UK Apologetics

BIBLE STUDY SERIES

The BOOK of EPHESIANS: CHAPTERS ONE and TWO



Many of you have asked us about launching an online Bible Study series. Well, here it is at last! We start in the New Testament Book of Ephesians which is a most wonderful little book containing a text which is very spiritually-revealing.

We are taking this Bible study in the MKJV. but you should be able to follow it in any translation. First of all we need to say just a little about the setting of this New Testament book.

Ephesians is usually considered to be a circular letter intended for several church congregations apart from the one in Ephesus. The most widely-accepted date is probably AD 59-60AD, when Paul was imprisoned at Rome (Ephesians 4:1; 6:20). At the time, Ephesus was an increasingly bustling town of commerce containing a noted centre of pagan worship, in the form of a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Diana (Greek: Artemis). See Acts 19:23-31.

Unlike many epistles of Paul, no particular heresy is being addressed in this book, rather, Paul takes the opportunity to explain several deep theological points of the Christian Faith to further develop the faith and understanding of those who would hear the epistle read in their congregations.

The Scriptural text will be written in blue and my comments will appear in black. It should also be noted that this particular translation uses italics when using an English word which, strictly speaking, is not represented in the Greek text. It does so for the sake of aiding a logical understanding of the flow of the text. I have included these italics.

CHAPTER ONE.

Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus.

Eph 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ;

This is speaking to Christians, that is, to us. Notice that we are "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" - this is quite a promise! This is plainly saying that God does not intend witholding any blessing from us! Do we grasp this? I really don't think that we do. The next few verses start to outline the magnitude of these abundant blessings.

Eph 1:4 according as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

This is truly amazing because we are being told that God elected and chose us to be Christians before the foundation of this world! Right back then - in some way we cannot even begin to comprehend - God knew us and elected that we would respond to the Christian Gospel. Yes, He fully intended it to be so, it was His elective calling. Some say that this just means that God knew He would select, or call out, a certain group of people, but He did not know who they would be; in my opinion, it goes much deeper than that. God knew us. If we are believing Christians right now, it is only because God chose us to be so. He was aware of our souls thousands of years ago! Amazing! Let us not attempt to domesticate God, as some have done, by watering down such clear words and teaching. We are here dealing with God before whom all the ages are spread out. He knows the very beginning and He knows the very end; for Him, there are no mysteries.

When it states that, "we should be holy and without blame before Him in love," this does not mean such people would be perfect of themselves, rather,that we would be covered by the grace of God.

Eph 1:5 having predestined us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Again, this underlines the teaching; we were predestined to be believers at this time. Now this is where so many, sadly, decide to take a 'leap of human logic' and go into serious error which effectively turns a God of love into a monster! They decide that there must, therefore, be another group who were equally predestined for damnation. But this is not - and never was - a Bible teaching. The correct biblical teaching teaching is that those who do wickedly are actually responsible for their own behaviour. But is that not because they are simply cut off and 'doomed'?? No, no no! They are in an 'open' category where they may do good or evil and are actually responsible for what they do. It is true, of course, that those people are in a state of 'falleness' (as we too were until our eyes started to be opened), and in such a state they cannot yet understand everything but all such people know right from wrong and good from evil because God has placed that knowledge in every single person on this planet; it's that thing we call 'conscience.' People are responsible. They are responsible because our Maker has placed a clear set of right and wrong in all His human Creation. 'Falleness' is a clear theological fact but this must never be understood as something which takes away our human responsibility.

The biblical evidence is very strong that God will eventually extend His bounteous mercy to many such currently 'fallen' people, that is, apart from the incorrigibly evil who will inherit the inevitable fruits of a hateful, cruel and God-denying life; again: responsibility! Many of those people do not even believe in God so they cannot have any complaint when they find themselves eternally excluded from His presence. Without question the approach which I have just outlined was the teaching of the early church and may be witnessed in most of the 'church fathers.'
Unfortunately, Augustine of Hippo took the teaching in a slightly different direction and, sadly, modern evangelicalism mostly follows that route. It teaches a very sharp dichotomy between the Elect and the doomed (everybody else!), but while the Bible certainly teaches the Elect (all true believers who have had a relationship with God throughout the ages - according to God's own choice, election and determination), it also teaches us about the fallen, that is: the remainder of mankind who are actually responsible for what they do and are continually commanded to repent (God does not cruelly command people to repent if they are incapable of doing so and will go to Hell no matter what they might do!).

Oh, the other thing which needs to be pointed out here is this: Because God is God, He, of course, knows who will finally reject Him (not because He "eternally decided" any such thing but because, being God, He knows the end from the beginning. God insists that people's chioces will be meaningful. However, He is able to put His eternal knowledge aside in His everyday dealings with people, something made very plain by Jesus' dealings with Judas Iscariot).

Eph 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He has made us accepted in the One having been loved.

You see God's grace is glorious because it pardons, it acquits, it wipes the slate clean. This is how we become 'accepted.' Without Christ this could not have happened.

Eph 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,

And there it is: very clearly laid out. This is what Christianity is all about. Why do some of us immediately grasp this point and understand it, while others cannot understand it? It has nothing to do with human intellect because some of the cleverest of people cannot grasp it. The answer was given by Jesus Himself to Peter. Jesus asked Peter who people thought that He (Jesus) was and the response was that people in general were confused. But then Jesus asked Peter directly whom he thought that Jesus was and, as we all know, his answer was dogmatic, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" Jesus told him that the Holy Spirit had to be involved in order for him to be so sure about His identity - it is exactly the same with us! It is granted to us from heaven. The sheep know their Master's voice and will follow Him! Let us look at it:

Mat 16:13 And coming into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say Me to be, the Son of Man?

Mat 16:14 And they said, Some say, John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

Mat 16:15 He said to them, But who do you say I am?

Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Mat 16:17 Jesus answered and said to him, You are blessed, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father in Heaven.

Back to Ephesians:

Eph 1:8 which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding;

Eph 1:9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

Again, this whole thing is of God - not of men and women! Christians are - right now - granted a knowledge which is unique to them. It is facilitated by the Holy Spirit. Through that Spirit we receive just a bit of the very mind of God! We start to perceive a more eternal knowledge. We fully understand sin and we understand this world and how it's real enemy is sin. In contrast,the world does not understand why it has problems and tries to tackle them on a piecemeal, one-by-one basis; it has no comprehension of the concept of sin and of a sinfulness which places a barrier between itself and God; neither does the world understand us, we are seen as an oddity. That is exactly how Paul the Apostle said it would be:

1Co 2:11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the spirit of man within him? So also no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

1Co 2:12 But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.

1Co 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

1Co 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1Co 2:15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no one.

1Co 2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Back to Ephesians One:

Eph 1:10 for an administration of the fullness of times, to head up all things in Christ, both the things in Heaven, and the things on earth, even in Him,

Eph 1:11 in whom also we have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will,

Eph 1:12 for us to be to the praise of His glory,who previously had trusted in Christ;

Eph 1:13 in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

Eph 1:14 who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Now notice here what our 'predestination' facilitates, and how this wonderful biblical teaching has become so perverted. In the Bible this doctrine is only about the saved - never about the lost. We become true believers at the present time and God works specifically with us: "for us to be to the praise of His glory, who previously had trusted in Christ." I don't like 'previously' there. I am using the MKJV, but no translation is always perfect. It is talking about those who, according to divine election, are granted the task of 'first trusting in Christ.' The NIV renders it much better thus:

'In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.' (vs. 12).

But there is much more in this group of verses! Verse 13 reveals that we are now 'sealed' by the Holy Spirit, and verse 14 reveals the wonderful truth that the Holy Spirit of God is the 'earnest' of our inheritance. That is, it is a sort of 'down payment,' or deposit on Eternal Life!! The Elect, indeed cannot fall away. Never allow yourself to be influenced by those God-doubters who say that they can - the New Testament is very, very clear on this point, read the entirety of Romans 8! I once heard a very sincere (but, on this point, very wrong) minister say, "Our sealing means that God holds onto us, nevertheless, we ourselves can still decide to break that 'seal' from the inside and walk away. The 'seal' can only be broken from the inside." That man was sincere and he produced an interesting line of thought - but it is unscriptural! Does God give up on His elect?? NEVER! Look at the mistakes which Samson and David made; it must have occasionally been hard to believe that either were men of God. But they did indeed remain so and God did not give up on either of them!

Eph 1:15 Therefore I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints,

Eph 1:16 do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers,

Eph 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

Eph 1:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Eph 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength

Notice here that God wants us all to grow and move forward in knowledge - not to determindedly continue to occupy the same very first pew seat we ever occupied! Some want to do just that. They think they are being 'disloyal' if they move to another fellowship of believers; but being faithful to Christ and to our calling sometimes means moving on. We are called to be loyal to Christ and God - not to a particular local congregation! True believers always tend to grow; it is often not dramatic, but if a person became a Christian say twenty years ago then, all other things being equal, that person should have grown in faith and in biblical/spiritual knowledge and understanding. The writer of the Book of Hebrews makes some disparaging comments about those who had not grown in the Christian Faith:

Heb 5:11 of whom we have much to say, and hard to be explained since you are dull of hearing.

Heb 5:12 For indeed because of the time, you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again what are the first principles of the oracles of God. And you have become in need of milk, and not of solid food.

Heb 5:13 For everyone partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant.

Heb 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

This is where the more mature and experienced Christian believer should be, and of course, Peter wrote something somewhat similar:

2 Pe 3:18 But grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Back to Ephesians One:

Eph 1:20 which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies,

Eph 1:21 far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age.

Eph 1:22 And He has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church,

Eph 1:23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

So here it is clearly revealed that Christ reigns with the Father "in the heavenlies." It is also revealed that Christ is - right now - the Supreme Ruler and King of this earth. Some believe that He has not been crowned yet. No - it is a current reality. "All things" are now under Christ's feet and this will become more plain to us after the parousia (the Second Coming). The Church (as a spiritual body, every single true believer of all the ages), is the Body of Christ. Not, of course, any particular humanly-organised denomination, these are God's own people, with whom the Holy Spirit will have been much-involved whilst they walked this planet.


CHAPTER TWO.

Eph 2:1 And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins,

Eph 2:2 in which you once walked according tothe course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience;

We Christians are essentially no different to others in the world. We have walked in our sins, desires and lusts and we would be nowhere but for God's grace. Of course, even now we do not attain perfection, but at least we learn which goals are to be strived for as we, hopefully, become increasingly Christ-like during these physical lives.

Eph 2:3 among whom we also had our way of life in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the fleshand of the thoughts, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Eph 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us

Eph 2:5 (even when we were dead in sins) hasmade us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),

Yes, the point is that Christ came to us and saved us while we were yet in our sins and still in our former lives of self-justification. Again, we are reminded that we could not be saved but for God's favour and grace.

Eph 2:6 and has raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,

The New Testament often speaks of us as though we were already glorified. Why? Because as God's very elect, our glorification is totally certain! This is a very big point within Paul's writings; he wrote the very large eighth chapter of Romans (probably about four years prior to this), in response to some at Rome who seemed to question the doctrine of Eternal Security. For Paul, the salvation of God's elect is utterly certain. How angry and astonished he would be by those who would come later and would reject this vital biblical teaching!

Eph 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,

Eph 2:9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

If 'Eternal Security' is very big in Paul, so is grace. He is always determined to remind all that we are saved, not by any of our 'works,' but only through the grace of God. As he states here, we were "created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them." There is nowhere there for any of us to take any credit: everything worthwhile within us came from God in the first place! Keeping the law certainly could never save. We may be reminded of certain verses in Romans 3:

Rom 3:20 because by the works of the Law none of all flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law is the knowledge of sin.

Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the Law.

Back to Ephesians Two:

Eph 2:11 Therefore remember that you, the nations, in time past were in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

From here until verse 22, Paul changes his approach. He now discusses how Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled through Christ. It was a new thing in the world for Jews and Gentiles to mix socially, yet this is exactly what happened in the first Christian congregations. I think that the rise of the messianic movement has been a huge disappointment because this movement started to say to Jews: 'You don't need to mix with non-Jews, as we can have our own Jewish messianic Christian congregations!' Obviously this caused new divisions, and it was so predictable that legalism would come into the movement and, of course, this is precisely what has happened! One of the leaders of the movement contributed an article to us about five years ago (which we still have somewhere), in which he was crying out against the legalists who quickly moved in. Today some messianic congregations are unrecognisable as Christian congregations with all manner of Old Covenant laws seen as essential obligations - how Paul would have yelled with despair!!

Eph 2:12 and that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.

So - at one time - Gentiles were nowhere; this is Paul's point here.

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who wereonce afar off are made near by the blood of Christ.

Eph 2:14 For He is our peace, He making us both one, and He has broken down the middle wall of partition between us,

This is probably self-explanatory. Again, Paul sees it as a thing worthy of rejoicing that Gentiles and Jews can be as one in Christ.

Eph 2:15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity (the Law of commandments contained in ordinances) so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, making peace between them;

What is probably meant here is those legal regulations which insisted that Jews and Gentiles should be separate for social reasons. The law of 'unclean meats' would be an example here. Generally it is not a truly biblical approach to separate Old Covenant law in such a manner but, bearing the whole context in mind, this could be an exception with Paul's main focus on those laws which necessitated the former separation. I may say that, during the last few years, the 'NPP' ('new perspective on Paul') movement have made far too much of this theme. This seems to be about the only real place in the New Testament epistles where we find the 'Law' broken down into possibly just a particular part of it.

Eph 2:16 and so that He might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity in Himself.

Eph 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off, and to those who were near.

Eph 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Eph 2:19 Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,

So Paul's point is that Israel already had a relationship with God (although they were usually not loyal to it), and now Gentiles too are able to come into a fuller relationship with God. Of course, the New Covenant is a far greater divine revelation than that contained within the Old Covenant. Paul does not bring that out here because that is simply not his point.

Eph 2:20 and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

Eph 2:21 in whom every building having been fitly framed together, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord;

Eph 2:22 in whom you also are built together for a dwelling place of God through the Spirit.

So the final point here is that believers in the Christ are as one and should see themselves as one and this is exactly where the legalistic elements within the messianic movement have done much damage. Christ is now the chief cornerstone of the Church who are 'New Israel.' That is: He is the most essential part of the foundation. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians become a "dwelling place of God."

This concludes the first part of this Bible Study on Ephesians. Chapters three and four will shortly follow (hopefully within a month).

Robin A. Brace, December, 2008.

UK APOLOGETICS