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The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
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December 10, 2020 7:00 am


The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 10, 2020 7:00 am

The culture around us seems to be increasingly materialistic, lustful and greedy. But were not far removed from the nature of the audience of many of Pauls epistles. In every age, the church has been a beacon of light in a dark world. In this message on The Bible Study Hour, Dr. Boice discusses the purpose and uniqueness of the church as we begin a series on the book of Ephesians.

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The culture around us seems to be increasingly materialistic, lustful and greedy but we are not far removed from the nature of the audience of many of the apostle Paul's epistles in every age. The church is been a beacon of light in a dark world. In today's message of the Bible study are Dr. James Boyce discusses the purpose and uniqueness of the church as we begin a series on the book of Ephesians and welcome to the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly. The book of Ephesians has been described as the Grand Canyon of Scripture vast and deep yet simple and compelling the points of doctrine outlined in the book of Ephesians the feel of a minicourse in theology. Let's listen in together as Dr. Boyce walks through a helpful introduction to the book I find as I study various books of the Bible that the commentators who write on them inevitably extol their book as they most important, the deepest, most relevant walk in all of Scripture Ephesians is no exception to that. William Barclay, in his commentary on the book calls. Ephesians the Queen of the epistles Armitage Robinson and a commentary written about the turn-of-the-century called it the crown of St. Paul's writings going even further back in history. The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was quoted by Barclay in this book the finest composition of man causes.

He believed it embraces. First, those doctrines peculiar to Christianity and then those precepts, and with it a natural religion John McKay, a former president of Princeton theological seminary who was converted in his youth through reading and studying this book because Ephesians the greatest, surest, and for our time. The most relevant of all Paul's writings, this letter is pure music. He said Ruth Paxson called Ephesians the Grand Canyon of Scripture, meaning that it's breathtakingly beautiful and apparently inexhaustible. The one who wants to take it in well these superlatives will have to stand or fall on their own merit. Of course, but the point I would like to make as we begin a study of this book today is that if the book of Ephesians 6 is profound and deep and relevant and meaningful. It is not because it expounds mysterious doctrines that are nearly unfathomable and would be utterly unknown to us. If it weren't for this book, but because it presents in the simplest and most compelling language those doctrines which are basic to all Christianity replies Wescott in an unfinished but nevertheless very valuable commentary has an appendix in which as a wrap up of his starting of the book he considers the distinct doctrines that Ephesians presents 27 of them. He deals with God the father Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity will of God the world creation, the unseen world Angels, evil powers, the devil, the church, the communion of saints, the sacraments, the Christian ministry, and many other doctrines. 27 of them yet.

The point I wish to make is that there is not one of these doctrines that is not found elsewhere in other portions of the word of God, sometimes at much greater length so the doctors were going to find in this book are not esoteric doctrines were going to find that Ephesians fundamental. They are in its simplest form and in simple truth just basic Christianity that causes one to ask the question well then what is the special appeal of the book in my judgment, the appeal is just that, that it presents the basic doctrines of Christianity, comprehensively, clearly, practically and when suddenly or I can put it another way, the central doctrine in this letter to the Ephesians is the doctrine of the church is God's new society and there is therefore a sense in which all these other doctrines which I mentioned, and others, which we will mention along the way. All these other doctrines have bearing upon the church and as we study them. We find therefore there practical application to us were trying to live as God's new society in this world. These doctrines tell us who we are, how we came to be, as we are what we shall be and what we must do now in light of that destiny.

John Stott writes the whole letter is thus a magnificent combination of Christian doctrine and Christian duty Christian faith and Christian life of what God is done through Christ and what we must do in consequence.

Now the letter is written to the Ephesians and this presents a problem, at least to some scholars because the words in emphasis that occur in verse one are not in three of the oldest manuscripts.

The Vatican then cyanotic uncial's in the Chester Beatty papyrus, which predates the other two. It's not just matter that those words in Ephesus are missing either one of the notable characteristics of this book which sets it off for most of Paul's other letters is that it has no personal greetings Romans as a whole, last chapter, personal greetings and Paul hadn't even been wrong.

Same is true first and second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, other books as well.

Ephesians doesn't have that.

And yet we know from the presentation of Paul's travels we have in the book of acts of Paul spent two years in the city a long long time for his itinerant ministry he undoubtedly knew many many people in the city of Ephesus. He wrote this book as we believe. Later, when he was in prison he said so in the first verse of chapter 3. Therefore after the time he had spent in Ephesus and if that's the case, we ask well if he knew all these people and he was writing to them. Why doesn't the even mention one of them by name or to make matters even more complicated in the second century. The heretic Marcy and referred to the book of Ephesians, not by that name but as Paul's letter to the Laodiceans so we begin to wonder what the real story of the transmission of that book really was open to theories devised to explain it. One of them arises from the fact that the book of Ephesians is clearly very closely related to the book of Colossians. There are 55 verses in those two letters which are virtually identical and the fact that in the fourth chapter of Colossians verse 16. Paul commands to the Colossian Christians letter which he had also as he said, written to the Laodiceans and he said I'd like you to read their letter and I would like them to read yours. In other words, exchange them for people who have said well on the basis of that scene that Paul wrote both letters at the same time that he dispatched them by the same messenger which apparently is true and that one was known at least at that point as letter to the Colossians and the other is the letter to the Laodiceans and at that second letter is our book of Ephesians well that may all be true enough. But it doesn't explain why a letter which originally was called the letter to the Laodiceans came to be called the letter to the Ephesians and it doesn't explain why if that was the case.

We have no manuscripts that have the word Laodicea in verse one. Instead of the word Ephesus.

The second theory is less.

Paul originally wrote this book is what we would call a cyclical letter for circular letter that is was a blank space there and multiple copies were made.

One would be sent Ephesus and they would fill out in in Ephesus and one would be sent to Laodicea and they would fill that in. In Laodicea, and so on. For all the seven churches of Asia minor.

Those that are mentioned in the second and third chapter of the book of Revelation is probably the best explanation of all and reason. It would come to be known as the letter to the Ephesians is that Ephesus was the capital city. Most important city in that particular region.

And it would be from there that other copies of the letters would be made and sent throughout the Roman world.

Well whenever the proper answer to this technical problem may be. There is no doubt whatsoever that one copy of this letter was at least sense to the Ephesians and it is from the very earliest days of church history that this letter was so regarded Brooke Foss Wescott in his study, the one I mentioned earlier, points out that in the writings of the fathers, the patristic writings. This book is identified as letter to the Ephesians from the very earliest days. Now it was this city of Ephesus. It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was on the river Christ are not far from the Aegean coast. The river was navigable to Ephesus and therefore it was a protected very valuable port. It became a center for commerce Mercantile center and also for communication. It was the major link between Rome and the West End. All of the country to the east produce pass through their nations and races mingled in the streets. Jew and Gentile bond and free Greek and Roman. All of them were there in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was materialistic. Ephesus was also a spiritual center.

The thing that the Ephesians were most proud of it about their city was the great Temple of Diana arguments that was on the outskirts of the city and which was identified even in that time is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

It was an enormous structure. For one thing, the records to indicate that it was 425 feet long, 220 feet wide and 60 feet high and to give you a comparison so you can understand how big that temple was it was four times the size of the Greek Parthenon in Athens was an enormous structure. It had huge columns and in addition to everything else.

It had a treasury in which huge amounts of capital had been deposited so that it became in effect, the bank of Asia. It was built because the Ephesians believed that a special statue of Diana or Artemis to come down from heaven and it was this statue that was worshiped there in Ephesus, the temple was served by hundreds if not thousands of priestesses who were in effect temple prostitutes.

This was the city to which Paul came on his third missionary journey visiting and briefly first on his second journey, and then staying for a period of more than two years on his third journey.

It was in this city that God was pleased to establish faithful Christian church and it was to the Christians in the city that this book of Ephesians was written in this book were to study now carefully Paul begins by identifying himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God or interesting way he has of introducing himself. If Ephesians was written from Rome, as we believe.

Toward the end of Paul's ministry and service would've been possible for him to introduce himself in a quite different way. Paul could have begun by reminding the Ephesians of all the many things he had done in the service of Jesus Christ how he had been an ambassador throughout the Roman world and was now an ambassador in chains. He could even, I suppose, of talked about the things that he had suffered physically in order to bring the gospel of God's grace in Christ to these very people in the city of Ephesus. Paul doesn't do that. Paul introduces himself as he characteristically does in other epistles by saying first of all that he is an apostle of Christ and then secondly that he is an apostle of Christ by the will of God apostle course was one whom Jesus himself and chosen to be a recipient of the New Testament revelation and an official promulgated of that gospel.

The apostles largely were those who were the disciples of Jesus Christ to spend time with him during the days of his flesh, but there were others as well and always want the Lord called him and commissioned him when he was on the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians Lord Jesus had turned his life around giving them a new direction entirely and for my time on Paul was God's man, God's apostle to bear the message of salvation to the Gentile community. When Paul introduces himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus were to take that. Therefore, with full seriousness. In other words, this book that were about to study is not like other books that have been written by men and women books that we can read enjoy. If we find them enjoyable or learn from. If they're helpful and also rejected. We decide that what we find there is not useful.

This book is not like that he Paul is writing this book is an apostle of Jesus Christ, whom he declares himself to be and if, as he says in first Corinthians the apostle speak, not by words. Start with human wisdom, but by words given by the Holy Spirit interpreting spiritual things by spiritual words and this is God's book the ball is communicating to us. It is God's truth.

God's revelation and is therefore authoritative. This means right from the start. As we begin to study and we must study admonished something over which we sit in judgment, but rather as the word of God, which sits in judgment upon us. I think however that although that is certainly an emphasis of the word apostle in view of the fact that in verses 3 to 15 which, immediately after this, but in those verses, Paul emphasizes the sovereignty of God in salvation. I think the emphasis that Paul has in his opening phrase is not on the word apostle, but on the phrase by the will of God as he was only by the will of God that Paul became an apostle is a matter of fact it was only by the will of God that Pauline became a Christian because left to himself, that is, as Paul once before God stopped him on the road to Damascus and redirected his life left to himself. Paul far from furthering the work of Christ far from building up the church was actually intent on destroying it. Paul was an enemy of God.

When Paul looked back over his life as he did on many occasions and has even done in some of the books that he is left for us.

Paul was always conscious of the fact that it was the grace of God flowing slowly from the will of God to turn his life around.

So it is for us, so it was for these Christians in Ephesus. If we are followers of Jesus Christ today rather than being enemies of Jesus Christ. Today it is because this was the will of God in the matter of our salvation so we begin to study this book. At the very opening of the book were humble before God arise are lifted up to see him as the source and center of all things. What this teaches us is that we must always start with God Dean Martin Lloyd Jones in his commentary puts it this way. He says much of the trouble in the church today is due to the fact that we are so subjective, so interested in ourselves, so egocentric, having forgotten God, having become so interested in ourselves, we become miserable and wretched and spend our time in shallows and in miseries message of the Bible from beginning to end is designed to bring us back to God. The humblest before God and to enable us to see our true relationship to him, and he adds that is the great theme of this epistle. I was also the theme of the second part of verse one because having first of all, described himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.

Paul now turns to those to whom he is addressing the letter and he identifies them and edifies them in three ways. He calls them Saints. He says they are faithful, and he says that they are in Christ Jesus put it this way, those three terms constitute what is the absolute minimum of what it means to be a Christian. Let's look at first, of all Christians are saints recognize as I say this is that runs counter to what most people had in mind when they use the word site. This is due not merely to the misconceptions of Christian things of the world's life and has but also to the air of some forms of the professing church Roman Catholic Church. For example, a saint is one who is a particularly good person and who has been elevated to the status of sainthood by ecclesiastical operations is done in a very formal why a person is first of all, nominated as a saint in a trial is held in which there are literally two sides, there's a advocate on behalf of the one was nominated. His job is to present the virtues of the candidate to show how good that particular individual is and to show that in at least one instance, an individual had been responsible for a miracle and then on the other hand, there's an advocate against the person devils advocate, which is where we get the term devils advocate in the job of that particular person is to show that the one was nominated is not a good person that the or she does not deserve to be a saint because of the well oiled machinery of the church. To my knowledge no one who was ever nominated to be a saint was ever successfully accused by the devils advocate and not allowed to stand. After the trial is held, the person is judged fit church elevates at one sainthood similar idea all, it's not so elaborate with the worlds as well. There's a saint there ever was one and what they mean is there somebody who is too good to live among normal human beings that's not the biblical idea jury recognize that although as I'm going to show in a moment the world's words St. does have oral overtones in biblical terminology saint is essentially one who is been set apart to God and that is done by God as to say it's not by human goodness as if we could commend ourselves to God, but it is by the very act of the will of God that Paul in the earlier phrase talks about himself being made an apostle Paul was made an apostle.

Well God step down in St. Paul. Apart from what he was doing what God wanted him to do the same thing happens in salvation God reaches down and sets us apart from ourselves and our own preoccupations to his holy service you see that dramatized at different points in the Bible in the Old Testament and the book of Exodus, Moses is instructed at one point to sanctify the altar and the Lamb are in the Jewish tabernacle. Now when he sanctified them or make sense of them. He didn't somehow make the material that was used in the construction of the lab. The stones were used in the construction of the altar more holy. You don't make inanimate objects. Holy what it means is that Moses was to set those objects apart for sacred use before having been just stones.

Now they were being owner and the owner was to be used in God's service.

Or, again, to give another example, in his great high priestly prayer in the 17th chapter of John the Lord Jesus Christ prays for their sakes I sanctify myself, but they also might be sanctified. Jesus were talking primarily about being made more holy.

He would be praying that God would make it more holy, which of course is impossible because Jesus already was holy, that which is perfect and not become more so when you recognize that the word saner sanctify has to do with being set apart to understand once what Jesus is talking about is saying for their sakes I set myself apart to the work of the cross so that by my death. They might be safe and might be set aside or set apart to God.

I was in that sense that these people in Ephesus who had believed on Christ were saints, God set them apart to himself I would follow from that that they must by very definition have some sort of radical break with the world doesn't mean they were taken out of the world that is in the way God operates God places in the world do his work, but it does mean that in the very real sense, they were not of the world is in the sense of having a break with it. Having new priorities for new lords a new agenda. Above all, being part of a new society, and they were conscious of these things we can say as we apply this if you are not conscious of radical break with the world so that now Jesus as your Lord rather than the spirit of this age. And if you're not conscious of having a new agenda in a new set of priorities belonging to a new society were non-Christian because of Paul writes to all the saints in Ephesus and what he saying is that all were Christians in Ephesus are saints and all saints are Christian, which is no other way.

Set a moment ago that the word go. It refers primarily to being set apart to God nevertheless does have ethical overtones. I returned to that now because it follows that if Jesus has set us apart from the world and if his life is within us so that he is leading us on, then we are going to begin to live as he lives in the world. This is to say that a saint will increasingly be saintly and theological language the way of talking about this is usually to say that there is no justification without regeneration.

We are justified by grace through faith apart from works. Nevertheless, the one it was so justified is also regenerated, which means that the life of Christ is within and therefore there will be along with everything else certain ethical changes pauses the same thing in the second chapter were going to come to is talking about salvation, he says it's not of works, so that no one can boast all the grace received through faith, but immediately after having said that, in verses eight and nine of that chapter and verse 10 he goes on to say, for we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. You see Christian is one who is been set apart by God, who, by the very fact that he's been set apart by God now lives for God in this wicked age 2nd phrase is faithful how this is to senses as well.

That word faithful means in the first instance to exercise faith Christian is one who exercises faith that is who believes the gospel when we talk about faith in that sense were not talking about a superficial thing were talking about that which is life transforming.

Generally when we define faith. We say that faith in the biblical sense of the full saving biblical sense has three elements.

There's an intellectual element because you can have faith in just nothing faith has content.

You must understand what it is called upon to believe. Therefore, it's essential that the gospel be proclaimed unless the work is proclaimed that people hear and understand that there's no possibility of faith isn't merely intellectual understanding. The second element is emotional or the hard element that is to say that when we hear this gospel which is not just something that is incidental, true, but perhaps something that doesn't make a difference, but rather that which is life transforming that which has to do with the death of the very son of God for media Center that must if I truly understand affect me on a deep deep level so faith involves that heart response to the gospel in the third element is the element of personal commitment because when I understand that God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me.

I recognize that the only adequate response that is my faith in him, by which I receive him personally as my Savior. Have a great example of that 20th chapter of John. It concerns the man we call doubting Thomas Thomas a not been present when Jesus first appeared to the disciples and what he was told that Jesus was raised from the dead. He wouldn't believe it is I will believe it unless I can put my finger into the nail marks in his hands and thrust my hand and the wound in his side. Jesus did, the Thomas he saw the amount he revealed himself less satisfying and intellectually Jesus had indeed died for his sin was indeed raised from the dead and touching his heart so that Thomas began to respond on the emotional level and as a result of that promise made that great personal commitment with which the book of John properly ends.

He fell at Christ's feet worshiping, saying, my Lord and my God is proper to say that no one is a Christian who is not faithful in that sense and put it the other way around.

Although exercise faith in that sense are true Christians nesters.

This other relevant faithful doesn't only mean to exercise faith, it means to be full of faith or continue in faith or as we might say, colloquially, to keep the faith means to persevere to the end is why Jesus said as it's recorded in Matthew, he who stands firm to the end shall be saved. Now, usually in reformed circles when we talk about this doctrine of perseverance.

Reformed Christians mean that it is the doctrine of God's persevering with his people.

That is we stand firm, because he stands firm with us doesn't abandon us and keeps us through all situations of life and that is absolutely true Ellen good to see it does follow from that they brought perseveres with us so that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints means God's perseverance, it is not less.

Also true that we simply because God perseveres must persevere. So the Christian say is not merely one who is exercise faith in Jesus Christ and committed himself to him, but also one who now goes on to live in that very faith persevering to the end because God is at work God the unchangeable one is at work in that person's life. It is proper to say that no one who does not persevere as a Christian and yet all the persevere are Christians and all Christians persevere third phrase here is in Christ Jesus. This is a difficult one is so difficult that the Bible itself has to use images to help us understand uses the image of the temple in which Christ is the cornerstone and we are individual stones. The image of the body in which he is the head, and we are individual members uses the image of the vine and the branches where Christ is the vine and we are the branches. The image of marriage in which Jesus is the bride, groom, and we are the bride, all those images very important idea, this phrase in Christ are in him or its equivalents occurs nine times and just this next section of the vision verses three through 14 and altogether it occurs 164 times in Paul's writings, so much so that little bit later. Here in Ephesians Paul can even say that our being in Christ means that we have been raised in Christ.

Even though our own resurrection is not taken place yet and we have been made to sit with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Even though were not in heaven yet going to study that a greater length but let me say here but whether we understand it or not and probably we don't understand it fully union with Christ, is nevertheless, in one sense the very whole of salvation. John Murray who is an able expositor of this they broke union with Christ has its source in the election of God the father before the foundation of the world and has its fruition in the glorification of the sons of God the perspective of God's people is not narrow.

It has the experience of eternity is orbit has to folkie one the electing love of God the father and the councils of eternity. The other mortification with Christ in the manifestation of his glory forever has no beginning, the latter has no end. Apart from price that is not united to Christ as misery, we are lost.

But in him in Jesus we have all things in the end is glorious on the very last phrase of this introduction to the epistle by Paul speaks of grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ let me tie up to what I have said already in this fashion when I was talking about the second part of verse one. I mentioned that phrase in Ephesus is missing from several of the earliest manuscripts and that it may indicate that in its original form. This letter was a circular that is addressed to Christians throughout the entire Asian province that may be true. Matter fact probably is true, but whether that is true or not. There is no doubt that this letter nevertheless went to specific churches and one copy of the letter at least went Ephesus so that when Paul wrote to these Christians. He was not writing to Christians that were in no place at all, but he was writing to Christians who were here in this world.

In this case in Ephesus in the very place which they were required to bear witness for Jesus Christ in Ephesus as we have seen, was a materialistic secular pagan sex orientated culture just like our own say was Ephesus materialistic. Our cities are materialistic was Ephesus pagan our cities or pagan all the things it could be said about that great pagan city are true of our own. We asked the question, therefore, if Paul was writing to Christians in a place like that, telling them how they were to live and why they were to live that way is also writing to us to tell us how we should live and why we should live that way. We asked the question how in the midst of that kind of environment are we to do it. The answer right here at the very beginning of the book is that it is by the grace of God. You and I look at our culture polish up our armor put on our white-hot out and say well working to change the world will find soon enough that were not going to change at the world's going to change us were going to become just like it entangled and it said but if we rely upon the grace of God we grow in the knowledge of Christ Jesus who is the center of the gospel, then by the will of God that power will be in us, and will be able to live in a way that is victorious and brings glory to his most holy name of the spring. Our father we ask you to bless these studies of the book of Ephesians which we are about to undertake.

We ask you to bless them. Above all, because the book is one in which the most basic teachings of the gospel are presented for Christians living in a secular environment that's what we need.

Father, we don't need esoteric truth. We need basic truth because that's the kind of world in which we live. So father, help us to grow in the knowledge of what is ours in Christ to grow in our devotion to him and to grow in strength so that we might honor him by the way we conduct ourselves in this world. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

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