By Sam E. Stone
“Jesus Is Lord” is the theme for this quarter’s studies, focusing on Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. These books (along with Philemon) are often referred to as the Prison Epistles. Most Bible students believe they were written around the same time period. In Ephesians the apostle refers directly to being imprisoned at the time he wrote (3:1; 4:1; 6:20). If this letter was written soon after the time described at the close of Acts, the likely date is about AD 63.
The Father Adopts Us
All that happens for and with the believer is to the praise of his glory. Michael Weed points out that this phrase culminates each of these three sections which center respectively on the activity of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit (note vv. 6, 12, 14). All that is done is intended to generate praise to God the Father.
God . . . chose us in him before the creation of the world . . . for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ. God chose all who will accept Christ as Lord to be a part of his wonderful family (see 1 John 3:1). In Roman times, an adopted son had full status in the family, just as would a natural-born son (compare Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5). We are chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight.
The Son Redeems Us
William Hendriksen points out, “The attention is shifted from Heaven to earth, from the past to the present . . . . It is the Father who caused his grace to overflow toward us . . . . Nevertheless, the emphasis has changed from the work of the Father to that of the Son.” Francis Foulkes adds, “Christians not only have faith in him; their life is in him. As the root in the soil, the branch in the vine, the fish in the sea, the bird in the air, so the place of the Christian’s life is in Christ.”
The expression “in Christ” or its equivalent occurs repeatedly in today’s lesson text. This reminds the reader that Christ is the very foundation of the church, the author of our salvation. Christians are unworthy of everything that Jesus has done for them. Christ satisfied all the requirements of the law (Galatians 3:13). It is specifically the death of Christ (through his blood) that paid our ransom price (See Colossians 1:20; Romans 3:24, 25; 1 Peter 1:18, 19).
In Old Testament days one could redeem the land of the original owner that had become the property of another. This involved ransoming it—buying back the property and returning it to the rightful owner. “Ransom” is also used in reference to freeing slaves. Jesus did all of this.
Twice Paul mentions that believers are predestined (Ephesians 1:5, 11). It is important to remember that biblical predestination does not eliminate man’s free will and his power to choose whether to accept or reject Jesus.
R. C. Foster told about a man who had a strange dream in which he died and was in Heaven. He saw a continuous stream of people coming into Heaven from earth. Written on the arch under which they entered were the words “The elect of God.” The man walked to the other side of the arch facing earth. On that side of the arch were written the words, “Whosoever will may come.” Foster observed, “Whosoever will are the elect; whosoever won’t are the non-elect.”
The Spirit Sees Us
Ephesians 1:13, 14
One becomes “in Christ” when he hears and obeys the gospel message. At that point, he is marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. Peter referred to this event on the Day of Pentecost when those who learned who Jesus is asked what they needed to do. He responded, “Repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In Bible times official documents often carried a seal to guarantee the genuine character of what was written inside. Similar authentication is provided for all who have made Jesus Lord of their lives (see Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:24). The gift of the Holy Spirit is the believer’s “first installment,” a down payment, pledge, or guarantee of glory to come. The Spirit provides us with all the assurance that we need for the future (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 2 Corinthians 5:5). All who call Jesus “Lord” are truly blessed in Christ.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.