The Book of Ephesians: The Far Off, Have Been Brought Near.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul provides a stirring and wonderful contrast to what Gentiles were without Christ (Ephesians 2:11-12), to what they presently are in Christ. Though Paul was specifically writing to, and about, the Gentiles in Ephesus, the application of these truths apply to all ethnic non-Jewish individuals for all time. Individuals like you and me.  

To contrast what we were without Christ, to what we are now in Christ, the apostle begins with these words: But now. In other words, Paul was indicating that meanwhile, or at the present time in contrast to your past, Gentiles have experienced a change of status before God.

The change of status before God is because Gentile believers then, and Gentile believers today, are presently and actively in Christ. They are in union with Christ, on the basis of God the Father’s grace alone, through God given faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Due to this union in Christ alone, Gentiles who were once far off, or a great spiritual distance away from salvation, God the Father has brought near, or close to Himself. This has been done solely by the means of the substitutionary atonement sourced in Jesus Christ. It is solely through Christ’s shed blood that the unconverted can, and may, be justified.

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “Every person who trusts in Christ alone for salvation, Jew or Gentile, is brought into spiritual union and intimacy with God. This is the reconciliation of 2 Cor. 5:18–21. The atoning work accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross washes away the penalty of sin and ultimately even its presence.”

Thanks be to God that the atoning work by Christ’s death on the cross washes away not only the penalty of sin, and ultimately the presence of sin, but presently the power of sin. Praise be to God for His marvelous grace and mercy.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: The Heritage of the Unconverted Gentile.

11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11–12 (ESV)

Paul also wrote for Gentiles (non-Jews) to “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Separated, alienated, strangers, having no hope and without God are strong descriptive words.

All non-Jews were separate from (lit., “without”) Christ not only personally (true also of many Jews) but also in that they had no national hope of the Messiah. The word separated (χωρίς; choris) means to have no relationship with as Savior or Lord.

We were also excluded from citizenship in Israel. The Gentiles did not belong to the theocratic state of Israel (cf. Rom. 9:4). The word “excluded” (ἀπαλλοτριόω; apallotrioo) means to be “alienated” or “estranged.” It is used only two other times (Eph. 4:18; Col. 1:21). Though some Gentiles were admitted into Judaism as proselytes, Gentiles as a whole were excluded.

The word strangers (ξένος; xenos) means a foreigner or an alien. The covenants of promise found in the Old Testament were not intended for Gentiles.  

We were also people without hope. This means that unbelievers did not have any confidence in God or His promises. This is because they were not aware of them. There was no hope of any kind for any type of salvation from God.

Finally, non-Jews were without God in the world. This is a fitting description of atheists. This means, in the original sense, of being without God but also in the sense of hostility to God from failure to worship him. Romans 1:18-32 gives a truthful description of those without Christ.  “In the world” (ἐν τῳ κοσμῳ [en tōi kosmōi]) goes with both phrases.

As one author writes, “It is a terrible picture that Paul gives, but a true one.” However, thank the Lord for the truth found in Ephesians 2:13: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  

Take the time today to give praise to God for bringing us to Himself by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: Remember.

 11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11–12 (ESV)

And God remembered Noah and all the wild animals, and all the domesticated animals that were with him in the ark. And God caused a wind to blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” (Genesis 8:1)

15 “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Yahweh your God brought you out with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore, Yahweh your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

In my heart I have hidden your word, so that I may not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:15)

19”And he took bread, and* after* giving thanks, he broke it* and gave it* to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And in the same way the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

Even a cursory glance at the Old and New Testament reveals that the word “remember” or “remembrance,” and its derivatives, are important to God, and should be important to believers in Christ. The Apostle places great emphasis on Gentile Christians remembering what they were without Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The Greek word for remember (μνημονεύω; mnemoneuo) means to recall and to keep thinking about. When Paul uses it in today’s text, it is in the form of a present, active imperative or command. Therefore, a command is to be obeyed. In this case, actively and consciously obeyed. Especially if the command is from the Lord. What is it that God, and the Apostle Paul, wants Gentile believers to remember?

First, remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—.” What does this mean?   

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Having completed his discussion of believers as God’s workmanship (vv. 1–10), Paul began this section with the strongest inferential particle (dio, therefore) to alert the Ephesians to the unenviable position of having no relationship with God. Paul commanded them to remember that formerly, before their conversions, they were Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by Jews. Jews, being circumcised physically (in the body) disparaged all non-Jews by calling them the “uncircumcised.” This physical difference between Jews and Gentiles affected every area of their lives. A great social and spiritual boundary existed between them.”

Thankfully, in Christ, all such distinctives such as race, color, gender, and economic status no longer are important if one is a believer in Christ. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  

Take time to rejoice and remember what you were without Christ, and what you are now in Christ. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: Justification and Sanctification.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

“The whole may be thus summed up: Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life.” John Calvin

The 16th century Protestant Reformer John Calvin is credited with saying that “while we must always distinguish between justification and sanctification, we must never separate them.” Again,let us understand what is meant by justification and sanctification.

Justification is a one-time act of God, by which God declares the repentant sinner righteous in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, by sovereign grace alone, through the means of God given faith alone. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continual process of growing in the holiness and the grace and knowledge of God (I Peter 1:16-18; 2 Peter 3:18). Through the process of sanctification, the believer, while never sinless this side of heaven, begins to sin less, and less and less.

Sanctification always follows justification. Justification is the foundation for biblical and true sanctification. There are those who believe that their attempts at holy living will accomplish their justification before God. That is a lie from the devil himself. Yet, how many are there who believe the lie?

Dr. John Piper writes, “The pursuit of holy living begins with the first mustard seed of faith. That’s the nature of saving faith. It finds satisfaction in Christ and so is weaned away from the satisfaction of sin.”

What of the individual who professes faith in Christ but does not consistently live a holy life? Is that individual truly a believer in union with Christ? The Scriptures emphatically say no (Galatians 5:16-23; I John 2:18-20; 3:4-10). The Apostle John repeatedly stated that if we love God, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15; I John 2:1-6; 29; 3:24; 5:1-5). While we will never do so perfectly, believers in Christ strive to do so consistently.    

Charles Hodge writes, “For if any man (individual) is in Christ he is a new creature. Union with Christ is a source of a new life, and a life unto holiness; and therefore it is said created unto good works. Holiness is the end of redemption, for Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). Those, therefore, who live in sin are not the subjects of this redemption.

Thank the Lord today for not only justifying you but also sanctifying you through the means of God’s Word, prayer, corporate worship and personal devotion to God. Have a blessed day in the Lord.   

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: God’s Workmanship.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

“The biblical necessity of holy living does not nullify grace. Rather, it is based squarely on the pardon of grace and demonstrates the power of grace.” Dr. John Piper

If good works do not in any way justify the sinner before the One, True Holy God of the Bible, then in what way, if any, do our good works facture into our relationship with the Lord?

The Bible teaches that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 2:1-8). It is also true that the Bible teaches that believers in Christ demonstrate the truth of their conversion by their good works. While the believer’s good works do not make them any more justified, they do demonstrate the reality of their justification and their growth in sanctification.

The Apostle Paul stated in today’s text that all believers are God’s workmanship. The word workmanship (ποίημα; poiema) means God’s creation and product. In other words, result of God’s grace in the converted sinner’s life is that they are presently and actively God’s new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul continues to say that as God’s workmanship, the Lord creates all believers in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works. God prepared in advance these good works so that we would actively go about doing them. What we do for God, and who we are for God, He already providentially planned.

Dr. John Piper also explains that, “The work of God in justification does not make the work of God in sanctification optional. The Bible doesn’t say that forgiveness makes holiness optional; rather, forgiveness makes holiness possible. The God who justifies also sanctifies. The faith that justifies also satisfies –it satisfies the human heart in god and frees it from the deceptive satisfaction of sin. This is why justification and the process of sanctification always go together—they both come from the same faith.”

Thank the Lord today for you being His workmanship (Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13). Have a blessed day in the Lord.   

Soli deo Gloria!

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of Effectual Calling. 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 Ten: Of Effectual Calling. Part 2.

3. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit,a who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth.b So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.c

a. Luke 18:15-16 and John 3:35 and Acts 2:38-39 and Rom 8:9 and 1 John 5:12 compared together. • b. John 3:8. • c. Acts 4:121 John 5:12.

4. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word,a and may have some common operations of the Spirit,b yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:c much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature and the law of that religion they do profess;d and to assert and maintain that they may is very pernicious, and to be detested.e

a. Mat 22:14. • b. Mat 7:2213:20-21Heb 6:4-5. • c. John 6:64-668:24. • d. John 4:2214:617:3Acts 4:12Eph 2:12. • e. 1 Cor 16:22Gal 1:6-82 John 1:9-11.

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: No One May Boast.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV)

“To say that justification is by faith means simply that it is by, or through, faith that we receive the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our account. Thus, faith is the instrumental cause, or means, by which we lay hold of Christ.” R. C. Sproul  

The 16th Century Protestant Reformers grasped the importance of the grace of God to the Scriptures teaching on salvation. One of the slogans that came to define Reformation teaching was sola gratia, which is Latin for “by grace alone.” Sinners are saved by the grace of God alone.

“For by grace you have been saved.” The Apostle Paul states that it is through the instrumentality of God’s unmerited favor and kindness that sinners are saved (σῴζω; sozo) or delivered from the penalty of sin.

“Through faith.” God graciousness towards sinners occurs through faith and faith alone. This is trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ solely originates from God.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Correctly understood, the pronoun this refers the reader back to immediately preceding noun faith. Paul is stating that the believer’s faith is not solely of them, but rather it is the gift solely from God? The answer is found in Ephesians 2:9.

Why is it so important that Christians understand and remember that not only is God’s grace a sovereign gift, but the faith to believe in His grace is also a sovereign gift from God? It is because our justification from God is not by any works we could ever accomplish, or ever hope to accomplish. It is solely from God.

This truth is so we could never boast about, or take credit for, what God has done. The word boast (καυχάομαι; kauchaomai) means to brag about, rejoice in, glory in (cf. Rom. 2:17; 5:2; 1 Cor. 1:29; 13:3; 2 Cor. 5:12; 12:1; Gal. 6:13; Phil. 3:3; James 1:9; 4:16). The Scriptures say we may brag about, rejoice in, and glory in the Lord and what He has done and is doing, but never in ourselves and what we do, or have done.

To God be the glory
Great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life-gate that all may go in

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the earth hear His voice
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the people rejoice
Come to the Father
Through Jesus the Son
Give Him the glory
Great things He has done

May we all give thanks today for God’s great and amazing grace and also for the gracious gift of saving faith.   

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: For by Grace…Through Faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV)

“Sola Fide and Sola Gratia — have become deeply entrenched in Protestant history.  Sola Fide, or faith alone, denies that our works contribute to the ground of our justification, while Sol Gratia, or grace alone, denies that any merit or our own contributes to our justification.” R. C. Sproul  

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?” Wonderful words from several hymns on God’s grace.

One author writes, “Christians love to sing of the saving grace of God—and rightly so. John tells us that out of Jesus’ “fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Many of the New Testament letters begin and end with the writers expressing their desire that the grace of Jesus would be with His people. The very last words of the Bible read: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).”

The 16th Century Protestant Reformers grasped the importance of the grace of God to the Scriptures teaching on salvation. One of the slogans that came to define Reformation teaching was sola gratia, which is Latin for “by grace alone.” Sinners are saved by the grace of God alone.

“For by grace you have been saved.” The Apostle Paul states that it is through the instrumentality of God’s unmerited favor and kindness that sinners are saved (σῴζω; sozo) or delivered from the penalty of sin. In other words, God has delivered unworthy sinners into divine salvation.

“Through faith.” God graciousness towards sinners occurs through faith and faith alone. This is trust in, commitment to, dependence upon and worship of Jesus Christ solely originates from God. Sinners do not create their own faith in the Lord. As we shall see in the text, faith is also a sovereign gift from God. This is because to rely on oneself for faith is no different from relying upon oneself for good works.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Correctly understood, the pronoun this refers the reader back to immediately preceding noun faith. Paul is stating that the believer’s faith is not solely of them, but rather it is the gift solely from God.  

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “This” refers to the entire previous statement of salvation, not only the grace but the faith. Although men are required to believe for salvation, even that faith is part of the gift of God, which saves and cannot be exercised by one’s own power. God’s grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (cf. Rom. 3:20Gal. 2:16)”

Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “The whole complex of salvation is by grace through faith as a gift from God. Others, however, take (the word) ‘this’ as referring specifically to ‘faith.’ In either case, since faith is included in the whole complex of salvation, faith itself must be understood as a gift of God and not as a human achievement, Sinners are dependent on God’s gracious gift for their believing response to Christ from the moment of conversion. Paul makes explicit here was is implicit elsewhere in the New Testament about the ultimate source of saving faith (Acts 13:48; Philippians 1:29).”

May we all give thanks today for God’s great and amazing grace and also for the gracious gift of saving faith.   

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: The Immeasurable Riches of God’s Grace.

4 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

The Apostle Paul has set forth the truth that solely on the basis of God’s rich mercy and great love with which He loved rebellious sinners like you and me, God initiated an action on the sinner’s behalf, even as sinners were was dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).

What action has God done? He has made the spiritually dead sinner alive in Christ. The sinner has been spiritually resurrected and brought to new life in Christ. God imparted unto us new life. This necessitated a new birth by the Holy Spirit called regeneration (John 3:1-8; Titus 3:1-5). Regeneration always precedes conversion (John 3:3).

Secondly, God has raised us up with Him. The Lord has resurrected us into new life and living. It is a spiritual resurrection which foreshadows the believer’s bodily resurrection in Christ (I Corinthians 15:35-49).

Thirdly, the Lord has “seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This positional fellowship believers presently have with God is in the heavenly places. This means the domain of God and His angels. This fellowship is solely for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What was God’s purpose in doing all these things for sinners? God’s purpose extends not only for the present but also for all time. It was to show (ἐνδείκνυμι; endeiknymi), to demonstrate, or to make known what Paul says are the immeasurable riches of God’s grace.

The word immeasurable (ὑπερβάλλω; hyperballow) means to presently and actively go beyond the ordinary and to be, and to do, far more than what is expected. The word riches (πλοῦτος; plooutos) means extreme abundance or wealth. Both words, within the context, refer to God’s grace.

As often noted, grace (χάρις; charis) is the Lord’s unmerited favor, which is found solely in His character. The Apostle Paul also states that God’s graciousness towards sinners was displayed by the instrumentality of His active kindness (χρηστότης; chrestotes) which is His goodness and benevolence in salvation. All this is sourced in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

One biblical scholar put it this way: “The satisfaction of His love was God’s motive in quickening and raising them (sinners). The manifestation of His glory in its surpassing wealth is His final purpose in the same.”

May we all give thanks today for God’s great grace for the immeasurable riches of HIs grace.  

Soli deo Gloria!

The Book of Ephesians: But God… Seated Us With Him.

4 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”  (Ephesians 2:4-6)

The Apostle Paul has set forth the truth that solely on the basis of God’s rich mercy and great love with which He loved rebellious sinners like you and me, God initiated an action on the sinner’s behalf, even as sinners were was dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3).

What action has God done? He has made the spiritually dead sinner alive in Christ. The sinner has been spiritually resurrected and brought to new life in Christ. God imparted unto us new life. This necessitated a new birth by the Holy Spirit called regeneration (John 3:1-8; Titus 3:1-5). Regeneration always precedes conversion (John 3:3).

Secondly, God has raised us up with Him. The Lord has resurrected us into new life and living. It is a spiritual resurrection which foreshadows the believer’s bodily resurrection in Christ (I Corinthians 15:35-49).

Thirdly, the Lord has “seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” The word seated (συγκαθίζω; synkathizo) literally means to be sit down together. This positional fellowship believers presently have with God is in the heavenly places. This means the domain of God and His angels. This fellowship is solely for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The IVP New Testament Background Commentary states, “Scholars have compared the image of the exaltation of the believers in 2:6 with the fairly common Jewish image of the righteous enthroned in the world to come; Christians have begun to experience the life of the coming age in advance. The context would drive an additional point home especially forcefully to readers once enslaved by fear of Fate or the stars: to be “seated with Christ” means in 2:6 what it meant in 1:20–21—to be enthroned over the evil powers. Christians need not fear demons, Fate or anything else; their lives are ruled by God.”

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The tense of “raised” and “seated” indicates that these are immediate and direct results of salvation. Not only is the believer dead to sin and alive to righteousness through Christ’s resurrection, but he also enjoys his Lord’s exaltation and shares in his preeminent glory. In the heavenly places is the supernatural realm where God reigns. In 3:10 and 6:12, however, it also refers to the supernatural sphere where Satan temporarily rules. This spiritual realm is where believers’ blessings are (cf. Eph. 1:3), their inheritance is (1 Pet. 1:4), their affections should be (Col. 3:3), and where they enjoy fellowship with the Lord. It is the realm from which all divine revelation has come and where all praise and petitions go.”

May we all give thanks today for God’s great grace in seating us in the heavenly realms with Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!