Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 13. Exposition on Ephesians . Ephesians - The appetiser

. Ephesians - The appetiser

EPHESIANS - THE APPETISER

 

This morning we start a series on a book that is indeed a treasure of mine and of every believer - the book of Ephesians. It was the first series that I preached in my previous church, and in the absence of Power Point, I used hand written transparencies on an Overhead Projector. It is a glorious book which one commentator calls ‘the queen of the epistles’, another, ‘the divinest communication ever made to man.’ yet another says ‘it is  the crown and climax of Paul's theology’ and a fourth one says that ‘this epistle is the most comprehensive statement of the Christian religion’. For me it forms the whole pattern of the church; what it is, how it operates and how it is viewed by God. Everything of who we are and what we do comes together in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

Now, in starting to prepare this series I really struggled how I should approach it. Those of you who were with me in my previous church will know the depth in which we can go into a text. We spent 138 sermons just on the first 8 chapters of John, and then we came here and formed Logos. Book studies are important as it teaches us how to study the Word of God in depth, but also it exposes us to the thinking of the author in context, verse after verse. Now Martin Lloyd Jones by the way preached on Ephesians for 13 years, one sermon every Wednesday night. His commentaries span 8 books totalling 3084 pages. James Montgomery Boice a well-known expositor who I have had the privilege of visiting with before he passed away, did 41 sermons and his commentary is 286 pages and then John Mac Arthur did 62 sermons, his commentary is 402 pages. We must also keep in mind that Dr John Mac Arthur does not preach under an hour. I figured out that I could even do it in 12-14 sermons, but that will imply a superficial glance. The question is how much we want to learn, because that will determine how deep we dig. Are we simply going to mine superficially and dig out fool’s gold, or are we going to mine deep and dig out the wonderful treasures that God has in stall for us.

I believe that we need to dig deep, as I believe that a study of Ephesians will form the character of Logos, and lay foundations for future generations that cannot be shaken. Logos must be built upon the principles of the book of Ephesians. This book is simply unlimited in its riches. So how many sermons we are going to do remains a secret even for me. I believe that this book will excite you and cause you to invite your friends, and I also believe that it will produce spiritual and numeric growth at Logos. In between the Ephesians sermons we will take short breaks for special sermons and maybe during holidays except if you all promise not to go away anymore.

This morning, by way of introduction we are simply going to stand still at the first two verses. But before we do that, there are two issues I want to touch on this morning by way of introduction, or to simply wet your appetite as far as the more solid food of this book is concerned. I want to excite you with one of the great purposes of the book which is ‘to show us the riches we have in Christ Jesus’, then I want to focus on the concept of the ‘body of Christ’.

Let me start with a question. Do you understand the depth of the riches that you have in Jesus Christ? I think this truth often escapes us. Ephesians is often called your Spiritual check book, and nothing to do with money by the way. The resources cannot be diminished. There is always more. Ephesians is about our spiritual wealth in Christ, it is about our riches, our fullness, and our inheritance. It is our spiritual Reserve Bank. But you don't know that unless you understand the principles in the book of Ephesians. I fully believe that by the time we are through Ephesians we are going to be a changed church for the good.

Let me give you a few examples at the outset of these riches, just as an appetiser. For example, chapter 1 verse 7 talks about the riches of His grace, chapter 3 verse 8 talks about the unsearchable riches of Christ, chapter 3 verse 16 - the riches of His glory. In other words, God is unloading all of His riches of His grace, in Christ and His glory in the book of Ephesians upon us. The word ‘riches’ is used 5 times, the word ‘fullness’ 7 times, ‘grace’ is used 12 times, the word ‘glory’ 8 times, the word ‘inheritance’ 4 times, and ‘in Christ’ 27 times.  The words ‘in Christ’ are so rich that I have seen a doctoral thesis once of over 500 pages just on those 2 words.

I am hesitant at this point to give the key verse of Ephesians as I am still working through it, yet again. But I guess we will not be far off to state that at least one of the key verses is seen in Ephesians 3:19 (ESV) “…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Tell me church family, is that our desire? If that is your desire, well, then let’s dig deep into this epistle, otherwise we can just scan the surface. It is when we dig deep into Ephesians that we will see concepts like the fullness of God, the fullness of Christ and the fullness of the Spirit.  It's an incredible thought that the believer can be filled with all the fullness of God Himself.

I have good news for each of you today. There are enough resources in heaven to cover all past debts, all present liabilities and all future needs and God’s account will never be diminished.

What we must realise before we approach this book is that all of these riches are because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. We are joint heirs with Christ because we are enjoined to Christ. He calls us His brothers, and all the spiritual blessings according to the first few verses of Ephesians are in Him. In Christ you are rich, outside of Christ you are poor and condemned, and it is nothing we did or earned, it is all by Him, through Him and for the praise of His glory. For example, in Ephesians all of our riches are based on these things- His will, chapter 1:5; His grace, chapter 1:6 and 7; His glory, chapter 1:12 and 14; His power, 1:19; His love, 2:4; His good pleasure, 1:9; His purpose, 1:11; His calling, 1:18; His inheritance, again 1:18; and His workmanship, 2:10. It's all because of Him. That’s why we will end with the hymn this morning, ‘all I have is Christ’. We have it all in Christ because we are His church and unto Him be the glory in the church both now and evermore. And by church I do not mean denominations but the body of Christ as those who have been born by the Spirit universally.

We will obviously look at it in many weeks’ time, and I have preached on it before, but do you realise the value of the church? Ephesians 3:10 (ESV) says: 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Do we realise that the fallen angels and the Holy angels look in upon the church to see if the crucifixion of Christ makes any sense at all. They look in on that manifold, multifaceted wisdom of God by which He made one man out of Jew and Gentile which is on display, and it is on display here at Logos. I love the fact that we are multi-cultural, as that is the way it should be.

Now I love the way Ephesians is divided, and Paul loves to do this in his writings. In Romans for example he dedicates the first 11 chapters to doctrine and then chapters 12-16 to practise. In Ephesians he commits the first three chapters to doctrine and the last three to practise. So in the first three chapters he will tell us what we have in Christ and in the last three chapters how to use them. So, you cannot spend what you do not know you own, so guess what? You will have to fasten your seatbelts for the whole journey. Part of the doctrine we are going to learn from chapter 3 is the revelation of the mystery of God. This is WOW stuff. Do we realise that there is a mystery that for ages past was hidden, but now revealed to us? Do we understand it, do we grasp its significance. That is why I have often told you that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. We have received a revelation they did not have, and it is my duty to teach it to you. That very mystery by the way explains why you and I are part of the church today.

Many of you might now be burning with the question: - but how does God reveal things? Let me just mention three ways quickly and we will unpack them later in the series.

Somebody once said that: “God reveals just enough of Himself that we can know Him, but He reveals so little of Himself that we will always search after Him.”

Firstly, we must realise that there are some things about God that He never tells anybody. Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV) 29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Church family, you'll never know everything because God hasn't told us everything. We can never fully comprehend the grandeur of God’s knowledge. And by the way, God knows how to keep a secret, unlike us.

Secondly there are secrets that God has revealed to specific people for the benefit of all people. That is the very reason why they are recorded in the pages of the Word of God. There are things we know because they were revealed. Now, I am not going to go into this now as we do not have time, but to simply say that according to Ephesians 3, these mysteries were revealed to Paul and the rest of the apostles and they revealed it to the church. By the way, the unrighteous people do not know these mysteries and neither can they understand them. They are for God’s people, His church. There are some things according to Romans 1 that unbelievers do know, but they have rejected it, and that becomes their condemnation.

Thirdly there are some things that God kept hidden for a period of time which he then later reveals to His children in the New Testament era. We know things the Old Testament believers did not know. According to Peter the Old Testament prophets were looking in to the things they wrote seeking to understand it. Even the angels long to understand it. They cannot comprehend the meaning of salvation by being born again by the Holy Spirit.

So, there are mysteries nobody understands, mysteries that we understand because it was revealed to man and then mysteries that were kept hidden for a period and are now revealed. This we will see in Ephesians 3. The exciting thing is this, and that is the reason you do not want to miss this series, for as long as it takes – together we are able to understand things that the people of old, of the Old Testament era never understood. That makes us rich, doesn’t it?

Now, church family, we're a part of this age where God has revealed incredible truth and put at our disposal unbelievable riches and the book of Ephesians will unlock all of that. I count it such a privilege to be living in the New Testament era where these things have been revealed to us.

The second truth I want to unpack this morning is the concept of the church being presented as the body of Christ. Ephesians 3:6 (ESV)6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

This is such a great metaphor which I think we take for granted. This says to me that the church is not an organization, but an organism. It is not a business, it is a body. It is not a building it is a bride.

Throughout Ephesians we are going to be reminded to live as the body of Christ, controlled by the Spirit, in unity with one another. And this body will be attacked by Satan, but we will put on the full armour of God so that we can protect the body. We all know that if one member of the body does not function as they ought to, the body cannot function as it ought to, which means that the body of Christ is weakened.

Paul sees one aim for this glorious body and he states it in Ephesians 4:13 (ESV) 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” Oh, that Logos will become such a mature, fully functioning body, that people will see the Body of Christ in all His glory, as far as possible. We have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, right? Now may the fallen angels and the Holy angels and the world for that matter see the Glory of Christ in the face of the church? There are many more metaphors explaining the church as a building or a spiritual temple, as a family, as a pillar of truth, as an army etc. But this metaphor of the body best explains the ultimate revelation of Christ through His representative body in this world. The mystery regarding this by the way was never understood by the people of old. They never had an inkling that God would become flesh and reveal Himself through His Son, who reveals Himself through the church. How does the body function? The body functions through our spiritual gifts, through the exercising of our responsibilities, and through our fellowship and ministry in the church. When this happens, the full stature of Christ is seen.

Let me just say this. In the body of Christ namely the church you see or are at least supposed to see unity in a way you can't see anywhere else. We are a single body and yet we reveal the most amazing diversity and mutual dependence. The human body is a perfect illustration of how the church is to function.

Oh how I pray that from the book of Ephesians we will learn these truths and that we will not be a people sitting in our own little sanctified seat, watching while everybody else does their share.  We have to function like a body where there we are mutually ministering to one another, loving one another and sharing with one another.  When this happens, we will become a force to reckon with in Polokwane, and I believe then, and then only will we start comprehending the riches we have in Christ.  In the meantime those riches might just be locked up in a vault, and we have no understanding of the joy of experiencing it. When we start functioning as a body, we will be utterly dependent on those riches.

I think you are starting to get the reason why I do not want to look at Ephesians by simply skimming the surface. We will have to dig deep for its mysteries, its treasures and its truths in chapters 1 – 3 and then its challenges from chapter 4 – 6.

Okay, all of what I have said thus far, is simply an appetiser of what is to come. It was not even a proper overview of the book. I want us now to go back to verse 1 and 2 and to simply highlight a few truths that illustrate what we have just looked at.

Ephesians 1:1-2 (ESV) 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul is pulling out his double barreled shotgun in the first two verses.

First of all a double barrelled source of authority, verse 1 - "Paul, an Apostle," now watch, "Of Jesus Christ by the will of God." It would be enough to say - Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Not if you're writing Ephesians. You've got to say Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ - number one. And number two -by the will of God. 'He brings in the fullness of God and Christ, that's the nature of Ephesians. It's a book about fullness.

Now, to be faithful to true Biblical exposition we need to say a little about Paul, the author of this epistle.

His name wasn't always Paul, right. Before his salvation he was known as Saul. Maybe his parents named him after King Saul. We do not know. He trained in the school of Gamaliel and he became a great rabbi. He was a bright man who understood the world he lived in, he knew the people groups, he knew their philosophies, and he knew the scriptures of the Old Testament. He was known as a rabbi, a leader, a teacher and a member of the Sanhedrin.  He was the most devout anti-Christian leader in the Jewish community. If he lived today, he most probably would have been online daily fighting Christians. I love his conversion experience. He was not looking for God. He was on his way to destroy the church in Damascus when God saved him and made him a messenger of the gospel.

So radical was his conversion, and his change of stature that the S was dropped off his name and replaced with a P. He was now Paul, a servant of God, instead of Saul, a servant of the flesh. After a few years in the Arabian Desert, he went to pastor a church in Antioch. He pastored there with four other men for a while. And then in Acts 13 his life changes as God by His Spirit speaks to the church of Antioch. Acts 13:2 (ESV) “2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” At this point he was still called Saul. And so Paul start his missionary journeys which was I guess the most prominent missionary endeavor ever to be seen in the world.

And after years of ministry here and there, all the way as he travelled he would sit down and write letters, and on his third missionary journey, somewhere between 60 and 62AD, he sat down to write this wonderful letter back to the those churches which he himself had founded.

Now, something interesting that many people do not know is that the word Ephesus does not appear in most of the oldest manuscripts. There is also no local mention of any person in this entire letter. There is no mention of any city in this letter. There's no statement about any individuals at any congregation. There's nothing personal or local or geographical in the whole thing because this was a letter about fullness. And this is a letter about the whole body of Christ. This is not a localized thing.

Some theologians believe that the reason Ephesus was added is because Paul left a blank space and all the churches filled in their own name in the blank space. A vast majority of New Testament Scholars believe the letter was a kind of a circular letter sent to all the churches of Asia Minor, and it probably went to Ephesus first. And in some strange way or by God’s providence one of the key manuscripts was the letter which was received by the church in Ephesus. What makes this super exciting for me this morning is that I want to retranslate verse 1: “Ephesians 1:1 (ESV)1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Logos, Polokwane, and are faithful in Christ Jesus…” This letter is as much for us as it was for Ephesus.

This is Paul's message to the church about the church's identity and being local isn't part of his issue here.

Now notice he calls himself an Apostle. He's not just another person with another opinion. He speaks for God. He is the mouthpiece for Jesus Christ. Do you realize there are only 14 men in history that could call themselves Apostles with a capital A? Remember there was the twelve and Judas dropped out, but he was an apostle, and then the thirteenth was added, Mathias, and later on the fourteenth was Paul. Only 14 men could be said to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God ever. Sure there are many apostles with a small ‘a’, people who go out into the world on God’s behalf. I am horrified with the movement spearheaded by Peter Wagner where they have appointed over 500 apostles around the world and see them as apostles with a big ‘A’.

These men were special men for a specific era. Ephesians 2:20 (ESV) says that the church was: 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,…” How often do you lay a foundation? Only when you are going to build a new building. They were a foundation of the New Testament church and since their passing there is no foundation to be laid. They started the church, they wrote the Scriptures, they set forth the doctrines, they spoke directly on behalf of Christ, they spoke divine revelation. You know what I love about Paul. He is so unlike men today. Go and take the letterhead of churches and what do you see? Dr John Arrogant Bth, (Honours) Mth, Phd and and and. I also have a Phd by the way. I Passed High School with Difficulty. I love Paul. ‘You want my credentials?’ I am an apostle of Christ, that’s it, nothing more, nothing less. I do not know where these words originated, but I heard it quoted by AN Martin: “what a man is alone before God, that is what he is, nothing more, nothing less.” That my friend is the Pauline attitude. Titles don’t define me, man does not define me only God defines me. By the way I am not against studying, otherwise I would not have wasted the 10 years that I have studied theology. But I have committed myself to one thing, when it comes to ministry, my qualifications stay far from my wall, as it is all about being a servant of God. I know many great men with doctorates, and then I know men with doctorates who are able to teach the church nothing as their hearts are not in tune with their Saviour. Let me remind you that some of the most liberal of Biblical scholars today, who have become an enemy of the cross are highly qualified on an academic level. No wonder somebody once said: “the church is dying by degrees”.

He had no vanity, no self-glory, no personal merits. All that he counted as rubbish for the joy of knowing Christ. He calls himself the chief of sinners. So, Paul ranks under me because I am the chief of chiefs as far as sinners are concerned. He did not see himself as worthy, but yet he speaks for God. He was emphatic that for him to live was Christ and if he had to die it was gain. He was dispatched by Christ, he was an ‘apostolos’ which means “a sent one,” to carry the gospel. He had delegated power. The power of Jesus Christ.

Some questioned his apostleship and he had to defend it, and in particular to the church of Corinth. But he met the basic requirement which was to see Christ.  1 Corinthians 9:1 (ESV) 1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?”

Secondly, we see a double barrelled designation of believers.

Look at verse 1 again. Ephesians 1:1 (ESV) 1…To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”

This simple statement is rich in theology as from God's side He's made us holy and from our side we exercise faith. Let me just say this. Get the Roman Catholic ideas of what a saint is out of your heads. A saint is not a canonized Catholic. A saint is not a sanctimonious individual. A saint is anybody who is a Christian. We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, and that makes you a saint.

Now, we are going to see much more of these concepts as we work through the letter. But for now, I want to ask a double barrelled question? Are you a saint, and are you faithful?

The third thing we see is a double barrelled blessing.

Look at verse 2. Ephesians 1:2 (ESV) 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace To You - and peace, that's the double blessing. Grace is the New Testament word “charis’. It means kindness of God toward undeserving people. It was a typical greeting in those days, which simply meant, ‘may God be gracious towards you.’ But more than that it had a deep theological meaning. It meant something to them in their faith. It was a reminder that they were what they were by grace. I love these greetings. We have strange ways of greeting one another. ‘Hello’ – what does that mean? (Many views, but was used in literature in 1833, and used to hail a ferryman.)  How are you? Are you my doctor? How do you feel? Normally with my hands. How are you doing? How am I doing what? These believers however knew they were saved by grace and kept by grace and were continually dependent on God’s grace and they would greet one another in such a way.

Then of course the other part of this double barrelled blessing. You often hear pastor Johan using it. I love the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’ for peace.  The New Testament word is ‘Eirene’. In a sense grace is the fountain and peace is the stream. Because I have grace from God I have peace with God. Right?

Maybe we need to change some of our greetings, as we do not mean them in any case. Try this. When somebody asks you ‘how are you’, say something like this. Well it all started in 1957 my birthdate. Very quickly you realise that they actually are not interested in an answer. So, maybe we should say: “Grace to you and peace.” People might just ask you why you are saying that, and it might open doors for evangelism.

Lastly, a double barrelled source.

Ephesians 1:2 (ESV)2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see all this fullness double stuff in the first two verses. And you get the idea you're going to get some tremendous riches coming your way out of Ephesians. It's all from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. And by the way, the word ‘chi’ in the Greek can mean an equivalent. And I think here it does, ‘God the Father even the Lord Jesus Christ’, one and the same.

Listen, Paul's message throughout the book of Ephesians is this - that you might understand God's grace, that you might possess His peace because you are a part of His church and you have at your disposal His infinite riches. I believe we are going to have a ball in studying Ephesians together. We are going to learn so much. It is not easy stuff but it is critical. So, next week, we will start climbing into these riches.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 14 February 2016