Archive for September, 2020

Ephesians 5:7-15

In Ephesians 5:7-15 Paul exhorts the church to not live their lives habitually connected to sin. As Christ Followers, the light is on and sin is obvious to us. So we need to make the choice of repentance and focus on living a life that is God honoring. We need to put aside our old ways and live as the new creation we become as believers. “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.”

He challenges us to live as ‘children of the light’ because upon salvation, that is exactly who we become. And as such, we need to live differently, focused on figuring out and living a life pleasing to God. We now have the Holy Spirit within us, so need to live as God’s creation. Paul tells us that we need to avoid taking part in things that are ungodly. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Paul wants us to identify and understand things that are not of God, not so we have something to talk about, but so we can educate ourselves and avoid falling to them.

Paul is clear that much sin happens under darkness or behind closed doors. But God sees all and knows all. There are no unnoticed sins by the Father. “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” We need to live life in the light, knowing that all things are exposed and known by God. “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.” To think we can get away with sinning in any way is foolish. All things will come to be known as the light shines upon them.

Paul warns us to wake up and look at how we walk with Christ. His light is shining on us. We need to make sure we use our time wisely. “Look carefully then how you walk…” Spurgeon explained “This sleepiness in the Christian is exceedingly dangerous, too, because he can do a great deal while he is asleep that will make him look as if he were quite awake.”

  • We can speak when we are asleep
  • We can hear when we are asleep
  • We can walk when we are asleep
  • We can sing when we are asleep
  • We can think when we are asleep”

Spurgeon continues “The man who is asleep does not care what becomes of his neighbors; how can he while he is asleep? And oh! Some of you Christians do not care whether souls are saved or damned… It is enough for them if they are comfortable. If they can attend a respectable place of worship and go with others to heaven, they are indifferent about everything else.”

Ephesians 5:5-6

In Ephesians 5:5-6 Paul continues to teach us about how we should live as a Christ Follower. In these verses, he makes clear the consequence of conduct that does not align with God’s standards. “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.” At first glance, this verse may seem to say that anyone guilty of these particular sins will not receive eternal life. But that isn’t really what Paul is saying here. It is true that an unclean person has no inheritance in God’s Kingdom.

But if God’s kingdom is alive in us, a transformation has occurred so that we cannot live life practicing these things. We are a new creature created by Christ Jesus and as such will not continue living in sin. Guzik explains “Paul’s idea in this passage can be applied out of context in a condemning way. One might say, “Well, I’ve thought about committing fornication, so that means that I have fornicated in my heart and that means that I am as guilty as someone who has actually committed the act of fornication. Since I am as guilty as that one, and they have no inheritance in the kingdom of God, neither do I, because of my thoughts about fornication.” This deceptive thinking goes against the plain sense of God’s word.”

Paul specifically calls out sexual sins and covetousness as sins that Christ Followers must not tolerate in their lives. He relates coveting in relationship to idolatry where we make something an idol that takes a place of prominence that displaces God. Idolatry is very subtle and can sneak into our lives and seem to be harmless, yet it is a sin that we must not allow to remain in our lives if we are going to walk with Jesus. When these sins are in our life, the enemy will try and convince us that they aren’t that bad and we can deal with it later, or even worse, we can just ignore them.

The enemy will try and deceive us, either by whispering untruth into our ear, or more likely through someone else who will excuse our behavior, often because they don’t want to be confronted by their own sinful choices. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” We cannot allow empty words to excuse or minimize poor judgment which might lead us to the practice of these sins. It is certain that the wrath of God will come on those who hang on to sin. We must follow the direction of God’s Word and repent of our sin to follow Jesus!

Ephesians 5:3-4

In Ephesians 5:3-4 Paul moves on to contrast the difference between what he just talked about – how to walk in love – with behavior that is not fitting for a Christ Follower. Paul groups together the ideas of sexual sin and impropriety, indicating that none of these are fitting for saints and should not even be named among God’s people. “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” This emphasis on sexual sin was appropriate. The culture of Paul’s day (and in the city of Ephesus especially) was given over to sexual immorality. The sort of behavior Paul says is not fitting for saints was pretty much completely approved by the culture of his day. We face a similar challenge in our culture today.

Guzik explains “We must notice the theme of the moral appeal. It isn’t “avoid these things so that you can be a saint.” Rather, it is “you are a saint; now live in a manner fitting for a saint.” The constant moral appeal of the New Testament is simply this: be who you are in Jesus.” Paul includes covetousness and foolish talking in this list because of their close association with sexual sin. The desire to have something that doesn’t belong to us and foolish speaking have both led many people into sexual sin. But also recognize that covetousness and foolish talking have relevance beyond their relation to sexual sin.

Paul’s second list of unworthy behavior continues. “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” So through these two verses Paul gave a comprehensive list of sexual sins:

  • Fornication (porneia), a broad word describing sexual sin.
  • Impurity, another broad word for “dirty” moral behavior, especially in a sexual sense.
  • Covetousness, the idea of wanting what is not yours
  • Filthiness, which has much the same idea as uncleanness.
  • Foolish talk or crude joking, which has the idea of inappropriate, impure sexual humor.

Paul makes a point of ending this list by focusing on God’s intent for sex rather than mankind’s corruption of it.

Sex is God’s idea. After all, He created us as sexual beings. It is not dirty or wrong. In fact, as Christ Followers we are to give thanks for sex. We should receive it thankfully as a gift, and we should enjoy sex in a way that glorifies the Giver, God Himself. God’s purpose in giving sex is not primarily for the gratification of the individual, but for the bonding together of husband and wife in a one-flesh relationship. Certain expressions of sexuality are sin, not because God wants to deprive some aspect of enjoyment, but because they work against His primary purpose for sex. How we experience sex and talk about and treat it matters in our obedience to God as Christ Followers.

Ephesians 5:1-2

In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul begins with the word ‘therefore’. Whenever we see that, we need to stop and figure out why it is there for. In this case, Paul has just finished telling us how we are to live out life as Christ Followers. He gave us seven traits to follow in how we should relate to each other. Now he continues painting that picture. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” The idea is simple – that we are to make God our example and model. We can’t merely compare ourselves with men. It does not say, “Think about God” or “Admire God” or “Adore God,” though those are all important Christian duties. This is a call to practical action, going beyond our inner life with God.

We are to imitate God. We are to treat those in our patch the way God treats us. God’s behavior towards us becomes our measure for our behavior towards one another. Guzik explains “It is important to see that God is far more than our example. Many errors come into the church when Jesus is presented only as an example of behavior. We are not saved by the example of Jesus, but once saved His example is meaningful to us. God is more than our example, but He is also our example.” Paul tells us to imitate God as children. They often do just what they see their parents do, even when their parents may wish they didn’t. Paul challenges us to be imitators of God like a child. That will serve us very well.

Spurgeon explains “As we do imitate God, we become representatives of God, especially before those who have shut God out of their life. What are we sent into the world for? Is it not that we may keep men in mind of God, whom they are most anxious to forget? If we are imitators of God, as dear children, they will be compelled to recollect that there is a God, for they will see his character reflected in ours. I have heard of an atheist who said he could get over every argument except the example of his godly mother: he could never answer that.” How we live matters, and how we imitate God matters more!

Paul continues with this exhortation. “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Jesus is our example of how to live and Paul focuses on how Jesus loved us – a self sacrificial love where He put us first even ahead of His own well-being. We may think that we’d be able to give up our life for those we love in a big way. But God calls us to lay down our life little by little – like giving a number of small coins instead of a big payment. But the outcome is still a laying down and sacrifice of life. When we do that, it is frangrance to God and He is pleased!

Ephesians 4:30-32

As Paul finished up Ephesians 4:30-32, he continues to talk about how we should live as the new creation that occurs when Christ comes into our life. He has shared four traits and now pauses to remind us of a critical fifth reality – that how we live can grieve the very Spirit that not only seals us in Christ but also is our protection for the day of redemption to come. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” To grieve means to make sad or sorrowful. It means to cause sorrow, pain, or distress. We grieve the Spirit by the actions we take that are not aligned with God’s standards for us to live by.

Spurgeon explains “I think I now see the Spirit of God grieving, when you are sitting down to read a novel and there is your Bible unread…. You have no time for prayer, but the Spirit sees you very active about worldly things, and having many hours to spare for relaxation and amusement. And then he is grieved because he sees that you love worldly things better than you love him.” And he continues “The Holy Spirit’s grief is not of a petty, oversensitive nature. He is grieved with us mainly for our own sakes, for he knows what misery sin will cost us; he reads our sorrows in our sins… He grieves over us because he sees how much chastisement we incur, and how much communion we lose.”

Paul then continues with a sixth trait of a new creation – having control of his emotions. It’s not that we don’t have emotions, but that when they come out we have control of them and can manage them in a way that glorifies God. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Aristotle defined bitterness as “the resentful spirit that refuses reconciliation.” A stubborn heart does not honor God as we are to be peacemakers. Wrath speaks of being out of control in the moment; anger speaks of a desire to strike back. Both must be stopped and controlled.

The seventh trait of a new creation that Paul defines is that of being kind, tender and forgiving. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” The why is simple – because Jesus did those things for us. Guzik explains “Our forgiveness to others needs to be patterned after the forgiveness of Jesus towards us. When we think of the amazing way God forgives us, it is ridiculous for us to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged us.

  • God holds back His anger a long time until He forgives. He bears with us for a long time though we sorely provoke Him.
  • God reaches out to bad people to woo them to Himself, and attempts reconciliation with bad people.
  • God always makes the first move in forgiveness, trying to reconcile even though the guilty party is uninterested in forgiveness.
  • God forgives our sin knowing that we will sin again, often in exactly the same way.
  • God’s forgiveness is so complete and glorious that He grants adoption to those former offenders.
  • God, in His forgiveness, bore all of the penalty for the wrong we did against Him. He was innocent yet He bore the guilt.
  • God keeps reaching out to man for reconciliation even when man rejects Him again and again.
  • God requires no probationary period to receive His forgiveness.
  • God’s forgiveness offers complete restoration and honor. He loves, adopts, honors, and associates with those who once wronged Him.
  • God puts His trust in us and invites us to work with Him as co-laborers when He forgives us.”

Moule explains it isn’t that we must forgive because Jesus will forgive us. We forgive because He has forgiven us. “It is the historical fact of Christ once for all putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, which is alluded to.”

Ephesians 4:25-29

In Ephesians 4:25-29 Paul now explains what it looks like to live life as a ‘new man’ with Christ in us. The first trait of the new man is truth – he always tells it. “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” The motive for doing this is because we are members of one another, therefore there is no place for lying. We don’t live on an island and our words mean something to those around us. A body can only function properly if it tells itself the truth. If your hand touches something hot but your hand tells your brain that the thing is cool, your hand will be severely burned. That’s why telling the truth is so important, because we are members of one another.

Paul goes on to tell us that the second trait of the new man is that while he may get angry, he does not sin in that anger. The new man knows how to let go of his frustration and wrath without giving the enemy an opportunity to drive him to sin. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” The enemies work is to accuse and divide the family of God, and to sow discord among them. When we harbor anger in our heart, we do the devil’s work for him. Bruce explains “Here it is suggested that anger can be prevented from degenerating into sin if a strict time limit is placed on it: do not let the sun set on your anger.”

The third trait of the new man is that he does not steal but works hard and honestly with his own hands. Why? So he can provide for his own needs and those in his family along with those in need in his patch. “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.” Labor is literally “to exert himself to the point of exhaustion.” This is the kind of working heart God commands those who used to steal. Paul’s idea is that we should work so that we can give. The purpose for getting becomes giving.

The fourth trait of the new man is that he knows how to watch his tongue and control his mouth. We often downplay the power of words to do good or evil, and unfortunately as such don’t pay close enough attention to the things we say. “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.” The new man speaks only what is good and provided edification for those who hear. His motive is to impart grace to everyone who is within ear shot. Bruce describes corrupting talk as “Not only obscene vulgarity but slanderous and contemptuous talk.” What we say matters. How we say it matters. Who we say it to matters. As Christ Followers and new people – we must guard our mouth and words because they have power!

Ephesians 4:20-24

In Ephesians 4:20-24 Paul reminds us of a very important principle that we need to focus on as Christ Followers. He tells us that as believers, we need to live in a way that glorifies God, what we learned about Jesus. Our Christian life must go beyond head knowledge, but it must absolutely include head knowledge and influence our whole manner of thinking. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This is not just in the sense of knowing facts, but the ability to set our minds on the right things. Paul tells us to ‘put off’ the old so we can put on the new. This has the same idea of putting off or putting on a set of clothes. The idea is to “change into” a different kind of conduct. Guzik explains “Think of a prisoner who is released from prison, but still wears his prison clothes and acts like a prisoner and not as a free man. The first thing to tell that person is that they should put on some new clothes. Even as putting on different clothes will change the way you think about yourself and see yourself, even so putting on a different conduct will start to change your attitudes. This means that we shouldn’t wait to feel like the new man before we put on the new man.”

The bottom line is there must be a break with the past. Jesus isn’t merely added to our old life; the old life dies and He becomes our new life. Spurgeon explains “So, if you want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, you must live with him. First he must himself speak to you, and afterwards you must abide in him. He must be the choice Companion of your morning hours, he must be with you throughout the day, and with him you must also close the night; and as often as you may wake during the night, you must say, ‘When I awake, I am still with thee.’ ” How do we walk in our relationship with Jesus? We renew our minds and put on the new self.

How does that really happen? Well, if we are a true Christ Follower, it already has. The new man is the new creation created in us at conversion. God has already done this work in us at our receiving of His grace. We become the person created according to the image of Jesus Christ and are then righteous and holy. It is in contrast to the old man, who is the person inherited from Adam and who instinctively rebels against God. Just because we have become a new person, it doesn’t mean we are automatically going to walk in righteousness and holiness as we are instructed. The enemy still attacks to cause us to fall. But we can make the choice to live as the new person we became. We can live victoriously through Jesus!

Ephesians 4:17-19

In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul reminds us as Christ Followers that we are to live in a way different from the world. “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” There is a constant tendency for Christians to display to the world that we really aren’t so different after all. We want to merely fit in and be unnoticeable from the crowd. But that is not what God calls us to do. Our effort to be like the rest is a misguided effort to gain the world’s “respect” or approval. We have to resist this seemingly harmless approach at all costs, because the goal in itself is both undesirable and unachievable.

Guzik illustrates it this way: “This principle of compromise can be illustrated by the exchange between a liberal scholar theologian and a Christian professor. The liberal agreed, “I’ll call you a scholar if you’ll call me a Christian.” The trade isn’t worth it.” Paul specifically tells us not to walk as the Gentiles who do so ‘in the futility of their minds’. Their thinking was futile because they did not understand God’s Word and His truth, and they were alienated from God because of their beliefs and how they lived life. It isn’t that they were incapable of understanding God, but they were not working to understand His truth and were blind.

The root cause of the lack of understanding of God is a heart problem, not an intellect or ignorance issue. “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” It comes from denying that God is who He is and defines the standards of morality and life. The word translated hardness here is an ancient Greek word “is used medically to denote the callus formed when a bone has been fractured and reset. Such a callus is even harder than the bone itself” according to Wood.

Paul describes the kinds of sin that grabs us when our heart is hard. “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” This is sin that flaunts itself and throws off all restraint without any sense of shame or fear. Barclay explains the Greek word aselgeia translated here as sensuality, “The great characteristic of aselgeia is this – the bad man usually tries to hide his sin; but the man who has aselgeia in his soul does not care how much he shocks public opinion so long as he can gratify his desires.” A hard heart causes us to do things that we would never do if we were following God’s plan for our life.

In Ephesians 4:15-16 Paul continues to teach how we should function in the church. He’s talked about unity and spiritual gifts and now gives us instruction on how we fit together. He begins by telling us to speak the truth in love as the opposite of being tossed to and fro by those who teach deceitfully. “Rather, speaking the truth in love….”. This speaks to not only how we are to relate to one another in God’s family, but also to how leaders and saints are to deal with deceivers that speak lies and untruth. We should deal with them in love, but never budge from the truth. There is no room to move from God’s truth in His Word.

Paul continues to describe what maturity in the faith looks like as we grow up into Jesus who is the head of the church and our faith. “….we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head….”. This defines the direction of maturity. We never grow “independent” of Jesus, we grow up into Him. Clarke explains it this way: “This is a continuance of a metaphor taken from the members of a human body receiving nourishment equally and growing up, each in its due proportion to other parts, and to the body in general.” As we each one grow into Christ, we become unified and able to work together as God’s design for the church comes to life.

Jesus is the foundation and thus what every believer needs to be growing into. “….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.” The evidence of maturity – that the leaders and the saints are all doing their job – is working together properly. This means every part and joint provides what it can supply in a coordinated effort to do the work of the ministry. When this happens, it naturally causes the growth of the body (both in size and strength), but especially growth for building itself up in love.

Guzik explains “Some people think of the church as a pyramid, with the pastor at the top. Others think of the church as a bus driven by the pastor, who takes his passive passengers where they should go. God wants us to see the church as a body, where every part does its share.” The Christian life is not a solo event in any way, nor is it something where we are just along for the ride. God’s design for the church is that we do the work of the ministry together. None of us is equipped to do it alone, but when all of us work as designed, we are able to do all that God intends in unity and with strength and fulfill what He desires and has planned for us as Christ Followers!

Ephesians 4:12b-14

In Ephesians 4:12b-14 Paul makes clear what the purpose of God’s gifts are for the church. They are given to build up the Body of Christ. They are not given to build a Christ Follower’s personal resume or standing in the church. They are not for our personal edification or enjoyment. They are given to people by God to equip the church in order to build the body. “….for building up the body of Christ….”. The task at hand is to build up the Body of Christ and mature the saints, not to entertain the saints, not to coddle the saints, not to evangelize the saints, but to unify and equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

But Paul goes on to explain what the outcome of that equipping and building should be. “….until we all attain to the unity of the faith….” The first goal of God’s work through the gifted offices and the equipped saints is to bring the church to unity of the faith. Paul started with this focus a few verses back before he dove into teaching on the gifts. Paul did not command a structural or organizational unity, but a spiritual unity around a common faith. Our faith in Christ must unite us, not divide us in any way. It doesn’t just happen, as it is something we must work at to ‘attain’ it, but we can do it if we focus on Jesus and our faith in Him.

The second are that should be an outcome is to know the Son of God and come to maturity. It’s not enough to know about Jesus. We have to know Him. That’s part of the equipping of the saints – to teach us all about Jesus. “….and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood….”. As we get to know Him and His power in our life, we move towards maturity in the faith and as we do that maturity results in greater intimacy with Him and through our experience with God. We come to know Jesus in an instant when we make the decision to accept Him as our Savior and Lord. But the relationship doesn’t end there, it merely gets started with our confession of faith.

The purpose of these four ‘offices’ or gifts in the church is to bring us to maturity. And the bar for that maturity is Jesus Himself. “….to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ….”. As years pass by, we should not only grow old in Jesus, but more mature in Him as well, as both individuals and as a corporate body. But why does it matter? Because maturity in the faith provides stability. “….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.” Paul describes a stormy sea here but God’s plan is for us to be grounded in the faith and holding tightly to the solid rock of Jesus Christ so we can endure whatever is thrown at us.

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