Published September 15, 2005
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Oct. 2
For the next five Sundays our lessons will be found in the book of Ephesians, addressing the theme of holiness. Holiness is a term that has become out of date even out of use in many Southern Baptist churches. What does it actually mean for a believer to be holy or to walk in holiness?
The Bible says that we should be holy because God is holy. God is far more concerned about what we are than what we do. God is more concerned about our heart condition than he is our performance. To be able to develop an understanding of personal holiness in the life of a Christian will necessitate a thorough examination God's eternal plan.
As we approach this study we must remember that the church at Ephesus was birthed and lived in the midst of one of the most morally corrupt, pagan cultures that one could imagine. The temple of Artemis (Diana), the fertility God, was the glory of the city. It was to this context that Paul writes this letter.
God chose a people, Eph. 1:1-6
Paul introduces himself as the author of the letter and clarifies his calling at the outset. Referring to the recipients, he uses the word "saints", and in particular, the ones who make up the church located in the city of Ephesus. Hodge, in his commentary on Ephesians, explains saints to mean "those who are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and thus separated from the world and consecrated to God." Keeping in mind that these people are not practically perfect but they have been saved from sin and set apart for holy living before God.
He immediately launches into multiple praises for the blessings God has bestowed upon the saints. Summarizing them he simply says: "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ." Verses 3-6, focus on the past and give attention to the purposes of the Father. Verses 7-12, focus on the present and center the attention on the redemptive work of Christ. Verses 13-14, focus on God's future plans and major on the securing ministry of the Holy Spirit.
As he looks into the past he majors on two expression "hath chosen" (v.4) and "having predestinated"(v.5) These two expressions have created much debate and division throughout church history that cannot be settled in a short Bible study lesson. What one needs to notice in the text is that both expressions major on purpose that God had in mind.
The purpose for his choosing was to make the chosen ones "holy and blameless" (v.4). If he had not chosen us, this purpose would not be possible. Had not love motivated Him to predestine us, we could not have experienced adoption into His family, known "the kind intention of His will", nor been motivated to praise Him for the "glory of His grace" (vs.5-6).
Those of us who are Christians should always be praising God that He chose and predestined us to holiness since this work was initiated by Him, made possible through Him and completed in Him.
God redeems sinners, Eph. 1:7-12
Those who God chose and predestined are also those who have experienced the wonderful blessing of redemption and forgiveness (v.7). These blessings have nothing to do with the quality of neither the individual nor the quantity of his works. The emphasis is focused on God and the awesomeness of His grace which He lavished upon us (v.8) Man's heart is totally depraved, and for God to be willing to express love and grace to sinners, in redemption and forgiveness, is amazing and overwhelming.
There are wonderful benefits that flow out of redemption and forgiveness. First, we get to know His will that is made possible through the redemptive work of Jesus (v.9). Secondly, we become participants in the final bringing together of everything in heaven and earth under His eternal rule (v.10). We also, having been made heirs in His kingdom, will be privileged to join in that heavenly chorus to praise Him for eternity for His awesome work of redemption (vs. 11, 12). What a wonderful privilege that will be.
God secures believers, Eph. 1:13-14
In these final two verses we discover the doctrine of the security of the believer. Baptists, with a few exceptions, have stood fast on this doctrine through the centuries. We say that we believe, once saved always saved. Even though we say we believe this, many Baptist cannot defend the belief from scripture.
Paul helps us to understand the doctrine in these verses. He tells us that when a sinner hears the gospel and receives it, believing it to be truth from God, he is immediately sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit (v.13). This sealing has an eternal securing impact on the believer. Jesus promised that this would happen. He said that when He sends the Holy Spirit He would secure our relationship with God forever (John 14:16, 17).
Paul says that this sealing is like unto a pledge or deposit made, in view of a time in the future, when God will come and claim the purchased possession (v.14).
This pledge is the Holy Spirit, Who takes up residence in the believer. The pledge is of such a nature that the one in whom the pledge abides becomes the possession of the one who made the purchase.
Therefore, if anyone ever was saved, they forever will be saved, because God cannot and will not renege on His promises. This is just one more reason to praise God.
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