Knowing who you are in Christ
Part Two: Living God’s word – Applying Ephesians 1 to everyday life
In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that they – and by extension, us – are loved. His blessings are ours through Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross of Calvary, and we receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are His children, adopted into the body of Christ.
Furthermore, Paul tells us that God has foreordained us for salvation and holiness. His reasons for choosing us are according to His will and purpose. Upon receiving salvation, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, which identifies us as belonging to God and enables us to receive a portion of our divine inheritance while we are on earth.
Additionally, God’s wishes for His children are reflected through Paul’s prayers over the Ephesians:
- wisdom and revelation of God
- an awareness of our blessings as recipients of God’s inheritance
- comprehension of the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God, which not only shows itself in us but through us.
Finally, God’s secret plan of bringing all things of the world under the unification of Christ is revealed. Paul makes us aware that with Jesus being the Head of the Church, we, as a community of Christians, are the body who can spread the Good News of the gospel to the rest of the world, in order to bring God’s plan to fruition.
Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Lukes aptly states in his gospel:
“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Luke 11:28 (NRSV)
Now that we understand the message behind Ephesians 1, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series, how we can take the lessons that Paul imparts on us and implement them to live blessed, purposeful lives as children of the Most High God, the beneficiaries of the divine blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven!
Additionally, let us explore how we can be ambassadors on earth through our churches and also as individuals in spreading the Word of God.
Stop condemning yourself
God’s greatest message that He wants to share with us, is that He loves us. However, self-condemnation can prevent us from receiving God’s unconditional acceptance of us.
Because we see only our weaknesses and failings. We focus on all the times we messed up and the people we hurt and let down.
We need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are forgiven, chosen, and unconditionally accepted by Him. Nothing that we can do, no power or entity, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this for us in the Book of Romans, another of his epistles:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God knows what is in your heart and He still loves you. He is omnipresent through space and time (Revelations 1:8): He knows the mistakes you have done, are doing now, and will do in the future, and He’s still there for you. God doesn’t condemn you – why should you condemn yourself?
Know that you are unconditionally loved
This is the point that Paul wishes to emphasize the most with the Ephesians.
God loves you. Unconditionally. Unrequitedly. Uncompromisingly.
His love cannot be earned, nor can we lose it when we mess up in life. God loves us because He chooses to.
God went through the lengthy process of adoption through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to bring you into His family.
Now, that is love!
God chose you – yes you – to be a part of His family. He knew you and chose you to be His child before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eyes.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV)
God set you apart, not only because He loves you, but because He has a wonderful plan for your life, a life of abundance until it overflows (John 10:10).
When you have God in your corner loving you and cheering you on, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. If someone doesn’t like you, breaks up with you, or doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t need to let their treatment of you influence how you live your life. God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters, and He thinks you are precious and worthy!
Hold on to that!
You have God’s grace – accept it!
Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by wishing that grace and peace be theirs:
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As we learned in the first part of this Bible Study, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm.
One can interpret that in a few ways. It can be a quality which endears you to someone, or it can be a quality that you express towards others.
In the case of God, l believe it is a combination of both. God’s expression of grace towards us is one of His most beautiful personality traits. It is His gift to us, a token of love and favor that we don’t deserve because we are sinners.
For that reason, God’s gift of grace is one of the qualities that cause us to love God even more. It humbles us, stirs us, and has us in awe of the majesty and benevolence of our Creator; especially when we consider that God’s greatest act of grace was His gift of Salvation.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.”
God wants us to accept His gift of grace. He loves you so much, and you are His greatest treasure.
Nevertheless, many of us are unwilling to accept it because we feel ashamed about our past mistakes or feel like we are not worthy enough.
However, that is not who you are in Christ. Jesus went to the cross to die for your sins, He took your shame, your mistakes, your regret – from the past, present, and future – and He nailed it on that Cross so that it would never have a hold over you again.
Therefore, accept God’s gift of grace, and live your life knowing you are forgiven, loved, and cherished!
Blessed to be a blessing
God’s blessings are a point that Paul emphasizes in his epistle.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
The Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well or voice a positive utterance. In Hebrew, “blessing” can be translated in two ways: It can mean barak, which means to compliment or praise, as well as esher, which can be translated as happiness.
God literally spoke blessings to His people throughout the Bible. He blessed Abraham, declaring him to be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). He blessed Mary with the promise that she would bear the Savior of the world (Luke 1:31-33). God even blessed Paul as being the instrument through which He would bring the gospel to both the Gentiles and the Israelites (Acts 9:15).
When God blesses us, it is an expression of an act of favor or a declaration of His will for us. These blessings may come in the form of talents, health, opportunities – even material and financial acquisitions. In whatever form they may manifest themselves, God’s blessings are meant to enrich us.
However, these blessings are not given to us with the purpose of self-fulfillment. God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.
Numerous verses in the Bible instruct us to bless others. Here are just a few:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
“Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.”
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.”
So, how can you bless others? You can use your talents to help others in your church and community. In my case, l am a fluent German speaker. In the church l attend here in Bochum, Germany, l offer my services in the Translation team, where we translate the church services from German into English.
Additionally, you can give financial gifts, volunteer in local charity organizations, host people in your home by preparing a meal or doing a Bible Study, or give food and clothing donations to a local shelter.
And of course, the most powerful blessing you can give someone is to pray for them.
Embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit
When we give our lives to Christ, God confirms the transaction by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are now beneficiaries of the promise of a divine inheritance.
The Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and provides us with a portion of our heavenly inheritance. In the Ancient Greek business world, a down-payment or “earnest” known as arrabon was considered a part of the purchase price of a good. In the same way, the Holy Spirit provides us with a pledge, or a down-payment of the blessings we are to receive once we are in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”
The pledges of the Holy Spirit are varied and many. Here are a few:
- He baptizes us into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- He gives us gifts (2 Corinthians 1-11)
- He teaches us (John 14:26)
- He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27)
- He helps us to pray (Jude 1:20)
- He gives us fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
- He helps us to lead righteous lives (Galatians 5:24-26)
The thing about these pledges, is that they come in seed form. That means, that these provisions will become stronger in us the stronger we become in Christ.
When we give our lives to Christ, we become new creations – we start anew. Just as a human baby grows by progressing from milk to solid food, so too do we need to grow from “baby” Christians to mature Christians.
“And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.”
How can we do this? By spending time with God in prayer and quiet reflection, by reading the Bible and being in fellowship with other Christians. In Part Three of our Bible Study, which we will post tomorrow, we outline ways in which you can strengthen yourself in Christ and grow as a community of believers.
The potential to become a mature, formidable man or woman of Christ lies within you. If you are feeling undernourished, spend time with God today. Ask Him to show you through the Holy Spirit, how you can tap into the gifts and blessings He has placed inside you.
Church leaders – be encouraged
Paul places great emphasis on the role of the Church in furthering the Word of God. As an apostolic missionary, Paul was well aware of the vocation and responsibility involved in braving the outside world and sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know God or believe in Him.
The church is of vital importance to Jesus. As her head and cornerstone, He has great plans for the church where each of us has designated roles to fulfill in furthering the gospel. Paul talks more about this in Ephesians 4.
Being a church leader in the modern-day church comes with its challenges. In a time where more and more people are turning away from God and dedicating themselves to the pursuits of the world, church leaders are under pressure to preach the Word of God, while at the same time not rocking the boat with messages or values that can deter people from wanting to enter their church doors.
Paul wants to encourage the Body of Christ that Christ’s power is greater than any authority, power, and dominion in this world and beyond.
“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
Jesus created the church to stand out amidst the brokenness of the world, to be a source of light when others sit in the darkness of unbelief and lack of knowledge of God’s redeeming love.
Therefore, church leaders need not fear reproach or rejection for telling the infallible Truth of the Word of God. It is their divine-appointed calling, endorsed by the power of the Name that is above all Names, under which every knee must bow – not just in this age, but for all ages to come.
Jesus has your back!
Go out and spread the Word
As we stated in the segment above, Jesus is the head of the Church. That makes us, as the Body of Christ, His movable body parts.
God’s application of His great plan of unity amongst the nations is through the church. This means, that we all have a role to play in making God’s endgame come to fruition. We need to be the mouth, hands, legs, heart, and spirit of Christ on earth.
God calls us to go out and teach the gospel to the four corners of the world, He wants us to bring people into the family of God through salvation. We call this the Great Mission.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As Christians, we need to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. DL Moody, the great Christian theologian famously said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.”
So how can be known as God’s messengers on earth?
We can reflect Christ’s personality through our own behavior
When l gave my life to Christ, people noticed an immediate change over me. I thought before l spoke, l was quieter, and l stopped swearing (and l used to swear a lot!).
People notice that Christ is in us in subtle ways, such as through our behavior, what we choose to talk or not talk about, how we react in situations that are challenging.
Reminding ourselves that Christ is in us and going out into the world with a spirit of patience, grace, kindness, and humility will have more of an effect on others than grand, sanctimonious gestures. It will show others who Christ’s true personality is.
We can pray
Praying is our most formidable and effective tool in making spiritual change.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Not only can we pray for our friends, families, and neighbors, but we should be praying for our nation’s leaders and the spiritual stability of our countries and the cities we live in. Through prayer, chains of pride and disbelief can and will be broken!
Have you heard of the film “War Room”? Miss Clara, one of the protagonist’s, had set up her closet as a prayer room. She wrote down everything that was on her heart that she wanted to pray over – may it be requests for herself or requests that were on her heart for others. When Miss Clara went into her War Room to pray, she was on a divine mission from God to stir things up in the spiritual realm!
We can take action
It is impossible for people to hear about the Word of God if we don’t bring it to them. In Hosea 4:6 it states “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
For that reason, we can make the gospel accessible to others in different ways. Here are a few suggestions:
- plant a church
- Start a Bible Study in your home
- Invite a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Christ to church
- Speak about Christ when you see an opportunity
- Start a blog (that’s what l did)
- Share a favorite Bible verse on social media like your Facebook or Instagram account
- Take flyers from your church and leave them in public places (l leave mine in the locker room of my gym and doctor’s waiting rooms)
- Have a Bible app on your phone and show people Bible verses when the situation comes up. This also provides an example for how others can have the Bible always at their fingertips. I highly recommend the YouVersion Bible App, which was designed by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.Church and his team. (My husband even offers to download the app for people on their phone, right in that moment.)
- Invite people over for a Christian movie night. One of my friends regularly invites others to watch The Shack, the film adaptation of Wm Paul Young’s famous book. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can read our book review on The Shack here.
This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”. To see Part One of our Bible study of Ephesians 1, click here.
If you have enjoyed the series thus far, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, when l will post the third and final part of our series.
Until then my friends, take care and God bless!
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan”
https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible
www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians”
https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“
https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus”
https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?”
https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?”
johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life”
withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership”
www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?”
www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?”
www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity”