find in Ephesians. Then you have another letter that went out, Philippians, and another letter that went out, Philemon. If you look at those four letters Paul sent out, you have a nice little presentation by him.
Paul will write to the Colossian church about the supremacy of Jesus Christ. That's the focus of the letter to the Colossians. In Ephesians, he writes about the supremacy and the necessity of the church. In Philippians, he'll write about what the Christian life looks like, that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, that you can be a people who can experience joy in every circumstance. That's what he writes about in Philippians.
Then Philemon is a letter to an individual named Philemon who lives in Colossae who had a slave who had run away whose name was Onesimus, and Onesimus was with Paul in prison in Rome, and he was sending him back to go to his master. He was telling the master that, as a Christian brother who he knew he was… Paul knew Philemon.
By fate, God put his runaway slave in a cell with Paul, and Paul led that slave to the Lord, and then he sent that slave to go back to his master. He wrote that master now, and he said, as you come back, I want you to put together all that is true about Christian living, that is true of those who are a part of a church, that is true about those who know the key figure in history, Jesus Christ, and treat your slave differently.
In fact, he said, "I exhort you not to treat him as a slave but as a brother in Christ, and if you choose to punish him, then grant him grace on my behalf. Your brother in the Lord, Paul." In those four letters he sent out with four men, Paul was giving you an absolute… If all you ever read was Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians, you would have a wonderful exposé of what one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived felt like we needed to know.
Let's look at this little book itself. I told you that, as we study this book, I'm going to give you like seven or eight different ways to catalogue it. Let me just give you the easiest ways. There are six chapters in Ephesians, and if you would draw a line right in the middle after the first three chapters, you would end Paul's… You can write. I'm going to give you a bunch of different ways to say it in just brainstorming myself.
You would end all the positional truth at the end of chapters 1-3. He is just giving you pure doctrine. He goes from positional truth and then to practical living. He goes from doctrine (he lays it heavy for three chapters), and then he goes to duty. If you will, he goes in those first three chapters about, "This is our wealth," and then he goes in chapters 4, 5, and 6 and says, "Therefore, this is how we should walk."
In chapters 1-3, he says, "Listen, this is orthodoxy. This is the true belief and meaning of the church." Then in chapters 4, 5, and 6, he says, "If you are orthodox in your belief, then you should be orthoprax in your actions. You should be full of orthodox-praxy, orthopraxy." In other words, you should act this way. This is the way a believer acts. If you will, he says, "This is your calling, the way that you should live." Then in chapters 4-6, if that's your calling, then this is your conduct. Another way is, in chapters 1-3, this is the reason. In chapters 4-6, this is the response to truth.
Now as you kind of go through this little book right here. We're just going to take a look at three little verses today. In those first three chapters, though, there is not a single imperative command. In fact, you find just the opposite. Paul is laying on truth again and again and again. He's saying, "This is what we believe, so this is how you should behave."
He doesn't tell them one thing they ought to do in chapters 1-3. He just affirms them. In fact, one of the ways that I've kind of in my mind outlined this book is that this book starts this way. It's full of affirmation. Write it down. He's affirming them. "I'm telling you who you are. I'm telling you where your money is deposited so you can go and make withdrawals."
Then he comes out of that affirmation, and he intercedes for them. He says, "God, I know I just told them all kinds of truth, but now I have to pray that the scales fall off their eyes and that they would not just sit there, and even though they have $40,000 in paper bags in their closets, I pray, God, you would work in their lives to get rid of their foolishness, that they might go and withdraw from it."
He says, "Because you've been so affirmed and so interceded for…" Then in chapters 4-6, he says, "Therefore, this is the expectation which I in the Lord Jesus Christ have for you." There's a little outline of the book of Ephesians…affirmation, intercession, expectation.
If you want an easier outline, (I've given you already about 10 of them), the first three chapters are what we believe. The second three chapters are how you should then behave. That's pretty consistent, by the way, with all of Paul's books or many of his epistles. Colossians is the same way. If you look, chapters 1 and 2 of Colossians are that way, and chapters 3 and 4 then are how you apply it.
Paul is going to tell you here in chapters 1-3, if you will, again that this is your new life in Jesus Christ and because you have this new life… Really, if you would just do this with me, look at chapter 1, verse 3. Just draw a little line right there above verse 3, and write next to that, "new life in Jesus Christ" or just "new life," because that's what he's going to talk about for the rest really of chapter 1.
From that new life, over there in chapter 2, verse 10, at the very end of verse 10 before verse 11, draw another line. Because you have now been given all this grace and truth in Christ Jesus and because you who formerly walked in darkness now walk in light, he ends that whole theory of a new life in verse 10 by saying a key verse, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
If this is your new life and that you should walk this way, in verse 11, he starts with this new thing. Because you have a new life, now, not through TM and not through Barbie, but now, you can have a new society, and he talks about that new society which is the church, Jew and Gentile together. Where there once was animosity and hatred, where there once was division and prejudice, there is now love and acceptance and reconciliation.
We say a lot about racial reconciliation. We say a lot about getting along despite the fact that we're from different heritages, and Ephesians is the only book which can solve it. No amount of meeting, no amount of gathering apart from the truth in chapter 1, verse 3, through chapter 2, verse 10 will ever reconcile man to each other or to their Lord.
So you have a new life. Here's a little outline for you. You have a new life, and then you come back, and you have a new society. That all ends at the end of chapter 3, verse 21. When you start chapter 4, you're going to start looking at this. Because you have a new life and are a member of a new society, you, therefore, need a new standard.
Paul just lays out the standards that those who are a part of this new society, which is the church, who are members of that new society by the fact that God has graciously given them a new life, by saying in chapter 4, "Here it comes. This is the new standard." He really spends all of chapter 4 through chapter 5, verse 21, talking about that new standard.
Then in chapter 5, verses 22 and following, he says, "Because you are a person with a new life who is a part of a new society who has new standards, part of those new standards is that you will now have different or new relationships." He begins with the husband and the wife, and he moves from the new relationship in a husband and a wife to talk about the way you relate to your employer, and then he talks about the way you relate to your enemy, Satan.
You're going to have a new relationship with the Enemy because you are now no longer of darkness, but you are of light, he says. This is how. In this new relationship you have with Jesus, you're going to combat the one who you have a new relationship with. The one who you were formerly aligned with is no longer your ally.
He is now your enemy, and this is how you relate to him in the future. You have new life all the way through chapter 2, verse 10, then you have new society all the way through chapter 3, verse 21, and then you have new standard right up to chapter 5, verse 21, and then the book finishes with new relationship.
Now another way you can put all that… I'll give you one more. I'm telling you, I'm going to let you put this thing… When we're done with Ephesians, you ought to be able to lock this book in your mind, and if there's no place in your Bible you're familiar with, this ought to be one. Here comes another way to throw it at you.
In chapter 1 all the way back through chapter 2, verse 10, this is the way, in fact, I kind of do it myself. It tells you how much you're loved, and see, I need to know that. I need to know God's grace is sufficient for me, and I need to know why it's sufficient. I don't need just to hear that and hope that. I want somebody to show me why. Based on what do you say that? "This is how much you're loved."
Then, when you come out of that, in the rest of chapter 2 all the way through chapter 3 it says, "This then is how you should relate. Because you're loved this way, you ought to love others." All you have is the key verse that, when Christ was asked, "What's the greatest commandment?" he said, "I'll tell you what it is. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then to love your neighbor as yourself, for on it hang all the law and the all the prophets." All he's saying is, "The way that I loved you, you love others."
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples…" It says in 1 John 4, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that [God] loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [a payment] for our sins." Forgive even as you are forgiven.
Chapter 1 all the way through chapter 2, verse 10 says you have been forgiven. You have been loved. You are children of grace. Therefore, you ought to treat other people as children of grace forgiving those who have sinned against you, even as you accept the forgiveness of the Lord. You have how much your loved, and then you have how that should change the way you relate and then finally in chapters 4, 5, and 6 how this affects you.
I just do it with some H's to help me remember it. It's should affect your humility. We're going to pound this home but get it down now. Write them down. If you want to know right now what the church ought to look like, it ought to be different in its humility. Next week, we're going to cover a passage of Scripture which is extremely difficult. We're going to look at one sentence in the Greek. It's just one sentence in the Greek, but it takes about 11 verses in the English.
Paul cannot shut up, as he's so excited about what he's got to tell you. He's going to say… I'm going to tell you something that's going to disturb a lot of y'all next week. I'll just tell you right now, and it's going to humble you. Some of you aren't going to like the fact that, apart from God's grace in your life, there's no way you could ever be a new person and that you need his gracious provision for you.
Because you've learned in chapter 1 all the way through chapter 2, verse 10, how much you are loved, you're going to find out then that that should change the way you treat other people, and then this is how to change everything else. It'll change your pride. You have to be first humble. The second thing you ought to be is holy. That's the second part of chapter 4. Not only are a humble person, but you're a holy person. You live differently in response to his love. You're humble. You're holy.
That should not only change your humility. It should change the way you live. It should also change your home or your habitat, and that's the part where he starts to talk about the way children treat their parent, fathers treat their sons, fathers and mothers treat each other, employers treat their slaves, slaves treat their employers. It should change your home and your habitat.
Finally, the last thing it changes is the way you relate to the heavenlies. That's how I kind of categorize or outline this book in my mind. You write it down. You go over it a few times. You read the book on your own, and you carry that book in your pocket, and when you have an area in your life that you're wondering what you should look like as a member of the church, you go. If you're feeling prejudice and you're feeling separate, like you can be separate from another, you go and read chapter 2, verse 11, all the way through chapter 3, verse 21.
When you think you are a person who is a little bit more righteous than those who around you don't attend a church, you go read chapter 1, verses 3-14. You go read chapter 4, verses 1-8, and you get humbled a little bit, and you're moved out of that toward holiness. It was J. Vernon McGee who took this last little bit, and he went through, and he said…
In chapters 4, 5, and 6, if you want to categorize that last bit one other way, I told you I'm going to give you a bunch. Here's the last one. He says that first, you're a new person, and because you're a new person, that's going to make you then a new bride. He talks about the way you should treat, as a bride, your husband but also that, you as a bride are different now in terms of the church, and then he says that you're also a new soldier in chapter 6.
Now somebody who heard him say that you're a new person who becomes a new bride who becomes a new soldier says, "That makes sense because it's not until you're a bride that you marry, and it's after that the fighting starts, so that's why you're a solder after you're a bride." I hope that's not your experience.
This book is going to exhort us and encourage us. Let's look at chapter 1, verses 1 and 2, very quickly and get some truth that is there. It says this. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus…" What is an apostle? An apostle is a number of things, but it literally means this. It means sent forth. Paul says, "I am one who has been sent forth. I've been sent forth, directly, if you will, commissioned by Christ."
He's not an apostle of the church. He says he's "…an apostle of Christ Jesus…" An apostle is one, the Scriptures say, who is sent forth from God, who Jesus himself said, "You go and do this." Paul, we know, calls himself an apostle untimely born. The reason he does that is because Paul did not see the risen Lord while he was here the 40 days after he was resurrected.
He said, "I'm an apostle untimely born. I wasn't one of the 12. I wasn't one of the 70. I was killing disciples during that time, but God graciously worked in my life, and on the road to Damascus, when I went to slaughter more, I met the risen Lord Jesus myself," he says, and "I became an apostle untimely born." After Jesus had already been seated at the right hand of God, he came back to send Paul to the Gentiles. An apostle is one who is sent from Christ. The second thing I just kind of mentioned is that he's seen the risen Lord.
That's why you cannot have an apostle today, or maybe that's why you have so many people who claim to have these apparitions of the risen Christ because they want all that an apostle gets. An apostle is one who's been sent from Christ. An apostle is one who has seen the risen Lord. An apostle is one who has great authority. We are told in Jude, chapter 17, to remember the words of the apostles because these are the men who Jesus Christ worked specifically in to give us our Scripture.
A lot of guys want to be apostles so they can tell you what to do and when to do it. An apostle is one sent forth from Christ who's seen the risen Christ, who has special apostolic authority, who always (here's the fourth) evidenced his apostolic authority by the fact that he could authenticate his words by his works. That is why you see Peter do what Christ did, raise people from the dead and heal a lame man. That is why you see Paul do what Peter did, to do what Jesus did, to heal a lame man, to raise people from the dead early in his ministry to authenticate his works.
People want to be apostles, so they can have those powers a lot of times. I remember I was driving through California, and I saw a placard on a church in California: "Speaking this week: the apostle So-and-So." I thought, "Well, hey, there's news." That's what an apostle is. Paul is saying, "I am not just some idle letter-writer here. I am an apostle of Christ Jesus."
Let me tell you. The way that's written there… Does the NIV have "Christ" before "Jesus" or not? That's not an accident. We often call him "Jesus Christ," as if, if you went to look him up in the Jerusalem phone book, you'd go to the C's, like it's his last name. "Christ" is his title. It is the Greek for the Hebrew Messiah, which if you read Isaiah, chapter 9, will tell you that Messiah is no insignificant being. He is Mighty God, as one of the words that's synonymous with Messiah. Eternal is another one. Father is another one. Prince of Peace is another one.
He is Christ Jesus. He is King Jesus. He says, "I'm an apostle of the King, so if you reject me, you don't reject my message. You reject the message of the one who sent me, for I am just a humble ambassador from him." "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…" He is twice commissioned, by Christ and by God's will, it says. "…To the saints who are at Ephesus…"
That's the part right there, that at Ephesus, is not probably in some of the better earlier manuscripts, and they think that it was included when it was read to the church at Ephesus initially and first but that, everywhere it went, they would plug in whatever church this letter went to. That's probably the case. It's not largely significant.
You have: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [to the chosen ones] who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus…" Who are chosen as saints, and here's the other way he describes the believers who are going to get this: to the chosen and the changed, to the saints and to the faithful. The word saint literally means set apart, holy one.
When there were certain instruments that were used in the temple, they were called holy instruments. Now they were not holy because they were the finest china. They were not holy because there was no ding or dent upon them. When they came across the desert and when they were getting raided as a nation, the first thing people would do is go to the temple, and they'd raid the temple because that's where all the valuable things were.
They were made out of precious metal, but they weren't the prettiest, but hey were sanctified, literally apart. That's exactly what the word is for saints. It means ones that are set apart for the service of the Lord, and what makes you holy… Listen to this because some of you guys are out there going, "Well, this letter isn't to me. I'm surely not a saint."
Well, there's only two classes of people. You can tell me tonight what you want to be. There are the saints and the ain'ts. If you ain't a saint, you're an ain't. If you ain't an ain't, then you're a saint. That's all there is to it. The Scriptures don't give you an option to put yourself in another category. "Well, I'm not really a saint, but I'm not an ain't. I'm an ain't that wants to be a saint but ain't. That's what I am."
That's not what Paul says. If you have had, if you've been chosen, called, which we're going to talk about next week, then you become a saint. A saint is one who Jesus Christ takes and says, "I set this person apart for my service." Now if you understood who it was who was pointing at you, grasping you, calling you, and putting you in his kingdom, you would go, "Well, wait a minute. If I'm going to serve that King, if I'm going to be a person who's called by him, I ought to change the way I live."
A saint is somebody who has changed. You're chosen; you're changed. You're a saint; you're faithful. The two are synonymous. You have Paul. He says, "I'm twice commissioned. I'm sending it to people who I twice described." He says this. "Grace to you and peace from God…" Now that was a typical greeting of the day from Paul, but it had much more in mind than the just the typically Gentile way of greeting or non-Jew way of greeting which is grace and the Jew way of greeting which is peace.
What Paul is saying there is, "I send you two things. I send you grace, which is what makes it possible for you to have peace." All he's done right there in that very beginning is he says, "I'm the author. Here's the recipient, and here's the message." The author is Paul, but if you really want to know the author behind Paul, it's the Father and the Son who are two different ways of saying the same thing.
"We write to you, and I'll talk about you in two different ways. You're chosen, and because you're chosen, you're changed." Here's the message: grace, chapters 1-3, and peace, chapters 4-6. Here's the author. Here's the recipients, and here's the message. It's "Grace to you and peace [to you] …" Grace that would allow you to have peace with God. It says in chapter 5 of Romans, verse 1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith…" That's grace. We'll talk more about it. "…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…"
It is impossible to have peace by meditation, by channeling through a Barbie doll. The only way you get peace is through grace. Guess what? The only way we're going to have peace as a body is through the grace God gives us as ministers of the gospel, that we would become ministers of reconciliation with one another, that he would give us gifts for the purpose of edifying the body, not to exalt ourselves but to encourage one another.
We have grace, and that gives us peace with God, and we have been given grace, a new life in a new community, and that gives us peace with one another. Then he closes with this. He says, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Now wait a minute. Does Paul not believe in the Trinity? Does he not believe there are three? Why is it only from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ? Anybody venture a guess?
The reason is because he did not need to send them a message from the Holy Spirit because where was the Holy Spirit at the time Paul wrote this letter? The Son is seated, the Scriptures tell us, at the right hand of God the Father. Where is God the Father? He is in heaven. Where is the Holy Spirit?
He's at Ephesus, so they need no message from the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is what is allowing the church to function as Paul intends and God intends for the church to function. He says, "The Trinity is alive, but the Trinity is working in you in the form of the Holy Spirit now. Jesus has come. The incarnation of Christ is here and gone. The anticipation of Christ where God the Father revealed himself in the Old Testament is here and gone.
Now you have the proclamation of Christ and what he did through the person of the Holy Spirit which indwells you, the church, and our God the Father wants to remind you that you can have peace with one another because of his grace. You can have the gift of the Holy Spirit which gives you peace one with another, and you can have peace with him because of the grace of his Son Jesus Christ who died for you.
This is our bridal portrait. We're going to study this book and spend a lot of time here together. Let me just give you very quickly three things out of tonight that you ought to pull away from even what we've looked at. You have to know this. I'll say this. You're not the first people who have been called to be saints and faithful in a grossly godless culture.
You know, sometimes it's really easy, and I'm guilty of this sometimes myself. I get to thinking, "You know, if I would just move…" In fact, I was telling a good friend last night, "I'm tempted to move to Montana, find a community of 300 people who need a pastor, go up there, ask somebody to help me get some kind of trade, maybe a carpenter, and just go to work just as a layperson and pastor the church on the weekends, and just take my family out of the grossly competitive, materialistic, sick, lustful society that is Dallas, Texas."
I get to thinking that, you know, it's just tough to be the man of God I want to be when, everywhere I turn, women are dressed in a way that causes my eyes to drop. Everywhere I turn, there are billboards begging me to think thoughts that are not like chapters 4-6 say I should think. Everywhere I turn, there's a reminder of the world and living for it and the materialism and the desire to covet, and I go, "I want to get out of here."
Then I'm glad there's a book like this in here that says, "Wagner, you're not the first person who has been called to be a saint and a faithful one in a city that is gross in its rebellion against God." We need to realize right now that we are in an Ephesus. Dallas. God has put us here, and I firmly believe that Dallas is a key city.
We have a seminary down there that sends people all over the world. People from all over the world come here, not to worship Artemis or Diana, but they come here to learn about Christ. We can train them, model for them what a real community looks, and we can make a difference in towns we'll never know. Dallas is a place… One of the largest single populations in the country is right here about four miles from our church. Do you think those singles are going to all stay here in Dallas? I think not.
Many of you are single, and if you get involved in a body here where God says, "There's a new community here. There's a love here. There's a commitment to the Word here that I don't see," you're not going to settle for anything less when you go to the next place. We have a tremendous opportunity in this gross culture, and we're not the first. To sit and to think it's too difficult and too hard and that we can just kind of get through until we get to another small town, I think we're missing a great opportunity.
Here's the second thing that comes out of this as I look at Ephesians. You have to know truth before you can live it. You know one of the things that Paul doesn't do… He first talks about love in chapter 4, when he says, "… [I] implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another…"
I want to say this, the third thing. Paul does not begin to talk about unity until he gets through establishing the one thing that can unify us. Let me say that again. Paul does not start talking about community and unity until he gets through establishing the one thing that can unify us. This is not a hapless tolerance. This is a very bigoted, very narrow way of having reconciliation.
He says, "You can't do it. You can't have a new community. You cannot love and be humble apart from the truth of chapters 1-3." Before you go out and try and change the world by hugging a tree or just being a good person… Many of you are. You're good people. I want to tell you, this is a room full of beautiful, good people. I know you do nice things, but I have to tell you, this book says you cannot change like you want to change until you get the truth of chapters 1-3.
Have you had that experience? I did. I married a girl not too long ago who said, "You know, I think I've been a Christian my whole life. I've been good, but I've never been good because I'm a Christian." As we sat and went through stuff, she thought, "You know what? My life is about to change because I realize now that the reason I am salt and light is because I've been given the Holy Spirit, because I'm yielding myself to him, because I died at the cross, because chapters 1-3 are true and now my life changes because of what the Scriptures teach."
Here's the last thing, and that is this. Compromise is absolutely poisonous to your usefulness. Compromise is absolutely poisonous to your usefulness. We're not going to turn. We don't have time. I've already encroached over what I have allotted, but if you go and look at the letter to the church of Ephesus that John wrote, the same church that Paul started this letter with, you'll find the thing this church was rebuked for was to compromise.
See, it gets really tough in Dallas, Texas, to remain steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. You want to bail out. You want to go, "Well, maybe we shouldn't be so narrow. Maybe we shouldn't be so stuck on chapters 1-3." John writes, "Let me tell something. You have forgotten your first love, and you have become almost useless to me. Unless you change, I will do away with you."
It is the law of substitution in Scripture. If you have people who God has called for a purpose who will not be faithful to that purpose, you'll here one of these buzzers. You're out, and sub in and sub out. He will get you out of there quicker than Norm Stewart will his Missouri Tigers. The coach at University of Missouri, if you made one bad… If you looked like you were going to make a bad play, you'd get the buzzer. You're out of there.
You know, the players used to have these, you know… They'd kind of just flinch because they'd just know that, every time they were in there, if something didn't happen right, they were gone. God is gracious. That's true, but there's going to become a time when he says, "You are not faithfully tending my vineyard." He hits the buzzer, and out you go, and somebody who's faithful is coming in.
He says, "You've become next to useless to me. This great emporium, this great way into changing all of Asia, is beginning to compromise, and you've become an abomination to me. You go now to the church at Ephesus, the church in Turkey, and you'll find not people who are a bridal portrait. You'll find people who are an abomination. You know why? The buzzer sounded."
It should be our goal, our intention, our purpose to study well chapters 1-3 so God's hand would stay with us and that his eyes go forth around the earth, that his eyes look for those whose hearts are completely set on him, that he may strongly support it, it says in 2 Chronicles, that he'd just stop right here and say, "I want those people to bear my name. I want those people to call me their God. I want those people to feel my blessing." When you experience compromise, you start to become next to useless. May it never be. Pray with me.
Father, we, in this introduction, took a little extra time tonight, and as we sing again and remind ourselves that your grace alone is sufficient and that's what gives us peace, it gives us peace with one another. As we come out of time of prayer and just very shortly singing through the verse again, we're going to begin to ask ourselves, "How can I really have peace with my brother? How can I really love that boss who's just down on my case?" We need to get in there and go, "Lord, how can we look like a beautiful bride?"
Then we need to be humbled right away and see that, not by our will, not by our works but by your provision may we change. Father, I thank you that you've given us grace that we might be ministers of peace. I thank you that we have been justified through faith by grace that we may be at peace with our God through Jesus Christ our Lord. We thank you that your grace is sufficient for us.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 1:1 through Ephesians 2:22.