Wow... I have a lot of blogging to catch up my Bible Study from where I left off to where I am now. Fortunately, I seem to have a little time this morning so I'll try to plow through it. It will be good review for me!
Ephesians 2:1-10 is the end of the first section of Ephesians and it takes us through a wonderful progression of thought that should at least cross my mind every day. It says that before salvation I was dead. I was a dead girl trying to find satisfaction in the passions of my flesh. (It kind of reminds me of all the dead pirates in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies that would eat an apple and never be satisfied with its sweetness. They searched and searched to fulfill their passions). I was in my very nature a child of wrath, deserving of all of God's punishment toward evil. BUT GOD stepped in with his rich mercy and in spite of the evil running through my body saved me, and raised me up to sit with him in heavenly places. He did this for his own glory, to show his kindness toward me in Christ. You see I am His workmanship, and long before I even knew I existed God created me in Christ to do His good works. I think I'm going to post that on my bathroom mirror as a reminder to myself every morning.
Wendy gives us a great reminder after thinking all of this through. "Paul goes on to point out that it is not only our salvation that is all of God and none of us, but that the subsequent good works that follow coming to faith in Christ area also the result of God's work within us. The implication is that our attempts to boast in any good work after our salvation are as naive as our attempts to boast in the act that brought us to salvation." H.U.M.I.L.I.T.Y. I do nothing. God does it all. Sure I 'work out my salvation.' I do make efforts toward change and sanctification, but when I really get down to it, I do nothing on my own. Even my own efforts are vain and futile without God's hand guiding me toward change. He does it all. I have to remember that.... constantly. I am nothing without him.
Section 2--Ephesians 2:11-3:21
The end of Ephesians 2 is full of some deep stuff, deeper than Wendy goes, and deeper than my cursory reading and study goes, but the main gist is this. There are Israelites and the rest of the world is Gentiles. I am a Gentile. At one time I was separated from Christ, alienated from the benefits Israel had and the promises made to them. But now, in Christ, I have been brought near to God. Christ is now my peace. Israelites come to God the same way now that Gentiles do. "And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to show who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."
Moving into Chapter 3 Paul addresses the 'mystery' that he has referred to a few times. Building on what he said previously, 'we are reminded that.... the reason Paul is a prisoner for Christ on behalf of the Gentile believers at Ephesus is found in the closing of Ephesians 2--namely that the Gentiles are no longer strangers to God's promises, but are now being built together with Jewish believers into a temple or dwelling place for God the Spirit.' Paul goes on to explain that he has been made a minister of that truth. Basically it's his job to share it with the world. I would be saying 'seriously?!!' Not a job that i would want, but Paul took it and ran with it and we can see two character qualities in him that we should emulate: humility and confidence.
Paul knows himself. He says that he is the 'very least among the saints.' This job has nothing to do with his qualifications. Although let's face it he had a few--but he wasn't proud of them. He didn't revel in his own glory. He saw himself for what he truly was spiritually... nothing. I love how Wendy says this, "In reality, Paul has been entrusted with possibly the greatest message ever communicated. But instead of becoming puffed up with self-importance as so many of us do when entrusted with a great stewardship, he keeps an accurate assessment of himself. He is a good model for us here. He is not dwelling in self-condemnation. He is not insecure, searching for compliments to make him feel better about himself. Instead, he gets both the depth of his sin and the great grace that God has poured out on him." Paul was right on in his assessment. But instead of wallowing in self-pity over his true spiritual state, he trusted the riches of Christ and the grace that God had given him, which in turn produced confidence. Not in himself whatsoever, but in Christ. He is preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ! We should have the same confidence!
I also cannot move on without sharing the Tim Keller quote she uses. I've read it before, but it never gets old: "The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less." Enough said.
In closing out chapter 3 Paul wanted the Ephesians to be profoundly moved by the immeasurable riches of the grace of God through Christ Jesus. He wanted them to comprehend the breadth, length, height and depth of God's love--a love that surpassed their (and our) ability to grasp. But oh how we should try! Wendy explains that the last two verses in Ephesians 3 are verses often used to closes services in the history of the church, often called the benediction--Latin for a good saying. Paul is closing his thoughts on the mystery revealed of God's double reconciliation of Gentile believers to both himself and Jewish believers, focusing on the glory of God that is continuing to reveal through all generations, for all time. We are a part of that! And the same power that is accomplishing this is at work within each believer, day in and day out. Praise the Lord that he has revealed this part of his plan to us!