College & Career Class Lesson Summary, October 28, 2018
Hopefully by now, we see the stage as sufficiently set by Paul – the mystery he was given was the news that God had been keeping secret as it related to the mechanics of how Jews and Gentiles would be brought together in union and the immediate reality that they would be fellowheirs and fellowcitizens. The wisdom of God was manifested in why it was important for He to keep this a secret for as Paul writes to the Corinthians, had the princes of this world knew what God was going to accomplish by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, they would never have crucified Christ to begin with. This was God’s eternal purpose – to bring all things together in Him.
1Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Ephesians 3:11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
During this interlude of explanation of our union together and with Christ, Paul makes some statements that might seem like he is just filling space, but we should take care to stop and consider them. Note these statements that we’ve read in Ephesians thus far:
Ephesians 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Paul understood that there were principalities and powers in heavenly places. We often think of rulership and those who possess it as limited to earthly places (with the exception of God). However, God already knew the information that He Himself revealed to Paul, so it isn’t unto God that his manifold wisdom is now being known. Who are these rulers in heavenly places that God’s wisdom, wrapped in a mystery, is now being revealed to?
Note Asaph’s words in Psalm 82,
Psalm 82:1 A Psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
Psalm 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. 82:7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
We often view the idea of “false gods” or “having no other gods before Him” as God simply saying to not put things in front of Him – we allegorize “gods” into something we relate to, where modern distractions are concerned. The irony of this approach is that it distracts from the fact that there are gods, that are real. There is a spiritual realm that we cannot see that is teeming with spiritual entities. Paul says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against what?
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
The reason God made warnings about being led astray by other gods is because it can actually happen. The reason God made warnings about attempting to tap into the spiritual realm is because it can actually happen. These warnings would make no sense if what is being warned about was not possible. Note this from Deuteronomy,
Deuteronomy 18:9 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 18:10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 18:11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 18:12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. 18:13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. 18:14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.
Within this spiritual realm, God stands in the congregation of the mighty and judges among them (the gods)–the sons of God. These gods are principalities and powers that the God of Israel has given dominion and authority to within the spiritual realm, yet, God did not disclose everything to them. The God of Israel is unique among this divine congregation in power, in wisdom, in authority–in every way. How often in the Old Testament do we find the writer making some statement about the uniqueness of God? Perhaps they understood that the reason He is unique is because there are no other gods like Him?
Exodus 15:11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
2Samuel 22:32 For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?
Psalm 35:10 All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?
Psalm 89:6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
Psalm 89:8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?
Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Ephesians 4:6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
This is just a sampling of statements in the scriptures where the God of Israel is clearly testified of being the Most High. By the way, when you think about this divine congregation of gods, it sheds some light on God being referred to as the MOST High.
This is the fascinating thing about God’s grace. Remember back to the beginning of Ephesians, we saw that WE were made to the praise of His glory – that when God shows off in the universe, it isn’t by the vastness of what He created in the universe, but rather it is those dusty, earthen vessels who have accepted Him by faith. God shows you to His divine counsel as the pinnacle example of His glory.
Hopefully you can see that no, Paul wasn’t just filling space when he speaks of the wisdom of God now being made manifest to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. There is a realm out there that even though we cannot see, God is nonetheless parading us in front of its inhabitants as the praise of His glory.
As the rest of chapter 3 unfolds (and indeed through the rest of the epistle), Paul will refocus his attention to unfolding the necessities of unity, in Christ. By necessities, I do not necessarily mean what we must “do” in order to be in union, but what we must allow to be true in recognizing the union we already have – not only with Christ, but one with another.
Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
At the time of writing this, Paul is under house arrest in Rome and has gone through serious tribulations during his ministry. After all, God declared in Acts 9:16 that Paul would suffer many great things for His Name’s sake. Paul desires that these Ephesians not grow weary in the news of Paul’s tribulations but rather understand it is through those tribulations that we still have boldness and access to something, by the faith of Christ. Paul gladly bows his knees unto the Father in the midst of his tribulations and asks that God to strengthen these Ephesians by His Spirit, in the inner man. And, note there is no shortfall on the quantity nor quality of this strength, for Paul appeals to the riches of God’s glory as the standard by which the Spirit would strengthen these believers. The location of this strength is important. Paul already referred to the tribulations he faced (see 2Corinthians 11:16 – 2Corinthians 12:10 to see Paul recount his tribulations and his response to them). These tribulations worked to bring Paul’s body to a state of perishing. Paul’s prayer for these Ephesians was not to be strengthened in the outward man – the physical person, for the physical/outward man will perish.
2Corinthians 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. 4:16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Rather, Paul prays that they be strengthened according to the inner man – that their spirits be bolstered with the truth that despite the tribulations that Paul was facing and despite the tribulations that they may have faced, the condition of their outward man, as it responds to the tribulations, is the same and equal for everyone – it perishes. Yet, despite that, the Spirit of God, on the basis of the riches of God’s glory, will strengthen the inner man so that in the midst of an outward man perishing, the inward man can have boldness and confidence to stand in faith and rejoice always in the Lord.
Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Being strengthened by the Spirit in the inner man results in Christ dwelling in our hearts. Now, this isn’t to say that Christ comes and goes from us, to the extent we are being strengthened by the Spirit, but that the strengthening of the Spirit clears the fog of tribulations so that in our hearts doesn’t dwell worry and concern and frustration, but Christ Himself. Christ is always there, for we are one with Him, yet if we choose to put our focus on temporal things, we can lose sight of the fact that He is still there. I mentioned this is like the kid who has a backpack on but is searching his house looking for his backpack. He is so convinced that he needs to find his backpack yet doesn’t realize he has it already. As believers, we spend a lot of time trying to conjure up the presence of God through whatever means we have convinced ourselves will do the trick, yet, the presence of God is always with us and will never leave us.
Reckoning it to be true and focusing ourselves on the fact that Christ dwells in our hearts opens us up to the benefits of Christ dwelling in our hearts – that being rooted and grounded in love, we can know the dimensions of the Love of Christ, which is actually has a limit of understanding. Perhaps a rather substandard analogy, but if the Love of Christ is a 10×10 square, what we can know of His love measures out to be 1×10. There is so much more to His love that we experience as believers, yet cannot explain it as it surpasses knowledge. Paul mentioned something similar to the Philippians,
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Paul concludes with this being the key to be filled with the fulness of God. The fulness of God is none other than Jesus Christ. It is not a special level of Christianity that one attains after a series of attempts to please God in the flesh.
Colossians 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Every believer has the fulness of God, yet being FILLED with the fulness of God is the result of what we spoke about above – allowing the presence of God, which the believer always has, to always be real in your life. And, notice that Paul is not singling out certain of these Ephesians for this to be true about. Indeed, every believer who allows the reality of Christ in them to be their focus will invariably be filled with the fulness of Christ. For believers who seek other means to occupy their Christian existence, they nonetheless have the presence of God and the fulness of God, yet aren’t tapping into it, as it were. They aren’t being filled with this fulness. They are complete, yet feel incomplete. They have been supplied to liberally, yet feel wanton. It is our choice to recognize the fulness we have, of Christ, and allow it to work in us.
Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Recognize that He who can do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or think is the same power that is working to strengthen us in the inner man and it is unto Him that glory belongs, for ever and ever.
In Chapter 4, Paul will leave this truth that God’s strength for the believer is equal (since there is divine unity with Him and with one another) and will begin discussing the various facets of this unity, as it relates to what Paul says is our “worthy walk.”
Our story continues…