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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday AM
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
We begin our study of Ephesians 2 today so I’ll pass on a comment from a well-known and respected Bible teacher who once said, “Ephesians 2 is in the same category as Romans 8.” He meant Believers should consider them “priceless gems.” You see, Romans 8 is the highlight of Paul’s letter to the Believers in Rome and chapter 2 of Ephesians is the highlight of this entire letter.
I say highlight because you’ll find our Apostle Paul, repeating spiritual truths. If you’re not opposed to marking or making notations in your Bible have your highlighter handy. You see when God deems the subject matter important, you’ll find a word, phrase, or topic repeated in the same passage, in the chapter, or elsewhere in Scripture. And since God is calling our attention to it, we’re not only responsible for knowing what God said we are required to understand why He said it (2 Timothy 2:15).
God did not save us so we’d have an occasion to dress up on Sundays and look good sitting in our favorite church pew. We have been commanded to share the word with those who by choice remain in darkness or ignorance.
Now all these things are of God, the One having reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and having (what) given to us the ministry of reconciliation: namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-19).
God could save everyone outright and skip all the drama and some people actually believe that’s what He’s done. No one is going to Hell or the Lake of Fire according to these people. But that belief comes from man; God never made that statement. Instead, He prefers we choose Him over this world and with our salvation there comes responsibilities. The ministry of reconciliation is one. We’re to share the Word with others, especially those who remain outside of Christ Jesus.
We’re not able to save anyone; salvation is God’s business. But we are to show the world we’re not dead to God. “We have been made alive in Christ;” and Christ lives in us (Romans 8:10-20). We’re to live our lives in such a way as to bring honor and glory to God and we must be ready to explain to others why we choose to live this way. So, the question is “Do people see a reflection of the world or Jesus Christ in you?”
Made Alive in Christ
It stands to reason, since true Believers have been “Made Alive in Christ,” before our conversion we were all dead to God. Biblically speaking, there are two types of death. We will all experience the inevitable 1st death, but this book says death is not end. Jesus proved this to be true; on the third day the tomb was empty (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). For unbelievers, after the Great White Throne Judgment, there awaits the second death and it’s preventable.
When a person dies their eternal, invisible soul departs their body. The example I use from Scripture to show you what this book means to say on this subject is Jesus’ account of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This isn’t a parable, as some claim, but a description by the Lord of something that really happened after these two men died and their soulless bodies were laid in the ground. What occurs to them in Paradise and Sheol/Hades in the center of the earth explains what happened to them in their “disembodied state.” Clearly, they were both conscience, i.e. they are aware of their surroundings for the Rich Man recognized Lazarus across the divide or chasm. This would have been impossible if Lazarus did not possess a body, not his physical body that lay buried in the earth up above, but his soulish body. This proves our body is not simply a body. Our soul in its outward form and appearance mirrors our earthly body; otherwise these two men could not have recognized each other. In this account the Rich Man could feel, see, speak, think, and thirst. This proves, besides showing us he was alive in his soulish body. He possessed all his senses and did not lose his personality.
Keeping this in line with what God has said, we need to know each person (as complex and individualistic as they are) is made in God’s image. Like the Triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), we too are a trinity having been made body, soul, and spirit. Some people teach we are only a body with a soul. They consider the soul and the spirit as one. But this book mentions all three aspects of our being; not just two, and it says our body and soul are two separate entities:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
So, this body we occupy is merely a tent (a temporary shelter) housing the real you and me which is our invisible soul and spirit (2 Corinthians 5:1):
Our carnal flesh (body) has the ability to: see, smell, hear, taste, and touch.
Our soul (the psyche) is capable of: affection, conscience, imagination, memory, and reason.
Our spirit (Pnuema) went from being spiritual at creation (in a personal relationship with God) to natural. In short this means we could not relate to God at all. We were only interested in appeasing our physical appetites or carnal desires (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15:46). Our spirit is capable of sensing those things related to God: faith, hope, prayer, reverence, and worship.
Now you can’t see any of these attributes, but we all know they exist. Like the Holy Trinity these character traits are invisible just like God who is Spirit (invisible), and yet capable of expressing thought, will, and emotion (another trinity); the very same traits we possess.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11).
The shortest verse in the Bible is, “Jesus wept.” Upon hearing the news His friend Lazarus had died the Lord mourned him; He expressed emotion (John 11:35).
The Holy Spirit is identified as a Person by the Apostle John (John 16:13). The main purpose of the Holy Spirit (our Helper) is to come alongside the Believer to do what Jesus did when He was here working with His disciples. This means the Holy Spirit has the same attributes as Jesus Christ. The Spirit is our teacher and our comforter (John 14:26); this would be hard to achieve if the Holy Spirit is some remote force.
He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints (Romans 8:27).
But the one and the same Spirit works all these things dividing to each one as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Do not grieve (an emotion) the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 63:10).
After that groundwork, we’re ready to commence our study, so please open your Bible at Ephesians 2.
In the first ten verses our Apostle Paul presents the past, the present, and the future of the Believer in Christ Jesus: what they were (v1-3); what they are (v4-6, 8-9); and what they will be (v7-10). He also gives us six aspects of salvation: it is from sin (v1-3); by love (v4); unto eternal life (v5); with a purpose (v6-7); through faith (v8-9); unto good works which God prepared beforehand (v10).
1: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins - Chapter 2’s central theme is about our new life in Christ, so Paul begins by explaining the Ephesians’ former life outside of Jesus Christ, and to be honest it was discouraging. I say this because without Christ they were without hope in this world. I liken this to saving a non-swimmer from drowning. If a caring individual does not intervene (mediate) by tossing them a life preserver, or diving in to save them, they too are without hope. The Ephesian, like each one of us, was drowning in their trespasses and sins, until God provided them the gospel of peace (a.k.a. the one and only life preserver today). These folks took God at His Word and were saved, by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
You were dead in your trespasses and sins – there’s no clearer statement in the Bible on the sinfulness of man, and its foreseeable result, but this statement is past tense. The Ephesians are Believers in Christ, meaning their sin is no longer an issue with God.
The KJV Bible translators added the phrase hath he quickened (made alive) to verse 1. Skipping ahead just a bit, in Ephesians 1:19, Paul prays for his readers to recognize what God’s power has done for them. As a part of this opening prayer, verses 1-10 inform them of some of the blessings God’s divine power has accomplished for them and for every Believer who freely chooses to accept His free gift of salvation.
Any gift presented to you is yours FOC: free of charge. You don’t have to earn a gift. Now if you opt to pay the gifter, or work to earn it, it is no longer a gift because the gift is owed to you. The other noteworthy thing is it’s not your gift until you accept it. In all my years I’ve never seen anyone refuse to open their gift on Christmas morning. The living room floor is littered with bows and ribbons and torn Christmas wrapping proving everyone who was offered a gift accepted it without hesitation and unconditionally. Furthermore, they couldn’t wait to see what was in the package!
God’s offer of salvation is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive because it solves man’s sin problem forever; it reconciles them to God, gives them eternal life, and so much more. Yet millions of people have basically told God, “No, I don’t need your gift,” and this great treasure remains unopened, ignored.
This begs the question, “Why do people reject God’s free gift of Grace?” This book says we are all born with a sin nature. Consequently we enter this world spiritually dead to God. But here’s the thing, our sin problem is not terminal. God has published His invitation of salvation and those who choose to accept it by faith are imputed with the righteousness of Christ. They are “Made alive in Christ” for God desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1Timothy 2:3-40). However this is a personal decision. Your mother and father can’t choose it for you and God will not force you to accept His gift of grace.
2: in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Satan), of the spirit (apart from God) that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air – put another way, all the people outside of Christ seeking to fulfill the desires of the flesh, are living under the power of this world (Satan’s power). In the state of spiritual death, the only walking or living a person can do is according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.
the course of this world – the word “course” signifies all the deeds, pursuits, tendencies, thoughts, etc. characterizing this present age. “This world” (Kosmos) means world system which originated with Satan and is opposed to God. We are not sinners because we break God’s laws; we break God laws because we’re sinners. Any law or rule inflames our sinful nature. The desire to trespass it is stronger than the desire to obey it.
The world’s system consists of those philosophies and values that perpetually influence humanity to think and behave contrary to God’s will or His Word. I believe it is best characterized by these three elements: humanism, materialism, and illicit sex.
Humanism places man above all else, especially God.
Materialism places a high value in physical things, especially money.
Immoral or illicit sex dominates our way of life.
Before their conversion the Ephesians used to behave in accordance with these ungodly values. They once lived in accordance with Satan’s designs and not God’s. Paul’s not saying every unsaved individual is necessarily indwelt at all times by Satan. However, since they are unsaved (outside of Christ), either knowingly or unknowingly, they are subject to Satan’s evil influence. Because they share the devil’s nature of sinfulness and exist in His world they routinely demonstrate their total rebellion against God.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17; Genesis 3:1-7).
3: Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as (all) the rest.
When Paul said, “we too” he included himself and the smug thinking religious Jew who thought or openly stated, “I’m glad I’m a Jew and not a Gentile. I’ve never committed a terrible sin.” Paul’s argument is similar to Romans 1-3, where he first indicts the Gentiles because of their sinfulness, but then shows the religious Jews are equally guilty before God:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
and were by nature children of wrath, even as (all) the rest - this means because of our sin nature everyone has a “sin problem.” If you’re outside of Christ, the problem is fatal. Our flesh seeks to control us. If we give into its lusts we show we’re by nature children of wrath. Once you’re saved, the indwelt Holy Spirit will help you conquer the flesh (Romans 7:20-25).
The soul of man could be compared to the will of man. The spiritual battle is between the flesh and our spirit over the soul. Paul writes:
But I say, (choose to) walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please (Galatians 5:16-17).
Far too many people believe they are a child of God, when in fact they are not. They have not received God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). They are, then, by nature (God’s enemies and the) children of wrath (John 3:18).
4: But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
You’ll find Paul using this phrase, “But God” frequently. In brief, it means God Sovereignly intervened in man’s redemptive history. These two words also summarize the heart of the gospel of peace. The term “But now” is an explanation of the way things are now. In other words, if you said, “Because God is rich in mercy and grace” instead of But now, the meaning would be the same.
In this instance, But God means our salvation hangs entirely on these two words. If God did not intervene in humanity’s affairs, we would all still be dead in our sin.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins – But God!
We were enslaved to sin – But God!
We were all trapped by Satan’s schemes – But God!
We once walked a destructive course – But God!
We were once children of wrath – But God!
Paul approached this problem the same way in Romans 1:18 – 3:20 by demonstrating the sinfulness of mankind and the need to be righteous, “in right standing,” before God. Then in Romans 3:21, he revealed God’s redemption in Christ. Paul always starts with man’s lost and dead condition. In Titus 3, Paul is telling us what we were like, and then explains what God has done to change our lost state:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:3-6).
In other words, But God explains what man cannot achieve only God can! After the rich, young man walked away from Jesus, He explained to His disciples: And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24).
I was wrongly taught “the eye of the needle” was a low gate in the Jerusalem wall. But here Jesus was talking about a literal sewing needle. All you have to do is read with understanding the disciple’s response:
When the disciples heard this, they were astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).
We were all spiritually dead once, But God!
being rich in mercy – the Koine Greek word mercy translated is Eleos (el’-eh-os), Noun Neuter, Strong’s Greek #1656. The word appears frequently in Paul’s writings and elsewhere in Scripture. The Hebrew word mercy is translated Chesed. It means: goodness, kindness, faithfulness. It expresses the idea of loyal or covenant love.
Jesus describes what this word means in His parable about the Good Samaritan. The Lord, after reciting the account simply asked, “Who proved to be a neighbor to the wounded stranger?”
And he said, “The one who showed (what) mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).
Jesus said the Good Samaritan showed mercy. His mercy was more than an emotional response to a need (empathy or pity). The Good Samaritan’s mercy was discernible:
(The Good Samaritan) came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’ (Luke 10:34-35).
Like the Good Samaritan in this account God loves us with a sacrificial, selfless, unconditional (Agape) love. God didn’t just use words to express His great for us. He gave the world His best gift in Jesus Christ who died for all (Romans 5:8-9). God shows us mercy is not merely words or emotions. It is the outward manifestation of compassion. Our Bible text says God is “rich” in mercy. The word rich in Koine Greek is Plousios (ploo’-see-os), Adjective, Strong’s Greek #4145, and it means: abundant. Our God, therefore, is abundant in mercy.
For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them (Deuteronomy 4:31).
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all (Romans 11:32).
because of His great love with which He loved us – God didn’t just love us; He showed us love is a verb.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
In other words, God didn’t choose to save the world because He pitied us. He was motivated by His great love for us (Romans 8:37-39; 1 John 4:7-10).
5: even we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Paul repeats himself here saying, “We were dead.” Some of you may not have heard this expressed before, so in anticipation of questions from the back of the room, figuratively speaking, let’s address the two main questions now:
1) Why did God consider the Ephesians “dead?”
2) What does Paul mean by “dead;” since they’ve been breathing oxygen from birth, i.e. demonstrating signs of life?”
If you’ll turn in your Bible to Romans 5:12, Paul gives us the answer to #1.
Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and (spiritual) death through sin, and so death (did what) spread to all men (and women), because all sinned –
In Genesis 3 we find the man playing the “blame game.” In response to the LORD’s question, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:11-12). Paul explains the result of the man’s (Adam) transgression: sin (and death) entered the world.
The account of man’s (and the woman’s) fall from grace is recorded for us in Genesis 2.
This account is the beginning of humanities end. It isn’t a tale told to Hebrew children around campfires meant to frighten them into behaving as some people believe. This biblical truth stands to reason and saving faith (Proverbs 20:12; Matthew 13:16).
God’s Word mentions both reason and saving faith. Many Christians think there’s a conflict between reason and faith. But there’s no conflict. This book says we have to have a good reason for what we believe, and we are to share that reason with others:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15).
God tells us to reason: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool…” (Isaiah 1:18).
We are also required to exercise our faith. We are to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). This book says “the just will live by (exercise their) faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).
This book is saying we are to have good reasons for what we believe and we are also to demonstrate faith. Truth be told without faith we could not have reason. God gave everyone the ability to reason. Reason is a means that allows us to draw conclusions from information we receive, and particularly information given to us in His Word.
Our Apostle Paul reasoned with his brethren using the O.T. Scriptures (Acts 17:17). By using the Old Testament he showed Jesus Christ was who He said He was to those who needed to hear God’s message. It’s also a fact without reason none of us would realize we are saved by faith. We reason because of our trust in God’s Word we are saved. Thus, we know our names appear in the book of life (Revelation 13:8, 21:27). So when all is said and done the kind of reasoning God expects us to use is derived from the principles of God’s Word; the only source of Truth in this darkened world. This is how the Ephesians realized what God said was true. They were dead to God once, having reasoned it out.
sin entered into the world, and (spiritual) death through sin - the LORD God created man, placed him in the perfect environment, and gave him dominion over all living things and the earth (Genesis 1:26). In every dispensation we find God testing mankind to see if they will place their trust in His Word, demonstrating saving faith. The test in the Dispensation of Innocence was given to the man with these words from the LORD:
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die (Genesis 2:17).
Now, the man and the woman did not die right away. We are to reason he did die spiritually not physically. Spiritual death is separation from God. So, the answer to question #2, “What does Paul mean by “dead,” is the Ephesians (and all the unsaved of this world) are spiritually dead. They aren’t just the “walking wounded,” they are dead to God.
…and death spread to all men – spiritual death spread to all. The why is explained in clear language at the end of Romans 5:12 – because all sinned. Since the man is guilty, we are all guilty. Adam is the federal head of the human race. He represents all of us (Romans 5:12-21). When he disobeyed the LORD’s command, His transgression was added to our account. Meaning, we are all born dead. But, as I’ve already said, this problem is not fatal. God has provided the way for us to be reconciled to Him and that by faith (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
6: and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places - the word raised in Koine Greek is Sunegeiro (soon-eg-i’-ro), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4891, meaning: to raise up together. Since God has “made us alive,” this is referring to a spiritual resurrection from our previous position of being dead to God.
Raised us up…seated us with Him – the tense of this statement indicates these actions are both immediate and a direct result of believing the gospel of peace. So let’s be clear; not only is the true Believer dead to sin and alive to righteousness through Christ Jesus’ resurrection, but they also share in the Lord’s unsurpassed glory.
Here Paul explains the purpose of our salvation in regard to us and in regard to God. The most immediate and direct result of our salvation is to be raised up with Him, and then in the future, seated with Him in the heavenly places. I personally believe we’ll never fully comprehend the meaning of Paul’s words until the moment it happens. But this verse says what it means and means what it says. We will be seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Paul mentioned this before in Ephesians 1:20-21, but here in 2:6, the wording is different, instead of referring to Christ being raised up and seated on God’s right hand, here Paul’s referring to us Believers. We’ll follow the path blazed by the Lord Jesus Christ, in other words.
“…YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him. But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings…” (Hebrews 8-10).
In WW II there were a group of men known as the Pathfinders. These men would parachute into enemy territory before the assault or as in the case of the Normandy Invasion, before an all out attack on enemy soil by the allied forces. Their mission: “to light the way,” allowing pilots and other paratroop forces to see exactly where they needed to land safely. In the midst of darkness and chaos, fear and danger, their light provided a way for others to head in the right direction safely.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Pathfinder. The author of our salvation went before us; He is the Firstfruits, i.e. the First of God’s harvest (1 Corinthians 15:23). The verses from Hebrews explain He is pulling us back to Him in effect saying, “This is what you can become. Don’t ignore it!”
Jesus Himself declares: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This emphatic statement from God’s Son reveals there is but one way to approach the Father and that is by faith in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Our destiny is identified with Christ’s destiny, His sacrificial work. He was made alive; we are made alive together with Him. He was raised up; we were raised up together with Him. He was made to sit at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places; we have been made to sit together with Him in the heavenly places. Why have we been identified with Him? For this simple reason: God made Him to be the Head of the Church, the Body of Christ, what He does, He does for those who believe.
(To be continued)
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