By Sandy Simpson
Thankfulness seems to be a lost art today. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in Evanston, Illinois, who was part of a life-saving squad, a lifeguard. In 1860, a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, and Edward Spencer waded again and again into the freezing waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he rescued ever thanked him. (Our Daily Bread, February 20, 1994.)
Paul is not like these ungrateful people. He is thankful to the Lord and thankful for the body of Christ.
Eph. 1:15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
Eph. 1:16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Paul, after encouraging the believers at Ephesus with the words of the opening of this letter about predestination and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is overjoyed because of the faith he has heard of from those who are in Ephesus. They have shown their faith in Jesus and love for the saints. This is the simplicity of what God expects of His followers. It is the Ten Commandments all rolled into one.
Luke 10:27 He answered: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’"
But Paul does not stop there. He prays for them. He thanks the Lord for them and remembers them in His prayers without ceasing. We ought to do the same for one another. We need to thank the Lord for one another. If you are thanking the Lord for a person you are much less likely to be criticizing them. If you are praying for that person in a spirit of thankfulness you will be praying for their good. The Lord tells us to pray for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Eph. 1:17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Didn’t the Lord already say that He gave us the spirit of wisdom in vs. 8? Why then would Paul pray for us to have wisdom? Because we now have access to all wisdom in Christ even though we do not yet possess it. In fact we will not know everything till we see Him face to face, but we will eventually see clearly. We are continuing to learn, but the point is that we would not have any real knowledge without salvation and the indwelling of the Spirit who is our Teacher.
John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
So we have access to all wisdom and knowledge now through Jesus Christ, but we are still in the process of learning those truths. This is why it is a good prayer to pray for the saints that they will be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. You cannot pray this for unbelievers. Pray for their salvation. But for the saints you can ask God to help them understand, to be discerning, to grow to maturity in Christ so they will know the difference between good and evil, to gain wisdom so they can help others, to understand the revelation of Jesus Christ in His written Word.
Why? Because then we will know our Lord better. If we know Him better we will trust Him more. If we trust Him more He will be able to use us more effectively to reach others for Christ because our faith in Him is strong and our knowledge of Him is secure.
Eph. 1:18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
This is also a good prayer to pray for fellow Christians. Sometimes, in the difficult times in life, we tend to forget the hope to which God called us, and the rich inheritance we claims as His children and His bride. That hope is what can sustain us through the rough times, as it did those who came before us and laid down their lives for the Gospel. Keep your eyes on Jesus and your mind on the things of heaven, and you will not despair.
Eph. 1:19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,
Eph. 1:20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
We as believers have the power of Christ to sustain us. We have the same power that raised Christ from the dead! Think about it. We are not powerless. We have not been left as orphans here all alone in a hostile world.
John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
We have the power of the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ who is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven making daily intercession for us.
Rom. 8: 34-39 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died— more than that, who was raised to life— is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The resurrection power of God is ours so that we will be more than conquerors. We can conquer sin, death, the devil, anything because we are in Christ. His power is our power. This is not talking about power to do anything we want, or power over other people. It is not talking about power to fall down backwards and act like an animal. It is not talking about power to get people to follow us, power to make money, power to get guaranteed health, power to command God. It is talking about power to live, power to resist the devil, power to do the will of God. The same power God the Father used to raise Jesus from the dead, the same power that overcame death, Satan, and sin, is ours through Christ. Think about that and you will see that often we just don’t realize what God has done for us, and because we don’t realize it we don’t claim it.
Eph. 1:21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Christians have been given fullness in Christ Who was given authority far above anything created.
Colossians 2:10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
He was given authority for now and eternity in the Father. Because He has that authority, we as His children can be assured that the enemy no longer has power over us, that sin no longer has power over us, that death no longer has power over us.
One of the key things to understand and claim in dealing with demonic activity in people’s lives is that we have the fullness of Christ, and He has all authority. If we truly understand our position in Christ we understand that there is no demonic force that can stand against us. We can then rebuke demonic activity in Jesus’ name, not because His name will accomplish anything, but because we understand our relationship to Him and the privileges it affords us.
Eph. 1:22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,
Eph. 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
The Father appointed Christ to be head of His Church, the body of Christ. Those who believe in Christ unto salvation are included into Christ Himself. We become part of Him. We are not the Head; He is the head. But we are His body, not the personal glorified body of the God-man Jesus Christ, but in Christ and through Christ we are His representatives on earth … light and salt. One of the most important things about the body of Christ is that He has given us the work of preaching the Gospel and discipling all nations, bringing people to the reconciliation that Christ offers with the Father.
Mark 16:15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
Matt. 28: 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
2 Cor. 5:18-19 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Jesus Christ is the fullness of His Church. This is what Paul stating that Christ “fills everything in every way” means. Don’t be fooled by New Agers and false teachers. They will sometimes use Eph. 1:23, to try to teach that God is an imminent God, in other words that God not only created everything, He IS everything. God is not His creation. That is pantheism or panentheism. This is how the New Age and many cultures such as the American Indians view God. But God is distinctly separate from His creation. He is separate from the world: Isa. 40:22; Acts 17:24. He is contrasted with the world (different than the universe He created): Ps. 102:25-27; 1 John 2:15-17. He created the world: Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6; 102:25; Isa. 42:5; 44:24; John 1:3; Rom. 11:36; Heb. 1:2; 11:3. God is omnipresent but He is not imminent. God is not His creation.
However there are many ways Christ fills all in all.
He filled the world with inhabitants. He fills all places with his omnipresence. He fills all creatures with proper food and sustenance. He fills our every need. He fills all His Church with His gracious presence in the Holy Spirit. He fills the various churches around the world with those who can lead them, those with the gifts and graces of his Spirit. He fills all and every one of the saints with His Holy Spirit. He fills believers hearts with joy, their minds with knowledge, their consciences with peace, their wills with spiritual desires, submission and resignation, and their affections with love to himself and people. He fills them with all grace and goodness, and the fruits of righteousness; and so He makes them of use to Himself, and for happiness in eternity.
Eph. 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Eph. 2:2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Paul reminds the Ephesians and us about what we were like before Christ called us to salvation. We were dead. The wages of sin is death. Everyone is destined to death, physically and eternally. Every man is destined to die physically and after death to inherit eternal judgment instead of eternal life. Every sinful man is destined to live forever apart from God tormented in hell, which is worse than death. Why were we dead? Because of our sins. We are dead because of the sin that we are born into, and the sin we choose. We are dead because of both. Because we were dead and blind without hope, we lived our lives under the rule of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the prince of this world … Satan. People may not realize they are serving the devil, but in reality they are. Everyone who is not born again is serving Satan because they are living in obedience to the temptations of Satan and their sin nature. You cannot serve two Masters, but you will serve one of them. Bob Dylan wrote a song where he sang “Everybody’s got to serve somebody.” This is true. You either serve God or you serve the devil. There is no in-between. There is another spirit other than the Holy Spirit at work in those who are living in sin. That does not mean everyone who is a sinner is possessed by a demon. What it means is that Satan has free access to the lives of people who live in sin and they have no way to live a life pleasing to God. In the same way false teachers, false prophets, false apostles and false Christs also have another spirit.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
We need to be careful of people who teach false doctrines and make false prophecies because they do so because they have another spirit. Why? Because they do not have the spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. They are still living in sin and serving their master, the devil. It is useful to remember that when you are testing false prophets.
John 14:17 …the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
1 John 4:6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
False prophets and false teachers have another spirit. That is the spirit of falsehood or lies. Their father is the devil who is the original liar.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Those who teach lies and prophesy lies are of another spirit, and that spirit is demonic. Christians must realize how important it is to get away from false teachers and false prophets who are liars. They are not our brothers in the Lord, they are sons of the devil. Jesus spoke these words to the religious leadership of His day, and we must realize that nothing is ever new under the sun. We still have religious leadership today on TBN, Daystar, leadership on the covers of Time Magazine, Christianity Today and Charisma Magazine that is of another spirit. When you say this and prove it people will hate you. They hate me for proving it and they will hate you for getting away from these people. So be prepared to be persecuted for your faith by others who claim they are Christians, in fact claim they are the most important Christians of our day. When people are proven to be liars they either repent or become hateful and vengeful.
Eph. 2:3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Those who are in the world, as we were, have nothing else to satisfy them than to follow their sinful minds into sinful things. They do many things the devil tempts them to do, and more things they come up with from their own sinful minds. Don’t be fooled. Satan can only tempt. We are the ones who make a choice whether or not to give into temptations, which is why we are guilty of the wages of death, without hope, if we are without Christ. We all know the things we did before the Holy Spirit convicted us of our sins after we had heard the Gospel message. So we need not talk about them or list them here. Suffice it to say we were all under God’s wrath. This is what we need to remember about others who are still sinning. We need to have compassion on them and warn them of their sin and the penalty they will pay because of holiness of our Righteous Judge.
Eph. 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
Eph. 2:5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved.
God loves us so much that because of His mercy we who were dead in our sins, and without eternal life, were made alive with Christ Who was raised from the dead. We are made alive in Him just as God raised Him from the dead. Also because Jesus was resurrected from the dead, we also will someday be resurrected into eternal life. You have heard the saying: Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The end of this verse states that salvation is by grace.
Titus 3:5-7 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had
done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through
Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we
might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
Rom. 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Rom. 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Rom. 4:4-5 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Jn. 14:6 Jesus
answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through me.
Acts 14:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
Jesus Christ did all the work to save us from our sins. This is summed up nicely in what is called the "Romans Road" which is a good thing to memorize to use to explain the Gospel to the unsaved.
ROMANS 3:10 As it is
written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
ROMANS 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
ROMANS 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
ROMANS 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ROMANS 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
ROMANS 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
ROMANS 10:13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Eph. 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,
Eph. 2:7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
When God raised us to new life in Christ He set us in the heavenly realms with Jesus. This doesn’t mean we are physically there, though someday we will be there after the resurrection. It means that positionally the Father views us as being with Christ, in Christ, seated beside Christ. This is our position, our place in the eyes of the Father. This means that He has saved us, and views us as being with Christ, and our sins are under the blood of His Son, no longer to be counted against us. Our sins, when they are repented of in Christ, are now positionally viewed as no longer existing, being brought away from us as far as the east is from the west.
Psalms 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
This is an interesting statement. If you stated that our sins are as far as the north is from the south on the earth, that would be a finite distance, a measurable distance. But if you say as far as the east is from the west you could travel around the earth forever and east would never meet west. Where does the east start and the west begin? This is one way of saying that our sins will no longer be counted against us for eternity if we are in Christ. We also share in the fullness of Christ, in His riches in glory. This was the plan of God the Father from the beginning, that “He might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”. The love of God for us is amazing, and our position in Christ is a place of victory and spiritual riches, not defeat and spiritual poverty. The sooner we begin to live in this knowledge, the sooner we will be of real use in His Kingdom.
Eph. 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
Eph. 2:9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Most of you know these two verses by heart even if you might not know the reference. But these verses are extremely important. We are saved by grace alone, not by our works. If works could save us then God would not be needed. But our works cannot save us because before we are saved we are sinners without the will to do good. The Bible states that our thoughts are continually evil before we are saved.
Psalms 10:4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
Believers in Christ have been saved by grace through faith. That faith is our response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the Gospel. If we respond by placing our faith in Christ, we will be saved by His grace. If we respond by rejecting Christ, we are left in our wicked state. Please be aware that some groups falsely claim that grace AND faith are the “gift of God” talked about in these verses. But here and in other verses it is clear that the gift of God is grace. Faith is a response to God after God gives us the opportunity to respond. He then will build us up in our faith if we continue to obey, follow Him and add to our faith.
Heb. 12:2 simply fixing our gaze upon Jesus, our Prince Leader in the faith, who will also award us the prize. He, for the sake of the joy which lay before Him, patiently endured the cross, looking with contempt upon its shame, and afterwards seated Himself— where He still sits—at the right hand of the throne of God. (Wey)
Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
But God never forces anyone to have faith. It is their choice, and continues to be their choice until the day they die. Without faith there can be no salvation.
1 Peter 1:9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. It can never be by works because that would make man his own Savior.
Illustration: I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn't understand why it didn't sell -- until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.
That story reminds me of how some people react to the plan of salvation. To them it sounds too easy and simple to be true, even though the Bible says, "By grace you have been saved through faith...; it is the gift of God, not of works" (Eph. 2:8-9). They feel that there is something more they must do, something they must add to God's "recipe" for salvation. They think they must perform good works to gain God's favor and earn eternal life. But the Bible is clear -- we are saved, "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy" (Titus 3:5). Unlike the cake-mix manufacturer, God has not changed His "formula" to make salvation more marketable. The gospel we proclaim must be free of works, even though it may sound too easy. (R.W.D. Daily Bread, June 2, 1992.)
But most false religions in the world are based on works causing a person to be good enough to go to heaven, become a better person, etc. They try to become like God through works. They try to be accepted by God or go to heaven based on works. Any religion that adds to salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is false religion and is, in fact, demonic. Paul says that anyone who adds to the salvation message is accursed, is on his or her way to hell.
Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
The most frequent “other gospel” in the world today is the gospel of works salvation.
Eph. 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When God saves us by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then when we obey Him our works count for something. They do not save, but they will count for our reward in heaven. In fact god created us for the purpose of doing good works in obedience to Jesus Christ. God prepared those He foreknew who would believe in His Son in advance to do good works. Remember that grace comes first, then faith, then works not the other way around.
[According to a recent poll] 88% of Catholics and a majority of Presbyterian and Methodist evangelizers [those who actively try to share their "faith"] believe that "if people are generally good, or do enough good things for others during their lives, they will earn a place in heaven." National & International Religion Report, August 23, 1993.
We have a situation in the churches today that is very serious. It is obvious by these kinds of polls that the message of the Gospel is not coming through. I have videotape where Catholics coming out of an RCC church were asked on what basis God would accept them into heaven. Only one person knew that the answer was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The rest gave the same answer as the poll I just mentioned. Those of us who know the truth have an obligation to tell people the truth about the Gospel today, even those who claim to be Christians. If they meet Jesus Christ on judgment day and are not “in Christ” they will not go to heaven.