Sermon to the Saints
Paul delivered a sermon to remind the saints of their calling, the role Christ has played in their salvation and the incredible future that God has in store for them.
Plan of Salvation
From the foundation of the world God’s purpose has been to create a family through Christ with the same divine nature that is in both Christ and his Father. That nature is good which is opposite to evil. It is God’s plan to create children with His own good nature, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1:1-6).
In an attempt to undermine God’s good intentions for man, Satan persuaded our first parents in the Garden of Eden to put their faith in him. That led them to sin which corrupted their nature with evil. Sin is the transgression of the law that God gave to define good from evil behaviours. For the preservation of good there needs to be a penalty for sinful behaviour. That penalty is death. It is the only way that evil can be permanently eliminated.
Because the very first parents of the human race had corrupted human nature with evil and consequently the nature of all who were produced from them, the penalty for their sin also extended to the whole of humanity. It is from that penalty of death that mankind must be saved in order to fulfil the purpose God has planned for them.
Jesus Christ who is part of the Godhead and creator of man (John 1:1-3) was willing to sacrifice his own life to pay the penalty of the law on behalf of all humanity. The Father allowed this to happen so that the sins of man could be forgiven. This shows the great love and mercy they both have for their human creation.
Christ, who has inherited authority over all things in heaven and on earth, wants to share his inheritance. Those whom God calls to salvation through Christ in this age will be proof of the mercy and love of God to the rest of mankind in ages to come, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-12).
Seal of Guarantee
Those believers who put their trust in Christ will be sealed with the Holy Spirit to guarantee their salvation. It is a down payment (earnest) until their inheritance is received, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
Paul gives thanks for the enlightenment of all those who put our faith in Christ. Our hope is increased as our understanding of the richness of our inheritance and the power of God that works in us is revealed by the Holy Spirit. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead and set him in authority over all things. He is now head of the church which is the body, or congregation of those he saves – the saints. The Holy Spirit which they receive is the very essence, mind and nature of God. As we yield and submit to God it reproduces in us the characteristics of God and is the source of all that will become truly good and righteous in us, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:15-23).
Because Christ has already paid the penalty those who respond to God’s call by repenting and being baptised will receive the Holy Spirit. They are no longer subject to the death penalty under which they formerly lived. They are no longer under the evil and corrupting influence of Satan (the prince of the power of the air), “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
As if Saved
We were living under a death penalty when God in His mercy called us to salvation. He then guaranteed that salvation by sealing us with His own Spirit and addressed us as if already raised with Christ. Those called to salvation in this age will be the living proof to the rest of the world in ages to come, of His love for mankind. Through His grace (love and kindness) we are saved because of our faith (belief) not by any deeds we have done. That is God’s great gift to mankind, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9)
The Holy Spirit that God gives those of us who willingly respond to His calling is a portion of the very essence, mind and nature of God. It transforms the human mind to become like that which is in both the Father and Christ. Through the Spirit He perfects in us a Christ-like mind that enables us to love, serve, honour and obey our heavenly Father. This is what God is working to accomplish, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).
In the past we had been in this world both without God, and without hope. But now, because Christ paid the penalty on our behalf with his sacrifice, we have direct access to God the Father under the new covenant, “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11-13)
Christ’s sacrifice has abolished the enmity that separated mankind from God in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to put their faith in Satan rather than their creator. Through a process administered by Christ mankind can now be reconciled to God and receive their inheritance. Instead of transgressing the law they their minds will be transformed by the essence and mind of God (Holy Spirit) in them so they can be resurrected to spirit with a divine righteous nature that is incapable of sinning, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Ephesians 2:14-17)
Through the Holy Spirit made available by Christ those who believe are no more strangers but part of the very family of God with the same God-like mind and nature. The spiritual characteristic of the Father will be present in all His children. Because He is ‘in’ them they are considered to be a temple. A spiritual temple built on the foundation of the prophets, the Apostles and Christ himself, “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22).
To the Rest of Mankind
The promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 (last part) was that all the families of the world would be blessed through one of his descendents (Christ). Paul was ordained an apostle to preach these things to the gentiles (those who were not of Israel), so that they would know that they are also fellow heirs of the promised inheritance and can be part of the body of Christ which is the church, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” (Ephesians 3:1-7).
It was God’s will for Paul to preach about the incredible hidden richness of the gospel of Christ to the gentiles. Up to that time God had been dealing mostly with Israel. As the church, or body of saints, develops in the likeness of Christ even the angelic realm has come to see the wisdom of God’s purpose which is being implemented by Christ, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Ephesians 3:8-12).
Paul didn’t want the saints to whom he was preaching at that time to hold back because of what he was suffering – his suffering was for their benefit, “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (Ephesians 3:13).
Grounded in Love
He said that he prayed for their minds to be transformed and strengthened through the power of God’s Spirit so that they would fully understand the concept of Christ dwelling in them; to be grounded, and to know Christ’s love that is above all knowledge, and to be filled with the fullness of God’s divine nature, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19)
The credit for what is being done for mankind goes to God who has the power to do so much more than we ask, or can imagine in preparation for eternal life, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
Paul was commissioned to preach the mystery of God’s purpose to the world so that all of mankind will know their destiny and the crucial role that Christ has played and will continue to play forever.