Parkland First Baptist Church
July 18, 2021
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  • God’s Grace In The Church

    Today we begin a new series I’m entitling “God’s Grace In The Church”
    I once heard that there are 5 books that every church needs to fully understand and be preached.
    Genesis - it’s the book of beginnings
    John - divinity of Christ
    Romans - doctrine of salvation
    James - Christian behavior
    Ephesians - doctrine of the church
    Ephesians is a simple book of six chapters of 155 verses.
    It’s just 7 pages in my Bible
    It would take about 20 minutes to read it out loud.
    To some, Ephesians is one of the most significant documents ever written.
    You may have not heard of these men, but I’d like to share what they thought about the book.
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it ‘the divinest composition of man’.
    This letter was John Calvin’s favorite,
    J. Armitage Robinson later described it as ‘the crown of St Paul’s writings’.
    F. F. Bruce regarded it as ‘the quintessence of Paulinism’ because it ‘in large measure sums up the leading themes of the Pauline letters, and sets forth the cosmic implications of Paul’s ministry as apostle to the Gentiles.
    Klyne Snodgrass, “Pound for pound, Ephesians may well be the most influential document in history.
    As we go through the book, we’ll see two major divisions.
    The key thought in the books is “in Christ.”
    The book shows that God is forming a new humanity through Christ.
    It describes how Jesus Christ died for sinners, was raised, is exalted above all His competitors, and is now the head of the cosmos and the church.
    Through our union with Christ, we share in these same events—we are raised with Christ and seated with Him (2:5–7).
    This great salvation is owing to the grace of God (2:8–10).
    Ephesians like I said naturally divides into two parts.
    Who we are in Christ in chapters 1-3
    Then How we are to live in Christ in chapters 4-6

    Why Study Ephesians?

    Tony Merida in commentary on the book lists seven reason to study Ephesians.
    Ephesians deepens our understanding of the gospel.
    We live in a day with much superficial Christianity.
    There are a lot of shallow teaching going around.
    Yet in Ephesians you get deep truths about what Paul calls “the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (3:8).
    Ephesians magnifies the importance of the church, perhaps more than any other New Testament letter.
    Coming out of the pandemic to being able to worship again, we should have a new understanding of the church is and is all about.
    When we look in the book of Ephesians, we read how the church is central to God’s eternal purposes; the church is put in eternal perspective. Through the church God has chosen to make known His “multi-faceted wisdom” (3:10).
    Lives have been forever changed by the exploration of this little book.
    I read that John Mackay, former president of Princeton Seminary, recalled how, at the age of 14, he took his Bible into the hills of Scotland and studied the book of Ephesians. He wrote these words: “I saw a new world … everything was new … I had a new outlook, new experiences, new attitudes to other people. I loved God. Jesus Christ became the center of everything.… I had been ‘quickened.’ I was really alive” (in Stott, Ephesians, 15).
    Ephesians may also be the “most contemporary” epistle in the New Testament.
    Apart from the mention of slavery, which we will address later, this letter “could have been written to a modern church” (Snodgrass, Ephesians, 17).
    Usually when Paul wrote a letter he was addressing error that had cropped up in the church that needed correction.
    Yet, Ephesians was different in there is little correction, but is more reflective in nature.
    It was a circular letter, distributed and read by the churches in the Asia Minor region and, therefore, comes to us in a general form.
    Therefore Ephesians resonates with us because it seems Paul could have written the letter to a twenty-first-century church.
    Ephesians provides grace-filled encouragement.
    If you feel tired, discouraged, beat up, lonely, or confused, then welcome to Ephesians!
    We encouragement and this book has a lot for us.
    We need to see this description of the glorious grace of God.
    To understand that every day we are living in the gospel.
    Paul is writing to people just like us and his encouragement for them is great for us too.
    Ephesians offers some practical answers to basic questions about the Christian life.
    It is a “mini theology book” every Christian would benefit from studying.
    I’m Merida’s outline for the book and thus we will address the following questions:
    Why worship? (1:3–14)
    What should we pray for? (1:15–23)
    What is so amazing about grace? (2:1–10)
    Who are we? (2:11–22)
    Why is the church a big deal? (3:1–13)
    What should we pray for? (3:14–21)
    How can we be unified? (4:1–16)
    How do “new” people live? (4:17–32)
    How can we imitate God? (5:1–14)
    What is God’s plan for marriage? (5:15–33)
    How should we parent? (6:1–4)
    How should we see our vocation? (6:5–9)
    How do we fight? (6:10–24)
    So let’s read Verse 1-2
    Christian Standard Bible Chapter 1

    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will:

    To the faithful saints in Christ Jesus at Ephesus.,

    2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Who’s The Author? Paul

    The first word of the book gives us the name of its author, Paul.
    If the Bible is truth, and it is, without error and inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Paul is the author no doubt about it.
    Even the early church fathers all agreed that Paul is the writer.
    Remember Paul was a persecutor of the church (Acts 9:1–2), but God made him “an apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13).
    Paul attributes this conversion and calling to the grace of God (1 Tim 1:15).
    Before his conversion Paul was intent on bringing Christians to justice for believing in Jesus.
    Yet after his conversion, he became one of the leader in the expanding church and he went on to write 13 letters in the New Testament.
    That is quite the transformation, isn’t it?
    Paul’s life reminds us that God can radically change anyone.
    Here we have a man who might formerly have been compared to a terrorist now writing the New Testament.
    Paul says he was an apostle by “God’s will.”
    God’s will is an important theme in the letter it emphasizes God’s purposes in our lives.
    Paul’s apostleship was not of his own choosing (Gal 1:16).
    God appointed him from birth.
    We are all called by God to serve Him.
    Paul wrote this little epistle from prison.
    Three times he mentions imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20).
    Paul wrote this letter near the end of his two-year imprisonment in Rome, approximately AD 62.
    Just imagine he was chained to a Roman soldier during this time but free to receive visitors.
    Of these visitors, one probably included a secretary who took down his words.
    Paul then letter with Tychicus to Ephesus, who was with him in Rome.

    The Recipients - Ephesians

    Our Bible says this was written to Ephesus, but some of the early manuscripts does not have this opening.
    Some think this was written as a general letter to several churches in Asia Minor and at each destination they would insert the church’s name as it was read to them.
    Some think it was a letter for several churches that were all linked to the church in Ephesus.
    He calls them saints who were not saints because of any merit of their own; they were saints because they were set apart by God to devote themselves to the highest moral living.
    If you read Acts 19, you’ll get a glimpse of the struggles that Paul and the Ephesian church encountered.
    Ephesus is in modern-day western Turkey.
    It was a busy port city, the fourth or fifth largest city in the world at that time.
    Its massive amphitheater held about 25,000 people.
    The city hosted athletic events similar to the Olympics.
    It was at the junction of four major roads in Asia Minor.
    Today much of the world is urban, and the need for churches to be planted in dense, urban areas where there is great diversity is massive.
    Picture a missionary today moving somewhere like Manhattan or Istanbul (another gateway city)—massive cities with great need for the gospel and local churches.
    Second, another struggle was spiritual warfare in Ephesus.
    If the size of this city alone was not enough to overwhelm a missionary, there was also tremendous spiritual warfare in Ephesus.
    The city was known for different forms of paganism.
    Some were more sophisticated, others quite sleazy.
    The sophisticated types embraced the Greek notion of true enlightenment, which involved rising to high levels of mysterious knowledge.
    This knowledge was obtained not just by learning but by experience, through both erotic and ascetic practices.
    The culture was steeped in materialism, sensuality, and perverted idolatrous practices.
    Ephesus was also home to the Roman emperor cult.
    The worship of the emperor was a prominent feature of life at all levels in Asia at this time.
    Caesar Augustus was spoken of as the “Savior.”
    His birth was hailed as “the beginning of good tidings to the world,” and the calendar was adjusted in light of his birth.
    So there was a “gospel conflict.”
    Coins, statues, temples, and other items proclaimed the gospel of Augustus, but the church was proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.
    Ephesus was also the headquarters for the cult of the Roman goddess Diana (or Greek “Artemis”), whose temple was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Once four times as large as the Parthenon, today only the scant remains of a pillar survive.
    Paul began in the synagogue, speaking for three months.
    Then he went to the hall of Tyrannus, where he taught for two years.
    Paul was in a public auditorium or lecture hall where lectures were given during the midday “siesta” period.
    By way of application, remember we can gather anywhere to teach the Bible.
    We do not need a temple or spectacular building.
    You might compare the hall of Tyrannus to a modern community center where classes are offered on a variety of subjects.
    Like Paul we too should find ways to share the gospel within our daily context.
    Paul is using the typical siesta period to teach.
    This can look like doing a Bible study with colleagues before work begins, or a businessmen’s luncheon, or a student starting something at school during breaks.
    Paul’s teaching eventually spilled out from the hall into the villages!
    Paul also encountered trouble from the locals living and working there.
    Paul faced opposition from another source: the silversmiths.
    This highlights the materialistic, as well as superstitious, culture of Ephesus.
    One silversmith in particular, Demetrius, is named.
    He was upset because the gospel was affecting the socioeconomic system.
    Because many Ephesians were turning to Christ, they no longer wanted to buy silver statues.
    This created a massive eruption in Ephesus.
    As a result they dragged Paul and his companions into the amphitheater where they were all but killed (Acts 19:28–41).
    Finally, if you add to the list of these trials the “plots of the Jews” (Acts 20:19), then you have an incredibly difficult place to minister

    The Saints in Ephesus

    In the middle of this culture were “the saints.”
    The word saint has its roots in the Old Testament, which speaks of God choosing a people from among the nations to be “My kingdom of priests and My holy nation” (Exod 19:5–6).
    Christ has made us into a holy people (Eph 5:26).
    We are holy because we are united with Christ.
    Now we must live in a manner that is consistent with this position.
    Personal holiness is about becoming in practice what we are in position.
    Who were these saints?
    Some Jewish believers were in Ephesus before Paul’s arrival (Acts 18:24–27), but later it seems that the churches were primarily Gentile.
    The Ephesian churches were perhaps made up of about 30 to 40 people, meeting in homes.
    But these churches had experienced about a seven- to eight-year absence from Paul by the time the book of Ephesians was written.
    They needed instruction.
    Ephesians provides some critically important truths about the nature of the gospel and how we are unified.
    Ephesians is like Romans in this regard.
    In Romans Paul is also trying to unite the church, Jew and Gentile, around the gospel.
    Paul also calls the Ephesians “faithful.”
    This term most likely means “believers” rather than “trustworthy.”
    They were those who trusted Christ for salvation (1:13).
    While they lived physically in Ephesus, the saints were spiritually “in Christ.”
    They lived in union with Christ.
    Ephesians mentions union with Christ and being “in Christ” more than any other letter, about 36 times (Snodgrass, Ephesians, 39).
    This phrase occurs some 164 times in Paul’s 13 epistles.
    This is the heart of Christianity: to be united to Jesus Christ.
    Christians are people who are in Christ.
    You are united in His death and His resurrection (2:5–7).
    Only by being “in” Christ can one have access to “every spiritual blessing.”
    John MacArthur says, “If you are in Christ, then “Christ’s riches are your riches, His resources are your resources, His righteousness is your righteousness, His power is your power. His position is our position: where He is, we are … what He has, we have”
    And because we are in Christ, though opposition surrounds us on every side, we are secure in Him.
    Your identity, therefore, is in Christ, not in your performance, your popularity, your productivity, or your prominence.

    Don’t Lose Your First Love

    As would like to conclude this morning looking at the last thing Paul told the Ephesians in 6:23-24.
    “Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    Reading the book of Ephesians should increase our love for Jesus.
    What is interesting about the church in Ephesus is that even though it had an amazing history, the final mention in Revelation 2:1–7 about this great church is that they “You have abandoned the love you had at first.”
    Think about it: Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos, Paul, Timothy, and later John ministered to this church.
    Yet about 40 years after the first generation of believers, they had lost their love.
    How could they have lost their love.
    They had a cold orthodoxy.
    We must ask ourselves: Is our service to Jesus mechanical?
    Do we love Him, or are we just using Him for our own ambitions?
    Jesus told them to repent.
    That is what we must do if we have lost love for Christ.
    Return to praising Jesus for who He is and what He has done.
    Pray
      • ESV

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