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Comments on the Book of Ephesians

Verse by Verse

The Will of God

Ephesians 1:1-2: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Will. God’s will. Paul’s letter to the Ephesian faithful is built on the fact that God had a purpose in bringing them to Himself, that He had a purpose in their lives presently, and that their future was/is tied up in His will forever. Three times in the first fourteen verses Paul refers to the will of God, to the mystery of it and its revelation to us in Christ. Paul was turned by that very will and sent to teach these believers of it. The gospel of Christ was revealed to him in such a way that he became driven to preach it to the Gentile peoples across his known world; he glimpsed the truth behind creation and saw it lead into a beautiful unity of man and nature and heavens. He saw the will of God expressed in Jesus and left everything else he possessed behind in order to proclaim it to these believers and, subsequently, to us.

The Will of God for Us

Ephesians 1:3-14 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

These first verses are an outline of the will and purpose of God in creation, in mankind, and in the unification of both. They outline the trajectory of the Master’s plan that lead us all, all of us who are of the faithful, to an inheritance from Him that is promised and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

In summary, God:

Chose us to be holy and blameless

Predestined us to adoption as sons

Freely bestowed His grace on us: He has given us redemption through Christ’s blood and forgiveness of our trespasses

Made known to us the mystery of His will in Christ to unite all things in Him

Has given us an inheritance in Him and sealed us with the Holy Spirit as its guarantee

It would seem that the grand plan of our God was to create a world that would culminate its days in a glorious unification with Him. We know from the rest of scripture that our history stems from a single great fall into sin and separation from God. The rest, from that point on, is the history of man’s continual struggle to obey God and to resist the constant call to reject Him in favor of our own desires. God did not want another class of angels who would adore Him forever and sing His praises. He desired something different and created beings that would have the Will to choose Him or reject Him. His mysterious will, His hidden purpose, was to direct the course of our history to a climactic point where that choice became readily apparent. In Jesus we have that climax. Jesus Christ is the dividing line between those who will and those who will to refuse. But God, Paul excitedly tells us, had a purpose for us, before He even began to lay the foundations for His creation. God chose us, He predestined us, and He had our end in front of our beginning and willed for our salvation from our own sin. Yes, He knew there would be sin. And yes, He knew that He Himself would pay the price for that sin. He knew the cost and He gladly paid it, for us, and for our eternity with him. That is the reason for Paul’s repeated use of the phrase, “to the praise of His glory.” To Paul this understanding of his own place in the grand plan was too much for words and so he simply writes his praises over and over again.

We are saved, from ourselves and from the nastiness of our infected world. We were chosen out of that nastiness eons ago when God first stepped into action. We are the fruit of His glory and as such we have a great hope that we wait impatiently for. We are promised a share in the coming unified kingdom- praise God!

Paul’s Prayer

Paul’s prayer in this letter is primarily in two parts. He begins his prayer in verse fifteen of chapter one and then gets sidetracked by a lengthy description of the base nature of man’s inclination to sin and Christ’s magnificent grace in lifting us out of our own damnation. His prayer picks up again in verse one of chapter three but Paul quickly interrupts himself again with an explanation of his own authority to preach the gospel and the unique understanding he possesses due to a personal revelation from the Lord. He finally finishes his prayer in verse fourteen of chapter three ending with a doxology. Paul’s enthusiasm for the gospel, for his own salvation and that of the Gentiles, and for the glory of God is infectious. He cannot contain himself long enough to pray for these believers!

The prayer, pieced together from these parts of the letter, is as follows:

(Ephesians 1:15-23) For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

(Ephesians 3:14-21) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faiththat you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for the Christian has got to be one of the hardest disciplines to maintain. And yet when I read scripture, prayer seems to flow from the lips of the believers. In the account of the early church in the book of Acts we read that they gathered together constantly, shared all things and they prayed. Prayer was simply part of the life of a Christian. And in this letter Paul’s prayer flows from his pen with ease and is so rich in wisdom and insight. It is the perfect prayer for the church. If only we had all that he desired for us to have!

Why is it then that in our time prayer is the discipline that is relegated to the edges of our faith; why is it cast off and given only reluctant attention? By this I mean to ask what is so different about our faith and that of these first believers? For prayer ought to flow from a Christian like water from a glass. All that Paul wrote of is true! We are saved from a horrible wrath and have been specially chosen by God to be the object of His divine and unending love. We were predestined to live forever in the kingdom and we are blessed by the presence of His Spirit in our daily lives. This should give us cause for unending joy and gratitude- praise should be flowing from our lips just as it does for Paul, even to the point of interrupting his train of thought! And yet our prayers are so hard to speak- they require so much effort, they feel dry and at times simply rote.

The answer I believe is a matter of faith. It is a weakness of faith and a distance from our faith to the Real God of heaven. We are separated from Him by time (2,000 years) and by place (we no longer live near the Holy Land) and by intellect. As a culture, as cultures, we have grown far too intelligent for religion and faith. We have outsmarted the

theologians and our science has triumphed over the Word of God. It is a sad time to be alive and a hard time as well. I am thankful that I do not have the incredible persecution and fear that came with being a first century Christian- Paul’s letters also make it clear that living as a Christian was no easy task and that it tested their faith to the extreme. But I mourn over the loss of allegiance to God in my time and the turning away from even the smallest belief in a power greater than myself. As a people, mankind has become more faithless than faithful- I see that we are the object of Jesus’ tears when He asked if there would be faith upon the earth when he returned. Living among such unbelief has made it hard to truly appreciate the magnitude of the gift that God has bestowed on us. As a believer I know what Christ has done for me, I feel the change in me, and I would never ever go back to the lifestyle and worldview that I shared with those Paul describes in chapter two. But I also know that I do not feel the passion for Christ that Paul exhibits here, and I know that my prayers are not from the same place as his were. I explain this lack in myself as a result of the time in which I live, in having no teachers, in learning from what teachers I have had only part of the truth that Jesus left for us. The church has forgotten so much and has lost its power and place in our lives- how can we know how to live as Christians when there is no sure source of teaching? Do we then give up? Do I cease trying to pray at all times and continuously with and for others? No, for that would be a rejection of God’s teaching. My ignorance and lack of preparedness can only be addressed by my own continued efforts to better myself and to draw closer to God. My intentions are good, I am a believer, He will hear me, therefore I will continue to try to pray to Him.

Paul’s Prayer II

Ephesians 1:17-20 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places

Ephesians 3:16-19 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faiththat you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This is the ultimate prayer for others. What more could you wish for someone but that they would know and understand the faith and the Lord God as deeply as possible? Jesus, speaking to the crowds, spoke of the “eye [being] the lamp of the body” (Luke 11:33-36). He said that this eye and its light could be either good or bad, and depending on which it was a person would be either full of light (holiness, righteousness) or full of darkness (evil, sin). He was speaking figuratively as Paul is here, about the ‘heart’ of man being a receptacle for the good in the world or the evil. Will a man focus on the world and its desires or will he train himself to look beyond the veil to the glory and hope of heaven? Paul prays that the believers would be able to resist the allure of the flesh in order to see and become attracted to the glory of God and His promise to them. He prays for the supernatural help of Almighty God to help the believers accomplish this. This could be the greatest petition we could make for those that we love. It is a prayer that God show our loved ones Himself in His glory, that He would help them to see the power and might of His working in their past (salvation), their present (sustenance), and their future (eternity). It is a prayer that God would cut through the darkness of our loved ones’ hearts, to heal them of their blindness so that they might be able to see Jesus as God sees Him.

Ephesians 1:18 what is the hope to which he has called you

Romans 8:19-21,23-24 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. / And not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.

To recognize one’s own sinfulness is the beginning of being Christian. Understanding the natural order of things is to recognize that there is a God at the top of the food chainand that He has set very simple markers between Good and Evil. To know that one’s own sinfulness places oneself on the wrong side of His ledger is to approach the gate of salvation. Knowing that one can be saved from the penalty due that red ink is to step through the gate and onto the Way to walk with Christ toward a certain and glorious end. Our hope is in this end; in this expected and promised glorious beginning of a life without fear, worries, anxiety, failure, or sadness. We wait in hopeful expectation for a certainty, guaranteed by God, who cannot lie or break His own Word; we will be taken by Him and adopted, Paul says, as His own sons and daughters. We will be welcomed into His presence fully as His own without fear of rejection or abandonment. This is our hope- this is what we were chosen before time to be, this is our destination and our great inheritance.

Paul’s Prayer III

Ephesians 1:19-23 what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3:16-17 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us

We who believe are marked by the Spirit and have the Spirit in us, working in us as a guide, teacher, counselor, and guarantee of our future home. In giving us the Spirit in this way God has in effect placed a deposit upon our lives that He promises to redeem when our time is come, or better yet, when His time is finally come. We know we have the Spirit through the Word of God which plainly tells us, and I daresay through our own personal experience. Upon belief we who converted after living a life of sin and rebellion must have felt a change come over us. We suddenly knew that God was real and that our entire existence up to that point was a lie and a deception by the world and by our very selves. We knew at that point that we could not continue in the way we had but must change ourselves. We also knew in that moment that there was no possible way to do that without help. And so we called on God to help us and slowly, quickly for the lucky ones, we began to change. We felt God’s hand on us and in us, quieting our fears, forgiving our failures, overlooking our missteps and encouraging our success. We know that we have this Spirit because we feel Him when we need Him and because we see the change in ourselves that could only be attributed to His help.

This is the power of God, the ability to impart his Spirit into any and all who would call on His name. This kind of power incarnated itself into the womb of the virgin Mary and walked among us for a short time teaching and calling his children home. This power created us in order to save us by sacrificing Himself for the entirety of His creation. This power gave Himself up to His Father and relied solely on His promise to raise Him up. Which he did, sacrificing His own crown in order to bestow it upon His Son, Jesus, to whom he gave to reign over all forevermore. This is the power that Paul says we who believe share.

Paul’s Prayer IV

Ephesians 1:20-23 when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Acts 2:24 God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2:33 being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit

Mark 16:19 after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Colossians 1:13-20 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Who was Jesus before He was a man and was crucified? Colossians 1:13-20 tells us that He was God, creator of the world, including the powers that be in the heavens, whether good and holy or rebellious and evil. John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the Word and that He existed with God in the beginning of things and is God who created all the things that are. This is where words will fail anyone trying to unravel the complexity of the ‘Godhead’, as the big head theologians call it. This is where the limitations of one’s linearly thinking brain will fail when trying to explain the nature of the Lord and God and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was in the heavens with God (the Father, the Almighty, YHWH) before He was a man and came to teach and save us. In the ‘beginning’, before there was even a beginning to speak about, Jesus existed as God Himself. They say He, God, existed(s) in three Persons, each with distinct identities and natures and yet somehow existing as one deity. It would seem then that Jesus changed His identity when He came to earth for us. He had to cast off His divinity, and His omni-everything in order to compress Himself into the body of a man, the body of an infant, teenager, young adult. He literally separated Himself from the Godhead in order to be incarnated as one of His own creation. Before this point He was ‘with’ God. He had everything He needed or desired. He was creator, He was all-in-all; there was no need for anything else; until the idea for the creation of man came. And with that idea came the plan for the creation of beings who would be able to choose to love or not to love. And with that plan came the idea to show His own love, the greatness of it, by sacrificing Himself, in order to prove Himself to His people. With that the Son was separated from the Father forever. He willingly stepped out of heaven and into time itself, forsaking His glory, His power, and His position as God. He allowed Himself to become one with mankind and showed them, us, in most dramatic fashion the power of love.

Who is Jesus now that He has been raised? Again, words will fail me, and I’m sure my brain will fail me as I conjecture about the mystery of God. When Jesus died He was truly dead. God had been killed by man. As far-fetched as that sounds it is the only thing that can make sense. Unless it was a true death with no hope of return we could have no truly perfect sacrifice for the redemption of our sinful selves. Jesus trusted that His Father, that part of the Godhead that still existed in heaven would use HIS power to restore Him. Jesus was truly separated from the Father as we see in His cry

from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus had no power in himself to come back from the dead or get back into heaven. But this is where it gets cool. The Father heard His cry and did just what He had promised. With power that can only be divine, Jesus was raised from the dead and restored to His rightful place in heaven. But this time the Godhead was changed in a fundamental way. Jesus ascended as a man to heaven. He is the firstfruits of the master plan of salvation. His resurrected body is the archetype of our own resurrection bodies. He is what we will become. He stands in heaven (how that is possible I do not know!) just as we will someday. He is the picture of our hope of one day casting off this life and entering fully into our new and forever lives in heaven.

*Disclaimer (easily attached to all of these comments): This is my conjecture, if it is foolish and I don’t see it then it is trash and should be thrown out.

Paul’s Prayer V

Ephesians 3:16-19 he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faiththat you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And His love for us must be extreme. How can we, who have such a hard time with fundamental humility, ever know the kind of love that would forsake the riches and glory of heaven itself in order to enter into a world such as ours in order to save a people that ultimately would reject Him? This is what we miss in our day to day life which is why this prayer is so fantastic. We cannot know this kind of love and devotion without divine help. We love, but we do not love to this extreme, nor can we because we are incredibly selfish and egocentric. But the Spirit in us wants this for us and in turn we want this. And so we pray, as feebly as we might, and we attempt to love, as unselfishly as we can, and we fail. But God has already paved the way for the cleanup of that failure. He has already forgiven our selfishness and our pride. All we have to do is continue to want to be holy and God will do the rest. He will complete in us what He has started. One day we will know and understand all that Paul prays for us in these verses. We will know God, and we will know His love, and we will be filled with all that God has for us. One day.

Our Position as We Stand before God (Ephesians 2:1-22)

In this section of his letter Paul describes the condition of the Gentile believer BEFORE believing in Christ. Pulling directly from his letter this is who we once were (or who you are if you have not believed and been saved), it is a startling list.

You were/are:

Dead in your trespasses (2:1): Of course you live/were alive, you breathed and moved and went about your business just as you do now. But a man’s life does not consist entirely in his physical and emotional state. If that were so then we could discount the entirety of Scripture from the very first book when God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the tree they would surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). They ate and just as the serpent whispered to them, they surely did not die. Their death, however not physical, was just as real. If it was only physical death that we had to deal with who would care? Let’s be done with it because life would be meaningless. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die (1 Corinthians 15:32) and be no more (Look at the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12:13-21). No! The death of our first parents was not physical but spiritual. While they walked in the light of the garden and obedience to God they were perfect. They enjoyed the wonders of their physicality and also the blessed union between themselves and their maker who visited them and walked with them. They would have enjoyed this forever we can assume IF they had only stayed on the path the Lord had made for them. Instead they succumbed, as we all do, to the allure of the wayside path, the one offered by the serpent as he slides in and out of our lives. They ate of the fruit and their eyes were opened to the nature of good and evil and in so doing they understood what only God should know. He banished them for it. He removed them from their eternal path with Him and placed them outside of the garden onto a new path that led through their own mortality and would be, is for us, filled with turmoil, strife, and pain.

Their death was a spiritual death, a death that infected the rest of mankind and is the one that we all suffer. We are born without God and without hope. We are born doomed to eat, drink, and be as merry as we can find it in ourselves to be. Our transgression is the same as our first parents’ transgression: we know evil and we know it intimately.

(Dead as we are/ were Paul says that we follow the “course of the world” (2:2) and its prince, that very same spirit that inhabited the serpent (Revelation 12:9, 20:2, Ezekiel 28:13- Big-head theologians tell us that this passage about the king of Tyre alludes on another level to the devil) in the garden. He is at work in the world seeking to do the very same to us as he did to Adam and Eve. He seeks to undo what God has done. He will fail (1 John 4:4, Revelation 20:1-3,John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) but nevertheless he is taking many with him to his own destruction.)

Children of wrath (2:3): Mankind is under the curse of Adam- we are doomed to destruction for our sin. We do not stand condemned for Adams sin but for our own. Know this- there are none who stand righteous before God, none who can claim innocence (Romans 3:10). It is a grand claim but a true one; all men have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All men. And as such we must expect only the wrath of God upon us. Some would say that a loving God would have no wrath, that wrath is a sin in itself and not fitting for a true god. But a god that is not true to himself and his standards is a fickle god. A god that is not perfectly consistent in his expectation for his creatures is not a true god. And that consistency must include a just reaction to willful disobedience and rejection of his will. We know from experience that actions bear just consequences in a just society. Why would a god operate any differently? Our God tells us in His word exactly what must be done to be holy and righteous, it is up to us to search that out and make sure we are right before Him. As it stands the unbeliever can expect nothing other than wrath for a life lived in opposition and/or ignorance of the Almighty God (John 3:18).

Our Position as We Stand before God II (Ephesians 2:1-22)

Praise God that in this letter Paul also tells us exactly how it is that we can be turned from dead children of wrath to life in Christ. We who believe are not doomed any longer. We have been plucked from outside the garden and placed back onto the path that leads to life. We who believe are now safe from the wrath of God that will be visited upon the earth and upon those who continue to refuse Him. We who believe are now changed; we are adopted into the family of God as sons. We can now expect life instead of death. We now eat and drink and look forward to the day when He returns or calls us home. We are children of light and children of the inheritance.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Grace. Praise God for that as well, you see it was not in His plan to simply cut loose the sinners and leave them alone outside the garden to fend for themselves. That would be the god that others describe, the kind of god that is vindictive and petty, one that is jealous and vengeful- that is the god the naysayers accuse our God of being. But our God is so much bigger, grander, and magnificent than that. Our God- the true One, who stands in heaven to this very day, watching and waiting for the completion of all things so He can finally bring about the Day that we wait so eagerly for, the day of proof, of vindication, and of rebirth- our God knew what His first two children would do and wrote the story not simply to tell of them and their sin and destruction but to tell the story of Himself, His love and our salvation. God wanted to tell us what love was so He created creatures who would be able to love- but because we were not as God was we could not handle the enormity of evil (which is the opposite of love) and so God willingly decided to stand in our stead to face evil and help us win. And that is what He did in Christ. Grace is God’s willingness to stand in the stead of sinners and offer them life. He knew we would fail, but He risked giving us a chance at life. God allowed Himself to be changed in this way- He came as the Son and died to pay the penalty that our sin deserved. His divinity paid it all, for every man, believer or not. He rose again and now waits in heaven for His children, those who will accept Him, who will believe and honor His word, to come to Him and choose life over death. The risk was all His- there was/is nothing for the sinner to do except accept the gift. For those of us who have we are now safe in His hands. For those who have not or will not they stand in expectant condemnation. What is your decision? Who will you believe: the serpent or the Savior?

Strangers and Aliens No More!

Ephesians 2:11-12 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by handsremember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

In verses 2:11-22 Paul describes the relationship between the Gentile believer and the Jewish people. If you know your biblical history you know that God created the people of Israel out of the line of Abraham, created him to be the father of all who would believe, but first to the Jews. From Abraham came the tribes of Jacob which became the nation of Israel which housed the Temple of the Lord and was the focal point of His interaction with mankind. But outsiders were not allowed into the presence of God because they were not cleansed by adherence to the very specific ordinances that the Jew was. The Law of God contains these ordinances for keeping sin out of Israel and the wrath of God at bay. The uncircumcised Gentile was not included in these ordinances. They were the unclean, pagan, idolaters, and had no part or parcel of the commandments or the promises of God. As Paul clearly says in 2:12 the Gentile was “alienated from… Israel and [was a stranger] to the promise. [They had no hope and were] without God in the world.”

There was therefore great enmity between Jew and the Gentile. Intermingling between the races was not common as witnessed to by the account of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus (John 4) and the Good Samaritan parable Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37. Paul describes this enmity as hostility between the two (2:16) but what is new with the gospel that Paul had brought to the Gentile world was that no longer is that hostility necessary. With Christ there is no longer any division between the races. No longer must the Gentile walk in this world without God and without hope. Paul proudly proclaims that in Christ the dividing wall is broken down, the commandments given to the Jews have been “abolished”, and the two peoples have been reconciled.

God’s plan, from the beginning was to save all men, He desires that none be left outside in the dark (1 Timothy 2:4) and His plan comes to fruition in Jesus. Jesus’ death cancels the need for the very specific ordinances that were once necessary in order for God to visit His people. Jesus’ death created the possibility for the Spirit to visit every man personally and work in every man individually to lead them to belief in the cross and subsequent salvation. Paul tells the Gentiles in these verses that they now have the same access to God that the Jew did. The two people are now one people, one glorious body, united in the name of Jesus, and supported by the founding work of the apostles and prophets.

Christ Jesus, the Cornerstone

Ephesians 2:18-22 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 1:19-23 according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Jesus Christ is the Great Uniter of races; He is God incarnate (John 1:14), born of a woman (Galatians 4:4), sinless as a man (2 Corinthians 5:21), Teacher of Israel (John 13:13) and the fulfillment of scriptural prophecy that spoke of a Messiah who would take the burden of man’s sin upon his own shoulders (Isaiah 53:12) and bring all men back to God (Isaiah 55:1). Through the grace of God, Jesus’ sacrifice satisfies the Law’s requirement for blood and perfection (Romans 8:1-4). His death frees us from paying the penalty the Law requires for our transgressions. Jesus is our Savior in that we who believe do not stand under condemnation any longer but are brought into the family of God fully vested as sons and daughters (John 3:18, John 1:12).

Jesus Christ is the “cornerstone”, Paul says, He is the beginning of the church, the body of believers, and the foundation for the new nation of man that is the new temple for the Spirit of God to reside among men. Jesus now waits in heaven, sitting at the right hand of His Father and ours, interceding for us before the Him (Romans 8:34), defending our right to come to Him in prayer, acting as our intermediary (1 Timothy 2:5), and waiting, waiting for the Day when the Church will be made complete, when all who have been chosen are saved, and when the creation can be re-birthed and made perfect forever. Jesus is our Salvation, praise be to God!

Paul the Prisoner

Paul, a prisoner of Christ on behalf of the Gentiles (vs. 3:1), So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory (3:13), I therefore a prisoner for the Lord (4:1)

Three times in this letter alone Paul refers to his imprisonment and its benefit for the believers in Ephesus- he was literally in chains for what he had brought to them, for the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know from his other letters and from the book of Acts that Paul was imprisoned in a Roman jail due to a confrontation with the Jews in Jerusalem. Paul was true to his own words and found ways to be content during his hardship and to find the good in what he suffered. Here Paul reminds the believers that it was for their sake that he suffered in jail. It was because he dared bring the gospel to the Gentile peoples that he found such opposition from his own people. And Paul reminds them that what he had done and was doing He did for the Lord.

Acts 21-28 tell of the sequence of events leading Paul to his imprisonment in Rome where he wrote many of the letters in our New Testament. In Acts 21 Paul is in Caesarea visiting the faithful and is met by one Agabus, a prophet from Judea. Agabus had come to tell Paul that he was sure to be bound and taken by the Gentiles while in Jerusalem. The believers Paul was staying with begged him not to take the risk but Paul, possibly remembering what Jesus had said about him in Acts 9:16 refuses their pleas and sets off, “ready not only to be imprisoned but to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:14).

Once in Jerusalem Paul is greeted warmly by the council of elders, including James, and is warned of a murmuring against him from some of the Jews in Jerusalem. It was suggested that Paul show his faithfulness to God by joining a purification ritual of some of the men in the Temple, which Paul does. The Jews who had a complaint against him misread this gesture and accused him of defiling the temple with the Gentile converts he had brought to Jerusalem with him. Paul is taken and beaten by the Jews in Jerusalem for his supposed blasphemy but is rescued by the Roman tribune. Paul is given a chance to address the complaint of the Jews but it is to no avail. They become enraged when he explained his God given mission to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and the tribune is forced to take him into custody for his own safety. This tribune commands the Jewish chief priests and council to make their charges against Paul. This meeting was very confrontational and Paul is once again remanded to Roman custody. There is a plot to kill Paul which is averted and Paul is first sent to the governor of the region who imprisons him for two years and leaves him for the next governor to deal with, then to the king, and finally to Rome because he was forced to appeal to the Caesar for his own safety. Amidst the drama of the assassination attempt, the conspiracies against him, the shipwreck on the way to Rome, the desertion on Malta and the hardship of his Roman imprisonment Paul did not cease to speak of Jesus Christ. He witnessed to the governors Felix and Festus, to King Agrippa and his wife Bernice, to the men on the Roman ship and in his prison. In each place and in each circumstance Paul faithfully carried out his charge to witness to the glory and grace of God to the Gentiles.

The Conversion of Paul

Ephesians 3:2-6 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Paul was not one of the first Christian converts in Jerusalem. He was not a follower of the Lord Jesus during His ministry to us. He did not believe in Jesus after the remarkable events of the crucifixion and resurrection; the darkening of the skies, the earthquake, and the raising of the dead did not sway him to belief. He was, nonetheless, steadfastly religious and zealous for his religion. Paul was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5), and as a member of a deeply orthodox sect of Judaism he prided himself on his adherence to the Law and all of its minutia. The new sect, that called themselves the Way (Acts 24:14), followed a rabbi that spoke against much of what Paul had come to believe and revere. The new sect was built upon dangerously blasphemous ideas that stood in opposition to the very clear teachings of the Law. What was one such as Paul to do except to resist such a ‘cult’ as it must have seemed to be? After all, to worship any other than the God of heaven would be blasphemy and these believers in Jesus were worshiping a man who claimed to be one with God, if not God himself. Blasphemy had to be dealt with by death to the blasphemer (Leviticus 24:16). And so Paul began a crusade against these followers of the Way. Paul rounded them up first in Jerusalem and then in the surrounding cities and towns. Believers were imprisoned and stoned and Paul was there through it all leading the charge and approving of the death of these first martyrs (Acts 8:1-3).

This is the danger of religion. To hold a belief so dear that you cannot tolerate any truth that appears in contradiction to it is dangerous. Paul was right in his love and zeal for the Lord but he was greatly and sadly mistaken in his understanding of Him. Paul had studied under the greatest of teachers and yet had missed the entire point of the redemptive history of Israel (Acts 22:19-21). He, along with his fellow Pharisees had misunderstood that all that God had done in creating, redeeming, protecting and saving their nation was so that they would learn to love Him. The Pharisees did not have this love in their hearts for God or for others. They saw the Law as a series of steps and ordinances that one takes to appease God and to gain standing in their own community. God on the other hand saw His Law as condemnation for the sin of His children and a sure sign to them of their own weakness and need for Him. When Jesus came it was to clear up this misconception to show the people that the ultimate expression of religion is in the care and love of others; that all the sacrifices in the world would be and are meaningless when compared to the simple gesture of selfless love (Psalm 51:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:22).

Paul and his contemporaries missed this. And I wonder if we and our contemporaries miss this. I am thinking of the uproar from the Christian community about the secular demand for reproductive ‘rights’, homosexual ‘marriage’, separation of church and state, and a host of other religious issues that are changing the fabric of our culture. America was founded on the principles derived from an understanding that God exists and has a hand in all we do. Our founders believed in God and modelled our nation upon His moral precepts. For two hundred years this basis was fairly firm and accepted. But in our time the foundational understanding of God has been eroded by those who do not believe and who will not live according to principles that we who do believe know to be true and right. We are now in the place of Paul, seeing our beloved institution in danger of falling prey to an upstart replacement ideology. And so some of our brothers are raising fists in anger and going on the offensive in order to protect the faith. My question is, are we in the right to believe as we do?

Paul operated under a misconception and in the name of God he committed terrible sins against his own people. During the Middle Ages Christian nations committed similar acts of terror against those they felt were infidels and sinners. During our time Christians behave abominably in order to fight the loss of morality in our culture. We have to be careful

not to cross over into the error of our forebears and of Paul. We have to remember what it was that God sent His Son to do- to remind us of His love for us and to remind us of our duty to foster love for each other. We do not need a state to support our religion in its Laws and practices. We do not need to have neighbors who think and behave as we do. We do not need our schools to teach what we believe. We need only to look upon the world as Jesus did, and weep for it. We need to reach out in love to our neighbors, whatever their condition and tell them of the gospel; that all men can be saved. The Spirit can do the rest.

Our hardship will come, and has come, in living in a new world where belief in God is not universal. We will suffer as the faith erodes worldwide and is taken over by a worldview spurred on by the evil one; a worldview that tickles the ears and satisfies the flesh (2 Timothy 4:3). But suffering is what we are called to do and suffer we must if in the end times that is what we are reduced to. Our forefathers suffered horribly for their faith (Hebrews 11), some of our contemporaries in restrictive countries suffer daily, the apostle Paul suffered- but we will do it for God and for the love of His children. Amen?

The Conversion of Paul II

Acts 26:15-18 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentilesto whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul, who admits in Acts 26:9 that he was convinced that it was his duty to oppose the name of Jesus Christ and all who were associated with it, was struck down on his way to the city of Damascus where, with the full blessing of the leading Jews in Jerusalem, he was going to seek out and arrest followers of Jesus living there. The account of his conversion to the Way, to Christianity, to a true son of God, is found in Acts 9: the bright light from heaven, the voice of Jesus, the confusion of the men with him, his blindness and miraculous healing at the hands of Ananias, and his subsequent baptism and 180 degree turn from persecutor to proselyte. In the above passage from Acts Paul is speaking to King Agrippa before his final appeal to Caesar and he gives a fuller account of the words spoken to him by Jesus than what we read elsewhere in scripture. In the above passage Jesus clearly unveils the age-old plan to bring into the fold the pagan nations and peoples. Paul’s charge was to the Gentiles, not to the Jews that he had trained his entire life to teach and govern religiously. He was to become an instrument of Jesus to the nations that had been blinded by their own idolatry due to generations and millennia of living apart from God and separated from His influence. He was to enter the world controlled by the evil one, the prince of the air, who exercised authority and received a deceitful share of the Gentiles misguided worship. This mission was not to be without difficulty for Jesus told Ananias that Paul would indeed suffer for the sake of His name. And suffer he did, with plots against his life, stoning and shipwrecks, and imprisonment, from which jail cell he wrote this very letter.

This conversion gave Paul a peculiar insight into the workings of God that had not been granted to men before. In the Old Testament we get foreshadowing of the grafting in of the Gentiles with the Jew. There is allusion to a day when all men on the earth will call on the name of the Lord and be sheltered under His ever expansive wings (Psalm 91:4). But here, at this very moment, through the man Paul, is the actual fulfillment of what had only been dreamed about by the prophets and later apostles. Paul was given the workings of the plan just as Noah had been given the workings of the ark and Moses the workings of the Law before him (Genesis 6:11-22, Exodus 31:12-18). They did not grasp how exactly God was going to pull off what He had begun in them but they were blessed with unique insight into the mystery of salvation. In Paul we see the beginnings of the completion of that mystery unfolded. Now was the time when any who came to God for sustenance would be granted access and a place at the table (Isaiah 55, Revelation 21:5-7). Now was the time when the life-giving waters that Jesus spoke about to the woman at the well were to begin flowing (John 4:7-14). After two thousand years the waters are still flowing and the mystery still unfolding and we head steadfastly toward a day when the indwelling of the Spirit will no longer be necessary upon the earth because the plan will finally be completed and we will all be together in the omnipresence of God in His new heavens and new earth!

The Gospel, The Eternal Purpose of God

Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also, when you first heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentile’s are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister

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

Ephesians 6:19 that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel

The word “gospel”, which is our translation of the Greek word euagellion, simply means, according to Strong’s, ‘a good message.’ But in Paul’s usage it becomes much more. It becomes an active thing, a living entity that he carries with him, supporting and building up, teaching and defending it against those who would try to destroy it. Here in this letter the gospel is the word of truth, a mystery revealed, and a harbinger of peace. The gospel is the fact that from the beginning of time God’s plan for mankind included all of His creation. To the Jew this was a mind-blowing concept, for from their earliest beginnings they were commanded to be a people set apart, and to limit interaction with the other races in order to remain unstained by pagan idolatry. And here, in the first century, after thousands of years of Jewish isolationism comes a prophet such as Paul with news that that isolation is at an end. Paul was chosen by God to be the instrument to bring that news to the world outside of Israel. He was made the gospel’s minister by the Son of God himself, sent to the Gentile world to proclaim to them that the door to heaven now stood open, that there was no longer a barrier to them to sharing in the riches of knowing God.

From the letter we get a pretty good list of all that the gospel means for us:

It is the word of truth (Ephesians 1:13). It is all of the things mentioned in chapter one: it is being chosen by God and predestined to be adopted by Him as His own sons and daughters. It is the forgiveness of our sins and the granting of an inheritance guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

It is our reconciliation to the other nations and to Israel (Ephesians 2:16). When Adam sinned the course of mankind was altered. Man was cast out and left to his own, without God and without hope. God’s plan for salvation began with Abram and Israel but the rest of mankind was still outside the camp. With Jesus a light dawned upon all of mankind and we were welcomed back into the garden (figuratively for now, but literally in heaven). This gospel is the message that man has been reconciled with God, that there no longer exists any barrier to knowing Him and receiving His grace, His sonship, His blessings. Gentile and Jew, black and white, male and female- all are one in God, or can be, if only they choose Christ (Galatians 3:28).

It is peace (Ephesians 6:15). Seven times Paul uses the word peace in this letter. He offers it to his readers and he uses the word to refer to the effect of this gospel. This gospel, this good news, this heavenly message to mankind, is a sign of peace. It is the end of conflict between man and God; no longer must we fear His wrath for we are safe and saved. And it is peace among men, for now all men can be our brothers. Paul was sure of the need to protect Judaism from all outside contamination so for him to learn that even the uncircumcised could become as clean as he at the feet of Jesus was huge. For us, who live in an age of unbelief, how do we extend this sign of peace to our neighbors, coworkers, strangers on the street? We are like Paul in that we belong to a quickly becoming minority set of Christian faithful who are sent into the world to bring this message. We too can offer peace to the new Gentiles, the great unwashed, who do not believe and are ignorant of their own unbelief. At the very least we can extend a hand of peace to the world, to our neighbors, our coworkers, and the strangers on the street and in the marketplace; a hand that shows that we are

different than others, that we do not operate as the world does, that we do care, and will help, and want to hear them. We can love the world as our gospel.

Doxology

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

According to Strong’s the word power, dunamis, is literally a force, specifically a miraculous force. The power within us is what Paul described for us in 1:19 as “immeasurable”; the power that raised Christ from the dead and bestowed on Him the title of Lord of lords over all of creation, heavenly and otherwise, this is the power that resides in us, that works through us by the Spirit of God. This power is also what converted Paul and made him minister to the Gentile people (3:7). In this doxology, this praise, Paul tells us that the power of God transcends by far anything we can imagine or relate to. He tells us that God is able to do more than we can even ask Him to do for us.

I want to know this power. I want to be able to draw on it and use it for my good and the good of my family and people I care about. I want to use it to fix myself, so that I am better, so that I do not sin. But, and here’s the rub, how can I know this power?

I know that He is at work in me for I know who I once was and how far I’ve come. And knowing this I believe that He is

completing in me what He started at my creation. I know that one day I will be made whole and will no longer suffer as I do. I had a thought yesterday about how his working in me works, if you’ll pardon my awkward phrasing. Because I can’t see the whole me as He can, and because I can’t know the whole plan as He does, and because I am a worm and not a man and He is God and not a mute idol, I will not be able to see clearly the steps He is taking to further me toward my goal of perfection. I liken it to my working on a sculpture, turning it as I work, modelling it after my sketches and my mind’s eye view of its form. The sculpture, were it able, might complain at my decisions, my harshness, my vigor in attacking it, my delay in completing the finish, but it cannot know what I know. It cannot know the prerequisite steps that must be taken to complete such a work. It cannot know the variables at play as I know them. God knows however, what is needed to get me from where I am to where I must go. How can I understand more than a fraction of His work in me- when He has not only me to care for and perfect but all of mankind, His church, His creation, and His heavens? Simultaneously God is working across the globe and through time to perfect His creation, to save His children, to show us true love. This is power that we simply cannot comprehend.

So what must I do with Paul’s praise? How do I grasp the length and breadth and height and depth of God’s love for me and understand the not understandable power of God to do what He has done and is doing?

I simply can’t do anything with it. I can’t understand. I can’t know His power. I can’t feel the extent of His love- unless He were to touch me as He touched Paul. But I can believe- and believe I must, believe I do. Belief is all that I have to rest upon when all else fails- a faith that God does and is and will. He does love me. He is working in me. He will fix me and finish me. And I know this from His word, from Paul’s words, and from the Spirit that whispers to me in the dark. Believe.

Other Doxologies from Scripture

A doxology is a word of praise and they are found throughout the Old and New Testaments. They are typically structured to address God, to ascribe Him glory (doxa), and include an eternity formula (forever and ever). The praise is intended to glorify God in our minds and in the minds of its hearers, it is not intended to add to the glory that God possesses. What can man give to God that he does not already have? A doxology acknowledges the eternal greatness of God and recognizes His all surpassing glory. Sometimes in scripture a doxology also includes a description of what God has done for man and praises Him for that as well. What follows is a sampling of the many and varied doxologies found in scripture:

Psalm 106:48 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, "Amen!" Praise the LORD!

1 Chronicles 16:36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!"

Jude 1:25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 1:5-6 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:13-14 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Walk Worthy

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 this summary section (Ephesians 4:1-16) Paul makes the transition from detailing who and what we once were- a people without God and without hope, damned to an eternal existence separated from God- to what we now must do in response to the incredible fact that we are no longer in such a sorry state. Therefore, Paul says, we now must walk in a manner that is worthy of such a great and awesome gift.

Paul urges us to respond according to the magnitude of the gift. He is by contrast cautioning against taking it for granted and risking our forgetting what has been done for us. Israel’s history is one long, sad tale of receiving gifts from God, gradually spurning those gifts through rebellion and rejection, punishment and separation for their sins, and eventual redemption by God’s loving hand. They showed over and over again the natural tendency of man to forget who they once were and Who it was that had saved them. God cautioned them over and over of the results of their forgetfulness (Numbers 15:37-41, Isaiah 46, Ezekiel 16:59-63) but to no avail, their pattern was ingrained in them as it is in us. But now, in Christ, we have received the ultimate of gifts, a final and forever redemption and salvation from the repeated transgressions and rebellion of a Holy God. It is a once for all gift- never to be repeated and never to be offered again (Romans 6:10, Hebrews 9:26). So Paul urges us to respond in kind. Therefore, he says, walk worthy of this gift. And how do we accomplish this? By simply walking in love toward God, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and in the world at large!

In this section Paul is also stressing again the unity of the children of God that was created in Christ (Ephesians 2:14) but must yet be perfected through Him working in us. We must achieve this final step in the grand plan of our God. We must walk together as one body, as proof to the world that God reigns over all and has accomplished all that He set out to do in creation. This is our calling.

Numbers 15:37-41 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

Isaiah 46:8-9 Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me

Ezekiel 16:62-63 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”

Your Calling

Ephesians 4:1-4: 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. There is one body and one Spiritjust as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call

According to Paul, we who believe in the Lord Jesus have been called to Him and as such we have been given a calling. The verb has been internalized in us to a noun that we are being urged to honor and respect in our actions. So what is this calling that we have been given?

The answer of course must reference the new life that has been graciously bestowed upon us; a life that Paul laboriously described and defined in the first three chapters of this letter. In chapter two Paul described the transition of the Gentiles from a people set apart and doomed to destruction to a people who have been brought near to God and made at peace with Him. Due to the sacrifices of God and Jesus there is no longer any hostility between the Jew and the Gentile or between God and man. He called us to Him and to those of us who have responded, who have believed (Romans 10:9), we are now newly alive in Him. Jesus calls to us (Revelation 3:20) and when we answer we are placed on a new life path, given a new vocation; one that honors and glorifies the God of heaven and earth for what He has done for us.

The rest of the letter to the Ephesians provides a summary list of behaviors and attitudes that a believer, one called and given a calling, should try to emulate. He tells us that our purpose (i.e. calling) is to “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ” and to “be imitators of God” and to “walk in love, as Christ loved us. And gave Himself up for us.” If we were able to do this, if we are able to simply try this in our day to day living we would be on the way to ‘walking worthy’ of the great calling we have received. To walk the Way is a privilege, we have been rescued out of a terrible fate and as such we want our efforts to reflect the greatness of our salvation.

Walk Worthy II

Ephesians 4:1-4: 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. There is one body and one Spiritjust as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call

What is it to walk worthy? In this summary section of the letter (Ephesians 4:1-16) Paul lists at least three character traits and/or behaviors that we can work to adopt in our efforts to transform our base selfishness (Ephesians 2:3) into a new, and highly encouraged, selflessness. They are:

Humility (as opposed to Pride) before others

Presenting a trait by describing its opposite sometimes draws out the meaning of the trait more easily. Pride is an emotional attitude that’s focus is on self-preservation and advancement. It steers thoughts and actions toward that which will advance its own goals and objectives. It seeks to preserve its own status and perceived place in the world and in one’s own mind. Paul specifically speaks against this in verse 14 of chapter four when he teaches against our old ways of scheming and deceitfulness. Pride acts against our brothers’ and sisters’ well-being in favor of promoting our own. In contrast, humility is all about the other person. The word that the ESV translates as humility in this verse is translated as asceticism in two other places (Colossians 2:18, 2:23). This difference helps to point out that what Paul wants for us, urges us to adopt is the complete opposite of pride. To be humble is to think less of self and more of others, even to the point of self-sacrifice. In a sense it is to think primarily of others and very little of ourselves. Christianity, and our calling to it, is a call then to selflessness, as exemplified in our Lord’s sacrifice for us. It is a fundamental shift from the me-first thinking of our time, and I daresay all times, to thinking about other people and their well-being.

How to do this is the tricky part. It is one thing to write these things, for they are true and easily enough discerned from scripture. Even a casual read of the New Testament will give you the idea that the religion we partake in is not really about meeting the individual needs we have but more about how we can love those around us. It would seem that to adopt this trait of humility and to weaken the predominant pride in ourselves we would begin with practicing what Paul writes in this letter and in all of his letters. We can start with recognizing our own pride, even if it’s as simple a task as noting how often we do for ourselves rather than doing for others. We might practice taking less and giving more. We could offer praise instead of seeking it. We assist rather than ask. We compliment instead of complain. In short we work to show love in our day to day dealings with others instead of trying to get love from them.

Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Gentleness (as opposed to Brusqueness) with others

Gentleness is attached to the word humility in Paul’s desire for us. It is a function of our humility; it is the way our humility, our putting others before ourselves, is expressed. I suppose that it is technically possible to be abrupt in our putting others first. We could take care of our neighbors and loved ones at our own expense and do so in an entirely terse and offhanded manner. But that would be to fulfill the function of the command to love our neighbor and not the spirit of it.

In the Old Testament God often chastised the Israelites for their hardheartedness. Their hearts were not close to His (Isaiah 29:13); they habitually offered the sacrifices of praise and atonement but they felt nothing in their hearts for Him (Psalm 51:16-17). He wanted more from them than their physical sacrifices- He wanted their hearts to love Him and each other. God wants the same for us. He wants us to care for each other, yes, that care is our duty and obligation in light of what we have received. But He wants us to feel love as we show it to our neighbors.

Cultivating our humility is the start of meeting the command to love others (Matthew 22:37-40). Doing so with gentleness is the fulfillment of that command in real time.

Patience/ Bearing with one another (as opposed to Impatience)

Who has not felt impatience? That rising tide of frustration that moves up your backside and threatens to enter your skull and come crashing out of your mouth in self-satisfying anger. The level to which one feels frustrated with a brother or sister in Christ is an indication of one’s ability to humble oneself by putting the other forward. Impatience with others is an indication of one’s own understanding of the universality of sin and of the fact that others are just as imperfect as we are.

We come to Christ with that basic understanding of ourselves, do we not? We understand when we bow before Him that we are much lesser than we ought to be and that only through His sacrifice will we ever be able to be embraced by Him. We know this deeply and we accept this about ourselves. To accept it in others however is a different and much trickier story. But accept it we must. We have to understand our neighbors and loved ones as standing in as much need of forgiveness and sacrifice as we are. They struggle with sin just as we do. The difficulty comes in the differences between the struggles. Something that I have overcome may still be a difficulty for my friend. Something that has never even been an issue for me is a great problem for someone else. Their sin may cause them to lash out in anger, or to withdraw from me, or to withhold affection, or to cheat, lie, steal, and hurt me. It is because of these behaviors from others that affect me personally that cause me to have a difficult time loving patiently and without frustration.

Paul urges us to ‘bear with one another in love’ so that as a church we will grow together as one body, glorifying God and Christ who made it all possible. Together we will be stronger than as individuals- we were meant for community. Humility, gentleness, and bearing with each other’s failures are the building blocks of that unity.

Unity

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

Unity: I’ve beaten this point pretty well in my ramblings so far through this letter, but here it is as clear as day- Unity. We are meant to be one together. We were made as an ‘Us’ rather than an ‘I’ from the time of the garden when God pronounced that man was not good on his own (Genesis 2:18). Man- signifying both male and female (Genesis 1:27) - was not intended to be a solitary creature. We sometimes feel as if we would like to be. There are those among us who seem to fare very well that way. But the truth is that we simply do not understand the beauty of what God has intended for us. It was perfection as created and we glimpse a fraction of that in the account in Genesis. But God’s love wrote the story full of flaws and man went his own way time and again; and God saved us time and again, ultimately in Christ, in order that we might see our need for Him and our eventual completeness only in Him and in each other. We need each other- we need to be loved and to love.

In this simple passage Paul defines the ‘religion’ of the Christian in a series of ‘ones’. We are now one in Christ; he made that clear in the first three chapters. And here he makes clear that we are one in Him; in God the Father, the Spirit, and the Lord Jesus Christ. There is now only one faith, one entrance to that faith, one symbol of that entrance, and one overall objective for each one of us- eternal salvation.

This is our hope, our eternal hope, and our hope for the present: that we belong to God, and to each other. That together we are stronger than we are on our own. And that God does not expect us to do it alone- He gave us each other, his own Spirit, and a host of teachers and helpers to guide us along.

Walk Worthy III

Ephesians 4:7-8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

KJV: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

By ‘grace’ I think of an elegance of movement or a refinement in speech and behavior. Ballet dancers can be graceful and old ladies display grace at tea. But in New Testament scripture ‘grace’ refers to a gift from God that is reflected in one’s virtuous behavior. In 2 Corinthians 3-7 the word refers to the virtues of charitable giving and earnestness as expressions of the heart of the Christian. The word also refers to specific gifts from God such as knowledge (2 Corinthians 7), faith (Romans 12:3), and most importantly the gospel of salvation and salvation itself. In our passage the word is referring to the divine help that we each will receive that will enable us to do that which Paul so urgently wants us to do, which is to walk worthy.

In order for us to “walk in a manner worthy” of the Lord and His sacrifice we are going to need help. And this help, this grace, is one of the things that I think separates our true religion from the idolatrous religions of the world. In other religions God is seen as the judge of man and one who weighs lives and actions in a scale and lets the balance determine mans’ fate. But, and we must always thank God for the buts, God is not as they in other religions see Him. He is not vengeful, wrath-filled, angry, petty, or fatalistic. He is loving, tender, desirous of us, jealous for us, determined, longsuffering, and forgiving. God wrote our story simply in order to show how much of each of these things He truly is. He showed the Israelites His wrath in order to teach them of their sin. He showed them His vengeance to instill reverence and fear in them of Him. He showed them His forgiveness to teach them to repent, always to repent. And with Christ, the crowning achievement of His love, He has shown us that He wants us to be with Him forever. He has made a way for us to overcome our sin and to join in union with Him. That union begins now as we try to stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot expect to do this on our own any more than our forefathers, the Israelites, were able to. But, God made a way. He gave us gifts to help us. He gave us grace to make us stronger, to teach us, and to build us up. He gave to each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3) and spiritual gifts such as teaching, helping, healing, wisdom and many others in order that we could serve one another and play a role in the building of a perfect church for our Lord Jesus. In this way, by gifting our brothers and sisters in unique ways, He has enabled us to come together as a body. We have the opportunity to build something grand in our churches. We have an opportunity to lift each other out of sin and into the light and freedom of life in Christ. We are not without hope as we wait for the realization of our ultimate Hope in heaven.

Ephesians 4:8-14 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.) 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, 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.

Psalm 68:18 (KJV): Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.

The highlighted verse refers back to Psalm 68, a psalm of praise to God for His victory in Israel over her enemies. Verse 18 of that psalm describes God going to the top of Mt. Zion leading a host of captives, as victor over His enemies and ‘receiving’ gifts for men, even for the rebellious among men. The language gets tricky here for me- were the gifts for the men or from the men? Did God receive them or give them? Paul, in our passage, makes it clear that the gifts God ‘received’ were for men, for mankind. Matthew Henry comments that God vanquished His enemies, the forces of evil in the world and led them away captive as the kings of old were wont to do. He took the enemy from among us and made us safe. He then gave us gifts, even those among us who were rebellious to Him. This fits perfectly with what Paul is saying in His letter; that we who were once Gentiles by nature are now one with the Jew in the faith. We who spent our lives rebelling against God, separated from Him, and disavowing His presence, are now brought close to Him and He has given us gifts, grace, to help us to close the gap between what we once were and what we are urged to become.

God has given us the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip us for the work of Christ. The apostles, those set apart, those who have heard the Word of God directly from the Lord, are no longer with us- but they have left a record in their letters to the early church. Our bible is our direct link to these men who spoke directly to Jesus and learned from Him. They were given to us to help us in our walk toward maturity. The prophets of the Old Testament and the New were given to us to forewarn us of what was to come, to caution us against our sin, to remind us of future blessings and hope, and to make clear the incredible glory and majesty of God, instilling in us a healthy and reverent fear of Him. The evangelists, those recorded in scripture and those working among us today, have been specially equipped by the Spirit to speak truth among the nations and to lead men toward a saving knowledge of Jesus. Without these men and women how would the world learn of the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:14-15)? Without the work of evangelism how would any of us have been saved? The shepherds and teachers are those in the churches today who work to pastor, preach, and teach us in the way of the Lord. These are our direct daily contacts with those who can help us. Oh, that the church would be filled with men and women who could counsel and pray and teach with the body of Christ and walk with them through difficulty to the joy of the Lord.

From Matthew Henry: We see here that it is Christ's prerogative to appoint what officers and offices he pleases in his church. And how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts! How kind is Christ to his church! How careful of it and of its edification! When he ascended, he procured the gift of the Holy Ghost; and the gifts of the Holy Ghost are various: some have greater, others have less measures; but all for the good of the body

That We May No Longer Be Children

Ephesians 4:12-15 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, 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

These verses fill me with a desire to have what Paul is almost praying for us to have here. To be mature in the Christian sense is beyond my grasp I fear- it is all too easy to think oneself mature in a worldly sense; to have reached physical maturity, vocational maturity, financial maturity in one form or another. To be mature in the world can be seen primarily as an outward character trait, seen in one’s bearing, stature, and status; easily donned and displayed for watching eyes. But to be mature as Christ was mature? To be mature as a man in the kingdom of God? To be able to say that I have reached the fullness of Christ and have thrown off the weight of human cunning and deceitfulness? That kind of maturity cannot be pretended before others because the only Other that matters in Paul’s sense is God Himself. And there is no hiding one’s shortcomings from Him (Psalm 139).

What is it then to mature to manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? The KJV translates it “a perfect man”. Paul desires for us to become perfected in what it is that Christ has apportioned for us to be. He is telling us that Christ has given to us a perfection, or completion, that we can attain to, with the gifts He has provided for us. This ought to be comforting because that means that it is possible to become more than we currently are. If the church with all of its individual parts were to function as a unit, a body, then each one of us has the opportunity to build each other up as we ourselves are built up. I can be better, given the help of my brothers and sisters, and the grace that God has apportioned to me.

Manhood in Christ is a disposition to righteousness and a disinclination to evil (1 Corinthians 14:20), meaning that a mature man is one who is knowledgeable in the ways of the Lord, in His word and its application but who is naïve in the ways of evil. For men who have lived a life of evil before turning to Christ the knowledge of evil they possess must be ‘forgotten’. It must be laid aside for benefit only as past experience and not as a resource for present concerns. A mature man does not use the tools of unrighteousness to conduct his business in the world but uses the tools of the kingdom for kingdom work. A mature man is a worker of good for the benefit of others; he is no longer a worker of ill for the benefit of self.

Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

The writer of Hebrews admonishes his readers that it appears they have forgotten what they had learned about their faith. They appeared to need to be reinstructed in the “elementary doctrine of Christ” (Hebrews 6:1) instead of building on that fundamental foundation and moving onto maturity. A mature Christian will not allow himself to stop his progress toward a complete knowledge of God. A mature man will continue to study, practice, and experience the Christian ways of righteousness over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

Matthew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We have been made perfect in the eyes of God through the sacrifice of his Son. Through Jesus we have been ceremonially washed clean of the sin that stained His perfect creation. We have been accepted as clean and we have been taken as vessels holy enough to welcome the Spirit of God. And yet Jesus clearly tells us that we therefore must be

perfect as the Father Himself is perfect. This statement comes amidst His Sermon on the Mount where He teaches the Law as it was understood and expounds on it to show how it was meant to be understood. The standard He set is perfection, in thought, and word, and deed. It is not enough, He taught, to simply obey the commands physically. To offer lip service to the Temple without the obedience, and circumcision, of the heart is meaningless. He taught that we must change our understanding of sin itself and our own wickedness. Our wickedness permeates us and it is that core darkness that life in Christ is a battle to overcome.

We are saved, I am not leaning toward a gospel that depends on one’s own sinlessness, but I am understanding Jesus’ words to say that I must continue to try to act out this understanding. Thank God that He told us the reality of our sinfulness in as clear terms as He did. He said that murder was not simply the killing of a man but an angry word at another as well. He told us that adultery was not simply a physical act but also lustful thought. He told us that love was not just for those who care for us but also for those who hate us. Thank God I am saved by His Word alone because if I had to perfect these behaviors in myself before being accepted I would have failed three times over (at least). I must however not be content to go on sinning (Romans 6:1) because that would be to forego the importance of the gift I am so blessed to partake in. No, I must honor that gift and the sacrifice of God who gave it to me. I must continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13) in order to grow in my understanding of myself, my sin, and my portion of the faith and the grace I’ve been granted. I must continue to be perfect as He is perfect. In this way, stumbling as I might, I may hope to grow into maturity as a Christian, as a man, and as a brother to those around me.

That We May No Longer Be Children II

Ephesians 4:14 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.

If I understand my dictionary properly the word translated ‘children’ means literally ‘not speaking’. By implication that word refers to a child, a babe or infant, who cannot speak or move independently and therefore is carried here and there, hither and thither, wherever someone else desires he go. This is the picture of a helpless person. It is horrible to imagine such a person in a grown man’s body- a man who by all appearances is not in control of his own mind, due to negligence, poor teaching, apathy, sin, or ignorance. He is subject to the whims and suggestions of others who may or may not be teachers of the faith but rather imposters sent by evil to tear down the faith (Acts 20:29-30). This sort of man, this poor man, typifies the unsaved. “And that is what you once were” Paul writes (1 Corinthians 6:11). We, who once were infants, have to break free from our ignorance and susceptibility. We have to stand as men and get our feet under us on the solid ground of truth. We do this by opening ourselves to scripture, the Spirit, and the men and women God has put in our lives to help us grow in ourselves and in the body.

Speaking Love

Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 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.

Speaking the truth in love:

There are going to be those who will teach and encourage immorality, scheming, selfishness, deceit (Ephesians 4:14). There will be wolves out to destroy us in the church and in the world. There will be both physical and spiritual enemies that we will have to contend with if we are to accept God’s calling to live according to the Way. This kind of opposition has the tendency to harden us against loving others in our pursuit of living a holy life ourselves or it can cause us to entertain and condone compromise of our values in an effort at self-preservation. Paul says that if we are to mature, become “improving Christians” as Matthew Henry says, we must work with and depend on those he has given us to be our helps, and resist with all the tenacity we can muster the deceitful ways of the world in order to do and be the exact opposite of the world. No longer do we have to worry about self-preservation, because we have been saved eternally and our true home is now elsewhere- we have nothing to be saved from here. Now we set about doing the work He has given us to do- TRUTH telling. Matthew Henry puts it better than I can, and I attached his words below. The gist of it is that as we love others, as command number two dictates, we are intentionally speaking truth as we do so. Truth and love must accompany our interactions with others- we do not have to worry about personal consequences because ultimately we are safe, moment by moment we are in God’s hands, perfectly safe in His will for us. We are free to lovingly remind others of the Way, and to lovingly accept reminders of the Way. We can speak gently and sincerely to our loved ones and engage in meaningful relationships with them based on the Truth of scripture. We all stand before God on a level playing field and can all turn to God and His word for guidance in this difficult world.

From Matthew Henry: That we should speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), or follow the truth in love, or be sincere in love to our fellow-Christians. While we adhere to the doctrine of Christ, which is the truth, we should live in love one with another. Love is an excellent thing; but we must be careful to preserve truth together with it. Truth is an excellent thing; yet it is requisite that we speak it in love, and not in contention. These two should go together - truth and peace.

Into Him who is the head, even Christ:

Ecclesiastes 4:12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.

This general principle states that there is strength in numbers and that together people are stronger against adversity than they could ever be alone. The same principle applies in the church. As individuals we are isolated and exposed. Alone we are susceptible to attack and temptation. Alone we are tempted by smooth words and slick doctrine. Alone we are unprotected. God did not design us to be that way. From the first man He saw that ‘alone’ was not a good thing. He created a mate for Adam and made her his companion and helper. Together they would be able to face the hardships of a world outside the garden. Thankfully God did not design the church to consist of individual believers but rather a network of believers. He gave to the church its leaders and teachers, its helpers and evangelists. He gave each believer a body of support and to each believer a role to play in that support. The head of the body, the head of the church is Jesus who made it all possible. Through Him we have been pulled out of darkness and placed onto a sure path toward salvation. Through the Holy Spirit we receive guidance and unimpeded access to the Father in heaven. Through the church He gave us we receive teaching, encouragement and accountability. Together we are much stronger than alone. Together we have a chance of growing into the Christians that Christ hopes we become.

List of Do’s and Don’ts (Ephesians 4:17-6:9)

This last half of the letter is a handbook for the believer on walking worthy. Paul lays out specific sins and behaviors that the believer should avoid as unbefitting a child of light (Ephesians 5:8-9). What is interesting to note is the replacement ideology Paul evokes here. He begins the section (Ephesians 4:17) by reminding the readers of their Gentile roots and the futility of their thinking. Replacing that past with the holy future of the saved is accomplished first by the work of the Spirit and then acted upon in the lives of individual believers. Paul then identifies a number of sins that should immediately be removed from the body and replaced with their opposites for the benefit of the body, i.e. the church (Ephesians 4:25-32). The middle section (Ephesians 5:1-21) talks extensively about the spiritual aspect of believers’ lives and how important it is to imitate God in His ways of love as Christ did in His example to us. We are taught to put away the perversions of the soul that we carry out with our bodies- our sexual immorality, idolatry, filthy talk, and drunken debauchery and replace them with works of love and adoration of God. In summary Paul teaches us to disassociate ourselves with darkness and works of darkness and turn fully to the light and the “fruit of the light that is found in all that is good and right and true (Ephesians 5:9)”.

Ephesians 4:17-24 The Futility of the Gentile Mind:

In this section Paul makes a clear distinction between Gentiles and believers. He summarily rejects the way the Gentiles

walk as futile- he lists their faults using very powerful adjectives. Paul says they are alienated from God, ignorant, hard-

hearted, callous, greedy, impure, corrupt and deceitful. He describes their minds as darkened due to their misunderstanding of God and their purpose in him. He says they have given their minds up to the basest of their own sinful desires. They are, in a word, lost.

Believers on the other hand are not lost, but saved from all of the Gentile wickedness and given over to a new life. What

is awesome about our salvation (well, one of the many things that is awesome) is that God did not create two groups of

men, one that was saved and righteous and one that was lost and damned. There were no Gentiles and Believers in the beginning. No pagans and saints. No saved and lost. In the beginning there was just man and he was made male and female and declared good. But then man sinned and all mankind became Gentile in nature, sinners, unrighteous, and in need of salvation. What is great about our salvation is that we are all in the same boat, so to speak. All men have sinned and therefore all men need to be saved (Romans 3:11-12,23). Paul acknowledges this when he tells us to put off our old selves. He means that we are to discard them, disregard them as we would an unpleasant reminder of a shameful past. We are by nature sinners but we are no longer stuck with that designation. We have an option presented to us in Christ. We have been given new wardrobe choices, one that contains clothing of light and peace. Paul tells us to put on the new selves that have been made in us and renew ourselves thereby in the ‘spirit of our minds’. We have been given a

makeover- but we have to consciously choose to put it on.

A dual nature now exists in us and the contrast between them is startling and slightly depressing. The words Paul used

create an image of our sinful selves as depraved and immoral. We, by nature, seek what will pleasure us, satisfy us. We make our world into what we would like it to be, and care little about others, especially God. Living in that nature without the light of Christ and the Holy Spirit guiding us, leads us further and further into a life of sin that leads only in death, ultimate and final. Believers though do not have to give credence to that nature. We no longer have to be slave to it or mastered by it. We can change ourselves into the new self that Paul demands here. And we do not have to grieve over our past sin as if that would somehow do penance enough to clear it up. Our sin exists and who we once were will always be true, in a sense. But God has declared a new thing and the rules have now been changed. Guilt no longer serves a purpose in the kingdom of God. What once led us to understand our sin has now been destroyed in favor of an ever present forgiveness. Jesus Christ has literally wiped our sin, past and future, off the face of the earth and heavens. Because of that fact we can now live our lives totally in the new self. We must deal with the fact that by nature we still crave sin and we must daily work to master it. But the guilt, shame, remorse, and the feelings of worthlessness that our

sin once created in us can be gone. To believe that Jesus saved you, you have to believe that your sins are forgiven as only God can forgive: forever and forgotten (Psalm 103:11-12).

Choose to live in the knowledge of your salvation, your forgiveness. Choose to believe you are worthy and worthwhile. Choose to act on that belief and step out in love to your neighbors. Put on the new self, because its clothing is clean and bright. Throw that old self in the trash with its sins and darkness. You are a new creature, a renewed mind, and a new life in Christ.

It’s Not About You

Ephesians 4:25-32 It’s not about you, it’s about others:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

All of scripture tells us to have love for our neighbor. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan was told to dramatically illustrate this point (Luke 10:25-37). Even to our enemies we have an obligation to show love in tangible ways. Selflessness is encouraged above all else and God Himself is set forth as our greatest example of selfless love. There is no greater love than that a man would give his own life for another (John 15:13), and that is what Jesus showed in His sacrifice.

In these verses in Ephesians (4:25-32) Paul shows very simply how replacing our sin with its opposite can be for the benefit of others. Our lies that once hurt others can now be turned to words of truth and encouragement for our brothers and sisters. Whereby we once stole we can make it a habit of working instead to share what we have earned with others. And though we once talked foolishly and slanderously now we have a chance to speak lovingly and use our words to build up others’ confidence and strength. Loving others is a concrete action on our parts. It is a start to begin to train one’s mind to consider others important enough to put before ourselves but we must always be striving for perfection. That is, we want to continue to be ‘improving Christians’, always getting better and stronger ourselves in our caring for others so that the rest of the body will be strengthened and edified.

Three ways to begin are listed:

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

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.

4:29 Let no corrupting 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.

Do Not Grieve

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

I have only felt grief a few times in my life. When my in-laws passed away I grieved their passing and the pain I saw in the lives of their children. But my personal grief over missing them was tempered greatly by the fact that I knew them to be safe and sound in the hands of God; their happiness in heaven made my grief a small thing in comparison. I grieved for my boss when he died and who did not, would not believe, and I felt a terrible loss for him in addition to the loss I felt at losing him. I think the most grief I’ve felt was when one of our babies died before birth. All my hopes and expectations for her were gone in an instant. My wife was hurting, I was hurting, and I called out to God in my grief and anguish, “Why?”

Is it this kind of grief that the Holy Spirit feels when those He loves turn away from Him? Does our sin cause Him to hurt in his heart and to cry out, “Why?” In our grief we ask God why He allowed the pain- weren’t we good enough? Didn’t we deserve to be happy? Couldn’t He have done things differently?

What if God Himself is grieved in this very same way when we sin against Him? What if He cries, “What have I done to cause you to do this? Didn’t I give you everything? What more could I have done? Why are you hurting me?”

I know we shouldn’t put human attributes on a holy and divine being as God. God’s grief can’t be exactly as mine, in my imperfection and ignorance my grief pours out. But I do not want to hurt my God either and each time I come across this verse I hesitate and I hear the question whispered to me, “What if He feels actual pain when I do wrong?” No, I do not want to hurt God and I don’t want Him to grieve because of me. God has saved me, He loves me, He has promised me forever- in return I will do all I can to not reject His love or cause Him hurt.

Put it Away

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 to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It is our sin that can grieve the heart of God. It is our rejection of His example of love (sacrificial and complete) in favor of love of ourselves that hurts our Lord. He wants for us to love as He loves. He created us to be together, a body, a union of like-minded souls that care for and help each other. He wants us to be as He is in Himself- a union, complete and perfect in His love for Christ, the Holy Spirit and all of creation. Paul lists a string of behaviors in verse 31 that are ugly on their face. Each is an example of selfish thinking and pride. Strung together they clearly illustrate the sinful nature of man. Bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, malice; each of these centers on the individual’s discontent with what he has received and his looking to others for what he can get to make up for his own perceived lack. We are bitter against and we slander those who appear to have more than we do. We react selfishly against the unfairness of their blessing over our own. We are angry and we clamor against those who slight us, who treat us poorly and we forget that our Lord Jesus did not even raise His voice in objection to the horrors that they inflicted upon Him (Isaiah 53:7, Matthew 27:14). We carry malice, brooding upon what we harbor in our hearts about our loved ones and neighbors. All of this is idolatry, I have come to believe. All of this kind of negativity is an idol that we treasure in our hearts and bow down to. It gets the attention and the perverted love that we ought to be expressing toward others and our God. It clouds our thinking so that from our perspective the negativity deserves most attention and others must fend for themselves. God wants none of this for us. God did not want the first of creation to entertain these kinds of thoughts in the Garden when they questioned His love and care for them. God wants us to rest in His love for us and to be so assured of that love that we treasure Him as our sole idol- and that is the only kind of idolatry that is allowed, one that is no idolatry at all because we have not replaced God for selfishness but have placed Him in the temple of our hearts instead. God gave us all that He could to prove that He loves us more than any other possibly could and more than we could even love ourselves. Our self-love will always turn negative- it will always lead us to isolate ourselves, to view the world as unjust and unfair, and to seek for ourselves our own satisfaction. Paul instructs us to ‘put away’ this kind of idolatry, to disregard the old self in favor of the new self. We are promised a forever kind of love and that is enough. We have been marked as saved and redeemed by Jesus’ blood. With that in our hearts, we should be able to face the world and its craziness. We can face the world with kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness, always for others just as God has shown such to us.

Imitate God

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.

Here is the great purpose for the life of a Christian. What greater goal could a follower of Jesus have then to imitate God in his behavior and words? Jesus Himself is our example of a perfect man (Matthew 11:29, 1 Peter 2:21), as perfect in His conduct as His Father is, who walked through the very same temptations that we do (Hebrews 4:15), through the very same troubles, even experiencing doubt and anguish (Matthew 27:46). He was held sinless in all of this (1 John 3:5), even as He was unjustly tried and condemned, and ultimately executed. His Name is synonymous with love for others- His harshest critics cannot find a negative word of any merit to say against him. It is this kind of example that we are to follow.

The writer of Hebrews 6:12 says, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Aside from the duty of gratefulness we share due to the gift of forgiveness that we’ve received we benefit from this sort of pursuit of perfection. God has designed us for goodness, His purpose was eternity with Him, sharing in His love, and freely loving him as we enjoy His creation forever. To pursue excellence in our hearts through following His example of love, paying attention to His warnings, and seeking to understand ourselves as sinners we begin to fill with ‘light’- a scriptural word for holiness, righteousness, goodness. In this section (Ephesians 5:1-21) Paul again makes the distinction between what we once were and what we now are in Christ. We once were darkness but now we are children of light (5:8). As the verse from Hebrews suggests, to follow self over God, or to pursue desires of the flesh over the desires of the Lord, will slow us down, infect our very souls with darkness, and cause us to walk as though dead, ‘sluggish’ the writer says.

There is a way to excellence and it lay in the pages of scripture. The bible, that incredibly dense, and sometimes confusing compilation of history, legalism, prophecy, and poetry is our go to source for how we ought to live. It tells us the story of our beginnings and what might have been. It tells us of our fall and what became of us. It tells us of our redemption in Christ. And it is filled, in the New Testament and Old, with precepts, proverbs, suggestions and commands for how to live in the world. It describes our world as a nasty and evil place. It describes man as just as nasty and man’s enemies as even nastier. But throughout, the bible holds one truth over all others. It tells us, promises us, that one day, if we seek the kingdom, that we can overcome. We will overcome if we do one thing and one thing only. Seek the kingdom.

We stand forgiven- we are saved- but we are not finished. We have work to do for ourselves and for others. Our example and all the illustrations and encouragement we could want have been given to us. It is up to each believer to commit in his heart to be a follower, an imitator of God and not to grow inward and sluggish. To overcome will be a glorious thing- one day we can hope to be welcomed as victor and to feel the praise for a job well done (Matthew

25:21).

It is Covetous

Ephesians 5:3, 5 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints… 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.

This section (5:1-21) is a continuation of the previous section in 4:17-32 but is separated I believe because Paul is addressing a specific and prevalent sin among men: sexual immorality, which stems from a general perversion of the man and leads to all manner of uncleanness.

Paul links sexual immorality with covetousness in this passage. At first I was confused as to why that would be. It seemed to me that sexual immorality and covetousness and the sins in verse 4 were all separate sins just as lying and stealing seem to be in chapter four. In his letter Paul names several of the prevalent sins of man and warns against them, giving instead the righteous behavior we should all seek to replace them with. In this passage however (5:1-21) I am thinking that Paul is specifically addressing a type of sin that is prevalently among men that comes from a different place in man’s heart than others. I may be stretching a bit and adding compartments to the heart that do not exist but bear with me. Man is capable of all manner of sin and it is no secret that each of them is a rebellion or rejection of God and His desire for us. But sexual sin holds a special place in a man’s heart and it comes directly from the perversion of his soul. To lie, cheat, and steal is to actively seek to better one’s own place in the world over the interests of others. But to commit sexual sin is to seek to grant oneself a pleasure that should lie outside of one’s power to grant. It is an attempt to gain that which is not ours to gain. I think this is why Paul attaches it to covetousness, for when we sin sexually we are in reality coveting something that is not ours, desiring it, and seeking to gain it. This is idolatry for we are granting favors to ourselves that God has not granted- we are standing in for God and in a sense offering strange fire of our own making on His altar. This kind of behavior is a serious perversion of the purity that God so wants for us. It is distinct from other sins because it takes place within a man- hidden from the world and it slowly eats him alive. It is a poison that attacks a man and incrementally changes him from the inside out

This is NOT what we are to be and scripture is full of warnings against this and cautions about the dangers of it. Paul tells us that this kind of uncleanness has NO place in the kingdom of God. It has no place in the life of a believer. It has no place in a marriage, a family, or the church. But it is there all the same. It was manifest in Paul’s time and it is so in our own. We have to recognize it for what it is- a filthy pretender that leads only to death and we have to struggle to overcome it- I would say with even more effort and attention than we do other sins. It is these kinds of sins that draw the ire of God and His wrath. Thank Him for Jesus and forgiveness but do not rest easy in salvation without working to rid yourself of these things.

Let There Be Thanksgiving

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Paul warns against foolish talk in 4:29 and again in this verse. This kind of talk also comes out of a heart that has been twisted. It is often much easier to criticize, complain, joke, and slander than it is to praise, commend, congratulate, and honor. Our tongues are evil as James says because in our hearts we have a darkness that pervades our souls. Listening to ourselves would no doubt show that we speak negatively much more than we do positively. Our conversations are littered with hurtful remarks about our loved ones and our neighbors. Often those remarks see the light of day and enter our homes and workplaces in the hearing of their victims. We create hurt in the world and scars that those we are sent to love must protect with words and masks and personas of their own.

Our definition of funny has come to rely on what was once taboo to discuss in polite company. But politeness has disappeared from our culture, if it ever was truly present. Maybe it is that we used to hide our crudeness and our foolish talk and now we air it proudly without shame. We ought to redefine humor and work to stay within the new bounds we set for ourselves. We ought to think of others before we speak to lessen the chance that our wit will hurt somebody. We ought to be ashamed when we sin in this way- it ought to lead us to repentance and a change of heart. We ought to learn what our ‘place’ in the kingdom is and what the expectations for decorum are there. Just as we wouldn’t eat with our elbows on the table at Grandma’s table so we ought not curse in the presence of the Holy Spirit. We are a temple of God- Paul is reminding us of our place and is teaching us how to behave in it.

Replace One for the Other

Ephesians 5:18-20 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 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.

Replacing one for another: Drunkenness with singing, Debauchery with thanksgiving. What a startling contrast Paul provides. In our darkness we commit sexual immorality, idolatry and revel in our drunkenness. As we turn to Christ, if we truly seek to act on the teaching we have been given, if we truly are saved and bearing the fruit of a growing Christian, then we will replace our dark ways with ways belonging to the light. Our sin will be replaced with holiness and our darkness with the light of a new understanding. Just as I suggested we redefine humor to meet kingdom standards so we ought to redefine our entire lifestyles to meet kingdom standards. There is a better way to live Paul is telling us here. Those of us who have seen what drink can do to a person- how perspectives get twisted, how motivation wanes, how rationalization of weakness grows out of bounds- will know that to remain in one’s darkness is a hopeless endeavor. Look at the words Paul uses in chapter 5 to describe this kind of dark life: debauchery, shameful, unfruitful, disobedience, empty, foolish, filthiness, crude, impurity, immorality. These words color a life, making it reek of sadness. They illustrate the impossibility of hope, love, and satisfaction. Look at the words used to describe the alternative:

fragrant, thanksgiving, light, pleasing, arise, shine, wise, singing, submitting. These words sit on the page and even look as a more attractive alternative to the other. Contrasting darkness and light in this way who would consciously choose the darkness? Paul is exhorting us to wake up because only one who is asleep will continue in the ills of a past life when there is so much to be gained by walking above it in the light of Christ.

We are no longer slaves to our passions and no longer have to choose them .We may have once had no choice but now a choice has become available. In Christ we can shrug off the old ways- painfully and slowly if we have to, knowing that even in our failure to do so completely we stand forgiven. Paul is asking us only to imitate God- we do not have to become God. He will help us with our drink, our cigarettes, our porn, and all other manner of addiction. He will strengthen us after each battle we engage in. He will bring us back to a place of rest and address our wounds. But WE have to remain in the fight. We have to acknowledge the better way and seek to remain in the light. Forward to victory!

Walk as Children of Light

Ephesians 5:6-10 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 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.

This presents another choice for the believer: follow the world, your old ways, and be led to destruction or follow the way of the Lord, of light, and be led into glory. Put so simply the choice would seem easy and assured. Why then do so many choose wrongly? Why do they continue on a path lit poorly, with shadows at every turn, pitfalls and snares that snap at you unawares? Remember that Paul is writing to believers here; he is telling converted followers of Jesus to beware of the deception of the world. We choose wrongly because our temporal and oh, so physical bodies are anchored in this realm of flesh with its pitiful delights and carnal pleasures. We enjoy what we see, we tend to trust what we can pick up and hold, we desire immediate satisfaction and we lose sight of the good that is hanging just over the garden wall and slightly our of our reach. We who are saved have the overwhelming capacity to forget our Savior! We can’t see Him, we can’t hear Him, we can’t hold Him, and so we are apt to think of Him as merely conceptual; we think of Him as an idea, we relegate Him to a corner of our minds and hearts and we turn instead to what we do consider real- the world. And in doing so we are deceived and are led headlong into the many traps that lay in wait for us. We become ensnared and we lose our chance for happiness in this life because we chose instead the false promises of a world that can never live up to its packaging.

We must not partner with this world- as if it had our best interests in mind and together we could overcome and conquer what lay before us. We must not consider the world a friend but rather an enemy. It is our way station- a proving ground. It is a battlefield that seeks to test us and if possible trip us up. I write as if the world was alive and with a consciousness, but in a way it is, for it is inhabited by spirits that seek only to prove our God wrong. God says that we are worthy of saving- He gave His own life to back up that claim. So, are we? Are we good enough to be saved- and if so what is our role in that salvation? I’d say we are lucky to be saved- to be grasped out of the clutches of this evil world and placed into the hand of the Lord forever. I’d say we are indeed foolish enough to be led into a false sense of security even after believing in the name and power of a resurrected God. So let us not fall prey to that foolishness. Knowing our own inclinations toward wickedness we have to march forward toward holiness, consciously choosing right over wrong, future over present, and holiness over perversion.

Exposed by the Light

Ephesians 5:12-14 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 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.”

Luke 1: 77-79 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Shameful. What we do in the darkness of our sin is shameful. And yet we are not lost to it. Even believers such as the Ephesians, as well as ourselves, can banish such shame, obliterate it completely by turning on the light, so to speak. The Light of Jesus, the Sunrise that began a new day in the shameful history of man, casts darkness to the far reaches of the spiritual earth. We can be born again; we were once dead, ‘once men’ as Terry Brooks calls his demon characters, but when we believed we shook off that death and were made new like Christ. We are now awake and alive in a new world of Light, enjoying a new day and a new hope. But we have to face what that light shows us in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters. Our shamefulness is still in us and we are still prone to embrace it. We have to choose to forsake that part of us, to master it as God told Cain, for it waits for us to slip up and forget and then it tries to drag us back into the dark with it.

There is no shame in God, He is not ashamed of us and we must not allow shame to master us. Shine the light on your sin, banish it, command it to be gone, fight against it daily, forgive yourself as God has; wake up and do it again and again until the day comes when the sun finally breaks over the horizon and we all get to go home.

Submit, Wives!

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.

Submission and Love: these are the two keystones of our faith in Christ- in our relationship with Him. I just noticed in the larger passage here in Ephesians that it is not simply divvied up into two sections- one for the wife and one for the husband; it is one section about Christ’s example for us in a marriage. It is a powerful statement of who Christ is and how we who believe ought to model ourselves after His way and not our own. As such it fits perfectly into this letter of Paul’s where his entire purpose in the second half is to teach us how we should live now that we are no longer what we once were.

Submission is what the wife is called to do; submission to her husband. This is not the tough command that it has been made out to be by our culture. Paul wrote in the previous verse that all believers ought to submit to each other out of reverence for the Lord. It is the Lord that is the important element to see here. It is Jesus and His submission to the will of His Father that the wife is duly called to emulate. Jesus did not submit out of fear, or from lesser status; He submitted as God himself, as omnipotent and omniscient- He submitted because His Father asked it of Him and He wanted to do what His Father desired. He was of one purpose with the Father and wanted to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. The wife in turn ought to consider herself of one mind with her Lord and subsequently with her husband. She is joined to him for life and has become one with him- not perfectly and not without certain difficulty, but definitely spiritually and completely.

The real sticking point in this passage is the headship set in place by Paul. The wife begins this ‘submission’ tree as being under her husband. But the husband does not stand at the top, but is firmly under Christ, who in turn has led the way by submitting Himself to the Father. There is an order established here for the good of the family which is paralleled in the Church. Submission keeps a peace in the home and the church; it does not set up a hierarchy of rule. We do not submit in order to be ruled; we submit in order to love others.

Love, Husbands!

Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he 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. 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. “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.

If there were a passage to get upset about in scripture it should be this one. Every time I read this part of Ephesians I cringe inside because of the overwhelming weight of the words. Or maybe because of the overwhelming fear I have of failing to live up to this beautiful command. For it is beautiful to think of myself as fulfilling it; just as it is beautiful to think of a world where it is fulfilled. Look closely at the verbs used here: Cherish and Nourish, Sanctify and Cleanse. All so that we might Present our wives to the Lord on that Great and Final Day. Oh, to think of the years I wasted in my sin and rebellion to God and man. How I have hurt my wife both physically and emotionally in our time together. How I have lived in ignorance not only of this command but of love itself. I cry to think that I won’t have anything to show for my years with my wife except the evidence of a life poorly lived and poorly loved.

But I can change that can’t I? Now that I have heard, from this day forth I can be loving and submit to her in reverence and still make her life better by trying to pick up at least some traction on at least one of those powerful verbs- can’t I? I am afraid that I will fail. Actually, I know that I will fail because the command is too strong- that is why it is largely neglected in the church. For years and years the only aspect of this passage to make it into our churches was the aspect of headship. Women were firmly placed under the thumb of their husbands and male society in general. The duty of the husband to love his wife with as much fervor as Christ Himself loves her has been ignored. Why? Because it is impossible to achieve!

So… that means that we quit on it and ignore it? I can’t do that either. While knowing that I will fail, and have failed, while knowing that my best is not good enough and has not been, I will continue to try to honor my Lord and His love for me by trying to love others, especially my wife. I hate what I have been, I hate my old self. I truly want to clothe myself in Christ and His example for me- please Lord, would you help me love my wife in this way?

Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

And let us not miss the overwhelming importance of this verse. The beautiful command given to wives and husbands has first been fulfilled by Jesus toward us. All of this, Ephesians 5:22-33, is the physical illustration of the relationship we have with Him. We are His bride (Luke 5:34-36, 2 Co 11:2, Rev 19:6-8) and He has washed us; He cleansed us with His own blood, making us clean of all of our sin and presentable to God as Holy (1 John 1:7). He nourishes us by providing His Spirit to hear and translate all of our desires and needs directly to the Father (John 14:26, Romans 8:26). He cherishes us and wants nothing more than for us to come to Him freely and live forever in His garden (Matthew 23:37). He is our husband, leading the way and working in us to perfect us so that He can show His Father the wonderful job that He has done with the creatures He was given. He has lost nothing of what He had been given, He loved us true and completely, He made no mistakes and His work outshines the darkness. That is true beauty- that is what we are to emulate, with all of our heart, strength, and minds.

Obey, Children! Lead, Fathers!

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.

Again, another example of the reciprocal nature of our relationships in the family of Christ. Nothing is to be done solely for our own benefit but always with the other in mind. Whether it be husbands and wives or children and their fathers, both are to keep in mind the other and more importantly they are to keep in mind the relationship of Jesus to His Father as the example to follow.

Obedience falls to the children while under the care of their parents. To obey is to love in its simplest form. It is what we do to show our understanding of the relationship to those above us. Children are under the care of parents- they do not have rights as adults do, they have the right to the protection of their parents instead. Good parents will honor those rights and strive to protect their children as well as God protects us. Adults too must obey those who are over them, such as their employers and the government (Romans 13:1). Jesus said that if we truly loved Him we would do what he says (John 14:15); learning to obey is the first step a child takes in truly being able to love and submit to others as an adult. In return Fathers must also honor the relationship by working hard to lead their children without exasperating them. Their leadership should not be forced and dictatorial but firm and gentle. When a father achieves obedience through fear and frustration he has run counter to the Lord’s purpose. A father must give good things to his children, and the first thing he can give is to teach them to love.

Bondservants, Obey and Serve! Masters, Serve!

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.

This is a third example of the types of relationships we share on earth (the other two being husband-wife, fathers- children) and the emphasis is on doing what would bring honor to God for what He has done for us. We have removed slavery from our country’s fabric, but the stain still lingers so it is relatively easy to understand the type of response these verses would engender. The pain of our slavery remains in the racism it furthered and the inequality it established. Imagine being told to love the one who placed himself as your master and kept you in that position. I’ve heard the employee-employer analogy and that works to some degree, but it takes the punch out of the command. Even if you pretend your boss is the worst ever you come up short in feeling the pain that a slave must have felt, and the anger they struggled with as they suffered in the heat and cold, hungry and poorly dressed, beaten at a whim, and kept ignorant and powerless.

If you can imagine yourself a slave living in the south during our nation’s dark past then you can have some idea of what Paul is saying here. He wants the believer to love others even when the other is completely unlovable. He tells us that others deserve our love, not for what they are in themselves but because of what Christ is in us. In this sense we become Christ to the world and bring it love even when it spurns us, rejects us, taunts us, and hurts us. We are as Christ, who did all of this and more, even dying for us.

And those of us who enjoy a bit of power and authority over others, thankfully not of the ownership kind but merely of the workplace kind, let’s remember that those others who serve us are also Christ, they do so not because of anything we bring to them, for they are already healed and promised what we could never grant. Our duty to them is to treat them fairly, honorably, and with respect because we too serve the same God as they and He sees no distinction in our positions and has no pay scale on which to weigh either of us.

Against Flesh and Blood

Ephesians 6:10-20 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. 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. 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. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

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.

As much as we would like our battle to be against those who hurt us, frustrate, us, disappoint us, and disrespect us it is not. It may seem as if it is my parents who have hurt me, my wife who antagonizes me, my children who worry me, my employers who burden me- but in the end it is not really them. They are pawns just as I am in a war that began long before any of us were born. The trouble is that our world feels so real; it is bone and substance and it evokes such visceral responses from us. It is all that we see, all that we hear, all we taste and touch. The world is the environment that we find ourselves in and it demands our attention in completely physical ways. Paul reminded us of this at the beginning of this letter- he called us dead (Ephesians 2:1) and reminded us of the father (Ephesians 2:2) that we once served in our ignorance. And in verse four of chapter two of this letter Paul says, “But God… together with Christ…raised us up with Him.” Paul reminds us that when we believed we were taken out of that old self and that old world and placed alongside of God with a new self, a new direction, and a new hope. That truth, which he later tells us to wear as a belt each morning, brings to light another fundamental truth of the faith: that we are not alone in this world. In fact, this world is not our only home. In truth, this world is only a shadow of the reality that exists just outside of our perception. But we can’t see it and touch it and so we often live in ignorance of it.

In this current verse Paul teaches us that we are fighting alongside of God in an ageless battle between Him and those creatures of His who decided against Him and went their own way. They, who were born to serve Him for eternity, somehow decided they were better served to glorify themselves instead. We, as a race of creatures ourselves, decided the same thing and do so again with every new generation we bring into the world. These demons, these powers and spiritual forces, are arrayed against us in very real battle formation and attempt daily to stop us as we venture into the world with the knowledge of the gospel attached firmly to our hearts. These rulers we wrestle, and this present darkness we shine our light into, work their way into our world, whispering, needling, cajoling, tempting, stroking; they manipulate us and those we love, they interfere with our plans by interfering with those in charge over us. They cast aspersion and doubt onto the way- How they do this, what they are able to do and what they are not, how they travel, how many they are, where they appear and where they don’t: these are all questions that we can ask, but we may never know the full strength of our enemy. We simply know that we must face it. We have this book, the bible, to give us indication of what we walk into every day, these verses in particular, and we do well to heed them, but we can’t fully understand what we cannot see completely. But we know we are in a fight much bigger than ourselves and we know that the trouble we face in the world and in ourselves is not completely due to random chemistry and dumb luck. We know that our wives and children battle as we do and sometimes fight as poorly as we do ourselves. We know that our unbelieving friends and employers are walking dead to these truths and so act as if blown on the water by an evil wind.

And so we know that they are not completely to blame for our pain. As such we must turn to fight the real enemy that works against us and those we love. We have to gear up and prepare for these battles daily in order to not only survive but to be victorious when the great and glorious Day of the Lord finally comes.

Put on the Whole Armor of God

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.

The whole armor, worn to withstand the evil day: Imagine a soldier, alone in his tent or barracks. Even with others around him he is alone, they all are because in a moment they will walk out their door and leave their homes or camp and move to face a certain enemy. Imagine the feeling of knowing that you will face an enemy bent only on your destruction. Our soldiers know this, and Paul’s soldiers knew this. War brings opposing ideologies and desires together in a clash of weaponry and flesh. There is no opportunity for mercy, no chance on the battle line to hope for grace. Battle is the one place where you either kill or be killed. That is what you face in the artificial solemn quiet of your room or your transport to the front. Imagine putting on each piece of your protective armor, fastening it in place, checking its security and your weapons’ edge and function postponing the inevitable until you are finally ready and move to the door, ready for what God brings you this day.

This might have been at the back of Paul’s mind as he wrote this compelling passage. We are that warrior, whether we think of ourselves that way or not. Even in the ivory tower of our intellectual and civilized society we face an enemy bent on removing us from our safety. Even far from the horror of the wars that ravage lesser countries in the Middle East and Africa we face a deadly enemy that offers no quarter and holds nothing back. Paul wants us to consider that truth, to think about our enemy each day and to mentally prepare for that battle.

The teaching he has given us in this letter, the commands that tell us how to live in our new selves as children of light, will not come without a cost. It is not easy to throw off the old self and begin life in the new. Our old selves are attached firmly to our psychology as well as our physiology. Our flesh craves sin and our minds crave granting those pleasures. Paul teaches us in this letter to walk worthy of Christ’s love when our bodies tell us to indulge every wicked passion we have always indulged. Paul teaches us to be humble and gentle and our flesh screams to watch out for number one and take what is rightfully ours to take. Paul tells us to be honest with ourselves and others and we snicker our agreement behind lying lips.

How can we be morally pure, sexually clean, charitable and loving when our whole life has been spent in immorality and covetousness? Christ has saved us, cleansed us spiritually, forgiven us, and promises to present us as holy to His Father. We are new creatures, for God no longer sees our sin but sees our purity (Hebrews 8:12). But, and there is always a but, His cost was high in doing so- His very life, and our cost is going to be high as well. We still live in this sin sick world and still live in this body of flesh that is used to the lifestyle it once thought to enjoy. We can only bring change, however gradual and incomplete, by constantly choosing to do the opposite of what our flesh and minds desire. We have to engage in the way a warrior does by preparing to meet the enemy as it comes to us each day. There is no one time fix and then we are perfect. The process is instead gradual and painful. We have to fight with the weapons that we have at our disposal and behind the covering that the Lord has provided for us. The wonder of our battle though is that we know who will be the victor. Our brothers who fight on the literal battlefields of the world can never rest in the promise of their safe return home. We however, know that even if we lose the battle we will never lose the war. Our God is and always has been the victor in this fight. It is assured that we will return home at the end of our lives. We might return as one who has walked through the flames and has little left of himself to show for it (1 Corinthians 3:15) but we will return. And when we do we will be cared for and comforted and finally rest in the beauty of God’s kingdom.

Until then we have to gear up for war. Paul gives us six items to figuratively strap on in preparation of each day. Each one is a vital truth of the faith and deserves serious consideration.

Belt of Truth

Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth

I’ve heard that you would put this on first to hold your tunic in place, possibly wrapping up the length of it to provide freedom of movement without fear of tripping yourself up when moving quickly. The belt would also hold your sword and maybe serve as the tie down for your breastplate. In this analogy it is truth itself and so it makes sense that it would be the foundational piece of equipment. Our truth is certainly foundational, it is that we are sinners by nature, have sinned intentionally and with malice toward ourselves and others, and deserve to die forever. Our truth is much bigger than that though because God created us to be saved and indeed did save us through His own personal sacrifice, giving us the ultimate illustration of how to move about in the world loving others. Our truth is that we are no longer without hope but have been given a certain hope in our future as inhabitants of His kingdom in heaven. Put this truth on every morning, fasten it around your waist so you don’t trip over yourself and your own or the world’s lies, and consider it your cornerstone. This truth is the bedrock of your life and all else has to meet its test before your course can be changed during the day.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In the Greek this verse says, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” We must brace our minds for the battle that our enemies will launch against our truth. They want us to fall, to doubt, and to turn from God. They want our idolatry and we must ‘gird’ ourselves with all that we KNOW to prevent them from gaining the advantage.

Breastplate of Righteousness

Ephesians 6:14 and having put on the breastplate of righteousness

And to cover your heart (thank you Matthew Henry), your most vulnerable organ, is a breastplate which can deflect the missiles of the enemy. Our breastplate is the knowledge of our own righteousness. Thayer’s lexicon says that this righteousness is the “state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God.” We are to stand in preparation for daily battle in the knowledge that we are just as we ought to be, before both God and men. God has made us righteous, He has declared us righteous, we are righteous. When the day comes, and it always does, when the enemy casts doubt and aspersion upon you, and you begin to waver in your faith, knowing, just knowing that you have failed and cannot ever be made right again- Paul offers up this bit of encouragement, ‘Check your armor!’ Did you dress for this day or were you lazy and caught unprepared? Jesus gave the parables of the servants and virgins (Luke 12:35-48, Matthew 25) to remind us that our walk with Him is not going to be easy but one that we must stand ready for on a daily basis. Rest in the knowledge that you are okay- you are righteous, you will win this day.

Shoes of Readiness

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

NASB: “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”

Preparation and Readiness signify being equipped and set to move forward. The Christian who has under-girded himself with an understanding of the gospel and who has partaken of it through opening himself to Christ is ready to face the day that awaits him at his door. He is ready to engage the world with God’s truth (his belt) and his own perfect righteousness before God (his breastplate). He is at peace with himself, no longer fighting the personal demons of sin and shame and is free to face conflict in others and in the world.

He is also free to bring his peace to his enemies and to those who are lost and hurting without it. He can be a messenger who carries the grace of God wherever he goes, lighting the world of others and reminding them of God who loves them, too.

Romans 10:15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Shield of Faith

Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

Again, imagine the battlefield; imagine the chaos of war: missiles flying overhead and left and right, bombs exploding far in the distance and then suddenly too near, men screaming in pain and rage. Now, imagine the world outside our doorstep as a battlefield where the missiles are words and the bombs are circumstance. Imagine that our battlefield is invisible except to our enemy and that we walk into its fray largely unaware and unprotected. That is what Paul is cautioning against here. He gives us the heads up that if we are to walk worthy of our calling we have to ‘man-up’ and learn the stakes of the game. We face an enemy much more powerful than ourselves who has no concept of honor and therefore is not opposed to using anything against us that he thinks will turn us from our way of peace. He will throw our children, wives, and jobs against us- taking them away, manipulating conflict, destroying our peace through whispered lies and temptations. He will attack us ourselves, digging his claws into our psyche to keep us off-balance and unsure of our worth and standing in the world and the kingdom. Against such an enemy Paul warns us to make sure that we are prepared when we face him. So, we put on the basic armor of our understanding of salvation, our belt and breastplate and the shoes with which to carry us forth. And then we make sure to protect ourselves when we do open that door and walk into the barrage of darts. Holding our shield high in front of us we can deflect those darts, many of them anyway. By constantly referring to our faith and reminding ourselves of what we believe and Who it is that we believe in we make ourselves much stronger and at times invulnerable. We must review what we believe, the promises of God, our place in his world, His purpose for us. We must reflect on what we are doing while we wait for him and work to always be stepping in the direction He laid out for us. This is our shield, the knowledge of who and what we are and what we are put here on earth to do. If we carry this with a firm grip we will do much to protect ourselves against the evil one.

Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 6:17 and take the helmet of salvation

Capping our armor is the helmet. We screw this down firmly onto our souls so that there is absolutely no doubt Whose army we belong too. Our helmet has a crest imprinted right on the front that declares that the bearer of it walks with the King of kings and is protected for eternity against any claim against him. We have to wear such a helmet with confidence; we have to place our entire hope in its truth. Christian, you are saved forevermore. There is no one who can remove you from the employ of the King and no one who can prevent you from returning home to Him when your time on the battlefield is through (John 10:29).

Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:17 and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

I love God! Leave it to Him to grant His soldiers a weapon such as a book to protect themselves with! Our enemies will come at us with everything they can muster. They will use both physical and spiritual warfare against us and God grants us only His book as our defense. But His enemies will shudder when we use it- that is the great part of this irony. The enemy cannot stand against such a weapon properly shielded. Our example of this is Jesus in the wilderness when the devil tempted Him with the riches of the world and the adoration of men. Jesus very simply quoted to the devil the real truth of God, answering His adversary verse for verse, answering distortion with truth. Our enemies cannot stand before God- they can only beg to be in His presence, but they have no right or place there. They are defeated (Matthew 25:41, Luke 10:18) it is assured. They have been given a time to test mankind, and in that time I suppose they pretend they can overturn what has been decided. But God, who with a single word spoke all that is into existence, is omnipotent and omniscient. He not only will be victorious, He is already victorious. He has said so, and His word stands.

We have been given some of His words in the form of our bibles. By reading, reflecting, practicing what it says we become like God in that we too can speak into darkness the light of his truth. We may suffer damage but we, with this sword held firmly out in front of us will be able to discern truth from lie and love from hate. With this sword our armor is almost complete.

Stand

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.

Stand. Perhaps the simplest command in all of scripture.

If we do all of this preparation, if we consider our past as dead, if we work to love our family and friends and the world around us, if we inventory our sin and confront it as God advised Cain, and if we take up the articles of defense that Paul gives us in this final passage then all that is left to do is confront the enemy. And Paul says our confrontation does not have to be an offensive, we do not go out seeking the enemy and confront him. We do not lay in ambush of him, we do not conspire against him and gain victory through typical methods, no, we simply stand against him. Each day we wake we are to prepare to meet an enemy out to destroy us. We are to intentionally put on this ‘armor’ of the faith, our truth, and our knowledge of the gospel, our readiness, and we are to open the door and step out to meet whatever may come. We stand against the enemy, we face him head on with chin up and our righteous chest puffed out in defiance. We point the sword of the Spirit at him and raise our shield to deflect any untruth that comes our way. As we stand spiritually against our truest foe and do battle we run the risk of doing poorly and falling back. If that happens we retreat to our Lord and He will care for us just as His angels cared for Jesus in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). But more importantly is that we get up again, prepare once more, gear up and prepare to meet the enemy a second time. And a third. We will meet him every day of our lives as Christians in this world and he will never face a day without our stubborn resistance.

Stand. That is all that is required of us- to know our enemy and to stand against him, protecting what is ours and advancing only as he falls back. And fall back he will because there are too many of us, God is too powerful for him, and he has been forewarned of His coming and ultimate defeat (Matthew 25:41, Luke 10:18). Stand, Christians, stand.

All Prayer

Ephesians 6:20 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

All prayer- the direct link to our Father. Paul reminds us that while we stand, while we wear our armor and deflect darts, dodge lies, and resist temptations; we must be constantly in communion with God. All prayer- an overwhelming sense of God with you as you Stand.

Paul reminds us to be alert and to persevere in our prayer. How easy it is to neglect this discipline. It is far too easy to get bogged down by the mundane aspects of our lives, to get so busy just keeping up with the day to day that we forget to include God in that day. This too might possibly be of the evil one- that he would use mundane-ity to deflect us from our given path of communion with our Saviour. All-prayer is probably not what some in the past history of the faith have tried to make it out to be. It’s probably not a monastic existence with prayer the primary duty of the believer. If that were so, God would not have created us with so much imagination and desire to build and invent and create. All-prayer might be the acknowledgement of God’s presence around you as you move through your life. That is a true statement, He is there. Our job is to recognize that and work into our daily habits a link to Him.

That we have to pray is the end of it for Paul- without it we lose our connection to the One who makes victory possible. We are to pray for all of our fellow warriors, the saints of God, and especially Paul adds, for him, or in our case those who take the lead in spreading the gospel to the nations.

The End

Ephesians 6:23-24 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Paul offers both Grace and Peace to his readers, his beloved church. What a wonderful convention, this signing off of his letter with a blessing such as this. Even as he says good-bye to them he is trying to make them think, as well as trying to love them. We too can leave our friends and loved ones a sign like this as we depart, for however short a time- a simple offering, a prayer, for their peace and for the grace of God to fill them and cover them until we meet again.

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