baby smiling at christmas December 12 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ephesians 1–3

Adopted and Included

It is the Christmas season, and many of us think of the coming of the Christ child. It is wonderful that Jesus was not just the Savior born for Jewish people. After offering salvation to his own people (the Jews), he extended his grace to all people who place their faith in him. We who believe Jesus died in our place, was buried, and rose again from the dead are adopted into his family (more...). We have the full rights and privileges of being his children. Furthermore, we have been given all the riches of our spiritual inheritance. That truth, however, was not always known.

At the time Paul writes to the Christians of Ephesus, he is a prisoner under house arrest in Rome. He writes to the Ephesian church to reveal the mystery of their heavenly inheritance and to answer the question, “are the Gentile [non-Jewish] Christians as good as the Jewish Christians?” God’s favor had always been with the Jews whenever they lived obediently. When the church unsealed the scroll which Paul wrote, however, the mystery was revealed—both believing Jews and Gentiles have received a valuable inheritance, an inheritance received by God’s grace through their faith in Christ.

God chose Gentiles and Jews to be saved because it pleased him (Ephesians 1:3-8). It glorifies his magnificent nature to take worthless clay and make beautiful vases—to take people from being sinners to become saints (a Biblical word for true believers in Christ). They would now be holy and blameless in his sight. Therefore, because of his grace and good pleasure, and before the creation of the earth, God chose them to be saved and adopted into his family. Then, when the time came, Jesus, his only beloved Son, paid the price for their (and our) redemption. He provides forgiveness of all sins for those who turn to him in faith (more...).

How can non-Jewish people be sure they are eternally secure in the family? Paul continues,

… you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-- to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV).

To have this inheritance credited to us, like the Ephesians, we must believe Christ provided it for us and accept it personally. After believing, we are guaranteed to receive it as though it were deposited into our account and sealed in a vault until the time when it is to be revealed. The Holy Spirit's presence within us is our guarantee of our spiritual inheritance.

Paul wants the followers of Christ in the city of Ephesus to have greater spiritual understanding. Paul prays for the Ephesian believers that

the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us [Jews and Gentiles] who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19a, NIV).

Do we wish this for ourselves? As we mature in Christ, are we beginning to understand and appreciate our certain hope, our future inheritance, and the power we have now within us to accomplish his will? What great joy was theirs! What great joy is ours, too, if we believe the gospel and act on it.

Did the Gentiles do any thing to deserve God’s grace? No, not at all. Paul says to them,

As for you [Gentiles], you were dead in your transgressions and sins, … but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:1,4-5, NIV).

Like the Gentiles and Jews of Paul’s day, there is nothing naturally good about any of us, but God extends his mercy and grace to us. We were once alienated from God, and from his people Israel, and were without hope, but now through this mysterious revelation we are included with Israel in one body, the church (this is not replacement theology, see note). We are now “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,” and all the privileges are also ours (Ephesians 2:19, NIV).

Based on God’s mercy and grace to us, how shall we then live? Paul instructs us, “…we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). We will find out more about this in our next Bible study.

Lessons to Live By

  • Rejoice—we are included as God’s children, his heirs, if we have believed the gospel and are now saved (more...).
  • Since God has been gracious to us, let us live for him, careful to do good works to glorify him, and show the love of God.
  • God's power and presence resides in us to do all his holy will.
  • Let us include others by sharing the gospel with all people.

note: This is not replacement theology—the church is not New Testament Israel and does not inherit her promises. This is a mystery hidden in the Old Testament writings but now revealed by God through the apostles—believing Jews and Gentiles are now in one body, the church. Promises to Israel will still be accomplished for her people. See the December 6 study and this article for more information and evidence for this,

Focus Verses

Ephesians 1:13 (NIV) “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

If you want a more in depth and interactive study from Ephesians, we have one in our small group studies.

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A Look Ahead: Because God has adopted and included you in his family, Live a Worthy Life. Find out what that means in our Next Lesson.

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