Enlightened Christianity–Ephesians 1:15-23

There are some Christians that exude unflappable confidence in the Lord, and see everything that happens in their lives as a result of his hand. Their instinctive response to all challenges is to trust more and to pray more and to study the word more.

These are enlightened believers, who live each day in and with the power of a risen Lord. They know there is unfailing hope in his calling. They know that they’ve already received their inheritance from him by his grace—these are the original “trust babies.” They know full well the tremendous unsurpassed power by which they will be forever sustained.

Are you there yet? If not, you only believe two-thirds of the gospel, that Jesus came and died.

A living Christ has called us to be illuminated! That’s why Paul is praying for this enlightenment to occur in the Ephesian church.

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Above My Pay Grade–Ephesians 1:1-14

In the business world the saying goes, “What have you done for me lately?” Here in Ephesians 1, Paul lists what Christ has done for us previously, what he’s doing for us presently, and what he intends to do for us in the future.

We qualify for all these blessings by being “in him.”* But how do we gain access? User name and password? Monthly fee? While we read in 1:13 that it’s by listening and believing in a message about the truth, the facts indicate that we are chosen for this privileged position before the foundation of the world. (1:4)

Let’s set aside for the moment the tempting debate why and how the God of the universe does this and just list what we get in the deal. Here we go. He blesses us with every spiritual blessing. He’s chosen us to be holy and blameless. He’s predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters. He lavishes us (1:8) with grace by redeeming and forgiving us. And among many other things, he’s revealed to us the mystery of his will and sealed our fate “in him.”

Why has he done all this? We know he’s kind, gracious and purposeful. But why to me particularly? At the risk of being trite in view of this magnificent theology, all this is above my pay grade.

But when you’re in, you know all these things have been undeniably granted. If we are convinced that we are unworthy of this vaulted position of grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2), we are where we need to be!

Actually, these verses should literally blow our minds. Literally! All that’s left then is worship.

*Reserved in the “heavenly places” or “spiritual realm” for us!

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The Road to Perdition—Romans 1:18-32

There’s a saying that all roads lead to Rome, meaning that regardless the pathway, the same destination awaits. This should be true about God if you open your eyes to your surroundings, or take a moment to contemplate your existence. Here Paul states that man should know that a greater being must have been and is to this day at work. This power is witnessed in the glory of his handiwork, the lightning dancing across the sky, the brilliant sunrises and sunsets, and the miracle of birth, for starters.

All have the intelligence to see this irrefutable evidence of God all around them, and “are without excuse.” (1:20) They should also follow the logic that a being who could create such wonder can certainly hold sway over what he has created.

But man, in the face of all this, suppresses what he knows in unbelief. But this can’t really be unbelief if effort must be constantly exerted to keep the truth at bay. It does get easier when God, seeing this foolishness, allows the exchange of incorruptibility for the corrupt. (1:23)

In time, man degrades and devolves into to everything at odds with the righteousness of God. Taking this course, that is, by choosing to deny the truth of God, man must explain his every act with his own congitations, and satisfy every God-given drive with what seems right in his own eyes, or feels good, no matter how depraved.

All this makes God very angry, as you might expect. He put out all the road signs that would lead man right to him, but they were willfully ignored. Consequently, God’s wrath awaits at the end of this futile detour.

But he’s left behind a lifeline in Jesus Christ, for man is only saved from this road to perdition by accepting directions from him.

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Beck and Called–Romans 1:13-14

 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Romans 1:13-14

Once commissioned by Christ to reach out to Gentiles, Paul was immersed in the work. We know he encountered all kinds of persecutions and endured many trials along the way. Here it wasn’t Satan that thwarted him, but the inability to split himself in two.

Paul served at the pleasure of the Lord and the Master had yet to put Rome on his schedule. From time to time we make choices between two goods. This is the way it is.

Because Rome was Rome, Paul suspected that he’d find ripe fruit among all kinds of people in the city, i.e. Greeks, barbarians, wise, foolish, etc. Today it would be immigrants, gang members, college professors, gamers, students, agnostics, and yes, churchgoers. Regardless, Paul sought them all.

His job, in addition to ministering to the saints there, was to add to their number.

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The Power of the Gospel–Romans 1:15-17

15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:15-17

There is no middle ground with the gospel. You’re either eager to share it or ashamed of it and keep it to yourself. But how do you sit on that which contains the power of God to save? Thankfully, there are people like Paul everywhere who unashamedly transmit the good news.

While the salvation transaction remains mysterious in light of the effectual call of God and the willful choice of man, we know that the gospel somehow gets it done. It may have something to do with its ability to reveal God’s righteousness and our sinfulness simultaneously, to which one must respond. Whatever the case, God’s been at this for some time (“from faith to faith”), and the proof is in the pudding.

Looking back, we understand that salvation is more than an acknowledgment of the man upstairs. It produces obedience, that is, righteousness. So saving faith is a miraculous experience that somehow combines our will and his—but can his will be thwarted? (Romans 8:33) Ah, now you understand why it’s best to keep one’s feet firmly planted in mid-air on this topic!

Suffice it to say, when the scales fall (Acts 9:18), we end up like the blind man not understanding what hit him, other than knowing without a shadow of a doubt, and obediently testifying thereof, that once he was blind and now he could see! (John 9:25)

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Gift Exchange–Romans 1:11-12

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Romans 1:11-12

Anytime Christians are together there should be an exchange of spiritual gifts. Too often the back and forth amounts to gossip and complaints, not encouragement like there should be. Paul expected to come away from his time with the Romans encouraged and built up. Let’s make this our goal in all interactions, to leave the other party bolstered in their walk, not blistered!

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Calling the Romans–Romans 1:1-7

In one signature run-on sentence, we have all we need to know about the gospel of God. It’s Paul’s preamble to his magnificent letter to his beloved saints in Rome. These were the “called of Jesus Christ.”

Nothing here indicates initiative on anyone else’s part but God, as Paul was himself dramatically “called as an apostle,” as a “chosen instrument of God,” (Acts 9:15) from then on enslaved to the good news first delivered and recorded in scripture by the prophets, about a man born like all of us, who would descend genealogically from King David, and ultimately rise to his throne by conquering death by virtue of his holiness, thereby validating his diety and God’s power.

To Paul’s message, the Romans were obedient. It is interesting that this word—obedience—is used juxtaposed to faith. Our faith is exhibited by our obedience, pulled off only by God’s grace. As a result, we get peace from him. Moreover, the world sees Christ modeled in us in real time.

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