The Doctrinal Basis of Sanctification
Ephesians chapter 2 is the middle of the doctrinal section in Ephesians
Chapters 1 to 3 – Lays the foundation of the doctrinal basis for Chapters 4 through to 6 of Ephesians.
We see the development of the doctrine of sanctification in the Ephesian epsitel in both negative and positive terms: 4:1, 17; 4:22, 24; 5:18
Paul lays the foundation for sanctification in this section here (2:1-10)
There are 2 fundamental errors which will undermine your sanctification:
1. An elevated appreciation of the world: A world which seems to the Christian so appealing, a place it would seem of unimagined possibilities, adventure, excitement, riches, pleasure
2. An impoverished appreciation of Christ: What we have in the Lord Jesus seems hardly worth holding onto, let alone sacrificing anything for.
The second of these two errors is usually the greater and more fundamental of the two! Perhaps the illustration of the strength and sanctity of a marriage bond is relevant here. A married couple stay together, not so much because everyone else becomes ugly to them but rather because they appreciate and value supremely what they have in one another.
There are two ways you can preach sanctification:
1. We could attempt to preach believers away from the world, exposing it for what it is.
2. Preach & present Christ, what we have & can find in Him.
Paul does both:
1. What We Were in the World: Dead in Sins: Condemnation (v1-3)
2. What We Have in Christ: Alive in Christ: Transformation (v4-10)
What We Were in the World: Dead in Sins: Condemnation (v1-3)
There are 3 great powers or influences that controlled our pre-conversion self:
1. The World (v2)
2. The Devil (v2)
3. The Flesh (v3)
The World (v2) – “the age of this world,” – an unusual phrase. This would indicate everything that characterizes this present age:
• In the secular sphere of the world – Repudiating God
• In the moral sphere of the world – Amoral – Repudiating Absolutes
• In the physical sphere of the world – it is Materialistic – Glorifying money & possessions
The Devil (v2): “The prince of the power of the air.” Paul chooses his title for Satan carefully, relates him to the earth, “air,” – used by Greeks to refer to lower atmosphere, between earth & moon, surrounding the earth.The REPRESSIVE, MALEVOLENT influence of Satan.
The authorised text omits an “of,” at the beginning of this phrase in verse 2 – “of the spirit that now worketh,” – A Greek genitive. It is that spirit, which brings a pervading influence of evil in, “the children of disobedience,”
Perhaps here we are able to perceive the all pervasive influence and atmosphere of Satan in the world!
We recall at Ephesus the world and the entertainment it provided in the amphitheatre (Acts19:29), the world & its commerce seen in the silver shrines (Acts19:27) and the world & its religion; that of the great Temple of Diana of Ephesians. None of these secular influence were of positive spiritual value to a genuine believer; in fact they actively opposed and distracted from the Lord Jesus Christ! God sees all of this activity as under the influence of Satan!
We have perhaps heard the question, what harm is in it? Perhaps we must first perceive, as the apostle does here in Ephesians chapter 2 that in examining the anatomy and structure of this world we discover that Satan is in it!!
For the Christian the question often arises as to where to draw the line? Perhaps the correct answer is the one that many are most reluctant to apply in practice: ‘As far away from this world as possible!”
Jim Elliot: “We cannot have both heaven and earth for our part & as our portion, a wise man chooses that which lasts the longest.”
We notice that there were three features that characterised us in our pre conversion days:
1. Death (v1)
2. Disobedience (v2)
3. Desires of the flesh (v3)
We were spiritually dead in: “Trespasses,” – Broken Laws – Sins of commission and in “Sins,” – Missed Standards – Sins of omission
That’s the mess, that’s what you were in the past 2:1,2,3, “were…times past,” – Don’t go back to it! The antidote to this is personal sanctification.
What We Have in Christ: We are alive in Christ: Transformation (v4-10)
“But God,” (v4) – Only God could do something in these circumstances
God & His, “mercy,” (v4), “love” (v4), “grace” (v4,8)
Notice in this section the 3 words beginning with the Greek prefix of ‘sun’ “συν”:
v5 – “Quickened together” – linked with His RESURRECTION
v6 –“Raised up together” – Linked with His ASCENSION
v6 – “Sit together” – Linked with His SESSION
Yet what do these 3 great statements all mean for me? I’m very much here on earth! These are great statements of what we refer to as positional truth: “with Christ,” (v5), “in Christ” (v6), “through Christ,” (v7). These are not theoretical nor abstract and certainly not pie-in-the-sky statements of truth!
These are positional truths; meaning that these truths, these conditions and blessings which we have been brought into we personally do nothing to bring them about. As a consequence of course nothing you do will shake them either! Cf. Salvation John 10:28-29; Ephesians 1:4. These great positional truths are ours because of our ‘position’ in or perhaps better still because of our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Because we are personally connected the Lord Jesus certain attributes and blessings which rightfully belong to Jesus become ours too!
“Quickened together” – linked with His RESURRECTION (v5)
Perhaps we can understand a bit about ‘quickening’. We were once “Dead in trespasses & sins,” but by conversion and by salvation our condition has been radically transformed so that we now are the possessors of new life in Jesus Christ (John chapter 3).
We can surely recognise the evidences of that new life by:
• Our Appetite for spiritual food and nourishment, bread to sustain this new life in Christ – Heb5:12; 1Pet2:2.
• Our Alienation from the world – Gal6:14; we really feel estranged from this world and it’s values, morality (or lack of it) and spirituality. We don’t belong here
• Desire for the word – 1Pet2:2; a sure evidence of the new Divine nature in a human soul.
• Fellowship with believers – 1 John 3:14 – a desire given by God; an attraction of like for like!
• A Delight in the things of Christ – 1 John 2:3 – a phenomenon incomprehensible to a fallen world.
“Raised up together” – Linked with His ASCENSION (v6)
Does this refer to a time in the future? (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 2 Timothy 2:12) Note the tenses here however: an aorist tense or point tense, usually in the past. Notice too the timing here: “together with Christ,” associated with what happened to Christ in the past. If verses 1 to 3 tell us what we were in the world then verses 4 to 10 surely tell us what we have in Christ. We now move in a different sphere and belong to a different order. We belong to those “Heavenly places,” places above “the World,” and above “The prince of the power of the air.” We left all of that behind us. We are no longer under the old repressive regime of, the world, the flesh, and the devil. It used to be the case that when Satan said, “jump,” we jumped. We are now marked by:
1. ELEVATION → Above it all, diff. Sphere/atmosphere
2. LIBERATION→ Not controlled by the world, flesh, devil.
• We share in Christ’s victory (1:20-22; 2:2)
• 1Jo4:4, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”
• Rom6:18, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness”
• Rom8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”
• We may of course even as Christians fall or sin, but power is given to resist, when we fall we make a choice. We are now under a new regime and under a new authority.
God did not “quicken us together with Christ,” simply to bring us back under the same old repressive forces. Brought us into a liberty & freedom.
Here’s what we have in Christ, we now have the power to:
• “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” (Eph4:1)
• “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind” (Eph4:17)
“As living evidences of His kindness, we shall point people, away & beyond ourselves to Him, to whom we owe our salvation.”
(Stott p82 on verse 7)
Bible teaching from Paul's letter to the Ephesians chapter 2. A study in the sanctification of the Christian. A message from our systematic bible study in the Ephesian epistle. Join us as we preach and study through the letter to the Ephesians, in this expository verse by verse Bible Teaching series. Yours by Grace in Christ, Dr J Stewart Gillespie.