Tag Archives: Ephesians

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Ephesians 2:12 – “Gospel Magnificence”)

“Gospel Magnificence”

Ephesians 2:12, “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”

This morning, I take stock of the things which I have. Far too often when I engage in this exercise, I find that many of the blessings of my life are taken for granted. We fail to think of our health until it slips. People may not surface to our minds and attention like they should until they are taken from this earth. It is a failing of man to poorly cherish something until he loses it. In this fast-paced, modern world we inhabit, I fear that too many of God’s children fail to consider what a great spiritual blessing it is to live in this time. Therefore, let us engage some grand Scriptural lines of thought to reaffirm and re-establish – as the songwriter put it – how “truly blessed is this station.”

Our study verse follows on the heels of some oft-rubbed Scripture by ministers. We love to enter the fields of Ephesians 2:1-10 and do what my father used to describe as a “romp and stomp” of the blessings of God’s grace to poor and undone sinners. Glorious lessons and illustrations are brought to bear showing forth the glory and mercy of God to weak and worthless creatures such as we are. In verse 11, Paul then begins to draw from this lesson to describe in some detail a discourse on Jews and Gentiles. Verse 11, sets the stage for this distinction, as he describes the case of the Gentiles prior to the coming of Christ.

Verses 13-14 show us that Christ’s coming marked a distinction in how God chose to interact with people. In our age today, God interacts differently than He did in the Old Testament. Paul makes the same case in Hebrews 1:1. God’s nature has not changed, but His methodology of communication reflects a change in this world that has occurred with the advent of His Son. But, prior to the 1st coming of Christ, what was it like to be a Gentile? Paul describes what it was like to a Gentile in the old dispensation.

The language of our study verse reads like a litany of woe. Dire language indeed! Let some of those statements sink in: 1. without Christ, 2. aliens, 3. strangers, 4. no hope, 5. without God! What child of God would read that and say, “Sign me up!” To understand what Paul is talking about here requires some background discussion so that we do not walk away with the wrong impression. Though these statements are very dire, Paul is not describing the case of an unregenerated Gentile person. If he were, then he is saying that there were no children of God among the Gentiles prior to Christ’s coming. Since the redeemed sing a new song in heaven as the blessed family of God out of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9), there must have been Gentile elect persons prior to Christ’s coming. Some of the nations and tongues that this earth experienced came and went during those ancient times, meaning there must have been children of God among those cultures.

However, what God did do during those ancient times is reserve His special presence and blessings primarily to one nation: Israel. Gentiles through the centuries did not have prophets giving them the word of the Lord, the law service to worship God, and most importantly, the cleansing of conscience that came through trying to seek after the Lord and feeling His presence. Consider what that must have been like. Paul’s description of the child of God’s warfare in Romans 7 is brutal (but we can relate to it). Now imagine going through that warfare and strife of mind without any relief. How burdensome!

These terms and expressions from our study verse describe for us what a child of God’s life is like without gospel knowledge, pattern of worship, and ignorance to the testimony of our Lord. If we see this as the condition without gospel blessings, then we can reverse the language and describe the condition of the blessedness of gospel peace. In that setup the verse would read, “That at this time ye were with Christ, being brethren to the commonwealth of Israel, and friends to the covenants of promise, having hope, and with God in the world.” How magnificent!

Too many times, we fail to value what we have been given, and even the blessed station of living in this time. Most everyone I know is of Gentile ancestry. Though I have met a few Jewish people, my interaction has been over 99% among Gentile people. Therefore, if everyone I know and have known were transported back in time about 2,500 years, our station would look much different than it does right now. We would be shut out of the knowledge of our God and what He has done. We would fail to draw upon a great hope for days to come. How blessed is it for us to live in today’s time? I freely confess that I do not thank Him enough for it. How much do I thank Him for the gospel?

My life has been a station of blessedness that is very much not my own doing. I was raised a preacher’s son. Made to go to church. Made to read my Bible. Watched the example of prayer before being made to do it myself. In other words, I never had to go looking for the truth or knowledge, it was around me, given to me, and at times, thrust upon me. Sometimes I feel like the children of Israel about to inhabit Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. They reaped in vineyards and fields that they did not plant. They enjoyed the fruits of other men’s labours. Much of what I enjoy today came – at least early on – from the labours of others. How much have I thanked Him for that? Precious little.

Friends, if we are blessed to have access to God’s word, inhabit His church, fellowship with His brethren, and draw great strength for tomorrow through the grand hope we have in His promises and covenants, we are blessed indeed. While the gospel cannot give eternal ramifications, it does give power in this life like nothing else does. Consider how many times the term “power of God” is used in the New Testament, and we see how selective the Lord is with that expression. However, the predominant use of it in the New Testament references the gospel and its great benefits. May we continually associate ourselves with this magnificent gift from God. As a result our hope will be increased, we will feel the presence of Christ, and know that God is in the world working in our lives.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Ephesians 1:7)

Ephesians 1:7, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;"

This morning, there are still opponents to the doctrines of grace as espoused by the Bible's teachings.  Some of these enemies are enemies to the cross of Christ in general that do not have the love of God residing within them. (Philippians 3:18) Others are enemies of the true gospel of Christ though still beloved according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:28) Regardless of the source of the attack, it is unquestionable that the household of faith will receive opposition to their beliefs in free grace, election, predestination, particular redemption, etc.  These attacks will manifest themselves through different arguments and thought processes, but one that has come up a lot lately is the argument of how one can believe in election and predestination and still honour the need of Christ's sacrifice.  All too often, people show a failure to see how things either go or do not go together.

When someone who believes in the doctrines of election and predestination engages in a discussion with one who does not, sometimes the argument is presented, "If you believe in election and predestination, then why did Christ have to come?  By your reasoning, the people of God were already secured, and your argument renders the sacrifice of Christ unnecessary."  Without controversy, the doctrines of election and predestination ensure that – from all eternity – there has never been a question that any of God's children are secure in the love and mercy of God.  As Paul has laboured in the verses before our study verse to show (Verses 3-6), we were chosen in Christ before time and predestinated according to the adoption of children by God.  Positionally and through the covenant of the Godhead, no heir of grace will ever be lost.

Yet, Paul addresses the point of the necessity of Christ's sacrifice in our study verse.  By looking at his terminology, I believe we will find the answer to the scoffer that fails to see how election and predestination can co-exist with Christ's work.  Paul terms the sacrifice of Christ as "redemption."  This redemption came completely and fully through His blood, which He shed on the tree of the cross.  However, if one believes that the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice nullifies the idea of covenant theology (election and predestination), consider that Paul's case proves the very opposite.  Redemption literally means to "buy back" and has connotations of prior position and ownership.  Only through covenant theology does the term "redemption" make sense when talking about Christ's work.  He did not come to make salvation possible.  He came to make it a reality to those of His ownership.

Looking at the doctrines of covenant theology, we see that we have always belonged to God.  Looking at the doctrines of redemptive theology, we see that Christ's work bought back what was already His.  The easiest natural analogy to prove the point is the pawn shop example.  If a man pawns a possession due to some financial hardship, he can only go to the pawn shop to redeem what belonged to him.  He might buy something else available in the pawn shop, but he can only redeem something in there that belonged to him.  In our condition, we were pawned to sin and depravity – by our own actions not Christ's – and therefore, Christ redeemed those that belonged to Him.  His sacrifice and offering was not for all people in all places, for all people in all places were not given to Him before time.  So, the redemption through His blood came to those that belonged to Him in the covenant of grace.

Furthermore, Paul's language annihilates the idea that Christ's work was an offering to man.  Scripture nowhere proclaims Christ's work as an offering to man.  It was an offering to God. (Hebrews 9:13-14) Paul's added description of Christ's redemption of us shows the cause and effect of it.  The effect of the redemption was and is the forgiveness of sins.  Now, were it true that man had to secure something to make this redemption real and vital to him personally (i.e. be born again), what would happen to this man if he failed to do it?  More pertinently, what is the state of the man who has not yet accepted the sacrifice?  His state, according to Paul's language, is that he is forgiven.  If the blood of Christ is shed for all men in all places, then all men in all places are forgiven of their sins.  Should this be true and God send one person to hell, then that person would be a forgiven individual in hell forever.  That begs the question exactly as to why he is there and what he is not forgiven of?

Since God does not send people to hell whose sins are paid for, the conclusion must be inescapable.  If we are forgiven through His redemption, we will be forever secure in that work and purchase of blood.  Why was it done?  What was the cause?  Paul's language attributes it solely to the riches of His grace.  No other cause could be conceived.  Surely those objects of His possession had done nothing to merit it.  Quite the opposite.  We had not remained neutral in the conversation.  We went the opposite way from God as enmity with Him, according to the desires of the flesh and of the mind.  However, His mercy and grace being set upon us from all eternity, shed forth that grace in the Person of His Son through the redemption of His blood.  No one that Christ died for deserved it, nor desired it.  Yet, He did it anyway, solely and steadfastly by the grace of His righteous character.

So, Paul's argument for the position of God's people in Christ should be very clear.  Our redemption is based upon – not apart from – His eternal purpose and covenant.  It was brought about solely by His grace and the riches thereof, and the effect is complete forgiveness and absolution from the condemnation that our sins brought.  Going back briefly to our pawn shop analogy, how foolish would it be to consider that the pawned item refused to be bought back by its owner?  If I pawned my car and then later went to retrieve it from the grip of the dealer, it would be unthinkable for the car to tell me, "I like it here and will not come with you."  Likewise, not one heir of grace will be put from Christ in eternity by a failure to "act upon" His work of blood-bought redemption.  We belong to Him, and we will not be kept from Him.  He came to get us legally, and one day He will come to get us finally and really to take us home.

Friends, legally we have been pulled from the clutches of sin, Satan, and death.  While we still fight with those foes through our daily fights and struggles, may we take solace in the fact that death has no more power over us as it cannot keep us from Christ.  Satan cannot overthrow the work of God, and sin – though daily plaguing – will not separate us from God's love or ownership of us.  One of the last arguments that one might have to free grace is that it gives a license to sin.  How much further from the truth could a thought be?  Confidence plays a large role in the success of an army or team.  How much confidence should we have?  Considering that all of our foes have "lost the war," we can have great confidence and hope when going about our daily struggles.  Knowing that though battles may be lost but the war cannot be lost, we can labour confidently while resting in the comfort knowing that our Lord has bought us back to Himself according to His grace affording us the complete forgiveness of sins.

In Hope,

Bro Philip