9. Ephesians 2:19-22

Ephesians 2:19-22

The letter to the Ephesians is essentially describing what church should be like. Up until this point, Paul has only used the word “church” once (in chapter 1:22) However, Ephesians 1 & 2 has been gradually revealing to us what the church ought to look like. As we’ve looked at in previous sessions, Paul, when writing the first two chapters of Ephesians, refers to the past (how we were before we heard the message) the present (the changes we have undertaken) and, as we come to the last 4 verses of the chapter, he once again addresses the future. It is at this point that Paul begins to describe ‘church’.

Chapter 1 presented the plan of salvation from God’s perspective. Chapter 2 presented the plan from our perspective , showing how we were “dead in our transgressions and sin” but are now alive in the spirit. But as we reach the end of chapter 2, we finish by looking at the church. This shouldn’t surprise us - it shows us not only how we have been made alive in Christ, but also how we have been brought into fellowship with God’s redeemed people.  In summary, we were dead to sin, by God’s grace we have received salvation through Christ and once we have been saved we become the people of Christ. As that people, we become part of the body of church with Christ as its head. The reality of this should shape how we behave.

Paul does not use the word “church” in these verses, but what he does is tell us clearly what church is. Re-read the 4 verses, with the mindset of Paul describing the attributes of the Church. Firstly, when Paul writes “you are no longer foreigners… but fellow citizens with God’s people” he is referring a city-state or a kingdom, Secondly, Paul writes “… and members of Gods household”, a family. Thirdly, a building, which turns out to be a temple “… built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”. Later in the letter Paul develops the image of the church as Christ’s body (chapters 4-5).

Firstly, God’s kingdom, or the kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, as we hear these many bible verse may spring into mind, maybe John the Baptist “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matthew 3:2) or Jesus declaiming in Luke 17:21 that “The kingdom of God is within you”. Or maybe even when we pray the Lords prayer, “… Your kingdom come…” There could be much conversation held around when the Kingdom of God is, In some cases the kingdom seems to have a past presence, as in Gods rule over Israel. In some cases it is present, as John the Baptist describes and yet other cases it is in the future, as in the Lords Prayer. The solution, perhaps, is that Gods kingdom is outside of what we understand of temporal concepts, it's outside of our time and space. We could say however, that the kingdom of God is where God rules.

And this is where Paul is leading to, once we allow Christ into our lives and we accept the salvation he offers, we then give ourselves to God, we follow the teaching of the scriptures, we live in Christ, we call Jesus our King. As we live in Christ and Christ is our King, we are in his Kingdom. God rules in us, we become (all best a very small bit individually) part of his Kingdom. Paul describes the internal aspects of the kingdom as “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). In this present time the kingdom comes whenever the righteousness, peace and joy of Jesus enters into an individuals life. Then as Paul wrote before, Jew and Gentile are reconciled, both are brought near to God on an equal basis and become parts of one great spiritual kingdom, the Christian Church.

This would have been a revolutionary idea, that would have, in part, caused the early persecution of Christianity (As it was to be called). Consider, Rome was at its strongest, at the height of its territorial expansion and glory. But Paul looked at Rome, and didn’t see one incredible kingdom of world domination and of power, but as a force imposed regardless of which side of the line you fell on, rich or poor, free or slave, man and woman, jew or Gentile. Paul saw what Gods Kingdom was / is to be, a new humanity, transcending all the boundaries of rich or poor, free or slave, man or woman, Jew or Gentile. All people being equally Christian, all being part of the kingdom, with no-one being excluded.

Secondly, the idea of family, in the 2nd half of verse 19 “… and members of God s household”. What Paul is eluding here isn’t to actual earthly family, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, rather being born into the family of God with all Christians around the world, regardless of location. As we looked at before the family of God supersedes all other divisions, rich or poor etc… To become a family member you must be born into, or adopted into, that family. The Bible uses both of these terms to describe what it means to be a Christian. Foremost rebirth, which was Jesus teaching to Nicodemus (John 3:7). Yet also as we’ve looked at before, Eph 1:5 “…adopted into sonship…”. Whichever one you look, they both point to the same family ties, that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thirdly, God’s Temple. As we look at vs 20-22 (re-read), we should note there is much we can learn about how “church should look” just from these three verses. 1) The Foundation - A builder will tell you, the strength and durability of a building comes first from the foundations and the Church is no difference. This is so important that Paul begins with reference to the foundation. Paul says this should be “the apostles and prophets”. We may recall that 1 Corinthians 3:11 makes the point differently, saying, “No one can lay any foundation other the the one already laid, which is Christ Jesus”

Paul isn’t saying we should build our church on the apostles and prophets, putting them as the foundation. Rather, the apostles and prophets teaching of Jesus. The apostles were appointed to witness Jesus first hand, Jesus said he would give the New Testament through them (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-15). The prophets, Paul refers to those who received and proclaimed direct messages from God. It is all their teaching that the church should be founded on. Jesus said to the apostle Peter in Matthew 12:18 “On this rock [meaning himself] I will build my church”

2) The Cornerstone - In 1 Corinthians 3:11 Paul calls Jesus the foundation. Here he calls him the cornerstone. A cornerstone was important for two reasons. It was part of the foundation and also the angle the builders set the entire rest of the building from. I don’t think it takes much explaining to understand why Jesus is referred to as the cornerstone. Every stone in a building is connected, to the cornerstone, it is the one stone that needs to be perfect for the building to hold, it is exactly the same for church. What else can a church be built on, the lyrics to the song say it perfectly “Christ alone, Cornerstone”

3) Living Stones - Paul does not mention stones directly but this is what he is thinking when he writes “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Believers are all (regardless of location in the world) mortared together together with the cornerstone (Christ), with God being the architect. Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:5 “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus”

The comparisons of a building to the church needs little explanation however here are a few to consider. Firstly, the stones placed in the church are chosen and shaped by God, it is his temple, he is the architect and it is not up to us to decide how we will fit into his church. Second, the stones are all placed into relation with the first stone, the cornerstone, they are all attached to him, if not, they are not part of his building. Third, the stones are all different shapes and sizes, perhaps even different materials, they are put together for different functions, they all serve in different ways. Fourth, the stones are all linked to each other, even if they are across the other side of the building and cannot see each other. Fifth, the stones are not selected to draw attention to themselves, but all contribute to a great building which God alone dwells.

Paul describes beautifully, and simply, how the Church of Christ is to be built and how it should “look”. We’ve looked at why the church was built, we’ve looked at how the church was built. The rest of Ephesians goes into details on how the church should behave now it's been built. We’ll get to that next time…


Discussion Questions.

1)      What is Church?

2)      Can you list 10 things that are the personal “attributes” of Church… For example, Welcoming, Friendly… etc

3)      Trying to be objective, should someone completely “un-churched” walked into any of the MIE services, how do you think they would see us as the Church of Christ? Would they be able to see that Christ is our cornerstone? Would it make sense?

4)      Does the format, or style of a church service matter? Why / why not?

5)      Francis Chan, the American pastor, once had someone say to him after a service “I didn’t like that worship music today” Francis replied, “Thats ok, we e’rent worshipping you”. Was he right to say this?

6)      If we get caught up with how services look, are we missing the point of Church?

7)      What do you think the expression “The life of the Church” means?

8)      Do you / we sometimes find ourselves getting caught up in the life of Church rather than proclaiming Jesus? What can we do to remedy that?

9)      Thinking about the phrase “Living Stones”, that all Christians in the world form part of the global church, what emotions does this stir up? Does this mean that regardless of Christian denomination we are all part of the same Church of Christ?

10)  Do you think that Christ is happy with his Church? What do you think brings him most joy? What do you think he isn’t as happy about? What can we do to change that?

11)  Do we pray enough?

12)  Is there time to pray now? There are also many prayer meetings across MIE…

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8. Ephesians 2:11-18

Ephesians 2:11-18

The word “Gentile”, simply means, anyone who is not Jewish. It is prudent to clear that up at this point in case there is anyone in the group who isn’t sure. This may seem a strange way to start the session, but I recall when I started looking at the Bible that this was one of the words that was never really explained, and it's easy to nod along without being 100% sure what a word means. (Consider reading question 1 now? But don’t let it take up your entire evening!).

We’ve covered this in previous sessions, but to recap, the letter of Ephesians is being written to a planted church, they were not Christians, but now they are. (Although the word Christian wasn’t used at this time). Because the spread of Christianity was still in its very early stages, as the gospel spread, churches were planted. At this stage, every member of the congregation would have been relatively new to the Christian faith. If they were new, they must have been “something” before that. What they were doesn’t really matter, because, if they were not Jewish then they were simply called a gentile. Such an easy way of categorising!

When Paul is contrasting between the Jew and Gentile in verse 11, he “makes light” of the labels that the Jews themselves used as a distinction: “uncircumcised” and “the circumcision”. Paul describes this as something “which is done to the body by hands of men”. We know from Paul’s other writings (such as Rom. 2:29) that he desired an internal change (circumcision of the heart) and not merely an external one. Jews had focused on the superficial external distinction, however there were real differences between the lost Gentile as well as the lost Jew. Paul states there were 5 areas where the Gentiles were at a disadvantage, these can all be found in verse 12.

(1) Separate from Christ (2) excluded form citizenship in Israel (3) foreigners to the covenants of the promise (4) without hope (5) without God in the world. Doesn’t this sound terrible, all Gentiles were subject to these 5 points.

These phrases from Ephesians 2:12 are as grim as those at the start of chapter 2, when he said “As for you, you were dead in your transgression and sins… by nature objects of [God’s] wrath”. But now, just as he has done earlier, Paul tells us of a situation changed because of God’s intervention. As we saw in a previous study, Paul writes in v 4, “But because of his great love for us…” This time, in verse 13 he writes, “But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have ben brought near through the blood of Christ.

We see the pattern clearly at this stage, Paul starts by writing about the past (Vs 11-12) then, by the two little words “but now”, we know we are now looking at the present.

As Paul comes to talk about the present, he describes about (individuals) being brought near to God as a result of Christ’s atonement for sin. Yet he is also referring to God bringing Jew and Gentile together, to form a new unity, the church of Jesus Christ. It is to this church that the letter is written! There is no Jew or Gentile any more, the church is a gathering of people who have yet to receive a formal name, but will come to be known as Christians.

As Paul continues, he doesn’t list off a big list of the “bad” without reassuring the reader of where they are now. The more we study Ephesians, the more we should rejoice in the word “but”. Verse 13 “BUT now”… they were separate from Christ, excluded, foreigners, without hope and without God. BUT NOW they are “In Him” (verse 13) “no longer excluded or foreigners “and “members of Gods household (verse 19)

Paul’s aim here is to remind the Gentiles of how they used to live their lives before Christ . In the same breath, it serves us well to remind ourselves of our own lives before we were called, and how glorious it is to now be in relationship with Him! Sometime, we may forget the magnificence of, or take for granted, that relationship. Perhaps, to appreciate the gloominess of their (and our) past lives, they (and we) need to be reminded from time to time.

We come to the term “wall of hostility” in verse 14 and the destruction of this wall by Jesus. There are two possible walls that Paul could be referring to. A physical wall or the figurative wall of opposition.

Firstly the literal wall. In Paul’s mind there was a great visible symbol of alienation from the wall that surrounded the inner courtyards of the Jewish temples in Jerusalem. This wall divided them from the outermost courtyard, called the court of the Gentiles. Starting from the innermost areas, there was the “Court of the Priests”, where only male priests from the tribe of Levi could enter, outside that was the court of Israel, which could be entered by any male Jew, after that the Court of the women (note that this was as far as a women could go in this hierarchy). These areas were all on the same level, so although there was a difference between them there was not the monumental division that came next. From the court of the women you descended 5 steps to a “security barrier” or wall - and then a further 14 steps  that descended to the court of the Gentiles.

On this wall there were notices and inscriptions that read “No foreigner is to enter within the balustrade and embankment around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have only himself to blame for his death which is to follow” This wall is the great Jewish-Gentile enmity that Paul had in mind as he wrote about the work of Christ in removing alienation between Jew and Gentile.

We should note, as Jew and Gentile come together to form the Church of Christ, it was neither Jews allowing Gentiles into the inner chamber, or the Gentiles forcing their way through the security. Rather that, in Christ, they found a common ground, a peace that removed all animosity between the two. This “peace” isn’t an uneasy peace, like that of two warring nations holding a cease fire, this is the destruction of that which separates them so that they become one body, one Church through Christ.

Consider the Church now, because of the destruction of the figurative wall, we consider every Christian on earth a brother or sister in Christ, regardless of where they are in the world, what they have done or who they were before they came to Christ. We are all now one body.

But even further than that, remember Matthew 27:51 “The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”. This is a reference to the veil being torn between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, this indicates in a graphic fashion, that as a result of Christ’s death, sin has been removed as a barrier between man and God, reconciliation has been achieved, and is open to anyone, Jew or Gentile, if he or she comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

This is what Paul means in verses 15 & 16 (read again). That is what it means to reconcile. It would be hard to think of a more comprehensive word for describing what God has done through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Before this great work, everyone was estranged or alienated from God. We were once in fellowship with God in Adam, but since the fall, every man and woman ever born (except one) has been born in a state of enmity again God. As we’ve looked at before, we are unable to reconcile ourselves to God, we cannot break down the wall. But God the Father made reconciliation possible by sending God the Son to bear full punishment for our sin.

So through him we all have access to the Father by the one spirit. Again, as we looked at before in Eph.2:1 [we] “were dead in our transgressions and sins” Dead meaning separated from God, BUT NOW because of what Christ did for each and every person, we have the means to restore that relationship, no longer being separate, no longer being dead! This is what it means to have everlasting life!

Discussion Questions.

1)      “Gentile” is a word that some people may not have understood. Maybe spend a few minutes, being honest with each other, and discuss other “religious” words that you’re not 100% sure on the meaning. Be honest!

2)      We looked at the 5 disadvantages of the Gentiles, do we consider non-christians today in the same way? What effect should that have on our evangelism?

3)      Does the fact that the barrier was broken have any relevance to us today? Do we need to know how / why the barrier was broken or are we just happy knowing that it was?

4)      Are there still any ’walls’ in todays society that means we struggle to reach people who have not yet turned to Christ? If so, is there anything we can do to help break them down?

5)      Do we put personal barriers up to stop people (Christians or non-christians) getting too close to us?

6)      Knowing that whatever barriers we may pout up to keep others out, Jesus sees straight through, knowing that Jesus can see everything about us, how should we react?

7)      When we pray, do we always repent of our sins?

8)      Do we pray enough?

9)      Is there “time” to pray now?

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7. Ephesians 2:6-10

Ephesians 2:6-10

Raised up together in Christ. The words “raised up” are often used to speak of the resurrection, and rightly so, but in this passage they refer more to the ascension. Having been raised from the dead, Jesus was taken up into heaven, and we are said to have been raised to heavenly places in him. This might not be the easiest phrase for us to understand.

Try to look at it this way, our being raised from the dead (in our transgressions and sins) with Christ means we have been given new life. Our being taken into heaven with Christ, our ascension, means that we have been given a new environment. We are no longer creatures of this world, bound by what we can preserve through our senses. We are now creatures of the greater, heavenly realm who now, because of our union with Christ, think, work, speak and behave in spiritual categories. As soon as we are called to Christ, as soon as we are forgiven of your sin, as soon as we ascend with Christ to the heavenly realms, we should asses things in an entirely different way.

More so, the Christian accepts that they belong more to the heavenly realm than the earthly realm. This is only possible through our union with Christ. No works we could perform would ever be enough to raise us to the heavenly realm. Apart from that union, we would not even be aware of Gods kingdom, let alone be any part of it.

Verse 6 says God has “seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”. Again, maybe a difficult line for us to understand as its written. Are we sitting there now? Have we been sitting there already? Consider the last supper, John writes that he was reclining next to Jesus. As John describes, Jesus has announced that one of the twelve will betray him, and Peter, unsettled by this revelation, motions to John to ask Jesus which of the disciples he was speaking about. John then wrote, about himself “Leaning back against Jesus he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25). Jesus answers, “it is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in this dish” (v26) He then dipped the bread and gave it Judas Iscariot. John was seated next to Jesus and as such was the only one to receive this revelation.

Now, going back to Ephesians, “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 the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (vs 6-7). That place, in Christ at the right hand of God the Father, is the place of intimacy and revelation. It is where God (like Jesus did with John) opens up his heart. And notice, it is where we are now. We are seated with God, in Christ in the heavenly realms now. God is speaking intimately to us now, through the words of Jesus written in the Bible.

Verses 8 - 9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast” Possibly one of the most well known passages from the Bible. A way to consider this passage is by using the following analogy.

Imagine being on a beach, the tide is right out, you come across a sandcastle with a note that says something like “Keep this sandcastle in perfect condition for 12 hours and you will be given everlasting life” Seems simple enough, but you would soon realise, that as the tide comes in, whatever you try and do, however quickly you work at repairing it, you will never be able to keep the sand castle as perfect as it was when it was given to you.

Of course, the works and effort you would put into the castle would be utterly useless, there is no way you will ever be able to keep the castle standing as the tide washes over it. Even the most confident and arrogant person would know it’s pointless even trying. This should be the same when we consider our salvation, there is nothing that we can do that will “earn” forgiveness. Our own actions, trying to make assured our salvation, are as useless as trying to keep the sandcastle together when the tide comes in. It is only by the grace of God have we been saved. Once we accept that, once our own pride (or sandcastle), has been destroyed, we will be able to understand what that means, and accept that we cannot do it by ourselves and accept the gift that is given.

The first mention of works (vs 9) is said in a negative manor, and Paul states in no uncertain terms we are not saved “by works” but by God’s grace alone. Then Paul goes straight into verse 10 stating God has created us precisely ”to do good works”. We are created to do good works, and we are saved by grace. 

Before we look at the necessity of works that flow out of a believer through Christ, we should look at the works human being are capable of doing outside of Christ. Consider an old fashioned set off scales, cast iron and perfectly balanced when no weight is applied. One side is placed a pound weight representing God’s righteousness, the standard which his own holy nature demands. We are then invited to put our “good works” on the side. Start off with the “worst” people in society, murderers, thieves, etc. They are not without any human goodness, maybe an ounce or two, but not enough to balance the scales, so therefore they pass under God’s just condemnation.

Next come “ordinary people”, they are better than the “great sinners”, they perhaps have eight ounces of human goodness, that makes them maybe 4 times as good as the ones who came first, but their goodness, great as it seems to be, does not balance the scale, and therefore pass under the God’s just condemnation. Finally, the morally “greats” turn. They are not perfect, their greatness causes them to recognise that fact.  They may have 12 or 13 ounces of good works. But it is still not enough to balance the pound of God’s righteousness and they will suffer exactly the same punishment for their sin, regardless of the sin, as everybody else. Unless another way of salvation can be found.

BUT (what a glorious word!) this is where God comes with the message of free salvation, God doesn’t change the pound of righteousness, it is a constant. When Christ died for each and every person, he took the punishment that all sin from all time deserved. He took the full weight of our sin upon himself. God then comes with a great invitation, God tells us he loves us and wants to be with us in heaven. We stand on the scales with nothing more that a few ounces to put in and with no possibility of getting more. But God tells us he loves us, he came to die for us, we look to Calvary where Christ died on the Cross, we look at the empty tomb, proof Christ was raised from the dead. It is the proof the God is satisfied with what Christ did on the cross, and he will take that, as our side of the scales, if we throw away all the confidence we have in our own few ounces, and therefore come to Christ. A person who trusts that perfect righteousness of Christ, rather than their own righteousness is justified. A person who clings to their own good works, by any degree, is not justified, therefore salvation is “by grace… through faith” alone, as Paul says in verse 8.

This is where the “good works” Paul refers to come in, and is similar to what we have looked at previously. That there is no good or good works outside of Christ. When we accept what God says, use the scales analogy again, as we turn to Christ as saviour, we then look at his teachings and what he told his disciples to do. We then look to Christ to see how he behaved and set and example to his disciples. The Christian then has (or should have!) an overwhelming desire to be “Christ like” and do as much good for Christ as they can. Consider the alternative, consider a person who says Jesus is Lord yet doesn’t do any works for Christ, who doesn’t serve Christ… we instantly should have certain verse spring to mind. Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me (Jesus), he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”… or perhaps more so Luke 6:46 where Jesus says “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and do not do what I say?”

When we accept that we cannot save ourselves, and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we then follow Him as our Lord, and then, and only then, can our good works begin.


Discussion Questions.

1)      What thoughts, emotions, feelings come to you when we consider that, as Christians, we are tied more to the heavenly realms than we are to the world?

2)      If we are more tied to the heavenly realms, should we give up on this world? Why not?

3)      Consider the statement “There is no good, therefore there are no good works, outside of Christ.” Do you agree with this statement? Why? Why not?

4)      We’ve looked at the power of the Holy Spirt before, one of his functions is to exalt Christ, if ANY works we do are not exalting Christ, can we say we are working for Christ? How? Why not?

5)      We all have our own gifts and do“good works” within the Church. For some it is preaching, for some it is leading small groups, for some it is helping with Alpha, for some it is providing refreshments after a church service. What are your good works? (being mindful not to boast)

6)      Where is the line between doing some “good works” well and doing lots of “good work” poorly?

7)      “Good works” of course, isn’t limited to works carried out within MIE. What do you do outside of MIE that would be considered good?

8)      With all the works that you’ve looked at through these questions, do they all glorify Christ?

9)      How can you, as a small group, encourage and uphold one another in your good works.

10)  Do we pray enough?

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6. Ephesians 2:1-5

Ephesians 2:1-5

In Chapter 1, Paul looked at our salvation from God’s point of view. Listing and describing the gifts of the spiritual blessings that God has granted in the past, in the present and will grant in the future. Now, in chapter 2 he looks at salvation from the point of view of the individual Christian, not only those in Ephesus, but also directly to us, reading this today. Chapter 1 goes through the past, present and future of Gods’ plan. Chapter 2 then looks into the past present and future of the people that Christ saves through the cross.

The first 5 verses take us on a rollercoaster ride, from the very edge of despair to the heights of overwhelming love. We start with verses 1-3. The first three words “As for you” may well fill you with dread! When we read this, we know whoever the “you” is, is in trouble. Imagine an old fashioned headmistress, looking down her nose through her spectacles at 3 students who know they have been caught breaking the rules. She gets to the third student and, looking him in the eye, she says “As for you”

However, when we consider the context of this letter, and knowing that we can read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as a letter which directly speaks to each of us today. We can assume that the “As for you" most certainly relates to us all as individual Christians today. Paul says “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” He is obviously not referring to a person as being physically dead but rather to them being spiritually dead. Spiritually dead is to be separated from Christ, to be cut off from Christ, to be following anything or anyone other than Christ.

Paul is being very clear. He specifically tells us why and how we are spiritually dead, and it is because we are following the ways of this world and the world is fallen. We are sinful because all of creation is sinful. It is in our fallen nature to be sinful. As we've looked at before, anything that is not for God, is against God, even our very best intentions, if they are not for God, they are against Him.

Yet Paul goes further still verse 3, "like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath,"

The wrath of God is not something we find easy to talk about these days. It's much easier, when talking to people about Christ, to talk about Christ’s love, his forgiveness, his redemptive death on the cross. We don’t often focus on his wrath. This is perhaps because we underestimate the power that sin has over us? Yet, if our sin is as bad as the Bible declares it to be, nothing is more just or reasonable that the wrath of a holy, pure and perfect God.

In the Bible there are more than 20 words used to express God’s wrath, and there are hundreds of passages throughout the Bible that deal with it. If we look at these passages as a whole, we can see that God’s wrath is consistent, controlled and judicial. And that is what makes it so frightening. The doctrine of the wrath does not mean that God gets angry from time to time or lashes out in anger and then forgets all about it. It is rather that his wrath is an inevitable and growing opposition to all that is opposed to his righteousness. Again, if we're not working for him, we are working against Him.

How horrible the situation we find ourselves in! What is to be done for those who are so deep in sin and unable to escape from it. Surely they will experience the inevitable outpouring of the just and righteous wrath of our avenging God. Humanly speaking nothing can be done, the sinner can never save themselves. Even a redeemed person, who has seen the truth of salvation through the gospel, cannot save another sinner. Nothing we can do can ever change a persons heart. Although it may be impossible for mankind, it is possible for God. A radical problem like sin, requires a radical remedy, and God supplies it.

And this radical remedy is described by Paul in the next two verses. After Paul has told us how we are slaves to sin and ready to face the righteous wrath of God, Paul joyfully breaks in with, "but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made it alive with Christ even when we were dating transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved!”

We were dead in transgressions. We were dead in our sins. But, God performs resurrections. He reaches down to where ruined, miserable, trapped sinners are living and he brings them into spiritual life. He calls them, and his voice, which calls the dead, brings them running to that which beforehand they shunned and feared.

George Whitfield, the great Calvinistic evangelist, compared this to Christ’s raising of Lazarus:

"Come, you dead, Christ-less unconverted sinners, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus, laid out, bound hand and foot, with grave clothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again, go nearer to him, do not be afraid, smell him! How he stinks! He is bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, so are you bound hand and foot by your corruptions, and as a stone was laid on the grave, so there is a stone of unbelief upon your stupid heart. Perhaps you have been dead, not only for four days, but for many years, stinking in God’s nostrils with your sin. And what is still worse you are as unable to raise yourself out of this horrible dead state to a life of righteousness,

as Lazarus was able to raise himself from the dead. You may try using your power of your own free will, and with the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments, which do have a place in religion, but all your efforts will prove fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said "take away the stone Lazarus come forth", also calls you”

Apart from the calling voice of God there will be no hope for anyone. Because of it even the worst and most determined rebel may be saved. Praise be to God for it! The God of the Bible and of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God about whom Paul is writing. This God is who we need, though we did not know it in our sinful state. Instead of coming to him to find a new life and righteousness, we ran from him to wickedness and spiritual death. Only those Christ has called to him, can then refer in a past tense, of been dead in their transgressions, and can rejoice in the glory of their forgiveness and salvation.

When we look at verse 4, we should acknowledge the original Greek texts. The differences in the Greek and English syntax (the way in which sentences are formed) often means the order of the words are rearranged, and mostly rightly so. But in this case, the translation may read just as well, (if not better!) if the words were not re-arranged. Verse 4 in the Greek translation reads “But God, because of his great love for us” - note the difference. So consider verses 1-3… we were dead in our transgression and sins, we followed the wickedness of this world, gratifying the cravings of our flesh, we were deserving of wrath. Vs 4 “BUT GOD!” Isn't it wonderful to discover that although we ran from God, and had all that sin and un-righteousness in our lives, God did not leave us. Instead, he has come to us and has done for us precisely what needed to be done. Simply put, he saved us - and it was by grace we have been saved. He has rescued us from the desperate, deplorable conditions described at the beginning of the chapter. If we understand those two words “but God” they will save our souls. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.

Two final points. Firstly, we were “dead, in [our] transgressions and sins” no more able to help ourselves out of sin as was Lazarus able to raise himself from the dead. That is, unless God speaks the command.

Secondly, God has dealt with the problem of wrath. In our sins we were indeed "objects of wrath”. But since Jesus has suffered in our place for our sin and we have been delivered from it, we are no longer deserving of wrath, we have been saved by grace. Read verses 8-9.

Discussion Questions.

1)      We were dead in our transgressions and sins.” What does this mean?

2)      If we were dead in our transgressions and sin, this means that we are no longer, so if we are no longer dead to sin, why do we still sin?

3)      Would you consider someone a Christian if they said “If Christ died for my sin and always forgives me, I can go on doing whatever I want!” Does it mater what you think of them anyway?

4)      Do you think you could actually say to a non-christian that they are dead in their sin? If you could - how would you say it? Do you think they would understand? If you couldn’t say it - why not?

5)      Do we find it hard to talk about the “wrath of God”? With each other and with non-Christians? If we do, why do you think so?

6)      Is it easier to talk about the love of Jesus and His love for us? With each other and with non-Christians? If we do, why do you think so?

7)      Consider the wonderful words of “But God”. Perhaps spend some time as a home group discussing what these words mean?

8)      Every Christian has a “But God” moment in their life. Perhaps spend time talking about that moment with each other.

9)      Think about people in your lives who are yet to know Jesus. Perhaps spend some time praying for them, pray that they will soon be able to say “they were dead in their transgressions and sins, BUT GOD saved me”

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5. Ephesians 1:18-23

Ephesians 1:18-23

You do not need to read much of the New Testament to soon realise that much of its writings are looking towards the future. We are told of Christ’s past works, providing salvation for his people, but we are also told he will also return in power to subject all things to God.

The next time that Paul prays for knowledge in Ephesians 1 (first time being Eph 1:17), he moves away from the knowledge of God, and moves to the knowledge of the elements of salvation that God has achieved for us along with the spiritual gifts that we have seen in the previous weeks, and he makes three requests in vs 18 - 19.

1.      The hope which he has called us. The words “hope” and “call” are linked here. In scripture, the word hope normally points to the last things, or the completion of all things. By linking the words “hope” and “call” Paul is saying that we have been called to something now, as well as in the future - at the completion of all things. God has called us to something at this point in time for a distinct purpose. Earlier we looked at vs 4, God chose us to be blameless, now and in the future. Vs 5, to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, now and in the future. And in vs 12 to be the praise of his glory, now, and in the future. The calling is both our hope for now, but also our hope of being taken into heaven.

2.      The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. The Greek translation of this phrase is open to two interpretations. Either God’s inheritance of us - we are his possessions, or rather, and more likely because of the context of the prayer, our inheritance of what has been given to us in salvation. One of the many glorious spiritual blessings that we are starting to enjoy now.

3.      His incomparably great power for us who believe. Paul wants to emphasise the extraordinary power, the divine power that raised Jesus from the dead, is the same power that is at work in us. This knowledge is not just factual, it includes the experience of “the power of his resurrection” (vs 17-20), of participation in his sufferings (Acts 9:16) and of being like him in death (2 Cor 4:7-12). Christians already share positionally in Christs death and resurrection. (Rom 6:2-13 & Eph 2:6). 

If we are to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection, we must first come to know God. This is exactly what Paul prays for first! (Vs17) If we are to know God, we must spend time with him in Bible study, meditation and prayer. You cannot get to know a person without spending time with that person. The same is true of God. That is the secret, it is not just intelligence, or outstanding instruction, or academic theological degrees. It is time spent with God. It is people who sit at the feet of Jesus that God opens his heart too.

So Paul prays for the “spirit of wisdom” (vs 17) for the Ephesians. We could easily conclude that Christianity is a religion of knowledge, it is for the head as well as the heart. But having said that, we must stress that Christianity is not just about head knowledge, it is not merely a religion of ideas or philosophy. Some Christians may treat the faith as if it were just knowing everything the Bible has to say, thinking that this is all they need to do. However, we need to avoid this mindset. Yes, a sound theological and doctrinal knowledge is important, however, consider the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. Salvation does not rely on knowledge.

Salvation only comes from the power of God, Jesus went through death and was resurrected by the power of God. The salvation of the soul is a resurrection, the recovery of a person from the dead. Without God’s power no-one would ever be able to triumph over sin, live a godly life, or come at last to the reward God has won for us in heaven. This is why Paul refers to the power of God. It is only by God’s power, displayed in Jesus Christ, that we are able to live as Christians.

When Paul thinks of the greatness of the display of God’s power in Christ, he looks first to the resurrection. Jesus had predicted that God would raise him from the dead. Read Mark 10:33-34. It would have seemed impossible, people have always lived and died, so far as anyone could see, death was the end. Yet Jesus said that after he died, he would return after 3 days. What power on earth could possibly accomplish this? Obviously no power on earth… only a heavenly power could - and did! On the third day God resurrected Jesus from the dead, just as he said he would.

We may speak of Christ’s resurrection being the forbearer to our own resurrection, and even the proof of it. Because he lives, so shall we live also. This is true enough, it is a glorious certainly. But it is not only through our resurrection that we will see His power at work in us. We also see it in our present victories over sin in this life. There are three victories to consider.

1)        Victory over worldliness. The world constantly bombards us with its own fallen values. We get them from TV, films, social media, the competitive world in we make our living, casual conversations. Through the the same power that God displayed at the resurrection of Jesus, our minds are renewed (Rom.12:2), it is what makes us part of the “new creation” (2Cor. 5:17)

2) Victory over flesh. This, in biblical terms, means the nature of a sinful man who has been untouched by the Holy Spirit. The flesh is a formidable enemy, to draws us into inactivity, when we should be reading the Bible, praying or performing good works. Consider Hebrews 12:1 - we are asked to throw off everything that hinders us from running the race of faith. Even if it isn’t sinful! How can we triumph over this? Only by the power of God that is also displayed in Christ’s resurrection.

3) Victory over the devil. When Satan met Adam and Eve, who were created perfectly with no disposition to evil, his power and cunning was such that after a short time he had brought about the fall of all creation. Therefore sin (and death which is the consequence of sin) passes into the human race. No wonder Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:8. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion”. And Paul writes in Ephesians 6:11 “ Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Nothing can enable us to stand up against the works of the devil. EXCEPT FOR the the power of God that is also displayed in the resurrection of Jesus.

With all these enemies, is Christ’s power adequate to overcome them? Of course! God did not “use up” all his mighty power in the resurrection of Christ.

Christ’s exaltation over “all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked” is absolute. His is the name above all names. The corrupt world system, the demonic powers that stand behind all evil on earth, and in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12), have all been made subject to Christ. So when we are told that Jesus is exalted over all and everything, we do not need to fear attacks from these forces, any more than from our flesh or the surrounding world. How are we to be victorious over these? James tells in James 4:7. We cannot resist these in our own strength. But if we submit ourselves to God, the devil will flee from us, as he did at the completion of his temptation in the wilderness.

God placed ALL things under Jesus feet, we shouldn’t for a moment think this means “all things, but not everything”, all means all! All creation, all existence, all humanity, all of time. Everything, including the Church.

Verses 22 and 23, have had many different interpretations, some great minds through history have put emphases on a different word and it can subtly change the meaning, and to go into detail on each opinion would take several sessions. However, I’m sure they would, just as we should, note, and agree, that Jesus is the head of the church. The Church (all Christians), just like the Holy Spirit, should exalt Him at all times. Jesus is the head of the body of the church, a body cannot service without a head, and only when a head and body are joined can they both be united in fullness.

Discussion Questions.

1)        We often talk and sing about hope, “Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness”. What does that mean? Hope in / on what? What are we hoping for?

2)        If a non-christian asked you about hope, how would you respond? Can it be summed up in one sentence? As a home group could you agree on a sentence?

3)        Consider the power of God, as we pray, do we fully and desperately expect God to use that power to do what we ask?

4)        God used His power to raise Jesus from the dead, how do you feel when we read that that same power lives in us?

5)        We know that the devil is cunning and has attacked, is attacking and will attack us in the future, both individually and as a Church. Can we overcome him and sin by our own willpower? Why not?

6)        How can the devil and sin be overcome?

7)        Do we pray enough?

Final thoughts for discussion.

We have read that Jesus has all things placed at his feet. We HAVE to remember this, ALL means everything, including the Devil. When we consider Jesus’s resurrection, there was no “war on death being raged” there was no heavenly battle for Jesus’s sole. Jesus has ALL power, he went through death, there is never a time when his victory was in doubt. He chose to go through death to save us, he knew completely what he was doing, and he did it for each and every one of us.

We should never fear the devil or his works, we should only ever fear God and give him all praise and worship and glory for what he has done for us, what he is doing for us, and what, through prayer, he will do for us.

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4. Ephesians 1:15-17

Ephesians 1:15-17

Thanksgiving and prayer.

Two words that should be close to our heart every day of our Christian lives. Let’s start this session with a question. Do we give thanks? And when we do - is it heartfelt? Are we really thankful for every piece of food we get to eat, despite knowing we will not be going hungry tomorrow? If you were starving and hadn’t eaten for a week, would your thanks be more heartfelt or sincere when you were able to eat again? There is, of course, so much that we can be thankful for, are we so accustomed to these things that they are taken for granted and no longer come to mind?

Once we’ve considered what we are thankful for, what should we do with that thanks? We should give the thanks to God through prayer. Maybe spend a few moments as a group in prayer… what are you thankful for?

Another statement to consider… If God is in charge of everything and knows what is going to happen now and in the future, what is the point of praying? In fact, what is the point of doing anything? Why proclaim the gospel? Why study the Bible? Why do good works? If what is going to happen is going to happen anyway, none of these count, we might as well do as we please and God can do what he wants.

The reasonable answer to this statement is that, although God does do as he pleases, he uses means like prayer, proclaiming the gospel, Bible study and good deeds. We’ve looked at this objection before when we considered evangelism, God uses our actions for his will. God wants us to pray. He knows what he will and won’t do, but some things he will only do once we have prayed and come to him with sincerity, thanks giving and prayer. Only then he will answer our prayers, if it is his will to do so.

In James’ letter he says “You do not have, because you did not ask God” (James 4:2), As Christian’s we also pray “God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Both are equally true. If we do not pray, the good things that we pray will not happen, since it is through prayer that God gives the blessing. If it is accordance with his will.

The first chapter of Ephesians teaches this lesson. It stresses the sovereignty of God in salvation. Yet it also emphasises the importance and urgency of prayer. In the first half of the chapter, Paul praises God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But then, in the second half, we have a prayer. The idea of the prayer is is that God, who has planned and accomplished this salvation, might complete it as his people grow in knowledge of him.

For Paul, the knowledge that God was working was an inducement to prayer, not an excuse for neglecting it. It was because God was at work, that he could pray with confidence.

But, we should not go further without considering prayer. Prayer, both individual and corporate, is of upmost importance to our Christian life. The Bible has around 650 passages that are prayers, we cannot ignore the fact, that if we are to call ourselves Christians we should be praying. If you ask yourself the question “Do I pray enough?” You probably already know the answer…

The Bible gives different instruction on how to pray. To pray alone as in Matt 6:6, in small groups as in Matt 18:20 and in larger groups as in Acts 2:1. However you look at it, prayer is vital to the life of a Christian. There are many prayer groups across MIE. You are encouraged to look at rota and see if there one on there that you, as a home group, could attend? How can you encourage those that don’t go to one to come along?

Vs15-23 is an outpouring of thanks to God, but this time Paul is telling us what he is thankful for, and that he is giving that thanks through prayer, to God. Paul's statements of prayer in this chapter, follows a typical Greek construction. He says what he is praying for and then for what reason he is praying it. In vs 17, he prays that God “may give you the the spirit of wisdom… so that you may know him better”. Then in vs 18-19, Paul prays that “the eyes of [their hearts] may be enlightened” in order that they may know “the hope to which he has called [them]”. Putting these together, Paul is praying for knowledge for the Ephesians, so that they obtain a fuller understanding of the elements of salvation, that being our hope and inheritance through Jesus Christ. When we pray, do we use that format? Do we tell God why we are praying? Have you found yourself asking for something from God, but not explaining as to why?

It would be reasonable to say that Christians vary in the amount of knowledge they  have, or want to have regarding The Trinity. Some people may settle for very little knowledge, they simply understand that Jesus died on the cross and he died for us, then hope to go to heaven ignorantly. Others may settle for mere knowledge of the Bible. This knowledge is good, of course, for the Bible is God’s word and there is no knowledge of God apart from it. However, others will strive to know scripture inside out and spend hours memorising verse after verse.

Others may strive for knowledge about God, this knowledge is called Theology, coming from the greek words Theos, which means God, and logia (and/or logos), meaning sayings (and/or words) together they are “simply” the study of God’s word. Theologians would be able to discuss the attributes of God, but it is also possible for someone to know about God without knowing God. It is possible to know deep theology without being a Christian.

We know from Acts 19 that Paul himself went to Ephesus, this letter is to the people that he himself proclaimed the gospel to. He spent several years there teaching them about God and the Bible. You may ask then, why is Paul praying for the Ephesians to know God better? He has taught them all these things already. Does he mean that the Ephesians didn’t listen or didn’t learn at all? Or is there a hidden meaning in the scriptures that they are yet to uncover?

But if we were to ask these question I think we would have mis-understood what Paul was praying for. Paul wasn’t praying that the Ephesians know more about God, although there is always more to learn, but rather that they would get to know Him. Knowing Him and knowing about him are two very different types of knowledge.

This then could put forward the questions, what does it mean to know God? Before we go on, maybe spend a few moments discussing this question as a group…

The question is likely to be a difficult one to answer, one that whole books have been written about. One book, written by a British scholar J. I. Packer suggests there are three elements to knowing God. “Firstly, knowing God is a matter of personal dealing. . . . It is a matter of dealing with him as he opens up to you, and being dealt with by him as he has full knowledge of you… Second, knowing God is a is a matter of personal involvement, in mind, will and feeling… The believer rejoices when his God is honoured and vindicated, and feels the acutest distress when he sees God flouted… Equally, the Christian feels shame and grief when convicted of having failed his Lord… Third, knowing God is a matter of grace. It is a relationship in which the initiative throughout is with God - as it must be, since God is so completely above us and when we have so completely forfeited all claim on his favour by our sins”

What matters through all this, is not as much that we know God, but the fact that he knows us, and that is the view that Paul looks at this from in this whole Chapter of Ephesians. Paul prays that the Ephesians (and we) might know God because it is God who first put his love on us when he elected, and knew us, before all creation.

Discussion Questions.

1)        Have we become so accustomed to what we have, spiritually and materialistically, that we take what we have for granted?

2)        When we give thanks, are we sincere? Do we desperately mean the thanks that we are giving? Or is it a customary “nod to God” because we know we should give thanks.

3)        Considering your personal prayer life, do you think you pray enough? How can you encourage each other to pray more?

4)        Why do you think some people find it difficult to pray vocally in groups?

5)        Do you think that God will listen to and answer prayers that are rushed, stumbled through or not articulated well, if they are sincere?

6)        As a home group, how much do you pray when you are together? Do you keep a prayer diary? If you ask for prayer for a situation or a person, do you review it the  next time you meet to feed back to your home group any outcome or changes following the prayer?

7)        Can you give examples of times when your prayers were answered? How were your prayers answered? Were they answered the way you expected?

8)        What emotions does it stir up to consider one person spending their life following Jesus, but knowing that a person who finds him in the last moments of life also has redemption? (Thief on the cross)

9)        Have you prayed today?

10)    Is it time to pray again?

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3. Ephesians 1:11-14

Ephesians 1:11-14

This week we come to the final three spiritual blessings that Paul describes to us in Ephesians 1. Unification, sealing and inheritance.

As we’ve looked at in a previous study, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one flowing sentence that is abundant in overwhelming praise and worship of God the Father (3-6) The Son (7-10) and The Holy Spirit (11-14). Verses 11-14 are a statement for the main doctrines of the Holy Spirt and His works.

The first work of the Holy Spirit is what theologians refer to as the “The Effectual Call”. Read vs 11. Now read vs 4. At first glance they may seem to say the same thing, however, with vs 11, Paul is carrying the argument further. Showing how, having first been “predestined” to salvation (vs 4), God now chooses (or calls) those that have been chosen (predestined) therefore bringing into action His will, or His purpose, onto our lives. This Effectual Call is necessary. Without the “call” to follow Christ placed on peoples hearts, would anyone turn to Christ?

The second work of the Holy Spirit is in vs 12, which is the glorification of Jesus. In this verse, Paul continues with the thoughts of the previous one, that the Holy Spirit calls Gods chosen. The sentence is written about himself and the first disciples, but the same thing is said later (vs 14) of all Christians. That we are all “to the praise of His glory”. It can be said about the Holy Spirit, that His most important function is that of glorifying Christ (as it should be for us all) - consider John 15:26 and John 16:13-14.

Since the work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ, we can conclude that any emphasis upon the person and the work of the Holy Spirit that detracts from glorifying Christ, is not the work of the Holy Spirit at all, but the work of another spirit. Read 1 John 4:23. Whenever Christ is exalted, in whatever way, the Holy Spirit is at work and we should recognise the work He is doing and give thanks!

We should also take note of one more thing from vs 12, that being the work of the Holy Spirit glorifying God is not something separate from us that we watch from afar. Paul writes, “we… [are] for the praise of His glory.” We must not forget that God works through us by the power of His Spirit. Without working through us (Christians both in the past and present) the Bible would never have been written. The Holy Spirit worked through those that were writing the books of the Bible, the Spirit worked in us when we became Christians, and the Spirit will continue to work in us as he calls us to proclaim the gospel and glorify Jesus.

The third function of the Holy Spirit, is the making, or bringing together of one new people, the Church, out of the diverse individuals that were there beforehand. Consider verses 11 & 12 then separately 13 & 14. The first two are about the first Christians, the first disciples, the original Jews who were called by Christ. The 2nd two verses are talking directly to the gentiles who live in Ephesus who are reading the letter, and brings us to the spiritual blessing of unification, which we brushed on slightly in the last session, and look at further later in the series.

Eph 1:9-10, talks of the spiritual blessing of unification of all creation with Christ, however we can see a glimpse of that unity as we read vs 11-14. Already there is unity between Jews (vs 11&12) and Gentile (vs 13&14). This was very important in Paul’s day (as it should be for us today) because of the hostility that existed between Jews and Gentiles, between Greeks and Romans, rich and poor, slaves and free. Vs13 “and you (being the gentiles) were also included in Christ” In chapter 2 Paul speaks of a barrier, a dividing wall of hostility, but that it has been broken down by Jesus Christ. Now those that were rivals before have become “one new man” and “one body” (Eph 2:15-16). We often talk and hear about the unity and love Christians have with each other. From the outside, this love should be clear, authentic and of upmost integrity.

The fourth aspect of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in these verses is the connection between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (The Bible). Paul is clear in vs 13 “And you were also included in Christ when you heard the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation”. The Holy Spirt works and speaks through the Bible, when we proclaim the gospels, the power of the Spirit is at work through the words, changing peoples lives. How else would someone come to Jesus without hearing about him through the words of the gospel, without the power of the Spirit working through the words, they are just words on a piece of paper.

This was one of the great discoveries of the reformers. Luther, Calvin and others believed it was only the works of the Holy Spirit that brought people to Christ, it is only the power of the Holy Spirit that leads them and keeps them in that faith once people believe. They believed, rightly so, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for no other reason than Jesus and the Bible teaches it. It is through the Bible and its teachings, and through the illumination of it to us by the Holy Spirit, that we get to hear what God says.

The final work of the Spirit mentioned here is his works of the next spiritual blessing, that of being sealed in him. There are three aspects of a seal in this context and all three are applied by the Holy Spirit. Firstly, a seal is used to confirm if something is true or genuine. Secondly, a seal is used to mark a thing as one’s property and thirdly, a seal is is used to make something secure.

Each aspect of the seal mentioned above illustrates something important about how the Holy Spirit works.

Firstly, The Holy Spirit confirms that the one receiving him is really God’s child, as Paul writes in Romans 8:16 “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” And as we’ve looked at before, as we become God’s children, we desire to follow the instruction of our Father. As the Holy Spirit works with our spirit, we are compelled to change our mindset of what is right and wrong, we want to learn to follow Jesus more and more, we desire to hear more of the Word of God. Not with reluctance or distain, but with joy and enthusiasm.

Secondly, The Holy Spirit marks us with a seal, the Spirit is God’s claim on on us that we are truly His possession. When we are baptised, the Priest or Bishop will say after the baptism “You are now SEALED by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and MARKED as Christ’s own for ever” The Phrase “God’s possessions” is explicitly used in vs 14.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit makes the Christian secure in their new faith and relationship with Jesus, and is tied with the final spiritual blessing inheritance. That comes from the Spirit being “a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until our full redemption” (vs 14). In the very same way we would pay a deposit when buying something, we would leave a deposit which guarantees the purchase, which we will pay in full and collect at a later date. The Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance of redemption through Christ. The Spirit is proof of God’s good faith and the guarantee to pay what he has promised us.

Sealing with the Holy Spirit is an answer to all our eternal concerns. It assures us of God’s favour. It shows that we belong to him, It renders our salvation certain.

We can not finish this long opening sentence (vs 3-14) without considering the final few words “to the praise of his glory”. It is a deliberate ending, just as it was a beginning. Vs 3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the spiritual realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” Then, as Paul writes through to the end of vs 14 he tells us what these spiritual blessings are, and returns to the place that he started, stating that all we have heard, is “to the praise of his glory”

When Paul began talking of God’s blessings to us, he went back to before the creation of the world. Salvation began for us, when God chose us in Jesus Christ (vs 4). Paul showed how the will of God has unfolded, is unfolding today and how it will unfold in the future with our guaranteed inheritance. Everything we have in Christ is from God, and will return to God, beginning in his will and ending in his glory.

Discussion Questions.

1)        Considering the effectual call, when you were called to Jesus, how did the Holy Spirit call you?

2)        Is it only the Holy Spirit that calls people to Christ? If so, what is the need for evangelism? Why does Jesus tell us to proclaim the gospels? Mark 16:15 for example…

3)        Do we glorify Christ in what we say and by the way that we live? If we say no to this, can we still claim to have the Spirit in us if the spirit has been sent to glorify Christ yet we do not?

4)        What does it mean to be part of the Church at MIE? Are we always unified with everyone at the Church? Do you make the effort to interact with those within the Church with very different personalities to you?

5)        Is it ok to disagree with other Christians? If yes, then why? If no, then why not?

6)        Thinking bigger, are we unified with Christians outside of MIE? If we disagree with how other Churches and Christians “do things” are we still united?

7)        How would you defend the Bible if someone said to you “How can it be the word of God? It’s been written by man!”

8)        Can you think about and discuss examples in your life when the Holy Spirit has lead you into, or away from a certain situation?

9)        Read out loud Ephesians 1:1-14, do you think differently about what Paul has said now we have spent 3 weeks looking at it? If so, how?

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2. Ephesians 1:5 - 10

Ephesians 1:5 - 10

In the last session we noted the spiritual blessings that Paul describes through the first Chapter of Ephesians. We looked at, and considered the first of these blessings, that of Election. As we read in Eph 1:4 “He chose us (elected us) in him before creation”. We should remember to note that this is written in past tense.

The next spiritual blessings that Paul refers to, and which we will be looking at in this session, are adoption, redemption, forgiveness and revelation.

Adoption is the present blessing of election. God chose us (past tense -  before creation) to be adopted (current tense - in / during creation). Because we were elected, we can now enjoy the spiritual blessings of what that means as adopted men and women of Christ. There are four aspects that we need to consider with regards to our adoption.

1)        The Elimination of Boasting : We did not choose to be elected, we did not put together and present an argument to God stating why we should be adopted. He chose us, before creation, to be holy and blameless in his sight. Critics of election would say that it is arrogant for anyone to say that they were chosen by God when others were not. But election does not imply that at all. Election, and therefore adoption, is by God’s will alone, we did not chose to be elected, so we cannot boast, we were chosen before we were born!

2)        Assurance of Salvation : God chose us, and then called us into adoption. When he called us, we became his children, and he our heavenly Father. We are adopted into him for all eternity. Consider the alternative, we are saved one minute but potentially condemned again the next?!  Satan would be rubbing his hands together with glee if adoption were only temporary. When we are adopted, God becomes our heavenly father for eternity, and thus assures us of salvation.

3)        Election Leads to Holiness : A person may say, “If I am elected, I suppose I’ll be saved regardless of what I do, therefore I’ll go and enjoy myself and do whatever I like!!” Those that would say this have either not been elected or are elected but not yet called. When you are called by God and adopted into Christ, you become aware of your sin, you become aware of God’s will in your life and you want to follow. As we follow, we learn more and follow Christ’s teachings more. As we learn more, it effects how we behave, we strive to be more Christ like, we become more holy.

Promotion of Evangelism : Some think that election takes away the need for evangelism. If someone is elected by God there is nothing that we can say or do that will make a difference. That is not the way it works. Yes, God elects, but that election does not negate the need for a means, or an action, through which God calls the elect to faith. One of those 1)        means is by the proclamation of the gospel to non-believers by those who believe, or who are already adopted. This is never clearer than in Mark 16:15-16. When Jesus says, all we can do is proclaim, we do not know who God’s elect are and when they will be called. The only way we can find them is to proclaim the word boldly, and have full confidence, never in our own ability, but knowing that all whom God has elected in Christ before the creation of the world will surely come to Jesus.


Some argue that as the word “trinity” is not in The Bible, we should not see God as 3 persons in 1. However, the doctrine of the Trinity is clear, and is very prominent here in Ephesians 1.

As mentioned in the last session, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence that has been “versed” into its current biblical form. The first chapter is an out pouring of great truths as Paul praises God for our salvation. As we look at the whole passage we see that verses 3-6 are predominately focusing on God the Father, 7-10 the work of the Son and 11-14 the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s principle work is redemption. All three persons of the Trinity are involved but Christ is at the centre. The work of the Father was primarily in planning our salvation (election / pre-destination). The Holy Spirit’s work is the applying of the salvation to individuals (adoption) and the work of Jesus was to achieve salvation for the adopted by His redemptive death on the cross.

God elected, before creation, those He would adopt into a relationship with Him (vs 4-5). In this relationship (sonship) we are able to enjoy its rich privileges but yet also must accept the demanding responsibilities. If we look at privilege first, it is only those that have been adopted into God’s family that can say verses 7 and 8. Because we have been adopted, we now enjoy access to The Father and should be confident before Him due to the knowledge that we have been redeemed and therefore forgiven. Redemption means “deliverance by payment of a price”. Here it is tied with forgiveness. The deliverance in question is the rescue from the just judgment our sins deserve, and the price paid was the spilling of Christ’s blood when he died for our sins on the cross.

Consider for a moment, the people you know that are not Christians (not adopted), standing before God without the confidence of redemption and forgiveness that Christ provided on the cross, it’s a terrible thought and one that should spur us into an evangelistic frenzy!

So adoption, redemption and forgiveness all go together and are privileges that “we have” (vs 7) and enjoy now. It allows a child / father relationship with God and comes from the grace that “he lavished on us” vs 8.

However, we should also be clear on our terminology. Whilst redemption and forgiveness are linked, forgiveness of sins is something different to redemption. Redemption, through the spilling of Christ’s blood, is being freed from sin’s power, forgiveness means having God wipe our slate free from sin.

Sonship though, also implies responsibilities. Like any good parent, our heavenly Father does not spoil his children. Hebrews 12:10 says “he disciplines us for our own good, that we may share his holiness” So Paul’s two statements are parallel, that God predestined us to be his children (vs 5) and that he chose us to be holy (vs 4). As Paul goes onto write later in Ephesians 5:1 “Follow Gods example”. It is inconceivable that we should enjoy a relationship with God as his children without accepting the obligation to imitate our Father and cultivate the family likeness.

Adoption as God’s sons and daughters therefore comes with an immense gain and a a necessary loss. We gain access to Him through what was achieved by Christ at Calvary on the cross, redemption and forgiveness. But, we lose our blemishes, starting at once by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, until we are made perfect in Heaven! The words that bring the privilege and responsibility of our adoption is the expression “before Him” (vs4) meaning to be in his sight or in his presence. To live our life in the conscious presence of our Father is both and immeasurable privilege, and a constant challenge to please him.

Revelation is the “Wisdom and understanding” (vs8)  that all things will be unified at the end under Christ. As we look at Eph 1:3-10 as a whole, there is no time or place in creation that will not fall into unity under Christ. From before creation (vs 4) to end of time and everything in heaven and on earth (vs10). Read Philippians 2:10-11. Paul knows that Jesus will return, and under his name every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. At that time there will be unity in all things under Christ. The disharmony of this fallen creation will not go on forever, the same God who has predestined us into salvation in Jesus, also predestined all things to be brought together in submission of Him.


Discussion Questions.

1: Before you came to faith, what was your opinion of Christians and Christianity? The greater the honesty the better the conversation!

2 : What was it that called you to Jesus?

3 : How do you think non-christians perceive you now as a Christian? Does it matter?

4 : Think of, and give examples (if you are comfortable to) of things about you that have been changed by the Holy Spirit? From when you became a Christian, or maybe in the last 5 years? 1 year? This week? How should we respond to these changes? Should we give thanks to the Lord for these changes? Do we?

5 : Discuss evangelism, do we take personal active roles in proclaiming the gospel? What holds you back (if anything)? What can you do as a home group to support and encourage each other with evangelism?

6 : How can we be sure that, when we are talking about Christ to others, we do not come across as arrogant or boastful.

7 : What emotions do you have when considering that you were chosen by God before creation?

8 : Consider the Trinity, how would you explain to someone that you believe in a God that is three separate people in one? As a group, perhaps try to write it down as a single sentence? Can this be done?

9 : We try to follow Jesus as our example, are there areas of his ministry that are easier to follow than others? And some that are difficult for us too?

10 : As Christians, we know that Christ will come again, and we can be confident in that as it has been revealed to us by God. We know that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. What emotions does that statement stir up? Joy? Fear? In-patience? Regret?

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1. Ephesians 1:1-4

Ephesians 1:1-4

Hello …, Dear…, To Whom It may Concern…, Mr…, Mrs…, To…,

When we receive an email, letter or a postcard, the introduction to whom the letter is sent is often overlooked. We tend to jump straight to the main text of whatever it is we have received.

As we read the letters in the New Testament, it could be very easy for our eyes to jump straight to the bold lettering, normally just a few lines down, and skip over the introduction. But when Paul wrote Ephesians, and his other letters, they wouldn’t have been written in the format of the Bible that we enjoy today. They would have been written on a scroll, so by introducing himself on the first line, Paul would enable the reader to see from whom the letter was sent.

“To Gods holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus”. In this short phrase, Paul is giving us three definitions of what it means to be a believer. Arguably, the minimum requirements in order to call oneself a Christian.

1 : Christians are Holy people - The Oxford English Dictionary describes the word holy as a person “dedicated to God or a religious purpose”

2 : Christians are Faithful - There are two meanings at work here as Paul writes faithful. First and foremost, the meaning of the word faithful is of someone who is exercising faith. A person who has heard the gospel of Gods grace in Jesus and believes it, has exercised faith in it and is now faithful to the gospel. The second meaning is “to continue in faith”, it is the idea that being faithful is something that ones continues to be over time, an ongoing faith to the very end of life.

3 : Christians are In Christ - This phrase is used 164 times in Paul’s writings and goes beyond “simply believing” in Christ or being saved by His actions. It means being joined to Christ in a single spiritual body, so what is true for him is also true for us. This is not always the easiest concept. The Bible provides many images of what this means and we will go into more detail in future weeks but consider the union of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-17), the wholeness of a spiritual temple (Ephesians 2:20-22) or the union of the head with other parts of the body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Whether we fully understand being “In Christ” or not, union with Christ is the very essence of salvation, being apart from Christ is entirely hopeless.

Verse 2 : “Grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ”

There have been copies of this letter found without reference to Ephesus, leading many scholars to believe that it was more of a generic letter to many churches in many places. Whether that is true or not, one copy of the letter was certainly sent to the Christians at Ephesus, which means that these “holy people”, the “faithful” that are “in Christ”, were nevertheless in the world (in Ephesus) and were being reminded to live for Christ.

In the same way, it serves as a reminder to us to live for Christ here in Ipswich. Which leads to the question, is the world around us here, different to Ephesus 2000 years years ago? Ephesus was a city and a people of sin, as all towns, cities and people are… they worshipped idols, they were materialistic, superstitious, faithless, selfish and so on… With all this sin in and around them, and around in and around us, what can keep Christian people with God in these environments?

There is only one answer, and it is what is mentioned in nearly all the introductions to the New Testament letters… “grace and peace” … especially grace from God the Father. Ephesians goes into detail about how we should live as Christians and what we should do whilst in this world, and we’ve previously studied this at MIE.

There is no hidden mystery and should be no doubt about how we are going to live the life we are called to live. That is by God grace, and by the will and strength of God alone. We have no other strength, ability, power or knowledge outside of Him, and by His grace alone we can live as we are called to live.

The importance of this cannot be overstated, so Paul, along with the other authors of the New Testament letters, opened with this phrase, knowing that the only hope we have, is from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's worth remembering that when the books and letters of the Bible were first written, the various authors did not write them as the chapters and verses that we see today. This is especially worth keeping in mind as we come to look at the next two verses. Verses 3 and 4 are part of 12 verses (3-14 inclusive) that were originally written as one big flowing sentence, abundant in overwhelming praise and worship of God the Father (3-6), The Son (7-10) and The Holy Spirit (11-14) I would suggest reading all of these verses as a group before carrying on.

Verse 3 : “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”.

Christians are trinitarians, we believe in one God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Looking at this verse and with that mind, we see the blessing comes from “God The Father”, becomes ours “In Christ” and is applied by the Holy Spirit. That is also to say the blessing of the Holy Spirit has been given to us by the Father if we are in the Son. And praise be to God for it!

That being said, in this verse, Paul also has in mind the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms rather than material blessings of this world. As the passage continues, Paul lists the spiritual blessings explicitly and we’ll be looking at those in further detail over the coming weeks but it’s worth noting them now… Election, Adoption, Redemption, Forgiveness, Revelation, Unification, Sealing and Inheritance.

This week we’ll look at the first of these, Election.

Verse 4 : “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”

Now this might make some people feel uncomfortable and will take time to think and talk through. Supposing that God chooses or “elects” some people for salvation, the free will or the ability to choose is removed. However this is not the case. Before we were made alive in Christ we had human will. But it was always directed against God, not toward Him. When we were made alive in Christ, we received a new nature, where God was once undesirable to us, He is now desirable and we are willing to submit ourselves to him.

We have discussed before that there is nothing good outside of Christ. That anything that is good only comes from God. Choice, is a similar concept. What we chose before we knew Christ as our Lord and saviour was always against God. We can try to choose by our own human nature but we would chose wrongly. We can try and do good outside of Christ, but will never succeed.

Jesus says in Mathew 12:30 - “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me”. There is no “middle ground” there are no neutrals. We can take this to mean that anyone that is trying to do good, or make any choices without Jesus, is actually working against Him.

Election teaches that salvation comes only from the Lord, not by anything that we can do outside of him. It is all God's work from beginning to end.

Discussion Questions.

1)      What does it mean to be holy?

2)      How would you describe to a non-Christian what it means to live a holy life… consider trying to write it down as a single paragraph.

3)      Consider what you have just discussed about what it is to be holy. Can you think of examples of where you have fallen short. Unknowingly or by accident… or through your own deliberate fault.

4)      How would you describe to a non-Christian, that you are “in Christ” - Consider trying to write it down as a single paragraph.

5)      Consider The Fall, how far do you think humanity fell? Far enough that we are damaged by sin but not ruined? Or so far that we are not capable of making any movement back towards God unless he reaches to us first?

6)      When did you know you were Elected, or called by God?

7)      Consider and discuss the following statement regarding “Election”…

Why one person rather than another? Why more than one? Or why not everyone? Once we admit that God has a purpose in election, it is evident that the purpose must extend to the details of Gods Choice. We do not know why he elects one rather than another, but it is quite a different thing from saying that he has no reasons. In fact, in so great an enterprise, an enterprise which forms the entire meaning of human history, it would be arrogant for us to suppose that we could ever understand the whole purpose. We can speculate. We can see portions of Gods purpose in specific instances of election. But on the whole we will have to do as Paul does and confess that predestination is simply “in accordance with [Gods] pleasure and will”

8)    Maybe for personal reflection… Why did God elect you?

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