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Introduction to Ephesians

September 8, 2019 Preacher: Mark White Series: Ephesians

Scripture: Epesians 1:1– 2

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WELCOME:

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Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

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Today we’re starting a new book of study – Ephesians. Paul starts the book with an opening salutation where he says…

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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: \nGrace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Before we jump into the first two verses, I think it would be wise to provide an overview of the book of Ephesians for context.

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INTRODUCTION TO TODAY’S SERMON:

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It has been several years ago that an elderly man and wife who were found dead in their apartment. The autopsies revealed that both had died of severe malnutrition. However, the investigators found a total of $40,000 stored in paper bags in a closet. It was unclear why this elderly couple had starved themselves to death with such monetary resources available to them. \nThroughout history there have been many people we would call misers. Some might say that they could hold onto a penny so tightly that even Lincoln would squeal. One of the most famous misers in American history was Hetty Green. When she died in 1916, she left an estate valued at $100 million. Today, that would be the equivalent of about $2.5 billion. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal because she wanted to save the expense of heating the water. Unfortunately, when her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of infection. Let me just say, please don’t confuse being wisely frugal with being a foolish miser. There is a difference.

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The book of Ephesians is written to Christians who may have been prone to treat their spiritual resources much like the elderly couple and Hetty Green treated their financial resources. These believers were in danger of suffering from spiritual malnutrition, because they did not take advantage of the boundless spiritual nourishment and resources at their disposal.

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The book of Ephesians is a beautiful letter that tells Christians of their great riches, inheritances, and fullness in Jesus Christ. It tells them what they possess and how they can claim and enjoy their possessions. Ephesians is a book that has great truths and highlights the riches that God possesses in His limitless storehouse.

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If you studied the Great Depression of the 1930s, you will recall many banks limited customers from withdrawing more than 10 percent of their accounts during a given period of time, because the banks didn’t have enough reserves. But God’s heavenly bank has no such limitations or restrictions. Therefore, no Christian, has reason to be spiritually deprived, undernourished, or impoverished. In fact, we have every reason to be completely spiritually healthy and immeasurably rich in the things of God. The Lord’s heavenly resources are more than adequate to cover all our past debts, all our present liabilities, and all our future needs—and still not reduce the heavenly assets at all. That is the marvelous and boundless provision God has provided for His children.

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In this epistle Paul speaks of “the riches of His [God’s] grace” (1:7), “the unfathomable riches of Christ” (3:8), and “the riches of His glory” (3:16). He calls the believer to “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (4:13), to “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18), and to “be filled up to all the fullness of God” (3:19).

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Ephesians uses the word “riches” five times; “grace” twelve times; “glory” eight times; “fullness, filled up, or fills” six times; and the key phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” fifteen times. Christ is the source and the guarantee of every spiritual blessing and of all spiritual riches, and those who are in Him have access to all that He is and has.

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In our union with Jesus Christ, God makes us “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17) and to be of “one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17). When we are “in Christ”, He is not ashamed to call us brothers (Heb. 2:11) and will share with us all that He possesses; “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven” for us (1 Pet. 1:4).

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The book of Ephesians explains and highlights …

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THE CHURCH

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Because Christians are “in Christ,” we are a part of His Body – the church. Thankfully the book of Ephesians focuses on the basic doctrine of the church—what it is and how believers function within it. In Ephesians 3:3 it says, “by revelation there was made known to me the mystery…” So God revealed to Paul the mystery of the church. As Paul explains in the next two verse,

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“…when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.”

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What is this mystery that had been hidden even from Israel, God’s chosen people? The mystery is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). In Christ, Jews and Gentiles would now be one in His Body, the church. What an incredible blessing to all believing Gentiles to know that we have been included as a part of Christ’s Body. This truth is a monumental change in what was previously known regarding all who would believe and who is included in the body of Christ.

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Trying to understand the truths of God’s Word can be daunting to say the least especially when there is some truth that God has chosen not to disclose. Let’s just take a few minutes to discuss God’s disclosure of His truth. First, there are the truths He reveals to no one. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “the secret things [that] belong to the Lord our God.” His limitless truth is far beyond man’s finite mind to fathom or comprehend. Therefore, in His wisdom and sovereignty God has chosen not to disclose certain truths to any man at any time.

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Secondly, there are those truths God has chosen to reveal to certain people throughout history. In Romans 1:19-20, God’s Word says, all men can know something of God’s nature,

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“because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.”

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But the deeper and fuller truths of His nature and will are unknown and incomprehensible to unbelievers. Therefore, unbelievers will not understand or even comprehend the truths revealed by God.

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The special people to whom God reveals His will and plan are not an elite group but they are Believers whom God selected. The revelation He has given through His prophets and apostles is for all of His people, for every person who belongs to Him by faith. Psalms 25:14 says, “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” Those who received revelation directly from the Lord made it known to the people. They were chosen to be the spokesmen for God.

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Lastly are those truths that God kept secret for a period of time but finally disclosed to His people in the New Testament. Here God gives new truth for a new age, truth about which even the godliest of Old Testament saints were unaware. These new truths are the mysteries, the once-hidden but now revealed truths God gives in His New Covenant. It is these truths that Paul reveals to such a great extent in Ephesians—especially the truth about the church of Jesus Christ, which God eternally designed to include both Jew and Gentile. Knowledge of that mystery is one of the great riches that only believers of this present age possess.

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Scripture tells us that Jesus did not speak to the multitudes “without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, saying, ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world’.” When Jesus’ disciples asked why He spoke in parables, He explained, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted” (Matt. 13:11). In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul echoes the same truth: “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised.” Believers and unbelievers can hear or read the same truths from God’s Word and be affected in completely different ways. What is clear and meaningful to the believer is incomprehensible nonsense to the unbeliever.

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When Jesus is referencing the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew, He is highlighting the truths revealed in the present form of God’s kingdom. The Old Testament speaks much of God’s kingdom and of His rule over it, as well as, a ruling Messiah, the great Anointed One whose eternal reign was prophesied in the book of Genesis.

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Jesus, the Messiah, was born a King, acknowledged by the magi to be a King, feared by Herod as a rival King, and even questioned by Pilate about His kingship. Jesus offered His kingdom to Israel if she would accept Him as her King. But because Israel rejected Him, she forfeited the kingdom, and therefore, it was postponed for Israel. Because the Jews rejected Him, He has delayed establishing His earthly kingdom until He comes again to reign on earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4).

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Meanwhile Jesus Christ our King is physically absent from earth. Yet, from heaven Christ now rules His earthly kingdom through the lives of those who belong to Him. Those who belong to Jesus Christ, live in the sphere of salvation by grace through faith. He is King over those who have confessed Him as sovereign Lord over their lives. Just as Christ will be outwardly enthroned in Jerusalem during the Millennium, He now is inwardly enthroned in the hearts of His saints. Jesus Christ dispenses grace to those who trust in Him and this same grace will be dispensed in the future kingdom. Just as He brings internal peace in the lives of believers now, He will bring external peace to the whole world. He now internally bestows joy and happiness upon His children and He will bestow those same blessings externally in the Millennium.

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The Old Testament saints knew nothing of this interim, internal kingdom. This internal kingdom was a secret to the Old Testament Saints but it is revealed in the divine outworking of redemption in the New Testament. The kingdom of which the Old Testament speaks, and which will be fully manifested in the Millennium, now exists in a kind of a preliminary and partial fulfillment within every Believer.

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There are so many mysteries of the millennium kingdom that are revealed in the New Testament. One of those mysteries is the indwelling Christ revealed in Colossians 1:26-27,

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“the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

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Other mysteries are that of God in the flesh, the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Col. 2:2–3). There is also the mystery of Israel’s unbelief and rejection of the Messiah (Rom. 11:25). And the mystery of the unity of believers (Eph. 3:3–6). There is the mystery of the church as Christ’s bride (Eph. 5:24–32) and the mystery of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51–52). However, the end of this age will be completed when Christ returns in glory (Rev. 10:7). That is just a short list of some of the mysteries contains in the New Testament.

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Regarding the book of Ephesians, Paul also explains the doctrine of…

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THE CHURCH AS CHRIST’S BODY

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The rich doctrine of the church as Christ’s Body is a metaphor that shows the church not as an organization, but as a living organism made up of many interrelated and mutually dependent parts. Each individual believer is a critical part of the church but it is Christ as the head of that Body, and the Holy Spirit is the lifeblood flowing in and through every member.

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The New Testament uses many metaphors for the church that the Old Testament uses of Israel. Both are called a bride, or wife (Hos. 1:2; Rev. 21:2), a family household (Ps. 107:41; Eph. 2); a flock (Isa. 40:11; Luke 12:32), and a vineyard or vine branches (Isa. 5:1–7; John 15:5). But the Old Testament never speaks of Israel as God’s body. That is a distinct and formerly unrevealed truth for God’s people in the New Covenant.

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It is only this outward incarnation of Christ through His Children, the Body of Believers that the world sees. Therefore, the church should now be a full representation of Jesus Christ as He was when He ministered on earth. Members of the Body of Christ are inextricably united in their Lord and Savior, and when one member sins or fails to fulfill their spiritual role, the whole Body of Christ is weakened. When its members disobey the Head, the Body of Christ struggles, limps and stumbles. But, when Body of Christ faithfully responds in obedience to the Head, the church manifests the Lord’s beauty, power, and glory.

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The Body of Christ functions through the use of spiritual gifts provided by the Holy Spirit and through the responsibilities of fellowship and mutual ministry. When the church is faithful, Christ is fully realized through each and every member of the church. When the church is not faithful, the world’s view of Christ is distorted, the church is weakened, and the Lord is dishonored.

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WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF EPHESIANS

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Paul, whose original name was Saul, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, who was of the tribe of Benjamin and probably was named after Israel’s first king and her most prominent Benjamite. According to Acts 22:3, Saul was well educated in what today are called the humanities, but his most extensive training was in rabbinic studies under Gamaliel. He became an outstanding rabbi in his own right and was a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish council at Jerusalem. According to Acts 22:4-5, he also became debatably the most zealous anti-Christian leader in Judaism. He passionately hated the followers of Jesus Christ and was on his way to arrest some of them in Damascus when the Lord miraculously and dramatically stopped him in his tracks and brought him to Himself (Acts 9:1–8).

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After spending three years in the desert of Nabataean, Arabia, Paul jointly pastored a church in Antioch of Syria with Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, and Manaen (Acts 13:1). It was during his earlier ministry here in Antioch that Saul came to be known as Paul (Acts 13:9). From Antioch the Holy Spirit sent him out with Barnabas to begin the greatest missionary enterprise in the history of the church. At that point Paul began his work as God’s unique apostle to the Gentiles according to Acts 9:15 and Romans 11:13.

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WHEN AND TO WHOM WAS THIS LETTER WRITTEN\nThis letter was written sometime between 60 and 62 A.D. by Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. It was written to the believers whom he had pastored in Ephesus. Because the phrase “who are at Ephesus” is not in many early manuscripts, and because there is no mention of a local situation or individual believer, many scholars think this letter was intended to be circulated among all the churches in Asia Minor which included Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, as well as Ephesus. It may be that the letter was sent first to Ephesus and therefore became especially associated with that church.

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This letter which has a total of six chapters has the first three chapters emphasizing doctrine, and the last three chapters focused on behavior. The first half is theological, and the second half is practical.

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INTRODUCTION TO VERSES 1 AND 2

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As we begin this study, it is very important that we understand what God is teaching us, and according to 2 Timothy 2:15 that demands knowing His Word of truth. But we also need to allow His Word to dwell in us richly according to Colossians 3:16.

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My primary goal is to explain, or exposit, God’s Word such that it is understood what the text says and how Believers can live it out in practical meaningful ways. Hopefully you will hear a balance of doctrine and application. It is also my desire that we all will fully understand what the Holy Spirit is saying in the book of Ephesians, so that His revelation will take root in our minds and bring greater obedience and faithfulness which ultimately brings glory to our great God.

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With that as an introduction to the book of Ephesians, let’s take a look at Paul’s Salutation in verses 1 and 2.

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PAUL’S SALUTATION

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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: \nGrace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Paul makes four significant points in these two verses. First, he 1) presents the dual source of his apostolic authority, then he provides 2) a dual description of believers, 3) a dual blessing for believers, and lastly 4) the dual source of those blessings.

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Paul starts with his…

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DUAL SOURCE OF HIS AUTHORITY

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“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,…” (1:1a)

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Paul wrote with the authority of an apostle. Apostle means “sent one” and in the New Testament is used as an official title of the men God uniquely chose to be the foundation layers of the church as they built upon the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ. These are the receivers, teachers and writers of His final revelation—the New Testament. The apostolic duties were to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1:17), teach and pray (Acts 6:4), work miracles (2 Cor. 12:12), build up other leaders of the church (Acts 14:23), and write the Word of God (Eph. 1:1).

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Besides the original twelve and Matthias, who replaced Judas, Paul was the only other apostle. Yet he was not inferior to the other apostles, because he met all the requirements for that office according to 1 Corinthians 9:1.

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Paul’s credentials were not his academic training or his rabbinical leadership but his being an “apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul did not teach and write by his own authority but by the dual yet totally unified authority of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, the Father. Paul is not boasting about his authority, instead, he is remembering that he had been a blasphemer, a violent persecutor of the church, and an unworthy and ignorant unbeliever. Just like every Christian, he was first and foremost “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus” his Lord (Rom. 1:1). By mentioning his apostleship, Paul simply established his undeserved but divinely-bestowed authority to speak on God’s behalf.

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Paul’s second point is that there is a….

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DUAL DESIGNATION OF BELIEVERS

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“…to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: (1:1b)”

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Believers are those whom God has made holy, which is the meaning of the word “saints.” Believers are also those who are “faithful,” those who have trusted “in Christ Jesus” as their Lord and Savior.

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Every Christian is a “saint,” because every Christian has been “set apart” and made holy through the perfect righteousness of Christ that has been placed to his account. Romans 3:21–22 says, “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe...”

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When a person acts in faith to receive Christ, God acts in grace to give that person Christ’s own righteousness. It is Christ’s perfect righteousness—not a person’s own character or accomplishments, no matter how great they may seem in men’s eyes—that establishes every believer as one of God’s saints through saving faith. Praise the Lord for His marvelous work!

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The third point Paul explains is…

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THE DUAL BLESSINGS OF BELIEVERS

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“Grace to you and peace…” (1:2a)

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This was a very common greeting among Christians in the early church—“Grace to you and peace.” The word for grace is “charis” and it is God’s great kindness toward those who are undeserving of His favor but who have placed their faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. John MacArthur says, “To greet a Christian brother or sister in this way is much more than a wish for their general well-being. It is also an acknowledgment of the divine grace in which we stand and which has made us mutual members of Christ’s Body and of God’s divine family.”

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Grace is the fountain of which peace is the stream flowing from it. Because we have grace from God we have peace with God and the peace of God, “which surpasses all comprehension” according to Philippians 4:7.

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Lastly, Paul explains…

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THE DUAL SOURCE OF BLESSING

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“…from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1:2b)

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The dual source of blessing is the same as the dual source of authority—“God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Those are not separate and distinct sources but two manifestations of the same Source, as indicated by the connection word “and,” which indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ is deity just like God our Father.

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APPLICATION:

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What should we take away from the sermon today? Ephesians was written by Paul at the direction of the Holy Spirit so that all believers might understand and experience more fully all of the blessings granted by our heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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I am really looking forward to preaching through the book of Ephesians and I hope you are excited to either refresh the truths that you already know or to hear for the first time some of the rich doctrinal truths and their application in your life.

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Paul says….

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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: \nGrace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Let’s pray.

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