Discovering Your Identity in Christ – A Study in Ephesians – Part 6

Reconciled to God through Christ

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Discovering Your Identity in Christ – A Study in Ephesians – Part 6

“2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[g] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  Ephesians 2:1-10 NIV

This past summer, my family and I enjoyed the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the movie for you, but I will say that the Guardians were an unlikely group of heroes who are burdened with the task of working together to save the universe from an evil force.

The movie earned hundreds of millions of dollars because we love a good story of redemption.  We love hearing a courageous rescue story where an unlikely hero overcomes a powerful adversary to rescue or redeem people, or in this case, aliens!   

In Ephesians 2, Paul continues on the theme of God’s redemptive work.  We learn more about the rescue mission of Jesus Christ.

As people who are in Christ, we begin to see the grace of God at work.  Since we were dead transgressors and sinners, fully deserving of God’s wrath, we can recognize that it is only by the grace of God that we are saved.

Being “dead in your transgressions and sins”  There are three types of death

1 – Physical death – When the spirit is separated from the body.

2 – Spiritual death – When we are alive physically, but totally lack any spiritual sensitivity to God.  This is the kind of death spoken of in the beginning of Ephesians 2:1

3 – Eternal death – When people refuse the life giving gift of salvation that Christ offers and are cast into outer darkness, this is what, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, refers to as eternal death.

As we journey on through Ephesians 2, it’s important to notice who takes the action.  Take notice of who takes the initiative first.  Take notice who does the work.  Take notice of who the hero of the story is.  I’ll give you a hint… it’s not you.   

1. God’s work for us – v 4-7

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV

This is a beautiful part of Ephesians.  Look at the passage.  Enjoy hearing about God’s work for us.  That’s right.  There’s nothing we can do for it.  God Himself works for us.  Here’s what Paul says.  God has great love for us.  God is rich in mercy.  God made us alive in Christ when we were dead.  God gave us grace.  God raised us up with Christ.  Take notice in the early part of chapter 2 who it is that takes the action.  Take a look at the action words, and see who is taking action.  Is it the church?  Nope.  Is it you?  Nope.  What did we do to earn that?  Nothing.  What did we do to deserve it?  Nothing.  It is entirely God’s work FOR us.    

2. God’s work in us – 8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

Ephesians 2:8-9 are great memory verses.

“For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is a reward for your good works…”  No.  “It is when you prayed the sinner’s prayer…”  No?  “It is because you volunteer a lot at church…”  No.  “it is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

In verses 8-9, we see God’s work IN us.  The passage points out that it is by God’s grace that we have been saved.  It is not earned.  It is not deserved.  It is not bought.  It is a gift of God.  Don’t brag about how good you are.  Paul would encourage us – in his not-so-seeker-friendly language.  You aren’t that good anyways.  You are saved because God is good.  You are saved because of God’s work IN you.

“Well, Ty,” you might argue, “God gave Jesus, but I am saved by MY faith right?  I raised my hand at church.  I said the sinner’s prayer.”  No.  That’s not so.  Paul declared in Romans 3:11, that there is no one that seeks after God… not one.  Not just you?  Nope.  No one.    

What part do I have in my salvation?

None really!  Paul shows us that God selected you before the foundation of the world.  The faith you put in Jesus Christ for salvation, was faith given to you by Him in the first place!  That is a gift.  That’s why John 6:44 tells us that “no man can come unto the Me except the Father draws him.”    

Isn’t that an amazing part of God’s work in us?  We had nothing to do with it.  We earned and deserve NONE of it!  Just like a baby doesn’t deserve to have its diaper changed.  It didn’t earn mom and dad’s affections.  It is fully dependent on mom and dad.  So we are fully dependant on God’s work IN us.

 3. God’s work among us – v 11-22

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Remember what you used to be?  Paul asks the Gentile Christians.  Do you remember that you were without Christ?  You were without hope?  You had no Messiah.  You had no knowledge of God.  You had no future.

But now….you are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ.

In Christ, God has done two things

  • He created a new humanity (v 15)
  • He created a new body (v 16)

Verses 15-18 tell us that in Christ the Jews and Gentiles who had great animosity toward each other at the time, were brought together into a new humanity and a new body.  Not only did Jesus create a new body, but in verses 19-22, He also established a new building… with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.

According to the text, Jesus made a new humanity and a new body.  In verse 22, we can notice something different about the new building.

“22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”  Ephesians 2:22 NIV  (emphasis mine).

Notice that the building is NOT DONE!  It is BEING built.  Why is it not done?  Simple.  The new building is still growing.  It is still expanding.  Like Peter who said that the church consisted of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), Paul recognized that the church was still being built.

Those who lived in Peter and Paul’s day understood that when a temple was BEING built, there would be the sound of a hammer and chisel tapping away… knocking off the rough edges.

There will come a time when the hammer and chisel stopped.  There will come a time when the building ceases.  There will come a time when all the stones – the Jew, the Gentile, male, female, brothers, and sisters – will fit perfectly together.  While we are here, let the chisel and the hammer will continue to shape us.

It is You Lord Jesus.  You are the hero of the story.  You are the main character of my life.  You are the One who works for us, in us, and among us.  Thank You Jesus.    

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