Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 3
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|What did Paul pray for the believers in the Ephesian church? Dr. Barber explains based on the greeting to the church.|
Paul’s Desire for the Saints in Ephesus
Turn with me to Ephesians chapter 1. We are going to move to verse 2.
We found in verse 1 that the audience of the book of Ephesians was saintly saints that were faithful in Christ Jesus. That is important to understand. They were not just saints positionally. They were saints experientially. They were daily dependable to do the things God had told them to do. They were not perfect, but they were dependable. How did they do that? They were faithful in Christ Jesus. Because they were in Him and because He was in them, they were enabled to do something they could not have done apart from His power. So what a wonderful audience we are looking at and Paul is writing to in Ephesians.
Paul does something in verse 2 that he does in all of the 13 epistles that we know for sure that he wrote. He gives them a greeting.
Now I love something about the New Testament epistles. The authors signed it before they wrote it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could get a letter that was signed before you had to read it? Then you could make up your mind if you wanted to read it or not. They signed the epistle and then they would write it. Paul tells who he is; he tells who he is writing to; and he gives them a greeting.
In Romans 1:7; I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon, verse 3; Titus 1:4, he uses the exact same words that he puts in Ephesians 1:2. There’s something that is significant about that. In I and II Timothy he adds a word. He says, “Grace…”, and he adds, “…mercy…”, and then, “…peace to you from God our Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.” To pass this off as a simple greeting to me is to miss the point.
I believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of scriptures. That means every word of God is inerrant, infallible and inspired. If that’s the case, this is not just Paul writing this greeting, this is the Holy Spirit of God inspiring Paul to write this greeting. And if the Holy Spirit inspired him, then there’s something we need to look at in the greeting that he gives to the church at Ephesus.
The greeting was more than just a formality. It was a wish, a desire of the apostle to the audience that he was writing. Let’s look at it. He says in verse 2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The older I am getting the deeper these words are becoming to me, and the more I realize how ineffective I can be in even sharing them. But perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of these two words. We’re all desperate for them.
The word “grace” is the word xaris. It comes from the word “xairo”, which means to rejoice. Certainly when you begin to understand the word “grace” there’s a rejoicing in your heart. I was thinking about the song “Glad”. Oh man, I love that song. “Oh be ye glad, be ye glad”. Rejoice for what the Lord has done for you. When you understand grace there’s such a lift that comes in your spirit.
How many of you are just beaten down? How many of you feel like you’re in a valley? You look around you and nothing seems very appealing. When you come to God’s word and you begin to understand God’s grace, there ought to be lifting of your spirit. There ought to be a rejoicing in your soul.
God is a God of grace. Grace is favor that is done without expectation of return. Now as believers we have to come to understand this. We have to come to understand it is the absolutely free expression of the loving-kindness of God to mankind. What kind of God do we serve? We serve a God that is filled with loving- kindness. He is a God of grace.
As a matter of fact, the first time you ever find the word “grace” it’s in the Hebrew. It’s in Genesis 6 when God decided to covenant with Noah. He looked down on this earth and saw all the sin, filth, wickedness and evil, and God had grace upon Noah. Not only did He spare Noah and his family, He spared all of creation because God is a God of integrity.
This God of grace, who created mankind, did not abandon it just because mankind rebelled against him. Oh no! He is committed to what He created.
His plan of redemption unfolds throughout all of Scripture. It is what forgives the sinner and what brings joyfulness and thankfulness to his heart. It is what changes an individual. Grace is more than just the nature of God in His character. It is something He expresses to us. It’s the changing power of God. It’s what takes a man who is a sinner, bound and blinded by sin, and lifts him up out of the mire. God changes him. He transforms him. It’s God that does that. It’s grace that does this. Grace always deals with man’s sin.
Grace is that free expression of God to mankind, who rebelled against Him, that enters into a man’s life and deals with his sin and transforms him and fills his heart with gladness. It fills his heart with rejoicing. I’ll tell you what, folks. If you have been living under the grace of God today, you’re a different person because of it. It has lifted your spirits to realize God loves you so much that He freely expressed that love by sending His son into this world.
So many people relegate grace just to salvation. They’ve overlooked the fact that grace continues on and on. It’s the ongoing changing power of God. It’s the ongoing willingness of God to deal with the sinfulness of even His bride the church. We must understand that.
I took the word “grace” and ran it through the book of Ephesians and began to get a picture of what we are talking about. Obviously it is not a complete picture because it is used in all of the Scriptures. You must take the whole before you can understand it completely. But let’s look at it and see if from Ephesians we can understand a little bit more about what grace really is.
Look at verse 6 of chapter 1. As a matter of fact, I guess we would have to go back to verse 5 to catch the whole sentence. In verse 5 he says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…” Do you see the heart of God? “…to the praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved.” Now don’t forget those last two words. You see grace is a free expression. That’s right! But it was very expensive to God to be able to express it. We forget this. Grace is very costly. Yes, it is free to man, and man can not earn it. God just decided to display and to manifest it to man. But what it cost God to do that is what we must understand. To talk about grace as just the kindness of God that is expressed is to miss something. Somehow embedded deep into the word “grace” is what it cost God to express it. That’s how undeserving man was to ever receive it. You must understand that.
So all of this that we have at salvation was expressed to us in the beloved. He came and He died a wicked cruel death on the cross so that we might have this grace manifested into our life. We must understand that. It is God’s favor freely offered but expensively expressed when He sent His only son into this world. What we have is a result of a holy God reaching down into the filth of this world and sending His son to die for you and me.
Secondly, we find it again in chapter 1 and verse 7, “…in whom…”, speaking of Christ, “…we have redemption…” Do you know what the word redemption means? It means that we are purchased. It means to be purchased off of a slave block. I have not gone into the verse and studied all it is speaking of there. We’ll get back to it. But what in the world would cause a God to do that for His creation? You see He is the God. And He is a God of kindness and favor and grace. “…in Him we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace.” It mentions His blood. You see you can’t take grace away from what it cost God to express it. When you have realized what it cost God to express it, it begins to help you realize the wickedness of sin and the undeserving state of mankind. You think sin is not important? It cost God His only son on the cross. It cost God much suffering to express His grace to you and me.
In Ephesians 2.5 we find the word again, in the middle of a sentence. So let’s back up to verse 4. It says, “…but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our transgressions made us alive together with Christ…” And then he says, “…by grace you have been saved.” He made us alive. He made us alive with Him. He speaks of His resurrection. We are identified with Him in His death, and we are identified with Him in His resurrection. To have a resurrection you must have a death. And there again the word “grace” is directly associated with what it cost God to freely express it to mankind.
In chapter 2 and verse 7 we find it. He says, continuing the sentence there that we have already begun in verse 4, “…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.” “…In the ages to come…” Now I don’t know all that that means yet, but one of the thoughts that came to my mind was as long as we live, and we will live eternally, God will continually be revealing to us His grace. We think we understand it. Oh folks, we only understand what God has chosen to reveal to our hearts. But as long as we go “…in the ages to come…” He will be revealing His grace to you and me.
So when you think of the word “grace”, immediately think of the fact that before Christ we were all dirt and had sin natures that rebelled against God. We are created that way. But as a result of His grace, He reached down, and Jesus came into this world. It cost God. Yes, it’s free, but it’s expensive. There’s an enigma there. It was very expensive for God to display something that is free to us.
You know, sometimes we think a little more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. I don’t know how many times I have sat up on the pulpit area and seen the crowds come in and had to fight back the tears. I can’t imagine why anybody would want to come and hear me. And then it dawns on me that they are not coming to hear me. They’re coming to hear God’s word. And God overwhelmingly tells me that all the time. Listen, it’s by grace I was even saved much less used as a part of His kingdom. How often do we get competitive even in that which only God by His grace has allowed us to participate? I am afraid sometimes we take grace as a license, and we don’t see how undeserving we are of His grace. Don’t ever read the word “grace” that you don’t realize that you absolutely deserve nothing, and I absolutely deserve nothing.
You want to talk about the grace of God as if it is some kind of divine license that allows us to live even outside the restrictions of God’s word? No! Grace, folks, is given to those who absolutely don’t deserve anything but hell. And once you have received grace, you never forget that you didn’t deserve it to begin with and that now when God transforms you, you live in the mindset of how wonderful this grace is.
I tell you what. When you start understanding, and God starts revealing it to your heart, there is going to be a rejoicing, like I said earlier, that you haven’t had before. God is going to put a song in your heart. Some of you even have the garment to praise Him a little bit. And one of these times we are going to see it in a service, and this place is going to go nuts. And I am not telling you to do that. But it’s amazing what happens to somebody when it suddenly overwhelms him, and he sees what grace is all about.
Well, in chapter 2 and verse 8, Paul says it as he has said it so many times. He says “…for by grace have you been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God…”
Paul enters into ministry now and explains how God has lifted us up and saved us all by grace, very expensive grace to God but freely offered to man. In chapter 3 verse 2, look what it says: “If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you…” Paul was talking about his ministry to the Gentiles. The word “stewardship” there is a word that means someone managing the affairs of a household. Here’s God over His creation, and He looks down and sees none righteous, no not one. And so the Lord Jesus goes down and says, “I’ll become the man. I’ll be the God-man.” And He goes down, walks in covenant with His father, and the Lord Jesus pays a price, a debt that He didn’t owe when we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. God lifts us up out of the miry clay, and He sets our feet on the rock. And not only that, He lets us get involved with what He’s up to in reaching His creation. To think that He lets us be involved with Him. Paul says, “…this ministry I have to you is by the grace of God.” He says at other places, other books, “Man, I am the chief of sinners. I used to crucify Christians. I took them out. I stood there while Stephen was stoned to death. And now I am overwhelmed by the fact that only by God’s grace, I don’t deserve it, He let me be a part of His ministry.”
In chapter 3 and verse 7 Paul speaks of his ministry. He says, “…of which I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.”
And then in verse 8 of chapter 3 he says, “…to me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.” Whenever he talks about his ministry or his salvation, he has the word “grace” wrapped all around it. “I didn’t deserve for God to stop me on the Damascus road. And I certainly don’t deserve for God to use me in the way that he has used me. It’s just by God’s grace. God has transformed me. I am no longer the same, and I walk in awe of His grace.”
Are you living that way? Are you rejoicing in your heart that God loves you like He does? This is the loving-kindness of God. He broke through the darkness of this world with His light, and He sent Jesus to the cross.
In Chapter 4 verse 7 Paul speaks of the ministry that all folks have within the body. And he says, “But to each one of us…”. You could say, “Brother Wayne, you didn’t know me before I got saved. Let me tell you what I was like before I got saved.” And you begin to realize how rotten your life really was. “But God broke in, and by His grace I was saved. And now, Wayne, let me tell you how He’s gifted me and how I am so grateful that He ministers through me. It’s so different.”
I was thinking of my wife, Diana, and our gifts. We went to a hospital one time together. We walked in the door, and the little lady started groaning. I picked that up right off. That rascal, she was doing fine when we got there. We walked in, and Diana, with her gift of mercy, runs over, gets her head on her pillow, pats it around and gets it where it’s real comfortable. Diana pats her on the cheek and gets her a little glass of water. I am thinking, “Oh come on, Diana. She just wants attention. Let me exhort her.” So I walked over and said, “Don’t you know the scripture…?” And I started exhorting her in the Word. We got out in the hall, and Diana said, “I can’t believe you did that. I would have never done that.” The little old lady was just so excited when we left her in the room. I said, “Well, Diana, I would have never done what you did.”
It’s by God’s grace that He even uses us. You see we need that grace because it deals with our sin. Our sin wants to get in the way and be proud of what it is God has given us by grace. We didn’t earn it, but we’re proud of it. Aren’t we?
Some people are so proud they have a gift. They love to point to it. How do you know people are proud of their gift? By the way they criticize others because they are not gifted like them. Manly Beasley is an evangelist who has gone on to be with the Lord. Manly never appeared to be reading the Word when he preached. And so sometimes when people would hear him speak, they would criticize him and say, “Listen to him preach. He doesn’t really have an outline. He doesn’t have it together. He doesn’t mention the Word. He doesn’t go into the languages. He doesn’t understand.”
He was dyslexic, and nobody understood that. He couldn’t even read it. He saw it backwards every time he looked at it. God used that man in such a powerful way, which proves something to me. Like Paul said when he went to Corinth, he said he didn’t come with eloquence of human speech or wisdom, but he just simply come in demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit of God. What I do I do by the grace of God.”
Well, grace begins by dealing with our sins. There are many more aspects to it, such as ministry and salvation. It covers all the bases. But you’ve got to understand that sense of not deserving it, or you will never understand the word. God gives it freely, but it was expensive to Him to express it.
Well he mentions another word which has to be in the order that he mentions it. He says, “Grace and peace…”. I don’t know of a situation, if it is even in the New Testament, where peace ever precedes grace. It can’t precede grace. You don’t have peace until you receive grace. You have to have grace even to receive it. The word “peace” is the Greek word “eirene.” And it means basically the absence of conflict, the absence of any irritant which will interrupt the oneness of a relationship. There is nothing irritating between two things. Man was not at peace with God until God broke through and expressed His grace. And when man received that grace, who the embodiment is the Lord Jesus Himself, he receives God, and God deals with his sin. Therefore, man and God can be at peace with one another. Grace precedes peace. Sin has to be dealt with before man can have God’s peace.
Now why would Paul wish the believers, who have already gone through this process, grace and peace? He’s wishing they had more grace and more peace from God because we’re not perfect, folks. Daily we sin, and daily we walk outside the realm of God’s grace. It’s only by His grace that He convicts us, and we run back. And the grace cleanses us. The power of the blood cleanses us. Then we’re back at peace with God, and we’re at peace with man.
Look in chapter 2 of Ephesians and let’s see what Paul says about this word “peace.” In verses 14-17, speaking of Jesus here, Paul says, “…for He Himself is our peace. “ Now who’s he talking about? “…who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” The dividing wall he speaks of here is the law. And he speaks of the Jew and the Gentile. He’s talking about how when the Lord Jesus came He fulfilled that law. You see, the law to the Jew kept them separate from anybody else on this earth. But when Jesus came He showed them that the Law had condemned every Jew living because there was not a single Jew who could live up to it. But He did. He lived up to it and died on a cross. And now we have life through Him.
We don’t enter the kingdom by obeying the law. We enter the kingdom by receiving Jesus Christ. Now once we’ve done that, in Christ there is no Jew or no Greek. That’s what he’s talking about. He says Christ is our peace. “…by abolishing in his flesh the enmity which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances and in Himself He might make the two into one new man thus establishing peace and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross by it having put to death the enmity. And he came and preached peace to you who were faraway [the Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews].”
In Christ there is no Jew or Greek. He is our Peace. In other words we ought to always be at peace with one another because through Christ we are at peace with God. The problem is a lot of Christians stop living that way. They begin to step outside the realms of God’s grace and step outside the realms of God’s love. They sin and God reaches out to them. You don’t ever really get outside the realms of God’s grace, but you step out of the reality of it. And as we sin, God, through His grace, convicts us. We come back. We’re cleansed, and we’re at one with one another.
In verse 2 of Ephesians 1 Paul is wishing for God’s grace to be showered upon the faithful believers in Ephesus. He wishes that it be in its fullest form of God’s favor, of God’s kindness and of God’s transforming power that they experience it in every way possible. If some people wish, they can simply call it a greeting. But I think there’s a whole lot in that greeting.
I ask you again, do you have joy in your heart? Do you rejoice because God loves you and has expressed His grace to you? The grace of God is available if you’ll come and deal with the sin in your life. In that grace is the cleansing power of His blood and in that cleansing the peace comes. Only God can bring it. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you, not the peace the world offers, but I leave my peace”. That’s the peace we’re looking for. If you are at peace with God, you are at peace with one another.