Pentecost 3 – June 10, 2018

“By Grace: Salvation, Unity, Strength” – The Book of Ephesians

Pentecost 3 – June 10, 2018

Introduction: Paul’s letter
Last week we heard about the importance of letters in olden times. It was really the only way to
communicate over long distances. Today we’re going to hear about another one of St. Paul’s
letters – this one to the church in Ephesus, in modern-day Turkey. The Christians in Ephesus
would later, in the Book of Revelation, receive a letter from Jesus through John’s vision. In that
letter – probably about 30 years later than Paul’s letter – the Ephesian Christians would be
commended for their hard work and perseverance, but they would also be warned for having lost
Jesus as their first love.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is truly precious, with some very famous Bible verses and images.
It is really divided into two pretty obvious sections. The first three chapters deal with spiritual
realities that are part of God’s Gospel Story. The last three chapters deal with Our Story and how
we live as God’s people in and under the Gospel. The two sections are tied together with the
word “therefore.” It’s like Paul’s entire message is summarized by saying, “This is what God has
done for you in Christ… therefore… this is how He wants you to live together in the church.”
That’s really not much different from the stating of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. God
begins by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of
slavery.” That’s the Gospel, the good news, God’s grace. Then He says “Therefore, this is how I
want you to live in relationship with me and others – You shall have no other gods. You shall not
misuse my name. You shall not kill, commit adultery, steal, etc.”
Let’s dig in to Paul’s letter. We’re actually going to focus on truths especially from the even
chapters – 2, 4 and 6. But first let’s draw something out of the very first verse, the salutation.
Paul addresses his letter, “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” The saints are
the ones who have been declared holy by God in and for the sake of Jesus. The faithful are the
ones who believe in and stake their lives on Jesus. Before you conclude that there is nothing for
YOU today because the message is for the people of that ancient cosmopolitan, commercial
harbour town, be aware that the content of the letter is meant to encourage and inspire and equip
God’s faithful saints of every era. Don’t go home today without taking personally and seriously
something that Paul may have intended for his friends in Ephesus, but that God intends for your
spiritual growth and blessing.
1. Chapter 2 – By Grace: Salvation
Ephesians Chapter 2 contains arguably the most famous verse from Paul’s letter, and perhaps
one of the five most significant verses in the entire Bible – rivalling John 3:16 in importance.
Ephesians 2:8 reads: “By grace you have been saved through faith.” We need to unpack a couple
of things about that verse.
First, why do we need saving? Paul spends the first few verses of chapter 2 dealing with that. He
says that we need saving because:

1. We were dead in our transgressions and sins.
2. We followed the ways of this world and the ruler of this world.
3. We naturally gratify the cravings of our sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts.
4. We are, by that sinful nature, objects of God’s wrath.
Yes, we need salvation, you need salvation, no question about it. We need salvation, even if we
just focus on the point about gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature… we heard about those
last week from Galatians 5… things like hatred, discord, jealousy, sexual immorality, rage,
selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness and others. Every one of us will have to admit to at least one
of those cravings. And that’s why we need salvation. Otherwise, it’s God’s wrath… eternally!!
Second, what is grace? Grace is not a word that people use often or correctly in their everyday
conversation. Grace is, at its heart, a theological word. It really refers to God’s undeserved
favour. When our lives are self-centered, and sinful, and ignore God, and then God gives us all
of His good and glorious spiritual blessings in Christ – like adoption and redemption and
inheritance – well, that is grace!
Mark Jasa tells the story about sitting at a table on a University campus inviting spiritual
conversations with passers-by. One time, he told a student “you’re forgiven,” to which the
student replied “I don’t want to be forgiven.” Jasa’s response was swift and profound: “Too late!
God already forgave you – ALL YOUR SINS – when Jesus died on the cross.” That’s grace!!
It’s kind of like Romans 5:8 – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s grace!
You are saved BY GRACE!! You don’t deserve it. You didn’t earn it. You can’t buy it. It’s
God’s totally free gift to you. Paul makes that clear at the end of Ephesians 2:8 – “this [salvation]
is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” That’s what Paul had said earlier in chapter 1: “In
Christ we have the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he
lavished on us.”
But that leads us to a third question… what place does faith play in all this? After all, it says that
we are saved “by grace through faith.” The answer to that question is that faith is not the cause or
source of our salvation. The source of salvation is Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection
from the dead. Faith is simply the open hands that receive God’s gift and take it as one’s own.
God’s grace is for all, and is sufficient for all, but only those who believe – with those open
hands of faith – truly receive God’s forgiveness and salvation.
Faith is the great equalizer for those who receive God’s salvation. When Paul originally preached
in Ephesus, he did what he did in most other cities – he proclaimed the risen Jesus first to the
Jews in the synagogue. Some believed, but then he also took the message of Jesus to the non-
Jewish people of Ephesus, and some of those Gentiles believed, too. So, one other truth that Paul
wrote about in chapter 2 was the fact that God’s grace created a new, multi-ethnic faith-based
family. The Gentiles were united with God’s covenant people of Israel by their common faith in
Jesus as the Messiah, the cornerstone of the Christian belief. That same truth is evident among
us. The dissimilar group of people that show up here at Hope on Sunday mornings come from a
diversity of ethnic, cultural, educational and social backgrounds, and, under other circumstances,
may not even choose to socialize with one another or be friends, but because of our common

belief in Jesus, we are united under His cross, we worship and work together, and we call
ourselves brothers and sisters.
2. Chapter 4 – By Grace: Unity
That theme of unity in our faith leap-frogs chapter 3 and is taken up again in chapter 4, where the
rubber of our faith begins to meet the road of our daily lives. This is where the word ‘therefore’
glues together the theology of chapters 1 – 3 with the practice of chapters 4 – 6. “Therefore,”
Paul says, “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The calling is the common call to
faith in Jesus, but that calling implies several levels of one-ness with those brothers and sisters in
Christ. Paul says that there is one body – the Church. He points to the Trinity as he refers to one
Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father. There is one faith in that true God, one Baptism
into His name, and one hope of eternal life. This unity, like our salvation, is only by God’s
grace. We don’t create that unity with and for and among ourselves. God creates that unity
among us as we all look to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
But unity does not equal conformity. There is no such thing as cookie cutter Christians, all
looking the same, all acting the same, all gifted the same. Paul explains that that one Spirit gives
many gifts and offices within the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
Even within any one of those offices, not everyone is gifted the same. For instance, some pastors
are real students and love the academic study of Scripture. Others are extroverts and thrive on
building relationships with people. Still others have a gift for teaching, or a compassion for
caring for the elderly, or a desire to reach people with the message of the Gospel. Not every
pastor is the same. But every pastor has the same call – to build up the church.
In the middle of Ephesians 4, Paul uses several phrases to draw out the full meaning of building
up the church. Here they are:
“to prepare God’s people for works of service”
“that the body of Christ may be built up”
“until we reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God”
“until we become [spiritually] mature”
“until we attain the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”
“growing up into him who is the head, that is, Christ” AND
“growing and building itself up in love.”
That spiritual maturity and growth also finds its source and origin in God’s grace. It is His grace
that provides the people gifts to prepare us for service. It is His grace that places us under Jesus,
the Head of the Church. It is His grace that unites us in our faith and knowledge of Jesus, and
that develops us into mature followers until Christ is fully formed in us.
Then that spiritual maturity is demonstrated in our lives in practical ways:
speaking the truth in love;
putting off our old sinful self – things like anger, bitterness, unwholesome talk – and putting on
the new self created to be like God – things like kindness, compassion and forgiveness;
imitating God as dearly loved children;
walking in love as Christ loved us;

living out our lives as Godly wives, husbands, parents, children, employees and employers – as if
you were serving the Lord (which you ARE).
Our grace-based salvation leads us to grace-based unity and life.
3. Chapter 6 – By Grace: Strength
But we still have one more memorable image from Ephesians… chapter 6. It’s there, at the end of
his letter, that Paul describes something abstract – the battle that we face every day against “the
rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly realms.” You know that, don’t you? You feel it, every day. There are evil forces, evil
thoughts, evil inclinations that lead you away from true trust in God’s gracious salvation, and
that lead you away from grace-inspired unity and life.
But God has one more grace gift in His back pocket for us – STRENGTH!
Twice in three verses, Paul urges his brothers and sisters in Ephesus to “put on the full armor of
God.” It’s not something they have to search for or acquire in any way. They already have it – by
God’s grace. They just have to put it on… daily… and rely on it for strength in that spiritual
Why? Each time after Paul advises them to put on God’s armor he gives the reason. The first
time: “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” And the second time,
similarly: “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand.”
Paul could easily picture a Roman guard or soldier. After all, he wrote this letter from a Roman
prison. His recipients could picture a Roman soldier, too, for they were everywhere in the Roman
Empire. Now it’s up to us to picture a Roman soldier, but Paul helps us by describing the armor
of God:
He talks of the belt of truth, God’s truth, that counters the lies and deception of the devil.
The breastplate of Christ’s righteousness protects our hearts, for we know that in Christ we are in
a right relationship with God.
In the same way as the half boots worn by a Roman soldier enabled him to travel over various
terrains in battle, so the Gospel of peace prepares us to take the Gospel to diverse people.
Paul calls our faith a shield that can extinguish the devil’s arrows of temptation just like a water
soaked leather shield protected a soldier from flaming arrows.
He says that our salvation – by GRACE in Christ – is like a helmet, protecting our minds.
And finally, our weapon of offense is the Word of God that Paul compares to a sword – the
sword of the Spirit.
It’s a memorable image, one that gives us strength for those daily battles against evil, and one
that God supplies for us, again, by His grace. So, put on the armor of God, be strong, and stand.
And we’ll close today with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, and for us… tucked nicely right in
the middle of his letter. He writes: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may
have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love
of Christ – really the GRACE of Christ – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that
you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Amen.

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