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, July 30, 2012

Access to God

Ephesians 2:18—For through him [i.e., Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father—we see an astounding result of the peace God has established through Christ. The Greek word behind access (prosagoge) and is found only in two other places (Eph. 3:12; Rom. 5:2). It literally means “to open a way of access.” A similar word was used in ancient times to describe a person who gave someone else admittance to see the King. Therefore, our text declares that we actually have no “right” to come before God but rather have been granted the “privilege” of doing so knowing we will be welcome. There is a word in French that exactly translates this word—entree, meaning “admission or admittance.” This is the picture in our text; we have been granted “admittance” into the Father’s Presence.” We could also translate the word as “introduction;” we have been properly introduced to the Father by the Word of Christ.

We emphasize this truth for an important reason. Many believers have the mistaken idea that they have a right to come before God. Some theologians even teach that Christ’s blood now gives us this right. This is dreadfully wrong! We do not have a right to come before God; how arrogant to think that we do! Rather, we have been granted the privilege to come before the God of the universe. Oh, how often we take prayer for granted and rush into God’s presence thinking we have a right to be there, demanding this, that, and the other thing. Dear Christian, may we forever cease! May we see that we have no right but a gracious privilege. May we never again rush before Him, but rather may we quietly and humbly come before His throne.

I read one story that beautifully illustrates how we have access to the Father. One day a little boy named Willie stood wistfully at the gates of Buckingham Palace. He longed to go in and see the king. Between him and the king, however, were iron gates, rigid protocol, armed soldiers, and watchful police. What he wanted was quite out of the question. A policeman who was ordering the lad to leave suddenly stiffened and sprang to attention as a well-dressed, confident man approached. A brusque nod from the man and the policeman unlocked the gates and stood aside. “Come with me, sonny,” said the man, taking the little boy’s hand. “We’re going in to see the king.” Into the palace they went. Inside were forty housemaids, fifty footmen (including one man who did nothing but wind clocks all day), and six hundred rooms. Willie and the man walked on and on—to the north wing, up stairs, along endless passages, to the king’s corridor on the main floor, and into the master suite. (They were a quarter of a mile away from the kitchens!) The man seemed to know the way and chatted about the rooms they passed: the magnificent ballroom that contained two majestic thrones on a raised dais; the stamp rooms that housed the world’s most valuable collection; the Belgian suite with its forty-four rooms for the use of state visitors; the royal wardrobe; the music room; the dining room with a table as large as a skating rink; the dazzling green drawing room. Finally they arrived in the king’s presence, and the man spoke. “Hello, Father. Here’s a little boy who wants to meet you. Meet my friend Willie. Willie, this is the king.” The little boy had taken the hand of Edward, Prince of Wales, the king’s son. Through him, Willie gained access to the king. We too have taken the hand—the nail-printed hand—of the King’s Son, the Prince of Peace. Through Him and Him alone, Jews and Gentiles alike have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reconciled to God

Continuing his thoughts on how God has brought about true in Christ, the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:16 that he [i.e., Christ] might reconcile both [Jew and Gentile] unto God in one body by the cross. The term reconciled is truly marvelous! The Greek is apokatallasso. The simple verb is katallasso, which means “to change or exchange as coins for others of equal value.” So, the idea is to ex­change hostility for friendship. In three New Testament references, however, the prefix apo is added (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 21). This Greek preposition adds the idea of “back.” Therefore, apokatallasso means “to bring back to a former state of harmony.” Let us be clear on the fact that Jew and Gentile have not always been divided; before Abraham the human race was all one with no distinctions. So, this reconciliation is a “changing back” to the time of no variance, no distinction.

Even deeper, there was a time when there was no variance between God and man. Think of it! There was a time when there was no enmity, no warfare between us. When was that time? It was, of course, in the Garden of Eden. But sin created a barrier; it brought variance and division. The very moment sin entered, they immediately realized they were naked, immediately tried to hide from God, immediately tired to shift the blame to someone else, and immediately denied responsibility. In that one moment, that one act, variance was introduced. But it was then the blood of Christ “reconciled” us; it was a “changing back” to that time of no variance. What a truth this is! As a believer, each of us is no longer at variance with God; we have returned to that time of walking with Him “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8), communing with Him in heart and mind.

It is truly fascinating that apokatallassō is not found in Classical Greek. In fact, even the simple verb katallassō was never used in ancient pagan worship. Why? Because the pagans were never reconciled to their gods; they had no concept of a god with whom they could have no variance. The gods of the ancient pagan religions were always angry, always demanding appeasement. Only in the New Testament Epistle do we find this meaning, for never before has man been brought back to a time of no variance. Only the blood of Christ could accomplish that. Even the Old Testament sacrifices were inadequate; they were only an “atonement,” that is, a covering of sin. Only by Christ’s blood could we be reconciled.

All this is intensified when we see that man is not only separated from God, but men are also separated from each other. Men can’t get along with other men, much less with God. Why can’t men get along with each other? Because they can’t get along with God; their response to God and His Word has been negative.

But may we go even further in this picture by seeing that this is also true of the emotional and psychological problems of individuals. Barring physical causes, most, if not all, of these problems are caused by a wrong response to God. And may we be so bold to say that most, if not all, of the psychologists and psychiatrists of to­day would have to look for another line of work if everyone would respond properly to God. Pick any problem, and you will be able to trace it back to a wrong response to God and His revealed Truth. We say all this because recon­ciliation brings us back to the time of no variance, no warfare, no “class struggle.” We now have peace with God, peace with other men, and peace with ourselves. This leads to a second principle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creating a New Race

Ephesians 2:15c declares, to make in himself [i.e., Christ] of twain one new man, so making peace. Here is what Paul has been building toward, the beautiful summary of his previous thoughts. The words to make are not the Greek poieō (“to make, form, produce”) but the stronger word ktizō (also used in verse 10), which is the word often used in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word bara, “to create from nothing” (Gen. l:l). Paul again emphasizes that God created the believer from nothing.

Further, the word new is kainos and is also extremely important. This word is distinct from another word for “new,” neos, which means “new in time.” An example of neos in our society is when we speak of a new car; a new car is only new in time; it’s not unique since it is just like thousands of others that came off the assembly line. But kainos means “new in nature” and implies that which is “better.” More specifically, it is something that is new in its own way, something unique, never having existed before. Chrysostom, famous preacher of the early Church, says that it is as if one should melt down a statue of silver and a statue of lead, and the two should come out gold. What a picture! Two entirely different things, two things that could not be more different in nature, but God made them one.

That is the picture Paul is painting here. Again, it’s not that the Gentile becomes a Jew or that the Jew becomes a Gentile, but rather both become something uniqueA CHRISTIAN. This distinction, this title has never before existed; it is some­thing totally new. We would never say, for example, “Moses was such a good Christian.” No, because there was at that time no such thing as a Christian. A Christian is something new, something totally unique to this age.

Further still, and even more significant, is the word man. The Greek here is not anēr, “a male person,” rather anthropos, the word that speaks of man as a “species,” man as a race. We can, therefore, say that there is a “new humanity” that is in contrast to the “old humanity.” And what is this “new humanity?” It is the Church. While individuals are meant, for each separate Christian is needed to make up the whole, the deeper meaning is the Church. The Church is the new, the unique thing that has never before existed. Old titles, old distinc­tions are no longer important or even valid; all men have been united into one new humanity by the blood of Christ. When we received Christ as Savior, we were ushered into this new humanity.

How thrilling this is! There has never been a greater enmity in human history than the enmity between Jew and Gentile—nothing testifies to that more than the Holocaust or the continual warfare in the Middle East. But the cross has brought these two warring factions together. In fact, it was only the cross that could bring these together.

This challenges every Christian to treat every other Christian as exactly what he or she is—another part of the body. The cross of Christ has destroyed all barriers, and this challenges us not to build any new ones. There is no longer Jew or Gentile—or any other race for that matter, whether it be Negro, Hispanic, Oriental, or Caucasian. We are all something much better now—A CHRISTIAN. Shame on us if we ever make any brother or sister in Christ feel any different, for it is sin, plain and simple.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Abolishing of Hostility

The first thought in Ephesians 2:15—Having abolished in his flesh the enmity—continues the thought of verse 14, which declares that Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The Greek for enmity (echthros) speaks of “the fixed idea of irreconcilable, deep‑rooted ha­tred.” That is strong, indeed, and that hatred had to be destroyed if a body was ever to exist; a body cannot function if the members are at war with each other.

Christ, therefore, has abolished this enmity. The Greek behind abolished is katargeō, “to render inactive, useless, ineffective; to destroy, do away with.” Paul uses this same word in II Timothy 1:10 to refer to the Lord Jesus “who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” as well as in II Thessalonians 2:8 to refer to the Antichrist, who the Lord will “destroy with the brightness of his [second] coming.”

Racial bigotry is one of the most difficult things in the world to destroy. Among the ancients, Cicero wrote, “As the Greeks say, all men are divided into two classes—Greeks and barbarians.” Aristotle spoke of the “remote tribes of barbarians belonging to the bestial class.” In other words, non-Greeks were animals. Most of us recall Adolf Hitler’s obsession with what he called the “Master Race.” In Mein Kamph, he wrote, “The constructive principle of Aryan humanity is thus displaced by the destructive principle of the Jews. They become the ‘ferment of decomposition’ among nations and races and, in a broad sense, the wreckers of human civilization.” But not only did he hate Jews, but also Negroes, Gypsies, and other groups who also were slated for extermination after the “Jewish Question” was answered.

Other examples of prejudice and bigotry are legion. At one time or another, we have all been guilty of it to one degree or anther. One illustration brings a smile but no less displays the ugliness of this innate problem. Australian Anglican Bishop John Reed recounts one day when he was driving a school bus that carried whites and aborigines. Tired of all the squabbling, when far out in the country he pulled over to the side of the road and said to the white boys, “What color are you?” “White,” they replied. “No,” he said, “you are green; anyone who rides in my bus is green. Now, what color are you?” The white boys replied, “Green.” Then he turned to the aborigines and asked, “What color are you?” “Black,” was the reply. “No,” he said again, “you are green; anyone who rides on my bus is green.” All the aborigines answered that they were green. The situation seemed resolved until, several miles down the road, he heard a boy in the back of the bus announce, “All right, light green on this side, dark green on that side.”

Reed had the right idea. What was needed was a new race, “the greens,” but could he pull it off? No! In himself, man will always be a bigot and no amount of reasoning will change that. Jesus is the only one who could change it.

The crippling result of such prejudice can be seen in an analogy. We see today tragic neuromuscular diseases as well as paraplegia and quadriplegia caused by spinal injuries. In each of these we see that the body will no longer obey the brain. The Church today is tragically in a state of “spiritual paraplegia,” even “quadriplegia;” she is in a state of paraly­sis; she will not do as the “brain” (Christ) instructs. Christ has abolished the enmity, creating instead, as we’ll see next time, “a new race,” but many today are building it back up.