Ephesians 2:5

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 2:5. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 2:5

[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it by you have been saved

In this and the next few verses, Paul talks about grace and faith working together to bring us to salvation. The past few verses were about God’s love lifting us from wrath. Now he talks about death and life.

We were dead in our transgressions.

Previously Paul talked about living in the flesh and sin, but now he reveals something shocking — we were dead in our transgressions.

It is ironic that’s the people who most want to indulge the sinful nature regard christians as lacking a life. Those who are “ living” in transgressions are actually dead.

The film “The Matrix” illustrate this perfectly. In the movie, The human race had been captivated by aliens who held everyone in a trance. People were deceived by a computer program which made them believe that they were living normal lives.

The flesh deceives us so that we believe we are living, when we are actually dead.

To be dead in transgressions means that we live a sub-human life. We were meant for so much more than a life of self-centeredness , of self-indulgence. Every person was created by God for a purpose, and unless we surrender ourselves to God, we are living below our optimum humanity. To “ live” in transgressions is to live with the purpose and direction of an animal.

To be dead in transgressions means that our spirit is dead. The spirit is the part of our nature that communicates with God. It is the breath that God breathed into Adam, and which Christ breathed into the disciples. Until our spirit is animated by the Holy Spirit, it remains dead .

To be dead in transgressions is to be sleep walking towards hell. It is like a condemned prisoner who is on his way to the execution chamber. His body is alive but he has no future other than death.

We were once dead in our transgressions, but God made us alive with Christ.

As we stated in the previous verse, it is God who takes the action in Salvation. He takes the initiative, all we can do is receive what he has done.

God made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead.

Just as God raised Christ from the dead, he raised us also with Christ. When we first saw the truth of the gospel we were raised from the dead. Life came flowing into our spirit, and we came to life.

This is God’s work of resurrection. New life flows to the spirit of the new believer. Suddenly the chains that kept us in the grave are released, and we start to feel alive, really alive, for the very first time.

It is as if we are born again, brought into a new form of life that we have never experienced before .

We could not do that by ourselves. Nobody can summon the energy to raise themselves from the grave. God did this, all by himself.

We have been saved by the grace of God.

To be saved means to be rescued where we could not save ourselves. Our ship was sinking in rough seas when a helicopter came to lift us to safety. We were lost in the bush with no food when the rescue patrol found us.

Right at the point of our death, the death of Christ raised us to life.

The word for saved means also to be healed or made whole. We were broken, dead, lost, and without hope. Then God saved us.

We were headed for hell with no possible way out. As the sentence was declared, Jesus stepped in and took our punishment away. We expected eternal hell, stared receive eternal Heaven .

This Is all by grace, the grace of God.

We need to see that it is God’s grace. The living God graces us with His gift of life.

Many people have a fuzzy idea about terms such as grace. They think that the universe is favourably disposed to us and this is grace. They think that grace, like God, is some sort of impersonal force that makes sure that everything works out.

This is God’s grace, Father God gifting us with his mercy and his life. Grace literally means a gift. Salvation comes as a gift from the Father.

We cannot earn grace because that would be a wage. We are not entitled to it like an inheritance. Grace is a free gift with no strings attached.

Salvation comes as a free gift.

We were dead in our sins, but God made us alive because of his free gift to us in Christ.

Key points in this verse

  • We were dead in our transgressions even though we thought we were alive full.
  • We had a sub-human existence until we were rescued.
  • We were sleepwalking to hell.
  • Salvation is God’s free gift to us.
  • We cannot save ourselves. We need God’s grace to save us.

Reflection on Acts 12:1-25

Scripture

Instantly an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.

Observation

Herod starts to persecute the church by having James put to death. This pleases the Jewish leaders, so he has Peter arrested. The night before Peter’s trial, an angel of the Lord comes to release him and lead him to safety.

The people of Tyre and Sidon send a delegation to make peace with Herod. Herod makes a fine speech which the people present proclaim to be the speech of a god not a man. Because Herod accepts this false worship, the Lord strikes him down with sickness, and he dies.

Application

Many people like to think that God does not punish people, that He does not judge sin. Of course this is nonsense. The Bible is full of warnings against the judgement of God.

Here Herod is struck down with a fatal illness because he is praised as a god. It is interesting that it is this blasphemous pride rather than the murder of James and the attempted murder of Peter which God punishes.

While few of us would be tempted to think that we are gods, many can be prone to pride at various times. We might be proud of our abilities, proud of our talents, proud of our ministry.

At these times, we run the risk of being judged by the Lord.

Every now and again we hear of pastors falling into sin of some kind, sometimes even committing a crime. Very few of them start off in ministry with this or other immoral goals. But pride, even a sense of entitlement, starts to find its way in. Eventually they find themselves doing things that once they would not have considered themselves capable of doing.

God’s judgement is real, but not because He gets pleasure from inflicting pain on us. God judges because He loves us and wants us to turn to Him before it is too late.

Prayer

Father, please help me to walk in your ways every day. May I live in a way that honours you. Amen.

Bill Muehlenberg: We all should be alarmed

The Rise of Statism and the Reduction of the Individual

We all should be alarmed at government overreach in the corona crisis:

“Gathering outdoors is the next freedom to be restored,” said a front-page article from the Daily Telegraph. Um, am I the only one who was shocked by that sentence – and others like it? Gosh, isn’t that swell of the State to allow us to go outside a bit. So very kind of them.

Um, since when was it the right of governments to simply take away our right to freely assemble as we decide in the first place? Am I now supposed to grovel before the State and thank them profusely if they take away my right to eat or breathe and then ever so graciously give it back – if I behave?

I have said it before and I will keep saying it (no matter how much the alarmists dislike me for doing so): The two most shocking things about the corona crisis are these: one, the absolute speed and ease in which governments have shut down and locked down entire nations; and two, the ready, eager and unquestioning acceptance of all this by the masses.

BTW, I have been saying this for several months now. However, just moments ago I saw a brand-new article by Dennis Prager in which he says this: “But the ease with which police state tactics have been employed and the equal ease with which most Americans have accepted them have been breathtaking.” Hmm, we sure seem to be on the same page here.

And all this has utterly shocked me and saddened me. Yes it really has. Worse yet, I fully realise that the only thing so many folks are worried about is when their beloved footy team will be playing again. But there actually are some things that matter a whole lot more. Like freedom. Like the individual. Like democracy. Like the rule of law. Like the ability to think for oneself and ask questions.

But far too many folks really do not seem to give a rip that so much of this is being taken away from us. The masses just do not seem to care. The sheeple could not be bothered with even raising an eyebrow here. Too many simply trust the government implicitly. ‘My country right or wrong’ has now morphed into ‘My State right or wrong.’

And even more shocking is how many Christians have fallen into line here. ‘Well the government said it, so it must be right. Who am I to question?’ And, ‘Why are you so worried about technology? What could ever go wrong?’ Hmm, why do I suspect that far too many of these naïve, apathetic and undiscerning believers would just as happily intone, ‘The State is my shepherd’?

Or as Ben Davis has recently put it:

Our Government in Canberra,
Hallowed be thy name,
Give us this day our daily support payments,
And increase our debts.
Lead us not into temptation to violate your stay at home orders,
But deliver us from COVID-19.
For the power and glory are yours,
Amen

Yes, there is a place for taking sensible precautions, for some government intervention, and for some limited restrictions on our liberties. I have been saying this from day one as well. But we seem to have gone far beyond this. If the State tells us to download a questionable app, most folks will do it. If the State tells us to snitch on our neighbours, most folks will do it. If the State tells us that we cannot leave our homes unless the State allows us to, most folks will do it.

And when Big Tech and the Big State get into bed together and fully support each other in this draconian overreach and abuse of power, then you know we really are getting to the end of freedom as we know it. I have been documenting this for quite a while now, but for too many folks it simply goes in one ear and out the next.

Let me offer just one scary case in point of what we are up against. For a few days now I – and millions of others – have shared a very important, fact-filled video of two California doctors sharing informed, balanced and evidence-filled concerns about the accepted narrative on corona.

They have dared to ask how a nation-wide lockdown makes any sense, based on all that we now know about COVID-19, how it spreads, who is really at risk, and so on. It was seen over 5.5 million times. But then YouTube decided that you – the people – are too stupid and it is too dangerous to have a video like this being seen.

So they pulled it. The head honcho said that only points of view that go along with groups like WHO will be allowed. Um, if anyone thinks that WHO has handled this whole crisis well, they need to go to the back of the class. Here is just one of many pieces on the appallingly bad way that WHO has dealt with this: thefederalist.com/2020/04/09/why-the-who-is-a-danger-to-public-health/

And see this damning expose of the head of WHO: www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/04/10/5-shocking-facts-about-who-chief-tedros-adhanom-ghebreyesus/

But the censors and mind-controllers at YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and so on have all decided that certain ideas and points of view are now verboten. The people will NOT be allowed to get a differing point of view. You will only be allowed to hear what the State thinks you should hear. But I refuse to submit, and the full 68-minute video can be seen here: newtube.app/user/anthony/GlkxUvo

Please watch it and share it. One article explains the situation with this pulled video:

Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi … decried California’s COVID-19 related lockdown in particular on medical and economic grounds. Part 1 carried the heart of the doctors’ remarks in about 50 minutes…. They focused on their own experience and widened the discussion to take in California generally. They made many of the same points we have been making here over the past month, but tied the discussion to their experience as physicians and owners in the business of treating patients in need of urgent care.

Laura Ingraham invited Dr. Erickson on for a segment of her FOX News show last night, and she got action! As events transpired, she was able to report in real time that YouTube had removed the viral part 1 video following the segment — for violating YouTube’s terms of service, of course. www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2020/04/was-it-something-he-said-4.php

Another Fox News host who has constantly been trying to sound the alarm on all this is Tucker Carlson. This short video clip is also must-viewing and must-sharing: video.foxnews.com/v/6152742822001

In it examines the collusion of Big Tech and Big Government, discusses the censored video, and then says this: “Of all the many ironies of this moment, so many of them bitter, the hardest to swallow is this one: As we fight this virus, we are becoming far more like the country that spawned it – we are becoming more like China. It’s horrifying.”

I mentioned just above a new piece by Dennis Prager. Let me speak to it a bit further. In it he offers these 4 signs of a police state:

No. 1: Draconian laws depriving citizens of elementary civil rights.
No. 2: A mass media supportive of the state’s messaging and deprivation of rights.
No. 3: Use of police.
No. 4: Snitches.

He concludes the article this way:

It is said that about 1 in every 100 East German citizens were informers for the Stasi, the East German secret police, as superbly portrayed in the film “The Lives of Others.” It would be interesting, and, I think, important, to know what percentage of New Yorkers informed on their fellow citizens. Now, again, you may think such a comparison is not morally valid, that de Blasio’s call to New Yorkers to serve a Stasi-like role was morally justified given the coronavirus pandemic. But you cannot deny it is Stasi-like or that, other than identifying spies during World War II, this is unprecedented in American history at anywhere near this level.

This past Friday night, I gathered with six others for a Shabbat dinner with friends in Santa Monica, California. On my Friday radio show, I announced I would be doing that, and if I was arrested, it would be worth it. In my most pessimistic dreams, I never imagined that in America, having dinner at a friend’s house would be an act of civil disobedience, perhaps even a criminal act. But that is precisely what happens in a police state. townhall.com/columnists/dennisprager/2020/04/28/our-dress-rehearsal-for-a-police-state-n2567744

Lastly, let me take that final point about snitching and share what another writer has said about it:

That is not America. In East Germany, the Communists built a collective of informants. In the Soviet Union, informing on your neighbors and even your parents proved your loyalty to the state. This behavior has no place here. We’re Americans. Our first allegiance is not to the state, but to each other. In America, treason is not a betrayal of the state, but of the rights of the individual to be free of the state. Socialists betray the individual to the state and their pandemic response reinforces that first betrayal of the individual. It is no coincidence that the 1-800-INFORM phenomenon has taken root in the blue parts of the country. The culture of informants values the collective and suppresses the individual.

To the socialist, governments never fail. The experts are always wise and the public officials all-knowing. Government only fails because individuals subvert, sabotage, and undermine its well-meaning efforts. The informant helps the authorities redirect the blame for their failures by locating individual scapegoats. A nation of informants can only arise in a socialist system where people put the state first. They scowl and plot against their neighbors, spying and informing on them for the freedom they feel in their souls. The pandemic is a threat to the body of the nation, but 1-800-INFORM threatens the soul. thewashingtonstandard.com/1-800-inform-report-your-neighbors-to-authorities-its-the-un-american-way/

There are so many things happening right now that should concern every single one of us. And what concerns me so very much is that so few people seem concerned at all!

Reflection on Acts 11:19-30

Scripture

Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.

Observation

The persecution in Jerusalem scatters the believers to many places, but they preach only to the Jews. Some believers arrive in Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene and start preaching to the Gentiles. The power of the Lord is with them, and many are saved.

The church at Jerusalem sends Barnabas to Antioch. He sees that God is doing great things there and he goes off to Tarsus to fetch Saul. They both stay in Antioch for a year, teaching large crowds of people.

A prophet called Agabus predicts a huge famine, so the believers in Antioch collect money to help the church in Jerusalem.

Application

I can’t think of any better honour than to be described, like Barnabas, as a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.

This three- fold description is something we can all aspire to, because they are all choices that we make.

To be a “good man” or woman really depends on the choice to stand firm in the Lord. This goes beyond moral choices to the concept of integrity. A good person is one who knows what is right in every situation and who operates from conviction. A few years ago there was a fad on the phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” which is a good way to remind us to always act in a way that honours the Lord.

To be full of the Holy Spirit is also a choice. It means that we constantly seek the Lord in prayer, asking Him to direct our steps. Christians are meant to be always aware of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating that awareness of the Spirit goes a long way to being full of the Spirit.

To be strong in faith means both prayer and action. Every issue in our life, every non-believer, every local and national problem should be brought before the Lord in prayer. As we do this, we learn to see that we have authority in the Lord. We start to pray bold and faithful prayers. Having prayed and listened to the Lord, we can act confidently, ministering the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Lord, please help me to be a Barnabas: good, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. Amen.

250 Years Ago This Month…

Likely to be overlooked in a double whammy of political correctness and the corona virus, next Wednesday will mark 250 years since Captain Cook landed at Botany Bay.

As Michael Crowley writes, Cook was one of the great figures in European history in terms of his advancement of knowledge.

The three voyages of James Cook, between 1768 and 1780, substantially increased humanity’s knowledge of the globe.

Prior to his odysseys, the Earth was divided into two separated hemispheres: the northern, which was largely but not entirely charted; and the southern, which was largely uncharted, and yet to be fully discovered by the more technologically developed world north of the equator. Cook’s voyages, his achievements in seamanship, in navigation and cartography, his relentless will to explore both hemispheres, opened the way for contact between different regions and different peoples of the world, which had hitherto been impossible.

Cook’s achievements ought to speak for themselves. He mapped more of the globe and sailed further south than anyone before him. When other mariners perished in the abyss of oceans, Cook could pinpoint his location to within a mile. He even pioneered a cure for scurvy that saved countless lives and increased the longevity of voyages.

He was also one of the very few men from the lower classes to rise to senior rank in the Royal Navy. Men followed Cook to the ends of the Earth and beyond, and his attitude to the indigenous peoples he encountered was enlightened and compassionate.

This month marks the 250th anniversary of Cook charting the east coast of Australia, then referred to as Terra Australis Incognita – the unknown land of the south. He accomplished it during the three-year voyage of the Endeavour, the first of his three great voyages that marked him out as the mariner of the Enlightenment, if not all time.

Read the full article here

Here is my commentary on Ephesians 2:4. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.

Ephesians 2:4

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy …

God loves us with great love (a more literal rendering of this phrase) and is rich in mercy.

We need to always bear in mind that it is God who is the subject of our salvation. It is God who takes the decisive action to put to rights our terrible predicament regarding sin.

The previous verse talks about how we once lived in our sins and transgressions. We were objects of wrath.

God intervenes to deal with sin. We might expect that his intervention to fix sin and to deal with the objects of his wrath wold be to pour and judgement and punishment on these sinners .

But God acts first out of his great love and his rich mercy .

The Lord takes the initiative and God the Son becomes a human being. Jesus comes into the world to effect salvation for all who put their trust in him.

God acts from love and mercy, not from judgement or vengeance. This is not to say that there is no judgement for those who remain in sin. God’s love at this time does not mean that he’s gone soft on sin. Far from it! He took the fall; He paid the price; He gave up everything in the hope of rescuing some.

God loves us with great love.

The love that God shows us is, in Greek, agape. This is love that is poured out for the sake of the person who is loved. God’s love does not wax or wane depending on our response to him. He loves the greatest sinner just as much as he loves the greatest saint.

Agape love is love that says, “ I love you regardless of what you do or do not do for me.” Agape love is the reckless love of the father in the parable of the prodigal son.

Some people infer that because God’s love is unwavering and independent of the response of its object, that this agape love is unemotional. Gods love is not subject to ups and downs in the ways human love may be, but that does not make it unemotional. God’s love Is love, not a rational, intellectual, dispassionate exercise of good thoughts to us.

The Old Testament reveals the Lord as a God whose love for his people is passionate and emotional. He describes himself as a husband who is jealous for his wife Israel .

God loves us with a great love. His love is not stingy or doled out by the teaspoonful. God’s love is lavish, immense, never ending. Nobody can tell how high or deep or wide or long is God’s love for us. The cross gives us a picture of His love in that God has laid down his own life for us.

God loves his creation, especially people whom he made in his own image. He has an abundance of love for us, love that never runs out. Even when he judges people, it will be from a position first of love.

God is rich in mercy.

We deserve to be punished for our many sins and transgressions. At one time we lived in sin. It was our lifestyle; we were unrepentant and just didn’t care. Perhaps we did not know we were sinners.

God’s mercy is seen in the way he defers punishment. He did not strike us down immediately after our first sin, not even after our first thousand sins. Although our first sin was enough to condemn us, he gave us chance after chance after chance to turn away from our wickedness. In fact, he gives every person their entire lifetime to come to a place of recognising that they are a sinner.

Gods mercy is seeing also in that the defers final judgement so that as many people as possible may be saved (2 Peter 3:9). Judgement against the world’s wickedness will come, but the Lord holds back, waiting for the fullness of his kingdom to be filled .

God’s mercy is seen also in the fact that he freely welcomes us into his family. When we repent and turn to him, the record of sin is deleted instantly. There is no qualifying period, no need to meet certain standards of behaviour.

Sometimes law courts give a suspended sentence. A person may be sentenced to prison, but it is suspended for a time period. If the criminal commits no further crimes in that suspension period, his prison term is revoked. But if any offence is committed, the full prison sentence must be served.

But God wipes away our sins immediately. We don’t have to be perfect for a year before we qualify. God’s mercy is instant and covers all of our sins, past and future.

God is rich in mercy. He has so much mercy to give away, there is more than enough to go around. When Jesus fed the 5000 people, the abundance or richness of the miracle was seen in the fact that everybody had enough to eat and there was much more left over than was present to start off with.

God has more than enough mercy to go around. Because he loves us with great love, he is prepared to forgive our sins and failures repeatedly and often. The only requirement is that we seek his grace.

Gods mercy is so rich that he forgives the sins we forget to confess. Some people obsess about ”keeping short accounts with God”, that is looking for every misdemeanour and offence they might have committed, so they can confess it all to God. We must not be afraid of overlooking something that God might hold against us.

God is rich in mercy, rich enough to forgive the greatest and least of sins, those we confess and those we forget to confess. He loves us with great love.

Key points in this verse

  • God loves us with great love
  • God initiates our salvation; we respond to him.
  • God deals with sin by paying for it Himself
  • God’s love, agape love, flows to us whether we respond or not.
  • God is passionately in love with us
  • God is rich in mercy
  • God delights to welcome sinners into his family
  • God has more than enough mercy to go around

Reflection on Acts 11:1-18

Scripture

When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “we can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”

Observation

Peter arrives back in Jerusalem, having shared the gospel with Cornelius’ household. Some of the Jewish believers criticise him for entering the home of a Gentile. Peter recounts the story of how he had the vision of the animals being lowered from heaven, his visit to Caesarea, and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.

When the others hear this, they stop objecting and start praising God. They rejoice that God is giving the Gentiles the opportunity to repent and believe the Good News.

Application

How often our preconceptions of what God will do prevent us from seeing what He is already doing. The Jewish believers thought that God would only save people like them, but God’s plan is much bigger.

Sometimes we get mentally locked in to a picture of the way God acts. It can be about people being saved- we might have a hard time believing that a particular people group can encounter God and believe the gospel.

Sometimes we think that a certain prayer or a way of praying is the only way to get a healing or some other miracle. Some people get fixated on a person- only the pastor or a particular celebrity preacher can pray for them.

Amazingly, God is much bigger than our preconceptions of Him. He will save anybody who turns to Him. He will use any prayer from any person to achieve His purposes..

Prayer

Lord, teach me how to see things as you see them, and not through the filter of my preconceptions. Amen.