Ten Things Ephesians Teaches About Christ and his Church

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So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, . . .
— Ephesians 3:10 —

The ESV Study Bible has a succinct list of ten ways Christ and his Church are related and described in the book of Ephesians (p. 2267). For anyone wanting to dig deeper into what Scripture says about God’s people, Christ’s body and bride, and the Holy Spirit’s temple, the book of Ephesians would be an important starting place. Keep an eye out for these verses (listed below) and you will gain great insight into how Paul understands the church for which Christ died and is now building.

Christ is the head of the church 1:22–23; 4:15; 5:23
Christ is the cornerstone of the church 2:20
Christ is the Savior and sanctifier of the church 5:23, 26–27
Christ gives the church ministry workers 4:11–16
Christ loved and sacrificed himself for the church 5:25
Christ nourishes and cherishes the church 5:29
the church and her members dwell and grow in Christ 2:21–22; 4:15
the church is a means through which God manifests his manifold wisdom 3:10
the church submits to Christ 5:24
the church is Christ’s body, and individual believers are members of his body 1:22–23; 3:6; 4:4, 16; 5:23, 30

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Onur on Unsplash

More Than Could Be Asked or Imagined: Four Surprising Ways Christ and His Church Fulfilled the Promises to Israel

ben-white-197668When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
— Ephesians 3:4–6 —

In Ephesians 3, Paul explains how the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the church was a mystery hidden to the Old Testament people of God. In the strongest fashion he explains how Christ’s cross created “one new man” (2:15), tearing down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. The result in Ephesians 3:6 is that Gentiles are “fellow heirs” (sugklēronomos) , “fellow members of the body”(sussōma), and “fellow sharers (summetoxa) of the promise in Christ Jesus”.

In these three desciptions, Paul uses the strongest terms to explain that the status of Jews and Gentiles is equal in Christ. No longer are the people of Israel advantaged over the Gentiles, as it was under the Sinai Covenant. Now in Christ Jews and Gentiles share equal statues. As Paul teaches, both are condemned for their sin and thus both redeemed by God’s free gift of grace—not by law-keeping. This makes all participants in Christ’s new covenant equals, brothers and sisters, co-heirs with their Lord.

Still, to get a handle on this newness in Christ, it is equally important to understand how the apostolic teaching was new—new to the first century believers and new to anyone today entering the church today. On that newness, Clinton Arnold gives a succinct outline of the ways in which the plan of God was previously unknown but now revealed through the gospel.

Under four points, he identifies (1) the means, (2) the Mosaic law, (3) the manner, and (4) the magnitude as constituting something different and greater than could be seen by the Old Testament saints. Here’s what Arnold writes (Ephesians, 190), Continue reading

God’s War Memorial (pt 2): How a Diverse Christian Community Displays Christ’s Glory (Ephesians 2:11–22)

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God’s War Memorial (pt 2): How a Diverse Christian Community Displays Christ’s Glory 

The church is more than just a collection of individual Christians or a consumer-oriented store for the religious. It is a people created by the cross of Christ, joined together in Christ to display his power and grace to the world. For this reason, the church is called a temple. As we learned last week, temples display the power of the God who dwells therein. And in the case of the church as God’s dwelling place, we are to bear witness to who God is in worship and in the way we live.

This week’s sermon tackles this foundational matter, and with a little help from Theodore Roosevelt, we learn how the unity of a diverse army brings glory to the commander. And because Christ is our great captain, we as his people ought to linger over how we can follow him and be his church.

For this week’s sermon you can listen online or you can read the sermon notes. Discussion questions and additional resources are listed below. Continue reading

God’s War Memorial: The Church of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:11–22)

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God’s War Memorial: The Church of Jesus Christ (pt 1)

This Sunday marks our fifth sermon in Ephesians and with it the consideration of the fifth sola. As our church remembers the Protestant Reformation this fall, we have sought to highlight the five solas from the text of Ephesians. After considering the material principles of the gospel in Ephesians 1–2 (e.g., Sola Gratis, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria), we considered the material principle of the Reformation from Ephesians 2:11–22 (i.e., Sola Scriptura). 

More central to the text, however, this week’s message focused on the argument of Ephesians 1–3 and Paul’s repeated emphasis on the temple of God, which is the church of Jesus Christ. Taking a page from the Reformers (ad fontes), we stepped back to understand the symbolism of this temple and how temples operated in the warfare worldview of Ephesus and the Old Testament. Accordingly, this sermon paid keen attention to the temple theme in the Bible and it aimed to prepare us for understanding how the church as temple shapes our identity, community, and mission—three themes that we will, Lord willing, develop from verses 11–22 next week.

You can listen to the sermon online or read the sermon notes (there may also be an alternative ending to the sermon notes, too). Discussion questions and further resources can be found below. Continue reading

By Grace, Through Faith: Getting Into God’s Grammar about Salvation (Ephesians 2:8–10)

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By Grace, Through Faith: Getting Into God’s Grammar about Salvation (Ephesians 2:8–10)

When it comes to understanding the heart of the gospel, Ephesians 2:8–10 is an anchor passage. And this week I had the privilege and the challenge of preaching it. The privilege comes in the fact that, this verse encapsulates so much gospel truth. The challenge is unpacking all that is there in those three verses.

As with many sermons, preaching this passage makes the preacher feel as though so much more could be said about this vast and glorious subject. Nevertheless, I pray this week’s message articulated the gospel truth that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone. And such free grace ensures that the new life of the believer means that saving faith is never alone, rather as Ephesians 2:10 says: it produces a life of good works.

Below you will find discussion questions and a few resources on the subject matter. You can also find the sermon online, as well as the sermon notes. Continue reading

What are the ‘Powers and Principalities’ in Ephesians?

wtsIn his overview of Ephesians, Guy Prentiss Waters, nicely summarizes what the spiritual powers are in that letter and in the world. Moreover, he explains what the presence and growth of the church means to the devil.

What does Paul understand the “powers” to be in Ephesians? He has several ways of describing them. They are “the rulers,… the authorities,… the cosmic powers over this present darkness,… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (6:12). Paul mentions them in the same breath as “the devil” (6:11; cf. 4:27) and expressly sets them apart from “flesh and blood” (6:12), that is, human beings (cf. Gal. 1:16). We are therefore to regard these powers as unseen and angelic beings in league with and under the authority of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2). They are not impersonal but personal. Paul locates them and their activities “in the heavenly places” (6:12; cf. 3:10), even as he documents their unceasing activity in the affairs of humanity.

Paul describes these powers in three ways.

  • First, they are malevolent (“evil”) and therefore hostile to Christ and his people.
  • Second, they possess an authority or power that is not localized but is universal (“cosmic”). The word “darkness” indicates a demonic authority that extends to all unbelieving persons, whether Jew or Gentile. “‘Darkness’ is the sphere in which these believers formerly belonged (Eph. 5:8)… and from which they were rescued by the Lord (Col 1:13).” It is, therefore, an authority that Paul associates with “this age” (Eph. 1:21; cf. 5:16; 6:13), the present Adamic order characterized by sin, corruption, curse, and death.
  • Third, the plurality of these demonic powers and their designation by terms of rank (“rulers,” “authorities”) suggests a gradation within their numbers. Earlier in the letter, Paul stresses that the “prince of the power of the air” is “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh” (Eph. 2:2–3). Satan therefore stands at the head of a host of demonic powers who govern and influence all those who are in Adam (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4).

The “powers” constitute a genuine threat to believers’ well-being (Eph. 6:11–12). Even so, Paul is insistent that the Ephesians understand that these demonic authorities have been brought into subjugation to Jesus Christ. In his exaltation, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, was “seated… far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet” The cosmic, mediatorial dominion of Jesus Christ encompasses “all things,” even the Devil and his angelic allies.

The “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places,” furthermore, are perpetually reminded of their defeat and subjugation (3:10). The “manifold wisdom of God,” which denotes the eternal purpose of God to redeem sinners by the death and resurrection of Christ and to gather the redeemed into a united people under the benevolent reign of the Lord Jesus, is ever proclaimed to them. The instrument through which God makes this wisdom known to the powers is “the church.” The very existence of the church, in other words, is standing testimony to the powers’ defeat and subjugation to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Ephesians” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Revealed (ed. Michael J. Kruger; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 272–73. Formatting mine.

Ever wonder why the church is under constant attack from devil and his minions? It reminds them of Christ’s Lordship, their defeat, and coming destruction. Hence, the church which is loved by God is hated by Satan. For that reason we must press into the Lord and the power of his Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Warfare Worldview of Ephesians

kingWhen was the last time you prayed against the devil? Or, attributed your physical pain or emotional vexations to a demonic spirit?

If it has been some time (or never), it’s probably because you live in the 21st Century America, where the evils of the world—moral and natural—are explained by biological factors and scientific calculation. But if you lived in 16th Century Europe, it would be a different story.

In the Medieval period, ghosts and goblins, spirits and demons were regularly blamed for spiritual and physical tribulations. In that world, God and the angelic realm were not excluded from visible world. Sovereign over all spirits, God ruled the world and nearly every struggle in life could be connected to spiritual realities. Today, faith in God, especially Christian faith has demystified. Religion is a private affair. And God, in the public square and in the halls of learning, is an unwelcome guest.

As a result, Bible-believing Christians must fight against the prevailing, scientific worldview handed to them by television and education. Whereas leading scientists once gazed into the heavens to worship God, now scientifically-minded man is blind to the enchanted world in which we live. This is not to say we should go back to pre-scientific age of vain superstitions, but as Scripture testifies, we should see that the event on earth are part of God’s cosmic conflict with evil.

This fall, as we remember the Protestant Reformation, the supernatural makeup of the world and the spiritual warfare that the God’s Word invites is but one unified truth we need to recover. As John Calvin commented in his words to King Francis, “When the light shining from on high in a measure shattered his darkness, . . . [Satan] began to shake off his accustomed drowsiness and to take up arms.” Indeed, faithful preaching of God’s Word will be met with spiritual opposition, and thus we who seek to make Christ known must be steeled by the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit.

For that reason, we come to the book of Ephesians and the faithful examples of the Protestant Reformers. Continue reading

9 Purposes of a Healthy Church: Reflections from Ephesians

The Church exists…

To Display the Glory and Grace of God (Ephesians 3:9-12)

To Unify the Saints of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6)

To Equip the Saints for the Work of Service (Ephesians 4:7-11)

To Grow Together in Grace & Truth (Ephesians 4:13-16)

To Learn How to Walk Together in Love (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)

To Walk Together in Spirit-Filled Wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-18)

To Do Life Together with the Family of God (Ephesians 5:19-6:10; cf. Titus 2:1-10)

To Fight Together Against the Powers of Darkness (Ephesians 6:10-17)

To Pray for One Another Always and For All Things (Ephesians 6:18-20)

May we all purpose do so by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Soli Deo Gloria, dss