Summary of Ephesians Bible Study, Feb. 8, 2017

2:11-22

One in Christ

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

In this section, Paul wants the Gentile Christians to consider themselves to be in equal standing with the Jews before God. The old wall of hostility has been broken down by the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Him, they are one people.

Paul also brings out the fact that the Gentiles need not submit to circumcision. This rite no longer serves as the entry rite into the Old covenant. Baptism is now the entry rite for all. Baptist is the circumcision “made without hands.” Baptism is for all, Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female.

Paul reminds the Gentiles of what they were missing out on before they believed. They had been alienated from the life of God, sojourners. They were outside of the house of God. Now they have been brought near through the blood of Christ. They are now members of God's one-way covenant established at the cross. They are partakers of the eternal joy of salvation, life, and forgiveness.

Their life now in Christ is markedly different from the life in paganism. Whereas they had been physically excluded from the worship life of Israel by an actual wall, that wall has now been removed. The Gentiles now have full access to God through Jesus. The reconciliation with God has been established. The reconciliation between Jew and Gentile has also been established.

The Universal atonement and reconciliation of all things is in view here. Again, Paul points to the cross as the point of reconciliation. There is no Gospel without this actual human body of the God-Man Jesus being crucified and dying. This benefits of his sacrifice are given out through the means of grace, Baptism, Supper, Word.

Peace is established between man and God, and man and man. (Num. 6:24-26) God's divine action in Christ has done this. The Gentiles are no longer strangers.

This is cornerstone language is rooted in the words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16:18. Jesus is addressing the apostolic office of Peter, and not the person of Peter. The church is built on the confession of Jesus as “The Christ, the Son of the Living God.” The foundation comes from the preaching of the apostles after Pentecost. The apostles proclaimed Jesus as the crucified and risen Savior. God is the builder of His Church, through the Word and Sacraments.

Summary of Ephesians Bible Study, Feb. 1, 2017

February 1st. Ephesians Bible Study.

6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Today we finished up 2:1-10 with verses 6-10. These verses continue with the compound verbs made alive, and seated us. This shows God's action towards in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Again, this is Baptismal language. (Rom 6:3-5) We are to understand ourselves to be in two places at once, so to speak, at home in the body, and with Christ as He sits at the right hand of God. This is another aspect of the now and the not yet. Because you will be, so you are. We, as baptized Christians, share in the spoils of the victory Christ won over sin, death, and Satan.

Our understanding of Divine monergism (God acting alone), is the seat of our joy and comfort in the Lord. Because of this “we are always of good courage.” (2 Cor. 5:6) And, while we do not completely understand the mystery of God's working, we look forward to Christ's return, when “we shall see face to face” and “know fully.” All this comes from God's ϕιλανθρωπια (philanthropia, or lovingkindness towards man).

We also understand faith to be the “receiving instrument” of God's gifts in Christ Jesus. Rom. 4:16, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring.”

Augsburg Confession, Article IV; AC IV Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4. Any boasting in human works is excluded.

All of this is in opposition to self-, or works-righteousness. As God's workmanship, we do, in our vocations and callings, that which God set out for us to do from before the foundation of the world. Therefore, we cannot take credit for, or submit our works to God as payment, even in partial payment. Jesus paid it all with his suffering, and death. He has already ordained that we should walk in them. He was thinking and planning for you long before you were born. So, we live our Christian lives in joy, as we serve God's people.

 

Summary of Ephesians Bible Study from January 25.

On January 25th we studied Ephesians 2:1-5

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

One of the things to notice in this section 1-10 is the flow of the verbs. We want to look at who is acting and who is the passive receiver of the action.

But, in these first three verses we have the situation that humans find ourselves in being set up. We are described as dead, following the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, living in the passions of the flesh, and children of wrath. And I left some of it out. This is where the doctrine of the total depravity of man comes in. Dead means dead. We cannot do anything to affect a change in our condition.

A great example for us is Lazarus, who was dead four days. Jesus raised him from death with his Word. This physical death is likened to spiritual death. We are awakened from spiritual death with a word from Jesus. This is not of ourselves. This eliminates self-righteousness, and works righteousness, and boasting.

Here Paul is reminding the Ephesian Christians where they came from, and of the great gift of God that they have received through Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We also want to recognize the function of the word but at the beginning of verse 4. This word serves as a signal that all the bad stuff that the Ephesian Christians once were, they no longer are. "But" functions as an eraser. They have been moved from that old walk to a new walk, a walk in the righteousness of Christ. Of course, these words apply to us, too. This is only because God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...”

In Christ, God has directed his unconditional love directly at the sinner, and applies that love to the sinner in Baptism. Redemption is received, the old man is made to be a new creation.

 

Summary of Ephesians bible study from Jan. 18

On January 18 we studied Ephesians 1:15-23 In this section Paul continues using the inheritance language while adding enlightenment language. Enlightenment brings up the idea of the two types of knowledge that tell us about God, natural and revealed knowledge.

Natural knowledge of God is that knowledge that can be inferred from what has been created. As we read in Romans 1:18-23, “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

To be enlightened is to admit that this is true. God is creator. You can't know God's attitude toward man through natural knowledge. The other aspect of natural knowledge of God is the evidence of a conscience. For the most part, people understand by nature what is right and what is wrong. Again, this knowledge doesn't reveal God's attitude toward us.

Revealed knowledge does show us God's attitude toward us. Revealed knowledge is God's Word given to us in the Holy Bible. Through His Word, we can know him, and what he has done for us in the person and work of Jesus. To know Jesus, and trust in him is to be enlightened.

In Romans 10:17 Paul makes the point that it is the Word of Christ that creates saving faith. This principle is in operation here, too. God's Word enlightens and enlivens us.

Paul also emphasizes the churchly and brotherly act of praying and giving thanks for fellow believers and simply for faith. Paul praises God for the faith of the Ephesians, and for their charity toward the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

There is also the aspect of the eyes of the heart, which, through the Word, have been enabled to see Christ in faith. This spiritual “vision” is a gift of Baptism.

Paul also speaks of hope. Hope is a virtual synonym for saving faith. This is contrasted with the idea of hope as “optimism.” That is, I hope my team wins, or, I hope that my doctor visit goes well. Our hope in Christ is rooted in God's completely reliable promises. This is the basis of our Christian confidence. When we hope in Christ, we are secure in that hope. He will return and bring salvation history to a close.

God's power is especially recognized in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is a personal power that is applied to all who believe and are baptized.

As spoken of earlier, the Christian lives in the now and the not yet. Because we are “in Christ” through Baptism, we already have that which God has promised for our future, that is, eternal life with Him who is the head of all things.

 

Summary of Ephesians study; January 11, 2017

Last night, we wrapped up session 2 of our Ephesians Bible study. This weeks section was on chapter 1, verses 5-14. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul was a student of, and expert in the law. In this section he uses the technical legal terminology of adoption, and inheritance. It expands on the idea that we have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world, by linking the legal, technical language to God's purpose. Gods purpose is what He desires to do out of his loving and gracious will.

Jesus, his person and work, are the adoption “agent.” His death and resurrection have enabled you to be adopted as co-inheritors with Christ of all of God's gifts, including life, salvation, and forgiveness. Holy Baptism is the formal ceremony of adoption. This is the point in time where God's grace is added to you. It is God's working, not yours. Baptism creates bonds and promises that cannot be broken. These bonds and promises cannot be broken because they depend only on Jesus and His Work.

The first shedding of blood for the covering of sin was done by God the Lord in Genesis 3:21. The animal skins were used to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. This shedding of blood both foreshadowed the OT sacrificial system and the final sacrifice of Jesus. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Philip Melanchthon, Luther's co-reformer in the Reformation wrote that “the forgiveness of sins is the final purpose of history.” When you have forgiveness, you also have life, and salvation. God forgives sins through Jesus Christ.

Paul stresses the idea of inheritance here. You, as adopted sons and daughters of God through Baptism are going to receive the inheritance of your brother, Jesus. An inheritance is a gift that you receive upon the death of a loved one. In this case, you receive life, salvation, and forgiveness as your inheritance because Jesus died for you. He rose from the dead adding resurrection to your inheritance.

This inheritance is guaranteed by the deposit of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism all Christians receive the Holy Spirit. This is an objective receiving, not based on a feeling. In Baptism, you receive the Holy Spirit as a “down payment” from God. God guarantees that He will make the final payment. His promises are sure and certain. This is your inheritance, to be received when Jesus returns. Through Baptism, you are a child of God, and an heir, with all joy and goodness that entails.

 

A Couple thoughts.

Last night, Jan. 4, we began our study of Ephesians. After a little preliminary information concerning ancient Ephesus, the culture, and religions of the time, we dove into the text.

As an apostle of Jesus, St. Paul was sent on a mission to the Gentiles. In the letter to the Ephesian Christians, Paul sets out to remind them of their uniqueness as Baptized children of the Most High God. This quote from Luther reminded us of just how precious God's grace in Christ Jesus is.

The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience.

Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.

The world brands this a pernicious doctrine. The world advances free will, the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been launched for the purpose of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved failures because such devices only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace. Luther-Commentary on Galatians AE

And we discussed God's eternal choosing of us from before Creation, as we read in verse 4, "even as he chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him."

God's choosing of you from eternity is sealed to you at the moment of Baptism. (Rom. 8:29-30)God's predestination of you led to His call, justification, and glorification of you. God's hidden will for you was made manifest in Baptism.