In this “time of shaking”, values, health, economies, and environments are undergoing intense upset, and many people are revaluating their beliefs. It is critical to spiritual health to have confidence in something that is not subject to the manipulation of imperfect human beings. After my last blog on Ephesians 1 titled “Marked Pre-paid for Pickup“, I had assumed I would conclude my review of Ephesians 2 within 1 or 2 weeks. But God may have wanted me to see a few things afresh. I received a powerfully sobering and entirely encouraging message for me through His Word in concert with the events of my life and His church. As you may know, my blog is simply an ongoing journal of my study. I hope that you will study this chapter for yourself. It will remind you that Christ is in the middle of His church; and, that God intervenes bringing the victory. The great I AM, the beginning and end of all things, is intentional and has the awesome resolute power to accomplish His purpose for you. Although evil forces have always tried to thwart God’s plans, Bible prophecy has demonstrated repeatedly, that evil is no match for God. Evil can try to intimidate us but God is greater! We merely need to know, remember, and then yield fears over to His Holy Spirit’s guidance.
I’ve outlined Ephesians 2 by identifying our responsibility as Christians followed by a summary of the passages within the chapter. If you would like, please read the passage of Scripture in your preferred Bible before considering each of the observations. Here’s the outline:
- KNOW: We Were Dead Before Divine Illumination, But God Intervened (Verses 1 to 10);
- REMEMBER: We Were Hopeless, But God through Christ Created a New Man (Verses 11 to 16);
- YIELD: We Are Being Developed into the Holy of Holies For God’s Spirit to Fill (Verses 17 to 22). This section has an unexpected correlation.
When the events of life bombard us it is easy to doubt, forget, and resist. The LORD’s Word to us through this passage is: know, remember, and yield. In doing so, we learn to be still and trust our God.
Starting with our first point, let’s dive into Ephesians 2 and
KNOW: We Were Dead Before Divine Illumination, But God Intervened (Ephesians 2:1 to 10).
The majority of translations begin verse 1 the same way. It says:
- And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Notice the verse begins with the word “AND”. This word joins the concepts of the believer’s election and the riches of God’s grace (that were so beautifully laid out in the preceding chapter) to the old way of life. It joins election and grace to the resurrection of the believer who was previously dead spiritually in sin.
As Christians, we can be quick to celebrate salvation when reading this passage. But God, through the Holy Spirit used Paul to highlight to regenerated people about the state of fallen man. This makes me think that there is great value in remembering what our destination could have been, and the state of our hearts before we believed. Verse 1 so clearly states it: we were dead.
Scripture delineates between the physical and spiritual realms.
- Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body as noted in James 2:26 and Psalm 146:4.
- Spiritual death is being alienated from a life that recognizes and is devoted to God and therefore is separated from God. This spiritual death is a dark heart and mind that is bound to the power of evil. For references on spiritual separation before physical death, please reference Ephesians 4:18, James 4:4, and Christ’s words to Paul in Acts 26:18.
While most people do not like the thought of dying, the believer should be confident in what God has promised. Physical death is the vehicle to get there. The unbeliever should be alarmed because if they remain spiritually dead, there is an eternal separation from God which is referred to as the second death in the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:13 to 15 passage shows us the unbeliever is born once and dies twice; and, the believing follower of Christ is born twice and dies once.
Praise the LORD! God’s grace is His divine influence upon the heart that turns around a previously condemned soul so that they can believe in Jesus Christ (born again into an eternally victorious life starting from the moment they believe).
This same grace sustains, strengthens, and develops the fruit of the Holy Spirit within a believer that transforms them into a witness and an overcomer. (2nd Corinthians 12:9; Hebrews 4:16; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6).
Unbelievers (whether associated with the Christian faith or otherwise) have difficulty accepting there is one way to God. To obtain the grant of eternal life, the gift must be received as it is given by God. Both the gift and the way it is given are up to the giver; it’s not up to the recipient. Jesus explained the way to receive this gift that provides eternal life as follows:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. ” (John 3:16 to 19).
The thing is, the only difference between an unbeliever and a follower of Jesus is God’s grace. His grace caused me to believe what I heard; in fact, His grace helps me believe all Scripture.
Ephesians 2:2 makes it clear that all believers once lived according to the prince of the power of the air who is the one who influences those who are rebellious and defiant against God. If someone refutes God’s Word, they are against God. Perhaps they serve a different god.
Scripture consistently explains that every human on this planet has to deal with evil forces. Here are a few Scriptures that talk about this: Jobe 1; John 8:23 and 44; Galatians 1:3 to 4; and Ephesians 6:12; and 1st Peter 4:3. In addition, Scripture states those who have not accepted God’s grace are deceived by Satan. Refer to Revelation 12:9 and Revelation 13:8 and 14. 1st John 5:19 says:
- We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
Throughout the entire Bible, our LORD has emphasized that no one could be good enough. Even under the Old Covenant, the Jews had to make atonement and repeatedly. Those saints who died believing and following God’s prescribed laws waited in Abrahams’ bosom until Christ’s resurrection (Luke 16:22, John 8:39, Ephesians 4:7 to 10). Praise God, that His gift of Jesus Christ’s perfect atonement did away with the requirements of those laws in this age of grace and made us alive (Colossians 2:13 to 15). The law remains perfect and Holy and fulfilled by Christ (Matthew 5:17) in whom we live righteously by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:3 confirms the nature of man desires things that separate us from God; and, before having our hearts regenerated, we conducted ourselves in a manner that was natural to this world. Even from birth, the natural inclination of a human is selfish. It is written:
- Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5);
- … For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:22 to 23).
Here are a few additional references on this: Isaiah 53:6; Mark 7:21 to 22; Romans 7:18; Romans 8:7 to 8; and Galatians 3:22.
Scripture advises us to divert our affections from the things of this world and set them heavenward through the help of the Holy Spirit to overcome adversaries of spiritual growth. Scripture informs us 3 enemies are warring against us (the world, the devil and human nature).
- Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life) is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1st John 2:15 to 17).
- I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16 to 18).
Because of these 3 enemies, we are unable to improve ourselves permanently. Thank God we do not have to! Here’s what Ephesians 2:4 to 7 says:
- But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4 to 7).
Because of His character, God implemented His stoppable plan of the ages. He planned to resurrect us from being dead in trespasses and sins to a new life with Christ in God’s presence by paying the penalty and disarming all of our enemies!
- A “trespass” is from the Greek word “paráptōma” which means a side-slip, lapse or deviation whether it is unintentional or willful. It is a fall, fault, an offence of the law.
- A “sin” is from the Greek word “hamartia” which is related to falling short of the glory of God in thought and feeling, or speech and action. It is to be ungodly whether unintentionally or willfully.
When Jesus gave His blood as payment for our rebellion and imperfection, God reconciled all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20 and 21). He brought a resolution to all things, but He did not regenerate all things. He gave His elect a spiritual renovation through the Holy Spirit so that we are seated with Christ positionally at the right hand of God. He promoted our ranking to that of Christ’s sibling and enabled us through the Holy Spirit to fulfill our God-given purposes. He has delivered us from the penalty and the power of sin (Colossians 1:13).
When Scripture refers to us as Christ’s siblings (Romans 8:29), it does not diminish Christ’s deity nor does it make us equal to Christ. Jesus remains preeminent as the God-Man. Christ is the Great High Priest and the King of kings. We are kings and priests to serve our God. We will never be God! We will always be “the created” who are sustained by Him, our Creator Saviour.
One day when Christ presents us to His Father as His redeemed, we will be freed from the presence of sin and we will have new garments. Although we have been resurrected, we are in the process of discarding our graveclothes just as Lazarus had to “be loosed” after he came to life.
Because He has already changed our residency, we are no longer earthbound or earth dwellers. As such we are no longer to be preoccupied with the things of this world.
When God looks at us, He sees the blood covering those earthly dirty garments and looks into eternity where we are already seated with Christ with robes of righteousness, blameless in His sight!
Why? Because it pleases Him! For all of eternity, we will be a testament of the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Redeeming us gives God glory; and, bowing to Christ gives God glory as well (refer to 2nd Thessalonians 1:12 and Philippians 2:9 to 11). At the end of this church age, we will sing a new song:
- … “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”
- … saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5, starting at verse 9).
Do you see it? In the ages to come, God’s glory will be declared for eternity and we who delight in Him will share in that! Those who did not accept Christ will still bow (although they will not enjoy heaven with us Philippians 2:10). The new heaven and new earth will be filled with His glory. There will be no more tears, no more sin and shame. We are the bride of Christ and we will be joined forever to the lover of our souls!
- “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, “and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:18 to 21).
This is a demonstration that declares God’s limitless love and kindness. This entire story of humanity’s redemption is the greatest celestial love story being declared to every living creature.
Ephesians 2:8 to 10 states:
- For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
God’s demonstration of His grace was His gift of Jesus Christ’s atonement. He gave us unmerited favour by allowing us to be filled by Him through our reliance on Jesus’ death and resurrection (which He arranged and completed) independent of us. Our faith in Jesus Christ as the sufficient payment for our sin is the evidence that we believe what God has said; it is the sign that agrees that His ways are perfect; and that He is holy and good. It is the rebuke to the serpent who deceived mankind into thinking they could become like God.
We are not saved by trying to keep the commandments, nor by having the holy attitudes Christ taught in the sermon on the mount, and not by being a good neighbour or moral person. These things are all works we perform because we are saved. We are saved by faith alone. Any attempt to add to Christ’s sufficiency or completed work is disrespectful.
Christ’s perfect and insightful imparting of truth in the “beatitudes” (refer to Matthew 5) is about the outcome of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Jesus said:
- “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5).
You see, to claim that humans help their salvation through behaviour would be like claiming that humans helped create the universe.
Humanity has to receive salvation and live in the universe, but there is no origination from human beings. We are merely beneficiaries of God’s creative works. In the book of James, it is clearly emphasized that faith without the evidence (which are our works) is like a body without a spirit.
- You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? … For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:19 to 20, 26).
It is God’s grace that saves through faith; the evidence of our faith in God’s provision for reconciliation is the transformed heart that results in good works. Without fully trusting Jesus Christ as God’s perfect and complete sacrifice for our sin, we cannot be saved and we cannot please God.
- But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).
Without accepting His goodness and His plan as the only way would be calling God a liar.
Just as God created the worlds through Jesus, God created the new man (or the spiritually alive human) through Jesus.
- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, (Colossians 1:15 to 19).
Ephesians 2:10 indicates that the person who has been reborn or regenerated is the workmanship of God created in Jesus. The word “workmanship” is “poíēma” which means a product or thing that is made. It is interesting to note that this word is only used 2 times in the New Testament; first here in Ephesians 2:10; and, later in Romans.
- For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, (Romans 1:20).
The Merriam-webster dictionary states: “The word poet, which has been in use in English for more than 600 years, comes from the Greek word “poiētēs”, itself from “poiein”, meaning “to make.” This is where we get the word “poem”.
Now, isn’t that marvellous? Our regenerated spirits are God’s poem. If you enjoy the poetry of the Psalms you ought to love this! Meditate on Psalm 139:16.
So then, we see that God created a perfect universe and a perfect human being on the earth; it was perfect until corruption entered the world. Since then, God had made a way for those who respond to the LORD’s drawing to confess their sin to God, and trust Him with their fate. These are those who are surrounded by songs of deliverance. As the Psalmist wrote:
- I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him. You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. (Psalm 32:5 to 8).
What we eat changes how our bodies act. As we chew on the Word of God, our lives echo the poems He sings to us.
If regeneration is God’s work, do we do absolutely nothing? Certainly not. Even in the beginning when everything was perfect, God told humans to tend the garden. God always intended for humanity to be with Him and to do the work He appoints.
The work He has given us is to abide in His will. His will is not a mystery because He has given us His Word and His indwelling Spirit. Scripture outlines God’s expectations for all of us:
- Study the Word of God to discern His will for every situation using the full counsel of Scripture which helps to rightly apply without confusion and legalism;
- Spend time in prayer every day because it’s difficult to hear from someone you do not talk to;
- Respond to opportunities for service but only as God leads because there are plenty of good things that are not God’s things for you specifically;
- Cultivate love, fellowship and counsel within the body of Christ which is important in these last days of intensifying deception. Fear can blind a person and deaden their hearing. Godly fellowship can speak life and truth into situations, provide comfort, and confirm what the Holy Spirit is saying to you.); and,
- Yield increasingly and unconditionally to Him (we will deal with this in our last point).
Now let’s take a look at this from another perspective. Since it is God who draws people and accomplishes the work of regeneration through faith in Jesus Christ to fulfill works that He planned before their transformation, how dare anyone claim to add to His creative work, power, wisdom, goodness and grace?
The reason God purposed a person’s salvation is so that all of His creation would see His grace and profound supremacy in the ages to come.
Based on the Word of God, every regenerated believer can KNOW the following things with all certainty:
- Jesus was successful in securing eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 5:9);
- God made all things knew with belivers; our pasts are gone (2nd Corinthians 5:17);
- God sees the redeemed as righteous (Philippians 3:9);
- The Holy Spirit dwells within the redeemed (1st Corinthians 6:19 to 20);
- Jesus permits us to use the authority in His Name (John 14:13; John 16:23);
- Every promise of God is yes (2nd Corinthians 1:20; Numbers 23:19; Luke 21:33; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 6:18; James 1:17); and,
- The redeemed’s faith overcomes the World (1st John 5:4 to 5).
Knowing these things improves the believer’s stamina in the race to be fruitfully faithful. 2nd Peter 1:2 to 11 explains what it means to be fruitfully faithful and provides assurance about never stumbling). By knowing these things, you will not be shaken by the enemy, the world, or the old man.
This second and shorter point in our outline is:
REMEMBER: We Were Hopeless, But God through Christ Created a New Man (Ephesians 2:11 to 16).
Have you considered why it is so important to remember where you came from? History proves to us that mankind repeats its mistakes although they may vow never again to repeat them.
It is possible to become a little entitled or prideful about our position as though we contributed to it; or, to blindly believe that we would not make a certain misstep.
Please think about this for one moment. What makes us any better than anyone else? NOTHING! Every human being has inherited shortcomings that drive our instincts to things that oppose God. Scripture states it best:
- What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:9 to 12).
It seems to me that all believers can be carnal and ignore the Holy Spirit’s leading when we fail to REMEMBER: (1) what we were when God’s grace interrupted our walk to destruction; and, (2) our new ability to be holy is the unearned imparting of Christ’s righteousness. If we do not remember this, we can act from a place of pride and selfishness and accuse others of the same. Do you remember where you were in sin before your eyes were opened?
By forgetting how precious God’s grace is, we can inadvertently undervalue His gift. By depreciating God’s grace, it’s possible to prefer the pursuit of other things instead of spending time with the LORD. This is the deceiving lure of this world and its ruler. We can also hurt others in the body of Christ (perhaps ignorantly).
As we reflect on Ephesians 2:11 to 13, we should ask ourselves why the Holy Spirit preserves Scripture noting the distinction made between the Jews and the Gentiles.
Initially, there were no Jews. At one point, all of humanity understood God existed and He was the Creator. This was true without law or a redemptive covenant (before and after the flood). As humanity descended deeper into the darkness of sin, their thinking became hopeless. Please look up Romans 1, verses 20 and 21. While this is historically relevant, this continues to be the human cycle without the LORD. (I believe the decline in spiritual reasoning ability is from youth because of Genesis 8:21).
After the great flood, God told Noah and his sons to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (in Genesis 9:1) which echoed the original command from in the garden of Eden (in Genesis 1:28). As time passed, some of the people who had settled in the land of Shinar decided to build a tower reaching into the heavens (the Tower of Babel). They wanted to make a name for themselves and they did not want to be disseminated as God directed. Rebellion resumed; they followed their earthly leaders rather than God.
God intervened in the bent of descent that parents were modelling before their children. He chose a man (in Genesis 12) to create a Godly lineage that would birth the Messiah. Fallen humanity could not nullify God’s promise to put enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). Note: Jesus explains the seed of the enemy in Matthew 13:38.
God called Abram (later renamed Abraham) away from his home in the land of the Chaldeans with a promise (which we learn of in Acts 7:2 to 4). Interestingly enough Shinar is the ancient name for the territory later known as Babylonia or Chaldea. The Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15 came from Abraham’s obedience to the LORD’s call to leave the world he knew. Because of his obedience, the LORD promised to make him into a great nation and that all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:1 to 3).
Later it is recorded:
- When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. “And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” … And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; “and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. (Genesis 17:1 to 2, and 9 to 11).
Just as the earlier passages in Ephesians 2 prompted believers to remember how wicked their hearts were before God’s grace, Ephesians 2:11 to 12 reminds the Gentile church that they were not part of the Jewish Abrahamic covenant for the Jews. This covenant required the Jews to perform works of the law as a temporary measure to satisfy the wrath of God for their sin. The outward sign of being within the covenant was circumcision.
When Abraham’s great-grandchildren were directed to build the tabernacle by God through Moses, only the children of Aaron could enter the Holy of Holies because they were appointed to be high priests by God.
Paul explained despite the previous requirements to draw near to God, it was possible for anyone who accepted Christ’s atonement for their sin to be brought into the Holy of Holies. They could access the throne of God through belief in Jesus and hear directly from God’s Spirit. This was huge. They did not need a mediator or an old covenant marked by circumcision.
Let’s review Acts, chapter 15 starting at verse 1. The Jerusalem Council met concerning whether the old covenant applied to the gentiles and they referred to Amos’s prophecy. The New Living Translation states:
- While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem… When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. … some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. When they had finished, James stood and said, “…. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the LORD, including the Gentiles; all those I have titled to be mine. The LORD has spoken; he who made these things known so long ago.’ “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
The letter to the Ephesians reminded them they ought to keep in remembrance that it is Christ’s atonement and God’s grace that gave them access into God’s throne room. Before Christ, they did not even have a promise or covenant to claim; and, their thinking was futile so they would not naturally seek God.
After making certain there was no sense of entitlement, they are quickly pointed to Christ as the Creator of the new man. As it is written in Ephesians 2:13 to 16:
- But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
Paul explained Christ abolished the dividing wall in the temple was abolished. The record of the dividing wall law can be found in Josephus Jewish War ( Section .5.5.1 [193–194]) which says:
- When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary;”
Paul was in Ephesus around 54 A.D.; his letter was sent to them around 62 A.D. Before his visit and letter (sometime around 48 A.D.), the Jews accused Paul concerning the law that maintained segregation in access to the temple for worship in Jerusalem. This reminds me of current man-imposed rules that segregate the body of Christ from worshiping together.
- … they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. (Acts 21:20 to 31 New International Version).
Segregation of Christ’s body is in direct opposition to His will. (John 17:11, 22)
Legalism and works of the flesh are dangerous mechanisms of the accuser. Did you notice how angry these particular legalistic Jews were? Did the letter of the law hamper their ability to love their neighbour? From the book of Acts, we also note that some in the early church who did believe in grace through faith alone (like Christ’s 12 disciples) still practiced their traditions to a certain degree.
The New Testament or New Covenant was established in Christ’s blood. (Luke 22:20 and Hebrews 8:13). Paul also explained these concepts in His letter to the Colossians saying:
- and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. … Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations. (Colossians 2:10 to 14, and 20).
Since Christ forgave all our trespasses and nailed the requirements of the Law for salvation to the cross before the Ephesians and the Colossians were saved, how could peace with God be obtained through works? No friends, it is not by works. There is liberty and security in the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement.
Can Jews continue to celebrate their traditions? Anyone can celebrate any tradition that does not disagree with the Word of God. It’s best to know what it says and understand the Spirit of it.
- Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose–to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. – Romans 14:1 to 10 New Living Translation
Ephesians, Colossians, and Romans were written by the Holy Spirit through one man, Paul who originally was very legalistic about Judaism to the point of condoning the murder of Christians. But God…
Our third and final point is to
YIELD: Because We Are Being Developed into the Holy of Holies for God’s Spirit to Fill (Ephesians 2:17 to 22).
The remaining Scriptures in Ephesians 2 inform us that because of what Jesus did, God re-created us into a new breed of humanity (one new man) through the Holy Spirit. This new breed of people are citizens of heaven. We are aliens here.
Collectively we are constantly growing into a holy temple for God’s dwelling with each member connected through Christ. The Holy Spirit fills and flows through us, imparting the presence of God so that His goodness and glory can be manifest everywhere we are.
- And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17 to 22).
God in us does not automatically produce a great abundance of fruit because God will never force our obedience (or our yielding) to His Spirit. The soil of our hearts needs cultivation and the Holy Spirit germinates the seed (or the Word of God) sown in our hearts. Yielding to Him allows Him to mature us so that we can live victorious fruitful lives. He has promised to teach us all things for every scenario presented in life.
- “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:26 to 27).
For the Holy Spirit to bring to our remembrance the word of God, we must be planting it in our hearts. The Holy Spirit will keep us joint to Christ and each other with assurance (or most certain confidence, peace without fear).
There is a difference between fruitful righteous acts of the saints versus performing works to earn or keep salvation. You see, if we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, we will do works because it flows out from the Holy Spirit within us. We will be not be disturbed about the works we do if they are in Jesus who is our peace. If anyone completes works to get saved or keep their salvation, it’s a good chance they have not matured in the knowledge of God’s Word, or just are not saved. Please allow me to demonstrate this using powerful scripture from the book of Revelation.
A few decades after Paul had written the Church at Ephesus, our risen and glorified Saviour dictated a letter to John when he was in the Spirit on the Isle of Patmos. Remember that Christ said:
- “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ‘ (Revelation 2:1 to 7).
Jesus defined the stars and the lampstands as follows: ” …The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. – Revelation 1:20.
Jesus also talked to another church about their works. He said:
- “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘ (Revelation 3:1 to 6).
Jesus had mentioned works for both of these churches. The word used for “works” in these passages is “érgon” which means a person’s act, deed, doing, labour. These works are different than the creative works of God; these works are the efforts of man whether assigned by God or conceived by humans. Remember Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared the works believers should do before we were saved.
In Ephesus, Jesus commended the believers for their good works but He admonished them for having left the first place of love. They did not lose their love, but they had deprioritized it (they placed works and doctrine above love). This would be a significant slip that we would call backsliding; they needed to turn around and prioritize love for God and their brothers above works, teaching and perseverance. While the doctrine is very important, it’s love that generates works.
Note: When God does His work in us, love is to be our number 1 job. This does not make us pushovers; Christ certainly is not a pushover! Love does not condone evil., but love does forgive the people who do wrong.
- In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. … We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (1st John 3:10, 14);
- Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37 to 40).
In Sardis, Jesus mentioned that the church had a reputation for being spiritually alive but the majority of the church was spiritually dead with only a few who were saved. He tells them to remember what they had heard (the Word of God) and repent. At some point in the past, this church had been alive and over time those assembling were comprised of mostly unregenerate people. This congregation had a false sense of security and many were wearing soiled garments.
- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. … “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (Matthew 7:21, 24 to 25)
The church at Ephesus had received and understood Paul’s letter about the riches of Christ and the unity of the body. They were not dead in sins and trespasses like the Sardis Church. The litmus test for the Ephesians should have been doing good works that God led them to do from a position of love for God and others. They should have been ensuring that the entire body of believers was in one accord while staying true to the doctrine that Jesus applauded them for.
So why did they stray from keeping the bond of love as their first priority? While I do not know the answer to that question, there are warnings in Scripture to help us avoid hardening our hearts which leads to drifting away from our love for God and our siblings.
We should self-examine regularly to see if any of these stumbling blocks have invaded our hearts.
- Serving two masters or loving things of the earth (Matthew 6:24, 1st Timothy 6:10);
- Being legalistic (Luke 11:42);
- Loving position or ranking (Matthew 23:6);
- Neglecting to love your enemies and hating others (Luke 6:27 to 35; 1st John 4:20);
- Preferring oneself above another person (Romans 14);
- Being selfish (1st John 3:16 to 18, 2nd Corinthians 5:14 to 15);
- Persisting in discord (Ephesians 4:30, Ephesians 5:2, Colossians 3:12 to 14, 1st Thessalonians 4:9 to 10);
- Compromising the Scriptures (2nd Timothy 1:13; 2nd Timothy 2:15); and of course,
- Our 3 enemies: the enemy, our sin, and the world (Luke 8:12 to 14; 1st John 2:3 to 5; 1st John 2:15 to 17).
As a new creation being built into His temple, we must not
- … grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30 to 32
- … And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. … He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. … Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour… Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us, eternal life. And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. – These verses are taken from 1st John 2.
Friends, there is trouble and always will be, but God is faithful. He will not allow any believer to be tempted beyond what we can handle. He has promised in 1st Corinthians 10:1 to provide a way of escape so that we can make it through! Our loving Father has already written the poem and our lives are in His hands.
This is a word to those who have not received God’s gift of Jesus Christ for salvation. If you feel the Holy Spirit encouraging you to believe, you should evaluate the Scripture for yourself. Please visit DESIRINGFRUITFULNESS.CA/CHOICES. There you can find 4 SIMPLE STEPS or concepts to help you ask the LORD to bring you into right standing with Him. The steps are designed to help you know why a prayer of repentance is necessary. There are no “specific words” to pray, but there is a process to coming to faith.
All Scripture used in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.