From Death to Life
(1) In the past you were dead because you sinned and fought against God. (2) You followed the ways of this world and obeyed the devil. He rules the world, and his spirit has power over everyone who doesn't obey God. (3) Once we were also ruled by the selfish desires of our bodies and minds. We had made God angry, and we were going to be punished like everyone else.
Several things from this first passage that I think is important to make note of. Often times in Christianity some use the language of what I call "Christianeze." Simply put, this is using language that is unique to Christians. Unfortunately in today's world Christians have a habit of doing this, even more unfortunately, because they often spend time only with other Christians, doing Christian things, they develop a culture uniquely different than those who don't follow Christ. As a part of that culture is a new language. If not careful, because Ephesians is giving us a blue print of an effective church, it would be easy to get in the trap of getting caught in that "Christianeze."
In verse one Paul is not talking about being physically dead, instead he is talking about being spiritually dead. This is the place where individuals could care less about spiritual things, about things like church, prayer, Jesus, God, and on and on. In reality, some, are so caught up in themselves and are wanting others to believe they are right on all things spiritual they end up standing up against the very things God wants them to do.
It would be easy to get off track here, it would also be easy to get to the point some people are easily offended. That is not my intent. I'll use an example pointing towards my own ignorance. Imagine that I think a car should get 50 miles to a gallon. I come up with an idea of how that car could get 50 miles to a gallon and begin to present my views as if they are entirely correct. There is only one problem, I am basing my views on what I think, not on what I know. I have never studied cars, never studied what makes a car work, never studied engine components and on and on. In some ways, my arguments become foolish because I continue to make those arguments when in reality I am ignorant as to mechanical things. In some ways, this example is not far fetched from those who would pretend to argue what they think to be right regarding spiritual issues just based on their feelings without any serious study of spiritual truths. In reality, when we argue against the truths as are outlined in Scripture it is as if we are fighting against God. This is part of what Paul is saying.
Paul goes on in verse 2. Because we don’t know spiritual truths, and want to argue against the things that are in the Bible, or God and Jesus, we need to realize that we have followed the ways of the devil, and the ways of the world. On this point Paul recognizes there is an evil spiritual being, the Devil, Satan, or Lucifer, all the same entity under different names, who has control over the world. Paul says the devil rules the world and his spirit has power over everyone who doesn't obey God.
The next verse, 3, is also critical, Paul is telling us that we as individuals have selfish desires and selfish minds. Anyone think that sounds familiar. We live in a world where we promote, "If I Can't Please Everyone, I've Got To Please Myself", "If Nobody Else Is Going To Pat You On The Back You Might Just Have To Pat Yourself", and I could go on and on.
Here is the dangerous aspect of this. God wants us to obey Him, not because He is an evil ogre, but because He knows what is best for us. If in fact God did create us, He does in fact know us and knows what will make us happy. Unfortunately, whether listening to Satan, those around us, or our own heart when we haven't checked out from a Biblical perspective as to what we should do, who we should be, and how we should act, we are in fact, making God angry. Ultimately, there will be hell to pay for those that continue to please themselves as opposed to pleasing God. The sad thing about it is, that once we find ourselves doing what we need to please God, then and I believe only then, will we find ourselves in a place where we can truly be happy.
Now I must say, I don't believe we will be happy all of the time, obviously I, and anyone else who calls ourselves Christians goes through tough times. But ultimately, in the end, we will find reward for doing the things God wants us to.
1. For those that are Christians, how are we different now than we were before we were Christians?
2. What are some of the things we have done that we know hurt God?
3. What are some of the ways we know the devil has influenced our bad decisions?
4. What are some of the ways we have failed in our own decisions? (Note on this one, make sure we only give blame where blame is ultimately due, to ourselves.
5. The Bible talks about God's punishment, what types of punishment do you think Paul is talking about?
(4-5)But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God's wonderful kindness is what saves you. (6) God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven. (7) God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. (8 ) You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. (9) It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. (10) God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That's why he sent Christ to make us what we are.
Paul in the earlier part of the chapter paints a pretty gloomy picture, talking about God's judgment, the devil, our following our hearts instead of God's way and on and on. Notice, he hasn't forgotten about bringing us back to a point of reality as to what it is that God is like.
Often I hear from those who aren't followers of Jesus about how God is a hateful God, how Christians are always talking about Hell and so forth. It seems as if all they see are the bad attributes of God. Often times followers of Jesus forget about the merciful, caring, and loving God that exists. Paul hasn't forgotten about that, he makes a point to paint a picture of God in totality. Yes, God has expectations, but God is also merciful and loves us despite our imperfections. That don't mean we keep going and doing what we want, but God has made a way for us to have a friendship, or better yet, a relationship with Him.
Notice right off the bat, Paul recognizes that God is merciful and all of humanity has made mistakes that drives them away from God. This is called sin. Despite the hurt we have given God, God is like a loving parent who has a child who has done wrong. He has made a way to show that child love, and in return find a way to where we can know Him, and He, us better. It was through His kindness and the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ this is possible.
Paul is telling us, Jesus was raised from the dead by God's power, the same power that raised Jesus will raise us, and we will be with Jesus in Heaven. While many speak about how hard, how damning and how mean God is, Paul is telling us, God did this out of kindness. Paul is telling the church to remember, it wasn't anything they did, it was what Christ did. This is a good starting point, realizing that on our own, we can do nothing that will bring us into right relationship with God, however, through what Jesus did, living a sinless life, dying on the cross, and then being raised from the dead, we can have relationship with God and ultimately experience Heaven. If we simply believe in Jesus and apply His teachings to our lives.
People who haven't seen evidence of Christ don't know how to respond, they don't know what to do. Paul tells us in verse 8, it is an act of faith in God that we begin to experience the gift God has for us. One of the best illustrations of faith I have ever seen is in the Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
In this movie we see Indiana Jones go through his adventures to get to the place where he will go and discover the Holy Grail. He is near the end of his journey, he has made it through some death defying feats in a cave, only to be at the edge of a large crevasse at the edge of a canyon. Between him and the entrance to another cavern appears to be nothing but a long drop that will certainly lead to his death if he takes a step. There is no way he can jump, build a bridge or anything of that sort. He can only act on faith that his instructions that tell him to keep walking knows what they are talking about. Despite this understanding of what he is supposed to do, he knows, and sees in his heart and mind, that to take another step means certain death. It is as he decides to act on faith, and step into nothingness, that he realizes there is a bridge between him and the other cavern that he had not seen. That is how it is when we take a step of faith with God. We may not understand it, may not believe it to exist, may not even expect anything but bad to happen, yet when we take a step of faith towards God, we realize that God has placed bridges in our path all along the way. All along the way in fact that will help us understand more of the nature of Christ, just as it did Indiana Jones.
We have to realize, we can't get the treasure on our own, and neither could Indiana Jones. We have to take the step of faith. In that step, we have to remember, the step, while a step of faith, is nothing to the unimaginable ways God has prepared to care for us. Paul knows that God may use a flash of light on the road to Damascus, or He may use an invisible bridge to finance, children, conflict, broken marriage, or whatever difficulty we face. God in many ways, whether spiritual or physical has already answered our needs, we just have to act on faith.
On this point of acting on faith; in my life I have discovered a truth that I believe is from God. We take steps of faith on rare occasions. In the Indiana Jones movie I used as an example, when Indiana Jones goes to leave the cave, he has no issue with walking back across the bridge, even though he can’t see it because he has already acted in faith and knows that bridge is there. That is how we are, when we act on faith, and then go back to that situation again, most of the time, and after a series of events, we are no longer taking a step of faith, we are taking a step of knowledge. We can and do, get to points in life where we don't take a step of faith, we take a step of knowledge. God knows how to grow and mature our faith to come to a place of knowledge. If we never take those steps, we will never experience the knowledge and rewards God has for us.
1. What does it mean when the verse says it is Christ's kindness that saves us?
2. Saves us from what?
3. This verse says that God raised us from death, what type of life do we have now?
4. What is the future world God has promised?
5. What are some ways you need to exercise faith right now?
6. What types of good things is it that God expects us to do?
United by Christ
(11) Don't forget that you are Gentiles. In fact, you used to be called "uncircumcised" by those who take pride in being circumcised. (12) At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, (13) and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life's blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God.
Often people talk about how Israel and Jews are God's chosen people, they forget though that Paul, and numerous others in the Bible talk about Gentiles as well. A Gentile was simply anyone who was not a Jew. In fact Gentiles came from various religions and non religions of the time. They may have involved those involved in pagan worship, or those who didn't even believe in God. Paul is making it clear though, Jesus life, God’s gift, is for all people. That message then, is still true today.
In a world where racism and religious prejudice exists, it would be good to remember that God's gift, and Jesus life were for all people, not just the Jews. It is also important to remember that during the time this was spoken were many people who were enemies of Israel. While we read about, and hear about how Israel was often engaged in wars, we can see instances where God reached out to people of various beliefs, and that is certainly the case here. Jesus life, and God's gift at this point in time in history, had something uniquely different about it. It was an effort to reach out to all peoples of planet earth.
1. With the conflicts that exist in the world today, does the message of Christ, and the gift of God change any?
2. Who specifically do you think God is calling us to love?
3. Who is it now that God desires to have relationship with?
(14) Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body (15) to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. (16) On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. (17) Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. (18 ) And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit. (19) You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. (20)You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. (21) Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. (22) And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God's own Spirit to live.
All of Scripture is important, that is a no brainer, but in looking at the development of the church, these verses are critical to have some understanding of. Notice in verse 14 and 15 what Christ has done. He has made the effort to unite people despite their differences. Through Christ message and teachings, we can see He has broken down walls of hatred, disagreement, and conflict. These areas existed not only in religion, but in politics, race and societal economic ways. Jesus was about bringing people, even people who were different together. Notice, He don't require any one group to change to become like the other, in fact, there is for some a troubling aspect of the verse that states, he gave his own body to "Destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands."
Verse 16 is a continuation of that with an emphasis of the fact that Christ did what He did through the experience of the Cross. It was in His willingness to show abundant and perfect love for us, by giving up his life for our sins. Again, peace, and love is prevalent in this verse. It is clear we are to love each other, and recognize we are to be one together.
This aspect obviously is speaking in large about the Universal Church, not necessarily the local community church (although it is talking about that to,) but specifically the larger Church. I would note that includes those a part of The Virtual Pew. It is one of the reasons I am fairly careful about making sure we see each other in a loving compassionate way. Not to say there is never room for disagreement, but we have to be careful to make sure that the disagreement that exists does not overpower the love and acceptance that Christ expects.
Another interesting point here, is we see mention of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit in these verses. This is important in recognizing all three exist, with different purposes, and as different entities. This is a passage that those who don't recognize God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit have issues with. While they are all three God, they are all three different with different purposes.
There is good news for those who don't come from religious backgrounds. You can have family, you can be a part of the family of God, not just what you see and hear about. The truth is, what we see and hear about is often times not a reflection of what the family of God is supposed to be like. It isn't because it isn't rooted in aspects of peace and love that we see illustrated here. The sad thing is, that even good churches fail at this aspect of loving people who come from different backgrounds. It has been stated that the most segregated place in America is the church on Sunday mornings. One of the reasons for this, although not the only reason, is many have failed to work at building bridges of love, bridges that overlook race, social economic factors, and even cultural differences. Believe me, to address these things isn't easy, I know. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be addressed though.
I can only speak on this as a predominantly white man, (I am after all partially Native American), but that is the bulk of my experiences. I grew up in a Black neighborhood, never seeing and/or understanding much of the prejudice that existed. In some ways, I understand the African American community better than the White community. Here is what I have seen happen though, I have seen Whites often times come in, start working with the African American or other racial community, and then impose their beliefs on that community. Often times this isn't done in a malicious way, instead, there is good intent, unfortunately though, they fail to understand the cultures they are reaching out to. The even sadder thing, is that often times these communities will try to adapt their ways, even if just temporary to the community, mostly whites, who are trying to reach out to them. I will assure you, God's kingdom, and God's Church, is one that accepts people where they are. True love of God's family will result in getting to know and accept each other, despite differences.
Paul uses a building analogy in verses 20-22. He knows this is a process that isn't going to occur overnight. We have to realize that as well., the things we need to work on and change, aren’t going to occur overnight. I'll never forget the email regarding The Virtual Pew I received after it had been in existence for 3 months. You would have thought I should be up there on stage with Billy Graham. Building things of value takes time. The other truth is, that Christ has to be, and remain the cornerstone of what it is that is being built, in this case, and in the case of The Virtual Pew, a church.
I want to touch on the last verse here as well. Notice in verse 22 how Paul brings this all back home to a personal place. We are all a part of that building. Whether a part of building the church at The Virtual Pew, here on MySpace, at Hollywood Jesus, or wherever, we are all a part of the building, and we all have our own specific purpose. It is through us, people, you and me, that God's Spirit will work and accomplish its purpose on this planet. Of course we have to allow our bodies to be used for that purpose.
1. How is the peace that God has given to His Followers evident?
2. What is the difference between Christ and the Law of Moses?
3. What was it specifically that Christ destroyed in your opinion?
4. Is it possible to hate someone and be a follower of Christ?
5. What does it mean to build our beliefs around Jesus Christ?
6. What is the Church?
Don't forget, next time we start on Chapter 3. It follows this posting. Here is a video that helps reflect the importance of loving each other. It is an old song performed by my wife, Amazing Grace.
Oh Yea, here is that contact information again.
The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217
Or you can give on line via Pay Pal at: http://www.furches.org/donations/index.html
To become a part of The Virtual Pew, visit, http://www.thevirtualpew.com/ To learn more about me visit http://www.furches.org/ I am also active on MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/mikefurches I have another blog at http://blog.myspace.com/mikefurches To visit the Hollywood Jesus group at MySpace with membership by numerous Hollywood Jesus reviewers visit: http://groups.myspace.com/hollywoodjesus For a more in depth weekly study and conversation you an visit: http://virtualpewsermon.blogspot.com/ where you can access deeper teaching and ultimately videos for viewing and teaching.You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com For those interested in knowing more about my own story, contact me for a free e-copy of my book The Keystone Kid in pre-edit form.
Paul's Mission to the Gentiles 1Christ Jesus made me his prisoner, so that I could help you Gentiles. (2) You have surely heard about God's kindness in choosing me to help you. (3) In fact, this letter tells you a little about how God has shown me his mysterious ways. (4) As you read the letter, you will also find out how well I really do understand the mystery about Christ. (5) No one knew about this mystery until God's Spirit told it to his holy apostles and prophets. (6) And the mystery is this: Because of Christ Jesus, the good news has given the Gentiles a share in the promises that God gave to the Jews. God has also let the Gentiles be part of the same body.
(7) God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news. (8) I am the least important of all God's people. But God was kind and chose me to tell the Gentiles that because of Christ there are blessings that cannot be measured. (9) God, who created everything, wanted me to help everyone understand the mysterious plan that had always been hidden in his mind. (10) Then God would use the church to show the powers and authorities in the spiritual world that he has many different kinds of wisdom.
(11) God did this according to his eternal plan. And he was able to do what he had planned because of all that Christ Jesus our Lord had done. (12) Christ now gives us courage and confidence, so that we can come to God by faith. (13) That's why you should not be discouraged when I suffer for you. After all, it will bring honor to you.
Christ's Love for Us (14) I kneel in prayer to the Father. (15) All beings in heaven and on earth receive their life from him. (16) God is wonderful and glorious. I pray that his Spirit will make you become strong followers (17) and that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. Stand firm and be deeply rooted in his love. (18) I pray that you and all of God's people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. (19) I want you to know all about Christ's love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. (20-21) I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.