I read an interesting statement the other day, some of which I thought I’d share with you.  The man penned, “Ephesians is the Alps of the New Testament.  Paul wrote seven letters to churches.  Ephesians is the central letter and the highest peak in that mountain range.  Romans and Ephesians are different from the other five epistles of Paul.  These two expound extensive doctrine before dealing with more practical issues.  The student will notice that the last thought of Romans 8 is the first thought of Ephesians 1.  ‘For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son’ – Romans 8:29.  Ephesians 1:5, says, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure or his will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.’”
Personally, I find it very easy to preach the gospel of Christ from the Book of Romans.  It begins where it should: proving man’s desperate need of the Saviour.  And then it explains salvation in many of it various aspects, such as justification by faith.  It describes some of the blessings of being a child of God.  And then it eventually concludes by telling the new Christian what the Lord expects of him.  The writer to whom I just referred says that “in Romans we are dead, buried and risen, and in Ephesians we find that we are now ascended with our blessed Lord.”  I don’t want to argue with the man, but even in Ephesians Paul highlights our need of spiritual life – it is just not in chapter 1.   And throughout the book, he again expounds various aspects of the Christian’s salvation.  But rather than saying, “You need to be born again,” he says, “Praise God, you have been born again.”  In both letters, and particularly in Ephesians, there is much, much more than just forgiveness of sin.
We are living in a day when the preaching of the gospel is as weak as water.  And this has resulted in a Christianity which is more like a stagnant pond than a river of grace.  That same author on a different page wrote:  “If you were saved in a jazzy sort of atmosphere, light and frivolous,  with the song leader more like a clown and a preacher merely glorifying himself and using fleshly effort, YOU also will turn out to a jazzy, frivolous Christian with no depth in your spiritual life.  You will have no appetite and no real appreciation for the things of God.”
The preaching of the full gospel will begin with repentance as well as faith in Christ – the LORD Jesus Christ.  And that full gospel will bring out the fact that the Christian is going to have a struggle in world.  He will have to fight against his corrupt flesh, battling spiritual enemies and temptations.  He is going to lose those struggles unless he is constantly drawing strength from his Saviour and the Spirit.  Today’s Christian is not often told that he has responsibilities which are not optional if that fellowship with Christ is to be maintained.  Christianity is not just “asking Jesus into one’s heart,” and then living as though nothing else changed.  And yet – despite the difficulties and responsibilities, those earthly difficulties are not to be compared with the riches which are in Christ.  The Book of Ephesians describes some of the difficulties and responsibilities we have, balancing them with some of the riches we possess – riches which are beyond measure.
What I’d like to try to show you this morning is that “the gospel according to Ephesians” is not often being preached in modern Christendom. I’ve cut off a huge chunk of solid food to throw onto your plate this morning.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will slice it thin enough for me to serve it profitably.
The gospel according to Ephesians BEGINS where it MUST begin.
It reminds us that by nature, we are all spiritually dead.  Every child of Adam, every child born of a woman, every child grown into adulthood is spiritually died.  Paul tells us that we are “dead in TRESPASSES and SINS” – Eph. 2:1.  And by nature we are “children of disobedience” and even children under the wrath of God. – 2:2 and 3.  Before the grace of God falls on us we must realize that we are totally unworthy of God’s salvation.  We are alien from God and His blessings; we are afar off – as far as the east is from the west – 2:12, 13.
But, a Christian is someone who WAS dead – past tense – and yet who is now living through God’s grace.  The Christian is a person who has been “quickened” – made alive – 2:1.  He has been “blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ” – 1:3.  Despite his many sins and his wicked past, he is “holy and without blame” before God in Christ’s love – 1:4.  And “in the dispensation of the fulness of times God will gather us all together” as one in Christ – 1:10.  The Christian is someone whom the Lord has sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, guaranteeing the completion of His promise of eternal life – 1:13.  We are new creatures in Christ, enjoying peace with God through the Lord Jesus – 2:10 and 14.  We have been reconciled, brought back to the Lord whom we offended in our rebellion – 2:16.  As unworthy as we were, now we are “fellow citizens” with the rest of God’s saints – 2:19.  We are “fellow heirs and partakers of God’s promises in Christ” – 3:6.
But by what means were these blessings bestowed on such unworthy people?  There is nothing that a spiritually dead person can do to please God.  More correctly, I should say that there is not a single thing a spiritually dead person can DO – period.  For example, the baptism of a dead soul is not pleasing to God; in fact it is disgusting.  The word “baptism” is found once in this epistle, but it is not in the context of a command… “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…”  Baptism isn’t the means to the blessings I just pointed out, and neither is CHURCH membership.  A spiritually dead and destitute soul cannot buy its way to heaven through gifts and bribery.  “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” to the holy eyes of Jehovah.  Prayer does not create new Christians, nor does regret, remorse or even repentance.  We will get to some Christian responsibilities toward the end of this epistle, but those responsibilities flow out of the new Christian life, not as causes of that life.
So then HOW were people quickened – those who were dead in trespasses and sins?
It began before the creation of the world, when we were chosen in Christ – Eph. 1:4.  For no logical human reason, we were predestinated to adoption into God’s family “according to the good pleasure of God’s will, not our own” – 1:5.  In order for that to take place in us, it was necessary that we be “REDEEMED through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ” – 1:7.  It was through the death and the blood of the Saviour that we have forgiveness of our sins – 1:7.  We who were aliens – children of disobedience and wrath – have been reconciled to God by cross – 2:16.  It was no small thing which made possible our redemption from judgment and forgiveness from sin.  After that cruel and brutal death on the cross, it involved the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection– 1:20.  Salvation required, and still requires, the exceeding greatness of His power – 1:19.  And empowering that power, there is the miracle of God’s love, mercy and grace.  “God is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” – 2:4.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”  It was “by grace that we were saved,” if we have been saved at all – 2:8.  And the beloved Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, became our peace before the Father – 2:14.
But then, it was necessary for God to perform several other miracles IN us and TO us.  For example the Spirit enabled us to give up ourselves sufficiently to TRUST what Christ did on the cross.  “For by GRACE were we saved through FAITH” – 2:8.  And “in Christ we TRUSTED after we heard the message of the gospel” – 1:13.  And how did we learn about our need and that there is a Saviour available to us?  It was through the message of the gospel – 3:6.  God arranged for someone to come and preach that gospel to us.  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”  As to the Ephesians that preacher was Paul – “Unto me, who am less than the last of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” – 3:8.  And then after regenerating our dead spirits, and saving our souls, the Holy Spirit Himself chained us to Himself and sealed us to the promise of full salvation – 1:13.  In deliverance from sin, it was necessary that we become completely new SPIRITUAL creatures, and that was accomplished miraculously.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” – 2:10.
All of these things are among the wonderful aspects of salvation from sin and eternal life in Christ Jesus.  But here is where the Book of Ephesians – “the gospel according to Ephesians” – often stops being heard in so much of modern Christianity.  Ephesians 2:10 to which I just referred goes on, taking us beyond our spiritual birth to our spiritual life.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should WALK in them.”  The gospel does not offer sinners a free ride to Heaven – even though salvation from sin is absolutely free.  The salvation which comes from God creates new spiritual creatures who love their Saviour, and who of their own born-again free will, want to serve and please him.
The gospel according to Ephesians outlines some of the RESPONSIBILITIES which fall upon the Christian.
We are expected to “walk” – ie. to live – worthy of “the vocation wherewith we have been called” – Eph. 4:1.  True Christians are people who display in lowliness, meekness, longsuffering and love – 4:2.  They long for the ministries of apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers, as those people strive to bring the young believers toward maturity – 2:12.  Born again people know that by nature they are little more than “children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” and they fear it.  They want stability – 4:14.  They HATE their former sins; they don’t CODDLE them; they don’t EXCUSE them; they HATE them.  In the past they had “given themselves over unto lasciviousness fleshly impurities, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” – 4:19.  But they have not so learned Christ.  They have been renewed in the spirit of their minds – 4:23.  So they no longer lie (4:25), and they manage their anger (4:26).  They don’t steal but rather “they work with their hands on things that are good, in order to be able to share with others in need” – 4:28. They “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom they have been sealed unto day of redemption” – 4:30.  These are things which need to be taught and preached in gospel churches.  The habitual thief and unremorseful liar are not a Christians according to the Ephesian gospel.  It doesn’t matter if we are talking about stealing from our neighbor or stealing from the government, and lying to Social Security or the state welfare system.
Being born again, these new Christians actively follow God, as He has said in His Word – Eph. 5:1.  “They walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance” – 5:2.  They redeem the time which their few remaining years on earth give to them – 5:16.  And they daily, even moment by moment, ask the Holy Spirit to fill them – 5:18.  And being filled with the Spirit they find themselves “speaking in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in their hearts in thankful praise to the Lord” – 5:19.
And on the other side, they don’t commit fornication.  They aren’t covetous or greedy; they aren’t people of dirty jokes – 5:3-4.  They deliberately go out of their former way not to behave like the children of the world – upon whom the wrath of God will eventually fall – 5:6.  Rather than “fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” and sin; they reprove them – 5:11.  And Christians willingly submit themselves to one another – Christians to other Christians, children to parents, wives to husbands, men to Christ and all of them to their God-ordained pastors – 5:21-25.  All of these things need to be taught and preached to those professing faith in Christ.
And here is another often overlooked aspect of modern gospel preaching…
The gospel according to Ephesians, by its very nature, creates HATRED toward the saint.
Satan, as the inveterate, habitual, enemy of the Saviour, hates any victory that the Saviour has won.  That includes the salvation of your soul.  And the world, as the ally of Satan, will be stirred to hate the Christian who lives as he should.  Righteousness will always be hated by unrighteousness, just as darkness hides from the light.  And even the flesh will quarrel against the spiritual nature of the child of God.  As a result of these things, “we (will find that we) wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.    Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” – 6:1-13.
The struggle to live as a child of God should will be different in different people, but there will always be a fight.  You may have to battle against sinful urges – temptations which particularly strong against you.  You may have to struggle against hatred toward people who have hurt you.  Raised in poverty, you might have to fight against covetousness, even against the temptation to steal.  And you, who have overcome so many obstacles and won so many battles in the past, may have to fight against pride.   There are so many battles, so many struggles for the Christian.
But the rewards for victory, and even the rewards for faithfulness, far outweigh the pains and wounds which every saint of God endures.  There is a peace for all the brethren – 6:23.  And there is a constant river of grace “to them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” – 6:24.
And there is one other KIND of PRIZE – one other group of incentives.
There is a New Testament word used by Paul four times in this epistle.  It is a royal word, it is colored in the royal blue of Heaven – coming straight from the throne room of God.  Throughout the New Testament it is translated only one way.  It speaks of “abundance,” “profusion,” of “plentitude,” but it is much simpler than that.  It is always translated “riches.”  Ephesians 1:7 is one of the great verses in all the word of God – “In (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the RICHES of his GRACE.”
How wealthy – how rich – is the richest person in America?   Who is the most wealthy man in the world?  I didn’t even bother to google those questions, because the answer is irrelevant.   If it were possible for one man to own the whole world, but his soul is lost, he will eventually be a very miserable man – Matthew 16:26.   Furthermore, in relation to the Creator, the richest man in America is as poor as a church mouse.  But the sinner saved by God’s grace has been blessed “according to” – in “proportion to” – the riches of the grace of the INFINITE God.  Not only are those real riches, they are the riches of eternal grace.   They will never run out or even be diminished.
Ephesians 3:16 speaks of the RICHES of the GLORY of God.  Oh, “that (God) would grant you, according to the RICHES of HIS GLORY, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”  There may not be many things more glorious than grace, but I think we’d have to say that God’s own personal glory is more glorious.  The riches of that glory cannot be measured by any means known to man.  The eyes of man can’t look at the glory of God without instantly burning up.  And no beautiful spot in this world, can touch the hem of the garment of God’s Heavenly glory.  The glories of the aurora borealis, are just the tiny light which shines under the door into heaven.  And yet that divine glory will be the measure by which value the saint of God will value his eternal inheritance.  Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be able to comprehend, “what is the hope of (God’s) calling and what (are) the RICHES of the glory of (God’s) inheritance in the saints” – 1:18.
But when push comes to shove, what the Ephesian Christian possesses is measured by nothing else than “the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES of CHRIST” – 3:8.  Brethren, it is all about our dear Saviour, the Lord Jesus.  He has chosen to give His riches – just as He did with His life – He has chosen to give us his riches, as unworthy as we are.  They are unsearchable.  The Greek word is “anexichniastos” (an-ex-ikh-nee’-as-tos).  I probably have no right to put it this way, but since I am not an expert in the Greek language, the word says to me – “inexhaustible.”    The riches of Christ are unsearchable; they are inexhaustible – beyond understanding and beyond measure.
The gospel, whether preached from Romans or Isaiah, Galatians or Matthew or Ephesians…  The gospel begins with the absolute wretchedness of the sinner – he is dead in trespasses and sins.  But it ends with the inexhaustible riches of God’s grace and glory in the person of the Lord Jesus.  Between those book ends, lays the new birth, the new life, and new spiritual conflicts.  No matter what difficulties there are in living for Christ, the eternal benefits are inexhaustible.
In the light of these things, once again, I ask you – I plead with you – come to Christ Jesus for the riches of His salvation.  Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in your heart this morning.  Please, repent before God.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.