BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS!

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:13-18

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

We have seen how the Gentiles were not part of God’s family in the past times. They were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope, and without God in the world” (v. 12). But, things changed. God acted and brought them into His family.

Notice the first word of verse 13 — “BUT.” Whenever you see this little word in the Bible, you know that something very significant is going to follow. “But now in Christ Jesus” God has changed the relationship He had with the Gentiles. They have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Paul’s argument is that at one time the Gentiles were far away, but now they have been brought near. This refers to their relationship to God. Both Jews and Gentiles who trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ are brought near to God. This is possible only through the blood of Jesus Christ. His blood paid the price that a righteous and holy God requires for sin.

God’s punishment for sin is death — “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, sin must be paid for . The gospel message is that God took my sins an imputed them to Jesus Christ. On the cross Jesus’ blood made atonement for my sins.

Because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have been brought near to God. If you are a Jew and believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, you are brought near to God by His blood. If you are a Gentile and believe that Jesus is You one and only Savior, you are brought near to God through His blood. The point is that it is only through the blood of Jesus Christ that a person can come to God. There is no other way.

Lord Jesus, at one time I was far off, separated from You, without hope. But God brought me near through Your blood. You shed Your precious blood for an unworthy person like me. You paid the price that I rightly owe God for my sins. You took my place on the cross, suffered the wrath and displeasure of a holy God as my substitute. I can never thank You enough for what You have done for me.

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THE DISTINCTION

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:11-22

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made of hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11,12)

In order to understand this passage, we have to go back to Old Testament times. There was a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews originated from God’s call to Abraham from paganism. God made a promise to Abraham that he would become a great nation. The Jewish people are those descended from Abraham and his family. God declared them to be His covenant people — “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

All the other people on earth were called “the Gentiles.” These people did not received the blessings of God (with a few notable exceptions — Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, etc.). Paul, in this passage, is reminding the Gentiles of their state prior to being engrafted into the people of God. They were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Therefore, what Paul is saying is that in past times the Gentiles were not part of God’s family. There were two clear-cut distinctions — Jews and Gentiles. But now this is no longer true — “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). Christ has now brought the Gentiles into the family of God. The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Thus, Paul is saying that the distinction is now gone.

However, the problem in Paul’s day was that the barriers were gone but the distinction was still there practically. There were believing Jews in Paul’s day who wanted to maintain the distinction. They called the Gentiles “the uncircumcision.” These Jewish believers wanted the Gentiles to become Jews ceremonially, mainly to be circumcised. They missed the point that circumcision signified something that takes place in the heart. The physical act is done in the flesh by human hands. However, it is what God does in the heart of people that matters. Like Baptism, circumcision was an outward sign of the inward work of God on a person’s heart.

Today there is but one true distinction, the one God made — those who are in Christ and those who are separated from Him. All other distinctions have been leveled — “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:28). We must be very careful not to create any other barriers between believing people. We are all one in Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank You for bringing me near to You by Your blood shed for me. Thank You that I am no longer separated from you, a stranger to the covenants of promise, without hope, and without God in the world. You have made it possible for me to be a part of the family of God by Your grace.

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FOR GOOD WORKS

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

God has a definite design in mind for His people — He wants us to be like Jesus Christ — “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Throughout our lives, we are being fashioned and molded to become more and more like Jesus. This is a long process. We are works in progress. God has taken hold of us and He is fashioning us — “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

The product of God’s work in us is “good works.” These good works are a fruit of the work that God is doing within us. What are these good works? First, we are called to be holy people — “that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). The Bible is clear that we are to be different from others. We are to be like Christ. Holy means that we have been set apart for God’s service. Our primary calling is to worship and serve Him.

Second, good works also mean service to one another. These good works are proof of our faith — “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Take a moment and read James 2:14-17. James tells us that these good works involve action. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we have opportunities to serve others.

Third, the good works mean obedience to God’s will. We obey because we love Him — “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Obedience is a sign of our love for Christ — “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (I John 5:3). God has revealed His will in the Bible. We are called to be obedient to the teachings of Scripture.

We are responsible to walk in these good works. They should be a part of our everyday living. They should happen because we are serious about our walk with God.

Consider these questions: Do you sense God’s work in your life? Are you aware that God has taken hold of you? Is your life different now than it was in the past? Out of love for God, are you serious about being obedient to Him? Are you walking in good works? All of those are evidences of salvation. Remember that you are a work in progress. God has not finished with you yet!

Lord Jesus, I love You dearly. I desire to honor You with my life. I know that You have called me to serve You and others. You have prepared good works for me to do. Let them be a part of my everyday life. By Your Spirit enable me to be obedient to Your will and purpose. I cannot do this in my own strength, but I have You living in me and the life I now live I live by faith in You.

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HIS WORKMANSHIP

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Paul has been giving us a clear argument that our salvation is entirely by God’s grace. We have no room to boast for God is the One who does the work. Even our faith is a gift from God. Thus, we read, “For we are His workmanship.”

What does this mean? It means that we do not make ourselves Christians. Instead, it means what it says — “We are HIS workmanship.” It is God who is the workman. One of the best illustrations in Scripture to explain this is the picture of God as potter. He takes a lump of clay (us) and begins to work on it. He rounds it out, forms it, and makes a vessel from it — “Yet, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). The work is God’s, not ours. He is the workman, the artist, who is producing a piece of work.

How does God do this work? He does it first and foremost through Jesus Christ. We were made alive in Him, raised with Him, and seated with Him in the heavenly places. In other words, God makes us Christians by applying to us what He has done in Christ. We receive the benefit of His death — payment for sin. We receive the benefit of His life — His resurrection, His teachings, His love. Jesus Christ did for us what we could not do ourselves.

God uses several means to shape us and mold us. We have His Spirit living in us to apply the work of Christ to us. The Spirit changes us from the inside out. God also uses the Scripture. The Bible is God’s instruction book. It tells us how God wants us to live. He also uses Christian community in which we are able to work out the implications of the gospel together.

What is the work God does in us? He convicts us of sin and of our need for a Savior. He enlightens our hearts and minds to the truth of His Word. He makes us aware of the new nature that is ours upon regeneration. We are His workmanship. He is the potter and we are the clay.

Lord God, I know that You have taken hold of me. I am a work in progress. You will complete that work and prepare me for eternity. Let me be sensitive to the work You are doing in me. Enable me to yield to Your Spirit and hear His still, small voice. I have a long way to go, but my desire is to be conformed more and more into the image of Your Son.

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BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

This passage makes it abundantly clear that it is by grace THROUGH FAITH that we are saved. Once God has effectually called us to Himself and regenerated us (caused us to be born again), we respond in faith. Faith is taking God at His Word and acting upon it. Faith involves having a knowledge of the facts. It is when our spiritual eyes are opened to God’s truth so that we can understand it.

Saving faith involves more than intellectual assent; it also means that we have conviction that what God says is true. It involves a strong commitment to God’s truth. Ultimately, faith involves trust. We put our trust in God and in His Word. We are willing to stake our lives on it.

Faith in Jesus Christ means that we know who He is and what He has done for us. It means that we have a deep conviction of these things and that we trust Him alone for salvation. This is true saving faith.

Let’s be clear about faith. Faith, like our salvation, is a gift from God — “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Understanding this is very important. Some people believe that our salvation is a 50/50 proposition. God does His part and we do our part by believing. Hopefully, you realize that this is not true. God does it all. He saves us by grace and gives us the faith to believe. If we hold the 50/50 view, we make faith a work. Then our salvation would be grace plus works.

Salvation is by grace through faith. Faith, a gift from God, is the instrument through which we are justified. Faith is not the cause of our salvation. Jesus Christ along with His work is the cause. Faith, on the other hand, is the channel — the instrument — through which our salvation comes. Therefore, we have no reason to boast — “so that no one may boast.” Faith is the gift of God and is the channel through which our salvation comes.

Gracious Lord, thank You for choosing me, making me alive in Christ and giving me the gift of faith. I know that I am justified through faith and therefore, have peace with You because of the work of my Savior Jesus. Enable me to live my life by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.

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BY GRACE

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:8-10

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

It is clear that we are Christians entirely and solely by the grace of God. Grace is God’s unmerited, undeserved favor. It is an action that arises entirely from the gracious character of God. Therefore, salvation is solely the result of the work of God. We have nothing to add to it.

What is important to realize is that salvation comes from God in spite of ourselves. It is unmerited favor given to those who have positive demerit on their accounts. We all have a sin record that makes us unworthy and undeserving. Grace is not something we in any sense deserve or merit. In fact, we deserve nothing except the punishment and displeasure of God. Yet, out of His own immense love, immeasurable grace, and wondrous mercy, God has granted salvation to us. That is the meaning of the term grace. Grace is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”

God initiates His work of salvation in us when He causes us to be made alive in Christ. We were spiritually dead (vs. 1-3), but God made us alive (vs. 4-6). It is by grace that we have been saved. Thus Paul says — “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Does your idea of how you became a Christian give you any grounds whatsoever for being proud of yourself? Dot it in any way reflect credit upon you? If it does, you have missed the teaching of the Bible.

Paul knew about boasting (Philippians 3:3-6). Before he was a Christian, there was never a more self-satisfied or self-assured person. He was proud of his family heritage, his religious zeal, his morality and his knowledge. But, when he was saved by God’s grace, he came to realize that none of these things matter as far as salvation is concerned — “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7).

Salvation by grace is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world. All other religions teach a works salvation. They insist that one must earn the favor of God or the gods. One must work hard to be saved. Some who profess to be Christians fail to grasp that salvation is by grace alone. They believe that they must add their own efforts to what Jesus has done. Religion, man’s effort to earn salvation, is one of the greatest enemies of the gospel. It leads to self-righteousness, traditionalism, and moralism, all of which are denials of the gospel message of grace.

Consider how amazing and powerful God’s grace is. It makes spiritually dead sinners alive. It brings forgiveness and hope to us. Through it, we are accepted and loved by God. John Newton’s hymn says it best: “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound — that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Gracious Lord, I know that I am unworthy to receive salvation. There is nothing in me that makes me worthy of Your love and favor. I know that my greatest efforts to earn your favor are not enough. Yet, You chose to pour out Your grace on me. You accepted me as Your child and saved me by the precious blood of Your Son. Thank You for Your amazing grace that saved a wretch like me!

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THE IMMEASURABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE (Part 2)

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-7

“So that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, we cannot fully grasp the extent of the grace of God that has been given to us. We said one way to measure a gift is to examine what it cost the giver. We saw what God’s gift cost God the Father. Today, we will look at what it cost God the Son.

Philippians 2:5-8 tells us about the humiliation of Jesus Christ — “He emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus did not hold on to all the privileges and signs of the eternal glory that belonged to Him. He was in eternal glory with His Father, coequal and coeternal, sharing the glory of God. Yet, He willingly laid aside His glory. He did not lay aside His deity, but He did lay aside all the glory that belonged to the Godhead.

Jesus made Himself of no reputation. Though He was the eternal Son of God, He came down to earth, was born as a baby, and lived as a man, though He remained exactly what He always had been — God. He came as a man and took on the form of a servant. What must it have been like for the Son of God to live in a world of sin?

Consider Jesus’ lifestyle. He said, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). As far as we know, Jesus never owned a home. The very One through whom all things were made lived His life in poverty.

Jesus became poor for our sakes — “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). Jesus became poor when He bore the crushing load of the world’s sins and suffered the wrath of a holy God. He was sinless, but for our sake He became sin — “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus actually became a curse in order to redeem us — “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). A curse carried the idea of separation, the loss of favor. On the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of God and became separated from His Father, which is why He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). He became a curse for us so that we will never have to be separated from our Heavenly Father.

Jesus paid an immense price so that we could be the recipients of God’s immeasurable grace and kindness. We can never fully understand the extent of God’s grace that has been lavished upon us. Never take His grace for granted.

Lord Jesus, You left the glory that You had with the Father throughout all eternity in order to come to this earth as a man. You came on a mission — to save Your people from their sins. You paid an enormous price to do so. Thank You for loving me enough to become a curse in order to redeem me from my sin. Thank You for being my Savior and Lord.

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THE IMMEASURABLE RICHES OF HIS GRACE (Part 1)

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-7

“So that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)

We cannot grasp the extent of the riches of God’s grace in kindness toward us in Christ. Paul says that it is immeasurable. It is too great for us to comprehend, too extensive for us to put our arms around it. It truly is amazing grace!

While the the extent of God’s grace is immeasurable, we can begin to understand something about it. One way to measure a gift is to see what it cost the giver. A multimillionaire may give a very large gift and not miss what it cost him. That is precisely the point of Jesus’ teaching about the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44).

Let’s consider what granting grace cost God the Father. He “sent forth” His Son into this hostile world — “But when he fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The Son was with the Father from all eternity dwelling with Him, coequal and co-eternal. Yet, the Father sent forth the Son for our sakes.

The Father loved us so much that He gave His Son — “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). The word “gave” is full of meaning. You hear about someone who gave his life for his country. It costs to give. God gave His Son. He did not spare Him — “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). God the Father knew what was necessary to make the way of salvation possible. He knew that it involved suffering for His Son. He did not spare Him, but delivered Him up, which meant death — a cruel, agonizing death.

In order for us to be saved, God made His Son to be sin — “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21). God the Father made Him sin, not a sinner. “The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b). It was necessary for God to make His Son sin for us, so that we could be delivered from the penalty that our sins deserve.

Never take for granted what it cost God the Father to pour out His grace in kindness toward us. It cost Him His Son!

Heavenly Father, while it is impossible for me to grasp the immeasurable grace in kindness that You have poured out on me, I have some understanding of what it cost You to do so. Thank You for Your love that sent forth Your Son into this hostile world for my sake. Thank You for not sparing Him but for delivering Him up for me so that He could take my sins upon Himself and pay the price that I rightly owe You. Thank You for loving me this much.

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SEATED WITH CHRIST IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-7

“And raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6,7)

As we have seen, God has done a powerful work in believers. He took spiritually dead sinners and made them alive in Christ. He caused them to born again to a living hope and raised them with Christ to newness of life. But there is still more!

God seated us with Christ in the heavenly places. In II Corinthians 12:2, we read about a “third heaven” — “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” The third heaven is the place where God especially manifests His presence and glory. It is the place where Christ in His glorified body dwells. As a result of our regeneration, we belong to the third heaven, the heavenly places where the glory and presence of God are manifested. Our citizenship is in heaven — “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We no longer belong to this world. We no longer walk according to the course of the world (vs. 1-3). We are strangers and pilgrims here (I Peter 2:11,12). We are no longer under the dominion of Satan, no longer controlled by him. We have been set free from his power over us. Now we are free to serve God and to live for Him.

We belong to the kingdom of God — “For He delivered us from the dominion of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We are now under the control of the Holy Spirit — “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The Spirit of God dwells within us. He works in us, convicts us, leads us, and empowers us.

We are in the heavenly places. We have free access to God. This means that we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Jesus completed His work and was seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3). The work of redemption has been accomplished. Now we have rest and victory in Jesus. We have full assurance of our salvation.

Lord God, thank You for making me alive in Christ, for raising me up together with Him, and for seating me in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Thank You for so great of salvation! Enable me to live as a citizen of heaven, and not to get too comfortable here on this present earth. Let me be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as I seek to live each day for Your glory.

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RAISED UP WITH CHRIST

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-7

“And raised up with Him and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:6,7)

God has done a powerful work in the lives of believers. He has taken spiritually dead people and made them alive together with Christ (vs. 4,5). He causes us to be born again. As a result of His work, we now have a new ability to understand the things of God and to live our lives for His glory.

Our salvation is so rich and full. God not only made us alive, but He also raised us up with Christ. Paul is working out a comparison here. His case is that what is true of us spiritually is similar to what happened to our Lord physically when He was raised from the dead. For a period of time, Jesus was dead in the grave; but He came out from the state and place of the dead. Our salvation is comparable to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We once were dead but now we are alive!

Our Lord went through a change. He was dead in the grave, then alive manifesting Himself in a new way. This is what happens to us — we are no longer dead spiritually…but alive. We are no longer under God’s wrath…but free from it. We are no longer slaves to sin…but now we are free from sin’s bondage.

To be raised together with Christ means that we are sharing in His life and becoming more like Him. We are no longer walking in our trespasses and sins…now we are living an entirely new life. We see things differently. Our hearts have been changed, and we have Christ living in us. Indeed, we have been raised up with Christ!

Heavenly Father, thank You for making me alive together with Christ and raising me up with Him. Thank You that I can now share in the life of Christ and live my life by faith in Him. Thank You for changing my heart and making me a new creation. Thank You for so great a salvation!

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