Aug 15 2021 Ephesians Overview
15th August 2021
Lord, we ask that You would b with these Christians in the war zone – thank You for their work bringing the gospel in a dangerous situation – for their courage to follow and stand for You. We ask that You protect them. We ask that the political leaders of this world would intervene to protect them. May Your grace be upon them – and Your gospel be at work to transform lives.
Last week we ended our Team Experiment for the summer – I think it went great.
Last week, we discussed Jesus walking on the water.
In the context of that story – it was the context of the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 13 – 6-7 parables of the kingdom – explaining what it is like. Sue Cooper pointed out the importance of the already yet not yet nature of the kingdom. The kingdom has come, but it is still to come!
We all live in this kingdom of already and not yet.
In this time, everything is not as it seems. Things are not what we see with our eyes.
We tend to pendulum swing, because that is what humans do – we either live in the already or we go to the not yet – as to how to live in the kingdom.
In the already, we focus on power and rights, in the not yet, we focus on desires and fears.
As we read through Ephesians, the goal is to learn to live in the already and not yet. How to live in the world of the cross, and how to live in the resurrection.
This letter is packed with doctrine! Salvation by Grace – predestination – and so many others – church leadership, baptism, spiritual gifts.
There is practical wisdom for healthy relationships – conflict resolution – unity and harmony in marriage – raising children – all the important relational aspects of our lives.
But he is not done yet!
How to engage in the spiritual battle!
But wait, there’s more! There are some amazing verses that make the Topical Memory System – if you want to go back to the 60s and 70s!~
Ephesians Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ, 1:3
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 2:8
How many times have you quoted that? Or heard it quoted?
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 3:20
What a promise to be claimed!
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 6:12
The richness and depth of this book can create a problem in our approach to reading and interpreting it! What we tend to do when we read Ephesians, we focus on the trees – we focus on the topics and the verses – and in doing that, sometimes we miss the forest – Paul’s overriding purpose in the book.
Example – Commentators on the book point out how it is divided naturally into 3 parts – Sit/Walk/Stand.
Sit speaks of our identity in Christ
Walk – obedience – 4-5
Stand – Chapter 6 –
This is a helpful structure – but it is not what God is doing in the book – this is not His purpose in the book! Looking at it as topical or a collection of verses can cause us to miss what it means.
In preparing this – I realize I missed a huge part of it due to my approach.
Paul tells us right off the bat:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him…
Here is what Paul wants to do through this book – He wants the people reading it to grow in their understanding and knowledge of Jesus. THAT is what the book is about!
He uses two phrases – words – in this verse – Spiritual Wisdom – We cannot get to know Jesus just by reading and studying – it is not just an intellectual issue – it must be a spiritual/heavenly learning. There must be a spiritual thing going on in us if we really want to see Jesus.
The word Spirit or Spiritual is used 17 times in Ephesians! Pneuma – where we get the word pneumatic.
Spiritual wisdom and REVLEATION – Apocalypse – We think of the end of the world. But Tim Mackie says – This understanding – (the end of the world) could not be further than what Paul was talking about. Apocalypse means to reveal – to uncover or pull the blanket off someone. Paul is asking that the curtain would be pulled back so that they might see Jesus.
Bible Geek stuff: This understanding – comes from the last book of the Bible – the revelation of Jesus Christ – it is not about the end of the world – but the revelation of Jesus. This is not the apocalypse of the end of the world, but the uncovering of Jesus Christ – pulling back the curtain on who Jesus is and it does it by using the cosmic battle of the end of the world to reveal Him. It is just a side-note to what is there.
If you took the Revelation class on Zoom – we got into it really deep – but I won’t go into it more today
…so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.
He wants people to understand Jesus’ relationship with His people, the Church – but the second thing – the incomparable greatness of His power… How powerful He is toward us and those in this world – to understand His great and awesome power!
20 - This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
What does it mean that God is powerful? This power raised Jesus from the dead! The cross/death – resurrection and His exaltation – His ascension – that is the greatest example of God’s power there is – nothing God does – the Creation of the Universe is nothing in comparison to the cross/resurrection and ascension. We don’t talk much in Protestantism – and that is a huge mistake.
and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Rule/Authority/Power/Dominion – where do we find those verses? Chapter 6 – and in Chapter 3 – they fill the book of Ephesians.
As I study this – I always use commentaries and reference works – but two other resources – that you can have – The Bible Project has done a class on Ephesians – it is 20 hours of video watching – it is a free college course – but you don’t have homework.
The second is this book – The Drama of Ephesians – not a great name – but a great book – by Timothy Gombis
The Big Picture
“Paul’s letter is a narrative account of the victory of God in Christ over the powers that have hijacked God’s world, holding it captive and enslaving humanity.” (Timothy Gombis)
That is the point of the book -
Tim Mackie: “Ephesians is an essay summarizing the most important apocalyptic event in history— Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit to bring new creation right here in the present world. ” “Ephesians: A community’s guide for comprehending and responding to the apocalypse of the crucified and risen King of the cosmos.”
Ephesians tells the story of God – its climax in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus – and how to live out that story in the already/not yet kingdom.
Ephesians announces the triumph of God over the powers that rule the present evil age and then narrates how the church participates in this triumph. (Tim Gombis)
It gives us the story – and now it gives us, how we as the Church can participate in the victory over the powers of darkness RIGHT NOW – because God wants us participating in that victory.
As we read through the book – when you see the word, YOU – it is almost always plural – so not you as an individual – but y’all.
To wrap this up – I want to go back to one of the parables of the Kingdom – that explains the already and not yet –
The parable of the wheat and weeds.
The kingdom of God is like and – he says this – like a farmer who plants a field of wheat – and he goes to bed and while no one is watching – he plants weed seeds in the field – and the farmer gets up and is none the wiser.
Several weeks go by and the workers see stuff starting to grow – and there are weeds growing here – so the hands go to the farmer and ask where did you get this seed, at Walmart of something? Do you want us to pull the weeds up? No – at harvest time, then pull the weeds and we will bundle them and burn them – and then pull up the wheat.
This is the already and not yet world we live in.
Evil spiritual forces are abundantly at work. These forces of evil have partnered with human structures and systems to accomplish their work.
We are the wheat. But we live in a world filled with weeds. We are surrounded by weeds.
Sometimes we want to tear out the weeds – and it becomes our focus – but God says No – let the weeds grow.
Now, that is so counter-cultural – counter-intuitive – ask any good gardener! You have tomato plants? Get rid of the weeds! But the kingdom is not an American or British garden! Or any garden. God is content to allow the powers of darkness to operate in the world until He returns – until the harvest. We would rather Him not be content! We want Him to come in and get rid of them all! But one problem with that – if it had happened so many years ago, it may have included YOU!
We need to give our lives to growing WHEAT! That is our job! Bearing fruit for the kingdom.
Evil will be a constant dominant force in the world until Jesus returns. There is the already/not yet. We need an apocalypse – the curtain needs to be pulled back. Through the cross and resurrection – Jesus has already defeated the powers of evil – yet there will always be a not yet aspect of our experience of that victory.
Paul tells us that Christ defeated the powers of darkness – and tells us that the god of this world is the devil.
John – the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
But Paul also says that we who are wheat have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
We have been taken out of the kingdom of the evil one – into the kingdom of light.
But Jesus says – I do not ask that You take them out of this world – overrun by the evil one – and yet not conform to that kingdom.
To understand this, God has to open our eyes and pull back the curtain.
Revelation – Chapter 4 and 5 are the heart – the core of the book – we would want to say that the core is the mark of the beast, etc. – but that is just sidenotes, nothing more.
John is taken up into heaven – in Chapter 4 – and he finds himself standing in the throne room of God – and that is much bigger than the mark of the beast.
This is the story of a man standing in the throne room of God – go home and read Chapter 4 – you won’t care at all about what 666 means when you read the description!
The one sitting on the throne is holding a scroll (chapter 5) – and an angel starts flying around saying who is worthy to open the scroll – to open its seal – no one on heaven, on earth – or under the earth – was worthy! At that point – John begins to weep – and one of the elders asks – why are you weeping?
Get up! For the LION of JUDAH has come to open the scroll and to break its seal – and John looks up to the throne – and what does he see? Not a lion – but a LAMB as slain – and the curtain is pulled back and John sees into the glory of God in heaven – a slain lamb – THAT is God’s power and glory.
We only experience God’s power through the cross. No other way. Only through the cross.
By continually sharing in the death of Christ – Paul tells us – we share in the power of His resurrection.
Every time we move away from the crucifixion – we move away from the power of God in our lives.
We have much to do in the way of Kingdom work. It requires planning and initiative and outreach. It is action oriented. But the only way to experience God’s power in any of that work is by living crucified with Christ.