Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, March 26, 2012

God’s Work In Us (2)

While the word workmanship in Ephesians 2:10 is a beautiful word—For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them—the word created is even more striking.

While similar to the Greek word behind workmanship, the one behind created (ktizō) speaks of creation in a deeper way. It is the word often used in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew word bara, “to create from nothing,” as in Genesis 1:1. Non-Christians today, and tragically even some Christians, speak of “self‑improvement,” “self‑help,” “self‑image,” and many other “selfisms.” But the principle we see in our text is that God created the believer from nothing. Think of it! What were we before Christ came into our lives? Noth­ing. Each of us was a worthless lump of clay, dead in trespasses in sins—no value, no form, no purpose. But God has created us!

Everything we are and everything we will ever be is because of Jesus Christ. It’s not our experiences, our education, training, or our talents; rather it’s Christ. Without Him we are nothing; without Him there is no purpose or meaning to life. How this thought opens up 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (emphasis added). We who live here in Meeker are pretty biased toward the beau­ty of this country. And who of us has never marveled at the intricacies of the human eye or a new born baby’s fingers and toes? But there is something that is far more beautiful than those—a Christian. A child of God is the most beautiful of God’s creation, for we are made in His image.

The story is often told of the rowdy, disruptive young boy in a Sunday School class who continually frustrated his teacher. One morning the teacher asked him, “Why do you act like that? Don’t you know who made you?” To which the boy replied, “God did, but He ain’t through with me yet.” Indeed, God is still working on each of us.
And what is the main tool with which God molds us? It is, of course, His Word. As Paul declared to the Thessalonians: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (2 Thes. 2:13, emphasis added).

As a pastor, I often hear people say, “Oh, we want a good music program in our church.” Music is certainly a wonderful thing. I love music and am myself a musician. But music does not bring growth. It is the proclamation of God’s Word as Truth, the teaching of doctrine, that brings growth.

I am convinced more every day that the main reason, if not the singular reason, that Christians do not grow and mature is be­cause they do not feed on the Word of God. Why are Christians cantankerous, rebellious, worldly, undiscerning, and a host of other things? It is because they are not feeding on the Word of God. Tragically, this is often the pastor’s fault; many evangelicals and fundamentalists are not teaching the depths of God’s Word, deferring instead to entertainment and other modern more “relevant” methods of ministry. In other cases, however, it is the fault of Christians whose minds are just not set on spiritual things. God cannot work in us if His Word does not have first place in our hearts. It is primary through His Word that God works IN us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

God’s Work IN Us (1)

In Ephesians 2:10—For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them—there is a beautiful Greek word behind workmanship. It is poiema, which refers to what is made or created. Another form of the word is poietes, which refers to one who makes something or to a work of art. This word was also used in ancient Greek to re­fer to an author or poet. In fact, our English word “poem” is derived from poiema. So, we are God’s workmanship, His “work of art,” His “masterpiece,” His “poem,” if you will. While Milton’s epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained are true masterpieces, they pale to the masterpiece of the true child of God.

Notice more specifically that we are his, that is, God’s workmanship. There is an important contrast between the English text and the Greek text. In the English, this statement begins with we; in the Greek this statement—in fact, the whole verse—begins with “Him.” Literally the verse reads: “For of Him we are a product.” We point this out for good reason. The world says that each of us is a product of our environment or a product of our own experience. But God’s Word declares that the believer is actu­ally the product of God. Even Christians have a tendency to think this way. Many preachers are even products of a particular Bible college or seminary. But what we really are products of God.

There is even the tendency among Christians to think that their salvation had a little something to do with them. For example, some say, “Well, it was my believing that justified me,” or, “It was my yieldedness and com­mitment that sanctified me.” Again this is dreadfully wrong! God has done everything. How could we possibly think otherwise when we read the words: “In the beginning God” (Gen. 1:1)?

Think again of the Greek poiema in the context of a potter. Does the pot say to the potter, “Well, you know that I had a little something to do with what I have become?” Of course not; the clay has nothing to do with the process. It is the potter who goes out and seeks the clay, brings it into his work­shop, and molds it according to his own vision. Likewise, the “Divine Potter” molds us into the vessels He can use. This is exactly what Paul illustrated to the Romans: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Rom. 9:20‑21)

I have seen some Christians, and even a few preachers, who really don’t like Romans 9 because they don’t like the idea of a sovereign God. But we had better read it carefully. Before we start questioning God, we’d better stop and think to Whom we are speaking. God must make us exactly the vessels HE wants us to be; He can never use us otherwise. I don’t find that “damaging to my self-image” or “an attack on my dignity” as is the view of today’s “Christian” pop-psychology. Rather I find it absolutely thrilling and assuring. God takes a worthless lump of clay and molds it into a vessel He can use for His glory.

Monday, March 12, 2012

“Created Unto Good Works” (2)

There is an amazing comparison between Ephesians 2:9 and 2:10. In verse 9 Paul says, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Now he turns right around and says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Did Paul lapse for a moment? Was he confused about the place of works in salvation? Which one of these statements is correct?

The answer to the last question, of course, is both. What Paul is saying is crystal clear when you just read the context. Verses 7-9 declare unequivocally that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but verse 10 declares with equal clarity that good works are the result of that salvation and are now the rule of life. As John Eadie writes in his commentary on the Greek text: “The statement that salvation of works involves the fallacy of mistaking the effect for the cause. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are only the result of it. Salvation causes them; they do not cause it” (emphasis added).

May we also observe that for salvation to be caused by works, works would have to precede salvation, that is, come before it. In this verse, however, they clearly proceed from salvation, that is, come after it. In other words, in light of the nature and character of our salvation, there is a demand placed upon us because of what we have received. One commentator relates this personal testimony that underscores the importance of this verse: “There are few verses both more important and more misunderstood than 2:8-9. This is partly because verse 10 is often not quoted along with them. When I was a young Christian I acquired a pack of Bible verses to memorize. Among the first were Ephesians 2:8-9. I began quoting them in witnessing, but it took me years to realize that the omission of verse 10 was one reason I was having trouble persuading my morally sensitive friends that salvation is only by grace. The almost inevitable response was that if this is true, Christians can live as they please and still go to heaven. Romans 6:1 deals with this issue as well, but when we quote Ephesians 2:8-9 it should not be necessary to leave the Ephesian context, because verse 10 gives the needed corrective: we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

Many Christians think that since our sal­vation was a gift, it, therefore, does not demand anything of us. Jesus is presented today as a “fix-it” for all our problems, but He doesn’t demand anything from us. This is serious error! Any gift demands a response even if it is only a simple “thank you.” But truly our salvation de­mands much more than a “thank you.” Why? Because our salvation is a life‑altering reality; it transforms a depraved, hell‑bound sinner into a blood‑bought, heaven‑bound saint. Verse 10 declares what our response to this should be by pre­senting two thrusts: God’s work in us and God’s work through us. We’ll examine these as we continue.

Monday, March 5, 2012

“Created Unto Good Works” (1)

I thoroughly enjoy reading the works of Harry Ironside, eighteen-year pastor of Moody Church in Chicago and author of over 60 volumes, including devotional commentaries and other works. In his exposition of Ephesians, In The Heavenlies, he tells a story of a train trip he took while holding meetings in Southern Californian. The trip had barely begun when a strangely dressed woman sat down beside him. Dressed in what appeared to Ironside to be red bandana handkerchiefs pieced together and a shawl, this, coupled with the subject of conversation made it obvious she was gypsy. “How do you do, gentleman,” she began, “like to have your fortune told?” Ironside replied, “Are you able to tell my fortune?” Holding out her hand, she answered, “Cross my palm with a silver quarter, and I will give you your past, present, and future.” “You are very sure you can do that if I give you a quarter?” he asked. “You see, I am Scotch, and would hate to part with a quarter and not get proper exchange for it.” “Yes, gentleman,” she assured him, “I can give you your past, present, and future. I never fail.” To this Ironside replied, “It is really not necessary, because I have a little book in my pocket that gives me my past, present, and future.” “You have it in a book?” she asked, puzzled. Pulling out his New Testament and turning to Ephesians 2:1-7, he said, “Yes, and it is absolutely infallible. Let me read it to you. Hear is my past, ‘And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’” In obvious uneasiness, she replied, “Oh, yes, it is plenty, I do not care to hear more.” Holding her gently by the arm, Ironside said, “But I want to give you my present also, ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’” Again in growing discomfort she said, “That is plenty, gentleman, I do not wish to hear more.” But Ironside continued, “Oh, but there is more yet, and you must get it; and you are not going to pay me a quarter for it either. I am giving it to you for nothing. It is my past, present, and future. Here is my future, ‘That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.’” Not able to take any more, she jumped to her feet and fled down the aisle saying, “I took the wrong man! I took the wrong man!”

Indeed, as we’ve seen, God has done it all. He is in our past, present, and future. And as I read that story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ironside would have also gotten to verse 10, for it too is part of our future. Our future does indeed include good works. As we continue, we’ll see how.