Much of the New Testament consists of letters written by the apostle Paul around the middle of the first century. These epistles to believers in the early church have instructed millions of Christians for nearly 2000 years. And the book of Ephesians is one of these treasured letters inspired by the Holy Spirit. The revelation of truth contained in this epistle is needed today more than ever by Catholics, Protestants and every Christian.
A New Testament scholar described Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians as “the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of the Christian faith.” Paul wrote this letter to “the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (1:1) The word “saints” here is synonymous with “believers.” Ephesians contains rich food for the soul as it lays out the foundation for the Christian faith leading to a vibrant life of discipleship.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have been “adopted” (1:5) into God’s family and “included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.” (1:13,14)
Make no mistake about it: this marking and sealing by the Holy Spirit takes place when a person believes the good news of the Gospel. Paul wrote to the saints in Rome, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
And so regardless of whether you identify as a Catholic, Protestant, or with some other label, you as a believer in Jesus Christ have been given a guarantee that God will bring you to heaven one day. The Holy Spirit is the “deposit” who was given to you “when you heard the word of truth” and “believed.” Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth: “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God.” (1 Cor. 6:19) This reception of the Holy Spirit takes place at the moment of conversion, which of course is the moment a person begins to rely upon the cross for salvation and receives Jesus Christ as Savior. The apostle John wrote, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
It becomes apparent when reading Ephesians that Paul didn’t dangle salvation in front of the saints like a carrot on a stick. Paul never promoted this all-too-common doctrine: “Do a little more and hopefully you will be saved one day.” That sort of teaching is rampant in religious circles and has actually been around for centuries. But this is not the message of Scripture.
Instead, Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to build the saints up in their faith by writing: “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (1:7) And so eternal life for the believer begins at conversion and never ends.
One day the Lord will bring His children home to heaven, just as Jesus told the thief on the cross: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) What did the thief do to merit eternal life in heaven? Nothing at all. He simply trusted the Savior and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace.” (Romans 4:16) When a person is converted he is instantly saved, redeemed, justified, born again and forgiven. This occurs on the front end of a person’s relationship with Christ.
Paul informed the saints in Ephesus that God “chose us” (1:4) and “in love He predestined us” (1:5) to be His children. The doctrine of predestination is a deep mystery, but it is presented in Scripture to give believers the assurance of their salvation. Predestination has nothing to say to unbelievers. In other words, the Bible does not teach “double predestination.” No one is predestined to hell. Anyone who is thirsty can come to Christ and be saved. As the apostle Peter wrote, “The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)
Paul extols the love of God in explaining why the saints in Ephesus were already “seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.” (2:6) “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (2:4,5) It is a done deal. “You have been saved.” You are now “alive with Christ,” as compared to back when “you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (2:1)
And what brought about this new life in Christ? “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (2:8,9) As with any gift, you can either receive it or reject it. Those who receive God’s free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ are instantly converted. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Once you have crossed over to God’s family through faith, your sins are forgiven because you now “have redemption through His blood.” (Eph. 1:7) Notice that your redemption was not secured through your works, but came because “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) The blood of Christ gets applied to your sin through faith, and not as a result of works. Good works are the fruit of faith, but they are powerless to wash away sins. Only the blood of Jesus has that kind of power.
And so Paul wrote: “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (2:13) And what has this blood accomplished for the saints? “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (2:19) This means you belong to God today, tomorrow and forever, and the “deposit” of the Holy Spirit has been given to us “guaranteeing our inheritance.” (1:14)
Paul didn’t want “the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1) to worry about “losing their salvation.” That troubling approach does not build up the body of Christ. At the same time, Paul didn’t hesitate in his epistles to write stern warnings to those who “sow to please the sinful nature.” Paul made it abundantly clear that people who choose to live for sin rather than for Christ “will reap destruction,” (Galatians 6:8) and will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:10)
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Dan Delzell