Grace and Peace In Christ
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:2).
We have not yet stepped pass the threshold of this letter, and yet we already find ourselves inundated with thoughts of God’s mercy and grace. As we continue on into an exploration of the Book of Ephesians, we will discover much more of this amazing work that is going on in the lives of these believers. Let me describe the overall view of Ephesians before continuing on.
Overview of the Book of Ephesians
The Book of Ephesians is divided into two major sections. Some call the first doctrinal or belief (chapters 1-3) and the later practical or life (chapters 4-6). One can do this, but it is not best to think of the book this way. That thinking allows for a dichotomy to arise in our minds, which unfortunately, is all too common.
Far too many Christians make a difference between what they believe and what they practice. Many a professing Christian would claim to have the right teaching and yet not live like Christ. This separation of what one believes from what one lives is very common in the West and allows for the degeneration of the church. Many profess to know Christ but at the same time they think party-going, homosexuality, blowing up in anger, pursuit for things of this world are okay. At least, this is what they do. This is exactly contrary to what Paul was trying to teach us. Our holy life is not a special add-on to lives of some Christians. Paul did not write the Book of Ephesians so it could be easily divided and separated into two, but it shows how one aspect affects the other.
Paul wants us to realize how the truth of what God did through Christ in history is fundamental to our lives. What He did in the past in Christ is the foundation for what we presently build our lives upon. Just like one cannot build a tall structure like a building without a foundation, so one cannot live the Christ-like life without Christ. Our faith in what God has done becomes a foundation for our lives. Now remember it is Christ’s work that is important. Our faith just makes His work relevant to our lives. Without it we simply do not have what it takes to live out a strong Christian life or as a church we do not have what it takes to live as God’s community.
Power of Belief
Let me give you one example. It will also serve as an application to verses 1-2. We might have the thought, “I am not good enough.” That is, a person believes that he is not good enough for salvation. Often this thought accompanies those who have been exposed to their great sin. They try to please God but realize they cannot please Him at all. They can’t even meet their own expectations! Satan doesn't want a person to be saved and tempts them to think the wrong way by inserting this follow-up thought, “I am not good enough” or “You do not deserve salvation” in their minds. As a result, they give up thinking that God in His great holiness would ever save such a person.
From what we read in verses 1-2, however, we find that this phrase, “I am not good enough” is true. We are all sinners and cannot earn our salvation. By itself it remains as only part of the truth and can lead to wrong decisions such as giving up on being one of God’s children. If we examine the truths stated in these first three chapters or even in just the first two verses themselves, we find that we are unworthy to become God’s children. But, and this is crucial, that though we are unworthy, God has chosen to love the unworthy, despicable, the rebellious and immoral. This is summarized in the word ‘ grace ‘ which we will discuss more below.
Wherever we do not properly acquire faith in these truths, then we will falter. We will be weak, compromise and live by our own ways. The Christian must master the truths in God’s Word so that He will have the faith to live them out. This is why Paul has so clearly articulated the truths in these first chapters. He is not espousing a difference from our faith and life but showing us how our lives are dependent upon the faith which we gain from believing the truth. We see a lot of excited couples getting married but only a few ends up actually being happily married. Those are the ones which apply God’s truths to their marriage. We see a lot of people baptized, but only some are strong Christians. Why? It is simply because commitment to the truth is a prerequisite to faith and practice of the truth.
Notice which word is repeated in these first three verses of Ephesians.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:1-3, NASB).
Christ is mentioned twice in verse three and five times in the first three verses. He is the source of blessing. Ephesians has the phrase ‘in Him’ (7X) or ‘in Christ’ repeated 19 times altogether in this short letter, largely in the first three chapters. The phrase might be short, but its thought is crucial to our lives. There is no grace and peace apart from Christ. Christ is specifically the One who came and was born from a virgin about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.
There is only one Christ and that is the One who is known by the name Jesus Christ. Jesus died for our sins on the cross by the hands of the Romans and the charge of the Jews. The whole world in one blow was incriminated in the worst possible sin. But by God’s grace, the world also became beneficiaries to what happened on that cross. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Without Christ dying on the cross there is no forgiveness. There is no peace. Remember this. We have no hope apart from Him. In Him. In Christ, however, man's judgment is fully cared for and man now can have peace with God. What God has done in Christ causes a surge of thanks to rally about His good and glorious Name.
Grace is the other special gift to His people. There is a great difference between the word grave and grace. That is the letter C which stands for Christ. If we only know of our sin, then we will despair and die in that despairgrave. If, however, we remember that God treats us better than we deserve in Christ (the definition of grace), then we find hope and salvation.
Do you see how what one believes shapes one’s conclusions? A person always builds his life on what he really believes. We just often do not know what we really believe. We often think we know what we believe, but our lives prove what we really believe by our actions.
Jesus’ statement, “For each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). Now, please remember, we are not speaking of a faith which determines reality. This is foolishness. What we need is a faith in what is really true. God has revealed what is true here in these first chapters. If we allow these truths to shape how we think, then we will do very well in our lives. If we as God’s people altogether are zealous to living out these truths, then this church will grow strong. Only knowing the truth allows us to live good and lovely lives.
Application of Ephesians 1:2
God has taken the first steps to bring us to Himself. In Christ He has secured grace and peace for us. We would have nothing but a death penalty on our heads if He did not do something on our behalf through Christ. List those things that the Lord has given you. Then thank Him for those very things. Let us not only receive His peace and grace but allow the truth of these great blessings affect our appreciation to Him.
Let's now turn to a study on Ephesians 1:3!
You might want to check our our series on "Truth's Transforming Power
Three stages of having the truth set one free are clarified.
The Godly Man series has a whole section devoted to exploring the grace of God
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