What is the Good News?
- The one true holy God desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us.
- We are free to choose a relationship with God or to refuse relationship with Him. To choose relationship with Him is righteousness. It is sin to do anything that does not flow from relationship with God.
- God is holy, so He will not accept sin. As a result, a great separation exists between every sinner and God.
- All have sinned.
- In spite of our sin, God still desires a relationship with each and every one of us and he has made a way for us to enter into right relationship with Him!
- God’s plan for renewing relationship with us through salvation from eternal death is accomplished in the death of Messiah Yeshua on the cross.
- All who receive salvation from God through Yeshua, receives eternal life and adoption as a child of God in the Eternal Kingdom of God.
The Good News can be understood simply as “The God of Israel loves us all!”
When the Good News first went out among the gentiles, almost instantaneously, Jewish believers began to debate the Jewishness of faith in Yeshua. Many claimed that the gentiles were not beneficiaries of the promises of God in Yeshua.
Paul taught against this viewpoint and instead asserted that the gentiles, just as the Jews would enter into the promises of God for those who believe. As such, Paul focuses the foundations of our faith for all who believe. It is clear that Paul desires to encourage the gentiles in this letter since he spends about have of the letter to the Ephesians doing just that, including the passage we’ll look at in this post.
In the passage that we’ll focus on in this post, we’ll home in on the act of encouragement when it flows from a place of love. Encouragement that flows from a heart of love, in the sense of how it is done in the letter to the Ephesians, is not necessarily the kind of encouragement that causes someone to feel better. Encouragement in Scripture is more often a matter of being reminded of what is good and right for us to do with reference to the promises of God. This kind of encouragement brings about hope and joy as a response to a focus on who God is, rather than focusing on who we are trying to be. This kind of encouragement is valuable in so many ways: family, friends, congregation, military, and in every area of a person’s life in which something that is possible to accomplish needs done but is challenging.
Take note that in verses 1–12, Paul speaks the following words: ours, we, we have received, etc. Paul speaks here about Jews and the promises that were given to the Jews. In verse 13, Paul takes all these verses and uses the word “also” (καί = kai = also). In this way, Paul makes it clear that gentiles are recipients of the same promises of God that were given to the Jews. In other words, the believing gentiles are also: blessed by God, chosen by God, sanctified by God, loved by God, children of God, redeemed by God, forgiven by God, receiving the mercy of God, receiving the wisdom of God, receiving an inheritance, and having their names written in the Book of Life.
Why? Because that’s how God wanted it.
How? By the plan of God, of which we are a part.
When? Before time.
We’ll address each of these questions now and try to understand just what Paul is trying to tell the Ephesians.
Why? Because that’s how God wanted it
We are blessed in Him. He has chosen us in Him to stand before Him. He has destined us to be His children through His son, our Messiah, Yeshua. It is His Will that He has made known through Messiah Yeshua. Our inheritance is in Yeshua according to God’s plan and inline with His glory. This is the first encouragement we find in this passage. None of these are achieved by us in our strength but we receive them as believers by the grace of God. God has initiated this plan and is bringing it to pass according to His plan and His character. It should be especially encouraging to all of us to know that this is something God wants for all of us. He wants us to enter into relationship with Him as his children. We belong to Him and we have salvation, not because of any good thing we have done but because of his abundant mercy over us.
How? According to the plan of God
God does not respond impulsively to us as we often do to our circumstances. God knows everything and is ready for everything. He is like an athlete, ready for every move of His opponent and guaranteed to win at anything! God operates from a place of love and His plans are for the sake of love.
In this passage, we see the word “mystery” for the first time in this letter. This word appears a few more times in the letter and is worth noticing. A “mystery” is something that exists but that is not apparent to everyone. According to verse 10, the mystery mentioned in this passage has to do with “the summing up of all things in Messiah”. This mystery was made known on earth the moment Yeshua came to earth. Everything that is in heaven and earth is dependent on him. From one man, Adam, came all men, and through one man, Yeshua, all have access to eternal life.
When? Before the creation of the world
Paul explains in verse 11 that we were predestined to enter into right relationship with God by His grace and not in our own strength. It is impossible for us to understand this fully, but it’s easy enough to understand the simple assertion that God has already chosen us and is waiting for us to choose Him. We must remember that God is in control. He reveals His Will in His timing and to the extent that He sees wise. There is coming a day when we will see the big picture and understand more fully why God does what He does. Until then, we can take comfort in knowing that there is a time and a place for everything and God always does what He does at the perfect time.
The Good News of Yeshua helps us to understand our identity with reference to our relationship with God. Our identity does not hinge on people or circumstances. We must remember who we are in God and not be distracted by the trials and tribulations in this present age. Perhaps the enemy is telling you that you don’t measure up, that you don’t look like you should or have the abilities that you should. The enemy is constantly trying to instill lies within us to pull us away from a relationship with the One who made us. We must keep our gaze on those things that God has declared over us and those blessings that have been given us by the grace of God. Not only should we remember who we are in God but we should also encourage others with this good news just as the Apostle Paul was in the habit of doing (as we see in Ephesians).
What is the Will of God?
The Will of God is revealed throughout the Scriptures. The Word of God contains the Will of God and a few verses even speak explicitly about the Will of God for our life.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Messiah Yeshua to himself, according to the kind intention of his Will.
First of all, the Will of God is that we would be in personal relationship with Him. He wants us to draw near to him, to know who He is and to be as close with Him as a father and his children can be. When we are truly connected to God and in a personal relationship with Him, we know His Will for our day to day life.
Don’t be conformed to this world; be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the Will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
…We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His Will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Moreover, the Will of God is that we would be different than the world in our behavior and in how we respond to the world around us. He desires that we would grow more and more like Him and less and less like the world as it is. God desires that our thoughts will be transformed to His thoughts, so that we overcome the challenges we face, not in the power of our own wisdom, but rather by His wisdom and discernment in our life. When we are in a close relationship with God, He is continually renewing our understanding and filling us with new insights. When we are full of the wisdom and knowledge of God, we can discern the Will of God for each situation we face in the course of each day.
Rather, like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.
1 Peter 1:15–16
It’s clear from these verses that God wants us to be holy. God has sanctified us and desires that we will distance ourselves from evil and live uprightly.
There are also things in our day to day life that aren’t discussed in Scripture such as what to study in school or which unit to join in the military and the like. With decisions such as these, we must work on fostering an active an living relationship with God. He is faithful to give us answers to those questions that aren’t discussed in Scripture if we will only look to Him.
Is the Father more important than the Son or Holy Spirit?
No. We must understand that although the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are 3 persons, all three of them are one eternal God, none more important or less important than the other.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Notice that here God is referred to as 3 separate persons who are “the Name”. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all 3 as one play a role in our salvation. This is more clearly seen in the following passage:
Through Him (through Yeshua) we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father!
Who should we worship more? The Father or the Son?
Neither the Father nor the Son is more or less worthy of our worship because they are one and operate entirely as one. As humans, it is easy for us to neglect one of the three persons in our worship since it is hard to comprehend a God who is three in one. On the other hand, it is beneficial to understand the role of each in our life and to praise God accordingly. Why would anyone thank their father for nursing them as a baby? It is the mother who nurses the baby and who should be honored for this. However, after the mother nurses the baby, it may be that the father is the one to burp the baby and put the baby to sleep or change the diapers or the like. Praise the Father for what His role in our salvation, and the Son and the Holy Spirit for theirs.
Salvation has been given us thanks to the Father sending the Son. We thank God the Father for the gift of His son. We thank the Son for coming and dying on our behalf and conquering sin and death. We thank the Holy Spirit for dwelling within us and working in and through us to bring the light of God into our life and the lives of those around us.
All will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’.”
Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You’.
From these passages, it is clear that Yeshua glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son. The Son came to testify to the Father and enter into relationship with the one true God (John 17:3). This is something that is clear in the words of Yeshua. He came to do the Will of His Father who sent him. He came to testify to Him and to glorify him.
Yeshua prays to the Father, but the Father does not pray to Yeshua… ever. Why?
The answer to this question is two-fold. First of all, the role of the Father is to provide, to guide, to command, to plan, and to send (John 4:34). Secondly, Yeshua came in the flesh wholly subjected to the human experience: suffering, exhaustion, hunger, sorrow, limited knowledge and dependence on the guidance of God the Father (Matthew 24:36).
We must remember that there is a continual and uninhibited relationship between the Father and the Son. The following verse demonstrates the total dependence of Yeshua on the Father and the mutual glorification between them:
Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name. Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Again, just because Yeshua is wholly human and thus wholly dependent on the Father, He is not any less important than the Father and is worthy of all of our praise.
So that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.”
Yeshua’s submission to the Father is an act of love, not a result of being less important. Just as Yeshua’s submission to the Father is a demonstration of His love for the Father, so too, we are to demonstrate our love through submission to the Will of the Father.
One final verse that demonstrates the reciprocity in the relationship between the Father and the Son is as follows:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
Does God listen to the prayers of those who don’t yet believe in Yeshua?
First of all, we must ask ourselves: How do we gain access to the Father?
Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Messiah Yeshua, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand (Isaiah 53:5); and we exult in hope of the glory of God.
Through Yeshua, we have access to the Kingdom of God, eternal life and a personal relationship with God! Through the access granted by faith in Jesus, we get to be children of God.
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
It easy to misunderstand access to the Father through Yeshua as meaning that until then, God didn’t hear or see us. Our access to the father means that we are now yoked to the Lord and able to partner with him in the work of His Kingdom here on earth as heirs and children of the King. Adoption as children of God is promised to us as a result of faith in Yeshua, and it is this adoption that gives us access to a personal relationship and confidence in his plan for us and his responsiveness to our prayers.
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His Will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
1 John 5:14–15
Our total access to the Father does not mean that others have zero access to the Father. Think about the difference between how a father would care for his own child versus some random person who needs help. Just because a man you don’t know is not your father, doesn’t mean he won’t listen to you or help you at all. It’s just that when there isn’t a personal relationship, it’s less likely that you’re going to successfully establish a connection with that person in your time of need or be ready to accept help in the way that it is being offered to you. Likewise, through our relationship with Yeshua, we are prepared for the work of God in our lives.
Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.”
Cornelius was a gentile. Later on, Simon Peter saw the boat with the unclean animals and ends up going to Cornelius’ home to tell him the Good News about Yeshua, His redeeming work, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those who believe. Later on, the apostles and some other Jews confronted Peter about this and then he told them the reason for his behavior.
And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning.
Cornelius was not a believer. He had never heard the Gospel. He had never received Yeshua as his savior, but when he prayed, God heard him. Not only did God hear him, God sent an angel to lead him to someone who could teach him about Yeshua. God has always been faithful to hear the prayers of those who call on His name. Even when the people of Israel were largely ignorant of the ways of God, he heard them in the days of the judges and answered their prayers each time they repented and turned their gaze to Him. During Yeshua’s earthly ministry, he listened to the cry of those who were suffering and asked of him to heal them, and this even before they truly believed in him as their Messiah.
We need to remember that God loves each and every one of us: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). God loves us, both believers and those who do not yet believe. He loves us so much that he has given us Yeshua so that as many as receive him will not go to destruction!
He doesn’t create people and throw them into the world without a way for them to receive salvation. When it comes to prayer, we must remember that ultimately, God is the judge of when He should or should not give us what we are asking for and He knows best (Deuteronomy 1:45). All is according to His Will.
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