Stewards of Grace

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you … (Ephesians 3).

This letter, along with letters to the Philippians and Colossians, as well as to his friend Philemon, were written while under house arrest in Rome around 60-62 A.D. (Acts 28: 30-31). Thus, during those years as a prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus, Paul learned to think of himself as being “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of … Gentiles.” 

It was all a part of “the stewardship of God’s grace” on their behalf. A steward was someone placed in charge of an estate to make sure of its prosperity. In the same way, God had made Paul a steward of His grace so that the Gospel would spread to the Gentiles. It is one thing to be made a steward of wealth, how much more to be a steward of God’s grace!

Lord, You have made us all stewards of Your grace in Christ Jesus. Help us This Day to perform this job well, considering ourselves even in bonds to do so. Amen.

Both Dwellers and Dwelling

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2).

God is building both a household as well as a house, and indeed they are the same thing. We who are in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, are all “fellow citizens” one and all, and all of God’s household”—the people of God in whom He delights. We are family who live in God’s house.

But we are also the house itself—a “building … a holy temple in the Lord … a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” This house has a firm “foundation” of truth spoken by “the apostles and prophets,” and it has a “cornerstone” which is none other than Jesus Christ Himself, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Nothing can destroy this dwelling, nor those who dwell within.

Lord, thank You for this dwelling, and that we are dwellers within. Help us This Day to live like the family of God we are. Amen.

Trophimus’ Wall

14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2).

In Acts 21:27-29 we read where Paul was accused of allowing Trophimus to enter the temple, that is to cross “the dividing wall” which was built to keep Gentiles out. How fitting it is that these words concerning this wall were written to the church in Ephesus—since Trophimus was an Ephesian!

Even if a Gentile was a “God-fearer” and believed in the God of the Jews, still, he could never be equal with them—that is, not until Christ “abolished in His flesh the enmity” between Jews and Greeks in order to “make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.”

Lord, we thank You for establishing peace between Jew and Gentile, and making us one in Christ. Help use This Day to break down any walls which would try to separate believers in Christ. Amen.

But Now

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2).

What was our condition before salvation? Pretty bad. As “uncircumcised” Gentiles we were “separate,” “excluded,” and “strangers”—having neither “hope,” nor “God” in our lives. We were outsiders and outcasts who couldn’t even look in—and there was nothing we could do about it. It just doesn’t get any worse than this.

It is good to “remember” this. In fact, for emphasis Paul says this twice. So, whenever things are not going our way, it is good to remember how bad things really were before we met the Savior—and how good they are now. Yes, it was indeed very bad, “but now” we are connected, included, and even joint heirs in God’s family—having much hope and sealed with the Holy Spirit of God Himself!

Lord, thank You for all that we are and have in Christ. Help us This Day to remember our spiritual condition before we met Him, and to be grateful—despite any turmoil in our lives. Amen.

By Grace For Works

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2).

How many times have we had verses 8 and 9 quoted to us, without including verse 10? Yet, these three verses should always be looked at as a whole. The first two speak of not working for our salvation, while the last speaks of working in it or because of it. We are never saved by our good deeds, but we are certainly saved for them. Our works can never earn our salvation, but they must certainly show it. Faith is God’s gift to us, while good deeds are our gift back to God. While good works can never be the means of salvation, they are certainly the proof of it. We are saved by grace, for good works. There, I’ve stated the same thing six different ways. Pick the one that best speaks to you.

What a shame that so many people get it just backwards, putting the cart before the horse! What a heavy and useless burden they place on themselves, trying to pull a horse with a cart! For all their efforts, in the end they get nowhere.

Lord, thank You for saving us by grace, that we might diligently and faithfully labor in Your Kingdom. Help us This Day to work well. Amen.

On Display

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins … 4 But God … 6 … raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

God does everything for His glory. This is only right and good because His glory exceeds everything. The verb form for “show” in the text here even suggests as such because it is in the middle voice, thus reflecting back to the one who is doing the showing. In other words, God will “show … His grace and kindness” for His own glory. Thus, even while attention will be on us, the real focus will be on Him.

And another thing: this display will continue on and on and on—throughout “the ages to come” without pause or interruption. Yet, no saved sinner with such prolonged attention upon them will ever even begin to feel awkward. Why? Because the real focus will be on glory of the Triune God who saved them.

Lord, we look forward to those ages to come when for Your glory we will be on display. Until then, help us This Day and every day to put You on display in our lives. Amen.

Already There

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins … 4 But God … 6 … raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus … (Ephesians 2).

Not many years ago a new form of heresy began circulating among theologians: the idea that, though God is omniscient, He does not know what we will freely do in the future. This false teaching is called Open Theism, and flies in the face of the verses before us. For in God’s all-knowing, all-seeing eyes, we are already “raised and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In other words, to God, the future has already occurred and is in plain sight.

What can our finite minds do with such a lofty thought? Do we forsake it because it is beyond our understanding? We may as well reject God’s eternal nature, for we certainly embrace that He has no end—yet can anyone truly grasp that He as well had no beginning? Yet, the fact that God already sees us raised and seated there with Him should give us great comfort and security. For, God’s vision cannot be erased, in that what is already a reality to Him cannot be made unreal.

Thank You, Lord, that we are already there with You! Help us This Day to live like the heavenly beings we are. Amen.

Benefactor

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins … 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) … (Ephesians 2).

Wealth is usually measured by bank portfolio’s and beautiful possessions, yet with God it is measured by His holy attributes, three of them being “mercy” and “love” and “grace” toward the undeserving—and in these three commodities He is very, very “rich” indeed. In fact, His mercy and love and grace toward us were so great that in order to purchase our souls He spent something absolutely priceless—even the blood of His own Son spilt on Calvary.

And when that precious blood was spilt and spent, He then exerted another of His attributes upon us—His infinite power—and “made us alive together with Christ” through His resurrection. Everyone loves a rich benefactor. Could we possibly have a better one than God Himself?

Lord, we thank You for being such a wonderful Benefactor! Help us This Day to show our gratitude to You by following Your Son the very best we can. Amen.

The Gospel In A Nutshell

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins …. 4 But God … 5 made us alive  together with Christ … (Ephesians 2).

The gospel story could have a title of just these two words: “But God.” The first word “But” implies two things: 1) the existence of a problem, and 2) the implication of its solution. The second word “God” introduces The Problem Solver.

For any living being there is no greater problem than becoming non-living, i.e. being “dead.” Such a problem has but one solution, and that is to be “made … alive.” For living humans with eternal souls there is no greater problem than being “dead in … trespasses and sins.” Such a problem has but one solution, and that is to be “made alive together with Christ.” 

Lord, we thank You for being The Problem Solver in our awful state of sin. Help us This Day to live like people whose sin problem has truly been solved. Amen.

The Enemy Within

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins …. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2).

To promote environmental awareness and the first Earth Day held on April 22, 1970, Walt Kelly, already famous for his “Pogo” comic strip, created a poster with the words: “WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.” This would also be a fitting poster for man’s spiritual condition, for yet another reason why we are “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” is because we live “in the lusts of our flesh.”

As much as we might like to, we cannot blame all our spiritual sorrows on the world and the devil—we must also blame ourselves, for we are inclined to sin both by nature as well as by choice. It is in our nature to sin, regardless of any influences put on us by either the world or the god of this world. Thus, the sad truth is, we are our own worst enemy.

Lord, we acknowledge this sad truth, and ask Your Spirit to help us This Day to die to ourselves and live for you and for others. Amen.