Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 33
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber continues his study of the book of Ephesians by looking at our new identity when we become believers: children in God’s family!|
I’m So Glad I’m a Part of the Family of God!
I’m so glad that I am a part of the family of God. You know we sing that, but after you study Ephesians, you don’t just want to sing it, you want to find a hill someplace and shout to the world, “I’m so glad I am a part of the family of God!” Remember, all of the words of Paul are written within the backdrop of cult worship. Ephesus in Asia Minor, at that time, was one of the key cities in the world. Thousands of people would come every year, even in the first century. The rivers had begun to silt and therefore, the seaport was moving further and further out, but that didn’t cause the city to decline whatsoever. What was the big deal? Why would everyone want to come to Ephesus? You see, that is where the Temple of Artemis, or Diana, was located. That was the center of cult worship for the goddess Artemis.
That is in the background as Paul writes the Ephesians. Paul is saying to this group of Christians, this small remnant of believers there, “You don’t have to worry about anything concerning Artemis. You are rich in your salvation.”
Chapter 1, beginning in verse 3, talks about the riches of our salvation: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” There is not one thing we lack in Jesus Christ. He is telling this to a group of Christians who are in the minority in an area where the occult worship is so strong.
In verse 4 he says, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.”
Verse 5 says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself,…”
Verse 7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, [We have been purchased off of the slave block by the shedding of Jesus’ blood] the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
In verse 9, “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.”
In verse 11, “we have obtained an inheritance.”
In verse 13, “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” And on and on and on. Chapter 1 is talking about the riches of our salvation.
In Chapter 2 we find the reasons for our salvation. In verses 1-3 we were helpless, dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul is speaking to Gentile believers. He is saying, “There was a time you were dead.” Dead people can’t do anything. They can’t save themselves. Therefore, God had to do what He did. In verses 4-10, we find what He did. Verse 8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” So we were helpless, absolutely helpless. That is one of the reasons for our salvation.
Secondly, we were hopeless. It says in verses 11 and 12 of Chapter 2, “Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” You see, we were helpless, and we were hopeless.
There is another reason for our salvation. I believe it is implicit in verses 13-22 that we were homeless. In regard to God and eternity, we were homeless. We were not of His household. We find now that we are members of His family. We have a home, an eternal home with God Himself. Since we were homeless, God has given us a sense of belonging. I am so glad I am a part of the family of God.
Well, verse 19 begins to summarize the result of all that God has done, this brand new identity that He has given to you and me. As we saw back in verses 14 and 15, this is all brand new. He has made us into one new man. He didn’t make the Gentile a Jew; He didn’t make the Jew a Gentile. This is a brand new race of people. It starts with Jesus Christ and Him alone. In Him we are a brand new creation, not known by external religious practices, as the Jew; not known as the Gentile; but known as now in Jesus Christ. We have our identity only in Him.
Verse 19 begins to describe that brand new identity. He says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens.” Now these two words are similar, but they are uniquely different. The word “stranger” there, xenos, speaks not of citizenship of a nation as the next word does. It speaks of family relationships. He says, “There was a time when you were not a part of the family. There was a time you were a stranger. You were a foreigner, a visitor, a guest, but you were not part of the family.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t exist around people who belonged to the family of God. It meant that they had nothing in common with them. They were not blood kin. They had not been washed in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You know, I existed for a long time as a stranger to the people of God. I was a minister. I was not a pastor, thank the Lord. In His grace and sovereignty, He wouldn’t allow that. I was in youth and recreation work for years, thinking I knew Jesus. I did not know Him. One night, I prayed to die. I am so grateful God doesn’t answer all my prayers. The next morning I was still alive. I woke up at about a quarter to six, and Diana said, “Go in there and talk with God. Something is going on.” I went in the den, got on my knees and said, “God, something is so drastically wrong inside of me.” I couldn’t understand what it was. I went back to a time when I was young and walked an aisle because I didn’t want to go to hell. I mean, who wants to go to hell? I had never seen myself as a sinner, ever in all of my life. It wasn’t long before I said, “God, would you show me what you see about me?” For almost three hours I cried while God showed me the filth of Wayne Barber. I have never been the same since that time. Isn’t it interesting that I could be a minister in a church and be a stranger to the family?
I wonder how many people today have a relationship with the church but have nothing in common with the people of God because they have never been born into the family. It’s not a club. You don’t join it. It is a family, and you have to be born into the family. People have something in common when they are in the family. Paul says, “You Gentiles were once strangers. You weren’t part of the family. You didn’t belong to the family of God.”
The second thing he uses here moves it to a national citizenship. There is a difference in both words. They communicate two different things. The family communicates relationship. The next word communicates responsibility or citizenship. Paul says, “you are no longer strangers and aliens.” The word “aliens,” paroikos, is the word that means you are not a citizen of a country. In other words, you are a foreigner to the extent that you are here on a passport or on a visa.
Paul says, “You Gentile believers used to be that way with God’s family. You are no longer that way. You are now totally re-identified in Jesus Christ.”
Verses 19-21 are just power packed. Verse 19 says we belong to the family. Verse 20 says we are built upon the foundation. Verse 21 says we are being fitted into the fixtures. We belong to the family. Do you know, if you are a Christian, you belong to the family of God? Eternally in Jesus you belong. You have a brand new identity. That’s what he is trying to tell these Ephesians. You’ve got everything that you need in Jesus Christ.
Well, there are two things that are involved by belonging to the family. I’ve already mentioned them, but Paul puts them in reverse order in the last part of verse 19. One involves responsibility, and the other involves relationships. Isn’t it interesting that at the beginning of the verse he starts off with relationships and ends with responsibility, but when he begins to work it out, he reverses it? He starts with responsibility and then ends up with relationships. You know, that’s the way it always is in the Christian life. I am responsible to God first. I am a citizen of His Kingdom. I must obey Him in order to enjoy any privilege He gives to me. Once my relationship is right with Him and responsible before Him, then it works itself out in my relationships to others. That is exactly what it does. He changes the words around and starts it a different way.
Look at the last part of verse 19: “but you are fellow citizens with the saints.” First of all, we are fellow citizens of a holy nation. That’s what it means to belong to God, to the family of God. We belong, but first of all we must know we are fellow citizens of the family of God. We are part of a brand new kingdom in Jesus Christ. We are citizens of the holy nation. As citizens we have the privileges, but as citizens we really have responsibilities. The Greek word is sumpolites. It comes from two Greek words, sum, which means together with, and polites, which means citizen. Now any time you talk about citizenship you always have, implicit in that, privileges. But you also have responsibility. Do you understand that? What are the privileges of being a citizen of His kingdom? Go back and study chapters 1- 3. What are the responsibilities? They are in chapters 4-6. We have responsibility as being a citizen.
You know, it is very difficult to preach this truth any more, because in America we have made Christianity a religion. We used to be aliens to God and to His kingdom. We were of the household of Adam and of this world. But now, because of Jesus, we have been lifted out of that. Now we are alien to the world, and we are a part of God’s kingdom. To preach that in a society that has married the world with the church is very difficult. It is even difficult to provide a balance. I can’t do it. God has to do that. We are in the world, but we are not of the world. Does that ever bother you? It bothers me. How far do I go in the world and not be of the world? If you don’t have that responsibility of our relationship to Jesus, you will always be out of balance. God will balance it.
We have to start by being a citizen of His kingdom. I am a citizen of the State of Tennessee and proud of it. I’m happy to be in Tennessee. I’m a resident of the city of Chattanooga. I am in the United States of America. Do I have responsibilities? You bet. Do I have privileges? You bet. Well, which comes first, citizenship to this country or citizenship to His holy nation? Friend, there is no question. My citizenship to Him comes first. That governs everything that I am as a citizen of this country, of this state and of this city. I’ve got to be surrendered to Him. I have to obey Him first before any other citizenship ever comes into play. It is so difficult to get into that mindset, isn’t it? Someone said, “A boat in the water is by design. Water in the boat is disaster.” We are designed to be in the world, but not of the world. We have been lifted out of the kingdom of darkness, and we have been transferred, as Colossians says, into the kingdom of His dear Son. My allegiance is to Him first, not to the flag, but to Jesus. It has always got to be Him first. It has to be Him. It is an eternal family. It is an eternal kingdom.
In I Peter 1:1 Peter addresses those persecuted believers of Asia Minor, and he says he is writing to “those who reside as aliens” in the different cities of Asia Minor. That is what we are on this earth, aliens. We are looking for a city not built with human hands. Here is the point that I would like to make. Since we are dealing with citizenship first, responsibility ought to come first. I am responsible. I’ve been made a citizen of His kingdom, therefore, I must obey Him. If I obey Him, it is to the point of my obedience that I enjoy the privileges that are mine being a citizen of His kingdom.
The second thing he mentions here is we are children of a heavenly family. He goes on in verse 19 and says “you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Before I go any further, don’t confuse the word “saints” with “Israel.” Yes, Israel is a nation, and God is not finished with them. One day, Israel will be brought into His kingdom. When he says “saints” he is talking about believers, those who have been made what they are by Jesus Himself, who is the chief cornerstone of this whole building, as we will see in the verses to follow. He says, “You are also members of the family.” The word “household” is the Greek word oikeios. It means “to belong to a certain household.”
Hey, we all have different houses, but we all belong to the same household. Isn’t that neat? We all belong to the same household. We are blood kin. We are brothers and sisters in the family. We are of the same family even though we live in different houses. In other words, every time we come to church, Sunday morning, Sunday evening or whenever we come together, it is like having a family reunion. We’ve been put into a divine family. That means something. Our relationships are intimate with one another.
We had a family reunion in Diana’s family recently. There are eight in her family. All of them are married, and all of them have children. When we have a family reunion, folks, it’s a crowd. One of the things we noticed this year was the difference in our children when we all get together. Now if you have a reunion and invite me to come to it, I’m sort of a stranger. I am not blood kin, but I am a friend. I come and get together with you. However, if you put a family together, blood kin, you watch cousins with cousins and brothers with sisters. It is fun to watch. There is something about family, folks. There is just a kindred spirit that we all love. It changes your whole behavior.
That is the way it ought to be in God’s church. That is the way it ought to be in your church. If you have a problem with another brother or sister in the family, you had better get it right. You see, we will treat people differently than we treat family if we don’t think we are related to them and not responsible to them. With family what goes around comes around, and we are going to handle things with care. We are all a part of the same household. We should have family reunions every time we get together.
As a matter of fact in verse 16 it says that we are so much a part of each other that we are a body. It says, “and might reconcile them both [both Jew and Greek, whoever receives Christ] in one body to God through the cross.” We are a body. We are so needful of one another. It is like a body.
Can you imagine if my liver decided it was just going to check out because it didn’t like my kidney! I mean if my liver quits, that’s it, folks. The whole body goes. We need each other. There is no such thing as a healthy body with selfish organs in that body. Ephesians 4:12 says that body is the body of Christ: “for the equipping of saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Oh, how diversified this body is. Red and yellow, black and white. We have got every gift, every color you can think of, in the body of Christ. We are a part of one another. We need each other. That’s our new identity in Jesus.
Part of the responsibility of being right with God and the way it works out in our relationships with others is that we begin to realize that diversity. You are going to see this in Ephesians. We are all gifted differently with different temperaments, personalities, and everything else. God uniquely made us as individuals, and He did not throw away that individuality when we accepted Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful? We have to learn to accept the differences in one another and quit trying to make everybody like ourselves.
The body is diverse, folks. We are different. We’ve got to learn to accept each other’s differences. We’ve got a responsibility. We are citizens. We’ve got brand new relationships. We are part of the family. This family is not like us. We are all uniquely different, and we’ve got to learn how to live with one another with all the gifts and all the diversity that is in the family. What a beautiful truth! I now belong to the family of God! I am gifted. I am being fitted. We are going to see that in verse 21. I am already being fitted into the family. I am built upon the foundation. One of these days that building is going to be complete. It is going to be a dwelling of God, the Holy Spirit Himself.
Oh, I can look at the Temple of Artemis with those wonderful, magnificent 58 foot columns and gorgeous construction. All that is going to burn. I’m a part of a spiritual building that absolutely is filled with responsibility, relationships and all the privileges that go therein. That’s enough to shout about for me folks. Aren’t you glad you’re a part of the family of God, washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood? You see, that is what it means to be a believer. I don’t think there is one ounce of evidence to support one single gripe that a Christian could ever utter from his lips if he understands the new identity he has in Jesus Christ.