Sermons

Learning About The Church From Ephesians

Sun, Nov 13, 2022
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Duration:30 mins 59 secs

Message text

Learning About The Church
Ephesians 1:1-2

INTRO: Good morning church.
In my last few lessons we looked at God’s Grace, our Faith, Works and God’s Law. In this lesson I would like to take a look at us as a group, Christians as the body of Christ and learn a little about that.

For our text please turn with me to the book of Ephesians and let’s read Ephesians 1:1-2 – “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When we study the New Testament, we can't help but notice that many passages found there have to do with the church in Ephesus. For example, in Acts chapters 18 and 19, Luke tells us about the establishment of the church in that city. The Apostle Paul wrote one of his letters to that particular congregation and we just read the first two verses of it.

Reading the Bible references to the early churches, the way they worshiped, and what the apostles and Christ had to say about them, is a good way to keep in mind how we, as the body of Christ, are to live. Restoration is a continuing process not a one-and-done activity.

There are indeed quite a number of passages in the New Testament that in various ways have to do with the church in the city of Ephesus. All the way to Revelation 2:1-7 where the Lord sent a message to the same congregation. “1. "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, `These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
2. "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3. "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
4. "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5. "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.
6. "But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'' '”

In our lesson today, what I would like us to do is examine some information revealed in the Book of Ephesians that has to do with the church.

That is the theme of our lesson, learning about the church from Ephesians. Of course there are many other passages in the Bible that have to do with the church. We can't cover them all in one lesson, but we do want to cover some fundamental principles that are revealed primarily, in the Book of Ephesians.

Let's begin with the identity of the church.

I. From Ephesians, we learn about the church's identity.

A. Since we have already opened our Bibles to Ephesians 1, let's read verses 22 and 23. Here Paul is telling about the power that God demonstrated through Christ. He wrote: “And He put all things under His feet (that is the feet of our Lord), and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Make no mistake about it; the church is the Lord's body.

1. This is not the only verse in the Bible that reveals that very important information. Paul, being an inspired apostle, didn't teach one thing to one group of people, and then something contrary to a different group of people. When he revealed information concerning the church, he always taught the same thing.
2. We just saw what he wrote to the church in Ephesus. What about what he wrote to the church in Colossae on this topic? We find that in Colossians 1:18 – “And He (speaking of Christ) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” The church is the Lord's body. It's important for us to understand that because we will find passages that have to do with the body. We need to understand that this information relates to the church.

B. How many bodies are there? Let's look at Ephesians 4:4-6 – “4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5. one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6. one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”. There are seven very important subjects listed that are unique. They are unique in the sense that there's only one of each. First on the list, there is one body. That's not what man indicates though, is it?

1. The same inspired writer went on to say that there's one Lord… there's one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all. If we can understand that there's one Lord, understand that there's one God, certainly we can understand that there is one body.
2. Let's just use a little bit of old fashioned common sense. Since the church is the Lord's body, and it is, and there is one body then how many churches are there? There's only one.
3. I believe even a child can understand that. It just seems to me if a child can understand the concept of “one” then certainly adult people should be able to as well. Paul says that the church is the Lord's body. He said very clearly there is one body. With common sense and we can conclude that from the Lord's perspective, not man's perspective, but from the Lord's perspective, there is one church.
4. I want to point out something else concerning the church. In a prior lesson we read in Galatians 3:28, where Paul writes “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Now let's look at Ephesians 2 for a moment and consider how God has made it possible for both Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled to God in His body. Starting in Ephesians 2:11 – “11. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands 12. that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. 14. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, 15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,”.
5. Here Paul is referring to Jews and Gentiles. The Law of Moses had kept those two groups separated for centuries. Christ, when He died on the cross, fulfilled the law, and took it out of the way. Colossians 2:14 says “… He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” He fulfilled it. He took it out of the way, and then His new covenant went into effect, which is far greater than the old.

C. Let's continue now in Ephesians 2:16 – “and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” The Lord made it possible for Jews and Gentiles to be reconciled to God in His body. That's one of the distinct features of the Lord's body. All people, regardless of ethnic background, are reconciled to God AND to one another in the body, which is the church.

II. From Ephesians, we learn about the church's relationship with Christ. We've already read from Ephesians 1:22 that Christ is the head over all things to the church.

A. When the Bible says all things, that's exactly what it means. First, Christ is the “head” (kephalé) of the church, which means He is the ultimate authority over the church. It is His will and His word that governs the life of the church. Christ is the head of the church, AND He has preeminence. Preeminence is “the fact of surpassing all others; superiority”. If Christ has preeminence, and He does, that means He is first, in everything. First in importance, first in honor, first in exaltation. It is not enough that Jesus have prominence in our lives. He must have preeminence in our lives. Jesus cannot simply be on our top-ten list. He must be everything.
B. In addition to being the head of the church, Christ is the savior of the body. Look at Ephesians 5:23 which says “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” We know that He's the head of the church, and we know that He's the savior of the body.
C. Now Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, ” He loves the church and He loved it so much that He gave himself for it. That's the greatest love that anyone could possibly have. Jesus, near the end of His ministry, said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” This is recorded in John 15:13 Jesus loved the church so much that He gave Himself for it.

1. As we study about the church's relationship with Christ, we learn that Christ is the head over all things to the church. We understand that He's the Savior of the body, and we understand that He loved the church so much that He gave Himself for it.
2. Let's tie in a couple of other verses—Acts 20:28 where Paul was speaking to the elders of the church in Ephesus. He met them in Miletus, though they served as elders of the Ephesian Church. This is what he said to them; “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” See how much Christ loves the church? He purchased it with His own blood.

D. To further illustrate the Lord's relationship with the church, let's look at Ephesians 5:29 – “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Christ cherishes and nourishes the church. These verses help us understand what the Lord wants us to know about the church's relationship with Him. Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. He loved the church so much that He purchased it with His own blood, and He nourishes and cherishes the church.

III. From Ephesians, we learn about the church's responsibilities to Christ.

A. Let's talk about the church's responsibilities and we will start with what's written in Ephesians 3:21. This is actually the end of a prayer that Paul offered and it's a beautiful prayer. Notice how he concluded it. “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

1. As we think about the church's responsibilities to Christ, notice that God is glorified in the church. The Bible teaches that we're to do everything to the glory of God. We need to think about that. God is to be glorified in the church, and that's a very important responsibility.
2. As we seek to glorify God in the church, we remain subject unto Christ. This also is a very important responsibility. The church is subject to Christ. Ephesians 5:24 – “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” People get very uncomfortable when you start talking about preeminence and subjection.

B. The Bible teaches that the church is to be in subjection to Christ. How do we accomplish that? That's a good question, and the Bible tells us in Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Everything that we do and say is to be said or done in the name of Christ, that is, by His authority.

1. How do we know what Christ authorizes us to say and do? Also a good question, Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…” See how these New Testament letters go together and complement one another? Sometimes people want to tell us that they contradict each other, but nothing could be further from the truth.
2. Ephesians makes it very clear that the church is to be subject unto Christ. Again, how do we accomplish that? By doing what the Lord wants us to do and saying the things that the Lord wants us to say. How do we know what He wants us to say and do? By letting His Word dwell in us richly with all wisdom.

C. That brings us to another responsibility that's mentioned in Ephesians 5:27 - “that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” The church is to be holy and without blemish. Rather an important responsibility, isn’t it?

1. And that responsibility is given to each member. Each member is to be holy and without blemish. When the members accomplish this important responsibility, then the church is being holy and without blemish.
2. After all we are the church. When we're baptized into Christ, we're added to the Lord's Church Acts 2:47. At that point we take on some very important responsibilities.

IV. From Ephesians, we learn the church makes known the “manifold wisdom of God”.

A. Let's look at another thing that's addressed in Ephesians Chapter 3. I’m going to read Ephesians 3:1-12 – “1. For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles 2. if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3. how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, 4. by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5. which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6. that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7. of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. 8. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9. and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10. to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11. according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12. in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”

B. From verse 10 we learn that the church makes known the manifold wisdom of God. The adjective we translate as “manifold” means “much variegated, marked with a great variety of colors”. Often we understand these verses to mean that the church is responsible for making known the manifold wisdom of God. Indeed we, the church, do have that responsibility, but there is something else I’d like to consider.

1. Perhaps these verses teach us that when men observe God's plan for the church being carried out, they see His manifold wisdom being demonstrated in a powerful way.
2. When people see the church and observe it and examine it, they see something very special. They see God's manifold wisdom at work. That wisdom has been in God's mind for a long time. The church is a demonstration of God's manifold wisdom.

C. In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul tells us that the Gospel makes it possible for men to be at peace with God. He also showed how the Gospel makes it possible for men to be at peace with other men. Having dealt with that issue rather thoroughly, Paul went on to talk in chapter three about how for a long time that was a mystery, something that was hidden.

1. In God's due time, God revealed that information to certain inspired people, the holy apostles and prophets. They in turn wrote these things down. We can read those things and we can gain an understanding of God.
2. When someone outside the church observes us, what are they seeing demonstrated? The wisdom of God in all it’s glory.
3. We know about man's wisdom and what it does. Often we see that it leads to division, misunderstanding and disagreement even in the body, the church.
4. God's plan is right. God's plan can be understood and God's plan can be followed. When men submit to God's will and follow His plan, God's manifold wisdom that He purposed a long time ago is being demonstrated. I would say that to the Lord, and to His father, the church is very important, wouldn't you?

CONCLUSION:
In looking at the Book of Ephesians we've learned something about the identity of the church, about the church's relationship with Christ and about the church's responsibilities to Christ. We saw that the church makes known the manifold wisdom of God.

Keep in mind what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 – “I will build My church,” and the Lord built His church just as He said that He would. To be the Lord's church today, we must follow His plan. And we learn about the Lord's plan for His church by carefully studying passages in the Bible that relate to it.

So why do we want to do this and why do it more then once? We probably all know the answer. Certainly we are all familiar with how things can change over time. Everything in our lives needs maintenance and at times, if we are going to keep something, it may need to be restored. Restoration is bringing something back to its original condition. We probably have some idea what's involved in restoring a car, or perhaps what's involved in restoring a house and so forth.

In like manner we need to be concerned about restoring the church when needed. It can get to point of needing maintenance of course, but it might need some serious maintenance because in some cases, men have broken the church. There is wear and tear on the body and I’m not talking about the building. Things slip, changes sneak in, the world is constantly applying pressure to what we do, say, and even accept. We need to look at ourselves and do some examination on a regular basis. If something is amiss we need to go to the operator’s manual, the trouble shooting guide. It's probably right there in your hand.

It teaches us all about the various parts of the church that we need to know. If it's not revealed in the Bible, then frankly, we don't need to know it. God has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness, if He wants us to know it, it will be in the book.

What do we do when our reality is not matching up to scripture? That which is defective or damaged needs to be eliminated. That which is right needs to be restored, just like those putting new parts in a worn out device. When we do that the church goes back as God wants it to be.

We have just read about some of the fundamentals of the church and there are many, many more revealed in the Bible. All together, they make that wonderful institution. We need to study these fundamental principles on a regular basis and do some examination at times. We might call them preventative maintenance checks. We also are responsible for helping others to see these same things, because there's a lot of confusion today about the nature of the church.

There's no reason for that confusion. We know who's responsible for it. Men are responsible, because God is not the author of confusion. If we will just follow His word, we will know what He wants us to know about the church. We comply with those instructions, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we're the Lord's Church. That's a great blessing.

Never listen to anyone who would mock the principle of restoring the Lord's Church. If you examine God's people over the centuries, you can't help but see that there's been a constant need for restoration. God revealed His law to the Jewish people through Moses, and as long as they kept it, God blessed His people abundantly. But then they'd start to wander away from God, and even get involved in worshiping idols. Then God would punish His people and that would bring them to their senses. They would repent, and He would bless them once again. That has happened many times in the history of God's people, hasn’t it?

Those principles are valid. As long as we are following the Lord's will, we are pleasing to Him. God help us to be busy at doing that.

One more thing I want to mention. We are the beloved recipients of God’s mercy to be sure; but we are also humble servants, unworthy to be called by His name, sinners saved by grace. That is why, in the wisdom of God, there is nothing that we can ever bring to offer Him for our salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9).

With that in mind, the preeminence of Christ challenges us who call ourselves “Christians” with uncomfortable implications. Do we want to be called a Christian? Or do we want to be a Christian. Do we want to be thought of as yielded to God’s will? Or do we want to yield to God’s will? Do we want it to appear that what matters most to us is Christ? Or do we want Christ to matter most? Are we satisfied with the veneer of Christ-likeness because it is good enough for others, or do we want to be like Christ? Do we want to do and say the kinds of things we would say and do if we were seeking to honor Christ above all others, or do we want to honor Christ above all others? We should pray that the tension in those annoying questions settles down upon our soul, ministering to us and encouraging us toward the true exaltation of the Son as supreme, for that is the position that He alone occupies.
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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.

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Reference Sermon by: Raymond Sieg

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