015 - The Appointment of the Church [a]
The Appointment of the Church
Ephesians Lesson #015
January 27, 2019
“Our Father, we are so grateful that we can come together. We still have freedom in this nation. Freedom that is under attack. It is under attack in the state legislature of Texas. There are bills proposed that virtually desire to shut down any expression of Bible-believing Christians.
“It is stemmed from the perversions of the LGBTQ movement and their desire to shut down anyone who says that there are moral issues here, and that what they advocate is wrong and immoral. Father, the hate, the bile and the bitterness that we see from different quarters of this country seeking to shut down the influence of the Bible increase each year.
“May we remain faithful; may we realize that You will honor Your Word, and it will not go forth in vain. And that even if we face severe persecution in this country for our faith, we know that You will bless us richly spiritually, and that there are many promises where You will faithfully support us, even unto death.
“Father we pray that as we study Your Word today, that we may from the study of Your Word just catch a greater glimpse of Your eternal purpose and Your glory, that we might learn to live in light of Your plan for us, Your plan for eternity, that we might recognize the role that our current life has in terms of our eternal purposes, our eternal role in the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ, as well as into eternity.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Ephesians; we are looking still at three verses, Ephesians 1:3–5. These are critical verses. I have not previously drilled down in Ephesians like I have. And I think that it is probably in the wisdom of God’s plan that in my ministry I haven’t taught Ephesians until I had other things well in hand and understood.
I always like being able to go to Kiev and go over there for two weeks because the teaching responsibilities I have there are not those that demand my paying a whole lot of attention to my notes. I teach rewards and judgments every odd year, and on the even years I teach dispensationalism. And I teach from basically the same notes, although for half of this course, I teach off the top of my head.
Jim always says, “I want your notes.” I said, “My brain doesn’t have a print key.” I just work through 1 Corinthians 3 on the Judgment Seat of Christ and 2 Corinthians 5, and then I go through all the over comer passages and the different rewards and the seven letters to the seven churches. I’ve taught this so many times now that I really don’t have any kind of notes that I can put out for the students.
A lot of times it’s interesting from their perspective to hear their questions. Students that come out of a pagan background; students that come out of a Soviet Socialist background do not look at the text the same way that you and I do. And the questions they ask are sometimes more perceptive.
Sometimes they’re a little bit irritating because they just don’t seem to be able to put A and B together and come up with the right answer. Other times they just ask questions in order to see if I’m going to give the same answer as three other professors who’ve touched on the same topic.
Back when Margaret was our translator, Margaret said to me one day, “It’s just absolutely amazing that all of you pastors that come over here, all are in about 99.9% agreement.” This is from a woman who, at that time was in her mid-70s, and she’d been translating Christian leaders and pastors for many years who came over to the Soviet Union. She had translated for Josh McDowell. She had translated for any number of other big names, some that were more biblical, some less biblical.
But she commented, she said, “You guys that come over here are just so close that it is such an encouragement to the students that no matter who they ask, they all get basically the same answer. You believe in free grace Gospel, dispensationalism, you all believe in the importance of confession of sin and the distinctions of rewards, and all of these things that we teach, and so it’s good, and it’s good to listen to the students.
One of the things that I discovered, I’ve noticed this for many years and thought about at this time, is that I’m addressing a group of 11 or 12 students who have heard different things. Some of them haven’t been saved long, some of them have been saved a long time. Some of them have a little English. Some are more fluent. Some have no English whatsoever, so we always have a translator, so there’s a three- to five-second delay between every sentence, and I’ve had to learn to use very short sentences. That’s a challenge for me. I have sentences like Paul more than I do Peter or John.
As we go through this, I will say something, and then the translator will translate it, so I’ve got four or five seconds to think about how I’m going to say the next thing. I can watch facial expressions and read where there may be some confusion or they don’t get it or whatever, and I’ll look at the text and I have the Greek text there and I’m a think about it, and I often come up with ways of explaining a passage or explaining something that’s a little more basic, and I wish I could just remember to write all these things down because that was really good, but I never remember it, so I don’t ever have a record of it to go back, but it’s important at times to just stop and go more slowly.
Well, that sort of what happened as I was studying this week. As you know, as we’ve gotten into these first verses in Ephesians, they address some pretty challenging ideas, things that people have spent years and years debating and going over trying to understand just how does a sovereign God rule over His creation and accomplishes His purpose and at the same time allow His creatures a measure of autonomy, a measure of freedom and responsibility to serve Him or not, to believe the gospel or not.
In philosophy, you have two extremes. One is an extreme that just advocates total autonomy for man and total free will, and at the other extreme in philosophy, you have pure determinism and fatalism, and the church has always imitated the philosophical views of whatever era and whatever culture seems to dominate at the time.
There are some interesting things that have come up and come out of this, and one of the things that I learned on this last trip was that the ideas that normally are expressed as Calvinism in Western culture were not an issue in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
That’s due to various ways of thinking that developed as a result of the philosophical emphases in the West that did not impact the east, and so there are no debates like this going on in the Eastern Church. And there some other reasons and other factors for that, but that’s what’s going on.
These are important issues. And we also have to face the fact and recognize the fact that often we have poor or slightly-off-track translations, and there are several reasons for that. You may not know much about the history of your English-speaking Bible, but one of the early translators was a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Wycliffe who translated the Bible into the vernacular of the English language. This was in about the 14th century.
The next major person to translate the Bible into English was William Tyndale some 200 years later. Studies have shown that about 75% or 80% (I’m going off a memory here) of the words that are used in the King James Bible and in some revised standard version and other subsequent Bibles are the same words that were used by Tyndale.
There certain verses that have been translated the same way for so long that any diversion of translation causes an uproar among the people in the pew. Sometimes this is been for a good reason. For example, when the RSV came out in the 1950s, they did not translate Almah, the word for virgin that should be understood as virgin in Isaiah 7:14, as virgin.
They translated it “young woman,” and so this was seen as a reflection of the liberal bias, which was true of many of the translators, and many of whom did not believe in a literal virgin birth of the Messiah, so they translated it that way. In some sense, that is not an illegitimate translation, but there are other factors that indicate that it should be understood as a virgin.
Well, the same kind of thing happens when you get into some of the words and terminology that are translated in the New Testament. For example, when we talk about some of the words that we have seen in Ephesians 1, words like “choose” and words like “predestination.” These also have a history.
As will see when we get into the study of predestination that it is a translation of a word that is only used about six or seven times in the New Testament, PROORIZO. And it does not mean predestination in the sense of God selecting those whose destiny would be heaven and the selecting those whose destiny would be the lake of fire.
That was the result of Jerome who was one of the early church Fathers who translated the old and new Testaments into Latin. That which is known as the Vulgate was his translation. He chose to translate PROORIZO as predestio; that’s where that idea came in.
Because he was more of a determinist in his slant, that affected theology, and even though there were debates in the Roman Catholic between those who were more deterministic and those that were less deterministic, it really shaped things. As I pointed out, this had a great impact on both Martin Luther, who started the Protestant Reformation, as well as John Calvin.
To go back and try to rebuild word meanings from the ground up is important. The word for “election,” we will discover is EKLOGE, is basically a transliteration from the Greek into the English “elect.” It’s not a translation. You can hear EKLOGE, “elect,” you hear that the similarity, that they just brought the word over. Like BAPTIZO to baptism. It’s not a translation; it’s a transliteration. You avoid the issue by doing that.
We’re will see that there are some things going on in the words here that are important. I studied through these words while I was gone: I took various things to read and study getting online and working through material in my Logos Bible software. I came to realize that there were some interesting patterns going on in the text, that if you just massage the translation of these words, it brings out a totally different perspective on what’s happening in Ephesians 1; one which I think better fits the purpose of this epistle. We will look at that as we go along.
One of the things we will discover as we go into this, that when we look at this word that is translated “to choose,” He chose us in Him, that that choice is in Him. It’s a phrase that has to be understood. I pointed out last time that this has a corporate significance as opposed to an individual significance. We will see next time is that this does not involve selection for eternal life. It involves the selection of those in the body of Christ for a specific destiny.
Last time we looked at these verses; that there’s a praise provided for the Father in Ephesians 1:3–6, ending with a praise statement in Ephesians 1:6.
Friday after I got on the airplane coming out of Kiev, I had gotten an e-mail from Logos Bible Software blog. They do this every day; you get different emails. Half the time they’re not worth looking at. This was kind of an interesting one, and since I’m sitting in the airplane, and I didn’t have really have a whole lot to do. We were sitting there for the first 30 minutes because there was bad weather in Amsterdam, so we weren’t given permission to take off at that point, so I sat there, and I read the blog.
It was actually an excerpt from a book that was written by a former homiletics professor of mine at Dallas Seminary. A man who had great influence on the teaching of preaching. That’s what homiletics means. It’s the study of preaching. He had great influence from the time of the early 60s. In fact, he transformed the way in which preaching was understood at Dallas Seminary.
In the early years of Dallas Seminary, the primary professor of verse-by-verse teaching was a man named J. Elwood Evans, and his claim to fame for some of you was that he was the very first pastor of the church in Houston called Berachah Church. He had as a young man a shock of red hair, so everybody called him Red Evans, and he married John Walvoord’s wife’s sister.
John Walvoord became the president of Dallas Seminary, so that was just sort of a nepotistic thing going on there at Dallas Seminary. Dr. Evans was the Dean of Men when I was a student there, so I knew him. In fact, I knew all of the pastors who were at Berachah Church over the years because the chaplain at the time was another man, Dick Sumi, who was the second pastor of Berachah Church.
Evans taught a more exegetically based style of teaching and preaching verse by verse. Whereas Haddon Robinson came along, and would ridicule that, and he would say other things. And those of us who came out of a background where there was more teaching, weren’t real thrilled with Haddon Robinson. It wasn’t that he always said things that were wrong or that he wanted to take people away from the text of Scripture, because that wasn’t his view, but that’s the practical implication of that.
I think it was dangerous in its impact, and it has had this impact for the last 50 years, and I do not believe that Bible churches today are more biblically knowledgeable, more theologically astute, or more consistent in their application than they were 50 years ago. In fact, I think there much, much, much worse. And I think part of the responsibility for that lies in the influence this man had on how the Bible was taught.
He often emphasized application in such a way that the students who went out to preach minimized the details of the text in order to maximize what they believed was application, and it was a superficialization of application.
In this blog yesterday, though he said some things that were true, there was something that caused me to think about what I do. I always reevaluate what I do. Every pastor does and should. Every day you should think, “Am I really serving the Lord the best that I can do? Am I improving my craft? Am I expanding my ability to communicate and make the Word clear, and am I expanding my knowledge of the Word?”
On the positive side in this blog, he said the following, “Good sermons are nailed to the text. They are biblical. If we don’t preach the Bible, we have nothing to preach. If you want to preach politics, there are better people out there who can preach politics. If you want to preach psychology there are better psychologists on television, but we can preach the Bible.
The danger of preaching the Bible, if there is a danger, is that it’s all about the long ago and far away. So, people hear sermons, and they leave sitting in judgment on Abraham for going down to Egypt or they’re upset with Jonah because he ran away from God, and we never get to where the people in the pew are.”
There are a lot of things I could say critiquing that, but in some sense it’s true, and especially in those who are more what I would call doctrinal teachers, that there’s a tendency to get so far into the weeds that you lose sight of what the yard looks like.
These overviews should give us that framework for understanding how we change our thinking and how we are to live the spiritual life, that ultimately it comes down to details; everything does. Often what happens in preaching is they sacrifice the details, so that you don’t really come away with as much confidence in the Word as you should, and often the really profound questions are not addressed.
As a matter-of-fact, as I was looking at this section of Ephesians, I skimmed through several well-known radio preachers, graduates of Dallas Seminary, and others that are said to be great preachers and homileticians, and I found that most of them preached Ephesians 1:3–14 in one message. If they didn’t, it was only two messages, and on a rare occasion, three messages.
But the concepts and the ideas that are in Ephesians 1 are so profound and people are so confused about them. What does it mean that God chose us? Don’t I have a volitional responsibility? Didn’t I believe in the gospel? What role does that have? What does this word “predestination” mean? And their concepts are frontloaded with deterministic ideas.
Dr. Robinson says, “I find that expository preachers often do not really ask, ‘what is the purpose of this sermon?’ ” I think is right there. I think no matter how detailed you get, you ought to ask that question, and say in the bottom line here, how does all this detail affect how you think and how you shape your spiritual life?
As I thought about that, at the same time I’m reading through Ephesians 1 and studying all of these words, and I thought, “Boy, I’ve been gone two weeks; everybody’s been thinking about other things.” It is difficult to think through these issues, and just as I’m working through it, I’m coming up with a lot of insight into what’s happening throughout this whole section of Ephesians, the first three chapters.
But my approach is very different from those that you will hear in most churches. Most churches today have rejected the idea of verse by verse Bible teaching. They do not get into word studies in the pulpit. They do not talk about theological controversies.
The popular thing today is to have short series of five, six, seven or no more than eight messages with practical titles, such as “How to Have a Successful Marriage,” How to Raise Children That Are Respectful and Will Have a Good Life,” and ”How to be Happy in Times of Trouble.” All of these kinds of things are good, but they also tend to reduce the Bible into just soundbites and advertising, as if the Bible is nothing more than a book to solve your problems, not much different from a psychologist’s book.
The sad thing is that the result of this kind of pulpit preaching has led to a biblically illiterate Christianity and evangelicalism. They are not doctrinally astute, and they are spiritually immature. We can see a contrast between the church of today, 2019, your average Bible church, compare it to the average Bible church of 1960, and I think that we would have to admit that whatever’s been going on in most pulpits in the last almost 60 years is tragic. It has not produced a more knowledgeable or more application-minded congregation.
Ephesians 1:3–14: I want to look at some things that I’ve noticed, because I want to go back. I’ve done a little bit of an overview of this, but I want to go back again and just talk about some things that we see in this passage on the basis of what I’m learning on these word meanings and the significance of that. When we don’t go with the first blush suggestion in the lexicons, if we read more deeply in some of the expanded works, we can indeed find some insight that shifts the focus of these chapters.
Often, I find that if you come to these verses with a preset Calvinistic focus or even on an Arminian focus, you tend to think that this is all about what God did in the past. That is far from the truth. This section is all about what God has called us to be in the future, what our destiny is, what God is doing in this unique Church Age in order to accomplish that which He intends to accomplish in the history of mankind.
We look at especially the first three or four verses of these passages and God sets the stage for us to understand this magnificent appointment that He has made for the church. Those who are in the church have been appointed to a mission, and we have been commissioned to carry that out. These words like “appointment” and “commission” are very much part of the lexical nuances that are available for looking at these words that have been translated, more often than not, in a deterministic fashion.
But this is about the church. If you read through Ephesians, how can you not conclude that this epistle is all about the church? From the get-go, when Paul says that we have been chosen in Him, that that is talking about this body of believers.
Last time I used the illustration, let’s say you’re looking down the street, and you see one address on one side and that’s Old Testament saints, and you see an address on the other side in this house and that’s New Testament church.
When this passage is talking about this destiny or this commission that God has, he talks about the commission or the mission of those Old Testament saints. That’s a group. That is a body of the Israelites. That’s what you have it in the Old Testament, and this is a corporate idea. Then on the other side, he says those who are in that address, those who are in the church, they have a destiny, and the rest of this epistle breaks this open as to what this destiny is really all about.
I want us to just go through some of the sections and see how this will sort of reshape the way that we are thinking about what Paul says. When you read it, it will perhaps give you new insight. We will get into the details and I’ll give you some refined translations based on this.
And it’s not just me. There are a number of other translators and translations that you can get in print that are commercial that follow this same language. It’s not just the Calvinistic bent on your top five or six major translations. I have had the privilege to know a number of professors. We’re going to have one, I hope, speak at the Chafer Conference, Allen Ross.
I remember when I first had Dr. Ross for some classes when I was in seminary. He had just come back from spending the summer working on the translation committee for the NIV. The NIV was a translation by committee, he used to say. He said, “I just wish that in a number of places I could put an asterisk and say, ‘This is the Word of God by a vote of 5 to 4.’ ” People don’t understand what happens in translation, and as a translation, they’re not set in concrete.
Ephesians 1:3–6; I want to look at a couple of key phrases that I have highlighted here. For example, “in Christ” in Ephesians 1:3. We have been blessed “in Christ.” That’s a corporate term.
When you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are identified—that’s baptism—identified Paul says, in Romans 6:3–4. We’re identified with Christ’s death on the cross, and we are placed “in Him.” That is uniquely Pauline vocabulary. We are “in Him.”
This is our new position, and it is our new identity, and it is the corporate church. The entity of all believers that make up the body of Christ, because they have been placed “in Him.” So from the get-go, he’s talking about this group, those who are “in Christ,” he says, “just as He—and notice this phrase—chose us in Him…”
One of the things that we will see here is that this is not focusing on a concept of selection of people for individual salvation, but appointment to our service in the body of Christ. As we study this word “chose,” we will see that is it is almost always—in fact, one lexicographer says that among four or five characteristics of this word, the one he brings out is about his fourth characteristic, which I’ll show you next time, is that it always emphasizes the purpose, the quality of the person chosen for fulfilling the purpose.
Now that contrasts with Calvinism, where it’s an arbitrary selection. He says in every case, you have an emphasis on the quality. It’s those who are choice. We’ve gone through what I call the “Doctrine of the Magnum Bars”. I discovered this years ago asking my guide in Israel, what does this phrase mean on the Magnum Bar? And he said select or choice almonds. That emphasizes the quality of the almond. It is not the process of I’m choosing this one and I am not choosing that one, it is focusing on there’s some quality IN the almond that fits the standard, and what we will see is that quality is the possession of the righteousness of Christ.
This has to do with appointment to a task, to service. Next is what that goal is in terms of our practical application, “that we should be holy—that is, set apart— and without blame.” This is talking about the fact that as believers, we are to grow and mature in such a way that we can serve the Lord effectively.
One thing I discovered years ago is that most Christians are really happy living a rather elementary Christian life. They’re happy being a spiritual kindergartner or spiritual first grader. I would suggest that (we won’t have a show of hands) if I were to poll the congregation that when most of you were six, seven, eight, nine, ten years of age, you couldn’t wait until you were an adult and had the privileges and opportunities that adults have; you are beginning to chafe at the bit a little bit because you were restricted at being treated like a child.
The funny thing is when people get over into the Christian life, they want to stay a child. Real life, we know, is when you’re an adult, when you can have adult privileges and responsibilities, and then make something of those opportunities. But most Christians are happy just being in the nursery.
I often quote Earl Radmacher, former president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, and he said in a pastors’ conference once that the church is the largest nursery in the world, and the nursery workers, that is the pastors, don’t know how to get the babies out of diapers.
The other side of that is the babies don’t want to get out of diapers. They want to stay there. They don’t want to grow up.
We see here that we’ve been chosen for a purpose to be holy and without blame means that we have experientially matured in our spiritual growth.
Then we have a participle, but with that word “predestined” that everybody immediately says well God chose whether I would be saved or not. And so, if it’s appointed in Ephesians 1:4, the idea of PROORIZO here, a word used only six times—we will look at those, this has the idea of being commissioned to something as a group.
That those in the body of Christ, those who live at that address called “in Christ,” they have a mission. It’s not talking about how they get into the address; it’s talking about after being in the address, what the mission of those people is, and this has the idea of emphasizing the future responsibilities and benefits.
Then there’s the word “adoption as sons.” All of these should entail at least one message of explanation. The biblical idea really merges ideas from both the Greek concept of adoption and the Roman concept of adoption, but the bottom line is those who are adopted into God’s family after that occurs, they have an inheritance.
All of a sudden what we’re shifting gears on here is talking about what our future inheritance is, and that involves our roles and responsibilities not only in the kingdom when Jesus comes, but into eternity. I’ve just spent the last week really talking about all of this in Kiev in teaching about this. This adoption as sons is a critical aspect in understanding our inheritance.
The focus of all of this is on where God’s taking us, not in this life, but in our resurrection bodies, and the return of Jesus to establish the kingdom and on into eternity. We’re in the preparatory stage now. We’re like in boot camp.
If you’ve been in the military, you know that if you go through boot camp, there’re some people do well, some people who don’t. How well you do determine what future schools you can go to, what future options you have, and if you don’t do so well, then you have limited options, and you’re just going to be cannon fodder.
This is a rough analogy to the Christian life. Those who do well and are rewarded accordingly and are overcomers are going to have greater options and responsibilities in the kingdom. And those that don’t, well there’re still saved, but they don’t have those same options.
All of this is to demonstrate the glory of God’s grace. Again, and again through this epistle we see this emphasis on grace, and it’s by this grace that we have been accepted, “in the Beloved.” Again, emphasizing that corporate identity.
In the next section again, I point out the words that here. We see this word “in Him.” Again it emphasizes what we have in Christ. This is our positional forgiveness. The realization of redemption; another keyword that very few people spend time talking about.
A lot of Christians in a lot of churches will talk about redemption because that’s a biblical word, if they can use that many syllables, then they’ll repeat that, but they really don’t know exactly what redemption means and its correlation to forgiveness of sins.
But then, just as we saw in Ephesian 1:6, that this has to do with the riches, the abundance of God’s grace. So it all comes back to emphasizing the undeserved and unmerited favor of God. This goes back to “glory of His grace” in Ephesians 1:6 and Ephesians 1:7, the “riches of grace.”
Then we recognize that this is going to be based on something radically new. In Ephesians 1:9 we read, “…because it was made known to us the mystery of His will.”
As soon as people see that they think in terms of mysticism, they think in terms of “well we can’t really understand it.” The word “mystery” just basically means previously unrevealed truth, unrevealed information. Nowhere in the Old Testament was there any hint that there would be a second body of believers called the Church in the future, and God would have a plan for them that was separate and distinct from Israel.
We have this new revelation in the New Testament. In fact, we have again in Ephesian 1:9 the word “purpose,” but this isn’t really purpose. It’s EUDOKIA which means God’s pleasure—we will have to talk about that. That’s the same word for “purpose” that in the New King James they translate “good pleasure of His will” down here, but in some translations that’s “purpose.” It’s EUDOKIA, which “good pleasure” is close enough for now.
The next section, still talking about what we have in Christ, we see that repeated again “in Christ” in the middle of Ephesians 1:10, “in Him” at the end of Ephesians 1:10, and then at the beginning of Ephesians 1:11 repeating it again “…in Him also we have obtained an inheritance…”
Notice that. Now we’re moving full-bore into this whole issue of our inheritance, that which we will receive at the Bema, at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Those rewards, those privileges, possessions, assets that will be ours as we serve Christ on into the future.
Then another participle for “predestined,” so we have to understand this. It’s really, we’ve obtained this by being commissioned. That’s really the idea, as close as I can get, or appointed. As members of the body of Christ, we’ve received this mission.
This is the great commission that we refer to in Matthew 28:19–20. That’s part of the destiny of those who identify with Christ through faith in Him, and that this is going to be to the praise of His glory. So you have a repetition of glory again when we come to Ephesians 1:12.
The last part—this is a wrap up related to verses related to the Holy Spirit. Notice what it says here, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth…”
Notice you didn’t trust because you are chosen or predestined. You trusted after you heard the word of truth. And that’s really important because in Calvinism, they put the concept of trust or faith after regeneration. But that’s not what happens. If you read the verse in Acts 17:11–12 talking about the Berean believers, it says that they didn’t just believe what Paul said, they went back, and they searched the Scriptures daily.
Most times we stop there, but the next verse says “Therefore, they believed.” Wow! You search the Scriptures, and then you believe. That’s the order. That’s the same order that you have here. It is “hearing the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, in whom also, having believed—so now we go look at the results, and we’re—sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise.”
Promise focuses on there’s something coming that isn’t fulfilled. It is connected often in Scripture to the concept of hope. Hope in the Scripture means a certain expectation, a confident expectation of something that will be received in the future. All through here the subtext is: Live today in light of eternity. Live today in light of your mission. Live today in light of what God has commissioned you to do as a member of the body of Christ. It’s all about the future.
One of the things that I sort of skipped over a minute ago, is that when we’re looking at this section Ephesians 1:13–14, talking about Christ, we’re “…sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise and He’s the guarantor of our inheritance…”
As part of our being “in Christ,” we are seated with Him and this is picked up again in Ephesians 2:6, that when we are saved, we are “…raised up together—this is our position in Christ, we’re raised up together, and we’re “…made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
This is distinct. No believer in all of history ever had this privilege. Our position, your position, my position right now is we’re seated at the right hand of the Father in Christ. That’s phenomenal! This shows the superlative distinctions of Church Age believers. This is our identity in Christ for a purpose, and that is Ephesians 2:7, “…that in the ages to come He might show the riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
It’s ages to come. I don’t think that it’s just limited to Paul’s writing at the beginning of the Church Age. I think he’s talking about this demonstration of the riches of God’s grace that comes in the millennial kingdom and on into the eternal state.
There’s a purpose for our being selected in the church, that body of Christ, and that is explained: we love Ephesians 2:8–9, but we forget that it’s not the whole sentence, and Ephesians 2:10 comes along and says, “For we are His workmanship, created—there’s that phrase again—in Christ Jesus for good works.”
This isn’t legalism. This is the spiritual life. We’re to live the spiritual life, grow and mature, and God is going to work in us, and—He prepared these works ahead of time “…that we should walk in them.”
That’s the Christian life. Walking is going to be the key word in Ephesians 4, 5, and 6. It is all about the Christian life.
If you skip down a little bit into Ephesians 2:19, “Now therefore you are no longer strangers…”
He’s been talking about “we,” primarily referring to Jewish believers and what they had because chronologically they were saved first in the early part of Acts, and now he is talking to these Gentiles and says, “See, the same thing applies to you!” “You’re no longer strangers and foreigners, but you’re “…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
This is distinctive. Again, he’s arguing that you’ve got to get a hold of who you are in Christ because that’s going to tell you the answer to all your little application questions:
How do you have a better marriage? You get a hold of the fact that you’re in Christ and what that means.
How do you rear your children? You have to come to grips with who you are in Christ and what your mission as a parent is biblically, and that is going to answer your question.
But if you don’t know the Bible, then getting some superficial points that anybody can give on any talk show without any knowledge of the Bible, isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’s just nothing more than motivation, and its motivational psychology, and it has nothing to do with the Bible.
We recognize that in Ephesians 2:19–20 that there’s this whole new organism of the household of God that is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets…”—that is New Testament apostles and prophets—and Jesus Christ —Who is called later “the Choice One” in Peter. He’s—the Chief Cornerstone.
The purpose of this in Ephesians 3:6 is “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs—there’s our inheritance concept again—of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
In Ephesians 3:9–12 all of this is so that we will understand the fellowship of this mystery, this previously unrevealed information about the Church Age that was hidden in the past, but has now been revealed, and this is part of the multidimensional wisdom of God.
Ephesians 3:11, again he repeats “in Christ Jesus,” and Ephesians 3:12, “in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”
That leads us up to the beginning of Ephesians 4:1 where it says, “I therefore.”
In other words, before you really understand these practical things I’m getting ready to address, you have to understand everything in the first three chapters, because that shapes the way you think about life, and you think about who you are in your identity. It’s not whoever you thought you were before you were saved. You have a whole new purpose and a whole new identity, and that’s what those first verses from Ephesians 1:3–6 are talking about.
Paul introduces that next section. Ephesians 4:1, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”
Look at these words. “Calling.” Again, this is a word that relates to that concept of purpose, and it relates the concept of our mission: that those who are in that address of the church have been given a mission. Their purpose statement is this calling.
Look at how these things tie together. We’ve looked at Romans 8:28–30 the last few weeks as we’ve been talking about foreknowledge and its relationship to predestination, that in Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.”
Same language we find in Ephesians 1. So we’re going to have to take time. That’s why we take time with those words.
Then he gives us the process. There’s a chain of events. First of all, He knew things ahead of time. That’s what foreknowledge means. PROGINOSKO: Simply to know beforehand.
Then the next step. Not predestined to eternity in heaven or eternity in the lake of fire, but if were going to use the word “predestined,” the church is predestined to be conformed to Christ whose body we are.
Really, a better term is that that we’ve been appointed to be like Christ. The appointment of the church. That is that the mission for every single believer, and that’s what God is working on, and so PROORIZO is not the same as PROGINOSKO. They are two distinct things.
When you read a lot of commentaries, they blow past foreknowledge to say, “Well, God can’t foreknow what He hasn’t predestined.” And then they start talking about predestination, and they ignore that what this is saying is the first step has to do with God’s omniscience.
Our purpose is sanctification: God wants us to be conformed to Christ. Romans 8:29–30. Those who He has “predestined to be conformed to Christ, these He called—that has to do with being given that mission—these He also justified—the only word that’s not used in Ephesians, and then—these He also glorified.”
So the bottom line is we have to come down to what Romans 12:2 says, is that the issue in the Christian life is that we have to change, overhaul our thinking. Don’t be conformed to the world. Every one of us has been pressed into the way the world thinks about everything, and what Paul is saying here is what happens once you become a Christian is you have to be reeducated.
You have to rethink everything from the ground up. You have to be able to evaluate what your presuppositions are and the dangerous ideas you’ve picked up because that’s what your mother said, that’s what your Father said, that’s what your ignorant best friend in fourth grade said, and you thought it sounded good.
We have to get rid of all of these different ideas, and we have to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind,” not our emotions, but our thinking. We have to study; we have to reflect. This doesn’t happen just overnight. It doesn’t happen because we get motivational messages. That happens because we come to understand the Word of God, and then we internalize it in our lives.
Then once our thinking is changed our lives change, Romans 12:2, “…they demonstrate—that’s the word ‘prove’—that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This gives you an idea how critical these initial passages are, and why it’s important to drill down and understand because of so much that is said and translated wrongly with words like “choosing” and “predestination” and “inheritance” and “possessions” and “calling.” All of these need to be thought through very carefully in terms of how these words were used in the first century, how they were used historically from the Old Testament, so that we can clarify what the Bible is teaching.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to reflect on this and just to marvel at the intricacies of Your Word like the intricacies of creation. And that even though we can understand that at one level each time we go through it, it drives us deeper and deeper, and we come away with just profound awe of Your majesty and what You have called us as Church Age believers to be and to do, and that we have a mission in life.
“It’s not about us. It’s not about how we feel. It’s not about what we do. It’s not about the cars we drive or the houses we live in, the jobs we have, or the education we get. Not that those are bad, but Father You’ve called us to use all these things to be transformed renewing our mind with Your Word that we may serve You—preparing for an eternity of serving You and glorifying You.
“Father, there may be some here today, some listening to this message online that have never truly understood the gospel of grace, that Jesus Christ died for our sin. Sin caused us to be spiritually dead, and we have no future except the lake of fire, but because Christ paid the penalty for sin, if we believe in Him, if we trust in Him and Him alone for salvation, then everything changes.
“Then our spiritual death is changed by a new birth. We become a new creature in Christ with a new mission, a new identity, a new destiny. And that You are conforming us to His image, that we will have eternity with You and sin will be no more.
“Father, we pray that You would make this clear to whomever might be listening, and that for those of us who’ve been believers for a short time or long time, that You challenge us with our glorious purpose in the body of Christ—our mission in Him.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”