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Ephesians 4-6

SEEING THE CHURCH FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE –
SEEING THE RICHES OF GOD'S GRACE!

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF
EPHESIANS

 

YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (1-3)

WALK IN YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (4:1-6:9)

1. Walk in unity (4:1-16)

a. How to preserve our unity (4:1-3)
b. Our unity that needs to be preserved (4:4-6)
c. How do we grow in our unity (4:7-16)

2. Walk in the new man (4:17-5:2)

a. Do not walk in futility as the old man walked (4:17-19)
b. For you have put off this old man and put on the new man (4:20-24)
c. But, instead, walk in the new man (4:25-5:2)

3. Walk in the light (5:3-17)
4. Walk in the Spirit (5:18-20)
5. Walk in submission (5:21-6:9)

STAND FIRM IN YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (6:10-23)

1. How we stand firm (6:10-11)
2. Why we need to stand firm (6:12)
3. What happens when we stand firm (6:13)
4. Our armor that enables us to stand firm (6:14-17)
5. Our conquering prayer (6:18)
6. Our conquering prayer for Christian leaders (6:19-20)

FINAL GREETINGS (6:21-23)

 

INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION ABOUT EPHESIANS

The author: Paul introduces himself as the author.  In the first verse we find: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God."  He reveals that he is the author in 3:1: "for this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." See also 3:7,13, 4:1, 6:19-20  Paul probably wrote this letter while he was in the imprisonment in Rome recorded in Acts 28:16-31.  It was probably written at the same time as the books of Colossians and Philemon (about A. D. 60).

The recipients:  The letter is addressed to the church at Ephesus in the first verse: "To the saints at Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus."  Not all of early manuscripts contain the words: "to the saints in Ephesus."  This letter may have been a circular letter that went first to Ephesus and then to the other churches in the region.  It may have been the letter to the Laodiceans that is mentioned in Colossians 4:16.  The fact that nothing in the letter is addressed to the specific needs or problems of any one church supports this theory that it was a circular letter.

The city of Ephesus was one of the key cities in the world at the time that Paul wrote this letter.  It was the largest city in province of Asia Minor (our modern-day Turkey).  It was known for its temple of Dianna—the goddess of fertility.  The temple was 425' long and 220' wide.  The founding of the church at Ephesus is described in Acts 19.  Paul taught and sought to build up the church for over two years. See Acts 19:8,10  Paul may have rounded off the 2 years and 3 months as 3 years.  There is also a description of the church at Ephesus given by Jesus in Revelation 2:1-7.

The theme: In Ephesians Paul describes the church's spiritual riches by God's grace in chapters 1 through 3, and then he exhorts us to live a life that is worthy of these riches in chapters 4 through 6.

 

THE MESSAGE OF EPHESIANS

How do we look at our local church?  Do we see it as our church?  Do we see it as the pastor's church?  How do we look at the universal Church?  Do we see only denominations and many buildings?  The book of Ephesians describes how the Apostle Paul looked at the church.  He sees the church from God's perspective.  It is God's church, not man's church!  Paul realized that the Ephesian Christians would need to have their spiritual eyes opened to see the church from God's perspective.  "I pray also 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 who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:18-23)
    
We will see in the book of Ephesians that the church exists only because it was God's sovereign choice to bring it into existence, and it exists entirely because of His grace toward us.  We will also learn that we are incredibly blessed because of God's grace.  The problem is that because of our self-centeredness, we do not see how blessed we are.  We often see the church as little more than a group of people who come to a building once a week (or more than once a week for some of the more faithful members).  May this study of Ephesians help to open our spiritual eyes to see how blessed we are as we seek to see the church from God's perspective.

The book of Ephesians can be neatly divided into two halves.  Ephesians 1-3 is the doctrinal half of the book and Ephesians 4-6 contains Paul's exhortations that are based on the doctrinal teaching of the first three chapters.  The pattern is similar to saying to a friend, "You seem hot and tired, and we have a swimming pool; I encourage you to go for a swim."  You are hot and we have a swimming pool is the doctrinal part, and the encouragement to go for a swim is the exhortation.  In Ephesians 1-3, Paul summarizes all that God has graciously blessed all who are members of His church with – our new position with Him and His new life in us.  Then, in chapters 4-6, Paul urges us to live like the new people that we now are.
Exhortations that are not based on the doctrines of God's sovereignty and grace become a demand that we live up to someone's legalistic standard for us.  For example, we should love one another.  Yes, we should, but why should we and how can we?  We should love one another because of how much we are loved by God.  We can love one another because God has brought our old unloving self to an end and has made us to be like Him.  Now, that we understand the doctrinal truths, it is appropriate that someone would urge us to love one another.

When we see the church from God's perspective, we will see that we are blessed by God because of and through Jesus Christ. "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7)  From God's perspective we have been identified with God's Son, Jesus Christ.  In the book of Ephesians we will learn how rich we are because we are now identified with Jesus Christ.

WALK IN YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (4:1-6:9)
Ephesians 4:1 marks the transition point between the two halves of Ephesians—the transition between Paul's teachings on doctrine followed by his exhortation to the church at Ephesus that encourages them to live like the God-blessed church that they are.  Paul first tells the Christians at Ephesus of the spiritual blessings and resources in Christ that are theirs as members of Christ's body indwelt by God; then, he urges them to live or walk like the Christ-indwelt members of Christ's body that they are.  The doctrine of who we are in Christ prepares us to walk as those who are in Christ.  Wuest captures this important and necessary transition from doctrine to duty in these words: "only in doctrine can one see the sweet reasonableness of the exhortation." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  If we truly understand the doctrine that Paul presented in Ephesians one through three, we will find it very reasonable and logical for us to seek to be obedient to the duties that he presents in chapters four through six.

1. Walk in unity. (4:1-16)
First of all, because we are one in Christ and because it is God's ultimate goal to unite us under the headship of Jesus Christ (See 1:9,10), we should walk in unity with each other.

a. How to preserve our unity in Christ-by walking in humility, gentleness, and patience. (4:1-3)
"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."

Thought Question #1:  Considering what Paul has said in the first 3 chapters, how do you respond to what Paul urges us to do in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Paul urges them rather than commands them?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Are you doing anything right now that is dividing you from other Christians?  What is there in these verses that will help you to do that which will preserve your unity with other Christians?

 

 

"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."  Notice that Paul urges them.  He does not command them or demand that they live the Christian life, he urges them.  He leaves the choice up to them to make the best, the appropriate, and the right choices for their lives.

He urges them to choose to live in a way that is "worthy" of who they now are in Christ.  Paul makes the same appeal to the Philippian Christians: "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. . . ." (Philippians 1:27)  How are we Christians to live?  We are to constantly think, "What is the appropriate way for a Christian to respond to this situation?"  What is the appropriate way for a Christian who has been chosen by God and indwelt by God to respond to this situation?  We each can think of many examples in our Christian life when we have not done that.  In each of us, there is the need for growth.  What is found in chapters four through six are God's goals for us and it should be our goals for ourselves.  We are able to seek after these goals because of what Paul taught in chapters one through three are true of every Christian.  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)

What does Paul mean by "calling"?  The Greek word that we translate "church" is ecclsia.  It comes from the Greek word for "call" and the Greek word for "out."  We who are in the church have been "called out" by God to live a God-honoring lifestyle.  "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

"Be completely humble"  As we go on to verse three, we will learn that we are not to seek to develop a spirit of unity; rather we are to seek to preserve the unity that we as Christians already have.  So, the problem then becomes: "How do we maintain and not lose our unity?"  First of all, Paul says that we maintain our unity with our fellow Christians by seeking to "be completely humble" with each other.  Pride, the opposite of humility, destroys our Christian unity.  Pride says that for some reason, I am superior to another Christian or my group is superior to another Christian group.  It is obvious that this arrogant spirit immediately divides Christians into what is perceived as the superior group and the inferior group.  This, of course, fragments Christ's body.  Pride is totally inappropriate among Christians who have been saved completely by grace.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Humility is not making ourselves artificially small, but it is making a true estimate of ourselves.  It is not comparing ourselves with each other; but it is comparing ourselves with the true basis of comparison; it is comparing ourselves with God. See II Corinthians 10:12  It requires, as John MacArthur says, "that we take off the rose-colored glasses and see ourselves only as unworthy sinners." 

For the Greeks, humility was not a virtue.  "The ancient world looked on humility as a thing to be despised. . . In the days before Jesus, humility was looked on as cowering, cringing servile, ignoble quality." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by The Westminster Press"  Yet, for the Christian there is no higher virtue than to be able to face the truth about oneself.  And this willingness to face the truth about our sinfulness enables us not to exalt ourselves over others because of their sinfulness.  Yes, others are weak, faulty, failing, sinful creatures, but so are we!  We are no higher and no lower than they, and so we cannot exalt ourselves over them nor can they legitimately exalt themselves over us.

"Be completely . . . gentle"  Gentleness is not directly definable by an English word.  It is the quality that enables one to accept the unpleasantries in others and the imperfections in this world without becoming harsh toward others and without lashing out at God.  It goes hand in hand with humility.  Humility enables us to recognize that we deserve God's judgment for our sin, but have not received it.  God could have been appropriately harsh with us, but he chose to be gentle.  We should, then, not be harsh toward others, but be gentle to them as God has been gentle toward us.  Gentleness is a willingness to bear others' weaknesses and abrasive qualities without being harsh toward them.  Gentleness is not weakness, but it is strength under control. It is the all-powerful son of God hanging on a cross, being mocked, and saying:  "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'" (Luke 23:34)  We are to maintain our unity as Christians by being gentle in this way toward each other. See II Timothy 2:24-26; II Corinthians 10:1

"be patient, bearing with one another in love."  There are many times in our relationships with others where there is a strong temptation to come to the end of our patience and say, "Enough is enough!"  Instead, in love, we are to only do that which is for the other person's best and long-term good, no matter what the cost or the circumstances.  So, love for others requires that we "be patient, bearing with one another in love." 

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  "Make every effort" means that we are to be diligent---to work hard---at maintaining unity within God's church.  The reason that we need to work hard at it is that it is our human nature to do that which divides and not to do that which maintains unity.  We are naturally proud of ourselves, harsh with others, and impatient.  We need to work with God's strength to be humble, gentle, and patient.  I have the joy of watching the lead pastor in the local church I am a part of regularly exhibit humility, gentleness, and long-suffering.  As a result, we have maintained a wonderful state of unity.  He also exhibits these same qualities toward other churches in town.  I also know that he makes every effort to be this way.

"to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace."  Once again, the Greek word that is translated "peace" means "to join."  We need to make every effort to do that which will keep Christians joined and united with one another.  Joined and united is the opposite of divided.  Some of us have watched a sheep dog work tirelessly as he seeks to keep the sheep in his flock joined together as one flock.  The sheep are continuously seeking to wander off, but because of the sheep dog's continual efforts, the sheep stay together.  We are to do all that we can to maintain this unity within the flock of God.

"the unity of the Spirit"  That which unifies us is God's Spirit within us.  If we are walking with God's Spirit within us, we will maintain our Christian unity.  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:30-32)  When we "do not grieve God's Spirit," but walk in the love that comes from God's Spirit, we will experience "the unity of the Spirit." 

b. Our unity that needs to be preserved. (4:4-6)
"There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Thought Question:  What can you find in these verses that binds you in a true unity with all fellow Christians?

 

 

Notice that Christian unity is the unity that is the present and actual reality that already exists between all born-again Christians.  It is not a man-made unity; it is a God-made unity. 

(1) We are one body.
"There is one body"  We are one living organism.  Paul will explain this in detail verses 13-16 of this chapter.  Sin divided mankind into selfish and self-centered individuals who only unite with others for some self-focused pursuit that benefits us personally.  Even the most altruistic pursuits, such as seeking the cure for a disease, are tainted with some type of selfish motive; for selfishness dominates all of our lives apart from Jesus Christ filling our hearts with His genuine concern for others. See Isaiah 64:6  The body of Christ is united into one body for the purpose of revealing to the world the selfless love of God.  We have been raised out of our selfishness for this pure and exalted goal.  "And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church," (Ephesians 1:22)

Who are those who make up the one body that Paul refers to here?  It is not the organized churches that we see in the Yellow Pages.  No, for the organized churches are not one, but divided in many ways.  The one body is all born-again Christians, no matter what local church they presently attend and no matter what denomination they presently associate with.  The true church is formed by God's Spirit.  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13) See I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12:3-8 for an extended description as the body of Christ.

(2) We are united by one Spirit.
"There is one . . . Spirit"  Within each born-again Christian indwells one Spirit.  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" (1 Corinthians 6:19)  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)  Each Sunday morning, true Christians travel to different churches, but within them is the same Spirit of God.  All these Christians are born-again by the Holy Spirit and are forever indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

(3) We have one hope.
"just as you were called to one hope when you were called"  What is the "one hope" of born-again Christians?  Paul summarized it in Colossians 1:27:  "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  We have been called to share God's glory as eternal members of His family.  "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (Romans 8:16-25)  Each Sunday morning many Christians travel to many different churches, but each of us has "one hope."

(4) We have one Lord.
"one Lord"  At the head of the church, the Body of Christ is one Head and "one Lord."  If we are going in many different directions, it can only occur because we are not obeying our one Lord.  God's Son became a man and lived among us; He died for us; He rose from the dead; and ascended once more to be with the Father.  He did all of this so that He might be the Head of the church.  Those who have turned from their old sin-controlled lives, turn to Him as the new Ruler of their lives.  We who are in His church have only "one Lord."  No matter what race we are, what country we live in, or what denomination we are part of; we all have "one Lord."  Christianity is Jesus Christ.  He is the church's Head and He is every Christian's "one Lord."  Jesus declared His Lordship with these words: "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." (John 13:13)

(5) We have one faith.
"one faith"  What is the "one faith" that Paul is talking about here?  Is it our act of trusting or is it what every Christian puts his or her trust in?  In Jude 3, Jude speaks of "the faith," and clearly it is referring to that body of truth that we as Christians put our trust in.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues that Paul is speaking here of the gospel truths that are essential for us to believe in for us to become Christians:  "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)  Lloyd-Jones argues that if the "one faith" includes all that the Bible teaches on theology then the church has not been united in one theology.  But the true church is united on the gospel truths.  Paul's emphasis on what we must believe in to become Christians is the only basis upon which one can become a Christian.  ". . .  All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf," (Colossians 1:6-7)  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2)  All we who are true Christians have "one faith." 

(6) We have experienced one baptism.
"one baptism"  Again, like the "one faith," which "baptism" is Paul speaking of here?  Today, the rite of "baptism" has divided the church.  Some believe in infant baptism and others believe in believer's baptism that is only practiced after the person has believed in Christ.  There are those who baptize by immersion and those who sprinkle or pour.  There is, though, a "baptism" that occurs to every Christian; that is the "baptism" into Christ when every Christian believes in Christ and is reborn of the Spirit.  Each Christian has gone from being an unborn-again person to being a born-again and Spirit-indwelt member of God's family.  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Water baptism is to symbolize this "baptism."  "Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:3-4) See also Acts 2:38  That is why the symbolic baptism is so significant; it symbolizes that the one being baptized in water has left his or her old Christless and Spiritless life behind and has become a completely new Spirit-indwelt person united with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.  We were once in Adam and now we are have been baptized into Christ.  Every Christian has experienced one "baptism" by God's Spirit.

(7) We are now related to one God.
"one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes that Paul orders what we are unified in by beginning with our experience with God:  We are "one body."  Lloyd-Jones makes the astute observation that Paul begins with the unity that the Holy Spirit produces—the "one body," and then moves to the Holy Spirit—"one Spirit."  Then, he moves on to what Jesus Christ has made possible—the "one hope" and the "one Lord."  The "one baptism" is our identification with Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.  And now, we come to God the Father—"one God and Father of all."  The ultimate goal of the Spirit and of Jesus Christ is to unite us with "God" the "Father." 

All Christians come to the very same God.  There is not a Pentecostal God or a Baptist God.  There is only one God that every Christian is united with.

What does Paul mean by God being the "Father of all who is over all and in all"?  Paul is writing of that which unifies the church; so first of all, he is not speaking of God being the "Father of all" people.  "All" refers to Christ's people.  "God" is the "Father of all" who are in Christ's church.  In the next verse, Paul says, "But to each one of us grace has been given."  He is clearly not saying here that all people (Christians and non-Christians alike) have been given spiritual gifts, but that they have been given to each Christian.  So, "God" is the "Father of all" in His church.

He is "over all."  "God" is the ultimate Ruler of His church.  Even the Son submits to Him.  "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he 'has put everything under his feet.' Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:24-27)  So, "God" who is the "Father" of Christ's church is "over all."  He is "through all." "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)  God is using everything to accomplish His purposes.  He is working "through" everything to fulfill His purposes.  "Through all" speaks of His providential and sovereign control of everything to fulfill His Divine purposes. See 1:10

He is "in all." He is "in" every Christian:  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13) See II Peter 1:3-4

We who are Christians are all one, whether or not we enjoy our oneness.  The Lord Jesus Christ desires that we do experience and enjoy our oneness:  "'My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:20-23)

c. How do we grow into our unity? (4:7-16)
In these verses, we will learn what Jesus Christ did and what we in the church must do so that we in His church will grow into our unity as the church and into the fullness of God's life in us.  Apart from this growth taking place, we will not fulfill our purpose to be an expression of Jesus Christ's body to our generation.

(1) What Jesus Christ did: He gave spiritually gifted men to His church. (4:7-10)
"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)"

Thought Question #1: Why do you believe it was necessary for Jesus to descend to earth and then ascend to heaven before He could give us gifts?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe Paul means by "the lower, earthly regions"?

 

 

We in the church are not only part of the unity in Christ's body, but we are also part of the diversity in Christ's body.  We learn in these verses that unity does not mean uniformity; we are one but we are not all the same. See I Corinthians 12:4,5  Here, we are told that each one of us has been given spiritual abilities uniquely designed by Jesus Christ so that we will be gifted for an important role within His church.  In verses 8-10, Paul explains how this happened in the past and how it also happens now.  Jesus is able to give out these gifts to us because He first descended to the earth where He won a great battle.  Then, He returned to heaven as a conquering King.  Now, like the conquering kings of the past, He gives out gifts to His people.

Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 which describes God as ascending into heaven after defeating the nations during Old Testament times.  There is a difficulty with Paul's quote, for in the Psalm it says that God receives gifts from men and here we are told that God gives gifts to men.  But it was customary for a conquering king to both receive and to give gifts after he was victorious.  The people of Paul's time were very familiar with both practices of conquering kings.  In the Psalm, the receiving of gifts is emphasized and Paul emphasizes the giving of gifts.  In the Psalm. the emphasis is on God's victory over the nations and the nations giving tribute to Him.  Here, we have Jesus Christ giving gifts to those who share in His victory—we in the church. See also Acts 2:33 and I Samuel 30:26-31

Another difficulty with this section is whether the lower earthly region refers simply to the earth or if it refers to Christ descending below the earth into Hades or a sub-earthly prison house.  If it does refer to Hades or a sub-earthly prison house, it could indicate along with some other verses that Jesus visited these places between His death and His resurrection from the dead. I Peter 3:18-20; Genesis 6:1-4; Jude 6-7, and Luke 16:19-31 are sometimes pieced together to come to this conclusion.  Lazarus of Luke 16, according to this viewpoint, is one of the captives that Jesus rescues from Hades when He "led captives in His train."  I Peter 3:18-20; Jude 6-7; and Genesis 6:1-4 are combined to give evidence that Jesus entered a prison for fallen angels to proclaim His victory over Satan.  There is nothing in these verses in Ephesians about Jesus going to Hades.  Paul simply says the "lower, earthly regions."  The conquering King Jesus ascended to heaven because He won a victory while He was living here on earth.  He came down to earth to win a victory and then ascended as the victorious king. See John 3:13, 8:23  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)  "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15)

(2) What are the gifted men to do?  To prepare God's people to serve as Christ did (4:11-12a)
"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service,"

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, how is the church to accomplish God's goals for it?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, who is to do the work of the ministry?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Which of these gifted men do you believe are still active in the church today?

 

In these words, Paul begins to explain God's plan for how the church is to function so that the body of Christ can fulfill its purpose.  The purpose of the church is also God's ultimate purpose for mankind.  And God's plan begins with the men that God has gifted to lead the church: "apostles, "prophets," "evangelists," and "pastors and teachers."  They are spiritually gifted men whose purpose in God's plan is to establish the church and to train God's people so that they will be able to effectively carry out the work of the ministry.  We will look at what the Bible has to say about each of these four types of gifted men.

(a) "Apostles" (from the Greek word apostello for sent-stello and out-apo = sent-out ones)
The apostles of Jesus Christ were sent out by Him with His authority and purpose. See Matthew 28:18-20  Paul was included among these apostles. See II Corinthians 11:5, 12:12  The qualifications for an apostle were as follows:  (1) They had seen the resurrected Jesus Christ.  "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1)" "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, . . ." (Galatians 1:15-16)  (2) They were enabled by God to perform miraculous signs.  "The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance." (2 Corinthians 12:12)  "God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will." (Hebrews 2:4)  "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say." (Acts 4:13-14)  (3) They must have been specifically and personally called by Jesus Christ.  " Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." (Galatians 1:1)  "On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?'  'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.'" (Acts 26:12-16)  (4) They were given God's truth and enabled to speak and write it infallibly.  "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12)  "If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command." (1 Corinthians 14:37)  "Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:15-16)

There are references to apostles in Romans 16:7 and I Thessalonians 2:6-7 who were neither members of the Twelve apostles nor Paul.  It appears that they were not apostles on the same plane as the Twelve and Paul, but were "sent-out" ones similar to our missionaries today.

The "apostles" and the "prophets" were gifted men who were given by God only at the beginning of the church to establish it. "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord." (Ephesians 2:19-21)

(b) "Prophets" (not primarily foretellers of the future, but primarily those who received a message from God and told it as forth-tellers) See Jeremiah 1:4-9

There were many prophets in the early church who both fore-told and forth-told.  "During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)" (Acts 11:27-28)  "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul." (Acts 13:1)  "Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers." (Acts 15:32)  "He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”'" (Acts 21:9-11)  These spokesmen of God's had God's truth revealed directly to them.  They were needed in the early church, for they did not yet have the completed New Testament at that time as we do today.  They, also, according to Ephesians 2:19-21, were given to the church only at the beginning of the church.

(c) "Evangelists" (from a Greek word that means "good message")
"Evangelists" were proclaimers of the "good news."  "Evangelists" are those who are called to present the "good news" to those who have not become Christians or to regions where the "good news" has not yet been heard by everyone and where the church had not yet been established.  Phillip and Timothy were evangelists in Paul's time.  "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:4-8)  "But you [Timothy], keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:5) 

Modern-day "evangelists" are undoubtedly our missionary church planters, campus workers and evangelists such as Billy Graham and others.  A year ago from the time I write these words, my wife Shirley and I were in Uganda working with a missionary couple.  Skip and Ruth Sorenson have been in Uganda 23 years.  Skip's heart's desire is to establish a church and then move on to the unreached areas where other churches can be established.  I believe that he is a gifted "evangelist."

(d) "Pastor-teachers"
There is no "some" in front of "teachers" (some pastor and some teachers); "pastors" and "teachers" are, therefore, not two gifted men, but two names used to describe one type of gifted men-"pastor-teachers."  "Pastors" is the Greek word poimen.  "This word poimen is from a root meaning to protect." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1931 by Broadman Press."  It describes someone who has watched over the flock to protect and to shepherd it.  These men are gifted by God both to protect and to teach God's church.  Pastors in our modern-day church are to be people called by God to serve this role of both pastoring and teaching.

(e) "to prepare God's people for works of service."
Other Bible versions translate these words in the following ways: "to equip the saints for the work of ministry." (ESV)  "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." (NASV)  "for the perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry." (KJV)  The Greek word translated "prepare" is the word that was used to describe the mending of something that is in disrepair (like fishing nets). See Matthew 4:21; Galatians 6:1 ("restore")  So, the goal and purpose of these gifted men is to mend the saints so that they will be able to serve effectively.  When people become Christians, they are not ready for a life of service.  They have been living a life of selfishness.  How can they go from that to a life of service?  That is why God has given the church gifted men.  The Twelve, Paul, Timothy, Barnabas, Silas, and our pastors today were and are gifted and prepared by God to mend the self-focused people who come into the church until they become effective servants of Christ.

When I first became a Christian, pastors were known as ministers.  This title can give the wrong impression, for it causes us to think that pastors are the only Christians that are to be serving the church and those outside the church.  These verses clear that up.  The pastors are to mend, train, reorient, and "prepare" God's people (the saints) for the work of the ministry.  We were created by God not to be self-focused people, but to be caring people.  The gifted men are to work at helping Christians to become who we were meant to be. See Acts 20:32; II Timothy 3:16-4:2

The church was not meant to be a spectator sport.  It is not like Major League Baseball where people go to watch the professionals play; rather it is like a church softball league where everyone plays.

"Throughout the Christian centuries no principle of church life has proved more revolutionary . . . than the declaration of Ephesians 4 that the ultimate work of the church in the world is to be done by the saints---plain, ordinary Christians---and not by a professional or a few select laymen." "Taken from Body Life by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1972 by Regal Books."  Just as Jesus took a few self-centered disciples who argued among themselves as to who was the greatest and mended, prepared, and developed them into a group of men who gave themselves fully to a life of service—many of them even gave their lives in that service; so we who are leaders in churches are to continue His type of training and mending in our local churches until we also see self-centered people transformed into self-sacrificing servants of Christ.

What is the "works of service" or the "work of the ministry"?  In a few words, it is the type of service that Jesus has gifted you to do and desires you to do throughout your life.  My wife Shirley, I believe, has been given the spiritual gift of mercy.  She volunteered in a nursing home and later worked in a nursing home and an assisted living home.  She no longer works in them, but she can still go and visit those in the homes she where she worked and they will light up when they see her.  They know that she cared and continues to care for them in an uncommon way.  She cares for them as Jesus cares for them.  In every church and in every community there are many needs.  Who will serve to meet those needs?  Not self-focused people, but true spiritually gifted servants of Jesus Christ who labor self-sacrificially to meet needs and to touch peoples' lives for Jesus' sake.

Over forty years ago, I was part of two churches that emphasized the "perfecting of the saints for the work of ministry."  Those two churches were under the leadership of Ray Stedman and John MacArthur.  Ray wrote a book called, Body Life and John wrote a book called, The Church-the Body of Christ.  Many times I have shared about the impact their ministries have had on me; particularly they influenced me to seek to "perfect the saints."  I have shared many times John's example of how pastors can become like the plate spinners that I saw on the old Ed Sullivan show and he saw at a circus.  Here is the way that he shared it: "I remember seeing, at a circus, a man spinning plates on eight sticks.  He would just get all eight going and have to run back to keep Number One moving, and on up the line.  This seems to me an apt illustration of the role of pastor, who figured out the plates he wants to spin and looks through the congregation to find the right sticks.  He gets it all going and discovers that the stick don't keep the plates moving, so he is stuck with running up and down from plate to plate, operating programs which the sticks are not motivated to spin.  How much better is it to concentrate all on 'perfecting the sticks' so that as they grow they become motivated to begin certain ministries in the energy and excitement of their ministry." "Taken from The Church-the Body of Christ by John Mac Arthur."

(3) What are we to do?  We are to mature together. (4:12b-16)
"so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what is the purpose of the church from God's perspective?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, how are we to accomplish God's purpose for the church?

 

 

Charlie Brown of the comic strip "Peanuts" comes into the TV room in their house to find Lucy watching her favorite TV show.  He walks over and changes the station to his favorite show.  Lucy says, "You had better turn that back."  Charlie asks, "Why?"  Lucy holds up her hand and says, "You see these five fingers, they are not much when they are apart, but when they come together they are a mighty force!"  The church also can be a mighty force when and as we come together.  These verses describe how God wants us to come together.  The church comes together and becomes a mighty force only when it operates like a human body, and it operates like a human body only as it grows to maturity together.  The church is described as the Bride of Christ, as a vine, and as a Temple; but the most repeated description of the church is that it is like a body. See I Corinthians 12; Romans 12:3-8 and here in Ephesians 4 for descriptions of the church as a body.

There is a common misconception that the church is a building and that we go to church when we go to our Sunday morning meetings in our church buildings.  But the truth is that the church goes to the building to gather together on Sunday mornings.

From the New Testament, we see that the church is not a building or a human organization, but it is a supernatural and spiritual organism that is to operate like our human body.  When we look at the human body, we see three aspects of it in particular: (1) we see unity, for it is directed by the head; (2) we see diversity, for there are many parts of the body with different functions; and (3) we see mutuality, for there is cooperation between the parts as they work together toward a common purpose.  When the church is coming together as God wants it to come together, the same will be true of the church.  There will be unity, as we together are directed by the Head of the church; there will be diversity, for there are different members of Christ's body each with different personalities and spiritually gifted functions within the working of Christ's body; and there will be mutuality, for there will be cooperation (see 4:16) as the various members work together toward Christ's common goal.  This working toward a common purpose is shown in Philippians 2:2 and a mutual care is shown in I Corinthians 12:6.  For us to function as a body is not some far out ideal, but it is a very real prospect for us.  As Paul has been arguing for three chapters, we have resurrection power from God—1:19-20; we are alive with God's life—2:5; we are God's workmanship—2:10; God dwells in us—2:22; and God is more than able to anything He purposes to do in us—3:20-21.  How can this become a reality?  It occurs, as we see in these verses and in the following verses, as we as the church grow from spiritual babies into a mature church.

(a) The goal: to grow from infancy to maturity, so that we will grow up into our full stature, filled to the fullness of Christ (4:12b-13)
"so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." 

Thought Question:  According to these verses, what will the church look like when it is mature?

 

 

John MacArthur, the nationally known pastor from Southern California makes the following comment:  "The most heartbreaking thing in my ministry is not that some people don't respond to the Gospel.  It isn't that more people don't go on the mission field.  The thing that breaks my heart most is that some members of the body remain spiritual babies all their lives; they never grow one inch from the time of their conversion.  This is a denial of everything that God purposes for each member of the body!" "Taken from The Church the Body of Christ by John MacArthur.  Copyright 1973 by Zondervan Publishing House." 

Paul's ministry was directed toward this purpose that the churches and the Christians in the churches would grow into maturity.  As individual Christians mature in the church, the body of Christ begins to move toward the full expression of the life of Christ within His church—the body is built up.  We who are in the church show each other and the world outside of Christ what Jesus Christ is like to the degree to which we have matured into His likeness.

"until we all reach unity in the faith"  In 4:5, we learned that the church has "one faith."  Though this is true, as baby Christians we only understand this "one faith" in a very kindergarten sort of way.  We often take new Christians through a basic follow-up type of study or we encourage them to take a Christianity 101 class.  I can remember one of those type of Bible studies with a couple who had just become Christians.  At one point the wife got all excited as she proclaimed, "Your telling us that Jesus is God!'  She had responded to the gospel, but she had not yet understood it all.  There is the need for growth in understanding "the faith" that we have in common.  There are many in the church who do not understand clearly that God's righteousness required that Jesus must pay the penalty for our sins, or we would have had to.  There are many in the church that do not understand the depth of their own sin.  It is only as we grow in our understanding of these basic truths that our Lord's Supper experiences grow into times when we realize and experience our "unity in the faith."

"until we all reach unity . . . in the knowledge of the Son of God"    Again, the Greek word that is translated "knowledge" is epignosis which speaks of an intimate and experiential knowledge.  Paul speaks of knowing Christ in this way in Philippians 3:8-11: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)  Paul also speaks of this type of knowing in this book in 3:19:20: "and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us," (Ephesians 3:19-20)  In chapter one Paul first speaks of all that we have in Christ, then he prayed that God's Spirit would spiritually enlighten them so "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," (Ephesians 1:18)  Here, Paul says that the church is to realize together what it is like to know Christ.

Something needs to be said before we move on.  There is a joy that comes from growth.  We could feel that these goals for the church that Paul lays out for us here are some high and unreachable goals.  This could discourage us from even getting started at seeking to reach them; but there is joy as we recognize that each of us and our local church is, if we are seeking to mature, are already growing toward a greater "unity in the faith" and toward a greater "knowledge of the Son of God."  We may not have reached the ultimate goal, but we can rejoice that we have grown beyond where we once were.

"and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."  Our premiere goal as a church is to grow until Jesus' character qualities are more and more fully expressed within His church.  What is His goal for us?  It is that His life will be fully experienced and expressed through His body the church.  In these verses in Ephesians four, we are told (1) what the church is to be—we are to become filled with Christ's life and (2) how we are to become filled with Christ's life—we are to grow as we each eagerly do our part.

(b) The process: growth into Christ the Head that is produced by an environment of truth and love; as each member of Christ's body fulfills his or her individual role (4:14-16)
"Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, how do we grow into what God desires for the church?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what is evidence that we have grown as a church?

 

 

How do we grow?  Is it by trying harder?  No, just like a living organism needs the proper nutrition to grow, so the body of Christ needs nutrition, exercise, and the proper environment to grow.  These three verses describe the type of environment that is needed for growth to take place within Christ's body the church.

"Then we will no longer be infants,"  The New Testament describes the spiritual life of Christians as being like the physical growth of people.  In both, we start out as infants.  Physical growth occurs as a child is fed and normal physical activities begin.  Recently, I have watched a baby boy in a tight-knit group I have been part of go from not being able to roll over to being able to roll over.  Next, we watched as the baby boy went from not being able to crawl to being able to crawl.  We are sharing and rejoicing in every little amount of progress that he makes.  In spiritual growth, though, there can be no progress if a Christian makes little effort to do that which is necessary for growth in his or her Christian life.  In fact, a Christian can go backwards if he or she chooses sinful behavior over behavior that leads to growth.  For that reason, it is possible for a Christian to remain an infant for a long period of time or remain an infant throughout one's life.  The following are two examples in the New Testament where Christians remained baby Christians:  (1) "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness." (Hebrews 5:11-13)  (2) "Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)  The goal of pastoral leadership and the church is that each Christian grows from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.  Then, the church will be filled with the life of Christ and fulfill its role in our world.

"tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."  Spiritual babies have not reached the stage of maturity where they know the Bible and the truth in it so well that they are not fooled by teachings that are false.  Instead, they are like a row boat in a very rough sea that is unable to remain stable and is tossed about by every wave that that comes to it.  The immature are up one day and down the next day; excited about a particular teaching one day, but excited about something totally different the next day.  During this period of instability, babies need to be constantly cared for and protected, just like physical babies need to be constantly cared for and protected.

"and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming."  Spiritual babies are easy prey for the "deceitful" schemes of the false teacher.  As a young sailor in boot camp, I was easy prey for the fast-talking salesmen who talked to the young sailors like me who were away from home for the first time.  I bought a set of encyclopedias from one of them.  I thought I was buying encyclopedias with an expensive cover; but when I got the set of encyclopedias, I discovered the expensive cover only covered the ends of the books.  The rest of the covers were of a very cheap card-board like material.  The salesman showed me a picture of just the ends of books; there was no picture of what a entire book looked like.  If I had seen what an entire book look like, I would not have bought the books he was selling.  He knew that he was deceiving me.  I had been taken in by a false salesman.

There are also smooth-talking false teachers that are just like the smooth-talking salesman who fooled me in my early days in the Navy.  They also know what they are doing when they disguise what they believe, knowing that you will not accept what they believe if they tell you it all right away.  Much of the New Testament contains warnings about these false teachers.  Jesus warned about them:  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:15-16) See also Matthew 24:23-26  Paul warned about them: "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)  See also II Corinthians 11:1-6, 13-15; Romans 16:17,18; Galatians 1:6-9; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 2:8, 16-18; I Timothy 1:3-7, 4:1-3  Peter warned about them: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." (2 Peter 2:1-3)  The whole book of Jude is a warning about false teachers.  John warned about them: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world." (1 John 4:1-3) See also I John 2:2:18-27

Martyn Lloyd-Jones states the following truth about false teaching: A "fact we have to recognize concerning false teaching is that it is planned and organized; that it does not happen accidentally. . . We must also emphasize that these teachers 'lie in wait', that they are methodical, and know exactly what they are doing." Taken from Christian Unity by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1980 by Baker Books."  Just like the salesman knew that the encyclopedias that he was trying to sell me did not have the expensive cover over the entire books, but only on the ends of the books, so deceptive false teachers know that they are purposely misrepresenting their teaching to entice people to join their groups.  Behind these groups and their false teaching is Satan who deceived Eve by misrepresenting God and by making the forbidden fruit more appealing to her:  "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray [by false teachers] from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Instead, we as a church need to do all that we can to help the members of the church to grow from spiritual babies into spiritual adults.  And one of the reasons for this emphasis on spiritual growth is so that they will not fall prey to the many false teachers who are in our communities, who speak on radio, who appear on television, and who write books.  In this case, prevention is much better than a pound of cure.  We should take full advantage of every opportunity for teaching and building them up.  It starts with children's Sunday School and children's camp and continues into the adult years.  We do not want to have churches full of spiritual children, but we want churches full of spiritual adults who are constantly maturing.

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."  We do not try really hard to grow physically; we grow when we have proper nutrition, proper exercise and the proper environment where we can grow in a healthy way into adults.  Spiritual growth also needs good nutrition (see I Peter 2:2), good exercise (see Hebrews 4:11-13), and a good environment for growth (in these verses).  These two verses describe the type of environment that is needed for a church to grow from a church filled with baby Christians into a church filled with spiritually mature Christians—growth into a spiritually mature church. 

First of all, we will grow when we are in a church environment where both truth and love are both actively present.  "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."  "'Speaking the truth' is aletheuo which Expositors translates as 'truthing it'." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "Truthing it," includes "speaking the truth."  So for a local church to grow, we need an environment of truth.  We might say that we will have an environment of reality and not fantasy.  For truth is the opposite of living in a false and fantasy world.  For this to occur, the word of God must get off the pages of our Bible and into our hearts, become our basis of seeing the world—our reality, come from our mouths, become our lifestyle, and permeate our church's environment.  It must become the determiner of our mutual outlook on life.  It must determine how we make our individual and group decisions.  It needs to be the basis for our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, and our relationships with those outside the church.

Psalm chapter one verses one through three captures how truth produces growth in our lives:  "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3)

But an environment with only truth and without love will be little different than a harsh military school that coldly demands certain standards of those in it.  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus combines both truth and love:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)  In fact, Jesus' entire ministry was the perfect balance of both truth and love.  When we have this type of concern for each other and are at the same time committed to the truth, there will be growth!  And according to this verse, our growth will result in growing closer to Jesus the Head of the church and our being more fully led in His ways individually and as a church.  Can anything be more important than His church becoming more responsive to His leadership and becoming more like Him?

Now, let us focus on why "truthing it" will result in growth.  Jeremiah 17:9 says the following about our outlook on life before we became Christians: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"  Before we were Christians, we lived not acknowledging the truth about ourselves and the world, but in a self-concocted world of unreality where we are always right and everyone else was only right when they agreed with us.  We had an arrogant and not a humble and realistic outlook on life.  People in God's church need to be transformed from arrogance to humility.  Jesus told it like it is to His disciples and He also loved them.  A humble church will provide the environment for growth.  An arrogant church will have the opposite effect.

"Truthing it" in love also means that the church is to have an environment where the "truth" in the Bible is regularly taught and spoke about.  We need sound doctrine.  "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)  "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1) See also II Timothy 4:2-3; Titus 1:9

There is also a need for false doctrine to be exposed.  There are many examples of false doctrine being exposed in the New Testament letters:  "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4) See also Galatians 1:6-9; Titus 1:10-16  Furthermore, the truth about sin in a Christian or in Christians needs to be confronted: "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present." (1 Corinthians 5:1-3)  All of this is part of "truthing it."

In an environment of truth, there will be sound doctrine taught, false doctrine exposed, sin confronted, and it will result in humility before God in that church.  There also will be spiritual growth taking place.

Now, let us look at why love will result in growth.  It is because of God's love, mercy, and grace that we are drawn to Him.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)  My definition of love is as follows: "Love actively and affectionately seeks another's best no matter what the circumstances or the cost."  If we always do what is best for another, we will not be doing anything that is harmful to someone.  We will be "patient" and "kind."  We will not keep a "record of wrongs." (I Corinthians 13:4-8a)  As I just heard a pastor say, "Love is not historical."  Also, as someone has said, "People do not care what you know until they know that you care."  Paul gives the following instruction on how we are to correct someone who has sinned: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Galatians 6:1-3)  Jesus said that the prevailing characteristic of His church should be love: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

Next, we grow as Christians and as a church as each member functions in his or her role within the body, empowered with Christ's life in them and directed by Christ the Head of His body the church.  "From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."  The parts of the human body work together as one only because the parts of the one human body are connected to each other and also are connected to one head by our nervous system.  How, then, is the body of Christ connected to each and directed by one Head?  The answers to these questions are given to us in this verse.

First, how are we connected to each other?  We are connected to each other by love as each of us ministers in our own unique areas of ministry.  Our love for each other and our ministry to others in our area of spiritual gifting is like the sinews and tendons that hold the human body together.

To many, the church is nothing more than a building that they go to once a week.  Then, it is like a bus depot where people sit together, but have no or little relationships with each other.  That is not the Head's desire for the church, His body.  Instead, we are to be alive with genuine love and concern for each other.  What are some of the ways we are to connect with each other?  Recently, one of our church elders gave a devotional at our elders' meeting on the "one anothers" in the Bible.  Here are some of the "one anothers" that we in Christ body are exhorted to do with  each other:  "love one another" (John 13:34-35), "honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10), "live in harmony with one another" (I Peter 3:8), be devoted to one another" (Romans 12:10), "pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another" (Romans 14:19 NASV), "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13), "carry each other's burdens" (Galatians 6:2), bear "with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2), "be kind and compassionate to one another" (Ephesians 4:32), "forgive "each other" (Ephesians 4:32), "submit to one another" (Ephesians 5:21), "live in peace with one another" (I Thessalonians 5:13), "encourage one another" (Hebrews 3:13, 10:25), "confess your sins to each other" (James 5:13), pray for each another (James 5:16), and "offer hospitality to one another" (I Peter 4:9).  We are also to minister to each other in the areas of our spiritual gifting: "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)  These "one anothers" usually do not take place in a bus depot, but they are to regularly be a part of life in Jesus' body the church.  As it occurs and to the degree it occurs, we will mature into Christ's body, and will express the life of Christ to each other and the world outside the church. See Romans 12:3-8 and I Corinthians 12

How will our relationship with Christ the Head be expressed through our lives and through us who are His body the church?  We need to realize that it is not our church, but His church.  We need to be seeking above all else that what He desires for His church be accomplished.  That means that we do not seek after our own personal goals.  He desires that the world will see what He is like as they see His life expressed through His church.  May we together express Jesus Christ to our world through our local church and through the church international.  That is the highest goal and purpose of life.

2. Walk in the new man. (4:17-5:2)
What if it was recently discovered that you are a member of the royal family of another country?  Then, you are asked if you would go to that country and begin to live as part of their royalty?  Would it not be appropriate for you to live in the way that royalty are expected to live?  We who are Christians do have a new station in life; we are members of God's royal family; and not just in name alone, for we are actually partakers of His life.  Should we not then live differently than those who are not members of God's family?  In these verses, Paul exhorts his readers to live as members of God's own family should live.

a. Do not walk in futility as the old man (old woman) lived. (4:17-19)
"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, what happens every time we choose to do that which we know is sinful?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, why should we never choose to do that which we know is sinful?

 

 

These verses are a summary of what Paul describes about the Gentiles in Romans 1:18-32.  He even uses many of the same words in both sections ("futile," "darkened," "given themselves over" and "God gave them over")  In both sections of verses, Paul describes how people outside of Christ became what they are.  Paul's point in these verses is that we absolutely should not want to follow them in their path toward self-destruction and the destruction of others.

"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord,"  "Insist" translates the Greek word martureo, "which is used of a solemn declaration, protest, or injunction of the nature of an appeal to God.  In the words, 'in the Lord,' the writer is seen identifying himself with Christ in giving the exhortation as one made by Christ Himself' (Expositors)" "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  What Paul is doing here is appealing to them as Christ would appeal to them.  What is contained in the rest of the words of these verses is also what Jesus Christ Himself is pleading with us for.  As new creatures in Christ, we must no longer live as the non-Christians live.  It is the strongest plea that Christ can make to us.  He died for us and gave us His life; now He pleads with us to no longer have anything to do with the type of life that separated us from Him and to no longer live like those who are separated from Him.

"that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking."  Why are we not to live as those outside of Christ live?  It is because it is a totally futile and aimless way to live.  Before I was a Christian, I had been taught in college that Christianity was a fairy tale concocted by naïve non-intellectuals who want to believe there is a good God.  "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:22)  Jeremiah 17:9 says:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  Because as a non-Christian my heart was darkened and I was self-deceived and because I did not want to be accountable to anyone for whatever I chose to do, I believed the foolish conclusions I was taught in college that there is no God.  As a result of my twisted conclusions, I ultimately concluded what Paul concludes here—that life is absurd and has no purpose—it is futile.  Shortly after coming to that conclusion, my brother came back from the war in Viet Nam as a new Christian.  Three weeks later, I also became a Christian.  Paul is saying here, "Why would you want to join these people again who have an empty, futile, and pointless way of living?

Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes expands on this: as a rich and powerful King living in a time of peace, he attempted to find satisfaction in life "under the sun" or in life apart from a relationship with God who is above the sun.  His conclusion:  "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.'" (Ecclesiastes 1:2)  He and everyone else who has ever tried to find happiness apart from a relationship with God have found that this life apart from God is total "futility."  I am presently reading through a book by John Blanchard titled, Does God Believe in Atheists?  It is 500+ pages chronicling and describing the futile thinking and way of life of the atheists.  Also, I have read in the past a book titled, The Intellectuals by Paul Johnson describing the lives of intellectuals like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Bertrand Russell, and Ernest Hemingway.  It is 300+ pages describing the "futility" of trying to find a satisfying life apart from God.  I was amazed as I read this book that chronicled the lives of these famous intellectuals at how similar their lives were in many ways; but in particular, how empty their lives were.  We could go on and describe the lives of those who have risen to fame and riches in this world, only to find incredible emptiness at the end of their pursuits—Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes, Michael Jackson, and O. J. Simpson.  Add to them the lives of countless millions who have tried to find happiness outside of Christ, but have only found that their lives ended without love, without fulfillment, and with such sad results as divorce, addictions, bitterness, loneliness, perversion, guilt, despair, and darkness.  Paul's point is: "Why would you want to join them?"

"they are darkened in their understanding"  In Romans 1:21-22, we find these words written by Paul: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1:21-22)  Why is it that those outside of Christ are blind to who God is?  Paul says that they have darkened their minds to the truth.  Paul in Romans 1:19-20 says: "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)  According to Paul, all men begin by knowing the truth about God.  It is "plain to them."  But, as we will learn later in these verses in Ephesians, they purposely darken their minds to the truth about God and become "darkened in their understanding."  "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." (Romans 1:28)  "and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:10) We find in II Corinthians 4:4 that Satan aids those who have chosen darkness over light by also darkening their minds: "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4)  Men outside of Christ live in the darkness that they themselves have chosen.  They cannot see the truth because, for their own perverse reasons, they have chosen lies over the truth.  "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 3:19-20)  "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)

"and separated from the life of God"  What is "the life of God" that Paul refers to here?  In II Peter, Peter describes Christians as those who are now able "to participate in the divine nature." (II Peter 1:4)  It could also be said that as Christians we are now able to experience "the life of God."  Outside of Christ, the "life of God" is not being experienced.  Outside of Christ men and women do not cease to make decisions, but they make decisions apart from the holy and loving empowerment of God's life in them.  God's life within us gives us the ability to see and understand the truth.  Those who do not have God's life in them cannot see and understand the truth and are ignorant of His ways.

"because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts."  "Ignorance" translates the Greek word agnoian.  It describes an "ignorance," a not knowing God.  We get our word "agnostic" from this Greek word.

All that has been described up to this point is "due to the hardening of their hearts."  How does this "hardening" take place?  It is important to realize that this "hardening" can also take place in a Christian's heart if any of us who are Christians choose to do what the Gentiles do.  Listen to the author of Hebrews: "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. . . As has just been said: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'" (Hebrews 3:13,15)

How does this "hardening" take place?  Romans 1:18 explains it: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,"  When anyone chooses sin, they purposely also "suppress the truth" that what they are choosing is evil, foolishness, and disobedient to God.  They must "suppress the truth," for how else can they sin without feeling condemned and how else can they enjoy the sin unless they harden their hearts to the truth that what they are doing is rebellion against God and completely wrong?  We can only sin and not always feel bad about it if we harden our hearts to the truth that what we are doing is despicable.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones dramatically describes the necessity to harden ourselves in the following way:  "And of course you have got to do that if you want to enjoy sin.  While the heart is tender and supple you cannot enjoy sin because your heart is protesting the whole time, and the remorse follows, and it takes away all your pleasure.  So that if you want to enjoy a life of sin, you have got somehow or other to do something to your heart; you must harden it. . . he must somehow try to silence his heart! . . . And so men discover that the only way to enjoy sin is to somehow or other to silence his heart, to harden it." "Taken from Christian Unity by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1980 by Baker Books."

He goes on to say that it is this hardness of heart that most characterizes non-Christians: "If I were asked to state what in my opinions is the most outstanding characteristic of life outside Christ today, I would without any hesitation say that it is the hardness of heart of man.  There are too many people walking about with mask-like faces.  And they have deliberately put it on.  But before they put on such a face they put this hardness on to their hearts by crushing feelings deliberately crucifying things within them, silencing protests and stamping upon any softness or tenderness."

One further quote from Lloyd-Jones: "'Neither could they blush' (Jeremiah 6:15).  They had become incapable of blushing.  While you blush, there is hope for you; your heart is still working if you can still blush." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House." 

But when a person repeatedly chooses sin over obedience to God, an ever increasing hardness sets in.  A person's heart becomes calloused and it no longer feels bad at all when he or she chooses to do some act or thought that is sinful.  It is what happens when our hands become so calloused that they can no longer feel.  A needle can be stuck in a callous and there will be no pain at all.  A person with a calloused heart can sin and no longer feel any guilt at all.

It is a tragic sight to see those who have hardened themselves through a life of choosing sin.  It can often be seen on their faces.  It can be seen in the face of the car salesman who regularly lies to sell cars.  It can be seen in the face of the rich businessman who has not cared whom he has hurt to gain materially for himself.  It can be seen in the face of the person who is captured by addiction who must hide his feelings of shame by hardening himself or herself.  It can be seen in the face of the adulterer or adulteress who hides his or her feelings of shame by hardening himself or herself to the wrong that is secretly taking place.  It can be seen in the face of the worker who regularly steals from his or her employer.  It can be seen in the face of the child who regularly lies to his or her parents.

Our society participates in this hardening in many ways:  Some psychologists teach against morality, calling it in a sneering tone: "moralizing."  They tell us that guilt is not healthy, but something that we must be freed from.  Society sanctions as okay that what the Bible teaches is wrong.  The Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is a perverse and degrading sin; society teaches that those who believe it is wrong are "homophobic."  And the examples go on and on and have increased and will increase still more as our nation moves farther away from God and the light.

"Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."  What occurs when the heart has become completely calloused and is without shame or remorse about sin?  It is described in this verse: they lose "all sensitivity" and they give "themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."  This is the final stage of sin.  It is described in Romans 1:28-32:  "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."  It is also described in II Timothy 3:1-4:  " But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—" (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Paul says, "they have given themselves over to sensuality."  In Romans, he says that God gives them over "in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity" (Romans 1:24) and "to a depraved mind" (Romans 1:28)

The sad truth is that this unholy pursuit never brings satisfaction; it is a completely futile pursuit.  "A continual lust for more" describes a continual state of wanting more because their hunger is never satiated.  They remain hungry and thirsty.  "The leech has two daughters.  'Give! Give!' they cry." (Proverbs 30:15)  Apart from God, those outside of Christ will continually pursue that which will never bring satisfaction.  "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13)

Through Paul, Jesus "insists" that we as new creatures in Him should "no longer live" as the person outside of Christ lives, "hardening" their hearts as they pursue a sinful and futile life that leads to sinful emptiness.  Are we persuaded?  If we are, then, we are ready to pursue, instead, the abundant type of life that is now available to us through Christ.

b. For you have put off this OLD SELF and have put on the NEW SELF when you chose to turn from the old life and entered into the new life in Christ (4:20-24)
"You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

Thought Question #1:  According to these verses, when is the old self put off and the new self put on?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these verses, what is the difference between the old self and the new self?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  According to these verses, if you are a Christian, is the old self still present in your life?

 

 

Paul is describing here how we became a Christian.  At that time, we "were taught" to put off the "old self" that lived like the "Gentiles" of 4:17-19 lived.  "The aorist tense marks a specific time.  It was at their conversion." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  Paul is saying that every Christian at their conversion learned that Christ offered them a new life.  The "old self" is the sin-corrupted life that each Christian lived before he or she became a Christian; the new life with a "new self" that Jesus offers is a righteous life.  At conversion, we chose to turn from the corrupt life of the "old self" and to put on the "new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Since we chose to put on this "new self" at conversion, we should also now choose to live in the pure new life of the "new self."  Paul uses the same argument in Colossians, a book that was written at the same time as he wrote Ephesians.  "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Colossians 3:9-10) See also Romans 6:1-14; II Corinthians 5:17

Are we now both the old self and the new self at the same time?  According to these verses and other verses on the subject (See Romans 6:1-14; Colossians 3:9-10), the old self is gone for the old self is another way of saying our old non-Christian self.  Just as we are no longer a non-Christian, so we are no longer the old self.  We do, however, still have the old habit patterns, the old way of thinking of the old self, and the old motivations of the old self still hanging around inside of us.  We are the new man in Christ, but the ways of the old man hang onto us until they are replaced by the new way of thinking of the new man.  The new way of thinking is revealed to us in the Bible.

When we become a Christian, there is a process of learning that is to take place.  "You did not come to know Christ that way."  At that time you were taught that "your former way of life" was sinful.  We learn here that "our former way of life" was "being corrupted by its deceitful desires" (deceitful lusts).   It was not just corrupt, but it was continually getting more corrupt.  "It speaks of the progressive condition of corruption which characterizes the old man.  The unsaved person is thus subject to a continuous process of corruption which grows worse as time goes on." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  We can say that the old life is a process of continual rotting. See Galatians 6:8

When we put off the "old self," we put on the "new self."  "The word new is kainos, not new in point of time, which would be neos, but new in point of quality, new in point of quality as opposed to the old in the sense of outworn, marred through age." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

We find how we learned and were "taught" about the sinfulness of our old life in I Thessalonians 1:4-5: "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake."  Our eyes were opened at the time that God revealed to us that the gospel message was true and we saw, as if the lights were turned on, how ugly the sinful way of life is.  And in the book of Acts, Luke describes how Lydia became a new person in Christ:  "On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message."  The Thessalonian Christians, Lydia, the Ephesian Christians, and every Christian was "taught" by God's Spirit about the ugliness of their sinful old life and that they could turn to Jesus for a new life. See also Colossians 1:13-14

Once we have been taught by God of the ugliness of our old way of life and the beauty of the new Christ-indwelt life, why would we ever want to go back to the old life.  "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:1-4)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the point that we do not just stop doing the sins of the old life, but we must not leave this vacuum unfilled.  We must replace the old sinful life with the new godly life.  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)

Now, we will focus on some of the specifics of these verses.  The old man was "corrupted by its deceitful desires."  These lusts deceive us into thinking that fulfilling these worldly desires (without God) will bring us happiness.  The whole world pursues these sinful "desires," seeking after the allusion that they will lead them to a happy and fulfilled life.  An illustration of this is what happens every day at Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.  People go to these cities to find happiness.  What they find, instead, are two cities full of corruption and spiritual emptiness.  The devil deceived Adam and Eve that they would find more enjoyment from disobeying God than they found from obeying Him.  Did the devil stop seeking to deceive people after Adam and Eve were forced from the Garden?  No, he continues to seek to deceive men and women that they will find more happiness by disobeying God, than by obeying God. "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3)  "For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”" (2 Peter 2:18-22)

Here, in these verses in Ephesians, Paul exhorts us to stop and think of the consequences of choosing sin over righteousness.  Stop and think about what sin led to in your Christless life.  Why would you ever choose to go back to the life that leads to rottenness?  "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Romans 6:19-22)  We are to constantly choose against the old sin-enslaved life and to choose for the new Christ-empowered life. See Romans 13:14

Next, as we look some of the specifics of these verses, Paul says: "to be made new in the attitude of your minds."  "It is important that we should notice that the Authorized Version ["and to be made new in the attitude of your minds."] does not give us the exact tense of the verb here.  It is really continuous present; Paul says that they must go on being renewed in this way.  It is not something that happens once for all.  It is the passive; it is not something that the Christian is not to do . . . it is something that happens to us . . . we go on being renewed." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  We are to do that which will result in a continual renewing of our mind by God.  We need to be receptive to this renewing of our mind just as we were receptive when the gospel message was presented to us.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)  We once were in the darkness and did not see the world as it really is; now we are to be receptive to God's light, not close our eyes to it, as our minds are continually being renewed by God.

How can we tell whether or not our minds are being renewed?  We are no longer walking in the darkness when we see God's hand in everything we see.  Years ago, as a new Christian and as a student teacher, I saw the science series "Hemo the Magnificent."  It was an animated description of the marvels of the human circulatory system.  As I looked at the movie, I saw God's wonderful design in all that was described in the film.  Others in the classroom and especially the atheistic teacher of the class did not see what I saw.  My mind was renewed by God's Spirit; others' minds were blind to what I saw.  Our mind is renewed when we become a Christian; we are to continually be receptive to God as He continues to renew our mind by revealing His perspective on life.

Now, let us focus on the "new self": "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  First of all, we are a new creation: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Each of us who is a Christian is a walking miracle.  God created His character abilities in us.  "For 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)  After Adam and Eve were created, God declared that all He had made were "very good." (Genesis 1:31)  But, then, they fell into sin and they became "very bad"; and we have been "very bad" ever since.  But, those who have become born-again through faith in Jesus Christ are a new creation: ""created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  We are now back to being able to live the pure life like Adam and Eve did before the fall.

At this point, you may be thinking: "Other Christians and I do not live at all the sinless life like Adam and Eve lived."  What has changed is that we now need to choose to pursue a holy life while living in a fallen body and in a fallen world that is ruled by the devil.  Also, we now know the difference between good and evil; while they were innocently ignorant of evil.  We who live in fallen bodies, in a fallen world controlled by the devil must choose each day to live as the new persons that we have become in Christ Jesus; we are to live "in true righteousness and holiness."  We must continually resist the deceitfulness of the world and choose to obey God.  To do that, we need to be constantly reading and meditating on God's truth found in the Bible so that we will stay in the light of reality.  We are to starve to death the ways that were part of the old man and continually feed the new man.  We do that by seeking to do all that the Bible tells us to do: meditate on God's words, pray, fellowship with Christians, serve in His church, and share the gospel message with those who are still outside of the church.

c. But, instead, we are to walk in the NEW MAN – in truth, righteousness, sacrificial giving, edifying speech, forgiveness, and in sacrificial love (4:25-5:2)
Christianity is not a religion of "don'ts," but it is a relationship with God that leads to a whole new set of "dos."  "Do" be like Jesus for He has given you His life.  So, just as the power from gasoline in an automobile engine gives us the power to go 70 miles per hour rather than the few miles an hour we can go in our own strength, so the power of Christ's life in our hearts gives us the ability to live like Him rather than just live a selfish life like we could only do when we did not have His power in our lives.  We, for example, are now able to be truthful and loving like our Lord.  All that is left is for us to daily put off the old type of life and put on the new life of Christ.

(1) Live now in the truth (4:25)
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body."

Thought Question:  According to these verses, why should we choose to tell the truth to each other?

 

 

Paul begins with an essential requirement that is necessary for Christ's body to function as it ought to function.  We must put off the deceitful ways of the old life.  In Jeremiah 17:9, Jeremiah says that "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"  It was characteristic of us in our old life to choose to say whatever would benefit us; whether it was true, partly true or completely false.  For the body of Christ to function as it should, this must go.  For as the members of the human body are dependent on true and dependable communication between its members, so the body of Christ requires that there be truthful communications between its members for it to be a well-functioning body.  What would the human body be like if the arms, legs, ears, and eyes were receiving false information from each other?  We have all seen the tragic effects of nervous diseases on the coordination of its victims.  Deception within the body of Christ has the same effect on the church.

How can we be motivated to put off the deceit of the old life?  We must see how filthy deceit is, so that we will hate it as we hate it when some type of filth gets on our hands.  What do we do when this happens?  We wash it off quickly and thoroughly so that we will be completely free from its putrid effects on our skin.  We also need to see how filthy the practice of deception is to God and how putrid it should be to us.  Then, we will also desire to remove it immediately and thoroughly from our lives.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that everyone hates and despises the liar, but it is also something that, outside of Christ, is characteristic of every single man.  Every man seeks to deceive others into thinking that he is better than he truly is.  Every person will alter the truth so that it will benefit him or her.  Every person lies to himself or herself about how sinful they are before God.

"You commit a sin, you do not want to be found out, and you do want anybody to know it, so you tell a lie.  Because you have told a lie you have to tell another lie to cover it; and on and on it goes, by a horrible process of geometric progression.  It multiplies until the whole life becomes a lie and a sham." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."

What can we do?  We must exchange the darkness for a life of walking in the light: " This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)  We are to regularly fellowship with God in the light of His holy presence.  Then, we will confess or agree with God about our sin and seek to speak that which is true.  "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:5)  "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)." (Ephesians 5:8-9)

(2) Live now in righteous anger and not in unrighteous anger. (4:26-27)
"“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

Thought Question #1:  How do you believe we can be angry and yet not sin?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe we "give the devil a foothold" when we let "the sun go down on our anger"?

 

 

Paul does not say: "Do not get angry."  He assumes that we will be angry.  Instead, he warns us not to allow our anger to lead us into sin.  There are times when it is totally proper to be angry.  For example, it is appropriate to get angry when we see the strong oppressing the weak. See James 5:1-6  It is proper to be angry when God's name is being desecrated. See Matthew 21:12-13  In fact, we are desperately in need of this type of pure outrage, for it will help to motivate us to do what it takes to right wrongs.  We need to be angry about so much of what is going on as we see our country calling good evil and evil good.  We need those who are not able to look the other way when they see injustices, evil, sin, and blasphemy.  Just as we are to love good, so we are also to equally hate evil.  But this anger needs to be controlled by love so that it will ultimately be constructive rather than destructive.  It should be anger that motivates us to do what is right rather than anger that merely adds our wrongs to others' wrongs.

Many good works have come from this type of anger: Abraham Lincoln's freeing of the slaves, William Wilberforce's successful crusade to end the trading of slaves in the British Empire, the anti-abortion crusade, and many more.  John Wesley said, "Give me 100 men who fear nothing but God, and hate nothing but sin and know nothing but Christ and Him crucified and I will shake the world."

But, though anger can be pure and motivate us to correct what is bad, it more often has its source in our selfishness rather than in our selflessness.  Then anger does not correct bad, but this anger is itself bad.  "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your [selfish] desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." (James 4:1-2)  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:20 that a work of the flesh is "fits of rage."  Paul in these verses in Ephesians 4 tells us that if we hold on to our anger until after the sun goes down---or in other words for more than one day, our holding on to this grudge will "give the devil a foothold." He will use our anger to destroy others, destroy our relationships with others, and destroy us.  Is there any resentment against others that you have continued to hold on to, where as a result, the devil now has a strong foothold in your life?  "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Hebrews 12:15)  We need to root out with humility and forgiveness all the roots of bitterness in us.  "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)  "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)

 (3) Live now in sacrificial giving and not by stealing (4:28)
"He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need."

Thought Question:  How should the fact that we are new people in Christ change how the former thief looks on others?

 

 

Paul introduces us to an important principle in these verses.  Those who have been thieves in their pre-Christian life must completely reverse this pattern in their new Christian lives and become givers.  "This was very necessary advice, for in the ancient world thieving was rampant.  It was very common in two places, at the docks and above all in the public baths.  The public baths were the clubs of the time; and stealing the belongings of bathers was one of the commonest crimes in Greek cities." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by The Westminster Press."

Paul tells those ex-thieves that they must, as new Christians, work with their hands so that they will have something to give.  What is the principle that Paul introduces us to here?  In the new life we must work hard at doing the very opposite of what we did in the old life.  In the old life one was interested in accumulating for oneself; in the new life, greater satisfaction will come from meeting the needs of others.  In the old life, a thief looked on what he could get from others; in the new life, he is to look on what he can give to others.

Barnabas of the early church is an example of this type of transformation. See Acts 4:32-37  After his conversion, he sold all the wealth that he had accumulated to meet the needs of the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  This principle was applied in a Christian commune for heroin addicts in Venice, California.  The leader of the commune discovered that there was progress among the individuals with the commune as long as they used their hands that had once been used for stealing to farm to provide food for the continuing ministry of the commune.

A second principle comes from this first principle: not only do we who are Christians need to work hard at doing the opposite of what we did in our pre-Christian days, but there will be areas where we will find it harder to change than in other areas.  Some parts of our pre-Christian life will be easily replaced with the new Christian patterns, but there will be other areas that will change only after a lifetime of real struggle.  For example, some who have been addicted to a substance or a practice will be able to drop it easily; and for others, it will be a difficult struggle to start a completely new lifestyle.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that stealing is an attempt to get what one selfishly craves rather than laboring to the point of fatigue to get it.  The very opposite of getting things for ourselves the "easy way" is working to the point of fatigue to give to others.

Christians are not to give to other Christians who are not willing to work.  "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'if a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10)  We may have heard people speak of the "Protestant work ethic."  We find this ethic in these verses in Ephesians and in the words of II Thessalonians.

(4) Speak with edifying speech and not with words that tear down others. (4:29)
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Thought Question #1:  How can applying this verse to your life help you in controlling what you say?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What are some examples of "unwholesome talk"?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What are some examples of talk that builds "others up"?

 

 

Whereas, the tongue of the old man was, according to James 3:6, an evil force in the world that is "set on fire by hell" itself; the tongue of the new man is to be used only to build others up. See James 3:13-18  There are many contrasts in the book of Proverbs between the destructive tongue and the edifying tongue.  For example, "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18) See also Proverbs 10:19, 15:4, 28  May we who are now new creatures in Christ learn to use our tongues not as swords of destruction but as tools of healing and construction.

Jesus had the following to say about the importance of controlling what we say:  "You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:34-37)  In the KJV in these verses, it says that we will be accountable for "every idle word."  Certainly, there is not a subject that is more convicting than the subject of the tongue and how we each use it.  What our tongues reveal is what is in our hearts; for what is in our hearts come out of our mouths eventually.  The solution is to deal with what is in our hearts.  James puts it this way: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. . . Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 3:14, 4:8b)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,"  What are some examples of "unwholesome talk" that does not build others up?  It is not hard for us to come up with examples: lies, sharp words, slander, malicious words, gossip, half-truths, biased words, bitter words, vulgarity, blasphemy, and the list can easily go on.  As Christians, Paul is saying that this type of talk should never come out of our mouths.

"but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  Our speech, as a new person in Christ, is to be focused on building others up and on not tearing them down.  "Careless" or "idle" words are also usually not thoughtful words.  We need to think before we speak: "Will what I am about to say be helpful to others or am I expressing something that would be harmful to someone?"  To speak like that, I must first think of that person or persons that I am speaking to or about and ask the following question:  "Does what I am about to say meet their needs and is it helpful to them?"  "A man finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!" (Proverbs 15:23)  "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." (Proverbs 25:11)

(5) Be forgiving and kind toward others and do not be bitter toward anyone. (4:30-32)
"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about the Holy Spirit?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Some say that recovery programs that seek to deal with past hurts and past problems are not Biblical, for we are to forget what is behind us.  What answer do these verses give to this issue?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Are you now holding bitterness toward anyone?  Are you willing to get rid of that bitterness by forgiving them and by seeking to be compassionate toward them?  Start the cleansing process now!

 

 

An advertisement once asked: "Do you have a tiger in your tank?"  The "tiger" was their brand of gasoline.  We can have an angry tiger inside of us if we are holding on to resentments and to bitterness.  This angry tiger can break loose at any time and cause us to explode in anger; shocking us and others.  What has happened is that resentment and bitterness has built up pressure within us like the pressure that builds up within a covered pot of boiling water, until it explosively explodes at an inappropriate time and in an inappropriate way.

Paul gives a number of ways this built-up anger can express itself: "bitterness"—a long-standing resentment, "rage"—an open outburst that explodes suddenly and destructively like an volcanic eruption, "anger"—a chronic expression of our resentment, "brawling"—an argumentative attitude that is produced by an ongoing hatred of those we have come to hate, and "slander"—purposely using our words to injure those we see as our enemies.

An angry person is one who does not see any good in the one that is hated.  There is no compassion, no mercy, and no heart of love.  Anger colors our whole life with tinges of livid red and with a dark outlook on life.  It is summed up the one word "malice."  We actually desire that evil be spoken of and evil happen to those we have come to hate.

What is God's solution to this anger problem?  First of all, Paul tells us: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  How can this help us to not be an angry person?  Each Christian is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.  Some do not understand that the Holy Spirit is God and is a person.  They think of Him only as a force or a power within us.  But you can only grieve a person.  Years ago I saw a movie of the final days of Jesus' life on the Lord's Supper.  The part of the move I remember well is when the disciples were arguing over who was the greatest.  The camera moved to the actor depicting Jesus.  His face was grieved over the disciples' bickering.  Bitterness in our heart toward anyone grieves God the Spirit within us. See Genesis 6:3,5,6  The Holy Spirit began to live in us when we placed our faith in Christ and became a Christian.  The new presence of God's Spirit within us was a sign that we were no longer our own, but became a possession of God:  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we are no longer on our own as we were before we became Christians.  Now, what we do also affects God's Spirit within us.  If we obey God, He and we are in agreement; but when we disobey God, the Spirit and we are in disagreement.  This creates emotional disagreement between Him and us.  We desire to hate, for example, and He desires to love.  When we love, we are in agreement, for love is His nature:  "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)

When we hate, it grieves and is painful to the Holy Spirit.  How should this truth motivate us not to be a bitter and angry person?  Do we want to bring pain to God's loving Spirit who resides within us?  Should we want to be so different from God's Spirit within us that we bring emotional distress to the One who lives within us and who wants to lead us to love as He loves?

As an additional motivation to help us to choose love and not anger, I quote Martyn Lloyd-Jones:  "think of the Spirit as co-equal, co-eternal, the third Person of the blessed Trinity, and yet for our redemption He subordinated Himself, and He has even condescended to dwell within us.  It is base ingratitude not to realize the Person and not always to do everything that is well pleasing in His sight.  To grieve Him is to be a cad, it is to be guilty of a base ingratitude for all He has done for us." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."

A further motivation is Paul's words, "the day of redemption."  God's Spirit in us started a "redemption" process.  "Redemption" pictures a freedom from slavery.  "Redemption" is a threefold process.  The cross freed us from the penalty of sin.  God's Spirit is presently in to free us from the power of sin.  On "the day of redemption" we will be freed from the presence of sin.  As we look toward that day when Jesus Christ's purpose for coming to this earth will finally be completely realized, can we, with God's Spirit in us, go on choosing to hate when we are now able to choose to love in the same way that God loves us?

Next, Paul says: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  How can being "kind and compassionate to one another" help us not to be an angry person?  It is a Biblical principle not to just stop doing what is bad, but to replace it with something that is good. See II Timothy 2:22  A fruit of God's Spirit within us is "kindness." (Galatians 5:22)  A popular Christian singer shared some time ago at a Christian concert in Vancouver, Washington, that he dropped out of the ministry for a while until he had fully dealt with his feelings toward his alcoholic father who had physically abused his mother.  He was not able to return to the ministry until his bitterness was changed into loving compassion toward his father who was no longer alive.  God's Spirit enabled him to see the emptiness and pain in his father's life.  We know that bitterness is gone when it has been replaced by genuine concern, mercy, and compassion for the very person or persons that we once hated.

Next, Paul says, "forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  Some time ago I read a book on forgiveness by Charles Stanley.  The author prescribed a pattern of forgiveness that I have used ever since.  He said that as you forgive them in a prayer to God, first acknowledge that what the person did was wrong and that as a result they owe a debt to you; then, release them from that debt just as Jesus released you from the immense debt you owe Him by taking your debt on Himself at the cross.  I have chosen to do that many times.  In a fallen world, many actual wrongs are done against us.  So, there is a need for us to be continually releasing people from their debt against us by "forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."  Nothing should be more characteristic of Christians who have been forgiven so much than that we should be those who forgive those who wrong us. See Matthew 6:13-15, 18:21-35

(6) Choose to sacrificially love others. (5:1-2)
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Thought Question:  Notice that true love for someone results in our being willing, out of our affectionate love for that person, to give ourself sacrificially for that person; whom do you affectionately love in this sacrificial way right now?

 

 

Because we are new people in Christ, we are no longer to live like who we were without Christ.  Instead of being selfish, unforgiving, slanderous, and angry people, we as new creatures in Christ are to be and act like Him.  We also are to give our life for the best of others.  Then, our life will be a fragrant aroma to God.  In our old life we were a selfish and rotten stench to God.  In the new life we are to seek to be a sweet smelling perfume of unselfishness and forgiveness.

Paul tells us we are to be "imitators of God."  In seminary I was required to write a paper on the communicable attributes of God and the incommunicable attributes of God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones has the following to say about how they differ from each other:  "There are attributes of God that are not communicable, certain things that pertain to God that are only true of Him, and we cannot imitate Him in those respects.  For instance, His glory!  We cannot imitate the glory of God.  His eternity!  He is from eternity to eternity; He is everlasting.  That is an attribute of God.  We cannot imitate that.  His majesty!  Who would be so foolish as to try to imitate the majesty of God!  Add to these His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His omniscience.  They are attributes of God, yes, but they are incommunicable, they belong to God alone, and they make God God, . . . But there are other attributes in God which are communicable because they are moral in nature.  These are the ones we must understand if we are truly to understand our text.  What are they? Holiness! . . . His justice!  His goodness!  His love!  His mercy!  His compassion!  His tenderness!  His long suffering!  His faithfulness!  All these are communicable attributes of God, and we are expected to manifest them. . . ." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  God has given to each Christian the ability to be like Him in character. See II Peter 1:3-11

Paul tells us here that we are God's "dearly loved children."  Watch a young couple with a new-born baby.  Their little one is "dearly loved."  A devotional that I was recently given focuses on how much God loves and delights in us.  He delights in us even more than a young couple delights in their new child.  God delights in us because we are His children:  "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."(Psalm 18:19)  "His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." (Psalm 147:110-111)  "For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation." (Psalm 149:4)  "No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married." (Isaiah 62:4)  "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”" (Zephaniah 3:17)
As those whom God delights in, we are to delight in being "imitators" of Him.

"live a life of love,"  "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)  He loved us not because we were so lovable; on the contrary He loved us when we were completely unlovable.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  Now, as His "dearly loved children," we are to love others as He loves us.  His love is a sacrificial and a long-suffering love.  This type of love is what is to be most characteristic of us.  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

"just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  So, we are to sacrificially love each other as a "fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

3. Walk in the light. (5:3-17)

a. Walk no longer in the darkness. (5:3-7)
"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think a Christian would even want to allow a "hint of sexual immorality . . . impurity, of greed" to be part of his or her life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe "thanksgiving" to God will lead to true happiness?

 

 

God's holiness has always been the only standard by which we measure what is right and what is wrong.  When we were non-Christians, we wanted to do that which was wrong.  When we chose to sin, we needed to darken our minds to that which God wanted us to do.  We chose darkness over light.  We chose to live in Satan's world where darkness reigned.  However, when we turned to God, we also chose to leave the world of darkness behind.  In God light, we see Him and we see what is right, pure, and holy.  It is not for men to decide what is right and wrong any more than it is up to us to decide what is up and what is down.  In the light, we are now to decide to do that which is pure and holy and we are not to choose that which is impure.

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people."  "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)  If we are His people now, we are to seek to live like Him.  We have heard the saying: "What would Jesus do?"  We must ask also ask: "What would God who 'is light' want us to do?"  Can we do that which is wrong and impure when we know that He never does such putrid things?  Paul describes here what life in the darkness is like:  There is "sexual immorality."  "Sexual immorality" translates the Greek word porneia from which we get our word "pornography."  It describes sexual sin; "illicit sexual intercourse in general." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

"or any kind of impurity"  It appears that Paul desires to include anything else that is impure and morally filthy that was not included in "sexual immorality."

"or of greed"  Here he describes the whole area of selfishness; the total focus on "me" and what I want just for "me."  God is totally the opposite of any of these.  Now that we are "God's holy people," we are not to allow unholy greediness to be part of our life.

"Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."  The message of the world is that sin leads to happiness.  Sometimes Christians, who should know that sin does not lead to happiness, seem to believe that if you sprinkle in a little "coarse joking" and such into a Christian's social life; it will spruce it up a little.  Often sexual impurity is not mentioned directly, but there are subtle innuendos about it so that everyone knows what is being referred to.  Paul says that these types of practices are to be completely removed from the Christian's life.  This type of life and language is totally improper for "God's holy people."

What, then, will lead to a happy and joyful life?  Paul's answer here is "thanksgiving."  Instead of allowing our hearts to be affected at all by the world's debased attitudes, our hearts are to be filled with "thanksgiving" toward our holy and wonderful God, as we acknowledge and are thankful for His beautiful gifts toward us.  "Thanksgiving" to God is the opposite of having our hearts and minds in the gutter.  As I mentioned earlier, it is sadly not unusual for Christians to show by their actions and words that they believe that we cannot be truly happy without at least a little coarseness.  And so, in our fun times and in our humor we get as close as we can to the impure without clearly and obviously going over the line.  But, will we also look to the "off-color" to bring us happiness in heaven?  Paul concludes the very opposite, for it is the type of behavior that produces "God's wrath."  It is the type of behavior that will ultimately result in those who practice this type of unholy humor being separated from God's presence in judgment!

"For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."  What does Paul mean by: "such a man is an idolater"?  "It does not matter what it is, anything that you and I tend to set up as the big thing, the central thing, in our lives, the thing about which we think and dream, the thing that engages our imagination, the thing that we live for, the thing that gives us the biggest thrill; if it is anything other than God, it is idolatry."  "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  Anything that draws us away from God and becomes our premiere desire for a short or a long time is what we from the heart are worshiping instead of worshiping God.

A central issue in verses 3-7 is: What brings true happiness?  If we believe that it is sexual gratification and/or possessions, we will pursue them.  Paul found his happiness in pursuing God and pursuing holiness.  How does the pursuit of God lead to happiness?  A sign that we are on the right track is "thanksgiving."

It is tied into this focus on God's judgment: "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1Timothy 1:13-17)  Paul realized what he deserved and what he was rescued from by the love of God.  If we see what we deserve and what we have been rescued from, we will be hugely grateful to God; and out of our gratitude, we will joyfully serve the One who made such a great sacrifice for us. See Ephesians 1:3-13; Colossians 2:1-10

Also, as our eyes are opened to all that God has done for us and is doing for us, we will be continually grateful.  The world is not thankful to God for all that He has done for them:  "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21)  We are to continually be thankful:  "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-20)  "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:16-17)

How does giving thanks result in happiness?  "Thanksgiving" is the very opposite of self-pity.  It is a perspective on life that takes in the big picture: We have been rescued from receiving what we deserve and have become part of the greater purpose in life that will result in an eternity in God's presence.  How can this perspective result in anything but "thanksgiving"?  It may be tough at times, but in the end we will be better for it and in eternity the tough times will not seem so tough.  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  Does this perspective lead you to "thanksgiving"?

So what should our life be like as we live in this present sin-focused and sin-enslaved world?  We should seek that which is eternal and reject that which will not be found in heaven.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17) See I Corinthians 6:9-10; II Corinthians 7:1; I John 3:3

Another issue these verses bring up is about whether someone who practices greed and immorality can be a Christian.  In I Corinthians 5, Paul says the following about a Christian who was involved in sexual sin:  "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 5:4-5)  My conclusion has become with regard to this difficult area of determining whether or not someone else is or is not a Christian is that we are to leave that decision up to the Lord.  In the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus told us that often we are unable to determine whether or not someone is a child of God or a child of the devil. See Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.  For example, the members of the 12 disciples closest to Jesus did not realize that Judas was a child of the devil until he betrayed Jesus.  But, we can be certain that we should choose to reject that which will disqualify us from being part of God's kingdom.

"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them."  Today, in our country, there is no word that is more politically incorrect than "hell."  The world system has very successfully deceived the vast majority of the people in the world that they do not need to be concerned about "God's wrath."  The world has callously concluded that they can sin all they want to, and there will be no judgment on them because of their sin.  They are tragically and eternally wrong.  They will face the "wrath" of God.  They will discover that God totally hates their sin.  Right now God is not expressing His full anger on sin, giving men opportunity to repent and turn to Him for mercy.  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)  But, when men despise God and continue in sin, they will one day experience the full force of God's wrath.  "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5)

Paul's conclusion is as follows: "Therefore do not be partners with them."  "Do not share their type of life."  Realize what it is leading to!  Turn away!  Run from it!  Flee from the wrath to come!  Humble yourself before God in utter penitence and contrition.  Ask God to have mercy and pity on you." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  We are to live completely "as aliens and strangers in the world." (I Peter 2:11)

b. Now, walk in the light for we are children of the light. (5:8-17)

(1) Walk in the light by seeking to do only that which pleases God. (5:8-10)
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord."

Thought Question:  What does Paul mean when he says: "you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord"?

 

 

Notice that Paul says that "you were once darkness" and then he says "now you are light."  Our life once was characterized by "darkness"; but "now" it is characterized by "light."  What does that mean?  It means that we once chose to be blinded to God and His ways; and because of our self-imposed darkness, we became unable to see God and His ways.  We were once blind to what is right and wrong.  We were blind to the true purpose of life.  Now, we know who God is; what is right and wrong; and what the true purpose of life is.  This new sight should obviously result in a new and different way of living.

If we are to live in the presence of the pure and holy God and to seek to please Him, we will obviously seek to do that which is also pure and holy.  Paul gives examples of that which is pure and holy.  First of all, the "fruit of the light consists in all goodness."

Notice, first of all that Paul speaks of the "fruit" of "light."  Later, he will speak of the "deeds of darkness." (Ephesians 5:11)  We see the same pattern in Galatians 5: "The acts [or "deeds"] of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;" (Galatians 5:19)  Then, later in Galatians 5 he speaks of the "fruit of the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22)  The "deeds" or "acts" are what we do independent of God and the "fruit" are what we do in dependence on God and in fellowship with Him.  "“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)  Martyn Lloyd-Jones compares the "fruit" that comes from fellowship with God to the fruit that comes from a living tree; whereas, what comes from our own "deeds" is like ornaments we hang on a Christmas tree.  These ornaments are not the "fruit" of that tree, but what people placed on it.

One "fruit of the light" will be "all goodness."  It is doing that which is morally excellent and beneficial to others.  God is good; we are also to be good.

The next "fruit" is "all . . .righteousness."  "Righteousness" means that we do that which measures up to God's perfect legal standards of what is right and not wrong.

The final "fruit" of "light" is "all . . . truth."  It is the "truth"; it is that which is real.  We are not to live in any form of deception.  Walking in the light results in us seeing the truth and then living accordingly.

"and find out what pleases the Lord" is translated "proving" in the King James Version.  "A parallel statement is found in the twelfth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans: 'Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of you, that you may prove what is good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.'  In both passages the word prove occurs.  It is a term that was employed in the testing of precious metals; when you wanted to differentiate between one metal and another you were given a lump of the material, and asked to identify it.  You then tested it by applying various acids, and observing the response.  You were proving the metal, that is, you were testing it and discovering what exactly it was, by applying the tests.  The Apostle uses the same word in our text. 'proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.'" "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  We discover what God is like and what pleases Him as we live in the light and see His qualities expressed in our life.

(2) Avoid doing that which is of the darkness, instead expose the darkness in others. (5:11-14)
"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'"

Thought Question #1:  How are we to expose "fruitless deeds of darkness"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What puts us to sleep so that we need to "Wake up"?

 

 

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."  The pattern in the New Testament is not just not to do that which is sinful, but instead we are to go completely in the opposite direction.  For example, consider what Paul says to Timothy:  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)  In this verse in Ephesians we are not only not to participate in "the fruitless deeds of darkness," but we are to "expose them."  We are to go in the very opposite direction of the world.

How are we to "expose" them?  One way is by being light by the type of life we live.  Just as a light bulb exposes what is in the dark, so living a life of goodness will reveal that which is bad.  "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. . . ." (Philippians 2:14-15)  That which is evil becomes obvious when it is compared to that which is good.

Exposing the "the fruitless deeds of darkness" can also mean that we expose the darkness with our words.  We call it what it is—sin, empty, and rebellion against God.  Paul did that. See Romans 1:18-32 and II Timothy 3:1-9  But, how do we do it in our society and to individual non-Christians?  Paul's instruction in II Timothy 2:24-26 provides us with some guidelines:  "And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."  We are to tell the truth, but we are to do it in a gentle way, hoping "that they will come to their senses."  Many have come to their senses and many more in the future will come to their senses.  You and I are part of those who have come to our senses.

"For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret."  Those who live in "darkness" are ashamed of what they do, for they do their evil in "secret."  Our news media takes delight in exposing people's "secret" sins.  The people whose "secret" sins are exposed did not want these sins exposed, but once they have been exposed, the whole world knows what they have been doing "in secret."  Then, they are afraid to appear in public.  At the time that I am writing these words, a famous golfer has been caught in infidelity with a number of women and is ashamed to appear in public.  But, the type of thing that is exposed at the present time with regard to this one individual is going on all the time and everywhere.  Why is this sin not done out where everybody can see it?  It is because they are ashamed of what they are doing.

"But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: 'Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'"  Paul concludes this section by quoting either an Old Testament passage or a Christian hymn of Paul's time.  Undoubtedly, the phrase was familiar to his readers.  It may have been a hymn based on Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 26:19, 52:1, 60:1; and Daniel 12:2.  Our being "light" in the world says to those who are in the darkness:  "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the death, and Christ will shine on you."  It also may be a call to believers who are not walking in the light to "Wake up"!

(3) Base every day of your life on God's wisdom (so that you will not waste your life. (5:15-17)
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."

Thought Question:  What is meant by "the days are evil"?

 

 

In the book of Proverbs there is a contrast between the wise man and the fool.  During the time that I am writing these books, I have been going into the local jail twice a week and teaching Bible studies.  One day a week, we are going through the book of Proverbs.  I have noticed that in Proverbs that the wise man is "careful" or "prudent" in what he says or does and the fool is reckless and impulsive in what he says or does.  As Christians and as "children of light" we are to "be very careful . . . how" we "live."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way: "The fool does not consider consequences.  This is wisdom, that you look all around your subject, you consider not only the immediate results but the remote results, the possible consequences.  The fool is impatient of all this.  I want it now, he says." "Taken from Darkness and Light by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1982 by Baker Book House."  In the jail I share that a wise decision is one you will feel good about 5 or 10 years after the decision is made.

Another aspect of walking wisely is thinking of about what God desires us to do before we do something.  Often, we look at the small picture and only consider ourself rather than at the big picture and include God in our decision.

The wise man considers God and what will best fulfill His purpose.  The wise man considers others and what will be best for them.  "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is."

You see this wisdom in Paul.  He is "very careful" in all of his letters to individuals and churches that are found in the Bible.  He obviously had considered what he could say that would best fulfill God's purposes and what would be best for those he is writing to.  We need to follow his pattern in what we say and in what we do.

"making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."  What does Paul mean by "the days are evil"?  What happens if someone does not work hard on his lawn?  Weeds happen!  What happens in our world if we do not intervene in any way?  Evil happens!.  What if God did not intervene in our world by calling Abraham, raising up prophets in the Old Testament, and sending His Son?  Evil!  What happens if we do not eagerly seek to take advantage of every opportunity?  Evil!  Also, as evil increases, our opportunities to effectually minister get more and more difficult. See II Timothy 3:1-19, 4:2-5

I remember from my childhood this verse being used as a club to get us to feel guilty for not coming to church every Sunday, giving to the church, and working in the church.  But, I see this verse differently now.  It is meant to be a great motivator to encourage us to make a difference.  Most of us have seen the movie: "It's a Wonderful Life."  The hero discovers all the good he had done had made a difference in his home-town as God showed him what it would have been like if he had never lived.  What if God had never intervened in this world by sending us His Son?  What if there had been no Christian church?  Would the world be different today?  Definitely!  Does what we do make a difference?  Definitely!

How can we make the most of every opportunity?  We can really care about someone.  We may be the only one who will care at a particular time.  In our local area there is a "Fish" food bank that helps the poor.  We have a jail chaplain.  They are making the most of the opportunity. See Colossians 4:15  Each of us are to seek to find ways that we also can make an impact on our world for good and for God.  We can do nothing and evil will continue unabated or we can do something (or even a lot) and make an impact on people today for eternity.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)

4. Walk in the Spirit. (5:18-20)
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question #1:  What similarities are there, if any, between getting drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  In what ways is getting drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit different from each other?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  How can we be filled with the Spirit?

 

 

a. Do not get drunk on wine. (5:18a)
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery"

Although Paul clearly means to put being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit in stark contrast with each other, there are some ways that they are similar to each other.  For example, both have a controlling and transforming effect on people, both can be exhilarating, and both can produce fellowship.  Alcohol clearly can transform a shy person into a boisterous partier.  It can produce a type of exhilarating happiness, and many find their only fellowship at a bar.  But, overall, alcohol has the opposite ultimate effect on us as the Spirit-filled life; for drunkenness leads to "debauchery."  The Greek word translated "debauchery" is asotia.  "'Excess' ["debauchery"] is from asotia, from sozo, 'to save', and  Alpha privative, the literal meaning being, 'unsavingness'; that is, that which is asotia has nothing of a saving quality about it, but rather a destructive one.  The word as it is generally used expresses the idea of an abandoned, debauched, profligate life.  The words 'profligacy, debauchery,' well describe its meaning. 'Filled' is pleroo, to fill up, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to flood, to diffuse throughout.'" "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Alpha privative simply means that when "a" is put in front of a Greek word, it means that there is an absence of whatever the word says: atheist = no God (theist is someone who believes there is a God; atheist is someone who believes that there is no God).  In this case, asotia means that there is an absence of anything of a saving nature that comes from drunkenness; therefore, drunkenness produces the very opposite of saving us.  And so, the Spirit fills our life to a fullness that overflows and drunkenness empties our life of life itself.

A prime example of "debauchery" or asotia is the prodigal son who squandered his wealth in"wild" living. (Luke 15:13)  The Greek word translated "wild" living is the same Greek word translated "debauchery" here in Ephesians 5:18.  Drunkenness drains our batteries, dries up our life energies, and leaves us a mere empty shell of what we once were.  A man controlled by alcohol throws away his moral standards, his wisdom, his self-control, and in the end empties himself of all that is wholesome and good.  "What alcohol does is this; it knocks out those higher centres, and so the more primitive elements in the brain come up and take control; and man feels better temporarily.  He has lost his sense of fear, and he has lost his discrimination, he has lost his power to assess.  Alcohol merely knocks out his higher centres and releases the more instinctive, primal elements; but the man believes that he is being stimulated.  What is really true of him is that he has become more of an animal; his control over himself is diminished." "Taken from Life in the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books." 

Who does not know someone whose life and/or family's life has been sucked dry by an addiction to alcohol?  In fact, because alcohol flows so freely in our society, do we not see all around us its wasting effects?  Particularly, we see this at the local rescue mission or at the local jail.  So, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery."
 
b.  But be filled with the Spirit. (5:18b)
"Instead, be filled with the Spirit."

What is meant by "be filled with the Spirit"?  First, what is meant by "be filled"?  Does it mean being "filled" up in the same way as we fill up a glass by pouring more liquid into it?  Is this how you and I are to be "filled" by the Spirit, by receiving more of the Spirit into us until we are "filled" up?  A person is "filled" by a Person in a different way than a glass is "filled" up with liquid.  We become "filled" by the Person of the Holy Spirit when He so fills our personality with His personality that He becomes the controlling factor in our life.  For example,  when anger or fear fills someone's life, their anger or fear is so strong in him or her that at that point it has taken over control in that person's life.  There are many examples of this usage of "filling" in the Bible. See Luke 2:4; John 16:6; Acts 5:3,4; 13:52; Romans 1:2a, 5:13,14; II Corinthians 7:4, and Colossians 1:9  "An example of this usage other than that in relation to the Spirit is the sentence, 'sorrow hath filled your heart.' (John 16:6)  Thayer says of its usage here, 'to pervade, take possession of.'  Thus as sorrow possessed or controlled the hearts of the disciples, so the Holy Spirit possesses or controls the believer who is said to be filled with Him." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I "Untranslatable Riches p. 103" by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company." 

Who is the Holy Spirit that is to fill us?  First of all, He is a person and an equal member of the Trinity with the Father and the Son!  He is both God (see Acts 5:3-4) and He is a person (see Ephesians 4:30 and Acts 13:1-20).  Watchman Nee understood who He is and what it means for Him to indwell us:  "Do you know my friends, that the Spirit within you is very God?  Oh that our eyes were opened to see the greatness of God's gift!  Oh that we might realize the vastness of the resources secreted in our hearts!  I could shout with joy as I think, 'The Spirit who dwells within me is no mere influence, but a living Person; He is very God.  The infinite God is within my heart!'  I am at a loss to convey to you the blessedness of this discovery, that the Holy Spirit dwelling within my heart is a Person.  I can only repeat.  'He is a Person!' and repeat it yet again: 'He is a Person!'  Oh my friends, I would fain repeat it to you a hundred times---The Spirit of God within me is a Person!  I am only an earthen vessel, but in that earthen vessel I carry a treasure of unspeakable worth, even the Lord of glory."  "Taken from The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee.  Copyright 1957 by Christian Literature Crusade."

Being filled with the Spirit, then, is not receiving more of an influence from God so that we will have a greater feeling of God's presence, but it is a yielding of ourselves to the Person of God, who has chosen to indwell us, until our very personalities are transformed by His powerful indwelling presence in our lives!  We are to be filled with Him until we see the world and others with His eyes, (see Psalm 119:18; Matthew 5:8, 6:22, 13:16; Luke 10:23), hear with His ears (see Proverbs 18:15, 21:13; Isaiah 50:5), speak with His tongue (see I Peter 4:11), think with His mind (see I Corinthians 2:11-12), and experience His joy (see Nehemiah 8:10; John 15:11, 17:13; Romans 14:17), His peace (see John 14:27), and His love (See Romans 5:5).  We are to be filled with Him until His indwelling life determines our every perception of life and our every decision.  "We must not think of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts as water fills a bottle, or air a vacuum or a bushel of oats an empty basket.  The heart of a Christian is not a receptacle.  He is a person to control another person the believer." "Taken from Life in the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books." 

Therefore, our need is not for Him to give us more of Himself.  Instead, He desires that we give Him all of ourselves so that He might fully use us to fulfill His glorious purposes and so that our lives might be filled with His life.

Also, some details about the grammatical form of Greek word "filled" is essential to understanding what Paul is saying when he says "be filled."  The word "filled" is in the Greek tense of continuous action.  Paul is, therefore, not saying, "be filled" at some specific time and that will keep you "filled" from that day forward.  Instead, he is saying: "be continuously filled" with the Spirit of God.  It is not a once-for-all decision, but a moment-by-moment decision-making process that will continue for as long as we are in this body, and, of course, on into eternity.

Also, the verb "filled" is in the passive voice which means the Spirit actively fills us as we choose to receive the filling.  And, so we must choose on a moment-by-moment basis to yield to Him and to allow Him to fill us with His perspective on life, His love, His purity, and His wisdom.  The Spirit "filled" life is not something we do for God; but it is what we willingly desire Him to do through us.

Finally, it is equally important that we be aware that "be filled with the Spirit" is in the imperative mood, which simply means that it is a command.  Whether or not we are "filled with the Spirit" is not an option for the Christian, but it is imperative that we continually "be filled with the Spirit"; for if we are not "filled with the Spirit," we will be filled with our old flesh-oriented and ego-controlled life. See Ephesians 4:17-19

How can we "be filled with the Spirit"?  The following are some guidelines that you may find helpful.  First, we cannot be filled with the Spirit if we do not believe that He is in us and able to revolutionize our lives.  The Bible clearly teaches that He is in every believer.  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9) See also I Corinthians 16:8-9  God's Word tells us that it is true; so, all that is needed is for us to believe that what the Bible says is true, is true.

Watchman Nee continues on from the previous quote as follows:  "All the worry and fret of God's children would end if their eyes were opened to see he greatness of the treasure hid in their hearts.  Do you know, there are resources enough in your own heart to meet the demand of every circumstance in which you will find yourself?  Do you know, there is power enough there to move the city in which you live?  Do you know there is power to shake the universe?  Let me tell you once more---I say it with the utmost reverence: you who have been born again of the Spirit of God---you carry God in your heart!" "Taken from The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee.  Copyright 1957 by Christian Literature Crusade."

Secondly, we must desire that He have His total way in our lives.  This means that we must desire that our self-enslaved and self-permeated life come to an end.  Our desire must not be lukewarm, but wholehearted. See Revelation 3:14-18 "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)

Finally, the Christian life is not a "let go and let God" type of life.  It is a "get going" life.  True, it is a rest in God and dependence on Him for His strength and help, but it is also a labor in His strength to accomplish His goals in our life and in others' lives.  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)  "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12)  "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:28-29)

"It is not a mere rest in God, an existence somewhat like that of a jelly-fish floating in the warm currents of the Gulf Stream.  God is not developing jelly-fish Christians.  God wants to develop heroes, Christian men and women of moral stamina and spiritual power.  In the physical, no one becomes strong by merely eating wholesome food and resting.  Exercise is what is needed to change the food energy into bone and muscle.  In like manner, the Christian must exercise himself spiritually if he is to grow strong in the Christian life.  That demands the exercise of his free will, the making of choices, the deciding between right and wrong, the saying of a point blank NO to temptation, the constant striving to improve one's spiritual life, grow in Christian graces and in Christlikeness.  It involves not only the desire to be loving, but the definite endeavor to be loving.  It is not merely a trustful rest in the Holy Spirit to make us loving, but a positive exertion of our own will to be loving.  It is like bending one's arm.  The strength to bend one's arm is in that member of the body, but the strength is only potential and not active unless will power is exerted which will cause that strength to function.  Just so, the power of the Holy Spirit is potentially resident in the saint by virtue of His indwelling presence, but it is only operative in that believer when he is yielded to and dependent upon the ministry of the Spirit and then steps out in the performance of the action contemplated.  For instance, when the believer is confronted with a temptation, it is not enough to rest in the Holy Spirit's ministry to overcome that temptation for us.  We must by an act of our own free will say a bold, positive, and fearless NO to it.  The instant we move in that direction, the Spirit is there with His wonderful energizing power.  Indeed you will say that the very start of the step taken in the direction of the act of saying NO to that temptation was motivated by the Spirit.  And that is true.  Yet it is also true that it is a free action of the believer's will, and his responsibility.  Right here lies that mysterious incomprehensible, and not-to-be-understood interaction and mutual response between the free will of man and the sovereignty of God." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Untranslatable Riches pp. 112-13 by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

In Galatians 5 there is a contrast between the fleshly life and the spiritual life. See Galatians 5:16-22  What is the "flesh" or "fleshly life"?  It is what each of us are like and what we do when we are not "filled with the Spirit."  "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16)

c. And your life will overflow with God's abundance within—and evidence of this overflow will be singing and thankfulness to God.
(5:19-20)
"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thought Question#1:  Why do you believe that being filled with God's Spirit leads to the type of singing described in these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you think that this type of joy is best expressed in a group setting?

 

 

We all recognize what is produced by drunkenness.  Here, Paul describes what is produced by the filling of the Spirit.  Instead of the bawdy-uncontrolled-destructive revelry of the drunkard; the Spirit overflows in glorious-beautiful-edifying-joyful words and music toward God and toward one another.  This singing does not come from just a love of music, but from a heart filled with God's Spirit, God's truth, and God's love as we are filled by His Spirit.  Every type of music has come from Spirit-controlled hearts; we have music similar to that in the book of Psalms in the Bible, music like that found in hymnals, our choruses, songs of worship, and many other forms that all express our adoration of God and our thankfulness to Him for all that He has done for us and given to us.  Certainly there is no higher form of deeply satisfying joy on earth than what is experienced when Spirit-filled Christians join together in wholehearted praise and thanksgiving toward God.  Being filled with the Spirit is exactly the opposite of being filled with those attitudes that weigh down our spirits; such as bitterness, complaining, worry, guilt, hopelessness.  We are to be "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:16-17)  It is evident by comparing these verses in Colossians and Ephesians 5:18-20 that being filled with the Spirit and having "the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly" is the same experience.  Having God's attitudes of joy, peace, love, compassion, patience, and righteousness are the same as having the Spirit's fruits in us: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that this expression of praise and gratitude to God comes in a group setting: "speak to one another.Christianity was never meant to be done alone.  It was meant to be practiced with other Christians in a group setting.  We strengthen others and are strengthened by others when we express together our praise and gratitude toward God.  Yes, there are hypocrites in the church, but the God who loves us is worthy of our praise and He is worth our joining together with other fallen, but Spirit-filled Christians to praise Him.  We who fall far short of His glory should gather together to sing praise to the glory of the One who loves us with all of our faults and who is worthy of our whole-hearted worship and praise.

Selfishness leads to a life of focusing on "me."  When God's Spirit fills us, we together focus on "He"; and we focus upon building up each other!

5. Walk in submission. (5:21-6:9)
This section could be titled, "How to have a sweet spirit in your relationships with each other.  Submission will occur when we are walking in the Spirit and walking the light.

a. Submit to one another in the fear of the Lord. (5:21)
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:21)

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe it is important that we "submit to one another"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does "reverence for Christ" lead to our submitting to one another?

 

 

"The simple verb tasso was used in classical Greek in a military meaning, 'to draw up in order of battle, to form, array, marshal troops or ships.'  It speaks of soldiers marshaled in military order under a commanding officer.  Thus, it speaks of the subjection of one individual under or to another.  The prefixed preposition hupo means 'under.'  Hupotasso in classical Greek meant, 'to subject, make subject'.  In N.T. Greek it means, to arrange under, to subordinate, put in subjection, in the middle voice as it is here, 'to subject oneself to, to obey'." "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Although there is very often a need for this type of subordination, we would all agree that it is not something that comes naturally or easily to any of us.  This is particularly true in the armed services where griping about the military regimen is as much a part of life in the military as the uniform of the day.  But, our national defense requires that our armed forces respond to their commanding officers immediately and without question.  When there is an emergency, there is no time for our military people to be operating like a football huddle without a quarterback.  We need armed forces that will respond as "one."  For this reason, recruits are first taken through a boot camp to transform them from independent and often undisciplined civilians into obedient soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen who will immediately respond to the orders of their commanding officers.  Every year, this training takes place in our military boot camps; though it is rarely received joyfully by the new recruits.

Ever since the fall of man, it has been not natural for man to submit to other men.  At the fall, we chose independence over submission to God.  Although this spirit of independence is becoming increasingly popular in our world, it is basically wrong for at least three reasons:  1) It creates chaos. When we know no authority but our own, then nothing rules in our life but our own selfish motives.  Then, we will find nothing but disorder in our marriages, churches, and communities.  Even the simplest problems cannot be solved without someone submitting.  Children's arguments usually reach an impasse because no one is willing to submit to the other.  If this is true in spats between children, it is also a major reason for impasses in our homes, churches, country, and world.  "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." (James 3:14-4:2)

2) It is not God's plan for us to be totally independent.  The submission between the members of the Trinity demonstrates to us clearly that God's plan is not for us to be independent from one another, but to be in submission to one another.  Also, in Philippians 2:5-8, Paul tells us that we are to have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had when He submitted to the Father and became our servant, even though His submission led to His death.  God's plan for government, the church, and the family is for us to submit to one another.

The following are some signs of an unsubmissive, independent spirit:  1) Independent thinking occurs when there is little or no openness to others' opinions.  Men call it independent thinking, but it is usually foolishness. See Proverbs 18:2, 23:9  2) Independent decision-making occurs when no can have any input into what I choose to do but me.  I'll do it my way!  There is resistance to any change or deviation from my plans.  There is little or no willingness to be flexible or to make any adjustment because of others or to their plans.  Particularly, there is antagonism to authorities who have plans for me that differ from my plans for me.  3) Independence in relationships occurs when we expect others to revolve their lives and their plans around me; where I believe that I should be the center of attention, planning, and praise.  This self-centeredness leads to aggressiveness, competitiveness, and manipulation.

By contrast, the following submissive traits lead to a sweet spirit among us who are Christians:  1) Submissive thinking occurs when we are seeking others' wisdom and are open to their thoughts and insights.  The book of Proverbs tells us that the wise person is wise because he deliberately seeks out the wisdom of others; particularly, he seeks out the wisdom of God. See Proverbs 9:9 and 12:15  2) Submissive decision-making occurs when we are flexible to others—their needs, and their circumstances; as well as when we recognize the importance of being obedient to the God-ordained authorities over us.  3) Submission in relationships with others occurs when there is a willingness to revolve my life around others, particularly around God.  This does not mean that we do it in an unhealthy way, but that we are willing to do it when it seems appropriate and when we believe that God would have us to do it.  Recently, my wife has revolved her life around her dying mother and also around the needs of a long-time friend who just turned 100 years old.  She was willing to be available to both of them during their times of extreme need.

Since the Fall, it has not been natural for us to submit to anyone, including submission to God.  But it is possible for the Christian to submit to others because God's Spirit is now within us.  First of all, this verse follows 5:18 where Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit.  It is only because of the Spirit in us that we are able to submit joyfully to one another.  As the Holy Spirit submits willingly to the Headship in the Godhead of the Father, so He can enable us to submit willingly to others from the heart.

Secondly, we are to submit to others "out of reverence for Christ."  In Proverbs, we are told that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. See Proverbs 1:7, 9:10  The fear of the Lord is the very opposite of living in the world of me; it is a reverence for the fact that we are living in His world!  Early in mankind's in history we believed that the sun revolved around the earth.  Now, we know that the earth revolves around the sun.  It is also a natural human conclusion for us to see God as revolving around us and He as needing to fit into our plans; but those who know who God is, realize that it is necessary for us to fit into His plans.  And it is He that has established the authorities that are over us.  What they are directing us to do may not fit into our plans, but our submitting to them is very much a part of His plans for us.  Those who respect and fear the Lord will also choose from the heart to respect and fear the authorities that He has established to be over us.  The Christian's primary motive is to please God: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Romans 13:1-2)

There is a need, at this point, to balance the need to "submit to one another" with the recognition that this does not mean we that we are to allow ourselves to be put under a legalistic religious system where the leaders do not serve the flock, but lord it over them.  "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)  Paul, who wrote "submit to one another" was very strongly opposed to legalism:  "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:6-10)  He even confronted Peter the Apostle when he was wrong: "As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. . . James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. . . . When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, 'You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?'" (Galatians 2:11-14)

Jesus was also very strongly opposed to the leaders of the Jewish religion because they were legalistic in their leadership.  He did not advocate anarchy, but also spoke up against their hypocrisy:  "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.'" (Matthew 23:1-4)

We can conclude, then, that God's desire for us is for us to have a submissive spirit, but we are not required to refrain from expressing our concerns in a wise and loving way when leadership is not being practiced as God meant it to be exercised.  There are even times when we must refuse to submit:  "Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'" (Acts 4:18-20)  "'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, 'he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'" (Acts 5:28-29)

Also, we must recognize that those in leadership positions are meant by God to be servant-leaders:  "Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Matthew 20:25-28)  "When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. 'Do you understand what I have done for you? he asked them. You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.'" (John 13:12-15)

These last few paragraphs were not written to in any way to detract from Paul's command: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  We remain accountable to submit to leaders who are over us and to each other, for ultimately our willingness to submit comes from our willingness to submit to Christ.  He set up the system of leadership and authorities that are over us.  Our submission pleases Him, for it shows that we are putting His holy purposes over our selfish purposes.

b. The submissive marriage (5:22-33)
Today, it is obvious from our high divorce rate as well as our high number of unhappy marriages that mankind has not developed socially upward in the same way that we have developed upward in technology.  We, as a society, believe that we have a better plan for marriage than God's plan for marriage.  We champion equal or reversed roles for the husband and wife, same sex marriages, and women's liberation.  The results have been disastrous for our homes, families, and marriages.  Who knows better, though, how a marriage can be all that it can be than the One who designed marriage and said:  "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18)  Let us look closely at God's plan for marriage.

(1) The submissive wife (5:22-24)
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything."

Thought Question #1: The world today rejects this teaching of Paul that wives should submit to their husbands; why do you believe that they find it so offensive to them?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that it is God's design for wives to submit to their husbands?

 

 

Because of the controversy in our country over the teaching that wives should submit to their husbands, we must start out by explaining clearly what this teaching does not mean.  It does not mean (1) that the wife is inferior to her husband for the Bible teaches that men and women are equals before God.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)  It also does not mean (2) that a woman is to submit to every man, for these verses only speak of a wife submitting to her husband; not a wife submitting to someone else's husband.  Finally, (3) it does not mean that a wife must submit to her husband even if it means that she must sin to do it; for her ultimate submission is to God whose plan for her never includes sin.

It does mean that she is to submit to her husband in exactly the same way that she submits to Christ.  "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior."  Again, the Greek word for submit is upotasso, to voluntarily put herself under the leadership of her husband.

In our modern-day world, to say that wives are to submit to their husbands is akin to saying that men are superior to women.  But what Paul is saying here is that as it is God's plan for the church to submit to Jesus Christ, so it is also God's plan for the wife to submit to her husband.  We should not be surprised that it is part of God's plan for one member of the marriage to submit to the other, for among the Trinity, the Son and the Holy Spirit submit to the Father.  We also see the need for one to be a leader throughout our society.  If we form a discussion group or a committee, do we not first choose a leader of the group before we do anything?  In the marriage, we do not need to have a conflict, debate, or a battle over who is to be the leader, for God, the Designer of marriage, has already chosen the husband to be the leader.

It is God's design, "For the husband is the head of the wife."  In the book of Genesis we learn that God created the man first and the woman second.  Man is first in the order of creation.  "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.'" (Genesis 2:18)  He did not create woman first and then create man to a helper for her.  So, Paul's argument is that the woman was created to be under the headship of a man.  Next, woman was created out of man: "So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.'" (Genesis 2:20-23)  Again, the man precedes the woman and is to be the head in the marriage.  "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)  The husband and wife are meant to be a wonderful team and a unity with the husband as the leader of the team.

Now, what has just been explained does not seem wonderful in the eyes of our world.  They conclude that the Bible's plan is for the wife to be the husband's slave.  They could be right if the husband does not lead in the manner that Paul will describe in the following verses; for just as the wife is to serve her husband by respecting and submitting to his leadership, so the husband is to serve his wife by loving her sensitively and sacrificially.

Also, the submission of the wife does not mean that she should view herself as inferior to her husband.  Again, Galatians 3:28 states that a man and woman are equals before God:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)  There was a time also, when the roles were reversed:  "For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.  . . ." (1 Corinthians 11:12)  As woman came from a man, so each of us after Adam were born of a woman.  Furthermore, each of us who are men were at one time to submit to our mothers.  Were we then inferior to our mothers?

An observation that I have made is that wives who are willing to accept their God-given role in marriage by submitting to their husbands are seen as stronger persons, not as weaker persons.  They are the wives we most respect (and those we least respect are those who are not willing to submit to their husband's leadership).  We also look upon their marriages as stronger and not weaker ones.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the wife can actually be superior to her husband in many ways:  "I know many instances where the wife is a much abler person than the husband, much more gifted in every respect." "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  He comments that this woman needs to consider before she marries whether she is willing to submit to the man before she marries him.  But, the able woman who voluntarily submits to her husband's leadership will enable him to be a stronger man and she also will gain respect for herself.  Ultimately, God will be glorified as people see God's plan for marriage exalted and put into practice.

Now, what does Paul mean by: "Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything"?  The key to understanding this verse is considering first how we submit to Christ.  Do we in the church submit to Christ mindlessly?  No!  God gave us the Bible so that we can understand and seek to understand His ways.  Nor is the wife to submit mindlessly to her husband.  Just as God provides the Bible so that we can have intellectual interaction between Him and us, so the husband should not expect mindless submission to him from his wife.  Because his wife is part of him, he is to hear her concerns and respond appropriately to them  "It is a misrepresentation of this picture to say that the wife should never speak, never give an opinion, but be mute and impassive . . . But what it means is this: the wife should never be guilty of independent action." "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  Just as the church the body of Christ is to be united together, so the husband and the wife are to be united with one another.

What does Paul mean when he says that "wives should submit to their husbands in everything"?  We have already stated that a wife does not need to submit to her husband if he desires for her to do that which is sinful (for example, lie on her income tax forms).  When Paul says "everything," he is speaking of the wife's general willingness to be entirely submissive to her husband's leadership.  The exception should not be where she disagrees with her husband, but only where she believes that he is leading her to what she believes would be sinful for her to do.  The wife who submits to Christ as her Head in everything will also submit to her husband "in everything." 

(2) The submissive and loving husband (5:25-33)
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

Thought Question #1:  How does what is taught in these verses make it easier for a wife to submit to her husband?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How, according to these verses, are husbands to exercise their leadership?

 

 

One of the reasons there is such opposition to the wife submitting to her husband is because it is seen as a one-way street.  The wife submits and the husband bullies and exploits his timid and helpless wife.  But this is infinitely far from the Christian pattern for marriage as one can imagine, for nowhere in Scripture are we taught that leaders are to bully and exploit those under their leadership.  On the contrary, the greatest leaders from God's perspective are those who are the greatest servants. See Matthew 20:25-28  The pattern of servanthood for the husband is to be the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ.  The husband is not to get all he can from his submissive wife, but he is to give all he can to her, just as Christ gave all He could for the church that He is now the leader and Head of.

Paul begins by teaching and commanding husbands that we are to love our wives "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."  What is love and how are we husbands to love our wives?  The Greek word translated "love" here is the Greek verb agapeo.  Paul himself defines what this type of love does: it is a love that loves in the way that "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
How much did Jesus give Himself up for us who are His church?  First of all, what He gave and gives is not just a feeling.  Feelings are important, but love is not just a feeling.  How Jesus loves the church can be seen by the way He sacrificially gave Himself for the church.  He left glory and became a human just like us.  He experienced human needs and human struggles.  He was misunderstood just like we are misunderstood.  He was hungry just as we get hungry.  He became tired just as we become tired.  Then, He gave Himself as a sacrificial payment for our sins.  He still gives Himself for us by filling us with His Spirit (see Colossians 1:27), by guiding in our lives, by watching over us (see Hebrews 7:25-26), and by praying for us (see Hebrews 7:25).  Paul has already mentioned Christ giving Himself in this chapter (5:2):  "and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  Jesus' sacrificial love toward us is the sacrificial pattern for the love we husbands are to show to our wives.  We are to lay down our lives for them as Christ has laid down His life for us.

"to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,"  We see in these words that Jesus' plan for the church goes beyond us being forgiven for our sins, making us legally right with God because of our belief in Jesus' death to pay the penalty for our sins.  Jesus desires that we be cleansed and washed from our sinful practices.  How is this to take place?  God's word the Bible is what God uses to cleanse us. See John 15:3, 17:23

When we are physically dirty, we need to be cleansed by soap and water.  We are all dirty on the inside just like we are dirty on the outside, so we also need to be cleansed on the inside just like we need to be cleansed on the outside.  The Bible is the soap for the inside of us.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2)

So that we will be continually cleansed on the inside, we all who are God's church need to spend regular time in His word individually and in being taught the word in our church gatherings.  We need to not only hear the word; we need to meditate on it and put it into practice in our lives.  "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts." (Psalm 119:97-100)  "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25)

"and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."  Jesus' plan for us and His giving to us is not yet complete, for His goal for us is that we be washed until we become His pure and spotless bride. See Revelation 19:6-9 See also Ephesians 1:14 and Romans 8:28-30  Our goal as husbands is that our wives become all that they can become in Christ, and we are to give ourselves continually to them in love as we seek after that glorious goal.

"He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body."  The Christian view of marriage is entirely different from the view of marriage outside of the church.  The world views marriage as a partnership and some even consider marriage as a temporarily convenient partnership between two roommates.  They each can individually pursue their own personal goals in life while also benefiting from some of the advantages of marriage in our society.  In the church, marriage results in two people becoming united into one.  We are to be one just as Christ and the church are one.  Here, Paul says that the husband should treat his wife as "his own body."  Jesus treats us as His own body, so the husband is to treat his wife as his own body.  For to both the husband and the wife, it is to no longer be "me" and "my," but it is always to be "we."

How, then, is a husband to treat his wife?  He is to treat her like he already treats his own body; at least, he should treat her in the way he should treat his own body.  If we mistreat our own body, it is to our own loss.  If the husband mistreats his wife, he does it to his own loss; for she is part of him.  When a husband cherishes and builds up his wife, she is encouraged and strengthened, but he also benefits as her face lightens up and he shares in her joy; they together benefit from his love toward her.  As she grows in Christ, they together reap the benefits of a growing experience of oneness.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains how this husband's love for his wife as if she is his own body will include a sensitivity to his wife's weaknesses.  He asks us how we react to our wife's weaknesses:  "Are you irritated, or annoyed?  And do you tend to condemn them and dismiss them?  Act as you do to your own body, says the Apostle.  Protect her against them, guard her against them.  If your wife happens to have been born with that worrying temperament, well, save her from it, protect her.  Do everything you can to safeguard her from the weaknesses and the infirmities and the frailties; as you do so for your body, do so for your wife." "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  See also Colossians 3:19 and I Peter 3:7

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."  There is unity in the Trinity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  There is also unity between Jesus and His body the church.  A man who becomes a husband leaves his father and mother to form this profound type of unity with his wife.

Sometimes, it is hard for parents to give up control of their daughter or their son; and they pursue an unhealthy involvement in their child's marriage.  But, as Paul quotes here from Genesis 2:24: at the very beginning God gave us His plan for the marriage.  And it is that the parents are to allow their children to leave their family and start a completely new family.  No longer do the old guidelines for their previous family pertain to them.  Their children should continue to love and respect them, but they are no longer to obey them.

"and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."  "The Roman Catholic church at this point translates the word which the authorized version [King James Version] renders as 'mystery' by the word 'sacrament'.  They read, 'this is a great sacrament', and it is from this statement that they elaborate their doctrine that marriage is one of the seven sacraments. . . . On such a foundation they introduce the notion of marriage as a sacrament which therefore, of course, can only be performed by a priest.  It is just one illustration of the way in which they elevate the priesthood and introduce a magical element into Christianity."  "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  The Roman Catholic translation and their interpretation is, of course, not at all what Paul is teaching in these verses.

What, then, does Paul mean when he says that the "one flesh" of marriage and the marriage of Christ and the church is a "profound mystery"?  A "mystery" in Paul's time spoke of something that was unknown by the world at large, but was known by the privileged few who were told the secret meaning of the "mystery."  "We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." (1 Corinthians 2:6-12)  We who are in the church have experienced and are continuing to experience the secrets of the "mystery."  We are experiencing the spiritual union between Christ and we who are in the church.  This mystical union that exists between Christ and the church is to be the type of union that is to exist between a husband and a wife.

In both situations, the marriage and the church, there was incompleteness previous to the union.  The Christian was incomplete before he or she became a Christian, and the man and the woman were incomplete before they became married.  In both cases, we were not meant to be alone, but we were meant to be united to Another and to another.  The woman came out from the side of the man.  "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.' Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, 'This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.' For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (Genesis 2:18-24)  At marriage, the man and the woman are united and once more become "one flesh."

"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."  The husband's role and the wife's role are summed up in two words: the husband is to "love" his wife, and the wife's role is to "respect" her husband.  Regrettably, this is not what normally occurs in a marriage relationship.  We husbands can focus on how we believe we should be treated and on what we should be getting from our wives rather than on how we can love them, build them up, and meet their needs.  Wives often disrespect their husbands by complaining about them to others and by competing with them for the headship of the home.  As a result, wives are not loved and do not feel loved, and husbands are not respected and do not feel that they have their wife's respect.  On the other hand, if husbands focus instead on loving their wives and wives focus on respecting their husbands, marriages will be transformed into what God desires: "the two will become one flesh"!

d. The submissive child and parent (6:1-4)

(1) The submissive child (6:1-3)
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that God included a promise with His commandment that children should obey their parents?

 

 

In II Timothy 3:1-5, we are told that there will be "terrible times in the last days."  One of the reasons for these "terrible times" is that children will be "disobedient to their parents."  Our children are our most valuable natural resource.  God's plan is for children to respect and obey their parents.  It is not only the responsibility of parents to train their children to be respectful; it is also the responsibility of the children to be obedient and respectful to their parents.  When children harden themselves to this responsibility, they are also hardening themselves to God.  When this rebelliousness more and more permeates our society, the more we will be experiencing the "terrible times" that Paul describes in II Timothy 3.  The "terrible times" are what results from the moral and civil breakdown of order in our society—moral and civil anarchy!

Obeying and respecting our parents is a central teaching in the Bible.  It is even one of the Ten Commandments.  In fact, Paul quotes the Ten Commandments in these verses.  In the Mosaic Law, a rebellious son was stoned to death. See Deuteronomy 21:18-21  But, as is mentioned here, the Ten Commandments also promised a long and prosperous life to the child who obeys his or her parents.  Children who honor, respect, and obey their parents will be blessed by God.

God highlights the importance of this fifth commandment of the Ten Commandments, "Honor your father and mother" by adding these words to the Commandment: "so that you man live long in the land your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)  Because the original Commandment referred to the Promised Land, Paul widens it to being true of life anywhere on the "earth."  Paul's point is that when God added the "promise," He was emphasizing the importance of this commandment to Him and the important effect it will have on our lives.  It is not an instruction that can be ignored without experiencing very serious consequences in our lives and in our society: "this is one of those laws which when neglected leads to the collapse of society." "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  On the other hand, when this Commandment is obeyed, it will lead to blessings in one's life and the strengthening of society.

Does this mean, then, that every child who honors and obeys his or her parents will, without exception, live a long and prosperous life?  We know that not every child who obeys his or her parents lives a long life.  Just as the promises in the book of Proverbs for those who live righteously and wisely is generally true and not true in every case, so this promise is generally true and not true in every case.  Nevertheless, a society where children respect and obey their parents is a society that is blessed by this type of honorable behavior.  Sadly, we are presently moving away from both honoring God's desires for us and we are also moving away from doing what He blesses.

(2) The submissive parent (6:4)
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Thought Question:  What are some ways that fathers can "exasperate" their children?

 

 

Paul instructs parents in what they are not to do and what they are to do.  First of all, the "do not."  Parents are not to do what comes so naturally to parents: "do not exasperate your children."  There is a long list of attitudes and behaviors that we who are parents can do that will "exasperate" our children.  Here is a list of some of them: compare your children with other children, favor one child over another, belittle them, lose patience with them, nag them, bully them, use cutting sarcasm, condemn them, dominate them through fear and intimidation, and be bitter toward them.  Each of these attitudes and behaviors will "exasperate" and tear down our children.  It is as wrong for the parent to do these types of things as it is wrong for a child to disobey his or her parents.  Whenever a parent disciplines or corrects a child, he must seek to not do it out of anger, irritation, or impatience, but only in a careful way, seeking the child's long-term good.  A parent needs to be careful that his or her discipline is consistent; that he or she does not become more severe in one mood and less severe in another.  The parent needs to be careful to not publicly humiliate his or her child.  These are just some of what a parent must consider, so that he or she does not "exasperate" his or her child.

"instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."  "'Nurture [Training] is paideia, the whole training and education of children which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose, now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment (Thayer). . . ["instruction"] is nouthesia, 'exhortation, admonition.'  Trench says of this word, 'it is a training by word---by the word of encouragement, when that is sufficient, but also by that of remonstrance, of reproof, of blame, where these may be required, as set over against the training by act and discipline which is paideia.'" "Taken from Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Volume I by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1973 by Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  Class is always in session for the godly parent.  He must train his or her child in what they should not do and what they should do.  The child is to learn what God forbids and what God desires for him or her to do.  Proverbs 22:15 and 29:15 tells us why there is a need for this training: "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."  "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother."

The Bible clearly teaches that firm discipline is included with this training and that it is an important expression of our love for our children.  "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." (Proverbs 13:24)  "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death." (Proverbs 23:13-14)   Deuteronomy 6:4-7 teaches that this training is to take place in every setting within our environment and at every teachable moment.

The following poem is unusually well said:

"The Meanest Mother"

I had the meanest mother in the whole world.  While other kids ate candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast.  When others had cokes and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich.  As you can guess, my supper was different than the other kids' also.  But at least, I wasn't alone in my sufferings.  My sister and two brothers had the same mean mother as I did.  My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times.    You'd think we were on a chain gang.  She had to know who our friends were andwhere we were going.  She insisted if we said we'd be gone an hour, that we be gone one hour or less—not one hour and one minute.  I am nearly ashamed to admit it, but she actually struck us.  Not once, but each time we had a mind of our own and did as we pleased.  That poor belt was used more on our seats than it was to hold up Daddy's pants.  Can you imagine someone actually hitting a child just because he disobeyed?  Now you can begin to see how mean she really was.  We had to wear clean clothes and take a bath.  The other kids always wore their clothes for days.  We reached the height of insults because she made our clothes herself, just to save money.  Why, oh why, did we have to have a mother who made us feel different from our friends?   The worst is yet to come.  We had to be in bed by nine each night and up at eight the next morning.  We couldn't sleep till noon like our friends.  So while they slept—my mother actually had the nerve to break the child-labor law.  She made us work.  We had to wash dishes, make beds, learn to cook and all sorts of cruel things.  I believe she laid awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us.  She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even if it killed us—and it nearly did.  By the time we were teen-agers, she was much wiser, and our life became even more unbearable.  None of this tooting the horn of a car for us to come running.  She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends come to the door to get us.  If I spent the night with a girlfriend, can you imagine she checked on me to see if I were really there.  I never had the chance to elope to Mexico.  That is if I'd had a boyfriend to elope with.  I forgot to mention, while my friends were dating at the mature age of 12 and 13, my old fashioned mother refused to let me date until the age of 15 and 16.  Fifteen, that is, if you dated only to go to a school function.  And that was maybe twice a year.  Through the years, things didn't improve a bit.  We could not lie in bed, "sick" like our friends did, and miss school.  If our friends had a toe ache, a hang nail or serious ailment, they could stay home from school.  Our marks in school had to be up to par.  Our friends' report cards had beautiful colors on them, black for passing, red for failing.  My mother being as different as she was, would settle for nothing less than ugly black marks.  As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put to shame.  We were graduated from high school.  With our mother behind us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed the pleasure of being a drop-out.  My mother was a complete failure as a mother.  Out of four children, a couple of us attained some higher education.  None of us have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate.  Each of my brothers served his time in the service of this country.  And whom do we have to blame for the terrible way we turned out?  You're right, our mean mother.  Look at the things we missed.  We never got to march in a protest parade,  nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a million and one other things that our friends did.  She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults.  Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my three children.  I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my children call me mean.  Because, you see, I thank God, He gave me the meanest mother in the whole world.

written by Bobbie Pingaro (1967)

d. The submissive employee and employer (6:5-9)

(1) The submissive employee (6:5-8)
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free."

 

 

Thought Question #1: Why does Paul not say, do all you can to eradicate slavery, but instead instructs them to obey their slave masters?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Have you had a boss that was difficult to work for?  Why do you think that God wants us to submit to even an unjust boss?

 

 

Slavery was part of Paul's world just as televisions, computers, cars and airplanes are a part of our world.  The Roman conquests provided the Romans with millions of slaves.  "It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. . . . The terror of the slave was that he was absolutely at the caprice of his master.  Augustus crucified a slave because he killed a pet quail.  Vedius Pollio flung a slave still living to savage lampreys in his fish pond because he dropped and broke a crystal goblet.  Juvenal tells of a Roman matron who ordered a slave to be killed for no other reason than that she lost her temper with him.  When her husband protested, she said:  'You call a slave a man do you?  He has done no wrong, you say?  Be it so; it is my will and my command: let my will be the voucher for the deed.'  The slaves who were maids to their mistresses often had their hair torn out and their cheeks torn out with their mistresses' nails.  Juvenal tells of the master 'who delights in the sound of a cruel flogging thinking it sweeter than any siren's song,' or 'who revels in clanking chains,' or 'who summons a torturer and brands the slaves because a couple of towels are lost.'  A Roman writer lays it down: 'Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, in forgetfulness, unwillingly in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly is judgment, justice and law." "Taken from The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians by William Barclay.  Copyright 1976 by The Westminster Press"

We read much in the Bible about how the Christian slave should respond to these obvious injustices.  He was to be content to remain a slave, although he could accept freedom if it was given to him. See I Corinthians 7:20-24 and Philemon  He was to endure injustice as Jesus did. See I Peter 2:18-23  They were to submit to their masters even when they were treated unjustly.

In these verses, Paul tells them how they were to do this; they were to submit to their masters from the heart and before God who watched their hearts.  This response was much different than non-Christian slaves who characteristically only submitted to their masters when their masters were watching them; and even then they did not submit to them from their hearts.  The Christian slaves were told here and in other parts of the New Testament to submit to their masters as they submitted to Jesus Christ, because He was always watching them.  Because Jesus always sees what is in our hearts, they and we are to submit to Jesus Christ from the heart. See I Timothy 6:1-2 and Titus 2:9-10

If they were to submit in this way to their slave masters who often treated them as mere cattle, should we not also submit to our employers or bosses in our modern times?  From the complaints that we hear all too frequently about bosses, many believe that their bosses are also slave masters.  But if slaves were to submit to their masters who could legally be inhumane to them, should we not submit to our bosses whose treatment of us can also be inhumane at times; for the treatment that we receive at the hands of our modern-day bosses does not even begin to compare to the atrocities that were described above.  The Christian response to our employers is not to grumble and complain like the rest, but to serve our employers in the same way as we serve the Lord, from the heart and out of respect.  "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." (Philippians 2:14-15)

Paul's words on slavery bring up an issue:  Why does Paul not start a movement to eradicate slavery?  A movie has been recently made titled "Amazing Grace" that depicts how William Wilberforce, a strong Christian, used his position in government in England to eventually put a stop to the British Empire's trade in slavery.  Abraham Lincoln divided our country and drove us into war to eradicate slavery in our country.  Why did not Paul rally Christians against slavery and its horribly wrong abuses of mankind?  The answer is the following: there are only going to be long-standing social changes when people are born-again and grow in their spiritual relationship with God.  The only true change is when people substantially change on the inside.  That is the church's primary job.  Social change without heart change will always be only superficial and forced on an unwilling people.  True heart and spiritual change can lead to true change within our families and our society.  We would see how dramatically Christians presently affect our society if all we who are Christians were removed.  In the meantime, we are to be the best employees and citizens that we can be.

Though Paul does not rally Christians to protest the slavery of his day, he does in the book of Philemon ask Philemon a slave owner to receive back his runaway slave back as a Christian brother. See Philemon 8-21  Onesimus had recently become a believer through Paul.  Paul was confident that Philemon would now receive Onesimus back as a brother in Christ.  When slaves who had once been treated as non-persons and as cattle began to be treated as brothers, slavery began to crumble.  This was how Christians are primarily to bring about social change.  As people come to Christ and grow in Christ, our society also begins to change.

"Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart."  A very human trait is to work harder when the boss is watching than when he is not watching.  God's point here is that our ultimate Boss is always watching.

"Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men,"  In II Corinthians 9:7, Paul says that "God loves a cheerful giver."  God also loves a wholehearted and cheerful worker.  "This, alas, calls attention to a common failure.  People do their work in a grudging manner.  They would prefer not to do it, and they wish that had not got to do it." "Taken from Life in the Spirit in Marriage and Work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1973 by Baker Books."  Instead, we Christians are to work for our employees joyfully; for as we serve them wholeheartedly, we are serving God and He is pleased with us.

"because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free."  John Piper and Randy Alcorn both emphasize what Paul emphasizes here: Christians are to work primarily for rewards from God—His eternal rewards.  What those rewards are is not clear, though we are given some idea. See I Corinthians 3:10-15, 9:25; I Thessalonians 2:19-20; II Timothy 4:6-8; James 1:12; I Peter 5:1-4  If we serve God humbly from the heart and as a loving servant of His to the end of our life, the Righteous One will reward us.  Certainly, a large part of that reward will come when we hear the Lord Jesus says these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21)

(2) The submissive employer (6:9)
"And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him."

Thought Question:  What is there in this verse that will motivate the Christian boss to treat those under him in a different way than the non-Christian boss treats those under him?

 

 

The Christian slave master was not to follow the pattern of the slave masters of the Roman world; they were not to rule through oppression and intimidation.  The slave owner had almost total power over their slaves.  They could almost do with them as they wished.  History tells us that men have never been able to handle properly this type of power over their fellow man.  But, the Christian slave master was to remember that his slaves and he were under a greater Master and that He would judge them and their slaves by the same standards.  Both the master and the slave were to show respect toward each other.  And if either the master or the slave did not show proper respect for the other, their Master in heaven would judge them for their disrespect of the other.  "Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1) See also James 5:1-6

These instructions to Christian slave masters of that time obviously apply to Christian employers and to Christian supervisors as well.  Christian bosses can put the good of the business and their organization above the good of their employees.  What happens to their employees and how it affects them can become inconsequential.  Instead, they are to show the love and respect that God has toward them individually.  If they fail to do that, they need to remember that their Master in heaven is watching them and they will certainly face Him one day and be judged for their mistreatment of their employees.

These teachings in 5:21-6:9 on submission are often mishandled.  Our human tendency is to pay closest attention to those sections that apply to others and pay the least attention to those sections that apply to us.  The husband pays closest attention to what the wife is to do; the wife pays closest attention to her husband's responsibilities; the parents pay closest attention to what their children are to do; the children pay closest attention to their parents' responsibilities; and so forth.  As each waits for the other to fulfill his or her responsibilities, few wholeheartedly work at fulfilling the responsibilities that God has given to them.  The Bible is clear; we are to fulfill our own responsibilities regardless of whether or not others fulfill their responsibilities.

There is room for improvement for all of us in these areas.   For example, if a Christian slave of years ago endured brutal treatment and yet submitted to his slave master because of His love for God, are we not humbled when we realize how unwilling we are to endure even small injustices from our modern-day bosses? See I Peter 2:13-33, 3:1-6

STAND FIRM IN YOUR RICHES IN GOD'S GRACE (6:10-23)
Watchman Nee's book on Ephesians is titled: Sit, Walk, Stand.  His title is an excellent and succinct outline of the book of Ephesians.  In chapters one through three of Ephesians, Paul teaches our new position in Christ, and our new position in Christ can be summed: "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 2:6); so our responsibility is to "Sit" with Christ!  In chapters four and five Paul encourages Christians to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Ephesians 4:1); so our responsibility is to "Walk"!  Now, in chapter six Paul introduces us to the spiritual opposition each Christian faces.  We are blessed in the heavenlies, but we also have an enemy in the heavenlies.  In Chapter Paul instructs us on how we resist the attacks of our enemy the devil, so our responsibility is to "Stand"!  So, Ephesians teaches us to "Sit, Walk, and Stand." 

Paul was personally familiar with how Satan was attacking the church at Ephesus.  In I Corinthians 16:8-9, he mentions that a wide door of ministry had been opened for him there, but he also says there were those who were "opposed" to him.  In Acts 19, we learn that the silversmiths who made miniature shrines for the worship of the pagan and demonic goddess Artemis saw him as a threat to their lucrative business.  They led a city-wide revolt against him and the gospel he proclaimed. See Acts 19:23-24  And then in Acts 20:29-31, we see that Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus about what Satan would do: "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears."  So, beginning in chapter six verse ten, Paul gives them and the other churches of the region who read this letter (if this was a circular letter) instructions on how to stand against the dark spiritual forces who oppose us.

1. How we stand firm: by being strong in the Lord and putting on His armor (6:10-11)
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."

Thought Question #1:  How can we "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can we "Put on the full armor of God"?

 

 

Throughout the Bible, there were men who sought to take on the powerful and invisible spiritual forces in their own strength.  When Jesus was arrested, mighty Peter rose to the occasion and cut off a servant's ear.  Moses took on the Egyptians by himself and became a shepherd in the desert for 40 years.  Paul was lowered in a basket over the walls of Damascus.  He became a "basket case" because he thought, as a new Christian, that he could reach the city of Damascus by just relying on his own zeal and abilities.  They all learned we can only be victorious in our battle against our supernatural enemy if we contend with him not in our natural strength but in the strength of our Lord.  Paul, here, exhorts us "to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."  Jesus Christ resisted every attack Satan threw against Him; He resisted every deception, accusation, and temptation.  If we put on the armor that He provides, we will also be able to resist Satan's attacks. See Ephesians 3:20-21 

How can we "be strong in the Lord"?  We can "be strong in the Lord" by applying all that Paul has been teaching so far in the book of Ephesians.  We need to learn of the strength and power that is made available to us in God's grace, trust that it is true, and walk with God daily in His strength and power.  We need to draw close to Him by spending regular time in His word, followed by living a life where we seek to obey what He says in His word.

"Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes."  The devil has many different ways of attacking us who are Christians.  If we put on part of Christ's armor, we will be protected from some of the ways he attacks us, but we will not be protected from all of the ways he attacks us.

He tells us that we are to "put on the full armor of God so that" we will "stand."  "Stand" is the opposite of retreat.  "Stand" is the opposite of giving up.  "Stand" is the opposite of giving up ground.  "Stand" is the opposite of Satan's goal for us.  "Stand" is the opposite of self-pity and despair.  "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)  "Stand" is the way God uses us to defeat His arch enemy, the devil.  But, again, we can only "stand" in the strength of the Lord.

What is meant by the "devil's schemes"?  "The word translated 'wiles' ["schemes"] is a most interesting word and means 'to stalk.'  It suggests an animal seeking its prey [see I Peter 5:8, Job 1:7]  The apostle, in using that word, is revealing something about the need for this equipment, for we are not going into battle where the adversary will use discernible tactics. . . Our adversary will use craft, guile, subtlety, and deceit of a predatory animal in pursuing his prey.  The apostle points out to us that we are engaged in a battle with an adversary that we can't see.  We do not know from which quarter he will attack.  We do not know what means he will use to destroy us.  But we do know that he will use subtlety, craftiness, guile, and deceit to bring about our downfall.  Because of his subtlety, we need to be equipped so that no matter where he attacks or from what quarter, we may be able to stand against his wiles." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press." See II Corinthians 2:5-11, 4:4, 11:4,13-15; Ephesians 2:2-2; John 8:14; I Timothy 4:1-2

2. Why we need to stand firm: the Christian life is a struggle (our enemy is invisible, powerful and relentless) (6:12)
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Thought Question #1:  Do you right now look at some person or persons as being the one or ones with whom you are struggling?  Does this verse help you to realize who you are really struggling with?

 

 

Thought Question #2: What does Paul mean by: "the rulers, . . . authorities, . . . the powers of this dark world and . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"?

 

 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in one of the series of messages on Ephesians that were lent to me by a good friend said the following:  "There can be no doubt at all, it seems to me that the ultimate cause of most failing in the Christian life is the failure to understand the nature of this life.  We all start with some kind of romantic, almost novelette conception of the Christian life, and the result is, of course, that sooner or later we are found to be disappointed."

Paul, in these verses, gives a realistic description of what the Christian life is like; it is a "struggle"!  A more literal translation, according the Greek scholar Vincent, is "wrestle."  Paul describes the Christian life as a wrestling match with the powers of darkness.  In Paul's time, wrestling was a more serious affair than the wrestling of today.  "The Roman wrestling had one goal in mind and that was to get his hands around the throat of his adversary and to pin him to the ground by strangling him.  The objective in the Roman wrestling match was not to pin a man to the ground by his shoulders but rather by his neck.  This was a life-and-death struggle.  If a man's shoulders were pinned to the mat, he could get up after the match and walk away.  But if a man's neck was pinned to the ground with a strangle hold, it would be impossible physically for him to get up and to continue.  The Apostle is trying to show us through the figure of the wrestling match, the seriousness of the conflict in which we are engaged.  If we should fall before the adversary, we have not lost eternal life.  God forbid!  But the adversary is seeking to discredit our Christian testimony, to cause us to fall in such a way that we cannot rise and pursue the Christian walk again or manifest the resurrection life of Christ again.  We are not engaged in a Sunday School picnic softball game that we can play in until we are tired and then sit down on the bench and leave the game to the youngsters.  We are engaged in a life-and-death struggle.  Our adversary is seeking to destroy us." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

"but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Throughout history, there have been very dark leaders that have suddenly come on the scene; men like Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Saddam Hussein.  Were these just evil men or were they strengthened in their evil by dark demonic forces?  We learn in the book of Daniel that there is a continual battle going on between God's angelic soldiers and Satan's demonic soldiers.  Listen to what one of God's angels had to say about the battle that he was engaged in:  "But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia." (Daniel 10:13)  "So he said, 'Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come;'" (Daniel 10:20)  From this verse in Ephesians, we learn that just as there is a hierarchy of leaders in God's army, so there is a hierarchy of leadership in Satan's army. See Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:20-21

Satan has organized an army to fight against God's heavenly army.  Since we are part of God's army, we are engaged in a spiritual battle at all times against dark and relentless spiritual forces who are seeking to destroy all of us who are seeking to side with his enemy, Almighty God.

3. What happens when we stand firm?  We will not be overcome by evil (we will be victorious!) (6:13)
"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Thought Question #1:  Once again, how do we "put on the full armor of God"?

 

 


Thought Question #2: 
What does Paul mean by "the evil day"?

 

 

If we resist in "the day of evil," and "stand [our] ground," we will be victorious against these forces of darkness that Paul spoke of in the previous verse.  What is this "day of evil" that Paul is referring to here?  He first mentions it in 5:16:  "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."  From this verse, it seems clear that every day is a day of evil if we do not make it a day of good by the degree that we do good in it.  In our world, evil is what normally takes place, for the world is ruled by "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" who is Satan (Ephesians 2:2).  Evil will win out unless we resist it and stand firm, fully clothed with God's armor; so that in our lives, good wins out instead of evil.

The "day of evil" can also refer, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed, to unusually strong times of evil.  "But there are times when the battle is unusually strenuous and severe; there are particularly 'evil days' when all hell seems to let loose against us, and the devil for some purpose, or rather in his own evil strategy, masses all his forces against us in order to get us down, in order to mar our witness and to bring us into a state of unhappiness and captivity.  There are times when the battle is so fierce and so hot and so strong that the Christian feels he is on the point of being overwhelmed." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."

What does Paul mean by "put on the full armor of God"?  Is it something we do each day?  Do we use our imagination each day to put on this armor?  For example: "Right now, Lord, I am putting on the helmet."  I agree with Dwight Pentecost's description of how we put on the armor: "This 'put on' in the original text means 'to put on once and for all.'  In commanding these believers to assume this garb once and for all, the apostle is revealing to us the truth that we are not engaged in a brief skirmish, after which we may return to a life of ease.  The apostle says we are to put on this armor and never lay it aside as long as we are in the flesh.  The battle to which we are called is continuous, unceasing, and relentless because of the nature of our adversary.  Neither the duration of the battle nor the wiles of the will permit us to lay aside armament."  "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

4. Our armor (6:14-17)
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

a. Our foundational armor – truth, righteousness and the gospel of peace (6:14-15)

(1) The belt of truth (6:14a)
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,"

Thought Question:  How does truth protect us from Satan's forces?

 

 

(a) The belt
"In Paul's day, a girdle was important to the soldier who was about to go into battle.  He would pick up the lower edges of the robe he wore and bind it about his waist.  In this way, the girdle freed the man for rapid movement.  If he were to engage in hand-to-hand combat without a girdle, his long robe would trip him and he would be an easy mark for the adversary." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

(b) Of truth
When the Roman soldier tucked his robe into his belt, he was ready for action.  When we Christian soldiers "stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around [our] waist," we are also seen by our enemy as ready for battle.  The best defense against the lies and deceptions of Satan is the truth. See John 8:44

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:1-2)  When we read a false teaching in a book, when we hear a speaker give a false teaching, when the followers of a cult come to our door, and when lies from the devil come to us in any way, the best defense is a thorough knowledge of the truth.

The "belt of truth" will mature us into those who are not easily fooled by Satan's lies:  "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15) See also I John 2:18-27

"The girdle [belt] is truth – looked on, understood, appropriated, and in such a manner that it governs the whole of my outlook in every respect.  Only in this way, says the apostle, can you possibly fight a successful warfare against the enemy." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."

One of the major issues in the modern-day church has been the inspiration of the Bible.  This is Satan's attack on our dependable source of truth, the Bible.  They say, for example, that the Bible is not the truth, but it contains the truth. So, then, they would say that there is truth in the Bible, such as some or all of the words of Jesus, but it is an ancient book so it is not scientifically accurate.  This is just one of many of the attacks on the Bible, our only dependable source of truth.  Christian soldiers have fought to maintain our belief that the entire Bible is the truth.  Satan's attacks against the Bible, of course, continue to this day and will continue on into the future.  Each time they have a new subtlety and a new sly tactic from the father of lies.  Nevertheless, may we fight to keep every word of the Bible as our one source of dependable truth.  "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21)   "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18)  "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith [the Bible which is what we put our faith in] that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3)

(2) The breastplate of righteousness (6:14b)
"with the breastplate of righteousness in place,"

Thought Question #1:  How do we receive the "righteousness" that is part of our armor?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does this "righteousness" protect us from our enemy?

 

 

(a) The breastplate
"It is hard to distinguish the varying degrees of importance of the different pieces of armor that the Roman soldier wore, but certainly the breastplate was among the most important for it was to cover the most vulnerable portion of the soldier's body.  The breastplate frequently was made of heavy linen to which were attached overlapping pieces of horn or metal discs.  More frequently, the breastplate was made of metal-woven chain, interlinked rings of metal, or solid metal hinged in two parts so that it could be tied about the person, front and back, either with a buckle of leather thongs." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

(b) Of righteousness
When we see the truth about ourselves, we see that we do not measure up to God's righteousness.  In Zechariah 3:1-6, Zechariah sees a vision of Joshua, who was at that time the High Priest of Israel, standing before God in filthy clothes.  As we see ourselves in the presence of God's holiness, we see ourselves as filthy in God's eyes. Also in Isaiah 6:1-5, when Isaiah comes into the presence of God's holiness, he sees himself as "a man of unclean lips." 

Joshua has his filthy clothes removed and has them replaced with clean clothes.  God also cleanses Isaiah. See Isaiah 6:6-7  In the same way, God also provides us with a means of cleansing or, in other words, a way to be righteous in the presence of God's holiness.  The cross and His blood are the cleansing that God has provided to cleanse us from the filthiness of our sin.  We learn in Colossians 2:14, that all our sins are nailed to the cross.  Also, in I John 1:9, we are promised that if we confess our sins, God "will forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.

But God goes even further, He not only provides us with forgiveness for our sin and sins, He also empowers us to share in His righteousness.  He gives us His Spirit and what God's Spirit works in us does not break any of God's righteous requirements:  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

One of Satan's primary weapons against the Christian is his accusations against us.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones has the following to say about how Satan attacks us "when we fall into sin.  It is a part of our doctrine that a Christian may fall into sin! . . . Then the devil comes to us and tries to bring us into a sense of utter condemnation and complete hopelessness and despair." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."

If we are confident that we are still right with God or that we can through confession of sin be right with God, his accusations will not crush us through his condemnation of us.  The breastplate of righteousness makes it possible through Christ's blood shed on the cross for us to be certain that we are right with God and not condemned by Him.  In Romans 8:1, Paul says: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  The Old Testament priests symbolize who we now are as Christians (The High Priest symbolized Jesus Christ).  Like them, God has dressed us in the whiteness of His righteousness and sprinkled us with the blood of His Son. See Leviticus 8:30; Revelation 6:11, 7:9,13-14, 12:11  "But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—" (Colossians 1:22)  "and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Philippians 3:9)

(3) The shoes of the gospel of peace (6:15)
"and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace."

Thought Question:  How does the "gospel of peace" protect us from our enemy?

 

 

(a) Shoes
Shoes are of critical importance in many areas of our lives today.  We have work shoes, athletic shoes, hiking boots and many other types of shoes.  For the professional athlete, the type of shoes that he wears, and thereby endorses, is his number two source of income.  Also, some of us have seen a football player slip on a damp football field.  The announcer will often immediately remark that he chose the wrong type of shoes for the condition of the field.  If shoes are important to the athlete, they are even more important to the soldier.

"The Romans as well as the Jew normally wore lightweight sandals which consisted primarily of a leather sole tied on the feet with leather thongs.  Frequently the sandals were ornamented with precious metals, or even jewels.  If a Roman soldier were being sent into battle, he laid aside his lightweight sandals and donned a pair of heavy, thick-soled shoes.  In the soles of those shoes hobnails were embedded in order that the soldier might have a firm and secure footing when he met the enemy in battle." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

"In order to promote facility of motion over all kinds of roads, Roman soldiers were in the habit of putting 'shoes thickly studded with sharp nails.'" (Josephus, Jewish Wars VI, 8).  Thus one important reason for Julius Caesar's success as a general was the fact that his men wore military shoes that made it possible for them to cover long distances in such short periods that again and again the enemies were caught off guard, having deceived themselves into thinking that they still had plenty of time to prepare an adequate defense.  In the victories won by Alexander the Great this same factor had played an important role.  Accordingly, proper footwear spells readiness." "New Testament Commentary on Ephesians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1967 by Baker Books."

(b) Readiness that comes from the gospel of peace
Just as good shoes are essential for good footing in battle, so peace in the Christian's heart is essential for stability in the Christian life.  If Satan can remove a Christian's peace in the presence of God, he can render that Christian virtually useless in God's work.  The good news of Jesus' death for our sins enables as to have peace in our hearts before God and provides a stable foundation for warfare with Satan's forces.  Though they attack our right to be at peace with God, we can always point to the cross of Jesus Christ.  "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:13-15) See also I John 2:1-2

What is meant by "the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace"?  The same word is used in Titus 3:1: "be ready to do whatever is good."  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, this "readiness," in the context here in Ephesians speaks of a "readiness" to stand against the devil's attacks.  Therefore, he says, and I agree with him, that Paul is not speaking of a "readiness" to share the gospel with others.  Rather, he is speaking of the peace that comes from believing in the gospel that prepares us for withstanding Satan's attacks on our relationship with God.

With "peace" in our hearts because we have put our complete confidence in what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are prepared for Satan's lies, accusations, and temptations.  Satan's goal is to take away our peace.  If he can do that, we will have lost our footing and stability and he will find us easy prey for his cunning charges and attacks. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (Colossians 3:15)  "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." (Romans 16:20)

Hank Hanegraff points out in The Covering to how the words of Horatio Spafford's hymn are so fitting to what Paul says here: "It is well with my soul applies so strongly to 'the readiness of the gospel of peace': "When peace, like a river attendeth way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot Thou hath taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'  Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own flood for my soul." "Taken from The Covering by Hank Hannegraff.  Copyright 2002 by W Publishing Group"

b. Our defensive and aggressive armor (for defending against Satan's and for making progress in his territory) (6:16-17)
Notice that there is a difference between the first three pieces of armor that starts with the shield of faith.  The first three pieces of armor are introduced with the word "with"; for example, "with the belt of truth."  In the last 3 pieces of armor we are instructed to "take up"; "for example, "take up the shield of faith."  "The first three parts of armor are firmly fixed to the body . . . so that they are immovable.  But with the next three there is an obvious difference." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."  These last three pieces of armor need to be taken up.  You are to take them up when the enemy attacks.

(1) The shield of faith (6:16)
"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

Thought Question:  Give an example of exercising faith to ward off a specific flaming arrow from the devil?

 

 

(a) The shield
"Several kinds of shields were used by different branches of the Roman military service.  The gladiator's shield was a small round one which he wore strapped to his left arm to parry the dagger thrusts of his adversary while he used his right hand for his own dagger thrusts.  This small, lightweight shield allowed the soldier great freedom of movement.  But the shield to which the Apostle Paul referred to in Ephesians 6 was a shield of quite a different kind.  It was referred to as the door-shield because of it size.  It was a heavy shield approximately thirty inches wide and forty-eight inches high, large enough for a soldier to crouch behind it.  It was primarily designed to give a soldier protection.  A Roman phalanx would overlap such shields and advance upon the enemy.  They stood close together and formed a solid wall behind which the phalanx hid.  It is the large protective door-shield that the Apostle had in mind when he told them to take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

"As to the shield, the one to which reference is made here measured four feet in length by two and one half feet in breadth and was oblong in shape and covered with leather.  It was a kind of a 'door' for protection against enemy-missiles dipped in pitch or similar materials and set on fire before being discharged.  When these darts collided with the shield their points were blunted and their flames extinguished." "New Testament Commentary on Ephesians by William Hendriksen.  Copyright 1967 by Baker Books."  Without this shield, the arrows of the enemy would spread the flaming material on the soldier and he would be cooked inside of his armor.  With this shield, the flaming material would spread harmlessly over the shield and the soldier would be unaffected by it.

(b) Of faith
Satan hurls many flaming darts at us also, attacking our peace with God; he attacks us through accusations, temptations, fear, hurts from others, doubts, lies, and more.  And all are directed toward this one goal, to destroy the relationship between God and us.  How are we to handle each of these darts from the evil one?  We can ward each off by believing in God's love and wisdom, and by believing that true life comes only from God.  We are to ward them off by the "shield of faith." See I Peter 5:8-9

How do we pick up and use this "shield of faith" when Satan attacks us with "flaming arrows" and they are flying in our direction?  Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones' answer to this question:  "So I define faith in the shield of faith as meaning the quick application of what we believe as an answer to everything that the devil hurls at us." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."  "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4)  As Satan's attacks come, we must believe not in Satan's version of reality, but in God's version of reality.  Satan says, "God has turned His back on you, He no longer loves you.  God and our faith say the following:  "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" (Romans 8:35)

"When the enemy sends over his barrage of fiery darts and you feel very weak and frail, and tempted to believe that they are bound to hit you and you will certainly be defeated, take up the shield of faith, hold it up." "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."

It is at these times that we have the choice to believe what the enemy and those he uses have to say or believe what God has to say.  At the time that I am writing these words, I have recently talked to someone who unwittingly was used of the enemy to put the very worst perspective on my life.  Every fault he could think of was brought out in the ugliest way.  I believe that he was doing it because he had been attacked by the devil in the same sort of way.  By putting the blame completely on me, I believe he was hoping to feel less condemned about how he handled a situation that affected both of us.  As a result, I need to not allow Satan's flaming arrows to reach my heart and destroy me.  These words in Ephesians are very relevant to me right now.  I also need to not allow myself to become bitter so that I will not be used by Satan for his purposes.  What I need to do is believe in God's love, mercy, grace, and patience toward both of us.  I need to begin this process by putting up the shield of faith, so this dart will not reach me.

(2) Helmet of salvation
"take the helmet of salvation,"

(a) The helmet
Helmets are also important in athletic events.  They are worn by baseball, football, and hockey players to protect the players' heads from injury.  They were also worn by Roman soldiers.  "No Roman soldier would think of a advancing into battle without a helmet to cover his head.  This helmet was usually a cap made of leather to which metal plates had been fastened.  Some helmets were solid metal cast in the form of a head covering.  Whatever the external form of the helmet, the purpose was the same – to protect the head from the blows of the broadsword.  The adversary might come against a soldier armed with one of two kinds of swords.  There was the short dagger-type sword which was designated to pierce the breastplate, to destroy the warrior.  The soldier did not particularly need a head-covering to meet this weapon because the shield was designed to parry the thrust of the small dagger.  The adversary might come against the soldier with a broadsword.  Such a sword was from three to four feet long and had a long handle which the soldier would grip in both hands.  He would raise the sword high over his head and bring it down with a heavy crushing blow on the head of his opponent, with the intent of killing him by splitting open his skull.  Therefore, the Roman soldier expecting an attack by an adversary equipped with the broadsword would cover his head with a metal headdress." "Pattern for Maturity by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1966 by Moody Press."

(b) Of salvation
In I Thessalonians 5:8, Paul adds that the "helmet" is the "helmet" of the "hope of salvation."  There are three states of salvation: our past salvation from the penalty of sin, our present salvation from the power of sin, and our future and ultimate salvation from the presence of sin.  Paul appears to be talking here about the hope that we will one day be saved from the presence of sin.  "And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11)

There are times when the circumstances are such that there is the temptation to give up the battle.  The fact that there are a number of verses in the New Testament where we are encouraged to not give up, clearly predicts that there will these types of times where we feel like giving up.  Someone has said that we can live for weeks without food, days without water, but that we cannot go on living at all without hope.

Here are some places in the Bible where we are encouraged to not give up hope:  "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." (Job 19:25)  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. . . . But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:1, 7-12, 16-18)  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

"I am wounded, I am striving, I am struggling; but what is the point of it all, . . . Have I gained an inch of ground, have I done anything at all?" "The Christian Soldier by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1977 by Baker Books."  Have you ever felt like this?  I admit that there have been many times in 40 years of ministry that my life verse did not seem to be true:  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (2 Corinthians 2:14) 

Just as it appeared that Jesus was on the losing side when He was captured, tortured, and brutally murdered, it may at times seem like we are the losing side.  But just as Jesus was the victor in this life and the next, so are all those who follow in His footsteps also victors.  The "helmet of the hope of salvation" provides us with a defense against all the perplexity, discouragement, confusion, frustration, persecution, and failures that Satan throws our way.  For we can always know that in the end we will be the winners and he will be the loser!

(3) The sword of the Spirit, the word of God
"and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"

Thought Question:  What are some specific verses in the Bible that you have used as "the sword of the Spirit" both to protect you from Satan's attacks and to make progress against him?

 

 

(a) The sword
The sword referred to here by Paul is not the large broadsword, but the shorter sword used for piercing.  This sword was both used for defense and also used for attacking the enemy.  Its purpose was both to protect one's self from an attacker and to defeat the attacker.

(b) The word of God
Greek word for "word" here is not the logos used in John 1:1-3:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."  Instead, it is the Greek word rhema, referring to the individual words of God rather than the entire word of God.  "The significance of rhema (as distinct from logos) as exemplified in the injunction to take 'the sword of the Spirit,' Eph 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture." "An Expository Dictionary of New Testament words by W. E. Vine.  Copyright 1940 by Fleming Revell."

Jesus used specific individual Bible verses as a sword to ward off Satan's temptations during the time of testing in the wilderness.  In response to each temptation presented to Him by Satan, He said: "It is written," followed by Bible verses that applied specifically to Satan's exact temptation. See Matthew 4:1-11

We also can commit verses to memory so that we can be prepared for Satan's evil attacks on us.  For example, Satan is called "the accuser of our brothers" in Revelation 12:10.  The Bible says in Romans 8:1 that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." See also Colossians 1:22 and I John 1:9  This verse can be used as "the sword of the Spirit" when Satan accuses us and seeks to get us to live in a constant state of feeling condemned.  We can respond with: "It is written," "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  For each of Satan's deceptions, temptations, accusations and evil attacks that come at us in many ways, there is a verse or verses of Scripture that can be used as a "sword" to ward off Satan's attacks.  Notice that in Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16-17 that being filled by God's Spirit and by God's word are the same.

3. Our conquering prayer (6:18)
"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."

Thought Question:  What do you learn from this verse about the type of prayer life that God desires you to have?

 

 

We will be victorious over our enemy when we pray at all times, in all varieties of prayer, in the Spirit, with all perseverance, and for all the saints.

a. In the Spirit (prayer's quality)
The major reason that we do not pray for others is that we are not filled with love for them, and the reason we do not love them is that we are not filled with God's Spirit.  For to be filled with God's Spirit means that we are filled with His compassion for others.  It is only when we are filled by God's Spirit and are directed by God's Spirit that we will be able and desirous of praying in the ways that this verse directs us to do. See Jude 20  Prayer directed by the Holy Spirit is much different than praying mechanically and formally.  It is praying from God's heart followed by praying from our heart.  God leads us to see, understand, and feel what He is concerned about.  He then guides us to participate with Him in His compassionate concern as we also are concerned about what and who He is concerned about.  We come to desire that His "will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

b. At all times (the frequency of our prayers)
"on all occasions"  We breathe without ceasing and at all times because we recognize that we are totally dependent upon air for our life.  Paul knew that we are just as dependent upon God for our spiritual life and for victory over the evil one.  For this reason, just as we breathe continually and "on all occasions," so we need to pray without ceasing and "on all occasions."  We are to "pray continually." (I Thessalonians 5:17)

The following verses demonstrate that constant prayer was the pattern of Paul's life and a pattern in the early church:  "God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you." (Romans 1:9-10)  "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." (Ephesians 1:16)  "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight," (Philippians 1:9)  "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Colossians 1:9)  "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him." (Acts 12:5)  We also see that constant prayer was the pattern of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35)  He also encouraged His followers to pray constantly.  "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1)  Because our needs are great, the needs of others are even greater, and our enemy is relentless, we need to be praying constantly.

Prayer without ceasing demonstrates our humility, for it shows that we humbly recognize our constant need for God's help and enabling.  Prayer without ceasing demonstrates our constant love and concern for others and our loving obedience to God.  Prayer without ceasing demonstrates that we are constantly aware of our relentless, wicked, crafty, and powerful enemy.  Constant prayer is to be the Christian's constant life pattern.

c. All types of prayers (prayer's variety)
"with all kinds of prayers and requests."  Paul immediately tells us that there are at least two types of prayers: (1) "prayers" describes praying in general and (2) "requests" describes specific prayer "requests."  Paul reveals to us here that prayer is more than a formal ritual; instead, it is to be as varied as life itself is varied.  Our prayers should vary as the needs of those around us vary.  Sometimes we pray in a group and sometimes we pray by ourselves, sometimes our prayers are formal and at others times they are informal and deeply personal.  Sometimes we pray full of faith and at other times we ask for faith.  Sometimes we have planned quiet times of prayer and at other times we pray spontaneously and on the run.  Prayer should be a regular part of our life, and, therefore, it should vary just as our life varies.

The Psalms provide us with a pattern for this type of variety in our prayers.  In the Psalms the common division of prayers is expressed in the acrostic: A.C.T.S.  It equals: Adoration, Confession of sin, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (requests).  We also find this variety in the Lord's Prayer:   "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name [Adoration], your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is he heaven [Supplication and Thanksgiving].  Give us this day our daily bread [Supplication].  Forgive us our debts [Confession] as we have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil [Supplication]."  The Bible is clear, if we understand our utter dependency on God, prayer will be a vital part of our life and our prayers will show great variety as do the Psalms of David and the prayers in the Bible show great variety.

d. With all perseverance
"With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying"  We are to pray with a bulldog-like perseverance.  We can only defeat our relentless enemy when we resist him with prayer that will not give up; with a perseverance that will not give up.  "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1) See Luke 18:1-8

e. For all the saints
"be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."  So often our focus can be directed inwardly at our own needs and concerns.  If we apply what Paul has taught in the previous chapters and verses in Ephesians, we will not be focused inwardly at ourselves; instead, we will see the church from God's perspective.  We will be concerned about what God desires to happen in His church and through His church.  We will also recognize that we in His church have a common enemy.  We will, then, "be alert" to see where and at whom the enemy is directing his attacks and we will be pray until God's will prevails.

5. Our conquering prayer for Christian leaders (that they will be fearless)
"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

Thought Question:  How do these verses explain how we should pray for Christian workers today?

 

 

Paul did not see himself as a great hero who, against all odds, fearlessly and powerfully, in the strength of his own personality and abilities, heroically stood up for God.  Instead, he saw himself as being just like you and I-very needy of God's strength and help to do the job God had called him to do.  He asked his fellow Christians to pray for him that he might not give into the strong tendency in all of us to fear men and what they can do to us.  We desire that others will think highly of us and respect us.  As a result, we are tempted to alter God's message in some way to make it more acceptable to men.  Paul asked them to pray that he would speak God's truth fearlessly and boldly.

We see in Colossians 4:3-4 and I Thessalonians 3:1-2 that Paul did ask for the churches to pray for him: "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." (Colossians 4:3-4)
"Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith." (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)  But he asked for prayer in his letters only after he had first focused his ministry and concern on those that he was writing to.  Even his request for prayer here is not really for himself; for he does not ask to be released from prison and to be healed of the sickness that he endured. See II Corinthians 12:7-10  Rather it is a request for them to pray that he might proclaim God's mystery, the gospel message, in an effective way.

How does this request for pray by Paul apply to us today?  We also need to pray for pastors, missionaries and for each other that we all will fearlessly represent God and speak forth His gospel message fearlessly and effectively in our world today.  "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

FINAL GREETINGS (6:21-24)
"Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love."

Thought Question:  Whom do you know who is like Tychicus was to Paul, one whom you could send as a representative of you who would truly share with others what is on your heart for them?

 

 

Sending Tychicus to them was the closest thing to Paul going to them himself, for Tychicus had been with Paul throughout his ministries and shared his heart and his concerns.  "Tychicus was with Paul when he was forced to leave Ephesus (see Acts 20:4); he was with Paul when he was a prisoner in Rome (from these verses and see Ephesians 6:21-22); he was with Paul after he was released from prison and when he sent a letter to Titus in Crete (see Titus 3:12); and he was with Paul in his final imprisonment (from there he was sent by Paul to Ephesus; see II Timothy 4:12).  He was a close Christian friend and a follower of Paul; he was with Paul in heart.  Here, he would be one of two men who would deliver this letter to the Colossians (and he also delivered the letter we call Ephesians; see Ephesians 6:21-22).  It was as close as Paul could come to visiting them himself.  For Tychicus knew Paul's heart and Tychicus was united in heart with Paul."  "Quoted from Digging for Gold on Colossians 4:7-8."

Tychicus delivered this letter of Ephesians to them, and he would also be a trustworthy person to tell them more about how Paul was doing and how the ministry of the gospel was progressing.  Paul shared heart to heart with Tychicus and Tychicus would share heart to heart with them.

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love."

"Peace," "love," and "grace' are what Paul desired for them.  These wonderful blessings to us can only come to us from God, as made available to us through Jesus Christ' sacrifice of love for us.  Are we experiencing these blessing from God right now?  If Paul was alive on earth today, he would desire that we would experience them today.

We have looked at the church from God's perspective.  May we look at the church today from God's perspective.  We can see the church as a building that we go to.  We can even progress beyond that and see the church as the people.  But the church is much more than that; we have a heavenly origin, a heavenly position with God, a heavenly purpose, and heavenly enemy.  We are to believe and live our lives as we see ourselves from God's perspective and we are to defeat our relentless spiritual adversary.  We above all are to allow God to fill our hearts and minds with His perspective on life so that we will not live mundane and defeated lives, but live God-enlightened lives of purpose.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Ephesians