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I’m your host AMBrewster, and today we get into Ephesians chapter 3 as part of our Family United in God Series.
But before we start, I hope that you and your family listen to The Celebration of God Podcast. That podcast is not only another huge labor of love from Truth.Love.Family., it’s also just really practical and helpful for families who want to serve God better this year than they did the year before.
Also, in the description of today’s episode, you will find a ton of links that will help your family serve God better in your home. In addition to the free episode notes, transcript, and related resources for this episode, you will also have links for our Family Unity LifeWork.
These episodes are similar to the biblical family counseling I do, and the LifeWork is something I would assign to each family member to do before we met the next time.
It’s not busy work, it’s LifeWork because it’s all about helping us have a better life in Christ.
And — with that — let’s get into part 3.
If you take any of the blessings from Ephesians chapter 1, you could write additional chapters all about the blessings contained in that one blessing. And so in chapter 2, Paul takes the idea of new life in Christ and dedicates a whole chapter to it.
The important thing to note from chapter 2 is that our new life in Christ makes us different than we were before. We’ve been made into a new creation who is not allowed to walk in the sinful, lustful, fleshly desires that Satan requires.
But we all recognize that fighting the flesh and walking in the Spirit is very challenging because our flesh has not been eradicated. This makes it very easy to slip into old habits and put our “old man” back on. That’s why we’re called to remember that we were dead in our sins and remember what we now are in Christ.
That reminder is desperately important, especially when we find that our lives are experiencing the consequences of sin. Division, separation, sinful anger, anxiety, selfishness, and countless other sins will always hurt us and our relationships. Your life, just like mine, is filled with consequences that God wants to use to remind us that we should no longer be what we were. He has something better planned for us and our relationships.
Now, chapter 3 may not seem as glorious and directly applicable to us as the previous chapters because verses 1-13 seem to be about the unique task that God had specifically for the Apostle Paul. But in Paul’s description of his task we see two important things. 1. We see Who God is, and 2. We see that He deserves and demands our allegiance.
So, today we’re going to learn that the same thing that motivated Paul’s service to God should be our motivation in every facet of our lives.
If you’ve ever watched an older movie set in an ancient time then you may have witnessed someone saving another’s life. Many times in stories like these, the one who’s life was saved, pledges his life in service of his protector.
For example, in the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, Robin saves the life of Azeem, and Azeem refuses to let Robin go off by by himself. He tells Robin, “You have saved my life . . . I will stay with you until I have saved yours. It is my vow.”
This is commonly called a Life Debt. Why would someone do this?
From a strictly logical perspective, it makes all the sense in the world. Had you not saved my life, I would be dead. So, the life I’m living right now is a direct result of what you did for me. Therefore, it makes sense that I would owe you the life you gave me.
But, let’s consider this from a biblical perspective. When we are redeemed and given new life in Christ, our lives aren’t saved so much as life was given to us for the first time. The new life and the power to live it is a gift from God, and He deserves that we live it for Him.
In Galatians 2:20, Paul puts it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Now, for those of you who don’t know a lot about the Apostle Paul, let me simply say that he used to hate Jesus. He hated Jesus, and he hated anyone who was a disciple of Jesus. He hated them so much that he tried as hard as he could to get them imprisoned, and — if possible — killed.
But Jesus graciously showed Paul Who He was, and Paul trusted Jesus’ promises, was born again, and given new life.
So . . . should Paul just go back to what he had been doing before? Of course not! Instead, Paul dedicated his entire life to serving the Lord. And as far as we know, he was executed for his faith.
Knowing all of this will help us better understand Ephesians 3.
Of course, I hope that your family has already downloaded today’s LifeWork page and read Ephesians 3:1-21.
If you have, let’s walk through the chapter.
In the very first verse, Paul identifies himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. Paul went from persecuting Jesus to serving Him with his whole life. And he gets even more specific in the following verses that Jesus wanted Paul to share the Gospel with Gentiles — people who weren’t Jewish.
And Paul discusses the details of that all the way through verse 10.
He refers to himself as minister for Jesus, the least of all the saints, and a preacher. And there are other passages in the Bible that go into much more detail concerning the life of Paul. We know that though he used to be a respected Pharisee with an amazing education and religious pedigree in addition to having both Jewish and Roman citizenship, Paul could have had nearly anything he wanted. But instead, he traveled the known world preaching the Gospel and being persecuted for it. He was beaten multiple times and left for dead, ship-wrecked, imprisoned, and thousands of people hated him.
Why on earth would Paul give up all he had for a life like that?
Well, there are many reasons, but for today’s study, I want to focus on the concept of submission.
To submit is to put yourself under the authority of someone else. That’s exactly what Paul did from the moment he met Jesus on the road to Damascus until the day he died.
And it makes perfect sense. God had taken Paul’s spiritually dead body and given him spiritual life. How could Paul not owe God everything?
And not only did God give Paul new life, Ephesians 3:2 talks about the grace God gave him. Grace is unmerited favor. It’s something that Paul didn’t deserve.
Verses 3-5 talk about the revelation God gave him to understand God’s salvation plan.
Verse 6 talks about the promises of Christ in the Gospel.
Verse 7 refers to the power of God which He gave Paul.
Verse 8 talks about the unfathomable riches of Christ.
Verse 10 unfolds the glory of God’s wisdom which has been given to all saints.
Verse 12 says that all saints have boldness and confidence to access Jesus and His glory.
But all of these blessings weren’t just for Paul. Verse 14 starts, “For this reason . . . .”
For all the reasons Paul enumerated from verse 1 through 13, all born again Christians have blessings too.
Let me read them right from the text: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
What an amazing list!
We have access to the Father, all the riches of His glory, all of the Holy Spirit’s strength and power, the presence of Christ in our minds through faith, rooting and grounding in love, the ability to know and comprehend the expanse of God’s love to us and others, and being filled with the fullness of God.
How on earth could someone who was previously spiritually dead, but who has now received all of those glorious gifts not submit themselves to God?
This is why in Philippians 3:7-8 Paul says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.”
And then back in Ephesians 3, Paul ends this chapter by exalting the amazingness of God to whom he submitted his life: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
What does it mean “to Him be the glory”?
It means that all true followers of God should praise God and honor Him and help other people to see God for how majestic He really is.
And that, my friends, requires submission.
At the beginning I said that we would see Who God is, and we would see that He deserves and demands our allegiance. Because He has redeemed us and given us new life, He deserves for us to live for Him as His servants. He deserves to receive all glory and honor and praise for the miraculous blessings and eternal life He has richly lavished on us.
How could we not submit ourselves to Him?
Now, when it comes to your family, I’m sure you can imagine how if everyone in your home loved God and desired to serve Him the way the Apostle Paul served Him, you would all experience amazing unity. You would all passionately live to serve the Lord, and that includes serving each other.
Now, if you’re all familiar with how Paul writes, then you know that Paul likes to focus the first half of his letters on doctrine. Doctrine is a word we use to describe teaching about God.
And then he likes to spend the last half of his letters applying that doctrine to our daily lives.
So, what does that mean for us?
Well, so far we have been staring directly at God and His most amazing attributes and gifts to us. We’ve learned about His mercy and grace and love and redemption and new life and power and glory and amazing plans and inheritances and spiritual blessings and so many other glorious truths.
And in chapter 3 Paul just gave us a practical example of how he responded to those truths as well as layering on even more of the majesty of God.
And now Paul is going to start to get very practical. In chapters 4 through 6, Paul is going to explain that if we have been made alive in Christ, this is how we’re supposed to live.
And — let me give you a sneak peek — one of the very first responsibilities all Christians have is to pursue unity with others.
And then Paul is going to explain exactly how we can pursue that unity.
For now, though, I want you to ask yourself the very important questions at the end of your LifeWork.
Do you truly believe that God is as amazing as Paul has described Him in chapters 1-3?
If you have been given new life, do you believe that you owe God a Life Debt?
And here’s a really important one: As Paul describes how we should obey God (in chapters 4-6), are you willing to submit to His expectations for your life?
The LifeWork will then give you some space to explain why you are willing to submit to God’s expectations for your life . . . or why you’re not.
Now, in conclusion let me explain why theses questions are so important, and why you need to discuss them as a family.
In order for us to live successful lives — in any endeavor — three things are required of us.
Paul has started Ephesians by teaching us what we need to know and trying to help us understand it all. And then he’s going to tell us how to live out those wonderful truths.
Assuming that you have heard and understood everything we’ve talked about over the past three sessions, the real question is whether or not you’re actually going to do anything about it.
You see, it’s really easy to say you’re a Christian and say that you love God and that you believe God. But it’s something completely different to truly submit to God by obeying Him.
God wants you to either believe Him or call Him a liar. There is no middle ground. Either everything He says is truth that we must obey, or we can burn the Bible and refuse to believe anything He says.
So, if truly believe that God is Who He has revealed Himself to be in these three chapters, and if you truly recognize that you owe God a Life Debt to serve Him and obey Him . . . then it will be the easiest thing in the world for you to say, “I know it will be hard because I’m a sinner, but I’m willing to obey whatever God commands me.”
And if you’re not willing to say that, then will you please be honest enough to say, “I don’t believe God is Who He says He is, I don’t believe I own Him anything, and I don’t think I have to do anything He says.”
Because if you say you believe in God, but you refuse to obey Him, you’re like the person in I John who claimed he had a relationship with God but lived in the darkness of his sin. He was a liar, he was unforgiven, and he was not a born again saint.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t say you’re a child of God and then plan to live for yourself. If you truly are a saint, then you need to live like one.
I truly pray that everyone in your family is at least willing to do your best to obey God.
Now, again, I don’t want to deceive you into thinking that it’s going to be easy. And I don’t want you to think that if you say you’re going to submit to God that you will never sin again. In fact, the last chapter of Ephesians is going to describe the life of a Christian as a war between our sinful flesh and our new life in Christ.
But the real question for today is “Are you willing to submit to God?”
Please share this series with your pastor, your friends, the people in your church, and on social media. And if you think your family needs some specialized help, please write us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com, or call us at (828) 423-0894.
And I hope your whole family will join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to best worship God in our families.
To that end, we’ll be discussing what it takes to be a family unified in God.
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