Notes on the Book of Ephesians

Taken at a Bible Study Led by Walt Henrichsen

In San Francisco, 19-23 March 2007

 

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. 1

To the saints and the faithful (1:1) 1

Election and depravity (1:4,5) 2

The danger of obligating God to His promises; assurance vs. certainty. 3

Adoption (1:5) 5

Eternal hope in the OT and the mystery of 1:9. 5

Heavenly realms and blessings (1:3) – already and not yet 6

Forgiveness and grace (1:7) 7

The mystery of His will (1:9) 9

All things in subjection to Christ; utopia (1:10,11) 9

Sin and its consequences in heaven. 10

The seal of the Holy Spirit and experiencing God (1:13,14) 11

Love, sacrifice and personal profit 11

Autonomy and sin in eternity. 12

The triune God of election, redemption and revelation. 12

The relationship of faith and love (1:15) 12

Thanksgiving and worship (1:16) 12

Blessing, worship and benefits. 13

Utopia and the myth of altruism.. 13

What Paul prayed for the Ephesians (1:17-19) 14

Hope, despair and existentialism.. 14

Arianism and the deity of Christ (1:17) 15

God’s power (1:19) and man’s efforts. 15

Learning to live by faith and not by sight (from Screwtape & a trial attorney) 17

Christ is over all and mystically present in the Church (1:20-23) 17

 

 

Chapter 1

 

To the saints and the faithful (1:1)

Q:  Paul says ‘to the saints and the faithful’ – are these words synonyms?

·        Can a man be a saint and not faithful?

·        Or is he using it as a conjunction?

·        Can a man who is depraved be faithful?

·        Paul said that he was the chief of sinners but I don’t think he was unfaithful

 

Q:  How define a saint?

·        Joseph says imputation – God declares you to be a saint.

·        Being a saint is on God’s terms; being faithful is on our terms – up to us

 

Q:  Can a man be a saint and not strive be faithful to God?

Q:  Can a man be carnal and be a Christian?

·        The Corinthians were saved but carnal

·        But did they want to be carnal?

·        Any time you are willful with God you forfeit your biblical assurance of salvation

·        God will not relate to a willful person.  Nobody says "No" to God.

·        So yes, a man can be carnal.

·        A lot of carnality in life sneaks in under the radar

·        Ex: you receive the glory of man.  Later, it occurs to you what you were doing

·        You weren’t trying, but when the Spirit calls it to your attention, you are horrified.

·        A lot of carnality is in that arena

·        Ambition – a lot of men never consider it biblically an issue – carnal

·        Hebrews – when you should be teachers you need some to teach you again – not necessarily willful - what do you think?

·        Is neglect always willful?

·        A man can be willful in neglect, but a lot of neglect is not willful

·        Seems that the knowledge makes the difference

·        Awareness – I knew but wasn’t aware

·        When Jesus says, "I don’t want you receiving the glory of men," that should not come as a surprise to us.  Yes, of course.  If after consideration – yes – but I hadn’t thought about it.

·        People can offer glory, but I don’t receive it in my heart.

·        Yet I honor my parents and perhaps some others

·        We honor parents, but we do not receive honor from our children

·        Part of civility is cultural – proper ways of doing things to show decorum and respect.

·        Romans 13 – give honor to those whom honor is due

·        1 Pt talks about honoring

·        Jn. 5:44 – you don’t receive it in your heart, but be gracious, kind appreciative

·        Introduction – like expensive perfume – smells good, but I wouldn’t want to swallow it – be gracious, but cannot accept it.

·        So, can a man be a saint and be unfaithful?

·        No, if he is willfully unfaithful; yes, if it is not willful.

·        [So, therefore] in 1:1 saints and faithful are synonyms

 

Election and depravity (1:4,5)

Q:  What is the relationship between election and depravity?

·        Although we are depraved God chose us before the foundation of the world

 

Q: Were you depraved before the foundation of the world?

·        Rom. 9:11-13 - (For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”  As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

·        Jacob was not any less depraved than Esau was.

·        Election is not a moral question.  It has nothing to do with your depravity.

·        Romans 9 – two questions in response:

·        9:14 – that’s not just, but Paul says it’s not a moral question

·        9:19 – why does he find fault?  Fault IS a moral question.
Potter takes clay … cannot God do the same thing?

·        Election and depravity are not related.

·        It’s just because of God’s own pleasure

·        Why did He choose Jacob instead of Esau?  Because He wanted to.

·        Jacob have I loved.  Esau have I hated.

 

Q:  What does 1:4 ‘in love’ mean?

·        If God had a reason for loving you, then at that point you’d have a reason to contribute to the selection.   God, you loved me because I’m a great guy.  We know that’s not the case.

·        There is no reason why you are an object of God’s love.

·        Results:

·        It makes you very secure because your relationship depends on your relationship, not behavior.

·        It makes you very insecure because nobody can be certain they are one of the elect.

 

The danger of obligating God to His promises; assurance vs. certainty

Q:  In Rom 10:9,10 it says that if you confess and believe you can be saved [so how’s it fit?]

Q:  Yes, but can we obligate God with His promises?

·        He cannot deny himself.

·        True, but Mt. 7:21-23 – “Lord, Lord” – that’s Romans 10, the mantra we’ve been taught – have we not prophesied?  I didn’t try to prophecy but actually did it.  He said what?  I never knew you!

·        God can obligate himself, but if you come before Him and quote Rom. 10:9,10, and He may say that’s a good promise; it just doesn’t apply to you!

 

Q:  If you die and you meet God and He says to you, “My eternal purposes and good pleasure are best served by you spending an eternity in hell,” will you affirm his right to do that?

·        Will you in your soul of souls affirm God’s right to do that?

·        If not, then God exists for man [opposite of 1 Cor. 8:6]

·        But everything is determined for His good pleasure [Eph. 1:5].

 

Q:  Then why doesn’t God just create the world and then go to Revelation?

·        The psalmist said, “Thy path is great waters”  we don’t know.

·        But in this passage we do know – it pleased Him

·        Rom 11:32 – God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all

·        This refers to the nation of Israel.  God only obligated Himself to Israel.

·        That’s the reason everybody wants to be Israel.

·        There’s no obligation to Gentiles or individuals.

 

Q:  Has God ever committed to an individual in Israel – like a king on throne?

·        Yes, He committed to Abraham.

·        And I have every reason to believe He’s committed to you, but that’s the difference between assurance and certainty.

 

Further comments about Romans 10:9,10

·        Confess at that time meant death

·        Resurrection – like Acts 17 – crazy idea

·        Thus, it was not just a formula, but in the world at that time saying Jesus is my lord and not Caesar [was special], and resurrection was believing in what most others didn’t, so it meant a lot to believers then

·        Yes.  There is nothing more in life I fear in life more than death, because that’s the moment of truth.  That’s where I’ve got all my poker chips.  Faith is commitment without knowing.  Death is the moment of truth.  Everything hangs on that.  Then I’ll know.

·        Now I have assurance, but all assurance does is make me feel good.

·        But you know there is no necessary relationship between assurance and reality.

·        So God may very well say to me, it’s true, and I’m God, but it’s equally true that none of those promises that you think were for you belonged to you.

·        That’s a possibility.  I don’t’ think it’s a probability.

 

Q:  Are there any other verses that speak about the uncertainty of salvation?

·        By definition, it is the nature of the case that it is uncertain to have faith.

·        Heb. 11 says that faith has got to be demonstrated in one of two areas for it to be faith – the future or the invisible.

·        When the Christian tells the non-Christian that he’s certain he’s going to heaven, the guy is certain he’s mentally deranged.

·        Ph. 2:12 – Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.

·        2 Cor. 13:5 – Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.

·        1 Jn. 2:3,4 – How know that you know God?  Obey!

 

Q:  Do you think even Paul was uncertain in 2 Tim 4:7,8?

·        We are talking about the fact that all men have in common a hatred of walking by faith.

·        All men by nature hate God

·        God created you to desire autonomy, but said you can’t have it.

·        That’s why men are mad at God.  He got there first.

·        Everybody has to walk by faith.

·        Everybody takes risks - The question is where you put your poker chips.

·        There are a number of narcotics that a man can indulge in that will dull his sense of reality.  Nevertheless, life requires that he put his poker chips some place.

·        Institutional church is attractive to people seeking God, because their job is to tell you that you have a good relationship with God if you come in a sing and listen to my sermon – feel good because of that assurance.

·        We came here from verse 1 because of the question about saints and faithful – election means you are secure and also you are insecure.  If you are not faithful, you are not a saint.  God imputes righteousness, but it is equally uncertain if He’s imputed it to you.

·        It would be a sick joke if at the end I found I put all my poker chips on the wrong thing

·        Paul in 1 Cor. 9 said he beat his body to not be uncertain.

·        If the promises are yes and no [2 Cor. 1:17-20], why go on living in this cesspool?

·        Because God says it is good for you, not me. (Ph. 1:21-25)

·        [Therefore,] Eph. 1:4 says election is to holiness.

 

Three conclusions about election, obedience and assurance

·        Individuals, not communities (except Israel), are the objects of election; the parable of the wheat and tears precludes any other conclusion.

·        No form of holiness can be the ground of election; if people are chosen to be holy, then they cannot be chosen because they are holy.

·        Holiness is the only evidence of election.  Obedience cannot save you, but only the obedient are saved.  (1 Jn. 2:3,4)

 

Other examples of God not being obligated

·        Even with Israel, God was not obligated to any generation.

·        For example, at Kadesh Barnea they said, “Oh, we made a mistake.”  “Can’t do that,” says Moses.  “But God’s committed to us, so we’ll go up.”  “Yes, He’s committed, but not to this generation.”

·        This was the very thing that caused John the Baptist to be so scathing.  “Don’t say, ‘we have Abraham as our father.’  God is able to raise up these stones to be children.” [Mt. 3:9]

·        His commitment to the nation did not mean any commitment to the individual [in O.T.]

·        That’s why in Romans 11 Paul said, “as in Adam all die.”  All = ‘represented by.’

·        Not every individual Jew [had God’s commitment]

·        Rom. 1-8 is about the individual

·        Rom. 9-11 – “I will take away your sins and remove your godlessness.”

·        If this is not for the individual, then what is it for?

·        “Behold, the days are coming when … I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts …” (Jer. 31:31-34)

·        In promises like this He mixes the national with the individual.

·        Q:  Is he talking about the eternal past? ...

·        Yes, but if he’s a Jew, I would not have come down there [i.e., come up with that interpretation]

 

Adoption (1:5)

·        Concept in Roman law - unknown to Jews

·        In the OT God never offered the individual an eternal hope

·        Of all the possible relationships, adoption is the most secure

·        By natural birth – may not have wanted him

·        Purchased a kid – can sell him

·        Inherited – may not have wanted it

·        Adoption – a choice sealed with a legal agreement; the adopted child knew that he/she was wanted

·        Kelvin says that in China the parent doesn’t choose; the state does

·        Picture of election – go into orphanage, pick one or two, but not most

·        No thought of electing individual / adoption in OT, because he never promised eternal life.

 

Q:  In the OT, if a Gentile adopted the Jewish religion, was that adoption?

·        English word used differently here.

 

Q:  What was the practice – what did a convert to Judaism gain?

·        The covenants and the promises [to the nation]

·        God promised to the individual, like Abraham, but He made no promise of eternal life to the individual.

 

Q:  Why convert to Judaism?

·        We came from people who worshipped animals and sacrificed their children, and we like you better.

·        Like Naomi – practiced Jewish rites

 

Eternal hope in the OT and the mystery of 1:9

·        Hebrews says some OT people had an eternal hope, but we have no record of it in the OT scripture.

·        Q:  Is this part of the mystery [of 1:9]?

·        Q:  If they had an eternal hope, where is the mystery?

·        Ecc. 3: 11 – He’s set eternity in their heart – what’s that mean?

·        Belief in an afterlife – ubiquitous – all around them, pyramids in Egypt, all religions address what happens after you die.

·        My comment is that for reasons he does not share with us, God never included a promise of eternal life in the OT.

·        Heb 11:16,10 – “they sought a country,” “a city whose builder was God” – they had an eternal hope.

·        This thinking is not new to me.  Others have written it already.

·        If you read about the inter-testamental period, the apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha, the scholars think it came into existence in the Essene community.

·        For sure it was in full bloom by the time Jesus came – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” [Mk. 10:17]

·        The scholars say that because the Church had raped Israel of its promises and its hopes, it was so thoroughly disillusioned that it majored on the law and aborted, for all practical purposes, any apocalyptic hope.

·        The silence of the eternal hope was to … participate in the salvation process

·        Yes, the fact that Satan encouraged Judas to betray, nobody up to that point understood the mission of Jesus

·        So the omission was to cover up the atonement … the mystery

·        We read in Isaiah 53 something they never saw.

·        How the concept came into existence in Israel is unknown.  The Essene community is the best answer as to how the concept was developed.

 

Shifts in emphasis in latter part of OT

·        Note that as you move from the OT to its conclusion – from Genesis to Exodus to Malachi – as it moves from a group of Bedouins to a nation to a theocracy to a monarchy to foreign domination – you see three things happening:

·        Gradual shift from the temporal to the eternal

·        Shift from actions to motives

·        Shift from corporate to individual

·        The prophet Ezekiel said all souls are mine, says the Lord; this was a new concept in scripture.  They belong to me says God.

·        We see glimpses of an eternal hope, like Daniel 12, but otherwise we see no hope of heaven.

·        Nobody asked, “How can God be the just and the justifier?”

·        Micah says, “What does the Lord require of you?”  To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.  (Micah 6:8)

·        This was a new concept; people didn’t show mercy in a theocracy.  They showed justice; mercy is the setting aside of justice.

 

 

[First day’s lunch break]

 

 

Heavenly realms and blessings (1:3) – already and not yet

Q:  What do you think ‘heavenly realms’ means (Eph. 1:3)?

·        Note: only Paul uses it, and only in Ephesians – 5 times

·        Note also: ‘kingdom of heaven’ and ‘kingdom of earth’ do not appear in any of Paul’s writings

 

Q:  How can 1:3 ‘heavenly’ be here when all 5 seem to be in heaven?

·        Luke 17:20,21 – when Jesus was asked when Kingdom of heaven would come, He said it’s within you.

·        It’s that realm of grace that the eye cannot see.  There’s something going on that we don’t see.

·        Whether it’s a present state or a future reality we cannot be dogmatic.

 

Q:  How do you explain Col. 3:2-4 – “you have died to Christ and your life is hidden in Christ”?

·        At present there is spiritual warfare that is not visible to us

·        Col. 3:4 – Christ in you the hope of glory

·        If Christ lives in us, it’s got to be at least partly present (not all future)

·        Already and not yet – that’s the mystery

·        If the blessing had not already been received by men, it would not be a blessing.

·        We bless God, because He blessed us.

·        They are spiritual blessings – election, our inheritance in Christ, the redemption of his blood, the revelation of his divine purpose (1:12-14)

 

Gratefulness

·        The blessings are only considered blessings if you are grateful

·        Ungrateful people do not consider themselves blessed.

·        If we are elect from the foundations of the world, then we are part of history as it is unfolding.  In that sense, it’s already but not yet – done, but unfolding before our very eyes

·        That’s why there are no accidents or victims with God.

·        That’s why ingratitude is inexcusable.

 

Forgiveness and grace (1:7)

Q:  What is the relationship between forgiveness and grace?

Q:  If nobody had sinned, would God have brought all these people to heaven?

·        Forgiveness supposes sin.  If no sin, then no need for forgiveness.

 

Q:  Does grace presuppose sin?

·        If we say that hell is the punishment for sin, of course

 

Q:  If people did not sin, would they automatically become the object of God’s grace?

·        Rom. 5:12-21 - for by one man all sinned

·        If people did not sin they would not die says Paul.

·        Therefore, because babies have to sin some way other than morally, thus the imputed sin of Adam

 

Q:  But a person to whom God imputes sin – does such a person need forgiveness even if he had not sinned?  Does a baby two hours old who dies need forgiveness?

·        Can’t receive forgiveness without grace

·        But 2-year-old baby does not need forgiveness.

·        No compelling reason for babies to go to heaven

·        Need grace to be forgiven, but grace and forgiveness are not synonyms and not necessarily related to each other.

·        I spend time on this because I assume (rightly or wrongly) that the objective of our Bible study is to think like God thinks.

·        Not so much that we have exhausted the book of Ephesians, but have we schooled ourselves to think biblically?

·        So what is the practical application?  None other than seeking to think and understand think like God and understand God.

·        My own personal experience: the more I am aware of God, the more acutely I am aware of my own depravity.

·        So if Adam and Eve had not sinned, God would not have been obligated to take them to heaven.

·        The Garden of Even was not a bad place to hang out.

·        Yes, maybe heaven will be like that.

 

Q:  What does ‘intrinsic’ mean?

·        Inherent, [essential, natural, not acquired]

 

Q:  Does man have intrinsic worth?

Q:  Does a cow or a blade of grass have intrinsic work?

·        Intrinsic = inherent, in and of itself; apparent, not dependent on something else

·        Gold has a value imputed to it

·        If the world were made of gold, a man would die for a hand full of dirt.

·        If we have no intrinsic worth, then why did God die for us?

·        Grace!  He may impute worth to you, but that doesn’t mean you have worth.

·        We treat people as though they have intrinsic worth, because God has declared them to have intrinsic worth.

·        If you don’t need to be forgiven, you don’t need to get God’s grace.

 

Q:  In Mary Shelly’s classic Frankenstein – is the creator obligated to the creature by nature of the creation?  How would you answer?

·        Rom. 9 – potter and the clay

·        That’s the conversation between the monster and Dr. Frankenstein – why did you create me?  You owe me.  So my sense is that Mary Shelly would say ‘yes’, but the biblical answer would be ‘no.’  If you have intrinsic worth, the answer would have to be ‘yes’.

·        So anything that is of worth is of worth because it is imputed to have worth.

·        God is the creator so He can say something has intrinsic worth.

·        The utilitarian can declare something to be of worth if it is useful, but not intrinsically of worth

 

Q:  Can man impute worth?

·        Man does it all the time, and the Bible calls it idolatry.

 

Q:  Ps 19:7-11 – David says God’s law is better than gold – how does this work?

·        We bring glory to God whether we want to or not.

 

Psalm 50 – what do you give to someone who has everything?

·        God says if I were hungry I would not tell you.  I own the cattle on a thousand hills [Ps. 50:10,12].

·        Ps 50:23 – The thing that delights God is gratitude – the sacrifice of praise

·        It’s not gratitude when God give you million dollars; it’s when God takes it from you.

·        If you want to delight him, that delights God

·        The reason I praise him is that I’m looking for something more durable in eternity.

·        That’s why in the final analysis, if you don’t believe that the differences in heaven will be apparent and appreciable, then for you truth will be relative.

·        Redemption and forgiveness go together with God

·        But there is not certainty

·        Joel says to Israel, repent for maybe God will forgive you (Joel, 2:12-14)

·        The only antidote to idolatry is to establish an eternal hope.

·        If I believe heaven is not apparent and appreciable, I’ll get caught up in idolatry.  You can’t serve 2 masters.

·        When people get too caught up in temporal matters it’s a bad sign.

·        When you are not taking risks eternally, it may be that you do not have an eternal hope.

·        What do we perceive is of value?  What are our dreams?  What makes us nervous?

·        If faith is risk-taking, hope is what you take the risk in.

 

The mystery of His will (1:9)

·        “Mystery” (1:9) is found in several places in the Bible, but not all refer to the same thing, although all in some way refer to Christ.

 

Q:  So of what mystery is Paul discussing in this passage before us?

·        Bring all things together under one head, that is Christ (v.10)

·        He made known - We should know

·        Eph 6:19 the mystery is the Gospel

·        1:10 defines the mystery – that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him

·        A mystery is by definition ‘a truth once hidden, but now revealed, that resides outside man’s ability to figure it out by reason.’

·        Nothing up to this point would have suggested that this was God’s plan.

 

All things in subjection to Christ; utopia (1:10,11)

Q:  What is the meaning of “all things” (1:10,11)?

·        All creation – Rom 8 – travails

·        Jesus: “Abraham longed to see my day …”

 

Q:  Is the fullness of time the millennium or the eternal state?

·        The termination of the end times and the beginning of a new regime of one kind or another?

·        My sense is the end of time – the eternal state – when He terminates all things at the end of the millennium

 

Q:  Is time finite?

·        Gen 1:1 – in the beginning

·        Our experience limits us in understanding the end of time

 

Q:  Re: eternal reward, will we be bound by time in heaven?

·        I am incapable of thinking outside time

·        All my thoughts are sequential and related to some other thought

·        Scientists talk about some other time dimension, but I have no ability to do so.

 

Q:  In 1:10, what does 'unite all things under Christ' mean?

·        1 Cor. 15:25-28 – Christ is the active servant of God rather than a mere instrument [in putting all things under God’s feet.]  This is illustrated by:

·        The Father’s love of the son

·        The mediating function of Christ in the adoption of many

·        The love of Christ for those entrusted to him

·        The pouring out of His blood

·        The making of a proclamation of peace

·        The creation of one new man

·        Access open to Jew and Gentile for the approach to the Father

·        The enthronement and the position as head of the church

·        All of these describe Christ’s active participation in the will of God.

 

Jews contrasted with Gentiles

·        In 1:11-2:22 Paul makes a distinction between we/us [Jews] & you [Gentiles]

 

Q:  Are all things already in subjection?

·        Already, not yet

·        The foundation of our faith rests in the certainty of God’s eternal decree and his ability to exercise that decree in history.

·        Christ was not a mere instrument; he chose to be a servant for us who have no intrinsic worth – that is love, and it’s for eternity

·        He will be subject to God for eternity.

·        Some say that those whom God foreknew He also elected, i.e., He saw those who would respond, but if that’s the case, then God was a responder not an initiator, and then everything is up for grabs [i.e., there is no security nor absolutes]

 

Q:  Why does Christ take so long to destroy all the enemies?

·        Mt. 28:18 – he already has all the authority

·        I think that history is meant to display the awesome authority and power of God.  I think also that history is meant to be an illustration to the whole created order of the futility and utter stupidity of resisting God.

 

We know in the Bible of 4 expressions of utopia:

·        Angels – lived in a perfect environment and rebelled

·        Adam and eve – same

·        Dt. 28 – God says in essence, "I will bring you into the land, and everything else besides death will be like the Garden of Eden," and then they rebelled.

·        Millennial kingdom – 1000 years to wash out the educational deficiencies of human nature; and given a chance, they fail

 

Sin and its consequences in heaven

·        I think that history is meant to demonstrate that [given autonomy, it’s our nature to rebel]

·        So in heaven, given time, some of us will rebel

 

Q:  (for tomorrow – chapter 2) “The soul that sins, it shall die,” says the Bible.  Is death a necessary consequence for sin (had to die) or the decreed consequence of sin? 

·        It didn’t have to be that way, but God so decreed it.

·        Either spiritual death or physical death – i.e., 4 questions

·        I’d like to suggest that this is an essentially important question, a critically important question – not that you come up with a definitive answer, but certainly enough to terrify you!

·        Did God’s justice require it?

·        Because of who He is, death had to follow sin?

·        It’s an important question

 

Q:  Is the mystery of Ephesians 1 related to the mystery mentioned in Rev. 10:7 and Romans 11?

·        I think it’s different

 

Q:  Why in verse 10 “even in Him”?

·        “Even” is not in the Greek, but Pang says it was an article for on earth and needed to emphasize once again

 

The seal of the Holy Spirit and experiencing God (1:13,14)

Q:  “Sealed with the Holy Spirit” – is that something God did, or can man experience it?

·        We are an experience-crazed generation, so I tend to depreciate experience

·        But it does have a strategic role in the Christian life.

·        Every man should have an experience with God in life, so he knows that God has done something – in him, for him, of him – very important in walking with Christ

·        This generation overemphasizes experience over obedience.

·        I can still remember the night of my conversion.

·        I have never doubted Him since this experience.  It was very clear.

·        The purpose of the seal is to give authenticity, to show ownership, to secure.

 

Q:  How do you know if you have the pledge?

·        You never know for somebody else.  I suggest you know it for yourself.

·        That’s the challenge: even though I experienced it, I cannot be sure.

·        Don't ever depreciate the influence the Holy Spirit has in your life.

·        Our experiences are individual – between you and God – in the sense of assurance, not certainty.

 

Q:  1:11 – did we obtain an inheritance or were we chosen as an inheritance?

·        The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance – what we will possess.

·        1:13 – the earnest or guarantee = what is returned to the owner when the amount is paid in full;
it’s almost always assumed that it’s worth more than the payment itself

·        Ex.: Judah and Tamar; Tamar played a whore; Judah gave his ring and staff instead of payment;
these were of greater value than the payment.

·        The NT doesn’t really emphasize this emotional experience, but the Holy Spirit did act.

·        He wants you to understand how rich an inheritance you will receive.

·        1:18 – this is what you’ve been called to and you should make it your hope;
we walk by faith that we’ll receive it.

·        1:13 – the Holy Spirit is the seal of our inheritance; the Holy spirit stamped in your life is a seal to let you know that that has happened; the Holy Spirit is the down payment of which the experiences attest to His work.

 

Love, sacrifice and personal profit

·        A well-known respected Bible expositor wrote:  “There is only one act of pure love untainted by any selfish motive ... the dying act of Christ … if you are looking for a definition of love, look not in a dictionary, but at Calvary.”

·        I disagree – Christ was willing to pay the price on Calvary, because of what he gained (Heb. 12:2).

·        A sacrifice is what is given to gain something of greater value.

·        A sacrifice without gain is an oxymoron [contradiction of terms].

·        He did it because he profited it from it.

·        He could not be head of the church without His sacrifice.

·        Love does not assume an altruistic motive [i.e., exclusively for the benefit of others]

·        The two are not mutually exclusive, they are mutually inclusive

·        [The idea of altruism assumes it’s possible to have] no ulterior motive.

·        His sacrifice was to purify us so he could possess us.

·        He didn’t need to, though.

·        But in the eternal counsel of God, for God to be just, Christ had to die.

·        Without that, God could not have taken us to heaven.

 

Autonomy and sin in eternity

Q:  If you go way back in the eternal counsel of God, could God have decreed it so that nobody would have sinned?

·        Yes of course, but as best we understand the way things work in the counsel of God, the desire for autonomy is what makes the relationship worth having.  But the desire for autonomy is what brought about the fall.

·        Having given us the desire for autonomy by creating us in His image, and our choice …
[to rebel, God had to send Christ to die for us, and ] Christ to be head of the church he had to die

 

Q:  What happens to our desire for autonomy in eternity?

·        That’s part of our question for tomorrow.

 

 

[End of first day’s discussion]

 

 

The triune God of election, redemption and revelation

Q:  In 1:2-14, how is the Trinity related to election and redemption?

·        The Father is the author of election.

·        Christ is the author of redemption.

·        The Holy Spirit is the author of revelation.

 

The relationship of faith and love (1:15)

Q:  In 1:15, Faith & love are coupled together; what do you understand the relationship of the two words to be?

·        Col. 1:5 – faith and love come from hope

·        Hope is the object of faith – for all

·        God demands that our love flows out of the faith in His commandments

·        Because love has many kinds, the two are not necessarily related.

·        A man can love and not have faith; a man can have faith and yet love.

·        Biblical love demands faith.

·        “Love one another as I have loved you” – from Biblical perspective love is not an option.

·        Gal. 5:6 – faith expressing itself in love is all that counts.

 

Thanksgiving and worship (1:16)

·        Thanksgiving is an expression of worship

·        You can pray without worship, but you cannot worship without gratitude.

·        That’s why technically there is no such thing as corporate worship.

·        We create an environment in which people can worship individually

·        In corporate worship one man may be reviewing his golf score; his wife might be thinking of her grocery list; his daughter might be thinking of her date last night.

·        Thus, to say that there is a thing such as corporate worship is not true.

 

Q:  Is corporate worship in institutions coming from OT worship?

·        Yes, but I’m not suggesting corporate worship is invalid; it’s just an environment in which each individual is encouraged to worship.

 

Q:  Does God want that?

·        God called for it 3 times a year in the Old Testament.

·        It was not commanded in the NT; it is illustrated in the book of Revelation

·        There is no command to gather one day out of seven anywhere in the OT or NT.

·        Rom 12:1 says self-sacrifice is the least common denominator in worship.

·        Worship without self-sacrifice is odious, repugnant to God.

·        Paul is praying – not ceasing to give thanks.

·        Thanksgiving is an act of worship – because who is he thanking?  God

 

Q:  What is the reward of self-sacrifice of worship in Rom 12:1?

·        It may vary from individual to individual, but always it’s got to be self-serving, as was the cross.

·        A sacrifice by definition is self-serving.

 

Q:  How is Rom. 12:1 self-serving?

·        Find acceptance with God

·        God is a debtor to no man.  You can’t out-give Him

·        Paul in 2 Cor. 9 – generosity

·        Ps. 50:14,23 – thanking when it hurts; Heb. 13:15 sacrifice of praise

·         

Q:  Can you praise without sacrifice?

·        Yes, but [your heart is] not tested

 

Blessing, worship and benefits

·        1:3 – God has blessed us

·        If he had not blessed us, we would not bless Him

·        We do not bless Him the way He blesses us, nor would we want it that way.

·        We worship Him; He doesn’t worship us.

·        We are his obedient servants, and that delights His heart, but that doesn’t mean He’s grateful.

·        There is never any occasion when God should thank us for something.

·        It’s always the other way around; we are always the one who benefits.

·        Paul says, “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift … that I might have some fruit among you … I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians.” (Rom. 1:11-14)

·        The perception of the world is when I serve you I do you a favor

·        Biblically, when you allow me to serve you, you do me a favor.

·        We can call this eternal ambition.

 

Utopia and the myth of altruism

·        Altruism is unbiblical

·        It’s designed by the philosopher in an endeavor to motivate people apart from God.

·        If you’re going to create a utopia without God, altruism is strategic.

·        The [natural] desire of man is to create a utopia apart from God.

·        In Plato’s “Republic,” Plato says the philosopher king is like the physician who altruistically seeks the well being of his patients.  Thrasymachus says no; the philosopher king is like the shepherd who can fleece the flock to eat them.

·        [So even] when it started, some guys thought it was wrong.

·        In the final analysis, it’s an endeavor to serve God on my terms.

·        Altruism does not exist; it’s a concept of philosophers.

·        The idea is that I can make myself better than God.  “I serve God out of love.”

·        That’s wonderful when you are in agreement, but it’s a lousy motivator when in disagreement.

 

What Paul prayed for the Ephesians (1:17-19)

Note the things for which Paul prays and define them.

 

Spirit of wisdom and revelation

·        Wisdom is discernment, so a wise man is discerning, and a discerning man is wise.

·        Wisdom is the ability to see and apply what God wants; there’s an element of timing and ability

·        I dependent on revelation for wisdom.

 

Eyes of your understanding be enlightened

·        You can see why people related Christianity to Gnosticism, which says that salvation comes from special knowledge

·        But it is true that we depend on the Hoy spirit to open our eyes.

·        So wisdom is seeing things from God’s point of view, and revelation is God giving you that point of view.

·        Having the mind of God is one of the values of thinking biblically.

·        But there is also worldly wisdom, mentioned in James [3:13-17] and 1 Cor. [1:18-2:16]

·        You can have God’s revelation and not use it

·        This is true for most men – they carry a Bible around with them but don’t use it

 

Know the hope of his calling and what are the riches the glory of His inheritance

·        Rom 8:24,25 – in hope we wait with patience

·        Hope is always for anticipated [future] gain – both for the Christian and non-Christian

·        For what a man sees, why does he hope for it? [Rom. 8:24]

 

Hope, despair and existentialism

·        The opposite of hope is despair

·        During the Great Depression [of the 1930’s] there were a number of people without hope in San Francisco, a great center of it [hard times]

·        That’s what made them existentialists.  I have no hope, so all I can have is an existential moment.

·        Existentialism is the most accurate worldview apart from scripture.

·        The first job of any religion is not defining salvation, but defining purpose.

·        If you strip life of all presuppositions, it is purposeless, so the first job of religion is to give it purpose.

·        But in order to have purpose, you’ve got to assume things that you cannot prove.

·        On what basis does a man hope for anything?  Value.

·        People assume that by exercising faith, they will get value.

 

Q:  Will people who exercise their faith get value?

·        That’s why I’m terrified of death – the moment of truth!

 

Existentialism vs. religion

·        The existentialist has no hope.  [Just live for today, because there’s no hope for the future.]

·        Whatever the world offers [for hope] has got to be assumed to be in the future.

·        In the East people believe in reincarnation. The sun comes up in east, goes down in the west, etc.

·        All religions make assumptions.  The first job of religion is to create assumptions.

·        Christianity is unique for those of us who embrace it.

 

Q:  Why bet on Christianity [to be the correct hope] over other religions?

·        Remember yesterday we talked about the importance of experience?

·        Regeneration is when the Holy Spirit invades a man’s life and makes him His.

·        As a song says, “It’s not so much that I sought Him, but that God found me and did a work in me!”

·        The [main] assertion of the Christian religion, and Ephesians in particular, is election.

·        God did it for His own pleasure and for no other reason.

·        If a man has not had an encounter with God then probably his faith is wishful thinking.

·        If you’re trying to persuade a non-Christian to believe, then it’s hard to argue that way.

·        Apologetics is helpful for the seeker, but it does nothing for the skeptic.

·        When the disciples preached the resurrection and a historical figure, it only worked for the seeker.

·        If someone becomes a Christian only by the objective thinking and no subjective emotional experience, he may not be saved; he could not get there without the Holy Spirit.

 

Q:  Do you think Paul is praying for both the intellectual and emotional experience in this prayer?

·        I think he assumes that God has touched their lives, now Oh God, I pray you’d open their eyes to what God has done to them.

·        All understanding and doctrine is practical, because by it I know and understand God, and therein is my reason for existence.

·        It’s ambiguous, but it’s practical and useful.

·        So the purpose of understanding a doctrine is to understand God better and establish a closer relationship with Him – that I may know Him and share the fellowship of his suffering (Phil 3:10)

·        Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

·        That’s Biblical hope.

 

Arianism and the deity of Christ (1:17)

·        In 1:17 “Him” is the Father

·        This is one of the verses used by the Arian position [which states that Jesus was a created being]

·        The accepted position of the Church until the Council of Nicaea [convoked by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. to decide on the organized church’s stance on the true nature of Jesus in relation to the Father]

·        The hero [of this council] was Athanasius, [who successfully defended the doctrine of the deity of Christ.]

·        1:1-14 says that it was the eternal council of God that brought about the coming of our Lord Jesus and the salvation of our souls, so I want you to understand this [says Paul].

·        Cosmology [the quantitative study of the universe] was a mystery, but now I’m going to share it with you, and I want you to understand it.  Without it you’re never going to know God.

·        Understand that we don’t worship 3 Gods.

 

God’s power (1:19) and man’s efforts

·        1:19 – power – dunamis – dynamite – not something we covet but something we have!

·        It’s the power to believe.  Eph. 2 says you were dead, and dead men don’t believe.

·        God’s power guarantees our inheritance, which is the object of our hope.

 

Q:  Does this power include the power to live a new life (2 Pt. 1:4)?

·        Yes.  If God loved us but gave us no power to apply it we’d be impotent.

·        We need the power to overcome the obstacles.

·        If it happens, to God be the glory!  If it doesn’t happen, it’s your own dumb fault!

 

Q: Why is the power of converting the sinner is more wonderful to behold than the resurrection from the dead?

·        Because chapter 2 says it includes both a changed life and eventual the resurrection from the dead.

·        This is from the Holy Spirit, not from us.

·        Thus, although we want to frame the Gospel message as well as possible, the power is in the message.

·        God honors the message, not the messenger.

·        A lot of churches feel powerless and look for something charismatic [some exciting experience], some power other than the resurrection.

·        My sense is that it’s the same in this country also.

·        People imply that God is a resource that you can use now, not later.

·        Therefore if you are sick, not rich, etc., you have not tapped into the power God has given you.

 

Q:  Paul is praying that they will know the power.  If we know the power, does this guarantee we’ll be powerful?  How is it going to do us any good?

·        It removes man from the center and places God there – not what you did but what God did.

·        The Gospel is designed to destroy the hubris [pride] of man.

·        People forget that God gives promises to get us to do what He wants.

·        He does not give us promises so that we can get Him to do what we want.

·        That’s why you’re always in trouble if you try to leverage God with His promises.

 

Q:  Knowing this power of the resurrection – bringing sinners to Christ – is given to us, how much should be strip ourselves from techniques, marketing and packaging?  How do I apply this?

·        If you don’t violate scripture you can do anything you want – as long as it’s what you think God wants you to do and will best serve Him.

·        Just bear in mind that sinners coming to Christ is not because of the way I preach.

·        Understand that it was not the devil who encouraged Billy Graham to preach.

·        [We must have] no confidence in the flesh!

·        2 Cor. 1:8-10 – “We had the sentence of death in ourselves that we should have not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

 

Q:  If Paul taught them the whole counsel of God [Acts 20:27], why did he still need to write this?

·        When you teach a man the whole counsel of God, it doesn’t mean you’re teaching him all there is to know about God; it just means you’re teaching him all you know about Him.

 

Q:  Does the concept of not relying on strategy apply to all areas of life?

·        When Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing,” (Jn. 15:5) what do you understand that to mean?

·        A: nothing [i.e., yes, it applies to all areas of life.]

·        But also remember that God will never do for a man what man can do for himself.

·        God will never put a pair of shoes on a man in the morning.  I know I’ve tried.

·        So we do go ahead and use marketing principles we’ve learned in our business.

·        Men, the great universities in the world, whether in Europe or the United States, were all started by Christians.

·        Their thinking was that this is our Father’s world, so if we want to know our Father, we study His world [i.e., we actively learn.]  Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, etc. all had this in mind.

·        In decision-making we are dependent on Him, but whatever answer He gives you does not eliminate faith.

·        Show me an area in which God does not care, and I’ll show you an area you don’t have to walk by faith.

·        Col. 1:9 says, “We pray that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”  If God doesn’t care, then that prayer seems irrelevant.

 

Q:  In Col. 1:11 Paul prayed that they “might be strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power.”  Is this power already in us, so that we don’t need to seek it?

·        Yes.  Eph. 1:19 says it’s already there when we believe.

 

Q:  The charismatics pray for filling; do we need to be filled with power?

·        We need to appropriate it.  It’s already there.

·        The question is not, ‘Do I have the Holy Spirit?”  The question is, “Does the Holy Spirit have me?”

·        The power that raised Jesus from the dead, and the power that placed Him at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places is the same power that gives life to those who are dead in sin and places them with Christ in the heavenly places.

·        So the resurrection’s power is both the type and the cause of the spiritual regeneration of God’s people, as well as their future rising with Him in glory.

 

Q:  Why does Paul say, “Be filled with the Holy spirit” [5:18]?

·        There is no terminal experience with God.  I’m saved.  I’m being saved. I will be saved.  I’m sanctified, glorified, etc.  It’s always a work in progress.

 

Learning to live by faith and not by sight (from Screwtape & a trial attorney)

Q:  Is training of the mind important?

·        Yes.  C.S. Lewis in his delightful Screwtape Letters, where you remember that Screwtape [a demon] is writing to his underling, Wormwood, teaching him how to undermine [argue against] the Christian faith.  In one particular article Screwtape says to Wormwood, “The cause of hell is never in greater danger than when the Christian, stripped of every sense of God’s presence, says, “Nevertheless, I believe.”

·        I think there are times when God will call all of us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, where God is silent, where our feelings are inadequate, where all evidence points in the direction of being abandoned by God.

·        Screwtape says the cause of hell never in greater danger than when at that moment you say, “Irrespective of my experiences and my circumstances, I believe!”

·        That’s the time to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

·        When you make a decision and things go awfully, it may still have been God’s will.

·        The wife will feel that her husband is brilliant if he makes a million dollars and has terribly missed the will of God if he loses a million, but in reality the opposite may be the case.

·        Bill McCurrie, a trial attorney and now a federal judge, shared once at dinner that he had been thanking God, because in all his years practicing law he had never lost a case.  When he shared this with his wife Dana, she said, “That’s because God can’t trust you with a loss.”  After thinking about it for a few days, he prayed, “OK God.  You can trust me with a loss.”  He said that from that day until the present, he never won a case.

·        [Emotional] experience is not wrong; it just has it’s place and it’s limitations

·        Gentlemen, in your theology always make room for the stewardship of pain.

 

Q:  What is a man’s wife is not happy with some result in his work, and concludes something was not God’s will, but the man thinks it might have been?

·        You can tell her that we never know the will of God, so it’s best to not be conclusive.

·        Expressing unhappiness with results can be a way of manipulation to get what she wants.

 

Christ is over all and mystically present in the Church (1:20-23)

·        1:21 – the Father exalts Christ above all.

·        1:22 – the Father puts the Church in submission to Him [a separate thing from 1:21].

·        He who is head of the Church is Lord over the entire world.

·        The Church is passive; Christ filled her.

·        The Church is not only Christ’s body, it’s also that which is filled by Him.

·        There’s an organic connection.

·        This is the first reference to ‘Church’ in the book of Ephesians.

·        Most pastors use this to get people to come to church, but that’s text management

 

Q:  What about the 7 churches in Revelation?

·        Well, all but one of them He didn’t want to claim.

·        Most institutional manifestations of the Church include overcomers.

·        But probably there has never existed an institutional church comprised of only overcomers.

·        Now if we quickly organize, we might be the first.

 

Q:  How does Christ fill His church?  Is it like the OT filling in the temple?

·        I think so; and “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20)  There is a willingness on the part of Christ to be present in the gathering of individuals that is different from His presence in the individual’s life.

 

Q: In what way is it different?

·        I’m not sure, but I think that’s what he means.

·        So God is in us and among us.

·        In 1 Cor. 10 the Apostle Paul warns the believer not to participate in feasts to idols in idol temples.

·        It’s OK to eat the meat off premise, but not on premise, even if your purpose is evangelism.

·        Don’t do it, because in a real sense you’re ingesting demons.

·        1 Cor. 11 is about the Lord’s table, so my sense is that just as you partake of a meal in an idol temple and so you ingest demons in some mystical way, so also you when you partake in the Lord’s table, you participate in Christ.

·        Similarly, when two or three are gathered together, that takes place as well.

 

Q:  Should we have communion in this Bible study or a home group?

·        Certain commands we must obey, but the frequency and method are never discussed.

·        For example, foot washing and the Lord’s table

·        When our family is together, we usually have the Lord’s Table; this is not often.

·        Many men who put on conferences for businessmen include in the conference the Lord’s Table.

 

Q:  If there is no institutional commitment to the Church, how does this work in heaven?

·        I don’t know.  It’s an organism not an organization.

·        So there can be some mystical and eternal meaning beyond this universal church beyond what we know today.

 

Q:  Does this include Israel?

·        That’s what chapter 2 talks about.

·        The created order of God is vastly greater than what our minds can comprehend.

·        This is also mentioned also in Eph. 6:12 – principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

·        So it doesn’t matter where you reach in this universe, Christ is head.

·        Perhaps there’s a complex kingdom that already exists.

·        There may be universes out there vastly more complex than what we are aware of.

·        Whatever is out there, Christ is its head.

 

 

[Second day’s morning break]