Monday Meat – More Ephesians 3

Ephesians 3:7-13 (ESV)
Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Paul has been made a minister of this gospel. The word he uses here that is translated minister is the Greek word diakonos, which can also be translated as servant or deacon. Paul views this ministry as him being a servant, one who was given the responsibility to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Now that God has revealed the mystery that the Gentiles also have access to the gospel, Paul has been assigned the task to preach this to them. He refers to it as “the unsearchable riches of Christ”, which is really what the gospel entails. In Christ we have been given every spiritual blessing – an inheritance for us in heaven – these are riches beyond our ability to comprehend! This task was given to Paul by God’s power. Not only is he to preach to the Gentiles the good news that they also can be saved through Christ, but he is to tell everyone this good news. Now that God has revealed His plan for all peoples, not just the Jews, this then will unite all peoples who come to Christ so that as Christ’s church they reveal the wisdom of God. This is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places – referring to angels and demons. We know from chapter 1 that Christ has been raised above all these rulers and authorities, but we also know from chapter 2 that for now Satan is still at work in the world. Yet God’s plan for the church reveals His wisdom to these spiritual powers.

Paul then tells his readers because of this ministry he’s been given, not to be discouraged that he is going through suffering. For ultimately this suffering will result in glory.
v. 7 – Paul was made a minister of this gospel by God’s grace and power
vs. 8-10 – Grace was given to Paul to preach to Gentiles and reveal the mystery to everyone so God’s wisdom could be made known through the church
vs. 11-12 – This was eternal purpose in Christ – in whom we have access through faith
v. 13 – Paul’s suffering is for their glory

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Theology Thursday – Thankfulness

Today as Americans we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. What does thankfulness have to do with theology? Well, our theology will help direct our thankfulness. Our view of Who God is, what He has done for us, the salvation we’ve been given – knowing this theology helps to produce gratitude and thankfulness in us for all that God is and has done. In the Monday Meat posts we looked at Ephesians 1 and all the spiritual blessings that God has given the believer in Christ. This theology – God’s character, God’s gifts of redemption and forgiveness – should result in praise and glory to Him. A thankful heart results from a theology that recognizes God and His work.

Wednesday Worship

Kaph

My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
How long must your servant endure?
When will you judge those who persecute me?
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me;
they do not live according to your law.
All your commandments are sure;
they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
They have almost made an end of me on earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your steadfast love give me life,
that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Psalm 119:81-88 (ESV)

Monday Meat – Beginning Ephesians 3

Ephesians chapter 3 starts off with the phrase “for this reason”. Whenever this kind of transitional phrase is used (“because”, “therefore”, “for this reason” etc.), we need to look at the preceding verses to see what it is referring to. The end of chapter 2 is telling us how the Gentiles and Jews who are both now believers in Christ have become one and are being joined together as a dwelling place for God. In lieu of this, “for this reason” Paul writes, and then he seems to take a side trip to talk about his stewardship that he’s been given.

Ephesians 3:1-6
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-assuming that you have heard about the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When 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.

This stewardship or responsibility that has been given to Paul is that the mystery of the gospel has now been revealed to him – that the Gentiles are also able to receive Christ, and can partake of His promises, just like the Jews. This was not known in previous generations but has now been revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Paul uses three different phrases to describe what the Gentiles now are: “fellow heirs”, “members of the same body”, and “partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus”. These are synonymous yet they draw out the full meaning of all that this blessing entails. This expounds on the previous chapter’s description of the Jewish and Gentile believers being joined together and becoming one. We all are now together in Christ and can partake of the promises that come with the gospel. Going back to chapter 1, these promises include an inheritance waiting for us, every spiritual blessing in Christ, adoption as God’s children, and so on. This had all been a mystery before and now has been made known. Paul has been given the task of revealing this and telling the Gentiles about the gospel that they can now be a part of with the Jews.

Content summary:

  • vs. 1-3 – Paul was given stewardship of God’s grace for Gentiles and mystery was revealed to him
  • vs. 4-6 – The mystery of Christ wasn’t made known before but now is revealed: the Gentiles are fellow heirs of the gospel.

Two key words in this section are mystery and revealed/revelation. It can be fun to look at the original language for key words to get a better idea of their meaning and how these words were used at the time of writing. Blue Letter Bible is a great online resource to do word studies in the original language. When you look up a passage on Blue Letter Bible (such as Ephesians 3), to the left of the verses are buttons that say ‘tools’. Clicking on these will bring up the original language for the verse and links to the Strong’s concordance that will give you definitions of the word from the original language.

Screenshot from Blue Letter Bible

This is a great way to dig deeper into the passage.

Theology Thursday – The Doctrine of Sin

Nowadays the topic of sin is not a popular one. Yet the Bible makes it clear that we are born sinners.
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10b-12 (ESV)
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” – Romans 3:23 (ESV)
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” – Ephesians 2:1 (ESV)

Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command in the garden (see Genesis 2:15-17 and Genesis 3:1-7). As a result every human born since has been a sinner (except for Jesus Christ). Romans 5:12 tells us, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-” (ESV).

The good news is that God has made a way for us to be redeemed from our sin through His Son Jesus Christ. We will look further at that in the doctrine of salvation or soteriology.

Further Resources:
Louis Berkhof on Sin
Westminster Confession on Sin
Total Depravity of Man
The Fall of Humanity by Michael Horton

 

 

Wednesday Worship

Yodh

Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!

Psalm 119:73-80 (ESV)

Monday Meat – Continuing Ephesians 2

Verse 11 starts off with “Therefore”, as Paul continues to talk about the contrast between what we were before salvation and what we are now in Christ. At this time he is directly addressing the non-Jews and how they were completely cut off and had no part in the covenant that God had made with the Jews. He uses terms like separated and alienated to describe this, as well as the contrast of “far off” and “brought near”. What has changed their standing is the blood of Christ. Later in this chapter he goes on to say that Christ abolished the dividing wall. The book of Ephesians sings with the immensity of what Christ has accomplished for us as believers! Over and over is the phrase “in Christ”. How this must cause us to rejoice, seeing the contrast between what we once were and what we now are because of what Christ did. Paul uses the word “remember” to help them recall the huge change that God has brought about in their lives.

vs. 11-12 – At one time we were separated from Christ and strangers to the covenant of promise, no hope and without God
vs. 13 – But now in Christ we’ve been brought near
vs. 14-16 – Jesus is our peace – made us one by abolishing law, breaking down the wall, reconciling us to God through the cross
vs. 17-18 – He preached peace to near and far, through Him we have access to the Father in one Spirit
vs. 19-21 – We are not strangers but fellow citizens with God’s household which is built on foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ being the cornerstone – whole structure joined in Christ – grows into a holy temple
vs. 22 – We are being built into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit

Imagery of house, temple, dwelling place, structure

We could look at Ephesians 2 broken down this way:
vs. 1-10: We were dead in sin but by grace God made us alive in Christ that we might do good works.
vs. 11-22: We were far off and alienated from God, but now Christ is our peace and has made us into one body that is a dwelling place for God.

The chapter starts off with our deadness and ends with us being a dwelling place for God! All through His grace! In Sinclair Ferguson’s Let’s Study Ephesians commentary, this quote is a great summary of the content of Ephesians chapter 2: “We are no longer what we once were. But Christian living involves more. We are now citizens in God’s kingdom and members of his family. Formerly we were spiritually dead and in bondage to Satan, the world, and the flesh, by nature children of wrath, separated, strangers, aliens. Now our new identity both secures us (we belong) and transforms us (we live as citizens and sons, no longer as aliens and orphans). In a world where people, young and old, have lost a sense of belonging and a direction in living, the gospel of Christ is good news indeed.”

So how do we take these truths and apply them to our own lives? Here are some questions we can ask:

-How does knowing God’s grace is what saved us (not our works) help us to do good works? What does that do for our motivation in living rightly?

-What does it mean to be a dwelling place for God? How does that make my life look? Does that affect my actions and attitudes? How does that affect my relationships with other believers?