Jack T. Carroll - Paul's Letter to the Ephesians - Lacombe Convention - 1956

I have tried to awaken a new interest in some of the wonderful letters in the New Testament, especially in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.  Turn to his letter and I hope this will awaken a new interest.  There is more about the Ephesians church in the New Testament than any other church.  Acts 19 tells of foundation work, then more reference to this church in Timothy, also in 1, 2, and 3 John, and we have a special message in Revelation 2 addressed to this church, which was not by accident.  I believe the reason this church is mentioned much is because we have much to learn from them of what God wants us to be and what God wants us to do.

 

This letter was written while Paul was in prison in Rome but he was not mourning because of being there. 

 

There are six chapters in this letter and it divides equally into two parts.  The first three chapters deal with right teaching; the last three with right living.  Right teaching and right living go together.  If you are interested in right teaching and right living and read this letter over when you go home, it will be a help to you in days to come.  It deals with right living in relationship with all in the church, right living in relationship with all in the home, instruction for parents and instruction for children, for servants and for masters.  When we leave convention we may have in mind, “I am going to find out how I can live right so that my testimony can be a help to others.”

 

It wouldn't be possible to live out what we read in the last three chapters without first experiencing what we read in the first three.  No man could live a Christian life without experiencing being born into His family.  The first three chapters give the foundation for living out of the last three chapters.  In reference to the Sermon on the Mount, worldly men say what a wonderful world this would be if we could all live it out.  It isn't possible for unregenerate people to live it out apart from experiencing the new birth - John 3.  It would be just as impossible for a man to push back the Pacific tide with a broom as it would be to live a Christian life without being born again.

 

There are two verses that I would like you to memorize.  The first is Ephesians 3:8, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  This is a wonderful statement coming from the pen of this man.  “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  This is the greatest privilege any man or woman can have; to be a minister of Christ, a servant of God, one who proclaims the Gospel of Christ Jesus to unregenerate people.  It's a privilege not a hardship.  “The unsearchable riches of Christ.”  I've tried to understand it.  I read of a man in Pennsylvania who had a little farm of his own but he got very tired of doing chores, everlasting chores and he wrote to an uncle in Canada to ask if it would be possible for him to get a job in an oil field.  The uncle wrote back and told him not to come until he found out about the oil.  After learning about the chemical constitution of oil, he wrote again and said, “Now I know something about oil.  What about a job?”  The uncle wrote and told him to come so he sold his farm for eight hundred thirty dollars and left, glad to get away from chores and all the farm labour, to work in the oil fields.  Not long after the new owner of the farm noticed a two by four across a creek running through the farm that had been placed there for the purpose of gathering a dirty scum away from the watering hole.  He investigated the scum and the upshot of the whole matter was that this farm was the richest oil field in all of Pennsylvania and it became a notable city site.  He had untold riches all around him yet he turned his back on it all.  I have thought that man was something like us.  We have inexhaustible wealth, unfathomable riches within our reach, and we don't live in full, complete enjoyment of the wealth at our disposal.  “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  This man's life was filled with Christ; his ministry, his letters were filled with Christ.  I remember many years ago in Toronto when John Patterson and I were having a tent mission. I spoke from Luke 12 and said that my Father was a multi-millionaire, in reference to our Heavenly Father, and my companion said that he was the son of a King.  After the meeting a Scotchman came to ask about the statement.  I was glad to be able to tell him that the cattle on a thousands hills belong to my Father and about all the riches that belong to Him.  This man from Pennsylvania was rich and he didn't know it.  I read once of a man, found dead in his garret room, in whose rags were found thousands of dollars and yet he died of starvation.  Many of God's people aren't living in full and complete enjoyment of the riches He has placed within our reach.

 

The second verse I would like you to memorize is the third verse of the first chapter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.”  “Hath blessed us” - here and now; spiritual blessings.  There are people who are continually chasing after material and physical blessing.  Thousands and thousands of people are being deceived by men who say that God is interested in performing miracles, physical healing.  This is absolutely untrue.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”  In this verse Paul speaks of present blessings.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  When Peter wrote, the children of God were suffering at the hand of the Roman government and he wrote to them to assure them that there was a future awaiting them that would compensate them for all they suffer now.  Paul was writing to show them there is blessing to be enjoyed in the present.  You might say that this is all too hard to believe.  Perhaps the prayer that should go up from your heart is, “Lord, increase my faith.  Help me to trust when I don't believe; to believe when I don't understand, and to go forward when I don't see.”

 

Ephesians 2:1-2, “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”  These are two verses that help me to see what these men of Ephesus were before they heard and what they became after.  It is a look back into the pit from whence they were digged.  We as God's servants find it extremely difficult to convince men of their need and convict them of their sin.  Paul reminds the Ephesians of the pit from whence they were digged.  The Psalmist said, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.  He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings.  And He hath put a new song in my mouth.”  I wonder how many in this meeting this morning could give the same testimony.  Some were in the pit of fleshly sin, some in the pit of worldliness or religious confusion, but whatever pit we were in, we should be glad that God has delivered us from it.  I tried to get out of the pit alone but fell back, more deeply mired than before.  “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” who formerly were living in the condition of spiritual death because of trespasses and sin.  Spiritual death is progressive, as in the case of Jairus' daughter, the widow's son and Lazarus where corruption was getting in more deeply every hour. People don't grow better, but worse.    There is no greater mistake than to think that the older you get, the better you become.  The longer you live outside Christ, the deeper you get into spiritual death.  I was further away from God at fourteen than at twelve, at sixteen than I was at fourteen.

 

Over there in San Francisco Bay, there's a little island called Alcatraz where the worst criminals are sent for safe keeping.  Someone once asked if there was any mark that characterized all the inmates.  The man in charge answered, “Yes, they are all self-righteous.  Not one will admit that he should be here but contends that he is here through injustice.”  One of the most difficult things in all the world for a man to do is to admit, “I have sinned.”  Three men, an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotchman were walking past a penitentiary.  One said, “I wonder where we would be if we got everything that's coming to us."  The Irishman said, “I'd be walking down this road alone.”  It's so hard to admit that I have been wrong.  I used to say that the story of the prodigal son could be said in four words.  I've added another:  rebellion, confession, submission, reconciliation, and fellowship.  There was a time when we rebelled against our Father's will and way and wanted to take our own way just like the prodigal son who said, “Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.”  He wanted to get as far away as he could.  It wasn't long until he was in want.  In his need, he found that his friends had disappeared.  There, when hired out, he remembered and realized what a miserable wreck he had made of his life, and he was willing to admit that he had sinned.  Those three words, “I have sinned,” are the most difficult words for any man or woman to utter.  There are some who are professing who are not having sweet fellowship because they have wronged another and have not been willing to go and confess that they were wrong.  Next, the prodigal son was willing for submission when he said, “Make me as one of the hired servants.”  When leaving home he said, “Give me,” but now being honest with himself and his father he said, “I have sinned, make me.”  The father ran to meet his son when he saw him a long way off and he tried to blurt out his story but the father threw his arms around him and kissed him and said to his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.”  There was reconciliation then fellowship.  There was rebellion then confession, submission, reconciliation, and then fellowship in his father's house.

 

Paul said in this letter, Ephesians 2:2-3, “Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”  I would like to leave these words with you, “were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”  What men and women need is a new nature.  Some think I couldn't read myself into these verses.  We're not very old when this nature we have in Adam exerts itself and takes us steadily in the wrong direction.  This verse reads, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us.”  In spite of our condition by nature, God in His love and in His mercy has “quickened us together with Christ.”

 

I'll refer to two relationships:  son-ship in the family of God and citizenship in the kingdom of God.  I don't know of anything better than to be counted in, in the family of God.  John in writing said, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”  Then looking into the future he said, “And it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him: for we shall see Him as He is.”  Did you ever really thank God that this relationship has been established?  I found myself praying the Lord's Prayer the other morning and it was wonderful.  “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.”  It is wonderful when you can't find words to express yourself and you take His words and make them truly the expression of your heart.  Paul could write to the Ephesians of being no longer foreigners or aliens but citizens in the household or kingdom of God.  Jesus spoke so much of the kingdom of God and was continually saying, “Enter ye in.”  We read of one making excuse because he had bought a piece of land, another because he had married a wife and another because he had bought five yoke of oxen.  By putting these things in place of entering the kingdom of God, it meant that they were shut out forever.  Jesus said, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off.”  If there is anything as dear to you as a right hand or a right foot that is keeping you outside the kingdom, the only thing to do is cut it off or out.  Don't allow anything to keep you out.  People can't be pushed or compelled in, but all have to choose for themselves.  It's good to become members in the household of God.