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Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

Ephesians 2

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Verses 1-10

  1. Intro:
    1. Illus: You’ve seen a painter grasping his mixing board palette, with his ugly little daubs of paint on the palette. What can he do with those spots/smears of color? Go visit his studio & gaze upon his splendid paintings.
      1. In the same way Jesus takes us, poor smudges of paint, and He makes the incredible pictures of His grace out of us.
      2. It is neither the brush nor the paint He uses, but it is the skill of His own hand which does it all. Spurgeon
      3. As we look at an art piece (A Monet, Van Gogh, DaVinci, Rembrandt) we might say, it’s unique, timeless, one-of-a-kind, priceless, colorful, mysterious & that it beautifully communicates something. [we’ll see God thinks the same about us]
    2. Paul’s prayer (last week 15-23) refers to Gentiles (non-Jews) becoming part of God’s family. In this chapter, Paul discusses how that happens.
      1. Christ’s victory over evil powers makes reconciliation with God possible.
      2. This discussion has 2 parts: 1-10 and 11-22 (next week).
        1. 1st part, Paul writes about humanity’s reconciliation with God.
        2. 2nd part, Paul then describes the blessings that believers receive as a result of being reconciled to God through Christ.
    3. Religions throughout the ages have well illustrated Man’s search for God...but The Scriptures tell the unimaginable story of God’s Search For Man. (God moving toward us) [from Abraham Heschel, the Jewish Theologian & Philosopher’s book...God in Search of Man]
    4. Outline: What We Were. What We Are. Why He Did It. How He Did It. For What Purpose.
  2. WHAT WE WERE (1-3) [Without Life; Without Freedom; Without Hope]
    1. ​​​​​​​A look at our former life shows we didn’t have life at all.
      1. Our past life is summed in one word…dead.
      2. Illust: The smell of death (rat in attic)
    3. Dead – you spiritually are deader than dead, not mostly dead. Like on Princess Bride where Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) said, It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.
      1. ​​​​​​​Bad news...spiritually without Jesus, you’re not mostly dead nor slightly alive.
      2. Lost sinners are not simply sick people needing help; they are dead people needing life.
    4. Dead in trespasses & sin – Lost
      1. Trespasses – wrong steps taken, deliberate breaking of the law.
      2. Sin – to miss the mark.
        1. These both aren’t isolated acts; they speak of a way of life or a pattern of conduct.
    6. We note we were in bondage to: the World (2a). Devil (prince power of the air 2b). Flesh (3).
      1. What a description of the human condition. What an indictment against us.
        1. Dead in sin. Influenced by Satan. Controlled by lust. And under God’s wrath.
    7. And we defined us both personally & publicly:
      1. Personally (2) - Our personal walk. Our individual life. You once walked.
        1. Life is a walk (journey, trek, pilgrimage) an active process that moves along step by step.
        2. When you followed the ways of this world – the pressures of society & culture led us away from God.
        3. The prince of the power of the air – (Satan) a spiritual power of evil who generates a spirit of disobedience in people. [Air = spiritual realm]
        4. Sons of disobedience – a Hebraic expression indicating their chief characteristic is that of disobedience. (LKGNT) [And this disobedience is a matter of choice]
      2. Publicly (3) -Our public walk. Conduct ourselves.
        1. They gratified the desires (i.e. fulfilling) of their sinful nature.
          1. And this involves both the body/flesh & mind. [or, our desires & thoughts]
  3. WHAT WE ARE (4-6) [He Loved Us; He Liberated Us; He Lifted Us]
    1. ​​​​​​​Now we get to look at the polar opposite.
      1. Rom.5:20b,21 where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.
    2. Paul starts this contrast with but God.
      1. These words signal God’s intervention into our hopeless, sinful condition.
      2. He is not a God of wrath only; He is also a God of Mercy.
      3. How did He show this? He Loved Us. He Liberated Us. He Lifted Us.
    3. FROM TOMB TO THRONE (4-6)
    4. He Loved Us (4)
    5. Mercy – (LKGNT) The word indicates the emotion aroused by someone in need & the attempt to relieve the person & remove his trouble.
      1. ​​​​​​​God’s emotions were aroused by seeing your need. And He desires to relieve & remove your trouble.
    6. He is rich in mercy & His mercy is rooted in His great Love for us.
      1. That was shown in what He has done in Christ.
    7. He Liberated Us (5)
    8. Made us alive – Can also mean raised, to keep alive, to preserve life, quickened, granted a new spiritual life.
    9. Saved – here is where doing your grammatical homework...pays off.
      1. In the Greek there is the pluperfect tense(aka past perfect), it is a completed action in the past. Eg. In Jn.18:16 context: Jesus was arrested. 2 disciples followed. 1 went into courtyard, but Peter stood at the door outside.
        1. Stood is in the pluperfect tense. Peter standing at the door was a completed act at some point in the past, and is no longer standing at that door.
      2. But here our word saved (in 5&8) it is in the perfect tense which points to the completed action w/a continuing result, thus emphasizing the continual state or condition.
        1. By grace you are grace you are are being kept...and by grace, will go home to be w/the Lord. Justin Alfred
    10. He Lifted Us (6)
    11. Raised us up together – believers not only receive life but they experience a resurrection
      1. ​​​​​​​This being raised is with Christ – we have been united with Him in His resurrected life.
    12. Made us alive, raised us, seated us – means that, get this, what happened to Christ WILL happen to us.
      1. The believer’s resurrection, ascension, & enthronement must await complete fulfillment; BUT spiritually...this has already happened.
      2. God didn’t give you life to leave you in the cemetery. He lifted you up to sit on the throne with His victorious Son. (www)
        1. So, we are brought back to life from our spiritual death; then raised to the presence of God; then seated in heaven.
  4. WHY HE DID IT (7)
    1. ​​​​​​​He did it so that He might display us as trophies of His grace.
      1. We’re Trophy kids. It’s God in the stands yelling, that’s my boy/girl out on the field, #23. That’s my boy/girl playing percussion in the band. We’re Trophy kids
  5. HOW HE DID IT (8,9) [Through His Favor. Through Our Faith]
    1. This is one of the best summaries of the gospel in the NT.
    2. Saved – General term that includes (justification, reconciliation, adoption)
      1. Again the tense is that which has been accomplished in the past, & continues to have results in the present.
    4. Grace/favor – (12 x’s in Eph) pleasantness, favor, & gratitude. The Unmerited. Undeserved. Unconditional. Divine favor of God.
      1. ​​​​​​​Early Christians brought more significance to this word by describing “the utter generosity that God gives to sinners…even though they don’t deserve it.”
      2. It isn’t only the forgiveness of sin, but includes the gift of God’s power in our lives (which brings about a new kind of life).
      3. I defy my free will to fling away what it never brought to me. What God has given, created, introduced, & established in the heart, He will maintain there.Spurgeon
    6. Through faith/trusting – this indicates the channel through which salvation comes.
      1. It means more than simply agreeing w/an idea. It refers to a total openness to letting God give the benefits of salvation & to obeying the will of God.
      2. Faith is not viewed as a positive work or accomplishment of the individual.
        1. So included in this grace is the gift of having enough faith to believe the Good News of Jesus.
    7. ​​​​​​​It is the gift of God – It’s a gift.
      1. When a person works an 8-hour day & receives a fair day’s pay, that’s a wage. When a person competes with an opponent and receives a trophy for his performance, that’s a prize. When a person receives appropriate recognition for his long service or high achievements, that’s an award. But...When a person is NOT capable of earning a wage, can win no prize, and deserves no award - YET receives such a gift anyway - that is a good picture of God’s unmerited favor.
    8. (9) Not of works/actions –
      1. Some peoples reaction to the plan of salvation is sounds too easy and too simple to be true. They feel that there is something more they must do, something they must add to God’s recipe for salvation.
    1. ​​​​​​​FOR GOOD WORKS (10)
    2. His workmanship – ποίηµα. Masterpiece. Art piece. Poem/poetry.
      1. One said it this way, You are the created creation for the purpose of good creations.
      2. We are a work of art God is in process of designing.
      3. What good is art? No practical function in our world...yet we need it. We love it, in so many of its forms (Visual arts/paintings, sculptures. Printmaking/photg. Performing arts/music, theater, film, dance). At the core of our being we love & are attracted to beauty & something transcendent. You are God’s masterpiece.
      4. And your portrait is so unique, timeless, one-of-a-kind, priceless, colorful, mysterious & beautifully communicates something to everybody that no other human has. [you are blessed, to be a blessing]
      5. And you are the expression of the artist (God). It’s something The Artist is creating...Not the art. So hey, pottery piece...Stop telling The Potter, you don’t like what He’s doing with you on the wheel of life! You’re critiquing HIS art when you don’t like you.[You’re not self-creating. You’re His art-restoration project]
    3. For Good works – We are saved from (negative) a lot that is negative & destructive; but we are being saved to (positive) good works.
      1. Illust: of wick & oil. In a biblical oil lamp, if the oil runs out, the wick burns out. But as long as there is oil, the wick doesn’t burn.
      2. Question: What’s burning in your lie?
        1. Are you burning the candle at both ends (working your hardest)
        2. Or, have you received God’s beautiful free gift of salvation, His oil (your fuel/power).

Verses 11-22

  1. Intro:
    1. Growing up there were 2 main building sets I played with as a child: Lincoln Logs & Legos. As way of introduction to our topic I’d like to read you a Lego parable.
    2. A Parable from the Land of Lego’s (from Eph.2:11-22)
    3. Once in the land of Lego’s a builder decided to construct a house to dwell in, using only blue blocks. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the other colors, matter of fact he longed for each & every color to desire to be a part of his home. When the blue building was complete the builder moved in.

      But quickly some of the blue blocks decided they enjoyed their former freedom & decided to not be a part of the blue house any longer. Others complained of it being too bright once HE moved in. Others left as they wanted to form their own little house…a little less warm, & a little more religious. The house became a house full of holes, rather than a holy house. This eventually caused it to topple.The builder came up with a new design. He used blue blocks that wanted to be a part, but he also chose from every color of block. There was one difference this time, he took block by block & painted them a beautiful deep red. That was the one requirement to be a part of his new home.Grace was the nozzle which sprayed each block red. Faith was used as the mortar to put each in its perfect place. The 1st block placed was called Stone/Block of the Corner, which lined up the rest of the entire house. The builder then moved into his new house, as that’s what houses are for. And this time it became not only a house, but a home; and not only a home, but a very Holy and Homey Home.
    4. Title: God’s Legoland
      1. ​​​​​​​Last week, God’s gracious search for man, in reconciling him to Himself. Now, the broader scope of God’s reconciliation. 1st what God has done for sinners in general; now Jews/Gentiles in particular.
    1. ​​​​​​​ONCE FAR OFF (11,12)
    2. Gentiles were scorned by the Jews & called them Uncircumcised.
      1. They were stating w/pride here’s what you are not, & here’s what we’re against.
    3. Where does God live? - The story of the Bible is about God dwelling amongst us. With Moses (face aglow). Then in the Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies. Then same/same in the Temple. And then in the NT, Jesus came to earth, and God dwelt on earth.
      1. Where does God live? In the ancient world, if you asked…
      2. A Greek, they would respond...Which God? We have hundreds.
      3. The Ephesians would respond...have you not seen standing right over there, 1 of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, sitting on 70,000 acres of land, that’s where God lives, She lives right there. And great is Artemis of the Eph’s (Diana)
      4. The Jews would respond...God is everywhere, but He makes His Holy residence w/us.
        1. ​​​​​​​So, the Gentiles would say, God lives with us. The Jews would say, God lives w/us.
    4. Where does God live? - The Bible reveals only two groups of people. Jews...and everyone else (Gentiles, people on the outside).
      1. The Jews thought God was with them because they were...awesome. And others were just...less less than awesome. [but maybe God dwells w/us for some other reason]
      2. Obviously then these 2 groups did not like each other:
        1. The Jews thought, you’re different, and I don’t want you to be around me. The Gentiles thought, you’re different, and I don’t want you to be around me.
        2. If a Jew & Gentile got married...on the day of the wedding, the Jews would hold a funeral for the Jewish person.
        3. A popular phrase of the day was, the world needs more gentiles because they are fuel for the fires of hell. [at best Gentiles were seen as dogs]
        4. And for millennia, the world has shown anti-Semitic hatred towards the Jews.
      3. We’ve all been made to feel we didn’t fit in, we didn’t belong. Excluded from the cool kids (esp Jr.High).
    5. What some commentators believe is that, since there was a large Jewish population in Ephesus, Paul might just be dignifying gentiles to the Jewish audience there.
    6. Circumcision - Mark of God’s covenant people.
      1. Gentiles you’ve been called the UNcircumcision, by a group with a very clever handle, #theCircumcision. [lit. the so-called circumcision]
      2. They’re trying to exclude based on that mark. Saying, you’re not part of us.
      3. But in vs.15,16 there is an act of hostility that ended hostility...the cross
        1. There He absorbed all hostility. You who were once separated. You who once had no reason to ever sit next to each other. You who couldn’t enter each others house. You Jews, who after traveling a distance, would wipe the Gentile dust from their feet. There now, will be no hostility.
    7. *They were without Christ. They were without citizenship in Israel. They were without the covenants of promise in Israel. They were without hope of future glory and blessing as Israel did. They were without a personal Messiah-Deliverer and the Messianic Age. They were without God in the world. (atheos/atheist, even though they had many gods)
      1. So, the Gentiles were in a desperate situation: with no Christ, no citizenship, no covenants, no promises, no hope, no Messiah, nor God. Thus, no purpose, nor direction in life.
    8. NOW BROUGHT NEAR (13)
    9. (13) But now parallels But God in v.4.
    10. Vs.13 sums up the Gentiles’ condition in 2 words: far off.
      1. ​​​​​​​The problem of sinners in general (1-10) was spiritual death, the problem of the Gentiles in particular was spiritual distance from God & His blessings.
        1. Note, in the Gospels that whenever Christ helped a Gentile, He did it at a distance. (Warren Wiersbe)
    11. Once were far off – These are the kind of people God receives & shows mercy to:
      1. Those who are Helpless He will help. Those who are Homeless He will house. Those who are Hopeless He is the Hope of those who have no other confidence.
    12. Been brought near – once excluded now included.
      1. This is reconciliation – to bring together.
      2. God not only reconciles us to Himself, but to each other.
      3. Reconciliation is not a process, but an act by which we are delivered from estrangement to fellowship w/God.
    13. Jesus, shed blood that sees no color, but red itself.
    14. Those who were separated from the covenant have been united. Those who were alienated have been reconciled. Those who were far off have been brought near.
      1. Far off by sin, brought near by blood.
      2. Only in Christianity...a just Ruler dying for unjust rebels.
  3. 1 WALL DOWN, 1 NEW MAN, 1 BODY, 1 SPIRIT(or access) (14-18)
    1. ​​​​​​​ONE WALL DOWN (14)
    2. When I 1st visited up-state New York, what surprised me was that there was no walls or fences between neighbors yards. [all walls aren’t bad. Separation vs. Protection]
    3. (14) He Himself is our Peace - He didn’t only make peace, but He Himself is our Peace.
    4. Christ is that bridge of Peace. We…were His Peace Mission.
      1. He brings harmony and wholeness to people’s relationship with God and one another. This fits well with Paul’s theme/purpose of unifying Jews & Gentiles.
    5. Both made one - The external distinctions between Jews & Gentiles are no longer grounds for hostility and division.
    6. Show wall of separation at Temple sight.
      1. Low wall 4 1/2’ tall, 13 openings. Block found in 1871 that read: Slide16b No stranger is to enter w/in the partition wall & enclosure around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will be responsible to himself for his death, which will ensue.
    7. Jesus Christ tore down the wall…
      1. The physical wall, for in Christ all are made one.
      2. The spiritual wall and brought the far off Gentiles near.
      3. The legal wall, for He fulfilled the Law in Himself and ended the reign of the Mosaic law that separated Jews & Gentiles.
    8. ONE NEW MAN, CREATED (15)
    9. He rendered the Law abolished (inoperative) It was rendered inactive in believers’ lives. [Like my credit card this last a precaution/possibly compromised Rendered Inactive]
      1. Jews sought to keep the Law with its commandments and regulations, Gentiles were unconcerned about them.
      2. This difference was like a barrier between them. But now the Law is inoperative, Christ, the end/fulfillment of the Law.
    10. One new man - The word new means, new or fresh in character or quality, rather than new in the sense of recent in time.
      1. Jesus didn’t Christianize the Jews or Judaize the Gentiles. He didn’t create a half-breed. He made an entirely new man.
    13. Here is the critical part of all of this. It was such a subversive & controversial statement of that time. Both have access to God.
      1. ​​​​​​​Now the Church has blown this over the years, saying, if you look & act like us you can have access to our God. Otherwise you can join that church down the street that looks and acts more like you. [the church struggled with: not long ago it was a long hair/short hair issue. A Tattoo issue. A head covering issue. A pants vs. dress issue]
        1. But here Paul reminds us, Anyone who wants access to’s yours!
      2. Note, throughout this book, you isn’t used for individuals, but to the corporate body. It’s written to a group of people. Thus…
        1. We are now fellow citizens (19), of the same heavenly country.
        2. We now live in the same house (20), we’re family. It’s someone with refrigerator rights (go to frig w/o asking).
        3. We are now together God’s Holy Temple (21). Where does God dwell? Here, with us, in us.
    1. ​​​​​​​GOD’S LEGOLAND (19a) One Nation Under God
    2. We are God’s new society.
    3. GOD’S LEGO FAMILY (19b) One Family Under God
    4. (19) This does not mean that Gentiles are incorporated into Israel, but that believing Jews and Gentiles are incorporated into one new family.
      1. Now, can you imagine if we could do that with denominations, & with all our ism’s that separate us?
      2. What new walls & barriers have we erected since that 1st century in church-ianity?
    5. GOD’S LEGO TEMPLE (20-22) One Building Under God
    6. 1 Pet.2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house.
    7. Cornerstone - Christ Jesus Himself is the chief Cornerstone, that is, He is part of the foundation.
      1. In ancient building practices the chief cornerstone was carefully placed. It was crucial because the entire building was lined up with it.
    8. The goal of this temple is to become a dwelling in which God lives.
    9. Who cares what a house looks like, if you can’t live in it.
    10. (21) Paul closes by picturing the church as a temple.
      1. But this isn’t just a clever metaphor. No. You are a holy temple. You are fit together with this group of Jesus lovers/followers.
        1. Where does God live? amongst His fitted-together people.
        2. A fitting image not only for the Jews, who revered their holy temple at Jerusalem, but also for the Ephesians, who had the great temple of Diana in their city.
      2. But the word for temple? (ieron or naos?) naos = inner sanct.
    11. Christianity is not a private practice of individual spirituality.
      1. To be a Christian without a church family, is to be an orphan. [nothing wrong w/being an orphan, but an orphan naturally longs to be in a family]
      2. To say, I have a relationship with God but I have no family, is to say, I’m missing out on something.
      3. People joined together, do something they cannot do when they’re separated out. Together, Gods presence is made known in a real & unique way...It’s Why we gather.
        1. Legos naturally, the way they’re built, go together. There’s something about a Lego that wants to be connected to the other Legos. You can tell by the way it’s made. It’s designed to be connected to another piece, and that piece to another piece. You and I in the body of Christ have been made the same way.
        2. We were not intended to be by ourselves (oh it’s not bad to spend time alone, but it is something to be in the community of Jesus people). He made us social beings. Slide20 Think about it, Legos by themselves...can do more damage (ever step on 1?)
        3. People are dying to experience something sacred, something transcendent, something beyond themselves.
    12. (22) A dwelling place for God to reside – Wow, Peace, access, one, one new man, Hope, nearness, fellow citizens, members of the household of God, part of His holy temple, & the dwelling place of God.
    13. Remember this is all of God (from vs.4)
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Ephesians 2". "Bell's Commentary". 2017.