Blessed to Be a Blessing

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1 Blessed to Be a Blessing THE MYSTERY OF WHY GOD CHOSE YOU (A STUDY OF THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS) BY ANNE ELLIOTT

2 Copyright 2010 by Anne Elliott All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Published 2010 Paperback ISBN Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica. Use of either trademark requires the permission of Biblica. PAGE 2

3 Dedicated to my husband, Kraig, who loves me, teaches me from the Word, answers my questions, and is the most handsome pastor I ve ever had. PAGE 3

4 TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter 1 So Many Blessings 6 Ephesians 1:1-14 Chapter 2 Since I Heard About Your Faith 19 (Ephesians 1:15-23) Chapter 3 What Wondrous Love Is This? 28 (Ephesians 2:1-10) Chapter 4 Peace with God 41 (Ephesians 2:11-22) Chapter 5 For Someone Else s Sake 51 (Ephesians 3:1-13) Chapter 6 Someone s Praying for You 57 (Ephesians 3:14-21) Chapter 7 One Body in Christ 64 (Ephesians 4:1-16) Chapter 8 A New Way to Live 73 (Ephesians 4:17-32) PAGE 4

5 Chapter 9 Hints of Idolatry 79 (Ephesians 5:1-20) Chapter 10 Submitting to One Another 85 (Ephesians 5:21-6:9) Chapter 11 What s the Big Deal about Church? 91 (Ephesians 5:22-32 again) Chapter 12 Must Our Children Obey? 102 (Ephesians 6:1-4) Chapter 13 The Story of a Slave Girl 108 (Ephesians 6:5-9) Chapter 14 Put on the Full Armor 113 (Ephesians 6:10-24) Chapter 15 A Prayer Warrior 126 (Ephesians 6:18-20) Chapter 16 Encouragement 132 (Ephesians 6:21-24) Appendix The Book of Ephesians 135 PAGE 5

6 CHAPTER ONE So Many Blessings (Ephesians 1:1-14) The book of Ephesians is such a positive book! It was written by Paul, the first missionary to the nations, while he was in prison in Rome for sharing the gospel. So you d think he would be feeling frustrated, discouraged, and defeated. Instead, Paul starts his letter to the church in faraway Ephesus with a list of all the ways God had blessed them all. This is certainly not the way I d be tempted to act if I were in his shoes! Just as this letter was a blessing to that early assembly of believers, I m sure that studying Ephesians will bless you, too -- because it will remind you of all the blessings you have in Christ. If you can get a grip on what God has done for you and the power He wants to flow through you, you ll be reenergized to serve Him and others for the rest of your life. You see, often we women act poor when, in fact, we re rich. We wake up discouraged in the morning, overcome by our problems, depressed by our circumstances, and overwhelmed by our challenges. However, if we could only see how rich we are, how much God has provided for us, we PAGE 6

7 would wake up with energy and excitement, amazed that God is willing to work in our lives. The first 14 verses of Ephesians list the blessings with which we have been showered. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having PAGE 7

8 believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God s possession to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:1-14, NIV). 1. You were chosen! Verse 4 says that He chose you in Christ before the creation of the world. You were the very reason that He created the world. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). When you feel insignificant and unimportant, get a glimpse of how precious you are to God! 2. You are holy! Verse 4 says that you were chosen to be holy. This was also appointed before creation, but our intentional sin thwarts God s plan. That s okay. When God looks at you now, He sees the perfect and sinless life of His precious Son, Jesus. To be holy means to be set apart for a special purpose. Of course, our job is to walk like we re set apart, avoiding sin or anything that would displease God. But doesn t it help to know that God has taken your life, cleaned you up (in the blood of His Son), and placed you up in a special place? 3. You are blameless! If you do a quick search on the word blameless in the Bible, you ll see that to be blameless means to avoid evil, to keep yourself from sin, and to walk in God s laws. PAGE 8

9 When I look at my own heart, I m never blameless. I am continually reminded of my sin and my shortcomings. However, when God looks at me, He sees only His son Jesus, who walked His entire life without sin and was truly blameless. Jesus took my blame on Himself on the cross. He paid for all of it. There is nothing left to be blamed for! Now my part is to walk blamelessly. In other words, I need to live every day like what God sees in me. I won t be able to do it perfectly, but as I confess my sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). 4. You are adopted! Many of us are having to be all grown up, doing our best as wives and moms, when our own parents have died or live very far away. We re lonely, and we often need families ourselves. How wonderful it is to realize that God has adopted us. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling (Psalm 68:5, NIV). Even more so, as I ve studied the Bible, I ve come to realize that my Swedish-German-Scottish heritage just isn t included in the promises to Israel given first to Abraham in Genesis 12. I m not a Jew! I m a blonde-haired, stubbornnosed European! But God so loved the world, and in His gracious plan, He adopts those from every country, every race, and every blood line into His great family. I am grafted into Abraham s blessings and promises, because of the love of my Heavenly Father (see Romans 11). PAGE 9

10 So when you need a family, realize that you have a Father who loves you and a host of brothers and sisters beyond number. Are you plugged into that family? 5. You have been given His free grace! to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves (Eph. 1:6, NIV). Grace is another word for favor, for pleasure, for gifts that you weren t expecting, that you didn t buy, and that you didn t deserve. Of course, all people recognize that their gods bestow favors. The difference is that most cultures require somehow earning the favor of the gods. If the weather is bad, the gods must be angry so we need to offer sacrifices to appease them. If someone is sick, the gods must be displeased, so what can we do to get on their good sides? Our God is different in that He recognizes that we are unable to please Him, that we will continue to choose sin, because our hearts are evil continually. In spite of this, He gives us His favor. For instance, it says in Ezekiel 36:22-29 (NIV): Therefore say to the house of Israel, This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the PAGE 10

11 LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. God s favor is so great that He makes us into new creatures, a people that desire to love and obey Him and to keep His laws. All of this is because of Him, not because of our own worthiness. 6. You are redeemed! The story of Ruth is a story of redemption, of a man who loved a woman he barely knew and paid a great sum of money so that he could marry her and care for her. You also are redeemed by God. Your redemption came at a great and terrible price to Christ, the shedding of His blood for you. When you feel unloved, please reflect on the great love of Christ in purchasing your redemption. You are no longer owned by Satan, but you are the priceless possession of your Heavenly Father. PAGE 11

12 7. You are forgiven! Have you ever done something so terrible that you were just sure that you could never be forgiven? Maybe someone else was so hurt by your actions that they just can t bring themselves to forgive you either. Being unforgiven means living under a terrible cloud. You can try and try to make it up to the other person, but no matter what good things you do, you really can t go back and undo the past. That cloud can be lifted when you realize that you are forgiven by God. Ephesians 1:8 says that He lavished this forgiveness on you with all wisdom and understanding, which means that He understood perfectly well how you had sinned. He wasn t forgiving you blindly. The past really did happen. No matter what you ve done, though, you can be forgiven because of Jesus. Only God is capable of forgiving like this, and when you feel crushed by your past, run to Him for the grace that He wants to lavish on you. 8. You are predestined to know the mystery of His will! This blessing is so huge that we re going to talk about it a lot more in the coming weeks, but for today, let me just let you in on a little secret: God has an amazing plan, a mystery that has been hidden since the beginning of the world and that plan involves you! To be predestined means to be determined or planned in advance. God s plan to redeem the world is magnificent in scope, and each little detail has been thought out ahead of time. Satan can do nothing to thwart God s plan, although he will continue to try. PAGE 12

13 Meanwhile, God planned for YOU to know what His plan is and for you to participate in bringing it to pass. Can you see how important your life is and how valuable you are? 9. You are included. Many times, we stand on the sidelines as others receive honors, gifts, or glory. But God s plan to redeem the world includes you, and you are on the sidelines no longer. God has a plan for your redemption, not just the redemption of certain special, important people. 10. You are marked with a seal. On the day that you came to God for forgiveness and redemption, when your eyes were opened to the marvelous plan God has for your life, He not only showered you with blessings but He also marked you with His seal. A seal was used by a king in ancient times to signify that a decree had come from his very own mouth. The seal God has used to mark your life is His own precious Holy Spirit. In the pages ahead, we ll talk about the significance of this much more. A seal is permanent and shows that something is genuine. The Holy Spirit s presence in your life shows that God means business with you and intends to complete what He has started in you. being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). PAGE 13

14 11. You are guaranteed an inheritance. The Holy Spirit is also the down payment and the guarantee of your future inheritance. His power in your life is so great that you can now be assured that even great things are coming! Again, we ll talk about this more soon. LET S GET PRACTICAL... These blessings are deep, but I ve only scratched the surface. I m hoping that you won t simply read this chapter; rather, I m praying that you ll use this as a starting point for learning even more about the blessings you have in Christ. Here are some ideas: 1. Read through Ephesians this week. As you read the entire book, you ll get a much bigger idea of what God has planned for you and how He wants to use your life. Try to find an hour to sit down and read through the book in one sitting. You can read the entire book of Ephesians in the appendix of this book. PAGE 14

15 2. Begin to memorize Ephesians. Can you make it your goal to memorize this amazing book in the next two months? (What?! Anne, are you crazy?!) There s a no-brainer way to memorize something, and it involves just two steps: Print the book and hang it where you can easily read it. (I like to hang it where I do dishes. Another idea is in the bathroom.) Note: You can print a copy of the book of Ephesians at Listen to the book repeatedly on CD or mp3. Try to listen to it every day. Note: You may instantly download an audio reading of Ephesians for $2.99 from Christian Book Distributors at These two simply steps will firmly cement the Word of God in your mind, with hardly any work at all from you. 3. Meditate on the blessings in today s passage. I recommend that you take a sheet of paper and, using calligraphy or some fonts from your computer, make a beautiful reminder of each of these blessings. Hang it where you ll see it often and meditate on it as you go about your work this week. PAGE 15

16 As you think about how God has blessed you, consider ways in which you can extend these blessings to others. Is there someone who needs your forgiveness? Is there a lonely person who needs a family? 4. Finally, read Psalm 139 (next page), marveling at the ways God chose you before the foundations of the world, planning how He would redeem you, because of His great love for you. PAGE 16

17 Psalm 139 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. PAGE 17

18 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. PAGE 18

19 CHAPTER TWO Since I Heard About Your Faith (Ephesians 1:15-23) For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:15-16, NIV). When a baby is born, don t you have such high hopes for him? You dream of what he ll be when he is grown of the fun you ll have together of all that God can do in His life. Paul felt the same way toward the new believers in the city of Ephesus. From the day he heard of their new life in Christ, he just couldn t stop giving thanks for them. But these weren t just any believers! These were Gentile believers, some of the first in history! When you get a chance, read through the book of Acts to get a grasp on just how significant this was. From the time of Abraham, God had been working exclusively through the children of Israel. Yes, there are some notable exceptions of people grafted into God s people, such as Rahab and Ruth, but generally PAGE 19

20 speaking, if you were of Gentile birth, you simply didn t worship the God of Israel. Paul had been raised as a Jew of the Jews, as he says himself: If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless (Philippians 3:4-6). As Paul writes in Ephesians 1:9, when God s gift of salvation was extended to all nations, not just to the Jews, it was truly a mystery. (Anytime you see the word mystery used in Paul s writings, he is referring to the amazing fact that Gentiles can also come to Christ, just as Israelites.) Paul, with all of his education in God s Word, just simply didn t anticipate the extent of God s call. He didn t expect how wide the church would be. ( Church comes from the Greek word ecclesia, which means called-out ones. ) He didn t expect God to call out people from every nation around the world, not just calling those of Jewish roots. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus PAGE 20

21 throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:17-21, NIV). Paul is realizing, as we said in the last chapter, that God has chosen some from every kindred and race from before the beginning of time, and he writes, For this reason I have not stopped giving thanks! (Eph. 1:15-16). If you ve been a believer for some time, you probably know the thrill of seeing someone come to know Christ. You re ecstatic! You ve given birth! You ve planted seed and seen a harvest! How do we know that a new believer is genuine? Only God knows the heart, but we can look at the fruit. (My husband likes to say that we re fruit inspectors. ) By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:16-21). Paul lists two ways he knew that the believers in Ephesus were genuine (1:15): 1. Their faith in the Lord Jesus. 2. Their love for all the saints. PAGE 21

22 This completely matches what we can read about genuine belief elsewhere in the Bible, such as in the book of 1 John: We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:3-6, NIV). So because Paul sees genuine belief in a body of Gentile believers (what a mystery!), he gives thanks and remembers them faithfully in his prayers. He writes of two specific requests for these new believers (and if you re a believer in Jesus, these are a prayer for you, too). Prayer Request #1: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation Why? So that you may know him better. (Eph. 1:17) New believers, especially Gentiles who had been raised in a pagan culture, simply didn t know much about God. (Maybe this describes you.) On the other hand, Jews like Paul had been raised knowing God s Word from a very early age, often memorizing extensive portions of it and certainly attempting to obey it. Paul writes in another letter that from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15). For those believers who hadn t been privileged to grow up with a solid foundation in God s Word, Paul prayed the God PAGE 22

23 would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they would know him better. God cares deeply about your spiritual education, because he wants you to know Him. Whether you ve been taught in the Scriptures from infancy or you re a new believer from a pagan background, God s Word is able to make you wise for salvation. (This is why it s so important to make digging into God s Word a high priority!) Prayer Request #2: I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened Why? In order that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Ephesians 1:18). Head knowledge isn t everything. God desires that your heart be filled with amazing hope. Isn t hope an amazing thing? All your life you ve been groping in the dark, then one morning, hope begins to break into your life. You realize that God has called you (before the creation of the world, verse 4), that He loves you enough to choose you (and then die for you)! Hope begins to dawn in your life. This hope is because of the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (verse 18). Again, to be included in the inheritance of Abraham (see Romans 11) is an amazing inheritance. The word saints means set-apart ones, and you can see how similar this is to the word ecclesia (calledout ones) we saw earlier. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the PAGE 23

24 people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). 1 This hope is also because of his incomparably great power for us who believe (verse 19). When you think about His power for just a minute especially the fact that He wants to give this power to YOU you will certainly have reason for new hope! What is His power like? It is power like the working of his mighty strength (verse 19). It is the same power which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (verse 20). It is the same power that seated [Christ] at [God's] right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (verse 21). Whew! These verses go on about God s great power (see verses 22-23), but have you begun to catch a vision of the power that God wants to give to you? Have you thought of the power of God that He used to create the world? This same power has been given to you! Have you thought of the power it took to raise Christ from the dead? This same power has been given to you! Have you thought of the power that has been given to Christ as ruler of the entire universe (a thought that Paul takes three verses to tell about?!)? This same power has been given to you! If you ve been saved for a hundred years and you ve started to take your salvation for granted, I encourage you to 1 Compare to Exodus 19:5-6. PAGE 24

25 meditate on just what God has done for you. Catch a glimpse of the hope, remembering to get to know him better by digging into His Word. If you re a new believer and you re feeling a little hopeless, I encourage you to see the riches of the glorious inheritance you ve been given in Christ. Allow hope to shine as bright as the morning sun into your life as God begins to fill you with power. LET S GET PRACTICAL... This chapter was a little loaded too much to take in like drinking out of a fire hydrant. So I ve got some homework for you: 1. Think through as much of the Bible as you can, starting way back at the beginning. List all the ways God showed His power. (Hint: He created the world, the flood, etc.) Allow this exercise to fill you with hope (this same power is at work within you), and also allow it to motivate you to get to know His Word better all 66 books of it! 2. Are you still trying to memorize the book of Ephesians? PAGE 25

26 3. Finally, read Psalm 146. Take special note of the alien, the Gentile, in verse 9. Doesn t this Psalm want to make you want to sing praise to your God as long as you live? PAGE 26

27 Psalm 146 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them the LORD, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD. PAGE 27

28 CHAPTER THREE What Wondrous Love Is This? (Ephesians 2:1-10) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show PAGE 28

29 the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:1-10, NIV) The last two chapters, we ve been discussing the amazing blessings that have been given us in Christ. As we head into chapter 2 of Ephesians, I want to emphasize that these blessings have been given to us because of Christ, not because we have any special merit or have earned them ourselves. I think we need to remind ourselves often of our humble beginnings. These verses remind us that we have done wrong. We have followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (verse 2). Just as Eve purposely chose to go the ways of Satan, we also make a conscience choice to follow him. We aren t obedient enough to follow our heavenly King. We enjoy going our own way. We have been disobedient (verse 2). God s commands are clearly written for all people, yet we choose to disobey. We aren t fooled. We simply disobey. We have gratified the cravings of our sinful nature following its desires and thoughts (verse 3). We do what we want, simply because it PAGE 29

30 feels good. We have no concern for others and their feelings. We listen only to our inner guide, selfishly pleasing our every desire. We are dead in transgressions (verse 5). We have no ability to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, improve ourselves, make positive changes, or be led by a glow of inner light. We are simply dead and under a future death sentence as well. It isn t popular to talk about the evil side of ourselves. We would prefer to think that all humanity has a spark of good that needs to be fanned into flame. We don t want to admit what God says, that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Yet God says that we must admit our own sin not the sin of our spouse, our neighbor, or Hitler. My own. I am desperately wicked. For this is what the high and lofty One says he who lives forever, whose name is holy: I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite (Isaiah 57:15). Humility and repentance are the first steps to approaching God. But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. PAGE 30

31 Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:6-10, NIV). What does humility look like? It starts with submission, when we cast ourselves at the feet of Jesus (seeing Him in all His splendor) and submit our ways to His way, our plans to His plans. We draw near to His holiness, acknowledging our own sinfulness, probably even listing our sins and confessing each to Him. We wash ourselves clean in His blood, realizing that only His sacrifice in our place can cleanse us. We grieve, shedding tears of sorrow over our disobedience and resolving to walk in obedience, with His help from this day on. Ephesians 2 says that God will lift us up for two reasons: His mercy Mercy is defined as not giving me what I deserve, which in this case is death (Romans 6:23). His grace Grace is defined as giving me what I do not deserve, which in this case is eternal life (John 3:16). Notice that the blessings of Ephesians 1 are all because of God and not because of me. God loved us (verse 4) How can I say it better than these verses? You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very PAGE 31

32 rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8, NIV). Notice that He loved me first. I certainly didn t love Him first. I remember my own heart before I accepted Christ. I honestly hated any mention of Him! I wanted nothing to do with Him! We love him, because he first loved us (1 John 4:19, NIV). God made us alive (verse 5) The verse says that He made us alive in Christ. The KJV says He hath quickened us together with Christ. That s just one word in the Greek, which is why you ll see it translated just a little differently in various translations. The Greek word is su opoie, and Strong s concordance says it means to reanimate together with. In other words, just as Jesus died and was raised to life again, you also were completely dead, helpless, and incapable of saving yourself yet you ve been raised to life again. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. PAGE 32

33 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-25, NIV) God raised us up (verse 6) My first question was, How is this any different from the previous point? Isn t being raised up the same thing as making us alive? I may be wrong, but I m thinking that this is a reference to Christ s ascension into heaven. How does this relate to me? I have never risen through the clouds! Well, it may be a reference to the fact that we will never die. Yes, my physical body will deteriorate and die, but I ll be given a replacement body, a new body that is incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). My soul will never die. Before Christ, I would experience both physical and spiritual death, that horrible prospect called the second death (Revelation 20:6).But yes, there is a day coming when I too will rise to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). God seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus (verse 6) This continues the thought of God s love, as he made us alive, raised us up with Christ, and now seats us with Christ in the heavenly realms. I like how commentator Adam Clarke states, We have a right to the kingdom of God. Psalm 8 describes it this way: PAGE 33

34 What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet (Psalm 8:4-6, NIV). Rulership over His creation was certainly part of God s original design for us: Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Genesis 1:26-28). However, our sin plunged us into the kingdom of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, but Christ s victory over Satan guarantees that we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6). We are called PAGE 34

35 a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10, NIV). Before we leave this topic, let me just remind you one more time: All these things are a gift. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (verses 8-9). The moment pride enters and humility leaves we are in danger of forgetting our great salvation. Always, always remember your humble beginnings. Always, always confess your sin quickly. His gifts are all because of His love, mercy and grace, and none of our own works. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6, NIV). Why, oh why, would God do all these amazing things for us? Why does He love us? Why does He shower us with Him mercy and grace? What is His plan? in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (verse 7). PAGE 35

36 We are His show-pieces, His pride and joy. that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). He wants to bring more people into His kingdom, and He wants us to declare His praises to everyone around us. He wants us to make His reputation great in the earth. And (drumroll ) here is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible: For we are God s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (verse 10). Understanding this chapter will help all the rest of Ephesians make sense, so I hope you ll meditate on it thoroughly before going on! 1. God has blessed us beyond comprehension! 2. We are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. 3. He has expressed kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 4. He has created [us] in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Soon we ll be leaving all this doctrine behind and getting really practical. I hope you ll see the instructions in Ephesians, not as a list of rules, but as a way of offering our lives back to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), in praise of all He has done for us. You re His workmanship, dear woman! He prepared in advance for the amazing, good works you would do. He knew you wouldn t have the power to do them on your own PAGE 36

37 (and would even choose against Him), but He reached down into your life with His mercy and grace. He CHOSE you He created you in Christ Jesus and now you are being formed into His precious treasure. When [Jesus] came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, Teacher, rebuke your disciples! I tell you, he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out (Luke 19:37-40, NIV). How can we keep from praising Him, too? PAGE 37

38 LET S GET PRACTICAL... This chapter was a little loaded too much to take in like drinking out of a fire hydrant. So I ve got some homework for you: 1. It is very important to change your thinking from how the world thinks to how God thinks. Here are some verses that will give you God s true opinion of your heart. Read through each one. How is this different from what the world says about you? Isaiah 53:6 Romans 3: Timothy 3:2-3 Romans 5:12 Romans 6:23 James 1:15 2. Now compare yourself with God by reading through Isaiah 6 in your Bible. What was Isaiah s response when he saw God? PAGE 38

39 3. Singing songs about what God has done is an excellent way to change your thinking. A good song to learn is What Wondrous Love Is This. It s an old hymn with words that are still good today. You can hear the tune by searching for it online. PAGE 39

40 What Wondrous Love Is This What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, That caused the Lord of bliss, To bear the dreadful curse, For my soul, for my soul, To bear the dreadful curse for my soul. To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing! To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing! To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great "I AM," While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing! While millions join the theme, I will sing. And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, I'll sing on! And when from death I'm free, I'll sing on, And when from death I'm free, I'll sing and joyful be, And thro' eternity, I'll sing on, I'll sing on, And thro' eternity, I'll sing on. PAGE 40

41 CHAPTER FOUR Peace with God (Ephesians 2:11-22) Several times in Ephesians, Paul is going to allude to a mystery (Ephesians 1:9, 3:3, 3:4, 3:9, 5:32, and 6:19). Today we re going to define this mystery and see why it even matters in our lives. (In other words, today we re going to study just a little more doctrine, which is a fancy word that means teaching. Do you ever wonder why we study doctrine? Because it does affect our behavior, our relationships, and even our joy! Actions flow from beliefs but I digress.) Let s quickly jump ahead to Ephesians 3:9, where Paul concisely defines the mystery. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (NIV). PAGE 41

42 Heirs together with Israel? Doesn t this sound a little off? Let s check this out a little further, as it s the topic of our entire passage of Scripture in this chapter. First, let s see how the old King James Version of the Bible quotes it: that the nations should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel (KJV). This translation never specifically mentions Israel, so we could assume that it means we re fellow heirs with Christ. However, compare this verse to Galatians 3:29: if you are Christ s, then you are Abraham s seed and heirs according to the promise (KJV). Still sounds like we re heirs together with Israel, doesn t it? So if this is the great mystery that Paul is speaking so much of in the book of Ephesians, let s take a look at what he means. First, let s review what he said about this mystery during our very first Bible study: And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10, NIV). Here we see that God intends to unite all things under one head. He s making a body, right? Is this something new PAGE 42

43 that God decided to do in New Testament times? No, this is the same plan God has had before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27), and man enjoyed wonderful fellowship with God each day in the garden, as God would come and walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Can you imagine how fabulous that must have been? God set up only one command for Adam to obey ( you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 2:16-17). That command was intended for his good, but he chose to disobey. His disobedience caused him to become an enemy of God. Instead of amazing fellowship, God drove the man out of the garden and from His presence (Genesis 3:24). However, God also made provision for at least a minimal attempt at fellowship with man. God covered the shame and disgrace of man s sin with animal skins, clothing which cost that animal his blood in place of man s (see Genesis 3:21). God then made an important promise to Adam, that someday a Redeemer would come and remove the enmity (Genesis 3:15). We know who that Redeemer was (Jesus Christ), but Adam didn t know. It was a mystery (Ephesians 3:5). Slowly, through the years, God began to reveal more of this mystery to mankind. To Abraham, God said, I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. PAGE 43

44 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:2-3, NIV). At first, this promise would only come to Abraham and his descendants, known to us as the nation of Israel. However, even from the start, God made a provision for all peoples on earth to come to Him. For instance, if a foreigner to Israel wanted to celebrate Passover with God s people of Israel, there was a way. An alien (or foreigner) living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you (Exodus 12:48-49, NIV). Through the years, several notable aliens to Israel came and lived among God s people, enjoying the blessings of Abraham. For instance, think of Rahab and Ruth, both foreign women who chose the worship of the one true God over the worship of their native idols. Look, said Naomi, your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her. But Ruth replied, Don t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1:15-16, NIV). PAGE 44

45 In return for their obedience, God placed both of these Gentile women into the very line of the Redeemer, greatgrandmothers (so to speak) of Jesus Himself (see Matthew 1:5). Throughout the history of Israel, both the kings and the people rejected God and turned to the worship of false gods. As God had warned them, He drove them out of the land of Israel by the armies of Assyria and Babylon. A few from the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin ( Jews ) were able to return during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, but most Israelites remain scattered throughout the entire world to this very day. Those who returned during Ezra s leadership determined that they would never again wander from God. They set up additional rules to the ones God had given Moses, fences of sorts, to keep the people from ever breaking covenant with God again. These fences have become known as the oral traditions of the Jews. By the time of Jesus, the rabbis had set up such an extensive system of rules, commands, and traditions that the burden of obedience to them was more than the people could bear (see Matthew 23). One of their oral traditions made provision for the Gentiles to convert to Judaism, but now the laws were much greater than God s originals. The process of conversion was long and arduous, only culminating in circumcision at the very end of a multiple-year process. As Jesus said to the Pharisees, You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are (Matthew 23:15, NIV). So Paul, a former Pharisee himself, must have been utterly amazed when God revealed to Him the mystery of making the Gentiles heirs together with Israel. PAGE 45

46 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision (that done in the body by the hands of men) remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-13, NIV). What? What is this mystery? Gentiles may be brought near through the blood of Christ? What? How can this be? The same shedding of blood that covered the sin of the first man and that passed over the sin of the Israelites, offers forgiveness of sin to all the nations of the world. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22, NIV). Do you see how God s plan has remained the same from before the creation of the world? the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7, NIV). The blood of Jesus was shed in our place, taking away the enmity we had with God and granting us peace (and restored fellowship!) with God instead. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ], and through him to reconcile to PAGE 46

47 himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ s physical body through death (Colossians 1:19-22, NIV). Doesn t this just make you want to shout? Let s see how Paul describes it for us in today s passage in Ephesians: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:14-18, NIV). Let s just take a look at one confusing phrase from this passage. It says that God abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. I certainly don t have time to delve too deeply into this today, but the common thought is that Paul means that the laws of God have now been done away with, and we are free to do as we please, as long as we show love to God and love to others. My question is this. Does peace with God ever come by abolishing His laws? Think about your own home. If your children disobey you, do you make the situation right by simply doing away with the rules? Of course not! PAGE 47

48 The dividing wall of hostility mentioned in these verses is not the law, although having rules can certainly make us all feel rebellious (just as only one rule did for Adam and Eve). The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God s law, nor can it do so (Romans 8:7, NIV). No, the hostility mentioned in this verse is the same hostility and enmity mentioned throughout the entire Bible, the hostility of mankind toward God because we will not submit to God s law. In Galatians, Paul further explains that the law contains a curse of sin and death, a curse which Christ abolished when He suffered death for us on the cross. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14, NIV). (As a side note, this is a good example of why we need to compare Scripture with Scripture and to be careful in our Bible study. Christ could not have abolished the law, or He would have contradicted what He Himself said in Matthew 5:17-20.) So in conclusion, the great mystery of the gospel is that freedom from the curse of sin and death, which we so greatly deserve, is offered to all people, both Jew and Gentile, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. PAGE 48

49 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God s people and members of God s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22, NIV). Notice that we Gentiles are also now members of God s household. God has only one household, and we have been grafted in (see Romans 11:17-24). God s household is built on the foundation of both the apostles (New Testament) and prophets (Old Testament, see 2 Timothy 3:15-17). God wants us to live in His household by his spirit, meaning He wants to breathe new life into us so that we will have the ability to please Him in all we do. In the chapters to come, we ll take this doctrine and make it practical, so that we can see how to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 4:1, NIV). For we are God s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). PAGE 49

50 LET S GET PRACTICAL... Do you have peace with God? Have you received freedom from the curse of sin and death, because of the blood of Jesus? Just as Naomi urged Ruth to make a decision between the gods of her people and the true God of Israel, you also need to make a choice. You ve been offered all the blessings of heaven, but it s up to you to choose to become a fellow citizen with God s people. PAGE 50

51 CHAPTER FIVE For Someone Else s Sake (Ephesians 3:1-13) For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory (Ephesians 3:1 and 13, NIV). I enjoyed looking up the story behind how the gospel came to Ephesus. In Acts 18 and 19, I read about how Paul arrived in Ephesus and began teaching in the synagogue there. I read about the first believers and how they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit and His ministry. I read about amazing miracles performed, demons cast out, and lives changed. I read about believers who drastically changed their lifestyle in response to the message they heard, including how they burned their idolatrous books and studied the Old Testament scriptures fervently. The book of Revelation commends the Ephesians for their obedient behavior when they first believed. I also read hints of persecution that took place there. Paul repeatedly mentions the things which he suffered, usually at the hands of the Jews. As our passage in Ephesians 3 tells us, PAGE 51

52 Paul was preaching a gospel that included the Gentiles, saying that the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. The Jews in Ephesus would have had two problems with this gospel: 1. It required that they believe that Jesus was the Messiah. 2. It required that they believe that the Gentiles as well as Jews could approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12). Paul says that he was given grace to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). In effect, Paul had been given a treasure when he trusted in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins. God intended this treasure to be given to the entire world, not just the Jewish people. But what would have happened if Paul had not obeyed? What would have happened if he had not endured persecution for our sakes? (1 Corinthians 15:32 even says that Paul fought with beasts in Ephesus, probably in the Roman coliseum!) Well, I would never have heard the gospel. I would never have been given the gift of God s grace given me through the working of his power (Ephesians 3:7). Yet, in spite of tremendous sacrifice, Paul became a servant of this gospel (Ephesians 3:7). A servant, Paul tells us elsewhere, is one who does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, and is pictured best of all in the PAGE 52

53 sacrifice of Jesus. A servant should look not only on his own interests, but also on the interests of others (see Philippians 2:1-11). Paul was also humble. He wrote, Although I am less that the least of all God s people, yet we know that he was a Pharisee of the Pharisee and remained obedient to God s laws throughout his lifetime (see Acts 18:18, 20:16, 24:14, and 25:8, for example). Yet he was willing to be a missionary to lawless Gentiles, strengthening all the disciples (Acts 18:23) by carefully explaining to them the Scriptures week after week, year after year. I don t know about you, but I m always in a big rush for immature believers to grow up and start doing what they know is right! Come on, already! I m not very patient and humble. Paul, however, reminds us to restore others gently, carrying each other s burdens, not thinking we are something when we are nothing (Galatians 6:1-3). Finally, Paul was willing to suffer so that others would hear the good news, even if it meant suffering to the point of death. His farewell speech to the dear brothers in Ephesus makes me want to cry: You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. PAGE 53

54 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the gospel of God s grace (Acts 20:18-24, NIV). My husband preaches so often (yet his wife constantly fails to listen) that we are here on this earth for only one reason the task of testifying to the gospel of God s grace. Just as in Ephesus, we are surrounded by cranky believers in stuffy churches who don t want to share the riches of God s grace. Outside our church walls, we see a world of lawless unbelievers who have no idea who God is or how to approach Him. To take the gospel to the lost, we must become the humble servants of all, both those inside and outside the church walls. We must also remember that we have no higher calling, no greater mission, and no deeper urgency even to the point of giving our lives. Sometimes I think that because I have school-aged children and toddlers running around, that I m somehow off the hook. It s at times like these that I start to become a stinky Christian, lording it over others and becoming filled with pride. (My friend Stephanie says that we get stinky like a sponge when we re always taking in and never squeezing out for others. How true!) PAGE 54

55 LET S GET PRACTICAL... I ve got another song for you to learn! Again, you can search for the tune online. The words are excellent. May it be stuck in your head throughout the coming week! PAGE 55

56 May the Mind of Christ My Savior May the mind of Christ, my Savior, Live in me from day to day, By His love and power controlling All I do and say. May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour, So that all may see I triumph Only through His power. May the peace of God my Father Rule my life in everything, That I may be calm to comfort Sick and sorrowing. May the love of Jesus fill me As the waters fill the sea; Him exalting, self abasing, This is victory. May I run the race before me, Strong and brave to face the foe, Looking only unto Jesus As I onward go. May His beauty rest upon me, As I seek the lost to win, And may they forget the channel, Seeing only Him. PAGE 56

57 CHAPTER SIX Someone s Praying for You (Ephesians 3:14-21) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:14, KJV). When someone calls or s and says, Anne, I m praying for you, I feel so loved. Imagine how precious the believers in Ephesus felt as they read Paul s words to them in these verses, one of the most famous prayers in the Bible. Paul continues, For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love PAGE 57

58 that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21). I see three specific prayer requests of Paul s in these verses, and as I read them, I remember another time that Someone was praying. In John 17, we read the prayer that our dear Savior prayed for His disciples the night before He was crucified. There are many similarities between these two prayers, so let s take a look. 1. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:16). While reading through the gospels, I ve noticed that even Jesus, who was God in human flesh, did nothing through His own strength; rather, He always relied on the strength of the Spirit of God that dwelt within Him. In John 14-17, Jesus talks about the promised Holy Spirit who would come and indwell His disciples as well. God s power is limitless (just think of creation, for instance), yet we have none of our own. We may try to obey God, but in our own strength, we just fall apart. Even Jesus realized that in the flesh, He would not be able to do the things that God had purposed for Him. That s why He says, PAGE 58

59 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you (John 17:7). God s Spirit will strengthen us with all the mighty power of God (according to the riches of His glory), but our part is to be obedient (see John 14:15-21). We ll talk more about not quenching the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, and more in the coming chapters. 2. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). Jesus prays something very similar, when He said, For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me (John 17:8). He s saying that these believers came to an understanding that Jesus was the promised Redeemer, the Messiah, foretold by prophets, and that they put their trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins. Ours is not a blind faith! We know that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah (anointed one, promised one), because God s Word is truth and our trust is based on His Word. Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). How about you? Is your faith secure, because you understand what the Bible says about the Christ and you know with certainty that Jesus comes from PAGE 59

60 God? This is very important, for Jesus also said, Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3). Eve faltered in the Garden of Eden because she wasn t firmly grounded in what God had said (Genesis 3:1). God s Word was written that ye may know (1 John 5:13). Our part is to study God s Word, to compare Scripture with Scripture. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). 3. That you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:17-18). Jesus made it very clear that love (to God and to others) is the foundation of all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:34-40). Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (John 14:21). As we continue to move through Ephesians, this principle will form the foundation for everything else we learn. Until we get a grasp of how much God loves us, we are just not able to love others as we should. Until we get a grasp of how much God has forgiven PAGE 60

61 us, we are just not able to forgive others as we should (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Until our practical love of unlovable people exceeds our intake of knowledge about God, we won t be filled with all the fullness of God. Jesus spells out our part very clearly: As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:9-13). In Jesus prayer, He asks the Father that they may be one as we are one (John 17:11). I really don t think this is talking about an ecumenical, nondenominational unity; rather, this is talking about a practical love that we show to those around us. We ll talk much more about this in the weeks to come. Isn t it good to be doubly prayed for, by both Paul and Jesus? Isn t it great that their prayers agree? Isn t it also wonderful to know that their prayers can be answered as we do our part? PAGE 61

62 LET S GET PRACTICAL Read through John 14-17, Jesus prayer for his disciples. 2. Ephesians 3:14-21 would be a great template for your morning prayer time. First, pray through it for yourself. Ask yourself if you re doing your part by being obedient to His commands, by studying His Word faithfully, and by showing love to others. Secondly, pray through it for others. This is a prayer that certainly pleases the Father! The greatest gift you can give to those you love is to uphold them in prayer in the ways that really count. PAGE 62

63 Morning Prayer For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21). PAGE 63

64 CHAPTER SEVEN One Body in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16) As we ve been progressing through our study of Ephesians, I ve been hoping to make something very clear. God has a plan, and we re part of it! Maybe this seems a little obvious, but I ve been noticing that many women just don t get it, deep down, where beliefs change our actions. Paul is hoping we ll get it. He starts the second half of the book of Ephesians with a phrase that sums it all up. I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Ephesians 4:1). I was tempted to put a few exclamation points after that. I urge you!!!! When we realize the calling we ve received, when that calling sinks down into our core and changes who we are, PAGE 64

65 nothing will ever be the same. Paul is going to take three chapters to describe what living a life worthy of the calling looks like. I want to be changed from the inside out, too, so that my calling affects my joy, my family life, my witness, and everything else about my life. (Want to join me?) So Paul is going to take just a few more verses to BE SURE you understand your calling, and then he ll start the next section in the same way: So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do (Ephesians 4:17). And so on, throughout the rest of the book: Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15). Today Paul sums up this worthy life in just a few words: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3). Why? Because of our calling. There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6). PAGE 65

66 One. How many times has Paul talked about this? Let s review from previous chapters: And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10, NIV). Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one (Ephesians 2:12-14, NIV). His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:15-18, NIV). PAGE 66

67 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6, NIV). Can you see God s plan? Can you see your part in it? Paul goes on, in chapter 4, to say that to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it (verse 7). Then he quotes from, what seemed to me to be, an obscure passage from the Old Testament. I read these verses, and I asked my husband to please help me understand them. What in the world was Paul talking about? It felt like I was listening in to only half of a 2,000-year-old conversation, and I was really missing the punch line. This is why it says: When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (What does he ascended mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe) (Ephesians 4:8-10). Huh? Clear as mud! Paul is quoting from Psalm 68:18, so my husband took me back to Psalm 68 to make sense of it. I don t think I d get away with discussing the entire Psalm today, plus finishing our study of Ephesians 4, so I urge you to take a few minutes and read Psalm 68 for yourself. Context is everything in understanding God s Word! PAGE 67

68 Let me just quote a few portions of Psalm 68, though. Please keep in mind as you read that God has a plan, and we re part of it! [God] leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land (Psalm 68:16). Are you remembering how God led forth the Israelites from Egypt? When you went out before your people, O God, when you marched through the wasteland, Selah the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance. Your people settled in it, and from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor (Psalm 68:7-10). Are you remembering that Sinai was where God came down and spoke with mankind (and the earth shook)? Do you remember the tabernacle that they built for God to dwell in? Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the LORD himself will dwell forever? (Psalm 68:16). Are you remembering that God cannot dwell in a temple made by hands (Acts 7:48-50), and that God s Word tells us PAGE 68

69 a day is coming when God will establish Himself on His holy mountain, to reign forever and forever? The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious that you, O LORD God, might dwell there (Psalm 68:17-18). Are you remembering what Isaiah says about the end times? Compare the chariots in Psalm 68 to the chariots here: I will send [them] to the nations to Tarshish, to the Libyans and Lydians (famous as archers), to Tubal and Greece, and to the distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels, says the LORD (Isaiah 66:19-20). Back in Psalm 68, we see a procession of people, from Israel and also from every nation of the earth, coming to worship God in His Holy temple. Your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. PAGE 69

70 In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the maidens playing tambourines. Praise God in the great congregation; praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel. There is the little tribe of Benjamin, leading them, there the great throng of Judah s princes, and there the princes of Zebulun and of Naphtali Envoys will come from Egypt; Cush will submit herself to God. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, sing praise to the Lord (Psalm 68:24-26, 31-32). Are you getting excited about God s plan? As Isaiah 66 said, The distant islands that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory among the nations. And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem. We are living on those distant islands! We had never heard of God s fame or seen His glory, but during the last 2,000 years, beginning with the apostles, God s glory has been proclaimed among the nations. (Wow ) This is exactly the reason why God gives gifts. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it It was he who gave some to be apostles [messengers, missionaries], some to be prophets [proclaimers of God's Word], some to be evangelists [bringers of good news], and some PAGE 70

71 to be pastors [shepherds, herding His lost sheep back home], and teachers, to prepare God s people for works of service [worship and ministry on his holy mountain] (Ephesians 4:7, 11-12). Yes, God has a plan, and we re part of it! We are part of God s plan to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). God loves you, dear woman, but you re not the ONLY one God loves. God loves so many, many, many lost people! He has grafted us into His body, but His body is missing some of its arms and legs. We have all sinned and turned in rebellion away from God. Isaiah 66:4 says that we deserve God s wrath, For when I called no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me. During the last few chapters, we ve been marveling at God s grace, love, and mercy. But we can t horde it to ourselves. Listen to what Paul says! so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13). God has a plan of uniting all His lost sheep together in His Son. Again, this isn t talking about a non-denominational, let s all get along kind of unity. He s talking about uniting us together at the last day, in worship of God on His holy mountain in Jerusalem. He s talking about history past, present, and future, His-story and how He s working in His world today to carry out His majestic, all-encompassing plan for humanity. PAGE 71

72 And when you understand this? Well, you ll start to grow up and act mature. You ll start to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:14-16). LET S GET PRACTICAL... Next chapter, we ll get into the nitty-gritty of what this life looks like. For now, I have some assignments for you: 1. I urge you to dig into the Old Testament, into the passages we glanced at today (such as Psalm 68 or some of the passages from Isaiah), to try to fathom your part in God s plan. Life is not all about you. It s all about you in God s plan. 2. Why not re-read Ephesians 1-3, again trying to fathom your part in God s plan. How has God shown you mercy, grace and love? Why did He do it? 3. Copy Ephesians 4:2-3 onto a small card, and hang it where you ll see it often. (Your bathroom mirror might be a good place.) How exciting is to know that God has a plan, and we re part of it! PAGE 72

73 CHAPTER EIGHT A New Way to Live (Ephesians 4:17-32) So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking (Ephesians 4:17). What is a Gentile? A Gentile is anyone who s not a Jew, but I think you ll agree that s not the point of our verses today. A Gentile is also anyone who doesn t live with his life lined up with God s Word. He s not a part of God s family, and he s not loyal to the one, true God. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts (Ephesians 4:18). Sometimes, as in the case of Rahab (Joshua 2 and 6; Hebrews 11:31), some Gentiles are separated from God because of ignorance. Maybe they grew up in homes where they never learned anything about God. It s as if they were born with a learning disability, a physical defect darkened in their PAGE 73

74 understanding and spiritually blind. The Bible says that their hearts are hard, much like the soil in the ground is hard where no garden has ever been planted. So how does a Gentile live? Paul has already told us that a Gentile s thinking is futile, or incapable of producing any results. In other words, if we live as the Gentiles do, we will not have the strength to live for God. That kind of thinking just results in death. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! (Romans 6:21) A Gentile also lives without any sensitivity to God or His righteous standards. God s laws simply don t exist in his mind. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:19). After all, if they have this spiritual learning disability, a darkened understanding, and no awareness of God s reality - - then their consciences don t bother them too much when they decide to make up their own rules. PAGE 74

75 Anything goes! I just wanna have fun! Who s going to take care of me if I don t? Life s too short to think all the time. Get outta my way! Now Paul is going to spend a huge amount of time comparing and contrasting the way a Gentile lives and thinks with the way God s whole family in heaven and earth (Ephesians 3:15) lives and thinks. A New Mind You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:20-21). How did we come to know Christ? Through faith. Faith in what? Was it mindless faith? No, we heard truth, as seeds from God s Word were planted in our hearts. (See Romans 10:17, Matthew 13:1-23.) Romans 12:2 says, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. How do we renew our minds? The same way we came to know Christ, by being taught from God s Word. God s Word reveals the attitudes of our minds (Hebrews 4:12-13), explains what God s righteousness looks like (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 5:11-14) as explained in His laws (Psalm 119:42), makes us holy, or set apart from the world s futile way of thinking (1 Peter 2:9-10). PAGE 75

76 Our church has been studying through The Truth Project 2 together, and one of our main goals has been to discover where our thinking is still futile and corrupted. We re learning how to put off that old way of thinking, like a shirt that doesn t fit any more, and put on a new mind, a mind that is firmly based in the truth of God s Word. It s not easy. Just like it s a lot of work to go through a box of out-of-season clothes, trying on each one, discarding the useless clothing and hanging up the good stuff, so it s a lot of work to sort through all the thinking of our minds, one by one, piece by piece Where do ya start?! Paul helps us out: Put Off: Put On: Why? Falsehood Anger that doesn t stop. He who has been stealing must steal no longer. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. Speak truthfully to his neighbor Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. He must work, doing something useful with his hands. Only [speak] what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. We are all members of one body. Do not give the devil a foothold. He may have something to share with those in need. Our speech must benefit those who listen. 2 PAGE 76

77 The same Spirit of God who came to live within us, sealing us for the day of redemption as a king seals a decree with a ball of wax and ensures that it will remain valid, has given us a new life and a new way of thinking. Our new way of thinking takes into account that we are all members of one body (Ephesians 4:25). We learn that we should no longer live for ourselves. We grasp the enormity of the body of Christ, that those from every tribe and nation have been called, and we are humbled that we were included. Instead of pride, we walk with thankfulness for being sealed into this new family. We look around at others in this family and recognize that we re all former Gentiles. None of us brought our own merit to God. We were all accepted only because of Christ and His sacrifice for us. We re all starting from the same humble beginnings. We would never want to hurt the One who loved us and gave His life for us. We would never want to grieve the One who has come to live inside us and breathe new life into us. So we work to never hurt the other members of His family, knowing that He loves them just as much as He loves us. They are precious in His sight, so they must be precious in our eyes, too. So Paul concludes, And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, PAGE 77

78 forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:30-32). That last phrase says it all. Just as in Christ God forgave you. Righteousness and laws and do this rules are only helpful if we understand why they re given. In God s case, His rules are always meant to benefit His dear family. He loves each member, and He asks us to love them as He does. This certainly isn t how the Gentiles live! Let s be made new in the attitudes of our minds. LET S GET PRACTICAL Read through Ephesians 4: What specific things is God speaking about to you, asking you to change in your life? 2. Copy just one verse from this passage that is especially meaningful to you today. Hang it where you ll see it often. PAGE 78

79 CHAPTER NINE Hints of Idolatry (Ephesians 5:1-20) But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God s holy people (Ephesians 5:3). In my Bible, I have notes from a sermon by a man who was gifted at painting word pictures in our minds. He preached on how we are to be living sacrifices offered to God. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). Then going back to the book of Leviticus, where God gave specific rules for sacrifices and how they should be offered, this pastor described how a living sacrifice should be: 1. Clean and without defect (Leviticus 1:3) 2. Offered voluntarily (Leviticus 1:3, KJV) 3. Dead and unable to do its own will any longer (Leviticus 1:5) PAGE 79

80 4. Broken (Leviticus 1:6) 5. Complete (Leviticus 1:9) 6. Burnt, making an aroma that pleases God (Leviticus 1:9) In the last chapter, we learned about how to live a life of love, and now Paul goes on to tell us that this love is a sacrifice. (Don t we know it!) But God doesn t require anything of us that He didn t first ask of His own dear Son. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). We can either offer ourselves as fragrant offerings and sacrifices to God or we can commit idolatry. Those are the only two choices. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person such a man is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them (Ephesians 5:3-7). PAGE 80

81 Those are really strong words, the kind that send chills up my spine as I see my own sinful nature portrayed. (Oh, but for the grace of God ) Paul defines idolatry clearly in verse 5. No immoral, impure or greedy person such a man is an idolater. The dictionary defines idolatry as excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion; obsession, madness, mania. Paul says these are improper for God s holy people. The word holy is from the Hebrew word qodesh, and it means to set oneself apart for a specific purpose. The first three chapters of Ephesians went into great detail about how we are God s set-apart people, and you can be sure He s very jealous for our worship and devotion. He will not allow us to prostitute ourselves to another obsession, no matter what it is! As Paul says, there must not be even a hint and because of such things God s wrath comes on those are disobedient. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. PAGE 81

82 This is why it is said: Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Ephesians 5:11-14). How long has it been since you allowed the light to expose the sinful, disobedient deeds of your own heart? But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God (John 3:21). Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness (1 John 2:9). The point I m hoping to make today is that there are only two ways to live, in the light or in the darkness, and there s a dramatic difference between the two. This is not an issue on which you can straddle the fence. You re either in the light, offering yourself as a fragrant offering, or you re in the dark, ready to partake of the wrath of God. Idolatry consists of immorality, impurity and greed. What do children of the light look like? For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which PAGE 82

83 leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:8-9, 15-20). God wants your excessive adoration, devotion and obsession to be focused utterly on Him. He wants you to be drunk with His Spirit who indwells you, so obviously intoxicated that you break out singing praise songs (not bar tunes). Thankfulness spills out of you. Your very breath is filled with it for everything, and the very room you re in is filled with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs because you were present. I m not there yet. Are you? Paul says to be very careful making the most of every opportunity. He also says, Do not be foolish. (Remember that the fool says in his heart, There is no God [Psalm 14:1] ). Whom will you worship? Actions speak louder than words, do they not? Remove all hints of idolatry from your heart and be filled with the Spirit. LET S GET PRACTICAL Read Leviticus 1:1-9 for a description of an offering to God. Can you picture the scene with all your senses? In practical ways, how can you offer up your life as a living sacrifice to God? PAGE 83

84 2. Read Ephesians 5:1-20. Make a list of every type of idolatry and sin that is currently a part of your own life. 3. Now re-read Ephesians 5:1-20. Now make a list of the ways God is speaking to you, as you begin walking as a child of the light. PAGE 84

85 CHAPTER TEN Submitting to One Another (Ephesians 5:21-6:9) Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21, NIV). We re moving along in our study of Ephesians. Paul begins to make all the doctrine practical. We ve talked about the amazing fact that we were chosen by God, the mystery of being included in His plan, and the beauty of a life lived as a sacrifice to God. But head knowledge is useless if it doesn t become action. Nowhere do our actions show our beliefs more than in our relationships. Do I really believe that I m forgiven? Then I must forgive others. Do I really believe that I m loved? Then I must love others. Do I really believe that I ve received mercy? Then I must extend mercy to others. (See Matthew 18:21-35, for instance.) In Ephesians we ve learned that you must be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God PAGE 85

86 in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:23-24). What does true righteousness and holiness look like? Jesus made it practical when He explained, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). Everything seems to hang on love, which is why I was so surprised when I really looked at the words of today s key verse. Let me show it to you in the King James Version, where the Greek really seems to shine. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21, KJV). The word fear in this verse is the Greek word for terror (Strong s #5401). Am I correct in understanding that we should submit ourselves to one another because we re terrified of God? We did see hints of this before. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person such a man is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, PAGE 86

87 for because of such things God s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them (Ephesians 5:5-7). Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise (Ephesians 5:15). Note these verses in the book of Hebrews: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, It is mine to avenge; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31). I think we often see God as a kindly Santa-Claus type in the sky, losing the great reverence and respect we should have for Him. This great reverence and fear, even terror, should prompt us to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). The one another in this verse is mutual, meaning that no person is exempt from having to subordinate his or her life to the wishes and desires of others. PAGE 87

88 It doesn t seem fair! Why should we have to do things the way others want, instead of living as if you can have it your way? It s fair because it shows that I finally understand that I am not the Queen of the Universe. I am not in charge. In placing myself in subordination to God and His decrees, I must also place myself under everyone else around me, placing the desires and wishes of others ahead of my own. I must view others as God views them remembering that He sacrificed His life for them! Our passage today, going all the way through Ephesians 6:9, shows that no sphere of earthly relationship is exempt from this submission to others. Wives must submit to husbands. Husbands must sacrificially give everything for their wives. Children must always obey parents. Fathers must always treat children fairly. Slaves must always obey their masters. Masters must always threat their slaves kindly. Selfishness is out. Sacrificial giving is in. We re going to discuss a few of these relationships in more detail in the coming chapters, but before I close, I d like to quickly address how this affects us as wives. Please note the scope of the submission we must show to our husbands: Submit to your husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22). Is there any area in which we don t have to submit to God? No. In the same way, there is no area in which we don t have to submit to our husbands. Wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Eph. 5:24). Are we exempt from submission if we don t agree with our husbands? No, we must submit in everything. You just can t get more black and white than that. PAGE 88

89 The wife must respect her husband (Eph. 5:33). God is never satisfied with mere outward action. He wants our heart. Respect is so much more than mere obedience. Respect is a heart attitude. I love how the Amplified Bible words this verse, as it attempts to list the nuances of the Greek word used: Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly]. How much do you respect your heavenly Father? We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him (1 John 2:3-6, 9-11). PAGE 89

90 LET S GET PRACTICAL Read through Ephesians 5:21-6:9. List the people to whom you are asked to submit. 2. Why are we to submit? Can you answer this question with just one sentence? PAGE 90

91 CHAPTER ELEVEN What s the Big Deal about Church? (Ephesians 5:22-32 again) I hope you ll forgive me for visiting Ephesians 5:22-32 again, but I noticed that the topic of these verses is just as much about Christ and the church as it is about wives and husbands. We women are treated to lots of blog posts and books and sermons about proper submission in marriage, but I wonder if we think very much about how much Christ loves His church. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their PAGE 91

92 wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-32). These verses really do portray a profound mystery. In our culture, the church has taken quite a beating. Even in evangelical circles, it s not very fashionable to like the church. For instance, here are some books that I ve either read recently or are on my to read list (and no, I don t like all these books): Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna So You Don t Want to Go to Church Anymore by Jake Colsen Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God by Jim Palmer What About Church? by Jeff Barth The Church Comes Home by Robert and Julia Banks I completely understand the frustrations with institutional churches, but I m also worried that we re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In fact, I m afraid we re throwing out someone else s baby with our own bathwater God s baby! PAGE 92

93 Listen to how God feels about the church: Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior (verse 23). The church submits to Christ, its head. as the church submits to Christ (verse 24). Christ loved the church so much that He gave himself up for her. just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (verse 25). He gave himself up for the church in order to make her holy (set apart). [Christ] gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (verses 25-27). PAGE 93

94 Christ loves the church as much as His own body. No one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church for we are members of his body (verses 28-30). In fact, as I looked back through Ephesians, I ve been starting to think that the theme of the entire book of Ephesians should be Christ s great love for the church. (For instance, see Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:10, 2:19-22, 3:10-11, 4:1-6, 4:24, 3:11-13, 3:14-16, 5:3, and 5:21, just for starters!) The word church is the Greek word ecclesia, which simply means called-out ones. In Ephesians, Paul writes that we are called out by God, before the creation of the world, so it obviously refers to the universal church, or to every single believer that has ever been called out by God to receive His son Jesus Christ. The word ecclesia is used over 80 times in the New Testament, but almost all of those references refer to local groups of called-out ones, not to the entire universal body of Christ. Most times ecclesia is translated as church and sometimes as assembly. Another word that is used in a similar way is sunagoge, from which we get the word synagogue (see James 2:2, for instance). All of these words have the same idea, which is that a group of people came apart from their homes and businesses for a time, as a congregation or assembly of people. Sometimes these assemblies met in very large buildings, such as the temple. Other times, large buildings (such as synagogues) were constructed for the purpose of meeting in. Other times, groups met in homes or along river banks or in open fields. As you can see, the location of the assembly wasn t the important thing; rather, the people made up the assembly. PAGE 94

95 The same thing is true today. Sometimes churches meet in buildings that are centuries old. Other times, people rent a vacant storefront for their assemblies. Still others meet in living rooms, school buildings, community buildings, or football stadiums. The location isn t important; the people are. If you search for the word church in your Bible, you can read many of the things God has to say about the church. I discovered, for instance, that: When the church assembled, they were taught (Acts 11:26). Learning God s Word and doctrine remains one of the primary purposes of the church (see also Acts 2:42, Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 14:12). Note that Peter expects new believers to be taught a very specific curriculum (Acts 15:21), to which Paul also refers (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Prayer was a primary reason for the church assembling together (Acts 2:42, Acts 12:5, Acts 14:23, James 5:14). Sending out missionaries (also called apostles ) with the gospel was a primary purpose of the church (Acts 14:27, Acts 15:4, Acts 15:22). Giving to the needs of others was a primary purpose of the church (Acts 2:44-45, Philippians 4:15, 1 Timothy 5:16, 3 John 1:6). Some other undeniable facts about the church aren t as popular in our culture, but here are some I ve observed The churches in the New Testament had definite leadership. In Pagan Christianity, Frank Viola writes that churches should only be led by Christ, who is its head -- not by human leaders. He s correct in saying that Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), but God has appointed PAGE 95

96 human leadership over the church, to which He says we must submit. When we submit to our human leadership, we are submitting to Christ. Let s look at some proof: Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust (Acts 14:23). When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them (Acts 15:4). Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:22). From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church (Acts 20:17). Paul said to the leaders of the church of Ephesus, Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Paul wrote, For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17). A description of leadership is this: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone PAGE 96

97 does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil s trap (1 Timothy 3:1-7). We re told, Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7). Finally, Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17). Many authors are saying that church leadership was invented in later centuries, far from the early church. But I just don t see that in the Bible. For better or for worse, God has appointed leadership over us. Even when we don t agree, we must learn to submit and to handle disagreements in a biblical and loving way. (See how this is similar to marriage?) The churches in the New Testament were responsible to rid their assemblies of false teachers and sin. We re often told that we shouldn t judge each other (Matthew 7:1-5). But are these verses of Jesus talking about open sin in our congregations? Let s look at some other verses: If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it PAGE 97

98 to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17). If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another and this in front of unbelievers! (1 Corinthians 6:1-6). The churches in the New Testament met regularly together. One of the most dangerous things I ve heard is that we don t need fellowship with other believers at all (yet see Acts 2:46-47). The line goes that we have a personal relationship with Jesus, and we just need to get closer and closer to Jesus. However, even a quick glance at Ephesians shows us that the only way to get closer to Jesus is to get closer to the members of His body, those He loves and gave His life for. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2). And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, PAGE 98

99 but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need each other. Those aren t my words. Those are God s words. He says that we are all members of His body and that He loves us beyond description. Christianity is never, ever a solo affair! It cannot be! We d be simply ears or elbows walking around, dis-attached from the rest of the body! We d be branches, unattached from the vine. We d have no life. If Christ is our head, we must be part of His body! He also says that we are to submit to each other and to Him. Dr. Del Tacket, author of the Truth Project, 3 says that Christ is the head, church leadership is under Christ, and all the members of the body are underneath them. Christ Elders Members In our culture, submission is just an ugly, bad word. In marriage, submission is a bad word. In the church, submission is a bad word. In government, submission is a bad word (but see Romans 13). It seems that we often resent the leadership (husband, church elder, or king) that God has set over us. But when we do that, we are actually rebelling against God Himself. In fact, we sound similar to some words that were uttered by the angel Lucifer (Satan) at the beginning of the world 3 PAGE 99

100 I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:13-14). When we remove ourselves from the authority placed over us, we are in fact trying to remove the authority of God Himself from our lives. Can you see how dangerous this is? And the lie was passed on to the first woman For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). My prayer is that we will each learn to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). May we see the Body of Christ as Jesus Himself sees her, with love and with a desire to devote our lives to her. May we walk in love toward one another, spurring each other on to love and good deeds. May we see as precious the things that He sees as precious. PAGE 100

101 LET S GET PRACTICAL... So after reading this chapter, has anything changed in your view of church? Is church a priority in your life? 1. Look up each of the Bible verses listed in this chapter. There are a lot of them! As you read each one, could you begin to list some of the purposes and essential ingredients of local assemblies of believers? 2. Is church a priority in your life? Why or why not? Take time to think about whether your view of church has been shaped by God s Word or by your past experiences. PAGE 101

102 CHAPTER TWELVE Must Our Children Obey? (Ephesians 6:1-4) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth [a quote from Deuteronomy 5:16]. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). I find two things ironic about these verses. Two things bug me just a little bit about how these verses are normally interpreted, so may I vent for just a moment? First, by quoting the Old Testament, I see that Paul says it still applies to us today. Recently, I sat next to a woman at a meeting. The following promise from the Old Testament was mentioned, but this woman mumbled that it didn t apply to us. We live in New Testament times, she said. PAGE 102

103 I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:5-6). Is she right? Do these sorts of promises not apply to us, because we are in the church age? Evidently Paul didn t think so! He quotes here from Deuteronomy 5:16. Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. I even notice that he quoted it a little wrong! He says in Ephesians, That you may enjoy long life on the earth. However, in Deuteronomy, the Law says, That it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. He takes a promise made specifically to Israel and applies it to mostly Gentile, Ephesian believers (and to us by extension, no matter where in the world we live or what our nationality by birth). If we don t believe that all of God s Word applies to us and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then will we be careful to teach our children to obey? Will obedience be a very high priority in our homes? Will we even realize that the length of life our children enjoy may hinge on whether we teach them to obey?! PAGE 103

104 This smacks of the original lie of Satan. Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, Did God really say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? (Genesis 3:1) Wouldn t Satan love to steal our children and to hinder the kingdom of God by our belief that obedience isn t important, that it isn t commanded by God, that parts of the Bible don t apply to us, and that we can just let a few things slide now and then? Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (Romans 1:28-31). We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers (1 Timothy 1:8-10). But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, PAGE 104

105 disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them (2 Timothy 3:1-5). I have a second pet peeve. While many say that the Old Testament commands don t apply to us, many also say that New Testament commands don t apply to us, especially if they might be cultural. In other words, maybe Paul only told the church in Ephesus to do something because of the terrible culture in which they lived but those things don t apply to us enlightened, modern people. For instance, just a few verses before this, Paul says that wives are to submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:24). Yet I read just this week (but I ve read it many times, to my frustration), that those verses were cultural. Mart De Haan, from Radio Bible Class, writes: One thing we know is that the Apostle s words would have sounded different to readers in first century Roman and Jewish worlds than they sound to many of us today. In Paul s day, men ruled their homes and women were regarded as property. One of the first rules of Bible interpretation and application is to consider what a text meant to its author and first readers. The historical and grammatical context of a Bible passage is foundational to the way it needs to be understood and applied to our own day. So let s review what we know first about marriage in light of the whole Bible and then look at what the PAGE 105

106 Apostles words would have sounded like in their own day 4 I m skeptical, honestly! If wives only had to submit in the first century because they were regarded as property, but in our day, we re wise and submit out of mutual love and respect well, when does it end? What parts of the Bible do we take our scissors to, and which parts do we leave in? And why does no one say that children s obeying their parents is cultural? Why doesn t anyone say that children only need to obey because in the first century they would have been beaten if they hadn t obeyed? The verse and chapter numbers weren t in Paul s first letter to the Ephesians. So do children need to obey their parents or not? No, because this is an Old Testament command? No, because the New Testament times in which this verse was written were different than our culture? Or yes, because all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful? Personally, I want to take the stand that God s Word is for me, Anne Elliott. I must hear! I must obey! Maybe this will make me look a bit strange, but I m doing it out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21), not for others eyes. Who ll stand with me? 4 PAGE 106

107 LET S GET PRACTICAL So did you think of any commands of God that you ve been ignoring, because maybe they re not culturally correct? 2. In case you were hoping this chapter would give you practical ideas for how to teach your children to obey, you can visit my website at and search for obedience. PAGE 107

108 CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Story of a Slave Girl (Ephesians 6:5-9) Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him (Ephesians 6:5-9). In eleventh grade, I wrote an article for a local newspaper. My job each week was to interview a local person and his or her contributions in our community. One week I wasn t able to arrange any interviews, so in desperation, I interviewed a girl from the Bible. Sadly, I only have a copy of the first page of my newspaper article (you know how newspapers like to PAGE 108

109 continue a story on page 5, for instance), but I thought I d share the little bit I have. I heard about a little girl once whose story I won t ever forget. I don t know her name, but I know she lived many years ago. She was born into a middle-class family. I don t think she received a tremendous amount of education, but she probably had some. I do know her mother must have spent much time with her, teaching her to bake and sew and clean. I think she was very good at all these things, but, like I said, she was a very ordinary little girl. Meanwhile, a nation nearby had its eyes on her tiny land. All their peace talks were of no avail, and war finally came. I m sure this little girl didn t pay much attention to all the worry. But her family did. She could hear her mother and father talking late at night in hushed tones. Honey, they just conquered the town up the hill. Oh, George (not his real name), what are we going to do?! Now don t get so hysterical! It s going to be alright. We ll go about our work tomorrow as normal. Maybe they will decide not to attack our town. What if they do? Just be ready. Pack our things tonight, but not too heavy. We might have to go by foot, and they must not be too large to carry. Oh, and have the children ready to go, too. PAGE 109

110 Our little girl was frightened. She hadn t had any idea that the fighting was this close. The voices of her parents quieted down, but she still lay there awake. What would tomorrow bring? Just then she heard some loud noises and some screams. The enemy had not waited to attack! She leaped out of bed and ran outside to see. What an awful sight! She knew she must not be seen, so she climbed up the nearest tree. That s all I have. However, the Bible records how the story ends. Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman s wife (2 Kings 5:2). This little girl is one of my heroes. I can t imagine what it must have been like to have lived in her shoes. My imagination can go wild. I don t think I could be as strong as she was. Most of all, I don t think I could have been as focused on the power of my God and the needs of the people around me as she was. How do I know this about her? She said to her mistress, If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:3). You see how she focused on God? She knew that the prophet in Samaria was a prophet of the true and living God, unlike the servants of the idols in Aram (near Damascus). That her mistress and her husband, who was an influential man in his country and a servant to the king himself, listened to this little slave girl, tells me a lot about the kind of servant she was. PAGE 110

111 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear Think how difficult this would be for anyone, let alone a little girl. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men Praise God that she served her heavenly Master! She was not only focused on God; she was also focused on the eternal needs of her mistress and master. She cared about their souls, seeing them as creations of God, not as enemies that had kidnapped her from her home. Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). The little servant girl recommended that Naaman go to visit Elisha, the man of God, where he was not only healed of his physical illness but of his spiritual sickness as well. Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel your servant will never again PAGE 111

112 make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD (2 Kings 5:15, 17). Focusing on God, focusing on people. Loving God, loving people. It s at the heart of all we do, slave or free. LET S GET PRACTICAL What are some normal motives for serving other people? Maybe because we want them to like us, or we are hoping for a favor in return? Why do these always fall short in the long run? 2. How is God moving in your heart to love God, love people more? What practical things is He asking you to do today? PAGE 112

113 CHAPTER FOURTEEN Put on the Full Armor (Ephesians 6:10-24) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of PAGE 113

114 the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Ephesians 6:10-20). I want to lift you up above your everyday living, to see the grand purposes God has for your life. I also want to firmly plant you in your everyday living, to see how practical decisions you make today will affect your usefulness for Christ. We started in Ephesians 1 by noticing how we were chosen in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight, and we were predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. We saw how God has a master plan, an ultimate purpose for this world and YOU are a vital part of that plan. Now, after many pages of advice on godly living and submission to one another, Paul again lifts our eyes above ourselves. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, Paul writes. PAGE 114

115 You see, there is an invisible battle going on. You can t see it, but it s real. The devil is scheming against you, determined to knock you out of commission, so that you won t be holy and blameless, nor will you be living as children of light. Paul writes that he is an ambassador for Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). But even Paul needed prayer from his Ephesian brothers and sisters, for he realized he was in a battle. The battle is urgent! The battle is being fought over you and your family, too. Many books have been written on spiritual warfare, and I won t pretend to be an expert on this sometimescontroversial, often-confusing subject. But if we just read these words at face value, we can get a lot of advice. My husband paraphrased it this way in a recent sermon: So put on God s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. So stand ready, with truth as a belt fastened tight around your waist, let your godly character protect you like armor. Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. And with you always let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the fiery darts of the evil one, those furious suggestions of evil, and excitements to sin, which he may throw into the mind like fiery darts. Accept salvation as a helmet, and always take as your offensive weapon into the world the Sword given to you by the Holy Spirit, which is the Bible, God s Word. 1. Preparation. PAGE 115

116 Put on God s armor now! The evil day will come. It s not if the evil day comes, but when the evil day comes. Of course, the sneaky, scheming devil isn t going to warn you when you wake up in the morning that today is the day of his big attack. You know it s coming, so take action today to be ready. So how do we prepare? We put on the pieces of armor known as truth, righteousness, and so forth. 2. Truth. Just as the priest in the tabernacle would put on linen undergarments and tie a linen sash around his waist, we are to tie truth around us, as close to our flesh as we can get it (Leviticus 16:4). Everything else we put on should touch truth and be filtered through truth. I believe that the Bible talks about truth as a two-way street. First, we must allow only God s truth IN. Your righteousness is everlasting, and your law is true (Psalm 119:142). Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true (Psalm 119:151). Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Practically speaking, the only way I know to do this is to start reading in Genesis, acknowledging all of God s Word as truth (not a creation myth, not just a nice story) and continuing to read all of it, hungrily, daily, and consistently, until the Word reshapes your thinking. PAGE 116

117 Next, we must allow only God s truth OUT, meaning that we must speak truth about our own iniquity to God. I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place (Psalm 51:3, 4, 6). Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment (Proverbs 12:19). A simple way to do this is to begin each morning by confessing our sin honestly to God, and then continue to confess our sin throughout the day. 3. Righteousness. My husband calls this godly character, or goodness on the inside, where it counts. Psalm 101 is a beautiful description of inner righteousness, but a practical part that always convicts me as a wife and mom is verse 2: I will be careful to lead a blameless life when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. May we be like Job, whom the devil could not touch because of God s declaration that there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1:8). How do we become righteous like Job? Remember that linen belt of truth that you put on first each morning, by carefully studying all of your Bible? Remember how everything is PAGE 117

118 filtered through the truth of the Bible? As your mind thinks truth, your life begins to act out with righteousness. 4. The Gospel. I firmly believe the devil generally leaves us alone if we re concentrating only on ourselves and our own little world. But this isn t a good thing! God calls us to participate in the battle, and the battle only starts when we reach out into the world beyond our homes with the gospel of peace. I m a firm believer in homeschooling because I m training young children for a battle, not sending them unprepared into the battle. Because of homeschooling, I have plenty of time to instill God s truth into their hearts and minds. However, when we start to circle the wagons, becoming so obsessed with home in every area of our lives that we never venture out into a world of people who are lost without the message of the gospel, we are sinning! We are not called to be hermits. We are called to be ambassadors! Ladies, I hope you can hear my urgency! Who are five unsaved people that God has placed into your path? If you don t share the good news with those five, may I ask who will? How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (Romans 10:14-15). Just as you re not completely dressed for the day unless you re wearing shoes, I want to also tell you that you re not PAGE 118

119 prepared for life unless you ve decided to share the gospel at every opportunity. Sometimes we don t feel ready to share the gospel because we re afraid we won t know what to say. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). We can be prepared by consistently studying our Bibles, reading daily and asking questions. But also remember this verse: When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say (Luke 12:11-12). Our preparation is to fill our minds with God s Word, then to relax and let the Holy Spirit speak through us, using the Bible verses that have filled us up. So putting our shoes on each morning has two parts: filling our minds with His Word and then looking for ways to speak the gospel of peace to others, not worrying about what we ll say. 5. Faith. Our faith in God is to be wrapped completely around us, as a shield protecting us from the fiery darts of the evil one. What is faith? Faith is more than head knowledge or a belief PAGE 119

120 that God exists or His Word is true. Faith is action based upon our head knowledge. Faith is not just looking at a chair and believing it is sturdy. No, faith is sitting in that chair, showing by my actions that I believe it is sturdy. Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11:1-2). Satan wants to suggest that God doesn t exist, that we can be our own god, that God doesn t care, or that one little sin won t matter. It is very, very easy to fall prey to these constant darts, yet if they strike our lives, they burn like fire and cause terrible damage to our lives. Back in Ephesians 5, Paul gave us some hints for ways to always remind ourselves of the power of God, rather than depending our own strength and wisdom: Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:15-20). When I feel my faith shrinking, sometimes the best thing I can do is to sing godly music, listen to music on my mp3 player, play music with my family at the piano, or sing in the shower. I usually don t feel like it! I ve also learned that the PAGE 120

121 music changes my heart as I listen or sing, wrapping myself in a shield of faith that cannot be penetrated by darts of doubt! 6. Salvation. The last piece of armor is a helmet, designed to protect your head. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 adds a bit to the description of this helmet: putting on the hope of salvation as a helmet. Hope in this verse has a very different meaning than how we normally use it. Usually, if I say that I hope it doesn t rain, I m expressing doubt and acknowledging that I can t do anything about whether it rains or not. However, in the Bible, hope is much more powerful. Hope is expressed as confidence in something that is for sure, but I haven t received it yet. Not I hope it doesn t rain. Rather, The sun I see shining outside has given me hope. In the case of the helmet of salvation, I m not hoping that God has the ability to save me from the power of death (and wondering if He really is capable of that). Rather, because Jesus has already been raised from the dead, I know that God can also raise me and this gives me great hope! The things which God has told me in the Bible are real, literal, and truthful. However, I must believe them in order to be helped by them. That s why Paul says to put this helmet on my head. The real battle isn t between people, kings, or countries. It s in and for my mind! PAGE 121

122 This means that we must be on guard for what we let into our minds. Satan is very subtle, and he would like nothing more than to deceive you. He has blinded the world, and why would he not also blind a careless or unsuspecting believer? You must have a clear mind if you want to be discerning in all situations. This comes only by immersing yourself in God s Word and prayer. Specifically, Paul says to put on the hope of salvation as your helmet. God s plan to redeem the world, to save us all from the curse of sin, is revealed from the earliest pages of Genesis and continues unto the last pages of Revelation. Read it all of it often and continually. Wear the hope and assurance and promise of your Redeemer as a helmet around your mind, protecting you from the deceitfulness of the wicked one. 7. The Sword of the Spirit We don t have to wonder what this is. Paul tells us plainly that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). So we prepare for the battle by getting into the Word daily, we put the truth of the Word next to our skin, we live out the Word in our righteous actions, we share the gospel of God s Word with others, and we have faith and hope in the Word of God. Finally, when we re attacked by Satan, we fight only with the sword of the very words of God. From beginning to end, our only defense and our only offense in the battle of life is the Word of God! This is the secret of the book of Ephesians. The Bible contains blessings, the mystery is that these blessings apply PAGE 122

123 to us (even though we don t deserve them), and we are to lovingly give our lives to share these blessings with others. Everything starts with the Bible. Everything ends with it. LET S GET PRACTICAL... This chapter is filled with practical things you can do to put on the armor of God, which is the Word of God. Try not to move on to the final chapters of this book until you ve had a chance to apply at least a few of these ideas: 1. Do you read your Bible each day, consistently? When you read, do you hop from one favorite passage to another, or do you methodically start in Genesis and read all of God s Word? 2. Contrast this Adam s and Eve s responses to God in Genesis 3:12-13 and the response of the ungodly to truth in Romans 1:25. What should your response be when God shows you your sin in His Word? 3. Read Psalm 101. What specific things apply to your life? 4. List the names of five women who do not know God. How can you share the good news of Jesus with them soon? PAGE 123

124 5. How often do you practice using your armor? Are you competent with the Bible? Are you familiar with the content of all 66 books, readily able to find things, and capable of helping others with it? List specific books of the Bible that need more study in the coming year. PAGE 124

125 Psalm 101 I will sing of your love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the LORD. PAGE 125

126 CHAPTER FIFTEEN A Prayer Warrior (Ephesians 6:18-20) Blessed to be a blessing. I ve been hinting at this concept throughout this book. But what does it mean? How can I bless others? To be sure, I ll bless others when my inner character begins to reflect the righteousness of Christ. When I no longer live like the Gentile I was, everyone around me will be blessed. The problem is, I can t seem to live like that every day. How about you? To be sure, as I put on the Word of God as armor, completely protecting my mind and body, I will be prepared to be a blessing to others. But just because Bible verses are in my mind doesn t mean I ll know how to get them out when someone else needs them. Does that ever happen to you? PAGE 126

127 The fact is, we ve truly been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ [and chosen] in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:3-4). Why were we blessed? For we are God s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). But it would be very tempting for us to take God s blessings, which we received only because of Jesus our Redeemer and not because of our own merit, and try to bless the world in our own power, somehow thinking that now we are able to bless them all on our own. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). My husband has been trying to tell me this for years! We can only bless others through prayer, by coming to God and acknowledging that we have no power of our own and that we need Him! We aren t eloquent enough to change people. We aren t righteous enough to influence people. We aren t good enough to bless people. not by works, so that no one can boast. PAGE 127

128 So Paul concludes the book of Ephesians with the secret of blessing others: Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Did you see it? All occasions. All kinds of prayers and requests. For all the saints [or those set apart by God, the called ones, the ecclesia]. Praying in the Spirit, in His power, is not only the secret to blessing others it s the only way to bless others. Prayer is acknowledging my own lack of power and begging God s Spirit to move through my life. Prayer shows God that I understand His wonderful, magnificent, mysterious plan and asks Him to please use my life as a tiny part of that plan. The best part? I might be the mother of busy toddlers, unable to get involved in great ministries of my church, yet I can pray. I might be sick with cancer on my deathbed, yet I can pray. I might not be able to enter foreign countries as a missionary, yet I can pray. PAGE 128

129 In fact, yet I can pray doesn t even describe it. I must pray first and, above all else, continue to pray would be a lot better way to say it. The early believers in the book of Acts met daily in the temple for set times of prayer. Eventually, they were restricted from temple prayers because they freely preached Jesus as Messiah. However, having times of set prayer each day is still a good habit. Specific prayers (such as the prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21 that we looked at in chapter 6) and prayer lists are excellent tools. Yet Jesus Himself prayed much more than at just set times. He spent entire nights in prayer, especially before and after His heavenly Father moved mightily through His life. His example always convicts me of my great lack in this area. My entire life must be bathed in prayer if I want to be a blessing to others. However, Paul does ask his dear Ephesian believers for one specific request: Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Ephesians 6:19-20). As important as good deeds are, we must open our mouths, using words declared fearlessly, making known the mystery of the gospel. Words are necessary. Yet Paul was sitting in a Roman prison because he had used words to preach the gospel. He admits PAGE 129

130 that, sometimes, even he was afraid to open his mouth. I can certainly relate to that! If you want to be a blessing to others, making known the mystery of the gospel (that God has chosen us and called us out to receive His great love and salvation), then it will take prayer. Prayer is the key. And you need to pray for your brother-and-sister saints, those who are ambassadors with you in this fight. You stand as warriors together, fearlessly charging against spiritual enemies but only in the power of the Spirit through prayer. Are your prayer meetings lifeless? Is it because none of you really believe in the necessity of prayer? Do you still feel capable of blessing others without any assistance from God s Spirit? No, this battle is only fought through prayer. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying (Ephesians 6:18). LET S GET PRACTICAL How is your prayer life? When I hear this question asked, I most often think of set times of daily and weekly prayer. This isn t bad! Do you have set times in your schedule to pray, both privately and with fellow believers? Do you even have set prayers PAGE 130

131 which you can pray? Begin to search your Bible for examples of prayers, possibly recording them in a journal so that they are available for use in your set times each day. 2. Is God convicting you of any areas where you ve been attempting to bless others through your own power, without asking for His help through prayer? 3. Who can you pray for, especially for those who are fearlessly speaking the mystery of the gospel? In our home, we have a small basket that contains cards with the names and pictures of missionaries, pastors, and other friends who daily give their lives to tell others about Jesus. We pray for them at breakfast each day, rotating through the stack of cards. What other steps can you take to lift these saints up in prayer? PAGE 131

132 CHAPTER SIXTEEN Encouragement (Ephesians 6:21-24) Tychicus is one of the unsung heroes of the Bible. His name is pronounced Tik-i-kus and no, I didn t know that before looking it up! I ve never heard a children s Bible-story lesson about Tychicus. He s not famous like Moses or Abraham or Daniel. Yet Paul says he was an encouragement to others. Lots of people, in fact! History tells us that Tychicus was one of at least eight men who traveled with Paul to Jerusalem from Asia Minor, to deliver money that had been collected for the poor in the church of Jerusalem. He was a Gentile of Asian descent who probably came to know Jesus from the preaching of Paul. Just like you and me, he had been blessed to be a blessing to others. He was also a blessing to Paul while he was in prison. We re not sure of the specific circumstances, yet we know that Paul entrusted Tychicus with the delivery of not only the letter to the Ephesian church, but also letters to the Colossian and PAGE 132

133 Laodicean churches. He also delivered the letter about the slave-turned-believer, Onesimus, to his believing master, Philemon. He updated everyone on how Paul was doing, which would have been greatly anticipated news in those days before cell phones and . We see that Tychicus was skilled in the Word and capable of leading a church, for Paul writes to Titus that he was to leave his ministry on the island of Crete in the capable hands of Tychicus. 5 Many scholars believe Tychicus is one of the great men referred to by Paul, In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous As for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love. (2 Corinthians 8:22-24). Tychicus was an encouragement. He accepted the mystery of the gospel, and he became blessed to be a blessing. Could the same be written about you? 5 Titus 3:12, PAGE 133

134 I ll close the same way Paul did: Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love (Ephesians 6:23-24). PAGE 134

135 APPENDIX Ephesians Chapter 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual Blessings in Christ 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have PAGE 135

136 redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God s possession to the praise of his glory. Thanksgiving and Prayer 15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 PAGE 136

137 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Chapter 2 Made Alive in Christ 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God s workmanship, created in PAGE 137

138 Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. One in Christ 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision (that done in the body by the hands of men) 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God s people and members of God s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are PAGE 138

139 being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Chapter 3 Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles 1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask PAGE 139

140 you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. A Prayer for the Ephesians 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Chapter 4 Unity in the Body of Christ 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. PAGE 140

141 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. 9 (What does he ascended mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Living as Children of Light 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that PAGE 141

142 is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 In your anger do not sin : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. PAGE 142

143 Chapter 5 1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person such a man is an idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 15 Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand PAGE 143

144 what the Lord s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives and Husbands 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church 30 for we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This is a profound mystery but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. PAGE 144

145 Chapter 6 Children and Parents 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise 3 that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Slaves and Masters 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. The Armor of God 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and PAGE 145

146 against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Final Greetings 21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. 23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. PAGE 146

147 TEACHING THE BIBLE TO OUR CHILDREN IS IMPORTANT We believe that knowledge of the Bible, God s Word, is essential for our children (in fact, for all people). But parents want to study the Bible with the whole family together. They also want a study with some meat to it, that really digs into God s Word. That s why, several years ago, we developed a Bible-study tool specifically for families. We invite you to take a look! All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Study the Bible chronologically, beginning with the Old Testament. A firm foundation for biblical understanding will be laid. Teach your children how to study the Bible for themselves, using inductive and deductive methods. Through daily use, teach your children how to handle their Bibles, understand what it means, and apply it to their lives. Commit large sections of Scripture to memory, hiding it in your hearts so your family will not sin against God. Children who begin studying the Bible in first grade will have thoroughly discussed God s Word four times before they graduate from high school. PAGE 147

148 A variety of activities for multiple ages means that families will read together, study together, and grow together making life easier for parents and simplifying your day. The Foundations Bible curriculum was designed for homeschooling families, yet families of all types are using it to teach the Bible to their children, one day at a time. Learn more at PAGE 148

149 I d love to hear how this book has been a blessing to you! Visit me online at PAGE 149

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