Ephesians

Chapter 6, lesson 1

Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

I don’t need to tell you that there is constant warfare in this life.  You know that as well as anybody!  Every day we struggle or battle against the common problems and obstacles of life.  We have business deals that fall apart, vehicles that break down, schedule conflicts, kids that need braces, unexpected bills, and lawns that we can’t mow because it rains five days a week!  Sometimes, it feels like nothing is easy.    

Every day we battle against the common problems and obstacles of life!

In addition, the Christian is also engaged in spiritual warfare. The powers of darkness are trying to destroy our relationship with God and our testimony amongst men.   

Given our situation, it is fitting that Paul uses the analogy of a soldier to prepare us for what lies ahead. 

Notice what our first two preparations are to be – one, we are to be strong in the Lord, operating in his might.  In other words, we are to have spiritual strength and courage.  We need to mature past the point where we are babies in Christ.  We should be engaging in the enemy through prayer, fasting, praise and worship, quoting the word, etc.   Each answered prayer is a victory, and each victory strengthens us in the Lord and gives us courage to battle even bigger foes.  Each victory causes faith to grow.

Why don’t you take a moment right now and reminisce about your last three or four victories?  Share your testimony with someone else.  It will build your faith and make you stronger! 

Our second preparation is to arm ourselves with the armor and weapons God has provided.  God provides them and makes them available to us, but it is our responsibility to pick them up and become skilled at wielding them!  The reason for putting on the armor is that we may be able to stand against the devil.  This involves withstanding temptations, recognizing deceit/lies, avoiding traps and snares, rescuing those still under Satan’s grasp and spreading the gospel message. 

Clearly, it takes both the armor/weapons and spiritual courage in order to be successful soldiers for Christ.

Spiritual warfare also has a very pleasing benefit – it draws you into a more intimate relationship with Jesus.  As you battle the enemy, you will be drawing on the strength and wisdom of God.  You will be pressing into his presence with prayer and praise.  You will find yourself enjoying communion and intimacy with him as he stands with you against the foe.     

Ephesians 6:12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

“Flesh and blood” is a euphemism for people.  If human strength and cunning were the extent of the opposition we faced, the battle wouldn’t be too overwhelming.  It would be human against human and we would have a chance of victory.  However, that is not the case.  As Christians we need to remember that people are the instruments or tools used in the attack, but the true enemies are evil spiritual powers.  They are far stronger and more cunning than we are; we cannot withstand them in our own power or strength.

What we truly face are “rulers, authorities and cosmic powers” as well as “spiritual forces of evil” in the heavenly realms.  These phrases denote ranks of demonic powers.  They seem to have an organization with differing levels of power, just as an army would.  They are numerous.  They are powerful.  They are experts at temptation, violence and evil of all kinds.  Back in the garden of Eden Satan won the rights to earth from Adam and Eve.  This world has been the seat of his empire since then.  Therefore, this world is considered in present darkness.  Paul tells us this not to overwhelm us with fear, but to stir up diligence within us, so that we can be prepared to fight.       

Ephesians 6:13 – Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

An ‘evil day’ is a time when we face temptations, persecution, trials, etc. Therefore, any day can be an evil day.  Since we don’t know when the next attack may come, we are to take up God’s armor and be ready to fight the enemy at all times. 

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

We are instructed to “take up” and to “stand”.  Notice that we are not expected to achieve the victory.  That is because Jesus has already won victory over Satan.  Our job is to enforce that victory.  We must be prepared to stand our ground in faith, rejecting temptation, repelling sickness and disease, warring against injustice, spreading the gospel and in general, fighting Satan’s evil schemes where we find them. James tells us that if we stand firm and resist the devil, he will run away. Obviously, he is not scared of us, but of Christ who lives in us.

Ephesians 6:14 – Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

Continuing with his military analogy, Paul now takes the time to give us the particulars of our spiritual armor.  We are not going to make an in depth study of the actual pieces of ancient armor, because this is only an analogy; it is intended to focus our minds on what is necessary for the Christian life. 

The belt of truth:  Truth is actually a very broad topic.  There is truth of action, meaning honesty in all our dealings and relationships.  There is truth of the heart, which refers to our intentions.  God is very, very interested in our intentions or motivations. This is clear throughout the Bible.  For example, remember when Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel?  A number of Jesse’s strong young sons were brought before him, but this is what the Lord said:

1 Samuel 16:7 –  But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart”.

There is also truth of speech, which entails much more than just an absence of lying.  It also includes building up and strengthening others through truthful words.  Perhaps someone told your best friend that she was a failure and she would never amount to anything.  As a Christian, you should use words of truth to encourage her.  You need to tell her that she is a victor in Christ.  Tell her that God has a plan and purpose for her life.  Tell her that God loves her so much, he numbers the hairs of her head and he has her name tattooed on the palm of his hand.  Truth of speech not only builds up others, it protects us as well.  We too, need to know the truth of how God views us.  We need to realize that he is pleased with us, that he loves us, that his love does not depend on performance, etc.  

Just as a belt encompasses our entire body, the spiritual belt of truth surrounds all aspects of what we do in the spiritual realm.

The breastplate of righteousness: This weapon is fairly easy to understand.  It signifies the practice of righteousness or living a holy life.  A soldier’s breastplate protected the vital organs from the chest to the thighs.  These were the most likely areas of enemy attacks, because any injury here would have a good chance of being fatal.  As we live holy lives, we defend and protect our spiritual man from attacks of the enemy that could be very serious indeed. How often have we seen Satan ruin the life or even the ministry of a man/woman of God because of sin?  We should develop a thick breastplate through personal holiness.          

Ephesians 6:15 –  and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Roman soldiers wore heavy sandals studded with hobnails which gave them a secure foothold when fighting.  (The best modern day example we have would be the athlete’s footwear called ‘spikes’.) 

Being properly shod indicates that the Christian soldier is constantly ready to move forward, taking new ground for Christ by sharing the good tidings of peace. The Israelites were commanded to eat the Passover with their feet shod to show that they were ready for their journey. Christ commanded His messengers to be shod with sandals, so they were prepared to proclaim the gospel wherever they were sent.  You and I should be prepared to witness for Christ as the opportunity arises.

I think this is an excellent place to stop for reflection.  If you are experiencing weariness in your Christian life, perhaps you need to re-think your position and check your armor.  Are you trying to do accomplish things for the kingdom using your own power?  You should be getting your strength from the Lord, who has an infinite supply.  Isaiah tells us that those who ‘wait’ on the Christ will run the race of life without being weary. David tells us in Psalms 18 that it is God who gives us strength for the battle.

Psalms 18:39 – For you (God) equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me. 

How are you progressing in the area of personal holiness?  All of us fail at times; you should not allow the devil to condemn you for that, but overall is your level of personal holiness greater now than it was six months ago?  A year ago?  If you are not sure, this might be a good time to check your armor.

2 Corinthians 7:1 – … let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.  

How important is truth in your life?  Are you governed by it’s principles?  [FYI, if you base your life on principles of truth, things will go much smoother and more trouble free for you!]

When was the last time you spontaneously prayed for someone or shared the gospel?  If called upon to share it right now, are you able to give a reasonable, clear account of the salvation message? 

I share these thoughts not to make you feel badly about yourself, but just as a check.  A good soldier has routine maintenance performed on his gear and weaponry.  Now is a good time for us to do the same to our spiritual gear!

Ephesians

Chapter 5, lesson #3

In the last few verses, Paul was admonishing Christians to live Spirit filled lives.  He now discusses how the Spirit filled life manifests itself in three key relationships of his day: Wives & husbands, children & parents and slaves & masters.

Ephesians 5:22-24 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

In each of these three relationships, the first partner (in this case the wife) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the husband).  The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.

If we lived in a perfect world, no one would question this submissiveness because it would be wonderful, loving and flawless.  It would be the perfect example of the relationship between the church and Christ.  However, last I looked, the human race was far from perfect.  We have a tendency to abuse power, and to love ourselves more than others.  If you have been in a bad marriage relationship, it may be difficult for you to understand and accept that the marriage institution is to be an example of the relationship between the church and Christ.  For some, the thought of submitting yourself to anyone can bring instant feelings of anger and rebellion.  I think Paul was well aware of our shortcomings when he wrote this, because he includes descriptions of how the perfect wife/husband relationship should look.

Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

In a Spirit filled relationship, the husband would love the wife so deeply and completely, that he would be willing to do anything for her good. This is how Christ loves the church.  Literally, he gave himself up for us, so that we could be delivered from the chains of sin.     

Ephesians 5:26-27  – …that he [Jesus] might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish. 

Here Paul reveals WHY Jesus gave himself up for the church.  Specifically, Jesus paid the price for sin so that he could sanctify or set apart the church for himself, just as a wife is set apart or reserved only for her husband.    

The ‘word’ refers to the word of God, or the preaching of the gospel.  The ‘washing of water’ refers to baptism, which is the outward symbol of our inward trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.  Both of these speak of the church as being spiritually cleansed and set apart for God.

Ultimately, at some point, Jesus will receive the church to himself as a perfect, fully glorified bride without spot, wrinkle or blemish of sin.  We will be entirely pleasing to him in all respects. 

Ephesians 5:28-30 – In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

The scripture reveals that Christ nourishes and cherishes his body, the church.  The idea of nourishing or nurturing suggests tender loving care.  Jesus has tenderly cared for his church from its weak infancy until now, and he will continue to cherish and watch over it until it reaches full maturity in heaven.  He is well able to meet all the needs of his body; he furnishes whatever is needed for life, health and happiness.

The love of an earthly husband for his wife should reflect the same level of love, caring and provision. 

Ephesians 5:31-33 –   “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.  This mystery is profound and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The word “mystery” means something which is hidden, concealed or before unknown; it must be taught or explained to someone before they can understand it.

In this case, the mystery which was long unknown, but at least in part understood after the resurrection of Jesus was the union of Christ and the church.  The Son of God uniting himself with mortal man and making them one with himself was a concept that was not imagined prior to this time.  Under the old covenant, God was someone to be respected and sometimes feared.  Even though He loved his people and dwelt among them in the tabernacle, they were never united as one because of sin.  Now, in the new covenant, God joined man to himself; He is the head and the church is the body. 

Ephesians 6:1-4 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land”.  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Paul now comes to the second key relationship of his day: children & parents.

Again, in each of these three relationships, the first partner (in this case the child) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the parents).  The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.

In a perfect world, children would have an inward love and respect for their parents.  This would manifest itself in obedience to their instructions, listening to their wisdom and treating them with dignity and respect.  In turn, the parents are to be good examples to their children, loving them, correcting them, providing for them, protecting them, and most of all, introducing them to Christ.

When we examine the idea of children in submission to their parents, Jesus is the highest and best example we have.  He was in perfect obedience to Mary and Joseph. There was a mutual love and respect between Jesus and his earthly parents. Jesus was in perfect obedience to his heavenly Father as well, with mutual love and respect between the two. 

Most unfortunately, the world is marred by sin.  In every other parent-child relationship, mistakes are made on both sides, even in Christian households.  When this happens, all we can do is address the issue, ask for forgiveness and move on in love.  Healthy loving relationships can exhibit the love of Christ to a lost world, even if they are not perfect.

Ephesians 6:5-9 – Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye service, as people pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.  Masters, do the same to them and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.     

Lastly, Paul comes to the relationship of servants & masters. 

In this relationship, the first partner (in this case the servant) is responsible to be submissive to the second (in this case the master).  The second partner is also submissive to a higher authority (God) and they are to relate to the first partner in love.

The world “bondservant” denotes one who is bound to render service to another, whether that service is for life or for a limited time.  Therefore, it could be used to mean a slave, but in could also reflect an employee-employer relationship.

The employee is to serve his boss faithfully, regardless of whether the boss is watching or not.  What kind of an employee are you? 

A boss is to treat his employees fairly and justly.  What kind of boss are you?

What conclusions can we draw from these passages of scripture?

No one is exempt from being under authority. Of the six roles listed, you will likely find yourself in more than one.  You are already a child, and it is probable that at some point you will either be an employee or a boss.  You may also become a father or mother, a husband or a wife.  Regardless of which roles you fit into, Jesus is the highest and best example to follow.  We know that Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth, yet he submitted to the authority of his earthly parents as well as his Heavenly Father.  When you are in a place of authority, exercise that right carefully; you are responsible for the way you treat those under you.  When you are in a place of submission, do your best to glorify God.  

Christianity is practical.  2 Corinthians 3:2-2 says “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Since you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart”.  In other words, people need to see we belong to Christ by our actions, not just our words.  We can reflect Christ by doing the right thing in our relationships.  Given the fallen state of our world, that can be a very tricky business.  We must depend on God for wisdom and the ability to forgive one another.

We have hope for the future.  All through the ages, marriage has been a picture of the union between Christ and the church.  While that picture has become more clear since the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know it has not yet been completely fulfilled.  We can have hope knowing that someday, Jesus will perfect the church.  She will be “without spot or wrinkle”.  Someday, we will be completely and eternally free from the bondage of sin. 

Don’t EVER give up in your Christian walk! God has ultimate victory for you through Christ.  This message of hope is not just for the church as a whole.  It is for you as an individual.  My guess is that you are somewhat like me – not a perfect child, not a perfect parent, not a perfect employee and not a perfect marriage partner.  At times, Satan would like to whisper in your ear how much you have failed.  He wants you to believe that you should give up, based on your performance so far.  He may also be telling you that you will never make it through the bad situation you are in right now. He may be pointing out what a failure you have been in relationships.  He tells you that you are not qualified to share God’s love with anyone.  When Satan comes against you with these false ideas, just re-read the book of Ephesians.  Here are some things for close consideration:

Satan tries to make you feel guilty based on the past or present, but God has already taken care of that.  He looks at what you will become.  He considers you a saint – Ephesians 1:2.

Even though you are not yet perfect, you are forgiven and God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing possible (seriously, EVERY ONE.  He is not holding anything back from you) – Ephesians 1:3.

God chose YOU to be blameless and holy in his sight, before the world was ever in existence.  He knew you would sin, but he also knew he would rescue you from it, so Satan has no grounds to condemn you –   Ephesians 1:4.

God chose to adopt YOU as his precious child.  He desired you so much, that he paid the ultimate price for you…the blood of Jesus.  He has never regretted that decision.  He is actively working to perfect his relationship with you – Ephesians 1:5-7.

God pours his grace upon us “lavishly”.  Lavish means superabundant or excessive.  It means ‘to expend or bestow profusely’.  God is not stingy with his love, his forgiveness or with any of the gifts he gives us.  He blesses you gladly and freely; He has a plan unite you with himself, despite your short comings – Ephesians 1:8-10.

Even though you are not yet perfect, you are sealed with the precious and all powerful Holy Spirit – Ephesians 1:11-14.

As we close this section on relationships, I want you to keep in mind that all people are imperfect.  Even if they love you, they can still disappoint you or mistreat you or break your heart.  However, God loves you perfectly and completely and eternally.  Don’t judge his love by the love of humans. 

Ephesians, Chapter 5

Lesson #2

Ephesians 5:15-16 – Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

The word for ‘carefully’ or ‘circumspectly’ means correctly, accurately or consistently.  The meaning is that we should be aware of God’s boundaries and consistently and perfectly walk in them.  We should live according to God’s precepts in small matters as well as great matters, living the gospel, not just professing it with our mouths. 

The unwise man follows his passions wherever they may lead, eventually ending up in spiritual death.  However, the wise man who has been taught of God literally “buys opportunities” for doing good for as long as they can. 

This present season of grace will have an end; then we will have no more opportunities to use our talents for God in this life. 

Perhaps in the past we have misspent our time, but now we must be diligent to use it for God’s glory.

If the season of grace were to end today, where do you see yourself?  Are you happy with the way you spent your time and resources?  Or are there things you still want to accomplish for the Kingdom of Heaven? If so, do them now!  Don’t become distracted by the things of the world; keep your focus on the heavenly realm!  

Ephesians 5:17-Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

Paul wants every believer to know God’s purposes for himself and for the world.  When we know his will, we can work with him to bring about his purposes on earth; we will know how to use every opportunity we have for the glory of Jesus.

I sometimes hear people complain that they do not know God’s will for their lives. If that is you, I will encourage you to begin by examining the scriptures.  You’ll find that God has already made his will known.  For example, we have been given a clear mandate to spread the gospel to the world.

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Fortunately, God has given us his Holy Spirit to enable us for this task.

Acts 1:8 – But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Also, we have been given a clear mandate to live as righteous people. 

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

We have also been informed that the greatest commandment or the greatest thing God requires us to do, is to love him.

Luke 10:27 And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

So let’s put this all together.  God’s will is not some difficult, unsearchable mystery.  He has clearly revealed his will in his Word.  First and foremost, we are to love Him with all of our hearts and minds.  In addition, we are to love our neighbors and preach the gospel to all who have not heard the good news. 

If you know Jesus, you are qualified to do this. You have access to the Holy Scriptures.  You have access to the Holy Spirit who empowers you.  You have a measure of faith that God gave you.  He has promised to be with you the whole time. 

Romans 12:3 – …God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Hebrews 13:5   …I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

So basically, you need to get started.  Find an area of ministry and get involved.  As you step out in faith, God will open the next door and then the next, or show you the next step to take and the next, but you have to start somewhere. 

As you begin to walk in the revealed will of God, or the part of God’s will that you know, you will be ready to pray that you become filled with spiritual wisdom and knowledge of God’s will for the unique dispensation or circumstance in which you find yourself.  That’s what Paul did for the Colossians.  

Colossians 1:9-10 – For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you might walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

If you are truly seeking God’s will, you will find it, but it is imperative that you begin by living in the knowledge that you have.  You are going to need growth and strength for the next level.  That growth and strength are provided by experience in the present.  So, pray for guidance.  Equip yourself with the word.  Then go out and minister to the lost! 

Ephesians 5:18-21 –  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit addressing one another in Psalm and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Paul continues to offer practical life applications by warning the Ephesians against drunkenness.

Drunkenness is a very, very bad thing.  People will do and say things when they are drunk that they would never do while sober.  The worst thing about drunkenness is that it is a gateway for other sins.  Those under its influence are led into sexual sins, rage/anger, abuse of others, theft, destruction, even murder.  How many deaths have resulted from drunk drivers?

The worst thing about drunkenness is that it is a gateway for other sins.

However, in this particular passage Paul seems to be referring to the social aspect of drinking, namely, the exhilarating influence of wine (or any alcohol) consumed with company, which gives a temporary rush of joy or cheer.  Back in Paul’s day, the Gentiles worshipped a false idol called Bacchus.  He was considered the god of wine.  They would gather in groups to sing rousting hymns to him and drink until they were drunk. Other sins then followed, but the root cause of it all was that sense of social camaraderie and joy.  [FYI, the same Greek word used here for drunkenness was used in the parable of the prodigal son.  In that passage, it was translated as “riotous living”].

At any rate, Paul instructs the Ephesians that instead of using wine/alcohol to cheer themselves, they should open their hearts to the Holy Spirit.  This is wise instruction for believers today as well.  The Holy Spirit will fill our hearts and give us an eternal joy that is not destructive.  In fact, his joy gives us benefits.  The spirit of joy will lead us into praise and worship of God.  Praise and worship usher us into the Lord’s presence.  In his presence, we find everything we will ever need to live fulfilling lives on earth, plus he gives us eternal life!

Ephesians 5:20-21 – giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Paul closes this section with yet another call to Christian unity, this time centering on how we should properly submit to one another.  It is a topic that is discussed in the remainder of chapter 5, so we will look at it more next time.

For now, I want to encourage you to spend some time this week meditating on walking in love, living within God’s boundaries for us, and walking a wise Christian walk.  Do you know God’s will for your life?  Are you pursuing it with all your energy?

Ephesians, Chapter 5

Lesson #1

Ephesians 5:1-2 – Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

These first two verses of chapter 5 should have been at the tail end of chapter 4.  In 4:32 the apostle ends by admonishing the Ephesians to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”. 

He then goes on in 5:1-2 to say therefore or because God has been so exceedingly good and merciful in pardoning your sin, you should imitate him and forgive others showing kindness and love at all times.  Christ is to be our example and we are to imitate him, just as any small child will imitate what she sees her earthly father doing. 

It is interesting that Paul describes Jesus as both an offering and a sacrifice.  Do you know the difference between the two?

The word ‘sacrifice’ implies the shedding of blood.  The life of every living creature is in its blood.  By spilling the blood of the animal during sacrifice, the sinner recognized and acknowledged that he was the one who deserved to die, but a substitution was being made on his behalf.

An offering is simply a gift given to God and the implication is that the gift is bloodless.

Here in Ephesians, Jesus is described as both.  His life was an offering to God because he was in perfect obedience, saying and doing only what the Father directed. He offered his own will and his own desires as an offering to the heavenly father.  As you are already aware, his life was a bloody sacrifice as he died on the cross. 

Jesus’ offering and sacrifice were a sweet smelling savor to God.  This phrase is found in the Old Testament and refers to a smell of satisfaction; a gift well pleasing to God not only because of what was given, but also because of the attitude or spirit in which it was offered.

I like that last bit… the offering is pleasing to God because of the attitude or spirit in which it was offered.  In second Corinthians Paul says that God loves a cheerful giver.  If you give something grudgingly, it taints or ruins the gift.  Have you ever given a tainted gift?

What kind of sacrifices have you made to God recently?  Have you considered surrendering your will and your desires to him?

Ephesians 5:3-4 – But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Have you ever been driving down the road in your car, just enjoying the day, listening to the radio when all of a sudden a horrible smell hits you?  Then you try to decide what they smell is; maybe farm animal excrement or a skunk or a dead deer. You might even check to see if it is the one of the passengers in your car!  You keep driving hoping the awful fumes will soon dissipate!    

With that in mind, ask yourself this:  If obedience and holiness are a sweet smell in God’s nostrils, what do you suppose sexual immorality and covetousness smell like? Do you want to offer God a smell like that?

(Sexual impurity and greed seem like two entirely different things but in reality they are not.  Both vices exhibit dissatisfaction for what God says is proper and an unnatural craving for more than what you should have).

Overall, what do your actions and your attitudes smell like? Is it time to clean some things up?

Verse four is a warning against unseemly talk.  The Bible has an awful lot to say about our speech.  We could do a whole study on it, but we won’t.  James sums it up nicely when he says in 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so”.  This is the same point Paul is making.  As saints of God, we are to avoid any manner of speech that is not encouraging, edifying or thankful. 

Consider just the things you said today.  How much of your speech falls under the category of blessing?  How much did not? I bet we all have room for improvement in the area of speech.

Ephesians 5:5-6 – For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure or who is covetous (that is an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

In the next few verses the apostle gives us reason and motivation to choose what is holy and reject that which is evil. 

He begins in verse five by warning that idolaters of any kind have no inheritance in the kingdom of God.  An idol is anything that we put in the place of God. In our generation, it could be money, our kids, TV, our job, sports, electronics, the pursuit of a hobby, etc.  Since idolatry can keep us from entering heaven, we must anxiously examine our own lives and make sure we are free of the sin of idolatry.

Others will tell you that idolatry is harmless and God will overlook it. Don’t fall into that trap!  God’s mercy will allow the sinner multiple opportunities for repentance.  Do not mistake His delay of judgment as an approval of sin, for in due course his wrath will come upon those who are disobedient.  If you find that you have an idol in your life, repent right away.  Then begin to take steps to get rid of it without delay!

Ephesians 5:7-10 – Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

At one time, the Ephesian believers were slaves to sin.  They were ignorant of the ways of God and practiced the abominations that are being discussed here.  But, now that they have been enlightened [redeemed] by Christ and been made aware of the evil of idolatry, evil speaking, etc, they are expected to forsake these practices and live [walk] as true children of God. 

Those who are redeemed have the Holy Spirit living in them.  The working of the Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit in the life of the believer.  This fruit is listed in Galatians:

Galatians 5:22-23 –  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control: against such there is no law.

Every believer, who lives by the gospel and has the indwelling Holy Spirit, should be well able to please the Lord.  This includes you and I.  Each of us should be able to examine ourselves and see if we have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We should pray for him to reveal to us areas in which we are prone to idolatry.  The Holy Spirit is our teacher, our comforter and our guide in this life.  Let’s willingly partner with him.  

Ephesians 5:11-12 –  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 

The Ephesians were greatly involved in the practices of magic and sorcery which included secret rites and incantations.  The initiates of these rites were obliged to keep the group’s secrets, on pain of death (see Acts 19:17-19).  This is probably what Paul is referring to when he speaks of shameful things they do in secret.  Obviously, these works of darkness are unfruitful because they are devoid of any true wisdom or power.  They do not draw men closer to God, but drive them further away.  Paul implies that by concealing or ignoring these practices, we too are sinning. He maintains that it is the duty of the true Christian to expose or testify against these practices and stand for the truth of the gospel. 

How do you feel about that?  Do you think you are sinning if you say nothing in the face of such evil as abortion, gay marriage, and other sins of our society?   

Ephesians 5:13-14 –  But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”.

The overall meaning of these verses is that when you shed the light of truth [expose or testify against] on the works of darkness, their true nature is demonstrated or made known.  This is what the gospel does – expose sin for what it really is. 

A spiritual sleeper is someone who allows sin to live in the dark places of their lives.  They do not expose those sins to the light of the gospel so that they can be dealt with.

A spiritual sleeper is someone who allows sin to live in the dark places of their lives.  They do not expose those sins to the light of the gospel so that they can be dealt with. 

How do you know if you are a spiritual ‘sleeper’? 

  • If you engage in things you know to be sin (sexual sins, unforgiveness, fraud, drunkenness, anger, etc) without your conscience bothering you, you are asleep.
  • If you never feel any conflict with temptation, you are asleep.
  • If you are too busy to pray, you are asleep. 
  • If you never feel convicted by reading the word of God, you are asleep.
  • If you have no compassion for others, you are asleep.
  • If you never hear God speaking to you, you are asleep.
  • If your life looks exactly like the life of unbelievers, you are asleep.

If you find yourself in any of these situations, WAKE UP!  Repent and call upon God to enlighten you.  He specializes in bringing the dead to life, and he will restore you spiritually.

Ephesians, Chapter 4

Lesson #2

Ephesians 4:17-18 – Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

In the prior section, Paul explained the governing and working of the church as a unified body. 

He spoke of how pastors, apostles, teachers, etc were to preach/teach the gospel for the edification of the saints and the winning of souls.  Now he discusses general and particular characteristics that should be present in the life of every believer.

To begin with, Paul reminds the saints where they came from and he describes the ways in which sinful people (here referred to as Gentiles) live their lives.  First, they live in the “futility of their minds”.  This means they follow their own thoughts and ideas, living without any revelation or guidance from God.  They do whatever makes them feel good.  

Sinners are “darkened in their understanding”; they are void of any spiritual knowledge.  They prefer to dwell in the darkness of sin rather than the light of God’s holiness.  

They are also “alienated from the life of God”.  There is physical life and spiritual life.  Here the apostle refers to spiritual life.  Sinners are spiritually dead; they have a dislike for holiness, which is the way of life that God requires.  God himself is pure, righteous, holy, good and true, while those alienated from him desire the exact opposite.     

Paul is very specific that the reason they are this way is because of their own hardness of heart. They willfully and persistently shut out the light that would lead them to righteousness in Christ.  God makes himself known to man by his great works, by the gospel and by love, but if a sinner will not acknowledge God, they will remain in darkness.

Ephesians 4:19 – They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

All men are by nature corrupt and inclined to be evil.  Those who are alienated from God will give free reign to self indulgence, ignoring the stings of conscience until the pain of remorse is calloused over.  Once a person is past feeling any guilt or conscience, depravity knows no bounds.  God, for his part, continues to call out to sinners, but because of rebellion, their hearts are hardened rather than being softened.  They have become slaves to sin and to Satan.

Ephesians 4:20-21 – But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

But Christians are different because we have “learned Christ”.  We have been taught the real truth by Jesus himself both in the way he lived and what he said.  That truth is also revealed to us as the Holy Spirit quickens our spiritual understanding of the word through pastors and teachers.  That truth has set us free from the bondage of sin, and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can live holy lives pleasing to God.

Ephesians 4:22-24 – to put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

These verses describe three things that are to be done:  Be renewed, Put off and Put on. 

Be Renewed:  The only way to break the chains of sin in our lives and have our natures renewed is to accept Jesus Christ as our savior.  He takes our sin upon himself, setting us free.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the scripture says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. 

Put Off:  We are to put off the ‘old self’ or the ‘old man’. This is a phrase used by Paul in several places, like Romans 5&6, here in Ephesians and in Colossians 3.  The old man refers to the sinful and corrupt nature that we were all born with.  Because Adam sinned, all people born after him were automatically born into sin.  We have a corrupt nature; it is natural for us to love and indulge in sin.  Here Paul notes that these sinful desires and passions are deceitful.  In other words, they look good; we expect that if we indulge in them we will feel good and they will satisfy the longing of our souls, but they will not.  They will only leave us feeling bitter and empty for sinful desire can never satisfy. 

As I am sure you have already noticed, our tendencies to sin are still present with us even after we are renewed or saved.  God does not make us instantly holy.  It is our job to partner with the Holy Spirit in what is called “progressive sanctification”.  This is an ongoing process in which we choose to pursue the ways of God, thus crucifying our evil desires.  We can take comfort in the fact that the Holy Spirit will carry to perfection the work begun when you became a new creature in Christ. 

Put On: If you are going to “put off” the old man, you will also need to “put on” something new.  (Please do not run around with nothing on!!) What does the new creature in Christ put on?  He puts on the characteristics that God possesses, such as kindness, patience and forgiveness. He walks in holiness; telling the truth, maintaining Godly relationships, encouraging others, etc.   When we act and think like God, it is an outward manifestation that reflects the change that has taken place in our spiritual man.  When we reflect the love and kindness of God, we are a witness to those who still walk in darkness. 

Colossians 3:12-14, – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience… forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you… and above all these put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.      

Putting off the old and putting on the new are very general concepts.  In the next six verses, Paul discusses specific examples of each.

Ephesians 4:25  – Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor for we are members of one another. 

There can be no doubt that God hates lying.  One of the original 10 commands is found in Exodus 20:16 – ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’.  However, Paul may have something more specific in mind here.  Unity of the church is the main topic of the 4th chapter, so he seems to be indicating that unity of the body is based on mutual confidence, which can only work if we always tell the truth to one another. 

Ephesians 4:26-27 – Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.

“Be angry and sin not” is a quote from Psalms 4:4.  Anger itself is not necessarily a sin;  Jesus displayed righteous anger in Mark 3:5.   Keep in mind that righteous anger is anger directed at the sin, not the sinner.  We need to have pity and compassion for the sinner.  If we are angry at the person as well as the fault, we are sinning.  This is a very difficult thing to manage.  Be careful with anger!  If you find a need to express it, be sure that you reconcile with the person immediately.  Otherwise, Satan has an opportunity to cause division.  Anger must not be allowed to fester into wrath and bitterness.    

Ephesians 4:28  – Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Theft has been a part of society forever and some of the heathen really did not think it was so bad.  Paul explicitly states that theft is evil.  He then goes on give a very good example of putting off the old and putting on the new.  Not only should the Christian stop stealing (put off), but he should do honest work and use some of that money to share with the poor (put on).

Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt talk  come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

The Greek word for corrupt literally means “rotten” or “putrid”.  While it could mean cursing or foul language, it also means any talk that tears down, humiliates, makes fun of, intimidates, or belittles someone else. Christians should be known for building up and encouraging others, not tearing them down.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one that speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise beings health.

Ephesians 4:30 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 

This sentence is short in length, but long on meaning!  Several things are implied by this verse:

  1. The Holy Spirit demonstrates personality; he is the third Person of the Trinity – a person as much as the Father and the Son.
  2. The Holy Spirit loves us immeasurably.  You can only grieve those you love or those who love you. 
  3. If we persist in offending the Holy Spirit, he will suspend or withdraw his influence in our lives. 
  4. The Holy Spirit seals us.  He marks or brands us as a possession of God.  As discussed in chapter one, this is an assurance of our final redemption.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

All the negative emotions and actions listed in these verses are a form of malice.  Malice should not be found in the life of any Christian!  It will not only tear apart the church, it will bring death to the individual believer.  On the other hand, forgiveness will not only enforce and strengthen church unity, it will heal and bring life to the individual believer.  As always, our ultimate example of forgiveness is Christ.    

Ephesians, Chapter 4

Chapter 4, Lesson 1

Ephesians 4:1-3  – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,

In the first three chapters of this letter, Paul shared numerous high and lofty truths with the Ephesian church concerning their admission into the body of Christ and the spiritual blessings that God has given them. The remaining three chapters consist of practical applications of these truths.

First of all, they are to live their daily lives (walk) in a manner that reflects the grace of God. They are also to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  While that sounds simple, I doubt it was.  Remember, the Ephesian church was composed of both Gentiles and converted Jews. Based on the history between the two groups, we might expect frequent differences that were more likely to produce argument and division rather than peace and harmony.

Work it!

Paul wants to stop that from happening, so he admonishes them to “eagerly” work for peace and unity.  The Greek word for ‘eager’ means intense, diligent or industrious.  The clear indication is that this peace and unity will not happen naturally or magically.  They are going to have to work at it.  It is going to take some effort on their part. So it is for the church of today.  We should allow the Holy Spirit to direct the way we think, speak and act towards our fellow believers.  We would do well to focus on those points on which we agree, not so much on our points of difference.

The bond of peace is an outward manifestation that is visible to the lost world around us.  Why would the world want to be part of an organization that has infighting and quarreling?  They have enough of that already! It is peace and love that will show them we are different.       

 So, practically speaking, how is the church to keep unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

Paul says it begins with humility or lowliness, which is the opposite of pride and arrogance.  It means to have a modest estimation of our own worth; it means we are willing to waive our rights and take a place or station that might be lower than what we are due.  Jesus gives us an excellent example of humility in the book of John.

John 13:3-5 – Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.  He laid aside his outer garments and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…

See the picture?  Jesus, knowing he was the Son of God, was still willing to take on the humble/lowly role of a servant. 

He was willing to get down on his knees and wash their feet, even though he was their creator and savior! 

If we are willing to keep an attitude of humility, it will go a long way to creating a bond of peace in the church.  

Gentleness or meekness is also needed in forming the unity of Spirit and bond of peace.  My favorite definition of meekness is “power under control”.  It relates to the manner in which we respond when someone else injures or insults or attacks us.  We are to bear that injury patiently, without retaliating or seeking revenge.  Best example?  Jesus on the cross.  He had the power to obliterate those who were crucifying and humiliating him, yet he had perfect control of that power and he did not retaliate.     

Lastly, Paul says we are going to need longsuffering (with patience).  It is defined as ‘bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient endurance’.  Example?  You guessed it – God.  God is longsuffering towards sinners.  He patiently waits until we acknowledge him and accept salvation.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Obviously, we cannot control the actions of others (Bummer! That would really come in handy sometimes).  The Christian traits of humility, meekness and long suffering do not mean that we will all become like identical robots with the same sentiments, the same opinions and the same decisions.  Rather, it means that we should strive to interact with others without giving offence or taking offence.  We should avoid contention when we don’t get our way.  If we can do this, our different personalities and intellects will bond us together in peace. The world needs to see that peace and unity in the church.

Ephesians 4:4-6  – There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is overall and through all and in all.

I have been accused of beating a dead horse on more than one occasion, but obviously, I am not the only one!  Here Paul stresses the need for unity by pointing out that the church is one body, with one head (Jesus).  We are all quickened by one and the same Holy Spirit.  All of us are called to one hope, which is eternal life in heaven.  We have one faith which is the gospel message.  We have one baptism, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We have one Father who has ultimate dominion over all things.  In light of this, we clearly need to conduct ourselves in unity.  Given this list, there should be more to unite us than to divide us.

Ephesians 4:7 – But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

God promotes unity in his body by giving each member a measure or part of a gift that is needed by the body.

No one person has it all, therefore, the members of the church must pool their gifts together so that everyone can have what is sufficient for maintaining their place in the body.  For example, we need worship leaders, but not everyone can lead worship or play an instrument or sing.  We need pastors, but not everyone is called to pastor.  We need teachers, administrators, sound technicians, carpenters and electricians, grass cutters, janitors, ushers, etc.  Notice that regardless of how big or how small a person’s gift may be, it is still a gift.  We did not manufacture it on our own, it was gifted to us by God.  In God’s infinite wisdom, he made us dependent upon each other, which promotes unity, strength and harmony in the church.

Ephesians 4:8-10 – Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men”.  (In saying, “he ascended”, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens that he might fill all things).

In verse 8, Paul is referencing Psalms 68:18.  He is not actually quoting it.  The 68th Psalm is considered a Psalm of triumph, written by David to celebrate the time when the ark was brought up to Jerusalem.  It also has Messianic overtones which we are not going to examine at length in this study.  For our purposes we only need to know that the bringing of the ark up to Jerusalem was a picture or shadow of the triumph of Christ‘s victory over Satan in Jerusalem.  

In referencing this Psalm, Paul also makes reference to an ancient war custom.  The people in Paul’s day were well aware that when an army won a victory, it was common for the commander to climb up into his chariot and ride into his country or city as the people welcomed him home in victory. 

They would chain or bind the most prominent captives from the battle and force them to walk behind the victor’s chariot in shame.  Everyone would see and mock the captives.  At the same time, the commander would throw spoils/money/coins out into the crowd of people who came to celebrate his victorious return. 

Colossians 2:14-15 – [Jesus cancelling] the record of the debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, mailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him [the cross].

So, what we see in verse 8-10 is Paul comparing Jesus to Psalm 18 and the victorious commander.  Jesus descended first to earth, then to hell, defeated Satan, took the keys of death, hell and the grave, then rose victorious.  He paraded Satan around as a defeated foe and gave gifts to the church. This ties in with the subject in Ephesians, which is the victorious Christ giving gifts to his people the church.  In fact, the victorious Jesus is the fountain of all blessings to the church.  He dispenses his blessings to whom he wills, in the measure he wills, to the different members of his body, both Jews and Gentiles.  The greatest gift of all, obviously, is the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:11-13  – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.    

Having established that Jesus has given gifts to the church and that the church must function in unity to be fully equipped, Paul goes on to discuss specific offices in the church.   It seems odd that Paul would discuss offices of the church instead of gifts, but the obvious answer is that when God calls you to an office, he equips you with the gifts necessary to fulfill that office.  If you are a true pastor, then God has given you the gifts and abilities necessary for that office.  The same is true of all the offices. 

Scholars agree that the powers exercised by the leaders of the early church were not as well defined and systematically arranged as they are in today’s church.  Their duties varied depending on the circumstances and the people who exercised them.  Therefore, rather than dissecting the differences between the offices listed, we are going to focus on the ultimate purpose of these offices in the body of Christ.

We want to begin by noting that HE gave… in other words, the office of true Christian leadership in ministry is based on divine authority.

We further note that the appointment of apostles, pastors, etc, is given for specific purposes.

The first of these purposes is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (your translation may say ‘for perfecting of the saints’).  The word for equip or perfect means to restore to its place/putting in order; making complete or completing what is unfinished.  The meaning is that apostles, pastors, etc have been ordained by Christ to bring individual members of the body to maturity, thus making the whole church complete or perfect.  Maturity includes instruction, purification, holiness, etc.  

Maturing in Christ is a process.

The second purpose of church leadership is “for building up the body of Christ” (your translation may say ‘(for the edifying of the body of Christ).  This phrase refers to the growth or maturity of the church body as a whole, in contrast to the individual members as mentioned above.  We note that the church belongs to Jesus.  He could have edified it any way he wanted; he chose to do it by the outward preaching of the word by people.  When individuals claim that they do not need to attend church or be part of a body, they are saying that they know better than God! 

So, let’s draw a few conclusions from this:

Jesus has decided to use leaders to help bring the individual members of the body to maturity, but they cannot do this alone.  The believer must desire to come to maturity and work in conjunction with the leadership and the Holy Spirit.  Are you doing your part?  Are you meditating on the word, spending time in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to identify the parts of your life that need to be perfected, working towards a more holy life?  Or are you just coming to church every week waiting for the pastor to spoon feed you like a baby?

No person is excluded from this hierarchy.  A person who claims that they do not need to be planted in a body of believers is really in a form of rebellion to Christ.  If any person feels they have arrived at maturity, then they should be an active part of the body by helping those who are still immature believers.  There is plenty of work to be done – who will rise up to mentor or disciple the new believers?

Mistakes will be made.  Despite the calling and gifts they have been given, spiritual leaders are themselves fallen humans who are not perfect.  In addition, as each individual member increases in maturity, they will begin to take a bigger role in the church.  They too, will make mistakes.  If we react with criticism and strife, division will result; this is the opposite of unity.  However, the body should have enough love for one another to work through these difficulties.  The only perfect workers are the ones who do nothing but warm the seats!

Speaking of workers, keep in mind that all the members of the body are essential.  What is your call, your gift, your ministry?  If you don’t know, I suggest you start by filling a need you see in the body.  If that is not where you belong, God will move you towards something else.  Just get started!

Ephesians 4:14-15 –  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Paul goes on to illustrate another reason for spiritual leaders. The leaders guard against childish behavior or mistakes in the ignorant and inexperienced of the faith.  Until the believer becomes firmly rooted in truth, they are in danger of being led into false doctrine or beliefs by any crafty or deceitful person who professes to be a Christian teacher.  The spiritual leaders are to oversee the flock as they grow from babes to mature believers. 

Romans 16:17-18 – I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.  For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

Speaking the truth in love – in this instance, truth is the whole gospel doctrine.  They are to teach and preach the truth as opposed to the false doctrine as noted above. Truth is the element in which the Christian is to live at all times.  But, truth should be inseparable from love.  While God is certainly a just judge, he is not to be portrayed as harsh task master, waiting for his subjects to fail so he can bring punishment.

Ephesians 4:16 – from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Just as the physical human body is formed by a union of all its parts, with the head in charge, so the church is formed by the union of its members with Jesus in charge.  Both the physical body and the spiritual body (the church) arrive at maturity when each individual part begins to function as it should. 

What is your place in the body of Christ?  Are you rooted in a local church? If not, why?  Are you diligently working for unity in the body?  Have you prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to help you mature in Christ?  How much to you think you have grown spiritually in the last three months?  In the last six months?  

Ephesians, Chapter 3

Lesson 2

We now come to the second part of chapter 3, which contains Paul’s prayer to God for the Ephesians.  It is a devout prayer that shows his love for them.

In this prayer, Paul asks for three great gifts for the believers.  They are: The infusion of spiritual strength, The indwelling of Christ and The establishment of their hearts so they can be ‘rooted and grounded’ in the love of God.  Let’s take a look at his prayer.

Continue reading