(For accuracy of this transcript, please refer to audio file of this sermon)
This is a trial run of sermon transcripts. If you found it useful, please email email@example.com to give feedback.
One of the most common words that we use to describe ourselves is “Christian”. And yet, interestingly enough, the word Christian is only found three times in the Bible. Often times we refer to ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ. Yet depending on the English translation you are using, followers of Jesus is only found four times in the Bible. A bit more frequently, some 15 times in the Bible, we find the term believers. We use that phrase as well to describe ourselves. All of these words I’ve mentioned these phrases. They’re fine and good for us to use in describing ourselves. But I do find it interesting that the two most frequent words or phrases used in the Bible for us we actually don’t use them that often and in our everyday speech. And yet both of these terms are found in our passage this morning some 60 times in the New Testament, we are referred to as “Saints”, holy people and the most common description for Christ followers in the Bible find we find it some 160 times, I believe in different variations is, that we are “in Christ”, that we are in him and the book of Ephesians is the place in the New Testament that probably highlights this phrase more than anywhere else.
We begin this morning in our new sermon series on the Book of Ephesians. With that theme throughout the book, we are going to consider how we are “in Christ”. We are “united to him”, and since this is such an important theme for the whole book. I thought it would be best to start with our very first message in the first 2 verses unpacking this theme, explaining the important phrase what it means to be in Christ. And we are going to connect that to an even bigger theological phrase. The idea of union with Christ. Listen, as I read for us the first 2 verses of Ephesians 1:1-2, “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.”. All of the Bible certainly is important, no doubt about that. But looking at the history of the Christian Church, you could argue that there are certain books which seem to have had a greater impact on the church then perhaps other places in Scripture. The Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to write 13 of the books, 13 letters that we find in the New Testament. I think most people would agree that Romans throughout the last 2000 years has been the most influential of the works that God led Paul to write? But many would also say that coming in at a close second position, if we were to rank them would be the Book of Ephesians. If you know the name John Calvin from Church History, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, whose writings continue to be influential to this very day. John Calvin said Ephesians was his favorite book in all of Scripture. What we are going to find in these six packed chapters is this panoramic, this wide angle view of salvation. We are going to see salvation being described all the way from eternity past before our planet was even created and all the way into eternal future. What await, for us when Christ returns and establishes his eternal kingdom, and so, I’m excited. I’m excited myself to dig into this book in a deeper way than I ever have before. I’m excited about our time together as a congregation, sitting before the word of God. I would invite you. Would you pray with me that through the next few months in this passage of Scripture in this book of Scripture, God will be changing and transforming ICMK and Christ would be greatly honored through our studying and obeying the word of God together. Now, if you’ve studied the Bible a lot, if you’ve been in church for a long time, there’s probably not too much in these two verses that’s unfamiliar for you. So. bear with me, we are going to do a little bit of review this morning of things that probably you’ve studied before. But I think for probably many others of us, we’ve got questions even in these first 2 verses. Who is Paul? What’s an apostle? What’s a saint? What is this Ephesus place? So, let me just take a few minutes here in our first sermon in this series to explain a bit of the background of this letter that we are going to be studying for the next few months.
After Jesus’s resurrection 40 days later after his ascension back then, up into Heaven, Jesus’s disciples, his followers continued on the ministry of proclaiming the message in person of Jesus. But what we find is that the same kind of opposition and persecution that was against Jesus continued on with his followers. His followers were oppressed and persecuted as well and one of the main opponents of the first Christians was a Jewish religious leader by the name of Saul. Who later on in life will be referred to as Paul and he was arresting Christians and he was voicing his opinion that Christians should be killed for their blasphemy. And yet in the midst of Saul, strong opposition of the Church of Christ followers, Jesus appeared to Saul and he was converted, and God changed him and made him into one of the main leaders of the church in the first century. Looking at a time line of the Apostle Paul’s life, we see that he was converted within just a couple of years of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the early thirties, and then we see throughout the forties and the fifties. We read of this in the Book of Acts in the New testament, he traveled throughout the Roman Empire, especially up ancient region what today we would call Turkey and also ancient regions of Greece and he’s preaching the message of Jesus, particularly to the nation’s, particularly to non-Jews, to gentiles as Scripture refers to us. And as we look at the story in the book of Acts, we see throughout those couple of decades, three main trips that he took (traveling needs to take a long time by boat or by foot) and each of these journeys were a couple of years long. We referred to these journeys as Paul’s missionary journeys. Well, as we’re reading through the Book of Acts, we come to Acts 18, which is at the end of the second missionary journey that Paul took and that’s where we see mentioned his first visit to the city of Ephesus. Now, Ephesus next to the capital city of Rome was one of the most influential city centers in all of the Roman Empire. It had influence over the whole region of Asia Minor their ancient the land that today is modern day Turkey, and so when we see it, most likely is Paul arrives there on his first visit at the end of the second missionary journey and sees what a strategic location this city would be for the sake of the gospel. He can’t stay at that point. He leaves behind a few other believers, namely, a married couple Priscilla and Aquila for them to start the work of the church. But he promises he’ll come back and sure enough, in Acts 19, Paul shows up in Ephesus and he makes it, kind of his headquarters for the third missionary journey. It looks like he stayed there about three years, with different trips going out from there, as the center of his Ministry of the Third Missionary journey. Now, Ephesus itself was not an easy place for the gospel to be spread. Ephesus was, what’s filled with idol worship, particularly, their main goddess, they worshipped Artemus, also known as the goddess Diana. If you were to visit Ephesus today, you could still see the site, the remainders of this impressive structure. Here’s an artist rendering of perhaps what this temple looks like, back in the first century, it was named one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and there were many faithful followers to Artemus in the city of Ephesus. Enough so that there was strong opposition to Paul and his preaching of the gospel. When you have time, go to Acts 19, and read. It’s a fascinating story of the rioting against Paul and the other Christians there in Ephesus. But despite the strong opposition, we read that God saved many people in this city in Acts 19:20. “So, the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”. In fact, during these three years, while he was in Ephesus, Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth. The first letter called 1 Corinthians and notice what he says in 1 Corinthian 16:8-9, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”. So, the gospel is spreading both in the city proper, but also in the whole region of Asia Minor. If we go back to Acts 19:10, we read, “…so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”, and in fact, when the opponent’s rise up, they were the idol makers, the businessman who didn’t like how Christianity was cutting into their profits. One of their complaints against the Christians was this Acts 19:26, “And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people saying that god’s made with hands are not gods.”. And so, from the city center, from Ephesus, the gospel went forth. That in fact, if we go back and look at that map, you probably recognize some of the other towns. Some of the other cities that are mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, most likely during this time, when Paul was in Ephesus, churches were started in the surrounding cities, not all by Paul, some, by others, by believers who were saved in Ephesus and went back to these cities and we saw the church multiplying and the gospel spreading. Now all of this is good to know, because it’s very likely that the letter we are studying now. The Book of Ephesians was not written only to the city of Ephesus. It’s very likely it was written to the whole surrounding region over which Ephesus had influence. Most scholars suggest that, Ephesians was a circular letter. It was designed to be read and taken from city to city and to be read and if that is a true suggestion, that helps explain, interestingly enough, how Ephesians really doesn’t address specific issues or problems in the city of Ephesus, like most of Paul’s letters do are much more specific. Rather, what we see in Ephesians is a more general message. What we see is this elaborate portrait being painted, which displays for all followers of Christ. The rich beauty of the gospel, described in terms at all followers wherever we live, might be able to grasp. After Paul’s third missionary journey, he was arrested. Eventually he was taken to Rome, and while he was in Rome, he wrote most likely four of his letters, including the letter to the Ephesians. I apologize. I think this is probably too small on the screens for most of you to read. But in the top right-hand corner we see the four letters, which are called the Prison Epistles. All four probably written sometime between the years 60AD and 62AD while he was in prison in Rome, and we’re pretty certain that three of them Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon were all sent by the very same messenger, someone who must have been with Paul in Rome and then took these letters to their various locations and that messenger was a man by the name of Tychicus. Notice how he’s mentioned at the end of the Ephesians 6:21-22, “So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. Tychitus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.”. Now notice how similar the ending of Colossians is, Colossians 4:7, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord….” and it continues on. It’s interesting. There’s a lot of overlap between Ephesians and Colossians. A lot of similar themes, I think the timing here is interesting because a number of our ministries have either been in Colossians or are going to be in Colossians I believe our young people that teenagers of study Colossians is that right ?, Lighthouse retreat was in Ephesians, Ladies retreat coming up next weekend or two weekends is going to be in Colossians. What we are going to find is a lot of similar themes in Ephesians, as you have been or will be studying Colossians. We can’t be for certain exactly how the two letters relate. But one real possibility is this Colossians was probably written first, addressing some specific issues in the city of Colosse. And then after that was written, the Holy Spirit very likely lead Paul to kind of reflect on what he’d already written to Colossians and expand on it in more general terms for the whole region, for all believers and that’s one likely possibility of how these two letters relate to each other. Well, much more could be said on the background of Ephesians. But with this summary of Paul with this summary of Ephesus that let’s read again are two verses for this morning.
A Call to Listen
(Ephesians 1:1-2), “Paul on 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.”. When we read the introductions to Paul’s letters, I think we should view them in two ways. First of all, Paul was just following the normal pattern for letter writing in the first century. We compared the letters in the Bible with other letters from the first century that have survived from general secular, non-religious purposes and there’s a very similar pattern in the structure of how the letters are written. Letters from the set first century almost always begin with the name of the author. Now that’s kind of opposite for us, isn’t it? If I were to send you an email this week and the very first thing you read in the email is “Adam, husband of Alison” or “Adam, ICMK pastor”. That would be weird. That’s not how we communicate and in our e mails or letters, if those are still written, we put our names at the end of letters, so just recognized it was the opposite. In the first century culture. You left the name, not the very start who it’s from, So, people know the author that’s writing to them, and then the typical structure after that was after a greeting. There would be some sort of a “Thanksgiving” or an “Affirmation” of the readers and then you get to the purpose of the letter, why you are writing. And that’s the pattern that most of Paul’s letters follow we find in a new test, having said that. Secondly, while we acknowledge he’s following the customary pattern of the day for letter writing, we also keep in mind that in every word he was being led by the Holy Spirit, meaning there’s also important truth about God, important truths about the Gospel, even in these standard introductions. Now the introduction to Ephesians is one of the of the shortest of all 13 letters, Paul writes. And just about every word in these two verses we find in the other introductions to the other 12 letters he wrote, meaning there’s nothing really unique only to this letter that we don’t find elsewhere. Having said that, there is still, rich theology in these two verses, leading us to the main theme of this letter. What it means to be “in Christ”, what it means to be “united with Christ”. And so, I went about work through these two verses in in three ways for us this morning.
First of all, notice in the opening line of verse one. A call to listen? An apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, the word apostle simply refers to a messenger if we want to be more literal with the entomology, a sent one, and it’s determined scripture that can be used in just a general sense of a messenger, a missionary in a general sense. However, normally apostle in Scripture, when it’s used, has a much more specific meaning. Normally in the New Testament, it refers to someone who’s been commissioned and sent by Jesus, just someone who has direct authority from Jesus given to him. Remember back when Jesus was alive on earth during his ministry, he had 12 main followers. Now in the Gospel writers. Normally, these 12 followers are referred to as disciples after Jesus ascension after the coming of the Holy Spirit more often than not, he’s 12 are not referred to as the apostles, the ones who’ve been authorized by the risen Christ commissioned to continue on his work. Interesting passage in Acts 1, remember they were 12. They were down to 11. We remember why one was subtracted, right? Who is missing, Judas Iscariot, both because he betrayed Jesus and he had also deceased. So, there was a need for 12th apostle, and it’s interesting. In the explanation of the criteria for whom God would select to be the 12th apostle, it stated it needed to be someone who had seen the risen Christ. Someone who was a witness that Jesus had resurrected from the dead. A man named Matthias was chosen by God to be this 12th apostle, and we see them continuing on in the New Testament. A unique role for these 12. They were authorized to start the church authorized representatives of Jesus. That’s really clear, so as a sign and I just want to say we need to be cautious today if you come upon a church leader. A religious leader who claims the title apostle for himself. Now if he’s just using it in the general sense of a messenger of God, of a missionary. All Christians are that we’re all messengers from God. But if he’s using the title apostle in the sense of like the first 12 apostles like there’s an authority that I have the speaker had that you need to listen to beware. Beware, the role of Apostle was unique for the starting of the church. We are going to come to that in a couple of chapters here in Ephesians. It was a unique calling. It was a position that does not exist today. There are no longer apostles like their what. So, there were 12 apostles that Jesus authorized to continue his work. But interestingly enough, the New Testament makes it really clear that Jesus also chose Paul, he added a number 13. Jesus also commissioned Paul and sent him with authority to take the Gospel primarily to the nations, to the non-Jews and to make this clear, Paul’s conversion, where the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, is found in details, three different times. In the Book of Acts 9, describes the first time where Jesus appeared to Paul. Remember why that’s important? That means Paul was a witness of the resurrected Christ and then two more times in details, Acts 22:6-8 & Acts 26:12-15. We get the whole story again, making it really clear Jesus appeared to Paul authorized him with authority as an apostle to continue on his work. And then we see in some of those letters when there was opposition against him, people resisting him, claiming he didn’t have a right to speak with them. He mentions that he was an apostle and that he had seen Christ. One example, 1 Corinthians 9:1, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus, our Lord? He was a witness of the resurrected Christ. He was commissioned to carry on the work of Christ.”. And so, Paul begins most of his letters, I believe, nine out of 13 by mentioning that he is an apostle now. Maybe in our modern sensibilities, that sounds a little arrogant or maybe that sounds kind of like a power play. Here’s my title. I don’t think it’s anything like that at all, especially because he always refers to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He’s keeping the focus on Christ. He’s just mentioned what Christ has done. Christ has commissioned him, and so when we read this at the start of most of Paul’s letters, we should realize it’s a claim that God’s word has authority over us. Listen, someone commissioned by God has written this for us to hear. We welcome those of you here at ICMK that are not Christians as we begin the study of Ephesians and as we read it week after week and study it together and I would encourage you to consider as we look at this ancient writing consider, Is it possible that Jesus really is who he said he was? And is it possible that this Paul was really authorized by Jesus that he actually saw the risen Christ? He saw Jesus after he rose from the dead and if that could be true, ask God to show you what the true spiritual path is as we read these words together. So, the title apostle should be a call for us to listen. It’s a mention of authority, but so is the second phrase. Paul, the apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.
A Encouraging Reminder
Next week we’re going to get into this major theme in Ephesians is, God’s sovereign plan and purpose, working in everything that’s certainly connected here. But this again is a similar theme. Five of Paul’s introductions. Right after saying he’s an apostle, he says, I’m an apostle by the will of God. On the one hand, it might just kind of be a reinforcement in case you didn’t see the authority and me being an apostle realized I’m going to possible by the will of God. So, you should listen. This is authoritative. It could simply be that. But I think it’s a bit more than that. I think when he says I’m an apostle by the will of God, I think he’s given a reminder of the goodness and mercy of God. Paul was not an apostle because he was so deserving. It’s the exact opposite. Elsewhere, Paul refers to himself as the worst of sinners and yet this worst of sinners who was so blind spiritually, who wanted Christians to be killed. He was forgiven by the will of God, and he was declared an apostle by the will of God, reminding listeners of the power and the grace of the gospel. This great sinner was forgiven and he was changed and he was given a chance to serve God and God did it all. It was the will of God and my hope is that that would bring some comfort to some of us listening this morning. Some of us who are so troubled by our past some of us who are so troubled by the great sins and deception and shame in our history. Some of us who would say, well, I know I’m forgiven, but I can’t move past that, in heaven, things will be okay. But right now, I’m still labeled by my sinful past and because of the past, I really can’t honor God with services, it is holding me back. That is not true at all. Some of us may be have spouses or parents who keep reminding us of our past failures. Some of us may be have family member to say, “Who are you to speak to me about Jesus? I know what you’re like, this is just a phase you’re in, I know what you used to do, you’ll probably do it again someday.” and then Satan would take these kind of comments and use them to discourage the people of God. The example of the Apostle Paul shouts out and says, “by the will of God, you are in Christ and when you were in Christ”, the past is gone, and God has changed you and is changing you, and he has good plans for you to serve him in important ways. So, the gospel that we are going to find in the letter to Ephesians in every chapter in every passage begins in a reminder, a Gospel based reminder of the change life that God does for all of his people. There’s a call to listen in the first phrase leading on to, then what I’ll call an encouraging reminder in the second phrase to the Saints, who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus now grammatically, regardless of how you might interpret the English grammatically in the original text, this is referring to a one group of people, not saints and faithful, but one group of people who are called saints and faithful. Let’s take the 2nd one first, faithful other English translation says, and are believers in Christ Jesus term here is an adjective that can simply refer to someone who is trusting, someone who is having faith in Christ. Or it’s a term that can also refer to the results of faith, someone who is now being faithful or could be a mixture of both someone who has a faith that’s continuing on in a faithful way. Now it’s going to be really clear when we continue on in our study here of Ephesians that no one earns God’s love because they’re dependable. So, we know this verse is not saying that God is just looking for dependable, trustworthy, faithful people. Those were the true Christians. No, the rest of Ephesians speaks exactly against that. We are saved by faith alone, undeserving of God’s grace. We’re safe when we trust in all that Jesus is and all that Jesus has done in our place. And so, I think, primarily the reference to the faithful in Christ Jesus is referring to those who are believing and from that genuine faith will keep on believing because since we’re in Christ, he makes us faithful. So, I think that second term we can understand with the nuances that are present in the phrase. The first one is a bit trickier, isn’t it? He calls Christians Saints. Six of Paul’s introductions in his 13 letters, calls the readers Saints a Saint simply means holy ones. People have been set apart from sin and set apart to God. It’s based on the fact that God himself is holy. God is completely pure, God is completely different in and set apart from evil and sin. Beauty of the Gospel is that because of Christ through the Holy Spirit, all believers, when we connect with Christ when we are in him were not only forgiven, we are not only cleansed but we are declared to have right standing with God. God looks at us and he says, you are now holy, you are now Saints. Now this is the kind of language we find throughout the Old Testament period for the nation of Israel. God’s calling for the Old Testament people of Israel was that they would be a set apart and holy and righteous nation. What we read, for instance, in our study of Chronicles from several months ago, is that most of the time the Old Testament people of Israel failed to be a holy people and yet all of that was in God’s plan from the very beginning. His plan that one day a better king would come, Jesus himself and as the ultimate king, he is the one who would make his people holy and so now, after the resurrection, his people are made up of us from all of the nations who are connected with Christ, the main theme we’re going to get into in our study of Ephesians. One thing interesting is wherever we find Saints in the New Testament. It’s spoken of in the plural sense, not individual, unique Christian, who is a Saint but the group of Christians who are Saints and that’s something we probably have to rework our understanding of the word in English. Some of us come from Christian traditions where maybe we attend a worship service in a glorious cathedral that has statues or paintings or figures that were told are Saints. That we’re told are super pious Christians that have achieved a level above the rest of us because they are so holy. They are Saints, think Mother Teresa or many others who have been declared such. That’s not biblical, Saints in a biblical sense, is not something that only a few Christians arrive at. No, it’s something that Jesus has accomplished for all of us, and Jesus’s Holiness has been given to all of his followers, and so now God says. All of my people are holy. All of my people are Saints. Of course, The big question at this point and the reason why even though Saints is found what did we say 60 times in the New Testament? Reason why we never use it for each other is because you and I didn’t live like Saints this past week. Did anybody sin over the last seven days? Regrettably, yes, every one of us in this room sin and when you sin were you being a Saint? Were you being holy when you sin this week? No, you weren’t. No, I wasn’t. So, we know those facts that we often don’t live in a holy way, so we don’t feel like the title saint or holy people should be applied to us. How the Bible answers that is it. It keeps in a comfortable tension to equal truths. The one truth is that because of Jesus, if you are in Christ, you are holy. God says you are a Saint. We are Saints not because of our righteousness, but because of the righteousness of Christ. Jesus lived a perfect holy life, and His Holiness is now given attributed to his people we can refer to this is a “Positional Holiness”. We stand marked with the holiness of Jesus, we are saying, but that from that positional holiness scriptures also really clear. We’re called to pursue holiness this with the sins and temptations of this world will struggle to be like Jesus were called to fight against sin and seek a holy living by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we could call this may be more of a practical holiness on acting out of the holiness from which we have the positional holiness in Christ. We are going to come back to this balance throughout our study of Ephesians, but really that there’s two main sections of this book which nicely fit into positional and practical holiness. First 3 chapters emphasize theology and doctrine, and our position and Christ were saved by grace and Positional Holiness, we are saying and then based on all of these, chapters four through six is going to emphasize. How do we then live based on this? What is our walk in Christ Look like? How do we live in holiness? How do we strive for obedience? A practical holiness. We will come back to much of this in our study together. But at the start, we’re giving this clear statement in Christ we are saints. So, let me ask our ICMK family. Do we believe this? Do we look at each other in this way? Do we relate to one another in our praying and are serving with one another? Do we see each other as holy in God’s sight? Do we accept that before God were saints? Well, we never used the word, so that might be an indication we struggle with this. And I think, one of the main reasons why we struggle with understanding our positional holiness that the New Testament so often calls Christians. I think the main reason is because we don’t grasp the gift and the power of being in Christ of our union with Jesus. It’s a hard doctrine to grasp, but it’s a really important one. And so, my prayer throughout this weekend right now is that I can explain this deep concept in a clear way, that’s understandable so that starting today and throughout this study, we will praise God for the honor and the privilege of our Union with Jesus
By God’s grace, let’s seek to understand this doctrine. Here’s the definition we’re going to start with. Those who are in Christ are spiritually united to and identified with Christ such that all the blessings and benefits obtained by Christ belong to them. See, a union with Christ, by the way that’s not a phrase we’ll find in the New Testament. It’s a theological phrase that’s used kind of as a summary for all of the aspects of salvation. Reflecting this phrase in Christ. In him, we find some 160 times in a New Testament One more time. The definition, I think, is quite helpful. Those who are in Christ are spiritually united to and identified with Christ such that all the blessings and benefits obtained by Christ belong to them. This is how Jesus saves us. He saves us by joining us to himself and when we say we’re joined to Jesus, what it means is that Jesus is in us and we are in Jesus. Now, the first phrase is easier, Christ in us. We just came out of our study of the Holy Spirit, and we learned that at our salvation Christ comes and lives inside of us by the Holy Spirit and while admitted admittedly, there’s a mystery there. Many of us followers of Christ know what we’re talking about. When we say Christ is with us, he’s changing us from the inside. We someone can grasp the idea that Christ is in us, but union with Christ is more than that, it’s also that we are in Christ so union with Christ being in him speaks of this. This closeness of relationship we are. We are bound to each other in fellowship. There’s this belonging, this unity, this oneness, a united identity with Jesus. And this union with Christ, amazingly flows out of relationships within the Trinity. Notice how Jesus describes it. John 14 11, “Believe me, that I am in the father and the father is in me….”. So, there’s this unity. There’s this oneness in God himself, father, son and spirit. Yes, we struggle to understand the concept of the Trinity. But get this, the unity between father and son is a unity that’s shared with God’s people. Jesus continues down in John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in my father and you in me and I in you.”. This is difficult to grasp and so, I think that’s why in the next chapter, Jesus gives an illustration, to help us understand it. It’s a familiar illustration of a grapevine, a great vine with branches, and the reason that the branches grow and have fruit is because there’s sap from the vine that spreads into the branches. So, the vine is in the branches through the sap, and these branches are connected to and belong to and are part of the vine. They are in the vine. It’s a helpful illustration. Jesus, of course, is divine. Jesus’s life is flowing through us as believers, and we are the branches, we were identified now is belonging to him. Here’s another illustration not found in the Bible, but one that’s been used for centuries in the Christian church. I actually used it when we preach through John’s Gospel a couple of years ago. I think it’s helpful, even if it’s a bit of an older illustration. It’s an illustration from a blacksmith’s shop. Any of us to remember the illustration from our study of John? I’d review my notes as well. So that’s okay. Taken illustration of a hot furnace. A burning fire at a temperature high enough to melt metal. There’s the fire and you take the metal pole an iron rod, a steel rod and you if you put it into the coals. So right away the metal rod is in the fire and if you leave it there long enough, what happens to the metal? As you can see in the picture itself? If you leave it long enough, the power of the fire actually starts to change the chemical makeup and the properties of that metal where you can actually say the fire is in the metal itself. We are in Christ, Christ is in us. All illustrations are limited. But hopefully this can help get us started for what we’re going to see in the 1st 3 chapters of Ephesians. This repeated phrase we are in Christ. Those who are in Christ are spiritually united to and identified with Christ such that all the blessings and the benefits obtained by Christ belong to them. We are joined to Jesus. So, all that Jesus is and has done for us is now ours. We are going to start unpacking this next week Lord willing with Ephesians 1:3 that says, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”. How have we received all of the blessings, because we are in Christ. So, union with Christ means that we are participants with him in the life that he lived on this planet Earth some 2000 years ago. We are joined to his perfect obedience of the law in our place. Union with Christ means that we are participants with Jesus in his death, when he was sacrificed in our place on the cross, our old self is considered dying with him on the cross. Union with Christ means that we are participants with Jesus in his resurrection. Meaning Jesus’ victory over sin and death is our victory over sin and death. Union with Christ means that we are participants with Jesus in his ascension and present rein from heaven, meaning we share in his rule over Satan and over demonic powers. Now there’s a lot in what I just quickly summarized. We’ve got a long sermon series ahead of us. We’ll take several sermons right here in chapter one to try to unpack all of that.
(Ephesian 1:1), “…..To the Saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”. Would you see an additional encouragement in this first, something we haven’t mentioned yet? There were Saints, in Ephesus living under the shadow of the temple of Artemus. There were Christian shopkeepers and builders and sailors and parents who were Saints because they were in Christ while still living in Ephesus. Just as scattered throughout KL this week on PJ and Mont Kiara, God’s holy people are scattered. His people who have union with Christ, we are in Christ while still being in Kuala Lumpur. And would we see the purpose and the freedom that gives us as we scatter from here every Sunday purpose in freedom for our work, for our witness, for our worries. And with that encouragement, our introduction ends with a prayer, (Ephesians 1:2), “Grace to you and peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”. I entitled this in the outline on always relevant prayer for two reasons. Every one of Paul’s 13 letters includes this prayer. He starts every one of his letters with a prayer that his readers would experience, grace and peace. Grace, of course, is how God provides for us, what we cannot attain ourselves. Grace is God’s goodness and love given to the undeserving and those of us who are already in Christ. We continue to need God’s grace. If we are going to live like the Saints, he calls us. It’s always relevant that we pray this for ourselves. God, with your grace, and your peace enabled me to live a holy life this week. It’s an always relevant prayer to pray for our kids, to pray for our church family, to pray in faith that because we are in Christ, God will answer this prayer and he will keep giving grace to its people. And when he gives grace, the result is peace. The result is, rest with God, wholeness well-being which comes from our union with Jesus. We can so easily move away from this peace that Christ promises us from this rest. That’s why this is an always relevant prayer. God, who is our father, will you continue by grace to give me peace? Anxiety so often fills my heart. Emotions and stress are so often weighing me down, and, God says, ask for my peace because of your union with Jesus in God’s grace, he’ll grant us this peace. Some actually suggest this, prayer is actually a short summary of the Gospel. What is the gospel? It’s peace through grace. Everyone wants peace, but peace can’t be found apart from the grace of God. Maybe after listening to today sermon after reading these two verses, you would admit that you are not in Christ. You’re not joined to Jesus. What Jesus did on the cross hasn’t been applied to your life. That’s a great place to be if you could admit that this morning and if so, I would just ask you next. Do you want peace? Do you want rest? And have you heard this morning that it’s available in Jesus? And if God is starting to put an interested, a spark of faith in your heart just used this verse, asked God for his grace. Look for this grace in his son, Jesus. Admit you need his grace and admit you can’t earn the love of God. See how it’s offering it to us in his son Jesus then so busy looking phrase by phrase in our introductory versus this morning. Did any of you noticed just how obvious the main theme of these two verses It’s Jesus himself mentioned three times, Paul the apostle of Christ. Jesus by the will of God to the saints who are deficits on our faithful in Christ, Jesus, Grace to you and peace from God, Our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus means savior. He’s the one who through his death and resurrection rescues us from our sin. Christ means Jesus is the promised Messiah the promised king that God said would come one day, he’s come. Lord tells us Jesus is the son of God. He’s the son of God who calls us to bow before him in repentance and then receive his grace and be filled with his peace. Oh God, lead each one of us in this room, into union with our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m going to pray that right now for us.