Sermons of David Chadwell
INSIGHTS FROM EPHESIANS
One of the most powerful negative forces that exist in our society today is
discouragement. This force is even more powerful in the church. There are likely
more people who worship no where, or have changed to a different kind of church,
or who are a loud, negative voice in their congregation because they have been
discouraged, than any other negative influence among Christians. If all the
discouraged Christians assembled for worship on any given Sunday in their "home
congregation" left their discouragement at home and praised God for His many
blessings in Christ, attendance in most congregations would increase from
one-third to over 100%.
People are discouraged for many reasons. (1) For many, life is just plain hard.
Circumstances they never once anticipated descended on them, consumed them, and
created a personal crises for them. Unfortunately, these people are in
congregations that are unaware--for whatever reason--of their struggle. Or their
congregation knows their struggle and either offers no help or no encouragement.
Or the congregation is a part of the reason for their struggle. So these people
look at life, or at the congregation, or at both, and are disillusioned.
(2) Many look at individual Christians they previously respected, but now they
see "feet of clay," and these individual's weakness or poor choices discourage
them. That is why our faith in God should never depend on people. No human is
perfect. Every human needs God's mercy and grace.
(3) Many look at congregations and are discouraged because their home
congregation is fractured. They look at "the groups" who are vying with each
other for a position of control or ascendency. Their impression is that the
church is more an institution than a relationship with God, more political than
spiritual, or more about a sense of self-importance than serving. The result:
they are disillusioned with the congregation.
(4) Many have a significantly flawed concept of unity, or a significantly flawed
concept of God's purpose in Jesus Christ, or a significantly flawed concept of
the objectives of Christianity. The result: these people have significantly
flawed expectations. What they expect to happen never happens, and they are
disillusioned. Incorrect expectations was a real reason for Jesus' rejection
during the time of his ministry and death--it is nothing new.
Understanding discouragement is not new. Consider today's text from Ephesians
1:15-23. For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the
Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease
giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of
wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your
heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is
the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in
accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about
in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in
the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over
all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all
The challenge for a Christian to be an encourager rather than a discourager is
as big as God Himself!
- The first thing I want to call to your attention is that Paul encouraged an
- First, I want to produce a perspective--Paul did not write an epistle (letter)
to a place just to be writing because he happened to have some time on his hands
and nothing better to do.
- In Ephesians (and other of Paul's epistles), Paul wrote about problems that
existed at the place where he wrote.
- If that is correct (and I am convinced it is), many in the congregation did not
understand the significance (importance) of Jesus Christ in 1:3-14.
- They did not understand their dependence on God's grace in 2:1-8.
- They did not understand the relationship between grace and obedience in 2:9, 10.
- They did not understand God's gift of unity in 2:11-22.
- They did not understand the importance of hanging in there in 3:12.
- They did not understand that God's power had little to do with human
expectations in 3:17-21.
- They did not understand God's purpose for Christians in 4:1-16.
- They did not understand they were to become the "new you in God" in 4:17-24.
- They did not understand that the "new you" deliberately adopted a lifestyle that excluded lying, anger, stealing, ungodly speech, resistance to
God's influence in their lives, and an imitation of Jesus' kindness instead of
negative emotion in 4:25-32.
- They did not understand they had to be influenced by God rather than the "movers
and shakers" who "made things happen" in 5:1-14.
- They did not understand they lived a lifestyle that rejected drunkenness in
- They did not understand the "new you" involved a lifestyle that included the way
you treated the people closest to you in 5:15-6:9.
- They did not understand the importance of wearing God's armor in their personal
struggle with evil in 6:10-20.
- There are a lot of basic things they either did not know or did not know the
- How would you like to be a member of that congregation?
- How easy do you think it would have been to get spiritually discouraged in that
- Yet, in 1:1 Paul addressed them as saints who were faithful in Jesus Christ.
- Do you think we have a lot to learn about Paul's use of the word "faithful?"
- Obviously, Paul did not restrict spiritual encouragement to individual or
congregational spiritual perfection.
- Again, let me call something to your attention.
- First, they did not understand the meaning of unity at all.
- That, to me, is obvious in 2:11-22.
- They had no understanding of the fact that unity was a gift God gave in Christ,
and their responsibility was to preserve that gift, not create the condition
- God made them one in the cross of Jesus Christ, and they did not know it (see
- Second, it jumps out at me that some of them were continuing to steal as they
did prior to becoming a Christian (see 4:28).
- "Steals" is present tense.
- Some of these Christians stole prior to becoming Christians and continued to
steal after becoming Christians.
- They did not even understand that conversion involved accepting a new lifestyle!
- They obviously had an enormous amount to learn about Christian existence after
conversion--it was not easy to go from idol worshipper to Christian in their
- Even though these people were Christians and received Paul's encouragement, they
had a lot to learn and understand.
- How does that fit with your concept of Christian existence?
- How does that fit with your concept of Christian encouragement?
- There are some things in our text (Ephesians 1:15-23) that I want you note
besides Paul's encouragement because he heard of their faith in Jesus and of
their love for other Christians.
- First, I want you to note Paul's prayer for them in 1:18, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know
what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His
inheritance in the saints ..."
- He prayed that they would be able to see with their hearts.
- They were too much like us.
- They saw with their eyes, not their hearts.
- They saw what their society saw.
- They had to be trained to see with their hearts.
- They had to be trained to see as God sees instead of the way their society looks
- Only if they learned how to see with their hearts could they know the hope of
- Their environment in their society was pretty hopeless.
- Only if they could see as God sees would they allow God to be their source of
- The reasons for God supplying hope would not even compute in their society--and
so it is with ours!
- Only if they learned to see with their hearts could they recognize the riches of
the glory of their inheritance.
- According to their society, God had no inheritance to give.
- Society principally measures an inheritance in terms of money, of valuable
possessions, and of property--none of which God offered.
- The things God offered were:
- A place to belong, to "fit in" for righteous people.
- Forgiveness coupled with compassion.
- Grace and mercy.
- Kindness to people who had nothing to offer.
- Those are things the heart sees!
- If you cannot see with the heart, those things are impractical and foolish!
- Verse 19 talks about the surpassing greatness of His power and the
strength of His might. "... [W]hat is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are
in accordance with the working of the strength of His might ..."
- God revealed His power and might in two things:
- Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
- The resurrected Jesus being enthroned at God's right hand--the most prominent
place that the One who ruled could give.
- In those two things God made Jesus Christ the most prominent human-divine being
they would ever know.
- He had the most important position they would ever know as humans.
- He had the most important name they would ever know as humans.
- He is Lord--the Ephesian Christians answered to him!
- Jesus is God's fullness who cares for God's interests in every situation.
- One final thought I want you to see.
- Jesus represents God and His purposes, and each of us as Christians represent
Jesus and his interests.
- Just as people look at Jesus and see God,
- People should be able to look at us and see Jesus.
- Thus, even if I am a scoundrels, I still represent Jesus.
- Because any Christian acts less than ideal, his or her behavior gives none of us
a reason to discourage others.
- Our imperfections and flaws provide no one a reason to live and act in ungodly
- Representing Jesus is a privilege that provides everyone of us a reason to be
godly no matter how ungodly others behave.
sermon posted 15 April 2008
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