"Grace to You and Peace..."
I have been on a short sabbatical this past summer and did not have the time to post. I would like to begin posting some studies/sermons I have been writing on Ephesians.
Study them and use them if they are helpful. May God stand by and watch to perform his Word in you. My first sermon is from Ephesians 1:1-2:
ESV Ephesians 1:1-2: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful(1 )in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Summary: Grace and peace are the two main ingredients for life in the Christian community. Grace and peace should inform our ultimate identity in Jesus so that we can live worshiping and serving God as we are called to do.
In Christ's love,
â€œGRACE TO YOU AND PEACEâ€¦â€
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS
Summary: Grace and peace are the two main ingredients for life in the Christian community. Grace and peace should inform our ultimate identity in Jesus so that we can live worshiping and serving God as we are called to do.
I. Introduction: Grace and peace should constantly inform us of who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we are â€œin Christ Jesusâ€.
â€œGrace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christâ€ (1:2). This truth opens and closes the Book of Ephesians. Grace and peace are the bookends that open and close the book (read Eph. 6:23-24).
Grace and peace are the main ingredients of the Christian life as chocolate chips and sugar are the two main ingredients of what makes a chocolate chip cookie. Grace and peace are essential; they are central (core, fundamental, foundational) to all we are and what we do.
Three things we will address today: (1) What are grace and peace? (2) How grace and peace transformed Paul and the Ephesian Christians? (3) How grace and peace will transform us and bring true unity in community at KCPC.
This is the Apostle Paulâ€™s goal in writing this inspired letter from Jesus; this is Godâ€™s will and purpose for us as His people to be unified in Christ; look at 1:10:
â€œâ€¦According to His purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.â€ Unity in Christ is Godâ€™s goal for His people â€“through grace and peace.
1. What are grace and peace?
Our ultimate identity or way of defining ourselves should be in the grace and peace that has been richly lavished upon us because of the love of Jesus Christ toward us who believe.
What makes us all most effective and productive in the Christian life is by knowing first and foremost the grace and peace that God has granted to us because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
We need constantly to maintain a Gospel-Identity informed by the main ingredients of grace and peace.
What are the two ingredients of grace and peace all about? Grace and peace are the primary ingredients that God grants to believing mankind so that they will live for Christ and for Godâ€™s glory alone!
What should be Godâ€™s message to sinful people? â€œNOT grace to you and peaceâ€¦â€, but â€œYou owe me obedience- -you had better fear me for who I am- -you should know of my great power, sovereignty, and judgment!
You are sinful- -and I AM that I AM â€“I am holy, holy, holy, the Pure One, the Righteous One, the Glorious One, the One who knows more about what is in your hearts than you know yourself (Jer. 17:9-10).
BUT, we get: â€œGrace to you and peaceâ€¦â€ This should humble us all out of other identities so that we will find ourselves clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone. â€œGrace to you and peaceâ€ levels all of us beneath the cross so that true unity is possible.
Whatever formerly defined us and who we were should be submitted to the Lordship and Love of Jesus Christ!
â€œGrace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christâ€¦â€ (1:2).
Two of the most beautiful words ever uttered; two of the most astounding words ever heard! May we never ever hear those words again without considering the deep and profound and loving and merciful meaning.
a. Grace- How can God offer the Ephesians and all who believe- -grace? Because of the loving action behind the words: â€œIn Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his graceâ€¦â€ (1:7).
God offers grace to sinners because of Jesus Christ! God offers undeserved favor in his sight. We are full of sin, full of self, full of self-absorption; this is seen even in the good things Godâ€™s has granted to us in our lives.
We are tempted to live our lives apart from God- -and to create identities that make us more self-reliant rather than God-reliant!
We too easily fix the meaning and significance of our lives on our lesser identities. Such as vocation, family background and name, race, physical attractiveness and/or strength, political positions, success in some area, cultural positions assigned by the world.
We are tempted to create community based on these lesser identities while forsaking and ignoring those who might be different from us.
Jesus Christ has taken our heavy debt of sin. Jesus has taken the wrath and power of God for those who believe. A great debt- -and unimaginable debt has been paid for you- -for me!
We have not merely owed God a few bucks, or a few years labor, or even an entire life of service. We owe God an infinite amount that we could never pay back if given a million years (which we do not have).
We owe to God in our trespasses against His Law (his fee for trespassing sinfully in His world) what is equivalent to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.00 and only two minutes to pay it back (to try and put this in perspective). I owe God, you owe God, an infinite amount of debt- -and Jesus Christ paid it for us. Our debt, what we owe to God is every sin against His Holiness as God in our words, our thoughts, and our deeds.
Every sin against the Great Kingâ€¦
We could work all our lives and never pay back God for what he has done.
Yet he doesnâ€™t make us pay it, rather he sends his Son in love to pay our debt through His blood (1:7). Jesus has died to pay our debt in our place so that he can address us like this: â€œGrace to youâ€¦â€ Not what you deserve- -but â€œGrace to youâ€¦â€
If we donâ€™t comprehend this wonderful truth at this point in studying the Book of Ephesians we will not understand much that follows in the letter. If we donâ€™t grasp Godâ€™s grace, then we will never have the proper identity in Christ to be effective and productive in Christâ€™s community the church.
â€œGrace to youâ€ is the sign at the side of the road that reads: â€œWarning: Go no further unless youâ€™re willing to give all of your lives, your whole hearts, all of you, all of what defines you to love, worship and serve God and one another.
Grace says â€œyou are loved more than you can imagine and you are therefore to go and realize your death with Christ and deny yourself any other ultimate identity other than Christ.
If you donâ€™t have grace and peace from God, you will never attain to what God has called you to in this life as â€œsaintsâ€.
â€œâ€¦and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christâ€ (1:2). Christâ€™s life for us and His death has made it possible for us to have both grace and peace with God.
The peace that we have is with God and each other; peace that is vertical (up and down) and horizontal (right and left to us). Christ has restored the peace with God that was lost in the Fall of mankind into sin and rebellion.
Christ reconciled us to God and we are at peace with God; in fact, we stand justified before God because of Christâ€™s righteousness and therefore we know the peace of God that transcends all human understanding. Paul says in Romans 5:
ESV Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we1 have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith1 into this grace in which we stand, and we2 rejoice3 in hope of the glory of God.
Peace brings a restoration of God and man through Jesus Christ. Man was created to have an identity that was always defined, informed, and taught by God His Creator. When man rebelled in the garden, there was a loss of this kind of peace-shalom relationships alienating man from his Creator.
Mankind then sought to make a name for himself; to find an identity for himself that was unique for him (to be self-reliant, self-dependent, etc)- -but that would not be defined and informed by God.
The peace that we have with Christ is that the peace that we all long for in the deepest part of our souls, finds that peace with God through forgiveness of sin and guilt, but we also find a kind of psychological peace because we know our true identity again as those who were created and loved and redeemed by God our Creator and Father.
Peace with God means that we can live for God and with God by His grace knowing that we are greater sinners than we can ever imagine, but knowing that he loves us more than we can ever estimate because of Christ. Because of this peace reconciliation, we can define our identities ultimately in God again, and be at peace with God and ourselves, and even each other.
What causes war and lack of peace in the world? Ultimately, the differences we have; first the differences we have with God and then with each other.
Christ through His grace restores broken relationships (what we call â€œdysfunctionsâ€ in our relationships: family, friends, social environments, races, political, religious, etc).
Notice how the Apostle Paul teaches this unity in community to the Ephesians. There is now peace between different kinds of people (Eph. 2:13-15):
Ethnically- Jews and Gentiles:
â€œBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peaceâ€¦
Jews and Gentiles have been unified in Christ in perfect harmony. â€œFor he himself is our peace, who has made us both oneâ€¦â€
SIGN-ificant- Various peoples and identities submitted to God
â€œOne hope that belongs to your call- -one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of allâ€¦â€ (Eph. 4:4-6).
Unity in community although diverse in couples and singles/ married and unmarried/parents and children/masters and slaves/male and female.
Paul uses abundant metaphors to stress the peace unity we have in Jesus that should inform our ultimate identity: â€œIn Christâ€/ â€œThose seated with Christ in the Heavenly Placesâ€/ â€œThe Household of Godâ€/ â€œA Holy Templeâ€/ â€œFellow Heirsâ€/ â€œSaintsâ€/ â€œOne Bodyâ€/ â€œNew manâ€/ â€œChildren of lightâ€/ â€œThe Churchâ€, etc.
Paul uses the metaphors to establish the identity in Jesus that we have as different people who are really unified together in him. In light of this, we are called by God to live consistently with this.
2. How Grace and peace transformed Paul and the Ephesians. How were Paul and the Ephesian Christians changed in their ultimate identities by grace and peace?
c. Apostle Paul: From Saul to Paul
Greetings from Paul, not Saul. Who is he and what are his credentials?
1. â€œAn Apostle of Christ Jesusâ€- No longer, a blasphemer and persecutor of the Church: Not â€œSaul, a Pharisee of Pharisee, self-righteous, proud, according to the â€œtraditions of the fathersâ€.
2. â€œBy the will of Godâ€- Not his own idea, but according to Christâ€™s call:
ESV Galatians 1:13-16a: For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,1 and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to1 me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentilesâ€¦
ï‚§ Philippians 3:4-9- Paulâ€™s resumeâ€™
ESV Philippians 3:3-9: For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God1 and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh - 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law1 blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faithâ€¦
Paul was now an ambassador of Godâ€™s word (2 Cor. 5:17-21).
There was a real and radical change of the Apostle Paul by Godâ€™s grace from inside-out- -he was a new creation- -with a new identity in Jesus Christ: â€œPaul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God (and we will focus on the will and purpose of God for the Ephesian Christians next week, DV).
Donâ€™t miss the fact that the grace of God was shown to Paul so that he might make known the gospel to the Gentiles, which were the Ephesian Christians:
Galatians 1:15b-16a: â€œâ€¦Who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to1 me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentilesâ€¦
Paulâ€™s ultimate identity - -his core, primary, central, fundamental identity was now in Christ because of grace and peace.
d. Ephesian Christians: From focus on worldly riches and power to focus on God in Christ
e. An identity that is both earthly and heavenly
i. â€œTo the Saints in Ephesusâ€
1. Oxymoron? â€œSaintsâ€?? in Ephesus (1b)
2. â€œTo the Saintsâ€ What are â€œsaintsâ€- Those consecrated, set apart, made holy by God. What is surprising is that the Gentiles at Ephesus are being described as part of the community of the Israel of faith (cf. Eph. 2:11ff; 1 Cor. 1:9-11). Those who were â€œfar from the covenantâ€ have been brought nearâ€
3. Paul can describe the citizens of Ephesus in Asia Minor as being citizens of this world and as being saints; their identity is both earthly and heavenly (Col. 3:1-4; Phil. 3:20-21).
4. The Ephesians are â€œsaintsâ€ or â€œholy onesâ€ or those set apart for service to God not because of something they have done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done for them (as Paul will elaborate upon in 1:3-14 and the remainder of Ephesians)!
5. More can be said later in our sermon series, but Ephesus was a big port city, like San Francisco or New York City. Ephesus was filled with all kinds of different people, and many visitors and travelers, or tourists as we would call them.
6. In Paulâ€™s missionary journey to Ephesus we are told â€œSo the word of the lord continued to increase and prevail mightilyâ€ (Acts 19). As the Gospel changed folks from within they had different interests in power and money.
7. The Kingdom cannot change peopleâ€™s hearts without changing our thinking about power and money! Those who grew wealthy on religious tourism where folks would come and worship at the Temple of Artemis were threatened financially. Those who had worshipped Artemis as an idol found their religious identity changed.
8. The love of money and idols changed for the Ephesians because of Godâ€™s grace to them in Jesus Christ; they were no longer merely Ephesians, or citizens of this world, but now more precisely they were â€œsaints in Ephesus, who are faithful in Christ Jesusâ€ (1:1b).
9. Incomes, social status, and religious thought were all transformed through Christ; former witches, pagans, greedy business men, and greedy religious men were transformed by Christâ€™s grace and love. No longer did the Ephesians define themselves and their identities as mere Ephesians, but now were saints- -because of grace and peace.
10. The Book of Ephesians is to teach them how to live as Christians; that is, how to live out their new identity in Jesus Christ. The Book of Ephesians is how to make their identity of Christ primary, supreme, foundational, and to either to rid oneself of former identities, or submit oneâ€™s identity to the gospel of grace and peace.
11. Before the Ephesians believed, worldly identities, hopes, riches and dreams of power and riches controlled and consumed them. But the Ephesians were called to a new identity in Jesus:
ii. â€œFaithful in Christ Jesusâ€
1. Ephesians are not faithful in themselves, but are faithful â€œin Christâ€
2. â€œIn Christâ€ is how Paul gets at the significance of what Jesus Christ has done in his life, death, resurrection and ascension for all who believe. There is no faithfulness in the Ephesians themselves; they are faithful because of Jesusâ€™ faithfulness.
3. This is the â€œgospel good newsâ€ that Paul speaks of in 1:13a: â€œâ€¦the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvationâ€¦â€ The Gospel is a message about a Person- -the Lord Jesus Christ.
4. The Gospel is â€œhope in Christâ€ (v. 12) not hope in oneself. The Gospel is hope in what Christ has done for believers in his redeeming work (1:7a), and the forgiveness of our trespasses that flow from the riches/abundance of his grace (1:7b).
5. God has â€œlavishedâ€ (1:8a) upon the undeserving in order to bring glory to God (1:12b)
How grace and peace will transform us and bring true unity in community at KCPC.
The people at Ephesus formerly served and worshipped riches and false gods. These riches, power and false gods gave them both social and religious identity.
Now in Jesus Christ these former identities were to be daily cast away from their hearts and minds. Not all the identities were wrong, such as some of the peopleâ€™s vocation, their family name, etc.
However there were at least two evil and idolatrous things that must be repented of: (1) Thinking more about how oneâ€™s personal identity made them different from everyone else in the church (cliques); (2) Thinking more about how oneâ€™s personal identity made them better or worse than others in the Church (superiority/inferiority cultural-worldly statuses).
As Christians, we either have Christ as our ultimate identity and find unity in community as Godâ€™s people; or we elevate and escalate secondary identities to idolatrous status in the congregation producing division through pride, prejudice, and partiality.
As Christians, our ultimate identity (that is what most defines us to ourselves and others) is not what we own, not what we have, not what we wear, not where we live, not what we do, but what we richly and abundantly possess in Christ Jesus.
Grace alone through faith in Christ alone! Peace with God and man. You wouldnâ€™t want it by nature, you couldnâ€™t get it, and youâ€™d never keep it! If it were up to you!
In this greeting from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:1-2, we too are welcomed into fellowship with the Triune God through being recipients of His grace and peace.
Christ alone is our only hope for salvation. Who Christ is, what he has done for us in His faithfulness and obedience to God is the object of the declaration/message of â€œgrace and peaceâ€. We who hear and believe this declaration are the subjects and recipients of the message.
If salvation is by grace alone through Christ alone, if one can only be faithful before God â€œin Christ Jesusâ€ then stop trying to tell yourself that you had anything to do with your salvation at all!
Stop looking to yourself and look outside of you for the righteousness that God requires and supplies richly in Jesus Christ.
Let your heart be full of the grace and peace of God in Jesus Christ, so that you will know and understand yourself as a true saint and one set apart in this part of the world, at this time, to be part of this community at KCPC, to show forth Godâ€™s grace and peace to the world.
Daily: hear and believe all the wonderful things that God has done for you in securing you grace and peace with God through Jesus.
We will not be able to subject and submit our lesser identities to God if we donâ€™t understand in our hearts that Jesus died for us. If we donâ€™t live in light of the cross as recipients of grace and peace, we will never change, nor want to. We will never be effective and productive citizens of Godâ€™s community if we donâ€™t learn to daily live in light of the cross.
Because on the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God received the opposite of grace and peace for us! Jesus was crushed, cursed and greatly troubled to the depths of His soul so that we might be redeemed from our slavery to ourselves, the world, and the devil, and that our identity would be found ultimately in him.
Jesus came down from heaven to do what we could not do in living for God faithfully (that is, without sin), and living and obeying God where we constantly fail.
Jesus was faithful in His service to God and his love for others where we are constantly unfaithful. â€œIn Himâ€ we too are called â€œfaithful in Jesus Christâ€.
In order for us to receive these great gospel blessings of grace and peace, Jesus in order to accomplish this for us had to be cursed. Jesus had to receive the debt of Godâ€™s wrath and punishment against our sins.
Jesus suffered not the greeting of â€œgrace to you and peaceâ€ on the cross, but curse and suffering- -complete wrath and misery for our sins- - so that we might hear and believe the greeting made in Christ from God to us:
â€œGrace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.â€
As a congregation of â€œsaintsâ€ at KCPC let us daily remember this great truth and let us daily hear it and believe it. May God transform our hearts and lives with these two main ingredients of the Christian life.
We come from disparate backgrounds at KCPC: ethnically, financially, socially, etc; our differences before we knew Christ were great (as great as the difference between Paulâ€™s experience and the Ephesian Christianâ€™s experience of salvation).
At KCPC, we vary in age groups, color, ethnicity, social status, financial worth, male and female, married and single, etc.
Some at KCPC have struggles with sins as a result of social high position; some have struggles with sins as a result of a lower social position. Some are government workers, some are self employed, some are scientists, some are teachers, some are pilots, some are financial specialists, some are working out of the home, some are mothers, some housewives, some listen to Dylan (and some hate him! ïŠ) and some listen to Mozart, some love television, some read books.
Like the Ephesians before Christ, not many of you would naturally be friends or even interested in one another necessarily. Some of you are a quiet and a bit shy, and others of you are gregarious, talkative, and loud (me!!).
But- - know your identity:
In Christ, we are all â€œsaints who are faithful in Jesus Christâ€!!
We shouldnâ€™t come to worship here together each Sunday merely to get what we can get out of God and others; we shouldnâ€™t necessarily come because we are on the same page. We should come together because our ultimate identity and hope is in the grace and peace that only Christ can give.
We are all here to hear about Jesus! If it had not been for grace, youâ€™d never wanted him, youâ€™d never gotten him, and youâ€™d never kept him.
But because of Godâ€™s love for you in Jesus, you wanted and desired Christ, you received him by grace alone through faith, and he keeps you in his love and grace, slowly but surely making you more like him and thus changing your identity into the likeness of Jesus Christ!
Seek to build each other up in your ultimate identity in Christ. We so soon forget it! We are not ultimately citizens of Ephesus, or Purcellville, or Home School Parents, or Soccer Moms, or Johnnyâ€™s grandmother, Dr. Johnâ€™s financial manager, ____________â€™s teacher, a student at ________ College.
We are ultimately saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus who have received grace and peace from God! Rejoice!!
May all our other identities be subsumed and submitted to our new and ultimate identity as Christians: â€œTo the saints who are in Purcellville, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.â€
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