Saturday, June 18, 2016, 10:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 3 (NIV).
One Body in Christ (vv. 1-6)
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Before Jesus Christ, God the Son, gave his life up on a cross for our sins, we had two primary classifications of people on the earth. The first was Jew. The Jews were God’s chosen people up until the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension into heaven. The other was Gentile, which basically covered all non-Jews. Yet, when Jesus died for our sins, he made the two one through faith in him. Whether Jew or non-Jew by birth, we are now both reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, and we are one body (See: Eph. 2:14-18).
As well, just because someone is born a Jew, it does not make him or her Israel. “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (See: Ro. 9:6b-8). “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (See: Gal. 3:26-29). “Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise” (See: Gal. 4:22-31).
What this is saying is that the Jews who do not believe in Jesus Christ are not the children of promise. They are not God’s chosen people. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are the chosen and the called of God. We are Abraham’s descendants. We are true Israel. Jews who don’t believe in Jesus Christ are no different from any other non-believers, including the Arab nations. The physical city of Jerusalem is also no longer God’s Holy City, for it is of Hagar, because she is in slavery with her children. The body of Christ, his church, is now his Holy City, the Jerusalem that is from above (See: Gal. 4:22-31).
If a Jew does not believe in Jesus Christ, and if he rejects Jesus Christ as his Lord and Messiah, then he is not Israel, and he is not heir of the promise, and he is not Abraham’s offspring regarding the promise God made with Abraham. “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son” (1 Jn. 2:22). So, if a Jew denies that Jesus is the Christ, then he or she is antichrist. Yet, to all people, whether Jew or Gentile by birth, if they trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) of their lives, and they have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and have been resurrected with Christ in newness of life, they are one in Christ, no matter their physical birth or nationality.
Through the Church (vv. 7-13)
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.
What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? It is not just an escape from hell (eternal punishment) and the promise of heaven when we die. It is also not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse, believing we have heaven guaranteed and that God requires nothing of us – no repentance, no submission and no obedience. The gospel message is that we are all born into sin, without God, without hope, and destined for eternal damnation. We all come up short of attaining God’s divine approval in our own flesh. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. It is only by God’s grace to us in sending his only begotten Son to die for us, and through faith in his Son Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God, beginning now and forevermore.
Yet, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (lifestyles) according to the Spirit. If we live according to the flesh, we will die without Christ and without hope of eternal life. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ eternally (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Jesus said if anyone would come after him, he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (for eternity). But, if we lose our lives (die with Christ to sin and self), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25).
Basically, 1 Pet. 2:24 sums it up when it says that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel message, and it is definitely the message Paul preached, and that we must preach, too, for we, the church, are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We are to be his servants and witnesses in taking the gospel message throughout the earth, and in making disciples of Christ of people of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded his followers (See Ac. 1:8; Matt. 28:18-20).
So, what is the church? It is not a building. It is not a business. And, it is not a corporation under the federal government of any nation. It is a living organism with Jesus Christ as its head, not with humans as its head. It is the people of God, the body of Christ, the redeemed of the Lord. And, it doesn’t matter where we meet, or how often, or on what day. If we are truly gathered in the name of Jesus, he is there among us and together we make up the church. The early church met daily in the temple courts and from house to house. So, we are to not forsake gathering together with the body of Christ, though I believe God is calling his true church, his body, to come out from the institutional church, which is not, of itself, the true church of God. I believe Jesus wants his true church to come out from under man and government as heads over the church, and to make Jesus her only head.
Established in Love (vv. 14-21)
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
We need to be strengthened in our inner beings with power through God’s Spirit, especially during these perilous times on the earth when so many are preaching a false gospel, and so many are deserting the true faith as established by Christ and his NT apostles. So many who call themselves followers of Christ are really followers of man, and are partakers in the delicacies the world is offering, instead of feasting on the riches of God’s grace and his righteousness. We are being opposed every day. The gospel is under fire, and so many are diluting it in favor of the acceptance of human beings so as not to offend anyone.
We need to truly grasp the depth of God’s love for us. What loving parent would allow his or her children to do just whatever they want, knowing what harm might come to them? God’s love and grace is not a free license to sin. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14). He cares about us so much that he will discipline us in order that we may “share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11).
The goal is that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.