by Mike Ratliff
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus. 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
What I am about to say is indicative of the doctrinally confused times in which we now live. I have written posts that teach nothing more than the doctrine of Justification by faith and have received criticism from more commenters than I care to count and several confused questions concerning not our Justification, but our Sanctification. Here are two examples. One was from a Roman Catholic priest who wanted me to stop teaching people about the sufficiency of God’s Grace at our Justification because, according to the traditions and teachings of the RCC, that grace is not sufficient and with each sin, Christians must attend Mass and confession, et cetera and even then that did not entirely pay the entire penalty for that sin in the eyes of God and so Purgatory awaits all true believers. Sigh… The other example was a very short angry comment that contained a link. The comment stated, “Calvin, John MacArthur, James White, John Piper are wrong” then there was link to a post on another site that was a very confused teaching about the fact that no one can enter into the presence of God carrying any sin so even though each believer is “saved” when they believe, it is conditional on their walking in repentance and keeping the law, et cetera. Those who are not able to reach this level of perfection lose their salvation. Sigh… My brethren, We are sinners and our salvation is a miracle because not one of us do one thing to deserve or earn.
God elects us and it is his work through which we are declared righteous as he enables us to believe the gospel by faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). The second part of the confusion and large contributor to what those who teach these heresies is Biblical ignorance that leads people to confuse our Justification with our Sanctification. The following is a quote from Chapter 1 of John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin speaking of the principle efficient cause of the performance of the duty of our mortifying our sin:
All other ways of mortification are vain; all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates (Rom. 9:30-32), may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done and do: but (saith he) this is the work of the Spirit; by him alone it is to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about. Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world…
God has provided to the Church all the Spiritual resources it needs to fulfill his will. We have the Holy Spirit and we saw part of what he does from our brother John Owen. However, we also have superabundant Spiritual resources in our Lord Jesus Christ. This fourth post in this series on God’s purpose for the Church is “Resources in Christ” and is based in Ephesians 1:15-23.
15 Therefore, I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in a fuller knowledge of him, 18 and that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened for you to know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of the glory of the his inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of his power to us, the ones believing according to the working of the might of his strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ having raised him from the dead and having seated him on his right in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name being named not only in this age but also in the coming one. 22 And he subordinated all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
What is the evidence that our Lord said would show the world that we were his authentic disciples? The love that genuine believers have for one another being manifested in every circumstance is what shows the world that we are authentic (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 4:16-18; 4:20; 5:1). When there is discord and ugliness within then we should be very concerned. However, this does not mean that we should seek harmony at all costs such as affirming those who are apostate or are teaching heresy. We must do what is right for the health of the Body. This love was evident at Ephesus and Paul rejoiced because of it.
In vv17,18 we have both God the Father and God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned together in essential nature as deity. Paul was praying that believers will have the disposition of godly knowledge and insight of which the sanctified mind is capable so as to grasp the greatness of the hope and the inheritance that is theirs in Christ. I am convinced that the shallowness and prevalence of the confusion about our justification and sanctification would be much less if the leadership of Church would cease with the empire building and their continual “busy works” and simply enjoin their people in prayer to grasp this. Of course, many of these local “pastors” don’t want this because they want to be the center of attention… However, the Apostle Paul did not have that problem. He pointed all in Christ to the Lord to see their true inheritance in him. A spiritually enlightened mind is the only means of truly understanding and appreciating the hope and inheritance in Christ and living obediently for him. We cannot live obediently for him in our own strength or ability or power. No, we must do so within the power of the Holy Spirit.
In vv19,20 Paul shows us that the very power, God’s great power, that raised Jesus from the dead and lifted him by ascension back to glory to the right of the Father, is given to every believer at their salvation and is always available afterwards (Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:29) in the midst of our sanctification. Did Paul ask for God to give believers this great power? No! Why not? All believers already possess this great power in Christ and use it (Ephesians 3:20).
In v21 Paul makes sure that we understand that God is above all the heavenly host (Revelation 20:10-15). I know that most of you have no issues with that, but I have been listening to debates online between Christian apologists like Dr. James White and Muslims. These touch points are crucial. Also, I get awfully tired of people who portray Jesus as their buddy or pal or whatever instead of God. Why? Look at vv22-23. V22 quotes Psalm 8:6 indicating that God has exalted Christ over everything (Hebrews 2:8) including his church (Colossians 1:18). Christ is clearly the authoritative Head because all things have been placed under his feet. In v23 we see that the Body of Christ is a metaphor for God’s redeemed people.
Are you still confused about your Justification thinking that what happens after your salvation has any bearing whatsoever on it? If so then you are confusing the terms Justification and Sanctification. Justification is a declaration by God in which he imputes the righteousness of Christ to his elect when they believe the gospel. We will look at this in Ephesians 2. Sanctification is not the same thing at all. This is the process of making us holy or Christlike, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the state of our Justification. However, the Word tells us that we are New Creations and that those who are truly Born Again will not practice the unrighteousness that the world does while they grow, in time, more and more capable of walking in repentance through what John Owen called the Mortification of Sin. All of this is coming up as we work through Ephesians.
Soli Deo Gloria!