1 1 Dear Friend, this is a transcript of a sermon preached by Pastor Jeremy Tan from the pulpit of Amazing Grace Baptist Church Singapore. We are committed to expository preaching because we believe it is the most effective way to expose, explain and expound the Holy Scriptures. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Through careful systematic and sequential exposition, the preacher is able to declare unto you all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and Christians are blessed with a regular, well-balanced diet of God s Word. Expository preaching also helps us to have a high view of Scripture. We wish to extend a warm welcome to you to join us in our church services for a time of uplifting worship and helpful Bible study, which will bring rejoicing and refreshment to your soul. Do visit our church website at or write to us at PRAISE GOD FOR HIS WORK OF GRACE Ephesians 1:15 16 Paul the apostle has written a grand statement of 202 words in Greek about the sovereign will and work of God in salvation. In the extended sentence that is Ephesians 1:3 14 he praises God for all the spiritual blessings given to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. These blessings are God the Father s election of people and their predestination unto adoption as His children; then God the Son s redemption of the elect and the forgiveness of their sins through His blood; and God the Holy Spirit s sealing of the believers as the earnest of their inheritance from God. Now in Ephesians 1:15 23 Paul writes another long sentence. This sentence may be divided into three sections: (1). In Ephesians 1:15 16, Paul praises God for His work of grace in the Ephesians. (2). In Ephesians 1:17 19 Paul petitions God to grant a deeper knowledge of Himself to the Ephesians. (3). In Ephesians 1:20 23 Paul s prayer exalts Jesus Christ as Head over all the church. For this study, we will focus our attention on Ephesians 1:15 16: Ephesians 1: Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; The word wherefore points us back to all the spiritual blessings that are in the last sentence. The faith of the Ephesians in the Lord and their love unto all the saints are the results of the spiritual blessings they had received from God.
2 2 Now, Paul invested the longest period of his ministry in Ephesus, where he preached and taught the believers for three years without interruption (Acts 20:31). But now with this letter to the Ephesians, Paul was in a prison in Rome, and he had not visited the church for some four years. During his absence, there would have been new people saved and added to the church, and Paul would not have met them. So how would he know about the Ephesians faith in the Lord and love unto all the saints? The answer is that he is allowed visitors to his prison, and these visitors would have told him about the Ephesians and the other churches. From these reports the apostle learned about God s work of grace in these believers. So in these verses Paul praises God for the testimony of the Ephesian Christians. Let us consider together the two main points that Paul makes in these verses: I. God s Work of Grace in Their Faith. Paul s statement your faith in the Lord Jesus is a reference to true saving belief in Christ. The title Lord implies that Jesus is sovereign. However in our day and age, there is the false and unscriptural teaching that sinners can ask Jesus to be their personal Saviour without submitting to Him as their Lord. This is the gospel of easy-believism which is invented to make Christians of people who want to escape hell without spiritual regeneration and transformation. There are people who want to be saved without repentance of their sins. They want to go to Heaven without changing their lifestyle, without forsaking their sins, and without faith and obedience to God. Genuine salvation requires the sinner to believe Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and to obey Him as Lord. Genuine salvation is both believing and obeying. The Bible does not teach that Jesus can be your Saviour without being your Lord. He is both Saviour and Lord. Let me show you some verses in the Book of Romans concerning this truth about the Lordship of Christ. Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 14:8-9 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. No person can ask Jesus Christ to be his Saviour without submitting to Him as his Lord. The Bible also does not teach that a person can receive Jesus as Saviour today but choose to obey Him as Lord only at some later time. Jesus is both Lord and Saviour at the time of conversion.
3 3 Now, the faith of the Ephesians was clear indication to Paul that God had chosen them from before the foundation of the world. Their spiritual fruit proved that they were truly saved. Friend, our faith in Christ is a personal faith, but it is never a private faith. Faith can be seen, faith can be observed, and it can be reported. True faith is not hidden. We have an example of observable faith in Paul s letter to the Christians in Thessalonica. Let us read about them in 1 Thessalonians 1: We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; 4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 9 For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 Paul observed their work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 he declared that they were followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. The Thessalonians were persecuted for their faith in Christ but they did not lose the joy of their salvation, such that the believers in Macedonia and Achaia heard of their testimony (verse 7). In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 10, we see that they turned to God from idols to serve the true and living God; and to wait for his Son from heaven. It is a powerful testimony of faith when people who once worshipped idols throw them away in order to worship the true and living God! I can remember many years ago when I was a young boy, my aunty removed all the idols from the altar in her home after she became a believer in Christ. She couldn t wait for the pastor to come and help her with the disposal, so she threw the idols away by herself. God is truth, so she reasoned that she had nothing to fear from the idols! She never went back to idolatry. The Thessalonians proved themselves as genuine believers through their acts of faith. They proved their faith through their works, steadfastness during persecution, worship of God, rejection of idolatry, and hope in Christ. No wonder Paul says, Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God (1 Thessalonians 1:4). Friend, a person s election can be known. Instead of being disturbed and upset about election, we should be more concerned about our faith in Christ. People are disturbed about election because they do not understand what it means. If Paul knew that the faithful Thessalonians and Ephesians were God s elect people, we can also know about our election. If we profess to be Christians, is our faith observable? Are we faithful in our
4 4 church attendance to worship and serve God? Are we faithful to God throughout the week, or only on Sundays? Are we steadfast in our faith? Our testimony of faith gives evidence of our election. Now, Ephesus was a city of gross materialism, moral wickedness, and idolatry. Ephesus was a hotbed of superstitious beliefs and occult practices. The popular religion of the city was the worship of Diana that involved prostitution in the temple. Besides Diana, there was the cult of emperor worship whereby people are required to burn incense to the Roman emperor. But to the Christians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. So they refused to bow down to the Roman emperor, despite threats of persecution. It is possible that there was animosity toward the Christians in Ephesus. When Paul was in the city, a riot broke out because large numbers of people had become believers in Christ, and their conversions from idolatry affected the religious trade of the silversmiths (Acts 19:17 41). Yet with all the spiritual and human opposition against them, the Christians in Ephesus remained steadfast and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their faith was God s work of grace. But faith was not the only work of grace that Paul had heard about them. There was also II. God s Work of Grace in Their Love. In Ephesians 1:15 we read that Paul noticed their love unto all the saints. After saving faith, love is the second proof of genuine salvation. It was faith that separated the believers from the wicked and ungodly culture, and it was love that united them to each other in the midst of that hostile culture. In Ephesians 4, Paul encourages them to continue to love one another. Ephesians 4:2-3 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Notice that they showed love to all the saints. There are God s people who are easy to love, and everybody enjoys fellowship with them. Then there are those who are not easy to love. Some are easy to minister unto, and there are those who are very difficult to work with. But do we love all of God s people? Or is our love based on us four and no more? There is the story about Philip Henry, the father of Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator. Philip Henry and a certain young lady loved each other. Although she belonged to a higher level of society, she did not mind their different social standing because she had become a Christian. However, her parents were not pleased about their relationship. They said, This man Philip Henry, where has he come from? She replied, I don t know where he has come from, but I know where he is going. Likewise, we love the saints not because of their background, but because we know where they are going.
5 5 Friend, love is proof that the Holy Spirit is resident within us. Love is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who produces love in us. There are many Bible verses that remind us to love all the saints. First, we have the command of our Lord Jesus to love one another. John 13: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Then we go to 1 John, written by the apostle whom Jesus loved. 1 John 2: He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. Paul has also written a chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Let us read a section of the Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. The Corinthian church was a divided church. The believers there did not have love for all the saints. We can be very good preachers and hard working servants of the Lord in ministry, we can be very talented and knowledgeable in God s Word but if we lack the love of God for people, there is no profit in our work. Love involves the giving and sharing of oneself to another. There is a picture of hell that shows several people seated around a table for a meal. Each person held a long-handled spoon with which it was impossible to feed himself, but because of selfishness they were unwilling to feed one another with their spoon. They could have fed each other and everyone would be happy, but their
6 6 selfishness left all of them hungry, miserable and unhappy. Let us examine ourselves here. Do we show care and concern for other believers, especially those in our own church? Do we uphold others in prayer when they have needs, or simply to pray for their welfare for no reason except that we care about them and we love them? Do we rejoice when they are faithful and growing in the Lord, and do we plead with God for them when they have fallen by the wayside? Praying for others means you know they exist. Praying for people shows that they are important to us. Praying for people shows our love for them. Jonathan Swift, the writer of Gulliver s Travels and also a clergyman, made this observation: We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. How do we conduct ourselves when we have disagreements with other believers, or with difficult people, and with those who reject our beliefs? We have instructions for our conduct from Peter in 1 Peter 3: Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. Yet God s Word does not teach us to love at all costs. There is the popular saying that love unites, but doctrine divides. Thus in following this philosophy, there are people who choose to love everybody without regard for doctrine. They say, Let us love one another in the Lord and set aside our doctrinal differences. Church, we need a balance: when we love without truth, the result is heresy; but when we have truth without love, the result is legalism. There is no joy and encouragement in a church that is legalistic. Let us realize that every church has people at different levels of spirituality. There are new believers who must be taught and trained and they need time to grow, and there are those who are more mature. Although we must not turn a blind eye to sin, we must exercise patience and love to help those who are struggling and growing. Were we not once where they are now? Notice the order in which the apostle places God s work of grace in the Ephesians. Paul does not put love unto all the saints before faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith comes first, and then love. Our first love is for the Lord Jesus Christ. If we love the
7 7 Lord, we will abide in His teachings, i.e. His doctrines. If we accommodate false teaching, we are not practicing true Christian love. John, the apostle of love, does not preach indiscriminate love. Notice in 2 John Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. John did not show love to those who taught unbiblical doctrines. Therefore we must refuse hospitality to false teachers; we do not put out the welcome mat for them. We do not support them, and we do not bless them with words of encouragement for their work. Conclusion In history, there have been monks and hermits who sought to keep their faith pure but they have not proclaimed the Gospel as God has commanded all believers to do. There are believers who have kept the Gospel to their own churches without going out to share the Good News with those who need to hear and receive it for their salvation. Then there are the heresy hunters, those who are quick to tear down the bad without trying to build up what is good. They are standing for the truth, but they lack love. The Christians to whom Paul wrote this epistle had the right balance: true faith and true love. We cannot love the Lord Jesus Christ without loving other believers whom He loves. For these reasons, Paul praises God for His work of grace in these believers. What about us? Do we see the work of God s grace in our church for which we can thank and praise Him? Do we have the testimony of true faith in the Lord Jesus? Is He our Lord and our Saviour? Let us be a church of faithful believers who care about the purity of the Gospel and the truth of God s Word. Then what about love? Do we have love for all the saints? We show the love of God in our care for one another, service for one another, and prayers for one another. Let us pray to God to continue His work of grace in us, so that we may have the testimony of true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that we will love all the saints. Permission: We share our materials with you as a blessing from the ministry of our church. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Amazing Grace Baptist Church. Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: Copyright Amazing Grace Baptist Church Singapore. Website: Used by permission as granted on website.