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God's Sovereign Control - Bible Survey Part 10

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
September 6, 2021 7:00 am

God's Sovereign Control - Bible Survey Part 10

So What? / Lon Solomon

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September 6, 2021 7:00 am

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Today we're going to move on to the book of Ephesians.

Now a little bit of background. The city of Ephesus was one of the most strategic cities in the Roman Empire at the time of the Apostle Paul. It was located, Ephesus was, in the western half of Turkey, modern-day Turkey, referred to in the Bible as the Roman province of Asia. It was the main seaport for this entire section of the Roman Empire and as such it became the third most important city in the Roman Empire behind Alexandria in Egypt and Rome herself. Now at the time of the Apostle Paul, the city of Ephesus had about 300,000 people. It was a magnificent city. We'll show you a slide of just a tiny little piece of this city and it had a theater that seated 25,000 people. This is the theater mentioned in Acts chapter 19 that Gaius and Aristarchus were dragged into by the mob. It also was the home of the Temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You see on our screen an artist mock-up of the temple and then you see what's left, like one column.

But anyway, that's it. Paul got to Ephesus on his third missionary journey and spent almost three years here. During those three years he preached Christ, he discipled believers, and he reached people for the Lord who were passing through town. Merchants, sailors, tradesmen, travelers, whatever, and then he used the honeybee strategy with them, which is he would pollinate them with the gospel and then trust them to take the gospel like a honeybee back to their own cities. And as a result of this, or remarkable, look Acts 19 10 says, all who lived in Asia, the whole half of Turkey, western half, heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Gentiles. And this is how the six other churches of Revelation 2 and 3, we're talking about Smyrna and Pergamum and Thyatira and Laodicea and the church in Colossae, they all got started not because Paul went to these places and preached, he didn't, but because honeybees that came through Ephesus took the gospel back to their cities, preached the gospel, and started churches there. Everybody with me? Yeah, now we're gonna talk about Paul's letter to the Ephesians, but just before we do, let me remind you that if you've missed any of our series, we're producing enhanced CDs so that you can catch up, and on these CDs we have not only the audio, but we also have the Word doc with all of the slides and all of the the PowerPoint and the maps, and so I don't want you to try to keep up taking notes because you won't be able to, just listen and kind of absorb what we're doing and you'll always be able to get the subsequent week's message out in the lobby.

And I also want to let you know we just put together the first six into a collection that you can get in our lobby shop where all six of them are in a box together and every time we get six, we're gonna do this with them, okay? So don't try to take notes, just listen. Let's talk about the letter to the Ephesians. The letter to the Ephesians, along with the three letters immediately after it, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, are known commonly as the prison epistles, and let me tell you why. In 56 AD, after Paul left Ephesus, he went to Jerusalem, Acts chapter 21, where he was arrested as a result of a mob situation. The Romans arrested him. Then he spent the next two years in Israel, Acts chapter 21 to 26. Then he appealed his case to Caesar and was sent by boat to Rome, Acts chapter 27, and then he spent two more years in Rome, Acts chapter 28, awaiting trial before Nero. These were the years of 61 and 62 AD, and it was during these years of imprisonment in Rome that he wrote all four of these letters, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and so they're called the prison epistles because they were written while the Apostle Paul was in prison.

Very good. Okay, we got that. Now, if you remember, we told you weeks ago that all of Paul's letters to the churches, like this one to the Ephesians, follows the same basic pattern. The first section of the letter, in this case in the book of Ephesians chapters 1, 2, and 3, deal with theological truth, and the second section in Ephesians chapters 4 to 6 deal with practical Christian living truth. So we want to first dig in the beginning section of the book of Ephesians and find out what is the theological truth that the Apostle Paul wants to teach us here.

So everybody ready? All right, here we go. Many commentators miss the key theological truth that Paul is teaching us in Ephesians chapters 1 through 3, and usually it's because they get so caught up in the beauty of the beginning of chapter 1. The first half of chapter 1 of the book of Ephesians is a just a marvelous portion of Scripture, but the main theological point Paul's trying to teach us in this letter is not found in the first half of chapter 1, and people don't get past that to really see what Paul's trying to say to us. In order to find this truth that he's trying to teach us, we do it by noticing the repeated contrast in the first three chapters between the word you and the word we.

Let me show you. Ephesians 1 12. We who were first to trust in Christ is compared in the next verse to in him you also believe. In chapter 2 verse 1 Paul says you were dead in your trespasses and sins, and then in verse 3 we also used to live in the lusts of our flesh. Chapter 2 verse 17. And he came, Christ did, and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to we who were near, and we could go on, but do you see the contrast that is running through these first three chapters between we and you?

You got it? Okay, now the problem is we got to figure out who is you and who is we, and Paul answers that for us right here in Ephesians. Look, he says Ephesians 2 11, therefore remember that you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision, you also trusted in Christ after you heard the gospel of your salvation. So who is you? Well you are Gentile believers in Jesus.

Everybody with me? Okay, now who are the we? Well Paul says in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 12, he says we who first trusted in Christ being to the praise of his glory. Well who were the very first people to ever trust in Jesus, huh? Well of course they were who? They were Jewish people.

Yeah! And so the we are Jewish believers in Jesus. You got the difference now?

You versus we. Now watch Paul make his theological point. Ephesians 2 12, remember that you, the Gentiles in the flesh, before you were saved, Paul says you, number one, were separated from Christ. Number two, you were excluded from the Commonwealth of Israel. Number three, you were strangers to God's covenant of promise. Number four, you had no hope.

Number five, you were without God in the world. Number six, you were, Ephesians 2 13, far off from God. And Ephesians 2 19, number seven, you were strangers and aliens to all God's covenants and promises.

Not a pretty picture. Verse 13, but now, man how much do you love that, huh? But now in Christ Jesus, you who were formerly far off, you Gentiles, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Hallelujah, huh? Can you say hallelujah, amen or something? Yeah, all right. You have been brought near by the blood of Christ for he, the Lord Jesus, is our peace who has made both groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one. He made the two groups, Jews and Gentiles, into one new man reconciling them both to God in one body, the body of Christ, through the cross. And here comes the main point.

That was a trumpet. You ready? I'm doing it again. Here's the main point.

You ready? Don't miss this. Alright, Ephesians 2 19, so then, so then, you Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with all the saints and equal members of the household of God with us Jewish believers. That's Paul's point. Now this was a revolutionary truth in the days of the Apostle Paul. Jews and Gentiles being equals in anything was a revolutionary point. In Paul's day, the Jews despised the Gentiles.

They called them dogs. They avoided all contact with them. In Acts chapter 22, for example, Paul was speaking to a group of Jewish people on the Temple Mount and he told him about what happened to him on the road to Damascus. And then Acts 22 verse 17, Paul said, when I came back to Jerusalem, I was praying and the Lord said to me, make haste and get out of Jerusalem because they will not accept your testimony about me here. And God said to me, Paul says, go for I will send you far away to the Gentiles. And the crowd listened to Paul until this word, Gentiles. And then they raised their voices and said, away with such a fellow from the earth.

He should not be allowed to live. What did he do wrong? Well he said God sent him to the Gentiles.

That's all he said. And you can see the wrath and the vehemence that this brought up in the Jewish people. You say, but Lon, these were unbelieving Jewish people. Yeah well, but sadly the problem wasn't limited to just non-believing Jewish people.

The New Testament makes it clear that after the Gentiles began getting saved and coming to Christ, many Jewish believers discriminated against them. Acts chapter 10, the Apostle Peter is sent to Cornelius to preach the gospel to him. Cornelius was a Gentile, Roman soldier, and Cornelius came to Christ and his whole family came to Christ. Acts 11 verse 1, now the Apostles, James, John, Matthew, all the good guys here, and the other Jewish believers in Judea heard that the Gentiles, Cornelius, had received the Word of God. So when Peter came to Jerusalem, they, what's the next word?

They criticized him, saying, why did you go to uncircumcised people and eat with them? Matthew, James, John, Nathaniel, none of these folks said, hey isn't this wonderful? The Gentiles are going to get to go to heaven. The Gentiles are going to get eternal life. The Gentiles are going to have the opportunity to have their sins forgiven and their lives redeemed. No, they said, Peter, what is wrong with you? What are you doing going to a bunch of Gentiles? And after Peter explained how these Gentiles had trusted Christ and how the Holy Spirit had fallen upon them in chapter 11 verse 18, it says, when they, all these Jewish believers, heard this, they were silenced. They were forced to accept it, but even when they were forced to accept that Gentiles were coming to Christ, many Jewish believers, including Peter, including Barnabas, kept seeing them as second-class Christians, not fully equal with Jewish believers.

How do I know that? Look at what Paul says in Galatians chapter 2 verse 11. He says, but when Peter came to Antioch, Antioch on the Arontes, Paul's home church, mostly a Gentile church, when Peter came there, I opposed him to his face, Paul said. Wouldn't you like to have been in that little conference?

Yeah. Because he stood condemned, for prior to the coming of some men from James, that is Jewish believers from Jerusalem, Peter would eat with the Gentile believers. But when these men came, that is from Jerusalem, Peter withdrew and separated from the Gentiles, fearing those of the circumcision, and the rest of the Jewish believers there in Antioch joined Peter in his hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was carried away in their hypocrisy. Folks, can you see how Paul's declaration here in the book of Ephesians, that Gentile believers and Jewish believers are completely equal in Christ, that they are Ephesians 2 19 fellow citizens and equal members of the household of God. Do you see how revolutionary this truth was in the days of the Apostle Paul?

Yeah? And this theological truth is what Paul refers to here in the book of Ephesians as the mystery of the church, which no one knew till now. See, everybody knew already that the Old Testament said the Gentiles were going to get in on the blessings of the Messiah. Genesis chapter 12, God told Abraham, and all the families of the earth, Jews and Gentiles, will be blessed through you. We know from Galatians 3, he's talking about will be blessed through the Messiah that came from Abraham.

But folks, the mystery of the church, the mystery of the church is that God would create an entirely new entity after the death of Christ called the church. It doesn't appear anywhere in the Old Testament, and that in the church, Gentile believers in Christ and Jewish believers in Christ would be utterly and totally equal. Watch, Ephesians 3 3, Paul said by revelation, I didn't make this up, Paul said, I didn't dream this up, by revelation directly from Christ himself, this mystery was made known to me which was not made known previously, namely that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body of Christ and fellow partakers of God's promises in Christ through the gospel. Gentile believers being equal heirs with Jewish believers, Gentile believers being equal members of the body of Christ with Jewish believers, Gentile believers being equal partakers of God's promises in Christ with Jewish believers like my good friend Tevye says, unheard of, unthinkable, and yet Paul says that's exactly what happens in the church, and by the way, this was no last-minute decision by God. Ephesians 3 11 says all this was in accordance with God's eternal purpose which he purposed to do in Jesus Christ our Lord. Hey, the minute Adam and Eve fell, God already had the church in mind, friends, where we're all equal in Christ.

So let's summarize. The theological truth that Paul is laying out for us in the book of Ephesians as Christians to understand, remember it was revolutionary truth at the time, is Galatians 3 28 in Christ, there is no Jew or Gentile anymore, for we are all equal, we are all one, we are all equivalent in Christ, and therefore when we meet another true believer in Jesus, earthly differences don't matter. It doesn't matter what race we are, what color we are, what language we speak, what culture we came from, what finances we have, it doesn't matter whether we have blonde hair or brown hair or black hair or green hair or no hair, makes no difference, we are all brothers and sisters equally in Jesus Christ without discrimination of any kind. That's the truth of the book of Ephesians, amen? And how great a piece of news is that? Especially for you Gentiles.

I'm serious. Good for you. You ought to make this book your life book. Okay, now that's the end of our book, of what we're going to talk about theologically from the book of Ephesians, but why don't we now ask our most important question, and last week we did a mini, so what, but this week we're going to do it right. So are you ready at Loudoun and at Prince William and at Bethesda and around the world and and here at Tysons, are you ready?

All right, I had one lady write this week and said I watch you on the internet and I scream in this empty room, so what? So good for you. May I join us today? Here we go, ready? One, two, three, yeah. Now listen, there is so much great Bible truth in the book of Ephesians that you could literally spend two years, as my friend John MacArthur has done several times, going through the book of Ephesians. Well, we don't have two years. We got ten minutes, so what are we going to talk about?

Friends, we got to pick just one, yeah? And that's what we're going to do. We're going to pick Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20 and the truth that God tells us there. Let's look at it. It says, now to him who by the power at work within us, the Holy Spirit, is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine to him be glory. Now I got to tell you something, I can imagine a lot and yet the Bible says not that God can do more than I can imagine. That ain't what the Bible says. The Bible says God can do exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ask or imagine. This is what God said in the book of Jeremiah. He said, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh is anything too hard for me. And the lesson, the so what, the point that we need to pull out of this is that because God has this unlimited power, we as his followers should approach every situation in life with unlimited expectations of what God can do and what God will do according to his perfect will for our life.

I'm going to repeat that. Because God has this unlimited power, we should approach every obstacle, every circumstance in life with unlimited expectations of what God can do and what he will do in accordance with his will for our life. Jeremiah 33 3 God says, call unto me and I will answer and I will show you great and mighty things that you know not. God is saying to us my friends, hey when you call to me, expect me to answer. When you call to me, expect me to do mighty things for you.

I love what A.W. Tozer said. He said, true faith is never found alone. It is always accompanied by expectation. The person who believes the promises of God always expects to see them fulfilled. He goes on to say one characteristic that marks the average Christian today is lack of expectation. When we pray, we don't expect anything unusual to happen and consequently nothing does.

End of quote. So let me ask you a question my Christian friend. How about you?

How about me? Do we have this sense of holy expectation? Do we expect God to answer when we call on him and to do great and mighty things for us that we know not? Hey I believe when Moses was at the Red Sea and he called on God with the chariots of Pharaoh swooping down on him, he expected God to do something. He didn't know God was going to open the Red Sea. He didn't know precisely what God was going to do, but he expected God to move. And when Joshua marched with the people seven times around Jericho and then had them all blow the trumpet and scream, he didn't know the walls were going to fall down, but he expected God to do something. And when Esther walked in to see the king to save her people, she didn't know exactly what was going to happen with Haman and how God was going to work that out, but she expected God to do something. And folks, when we pray, we've got a promise from God.

Call to me and I will answer you. So when we pray, do we expect God to move and to do something? When we pray about broken relationships, when we pray about people that we asking God to convict them of their need for Christ, when we're praying about God opening closed doors for us that we just can't seem to open in our own energy, when we pray about God giving us favor in key people's lives for our career, for our life, for our children, when we pray for God to remove impossible looking obstacles from our path, when we pray for God to meet our financial needs and all of our earthly needs, when we pray for the strength to resist sin and obey God today, do we expect God to answer? Do we? I know this sounds trivial, but when you pray for a parking space, do you expect to get one? I do.

If you don't, that's why you don't. Holy expectation, let me tell you, is not wishful thinking. Holy expectation is not the power of positive thinking. Holy expectation doesn't mean that we're expecting God to give us everything we ask for just the way we ask for it.

That's not what it means. It means it's the confident assurance that when we call on God, he's going to answer. And in accordance with his perfect plan for our life, he's going to bring his exceeding, abundant power to bear on the affairs of our life, the affairs of our family, the affairs of our job, the affairs of our health, the affairs of our ministry. Look, we have a promise from God. Call unto me. And I will answer, and I will show you great and mighty things that you know not. And the person who made this promise, the Bible tells us, can do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we could ever ask or think or imagine. Folks, with those two things, you and I ought to be saturated with holy expectation in our lives each and every day.

And we got to stop being like Eeyore. You understand? No, I know God's never going to answer. I'm praying, but he's never going to do it.

I wouldn't answer you either. No, this is not who God wants us to be. God wants us to be humble and yet come to him expectant that he is going to do what he said he's going to do. And when he comes through, maybe in ways we didn't expect, but he comes through and he answers, we need to say, praise God.

But you know what? I'm not totally shocked. I was expecting that you were going to work, God.

I was expecting it. That's what God wants. That's what Moses had. That's what Joshua had.

That's what Esther had. And that's what we need to have. You with me?

Everybody together? Okay, now let's bow our heads. And with our heads bowed and our eyes closed, what I want us all to do is to go to some circumstances in our life where we've given up, we've gotten discouraged, we've lost that expectancy God's ever going to do anything, things seem like they've been stuck on top dead center forever, and I want us to ask the Spirit to help restore to us a spirit of expectancy based on the promise of God and the power of God. Take a moment and do that if you would.

Lord Jesus, every one of us has things in our life that just seem to be stuck. We've prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing's happened, and Lord, we get discouraged. But I pray today that you would revive in us holy expectation, that there's no reason to be discouraged, that you act on your timing and you act in your way, but you fulfill your promise. Call unto me and I will answer, and I will show you great and mighty things you don't know because I have exceedingly, abundantly more power than anything you can imagine. And so Lord, may we approach the problems and situations of life with this expectancy based on your power and based on your promise. Renew that in our lives today. Renew hope in our lives today because of the greatness of our God. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. And what do God's people say? Amen. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-11 13:38:26 / 2023-06-11 13:48:22 / 10

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