The Center of Grace

In our final installment of our series, “A Gracious Greeting,” I’d like us to focus on the central Person of the grace of God, who is the hub of His redemptive purpose–not only for us, but also for all creation.

To the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus . . . Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ . . . even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself . . . he freely bestowed favor on us in the Beloved . . . in whom we have our redemption through his blood . . . according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him . . . in him; in whom also we were assigned an inheritance . . . in whom you also . . . having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:1-14, World English Bible, WEB, Emphasis added).

Paul presents Christ as the locus (the central location of all points) of salvation. God blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He chose us in Him. He marked us out for adoption through Christ. He gave us favor in the Beloved, who is Christ. In Him, we possess the redemption by His death on the cross. God purposed our salvation in Christ. In Him, we were assigned as His inheritance.  In Christ, God guaranteed our final redemption and inheritance with the sealing of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, the Center of Grace is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Redemption (being bought with a price and released from the slavery of sin) is inherently Christological. The blessings of salvation are found, fulfilled, and fathomed only in Christ. They are experienced in the realm of the heavenly places—in the sphere of the believer’s union with Christ. God gave them according to His eternal purpose in Christ, which is to unite all things in heaven and on earth around one head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:20).

God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing only in Christ. God does not bless us with every spiritual blessing outside of Christ. There is every spiritual blessing for you, but only in Christ! There is no spiritual blessing outside of Christ. Indeed, there can be no salvation outside of Him (Acts 4:12).

Are you in Christ today? Is Christ in you today? Has God planted a burning conviction in your heart that you are set apart for Him? How are you faithful today in Christ?  If you have Christ in your heart  and you are faithful to Him, then you are a recipient of divine grace.  A heavenly inheritance in Christ awaits you!

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.

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The Giver of Grace

The Giver of Grace is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, ESV). We note 2 things here about God the Father. One, He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Two, He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now this is a very important doctrine. There are some who teach today that the Father is the Son and the Son is the Holy Spirit. This is a 3rd century heresy called “modalism,” “monarchianism,” “Sabellianism” (after a proponent named, Sabellius) or what is harped today as, “Oneness theology” (held by the United Pentecostals). Modalists teach that there are not 3 persons in the Trinity, but only 3 modes or expressions or revelations of 1 God. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are “attached to the one being . . . The Son and the Holy Spirit are but temporary modes of self-expression of the one Father of all. It was the Father who became incarnate as the Son and was crucified.” (The New Dictionary of Theology, s. v. “Monarchianism,” by H. D. McDonald). Oneness theology affirms that “God the Father exists simultaneously in the man Jesus . . . that God’s own Spirit is not another divine person distinct from the Father.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oneness_theology. Accessed Jan. 5, 2009) It basically rejects the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. However, Paul here wrote that God the Father is distinct in personality from the Lord Jesus Christ.

One day, Jan Marie, my 7-yr old daughter shouted, “Nganong gilabay mo ang ako nga toothbrush? Daddy, gilabay ni manang neneng ang akong toothbrush sa lababo!” (“Why did you throw my toothbrush away? Daddy, manang neneng threw my toothbrush in the sink!”) Then my wife said, “She’s just like you. You keep a lot of old stuff—old shorts, old shirts, old pants, bisan gisi na.” Yes, my daughter is like me in many ways, but not like me in personality. She is a different person.

In the Greek, both nouns, “God” (theos) and “Father” (pater) are personal nouns, singular, and non-proper names. (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 272) There is the article “the” (tou) with the Lord Jesus Christ. A basic rule for the Greek article is that, “The presence of the article identifies, while its absence, qualifies.” (Gadiel T. Isidro, Grammar of Biblical Hebrew and Greek, El Theological Seminary, n. d., 60) The article here identifies Christ as a distinct person. Also, the nouns, “Jesus Christ,” are singular in the Greek, indicating individuality. Thus, the Father is not another “mode” of the Son. The Son is not another expression or revelation of the Father. Each is a distinct Person.

We believe that the Bible teaches the Trinity. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are the first, second, and third persons of the Trinity, respectively. The Son is co-equal with the Father (John 1:1-3; Phil. 2:6). Likewise, the Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father and the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same Nature or characteristics, yet are distinct from each other.

Now comes the Question: How can God be the Father of Jesus? As the Man and Mediator on the cross, God the Father is “God” to Jesus (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).  As the Eternal Word (John 1:1-3) and the Eternal Son of God, God the Father is the “Father” to Jesus in the Trinity.

There’s another way of looking at it. “God the Father was God to Jesus in His humanity. We can also say that God the Father was Father to Jesus in His deity.” (Grover Gunn, “The Architect of Salvation,” in http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/eph0101.pdf. Accessed Jan. 5, 2009) In other words, as a man, God the Father was God to Jesus. But as the Son of God, God the Father was Father to Jesus.

What a joy to know and praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.

The Letter of Grace

In previous posts, we noted Paul as The Messenger of Grace and the Ephesian believers as The Receiver of Grace. Now, we will dig deeper into The Letter of Grace.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:2, ESV).

Paul uses a Greek greeting, “grace” (charis), and a Hebrew expression, “peace” (eirene), in all his letters. This salutation (greeting), “grace and peace,” is more than just an address. It is a word of blessing, a benediction. The blessing of the apostle is itself the blessing of God. The reason is that in Hebrew thought, the sent one carries the same authority as the sender. The word of the messenger is as much the word of the sender. As the apostle of Christ therefore, Paul’s word of blessing to the Ephesians is itself the word of Christ.

The Hebrew word for “grace” is chen, which means, “subjectively (kindness, favor).” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, s. v. χαρις in BibleSpeak CD). (See Genesis 6:8; Exodus 33:2; Ruth 2:10). In this context, “grace,” then, means the favor of God towards the saints who are faithful in Christ. It is “a special manifestation of the divine presence, activity, power or glory; a favor, expression of kindness, gift, blessing.” The word signifies “especially that favour which is powerful and active, and loads its objects with benefits” (Romans 1:7). (Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary, in Power Bible CD).

Grace is the favor of God that reaches down from the height of light to the depths of darkness. It touches, teaches, and transforms those touched by it. It is divine kindness which we cannot earn (unmerited) and do not deserve (undeserved). Paul explains about this grace further in his letter, connecting it to our great salvation in Christ, which began in the eternal mind of God (See Ephesians 1-2)

“Grace and peace” are the stated objects that Paul wishes the Ephesians to receive. “Grace to you” therefore means, “May you be partakers of the Divine favour, the source whence every blessing is derived.” (Clarke, Commentary) “Peace” is from the Greek, eirene, which refers to “a state of freedom from anxiety and inner turmoil.” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, s. v. ειρηνη, in Bible Windows CD) It is equivalent to the Hebrew, shalom, which occurs 237 times in the Old Testament. It refers to a relationship, which is “one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war . . . a harmonious state of the soul and mind.” (W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996), 173-174). It means, “completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment” and “unimpaired relationships with others . . . the state of fulfillment which is the result of God’s presence.” (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Volume 2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), s. v. __ by G. Lloyd Carr) (See Numbers 25:12; Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25). Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of God. It comes by living according to His will. It occurs after taking everything to the Lord in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).

Are you experiencing today the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Many of us like to part ways by saying, “God bless you!” That is a blessed word. But more meaningful it is to say, “God’s Grace and Peace to you,” or “God bless you with His grace and peace.” All of us need the grace and peace of God every day. For life on this earth is full of troubles. Yet the Father and the Son are ready and willing to give you grace and peace today! Claim it today!

God is the Father only to those who put their trust in Christ alone. Conversely, He is not the Father of all those who reject Christ (John 8:44). To those who believe in Christ, and only to them, God gives the authority to become His children (See John 1:12).

Beyond the weaknesses and failures of a local church, we are to look at the church as the recipient of God’s grace and peace. The small church therefore is as special as the big church. Do not despise the Christ-centered, Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, evangelical church where you came to know Christ. Neither should you leave it for another “better” church, just because it’s bigger, or you like the worship there. Remember that worship is not a matter of what we like, but what God likes.  The Lord put you in that church in the first place. The Lord used that church to lead you in the knowledge of His grace.

The saints and faithful of your church are the objects of God’s spiritual blessings. Having been decreed by God from eternity, determined in Christ, and destined for glory by the Spirit, the true church, then, is truly special in the eyes of God.

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.

The Receiver of Grace

In “A Gracious Greeting 1,” we studied about Paul, the apostle, who was The Messenger of Grace. In this post, we note the recipients of this grace.

To the saints who are in Ephesus,  and faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1, New King James Version, NKJV)

The Saints in Ephesus. A young girl who just accepted Christ as her personal Savior applied for membership in a local church.  “Are you still a sinner?” inquired an old deacon.  The girl answered, “Honestly, I feel I’m a greater sinner than ever.”  “Then what real change have you experienced?” the deacon joined.  “I don’t quite know how to explain it,” said the girl, “except that I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I’m saved, I’m a sinner running from sin.” (Our Daily Bread)

That’s a good picture of a saint in Christ.  Paul calls the Ephesian believers “the saints,” using the Greek article, tois.  They are not merely saints, but “the” saints, indicating their identity as separated ones in Christ.

“Saints” is from the plural Greek word, hagios, “set apart to or by God, consecrated; holy.” (Barclay M. Newman, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, s. v. αγιοις, in Bible Windows CD) How were they set apart, separated, consecrated, or dedicated unto God?  Who sanctified them?  In 2 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul wrote, “God chose you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (World English Bible).  No group of religious men pronounced to each of them, “He is now a saint.”  Rather, God made each of them saints.  They did not sanctify themselves.  God set them apart through the Holy Spirit.  When did this happen?  Paul said, “through belief in the truth.”  At the moment they trusted Christ as their Savior, the Holy Spirit set them apart and devoted them unto God.

Now these saints were living saints, not dead ones.  Paul called them saints, not by official church pronouncements after their deaths.  Rather, Paul called them saints while they were still alive and well on earth.

These saints were living in Ephesus (now in modern Turkey).  Saints are separated unto God, but situated in this world.  They are in this world, but not of it.  They did not live like the people of Ephesus.  The Ephesians worshiped Diana, the goddess of sex and fertility.  But the saints in Ephesus worshiped the true God of holiness.  The pagan Ephesians bought and displayed graven images.  But these saints were dedicated to the God who is spirit, who compares to no other (Acts 19:24-26).  The Ephesians practiced witchcraft.  But these saints rejected it.  They lived in Ephesus, but they did not live like the Ephesians.  They did not drink and dance like the Ephesians, sing like the Ephesians, and think like the Ephesians.

If you have Christ in your heart today, you are a saint in Christ.  The Spirit of God has set you apart to God.  You are consecrated to God alone.  So live like one!  Practice outwardly what you are inwardly.  Present your body as a living sacrifice to God, reflecting your spiritual status of sainthood in Christ.

The Faithful in Ephesus.  John Newton, the author of one of the beloved hymns in history, Amazing Grace, once lived a sinful life of profanity, gambling, and drinking.  As a young man, he was confused about religion.  He went into business–selling slaves.  One day at sea, a violent storm changed his life.  Moments after he left the deck,  the crewman who replaced him was swept overboard.  He later said that realizing his helplessness, he concluded that only the grace of God could save him. (www.authographmagazine.com/tabid/76/itemid/296/pageid/2/John-Newtons-Amazing-Grace.aspx. Accessed Jan. 3, 2009) Years later, Newton put his faith in Christ.  Afterwards, he wrote, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not the man I hope to be.  But by the grace of God, I am not the man I used to be.” (www.en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Newton. Accessed Jan. 3, 2009)

Paul uses the article, “the” (tois), each for “saints,” and “faithful.”  Hence, both groups are identical and one and the same.  Paul addresses the saints who are also faithful in Christ. (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 282) On the one hand, they are made “saints” by the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  On the other hand, they are called, “faithful,” by their belief and active obedience to the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).  Thus, we see 2 sides of our salvation in Christ.  The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in Christ, while we lay hold of that salvation by our faithfulness (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 1:17).

Sanctification (setting us apart as holy unto God) then is  positional, practical, and final.  Positional sanctification is that at the moment you trust Christ, you are sanctified by the Spirit instantaneously.  Practical sanctification happens during your walk with Christ, as you live in holiness.  This  means that you are not yet what you ought to be right now.  But you are not what you used to be, for as you continue to be faithful in Christ, the Spirit keeps changing you to be conformed to Christ.  Final sanctification is at the point of glorification–when we will receive our glorified bodies when Jesus comes again (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14).

Truly saved people are sanctified and faithful in Christ Jesus.

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.


The Messenger of Grace

I’d like to focus your attention on the wonderful grace of God in our redemption.  This post is the first of an expository series on the spiritual blessings of salvation.  Our definitive text is Ephesians 1:1-14.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:1-2, English Standard Version, ESV)

Paul wrote Ephesians from a Roman prison (AD 60-62; Acts 28:30-31). (American Tract Society Dictionary, ATSD). This letter was 1 of his 4 prison epistles, including Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.  Paul’s intent was “to display the scope of God’s eternal plans for all humanity–for Jews and Gentiles alike.” (Introduction to Ephesians, ESV) The first 3 verses introduce a benediction–a word of blessing to believers.

The Messenger of Grace

Paul.  Paul introduces himself in the beginning of the letter.  This was the custom of the day.  Paul was his Gentile name, while Saul was his Hebrew name.  He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia, of the tribe of Benjamin (Phil. 3:5). (Easton’s Bible Dictionary, EBD) He was trained by Gamaliel, a great theologian of his day.  He became a member of the Pharisees and a die-hard defender of Judaism, the religion of his birth.  Soon after, a bitter passion to stamp out the followers of Christ consumed him (Acts 9:1-2; 26:9-11).  At Damascus however, Christ converted him (Acts 9:3-19).  Saul, the persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the preacher of Christ.  He devoted the rest of his life to proclaim Christ, planting many churches in 3 missionary journeys.  Harassed and flogged many times, he was imprisoned twice.  The emperor Nero sentenced him to death. (ATSD) He wrote half of all New Testament books.

I wonder what is your name today?  Are you Saul or Paul?  Are you Saul, who continues to defend the religion of your birth and resist the work of the Spirit in your life?  Or are you Paul, having trusted Christ as your personal Savior, and growing in knowing and serving Him?

Like Saul, many people today say, “I was born in this religion and I will die with it.”  Closing their ears to the true Gospel, they’d rather risk their eternal future with their religion.  But religion will not bring anyone to heaven.  Religion will not earn the forgiveness of God.  God will forgive you only in Christ!  Throw yourself upon Christ and find grace and mercy only in Him!

Apostle.  What is an apostle?  A story is told of a Bible study leader who asked his group, “What is an apostle?”  Somebody raised his hand and said, “An apostle is the husband of an epistle.  And an epistle is the wife of an apostle.”  The word is from the Greek noun, apostolos, “one who is called by the Lord, commissioned by Him and carrying His authority.” (Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon Rogers III, The New Linguisitic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, 346) Several qualifications make Paul a true apostle of Christ.  One, he saw the resurrected Lord in the flesh (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).  Two, God authenticated his apostleship with miracles (2 Cor. 12:12; Rom. 15:18-19; Heb. 2:3-4).  Three, Paul received, taught, and wrote the inspired Word of God (John 14:26; Acts 26:15-18; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:5).  Such revelation became part of the New Testament, forming the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20).  That is why there are no true apostles of Christ today.  Because nobody, after the last apostle, has seen Christ after He resurrected.  The book of Revelation is the final revelation of the apostles, completing the Word of God.  There are no more apostles today, but there are ministers in the church.  Every believer is a minister, if he or she will use his or her spiritual gifts to minister to somebody.

An Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Paul is not just an apostle.  He is an apostle “of Jesus Christ.”  In the Greek, this can mean, “the apostle that Christ sends.”  Paul is the apostle whom Christ sends with authority.  In Hebrew thought, the sent one carries the same authority as the sender.  This is somewhat similar to the authority of an ambassador today.  This means that the word of Paul carries the same authority of Christ who sent him.  You might not be an apostle today, but the Gospel word you share is the word of Christ.  Jesus commands, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, ESV).  As you go and share the Gospel message, you go with the full authority of the Christ who sent you.

An Apostle of Jesus Christ By the Will of God. In the Greek, the will of God can indicate possession–“the will that belongs to God.”  It can mean source–“the will coming from God.”  It can also mean production–“the will that is produced by God.”  So Paul is not only an apostle by position, but also by the plan of the will of God.  He did not appoint himself an apostle.  No church or group of men commissioned him.  Rather, his apostleship began in the will of God. (John R. W. Stott, 2 Timothy, Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1984, 24).

Permissions: You may copy/paste or distribute this post in part or in whole, provided that you do not change the words or word order or charge a fee beyond the cost of copying or distributing.  However, should you use it as your sermon, this writer will not charge a fee, so long as you will share with him one-half of your honorarium. (Just kidding)

Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due, regarding quotations or citations. If there be any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.