Monday, February 4, 2013

Appreciating God’s Loving Grace

The Priesthood of the Believer
Expository Studies through the Epistle to the Ephesians
Chapter Sixteen
Appreciating God’s Loving Grace

As we move from Ephesians 2:1-3 into the next few verses in Ephesians 2:4-10, the words “but God” in Ephesians 2:4 begin a juxtaposition (placing two statements side by side for comparison or contrast).  The Church Age believers have so many new privileges that they take for granted.  This is especially true of Gentile believers who are ignorant of the obligations of the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the Mosaic Covenant (the Law).  The contrasts between Ephesians 2:1-3 and Ephesians 2:4-10 are radical. 

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:1-4).

1. We were “dead in trespasses and sins”
2. In the past, “ye walked according to the course of this world”
3. Ye were once led by “the prince of the power of the air”
4. Our lifestyles were corrupted by yielding to “the lusts of our flesh”
5. We were “the children of wrath”

          As we read Ephesians 2:4-10, we see the extreme contrast in the believers’ new position “in Christ Jesus.”  According to my count, Paul uses this phrase at least forty times in his epistles, six times in the first three chapters of Ephesians alone.  The phrase is theologically significant as it reveals the believer’s security in his new eternal position in “the regeneration” (Matthew 19:28). 

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved {perfect, passive, participle};) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace {God’s provision} are {present tense} ye saved {perfect, passive, participle} through faith {man’s response}; and that not of yourselves: {salvation} it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created {aorist, passive, participle} in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

          This juxtaposition begins with the answer to man’s dilemma – “but God.”  Into this horrible and devastating spiritual darkness of humanity’s fallen state bursts forth the wondrous light of the mercy of God’s grace.  All of humanity is hopelessly lost in the condemnation by the righteousness of God.  It is an overwhelming and supernatural problem that requires an overwhelming and supernatural solution.  Man cannot save himself.  He is “condemned already” (John 3:18).  No one can work himself out of the depth of his fallen and condemned state.  There is no ritual that can cleanse him of the filth of his sin.  There is but one hope – the grace and mercy of God.
          We would think we would find mankind’s history riddle with accounts of men pleading with God to be saved.  Instead, we find God pleading with man to receive His gift of salvation.  This is true because we are blind to our condition before God.  We are blind to the holiness of God and the perfect righteousness of God.  Only God truly understands the totality and depth of our fall into sin and condemnation.  Only God understands what is necessary to our rescue from that fallen state.  God requires a supernatural solution.  Only God can supernaturally provide that solution.  Men foolishly think that they can somehow earn God’s favor and pardon.  Men foolishly think that some ritual or sacrifice can take away our sin and cleanse us before God.  That is what apostate Israel had come to believe by the time of the prophet Isaiah and just before their captivity.  God has always had but one way to reconciliation with Him –“by grace through faith.”

10 Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:10-20).

          The sacrifices and holy days of the Mosaic Covenant were intended as reminders to Israel of the means of their promised redemption.  The thrust of God’s rebuke of the children of Israel was that they had gradually made the sacrifices and holy days merely mechanical.  They participated in their continual worship rituals without any real thought of Who God is, what those rituals meant, or any real worship being offered to God.  Worship is the primary offering of everything a believer does.  Worship declares our view of God’s worth in our redemption and our daily life in fellowship with Him.  The rituals of worship soon replaced worship.  God hates this nonsense. 
This is what always happens when doctrine is corrupted.  When doctrine is corrupted, people proportionately begin to become the focus of worship rather than God.  True doctrine is always God-centered (Theocentric).  The focus is always upon the worth of God in our lives.  False doctrines corrupt worship making it man-centered (anthropocentric).  It is not that man is actually worshiped.  It is that man’s needs and wants become the focus of worship.  True worship is right doctrine that leads men to the throne of grace to humble themselves at the feet of God.  True worship exposes man for what he is in the eyes of God.  True worship brings that sinner to see and understand all that God is and then offers that sinner God’s benevolent provisions of His grace.  Then that sinner enters into the true worship being offered to God.  To receive what God’s benevolent grace offers without returning worship to God is to completely corrupt worship.  This was the corruption of the Mosaic Covenant by the priesthood that God addresses in Isaiah 1:10-20. 
          Isaiah 1:10-20 has similarities to the statement in Ephesians 2:1-10.  The ultimate point of the difference between Ephesians 2:1-3 and 2:4-10 is that God’s intent in everyone’s life (“whosoever”) is to restore them to full fellowship with Him.  This begins by offering the free gift of salvation to all “by grace through faith” and continues in their progressive sanctification “by grace through faith.”  In other words, God is universally benevolent (“the world,” John 3:16).  He wants to bless people.  He wants to walk with us and talk with us.  God wants us to pray and He wants to answer our prayers.  If we will repent of sin and “dead works,” understand and believe the Gospel, confess Jesus to be Jehovah incarnate, and call on the Name of Jesus to save us from Hell, God will indwell us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  He will then begin a supernatural work of progressive transfiguration in our lives from within.  We are literally God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”  Wow!  If you cannot find something to praise God and worship Him in that truth, you probably better reinvestigate the reality of your understanding of what God has done for you.  God deserves to be worshiped.  Worship should be the preoccupation of every moment of the life of a believer.
God is “rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” Ephesians 2:4.  What a remarkable statement.  Look into the infinite depth of these few words.  See if you can find a place where the riches of God’s mercy and love do not touch your life.  You will never discover such a place, because God loves us “even when we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).  God loves you “even when.” 
You can put anything after those two words.  These are two words that come together in context with overwhelming significance to the expression “God is love.”  These two words define the infinite depth and breadth of God’s love for you.  God’s love cannot be measured.  This is exemplified by the extreme extent to which He was will to go to provide humanity a way of escape from the condemnation of their sin. 

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Can we even comprehend such love?  We cannot touch an understanding of God’s love for fallen sinners until we try to grasp the depth of the contradiction we are against the righteousness of God and against His holy character.

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider {evaluate or estimate} him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself {His character, nature, and attributes}, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds {in the ongoing struggle to be faithful unto death as exemplified by those already described in Hebrews chapter eleven}” (Hebrews 12:1-3). 

What should be involved in our considerations of Jesus?  The infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God put on a body of human flesh to become one of us in order to take our death sentence upon Himself and open a door for our salvation.  The purpose of the consideration is appreciation.  The purpose of the consideration is to understand the infinite love of God towards us.  The purpose of the consideration is to generate true worship, praise, adoration, and faithfulness.  Without this consideration, contemplation, and understanding, our worship of God will always be merely intellectual.  Without this consideration, contemplation, and understanding, our worship will never be anything more than ritual mechanics.  Worship that is not birthed from right doctrine will never produce the depth that God deserves.  Right doctrine births worship from the heart as an offering to God.
Once you are “born again,” you are immersed in the loving grace of God to the degree that nothing can ever separate you from God’s grip again.  Paul expands upon these two words “even when” in Romans 8:31-39.

31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).

When we correctly understand the infinite depth and breadth of God’s love, then right doctrine will also generate loving obedience.  Learning Scripture to know and then do God’s will becomes a priority in those that want to truly worship God “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).  Salvation is intended to do much more than merely give us a fire escape from Hell.  Salvation is intended to open a door to fellowship with God that is immersed in our adoration, praise, and worship of God.  Every aspect of Bible study answers the question, is God worthy of worship?  If every aspect of your Bible study does not arrive at that conclusion, your understanding is corrupted.  That is the intent of the emphasis on the word “truth” in Christ’s teaching in John 4:24.  No one can truly worship God until he truly understands his condemnation, the Gospel, and the overwhelming wonders of the gift of salvation.  God’s love reached into the cesspool of humanity to rescue sinners drowning in the filth of their own degradation.  We will never grasp that analogy until we grasp God holiness and purity along with His hatred of impurity.  That is what the story of Christ talking with the harlot of Samaria in John chapter four is about.  Jesus said, “He must needs go through Samaria” (John 4:4).  Aren’t you glad that the love of God met you in your Samaria?  Jesus went to her!

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:19-24).

          People just cannot seem to grasp the concept of what it means to take up our cross and follow Him.  The point is that taking up the Cross of Christ fills our hands.  We must let go of everything else before we can take up that Cross.  It is an empty-hands commitment that empties our hands of everything worldly and then fills our hands with everything that is important. 
          “Even when we were dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5a).  Most people view sin as a mere sickness or a deadly disease.  This view of sin is completely corrupt.  When sin entered into humanity through Adam, it did not make Adam sick.  Sin slayed Adam.  The words “dead in sins” portray a vivid word picture.  The word “dead” is from the Greek word nekros (nek-ros’).  The root word for this is nekus, which refers to a corpse.  Therefore the word picture is that of a dead corpse.  In Ephesians 2:1 God tells us we were dead in trespasses and sins.  Now He repeats Himself and tells us we were “dead in sins.”  Both the words “trespasses” and “sins” are in the locative case.  That is why we have the word “in.”  The words “trespasses” and “sins” describe the location of this dead corpse.  The word picture is more than a dead corpse in a grave.  The word picture is that of a dead corpse buried in a death of eternal separation from God in a place called Hell.  All of this physical life is just part of the journey to that ultimate destination.  God’s love provides an escape and a new pathway that leads to a new destination.

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:1-6).

          Just like Jesus met the woman of Samaria on the road to Samaria, Jesus meets you on the road to death and eternal separation from God.  However, when He meets us on that road, it is His intent to take our destination upon Himself and bear the full penalty for our sins in His body on the tree.  He wants to change our destination. 

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (I Peter 2:22-25).
Satan essentially murdered Adam and all of humanity when he deceived Adam.  Satan is the Destroyer and his murder weapon has always been sin.  However, Satan just offers the weapon through temptation.  Adam took that weapon into his own hands and, by his disobedience to God, killed himself and all of humanity. 

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)” (Romans 5:12-17).

God is not unjust because He gives humanity exact parameters in which they are to live.  The boundaries for obedience were almost boundless in the Garden of Eden.  What did Adam and Eve have for food resources compared to the single item that was forbidden?  How can righteousness be tested by obedience if there is no choice for disobedience?  Satan’s deception merely misrepresented the consequences of disobedience (“Ye shall not surely die,” Genesis 3:4) and lied about its potential with a false promise (“ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil,” Genesis 3:5).  Eve was deceived.  Adam chose to willfully disobey.  From that point forward every person born into this world was born “dead in trespasses and sins.”  Without salvation, we all are nothing more than walking corpses. 

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1: 13-15).

          There is no possible way any man, saved or unsaved, can ever comprehend the love of God.  I do not think it is even possible when we see Him in Heaven.  God’s love is even beyond our imaginations.  God’s love saves us, keeps us, and promises us a future we cannot even imagine.  He deserves to be worshipped.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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