By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
The story does not end with our being dead in trespasses and sins. The story does not end with our being children of wrath. In one of the greatest contrasts imaginable, Paul introduces God into the scene. In fact, although Paul uses the first three verses of this seven-verse long sentence to speak of the place where you and I began (spiritually dead), both the main subject of the sentence and the beginning of the story is God. Just like everything else in our relationship, it starts with God. God is the subject of this gracious act of redemption. We are the recipients. The remainder of this verse describes our gracious God.
First, God is rich in mercy. Aristotle describes mercy as an “emotional concern for those who undeservedly suffered some calamity”. The Old Testament emphasizes mercy and loving kindness in regard to the covenant that God has made with His people. The New Testament concept of mercy takes it far beyond Aristotle or even the covenant relationship of the Old Testament as the compassion is based on the calamity that we as sinners deserve. It is based on God’s love. Hoehner writes, “God extends His mercy toward sinners because He loves them and knows that they are hopelessly trapped in their own snare”. Later Paul will speak of the unfathomable riches of Christ (3:8). The riches of God’s mercy are beyond our comprehension.
Next, Paul speaks of His great love with which He loved us. God’s love is the demonstration of His rich mercy. Paul adds emphasis to God’s love in two ways. First, he uses both the verb and the noun for love (agape in the Greek) in the same phrase (Greek scholars refer to this method of emphasis as the cognate accusative). God loved us with love. He doesn’t leave it there as he also uses the word great to describe God’s love. It is also described as His love. It is the great love that only belongs to God with which we are loved by God. There is also a relationship between the words rich and great as His mercy is rich and His love is great. The magnitude of God’s power toward us that was described in Eph. 1:19-23 is actualized in His rich mercy and great love. We are the objects of both.
Just like everything else in our relationship, it starts with God. We have nowhere to go if He has no mercy. Our plight is hopeless if He has no love. In contrast to God’s wrath, which is the natural place of the unbeliever, the riches of God’s mercy and the greatness of His love explode into our lives in a manner which we can scarcely comprehend. We deserve the close relationship with His wrath but He offers something else because He is rich in mercy and great in love. His mercy takes us from the place of wrath that we deserve to the place of incomprehensible love that we do not deserve, not even a little. It is His mercy. It is His love that brings us to where we are as believers. Hallelujah!!!
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
As Paul concludes these three verses regarding the sinfulness in which all of us once walked, he changes from the second person pronoun you to the first person pronoun we, adding himself to the mix. Some suggest that the difference is between Jews and Gentiles but it is more likely that Paul is personalizing this as he identifies himself with his readers. He is saying ‘I was as deeply involved in the depths of trespasses and sins as you were’. Just as you walked in that sphere, I lived there with you. As Paul talks of our transformation from saints to sinners, he stresses that every single person (excepting our Savior) lived there before we also believed (1:13).
We all lived in the clutches of immorality. The one who lives in the flesh is the one who walks completely opposed to the character of God. This is the one who lives in the works of the flesh. Paul describes the deeds of the flesh in Gal. 6:19-21 as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. It has been said that depravity means that folks are not necessarily as bad as they could be but rather as bad off as they could be before God. Sin is sin and although I feel as if I did not engage in all these things, there is a piece of me that could be described by each of them. Paul says that we all lived in the clutches of immorality.
We were not only living in the sphere of the lusts of the flesh we were also doing them (desires of the flesh) and thinking them (desires of the mind). The patterns of thought are likely more destructive than the deeds that grow out of them. Even when we do not act on them, they consume our minds in sinful and unhealthy ways. Our thoughts and our deeds were consumed by the sphere of the lusts of the flesh. Let’s face it we are still, even as believers, fighting against the deeds of the flesh yet we remain transformed (but that comes later in Ephesians).
As we lived in the lusts of the flesh we were children of wrath. In the previous verse Paul used the description sons (and daughters) of disobedience with the word son stressing that we were old enough to decide. The sons (and daughters) of disobedience choose disobedience. The phrase by nature children of wrath emphasizes ancestry. We were both born into trespasses and sins and chose to walk in trespasses and sins. God offers transformation of both our nature and our choices. Paul finishes with the phrase even as the rest. Everyone who has ever lived or ever will live is described by the words of Eph. 2:1-3. Paul paints an extremely dark picture of humanity, perhaps darker than most of us would paint but Paul paints God’s portrayal. If Paul’s portrayal is correct and it is, the only possible solution is the transforming work of God which Paul will now describe.
We begin to get the picture. As Paul now moves to our transformation into saints, he first wants us to realize the place from which we started. He doesn’t want us to dwell on it. We need to dwell on the place to which Jesus has brought us. No matter how pretty we try to paint the picture of what we once were it falls completely short when held up against the character of God. Praise God. He has transformed us and makes that transformation available to all.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
When we were spiritually dead, we still walked. The place where we walked was in the sphere where trespasses and sins are in complete control. Paul uses the word translated walked seven times in Ephesians. Five of them speak of where we are to walk as believers (in good works; worthy of our calling; in love; as children of light; as wise). Unbelievers are said to walk in the futility of their mind. We all walk somewhere. Unbelievers walk in the futility of their mind. They do not have the benefit of the Holy Spirit. Believers have an opportunity. We all walked according to the course of this world in the past but sometimes we stray back into that walk. I fear I am straying away from this verse and into the second half of the book which tells us how to live as believers, so I will get back to the verse at hand.
Paul further defines what it means to walk in trespasses and sins with the words according to the course of this world. Paul wants us to understand where we all started. Let’s face it, some of us got more deeply involved in the world than others but every one of us was there at one time. This is the place from which God rescued us. The phrase can also be translated according to the age of this world. We are living in an age that contrasts sharply with the age that is to come. The time in which we live is the time ruled by the ethical and moral values and activities of the world. These values are continually in flux and are now changing so rapidly that we can barely keep up. These are the values of the world and are decidedly different from the values of the age to come. We all walked there in the past. God rescued us from that walk.
Paul now further explains the world with the words according to the prince of the power of the air, or perhaps according to the ruler of the realm where evil spirits dwell. Paul will later describe this ruler as the devil (4:26; 6:11) and the evil one (6:16). The world system that Paul describes here is the sphere where Satan rules (I use the words ‘world system here’ because we must never forget the words of Jesus All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). We all walked under the rule of the evil one in the past. God has rescued us from that rule.
One more descriptive phrase, as Paul tells us a little more about what is happening within us now when he writes the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. It is possible that the spirit modifies the ruler of the preceding clause but it is also possible that it gives a little more insight into the world system. This would mean that it is man’s or woman’s own unregenerate spirit within that is at work in unbelievers described as the sons of disobedience. This spirit is the old man that is our old unregenerate nature that is responsible for choosing to rebel against God and submit to the ruler of this world system. Disobedience is a choice just as believing is a choice. We all walked according to our own unregenerate nature in the past. God has given us a new spirit within us.
Simply stated, as if that is ever possible, in the past we walked in step with the world that is controlled by the evil one who strongly affects the unregenerate spirit within us. Paul is painting the picture of our past that we might understand the riches of our transformation from sinner to saint. We must live like the saints we are rather than the sinners we were.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
Having completed discussing God’s great blessings to those who believe (These are the blessings that He chose before time began.), Paul now turns to a discussion about how God makes sinners into saints and makes us part of the body of Christ. He does this with the third long sentence of Ephesians. This sentence continues through either verse seven or ten depending on which Greek scholar you ask. The main subject of this sentence which is God, does not occur until verse four. The three main verbs do not occur until verses five and six. This sentence tells us that it is God who has made us alive, raised us up and seated us down. (I was just contemplating how I could make the entire thoughts this morning into one sentence and I could just connect everything by using a bunch of “ands and buts”, but Paul is much more creative than that.)
So, the sentence is about being made alive. First, Paul will spend three verses telling us where we started. We were spiritually speaking, dead as a doornail. We know that He is speaking of being spiritually dead here because when it comes to physical death, we start out alive and end up dead. When it comes to spiritual life, we start out dead and are made alive by God. Just as those who are physically dead cannot communicate with those who are alive physically so those who are spiritually dead cannot communicate with God and are separated from Him. There is a total lack of ability to understand Him. Ergo, we are all born into this life devoid of life (We were spiritually dead.) The first six words of verse one and verse five are identical except for the pronouns. Paul digresses as he speaks more deeply (in verses two and three) of the condition into which we have been physically born. He will finish the current thought in verse five and following. OK, so what have I said so far in two paragraphs? Simply we were born spiritually dead. This is an extremely important concept. No one who is dead can make themselves alive. Only God can accomplish that.
As spiritually dead folks, we lived in the sphere that is controlled by trespasses and sins. There is little if any difference between the two words. They express a conscious and willful decision in defiance of God’s holiness and righteousness. We are born sinners and cannot do anything to make ourselves alive. The following two verses will make clear what walking in that sphere entails as well as the results of walking there. Paul wants us to know that each and every one of us began there. We all were dead. I suddenly realized that Paul abruptly takes us from the stunning blessings of God to the awful reality of where our journey began. I always was a little slow on the uptake.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:22b-23 and gave Him as head over all things to the church which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul now ends this marvelous discussion of the magnificent power of God that is available to us as believers with an interesting contrast. Everything that is created, that is everything without exception has been placed in subjection to the one who is seated at the right hand of the Father. In stark contrast to those who are in subjection under His feet he is placed here as the head of the church. The familiar designation of the church as His body is included here. Are we still in subjection to the One who is head? Of course we are. But it is a willing subjection. It is a willing subjection by those who have been chosen. It is a willing subjection by those who have made the choice to believe. In response, Christ fills the church; that is the body; that is those of us having also believed with manifold blessings.
Now we will unpack this a little. The concept of head speaks of two things; preeminence and authority. This relates directly to the church of which we are a part. We have a personal intimate relationship with the One who is preeminent in all creation. We have a relationship where we have chosen to be in subjection to the One who is preeminent. This will have some interesting implications in the second half of the book where we will need to be encouraged to follow through on that chosen course of willing subjection (Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called (Eph. 4:1)). We willingly believe in the One who has been given to us as head. We willingly subject ourselves to His headship.
We are His body. Hoehner sums up this relationship “God subjected all creation under His feet, including friends and enemies alike. On the other hand, He gave Christ, the head of everything, to the church whose members have an integral relationship with Christ. The members of the body are bound to each other and are related to Christ as our redeemer, sustainer and head.” I look at it this way. All of creation is under His feet in subjection. We have a relationship as a body to the head which is an entirely different kind of relationship. It is a personal, intimate and breathtaking relationship. We also have a relationship to each other as members of the body which is filled to overflowing by our head, Jesus Christ.
Paul completes this passage with the phrase, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. We as His body are filled with the fulness of the blessings of God. Christ as the head of the body is always and completely the ultimate source of this fulness and He never runs out of the infinite supply. We respond to this by experiencing God in a progre
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
Paul continues with the evidence for the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. It is demonstrated by the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead. It is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus is seated at His right hand. Flowing out of the seating of Jesus at His right hand are two additional truths. (1) All creation is subject to Jesus and (2) Jesus is head of the church. It is fitting that the One who is creator of all things is the One to whom all things are now subject. Jesus is creator (All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3)) and sustainer (And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17)) of all that is.
Here, Paul quotes from Psalm 8:6 Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet. Adam was given authority over God’s creation, (AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;(Heb. 2:7)) but lost it when he sinned. In His perfect humanity, Christ has regained that control. In His deity, control was never a question. His control is over all that is. Paul has just described His control as far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.
So, I have been meandering around for a few minutes this morning, perhaps circling around the issue. If Christ is in charge of all that is, what, in the name of all that makes sense, is going on as it seems that all of these things (rule and authority and power and dominion) are spiraling into oblivion? If the steering wheel falls off the car I am driving a hundred miles an hour down the interstate, I am unlikely to be able to regain control. Jesus remains in control of this monstrous God rejecting culture heading pell-mell into chaos and if you think it is in trouble now, just think of the chaos that will ensue when the restraining work of the Holy Spirit is removed as the saints meet Jesus in the air. Jesus is not wringing His hands in despair over what might happen. He isn’t even concerned about who might win the upcoming election. The author of Hebrews expresses it this way, Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. “For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him (Heb. 2:8). Note: he says that all things are now in subjection under his feet. The problem is not that Jesus has lost any control. It is rather that we cannot yet see it. Although we are sometimes in anguish about the direction of evil in the world, Jesus is not. Our hope is in Him, not in the world and He is already in charge forever. He is the only One who can quell the disaster that approaches and He has the effective plan in place. Indeed, He is the only One who can defeat the discords of our lives and He never fails. Our hope remains in Him. Remember that the surpassing greatness of His power is operating for our benefit.
I meant to get to the second half of this verse today but that will have to wait until tomorrow. The problem with studying Ephesians is that it is so jam packed with truth that I cannot possibly get to it all.
As we draw near to the close of this stunning chapter that extols God’s unfathomable gifts, I cannot help but feel great sadness for those who reject the price that has been paid for us to be the inheritance of God. We must pray for their salvation as we are God’s message to them.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.
Remember that the power or authority that Paul discusses here is His power unto us who believe. In verse nineteen he used four words to describe that power as he says His power unto us who believe is in accordance with the power of His power of His power. In this verse he uses four words to describe the power of those over whom the One who is seated at the right hand of God has power. The fact that He is seated there emphasizes that his authority and power are exceedingly far beyond the power possessed by any created being whether human, angelic, demonic or satanic. The power of our Savior is the One whose power is energizing the lives of us who believe.
Paul says that Christ is seated at His right hand in the sphere of the heavenlies and rules over all that rule, exerts authority over all those who have authority, wields power over all those who have power and has dominion over all those who have dominion. This includes every area of influence in the sphere of the heavenlies and the sphere in which we live. It includes every possible time period and every type of authority. God manifests His power through the enthronement of Christ and all must accede. His power is at work in us. (If I counted correctly, I used the word power sixteen times in these two paragraphs. Paul uses seven words for power in verses nineteen and twenty-one. He uses one of them twice.)
The theologians debate over whether the ones described as having power in this verse are human or angelic. I might lean toward Satan and his demonic hordes since the emphasis is on the heavenlies but it really does not make a great deal of difference since the Son has power and authority over both. I will now briefly examine the four words that describe those over whom the Son has authority. The emphasis is that the Son has authority over each and every one of them. The word translated rule speaks of primacy. These are the top dogs in each and every sphere. It speaks of spiritual or secular leaders as well as angelic or demonic leadership. Their rule is nothing compared to the rule of the Son. The word translated authority speaks of those who have the clout in both the physical world and in the sphere of the heavenlies. Their authority is nothing compared to the authority of the Son. The word translated power was also used in verse nineteen (surpassing greatness of His power). It refers to the folks that think they can do whatever they like because they have the control. Their power is nothing compared to the power of the Son. The word translated dominion speaks of lordship and those who think they exercise control. Their dominion is nothing compared to the dominion of the Son.
The One who sits at His right hand is the One whose power and authority are at work within us. Whoever wins the election (whether it be Biden or Jorgenson or Trump) is ultimately subject to the power and authority of the One who sits at His right hand. We are energized with His rule and authority and power and dominion. He is LORD of all!!!
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places
God energized His power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand (v.20) as He subjected all things under His feet (v. 22) and gave Him as head over the church (v.22). The same power that God exercised in Christ is the power that He exercises toward us as believers (the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (v. 19)). Paul now mentions three examples of the same power that is available to us. One more time for emphasis; the same power that God exercised in regard to Christ is the power that He energizes in the lives of believers meaning you and me.
The first example concerns the resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Christ in the heavenlies. God demonstrated His great power when He raised Christ from the dead. And this was just not just any average ordinary resurrection from the dead. Others had been raised from the dead before including Lazarus but every one of them had to die a second time. Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead and will never again die. The power of God in the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the same power that gives us victory over the greatest enemy of mankind. We will meet Him in the air (believers who remain and believers who have died) and we will all be changed. The power of death was defeated in Christ. The power of death has been defeated by the power of God in us.
Not only did the power of God defeat physical death, it also seated Christ as ruler in the place where God dwells. This is the place where ultimately all of our blessings reside. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (v.3). This is the sphere where our battle rages (For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).) This is the place where Christ has all authority. The power of God is energized against all the forces described in Ephesians 6:12.
The power of God was magnificently exercised when Christ was raised from the dead and seated on the throne with all authority given to Him (All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18)). Paul will more fully describe this authority in verse 21. God demonstrated His power in the sphere in which we live when He raised Christ from the dead. God demonstrated His power in the sphere in which we battle but do not see when He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies. One final time for added emphasis; the same power that God exercised in regard to Christ is the power that He energizes in the lives of believers meaning you and me! This power is available for us to appropriate in our lives!!
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
The eyes of our hearts have been opened. Paul wants us to know and understand three things that greatly impact how we live out our lives as believers. The first fact that Paul wants us to understand is the hope of His calling which we discussed previously. The second fact is that we as believers are His inheritance which we discussed yesterday. The third fact is His incomparable power toward believers.
Paul uses four different Greek words that might each be translated power in this verse. We might translate the last phrase of this verse in accordance with the power of His power of His power. All of this great power is made available to us who believe, that is those who have become His children as we have been saved through faith. It is access to the manifold power of God that we possess as believers. In this verse, Paul emphasizes that power. In the immediately following verses, he will provide evidence of that power.
The first word for power (surpassing greatness of His power) is the word that we commonly associate with dynamite, yet this word does not really mean instantaneous, explosive power but rather the continuous ability to accomplish whatever is needed. (Hoehner writes, “dynamite was not invented until at least a millennium” after Paul used this term.) This is modified by the words surpassing greatness. This power that is available to us enormously exceeds any other power in existence. We who believe are backed by His infinite power. This is that which is described in Romans 1:20, For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. The surpassing greatness of His power is further explained by in accordance with the working of the strength of His might. This word denotes the capacity of God’s power.
The word working might also be translated energizing. For the scientist, the previous word for power (dunimis) might be considered potential energy while the word translated working refers to kinetic energy. It is power in motion. It is the active exercise of God’s power. The word translated strength is often used to extol the dominion of God. It connotes absolute rule. It emphasizes the force of the available power. The word translated might often refers to physical strength or power and is also used to extol the strength of God. The words translated strength and might are very similar in meaning. Paul will later use these two words together when he writes Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10).
God’s power is energized on our behalf as we live in an evil and satanic world. It is the power that enables us to live in this world right now. It does not yet destroy that evil world system. That will come later. For now, we must never forget that this power is available and active in our lives today. Even when it seems as if God has forgotten, His power remains energized in our lives.
By Stan Brown
Ephesians 1:18c what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
The eyes of our hearts have been opened. Paul wants us to know and understand three things that greatly impact how we live out our lives as believers. The first fact that Paul wants us to understand is the hope of His calling which we discussed yesterday. The second fact is that we as believers are His inheritance. Because of the praise of the glory of His grace (v.6), the Father to whom all glory belongs (v.17) will receive the glory of His inheritance in the saints (v. 14) that is described as God’s own possession (14). As believers, we belong to God right now. He has purchased us with the blood of the Son. We are His inheritance.
We, as believers, constitute the abundant and glorious wealth of God’s inheritance. In verse fourteen, Paul spoke of our inheritance that is sealed by the Holy Spirit. This includes a magnificent array of blessings. The inheritance described now is unfathomable. Here he refers to believers, meaning you and me, as God’s inheritance. This inheritance will be fully received by God when we all meet Jesus in the air. After the Judgment Seat of Christ where rewards will be in view, God will prepare a feast that will celebrate His inheritance. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev. 19:7-8).
We will be His forever, “They will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him (Mal. 3:17).” We will rejoice in the freedom that belonging to Him brings, “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall (Mal. 4:2).”
Paul desires that we might come to know God in a personal and intimate fashion. He wants this relationship to grow over time. We are extremely valuable to God. He has purchased us with the most valuable commodity possible, the blood of His Son. We are His inheritance. We belong to Him. God wants fellowship with us right now. We must take the time to get to know Him better each day. We are to the praise of His glory. Amen and Hallelujah!!!