A Voice in the
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Introduction - (Ephesians 1:1-2)
The Epistle to the Ephesians is one of the "prison epistles"; according to Scofield, written around 64AD.
While Paul begins this book much as he does others, with his own unique introduction of his apostolic authority as the writer, Ephesians is different from his other epistles. While he does address "the saints who are in Ephesus" (1:1), he does not mention any 'personal' things and past shared events like he does in other books like the ones to Corinth and Thessalonians. He does not open with how he remembers them and is upholding them in prayer like Phil1:3-6, Col1:3-4. It is more of a 'plain' doctrinal epistle. Some commentaries question whether it was written -only- to Ephesus, or if perhaps it was originally to Laodicea (Col4:16) since he mentions the "epistle from Laodicea", but we do not have such an epistle in our Scriptures...or if it was also meant for other assemblies along with Colossians and Philemon, carried by Tychicus. (Eph6:21, Col4:7) Thus, while being addressed to Ephesus, perhaps its main scope is even generically greater? To the "faithful in Christ Jesus" (vs1) ??
This book has a very clear topic or theme. Where Romans is a book about Salvation; and Hebrews is about Jesus Christ our High Priest and Sacrifice; Galatians addresses legalism; Timothy/Titus, pastors and church leadership; Thessalonians, persecutions, the Rapture, wrath and antichrist; Jude coming just before the end, defining the Apostasy in detail; Acts being a 'history'; and Corinth, to the carnal assembly... Ephesians is -about- the "Church". While many other books speak of various things about the Christian life, Ephesians, specifically, defines "what is?" the Church. What is its makeup? Who runs it? How does it function? We often speak of the difference between "Christian" and "christian"; and "Church" vs "church". Ephesians describes the characteristics of the True "Church". If we get to know this book well, then we will easily recognize the false "church" of christendom.
What do we know about Paul's relationship to Ephesus, from other Scripture? If we use the old Scofield references to trace the chronology (Encyclopedia Britannica seems to agree with Scofield's dates), Paul first comes to Ephesus for a brief fly-by visit, on-his-way back to Jerusalem for a Feast, because he had shaved his head for a vow. (54AD Acts18:18-21) with a promise to return, "God willing".(vs21) A couple years later (56AD Acts19) we see a series of events as he returns. He baptizes some straggler disciples of John the baptist. When the Jews reject the message, he leaves the synagogue and spends two years teaching in the "school of Tyrannus" (vs9-10). So effective is his ministry that the message reaches to "all who dwelt in Asia". This is where Paul's apostolic healing ministry extends through the "handkerchiefs" from Paul to sick people, healing them. This is where, by contrast to Paul's work in the Holy Spirit, the false exorcisms are exposed (vs14-17), and as a result, the occult in the region is given a crippling blow as the witches and other occult practicioners believe in the Lord and reject their past, in a public display of burning their occult books in a huge bonfire. (vs19) As the "Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed" (vs20) it affects the region and greatly reduces the worship of Artemis/Diana to such an extent that it affects the economy of the region in the manufacture and sales of idols. So Demetrius stirs up what becomes a riot in the theater, as the mob yells out for two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians"; after which, Paul leaves for Macedonia. He spends probably a half year travelling here and there, and eventually finds himself headed back for Jerusalem again, trying to get there by Pentecost. (Acts20:16) On this return trip is where at Miletus (the shipping-route transfer station just south of Ephesus), he calls for the leaders of Ephesus to come and meet him; and he gives his farewell exhortations, reviewing the Salvation message of "repentance and faith" (vs21) and warnings against "savage wolves" and false teachers (vs29-30), exhorting them to be faithful to their calling as shepherds and to "take heed to [themselves] and to all the flock.." (vs28)
Sometime around this same time is when he writes to Corinth the first time. and mentions an event in the "past" where he had "fought with beasts at Ephesus". (1Cor15:32) So, apparently during the years he spent in Ephesus, while the Word of the Lord was reaching throughout the region, he also encountered opposition and was subjected to the Roman-style coliseum and fighting lions. He apparently didn't just "lie down" passively and let the animal kill him, because he is 'now' alive to tell about it. In fact, what would one guess that such confrontations were more benign than the ones with the Jews who continually followed him around, stirring up the mobs to beat and stone him..?
But once he leaves Miletus and reaches Jerusalem, that is the sequence of events where he is taken in chains (60AD Acts21) and begins his trek to be tried in Rome where he "appeals to Caesar". (Acts25:11)
Is it during the time he is in "his own rented house" (Act28:30) under Roman armed guard that he writes this epistle in 64AD? During this same time he writes to Timothy (65AD) as Timothy is going to Ephesus, urging him to "charge" those in Ephesus "that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith." (1Tm1:3-4) And in (66AD 2Tm1:16-18) Paul speaks of Onesiphorus who ministered to him in Ephesus in the past, and also sought out Paul once in chains. We come away with a picture of Paul's ministry in Ephesus as being a time of great regional spiritual growth, but also of strife and persecution. While Paul is in Ephesus we do not see him being comforted from God about "safety" like he was while at Corinth. (Acts18:9-10)
The next reference to Ephesus is 30 years later when John writes to the Seven Churches. (96AD Rev ch2) How have they fared after Paul's martyrdom? They are praised for not tolerating false doctrine and apostles; that which Paul had diligently been "warning" them about. But they have "left" their "first love". (Rev2:2-4) And are on the verge of having their lampstand removed "from its place" unless they "repent". (vs5)
It is interesting to notice how the scholars question the original target of this epistle; whether it was Ephesus or Laodicea. When we see the Seven Churches of Revelation ch2-3, we see Ephesus representing today (as we have observed on other occasions) the ultra-conservative KJV-only, Independent/Bible Baptist type groups. And Laodicea, the other end of the "Evangelical" spectrum, Charismania.
The last time Paul sees the leaders of Ephesus he reminds them how he "warned" them "night and day with tears" (Acts20:31) as he warns them that false teachers would rise up within them. (vs29-30) And once he is in chains, he exhorts Timothy to warn them to stay-the-course in Doctrine. (1Tm1:3) And apparently, by 30 years later, all the warnings have had some benefit, because they are praised for feretting out the false. (Rev2:2)
But on the other hand, if it was originally addressed to Laodicea; today... charismania... we can observe today that many leaders of charismania come from backgrounds in the occult. And, indeed, isn't that where the Church at Ephesus came out of. It was Ephesus where they had the big bon fire occult book-burning. (Acts19:19) But today's Ephesus-based Laodicea, rather than repenting and forsaking their past and burning their books, have brought the occult into the "church". That's what the charismatic manifestations are (from being "slain" to the "worship music")... the occult!
On one hand, as Ephesus had "left" their "first love"; today's Ephesus has replaced its first love of Sound Doctrine with a fetish-like attachment to a symbol; a 'translation' of God's Word. Many of them hold so strongly to 'THE' -translation-, that they don't actually know what is contained within God's Word. They are like the scribes of Jesus' day who were proud of 'having' the Law (Rom3:2), but disobeying it in favor of their "traditions". (Mk7:9-13) They have so faithfully militantly fought against the false, but neglecting the Truth, that they don't any longer know 'what' the Truth is. Remember: bankers handle the "real" money (not variations of counterfeits), in order to be qualified to spot counterfeits. They have been focusing so hard on the "wolves" (Ac20:29) that Paul warned against, that their eyes are not "looking unto Jesus". (Heb12:2) If I remember Pilgrim's Progress properly (it's been many years since I read it), there was a place where lions were lunging at Pilgrim against their restraints, and Pilgrim was afraid of the lions; but when he obeyed, looking straight ahead, he reached the other side and the lions could not touch him. When Peter (walking on water to Jesus) looked around at the boistrous waves, instead of Jesus, he sank. (Mt14:30) It is not enough to have the "appearance" of righteousness as one carries a -book- labeled "ABC" or "XYZ", if one does not know what is contained within those pages. But it is only that "first love" of Jesus which draws a person to that precious Word.
"Oh, how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day." (Ps119:97)
On the other hand, Laodicea has it in their minds that they now have the authority to establish a -new- "church". From their spirit-fillings they are receiving -new- commands regarding what they think the "church" should be. They have -new- prophets and apostles. They are seeing new visions. Where Paul was warning carnal Corinth -against- charimania (1Cor14), they have "twisted to their own destruction" (2Pt3:15) his instructions. They have lost sight of what the True Church of Jesus Christ is. They distort 1Cor ch14 to fulfill their lusts, but do not know Ephesians which was "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude3) "and faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph1:1)
So, yes... Ephesians is a good book for all who claim to name the Name of Christ to become familiar with. What is the respective plan, purpose and authority of God the Father, the work of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit with regard to the Church? (ch1) Who makes up the Church? (ch2) How did they become the Church? (ch2-3) What is the scope and extent of the Church's significance? How does the Church function together? (ch4) What is the Church's responsibility to and relationship with the Holy Spirit? (ch5) How are Christ and the Church related? (ch5) What is the nature of spiritual warfare? (ch6) What is prayer? (ch6)
If today's "church" would get to know this epistle, I dare say that pretty much 95% of all modern false doctrine would disappear. There would not be all the denominations, but all would "speak the same thing" and would be of the "same mind and..judgment" and there would be "no divisions". (1Cor1:10)
If the Church knows this epistle, then, it can be "commended to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts20:32)
Epistle to the Ephesians: -Topics
God and Father - (Ephesians 1:3-23)A
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.." (vs3)
This one verse, if we understand it properly, will start us down the proper path of corrected doctrine. When we think of salvation coming through "no other name" than Christ (Acts4:12), we have developed a "Christ only" theology. Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Christos. Scriptures only, Faith alone, only Christ. Indeed, the gospel as proclaimed by many tells people to "invite Jesus into your heart", and they never really ever hear about the Father. It is merely 'them' and their state of 'betterment". It becomes "Jesus and me". So, with such a salvation, we do as I did as a child; we pray "Dear Jesus". In fact, as I grew into a youth and would hear some praying, "Dear God" or "Dear Heavenly Father", I would wonder what was "wrong with" them. They were being rather 'brash' and 'improper'. And so the modern theology has spawned worship songs that say things like, "Jesus, Jesus, Jeeeezzus... there's just something about that name..."
When Paul prayed, he prayed "to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". (3:14) When Jesus taught how to pray, it is, "Our Father in heaven.." (Mt6:9) When Jesus promised to "send" the Holy Spirit (Jn16:7), it was in the context of Him saying, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper.." (14:16) Jesus' ministry, even though being God, Himself, He says, "I always do those things that please Him." (Jn8:29) Jesus was not His own authority. Even -Jesus- prayed to the Father. When we "come boldly to the throne of grace" (Heb4:16) we are coming to the Father -THRU- the High Priestly ministry of Christ. When we pray, the "Spirit..makes intercession for us" along with Christ "who searches the hearts" (Rom8:26-27, Heb4:12). If these Two are helping us pray, our prayer is obviously -to- someone 'other than' to those who are aiding us. Right? How many people pray -to- Jesus. And how many more in these days of apostasy are praying -to- the Holy Spirit. We are never commanded to do so. When people pray to "the spirit", they are praying to somebody 'else'! The Believer's prayer is -to- the Father.
When we see Jesus, we are seeing the Father. (Jn14:9) Jesus is the "express image" of the Father's "essence". (Heb1:3 -LITV) Jesus is not the 'end-result' of our devotion. Jesus, even, is 'under' the Father in hierarchy, "..the head of Christ is God" (1Cor11:3) And when all is said and done regarding Christ's ministry, all glory goes back to the Father so that "God may be all things in all". (1Cor15:28 -LITV)
The most "famous" salvation verse, Jn3:16, tells us that -GOD- loved, and -GOD- "-gave- His only begotten Son..." This is what the -Father- did. "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world." (1Jn4:14) During "the days of His flesh" Christ had to "learn obedience" and exercised "Godly fear". (Heb5:7-8) He had taken on the "form of a servant". (Phil2:7) He was "under" the Father. The Father was "in charge". It was the Father Who voiced approval, "You are My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased." (Mk1:11) Obviously, the one 'approving' is greater than the one being scrutinized. While Jesus is the "true vine" into whom the branches "abide", it is the Father who is the "vinedresser". (Jn15) Obviously, the "Vinedresser" has authority over both the vine AND the branches.
Thus, -Who- is it who gives us "spiritual blessings"? The Holy Spirit? This is what charismania says. They use occult techniques and put themselves into a trance-state of mental/spiritual "emptiness" with their 'worship songs' and invite with opened, lifted hands to be "spirit-filled". And when that happens, they -feel- "blessed". Note this well!! The Believer's "blessing" comes from the "God and -FATHER-..." (vs3)
When we are saved, who saves us? Well, we know that we are washed in Christ's blood. (Rev1:5) But it is the Father Who "chose us". (vs4) It is the Father Who "draws us". (Jn6:44) The Father "adopted" us as "sons" (vs5) Notice: we are "sons of God" (Lk20:36, Rom8:14, Gal3:26) And it is the Father who makes us "accepted in the Beloved" (vs6) More literally, He "bestowed grace upon us through Christ". A similar kind of expression as "being accounted" righteous. (Rom4:3) When we stand before the judgment Throne, it is the "Ancient of Days" (Dan7:9,13) before Whom we stand, as opposed to the "Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven". When judgment is passed, if a person's name is found in the Book of Life (Rev20:12-15), it is Christ Who "confesses" the person before the Father and the angels. (Rev3:5, Mt10:32)
Thus, it is the Father Who ultimately accepts or rejects a person. Redemption and forgiveness of sins is based on Christ's blood, but comes from the Father. (vs7) It is the Father's Grace which "abounds" toward us. (vs8) When He purposed to extend His "good pleasure" He purposed it "in Himself". When all things are gathered "in one", the Father does so "in Christ" (vs10) for His own will and purpose. (vs11) When a sinner trusts in Christ, it results in "the praise of [the Father's] glory". (vs12)
When a Believer has "power" through the "Holy Spirit" (Acts1:8), notice carefully that this power is not "in" the Believer. Jesus said that this power would "come upon". Paul defines it more clearly here. God's power is "-toward- us who believe". (vs19)
[Ed: Not to be "picking on" charismania... some people write in to VW complaining that VW is so "negative". They think that VW is "against" everything out there. Well, charismania is one of the prime forces of falsehood and evil today. And when we see what Scripture -actually- teaches about various things, we see how it is in contrast with what charismania teaches and practises.]
What is the difference between "in" and "toward"? If two children are fighting, or if several children are ganging up on one lone child, the child being bested does not have the strength innately to overcome his attackers. But the schoolyard monitor sees what is happening and pulls the bullies away from the one being attacked. The strength and authority of the official acted "towards" the child being picked on, even though the child did not posses the strenghth 'within' himself. If we remember that we are "branches" attached to the "Vine" Jesus Christ, the branches do not "do" anything. They "bear" fruit. The Vinedresser prunes in such a way that the nutrients from the Vine reach the "chosen" branches. The flow is from the Root, through the trunk and vine, out "towards" the branches.
Do you see how this is different from charismania? When they become "spirit-filled", they behave as though (what they call) "God's power" (and authority) RESIDES WITHIN themselves. Just like Star Wars "FORCE be with you". As though God's "power" was a -commodity- to be charged up, collected and possessed and distributed. So they strut around like little 'gods'... commanding this and that from this "power" they think they -have-. To them it has become -their- power. They 'own' it.
When a light bulb shines, the bulb does not have the 'innate' ability to shine. Believers are "lights". (Mt5:16) But they are not the "battery". The Father is the "Battery". The connecting "wires" is Christ through the Holy Spirit. The power must come from the battery "towards" the bulb. The battery is not "in" the bulb. The bulb is not 'the' battery. In the same way, God's power is "toward us who believe". The bulb cannot 'acquire' a charge and then go off by itself. If it is going to shine, it must "abide" (stay connected) in/to the battery via the wires. Is this clearer? It is "-His- power", not ours.
Furthermore, God demonstrated His (Father's) "mighty power" (vs19) through Christ. How? Through the resurrection. Now, we know how Jesus said, "I have power to lay it [My life] down, and I have power to take it again." (Jn10:18) But notice that He did not have this of His own authority. He says, "This command I have received from My Father". Paul explains it here, that ultimately it was the Father Who "raised Him from the dead..." (vs20)
Remember how the disciples were always talking amongst themselves, wondering -just- 'who' (amongst themselves) would be considered "greatest" (Mt18:1, Mk9:34), and two even requested to sit at Jesus' "right and left" in the kingdom. (Mt20:21, Mk10:37) (Remember, they were sons of Jacob; just like we are sons of Adam) Well, even Jesus, the Son of God did not place Himself into authority. He came to "serve and give His life" (Mt20:28) The exultation Jesus receives comes from the Father. The Father raised Him and "seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places" (vs20) "The LORD (Father) said to my Lord (Jesus), 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool" (Ps110:1) Notice that it is the Father, also, Who is subduing Christ's enemies.
How high is Christ elevated? "..far above all principality and power.." (vs21) Without going into depth on this, let us understand that "principality and power" is the expression for the spiritual realm. It includes the realm of satan. which is the source of our spiritual attacks. (Eph6:12) Charismania today presumes to take upon themselves an "authority" to reprimand and condemn satan. Remember how we learned awhile back that Jesus, even, does not do this. Jesus, even, responds to satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan!" (Zech3:2) This is because Jesus is not in His place of elevation on His own authority. Jesus, even, is under the Father. Jesus is where He is because the -Father- "raised Him up" and has put "all things under His feet" (vs21-22)
And finally... we said in the previous lesson that this epistle is about "the Church". Christ is "head" over the Church. But even this is not Christ's -own- doing. He did not take this upon Himself. It was "given" to Him by the Father. (vs22)
Nebuchadnezzar learned that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He will.." (Dan4:17) As we will see in later studies that Christ is the Head of the Church; the Church, ultimately, is under God the Father, the Most High. While Christ is the Head, He is also the "Husband". But He also calls His disciples His "friends". (Jn15:15), and those He has sanctified, His "brothers". (Heb2:11) Thus, we see a coming relationship with the Father as Christ brings His Believers 'along-side' Himself before the Father.
We who name the Name of Christ, I suspect haven't a clue as to the splendor of what is to come in the eternity future. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God (the Father) has prepared for those who love Him." (1Cor2:9, Is64:4, 65:17)
Jesus Christ - (Ephesians 1:3-23)B
"All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." (Jn16:15)
Since "God is Spirit" (Jn4:24), and "He said, You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live" (Ex33:20), God "sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Gal4;4) as the "express image of His essence" (Heb1:3) IN ORDER THAT we might see the Father. "He who has seen [Christ] has seen the Father.." (Jn14:9)
In most 'normal' families (which mine wasn't!), the father is the family's legal authority. Down through history, important matters are dispatched by the father. When the father becomes disabled, people naturally look to the son to represent the father's authority. In ancient times if the father had to go off to war, or some other thing, it was the eldest son's duty to "take care" of the family in his absence.
Well, in the beginning God communed with Adam. (Gen2-3) But sin entered the picture, which put a "separation" between man and God. (Is59:2) Man cannot now see God "and live" because, the "soul that sins...shall die" (Eze18:4, Rom6:23) Thus, for sinful man, God appears to be WAY OUT THERE...far away. Although it is actually sinful man who is "far off" (Eph2:13) But this is not the state of affairs that God purposed or desires. (2Pt3:9) Thus, He sent His Son. While at the present time, there is this huge gulf of distance between God and man, Jesus brings God's authority to us. Thus, while we are dealing with Jesus, because of Jesus' 'authority', we are, in reality, dealing with the Father.
God does not have a 'power of attorney'. (Well, perhaps He does. We'll see next lesson) In the case of Israel, He sent prophets. They would be filled with God's Holy Spirit to proclaim God's Law to Israel...but as Jesus told, they killed them and spitefully mistreated them. So, God sent His Son with the idea that "They will respect My Son". (Mt21:37) Why should they "respect" the Son? Because, according to their heritage, the son carried with him the full legal authority of the father, in the father's absence.
So, as we understand from last week that the Father is the one with ultimate authority; in this lesson as we consider the Son, we should understand that, on one hand the Father 'gave' Him His authority; on the other hand, when we look at the Son, Jesus Christ, we should understand that we are seeing, not only the Son, but the Father. When we see Jesus' work, we are seeing the Father's work. When we see Jesus' authority, we are seeing the Father's authority. When Jesus gives a command, we must heed, because Jesus' command is the Father's command. When Jesus speaks, we cannot snort and retort, "YaRight! What do You know! You're not the Father!" ...as today's rebellious youth retort, "You're not the boss of me!" The Father is Father of the "family in Heaven". (3:15) When Jesus speaks, He speaks for that Heavenly Family.
Now... when sinful man becomes "adopted" as a "son" into this Heavenly family, how does this come about? [Ed: Since this book is written to the "saints and faithful", I will continue that assumption and use personal pronouns. If you are not "in Christ" (2Cor5:17), please do not assume that what we discuss in these lessons applies to all of unregenerate christendom, and thus, erroneously include yourself. It only applies to Believers. These studies are being written 'as though' -TO- fellow-Believers in Jesus Christ...much as a group of Believers would study while gathered in someone's home for Bible study. Thus, the terms like "us" and "we" will be used. These terms are -only- for Believers; not necessarily everybody on the e-list and internet who will also be reading these studies.] So with that explanation, to answer the question, 'We' were "bought at a price". (1Cor6:20) What price was this? Jesus "loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood". (Rev1:5) Jesus' blood was our "redemption". (vs7) And what did we, then, receive? "Forgiveness of sins". The same 'love' that the Father had, by which He "sent" His Son (Jn3:16) is the same love Jesus, Himself, displayed when He gave His own life. "No greater love" does a person have than to give "his life for his friends". (Jn15:13) There are always legal fees and procedures when a child is adopted, which the new adoptive parents pay in order to receive the new child. -JESUS- is the One Who paid those 'fees' with His own blood. Thus, when we became sons of God, we are now "blood" relatives... something earthly adoptions can never accomplish. The earthly adopted child always retains the genetics of the birth parents. But when we are adopted into Christ, we actually receive a "new nature" (2Cor5:17) through the "new birth". (Jn3:3-8) We are related to our new Father in Heaven, by blood... Jesus, His Son's blood.
The unity which christendom so earnestly seeks, but which obviously eludes them... (if they had it, they wouldn't be seeking it) ...we as Believers have. Again, this is a work of Christ. And this is not something He is doing with stadium-filled rallies and conferences. This is not a unity based on tolerance and acceptance of diverse racial ethnicity and economic status, but between the heavenlies and that which is on earth. (vs10) Right now there is a gulf between the heavenly realm and the earthly. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cor15:50) But when the "change" happens from corruptible to incorruption (1Cor15:51-54), it will be possible because of what Christ has done.
The fact that we are part of this 'gathering together' is because we "trusted in Christ". (vs12) This word "trust" is the salvific definition of "faith" and "believe". We do not have -enough- faith. We don't "just believe in your heart". Salvation is possible because of the -object- of our faith. Jesus Christ. This faith is not merely believing that Jesus "exists"...although that is the beginning (Heb11:6) Satan and his demons have such a faith. (Jas2:19) But it does them no good because they do not "trust in" Christ. Satan's scheme was to "be like the Most High". (Is14:14) A person could "have faith" that he would not land on the floor, believing "real hard". But such hokus pokus will not keep him from landing on his backside. His "faith" in not hitting the floor must be in some -object-, like a chair, which, if he "sits in" the chair, thus "trusting/resting" in that chair, the -CHAIR- holds him up and keeps him off the floor. Our salvation is not so much our "faith", but the "object" of that faith, Jesus Christ.
When healing people, on some occasions Jesus would ask the distressed person, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" (Mt9:28) When we trusted in Christ, we "believed that" His shed blood was able to redeem us. But again, it is -Jesus- and -His- work of redemption.
And finally, the final work Jesus did for our redemption: As Paul reviewed for Corinth, that He "died for our sins"... and then, that "He rose again the third day..." (1Cor15:1-4) Without Jesus' resurrection, our faith is futile, because then He would not be the "firstfruit" for us to follow. (1Cor15:20) It's one thing to redeem us and give us adoption as sons, but if we still die and stay dead...of what use is that? Jesus rose from the dead, paving the way for us to follow. And 'where' are we to follow Him?
Jesus was raised and taken up to the Father's "right hand in the heavenly places" (vs20) Jesus promised, "I go to prepare a place for you" with the added promise "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (Jn14:2-3) Jesus rose from the dead and went to the heavenlies. He will come to take us to the heavenlies. We not only have life because of His resurrection; we also have a 'place' to go to. Now, again, it is not so much that we "go to Heaven", but we go to "where Jesus is". Just as salvation is based on the -object- of faith/trust, so too, our eternal destiny is based on the -ONE- Who resides in the heavenlies. Whether it is "Heaven" or the "new heaven and earth"...or...whatever may be in store throughout the aeons of eternity, the focus of our anticipation is "Jesus Christ".
So... what is the nature of this "Heaven"? Well, God has placed Christ "far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named..." (vs21) That means that He is above all the angels of Heaven, the seraphim, the demons, Ezekiel's "wheels", and the kingdoms of humanity. Now, if Christ has promised to take us to be -with- Him, "where" He is... well, perhaps this explains the passage, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man (he cannot fathom or imagine it!) the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1Cor2:9) Where Jesus is... we will be there "with" Him.
Again, however, we will not be in this glorious place because of -our- goodness and righteousness and power. Remember? We are the "Church". Jesus is our "head". (vs22) We are His "body" (vs23) And here is a mystery I do not yet fully fathom. It speaks of the "fullness of Him" (vs23) In other words, without the Church, Christ is not complete. Later in ch5 we will see the correlation of Christ and the Church being like a marriage of husband and wife. A person who has been married, and then lost a spouse, understands that big empty "hole" without that person in one's life. It is a big humongous vacuum. Things about one's life are not -quite- right without them. God designed it for man and woman to be together to "become one". Even before a person is married, there is 'something' they long for. They are not quite 'complete'. The Church 'completes' Christ. A "Head" needs a "body" to be with.
However, we should not be high-minded. Many "christians" go around strutting their stuff, thinking that God's power is -theirs- (vs19), and boost up their self-esteem and distort God's "grace" into something which looked down and saw all this "worth" in us sinful flesh. They preach a gospel of "importance". They say, "See how -important- you are to God! He can't get along without you. Now seize upon that power...!" and they become little self-invested gods. Notice that, while the Church is part of Christ's fullness, this fullness is -from- the Father.
Are we beginning to understand that there is nothing of benefit in our existence past/present/future that God and/or Christ is not responsible for? In creation, there is nothing that was not created by Christ. (Jn1:3) Our "life" is in Christ. (Jn1:4, Acts17:28) In Him "all things consist" (Col1:17)
Now, returning to the example of the son's authority while the father is away; what happens when the father returns from his travels, or stint in the military? Does the son continue representing the family? Well, he may still have some authoritative functions. But the -father- is now home again. So he resumes his position which he had assigned to the son. In the same way, once our "redemption" is complete (Rom8:23, 1Cor15:54) and we are with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph2:6); in other words, there is no longer that distance separating between us and the Father; then, the authority we have been used to seeing in Christ, reverts back to the Father. "..the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all things in all." (1Cor15:28)
Holy Spirit of Promise - (Ephesians 1:3-23)C
"..in [Christ] also believing you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (vs13b-14)
If you look through this whole chapter, we see that this is the only reference, in this whole discussion, to the Holy Spirit. But I have left the label of this section as being vs "3-23" to help us make this observation. To make a point. And in making this point, we see how Scripture is in contrast to current trends, teachings, doctrine and practice.
While we have already seen, two lessons ago, that the Father is uppermost; and in the next lesson, that the Son manifests the Father's authority while there is this "distance" separating between the Father and sinful, corruptible man; Jesus, under the Father's authority, has explained the role of the Holy Spirit; which a rapidly increasing segment of christendom is rejecting.
While we know of everlasting unforgiveness and "condemnation" for blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mk3:29), the actual ministry of the Holy Spirit is that of a "Helper". (Jn16:7) KJV says "comforter", and for whatever reason, the LITV has retained the archaic KJV word. And thus, those of charismania today might think that their activities of "feelings" are of the Holy Spirit, because as they "feel good", they take that as "comfort"... or, "comfortable". However, "comforter" is an outdated word for the Greek "parakletos". Back when KJV came out, people knew what "comfort" meant in 'ye olde English', from the standpoint of knights. If a knight had fallen, his associate would come along, and from his horse would reach down to the fallen comrade with the tip of his lance and 'prod' the fallen one. "C'mon, get up! Are you OK? C'mon, wake up, get up, let's get going! Get back on your horse." This act of 'prodding' with the lance was called "comforting". Thus, we also understand better when the psalmist says, "Your rod and staff, they comfort me." (Ps23:4b) If a sheep was 'down', the shepherd might 'prod' at the sheep gently with the end of his staff to see if the sheep was sleeping, sick or dead. Or if the flock needed to be traveling, and a straggler was lying down, a little prod would get it up on its feet to get moving again and join the rest.
This is what the Holy Spirit does. As a 'parakletos' He is One who is summoned "to the side of" or "along-side" the person being assisted. It is also a legal type of term for one who intercedes and pleads one's case. One of the ways the Holy Spirit intercedes for us is in prayer. "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom8:26) So, if they "cannot be uttered", why does charismania insist that their maniacal babblings, which they often call "prayer language", are of the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is not a Person we have been commanded to address in prayer. We pray -to- the Father, and the Spirit helps us in that. He is not One who receives attention and glory. We are not to focus on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit "guides us into all truth" (Jn16:13) through His special "anointing". (1Jn2:27) But the Spirit's ministry is to point us -to- Jesus Christ. (Jn16:14) Where Jesus speaks on His own God-given authority, as being the Father's Son... the Holy Spirit does not have that same authority. Rather, he is more like that "power of attorney" we spoke of in the last lesson. If the Son is in one room (of the "many mansions" -Jn14:2) and wants to communicate with the people in the next room or down the hall, while remaining where He is, He sends His legal representative to speak on His behalf. (Jn16:14) One of the aspects of the definition of "parakletos" is "legal assistant". And as the Believer speaks back to the Father and/or Son, this same legal assistant then takes the counter-message back, in 'prayer'.
Thus, "..you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance.." (vs13-14)
What is a seal? When legal documents are drawn up, they receive various signatures and stamps. In ancient times, and still today in eastern societies, official documents would be imprinted with one's seal. In Japan it is called a "han" (hahn). In many cultures it was one's signet ring. When Joseph was given Pharaoh's signet ring (Gen41:42), Pharaoh was giving Joseph his legal authority and power to transact business in Pharaoh's name throughout the land of Egypt. In this country, it is often required that documents be "notorized". In other words, the person signing their name has a 'witness', attesting to the fact that they -watched- you sign your name. They, then, sign their name to the attestation, saying that they watched you sign, and imprint the document with their notary seal. This imprint takes the paper, impressing the seal's shape into the paper as it 'bites' the paper. Such a seal cannot be erased. It becomes an intrinsic part of the paper's form.
The other important word in this place is "promise"... along with "earnest" (LITV/KJV). "Earnest", a legal term. A nonrefundable deposit. When a person buys a house, they include the "earnest money" along with their legal papers, saying that they wish to buy the house. If the seller agrees to the terms, the buyer has promised to purchase the house. At the time of the earnest, the house is not yet in the possession of the buyer. But it is the "good faith" of intent to buy.
Notice that Jesus' "knocking" at the door (Rev3:20) comes at the 'end' of the Seven Churches. The Church age is complete and 'now' Christ wants to make good on His promise, before the call to "come up here". (4:1) He wants to take possession of that which He purchased and sealed with the earnest.
Remember that we who are Born Again are yet "flesh and blood" and CANNOT go to Heaven in this state of corruption. (1Cor15:50) Even as Believers, while our spirits are saved, our bodies are not. We are still waiting the "adoption, the redemption of our body". (Rom8:23) So, how do we know that our salvation is sure? After all, Paul confidently proclaims, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers...nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom8:35-39) This is "Eternal Security". How do we know that our salvation is eternally secure? The Holy Spirit is the "Earnest". He is the "deposit". Where has the deposit been made? He dwells within us. We are the "temple of the Holy Spirit". (1Cor3:16, 6:19)
If the Holy Spirit is 'in' us, if somebody or something would wish to harm us, they must also harm God. If one of satan's demons seeks to confront us, they also confront the Lord, and end up proclaiming, "we know who You are, the Holy One of God". (Mk1:24) 'Ever wonder why that total stranger looks at you with hatred, even though you don't know them? That's satan within them seeing the Spirit within you. They don't hate you; they hate God.
How do we know we are saved? Because of the Holy Spirit in us. We can know, with certainty, that we are NOT saved, if the Holy Spirit is NOT in us. (Rom8:9) While we are in these bodies of flesh, the defining characteristic of our salvation -IS- the indwelling Holy Spirit. What if a person "doesn't know" whether or not he has the Holy Spirit? If you don't know, you are NOT saved. One of His ministries is to "bear witness with our spirit THAT WE ARE children of God". (Rom8:16) If you have to ask the question, "What is it like when the Holy Spirit is in you?", then, you are not saved. He makes His presence known, and you 'know' it.
So... "when" does the Holy Spirit indwell? Does one become saved, and then at some future time one waits for the "baptism"? Well, from what we have already observed, the answer should be obvious. What did Rom8:9 say? "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His." So, if a person is "waiting for" the Holy Spirit, BY DEFINITION, they are not saved. When does that signed document become official and 'in effect'? When the notary "seals" it. The document is meaningless until it goes between the plates of the seal, and the notary 'squeezes' the handles.
What is the Spirit guaranteeing? The "inheritance". What is the inheritance? It is "incorruptible, undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you." (1Pt1:4) You see, the Holy Spirit has made "reservations" for us in Heaven. And when is this inheritance given to us? At the "redemption of the purchased possession.." (vs14) What is the "purchased possession"? "..the Church of God which [Christ] purchased with His own blood." (Acts20:28) That's -US-. And when is the "redemption"? (Rom8:23) When these corruptible bodies are "changed" (1Cor15:51) into incorruption. At the resurrection and rapture. (1Cor15:51-56, 1Th4:16-17)
Jesus, God's Son, with God's full authority, saved, redeemed and purchased us, with His own blood. We have become blood relatives. But we don't yet have the full Family inheritance. That comes a bit later. So, the Holy Spirit is the Father's "Power of Attorney", making the transaction legal and 'binding' until its fulfillment.
So, what of charismania's being "spirit-filled" and being charged up and 'feeling' euphoric, and possessing 'power'? We don't see -any- of that here, do we. And what of pentecostalism's special anointings they pray and 'wait' for? If they are 'waiting', they are not saved... BY DEFINITION. The Holy Spirit does not come 'later'. The Holy Spirit's indwelling -IS- the 'legal' aspect of what it is to be saved.
When it says, "..in Whom also believing, you were sealed..." These events are simultaneous. We are saved 'when' (at the same time) we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. While the Holy Spirit may seem to have a less "glamorous" role... (He is only 'squeezing the lever'), without Him we cannot be saved.
However, the Holy Spirit is not the primary focus of our Faith. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in these "temples". (1Cor6:19) Yes, the Spirit is the conduit of our prayers. (Rom8:26) Yes, God's power that is "toward" us (vs19) is via the conduit of the Spirit. (Acts1:8) But the Holy Spirit's purpose is to reveal Christ -to- and -in- us. (Jn16:14-15) N.T. doctrine does not so much speak of our relationship with the Spirit as it does, "Christ in you.." (Col1:27) and of us being "in Christ". (2Cor5:17) The chain-of-command (God - Christ - man - woman 1Cor11:3) does not include the Holy Spirit. When Paul describes the Believer's relationship with God in ch5, the section does not define and discuss in -detail- being "spirit-filled", he only mentions that in passing (vs18) but he says, "but I speak concerning -CHRIST- and the Church". (5:32) The early Believers were not known for being "spirit-filled", but that they were "-WITH- JESUS". (Acts4:13)
Sons...holy & without blame - (Ephesians 1:3-23)D
"..just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.." (vs4)
As we now make a fourth pass over this chapter we come to the 'purpose' of its writing. Proper speech and teaching theory says that the speaker should be sure to 1) Introduce the subject, 2) Present the subject, and 3) Review what was said. Like the ol' codger would say, "I'm gonna tell ya what I'm gonna tell ya, and then I'm gonna tell it to ya, and when I'm finished I'm gonna tell ya what I just done told ya." Paul is fulfilling 1 & 2. We don't really see a review at the end of the epistle. But then, Paul doesn't seem to have been known for his speaking abilities. (2Cor10:10)
Ch1 introduces the basic synopsis of what the rest of the book would naturally follow. ch1 says what the desired outcome is. The rest of the book tells how it is achieved. The Church's foundation is Jesus Christ (1Cor3:11) But Jesus is not without the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus, ch1 lays the foundation of the respective authorities and actions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And then, reviews what Their work should result in, in the Believer (the Church). The rest of the book, then, analyzes all the details as to how it comes together as a complete whole.
Thus, we get right down to business. The "spiritual blessing" we receive from the Father in the "heavenly places" (vs3) should result in what? We should be "spirit-filled" and prove that filling by "speaking in tongues". Right? When we've been saved, we wait for the "baptism of the Holy Ghost" so that we can exercise our "spiritual gifts". Is this correct? Did God "choose us" (vs4) in order for us to "Praise the Lord"? To "worship" Him? That God wants our worship... This is what an overwhelming majority of today's "church" is proclaiming. But, what does it say?
"..that we should be HOLY and WITHOUT BLAME BEFORE HIM in love"
What does it mean to be "holy"? If we just praise the Lord with sincere hearts and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit's filling, pretty soon a halo will appear and start hovering overhead... And we will know we have achieved this 'state', because we will "feel" it. Mmmm?
Holiness is not a "feeling". It is a position. Holy and sanctification are the same thing. It is a state of purity, having been cleansed. As a result, it is a position -AWAY-FROM- the filth of the world's sin. God can only accept a "holy" Church, because He is holy. The command is, "Be holy, for I am holy" (1Pt1:16)
How do we -become- holy? Do we do a sufficient amount of good deeds, and refrain from the bad? The Father has "blessed us" (vs3) He "chose us" (vs4) He "predestined" and "adopted" us (vs5) His "grace" has made us "accepted in Christ" (vs6) Jesus' blood "redeems" us and gives us "forgiveness of sins" (vs7) Remember, the "soul that sins..shall die" (Eze18:4, Rom6:23a) and so His "abundant" grace (vs8) "accounts" (Rom4:5) us righteous. "Forgiveness" is a legal/accounting term. We had this debt of sin hanging over us that would send us to death. But forgiveness erases the debt. The debt is no longer owed. Jesus paid it with His blood. We are redeemed 'away from' sin and its consequences. Positionally, we are now 'separated' from sin. Since we are now "blood relatives" in the heavenly family, we have a new nature, we are no longer associated with sin. That's what "holy" is. That's what "saints" (vs1) is. "saints" in vs1 is the same Greek word (hagios) that is translated "holy" in vs4. We are "saints". We are "holy". Same thing. The RC Pope does not -make- saints out of some ancient dead people. Christ did it with His own blood. It is the position Christ's redemptive blood has placed us ('live' Believers) in.
What part do we -do- to achieve any of this? This 'unity' which is accomplished as God is "[gathering] together in one all things in Christ"(vs10); what measures, programs and campaigns are we engaged in to bring it to fruition? If you can see one in this passage, will you please show it to me. Thus far, it is -ALL- GOD'S work. As we see the details in the next chapter we see that it is God's "gift", given by His "grace", and NOT of "works" lest we "should boast". (2:8-10) Remember, we were all going "astray" like "sheep" (Is53:6) All this we have received comes according to God's "purpose" and the "counsel of His will". (vs11)
At what point did this "holiness" apply to us? At the point the Holy Spirit "sealed" the agreement. (vs13) And when was that? When we "trusted/believed". (vs12-13) If we go back to the previous example of the "chair"... we did not buy or build the chair. We did not even pick it out. But when it was known that we were going to fall, we were invited to "sit" in the chair. The Father "draws" (Jn6:44) the attention to the chair, and the Son "invites" to "come" and "find rest for your souls". (Mt11:28-29)
There is a theology going around today, which I heard awhile back on TV ads for one of the Lutheran denominations, that went something like: God has saved the world. When God sent Jesus to die (Jn3:16), Jesus' blood saved the whole world. That is the "good news". And 'now', the invitation was for people to come into their churches so that they could learn how they were 'already' saved. That... mankind is already saved. The mission of "the church" is to get out the news to everyone so they know and realize that fact. So they don't need to live in despondency and condemnation, thinking they're sinners; but to realize that they've 'already' been saved. Yea!! Hooray!!
Well, if we were to ignore vs12-13, we might come away from this chapter with the same idea, mightn't we. But remember that God's salvation for "the world" is to "whoever believes in Him". (Jn3:16)
So, now that we have put our "trust" in Christ, and are characterized by this "holiness" God has provided through Christ and the Holy Spirit, is that the end of the game? Do we now continue on "just as you are". Well, just as I was, was in sin. I am now "holy". Sanctified and "separated" unto God. Why would I want to go back to that filth? I've been "saved OUT OF" it.
Now that we are in a new family, with new blood ties, we need to learn how to live in this new family. Where we used to hate, we now love. (vs4, Jn13:34-35) Where we used to be part of the "foolishness" of the world (1Cor3:19), now we seek the "spirit of wisdom" (vs17) and the "knowledge of Him". Notice that the ultimate state of maturity is when we have come to "the knowledge of the Son of God" (4:13) Paul's ultimate goal was "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death." (Phil3:10) When we come to fully "know" Christ, we have His "mind" (1Cor2:16), and thus will also learn the road of humility and servanthood (Phil2:5-8), and thus understand what it is to "die with Christ" (Rom6:4-8). When we fully understand that, then we can fully appreciate the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.." (vs18) Today's apostate theology teaches its followers to pursue wealth, fame, fortune and power. But they have never died to self and sin. They have not died with Christ.
If we are -positionally- "holy" due to God's work, then, if we truly love Him as we claim, we would seek to -live- "holy". If, as the song says, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe..", would it not be a slap in His face for us to continue living "like the devil" while claiming to be "Christian"? God did not make us "holy", only to have us "continue living in sin...let it not be!" (Rom6:1-2)
We "should be holy and without blame before Him..." How do we know what "holy" is? By learning the "spirit of wisdom" as we have the "eyes of [our] understanding enlightened" and growing in our "knowledge of Him". (vs4,17-18)
As ch2-3 go into more detail of God's redemptive work and our position in the heavenly places, the Believer's response begins in 4:1, that we should "walk -worthy- of the calling with which [we] were called.." The "spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (vs3) and the "inheritance" (vs18) are so awesome, beyond comprehension, "far above all principality, etc.etc" (vs19-21), the only way we can hope to be a healthy part of the body "by which every part does its share" (4:16), is if we come to Know Christ, the Head.
Does God desire our worship. Of course. But even this we find to be different in Scripture than what is the norm today. "..Give to the LORD glory and strength. Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him. Oh, worship the LORD in the BEAUTY OF HOLINESS! Tremble before Him, all the earth.." (1Chr16:28-30, Ps29:2, 96:9) What are the offerings/sacrifices of God? "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despise." (Ps51:17) As God is Holy "..you also be holy in all your -conduct-.." (1Pt1:15) Today's "church" comes, sometimes partially naked, using the music of demons, sensuously moving their bodies provocatively in dance...and they call it "worship". Yes, they are pleasing 'their' master. When Aaron made the golden calf, Israel "rose up to -play-", too. (Ex32:6) God does not acknowledge such disobedience in worshiping "other gods". "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices (derived out of disobedience and unholy objects) ...as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams." Anything else is as witchcraft and idolatry. (1Sam15:22-23)
God says, "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices" ...remember it was the blood of the Passover lamb that saved them from the death angel, and when they were "baptized" through the Red Sea (1Cor10:2) they were not offering animal sacrifices and singing praises... "But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'OBEY MY VOICE, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people'." (Jer7:22-23, Ex15:26, 19:5-6, Deu5:29, 6:1-9)
We Were Dead - (Ephesians 2:1-3)
"..you being dead in trespasses and sins.." (vs1)
While we noted that ch1 'introduces' the rest of the book, the fact of the matter is that ch2 continues the thought about the "church, which is His body.." (1:22-23) 1:23 should probably end with a semicolon, as 2:1-3 are actually dangling/trailing modifiers of this "church". Many English translations insert words similar to "He made alive" in vs1, forcing it to begin a new sentence there. But the Greek texts don't have those words there. In typical Pauline fashion, this is actually, likely, a rather long sentence beginning at around 1:22 and concluding at 2:3. In other words... 1) Christ is above all principality and power (1:21), 2) He is head of the Church (1:22-23), and 3) This is where the Church came from; these were its origins. The people making up the Church used to be "dead". (2:1-3)
On the other hand, if 2:1 actually begins a new sentence, it shows where we came from, as introduction to the salvation process. Opposite of modern theology which teachs that we were "worth so much to God, that's why He reached down to save us"... it shows our beginnings as "nothing". What value is there to something which is "dead"? There is none. A dead animal, perhaps when it is 'fresh', is worth something for the meat derived from it. But when it has been dead awhile, becomes maggot-infested and begins to rot, it is worth nothing except to be buried into the ground. This is where we began. We were dead. We had been in this state a long time, too, and were rotten. Even what we looked upon as being "pretty good" were like "filthy rags". (Is64:6) "Filthy" doesn't quite convey the meaning. Literally, it is like the stains of 'menstruation'. Where there had been an egg that could have been fertilized and come to life, it is now passed on...dead. If there had been a desire to become fertile and bring life through a baby, when menstruation happens, it is known that fertilization did not happen. There is no life. It is dead.
Just like the potter takes a worthless lump of clay and starts to form it (Rom9:21, Jer18:6, Lam4:2), the clay starts out being stomped on, to make it into the right consistency (Is41:25b). While it is in that form, it is worthless. A vehicle could just as easily come driving along and splatter it all over everything, just as well as it could be made into fine pottery. Aside from the skilled potter, anybody else coming along would simply assume it was "mud".
That's where we were. We were dead in sins. The things we did, we did naturally... just like pigs and elephants like to roll around in the mud, it is their nature to do so; so, too, we, naturally did all the things of the "lusts of the flesh". (vs3) Why are there teen pregnancies? It is the lustful nature which causes "two to tango". Why do the announcers on XFL football talk crudely about how much (or little) J-Lo would be wearing for the half-time show? That is their nature. Why do the commedians spend most of their time joking about sexual innuendo? Why do the audiences laugh hysterically at the lude jokes? That is their nature. Why do mothers kill their babies, sacrificing them at the altars of convenience? That is their nature. Why do people lie, steal, cheat and murder? That is their nature.
Before we were saved, that is where -we- were. The Church did not pop out of Heaven, borne along on angels wings, with sparkling halos over each of our heads, nestled down into the peaceful meadows of perfection. No! We were in that cesspool. Dogs bark, ducks quack, and sinners sin.
Not only were we following our natural instincts, gotten at birth (Ps51:5), we were following our leader. Who was our leader? The "prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.." (vs2) Remember how we have spoken of the definition of the Believer as being one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9) Well, if one is not a believer, his house is not being dwelt in, it is empty...guess who comes along and takes refuge. Demons. (Mt12:43-45) No, we were not (as some would have you believe), all seeking for something to fill that "God-shaped void" within. "There is none who seeks after God" (Rom3:11), we were all "gone astray" (Is53:6a), following our "prince".
Let us remember where satan came from. He used to be in God's presence as the "anointed cherub that covers". (Eze28:14) All his demons used to be good angels, until they fell. Guess what angels are... "ministering spirits". (Heb1:14) Thus, demons are also spirits. Satan comes from the realm of light (he was the "shining one" -Is14:6), and his demons act like "ministers of righteousness". (2Cor11:15) But because they fell, they are of the realm of the "power of the air" and of the "sons of disobedience". Thus, also, it is only 'natural' for the world to be full of false religions... beliefs that operate, even, under 'spiritual' principles. The world speaks of "spirituality". They also have their signs and wonders. They have their "miracles" by which they are persuaded that their belief is correct. These things are not limited to charismania. In fact, what charismania does, it got from the others who practice these magical arts (Acts19:19) of the "works of darkness". (5:11)
Just as an example... after my unequal yoke left (10 years ago), the girlfriend of the fellow she left with would call me a lot and we would talk on the phone. She was into New Age, numerology and all sorts of related things. During one such conversation she told of going out to some rural area she had never been to before, on her way to some "spiritual" meeting with others of "like faith" to hers... how that, when she came to some intersections, and places she didn't know which way to turn, her 'spiritual guidance' led her to make the correct turns each time, and she drove "right to" the correct location. Of course, I was supposed to be 'impressed' by this, as giving credence to her faith system. You see...a small "sign" of "proof" that what she believed in was "truth". But she made no claim to being a "Christian". In fact, I'm sure she was hoping to "convert" me.
You see...not all sinners are "bad". Not all sinners are murderers and cheats. Many of them are fine religious people. They go to their places of worship, and sing songs of praise to their gods. They offer sacrifices. They bow to statues of their gods and saints. (Their "saints" are not "separated", but are of the variety with the halos.) Many of them do a lot of "good works". They run charitable organizations. Some of them even sometimes become president.
But...we were all "children of wrath" just like them. Some of us came from "despicable" backgrounds of drugs, sex and related activities. Others of us came from the uppity-crust religions. But we were all under the same condemnation. We were "dead", and deserving of God's wrath.
What does it take to be deserving of God's wrath? It is easy to understand that "horrible" people might be deserving. But "ungodliness and unrighteousness" also includes "suppressing the truth". (Rom1:18) All these religions of these "good people" suppress God's Word in order to believe their lies. Unrighteousness does not only include the "terrible" people who "do" terrible things, but it also includes those who "approve of those who practice them" (Rom1:32) We might condemn the former president for all his perversities; but those who laugh at all the jokes about his exploits are JUST-AS-GUILTY, because they enjoy his sin in their hearts. And when it comes down to it, before we ever commit that first 'act' of sin, we are already sinners. Because why? They are "CONDEMNED ALREADY (before they ever get started) BECAUSE he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Jn3:18) Without Christ, we are already doomed before we ever get started. Salvation comes -only- through Jesus Christ. (Jn14:6, Acts4:12) We were "without God". (vs12)
Remember, we sin because it was our "nature" to do so. We did not have Jesus Christ. This is where we were!
So... how did we become the Church?
God Made Us Alive - (Ephesians 2:4-10)
"But God...made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (~vs4-6)
Last lesson ended with the question, "How did we become the Church?" You know... there is a false theology where those who call themselves "Christians" go about trying to change society. As noble as such a thing might be, it is fraught with futility. Christians try to get abortionists to stop having abortions, for drug addicts to stop doing drugs. They will proclaim to co-workers that their foul language and dirty jokes "offends" them, because they are a "Christian", so... would they please stop it. But remember... they do those things "by nature". (vs3) If you yell at that strange dog to "STOP BARKING!!", he's just going to look back at you and keep barking even louder and more ferociously (and start showing his fangs); the same way the world riles back at you in anger. Dogs bark! Sinners sin.
When an ambassador goes to a foreign country, his duty is not to change the customs of the country to which he is assigned. No. He represents his country of origin. He will retain his own country's habits and customs, and dress as distinct from the country he is a representative to. If that country is one of an oppressive regime, sometimes its natives will come to the embassy, seeking asylum, seeking refuge to be taken to the ambassador's country... AWAY FROM the cruel regime. The ambassador's life style while in that country shows how his own country is "different from" the regime, and "better than" it. Thus, some will seek the "freedom" which his "different" country offers. You see...we are "ambassadors for Christ". (2Cor5:20) We cannot change this world. But we can reflect God's light (Mt5:14) as we are in it. We can show by how our "heavenly culture" is -different- that Heaven is a better place than the cruel regime of satan's domain. No, we don't "change" the world, but we are "salt" in it. (Mt5:13) As the world gets a hint of taste of that salt, they then come to the embassy seeking asylum. They, then, seek new citizenship. (Phil3:20)
The new citizenship spiritually requires a major "change" of nature. Our state before was "death". Man has not yet learned how to give life to anything. He has now gotten to the stage of cloning. But that is merely working with already-alive cells. He is not able to take dead chemicals, and zap life into them. Only God can do that. It is the same with salvation.
Please notice how everything in vss4-10 is "God" at work. First of all, we start with God's character. God is "rich in mercy" (vs4). That's what "grace" is. (vs8) Grace is not a "feeling" where we suddenly 'realize' how much we are 'worth' to God. Grace is a legal-type of term. The book was due back at the library, but you were given a period of "grace" and were allowed to return it late without penalty. The traffic fine was due, but the judge 'waived' the penalty. There was no question of guilt, and the fine was owed; but the judge extended mercy. Why?
"..because of His great love with which He loved us.." (vs4) What kind of love was this? God "-SO- loved the world"...it was such a great love that, what? "..He gave His only begotten Son..." (Jn3:16) In what manner did He give His Son? He gave Him over to death. What is the greatest manifestation of love? Giving one's life. If a person gives one's own life, what more is there to give? Can a person give any more? "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (Jn15:13)
And so, now, how does God go about changing our nature? He "made us alive.." (vs5) We were dead, He gave us life. Christ died and joined us in death. (Rom6:3-4, Phil2:7-8) And when Christ then rose from the dead, we came to life with Him.(vs5) When Jn3:3 says "born again", while the comparison is made of being born, first, physically; and "again" -spiritually- (Jn3:8), it actually means, "unless one is born from above..." (Jn3:3 -LITV) Our physical births are "of dust" (1Cor15:48) and when we die, we go back, dust-to-dust. But when we are born from above, we have "everlasting" Life. (Jn3:16)
The result of this new Life is that God then takes us and, just as He "highly exalted" Jesus (Phil2:9), He has a place for us "in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (vs6) Christ is "far above all principality and power" (1:21) and we are His "body" (1:23). God has a special place for us, up there with Christ. Why?
We have observed in the past that this high place is beyond our human imagination... "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1Cor2:9) If we have come from such an utterly worthless place in the muck and mire of sin, in spiritual death... WHY would God place us in such a high place along with Jesus? Because our worth to God has now become manifest? Because we finally attained to sufficient state of holiness? Because we have finally realized our worth to God? Because we have learned how to harness God's power and do great things, and climb to heights of grandeur? No!
It is all for -GOD'S- GLORY! Read carefully... "..that in the ages to come He might show the EXCEEDING RICHES OF -HIS- GRACE in -HIS- KINDNESS toward us -IN- CHRIST JESUS." (vs7) It has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with God! ...and Jesus Christ! He is elevating us, in order to manifest His Own Grace and Kindness! Do you see why this kind of thing cannot "enter into the heart of man"? We cannot fathom it yet at this time. It is too awesome, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it." (Ps139:6)
Many teach a doctrine of "sola fide". Salvation by "faith alone". Well, salvation is by God's "grace". (vs8) It is by His grace that we can even have faith unto salvation. You see, even that faith is "not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". If God didn't give it to us, we would not be capable of saving faith. Thus, if we want to get real picayunish, we could say that salvation isn't even by our faith. Remember, we were "dead". We were without "strength/ability" (Rom5:6) We didn't even know that we needed to believe, except that the Father came along and "drew" us. (Jn6:44) Salvation isn't so much our "saving faith", as it is God's grace which gave us the faith. Do we begin to see HOW VERY LITTLE we had to do with our salvation?
Does it begin to make sense why we speak so much of "Repentance"? This is why Paul says to the Athenians, "God..now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts17:30) That, while God did not will for any to perish "but that all should come to repentance". (2Pt3:9) When we come to God in REPENTANCE, we are pleading for His mercy, because we are "dead in trespasses and sins", and it is our "just due" (Rev16:6); we are -deserving- of it. His mercy and grace, then, gives us faith to believe and receive Jesus Christ. For all of modern christendom's talk of "graaaeeesss"; when they reject "Repentance", they, in effect, are rejecting God's Saving Grace. They are by-passing repentance, going straight to "Faith". But Faith doesn't come until God's Mercy has been extended. Faith is a 'result' of God's Mercy, and comes from it; not its cause. And such Mercy is not given where there is no Repentance and acknowlegement of ones state in sin and death. Like the woman said to Jesus, "..even the little dogs.." get the scraps from their masters' table. (Mt15:27) In other words, acknowledging the fact that she was a "dog". If a person wants the judge to 'forgive' that traffic fine, he must appear before the judge. In appearing, he is acknowledging the citation. Unless he is like the corrupt ex-president (!!), judges don't automatically grant pardons to absent fugitives. When people rely on "faith", without appearing before the judge in contrition and repentance, they are fugitives. The warrant is still in effect, for their arrest, conviction and punishment. But when they appear before the Judge and seek clemency, then, when the Judge pronounces them "Justified" in Jesus' blood (Rom5:9), they are truly free. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." (Jn8:36)
So now, vs9 almost seems ridiculous to have to say. "..not of works.." If we were dead, and the faith was given to us, we really have no part in the saving process. And yet, it is included, because it is necessary. Most religions of the world are based on works. Penance, good deeds which outweigh the bad, saying of masses, pilgrimages to kiss certain icons/statues, etc. But when somebody has gained world-renoun for good works, even if the person himself doesn't brag, the rest of the world "boasts" on his/her behalf. (vs9b) If God is the One receiving the glory, due to His grace, love and mercy; salvation CANNOT be by our works. Any praise coming to us would not be to God; it would detract from -His- glory.
We are the vessels of His "workmanship/masterpiece". (vs10) He took the clay and formed us into "vessels for honor". (Rom9:21) So, look what the result is. We are created, not to continue sinning... "Certainly not!" (Rom6:1-2) but "unto good works". You see, we have made full circle. We are to be learning how to "possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor," (1Th4:4) Or... the purpose of our existence as we learned in the previous chapter, "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.." (1:4)
Our nature is no longer as "sons of disobedience". Our master is no longer the "prince of the power of the air" (2:2) of the evil spirits. But we are "in Christ...a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2Cor5:17)
Gentiles, too - (Ephesians 2:11-22)
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh...now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ." (vs11,13)
Let us who are not Jewish always remember that when Jesus "came to His own" (Jn1:11), He came to Israel. When a Gentile came to Jesus for help, He first made a 'typically Jewish' point by saying, "It is not good to take the children's [Israel] bread and throw it to the little dogs [Gentiles]." (Mt15:26) But He then proceeded to help the woman, because His purpose was also, "I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a LIGHT TO THE GENTILES." (Is42:6) You see, this "covenant" He fulfilled when He died on the cross, "that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (Jn19:24) of all that was in the "Law and the Prophets" (Lk24:44) He said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Mt5:17) That was the Covenant God made with Israel in the wilderness, and earlier with Eve. But Jesus also said, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John." (Mt11:13) And as Jesus was about to fulfill the final matters prophesied, He instituted a "New Covenant". "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Mt26:28) Any covenant had to include blood. When John proclaimed, "Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn1:29), in effect he was proclaiming the end of the Old Covenant, and introducing the New. And Jesus fulfilled it by shedding His own blood. He had to, if He was to be the Savior, because "without shedding of blood there is no remission". (Heb9:22) And so, Jesus fulfills the "Covenant of the people [Israel]"... but He is also a "light to the Gentiles".
In writing to the Gentiles, "those who have obtained like precious faith with [Israel].." (2Pt1:1) Peter explains how it was not God's purpose that "any should perish but that all should come to repentance". (2Pt3:9) Just like many today try to catagorize certain classes of people as being "unsavable", the Jews considered Gentiles "outside" of God's grace. When God gave the Law to Israel, as they celebrated Salvation each year with Passover, Passover was a strictly Jewish observance. However, Gentiles could come to God and observe it, too. But they had to "become a Jew" through circumcision. (Ex12:48) Even back then, Salvation was the same for all... "..you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land" (Nu9:14) Salvation was for "whoever believes.." (Is28:16) There was "no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Rom10:11-13, Joel2:32)
But Israel had become exclusive. Instead of being a "light to the nations", they shut out the Gospel and called Gentiles, "dogs". Rather than inviting Gentiles to the Lord, and telling them 'how' to do so, they were shut out as "unclean". You see, this is how Paul introduces this... "you were call Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands.." (vs11) You see, even after Jesus had returned to Heaven, many Jews wanted to Judaize the new Gentile converts, and force them to keep all the Jewish 'physical' rituals. That's what the whole chapter of Acts15 is about; and it was decided that the old Jewish rituals were NOT necessary to Gentiles. In other words, Paul is basically confirming what James/Peter was saying, 'The Jews kept you Gentiles out by their stubbornness.' But God's purpose was to "[visit] the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.." (Acts15:14) And while Israel continues to be rebellious, God is continuing to receive Gentiles "until the fullness of the Gentiles" comes in. (Rom11:25b)
Just as Jesus "came unto His own", Gentiles are also "made near by the blood of Christ". (vs13) The Church has no "middle wall of division" (vs14) The Church has no distinction between Jew and Gentile. The Church does not have "ordinances". (vs15) Most people in christendom today maintain ordinances, but they are not Scriptural. We are given only Baptism-immersion (Mt28:19) and the Lord's Supper. (1Cor11:23-26) Anything else is extra-Biblical.
Along with the removing of this "middle wall", is the removal of "enmity", thus, "making peace". (vs15b) Remember that one of the characteristics of the Church is that it "[loves] one another...by this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn13:34-35) And John goes so far as to say, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1Jn4:8) In other words, if you see organizations that are teaching "how to" love one another, and having rallies and campaigns, promoting the fact that they "need to" love one another...they are NOT CHRISTIAN. Such groups are not of THE Church of Jesus Christ. Remember, "God -IS- love". Thus, True Believers into Jesus Christ will also be characterized by love. If they are not, they are not in Christ. They are not Christians. Always remember, our "new nature" did not come about from our own efforts. God saved us for His own glory. (vs7) We were born "from above". (Jn3:3) Part of that 'package deal' is "love". Love is the opposite of anger and enmity. Thus, Jews who truly are "Israel of Israel" (Rom9:6) because they are Jews "of the heart" (Rom2:28-29), and Gentile Believers, will be "one" with each other. (Jn17:21) They will not need to work at "becoming" one. If they are in Christ, they already -ARE- 'one' with each other.
There is, then, Reconciliation. (vs16) Not, blacks and whites reconciling to each other. Not, 'straights' reconciling and accepting homosexuals into fellowship. Not, whites apologizing to native Americans and embracing their gods. No!! No!! "..that He might reconcile them both [Jew and Gentile] -TO-GOD- in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity." (vs16) Notice carefully, that this is not a reconciling of Jews and Gentiles to each other. It is not a case of Gentiles being grafted in to Jews. Christ's death was for both Jew -and- Gentile, alike, for the purpose of reconciling "the world" (Jn3:16) to God. While the removal of the "middle wall" brings about peace between Jew and Gentile, the 'real' enmity that existed was between man and God. So this "peace" that is made is two-fold. While we mentioned the Jew/Gentile peace first, because this passage's topic is how Gentiles have now been included, the reality is that the peace 'with God' comes first. When we have been reconciled to God, we are "justified by faith" and as a result we have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". (Rom5:1)
What does it mean to reconcile something? This is an accounting term. The end of the month comes and you sit down to the kitchen table and add up the checks and credit card stubs and compare that total against your pay stubs. You calculate how much was in the account at the beginning of the month, and now, what is there at the end of the month in your check register. And then, you compare those figures against the statement that came from the bank... what the bank says is in your account. You reconcile whether your account is overdrawn, or you are in good shape, etc.
Remember... we were dead. We were deserving of God's wrath. Our account was overdrawn. We not only had a -0- balance, we were in the negative numbers, and had the resultant pentalties. Jesus' death on the cross applied to our account before the Father, and now as God looks at the books, He sees Jesus' blood applied to our account... both Jew and Gentile, equally. That is what it means to be "reconciled to God". (Rom5:10, 2Cor5:20)
Jesus "preached peace" (Is52:7) both to Jew and Gentile. (vs17) Those "afar off" (Gentiles), and "those who were near" (Jews). And we now "both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit to the Father". (vs18) Thus, as the Jews would keep Gentiles out, that is no longer the case. Where Gentiles used to have their "outer court", we now have the same access along with God's Elect, the Jews. We are 'both' part of the same "household of God". (vs19)
What is this household's "foundation"? Upon what does the Church stand? Spirit-fillings and prophecies? No. The "apostles and prophets". (vs20) When John is shown a vision of the "holy Jerusalem" (Rev21:10), notice that the twelve gates have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. (vs12) And the foundation was twelve, with the names of the twelve "apostles of the Lamb". (vs14) To Israel had been given the responsibility to keep "the Words of God". (Rom3:2) The Scriptures. And yet, Jesus would berate the scribes and pharisees, and the "lawyers", the ones who knew the law, for hindering people from entering God's kingdom. (Lk11:52) They, the "door keepers" (so-to-speak), would figuratively "shut the door" on people coming to God. "..Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him" were also in proximity to the "gates" and "everlasting doors" where the "King of Glory" could come in. (Ps24) Remember, the Law and Prophets were until John. And then came the Apostles.
You see...this is the SCRIPTURES. How do we know what the Church is? From the Scriptures. And notice that Paul does not exclude the O.T. in this statement. There are some cult-like groups that totally reject the O.T. They call themselves "New Testament Churches". But God has never changed. "For I am the LORD, I do not change.." (Mal3:6) And "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone". Christ is the central theme throughout the Scriptures, beginning as the woman's "Seed" (Gen3:15), to the "Angel" who led Israel (Ex23:23, 1Cor10:4), to the prophecy of His virgin-birth (Is7:14), to His death, burial, resurrection (1Cor15:1-3), to His reigning as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev19:16), to His promise, "Surely I am coming quickly!" (Rev22:20) This is why people of the Church are called "-CHRIST-ians". We have not only "called upon the name of the Lord" (Rom10:13) for salvation, but we are called "by His name". "..and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord.." (Am9:12, Acts15:17) Our marching orders come through the Scriptures.
Thus, this same Paul would write to the young pastor (Timothy) what his marching orders were. Occasionally people e-mail me, asking for advice on a school or seminary that I would recommend for them to attend. Unfortunately, all the schools I know of, I cannot recommend. There are two that I wonder about...wondering if they are still worth attending. But there are too many questions. You see, Paul did not recommend any seminaries for young preachers to get their training. "..that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." ...but now that you have grown up as a fine Christian, be sure to go to a right-proper seminary so they can teach you how to "interpret" them... ?? Is that what it says? "..that the man of God may be -COMPLETE-, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2Tim3:15-17) Ya, but! How can I be sure I am 'interpretting' the Bible correctly unless some 'wise' person with degrees behind his name tells me? Well, certainly, Godly men can be helpful, and we will see how that works in ch4. However, the Scriptures are not for any "private interpretation". (2Pt1:20b) And notice, "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him." (1Jn2:27) Remember, Jesus is the "chief cornerstone". What did the Cornerstone say would be the case? "..when He, the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth..." (Jn16:13) One reason so many would-be preachers "need" seminary is because they do not have the Spirit of Truth. (Rom8:9) They are not Believers. When a person is a True Believer, he has the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us out of the Scriptures. That is 'really' all we need.
And as this "holy temple" is built up together, it grows together, is joined together, for a "habitation of God in the Spirit". (vs21-22) Ch4 will cover in more depth how Believers interact with each other and how this all comes about.
Mystery: through Paul to the Gentiles - (Ephesians 3:1-13)A
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.. to me, who am less than the least of all saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles.. do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (vs1,8,13)
For the "oneness" I often feel with Paul's spirit through his writings, he also often frustrates me. If you were to visit me in my house, you would have no trouble finding places to run your fingers through the dust. As a 'typical' bachelor, I don't clean house nearly as often as I should. But, I keep a "neat" house. You will not find my clothes lying all over the place. Everything has its proper place. When I used to work in electronics assembly, if an engineer had come and used my work station, and left it a 'mess', I 'had to' clean up first, before I could start work. I cannot do precision work with everything all willy nilly scattered around me disheveled. And when I come to studies like these, my personal make-up likes "order". In school I used to absolutely -love- to diagram sentences. But when we come to Paul's writings, he typically travels along, often addressing several topics simultaneously, carrying the topic[s] along, interspersing comments about everything, as he strings his sentences along verse after verse. For instance, notice that in this chapter the first period doesn't appear until vs7. Then, 12,13,19,21. I wonder what a sentence diagram for it would look like!
In the first part of this chapter Paul addresses 1) Paul, 2) Gentiles, 3) mysteries, 4) principalities and powers... all four as he rolls along. Let's see if we can divide it down into two studies. (A & B)
Why was Paul a prisoner? "For you [us] Gentiles.." (vs1) Remember how we observed that Ephesians is a "prison epistle". How did he come to be in prison? If we go back to Acts 21-22 we have the account where the Jews were going about to kill him near the temple, and after the Roman soldiers come and rescue him, he gives a speech to the mob from the stairway going up to the Roman military barracks. And as he is giving his testimony, when he comes to the part where Jesus tells him, "Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles", the mob erupts, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live". (22:21-22) And when left with a choice of going back to Jerusalem to face charges, he appeals to Caesar (25:11-12), even though, as the Roman rulers knew, he had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment. But the Jews rejected the Holy Spirit, and when the gospel was "sent to the Gentiles" (28:28), the Jews hated and hounded Paul. Why? Because he was proclaiming God's Grace to Gentiles. Their attitude about Gentiles was about the same as many today who call themselves "Christian" feel about Israel, believing a doctrine called "Replacement Theology (the Church 'replaced' Israel)", who assume a permanent state of condemnation upon Jews, never again to be restored. Again, to those I say, Look at Israel today, now, in the middle east!
But Paul encourages Ephesus not to "lose heart" over his situation. Not to feel sorry for him. He considered his own afflictions as "filling up" what was "lacking" in Christ's afflictions. (Col1:24) Just as Paul and Silas were singing praises in prison after having just been beaten up (Acts16:25), and the exhortation to new Believers was that "we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Ac14:22), and he counted all things as "loss" for Christ. (Phil3:8) If he had not been in prison, would the epistles have been written? Think of how many millions of people have read God's Word at Paul's pen, that might not have had it, had he had what most people would consider a "successful" ministry directly to thousands of people in huge crusades. His ministry, due to his imprisonment, has extended for nearly two millennia.
Paul was given many revelations. (2Cor12:7) And so, in addition to imprisonment, lest these revelations might puff him up with pride, he also had a "thorn"...to help keep him humble. But the Lord made many mysteries known to the Church through Paul (vs3) The accusation against Paul by the Jews was that he was overturning the Jewish Law (they thought -Acts18:13). For all the Law given by Moses, they never saw God's 'grace', even though it was always there. But Paul is the one who emphasized that we are saved "by grace" (2:8). And this is where "dispensation" teaching calls the Church age, the "age of grace". (vs2)
While God's grace always existed (otherwise, David & Bathsheba should have been stoned to death), people didn't recognize it as such. It "was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit..." (vs5) But God chose -Paul- for this task. (vs7) Peter's ministry was primarily to Jews, who had been characterized by Law. Paul's was to Gentiles, with Grace. (Gal2:7-8)
How did Paul come to know these mysteries? "..by revelation.." (vs3) When did this happen? He says, "I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.." (Gal1:16-2:2) He didn't attend the Jerusalem Theological Seminary, or Nazareth Evangelical Divinity School and sit under Peter, James and John. He went into the wilderness of Arabia. It was only after he had been alone with the Lord (whatever the nature of that time may have been), that he then went to see Peter to -verify- with Peter what he had received. You see, he was a true apostle, having been taught by the Lord, directly. And Peter, also, gives his stamp of authentication upon Paul's ministry. (2Pt3:15-16) Peter says that the wisdom was "given to him".
Mystery: made known to principalities & powers - (Ephesians 3:1-13)B
So, what is the nature of this mystery? In ch2 Paul explains how Gentiles who used to be "far off" (2:17) are now brought near by the blood of Christ. Jews always held Gentiles off at arm's length. They wouldn't touch them with a "ten foot pole". They were "dogs". On the other hand, Jews, in their own minds, were God's special 'elite'. You see, they understood that the term "elect" (Is45:4) referred to them. They, Jews, to whom Jesus was saying it, would have properly understood that "elect" (Mt24:31) meant Israel. And they had this 'position' because God called Abraham out of Ur, and through the patriarchs formed the nation of Israel. You see, as "Jews", they viewed themselves as being 'eternally secure'... God loved them and nobody else. If a person came to God, they came 'through' Israel. Males were circumcised. They became "Jews". Being "Jew" was synonomous with being related to God.
But God's purpose was not limited to -just- Jews. If a person looks at a map of the globe, understanding continental drift when the earth became "divided" (Gen10:25), it is easy to see how Israel is directly in the "center" of the earth's land masses. If the Americas were brought back and tucked in next to Europe and Africa, bring Australia back up, and join Antarctica into it, from which it originally split, into one land-mass, Israel would be the geographic center of it all.
And so, what was God's purpose for Israel? Just to have Israel (only) be His people? It is the "mystery of Christ" (vs4), the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (vs8), "created..through Jesus Christ" (vs9). It was an "eternal purpose" which was accomplished "in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vs11)
Abraham's "Seed". (Gen12:3, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14) The "Seed" of the woman. (Gen3:15) This "Seed" was to be a "light to the Gentiles". (Is42:6, 49:6) And in speaking of Israel bringing forth the Messiah, it also says that "the Gentiles shall come to your light.." (Is60:3) When Jesus was born, Simeon blessed Him saying, among other things, "a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.." (Lk2:32) And when Jews were complaining that Paul and Barnabas spoke of Christ, they turned back on them, "since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles" and then quote, "I have set you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ENDS OF THE EARTH" (Acts13:46-47)
You see, God's purpose was NOT that "any should perish". (2Pt3:9) God did not create man with the desire that he would disobey, and thus incur death upon the human race. God wanted to have fellowship. Even as mankind after the flood went after the religion of Nimrod, which has become in these days, the church of Rome; God's desire has been that man would know Him. Nimrod's religion has continually been "in front of" (and obscuring) God. (Gen10:9) And so, God hand-picked Abraham, from out of the same place where Nimrod began. Nimrod began at Babel. God began Israel some 500 miles to the west. Yes, God specifically chose Israel and called them His "elect". But His desire was for more than -JUST- Israel. In showing His power 'through' Israel, it was for the purpose of showing Himself to the whole world. Israel was to be a "light" of God's grace, in spite of man's rebellion. If only, sinful man would humble himself and turn to God. But Israel was to be the shining example of what God intended... for others to follow.
But all the world saw was Israel. And, apparently, that's all the O.T. prophets saw, too, even though they were used to proclaiming God's prophecies regarding the Gentiles. They had hundreds of years of animal sacrifices. Actually, beginning with Adam and Abel, until Jesus died (4000 years) man sacrificed animals. That's a long time. Time enough for kingdoms and dynasties to rise and fall.
When the prophets wrote of "the grace that would come to you" (1Pt1:10) they were "searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating" regarding the coming of Jesus Christ. (vs11) And they patiently, obediently, prophesied... understanding that it was a matter "not to themselves" but for "us". (vs12) And here is an amazing thing...even the "angels desire to look into" it. For all the glories the angels are privy to, being around God's presence, they do not have a connection into God's mind and His purposes.
Apparently the angelic beings were created prior to the earth and man. (Job38:7) Apparently they were 'praising' as He created. And when we consider the conversation between God and satan regarding Job in ch1, it almost has a sense of... when satan challenged God's position and wanted to "be like the Most High" (Is14:14)... that God and satan perhaps have these continual dialogues back and forth. Almost as though satan is challenging God to prove Himself... so God is saying, 'You want proof? Well, watch this..' And while God spoke to satan of the Seed of the woman, He likely didn't explain the "how" of it all to satan. And so, as God chose Abraham and formed Israel, then, satan had his next challenge. So he has been fighting Israel all along the way. Then, when Jesus was born, he tried to kill Him. Then, Jesus died on the cross...Ahhh...victory at last!! Uh-Oh...but, Jesus rose again! But by now, Israel was all corrupt. They were apostate. So then, out springs the Church.
Israel, in the geographical center of the earth, to be a light to the nations, satan managed to corrupt. But now, as the Church is being birthed, it is accomplishing what Israel refused to do. The Church, now, includes all nations. There is no distinction between "Jew and Greek" (Rom10:12, Gal3:28, Col3:11) And it is something not tied to nationalities, rituals and ordinances. (Eph2:15) It possesses something (someOne) that O.T. people didn't have. The Holy Spirit indwells each believer. (Rom8:9, Jn16:7) One of the fulfillments of God saying "I will dwell with them and they shall be My people" (Lev26:12, 2Cor6:16, Heb8:10)
The Church has "the mind of Christ". (1Cor2:16) And so God can confront satan, the "prince of the power of the air" (2:2), and the "rulers of the darkness of this age" and the "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies" (6:12), and reply back, 'OK... My Son has now made redemption for the Church. The Church has My Holy Spirit. Know and understand My purpose...'
Dear Believer: whatever we are, as Christ's Church, part of our very existence is for the purpose of satan's observation, and that of the rest of the angelic hosts. We are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses". (Heb12:1) God created man in perfection... the angels watched. When satan lured Adam and Eve away into sin, they watched. When Israel was formed and became a great nation, they watched... and satan's forces continually worked at corrupting her. When Jesus was born, the "heavenly host" announced the matter and "praised God" (Lk2:11-14) and satan tried to kill Him through Herod. And now that the Church has been functioning, they are still watching. And yes, satan still tries to corrupt.
However, where Israel failed to fill the earth with God's Law, the Church is succeeding. "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world" (Rom10:18) Israel was a 'national' entity, and also by "flesh and blood". But in Christ, for the Church, there is no distinction. (Gal3:28, Col3:11) "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." (Rom8:14) Gentiles are "fellow heirs" and of the "same body...in Christ". (vs6)
You see, satan had a losing battle before he ever began to challenge God. It appeared that when salvation seemed to be limited to a tiny national entity like Israel, he could try to gang up on her militarily and politically. In fact, he still hasn't got that one figured out yet, as his servants, the Arabs, are still trying to make Israel 'disappear'...as though, if they make Israel disappear, then, somehow God will go away, too, and Allah will have been proven to be "greater". But the "Church" was part of God's plan, His "eternal" purpose. This mystery that nobody prior to the Church understood, was "hidden in God". (vs9) And so now, as God's Holy Spirit indwells the Believer, this mystery that was "in" God, is also now manifested "in" the Church.
Now, satan's hosts have been trying, also, to corrupt the Church. But I would guess he is probably frustrated, because... while he has his counterfeit organization that the world calls "the church", he is still not able to get to the -real- Believers. True faith is of the "heart". (Rom2:29, 10:8, Heb10:22) Even the 'most spiritual seeming' ones from his camp never fully fellowship with True Believers. There is one modern prophet who is viewed by many to be one of the 'few' remaining faithful proclaimers of God's Word. A few years ago I tried to somehow become associated with him, and work 'with' him, figuring he was God's messenger. (This was before VW began) But there was -just- not the right set of circumstances. He seemed to be at a distance... unapproachable. Now, I am understanding why, as he is becoming exposed as a false prophet. And God also obviously had a different job for me! The churches I have been in, in the past, where I was politicked out, were not modernistic/liberal churches. They were ones who had correct Statements of Faith, and preached from the Bible. But there was always a -certain- 'distinction' between them and me. And eventually, with time, God's Word would reveal 'what' the differences were. In all these 'organizations' called "christian church", I have always been an odd-ball.
And what I say about myself, I hear from many of you. Many are the e-mails that say variations of, "I'm glad you said that...I've been saying it, too...but everybody around me thinks I'm crazy...I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt this way..."
You know...I betcha satan must be going crazy over us who are Real Believers...because, no matter how 'cleverly' he disguises his counterfeits, when we are in God's Word, eventually the Truth wins out, and he is exposed. Sometimes, in the case of his prophets who proclaim 99.999% truth, it takes several years. But -eventually- it becomes known that "none of them were of us". (1Jn2:19) It's like Jesus said, "to deceive, IF POSSIBLE, the elect". (Mt24:24) Satan tries, but he can't -quite- get us... because we are the fulfillment of God's mystery since the beginning. Satan could corrupt the rest, but he cannot touch us, because we are the "righteousness of God in [Christ]". (2Cor5:21)
Filled with all the Fullness of God - (Ephesians 3:14-21)
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. (vs14-15)
First of all, notice what we have addressed on other occasions. Paul prays -to- the "Father". Not Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. And this is as Jesus instructed to pray, "Our Father...in Heaven" (Mt6:9)
And then, notice the -name-. In the last lesson we observed how the heavenly hosts are observing God's creation...and the Church. And how the whole matter of God's grace to the Gentiles was a mystery to them. We as Believers are called by God's name, "And all the Gentiles who are called by My name.." (Amos9:12) as the Believers were first called "Christians" in Antioch (Acts11:26), a Gentile location; not Jerusalem. That's CHRIST-ians. Remember that, while we speak so much of the Church, and Gentiles, this is all the work of Christ. It is the "mystery of Christ". (vs4) And His name is "above every name" and all creation will bow "at the name of Jesus"... "of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth". (Phil2:9-10)
So then, it should be obvious that, since we are the recipients and participants of God's eternal mystery, it is not our purpose to gloat in 'our' position, and the admiration of the hosts of Heaven, strutting our stuff to the grandstands of the "cloud of witnesses" (Heb12:1), like (American) football players do after they make that touchdown, doing their stupid idiotic little dances. No! What does Paul pray for? Strength, understanding and knowledge of Christ, and to be filled with the "fullness of God". No, we don't address the grand stands as charismaniacs pretend to be little gods, issuing 'commands' to the "principalities and powers"! No! But we -do- have "boldness and access (to God's "throne of grace" -Heb4:16) with confidence through faith in Him [Christ]". (vs12)
You see, this is the same thing he says in ch1. Understanding and being enlightened, and knowledge of Christ. (1:17-18) Again, this is not charismania's Hindu/TM/Yoga-style mystical empty-headed worship mantras. It is Understanding with the Mind. (1Cor14:15) Apparently, what he is preparing to give in terms of specifics in ch4-6 must be pretty important. He wants his audience to be clear headed, in Christ, growing, learning, understanding.
Where is the Believer's strength? Is it in being "charged up" on Sunday by going and 'worshipping' with others? No. It is "with might through His Spirit in the -inner- man" (vs16) It is "Christ -in- you" (Col1:27) It is the indwelling Holy Spirit. (Rom8:9) It is not mysticism of meditating empty-headedly, and through our own inward meditative process, conjuring up a god-presence within ourselves; and if we can but only learn how to meditate fully, we can 'achieve' this state of power. No, it comes about "according to the riches of -HIS- glory". (vs16) If it is His glory, it is obviously something He does. Remember that it is God's power that is "toward us". (1:19)
We already noted, "Christ in you". Here it says, "..that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith". (vs17) Remember, the "just shall live by faith". (Rom1:17b) Without faith it is "impossible" to please Him. (Heb11:6) From the previous chapter, remember 'where' our faith came from? From Christ. It is a "gift".
If Christ is indwelling us, we are rooted and grounded...IN LOVE. The one command Jesus gave as the defining characteristic of Believers is their "love for one another". (Jn13:34-35) It is how the world can tell that we are Believers. If a person doesn't have love, let us repeat: they are not True Believers. (1Jn4:8) And we can only love Him because "He first loved us". (1Jn4:19) Remember, our "foundation" is Jesus Christ. (1Cor3:11) If we are becoming grounded in Christ, we will 'naturally' love, because "God -is- love". (1Jn4:8,16)
As we grow from being "babes" who nurse on milk (Heb5:13, 1Pt2:2), Paul prays that they would "be able to comprehend with all the saints" (vs18). Recall that he says to Corinth to be of the "same mind and in the same judgment". (1Cor1:10) As Believers grow, we all grow together. This will be the major theme of chs4-5... "how" this happens. How the Church functions together to help all its members to "grow up in all things into [Christ].." (4:15) It is not God's purpose that we remain ignorant, empty-headed mantra-babbling babies who don't want doctrine. How else do we learn the "width, length, depth and height" (vs18) of Christ, unless we are rooted and grounded in Christ, and are learning? To the teachers who are instrumental in this growth Paul exhorts, "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine" (1Tm4:16) "..speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine.." (Tit2:1) Doctrine is "teaching". If teachers are teaching, then, the ones they are teaching need to be -learning-.
What is the goal? To be filled (vs19), "abound more and more" (1Th4:1) to overflowing. This is Christ's goal when He gives the "water of life", that it should be a "fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (Jn4:14) How do we do this? "..be filled with the [Holy] Spirit". (5:18) No, this is not charismania's mysticism. But it is "exceedingly abundantly...according to the power that works in us". (vs20) Again, God's power that is "toward us". It is not our doing. It is the working of Christ Jesus.
Walk Worthy - (Ephesians 4:1-6)
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called." (vs1)
This verse, right here, shows how far off the mark today's "church" has deviated, doesn't it. A typical invitation tells people to come "just as they are", that Jesus' grace "accepts" them with wide open arms "just as they are". Once the person has allegedly now become a Christian, there is no change in the life, because after all, their "worth" is what 'attracted' God to them. And so, the "Christian life" consists of prayer, asking Jesus to "walk with me" and "go with me". The basic thrust of it all is that: I've got 'my' way established, and God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, all, are expected to tow the line and give me strength to go along 'my' path.
Unfortunately, some of this mentality comes from erroneous translations of God's Word. They boldly proclaim "I can do all things..." (Phil4:13) You see, this is a mentality of "I", "me", "mine", "our", "us". "I" am doing. Once God gives it, it is now "my" strength. But notice a more correct rendering... "I have strength for all things in Christ who strengthens me." (LIT) Remember that the power that is "toward us" is "-HIS- power". (1:19) And this power is only available on our behalf as we are "in Christ".
Remember that Jesus is the "Head", and we are the "body". (1:22-23) Let us observe: God created living beings as an example of the spiritual relationship. The commands (electrical impulses) which make the various body muscles respond come from the head, the brain. What happens when a chicken's head is chopped off, before the blood is all gone? The chicken's body goes flopping and running all over the place, bumping into things. Not doing anything of value...but splattering everything in sight with its blood. Making a royal mess!
Sadly, that which calls itself the "Church" today is like that headless chicken. Oh, indeed, it is making a big splash. It is making lots of noise and "going places". It is highly "active", covering lots of ground, fluttering all over the place. Others see activity and a big ruckus. But it is dead. It is without a Head. The next stage for the headless chicken is to end up on somebody's meal table. And the headless "church" is ending up on satan's meal table. He loves to "devour". (1Pt5:8) It is not even worthy of God's meal table, as He says that He is "vomiting" it out of His mouth. (Rev3:16)
We, the True Church of Believers, are the "body of Christ" (1Cor12:27, Eph1:23,4:12) If we are behaving as a body, it is -His- "power that works in us". (3:20) "We" are not "doing". "He" is doing "in us".
Thus, if the spinal cord hasn't been damaged (between the head and body), vs1 is a no-brainer, isn't it. Whatever the head sends down the signal path to the body, the body is going to respond. Since the Head is Jesus Christ, when He gives commands, our behavior is going to be "worthy" of Him. We will be behaving "worthy" of -His- calling, as we are being "conformed to the image of His Son". (Rom8:29) God was not reconciled to us, to become like us; but we were "reconciled -to- God" (Rom5:10, 2Cor5:20). Thus, our behavior is to conform -to- the lofty heights of God's holiness.
However, notice also that Paul is "beseech"ing. Pleading with his hearers. Exhorting. Now, if he is exhorting "that it be so", apparently it is 'possible' for Believers to -not- always be walking "worthy" of Christ. We are not, now, speaking of the "pretend church" of Laodicea that God is vomiting out. But we are speaking of genuine Believers.
If the commands go from the head to the body, and the body is a "live" body, what sorts of things keep the body from responding properly to the head? Well, in the next chapter he speaks of "do not be drunk..." (5:18) What happens when a person is drunk? The alcohol goes up into the brain and deadens the brain cells. Does it also affect the rest of the nervous system? When a person is kept conscious through a medical procedure, often a spinal block is used...to keep the person's brain alert and the person awake, but deaden any points beyond the block. Or, a 'local' anesthetic is used. Something which blocks the flow of nervous impulses. In other words, something which makes a "break" between the brain and the body part in question. Whether the signal is blocked with drugs, or an accident has caused a break in the nerves, there is no longer a viable connection between the head and the body.
How does the body of Christ stay "connected" to the Head? The "unity of the Spirit". (vs3) Remember how Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak" (Jn16:13) You see, the Holy Spirit is like the nervous system. He takes "of what is [Christ's]" and declares it "to [us]". (16:14) Perhaps this explains Paul's word, "Do not quench the Spirit". (1Th5:19) If we quench the Holy Spirit by being "drunk", we cannot receive the commands from Christ, our Head.
If we go back to that chicken... when the head is cut off the chicken, it flutters around, making quite a spectacle. Indeed, its body muscles are receiving nervous impulses, 'locally', to make the muscles twitch. However, what the muscles are receiving is NOT coming from the head. Are we understanding? When the pretend church prays 'to' the spirits to be "spirit-filled", they are like that headless chicken. Their 'muscles' are receiving "local" nervous (spirit) impulses, but their directives are not coming from the Head, Jesus Christ. Just like the flutterings come from 'spurious' nervous impulses, so too, the pretend church, in seeking what they do, their spirits are "spurious". They are not the Holy Spirit, with Christ's message. They are doing their own thing, APART FROM the "Head". There are -many- spurious impulses. But there is only -ONE- Holy Spirit. You see: what charismania does is -NOT- "worthy of the calling". They were -NOT- "called" to that calling from/by the "Head". They are "headless".
Jesus Christ is -ONE-. The Holy Spirit is -ONE-. And, the body is -ONE-. (vs4-5) And yes, there is -ONE- "faith"..."doctrine". No, we are not to do like one "ministry" recently was telling me... to go and evangelize, and "get them saved"... and then, "don't confuse" the issue by teaching doctrine. After all, all the various people come from different ecclesiastical backgrounds. They don't want to "cause divisions" by talking doctrine. Well, if there is -ONE- Head, does that Head have many different doctrines? No! If the brain is sending signals to certain muscles, if it sends a mixed signal, the body goes into spasms. There is only -ONE- doctrine/faith. The Body of Christ -IS- "perfectly joined together in the SAME MIND and in the SAME JUDGMENT" (1Cor1:10) So again... if they are of all sorts of "different" doctrines, they are -NOT- of the Head, Christ... because Christ is -ONE-, and He communicates with His body through His -ONE- Spirit.
Thus, if this -ONE- God is "in you all" (vs6b), what will others see as we walk "worthy of the calling"? What are the outward manifestations of a person who is in Christ who is part of Christ's body? Uh, let's see: self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, self-sufficiency... right?? Well, no! 'Somewhat' the opposite of those things... "all lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering" and "bearing with one another in love".(vs2) Do we need to spend time defining these terms? I don't really think so. If a person isn't characterized by them, it is not because the terms are "not understood". It's a 'heart' problem. Their "unity of the Spirit" has been severed or dulled. The solution is to "keep" the unity of the Spirit in the "bond of peace".
Christ's Gifts to Men - (Ephesians 4:7-16)
"..from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every individual does its part, causes growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (vs16)
Last lesson we observed how the Holy Spirit conveys the Head's commands to the body, so that it works in "unity"... not in spasms. Sometimes various body parts have ailments, and need assistance from other body parts. Ever since I've had arthritis since about the time VW began (it is my "thorn in the flesh"), every once in awhile my writing hand goes into a spasm fit. My penmanship has never been great to begin with, but there are occasions when trying to write, the pen just seems to have a mind of its own...jerking in strange directions. When this happens, sometimes the other hand comes along to 'steady' the hand, to keep it from shaking. The one hand helps the other.
Our bodies have certain needs. Our stomachs need nourishment. But I have yet to see a stomach, just on its own, get up, go to the fridge, and find some food. The 'head' knows the stomach's need, so it issues a command to the feet to 'move'. The feet don't move merely themselves. When the feet move, the whole body moves with them. In doing so, the stomach gets transported to the fridge. However, now the body is positioned in proximity to the fridge...but the stomach is still hungry. The feet are not designed to do much more than transport the body...so, the 'head' issues some more commands...this time, to the hands. The hands open the door, get the food, prepare it. And so, the food is now sitting on the counter, ready to be eaten. But the stomach is still empty. Time for more commands from the 'head'. The food is raised to the mouth by the hands, and now it's time for the jaw and mouth to move and chew the food. Get the picture? If the message didn't reach the feet, hands, mouth... and if they did not respond appropriately, the stomach would go hungry, and the entire body would eventually become weak due to malnutrition.
So, understand why the "gifts" to the Church are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors. (vs11) What is the Church's spiritual food? "Your words were found, and I ate them..." (Jer15:16) Man cannot live just on bread alone, but "by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD" (De8:3) These four Church gifts are ones which impart God's Word to the Body. God gives honor to leaders... "..especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine". (1Tm5:17)
"Word and doctrine" ...the two things today's pretend "church" rejects. After times of "worship", pastors are known to say, "We won't have Scripture tonight...we've had the spirit.." You see, if they are minus the Head, and they are flopping around with spurious nervous impulses, they are about to keel over anyway as soon as the life-blood is all drained out. No nourishment will benefit them. Thus, they do not feed themselves. When they reject doctrine, they are 'proving' to all observers that they are minus the Head. The Body which is in communication with the Head via the Holy Spirit "Feeds" itself. The feet, hands and mouth do what is necessary to get nutrients into the stomach, so that they can reach all the body parts, so it can be healthy and grow.
What is the desired outcome? To "GROW UP" in all things in Christ. (vs15) How tall are we to grow? "To the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (vs13) How do we know how we compare to Christ? When we "come to the unity of faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God". You see, the Godly teachers pour the food down into the stomach. When Jesus gives His "water of life" it fills to overflowing, a "fountain of water springing up into everlasting life". (Jn4:14b) How do the teachers know how to fill the stomach? Their orders come from the Head. He commands, "You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord" (Eze2:4) The stewards are to "give them food in due season" (Mt24:45)
Now, while doctrine is required, not all doctrine is good. If a baby was left to its own devices, it would end up with all sorts of things in its mouth. It would eat rotten food, as well as waste products, and would also put things in its mouth by which it would choke. Thus, the more mature teachers (they are not to be "new converts" -1Tm3:6) see a baby headed towards the harmful things, they come along and pull them away, wipe their mouths and hands off, and give them good food.
You see, again, today's scourge... 'Let's all get together and "dialogue" and learn from each other.' Let's mix up the good food with the rotten. Let's add a little waste byproducts into the mix. Add in some weeds. After all, we want to "experience" all the options. Stir it all up, and partake. No! This passage -specifically- warns against many different doctrines... "We should NO LONGER BE CHILDREN, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine" (vs14) When the pretend "church" insists on their doctrinal smorgasboard, they are demonstrating their infantile nature. Israel also lusted after the lemons, leeks and garlics of Egypt....and wanted "meat". They were not content with God's manna. And "with most of them God was not well pleased" (1Cor10:5)
The world promotes its "diversity" as a good thing. Their partial truths by which their lies are covered up are called "trickery of men" and "cunning craftiness" and "deceitful plotting". (vs14) But who is the "father" of lies? (Jn8:44) Satan. The Body grows through "truth". Again, the Head, Jesus Christ, -IS- the "Truth". (Jn14:6) If the doctrine, and/or delivery are full of deceit and cunning, by definition it is not of Christ. One of the recent complaints against considerations that babies of unbelievers who die going to hell was on the order of, "How can you tell somebody their baby went to hell??" Well, if it is the truth...there is no other thing that can be said.
If the eye saw that a sharp object had fallen into the food, and didn't communicate the fact so the hand would first pull the object out, the object would accompany the food into the stomach, and injury would result. If the eye sees the object in the food and communicates to the hand to "stop" ...that is not "hateful". It cares for the stomach. If the food got up to the mouth, but the nose smelled that it was rotten, and persuaded the mouth to purse its lips to not let the food in, that is not 'hate' against the hand. It is looking out for the welfare of the Body. And again, the communications that happen between the body parts do so via the nervous system of the Holy Spirit. The eye saw the sharp object, and as the hand is sensitive to the Holy Spirit it knows that what the eye saw was correct, and adjusts its actions accordingly.
You see, the Body of Christ works as a complete whole. God's Word is our food... our doctrine. We must listen to the Holy Spirit giving us directions from the Head. The teachers must be -TRUE- to God's Word. The rest of the body is dependent upon them for growth and health. God put them there...they did not choose to be teachers. If God did not pick them and appoint them, they are false teachers and their doctrine is false doctrine. God's appointee does not decide one day to go to seminary because "I want to be a preacher"; or go to Bible school, and at graduation time, "what shall I do with my degree? I know...I'll become a pastor!" No! Their work is not for themselves, but "for the edifying of the body of Christ". (vs12) To "equip" the saints for the work of ministry". And as the body is equipped and fed, they, in turn, do their part. The stomach processes the food, the heart pumps the blood and spreads the nutrients to the extremities. The lungs bring oxygen. And the Body all works and moves "together". One growth, one mission, one purpose... under the direction of the Head.
The entire Body all gets the -same- food (doctrine). If the foot gets a splinter, the whole body hurts, and goes about to get the splinter out. When the feet get dirty from walking in the world, the whole body, of its various parts, do their functions to wash the feet. And as the body learns to become coordinated, working together, it becomes strong. And as it exercises, notice the result of its added strength... "to discern both good and evil" (Heb5:14)
Thus, one of the measures of the growth of Believers is in how "separated" they are from the sin of the world. The more a Believer grows, the more they recognize sin for what it is. No... maturity does -NOT- join in "fellowship" with apostates. A mature Believer is one who is separated from the world, and unto Christ. Let's see... "separated" by definition is "holy". We have come back around full-circle to Paul's opening "purpose" for the Church...
"That we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (1:4)
Put Off the Old - (Ephesians 4:17-5:21)A
"This I say...that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the emptiness of their mind...that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which is corrupted according to the deceitful lusts..." (~4:17-22)
If we all remember, the last lesson closed with a reminder of how this series began, that Christian maturity involves an "exercise" of our understandings "to discern both good and evil". (Heb5:14) Our goal before God is to be "holy and without blemish before Him in love". (1:4) There was a complaint from a passer-by that we hadn't addressed what "lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, etc" (4:2) are. Well, now is the time to discuss some specifics.
When we are saved we become "new creations" as we are "in Christ". (2Cor5:17) We are told to "..put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Rom13:14) "For as many of you as were immersed into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal3:27) Job speaks of putting on righteousness like a "robe" (Job29:14) And again, "I will greatly rejoice in Jehovah, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness..." (Is61:10)
This was symbolized for centuries in the O.T. in various ways, as well. When the priests prepared to serve in the temple, before they would put on the priestly garments, they would first "wash...with water" and then put the garments on. (Ex29:4-5) If a person had become "unclean" by whatever means one might become defiled, they had to shave, wash with water, and then put clean-washed clothes on. (Lev ch15, etc) Before a person could dwell "in the camp" of the rest who were clean, and/or come near the temple and participate in anything to do with worship, the unclean person had to -FIRST- get rid of the uncleanness. It had to be washed away.
You see... this is what salvation is, "according to His mercy He saved us, through the WASHING of REGENERATION and renewing of the Holy Spirit," (Tit3:5) This is why a Believer is "immersed into Christ". (Rom6:3) This is why the symbolism of pouring some water over a baby's head into a basin is a pagan ritual. It is not dabbing some water with the fingers onto the top of the head. This is why "Philip and the eunuch went DOWN INTO THE WATER, and he IMMERSED him." (Acts8:38) When a new Believer becomes part of Christ's body "..by one Spirit we were all immersed into one body" (1Cor12:13) And finally, to match the theme of "putting on the new man" (4:24), to repeat from earlier, "For as many of you as were immersed into Christ have PUT ON Christ." (Gal3:27)
Do we see one of the symbolisms of baptism here? When Ananias came to lay hands on Saul/Paul, after delivering God's message to him, telling him what his apostolic ministry would be, he says, "Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins..." (Acts22:16)
And so, as we always do, because it is necessary, we find all this to be in contradistinction to what we see going on in christendom today. Easy-believerism says that "it doesn't matter". Whatever you were, it doesn't matter. God accepts you "just as you are". But Paul reminds us, "For this you know, that no prostitute, unclean person, nor covetous person, who is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (5:5) They continually come up with all sorts of words and excuses, but Paul continues, "LET NO ONE DECEIVE YOU with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (5:6)
This concept is well-understood by them in their other everyday earthly things. If a couple is getting together to spend a romantic evening, the fellow does not show up at her door to take her out to dinner all sweaty, wearing the clothes he was working in. No, he goes home, takes off the dirty clothes, showers, shaves, dabs on some nice-smelling cologne, and puts on 'clean' clothes. It does not do, even, to merely take off the dirty coat and put a clean one on 'over' the rest of his dirty clothes/body. He -CLEANS- himself. He wants to be "presentable" to her. But for some reason, when it comes to Christ, to whom they claim to be 'married', suddenly everything they guide the rest of their lives by goes out the window. It doesn't 'matter'??!!
They want to "put on Christ" without first "putting off" their dirty past. God had this to say to Israel in this regard, "You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, `In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, `The table of Jehovah is contemptible.' And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? Says Jehovah of Hosts. But now entreat God's favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably? Says Jehovah of Hosts." (Mal1:7-9) They are "alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart" (4:18) These things that we look at today in this lesson are characteristics of the unsaved; the way that we now "NO LONGER WALK" (4:17) When Israel did as they did, notice that Paul says that "with most of them God was not well pleased". (1Cor10:5) And those who hold to this theory today, and are characterized by being "past feeling" and "have GIVEN themselves over to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness" (4:19) are no more saved than those of Israel were who were "scattered in the wilderness"!
So... before going to meet his loved one, a painter is going to "put off" his 'painting' clothes. A mechanic is going to "put off" his 'greasy' clothes. A construction worker is going to "put off" that which has dirt, dust, cement, tar, etc. clinging.
So, if we are now in Christ, what do we put off?
"..putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor..." (4:25) Who is the "father" of lies? (Jn8:44) Satan. What is one of -THE- characteristics of Jesus Christ? When He manifested God to us, what we saw was "grace and TRUTH" (Jn1:14,17) He defines the essence of His purpose to Pilate, "that I should bear witness to the TRUTH" (Jn18:37) And to the disciples defines Himself, "I am the way, the -TRUTH-, and the life". (Jn14:6) Do you see a person who seems to be incapable of the truth? There is no possible way they can be a Believer. A Believer into Jesus Christ is characterized by Truth. Thus, if we are truthful, by definition, we put away lying.
"Be angry, but do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath." (4:26) Ok...is this a contradiction? Is there ever a time where it's OK to become angry? To hate? About 10 years ago, when my ex had first taken off, when I was at the lowest point in my life, a person took me under his wing. One evening he suggested I read Ps139, psychology's favorite self-esteem/affirmation chapter. But when we got together the next time, he was a bit tongue-tied when I also had noticed, "Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! ...do I not hate them, O Jehovah, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies." (Ps139:19-22) Jesus who was full of "gracious words" (Lk4:22), was also full of "zeal for [His Father's] house" (Jn2:17) as He made a whip and drove the merchants/thieves out of the temple. Is it OK to be angry at abortion? Is it OK to be angry when people pervert justice? As I work on the NKJV-fix project, when I see what the NKJV/KJV scholars did to those translations in some places...apparently 'deliberately'...I become angry. When I see the truth of some passage, phrase or word, compared to what we've been used to, sometimes I yell out in anger, and tears come to my eyes at what these people, WHO certainly had to have KNOWN BETTER, did to God's Word! ...BUT... do not "give place to the devil" by letting "the sun go down on your wrath". As we "have the mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16b), the same things that make God angry will also make us angry. But it is not our place to mete out vengeance, because God says, "vengeance is Mine" (Deu32:35). Anger that is allowed to fester into wrath, eventually turns into vengeance. And we are not to "avenge ourselves" (Rom12:19) Yes, we can become angry. But then we 'cast all our anxiety' (1Pt5:7) on Him; and if vengeance is required, God has promised, "I will repay" says the Lord. (Rom12:19)
As for all the individual items in this passage, we are not going to cover them all. You have your Bibles, you can read them. As if they were not already things which reside within our consciences. (Rom2:15)
However, let us look at one other 'group' of items.
"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth...but sexual perversion and all uncleanness...let it not even be named among you...neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting...for this you know, that no prostitute, unclean person, nor covetous person, who is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (~4:29-5:5)
This covers a whole host of things, but pretty much defines the nature of coffee break banter, locker room talk, topics for most late-night comedic monologues, the biggest audience laughs from sitcom situations.
Let us look at a couple of words here. Both the NKJV and LITV use "fornicator" in both 5:3 & 5. In vs5 the KJV delineates "whoremonger". However, most modern perversions have changed all these kinds of references to "immorality". However, even though they all start from a base of the Greek, "porn", when they have different endings, they have different definitions. The word in vs3 defines everything including adultery, sodomy, lesbianism, beastiality, and incest. Vs5 has to do with a male prostitute. This is why it is quoted above as it is.
Remember that the "wrath of God" is revealed against ungodliness, not only for committing sinful acts, but also against those who "approve of those who practice them" (Rom1:18,32) In other words, there are those who engage in these "shameful" (5:12) things. There are those who talk about what they do. There are those who wish they were doing, but only talk about it. And overall, the primary topic of conversation for most unregenerates is in the gutter. You who have been in the world, know what we are talking about. Back in my youthful naive days I used to think that fellows were pretty course. But when I had a couple of janitorial jobs during college, and saw what the females write in their rooms, I concluded that the males were not quite as far into the gutter comparatively!!
Thing is, you know... I've been in the company of some who called themselves "Christians" where, I was embarrassed to be in the same room. I still recall this one trip in a vehicle with the church pastor and other 'leaders' in this church. The things they joked about! The crusade for which I was the 'local' music coordinator (where I was living at the time), the guest evangelist at the pulpit preaching hell-fire and brimstone, but in the back rooms, with his friends' wives..!! Not any acts...but "suggestive talk". And yes, at Bible school... well, let's not even go there! And the very first 'things' I ever learned as a 3rd and 4th grader, I learned from other missionary kids!! And on the mission field, where many of them were born, as was I, one wonders -where- 'they' learned it from!!
Do we need to say any more? If you've been in the world, you know what we are talking about. If you have been sheltered and are not familiar, count yourself blessed!
So... as Believers into Jesus Christ, what does the world see of us? During my college days this one job I worked at, when the lunch room about exploded with laughter at somebody's joke, and I was ignoring it all, one person noticed, "Hey, he's not laughing!" Later that summer, one lunch break I was late getting to the lunch room because I still needed to finish with my bucket of resin so that what I was working on wouldn't kick off before the job was finished. As I had finished and was walking towards the break room, the place had been howling in laughter; but as I opened the door to go in and join them for lunch, the place got suddenly Q-U-I-E-T. Of course, once I was settled in with my lunch, they would go back to their banter. At another job, once the crew got to know me, some of the younger ones would taunt, good-naturedly. One night (it was a swing-shift job) one fellow made me an "offer" to set me up with one of his (girl) friends...taunting, to see what kind of a rise he might get out of me. You know...having been there, I know that when a person is surrounded by the kind of talk the world communicates with each other, every other word a perverse word, it can sometimes be difficult not to start 'thinking' those words in one's own mind. But as they get to know you, are you "one-of them"? Or do you get little nick-names, like mine was at one job because my work partner, from our conversations, knew what I believed, "apostle"?
You can be sure that, if you live for the Lord faithfully, any 'deep' friendships you might previously have had with the unsaved will become 'less'. Your heart's desires are now different. Even with family. Remember Jesus' words about the "sword" instead of "peace" due to following Him, and that even one's own family members will become enemies. (Mt10:34-36) This kind of faithful "putting off" of the "old" will certainly also weed out the acquaintances who are merely -pretend- "christians". The facade of "brotherhood" might even continue for some time. But eventually 'something' will come along that will clarify the distinction. And in many of these scenarios 'they' will often distance themselves from you.
Peter says it, too. "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles; when we walked in wantonness, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries." (1Pt4:3) Yes, in our "past" we -did- this, but ENOUGH ALREADY! And when we stop what we did, "In this regard, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same overflow of dissipation, blaspheming." (vs4) Don't even try to remain friends with the world. If you are a 'real' Believer, you no longer have those ties with the world. Remember that Jesus promised, "In the world you have affliction" (Jn16:33) Notice He doesn't say that we will "probably" or "likely" or "it's a strong bet" that it will come. No. As for affliction, you "have" it. It comes with the territory of following Christ. It's a statement of fact, not "maybe - perhaps". If we are following Christ, we do so with His cross on our backs. (Mt16:24) As Paul was encouraging the new Believers in Asia Minor (Lystra) after he had just been stoned and left for dead, returns and tells them, "we must enter the kingdom of God through many afflictions" (Acts14:22) And so, as Jesus promises affliction, He also says, "be of good courage, I have overcome the world" (Jn16:33b)
Remember the Word, "Let no one deceive you". (5:6a) Today's theology that says, "it doesn't matter" is wrong. DEADLY wrong. "..because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" It says, "Therefore do not be partakers with them". (5:7) Why? Well, what they do is "darkness" but we are now "light in the Lord" and we are to "Walk as children of light". (5:8)
Now, is it the sexual perversion (the acts) that brings judgment? Is it the telling of, and laughing at the jokes that brings judgment? Not directly. But -where- do these things come from? The heart! "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Mt15:19) Pretty much the same 'list' isn't it! If we are Believers into Jesus Christ, we are believers in our hearts. (Rom2:28-29) An act of adultery, by itself, does not condemn a person to hell, otherwise, David would have been condemned eternally. But what is in the heart, spewing forth continually? If we have the Lord Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit. What we are characterized by is the Water of Life, a "fountain of water springing up into eternal life" (Jn4:14) The Holy Spirit is not characterized by "..evil speaking" and "all wickedness". (4:31)
OK, so... all this yucky picture we're looking at is the life of "emptiness" and "darkened" understanding (4:17-18) It is what we are to "put off". It is the "former conduct". The "old man". (4:22) It is "corrupted". And if anybody tells you that it "doesn't matter" once you become a Christian, that "nothing" has to "change"; that all you do is "take Jesus into -your- life" and He now walks "with -you-" in "your" life, they have told you falsehood. Paul says, "But you have NOT SO LEARNED CHRIST" (4:20) When a person becomes "in Christ", there is a -CHANGE-. That is part of the very definition of being "converted". (Ps51:13, Acts3:19) If you convert your car, computer, house, etc., it means you made some "changes". Perhaps you added a blower to your engine. Perhaps, added a room to the house. Upgraded to a newer Windows version. It is no longer what it was.
Now, here are two comments that are separated by a chapter worth of verses, but are related in thought. "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God..." (4:30) -and- "Do not be drunk with wine.." (5:18)
We are not going to discuss at this point whether a Christian 'can' drink wine, or not. Remember, "fermented drink" was part of what they could "eat..before Jehovah" (Deut14:26); Jesus made 'real' wine (Jn2:10); and Paul exhorted Timothy to take a little wine for his needs. (1Tm5:23) But this is in the same context as 4:3, the "unity of the Spirit". The Holy Spirit has been subjected to a very unique situation. Not only does the Spirit not initiate His own commands to us ("for He will not speak [things originating] from Himself"), but is a conduit from the Father and Jesus to us (Jn16:13-15); but in a very awesome sense, He is subject to the Believer, also. In refuting charismania's nonesense, Paul reminds us that "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets". (1Cor14:32) For example, even when God's Word was given through the "holy men of God" (2Pt1:21), the Holy Spirit was subject to each man's personality and writing style. Thus, don't get drunk. Why? What happens when a person is drunk? They lose "self-control". (Gal5:23, 2Pt1:6) While it is true that sober people engage in all this "corruptness" that we are "putting off", what happens when they get to the bars? If there had been any restraint while sober, all inhibitions are let loose. What does a person do and say while they are drunk? Was it God-honoring? "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise." (Pr20:1) Remember, that we are "temples of the Holy Spirit Who is" in us. (1Cor6:19)
Thus, after all this rhetoric...let us simplify the matter. How do we "put off" the "old"? Easy! "..do not be partakers with them" (5:7) and "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness..." (5:11)
Remember, "Flee sexual perversion. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body." and we are to "..glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1Cor6:18,20)
Do we claim to be Believers? Do we claim to belong to Christ? Have we "put on Christ"? Then, we must first "put off" the defilements of this world. "..as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, Be holy, because I am holy." (1Pet1:14-16) "Holiness" is not that pagan 'halo' of heathen sun-worship. The very definition of the word "holy" is to be "cut apart and separated" from it all.
"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (5:17) Amen!
Put on the New Man - (Ephesians 4:17-5:21)B
"..be renewed in the spirit of your mind...put on the new man which is created according to God...be imitators of God as beloved children...walk in love...walk as children of light...proving what is acceptable to the Lord...walk circumspectly...redeeming the time, because the days are evil...be filled by the Spirit...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God."
The last lesson was rather lengthy, considering the seriousness of the evil and filth we "put off" from our "former conduct". (4:22) But it is important for "..everyone who names the name of Christ [to] depart from iniquity." (2Tm2:19) We are told to "not be drunk with wine" -BUT- "be filled by the Spirit". (5:18) We cannot hear the messages from God through the Holy Spirit if we are not in control with our minds. (1Cor14:15) If the Christian life is one in which the Water of Life is "a fountain of water springing up into eternal life" (Jn4:14) in our hearts, how can we be 'full' of this water, if we are weighed down with the stones and sand of sin? It's like going to McDonalds and ordering a soda. If you want as much soda as possible, you order it without ice. When the cup is first filled with ice, very little soda ends up in the cup. Like the Sunday school object lesson... if the pitcher has rocks in it and fill the pitcher up with water; now, take the rocks out and see how much more room there is for more water. Only crystal 'clear' water allows God's "light" (5:8,13) to sparkle through us. If our 'pitcher' has contaminants in it, it 'muddies' the water, and the Light cannot shine through.
While, again, we are not going to hit every item, you can read the passage for yourselves and the Holy Spirit will open its application into your own lives, let's take a look at some highlights.
As a starting point, if the Holy Spirit indwells us (Rom8:9) and we allow Him to fill us (5:18b), this is at the very core of the Christian life. It is the Holy Spirit who, after He seals us (1:13), gives us the knowledge and assurance that we are, indeed, children of God. (Rom8:16) Thus, the opposite of being "conformed to the world" (Rom12:2), which is what we discussed last lesson that we are to "put off", is to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind". In this passage Paul expands it by saying "spirit of your mind". (4:23) The Christian life is not based on head-knowledge, just as salvation was not. However, it is not merely 'spritual' -minus- the mind, either. Where the ol' timers were accused of relegating the Spirit to some dark back room in the inner recesses, almost as though He was not applicable to the Believer, modern charismania has unplugged their minds in favor of being "bathed" and "overcome" by their spirits. They check their minds at the door along with their coats, and turn control of themselves over to other spirits. Neither one of these extremes is true Christianity. Just as Paul says that a person without the Spirit is not saved (Rom8:9), he also says that we are to engage our minds/understanding. (1Cor14:15) Remember last lesson we spoke of the word "converted". The Christian is one who has -CHANGED- from what he used to be. And that change 'begins' with the Spirit-infused -MIND-. In the past we have spoken of the brain being like the computer. Perhaps we could speak of the mind as the software? And the computer operator is the soul/spirit. Thus, Paul says as we are sanctified (separated from the world's filth), "and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless" (1Th5:23) It's a complete package deal. The body does what the brain sends to the muscles. The mind makes the brain function. But it is "he who is spiritual" (1Cor2:15) who is in the driver's seat.
So... how do we know 'how to' go about living the Christian life? "..be imitators of God as beloved children.." (5:1) This is something Paul often said to the churches he wrote to, "withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly" and "imitate our [example], for we were not disorderly among you" (2Th3:6-7) And Peter says, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.." (1Pt2:21-22)
Notice how Paul says "..as beloved children.." (5:1) My friend tells how his little daughter often plays... preaching and doing 'ministry'. He's a pastor. When I was the similar age, I would stand up on the bed (platform) and play my toy accordian and conduct services. My dad was a missionary. For awhile the Chevy truck commercial was showing the little boy in the sandbox, pulling a whole string of other vehicles with his (toy) Chevy truck, and then they'd show his dad driving into the yard, pulling an oversized load, with a "Chevy" truck of course.
A little aside here. Of what do our lives consist? If you have children, you can pretty much tell what you are by watching your children at play, because they are what you are. Do they bully other kids? Do they get into fights? How do they interact with others? What things do they do in their play? Ladies, what is your little girl's most favorite thing to do? Get dressed up "like mommy" and put all sorts of makeup on? What does that say about 'your' priorities? Please see 1Pet3:3-4. And before anybody sends me 'hate mail' on this point, please understand I am not condemning cosmetics, or a woman seeking to enhance her attractiveness. But, is 'that' what everybody else sees as being your primary essence? (Remember Tami Fay who used to be known for her gloppy eyelashes? For being an alleged preacher's wife, even the world made fun of her!) So much so, that that is what your little girl seeks to emulate as she plays "being mommy"? What 'is' mommy? Lipstick, false eyelashes and high heels?? Hmmm! "false" == "father of lies"??
OK...so, back on track here. If we are children of God, just as human children imitate their parents, so too, we 'imitate' our Father. If you look at this askance because the KJV says to be "followers", please understand the Greek word "mimetes" coming from "mimos", which is "mimic". Whatever God is, that is what we are to be. If "God is love" (1Jn4:8,16), we will "walk in love" (5:2). Since "God in Christ forgave" us (4:32), we will also "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.."
So, the question becomes, 'How do we get to know God?' We do so by getting to know Jesus Christ, because Jesus is the "express image of His essence" (Heb1:3) as Jesus said when Philip asked to be shown the Father, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn14:9) So, how do we get to know Jesus? We have a very special book that shows Him to us. It is called, the "Bible".
You know, I discovered a very interesting thing while working on this 'translation' work. When I was getting Acts thru Revelation finished up, I was feeling some sense of accomplishment that I was 'just about' finished with the N.T. But you know what? I was really only about 'half' finished. The four Gospels contain about an equal number of words/verses as the rest of the N.T. combined. And for all the epistles and things in the rest of the N.T., each book somewhat covering its own distinctive subject with its own flavor, the topic of Jesus Christ receives four entire books, with many 'long' chapters. As we observed in the previous lesson that the Holy Spirit's writing of the Scriptures was done through the individual personalities of each writer, for Jesus we have four different angles/perspectives on the same Man. I expect some people somewhat ignore the Gospels because, well, that's 'just' about Jesus. But -DOCTRINE-, now 'that' is what we need, and that's in the epistles. The Gospels are about Jesus, but the epistles are "for the church"! But understand: the N.T. 'begins' with the four Gospels. It 'begins' with Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, the rest of doctrine is meaningless. Doctrine is about our understanding of Salvation and the life of faith, but Jesus is the "author and finisher of our faith" (Heb12:2), upon which that doctrine is founded. Jesus is the very Corner Stone. (2:20)
And so, as we come to know Jesus Christ; just as the two who make up a married couple begin to look and act like each other, so too, we will begin to look and act more and more like Jesus. There is currently a most disgusting 'cult' that profits by selling their jewelry and trinkets, "WWJD". Isn't it sad how everything that is so perverse begins from a certain grain of truth. But, indeed, as we order our lives, we will be considering, "what would Jesus do?" Again: how do we know what Jesus would do? We know by learning of Him from the Gospels. What would Jesus do? Well...what -DID- He do? That's what He -WOULD- do. When the early apostles were faced with trial, it was noticed of them that they "were -with- Jesus". (Acts4:13)
In what other ways do we know how to imitate God? Through the Holy Spirit. Yes, we can read the Gospels till we're blue in the face; but when we are faced with the actual situations that come our way, how do we know what to respond? Well, first of all we are always prepared. "..always be ready to give a defense.." (1Pet3:15) This preparation comes from being "sanctified" with the Lord in our hearts. Again, separated from the world's filth, and -unto- God. But then, more specificially, how do we face each situation? Jesus said, "..it will be given you in that hour.." (Mt10:19) By what agency? The "Helper". (Jn16:7) Remember how Jesus is the "Head"? (1:22) When we have the "unity of the Spirit" (4:3) the Spirit is the messenger to bring us the Head's commands. The "anointing teaches you concerning all things" (1Jn2:27) Again, if we are of clear mind, not being drunk, the Holy Spirit "brings to [our] remembrance" all the things Jesus comman