Tag Archives: Ephesians

Oneness

So I, the prisoner in the Lord Jesus, beg you to live as though you were worthy of God’s invitation…

Be completely humble, gentle, and patient…

Put up with one another in love…

          Try hard to keep the Spirit’s unity…

Use peace to tie it together.

There is one body and one Spirit…

You were called to one hope, when God called you…

There is one Lord Jesus…

There is one faith…

There is one immersion…

There is one God.

He is the Father of everyone. God is above everything, through everything, and in everything.

– Paul
Ephesians 4.1-6
The Great Book

 

Prayer, the Center of Christian Experience

Prayer has always been at the center of the Christian experience.

Immediately following the Lord’s ascension, the eleven apostles returned to Jerusalem, and Luke records, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1.14).

At the conclusion of the great events on Pentecost—the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel, and the response of the three thousand—the text states, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2.42).

When Peter and John told the brethren of their arrest for publicly preaching Jesus as the resurrected Messiah, “when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4.31).

When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, “prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12.5).

Prayer was their source of power. Their complete dependence upon God, as expressed by their frequent and fervent prayers, enabled them to accomplish the unimaginable—the saturation of their world with the gospel of Christ.

– Bill

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,
so that you will know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might
which He brought about 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 every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1.18-21

 

Christian “Lunacy”

In Ephesians Paul isn’t content with talking about mercy or grace or love or power. He adds superlatives. He talks about the exceeding greatness or riches of or the unimaginable nature of God’s love or mercy or power or grace.

Why would such a One bother with the likes of us? He’s infinitely above and beyond us. It isn’t just His power and wisdom – it’s His character, His love and mercy and grace. It doesn’t surprise us to hear David ask in Psalm 8, “What are humans that You bother with them?” But incredible as it seems, it’s true! He cares about us.

Well, all right then, so it’s true, but can we gain access to Him, or must we always speak of Him and deal with Him at a great distance? If we do gain access to His presence, what is it that gives us this privilege? What hoops do we have to jump through? What assures us, even now, of His favor and that in a coming day that communion we now enjoy by faith will have an added dimension – His very presence? What gets us from the gutter, through the door and into the palace?

A wooden stake, a public gallows, on a little hill just outside ancient Jerusalem!

Why is that? There have been millions of deaths like that down the centuries! How does that one, that particular one, enable us to enter God’s presence in peace? What is it about that death that opens the gates to breathless wonder?

It’s because in that one as in no other, in that death as in no other event in all of creation’s history, that God makes Himself known.

It isn’t God’s love of shed blood that opens His home to us! It’s God himself – His nature and character. His shed blood didn’t make Him a loving or welcoming God – it proclaimed that He has eternally been like that!

But such magnitude can frighten us and make us feel we’re too tiny to matter. The good news is that this planet “too tiny to matter” is the “visited planet.” It was here God’s young Prince dwelled with us, loved with us, rejoiced and suffered with us and died for us. And it’s here that He will return to call us to dwell with Him again.

Here is the Christian’s “lunacy”: Every Sunday they gather and defy everything that preaches ultimate death and despair and they do it as they proclaim the death of their Lord Jesus until He returns. They proclaim the meaning of that death and they do it with full confidence, for the Holy One Himself vindicated the young man on the wooden stake by raising Him from the dead and making Him Lord of all principalities and powers and might and dominion and every name that is named not only in this world but in the world to come. [See Ephesians 1:19-23]

 – Jim McGuiggan

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

 – Paul (Ephesians 3.14-21)

 

Ceaseless Prayer

Praying HandsTo “pray without ceasing” refers essentially to recurring prayer – not non-stop talking.  “Ceaseless prayer” is living in continual God-consciousness: When we are tempted, we hold up the temptation before God and ask for His help. When we experience something good or beautiful, we immediately thank the Lord for it. When we see evil about us, we ask God to use us to make it right according to His will. When we meet one who does not know Christ, we ask God to help us be effective messengers of the Good News. When we encounter trouble, we turn to God as our Deliverer.

Life becomes a continually ascending prayer: all life’s thoughts, deeds, and circumstances become an opportunity to commune with our Heavenly Father – in that way we “set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on the earth” (Colossians 3.2).

Persistent, continual prayer welling up from the innermost part of our being is what moves the heart of our compassionate and loving Heavenly Father. Jesus’ promise to His people is this: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you” (Mark 11.24).

— Bill

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 faith—that 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.

Ephesians 3.14-21

 

New Year’s Message from Paul

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 be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says,

“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5.6-17

This text calls our attention to a number of vital points –

  • Christians can be deceived.
  • There are Christian leaders and teachers who are deceivers.
  • There is sound biblical teaching and there is false teaching and false teachers.
  • We are responsible for discerning between truth and error.
  • We are responsible for exposing deceptive teaching and teachers.
  • We are to be careful how we “walk” – that is, how we live, who we listen to, what we believe, who we listen to as teachers.
  • We are not to waste our time listening to false teachers no matter how believable or sincere or convincing they may sound.
  • We are to give our full attention to understanding what the will of the Lord is – and how do we do that? By being “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2.15). Study the Word of God for yourselves – know what the will of the Lord is.

– Bill

 

Wholesome Words

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.    (Ephesians 4.29)

Earlier this week a high profile and gifted college football player jumped up on a table in the student union of the university he attends and shouted an obscene and vulgar phrase. I don’t know why – maybe it was a dare or maybe he just thought it was the macho thing to do – to show he wasn’t afraid to say anything. But whatever the case, it was a stupid, foolish, and insensitive thing to do.

A couple of months ago we were watching the 4th of July fireworks display on the lawn of the church building in Holyoke. It’s customary for townsfolk to join us and we’re delighted to have them – lots of families with small children. About halfway through the fireworks show a man showed up and joined a group of people who were presumably his friends. Immediately the whole environment changed. He talked a lot and his language was laced with constant profanity – stupid, foolish, insensitive speech without regard for anyone around him.

Have you ever noticed the words that get the greatest reaction, say from a comedian’s monologue or during the banal banter of a late night talk show, are profane, vulgar, and obscene? When someone drops one of those, the audience claps and howls with approval – I guess that’s why they do it, it usually gets a positive reaction.

I don’t get it. Why is obscenity so popular? To curse and to swear and to assign degrading sexual innuendo to nearly everything is certainly no mark of intelligence. Have we no respect for anyone anymore?

What Can We Do ?

Jesus called His disciples to be the “light of the world.” Here’s just one small big way we can do that. We can never let any unwholesome words come out of our mouths but rather speak with thoughtfulness and respect that is appropriate for the occasion and need of the moment and graces the ears of those who hear.

 – Bill

 

Have We Learned Christ?

 

ephesus_mapPaul warned the Ephesian Christians not to walk as the Gentiles walk. His warning was in regard to their behavior. Christians aren’t supposed to behave or live like those whose lives are characterized by disobedience, both in attitude and action. So in contrast he wrote further —

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard of Him and have been taught in Him, just as the truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4.20-24)

Walking the Walk

The way we live as Christians indicates how we “have learned Christ.” There is a big difference between sitting in a classroom or an auditorium where a subject is being taught and actually “learning” what is being presented. The Ephesian brethren illustrate that for us. Evidently, some of them had not “learned” the Lord.

Paul left Timothy in Ephesus on one occasion to set them straight on some issues (1Timothy 1.3). Earlier in the chapter he felt the need to remind them to walk “worthy” of their calling and to do everything possible “to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Transformed Lives

How are we doing? Have we “learned” or are we “learning Christ”? The answer to that question is demonstrated in the way we live. Much of learning involves “change.” Christianity calls for “transformed” lives (Romans 12.1-2). How have our lives, our attitudes, and our behavior been “changed for the better” – that’s the mark which determines if we have “learned” Christ.

“Learning” Christ is much more than our ability to state facts, quote Scripture, and give book-chapter-verse for what we believe, not that those aren’t important. But without the application, without the behavioral transformation, without simply getting busy and doing what it says to do, they are all just empty words, just meaningless rote recitation, and we will have learned absolutely nothing.

We Are His People

So then this passage teaches us that to “learn Christ” we must “live” what we “learn.” Jesus calls us to be His people (Matthew 11.28-30). He has left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2.21). May the Lord bless us and help us never to stop learning and growing and being renewed in the spirit of our minds.

— Bill

A Spirit-Filled Church

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1.11-14).

Reconciliation through the Spirit

Notice how the Spirit in this passage accomplished reconciliation, turning the we (in verses 11 and 12) and the you (verse 13) into our (verse 14). Though the Jews were the first to hope in Christ, by having given them the Holy Spirit of promise, the same promised to Israel, God sealed the Gentiles, too, as His own possession.

  • Ÿ The Spirit is God’s seal, His mark of ownership, His stamp of authentication. By giving them His Holy Spirit God stamped the Gentile believers as His own possession, marking them to be recipients of His final inheritance.
  • Ÿ The Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance. Pledge means an earnest or down payment. It is the first installment of a total amount due. The Spirit Himself is God’s down payment in our lives that guarantees our certain future. Hope is confident expectation because of the Spirit’s seal, the mark of ownership and the Spirit’s pledge, the down payment guarantee of a certain future.

Access through the Spirit

For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Ephesians 2.18). This statement parallels what Paul just stated in verse 16: and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. The intent of this parallel seems to be that both Jew and Gentile are in one body because they are both in one Spirit. Jews and non-Jews alike are reconciled to God in one body, and both have access to Him as Father in one Spirit. To be a part of the one body is to be in Christ from whom all spiritual blessings flow.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophet, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2.19-22).

Dwelling Together through the Spirit

This statement affirms:

  • First, the new identity and equality of the Gentiles. Before God, in Christ, there is no longer any distinction. The Gentiles are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens and kinsmen, relatives, brothers and sisters in God’s household.
  • Second, that the redeemed and reconciled saints are now being fitted together into a growing, living, holy temple, a dwelling of God in the Spirit. The true temple of God is organic; it lives and grows. It is not built of stone nor made with hands. Rather, it is composed of all God’s redeemed and reconciled and righteous new people.

The church, the body, is God’s new temple, the place of His habitation on earth. It is the location of His presence – He is with His people, in the midst of His people, in the lives of His people, not in the marvelous temple of Diana, nor the magnificent temple of Herod, but in His people! They (we) are built into a habitation of God by the Spirit. God by His Spirit abides with His people. Here, in the church, the one body, is God’s presence begun but lost in the Garden, typified in the tabernacle and the temple, restored in Christ and His church in whom we all are being fitted together into the holy temple of God by His Spirit.

Therefore…walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit, just as also you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

– Bill

 

The Church: The Bride and Bridegroom Theme

Why should Christians and the church be concerned with doctrinal purity? People today often take truth to be relative and thus look on Christian doctrine as quite unimportant.

It is essential to remind ourselves that God doesn’t hold the same view. God actually prevents us from doing so by very clear biblical teaching. An important part of that instruction is grounded in the statement that Christians and the church are the bride of Christ. The relationship between God and His people is graphically illustrated by the marriage relationship between a man and a woman:

 “ 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

28So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30because we are members of His body.

31For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5.25-32)

Here is a remarkably strong statement about the church as the bride of Christ. Notice how God carefully intertwines the church with the normal marriage relationship. The two ideas are so fused that it is almost impossible to divide them.

Here are three inseparable relationships: the man-woman relationship, the Christ-Christian relationship; and the Christ-church relationship.

Who Is the Bride?

In the New Testament, brideship is thought of in two ways. Some texts emphasize the fact that each Christian is, individually, the bride of Christ. Other texts stress that the church as a whole is the bride of Christ. There is no contradiction – the church, collectively, is the bride of Christ collectively composed of individual Christians, each one of whom is the bride of Christ.

Paul states in verse 32 that he is speaking of a great mystery – and what a mystery it is! The very fact that Christ, the eternal second person of the Godhead, the Creator, has become the divine bridegroom.

This Ephesian passage does not stand alone. In John 3.28-29, John the Baptist introduces Christ in these terms:

“You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, I have been sent ahead of Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.”

Romans 7.4: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be married to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”

This passage is an overwhelming picture of a bride who places herself in her bridegroom’s arms on their wedding. And as children are born to them, so too the individual Christian puts himself or herself in the bridegroom’s arms bearing the offspring of Christ into a fallen world alienated from God.

The Wonder of Relationship

This marvelous man-woman relationship of marriage is stressed throughout Scripture as an illustration of the wonder of the relationship of the individual and Christ and the church and Christ. The way in which Scripture parallels the human man-woman relationship and our union with Christ guides our thinking in two directions. First, it makes us understand the greatness and the wonder and the beauty of marriage, and second, it helps us to understand profoundly something of the relationship between God and His people and between Christ and His church.

Simply put, that is why infidelity and sexual promiscuity are wrong. Not only because God says it’s wrong, but because it adulterates the man-woman relationship and the Christ-Christian relationship – the church as the bride of Christ.

–Bill

adapted from The Church before the Watching World
by Francis Schaeffer