The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
July 15, 2012
1) Ephesians 3:12-21 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
What assurance the Christian can have because of Christ Jesus!
Of Him, Paul declares, "in whom we have boldness and confident
access through faith in Him" (Eph. 3:12). Yes, Jesus makes
that possible. As the Hebrew writer also shows: "Since
therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by
the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for
us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great
priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart
in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from
an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let
us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who
promised is faithful" (Heb. 10:19-23). Also: "Since then we
have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus
the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not
have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but
One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of
need" (Heb. 4:14-16).
Since the Christians have these blessings in Christ, Paul urges
them, by saying, "Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my
tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory" (Eph.
3:13). So Paul didn't want them to "be discouraged," as some
other versions render this, over the difficulties he was
undergoing. For at that very moment, he was imprisoned for his
preaching; and it was probably distressing for the Ephesians to
think of him in that circumstance. But Paul didn't want them
to become fainthearted or despondent over it. For knowing that
God can cause all things to work together for the good to those who
love God (Rom. 8:28), Paul had pointed out to the Philippians the
positive impact his imprisonment had for the Lord's sake. He
declares, "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances
have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my
imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout
the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of
the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have
far more courage to speak the word of God without fear" (Phil.
Christians, in general, are not to "lose heart." This is seen
in Luke 18, where the Lord gives a parable to show that we should
pray "at all times" and "not to lose heart" (v. 1). And Paul
instructs the brethren to "...not lose heart in doing good, for in
due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Gal. 6:9). The
same Greek word for "lose heart" is also used in 2 Thessalonians
3:13, where Paul exhorts the brethren to "not GROW WEARY of doing
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul then expresses his prayer for the
Ephesians and begins by saying, "I bow my knees before the
Father." This does not mean, however, that it is mandatory for
one to knell when he prays. For the Bible shows of different
positions in which people have prayed. For instance, knelling:
Luke 22:41 (when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night
of His betrayal): "And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw,
and He knelt down and began to pray." Also standing: "And
whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against
anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you
your transgressions" (Mark 11:25). And, in addition, falling
on the face (prostrate): "And He went a little beyond them, and fell
on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let
this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou will'" (Matt.
26:39). As E.M. Zerr writes, "The validity of prayer depends
upon the condition of the heart and not the position of the body."
Paul shows in Ephesians 3:15 that "every family in heaven and on
earth derives its name" from the Father. In the sense of being
the Creator, God is the Father of us all. For instance, in
preaching on Mars Hill (the Areopagus), Paul points that out in Acts
17:24-29: God "...made from one, every nation of mankind to live on
all the face of the earth...as even some of your own poets have
said, 'For we also are His offspring.'" But it is not through
this physical connection to God that one can be saved; for it
requires a spiritual connection: One must be born again of water and
the Spirit of God, according to John 3:3-5. And to those who
accept God's plan of salvation, they are given a new name by the
Lord. This was prophesied in Isaiah 62:2: "The nations will
see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be
called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will
designate." In Acts 11:26, we find what that new name is and
when it was first given: "...and the disciples were first called
Christians in Antioch." It's interesting to also note that the
church in Antioch was made up of Jews and Gentiles, but they all
simply went by the one name of "Christians."
Paul's prayer included that the Christians would be "strengthened
with power through" God's "Spirit in the inner man." The
"inner man" is the spiritual, eternal part of man; as in contrast to
the physical, temporary, outer man, as we can also see in 2
Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our
outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by
day." By applying the words of the Spirit, as set forth in the
gospel, the inner man is strengthened. As Jesus shows in John
6:63, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing;
the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life."
Therefore, spiritual nourishment for the "inner man" is found in
God's word: "But He answered and said, 'It is written, "MAN SHALL
NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE
MOUTH OF GOD"'" (Matt. 4:4). If we continue to feed upon God's
word, we will continue to grow. And is there ever a time when
we can cease from that? Even to men who were spiritually
mature enough to serve as elders, Paul exhorted by saying, "And now
I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to
build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are
sanctified" (Acts 20:32). So no matter how much we have
developed in God's word, we still need to continually look to it, to
apply it and grow. For example, it is not merely a case of
having or not having the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. For
there is also a need to develop more of that fruit when we do have
it, so that we can have more love, more peace, more patience, more
self-control, more gentleness, etc. And in view of these
passages, if a person rejects the message of the Spirit, how
could that person expect the Holy Spirit to strengthen him and work
Paul shows in Ephesians 3:17 that this is "so that Christ may dwell
in your hearts through faith...." Again, we see the need for
acquiring a deep understanding of the Scriptures; for "faith cometh
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
Therefore, the more we increase in Bible knowledge and apply that,
the more we increase in faith; and the more we increase in faith,
the more we increase in having Jesus in our lives. This was
truly Paul's goal for the Galatians, according to Galatians 4:19, as
he metaphorically expresses: "My children, with whom I am again in
labor until Christ is formed in you."
In addition, Christians are to be "rooted and grounded in love"
(Eph. 3:17). We have seen in a previous lesson that Jesus is
the foundation of the church; and, according to 1 John 4:8, "God is
love." So to be rooted and grounded in love is to be better
founded on Jesus as the church's one foundation. In the
parable of the seed and the sower, why the seed perished in the
rocky soil is because the seed could not become firmly rooted in
that kind of soil. Jesus shows that this represents those who
believe for a while, but because they are not firmly grounded in His
word, they fall away during time of temptation (Luke 8:13).
Therefore, how important it is for the Christian to be "rooted and
grounded in love." This might also remind you of Psalm 1:1-3,
where the psalmist illustrates with a plant that can become very
mighty and towering: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in
the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit
in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the
LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will
be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its
fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever
he does, he prospers."
In Ephesians 3:18, Paul expresses being able to comprehend the
"breadth and length and height and depth"; but he doesn't tell us of
what. Commentators have greatly differed on what this would
have reference to: truth, love of God, the church, the cross. But
whatever it is, surely it would be something about God and His
greatness. As verse 18 goes on to show, the love of Christ is
so great that it "surpasses knowledge." This is also true about the
"peace of God" (cf. Phil. 4:7). Concerning God's greatness,
Zophar says to Job in Job 11:7-9, "Can you discover the depths
of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are
high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can
you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, And broader
than the sea." If God's greatness is to be described by
dimensions, would we not think of those dimensions as being
Paul had prayed that these Ephesians would truly come to know
various great things about the Lord. As we saw in Ephesians
1:15-19, Paul prayed that they might be given a spirit of wisdom and
revelation in the knowledge of God; that the eyes of their hearts
would be enlightened, so that they might truly know the hope of
God's calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the
saints; and that they might come to know the surpassing greatness of
the Lord's power toward all who believe.
So knowing Christ's love, which surpasses comprehension, is not a
contradiction of terms. Rather, we might liken it to an
individual who enjoys a view of the ocean, while standing on its
shores. What he beholds appears immense; but, actually, he is
probably seeing no more than two or three miles out to the
horizon. The majority of the ocean, he does not see.
Isn't God's love like that? We can see it and enjoy it, but
there is more to it than we can fully fathom. So as
Christians, should it not always be our desire to continue to learn
and grow more and more in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and
Savior, Jesus Christ?
Paul's prayer included the Ephesians being filled to all the
fullness of God, and God's word was given for that purpose.
Compare, for instance, Ephesians 4:11-13: "And He gave some as
apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as
pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work
of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all
attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of
God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to
the fullness of Christ." As the Christian submits to God's
word, he continues to become more like Christ. Consider, for
example, what Paul states in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with
unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are
being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as
from the Lord, the Spirit." And to see that this
transformation takes place through God's word, look at 2 Peter
1:2-4: "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God
and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to
us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true
knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For
by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises,
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature,
having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."
This is God's plan for the Christian, and has been so before the
beginning of time. Notice, for example, Romans 8:29: "For
those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to
the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many
Paul then concludes chapter three with a "doxology" in verses
20,21: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all
that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all
generations forever and ever. Amen."
That is truly an amazing statement that the Lord "is able to do far
more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think." How truly
great God is! We are never guilty of exaggeration when using
the word "awesome" to refer to the Lord's wisdom, power, and
abilities. Jesus says of Deity, "...'With men it is
impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God'"
The word "power" (Eph. 3:20) is from the Greek word "dunamis," which
E.M. Zerr defines as "one of the strongest words in the Greek
language for the thought of might or ability."
Paul closes this chapter in verse 21 with, "to Him be the glory in
the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.
Amen." As J.W. Shepherd writes, "This glory is to be
given to God during all the ages of time and eternity."
Down through the years, God has now been glorified in the church and
Jesus praised; and this will continue throughout time and throughout
eternity. Corresponding to this, consider Psalm 45:17: "I will
cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the
peoples will give You thanks forever and ever." Also
Revelation 5:13: "And every created thing which is in heaven and on
the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in
them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the
Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and
ever.'" Note also from Ephesians 3:21 that the glory given to
God is to be from those who are in the church and in Christ
Jesus. When one is truly in the Lord, he is also in the
church; and vice versa. Therefore, when this isn't the case,
how could that one truly honor or glorify God? Remember what
Jesus states in John 15:5, "...for apart from Me you can do
nothing." So please make sure you are "in Christ" by obeying
His word today! So that you, too, will be able to praise,
worship, and serve God acceptably and have all the blessings that
are obtained by being in the Lord.
News & Notes
I'd like to solicit prayer from the saints for the family and friends of Danny Hill
who passed away July 14, after having been diagnosed with cancer
just two weeks prior. He was only about 58. We extend
our condolences to all his loved ones.
Let those of us who are Christians also be praying for Cheryl Crews who has been having
some physical pain, along with her other ailments. And also
for Clyde Jackson who has
been having some health problems; Curtis
Gautreau who is being treated for cancer; Gene Calloway who is healing
from a foot problem; Shirley Young
who has fibromyalgia; Pam
MacDonald who wasn't feeling well recently; and Kelly Anderson who is seeking
employment and having job interviews.
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA 70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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