The Standards of Revelation
Ephesians Lesson #089
November 1, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we come to study Your Word, to come to learn what You have revealed to us, what has been written down for the ages that we might come to understand the absolute truth of Your plan and of what You are doing in this Church Age with this new entity, the church, the body of Christ, and the uniqueness, spiritually, of this entity of which we are apart.
“Father, we recognize that so little is really taught about this, so little is done in terms of truly probing the depths of these passages in Ephesians, and as we have done so, we are just coming to an awareness that we are unlike any believers of any other time in history: that there is a uniqueness and distinctiveness.
“Yet, there is a glory about what You are doing with the church, that as Paul concludes in this section, is beyond anything we can imagine, it’s beyond anything we could ask or think. You have raised us, and You have seated us together with Him in the heavenlies, and we can not exploit that to its fullest at all. It is just phenomenal.
“Help us as we study, to understand and gain a greater glimpse of who we are in Christ, what our mission is and what You have commissioned us to do in this Church Age. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Let’s open our Bibles to Ephesians 3. We are looking at the mystery doctrine again this morning, that mystery revelation that God gave to the Apostle Paul. Not just to him. I think there’s a certain branch of older dispensationalists that talk as if this mystery doctrine was given to Paul and to Paul alone.
But we have seen in our study in Ephesians 3:5 that “it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets—plural,” not just to the Apostle Paul, although he is distinctly the missionary, the apostle to the Gentiles.
That’s his primary responsibility, but that didn’t exclude Jews. He always went someplace to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. Peter himself, who is designated in Galatians 2 as the apostle to the Jews is the one who opened the door to the Gentiles of entry into the Church, the body of Christ. But this was something that was unforeseen, unexpected in the Old Testament; it is something that is completely new.
This section we’re looking at really goes from Ephesians 3:1–13 and it’s important for us to understand why Paul is saying these things. It always gives us a little glimpse into the way Paul thought and the way Paul taught. We think today in such superficial ways about biblical application, and we really don’t probe the depths of application as we have seen.
During this year of 2020, where we have seen the pandemic with the COVID virus, we’re seeing the election year, we are seeing things shut down completely. We’ve seen once already the stock market drop precipitously, and then recover.
We’ve seen partial recoveries, we’ve seen churches shut down. We’ve seen in some states that are dominated by Democrat politicians and have been for 15, 20, 30, 40 years that they have a heavy hand in restricting churches to meet.
People need to recognize there’s a connection between those actions and the worldview and belief system of that political party. You haven’t seen this with those states where they’re dominated by Republicans. Now that doesn’t mean there they’re the best; it just means they’re better.
We have a Constitution in this nation and a Declaration of Independence that recognizes God-given human rights, and yet these are being negated now by little tyrants in state governments and some city governments.
This election is really significant because we don’t know what’s going to happen come Tuesday. We may not even know Tuesday night who the next president’s going to be or in some of these other offices we may not know for some days. There are threats.
Interestingly, everything that I read in terms of original source material that’s documented on the Internet is coming from radical left organizations, but I read everybody. When I read the mainstream media—Politico, and others—they seem to never mention ANTIFA or Black Lives Matter or any of the other radical left organizations that are actually behind all of these riots.
They say that it’s all right-wing extremists. In fact, I had a lifelong friend call me a right-wing extremist the other day. I haven’t changed any in 60 years, but what’s happened is the country has moved to the left. All of this just gives us an incredible sense of uncertainty: there’s chaos in the world; there is uncertainty.
What about God’s plan? What’s going on? Has God forgotten about us? There are numerous times in life when things don’t go the way they should. It may be a health crisis. It may be a relationship crisis; it may be a financial crisis. There are so many different things that happen.
We have our plan, we have our trajectory set, and all of a sudden something happens, and it seems like everything gets turned upside down and we’re going in a completely different direction. Sometimes it doesn’t appear that that God is really paying attention to us. He’s a little bit distracted by what’s going on in the Middle East or what’s going on in China, or somewhere else. So we tend to get discouraged, “God’s forgotten about us.”
I had a friend that I grew up with here in Houston, a lifelong friend. We had a similar background. We grew up in the same church. We did many things together. We both went to Camp Peniel, we went to Teen class every night at Bible class, and we went off to college together. We spent some time together there and then he transferred to another school and some years went by.
When he got into his 40s he begin to focus on the fact that he really hadn’t achieved what he wanted to achieve. He was in a job that bored him to death and was absolutely miserable all the time. He was unhappy, and rather than turning to the Lord to see, “Well, what are you doing with me,” he got angry with God and bitter, and spent the rest of his life just in deep anger and bitter antagonism toward God.
That’s why Paul’s writing this part of the chapter: he’s trying to encourage those Ephesian believers that were being tempted to be discouraged. Because they thought, “Well, if God is doing all these great things to the Apostle Paul, than Paul needs to be out traveling and going places, and going here and there.”
This is what Paul reminds them of at the beginning of the chapter he says in Ephesians 3:1. “For this reason—that is, what he said before—I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.”
At this point he introduces this, and then you see by the em dash (–) at the end that he then diverts himself from what he was going to say. He introduces a new thought that seems like he has just been distracted and that he is going in a totally different direction.
But the fact is he comes back to this afterwards, which shows us that everything between Ephesians 3:3–12 is designed to tell something about who he is and what God is doing in his life. Even though he is now in prison and has been for three or four years—two years in Caesarea by the Sea in Israel. He then takes the ship to Italy, and in Rome he is under house arrest for two years—and people are thinking, “God needs to let him out, so that the church can expand.”
Paul realizes wherever God has him, he’s going to use him to expand the church, and that’s what he’s encouraging them with. Everything in between is designed to go to this point in Ephesians 2:13, “Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”
Paul was going to fulfill his ministry because he was under the sovereign direction of God, but they thought that because he wasn’t doing what they thought he should be doing, that somehow this would impact God’s plan. Paul knew that God was in control, even though Paul or others may have thought there was a better way, God knew the best way.
This digression in Ephesians 3:2–12 is really giving us a new rationale for understanding when things go haywire from our perspective, but God is still in control.
What he says reinforces what we’ve learned before in Romans 8:28 that “… all things work together for good …” God is working all things together for good. That doesn’t mean all things are good, but that even when horrible things happen, even when we may face antagonism from friends and family, even when there may be persecution for the gospel—
Think about situations all over the world. We get the magazine, Voice of the Martyrs here; you ought to read that sometime. In so many places in the world Christians’ lives are in danger every single day … sort of makes us realize it’s not so bad here after all.
The number of Christians that are being arrested and martyred in China is unbelievable, yet it’s never talked about on major news outlets, conservative or liberal. You have to pay attention to these other ministries that are working in those areas.
Paul says that God has revealed to him and the apostles, something new that is called “a mystery. It is teaching that was not made clear at all, wasn’t even revealed in the Old Testament at all. God was silent; God had it in His secret counsel. And it wasn’t revealed until the Church Age, when it was made known to the Apostle Paul and the other apostles.
We have to understand the significance of this whole section of Ephesians 3:2–12 because what Paul is talking about is what God has given him. Ephesians 3:2, “If indeed you have heard of the dispensation—I’ve translated that as ‘administration’ or ‘dispensing’—of the grace of God which was given to me for you.”
We will talk more about that in Ephesians 3:7 in the first paragraph. It’s not about the dispensation of grace. It is not about grace; it is about the whole phrase. It’s not any individual word, it’s that whole phrase that he uses several times in here, “dispensation—or the administration—of the grace of God which was given to me.” That whole phrase is significant.
Ephesians 3:7, “of which—that is, the gospel—I became a minister according to—what?—the gift of the grace of God that was given to me.”
It’s that whole phrase that’s important. It refers to his apostolic gift, which is how Paul uses it. It relates to his apostolic commission, his apostolic mission, and his apostolic message, all bound up in that one phrase. He is saying, “This is what’s important, and the mission that God gave me has not been hindered by the fact that I’m in prison, so cheer up.”
The same thing is true for us. God’s Word is not being hindered, God’s Word is not bound. He is accomplishing many things even though there’s the lockdown. There are Zoom meetings and other things like that using the Internet that’s reaching people who otherwise might not have been reached.
These things that appear to us to be roadblocks are just diversions to a better course, and God is taking us in that direction, so we need to change our thinking.
In Ephesians 3:3–6 he talks about this “mystery by revelation.” We talked about revelation last time, that God is revealing something. Revelation is not something mystical, revelation is not having some sort of inner hot flash and all of a sudden Paul says, “Oh! I get it now!” It’s the communication of information.
It is the disclosure of that which is veiled or concealed or hidden. Those are the words that are the opposite from the word used for revelation. It’s addressed to the intellect, “that He made known” something—it’s not a feeling.
It has to do with giving information that otherwise we couldn’t get just by thinking about it, by further study, or anything else. It was kept in the secret counsel of God and was not given until this Church Age.
I paraphrase Ephesians 3:3, “God made known to me, according to the standard of divine revelation, the mystery which was not made known to the human race as it has only now been revealed by the Holy Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.”
Last time, we looked at the standards for divine revelation, and what we saw was that God made something specific known to Paul. I’m going to summarize it a little differently today.
1. God made something known to Paul.
2. What was made known was called “a mystery,” that is something that had never been revealed. It was God’s closely guarded secret.
3. The way it was made known was “according to the standard of revelation.”
… meaning a revealing, a disclosure, or an unveiling.
What the Bible teaches about divine revelation.
1. Key words
- APOKALUPSIS has to do with disclosing some information.
- GNORIZO means “to make known” means to give information.
I pointed out that revelation discloses information which is necessary to correctly understand and interpret the events of our lives that we can’t get any other way. You’re not going to reason your way to it.
Paul didn’t go off to the University of Tarsus and work on a PhD on the Hebrew Scriptures and suddenly come up with a breakthrough doctrine. It wasn’t that way at all. He’s not having any of those kinds of insights. God had to reveal this to him specifically.
2. Some information is only knowable through revelation, not available through reason, through logic, through experience or empirical analysis. It is only knowable because God the Holy Spirit has revealed it to us through the Scriptures.
3. God kept this secret from everyone since the creation of the world.
Romans 16:25, “… according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began …”
I keep emphasizing that because there are people who teach that some of this was known in the Old Testament. Just because God worked through the Jews and there were Gentiles who were saved doesn’t mean that they understood any of this. This is a really strong clear statement: this was not revealed at all in the Old Testament.
4. Revelation is given by means of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 3:5, it is “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.”
5. It is revealed to the apostles and prophets, Ephesians 3:5.
When he uses the phrase “the apostles and prophets” at the end, he is relating to the foundation of the church.
In Ephesians 2:20 he stated, “… having been built—now the previous verse ends with the phrase ‘the household of God.’ That does not include Old Testament believers at all; it is this new building. The term for household indicates a building that is in the process of being constructed, and that this is something new. It is—built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”
Not the individual prophets; it is not talking them literally; they are not laid down physically with this being built on top of them. It is talking about what they taught, what they wrote, what was revealed to them, thus it is talking about the teaching of the Scriptures.
Roman Catholicism has a doctrine—and the way they treat it makes it a false doctrine—of apostolic succession. In Roman Catholicism it is a succession of people, but in the early church, they understood it to be: a succession of truth, a succession of content, a succession of biblical doctrine. What made it right was that it conformed to Scripture.
The foundation was the apostles and prophets and what they taught. This phrase is given several times in this order. It’s not “prophets and apostles.” In Ephesians 2:20 it is “apostles and prophets,” in Ephesians 3:5 it is “apostles and prophets.”
Ephesians 4:11 is in that same order, that God Himself gave apostles and some prophets—these spiritual gifts. It’s in that order because he’s talking about the church. He doesn’t want us to confuse this, that these are Old Testament prophets. These are the apostles and the New Testament prophets.
The New Testament was written mostly by apostles, but there are some that were not of the 12 or Paul. You have Mark, Luke, the writer of Hebrews, Luke also wrote the Book of Acts. These books are written by non-apostles. They were closely associated with apostles.
But these would’ve been men who had the gift of being a New Testament prophet. It is their writings, as this passage says, the New Testament apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, and that this mystery was revealed to apostles, to His holy apostles and prophets.
I want to draw your attention to Ephesians 3:5; I have underlined, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons men …” If we stop there, we would clearly understand it that it wasn’t made known at all to the sons of men. Then you have this little word “as.” It’s a comparative adverb and many times the way we use it is in a sense where you’re comparing degree or extent.
I might say that Jim Myers is a missionary, but he’s not a missionary like John and Valerie down in the depths of the Amazon rain forest, who are working with the Yanomami people where it’s extremely primitive. That’s what a lot of people think of as a missionary, somebody who’s going into an un-touched area, living down in the jungle, or whatever.
Jim and Phyllis have almost all the modern conveniences, and that’s not true at all, if you read those dispatches that John and Valerie put out. It’s amazing what they have to do. They just had to carve a flat space out in the jungle and tear down all the trees and build their home. They just deal with all kinds of things on a daily basis because they’re in the heart of the jungle.
You have different kinds of missionaries. Jim is one kind, but he’s not a missionary in the same way that they are in the rain forest of the Amazon. It’s a difference in degree or difference in kind.
But there’s another way in which we use a comparative adverb—a “restrictive sense,” where it’s not comparing degree. You have one thing and the thing that’s being compared has nothing to do with the first one.
Most of you know Brice is the tech wizard behind the Dean Bible Ministries website. He knows all the software and everything related to running a website. I can say, “I can use a computer, but I’m not a tech wizard as Brice is;” I’m not a tech wizard at all.
In that sense, it’s not two things where one is a greater degree of the other. One is one thing, and the thing that it’s compared to is something else completely, which is how the “as” is used in this verse.
Paul is saying, “… in other ages it was not made known to the sons of men—and we could paraphrase it—but it is now being revealed by the Spirit …”
“Because” is the third sense you can use, but I think it’s more comparative “as it has now been revealed …” It wasn’t revealed at all in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament.
We see here a very strong statement that this teaching was kept in the secret counsel of God, and it’s not revealed until the Day of Pentecost. Christ actually began to reveal some of this a little bit the night before He went to the cross. But what God was going to do with the Gentiles isn’t mentioned at all there.
We see from our study of Ephesians 2:11–22 and what we see here is that God has a remarkable plan for bringing Jew and Gentile together as one new man, one new body, and one new temple. So this new man, new body, new temple theme is in Ephesians 2:11–22, something that was never thought about before. It never even entered anybody’s mind.
That’s why at the end of Ephesians 3, when Paul closes out in a doxological prayer he says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think.” It’s beyond anything that we could’ve imagined.
I’ve been pointing out in this study that this radically transform the image or the sense we have of who we are as believers in Christ. It’s a really insipid concept to just think that “Well we’re in Christ. That means were going to go to Heaven.” That’s barely touching it!
We have been elevated to a position of aristocracy and royalty in terms of all of those who have believed, that God is making the church something distinctive. We are said to be in Christ: we are called the “Bride of Christ,” we are called the “Body of Christ.” That never happened with anybody before.
This emphasis comes out of what we studied in Ephesians 2:10, when talking about what happens when we’re saved—we become a new creation. When God creates something it’s perfect, it’s glorious, it’s beautiful, it’s incredible. It says God makes us a new creation, so it’s a masterpiece.
It’s not just something that God did. It’s not just simple workmanship. It is something that is extraordinary, something that is beautiful. As pointed out in Ephesians 2, this will be manifest throughout all the ages in the future, what God has done for believers in this Church Age.
Ephesians 3:6, “… that the Gentiles should be—and then he uses these three terms—should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.”
Unfortunately, and sadly, in the New King James translation we all miss the significance of what he is saying. In each of these terms in the Greek, the words begin with this Greek preposition SUN, which means “together with.” We have seen that before, and I’ll go there in just a minute.
Each of these terms should be translated if possible with words that indicate “together with.” The best translation I’ve seen so far is the idea of “fellow.” It means that we have the same inheritance, the same body, and we have an identical participation in the promise of Christ, the same participation in the body of Christ, Jew and Gentile together which never ever happened before.
Looking at these three words, SUGKLERONOMOS, SUSSOMOS, and SOMMETOCHOS, it is the preposition “SU” at the beginning that is prefixed to the word indicating an extremely high position.
These words are mostly synonymous, although there is slight overlapping of meaning and a slight distinction in each one, but it ought to remind us of Ephesians 2:5–6.
Ephesians 2:8-9 focused us on how God saved us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
It started off identifying the fact that you Gentiles were dead in your trespasses and sins, death there meaning that they were alienated from the life of God.
In Ephesians 2:3 Paul said, “we too,” indicating that Jews were just as spiritually dead and just as corrupt as the Gentiles.
Ephesians 2:4, “But now—that’s the big contrast there—But now God, who is rich in mercy, because of the love with which He loved us—and that just introduced the subject of the sentence.”
What makes this so great is in Ephesians 2:5–6, “… even when we were dead in trespasses—then you have the subject of that verb from Ephesians 2:4: God—made us—what?—alive together—Jew and Gentile. God—made us alive together with Christ and raised us up together—Jew and Gentile—and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
This is our position, our identity. Our legal position is at the right hand of God the Father as those who are members of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made the both one.” So, from “together, together, together” to “both, both.” We’re both made one new man, we are both made a new body, and that foreshadows what we see in the verse we’re studying in Ephesians 3.
In Ephesians 2:15, one new man; Ephesians 2:16 we’re both made one body. Then in Ephesians 2:21–22, we are a new temple for a dwelling place of God.
That is so different from the Old Testament, where there was a temple in Jerusalem and God dwelt in the midst of His people Israel. But now it’s not a physical building in a physical location, it is a spiritual entity, a spiritual building, a spiritual body of the Church, for God’s dwelling within it.
Not only does God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indwell every believer, but He indwells the corporate entity, the Church, which makes us so much different from every other body of believers.
Ephesians 3:6, he says, first of all, we are fellow heirs, and that has to do with two different concepts in Scripture.
There are two different categories of inheritance, which we have studied many times in Romans 8:17. I have put my translation of that verse up on the screen, Paul says, “and if children” That is, if we are children of God, if you’re a believer, then we are heirs. Automatically we are heirs.
First, he says, “on the one hand” The Greek construction here is not usually translated literally. The Greek word at the beginning, MEN, and later the term DE, so this should be translated, “on the one hand, and then on the other hand,” indicating there’s two different things.
1. On the one hand, we’re—“heirs of God.”
That applies to every single believer. Every one of us is an heir of God. That means we have certain possessions that will be ours that are given to us in heaven. We will all have a resurrection body. We will all have eternal life. We will all have numerous other blessings that are shared by all. We will have a tremendous amount of joy and peace, and we will not ever think that were missing out on anything. Our cup will be full and overflowing.
2. Second category, “joint heirs with Christ.”
Some people think of these as synonymous, but because of the Greek construction, it’s “on the one hand, heirs of God, but on the other hand, joint heirs with Christ.” This is using the same word that is used here, but it’s in a totally different context. In this context it’s talking about what is ours in terms of our spiritual life and our future rewards and blessings.
“Joint heirs with Christ—qualified with the conditional clause—if indeed we suffer with Him.”
Being an heir of God is when you trust in Christ as Savior; you don’t do anything. But this must be a second category because we only become a joint heir with Christ if we suffer with Him. Some believers aren’t going to suffer with Christ at all. They’re happy to go to heaven, but they don’t want to deal with anything else.
I’ve heard some people say, “I don’t care if I end up in the gutters of the streets of gold as long as I’m in heaven.” Well, that’s not biblical. We are to pursue spiritual growth, and we get rewards not because we want rewards and to be greater than anybody else, but because we want to serve God to the maximum to the best of our ability.
1. What all believers have in common
2. Believers will have additional rewards and inheritance.
While we will all have joy, we will all have peace, we will all have incredible things, and our cups will all overflow, some of us will have larger cups than others. Different capacity, just like in this life.
Some people have an IQ of 180. I can’t even comprehend what that would be like, and it doesn’t matter. I’m very happy with what I have. Somebody who has a lesser IQ might be very happy with where they are; they don’t know what they don’t have.
It’s a distinction, but this distinction is going to be based on our service, our growth in this life, and our developing of capacity is to rule and reign with Christ in the future.
Now there is joint heirship together with Jews. This is a big controversy with Messianic Jews by the way, but if you are Jewish believer, if you’re a racial, ethnic Jew in this dispensation, when you trust in Christ there is no longer that distinction between Jew and Gentile.
You are a member of the body of Christ even though ethnically and racially you are a physical descendent of Abraham. But now your inheritance will not be in relation to that of Israel in the Old Testament, but in relation to the church. They’re joint heirs together with Gentiles because they are in that one new man, that one new body.
Then it goes on to say that secondly, we are of the same body, stated earlier in Ephesians 6:2, we are fellow members of the same body. We’re in that body, and that body is the body of Christ. What an honor to be a member of the body of Christ!
When Christ physically ascended to heaven, it was replaced by this spiritual entity called His body. He is the head; He is the authority. We are of the same body, Jews and Gentiles together, “and partakers,” joint participants or fellow partakers.
We don’t have a word that we can use there to quite catch the concept. It’s more than a participant. In some passages is translated “partakers,” but we are joint partakers of what? I think we’re partakers in other senses, but in this one the focus is we’re fellow heirs of His promise, we are of the same body in relation to that promise and partakers of that promise.
That takes us back to Ephesians 2:11–12. Paul says that you “once were Gentiles in the flesh—who are called un-circumcision by what is called the circumcision made in the flesh by hands … that at that time you were” listing five things which we studied.
1. “You are without Christ.” You had no messianic hope.
2. “You were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.”
Commonwealth is the Greek POLITEUMA, from which we get our word politics. It has to do with the political entity of Israel, the kingdom of Israel, in the Old Testament. As a Gentile, you didn’t reap the spiritual blessings of being in Israel because in Israel on the Temple Mount is the temple and the presence of God, and you have that.
3. Strangers of the covenants of promise.
Those promises that are in the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant are directed to Israel and not to us. But we reap tremendous benefits from them. And we are blessed by association with Abraham because Paul said in Galatians 3 that we become the spiritual seed of Abraham because we follow him by trusting in God and being justified because we have faith in God’s promise.
4. Having no hope.
5. Without God in the world.
In Galatians 3:27–28, Paul is talking about the baptism by the Holy Spirit, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ.”
This happens to every believer at the instant of salvation. God the Son, Jesus Christ, uses the Holy Spirit to identify us with His death, burial, and resurrection, so that we are entered into the body of Christ, Romans 6:3–4. We are cleansed and we’re entered into the body of Christ. We also receive as a pledge God the Holy Spirit Who indwells each and every one of us.
You all have heard me teach that many, many times, but there are a lot of believers who don’t understand that. One of the reasons that I enjoy doing what I did this last week is because there was this lady in the church where I was, who had started coming to this church probably about 2 years ago.
She came out of a charismatic Pentecostal background, I think plays the organ at this other church, but she was beginning to have some concerns about some things that were being taught that she didn’t quite understand. So, she started coming over to Tucson Bible Church during the week.
After she visited a couple of times, she talked to Pastor Hintz, and he was very honest with her. He said, “We welcome you here, we’re glad you can come, you’ll enjoy the teaching of the Scriptures, but you’re going to see that there’s some differences.” He outlined two or three of these differences.
She’d been coming more and more, she was at the conference and went home, and listened to everything again on the recording. Then on Thursday she went to the Dean Bible Ministries website and found a message that I had given on the whole tongues issue, emphasizing that not only is tongues not a gift for today, it’s not a sign of a second blessing, and it is not associated with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
That was something in the Armenian theology of the Pentecostal camp that she was concerned about, that she would lose the Holy Spirit if she committed certain sins. She came up to me before class the last night and said, “I want you to know I listened to that message today, and I am leaving that church in January and coming here permanently. I realize that I received the Holy Spirit when I was saved, and that I’ll never lose my salvation, and I’ll never lose the Holy Spirit.”
That makes everything worthwhile. Whatever difficulties, problems we have in life, nothing is more joyful than realizing that whatever you have done to help even one person get saved or get transformed by the teaching of the Word, makes everything worthwhile. That was just a great blessing to get an insight into that because I usually don’t hear too many of those kinds of stories.
In Galatians 3:27–28, talking about the baptism by the Spirit, we’re now we’re one in Christ: there is no longer distinction between Jew and Greek, between slave or free, or male or female. Not that everybody becomes gender confused or if you were a slave that you automatically were set free, because that never happened.
Under Jewish law, if you were a woman, you could only go as far as the Courtyard of the Women in the temple. If you were a slave, you couldn’t get any closer. Only a free male Jew could go into the temple. Gentiles had to stay in the Courtyard of the Gentiles.
Now we all have equal access, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:18 we have equal “access by one Spirit to the Father.”
He concludes this thought in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed—not physically, but spiritually because you have been justified by faith alone just as Abraham was in Genesis 15:6—and heirs according to the promise.”
That’s the same thing that he’s talking about here: we are heirs of the promise, Jew and Gentile together, joint heirs. It’s what we all will have in common when we’re in Heaven.
In concluding Ephesians 3:6, he says that we are made “fellow heirs, of the same body, the same participants of His promise—that is the promise of justification by faith alone. That’s the promise that Abraham believed, and it is—through the gospel.”
The word for gospel is the good news, and the good news is that we are justified not by works which we have done, but according to His mercy.
As I quote all the time, every morning before we start, Galatians 2:16, that we are “not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s it: we can’t be justified by the Law.
Being justified by faith as Abraham was justified by faith. In Romans 4:1–8 Paul uses Abraham as the example, that that’s the good news of the gospel. We can’t work for it, we can’t earn it. We don’t have to do all these things that some people think they have to do. You don’t have to be sinless.
You don’t have to clean up your life. You don’t have to stop sinning, you can’t stop sinning: we have a sin nature; that’s never going to happen. But the gospel tells us that it’s not our behavior that’s the issue, it’s what Christ did on the cross. That’s the good news of the gospel.
Ephesians 3:7, “of which—of this gospel—I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me.” What was the gift that was given him? His apostleship, which we’ve studied in detail. That’s the issue.
When he comes to this point, he’s reminding them that the reason they shouldn’t be discouraged because his ministry is continuing, and that he is fulfilling the commission and the mission that God gave him.
We will look at Ephesians 3:7–8 next time because they go together even though they are split— one concludes one paragraph, a transition into the next paragraph. Then we’ll get into Ephesians 3:8–9, taking us into the same topic, but advances on it with more information.
“Father, we are indeed grateful for Your grace. We are grateful that our salvation, our spiritual life is not dependent upon us, it’s dependent upon Your grace and Your goodness what You given for us and salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.
“We pray that there is anyone listening who’s just not quite clear and just hasn’t caught the essence of the gospel: it has nothing to do with our sins, it has nothing to do with what church we go to, it has nothing to do with any kind of ritual that we participate in.
“It is simply trusting in the promise that if we trust in Christ as Savior that You will declare us justified, and we will have eternal life, which will never be taken from us. We can never lose it because we did nothing to gain it, we can do nothing to lose it.
“Father we pray that You would encourage us, strengthen us by the Holy Spirit, so that what we are learning about the distinctiveness of the Church Age believer—the wealth that we have in Christ—that we would be motivated to learn more about it, to study it more, and to let that impact how we think about the situations in our lives, whatever adversity we face, and just think about our understanding of who we are as believers in Christ and the wealth and riches that are ours.
“May God the Holy Spirit use that to transform our understanding of who we are, no matter what our education may be, no matter what our background may be, we are all aristocrats in this glorious entity that is called the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ. And that we are on display, as Paul said back in the early part of Ephesians 2, we are on display before all of the angels as trophies of Your grace.
“Father, we pray these things now in Christ’s name, amen.”