John T. Willis

Friday, April 30, 2010

Saved by Grace through Faith--Ephesians 2:1-10

A new subject begins with Ephesians 2:1, so Ephesians 2:1-10 is a new paragraph in this letter. This paragraph clearly falls into two parts: (1) The way human beings lived before God changed their lives--2:1-3; (2) God's magnificent transformational work in the lives of human beings--2:4-10. This is a powerful text, because it is the story of every human being.

I. The Way Human Beings Lived before God changed their Lives. Ephesians 2:1-3. This little section contains the same thought as Colossians 1:21. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul enumerates FIVE characteristics of human beings living before God changed their lives.
a. We were "dead through the trespasses and sins in which we once lived"--2:1-2a. The word "dead" here refers to spiritual [not physical] death, as often in scripture
--see Psalms 30:3; 33:19; Jonah 2:6; Job 5:20; Luke 15:24, 32; 1 John 3:14; John 5:24; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; Colossians 2:13; Revelation 3:1-2. The phrase "in which we once lived" portrays life as a journey. To live a life is to follows a path. There are two possible ways: to death or to life--see Psalms 1:1-2; 34:12-22; Matthew 7:13-14.
b. We "followed the course of this world"--2:2b. Here there is a distinct contrast between "heaven" and "this world"--see Colossians 3:1-2.
c. We "followed the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient"--2:2c-d. The "ruler" or "spirit" at work is the devil. He constantly seeks to lead human beings away from God. See Ephesians 6:11;
1 Peter 5:8-9. The "disobedient" are not merely those who lack compliance to God, but actively rebel against God. See Isaiah 30:9; 1 Peter 2:8; 4:17.
d. We "ALL once lived among the disobedient in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses"--2:3a. "All" here includes all human beings--Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free--everyone. Passages like Colossians 3:5-7; Galatians 5:19-21; Romans 1:18-2:24 describe in detail these passions and desires.
e. We "were by nature children of wrath, like everyone"--2:3b. To be "by nature" does not mean that all human beings receive the "original sin" of Adam which is destined to hand down from generation to generation. The idea that there was a "FALL" in Genesis 3 is unfounded biblically. Rather, all human beings receive a strong influence from their parents and society and traditions, many of which are sinful; and so, each person is surrounded with sin. And thus, we all deserve God's wrath.

II. God's Magnificent Transformational Work in the Lives of Human Beings. Ephesians 2:4-10. Verses 4-10 are a Christian hymn much like Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 3:16; etc. First, Paul proclaims God's true nature (2:4); then Paul declares what God does for lost human beings (2:5-10).
a. God saves human beings, not because they do anything at all, but because of WHO GOD IS. God, BY NATURE, is "rich in mercy" (2:4, 7), which the Bible declares repeatedly throughout--see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18-19; Psalms 86:5, 15; 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17, 27; Joel 2:12-13; Jonah 4:2; and often. God has "great love with which he loved us"--see Deuteronomy 7:7-9; Lamentations 3:22-23, 31-33; Hosea
11:1-4; and often. God is a God of "grace"--2:8. See Exodus 34:6-7; etc.
b. As a result of God's mercy and love, God does several important things for human beings.
1. God makes us alive together with Christ--2:5. Previously, we were "dead" spiritually. We had no hope. BUT, God "MADE US ALIVE" spiritually by his miraculous power just as He made Jesus Christ alive in his resurrection from the dead--see John 5:21; 6:63; Romans 4:17; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:15, 22, 36, 44-45; 2 Corinthians
3:6; 1 Peter 3:18.
2. God "raises us up with Christ"--2:6a. This is the same language in Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:11-13 in baptism.
3. God "seats us with Christ in the heavenly places"--2:6b, just as Christ "seated" with Jesus Christ on God the Father's right hand--see Acts 2:32-26; Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; and often.
4. God "saves" us, "not the result of works," but by God's wonderful grace. If we could save ourselves by our good works, we could boast before God and to others. But we have nothing about to boast. We are lost, and in need of mercy and love and grace. Salvation is a "gift of God," not good achievements or moral superiority. Good works are not a basis or means of salvation, nor a desirable goal, but God's gift bestowed on all who are lost. 2:8-9.
c. As Christians, God has miraculously "created" us spiritually in Christ Jesus. AS A NATURAL RESULT of God's previous gift of salvation, we do good works, not to save us, but as the thankful "overflow" of God's salvation for us. 2:10. See Philippians 2:12-14.

As all know, Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of the most important texts in the entire Bible. Here Paul emphasizes God, not human beings; salvation as a gift of God, not human good works; the freedom of doing good works are the natural outflow of God's prior salvation of human beings.

I hope YOU appreciate this wonderful text. Share YOUR thoughts and insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The May 2010 issue of the National Geographic published a brief article on the Iberian Lynx, informing everyone that this animal is almost extinct. Experts are trying to save and increase the population of the Iberian Lynx--in southern Spain and eastern Portugal.

A lynx is one of four species of medium-sized wild cats. A lynx has a short tail and tufts of black hair on the top of its ears. It has a ruff under the neck with almost invisible black bars resembling a bow tie. It has large padded paws to walk on snow, and long whiskers on the face. The color of the body varies from medium brown to gold or beige-white. It is marked with dark brown spots, especially on the limbs. All species of lynx have white fur on their chests, bellies and on the insides of their legs as extension of the chest and belly fur.

A lynx has extremely good hearing and has 28 teeth, which stab deeply into the prey. The smallest species is the bobcat and the Canada Lynx, weighing between 22 and 29 pounds. The largest is the Eurasian Lynx, weighing 40 to 55 pounds.

The lynx is usually solitary, although small groups of lynx travel and hunt together occasionally. Mating occurs in late witner and gives birth from 2 to 6 kittens once a year. The gestation time is 70 days. The young stay with the mother for one more winter, approximately nine months, before they move to live on their own. A lynx lives in crevices or under ledges. It feeds on white-tailed deer, reindeer, roe deer, small red deer, chamois, snowshoe hares, fish, fox, sheep, pets, squirrels, mice, turkeys, goats, ptarmigan, voles, and grouse. The lynx lives in shrubs, reeds, and tall grass. Although this animal hunts on the ground, it can climb trees and can swim swiftly, catching fish.

Experts are attempting to bring lynx into the Slovenian Alps, the Croatian regions of Gorski Kotar, and Switzerland. The lynx is rather common in Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and Poland. The Canadian Lynx is common in Canada and Alaska. A few lynx has been seen in North Carolina.

The lynx is considered a national animal in the Republic of Macedoni, and the national animal of Romania. The lynx is the mascot of the Minnesota Womens Basketball Team.

The lynx is another example of God's unique, marvelous creatures. I hope YOU appreciate the lynx. Much more than this, I hope YOU are thankful for and worship the God of the Creator of all that is.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Monday, April 26, 2010

Paul's Prayer for God's People at Ephesus--Ephesians 1:15-23

After declaring God's spiritual blessings to all who will receive him (Ephesians 1:3-14), Paul now utters a powerful pray in behalf of God's people at Ephesus in Ephesians 1:15-23. This prayer falls into three parts.

I. Paul's spiritual connection with Christians at Ephesus. Ephesians 1:15-16.
a. Paul says he is well aware of the active and living faith, love, and hope of Christians at Ephesus [1:15, 18]. Faith, love, and hope are the three pillars of Christian faith, as Paul emphasizes in Colossians 1:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8;
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4; and elsewhere. 1:15.
b. Paul assures Christians at Ephesus that he does not cease to give thanks for them in his prayers. 1:16.

II. Paul Prays that God will do Three Things for Christians at Ephesus. Ephesians
a. Paul prays that "the Father of glory" will give Christians "a spirit of wisdom and revelation as one comes to know God--1:17. "The God of glory" is a term often used to describe God in the Old Testament--see Exodus 24:16; 33:22; 40:34-38; Numbers 16:19, 42; Deuteronomy 33:2. This refers to the splendor or magnificence of God's appearance and presence. Paul uses this same expression in Ephesians 1:18;
2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:4, 6. When the Holy Spirit of God comes into the heart and life of an individual, that individual becomes a different person, a new person. See Ephesians 4:23. In this context, "wisdom and revelation" are not human learning, but a special gift of God.
b. Paul prays that God will enlighten the eyes of the hearts of Christians.
1:18a. This is inward enlightenment or illumination, an ongoing process given by the Holy Spirit. See Ephesians 4:17-19; 5:8, 11.
c. Paul prays that God will cause Christians to know (1) the hope God has given his people; (2) the riches of God's inheritance; and (3) the immeasurable greatness of God's power for those who believe--1:18b-19. Verses 19-21 emphasize the "power" of God at work among Christians by using the term "power" four times in these three verses.

III. Paul concludes in this prayer by specifically naming three things God has already done for God's people. Ephesians 1:20-23.
a. Paul declares that God put God's power at work in Christ when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Christ at God's right hand in the heavenly places. 1:20-21. Since God raised Christ from the dead, this is an assurance that God will raise all faithful human beings from the dead. See 1 Corinthians 15:12-28.
b. Paul declares that God has put all things under God's feet. 1:22a. Accordingly, God has all authority over all human powers of all kinds.
c. Paul declares that God has made Jesus Christ the head over all things for the church. 1:22b-23. The church is the "body" of Christ. Christ is the fullness of God.

These affirmations of Paul are powerful, motivating, and insightful. They certainly encourage the people of God.

How do YOU respond to this wonderful prayer of Paul? Share YOUR insights with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis