A couple of weeks ago we began looking very intentionally, obviously through the Letter to the Ephesians and I particularly enjoyed being able to share with you some thoughts from last weeks portion and you know, it’s a blessing for me. We’ll pursue this as much as we can, as long as we can and as long as it’s having meaning for you.
So, let’s continue with this passage. I mean, we’re stopping and hovering over the first few verses of chapter 1 of Ephesians. Let’s just read a couple of verses from there, and please follow me, we’ll begin with verse 3, you know, and we’ll go on:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, for he chose us in him, before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons, daughters, through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he has freely given us in the one he loves.”
And I think we can continue from there. I’ll just maybe dwell a little bit on the last portion that we studied and then take it from there, the following verses.
In verse 7 it says: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding and he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed”.
It says here in the NIV, in Christ, by in some other versions it says ‘in himself’, and I believe that’s more accurate.
“….. which he purposed in himself to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.”
Now, last Saturday we dwelled on key words. You know, this passage is full of key terminology. I may have said to you that the Book of Ephesians, that the Letter to the Ephesians is considered one of the most profound of Paul’s letters, and I used to think that Romans was the big, big, you know, treaties, in theology of the Apostle Paul, and perhaps it is in many ways. It has some wonderful doctrines. But, really the Letter to the Ephesians is just shock full of deep thinking on the mysteries of the gospel.
I mean, in six chapters, in a very concise sort of way, key elements of Christian doctrine are just pressed in there. A lot of really good stuff that you need to know, that we deal in, in other passages of scripture are here contained in a very concentrated sort of way. So as we go through these things, really, it’s so much like a course in theology and in key elements of the Christian faith.
So, don’t underestimate the importance of each of these terms that we are discussing, that we’re stopping to kind of work through, because as you understand these different terms, it will be easier for you when you navigate other parts of scripture to be able to understand precisely Paul’s thinking and just the whole spread of Christian theology.
So, in a sense, the reason why I am dwelling on these things in a more detailed sort of fashion, is because I want us to, kind of, set up a good scriptural foundation. And you can do the same thing when you do your own reading of several passages.
So, last Saturday we spoke about the emphasis in this chapter and throughout Paul’s thinking about ‘in Christ’, that’s one thing. You know, the fact that we are inserted in Christ. And he uses all kinds of expressions: through him, in him, in Christ, through Jesus Christ. That’s one element that they called Paul’s theology Christ-centered, because Paul seldom pronounced anything, any truth of how God dealt with human kind without referring to the fact that it was through Jesus.
We spoke about also another element that keeps weeding itself through his expressions here, about ‘according to his purpose.’ He says ‘according to his will’. It says ‘in accordance with his pleasure and will’. You know, this idea that what God does, he does it out of his own will, because you know, it pleases him to do it. God is not compelled by any outside force. What he does, he does because this is what he decided and you know, anything that we do in this world, any thought, any life that takes place in this universe, anything that moves, anything that has dynamic or creativity is really through God.
You know, he is really the only protagonist in the universe and whatever we do and think and even as we praise him, even as we declare his truths, all of that is really possible because God deigned to create this universe. So, he is absolutely sovereign and that’s a consuming thought for the believer, the fact that I am not mine. God has created everything, he’s the owner of everything, he does things because he wants to do them, whatever he does is by definition true, correct and good, even if at times, it seems that it makes no sense, even though at times I may be in a tragic situation, in a situation of sickness, or I get angry because something happened in my life and I didn’t know why it happened, and how.
You know, I think the Christian is compelled to understand that whatever happens to me, whatever happens in the world, in history, there’s no way that we can question God because he is the source of everything that takes place. And you know, we must pray to the Lord for that kind of complete submission to his will, that understanding that it is God who has created absolutely everything that exists, including myself and therefore I….
You know, to say that I have no right to question is, I think, is really doing him a service. It’s not really that we don’t have a right to question him, it’s that questioning him doesn’t really make any sense, because as the Apostle Paul says, you know, ‘will the vase that has been created by the potter, be able to question the potter?’. No, I mean, will the work of art somehow if it acquired a voice, say to the artist, why did you make me in such and such a way? You know, we can’t. I mean, we are projections of God, we are creations of God. I mean, we have a brain that can compute and somehow end up questioning God but it doesn’t mean that it makes sense to do so in the big scheme of things, because he created us.
And I think that knowing that should lead us into complete submission to God’s will. You know, I always pray to the Lord, ‘Father, enable me to live life in such a way that even in the most unpleasant, senseless thing happens to me, I will still be able to bless you and love you and submit to your will and find somehow the grace to say ‘thy will be done’, not my will but your will, because you are everything, you are the source of everything, including of my life, my thoughts. Everything’.
That’s an important element. You know, should somehow give us even strength to continue life. Whatever God does, he does it out of his will, out of his desire and he’s so good that whatever he does, by definition is good. And even if I can’t understand now, maybe I’ll be able to understand it later, and if not later, maybe in eternity, but I’ll be able to understand it somehow, as good, because it comes from his goodness.
I mean, he is good. He is goodness, actually. He is so loving that he is love. Therefore that anything that emanates from him in his creative impulses, is good. That’s one big truth: out of his pleasure and will.
Then we talked about the fact that he adopted us and of course that means, he put us under his ‘patria potestas’, in other words under his power, under his control and took us away from the control of the enemy. We talked about that a bit. You know, adoption is a very powerful term in Christian theology.
And then we spoke about the fact that we were separated to be holy and to be blameless, and I won’t get into that but you remember from last Saturday.
So, and then in verse 7 it says “in him –again, notice that ‘in him’, in Jesus Christ- we have redemption through his blood”.
What Paul is doing here now, he is expressing some of the benefits that we have through Jesus Christ, ok? And so here it says, that in Jesus Christ we have redemption through his blood. And again, this is where the benefits of knowing the Greek and knowing how intentional Paul’s vocabulary is when he speaks of these things.
He says, “…. In Jesus Christ we have one really big benefit as believers, is that we have redemption. Now, that word, apolutrosin is a laden, is a content meaning laden word in Greek and Roman culture, because redemption is the term that was used to buy the freedom of a slave. To ransom, somebody for example, who was captive in war, or captive you know, by pirates, or whatever and you brought some money and you purchased the freedom of that person who was enslaved. That person could not free himself, they did not have the money to pay for their freedom and so somebody bought their freedom with money and you know, paid a price for that individual’s freedom from slavery.
So, that word, you know, is very powerful. The word ‘redemption’, when we say that we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. Think about that, it’s a technical word in Paul’s theology and in Greek Roman theology. I mean, today we have people being…. Their freedom being purchased in the Sudan, like 75 dollars, or something like that, buys the freedom of a person who’s been in slave in the Sudan. And so, you know, this thinking is not too far from reality in many countries today.
So, there’s this idea that Jesus bought our freedom. The Bible says that we were under the power of Satan, you know, at one point. Let’s see if we can find this for a second. It’ a very….. I wish I had some other… there’s all kinds of passages, but that’s a ….. in, …..I’m not going to take too much time to look into it, but,…… in any case, know that we were possessed by Satan, we were under the power of the enemy, we were lost in our sins and Jesus Christ purchased our life, our redemption through his blood.
So, that’s an important element, you know, we have been bought. We were under the power of sin, under the power of Satan and Jesus Christ purchased our freedom from the enemy, from the power of Satan because of our sins and transferred us into the freedom of God’s love.
So it says, we have redemption and now, how? How did Jesus, what price did Jesus pay? He didn’t buy us with money. He bought us with his blood. He shed his blood so that we might be saved. So that’s the ransom price that Jesus Christ paid.
And again, if you want…. People talk about, what is this thing about blood? I mean, believers in the XXI century, we’re embarrassed sometimes to speak about the blood. Let me tell you, the blood even though it doesn’t sound too XXI century, is a very important element in the universe.
I have been in sessions of deliverance with demonized people, and I can tell you something, that demons hate the mention of the blood of Christ. They know that the XXI century hasn’t rendered that vocabulary irrelevant. You mention the blood of Christ and they react to it with hatred, they react to it with extreme fear and it has an effect on them that few things that you can mention have on their sensibility, if you can use that term. They understand.
You know, there’s something primeval, something archetypal about the blood of Christ, because you know, that term goes back all the way, as you know, to the Old Testament where animal sacrifices were bled because the blood is like the essence of life. I mean it carries all kinds of nutrients, oxygen, all kinds of basic things. So, it is the essential element without which life does not function.
You kill a mosquito and, I mean, blood comes out. Maybe it’s our blood, but every being has some liquid, something that carries those crucial nutrients, those crucial elements. And so blood being sort of the essence of human life and of life as a whole, was taken by God as the symbol of the payment for sin.
And now, Jesus fulfilled that symbol in his own life. He became the victim and so he bought salvation for us, the redemption through his blood. We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins “…. In accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.
You know, that word ‘grace’, is so crucial to Paul’s thinking as well. He began that letter with a greeting that says “….Grace and peace to you, from God our Father…”. And you can see that in almost every letter that Paul writes he always uses that greeting “Grace and peace”.
And you can begin to understand why did he choose these two elements that were so important: caris, ‘grace’. Because it is the essence again, you know, when he wishes God grace upon us, there’s nothing more powerful than the merciful love of God, the free love that he gives us, the free gifts that he gives us. Everything that God does for us is free and so there’s this element of the essential nature of God’s love, you know, through grace.
And for Paul, who was a forgiven sinner in major, major ways, that thing was so important. You know, Paul always emphasized, ‘whatever you get from God you don’t deserve it, it’s always free.’
Look at chapter 2, verse 8 in Ephesians. It says: “….for it is by grace that you have been saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast”.
You know, it says faith is what enables God love to be channeled, all his good intentions, his blessings into our lives. It’s all done by grace and as we react in faith to that, as we exercise faith God’s grace is released. But then Paul says ‘you know what? Even your faith is not of yourselves. Even the faith that releases God’s love as you believe in him and as you choose to believe that he is faithful to his promises, even that, doesn’t come from you. It comes from God. It is the gift of God so you’re not…. You know, whatever we receive from God is not by works, is not by anything that we can do, so that no one can say ‘oh, because I have such integrity, because I’m so good’. It’s is all of that, just by the shear love and the free, free love of God.
“….in accordance to the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”. I love that word, ‘lavished’. It means, you know, he really went all out, he splurged on us. Lavished means that he really freely, fully, generously, without reservation just gave, gave and gave. When God gave us his grace, he lavished it. I mean, he just slathered it on us, -is that a word? He just poured it generously on us. I mean, we’re drenched in God’s grace.
So, he says “….“….in accordance to the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”, because when God gives, God gives abundantly – “…..with all wisdom and understanding”.
I think that those are two crucial terms that we need to dwell on. You know, he used grace, he lavished it on us, through Jesus Christ and that grace manifested itself among many other things, in two elements: wisdom and understanding.
Now, you might think, ‘well, what’s so big about wisdom and understanding?’ those are just parallel terms, just a development of the first one. No, you know, in scripture you find time and time again difference between wisdom and understanding. Actually, one of my favorite verses in Proverbs, I think is Proverbs 24:3, speaks about even another element. It refines that even more. This idea of knowledge, of reality and of the world, the Bible divides it into all kinds of different grades.
Wisdom, the word ‘sofia’, from where the word philosophy comes from, and understanding, sunesein. They’re very specific words. Sofia is, even in English, has that kind of meaning of wisdom. When you think of wisdom, you think of sublime things, you think of abstract things. So, wisdom would be the knowledge of things that are abstract, of things that are divine, of things that are spiritual, of the things that are mysterious in life.
You know, these are the big concepts of life. Wisdom, as I see it, is you know, the understanding of the nature, the inner nature of things of the universe, of you know, the mysteries of life. And that’s something we should strive for, knowledge of the deeper things of life.
There are so many people that are so practically minded, this world minded that you know, they don’t have time to spend time thinking about the more serious things of life. You know, we spend a lot of time in life just from one thing to another, from one movie to the radio, to a magazine, to…. we always entertain and we seldom have time to think about the profound things of life. We don’t go to museums, the movies we want to be action-oriented or love-oriented or whatever, but don’t give me any stuff that’s too serious, because I’m not interested in that.
Well, as believers we need to be interested in the mysteries of life. We need to have time to think about the eternal things. We need to have time to think about abstract things. We need to take time to think about those deeper, bigger pieces of life and I beg you to not underestimate the importance of wisdom as an element of the Christian life.
As a matter of fact if you go for example to James, chapter 1, verse 5, it talks about wisdom. It says: “…..if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.”
You know, ask the Lord to give you wisdom. It’s an important thing. Understanding is sort of a finer conception of wisdom. Understanding is more practical, sunesein, talks more about the practical aspects of life. It’s just common sense. It’s concerns the issues of you know, making decisions about marriage, about work, about relationships, these things that are so important for living.
And, you know, we need also to ask God: ‘Father, give me practical knowledge. Give me an understanding of how to make decisions in life, how to manage my relationships, how to manage conflict, how to deal with difficult people, how to deal with a difficult boss. You know, how to have a happy marriage, how to know when to keep quiet and when to speak, how to manage my emotions, how to deal with the wounds of my past, all these different things, I think they relate to that understanding, that sunesein aspect of life.
And brothers and sisters, we need to ask the Lord for both. We need to ask the Lord for understanding of the mysteries of life, and we’re going to talk about….. that’s one piece I….. we’ve got a few more minutes, that I want to touch upon.
But we need to ask the Lord, ‘Father, help me to be able to dwell in the sublime dimension of life, that I can sit down and enjoy talking about these mysteries. As Christians, you know, we dwell in that, I mean, we are used to it. You don’t realize, right now, you are engaging in that sort of thinking about the deeper mysteries of the things of life.
And you know, Ephesians, it’s interesting….. something occurs to me here; Ephesians has 6 chapters. The first three chapters, one could say, deal with that sofia, that sublime wisdom. As you read, you see all these deep understandings of how God created the universe, for example, how he predestined us, how he chose us, how he adopted us.
You know, these are big pieces of knowledge that we’re talking about, profound mysterious things. Now, the last 3 chapters of Ephesians, you will see that they deal with relationships, they deal with behavior, they deal with common life and you know, how to live the moral life, how to live the holy life, on and on, practically, on the ground. And Paul always has that kind of duality in the writings.
In Romans you see that also. The first few chapters, are chapters about sublime things, about grace and about salvation by grace, and about the utter depravity of the human race and all kind of huge pieces of the puzzle. And then, in the last few chapters of Romans all of a sudden he goes into practical things, behavioral things. And so, Paul always…..
And we need to have that sort of bicameral focus in life. We need to know the big pieces of the mysteries of God and we also need to know about behavioral things. And, believe me, there’s something about that verse that I told you in James: “if any of you is lacking wisdom ask it of God”.
You know, I have made that a promise for my life. I have said, ‘Father, I want your wisdom in everything that I do’. And you know, it’s a very full promise that James made.
He says, ‘if you lack wisdom, ask it of the Lord and he shall give it to you without reservation, without holding back anything, he will lavish it upon you”.
So, you know, that’s something that I can come to the Lord, I’ve always thought about that. When I’m in a situation of need in my life, when I have a problem, when I have a challenge that maybe technological, it may be administrative, it may be personal, it maybe relational, whatever it is, I say, ‘Father, you have promised…. James always comes to my mind, you have said that if I’m lacking wisdom in anything I can come to you and you’re going to give it to me generously.’
And you know, I believe that God has answered that. I mean, probably it’s my fault if I haven’t been able to channel his answer more fully in my life, but I have seen time and time again God give me an answer to that.
So, I challenge you to make that a theme verse of your life and to dedicate your life to acquiring wisdom. Wisdom is one of the more powerful, most important things. This generation is lacking wisdom. You know, the Bible speaks about that men and women who have chosen not to honor the Lord have been given a depraved mind, they have been given a mind that does not pass the test, it’s a failed mind.
It’s a mind that can compute, can send men to the moon, and ships to Mars and take pictures of the galaxies and of the atoms in the human body, but it’s a mind that is warped. It’s like a computer that is slightly warped and does all kind of crazy things, even as it does great things as well.
And so, that’s the life that we life. I mean, we have been deformed in so many ways by modern society and so we must come to the Father time and time again and say, ‘Father, I need wisdom. Father, I need the mind of Christ, I need to have my mind straightened out’. And so we must ask the Lord, ‘Father, give me the mind that has the plumb line of Jesus Christ. Give me a personality that thinks correctly, that computes correctly about life’. Only God can do that, but he says, ‘I’ll give it to you’.
Read for example, the first few chapters of the Book of Proverbs, look at the prime importance that the scripture places on wisdom, practical wisdom. And you can do it. It’s a gift of God, it is freely available.
Young people, you have tens of years to live ahead, start praying actively for wisdom. And pray believing that you’re going to receive it and dedicate your life to acquiring wisdom. And you know, value it….
The Bible says that if you treasure wisdom, if you seek it out, you know, with great intention. And you know, that the Holy Spirit may be leading me to just share that with you. So let me stop, even if we don’t get much further than this, you know, but I want to place that. Maybe that’s all that we need to know tonight, is that if you dedicate your life to attaining wisdom, you will receive it. And I do beg you to read the first 3, 4 chapters of Proverbs in that way.
Look at, for example, chapter 2, if you have it there, if not just listen to me, in Proverbs. It says: “…..my son, my daughter, if you accept my word and store my command within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…”
Do you see the intensity of how you must desire wisdom in order to get it? “…..And if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God, for the Lord gives wisdom….” –do you see that promise there again?.- “….for the Lord gives wisdom” –can you believe that? Can I hear an ‘Amen’. I’m also here like an African American preacher, here. Would you say ‘amen’, on that?
You know, “……the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge…..”. Here’s again, knowledge and understanding, interesting eh? This is the Old Testament.
“….from his mouth come knowledge and understanding, he holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, on and on and on…..”
and then look at verse 9, it says, “….then you will understand what is right and just and fair, every good path for wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, on and on and on…….”
You see, it talks about when you have that gift from the Lord of wisdom and understanding, as you have asked for it, as you have sought it out, as you have believed what the Bible says, that if you ask for it he will give it to you, you know, as you have made it a theme for your life: I want to be a man, I want to be a woman of wisdom and I want to be able to navigate the complex byways of life, guided and illuminated by the supernatural wisdom and knowledge and understanding that comes from God.
As you make that vow, and as you dedicate yourself to searching it out, it will begin to flow through you, that blessing will begin to come into your life and you will start conceiving things that you never thought. And all of a sudden, you’ll have a thought and you’ll say ‘wow, where did that come from?’
You’ll be in a conversation and a comment will emerge from your heart and you’ll say, ‘where did that… that sounds pretty good, but wow, I must jot that down and think about it later on.’ The wisdom of God will start emerging in your life. I mean, the wisdom of God is like a substance, like a vapor will start invading your psyche, your mind and illuminating you and providing you with guidance to make decisions, to prevent your being blooded and black-eyed as so many of us are in life, by not having had the right resources to make the right decisions at the right time.
So, wisdom will prevent us from having that, you know, from finding ourselves in the wrong company, from making the wrong decisions.
And you know, look at some other things that you know, protects you from: “….it will save you from the ways of wicked men, who leave the straight paths…..” . In verse 16 “……it will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth….”, on and on.
Verse 20: “…thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the pass of the righteousness, for the upright will live in the land the blameless will remain in it”.
In other words, you will have prosperity, you will have blessing, you will own the land, you will occupy the land. All of these different things as you treasure the wisdom of God in you, you want more of it, the wisdom and the understanding, the practical understanding of God.
You know, I just love the word of God because it is so deliberate. I mean, can you actually believe that if you set your path to achieve understanding and wisdom and knowledge, that that will begin to emerge as a gift in your life? And that that’s not something that you know, God may or may not give to you? It is something that he has promised that he will give to you and then, you know, today contract a vow inside your spirit: I want that, Father. I want that wisdom for myself and I’m going to pray for it, I’m going to search it out, I’m going to read about it, I’m going to make it a quest for my life that I’m going to acquire wisdom and understanding.
And I’m going to leave it right there. God is…. He has…. I guess what we have said in the past few minutes is that God sent his son, through Jesus Christ we were bought from the property of the devil and placed in the property of the Lord. He purchased the forgiveness of our sins through his blood and then, you know, all of that was just a gracious act of God which he has also manifested by giving us 2 beautiful gifts, that we can use for the benefit of our lives: wisdom and understanding. Practical knowledge and knowledge of the big things. And you know, on and on.
I don’t think any believer should suffer from ignorance. I’ll ask Tim to just come up now and you know, I think that that chorus of grace, amazing grace is very appropriate.
But you know, people, God is saying to you, ‘you do not need to live in ignorance, young person’. You know, I believe that Christians have the right to expect prosperity and all kinds of things. Why? Because we have been given the mind of Christ and that mind is a very functional mind. You know, that mind is good for business, that mind is good for intellectual pursuits, that mind is good for philosophical reflection and exploration, and that mind is good for practical issues of life.
So, it doesn’t matter what your problem is, whether you’re a single mom, or an aspiring intellectual, or professional, or you’re dealing with wounds of the past and you don’t know how to resolve them, how to heal them. You know, just come to the Lord and say, ‘Father, I need wisdom from you’.
And if you’re in a situation in life where you’re baffled, you know, you don’t know what to do, then go on your knees, take some time to pray and fast, clamor before the Lord as Proverb says. You know, call out to the Lord, search for that wisdom in an intentional sort of way. Pay the price and believe that God will give it to you freely by grace, because that’s the way he does everything. He does it by grace through faith.
The Apostle James says, you know, but if you’re going to ask for that wisdom, believe that you’re going to receive it. Don’t go there and say, ‘well, God maybe you’ll give it to me.’ No, God has said, ‘No, I will give it to you. if you ask for you I will give it to you. I will make you a wise man, a wise woman and you will live life in a powerful way and if you make a mistake, I will give you wisdom to get out of it even. That’s wonderful.
If you somehow error, I will show you the way out of it, because you’ll have wisdom for whatever purpose it is. You’ll have the mind of Christ. Can you believe that you have the mind of Christ?
Will you stand for a moment and confess: I have the mind of Christ because Christ lives in you. So you have the mind of Christ, that means that you know, the logos, the ordering principle of the universe, what gives coherence to the entire universe, you have it inside of you.
Can you say, Amen to that. You have the ordering principle of the universe inside of you. Now, the question is, are you going to use it or not? Are you going to activate it or not? Are you going to actualize it or not? Are you going to believe that you have it and then start living life as if ‘I have it!’ and ‘I have the mind of Christ, and I have asked for wisdom, and I have been given that wisdom and God will enable me to live a successful life, a productive life, making good, solid decisions, and therefore being able to accumulate, without having to loose and then start all over again, because I have been given that wisdom of God. I’m going to live with it and that wisdom is going to illuminate every aspect of my life: intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, marital, professional, financial’.
The wisdom of God, the knowledge of God, the resources of the mind of God are with me. Father, we claim that promise in the name of Jesus Christ. You have lavished your grace upon us and James says that when you give wisdom, you give it without reservation, without holding back. So, this idea of your grace flowing freely and generously and abundantly beyond what we can even think or hope, or understand. Father, this is the way that you will provide for us and tonight we claim that wisdom, Father. We claim that understanding. Again, send it, activate it within us.
Let us be a people of wisdom, of wise words, wise thoughts and wise actions. For your glory. Thank you, thank you, Father, in Jesus’ name. Amen. Amen.