ON BENDED KNEE

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3: 14-20

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Ephesians 3:14)

Our passage today is actually a prayer that Paul prayed for the readers of his epistle. Studying this prayer will help us grow in our prayer lives. Paul was a man of prayer. He recognized the great power that comes from power. Prayer is a way for us to commune with God. It brings us into a greater awareness of His presence. God delights in our prayers. He wants us to cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7). We must also remember that prayer is a way that we can express our praise and thanksgiving to God. It allows us to be honest with God as we confess our sins and weaknesses.

Paul had just mentioned that we who are in Christ have bold and confident access to God — “This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him” (vs. 11,12). We have access to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why we end most of our prayers in the name of Jesus. It is a way to express our understanding that Christ makes access to the Father possible.

Prayer is essential for spiritual development. It is one of the primary means of growth, along with Bible reading and meditation. If you look at the great moments of spiritual renewal throughout history, you will find that all of them were centered in prayer. And if you look at some of the giants of the faith, you will notice that they were men and women of prayer.

Let me leave you with two quotes about prayer:

“Prayer is the most important work in the kingdom of God. It is our Lord’s will that we should enter into this work as soon as we have been won for God.” (O. Hallesby)

“Prayer is climbing up into the heart of God.” (Martin Luther)

Heavenly Father, thank You for the great privilege of prayer. Thank You that I have bold and confident access to You through faith in my Savior Jesus Christ. Thank You for allowing me to cast all my cares upon You. I know that You care for me. Today I come climbing up into Your heart. Hear my prayers, Lord. In the name of Jesus, I pray.

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GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:11-13

“This was according to the eternal purpose that He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him.” (Ephesians 3:11,12)

It is so comforting to know that we have a sovereign God who has an eternal purpose. Earlier in this epistle, Paul wrote these words — “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). God works out everything according to His eternal purpose.

God’s eternal purpose involves His choosing a people to be His own — “Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:4,5). God chose us in eternity past and He predestined us to be His adopted sons and daughters. This was in accordance to His eternal purpose.

The sovereign Lord works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will, which is another way to describe His eternal purpose. Whatever comes our way is part of God’s grand purpose. This eternal purpose of God is realized in Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is at the center of God’s eternal purpose.

Part of God’s eternal purpose is to have a people who bear witness to the manifold wisdom of God — “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God may now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (v. 10). It was God’s plan for the unsearchable riches of Christ to be proclaimed to the Gentiles (v. 8).

We can rejoice and be thankful that we are included in the eternal purpose of God. All of history is moving toward the consummation of all things when Jesus Christ returns and ushers in the new heavens and new earth. According to God’s eternal purpose, we are destined to spend eternity in the new heavens and new earth. We will be glorified with Christ and enjoy eternal fellowship with Him and with one another.

Sovereign Lord, how comforting it is to know that You have an eternal purpose and that You are working all things according to that purpose. Thank You that I am part of Your eternal purpose. Before the foundation of the world, You chose me to be Your adopted son. According to Your eternal purpose, I am destined for glory. I rest in Your sovereignty and know that You work all things according to Your eternal purpose in Christ.

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THE CHURCH’S WITNESS

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:7-13

“So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:10)

This is an amazing statement. Its meaning is easily missed. We know that Christ has called us to be His witnesses, His ambassadors. Most often we think of our calling to be witnesses to be about bearing witness to other human beings. We are responsible to take the message of the gospel to all peoples on earth. But in our passage today, we see that our witness goes beyond human beings. It actually involves bearing witness to angelic beings — “the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

God’s great plan for the church is that His people live according to God’s way so that angels will be able to see God’s wisdom. There is a cosmic significance to what we do as members of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to make manifest in our lives and characters the excellencies of our Maker-Redeemer, so that angels may see His great wisdom.

The goal is for angels to see “the manifold wisdom of God.” Literally it means the “multi-colored” wisdom of God, the infinite diversity of God’s wisdom. You see it in creation. Look around and observe how incredibly diverse creation is. Look at the landscape — mountains, plains, seashore. Look at the vegetation — trees, plants, flowers. Look up into the heavens and see the constellations. God created all these things out of His manifold wisdom.

You see God’s manifold wisdom when you observe human beings. We are all different. We have different personalities, traits, features, gifts, abilities, and looks. Each of us was formed by God in our mother’s wombs. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Specifically, Paul is referring to the manifold wisdom of God that is seen in redemption and reconciliation. God chose to redeem us by the blood of His Son. Jesus makes reconciliation possible — reconciliation with God and reconciliation with other human beings. In Paul’s day, the reconciliation to which he was referring was between Jews and Gentiles. God made these two groups, who had been separated for years, into one in His Church. Christ broke down the walls of hostility that separated them. Angels who observed this gracious act of God saw the manifold wisdom of God at work.

The way we live is always a witness. It can be good or bad. God has called us to live in such a way that human beings and angels may see in us the manifold wisdom of our God. How we live our lives is of the utmost importance.

Lord Jesus, I want to be a faithful witness of Your manifold wisdom. Give me the strength to live my life in a way that brings glory to You. Enable me to remember that my life is bearing witness to other human beings and to angels. Let them see in me Your manifold wisdom and grace.

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THE VERY LEAST OF ALL THE SAINTS

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:7-13

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8)

I am amazed at the humility of the Apostle Paul. He said that he was “the least of all the saints.” This was no false humility, nor was it hyperbole. Paul really believed that about himself. In I Corinthians 15:9,10a, he wrote of himself — “For I am the least of the apostles and do not deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.” Perhaps this is the reason Paul felt this way about himself. He actually persecuted God’s people for a season. But God made him “a minister according to the gift of God’s grace” (v. 7).

We see the gospel worked out in Paul’s life. The gospel says that we are a whole lot worse than we think we are, but are loved and accepted by Jesus Christ more than we could every dream or hope. Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst” (I Timothy 1:15). Paul knew how undeserving he was — worst of all sinners, least of the apostles, the very least of all the saints.

But Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners like Paul and you and me! We must not think too highly of ourselves. We must be aware of the great danger of self-righteousness. We should be willing to join Paul in stating our unworthiness. It is then that we can appreciate the gift of God’s grace — His forgiveness, His steadfast love, He unconditional acceptance. We must join Paul in saying — “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

God took a broken sinner like Paul and give him the privilege of being a minister of God’s grace to the Gentiles. When we humble ourselves before our God and accept His gracious gift of salvation, God will use us, as undeserving as we are!

Lord Jesus, I confess along with Paul that I am an unworthy sinner. I do not deserve anything from You. Yet You have poured out your love and grace on me. You died for me and gave me the gift of eternal life. All I can say is what Paul said — “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

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THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:1-6

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Ephesians 3:6)

Paul earlier addressed the subject of the mystery of Christ in the first chapter of this epistle — “Making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9,10).

Paul calls this a mystery because the truth of it was previously hidden or only vaguely known. But now the mystery has been revealed in Christ. In the broad sense, the mystery is that God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together under on head, Jesus Christ. All of history is moving to a consummation when all things will be restored and made perfect under Christ.

In our passage today, we see that part of this mystery is the inclusion of the Gentiles into the family of God. Jews and Gentiles will be brought together under Jesus. Christ dwells through His Spirit in the hearts and lives of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. The former generations had not understood this; but now God had chosen Paul to preach this message — “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

God called Paul to be the missionary to the Gentiles. As you read through the book of Acts, you will see how Paul fulfilled this calling. He made three missionary journeys through which many Gentiles came to faith in Jesus Christ. Many churches were planted in Gentile cities and a major gospel movement took place.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same thing happened today? I long to see a powerful gospel movement take place within our country and around the world. We do see a major expansion of God’s kingdom in certain parts of the world today — Latin America, Africa, and China. Millions are coming to faith in Christ. Let’s pray for a gospel movement to take place in our own country as well.

O Holy Spirit, I pray for a true revival to take place in my country. I pray for a gospel movement that will draw many into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I confess that I get discouraged when I see how far our country has turned away from You. But I know that You have the power to bring sweeping change as You move in the hearts of people. I also pray that many gospel movements would take place in other places around the world. Thank You that we Gentiles can now be a part of Your family.

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STEWARDS OF GOD’S GRACE

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:1-6

“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus in behalf of your Gentiles — assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” (Ephesians 3:1-3)

We have seen how amazing God’s grace is. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul had been given a special calling by God. He was to take the message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. The gospel had been assigned to Paul in sacred trust. God revealed the gospel to him. The gospel is not a man-made religion; it is a revelation from God. Thus, Paul wrote about “the stewardship of God’s grace.”

All believers have been given this stewardship of God’s grace — “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (I Corinthians 5:18,19).

God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). God has entrusted the gospel to us. We are stewards of God’s grace and, therefore, we are responsible to share it with others. Think of it! God uses us in the process of building His Church. He makes His appeal THROUGH US to other people!

Jesus tells us that we are to be light in a world that is filled with darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). He says no one would take a lamp and hide it under a bed. Instead he would put it on a lamp stand to give light to the whole room — “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

We are stewards of God’s grace. We have been entrusted with the gospel and we are responsible to God how we handle the message of grace. He calls us to be faithful stewards of His grace on behalf of those who do not have it. We are His ambassadors here on earth and God makes His appeal to those who do not have the gospel through us.

Lord Jesus, thank You for bringing the gospel of grace to bear upon my life. Now that I am a recipient of that grace, I have a responsibility to share it with others. You have called me to be a steward of Your grace. I pray that you give me an opportunity today to be an ambassador for You.

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THE LORD’S HOLY TEMPLE

“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22)

Paul is describing the church, the people of God, as a holy temple. The foundation of this temple is made of “the apostles and prophets,” meaning the teachings of the apostles and the prophets (the Old and New Testaments). The core of their teaching is the gospel. The gospel teaches that human beings are sinners by nature. They are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (vs. 1-3). The gospel tells us that God, being rich in mercy and love, is a God of grace. He sent His Son to redeem His people from their sins by His death and resurrection. Jesus became their substitute who bore the punishment for their sins. Three days after His death, He was raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. This is the foundation — the only foundation. Nothing can be added to it.

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone. A cornerstone is a primary foundation stone at the angle of a structure by which the architect fixes a standard for the bearings of the walls and cross walls throughout the building. The cornerstone not only holds together all these structural foundation stones, it also binds them together and hold all the walls together. It is at the corner, and everything is supported by it and everything is held together by it. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of the Church.

Notice that this temple is growing — “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 22). This temple is in the process of being built. God is building His Church. This is a process that is going on right now. Every day God is adding new people to His Church. The emphasis is on the work of God. God is the one who builds His temple.

The Church is a dwelling place for God. God lives in His Church, in the lives of His people. God actually lives in us — “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:18).

The temple (God’s people) will be completed one day. Everyone chosen by God for this building will be there. When it is finished, the consummation of this present age will come. God’s people will be glorified with Christ and we will spend eternity in the new heavens and new earth.

We must remember that we are a part of the greater work of God. We, together with all believers, are vital members of the Church of our Lord Jesus. We are individuals who belong together with other believers to be the dwelling place of God.

Lord Jesus, thank You for making me a part of Your Church. Don’t let me take the nature of Your Church for granted. It is holy and blessed because You dwell within Your people. Grant me grace to be a vital and growing member of the work You are doing in building Your Church.

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A NEW IDENTITY

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:19-22

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2:19)

Paul is describing the Church in terms of a kingdom and a family. We are no longer strangers and aliens. These terms suggest the idea of one who finds himself or herself in a place that is not our own. In Christ, we are citizens with the saints and members of His household.

The Church is like a kingdom. We have a King. He is no ordinary king; He is the King of kings and the Lord or lords. He is the Son of God — the King of heaven. We are His citizens, who are known as saints. We have been set apart by our King and made holy by His blood.

As citizens we have access to our King. The barriers are gone; the veil has been torn in two. We can go straight into His presence. As citizens, we are under the protection of our King. He defends us and provides for us. He fights for us and ultimately gives us the victory.

There is a future glory to this kingdom. We live in the “now” of the kingdom, but there is a “not yet” of it to come. There is a day coming when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10,11). He will come again and set up the fullness of His Kingdom.

The Church is also described as a family. We are members of God’s household. God is our Father. Yes, our King is also our Father. He is a gracious and loving Father. Nothing we do will ever separate us from His love. We can call Him, “Abba, Father!” And we have a special relationship with our elder Brother Jesus. We are joint heirs with Him. We have an inheritance waiting for us that is pure and undefiled, reserved in heaven for us. The Church is far more than a building or a denomination; it is made up of God’s people. We are part of God’s family.

We have a new identity. We are no longer strangers and aliens; we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household!

My Father and my King, I bow before You in awe. You took me in when I was a stranger and alien. You gave me a new identity. I am a fellow citizen with the saints in Your kingdom and a member of Your family. I belong to You. You have bought me with a price and I am no longer my own. It is so comforting to know that You are both my Father and my King.

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CHRIST, OUR PEACE

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:14-18

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility…and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14,18)

The root problem of our troubles is sin. That is why the world is in the state it is in. That is why there is so much conflict, division, and strife between people and nations. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Sin leads to separation. Sin causes conflicts and separation between human beings and it also causes separation from God.

The only answer to our sin problem is Jesus Christ — “For He Himself is our peace.” He not only makes peace; He is peace. He makes peace between people who are in conflict with one another. In the case here in Ephesians 2, Christ made Jews and Gentiles one by breaking down the barrier of the dividing wall. The enmity that served as a barrier was primarily the ceremonial law of the Old Testament. The way to God in the Old Testament was through sacrifice, burnt offerings, and elaborate rituals. But now in Christ those things are gone; they have been done way with. Christ is the fulfillment of these things. Now both believing Jews and believing Gentiles have been brought together in the church, which is described as “one new man in place of two, so making peace” (v. 14). Christ breaks down walls of hostility and makes reconciliation between human beings possible.

Christ also makes peace with God possible. Sin separates human beings from God. It is Jesus alone who can reconcile us to God — “And might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (v. 18). Jesus makes reconciliation with God possible through His work on the cross. Our sins are taken away and they are paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross.

The only answer to the sin problem is Jesus Christ — “For He Himself is our peace.” Have you experienced His peace? Are you at peace with God? Are you at peace with other human beings? If not, flee to the Prince of Peace, our Savior Jesus Christ. He makes peace possible for He is our peace.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, thank You for making it possible for me to have peace with God. Thank You for reconciling me to God through Your work on the cross. Also, thank You for making it possible for me to have peace with other human beings. You have broken down the walls of hostility and given me the ability to be reconciled with those who have offended me and with those I have offended. You Yourself are my peace.

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