Father, thank You that in Christ there remains no blessing for You to give me! Thank You for coming to my rescue when I had earned everything but Your grace. As an act of thanks and worship today, help me to display every good work You have prepared for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Ephesians 1-2
REMEMBER HONOR AND SHAME, FEAR AND POWER
We are “adopted as Sons” and are “members of God’s household”! We have honor and a new family, and there is “great power” for us who believe!”
Read some helpful thoughts on Honor & Shame, Fear & Power below
Ephesians 1:1–14 After a brief greeting, Paul praised God for all He was accomplishing through Christ for redemption (1:4) and restoration (1:10). Paul’s praise recounted God’s grace to choose a people from before the foundation of the world and to redeem this people through the forgiveness granted through Christ’s blood. All of God’s activity flows through Christ and is found in Christ. History itself is being guided to its appointed end where things in heaven and things on earth unite in Christ (1:10). This plan is unfolding through the Spirit of promise who keeps the saints for that day. Three times, in verses 6, 12, and 14, Paul expressed the “why” behind all of this gracious activity of God: “to the praise of His glory.” God’s lavish grace awakens songs of lavish praise like those Paul expressed here.
Notice how these believers were included in this grace in 1:13. They heard the gospel, they believed the gospel, and the Holy Spirit allowed them to partake of the gospel. Who around you needs to hear?
Ephesians 1:15–23 Praise, especially when it orients us to God’s massive plan of redemption and restoration, also leads to prayer. Therefore, Paul transitioned to prayer in verses 15–23 with the words “for this reason.” Paul’s first request was that the Ephesians would know God for who He is. He then went on to pray they would know the hope to which they’re headed and the privilege it is to be the church. He also hoped that God would give them spiritual strength.
The strength Paul described flows from Christ who has conquered all and is risen and reigning over all (1:20–23). Christ died and was raised and now is seated above all. He has no ultimate rival and so we have no ultimate threat as the church. He is everything the church needs.
Ephesians 2:1–10 The ascension of Christ to the right hand of God was the turning point in a spiritual battle that every person has been a part of since birth. Some had chosen sides with Christ’s opposition and were actually delighting in their defiance, yet they were spiritually dead in their desperate condition (2:1–3).
But God, in His great mercy, made His people alive together with Christ and seated them with Him in the heavenly realm. The Holy Spirit graciously made them partakers of Christ’s victory through no merit of their own (2:8–10). As a result, the Ephesians could give witness to the heavenly realms that God’s plan to redeem and restore was underway through Christ.
Christ brought about reconciliation to God (2:1–10) and reconciliation to brothers and sisters (2:11–22). This is God’s design in the gospel: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22).
GOD’S PURPOSE OF GRACE
God’s grace has set in motion a plan to redeem a people for His Son and restore creation to its original design for His Son. God’s plan to restore—His “mystery”—is now underway. Christ ascended and is now rescuing rebellious sinners from their enmity toward God and one another. Believers in Christ are made right with God and are being built together as the church on earth. The coming peace is foreshadowed on earth through peaceful churches that are created by the cross.
THREE ASPECTS OF CULTURE: THREE RESULTS OF SIN
Each culture has its own personality. Some people even call it a culturality! That said, cultures are usually a mixture of these three types:
Each of these somewhat determines the different ways a person will initially hear the gospel.
It’s important to be aware that people from honor/shame or fear/power cultures may initially hear the gospel differently than those from guilt/innocence ones.
Of topic, the gospel is good news to all, to those overwhelmed by shame or fear as well as though who feel guilty. In Genesis 2 and 3, we read that sin affects societies in all three ways, not just one. Likewise, Christ’s life, sacrificial death, and resurrection addresses all three of these aspects—not just one. Once aware of this, we begin to see how God’s gospel is beautifully designed to address all the effects and problems of sin.
The gospel addresses the effects of sin in animistic or folk religious communities (usually fear/power cultures) as well as shame/honor societies. It’s good to pay attention to these three dimensions of sin’s effects so that when we read Scripture we don’t miss how the gospel speaks to each of them. Similarly, as we share the gospel, we should be alert to proclaim the good news as it applies to every result of sin and not just one.
Warning: A gospel presentation that ONLY addresses guilt, shame, or fear is missing something. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection solves the sin problem and addresses the effects of sin for anyone who turns from sin and believes.
3 ASPECTS OF CULTURES, 3 RESULTS OF SIN
Guilt – Innocence: This is present in more individualistic societies (mostly Western) where people who break the law are guilty and seek justice or forgiveness to rectify a wrong.
Shame – Honor: This is present in more collectivistic societies (common in the East) where people are shamed for not fulfilling group expectations and then seek to restore their honor before their community. In these cultures, the loss of identity and being cast out brings shame. Conversely, inclusion restores honor.
Fear – Power: This is present in more animistic societies (typically tribal or folk religious) where people who are afraid of evil pursue power over the spirit world through magical rituals, superstition, and magic.
We can see how the gospel addresses all three of these in the book of Ephesians.
- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins . . .” (1:7). “God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions . . .” (2:5) Our guilt is forgiven!
- “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ . . .” (1:5). “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (2:19). You have honor in God’s household! In Christ, your shame is covered.
- “That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at his right hand in the heavenly realms . . .”(1:19–20) Christ has power over fear and death!
Can you think of other examples in the Word?
MORE IN-DEPTH EXPLANATION
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,9 not 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, that we should walk in them.
- Praise isn’t merely a byproduct of receiving such wonderful grace. It’s the purpose. Spend a few moments writing your own praise to our triune God for specific graces He has shown you in Christ. Like Paul, share your praise with another believer to encourage him or her.
- There is one command in Ephesians 1–2: “Remember” (2:11). Remember what it was like before Christ came and brought peace. Remember what it was like before we believed and had no hope and were “without God in the world” (2:12). Take some time to reflect on your life before Christ and praise God for the reach of His mercy.
- Weave Ephesians 2:1–10 as a part of your testimony to share with an unbeliever this week. Note the change from what you were (2:1–3) to who you are now in Christ (2:4–10).