The Book of Ephesians: A Holy Temple. Part Two.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19–21 (ESV)

Today’s text compares the church of Jesus Christ to a building. Not any building mind you, but rather a temple. It is a living temple, not made of word or stone but consisting of the people of God. The Apostle Paul calls them “fellow citizens and saints,” and “members of the household of God.”

Additionally, this temple is built upon the foundation of the New Testament apostles and the Old Testament prophets. Paul then identifies Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. It is in union with Christ Jesus, by grace alone, through God given faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, that the whole structure of the church grows into a holy temple.

The word grows (αὔξω; auxo) is a present active verb. To grow means to increase, extend and to spread. The word holy (ἅγιος; hagios) means divine and dedicated to purity. Thirdly, the word temple (ναός; naos) is a sanctuary dedicated to the One, True God.

Therefore, the church is a living and growing organism, dedicated and consecrated to purity before the Lord, each other and the fallen world consisting of both Jews and Gentiles who are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nineteenth century theologian Charles Hodge writes, “A temple is a building in which God dwells. Such a temple is holy, as sacred to Him. It belongs to Him, is consecrated to His use, and can neither be appropriated by any other, nor used for anything but His service, without profanation. This is true of the church as a whole, and of all its constituent members.”

Let us, as believers in Christ, resolve to be a holy, consecrated and dedicated church growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Peter 3:18). Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Justification. Part 2.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Eleven: Justification. Part 2.

3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father’s justice in their behalf.a Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them,b and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead,c and both freely, not for anything in them, their justification is only of free grace;d that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.e

a. Isa 53:4-610-12Dan 9:2426Rom 5:8-10191 Tim 2:5-6Heb 10:1014. • b. Rom 8:32. • c. Mat 3:172 Cor 5:21Eph 5:2. • d. Rom 3:24Eph 1:7. • e. Rom 3:26Eph 2:7.

4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,a and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:b nevertheless, they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.c

a. Rom 8:30Gal 3:81 Pet 1:219-20. • b. Rom 4:25Gal 4:41 Tim 2:6. • c. Gal 2:16Col 1:21-22Titus 3:4-7.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

\Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: A Holy Temple. Part One.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19–21 (ESV)

The subject of a temple is an interesting one. This is true, not only biblically but also historically. A temple is a shrine, a sanctuary, and a place of worship. In other words, it is a holy place.

In the ancient world, some of the earliest structures built by man were temples or shrines where he could worship his god in his ‘house’ (See K. M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land4 pp. 24, 33, for the Mesolithic and Neolithic shrines at Jericho).

For example, the Tower of Babel was the first structure mentioned in the Bible implying the existence of a temple (Genesis 11:1-4). However, what may seem to have been a place where man might meet God, it symbolized the self-confidence of man attempting to climb up to heaven. For such pride, the temple Tower of Babel was doomed (Genesis 11:5-9).

In ancient Mesopotamia, each city had a temple dedicated to its patron deity. The god was looked upon as the owner of the land. If the land was not blessed by him it would be unproductive. This resulted in poor revenues for his temple. The local king, or ruler, acted as steward for the god. It is possible that Abraham, before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, was a worshiper in, and at, these pagan temples (Genesis 11:27-12:3; Joshua 24:1-5).  

There was no purpose in the semi-nomadic Patriarchs, like Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob to build one particular shrine for Yahweh. He revealed himself as and where He pleased. Such occasions were sometimes the scenes of a sacrificial offering (Genesis 8:20; 12:1-8; 13; 1-18; 28:18-22; Job 1:1-5).

After Israel became a nation, a central sanctuary shrine became a necessity. It would be a gathering-point for all the people, a symbol of their unity in the worship of the One, True God. This need was initially provided by the Tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings of 40 years during the trek through the wilderness (Exodus 25-30; 35-40; Leviticus 1-7; Numbers 7-9). The Tabernacle was also a recognized holy place during the period of the judges (e.g. Shechem, Jos. 8:30ff. 24:1ff. Shiloh, 1 Sam. 1:1-3).

The lack of a permanent Temple of Yahweh appeared necessary when David had consolidated his power and built a permanent palace for himself. The king said, ‘I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent’ (2 Sam. 7:1-2). However, God did not give David the responsibility, or privilege, to build the Temple because he was stained with the blood of his enemies. David did collect materials, gathered treasure and bought the site (1 Chronicles 22:1-8, 3; 2 Sam. 24:18–25). It was David’s son, Solomon, who began the actual construction in his 4th year as King of Israel, and the Temple was completed 7 years later (1 Kings 6:37–38).

How does this information about the Old Testament Jewish Temple apply to believers in Christ today? Each new believer in Christ is a new stone in Christ’s temple, the church. The Temple is now Christ’s body of believers. Christ’s building of his church will not be complete until every person who will believe in him does believer in Him (2 Pet. 3:9).

I Peter 2:4-5 says, 4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

More to come. Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: A Household and a House.

19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,” (Ephesians 2:19–20 (ESV)

One of the metaphors, or comparisons, the Lord makes regarding believers in Christ is that they are a household. In other words, they are His family. We belong to Him and He is our heavenly Father. Believers are His children (Matthew 6:7-15).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “One of the most well-known statements of the Christian faith is the Lord’s Prayer, which begins with the words “Our Father which art in heaven.” This is part of the universal treasury of Christendom. When I hear Christians in a private gathering praying individually, almost every single person begins their prayer by addressing God as Father. There’s nothing more common among us than to address God as our Father.”

However, this biblical relationship is exclusively for those who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. In the nineteenth century, there were some who said the basic essence of the whole Christian religion could be reduced to two points: the universal brotherhood of man and the universal fatherhood of God. Those who advocated this perspective were mistaken.

Throughout Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul has extensively explained that those who are without Christ as their Savior and Lord are not only dead in their trespasses and sins but also are objects of God’s holy wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). Rather than God being the unbeliever’s Father, He is their judge.

Paul then shared another metaphor of the church. He continued to explain that the truth of believers in Christ being God’s household was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The church of Jesus Christ is not only likened to a household, but also to a house.

To begin with, a house is built (ἐποικοδομέω; epoikodomeo). God is the master builder ((1Cor. 3:10, 12, 14; 1 Peter 2:1-5).

Secondly, every building built has a foundation. The foundation of God’s spiritual building are the apostles and prophets. Respectively, these two offices are in reference to New Testament and Old Testament heralds of God. These men received the revelation of the mystery of the church in the present age (Revelation 21:9-14).  

Thirdly, every house which is built requires a cornerstone. Jesus Christ alone is that cornerstone. Jesus Christ is the central part of the foundation of the church (I Peter 2:6-8).

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “In ancient building practices “the chief cornerstone” was carefully placed. It was crucial because the entire building was lined up with it. The church’s foundation, that is, the apostles and prophets, needed to be correctly aligned with Christ. All other believers are built on that foundation, measuring their lives with Christ.”

Therefore, it is not necessary for the church today to require new revelation from God. The foundation of biblical truth has already been laid and established. What we, the church, need to do is to continue to study the apostles and prophets foundational truth concerning Jesus Christ. This is solely contained in the Scriptures.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: No Longer Strangers and Aliens.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” (Ephesians 2:19 (ESV)

Ephesians 2:19 begins with the phrase “so then,” which indicates a result clause. The result of Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-18) is consequently the Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens to God and His covenant community.

The word strangers (ξένος; xenos) refers to a spiritual foreigner (Matt 25:35, 38, 43, 44; 27:7; Ac 17:21; Heb. 11:13; 3 John 5).  The word aliens (πάροικος; paroikos) means a temporary resident ((Acts 7:6, 29; 1 Peter 2:11+). Scripture still refers to believers as exiles in this world (I Peter 1:1; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13-16), which means that the Christian’s real homeland is in heaven.

Instead of being a stranger or an alien to God, Gentile believers in Christ are presently and actively fellow citizens (συμπολίτης; sympolites) with the saints. Saints (ἅγιος; hagios) are individuals who solely belong to God. They are dedicated, and consecrated to obey God and His Word (Mark 6:20; 1Cor. 6:2; 2 Cor. 13:12; Philip. 4:22; Rev. 18:20; 22:21).

The Apostle Paul also calls Gentiles in Christ members of the household of God (οἰκεῖος; oikelos). This means Gentile believers are members of God’s family.

Remember this great gospel song from years ago.

Chorus
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God
I’ve been washed in the fountain cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.                                                                    

You will notice we say “brother and sister” ’round here –
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near;
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,                                                                And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.

From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King –
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God I belong!

Thanks be to God I’m part of His family. I pray that you are too.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: True Israel.

17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:17–18 (ESV)

The doctrine of Jews and Gentiles being one in the person and work of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace alone, through God given faith alone, is not found exclusively in the New Testament. It is also prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 57:19, said, “Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them.”  The far refers to the Gentiles, while the near is a reference to the Jews. The LORD, Yahweh, will not only bring peace and tranquility to both people groups along with spiritual healing. Unlike false prophets who proclaim and predict peace, the LORD indeed brings peace to, and for, His people (Romans 5:1).

The Apostle Paul proclaims in today’s text that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Prophet Isaiah’s oracle from God. He preached peace to both Jew and Gentile through the apostles, evangelists, and pastor/teachers. It is only through Jesus Christ that both people groups have access, by the Holy Spirit, to God the Father.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “Christ proclaimed His peacemaking achievement in the cross, though He did not travel to Asia in the flesh either before or after His resurrection. Instead, He traveled through heralds such as Paul, whose feet carried the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15; Isaiah 52:7).”

Jesus, in Matthew 28:19-20, said to His disciples, 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus also said to His disciples, in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Truly, God still uses His disciples to further the unity between Jews and Gentiles. We are His tools to bring about the fulfillment of true Israel through the communication of the Gospel.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Book of Ephesians: Reconciliation.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14–16 (ESV)

Jesus Christ has made both Jew and Gentile one in Christ. He has broken down the spiritual and physical wall of hostility between these two people groups. He also abolished the Old Testament ceremonial laws, and created in Himself one new individual in place of two separate ones.

Additionally, Jesus Christ has also reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God the Father. To reconcile (ἀποκαταλλάσσω; apokatallasso) means to make things right with one another. It also means to reunite and restore a previously broken relationship (Romans 5:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “As Jews and Gentiles are brought to God through Christ Jesus, they are brought together with each other. This was accomplished by the cross, where Jesus became a curse (Gal. 3:10–13), taking God’s wrath so that divine justice was satisfied and reconciliation with God became a reality. God initiates the change in the sinner’s status in that he brings him from a position of alienation to a state of forgiveness and right relationship with himself. This again is the essence of the gospel. God offers reconciliation—people from every ethnic group, without distinction. The intrinsic merit of Christ’s reconciling death is infinite and the offer is unlimited. However, actual atonement was made only for those who believe (cf. John 10:11, 15; 17:9Acts 13:48; 20:28Rom. 8:32–33Eph. 5:25).” 

Thank you Lord for your reconciling work on the cross, on the sinner’s behalf. Praise your holy name.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: One New Individual.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” (Ephesians 2:14–15 (ESV)

As we noted in a previous blog, Jesus Christ is the believer’s peace and tranquility. He alone removed the estrangement and enmity between God the Father and those who are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Through the work accomplished by Jesus Christ, He has made both Jew and Gentile one in Christ. The hostility between these two people groups, once they are converted by the Gospel, is eliminated.

How did Christ accomplish this task? By fulfilling, and ultimately replacing, the Old Testament ceremonial law. In doing so, the Apostle Paul indicates that Jesus Christ created in Himself alone a new individual. Once again, there remains no distinctions, such as economic, gender or nationality, for those who are in Christ (Galatians 3:23-29).

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Christ offered in His own body the final sacrifice to which the temple’s sacrifices merely pointed. The ceremonial law of the Old Testament that separated Jews and Gentiles are no longer appropriate for God’s people after their fulfillment in Christ.”

Nineteenth century theologian Charles Hodge writes, “Christ, by being made under the law (Galatians 4:4) and fulfilling all righteousness, has redeemed those who were under the law. He delivered them from the obligation of fulfilling its demands as the condition of their justification before God (Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; Galatians 5:18; Colossians 2:14). But secondly, as Christ abolished the law as a covenant of works by fulfilling its conditions, so He abolished the Mosaic Laws by fulfilling its types and shadows. He was the end of the law in both these aspects.”     

Thank you Lord for being our peace. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Justification.

We will devote each Lord’s Day in 2021 at hiswordtoday.org to present a portion of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). For those unfamiliar with the WCF, a brief explanation is appropriate. 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith. Drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly as part of the Westminster Standards to be a confession of the Church of England, it became and remains the “subordinate standard” of doctrine (to Scripture) in the Church of Scotland and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide.

It is to that “most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity” that we will give our time and attention to each Lord’s Day in the year of our Lord, 2021. I trust you will be edified and encouraged each week by The Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter Eleven: Justification. Part 1.

1. Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth;a not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,b they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.c

a. Rom 3:248:30. • b. Jer 23:6Rom 3:2224-2527-284:5-85:17-191 Cor 1:30-312 Cor 5:1921Eph 1:7Titus 3:57. • c. Acts 10:4413:38-39Gal 2:16Eph 2:7-8Phil 3:9.

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification;a yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.b

a. John 1:12Rom 3:285:1. • b. Gal 5:6James 2:172226.

I encourage you to read the portions of Scripture listed in this post.

Have a blessed Lord’s Day.

\Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: Jesus Christ is our Peace.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14 (ESV)

The result the Apostle Paul gives for the work by Jesus Christ in bringing to salvation Gentiles who were distant from the truth and promises of God is peace. More than just bringing sinner’s peace, the apostle states that He Himself (Jesus Christ) is our peace.

The phrase “For he himself” is in an intensive and emphatic statement. It refers, in the context, to Jesus Christ alone. Paul wants his readers to know that he himself, Jesus Christ, is the believer’s peace. The small word is (εἰμί; eimi) refers to Jesus as presently, and actively being something. He is our peace.

Peace (εἰρήνη; eirene) means not only freedom from worry, but also tranquility, health and the end of hostilities. Jesus is the only one who removes the estrangement between sinners and God the Father (Romans 5:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). He alone is the source of reconciliation.

Jesus has not only broken the estrangement between God and man, but also between one’s fellow man. It is Jesus who has made both the Jew and the Gentile one in Christ. Through His person and work on earth, Jesus alone has broken down λύω; lyo), loosed and destroyed what Paul calls the dividing wall of hostility.

The phrase the dividing wall of hostility refers to barriers in the temple area in Jerusalem which separated and segregated the Jews from the Gentiles. This resulted in hostility (ἔχθρα; echthra) or enmity between the ethnic groups.

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “A wall separated Gentiles and Jews, and signs were posted excluding Gentiles from the inner courts where sacrifices for sin were performed. Paul interprets as emblematic of the law’s function of keeping Israel separate from the surrounding pagan peoples.”

It is through Jesus Christ’s person and work alone that no barriers between people groups exist unto salvation (Galatians 3:23-29). We are all one in Christ.

This truth reminds me of a Maranatha Music chorus appropriately entitled He is our Peace.

He is our peace
Who has broken down every wall,
He is our peace, He is our peace.
He is our peace
Who has broken down every wall,
He is our peace, He is our peace.

Cast all your cares on Him,
For He cares for you,
He is our peace, He is our peace.

Thank you Jesus for being our peace. This is because You are the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Soli deo Gloria!