THE EXAMPLE OF THE EPHESIAN CHURCH
Most Christians will agree one with another that they are "saved by grace through faith" and that by their belief and confession of that faith. But beyond that espousement, which is usually received through evangelical preaching and literature, what does the Bible have to say in full context relative to HOW someone is to be saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:8. To fully understand this scripture, relative to the vital understanding of the salvation of the soul, we need to look very carefully at what the experience of the Ephesians, to whom this was written, actually was. HOW did the Ephesians actualize their Christian Faith and HOW did they become part of the Church or the collective body of the redeemed. These are very important questions that bear down very squarely against many of the traditions taught by modern churches.
The Ancient Harbor at Ephesus
What is Biblically Accurate Belief or Saving Faith? Can one "believe", and yet still not be "saved"?
Consider James 2:19
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Somewhere in the experience of the expression of belief in the One God, there MUST be some distinction between humanity and devils relative to our abilty to be saved. So, if this MUST be so, then what IS it that is to distinguish us therefore? The following commentary will deal with this starting with Acts 8. Here we see one Simon the Magus who was converted to Christ and yet still remained "in the bonds of iniquity". He was even baptised!
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, hecontinued with Philip, and wondered,
beholding the miracles andsigns which were done.....
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, becausethou hast thought that the gift of God may be
purchased with money.
21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart isnot right in the sight of God.
22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, ifperhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven
23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.
It is interesting to see how after Simon confessed Jesus Christ, believed in him, and was baptised that Peter
condemned him for dead as one who would be destined for death in inquity, or hell. By modern doctrines, many churches would say that Simon's conversion was true and that he is "once-saved, always saved". Yet, how sternly did Peter deal with him!
Though a man may believe in one God, though he may believe that He is Jesus..what is there to distinguish ourselves from a devil who believes, and a worker of iniquity like Simon the sorcerer who notonly believed and yet was baptised...
MAIN QUESTION ...IS IT ENOUGH TO MERELY JUST BELIEVE?
Since devils believe, and men like Simon believe that Jesus is the Christ, what enables a Christian to receive salvation. And even, be assured of that transaction.
The Biblical Equation is this: Faith + Obedience = Salvation
Obedience? Does that mean we earn salvation by works? No it does not. Salvation is not earned but given, yet it is only GIVEN to those who are DOERS of the Word and not HEARERS only. Many people claim their own salvation, but have actually deceived themselves as a result of the ministries they follow and the brand of doctrine or tradition they cling to. The Bible has this to say:
22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is likeunto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightwayforgetteth what manner of man he was.
25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, andcontinueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer ofthe work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I willlove him, and will manifest myself to him.
27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain womanof the company lifted up her voice, and said
unto him, Blessed isthe womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Wait now... does this mean we are saved by what we DO? That is to say, by works?
8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:it is the gift of God
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
the library of ephesus
YET was it not to that SAME Ephesian Church that Paul wrote this preceding passage:
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation:
in whom also afterthat ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
And then later again in chapter 4:
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
So the Ephesians trusted after that they heard the word of God and they were sealed...
Let's read on about their experience in Full context, understanding then that these same Ephesians that Paul was writing to were the ones we read of in the book of Acts, for it is there that the Ephesian Church was birthed....read on
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul
having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and findingcertain disciples,
NOTE: Disciples were followers of Jesus Christ,(literally "students")that already believed...remember the "great commission" to makedisciples and baptise?
2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since yebelieved?
And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
NOTE: They already believed...!
Many today would say that these were already saved and needed no
fuller experience of salvation, yet....
3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And theysaid, Unto John's baptism.
4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the LordJesus.
Here we see that the Founding Ephesians Church originally were baptised in water imperfectly.
They brought their baptism under submission of the gospel message and were rebaptised correctly.
Not because their faith was insufficient, but because their obedience needed to be reconciled with Jesus' Words...
(...consider in John 7 when Jesus says "he that believeth on me, asthe scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Holy Ghost whom they were later to receive as of yet he was fallen upon none of them as Jesus was not yet glorified..." In other words, post ascension there would be a fuller experience accompanying salvation for the believer, that of Living Water, or the Holy Ghost that was poured out in Acts 2:4 on the Day of Pentecost)
We See in the Ephesian Case Study:
2) a mandate for scriptural obedience,
3) baptism of the Holy Ghost.
4) water baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost cameon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
7 And all the men were about twelve.
8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the spaceof three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning thekingdom of God.
So here we have the Ephesian church born at the hands of Paul. Whenever you hear Ephesians 1:13, remember that it is referring back to this experience which aligns with the very first message ofSalvation preached under the New Covenant or New Testament by Peter in Acts 2:37-39
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, andsaid unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles,
Men and brethren,what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one ofyou in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to allthat are afar off, even as many as the LORD our
God shall call.
So we have an element of repentance and belief, accompanied by obedience in baptism and receipt of the Holy Ghost.
The Jews gathered there asked Peter "What shall we do?".
Those who cry "Works, Works" cannot alter the word of God.
Peter did NOT correct them and say, "Receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour and begin a personal relationship with him and you will be born again!"
Jesus himself said it in John 35 when he answered Nicodemus :
5 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is borno f the Spirit is spirit.
There is a water element and a spirit element to the new birth experience...Baptism in Jesus Name is essential to salvation. Read on...
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
1 Peter 3
18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to
death in theflesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering ofGod waited in the days of Noah, while the
ark was a preparing,wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
21 The like figure where unto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh,
but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Now, it was John who began baptising by repentance pointing toward Jesus, who being made a man under the law was himself baptised of John. Then, after ascending, the first message preached by Peter was to:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of JesusChrist for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Baptism is to be performed in Jesus' Name, and it saves us by our answer of our clear conscience toward God, MADE SO by our repentance and belief in His Name.
When we are baptised for the remission of sins, "Remission" means "payment of a debt for". The atonement forour sins is APPLIED to us in baptism... by our FAITH!
NOT, as Peter says by the putting off of the filth of the flesh. This meansthat it is not the physical washing of the body or the immersion that does it, but it is the work being wrought in the heart!
This is why it is not a "work" to be baptised, but an excercise of faith and an acceptance of application of the remission of sins, wrought by faith.
In the same way that Abraham circumcised himself and his household as a result of a covenant commanded by God that set him apart for the Lord, so too does water baptism in Jesus name affect the same principle. Only we are brought into the covenant of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The following scripture explains this process very clearly.
11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins
of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God,
who hath raised him fromthe dead.
13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him,
having forgiven you all trespasses;
Paul instructs us that Baptism is a new covenant which, by itsoperation PUTS OFF THE SINS OF THE FLESH!
Baptism is not a work. It saves only by faith in His Name. And we do not receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost by effort, it is a gift.
DO CHURCHES TEACH THIS? not usually
HAVE WE BEEN TAUGHT THIS? not likely
DID THE APOSTLES TEACH THIS? most certainly.
DID THE EARLY CHURCH PRACTICE AND RECEIVE THIS AS THE DOCTRINE OFSALVATION? YES!
In fact, all recorded Christian baptism in the Bible is done in the name of JESUS CHRIST...NOT in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
THEN WHY ARE WE NOT TAUGHT THIS?
This will be dealt with forthcoming as we explore the falling away of the 3rd century church under the influence of Pagan Rome.
Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost and explained it all in one statement...Acts 2:38
The Bible says we are not born again of human DECISION, but by thegrace of God. That is to say, that I do not decide when I am going to be saved.
Just because I pray the sinners prayer, does not make me saved. Just because I believe, does not ensure my salvation (devils, Simon). Just because I "Know JESUS" does not make me saved either. For Judas Iscariot, the Pharisees, and many others knew Jesus. Even the people who grew up around him that knew him and mocked him from Galilee had a relationship with he and his family.
NO. It is God who saves, and He saves a person according to His timeframe according to HIS covenants. If I will align myself with the covenant, i will receive the blessing of salvation.
So, in closing...Does the BIBLE SAY is it enough to just believe?
We must be born again of WATER and of SPIRIT
1.Repent (Believe and accept the Gospel of Christ)
2. Be Baptised in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins
3. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost
4. The promise is for whom? Even as many as the Lord our God shall call!!! ACTS 2:39
Read and believe what Paul spoke to the Church in Phillipi:
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
We must never take the Salvation of Jesus Christ and cheapen it to lip service. It is the greatest sacrifice of all human history for the most noble purpose that has ever been or ever will be, the redemption of the soul from the penalty of death and sin.
It's time to truly seek the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. Not the favor of a preacher.
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