"Excitement From Ephesians"

Chapter 1
(Ephesians 1:1-3) - Every Spirtual Blessing
(Ephesians 1:4-6) - Adopted Into The Royal Family
(Ephesians 1:4) - Chosen Before The Foundation
(Ephesians 1:7) - Release To The Captives
(Ephesians 1:8-10) - Knowing The Plan of God
(Ephesians 1:10-12) - According to God's Purpose
(Ephesians 1:13,14) - Sealed With The Spirit
(Ephesians 1:13) - The Message of Truth
(Ephesians 1:13) - The Promised Holy Spirit
(Ephesians 1:13) - Listening to the Message
(Ephesians 1:14) - Redemption of God’s Possession
(Ephesians 1:13,14) - The Earnest of our Inheritance
(Ephesians 1:15,16) - Learning to Pray from Paul
(Ephesians 1:15) - Paul’s Communication Network
(Ephesians 1:17,18) - The Father of Glory
(Ephesians 1:17) - Enlightened Eyes
(Ephesians 1:18,19) - What To See!
(Ephesians 1:21-23) - All Things In Subjection
(Ephesians 1:22,23) - The Church, the Church, the Church

Chapter 2
(Ephesians 2:1,2) - DEAD!
(Ephesians 2:3) - Self-indulgent Children
(Ephesians 2:4-6) - Our Awesome God
(Ephesians 2:5-7) - The Ages To Come
(Ephesians 2:8,9) - By Grace Are You Saved
(Ephesians 2:10) - We Are His Workmanship
(Ephesians 2:11,12) - The Lostness of the World
(Ephesians 2:12,13) - In Christ Jesus
(Ephesians 2:13-15) - The Peacemaker
(Ephesians 2:14,15) - The Cross and the Law
(Ephesians 2:17,18) - The Preaching of Jesus
(Ephesians 2:19-22) - Equal Temple Stones

Chapter 3
(Ephesians 3:1-4) - Introducing the Mystery
(Ephesians 3:4-6) - The Mystery Revealed
(Ephesians 3:7-9) - Paul's Privilege
(Ephesians 3:8-11) - Administering the Mystery
(Ephesians 3:10) - The Manifold Wisdom of God
(Ephesians 3:10) - The Eternal Purpose of God
(Ephesians 3:11-13) - Boldness and Confident Access
(Ephesians 3:14-16) - Attitude Adjustment
(Ephesians 3:16) - Strengthened With Power
(Ephesians 3:17,18) - Power in the Inner Man
(Ephesians 3:16-19) - To Know the Love of Christ
(Ephesians 3:20,21) - Exceeding Abundantly Beyond

Chapter 4
(Ephesians 4:1-3) - Walking in a Worthy Manner
(Ephesians 4:4-6) - Unity of the Spirit
(Ephesians 4:6) - Controversy Over Unity
(Ephesians 4:7,8) - Gifts from on High
(Ephesians 4:9,10) - The Ascended King
(Ephesians 4:9) - Gifts from Christ
(Ephesians 4:11,12) - Equipping for Work
(Ephesians 4:11-13) - Spiritual Unity
(Ephesians 4:14,15) - No Longer Children
(Ephesians 4:15) - Truth In Love
(Ephesians 4:15,16) - Grow Up In All Aspects
(Ephesians 4:17-19) - Futility of the Mind
(Ephesians 4:20,21) - Learning Christ
(Ephesians 4:22) - Lay Aside The Old Man
(Ephesians 4:22-24) - Put On The New Self
(Ephesians 4:22-24) - Renewed in the Mind
(Ephesians 4:24,25) - Speak Truth
(Ephesians 4:25-27) - Handling Anger
(Ephesians 4:28) - Labor With Your Hands
(Ephesians 4:29) - Edifying Comments
(Ephesians 4:30-32) - Grieving the Spirit

Chapter 5
(Ephesians 5:1,2) - Imitators of God?
(Ephesians 5:3-6) - None of These "Diseases"
(Ephesians 5:7-10) - Children of Light
(Ephesians 5:11-14) - Awake, Sleeper!
(Ephesians 5:15-17) - Making the Most of Time
(Ephesians 5:18-21) - Filled With The Spirit
(Ephesians 5:19) - Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs
(Ephesians 5:20) - A Thankful Heart
(Ephesians 5:21) - Subject to One Another
(Ephesians 5:22-24) - Submissive Wives
(Ephesians 5:25) - Loving Husbands
(Ephesians 5:25-27) - The Sanctified Church
(Ephesians 5:28-30) - Body Love
(Ephesiana 5:31-33) - The Secret of Marriage

Chapter 6
(Ephesians 6:1-4) - Children and Parents
(Ephesians 6:5-9) - Christian Slaves and Masters
(Ephesians 6:10-12) - Welcome to War
(Ephesians 6:11) - Schemes of the Devil
(Ephesians 6:13-17) - Armored Up
(Ephesians 6:18) - The Sword of the Spirit
(Ephesians 6:19,20) - Prayer for Boldness
(Ephesians 6:21,22) - A Faithful Minister
(Ephesians 6:23,24) - Grace, Faith, Love and Peace

Summary
(Ephesians) - Final Summary of Ephesians

 

 

Every Spiritual Blessing

The ancient world was just as full of confusion in matters religious as the modern. Thus it was that Paul, having his apostleship stamped by the miracles and signs which attended his progress, in addressing the brethren at Ephesus, introduced himself as an apostle and one who could therefore clear away contradictions, doubts, and fears generated by the devil. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God," he wrote, "to the saints at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.' Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:1,2). This exponent of truth, then, addressed the congregation as saints not sinners, and as faithful in Christ rather than as rebellious renegades. This was not an attempt to falsely ingratiate himself with the disciples, nor was it an effort to brush the weaknesses in Ephesus under the carpet and not deal with them; instead it was the Holy Spirit's desire to paint their picture in present positive, affirmative tones, eventually securing thereby that elevated behavior.

The customary, though earnest, sincere, and important, prayers for grace and peace to the brethren, connected with greetings from the Father and the Lord Jesus, being delivered, the apostle hurried on to his introductory notes:

Blessed is the God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. And may we count those blessings with the proper emphasis on the spiritual rather than the physical.

 

 

 

Adopted Into The Royal Family

Many great stories of adoption can be told! Ranging from true accounts of little girls being adopted from desperate situations and raised by Christian families to great classic fictional work of Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, these depictions all carry the message of the underlying love of the adoptive parents and the full rights of the adopted children. What a picture it was when Judah Ben-Hur, taken from the darkened appointment of a Jewish galley slave and elevated to the position of Roman tribune by adoption, stamped the seal of his noble office into fresh wax in the presence of his astonished former friend and current enemy.

But the greatest of adoptions occurs in the spiritual realm. None of the rags-to-riches, low-estate-to-high-rank stories compares with that which God has done through Christ Jesus for His chosen saints. "In love," wrote the former Saul of Tarsus, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:4-6).

Who, upon the dawning of comprehension of the greatness of this adoption, could not fail to proclaim the glory of the grace of Him who made it not only possible but a reality? Who, in being now fitted in the livery of attendants upon the great throne on high, would be willing to disgrace his new office? Who, in recognizing the great love and risk the King had taken in adopting into the royal family such a sinner, would be willing to overthrow that love and compassion, and be once again enticed into the squalor of his former life? "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

 

 

Chosen Before The Foundation

The idea that God can foreknow events is difficult for man to understand. This is particularly true when the concept of pre-determination is coupled with its apparent opposite, free will. "If man has freedom of choice, then how can God predestine?" is one question. And the other: "If God predestines, how can man have choice?" Yet the scripture affirms that both are true. "Choose this day whom you will serve," echo the ageless words of Joshua. Biblical preaching always exhorted the hearers to make the right choice (Joshua 24:15). "Therefore, brethren," proclaimed the apostle Peter, "be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (II Peter 1:10). Man exercises free will; God foreknows and predestines.

In Ephesians 1:3-12 Paul specifically discussed the relationship of the apostles of Jesus Christ to the Lord, bringing up such subjects as spiritual blessings in Christ, adoption as sons, redemption, and grace. The rest of the New Testament writings make it clear that these same characteristics by extension belong to all who are in Christ.

God in His great mercy has made it possible for an alienated sinner to be reconciled to Him through the gospel. Each Christian of a good and honest heart must be in constant remembrance of the love of God, and God's willingness to choose him out of the world, recognizing how special he is to be so chosen. But he must also be cognizant that the purpose of God's choosing, set in motion before the foundation of the world, is that the child of God should be holy and blameless. Step up to the performance line, and be that way!

 

 

Release To The Captives

Kidnapped! Sometimes the headlines snap a nation to attention when the son or daughter of a famous family is stolen away, and a ransom note is delivered. For weeks or months the news media occupy the public with accounts of police efforts to locate the lost child. Banner headlines mark the progress and constant coverage details the delivery of the ransom money, and the whole country breathes relief when the perpetrators are finally brought to bay.

But as heinous a crime as the kidnapping of a child is, it pales to insignificance next to the destruction brought on by Satan the deceiver. Into house after house he enters, carrying off into the land of oblivion those who are exposed for his picking, who are enticed into sin by the combination of their own lust and the devil's whisperings. And they are kidnapped. In the words of the scripture, they are in "the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (II Timothy 2:26). But, praise be to the Almighty, a Rescuer has come from Zion, to deliver Jacob from his transgression.

When Jesus spoke at His home synagogue in Nazareth, He quoted His purpose as prophesied by Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are down-trodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18,19). There are so many blessings in Christ. In Christ a person is a new creation. In Christ there is no condemnation. In Christ disciples have redemption through His blood. In Christ brethren have access to the riches of His grace, and in the strength He provides, in Christ they can overwhelmingly conquer. What an abundant life!

 

 

Knowing The Plan of God

"No longer do I call you slaves,," Jesus told the twelve minus Judas. "The slave does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). For the first time in the history of the world were the servants of God going to be "let in on" the plan of God so that they could function with initiative on their parts to fulfill the strategy for world conquest. Up to this point even the prophets of old had to flounder, taking orders without knowing the overall purpose of their action and preaching, speaking of the future redemption, but not knowing how it was to be accomplished. "As to this salvation," explained Peter, "prophets who prophesied the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow, It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things into which angels long to look" (I Peter 1:10-11). Those who preached the gospel to us by the Holy Spirit are those selfsame apostles.

This mystery was first made known to the apostles, as the apostle Paul indicated to the community of saints in Ephesus. But as their writings, and those of selected New Covenant prophets, were assembled by the Providence of the Almighty, all brethren now hold in their hands the complete revelation of this mystery. May we regard with care and excitement the sacred trust committed to us!

 

 

According to God's Purpose

"In all wisdom and insight" averred the former Saul of Tarsus, "He made known to us the mystery of His will" (Ephesians 1:8,9). By His wisdom, God set in motion a definite plan to carry the message of salvation to all. Having sent His son to die on the cross, and having raised Him from the dead, the All Wise Father then sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, who in turn could then explain the significance of the events now recorded in the gospel accounts. God, in His kindness, decided to give man a second chance through the gospel but still was working within in His pre-set parameters of time and conditions under which redemption could take place. And He is determined that all things, voluntarily or involuntarily, will be summed up in Christ, "things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Ephesians 1:10). These things He made known directly to the apostles of Christ, and through them indirectly to all of us who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.

We must all remember that God has a fixed plan in motion, and that He is executing according to that plan. In His wisdom and insight, the blessings of Christianity flowed first to the apostles, and through them to those of us who faithfully follow their word. To this end modern sons of God pray and work according to the directives established in His written word, and thus also share in the blessings of grace, redemption, and forgiveness, doing our part to sum all things up in Christ.

 

 

Sealed With The Spirit

Fleshly man cannot put the proper appraisal on spiritual matters. Hence God our Father has a variety of teaching tools in motion to upgrade the spirituality of man so that he can increasingly put the proper value on the realm of the unseen. Beginning with a guilty conscience, man is brought to a recognition of his need for redemption through the preached word, and remission of his sins is proffered through the sacrifice of Christ. But the Father's goal in all this is to produce a spiritual people, rather than a conglomeration, who can truly fellowship with God. As the great bondservant John emphasized: "What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). Once remission of sins is accomplished, the wayward son is granted the indwelling Spirit, by whom this fellowship with God is established and maintained.

After referring to the blessings accruing to the apostles (many of which also are granted to every Christian), Paul focuses his attention on the Ephesian brethren:

God sent Jesus to suffer in the great spectacle of the crucifixion, to deliver us from sin, and upgrade our spirituality, so that He could ultimately send forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. Let us with open hearts and open minds try to understand the significance of the greatest gift of all, the gift of the indwelling Spirit

 

 

The Message of Truth

There is such a thing as truth, and there are such things as lies. God is real, and so is the slanderer, the devil. Of Satan, Jesus said, "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, be cause there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). So the great war goes on between good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies.

When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he referred to the brethren "listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation" (Ephesians 1:13). There is only one message of truth about salvation; all the other messages are lies. Because each man's eternity hangs in the balance of which he listens to, it is important to note some of the salient points of the message of salvation:

This is the message of truth, the gospel of salvation. This is the message the Ephesians believed, and which saved them. And these are the terms of the only message, which will save men today. Satan, in his deception, continues to offer lying messages to the unwary. But you listen to the message of truth.

 

 

The Promised Holy Spirit

God, in His communication to man, wastes no words, and uses no unimportant terminology. Our Lord, during the temptation in the wilderness, quoted from the inspired and sagacious Moses, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Thus when Paul uses the expression "the Holy Spirit of promise" in Ephesians 1:13, the diligent disciple of the Lord will want to know why the Spirit is called the promised Spirit.

When the serious student of scripture today recognizes that the indwelling Spirit was the promise offered by God in prophecy, he will begin to underscore the significance of this indwelling as he works his way through the Bible. He will note that Christians are children of promise, children of the Holy Spirit as contrasted to those of mere fleshly birth. He will note that remission of sins is the vehicle to receiving this promise. And he will note that the old Testament great men of faith did not receive this promise. Then he will fall on his face before God, confess that he is not worthy to receive such a gift, and arise in the strength of that Spirit and get to work.

 

 

Listening to the Message

God has a plan from which He will not deviate. To be saved, an individual must hear the word of God from a fellow man. Paul, in passing, noted this in his exhortation to the Ephesian brethren: "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation…" (Ephesians 1:13). Man is saved after listening to the message of truth, or as Paul put it in another place, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Note, then, some significant elements concerning the means by which the message comes to a lost and dying race:

Thus it was in Ephesus. They came to believe "after listening to the message of truth." And thus it is today. No angel is going to appear in some dank cell, and give some Moslem the way of salvation. No 700 foot high Jesus is going to suddenly arrive at some bedside, and explain the way of salvation. The message of truth is going to be carried by men to men. So get carryin’!

 

 

Redemption of God’s Possession

God has worked with mankind as a whole in much the same way a parent interacts with a child. God has provided discipline, experiences, lessons, and a means of increasing the race’s vocabulary. He has even provided an all inclusive textbook and handbook in which the lessons are permanently recorded, available for reference or learning.

One of the great lessons from God for man is for man to learn what it means to be spiritual. As often noted, man is generally interested in the directly physical, that which is related to survival, personal comfort, and personal physical pleasure. How will the All Wise deal with this materially oriented creation, and set up a framework in which he, by his free will if his interest can be generated, can become a new creature, with a spiritual orientation? Watch.

Thus the Christian looks forward, trusting God to keep His promise of the resurrection of the glorified body, "with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:14). Anyone interested?

 

 

The Earnest of our Inheritance

This earth is full of daily disasters. The most apparent principle in operation in the world is the law of death and decay. A glamorous, divorced, playgirl princess and her boyfriend leave their bodies behind as a result of a high speed chase (and who knows what other behind the scenes skull-duggery), going to their eternal reward, while the world mourns the death of the woman for weeks. As the great apostle Paul pointed out for us, "For the creation was subjected to futility…" (Romans 8:20). The world, in "its slavery to corruption" (Romans 8:21), has no hope. And earthy residents of this planet have nothing better to do than to spin in their home-made squirrel cages faster and faster, and in frustration occasionally bump them into one another in a futile attempt "to get ahead."

But those who have been redeemed, whose affections have been set on the things above rather than on the things of earth, have one hope. They know, from the everlasting word of God, that one day the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, the Lord shall descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the dead in Christ shall be raised from the graves incorruptible. They know, that while everything of this earth can be stripped—their livelihoods, their health, their families, their homes—nothing can separate them from the love of God and His willingness to resurrect them from the dead. Thus they "wait eagerly for [their] adoption as sons, the redemption of [their] body" (Romans 8:23). Having learned the spiritual lessons from the book of God, having seen the earthiness of Adam, having learned of the physical salvation of Israel, having understood the redemption of the soul through the sacrifice of Jesus, and having been trained to look to the salvation of the body at the second coming of Christ, they truly comprehend the words of Paul: "And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Corinthians 15:49).

The one hope that the Christian has is his resurrection from the dead. And the indwelling Holy Spirit, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27), is the son of God’s guarantee of that hope. Will you downgrade the importance of the indwelling Spirit, or will you see with increasingly spiritual eyes His importance in the plan of God?

 

 

Learning to Pray from Paul

The great men of God without exception have all been great men of prayer. Some prayed from the early stages of their lives; some, as Samson, learned to pray the hard way, petitioning for the Lord to answer him in the last throes of his life in the Philistine temple. Our Lord Himself, during His days in the flesh, was the greatest Man of prayer. I stand in awe of Him, noting situations such as this one that Mark records: "And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there" (Mark 1:35).

The apostle Paul was likewise a man of prayer, and serves as a great role model for anyone who would desire to be truly spiritual. And what is helpful from Paul is that most of his letters contain written prayers, which are instructive for those who would yearn for the spirituality of such regular devotion.

After noting that the Ephesian brethren had listened to the message of truth and had obeyed the gospel of salvation, the apostle continued: "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers…" (Ephesians 1:15,16). There are some salient points for us:

Modern Christians must learn from examples such as Paul’s. We must learn to be always conscious of our presence in spirit before the throne of the Almighty, in constant communication with Him. We must learn to have the same types of focus in our prayers, giving thanks for the faith and love of others. And we must have so many others to pray for that we just have time to "make mention" of them; under those conditions the mention will have more power than the vain and ongoing pleadings of the merely selfish. Do not cease to give thanks!

 

 

Paul’s Communication Network

How can Christians communicate if they never talk? Is it right to visit about affairs of the church? Or when does such sharing become gossip? or malicious gossip? When Paul wrote to the congregation of believers in Corinth in anticipation of his next visit to that fair city, he expressed some anxieties concerning the church: "I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances" (II Corinthians 12:20). Right in the middle of all the "church fight" words is gossip. God does not like gossip, or malicious gossip.

Yet in his first inspired missile to the Corinthian brethren, this same Paul notes: "I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you" (I Corinthians 1:11). Were Chloe’s relatives a bunch of whispering gossips? Was Paul out of line in entertaining their comments? It is implicit that the Holy Spirit did not condemn the legitimate concern and comments relayed to Paul about the status of the Lord’s work in that Achaian center.

Paul had developed an excellent set of communications within the congregations functioning, as he put it, within his "sphere." Thus, as he wrote to the church in Ephesus, in a letter dictated from prison concurrently with the epistle to the Colossian brethren and the note to Philemon also of Colossae, he stated, "For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints…" (Ephesians 1:15). It was not that the apostle had never been to Ephesus (or that someone else actually wrote this letter); Paul had simply set in motion a communication network by which the continuing growth in numbers, in faith, and in love could be shared with him. Absolute honesty with God, coupled with a bond of teamwork, attached to a great scriptural word — sensible — provide guidelines for what is acceptable or unacceptable communication.

Church leadership, in following the apostolic example, builds communication networks in each local congregation and in what the apostle Peter called "the brotherhood" (I Peter 2:17). The purpose of this network is not only to keep track of the doctrines being taught or to be aware of problems or potential problems, but also to note and credit the praiseworthy accomplishments among the brethren. Paul focused on the praiseworthy in this letter to the Ephesian Christians, stating for all eternity that he had heard of the faith in the Lord and the love for all the saints which existed among them. Let us be excited to spread truly good news along the communication networks.

 

 

The Father of Glory

There are a number of words which recur in the scriptures, arresting the attention of men, and calling them to listen to the instruction of the heavenly Father. Love, sin, forgiveness, grace, faith, and peace are some which come to mind. All these are key words, and the Lord went to great pain (note the double meaning!) to define each of them. Rather than giving us a dictionary definition of love, for example, He demonstrated His love by the substitutionary death of His Son on the cross. Glory likewise is one of those key recurring words, and the Lord demonstrated its meaning rather than being content to leave us with a mere Greek concept of doxa and its derivatives.

Paul prayed "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart being enlightened…" (Ephesians 1:17,18). The "you" of whom this prayer was concerned were all the brethren in Ephesus. Not all the brethren—in fact, very few—would receive a spiritual gift of having an apostle’s or a prophet’s type of revelation. The "spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" is the kind which is apprehended by any spiritually-minded individual who will learn from the Father of glory. The picture was painted for the apostles and New Testament prophets by inspiration; Christians today come to this spirit of wisdom and revelation by apprehending "the knowledge of Him" through what is written. God sent His Son to define glory.

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"The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" is understood by us as we come to have "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation." The Bible, in particular the New Testament writings, gives us the inspired "knowledge of Him" through the successive revelation of Jesus the Christ.

 

 

Enlightened Eyes

What sort of written prayers will make it to the pages of God’s eternal word? Will it be prayers for the cardiac condition of Timothy’s dear grandmother Lois, or will it be prayer requests for God to heal Paul’s sick colleague Epaphroditus of Philippi? No! no! no! Sooner or later Lois is going to be gathered to her people any way, and sooner or later the carcass of Epaphroditus is going to be laid to rest. The written prayers of God’s great apostle, which are going to enter the pages of the eternal writ are going to be the ones which have eternal significance. So what does Paul pray for? What is really, really important?

The earnest desire of the apostle, then, was that the "eyes of the heart" of the Ephesian brethren be truly "enlightened," having received the necessary spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ. This is what we should pray for, for ourselves, and for all the brethren, that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord indeed fill all the earth.

 

 

What To See!

Since we live, comparatively speaking, near Yellowstone Park, it is not uncommon for us to take visitors there to see the sights. Having a personal interest in the geysers and other geological phenomena in Yellowstone, I can provide an interesting and efficient tour, knowing the important points of interest, and when best to see them. Someone who has but a vague knowledge of the Park, not comprehending its vastness or knowing how to plan for its special features and problems, is not a reliable guide, and likely to have guests staring off Fisherman’s Bridge in the bright daylight, and trying to imagine the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone long after the sun has set.

When it comes to Biblical truths, the apostle Paul is a reliable guide. "Am I not free?" wrote he. "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (I Corinthians 9:1). When the apostle interceded for the congregation in Ephesus, his prayers exhibit His desire for all the brethren to comprehend the spiritual verities that were obvious to this one who had seen the Lord in glory. "I pray," he petitioned, "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know that 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" (Ephesians 1:18,19). Paul prayed for the Ephesian brethren, and through them us also, to be able to see three great sights on our journey through Heavenly Park, the Kingdom of God:

These three great spiritual vistas can only be seen by those whose eyes are truly enlightened. No material camera ever caught a glimpse of Christ destroying the power of death in His resurrection. No earthly video will ever record Christ receiving His inheritance in the saints. And no person but those who have seen the kingdom of God by virtue of having been born of water and Spirit will ever see hope of their calling.

 

 

All Things In Subjection

Who is this glorious Christ? The world does not know Him, for He ever lives in the realm, which cannot be seen by denizens of earth. So how does He have authority? The declaration from on High reads that He has been seated at the right hand of power 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 1:21). Does the world recognize this authority? No, but its refusal to acknowledge the action of God the Father as "He put all things in subjection" under Jesus' feet (Ephesians 1:22) in no way alters or impacts this heavenly coronation. And acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus they shall, for every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall "confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:11).

Although the world is resistant to heaven's having dominion over the earth, it is not so in the church. The body of Christ co-named the "reign of heaven," rejoices in the triumphant announcement from scripture: "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22,23).

All things are in subjection under the feet of the risen Jesus. The world, still in rebellion, is step-by-step being acquainted to this unavoidable truth. But in the church itself, each member of the body, in the likeness of the character of Christ Himself, joyfully submits to His Headship, and exhibits this surrender in cheerfully carrying out appointed duties.

 

 

The Church, the Church, the Church

The general topic of people's conversation is what is important or exciting to them. The latest experience, the exciting story, the intense situation, the lost love, and problems with the kids often dominate the discussion. While men may talk about buying, selling, building, planting, marrying, or giving in marriage, the Lord talks about what is important to Him, and what is important to Him is the church!

The church in the Old Testament - The church was secretly anticipated as the bride of the Lord in Genesis 2. She was contemplated in the bruising of the Serpent-Smasher's heel in Genesis 3, and settled as the recipient of the blessing of Abraham in Genesis 12. She was foreshadowed by the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon, and typified by the congregation of Israel in the wilderness. She was prophesied as a resurrected army, marching victoriously in the sight of a stationary sun and moon under the command of her Joshua. She was looked to as an experience of great spiritual harvesting, a time of bringing in the sheaves, and pictured as a great family reunion, wherein all her scattered sons and daughters would be gathered from the nations. And, in the words of the sweet psalmist of Israel, she was breathlessly awaited as the queen in the gold of Ophir, her true beauty being that she was all glorious within.

The church in the gospel accounts -The church was the constant center of the parables of the Lord Jesus, during the days of His earthly sojourn. As the crowds would gather, He would introduce His topic with words like this: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…". The church, the kingdom referred to by Jesus, was pictured as the means by which the souls of men would be harvested, the leaven of God which would work its way through the whole earth, the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, and the reason why the King gave a wedding feast for His Son. The church was to be the very thing which Jesus' Himself would build, upon the truth of the great confession that by virtue of His resurrection He was the Christ the Son of the living God; and the church would be such that if anyone was cast out of it, he would be as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.

The church in the epistles - The great truths of the church are brought out in the plain teaching of the apostles in the record of the book of Acts and the letter to the congregations of the first century. Here the foreshadows of the Old Testament writings are brought to light; here, the parables and teachings of the Christ are pulled into clear focus. The church is the bride of Christ, the temple of God, the family of believers, the saved from sin, the congregation of spiritual Israel, and the body of Christ. The Father indeed gave Christ "as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22,23). Not only is the church to function as a unit under the headship of Christ, but it is the very fulness of God, the complete filling of Him who fills all in all! What bigger words could possibly be used to describe the church.

Because the church consists of people, and because in the church brethren some times do not yet have the requisite spirituality to carry out the desire of the Lord, person difficulties often obscure the grand truth and great purpose of God, carried out through and only through the church. But never forget: she is the constant topic of the great God's conversation, and the co-center of attention in the greatest romance novel ever written. Duty, honor, eternity; the church, the church, the church!

 

 

DEAD!

The skeptic or brazen unbeliever often taunts the faithful with these words: "If God is so good, why does He allow disease and death?" The answer is that God uses death as a last ditch effort to reach this same skeptic. While birth comes with joy and hope, death comes to the world with a sense of shock and dismay. The already rotting corpse is there to make all of us recognize that sin has its effects, that sin masquerades as fun and pleasurable but has as its final result loss, separation, and darkness.

Each person on earth, when old enough to be charged with responsibility for his own actions, is appealed to by Satan through each's fleshly weaknesses, and sins against God and trespasses on forbidden property. The Christian is reminded that he once was in that lost and deadened spiritual state, that once he was in slavery to the rebellious schemes of Satan against God, and that he walked according to the same spirit of disobedience now working in a perverted world. Who would even possibly glory in these despicable associations? Or who could possibly want to go back to the giant sarcophagus of the dead?

 

 

Self-indulgent Children

Snot-nosed, disrespectful, self-seeking brats are a stench in the nostrils of God. Hateful, hating one another, they are whoremongers, looters, and pranksters whose feet are swift to shed blood, and who have the poison of asps under their lips (Romans 3:13,16). Rebellious and ungrateful children, they have chosen to walk in darkness rather than in light, and have preferred profanity to sanctification, and vulgarity to holiness. Such are the sons of man in their unredeemed state. As Paul reminded Titus: "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3).

The darkness of man is not readily apparent to him. The gospel of light, stabbing through the fog of man's confusion, reveals how each person made the choice to indulge the flesh, and become separated from God by his own sins and trespasses. And the Christian is to be mindful of his former state of darkness, that he might be truly grateful to the Savior who rescued him, and might desire to be a living bridge to those trapped in the inky blackness of their own fleshly desires.

 

 

Our Awesome God

Man sank low, then he sank lower. The spirit of the prince of the power of the air worked and worked on the sons of man, and they became children of wrath, wrath from the Almighty God. And the greatness of our loving God is demonstrated in His rescue of sunken man. "But God," stated the former persecutor of the church, and violent blasphemer, "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" (Ephesians 2:4-6). Only by first recognizing the hideousness of his sins can man begin to appreciate the goodness of the great God.

Our God is indeed an awesome God. He reigns in heaven above, in the words of the songwriter, in wisdom, power, and love. This is exhibited in His actions toward those who believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ; because of His great love, He called on the resources of His riches to first forgive the alien sinner, the dead transgressor. Not content with merely to forgive, as He often would do under the Old Covenant, He raised the dead to a heavenly standing in Christ. And, in the exceeding greatness of His mercy. He seated each of the brethren on the throne with Christ in those heavenly places.

The question is: can the saint really believe the scripture and the awesomeness of this great God? Can he really believe that God has great love for him? Can he really believe that God is rich in mercy? Can he really believe that he no longer dwells on earth, but by faith dwells in the heavenly realms? Can he really believe that he has been raised with Christ and seated with Him? If the answer to those questions is basically, "No," then he will not live victoriously in Christ Jesus. If the answer to those questions is "Yes!" then he will be an overwhelming conqueror.

 

 

The Ages To Come

This world is not man's final home, God has a much more glorious place than earth, wracked by the second law of thermodynamics, going slowly to destruction in a dog-eat-dog atmosphere. "In My Father's house are many dwelling places," said the Lord Jesus, nearing the end of His time in the flesh, "If it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The place Jesus has gone to prepare for His children is a spiritual place, "not of this creation." The challenge for Jesus is to produce a spiritual people who truly desire to see the face of Christ and the glory of the Lord, who comprehend and value that which is not seen and eternal much above that which is seen and temporal. Not only is Jesus preparing a place for His people; He is preparing a people for His place. "And if I go and prepare a place for you," said He, "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there may you be also" (John 14:3).

The mechanism God has for preparing His people is the church, appropriately called "the kingdom of heaven" or "the reign of heaven" in Matthew's account. Peter used "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19) on the day of Pentecost. 30 AD, and on the day when the Gentiles first turned to the Lord; and the way of salvation has since been opened for all. The spiritual kingdom provides the opportunity for spiritual growth, as men shed their flesh by faith in the waters of immersion, and progressively lay aside the deeds of the flesh and take on the full character of Christ as sons of light. Some fall away in the process; some finish strong. And those who are faithful until death are those prepared for the ages to come.

Jesus has put together one awesome spiritual place, and nearly has His people prepared for it through their participation in the church. He can hardly wait for His next big show for His special kids, "the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us." Are you ready?

 

 

By Grace Are You Saved

Grace generally has to do with God giving man what he does not deserve. It is by the grace of God that there is food in the house, a blue sky overhead, and love of a man for his family. By God's grace a Christian travels safely, and has finances available to help someone in need. By the grace or favor of God, Paul was granted an apostleship, and ability to labor in the word. He scatters His favors abroad, and He gives to the poor (II Corinthians 9:9).

But the grace of God is greatly exhibited in the offering of forgiveness to men through the sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, and thereby granting them the privilege of fellowship with Him and access to the favors of heaven.

The true believer in Christ recognizes that he is not worthy of the gift of salvation, which comes as a result of God’s grace. Neither is he going to play word games with God's scripture; where God has spoken, he joyfully obeys.

 

 

We Are His Workmanship

What great and magnificent projects would God still be working on? The earth was formed on the first day of creation, destroyed in the Flood, and in a sense reformed out of the flood waters. The sun, moon, and stars have remained fixed in their orbits since the fourth day of creation. And that which resulted in all plants and animals, "every seed according to its kind," was essentially finished at the close of the sixth day. As the writer of Hebrews put it, "His works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Hebrews 4:3). But God is still working everyday, even on the Sabbath, on His highest creation. And what is His work, that would still so occupy His effort and affection? "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). There you have it; the creation of Christians is God's ongoing work.

As His workmanship, created for good works, the child of faith is clearly not his own. He is a grateful slave to the great King who brought him out of darkness into light, and consequently sets about doing those good works which God has re-created him to do, whether anyone else on earth notices or not.

 

 

The Lostness of the World

Those who make a claim to being followers of Christ sometimes delude themselves about the condition of the lost. We often hear statements such as, "We don't know how God will judge," or "The only assurance we can confidently give is for a person to repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus, but we can't say what God will do about those who are not immersed." Such statements are delicately phrased attempts by weasel-workers to avoid the thrust the scripture gives concerning the condition of the lost. Loving the approval of men rather than the praise of God, these teachers and preachers blunt the piercing power of the sword of the Spirit and subtly deny the necessity of the sacrifice of Christ.

The apostle Paul discussed, in his letter to the Ephesians, the deadness of an individual in his sins and transgressions and the great grace of God in bringing him to life in Christ. Speaking in general terms at first, he then brings the Gentiles into focus:

There are always those who work on destroying the absoluteness of God's word, and sometimes they are in positions of great influence. When they tell a person who is interested in Christianity, or some struggling saint, that "we don't know how God is going to judge" simply to soothe the emotions of the prospect and get him through a potential objection to completing "the sale," they have lied. God has told us the condition of those outside of Christ: "Separate," "excluded," "strangers," "having no hope," and "without God." Anyone who says there is a possibility that some of the lost will "still make it to heaven" is a gutless coward who serves his belly rather than God, and is not be trusted to handle the oracles of God accurately.

 

 

In Christ Jesus

How important is the sacrifice of Christ? Most who make a claim to being followers of Christ would, at first blush, say that the death of Christ on the cross is all-important in the salvaging of a fallen member of the human race. But when pressed about whether everyone who is not properly immersed into Christ will go to hell, our supposed follower of the Lord starts squirming and weaseling. While the individual pays lip service to the absolute authority of the word of God, his heart really is not in it. The word of God is clear and unequivocal on this issue; Gentiles are "separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). If they have "no hope," then don't give them a false one!

Again, notice that the blood of Christ is only applicable to those who are in Christ. Those who are outside Christ are still strangers, without hope, and without God. But, praise God, even the most distant imaginable, if properly repentant and immersed so that they are in Christ, are brought near by the cleansing power of Jesus' blood.

 

 

The Peacemaker

The history of the human race establishes that it consists of a hateful bunch. It didn't take much of a problem to set Cain off so that he went and killed Abel, and the record of the family hasn't improved any since that time. Generally speaking, when man in the flesh can take an opportunity for hate, he takes it.

So as God allowed the Jew-Gentile split to arise, hate between the two naturally developed. In order to preserve the germ of faith embodied in Israel, God had to set up all kinds of restrictions to keep them a separate people. Dietary regulations, definition of "clean and unclean" and restrictions on the unclean, sacrifices, and regulatory ordinances helped to separate Israel in the flesh from the encroachments of paganism and shameful idolatry. Following the Babylonian captivity from 536 BC, under the definitive leadership of Ezra the scribe, the remnant of Judah learned the lessons associated with intermarriage with the heathen, and became a distinct and segregated people. Thus the Jews looked down on, and often harbored hatred of, the Gentiles; whereas the Gentiles were often suspicious of their peculiar neighbors, and this suspicion sometimes welled up in expressions of hate and violence in the manner typical of a vile and bloody race.

Into this atmosphere stepped our Lord Jesus, whose goal was to reconcile all men to Himself. God's plan was carefully laid out in seed form centuries earlier, long before Israel existed as a nation, in promises made to Abraham. "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," he was told (Genesis 12:3). Again, the promise was reiterated in these words, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). Because the split between the Jew and the Gentile had developed, the challenge of the Lord was first to reconcile the men to Himself, and then through Himself to reconcile the men to one another.

The Peacemaker has come. By His own blood He purchased calming peace between man and God. Then, by abolishing in His flesh the hate created between Jew and Gentile, the Law being nailed to the cross with His body, Jew and Gentile were reconciled to one another in Christ. And if Jew and Gentile can be reconciled to one another, then peace can certainly be established between any two other individuals if they truly are in Christ.

 

 

The Cross and the Law

The first century church was often confused about the relationship of the Law of Moses to the Christian. The Jewish Christians never did seem to understand until after the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. The confusion arose because the law had some positive aspects, and if the individual did not comprehend the bigger picture, then he tended to fall back on these first principles embodied in the Law.

Firstly, the Law truly originated with God. He thundered the commandments from Sinai, wrote the laws on stone, instituted moral and sacrificial ordinances, and established memorials. Secondly, the laws were good. The morality enjoined by the commandments and the love for God and for fellow man brought forth in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) were all wonderful principles to be incorporated into the life of each man of Israel. Thirdly, the traditions, which arose in connection with the Law, such as meeting in the synagogues for weekly reading of the Law and the Prophets, helped keep the Jewish people together.

But there were some problems associated with the Law, which could only be rectified through the gospel of Christ, and these needed to be understood by the brethren of Jewish background.

The details of Christ on the cross abolished the Law for those who would come under the government of Christ. The Law is still in effect in one form or another, to bring lawless man to a recognition of his condition apart from Christ. But for all who have submitted to the obedience of the faith, Jesus "by abolishing in His flesh" the Law, took the barriers down. He redeemed man from the curse imposed through man’s breaking the Law, becoming a curse for us by "hanging on the tree," and those who "were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." In the process the Jew was delivered from dietary and ceremonial restrictions, which would be an unnecessary yoke to the Gentile, and the Gentile was delivered from the pagan lifestyle which made him so odious to the God-fearing Jew. Therefore in Jesus provision was made that "He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" (Ephesians 2:15,16)

 

 

The Preaching of Jesus

Jesus is a preacher. Not only was Jesus a preacher during the years of His earthly sojourn, but Jesus is a preacher, in fact the most effective preaching of Jesus has been done since He ascended to glory, and He continues to preach from that exalted position. In a reference back to Moses as the prophet, deliverer, lawgiver, and judge of the time of Israel's covenant with God, Peter brings the scripture of Deuteronomy 18 forward and applies it to Christ: "Moses said, 'The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people'" (Acts 3:22,23), The interesting thing about this Prophet is that He speaks to every soul!

"And He came," wrote the apostle Paul, speaking of the action of Jesus following the cross, "and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:17,18). The same Jesus, who was first to proclaim light both to the Jew and to the Gentile, also is the One who proclaims peace to the Jews (regarded as "near") and to the Gentiles (regarded as those "far away"). And since this exalted Jesus is the One who proclaims peace to the reconciled Jew and Gentile, who can separate them from their God or from one another?

 

 

Equal Temple Stones

Jesus preached peace to the Jew, and He preaches peace to the Gentile. Since it is He, the risen Christ, who proffers peace and welcome both to the reconciled Jew and the reconciled Gentile, who is he who would try to deny equal access? "For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18).

The Gentile Christian was to feel in no way inferior to the brethren from the ranks of the circumcised. At the big showdown in Jerusalem, where the central issue was whether the Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, Peter declared in the presence of all, regarding those of Jewish background, "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [the Gentiles] also are" (Acts 15:11). The Gentile salvation through the graciousness of the Christ was so clear that it stood as a beacon to help the Jew understand that this same grace saved him. "So then," the apostle encourages the brethren from the Gentiles, "you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household" (Ephesians 2:19). What a blessing! Gentiles no longer have to stand longingly at some distant threshold; they are fellow citizens with all saints with all the rights pertaining there unto, and are now part of the family with the same comfortable coming-in and going-out as the rest. And this household is also the temple of the living God, as the apostle Peter stated, "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5).

God is building an eternal habitation for Himself of the most valuable materials in the universe. From the Jew and the Gentile, from the slave and the free, He gathers those who will obey the gospel from a pure heart. And the living stones, from any background, are equally treasured; they are "built together" into the temple of God in the Spirit.

 

 

Introducing the Mystery

There are those, who because of a pre-millennial view of the Lord's second coming, regard the church age as a temporary stop-gap until God can get His real plan finally on track again with Israel according to the flesh. The word of God, however, teaches just the opposite. Israel was a stop-gap God used to set the stage for the church, wherein He set in motion His previously stated plan to save those who would believe from the ranks of the Gentiles. "Why the Law then?" asked the apostle Paul in this context. "It was added," he explained, "because of transgressions...until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made" (Galatians 3:19). The Law, which established Israel as a covenant nation, was a stop-gap until Christ, the seed of Abraham, should come to establish the church, the new and living way. "The prophets," said Peter of those who spoke forth Israel, "prophesied of the grace that would come to you" (I Peter 1:10). "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken," averred the apostle in public in his second proclamation, "from Samuel and his successors onward also announced these days" (Acts 3:24), "These days," the age of the church, was what the Law and the prophets pointed to.

One of the great characteristics of "these days" is that the barriers which separate men from men are torn asunder in Christ. Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God through the peace offering of the cross, and therefore reconciled to one another. The artificial distinctions men in the flesh make between slave and free, rich and poor are extinguished before the blaze of glory emanating from heaven's throne. Male and female, Barbarian, Greek, Jew, and Scythian are spiritual equals, "being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22).

The mystery of Christ is obviously of extreme significance, considering the build up Paul gave it. So we as well as they need to pay close attention to the apostle's insight into the mystery, that we may assume our stewardship of the mystery, and carry on!

 

 

The Mystery Revealed

What man can determine by reason and observation, God generally leaves to man. But because spiritual truths lay beyond the pale of what man may observe, they must be given to man by revelation.

Truth-seeking man is intelligently skeptical; Satan is a deceptive and confusing adversary; and man in the flesh does not readily comprehend spiritual truths. Thus the revelation from God had to be carefully progressive so that truth-seeking man can see the intelligence of a supernatural being in the design and pattern; it must have some complex intricacies so that the deceiver cannot readily twist the translation or the meaning of the Word; and it must meet man at a level where he can comprehend initial spiritual truths and draw him step-by-step into the heavenly realms where he can have real fellowship with the Father. In new covenant preaching and writing, the progressive revelation brought the message and purpose of God into clear view for those who were born again so that they could see the kingdom of God, so that the things which were not yet revealed during Old Testament times might become part and parcel of New Testament understanding. "Things," then, "which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man" (I Corinthians 2:9) in Old Testament times have now been revealed by the Spirit of God through the apostles and New Testament prophets.

"When you read," wrote Paul, "you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:4-6).

Whether this mystery has major significance to man is questionable. But it is obviously of major significance and of great delight to the great God who has worked His great plan throughout the ages. And it is therefore of major significance and delight to His children, who by definition are going to share the same desires as their heavenly Father.

 

 

Paul's Privilege

There are occasions where someone is honored by being singled out to perform a signal public duty. The individual who lights the Olympic torch is an honored dignitary, ask the one who cuts the ribbon for the opening of a new shopping mall. But what is the honor of lighting an Olympic torch compared to taking the torch of salvation to the Gentiles? And what is the cutting of a shopping mall ribbon compared to the opening of God's harvest fields?

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, and specifically apostle to the Gentiles, was greatly privileged to explain the mystery of God, and to bring the specifics of this great secret to the Gentiles. These specifics are of major significance to God, and consequently worthy of great emphasis to His spiritual family.

The Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promised Holy Spirit only if they obey the gospel of Christ. One of the great privileges of Paul was to proclaim this gospel, "of which," said he, "I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His Power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things" (Ephesians 3:7-9).

Paul, blasphemer of the name of Jesus and persecutor of the church of God, was honored as the least of all saints to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He counted it a great privilege to preach those "unfathomable riches of Christ" to the Gentiles and thus "bring to light" the carrying out of God's mystery which had been hidden for ages. Would those today who preach have the same understanding of the mystery as Paul revealed in his portion of the written word, and may those who preach have the same blazing desire to get the mystery to today's Gentiles.

 

 

Administering the Mystery

God created all things. That is awesome to contemplate seriously in and of itself. But the God who created all things had a bigger plan in mind than a comparatively simple material creation. The God who is Spirit has desired to produce a set of spiritual children who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And while the creation of the material realm required only six days to complete, the production of truly spiritual offspring is a much more complex operation requiring thousands of years to bring to fruition. This bringing of spiritual offspring into existence through the long term plan of God is called "the administration of the mystery."

Paul, then, "the very least of all saints," was given grace by God when the fulness of the time came, "to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:8-11). God, "who created all things," worked assiduously to recreate both Jew and Gentile in the image of the risen Christ. And Paul was privileged to "bring to light" the administration of this mystery, to explain in written form the great long-term plan of God.

 

 

The Manifold Wisdom of God

Some unsuspecting brethren somehow have the impression that God is only concerned about salvation. Or that the teaching of the church is only concerned about salvation. The scripture, however, speaks of the "manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Manifold has to do with many openings or ports; the manifold wisdom of God is multi-faceted, giving guidance in all aspects of life, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence" (II Peter 1:3).

Among the nearly infinite topics the manifold wisdom communicates to God's children, taken from the "unfathomable riches of Christ," are the following:

Many more points could be brought forth in regard to the manifold wisdom of God. What is important to recognize is that this manifold wisdom of God is being made known through the church to the rulers and authorities, even in the heavenly places.

 

 

The Eternal Purpose of God

Many claim not to know what God's purpose is. "It's all a big mystery," they say. By keeping God's purpose a mystery to themselves, they can subtly duck their responsibilities to God by claiming they did not know what He wanted them to do.

But what says the word of God? "He has made known to us the mystery of His will," rejoiced the apostle Paul. The final result of this mystery, he noted is "the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Ephesians 1:9,10), which He accomplishes through the Holy Spirit, Christ in the inner man. Again, as Paul rephrased it, the preaching of the gospel was so that "the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known." The mystery of God has been proclaimed throughout the earth; no man can hide behind the claim that he did not know God's will and thus escape condemnation.

Through the church, then, this eternal purpose of God is being made known throughout the world, so much so that even the "'heavenly realms" of Satan are being shaken with the proclamation. And no man can claim that he did not know what God wanted him to do. The purpose of God is no longer "a mystery."

 

 

Boldness and Confident Access

Christians are very special. Those who are disciples of the Lord, having obeyed Jesus in immersion to receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the indwelling Spirit, and who walk faithfully, are the great objects of the Father's affections and the product of his earnest desire for spiritual fellowship. Thus heaven's gates swing invitingly open for those who are clothed with Christ, and prayers of the saints are ushered instantly to the magnificent central court of Heaven. "In accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord," the redeemed can joyfully claim fellowship with God, and receive a warm welcome in the presence of the King through the Spirit of God. Thus in Jesus Christ "we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him" (Ephesians 3:11,12).

The mighty God will not fail nor forsake His children. The purpose of difficulty is to produce a consciousness of dependency. And this all fits into the matrix of the love of God whereby the justified have boldness before the Father and confident access to the intimacies of the throne.

 

 

Attitude Adjustment

Sometimes it is hard to remember that Paul's letter to the Ephesians was written from prison. Because he was confident in his fellowship with God, he could not only be thankful in incarceration, but he could also encourage those outside the prison bars. "Therefore," he said, "I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are for your glory" (Ephesians 3:13). The Biblical expression "lose heart" means to get discouraged, and discouragement and weariness are two of the main internal battles a Christian fights. "And let us not lose heart in doing good," the apostle wrote the Galatians, "for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9). "Therefore, my beloved brethren," he encouraged the church at Corinth, "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:58).

Modern American Christians tend to want to go to heaven without suffering or encountering any difficulty. These powder puffs who claim the name of Christ grow weary after more than a few minutes of sustained effort. They hump their shoulders at the very thought of toil, and they lose heart at the slightest challenge. And rather than undergo the scripturally mandated attitude adjustments, they petulantly demand a change in their circumstances. A passage from Colossians comes to mind: "And let the peace of Christ rule In your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful" (Colossians 3:15). Be thankful.

Attitude is a critical [watch the pun] spiritual matter, People with bad attitudes are "grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts... These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit" (Jude 1:16,19). By contrast, the brother in Christ who heeds the injunction of scripture will be strengthened in his inner man by the Spirit (of whom the others are devoid) and will be able to develop praising and thankful attitudes regardless of external circumstances. Heed!

 

 

Strengthened With Power

What does God do, and what does He not do? The atheist does not believe God exists; therefore He obviously does nothing. The deist believes that God is there, but is not involved, and would not have performed the miracles attributed to Jesus, for example. Then on the other extreme are the enthusiasts who look for miracles and healings and all kinds of signs. Another way of asking the question is, what does the supernatural power of God do, if anything today? Supernatural is defined as something He does outside His normal laws.

This small article obviously cannot treat this question in extensive detail. But let us briefly exposit the following points:

Praise the Lord! Jesus is not merely a historical figure who died and rose long ago! He is a living and acting God who strengthens each of His spiritual children so that they are overwhelming conquerors - overcoming sin in their personal lives, and overcoming Satan in their combat with the world.

 

 

Power in the Inner Man

The glory of God is seen in the face of Christ only by faith. No one can see flat glory or derive any strength from it unless the veil of his flesh is removed upon his being immersed into Christ. But when that glory is visible to the spiritual eye of the believer, a powerful spiritual transformation begins to occur and continues to occur so long as the member of Christ's body fixes his eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, whose radiance shines from the throne. The prayer of the apostle, thus, was that each of the Ephesian brethren would be granted, "according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man," so that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:16,17).

This section from Ephesians is one of the great power passages from the word of God. But the power is not something to be seen by those who judge according to the flesh. The rulers of the world through physical strength crucified the Lord of glory, but through spiritual strength He arose and ascended. And this same spiritual strength is at work in the Christian through the Spirit in the inner man.

 

 

To Know the Love of Christ

We are sometimes falsely accused of preaching the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus. The Spirit of God who dwells in the Christian, however, is also designated Christ in you (Romans 8:9,10). Apparently Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not have a competitive spirit over this. The High Priest, Jesus, who ministers on behalf of spiritual Israel in the true sanctuary, ministers as the Holy Spirit in the hearts of Christians, who together constitute the sanctuary.

The apostle Paul then prayed for the members of the congregation at Ephesus "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 knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19). The Spirit in the inner man is the Christ who dwells in our hearts through faith.

To come to know the love of Christ the saint is going to have to suffer as Christ suffered; he is going to have to carry his cross. To be strengthened with power, the son of God is going to have to encounter significant spiritual barriers; he is going to have to be able to quote the Bible, and overcome through prayers and fastings. The rest of this process is that it is no longer the individual who lives; he has died to himself and it is the Christ who lives in him; and thus he is filled up to all the fulness of God.

 

 

Exceeding Abundantly Beyond

What is God able to do? And what will He do? And how will He do it? The answers to those questions provide major directives in the lives of God's people, that they might know how to conduct themselves in the church of the living God, that they might know their full capabilities in carrying out the will of God.

Take the issue of sin, for instance. "My little children," appealed the apostle John, "I am writing these things to you that you may not sin" (I John 2:1). "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourself for the same purpose," encouraged Peter, "because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God" (I Peter 4:1,2). "Become sober-minded as you ought," exhorted Paul, "and stop sinning" (I Corinthians 15:34). The inspired testimony of the apostles John, Peter, and Paul is that Christians are to cease from sin. "Can't be done," you say. Well, what is God able to do?

But overcoming sin is to some degree a secondary issue. The things from which the brethren in Christ are to cease and desist are of less significance than those things which the saints are to begin and implement. The focus of the way of life in Christ is not the land from which modern offspring of Abraham went out but the heavenly country to which they are going. Those who walk by faith, in fulfillment of the shadows which flitted through Old Testament scriptures are doers of extremely great works, greater works than Jesus did during the days of His earthly sojourn (John 14:12). In fact the Christian is being transformed into the image of Christ - not just Christ in the flesh, but into the image of Christ in glory (II Corinthians 3:18). So, really, what was the wooden tub of Noah's day compared to that which the saint builds? What were the millions Moses led out of physical slavery compared to a follower of Christ leading even one person out of slavery to sin? What was the anointing of David compared to the anointing which abides in the Christian? Even Abraham,. father of the faithful, believing that God was able to perform what He had promised, could only stare off into some incomprehensible distance in hope that he would become a father of many nations, while the citizen of Christ's kingdom is right now making disciples of all the nations. Christians are powerful through Christ; those who have gone before are pikers.

The apostle’s prayer really was that all generations of Christians would be strengthened in the inner man and would comprehend the unfathomable love of God directed toward each one. And the great God is the One who can and will do exceeding abundantly beyond what any can ask or think. But ask and think.

 

 

Walking in a Worthy Manner

The great God can do more than Christians can ask or think. By His sovereign will He has seen fit to exercise this great power through the Holy Spirit, who not only dwells in each individual child of God, but who also inhabits the church as a whole. It is upon this foundation that the apostle Paul predicates his therefore: "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to 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" (Ephesians 4:1-3). Each saint is to remember that he is a personal representative of the corporation of Jesus, and that he is to conduct himself at all times in accordance with company policy - to walk in a manner worthy of his calling.

The spiritual Head of the church of Christ implanted His Spirit within each member of the corporate team. In other words, the Lord Himself works to produce in each Christian the personality and temperament of Himself so that each carries out his personal responsibility as if Jesus Himself were personally standing in that position. Each member of the corporation additionally has his own personal copy of corporate policy, and is directed to walk accordingly. The Head knows how important it is that His way of doing things be carried out at all levels; He therefore entreats each Christian to function properly and with the correct attitude, that the corporate atmosphere and mission be accomplished.

 

 

Unity of the Spirit

Mere organizational union is not unity of the Spirit. The unity for which our Lord earnestly prayed before crossing the Kidron was a spiritual unity, a pre-created oneness to which each individual Christian is to attain and to preserve. Man's attempts to produce unity through the meeting of de facto heads of apparent sectors of the body of Christ are not only ineffective but are long-term counter-productive to the spiritual union since they preserve a subtle denominational and structural outlook. The unity for which the Holy Spirit appeals, through the writings of the apostle Paul, is a spiritual unity; there is no external structure which can produce this union of heart-to-heart spiritual fellowship between brethren. Humility, patience, forbearance, and diligence "to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" can only be acquired and exhibited on an individual basis. The responsibility of carrying on this preservation therefore continually falls on each saint, and he is to uphold and maintain the following cardinal pillars of the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6):

These seven, then, constitute the unity of the Spirit. One is a small number, but it is definite and specific. May each who desires to follow Jesus come to be of the same mind and judgment, intent on one purpose, attaining to and sustaining the specified unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

 

Controversy Over Unity

Man has his scams and schemes, often in the name of some sort of religious fervor. Incited by the prince of the power of the air, men even twist the Lord's desire for His followers to be united; that which should be humbly acceded to becomes a means by which Satan's rebellious agenda is forwarded. That is why this exordium proceeds from Paul's pen: Be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). Brethren must be diligent - must take pains - to preserve that which is based on an individual response to the gospel plea, and which never can be achieved when perceived to be some sort of organizational union. The Lord's results can only be achieved in the Lord's way; man can never achieve the Lord's results by doing things his way.

Those who truly desire scriptural unity need to consider the following issues. Those who will not are engaged in a scam.

"What fellowship has light with darkness?" (II Corinthians 6:14). There are very intelligent scam artists at work right now promoting union between "instrumental" and "non-instrumental" churches. But the promoted union is perceived to go forward only by ignoring the fundamental issues of personal union with Christ in immersion, personal indwelling by the Holy Spirit, personal submission to the one faith, and personal vigilance against false brethren.

 

 

Gifts from on High

It is customary for the prince, upon his coronation, to dispense favors to his loyal subjects. David, for example, once he had secured his position as king of all Israel by capturing Jerusalem and despoiling other enemies, dispensed favor or grace to Mephibosheth by granting him the property of his grandfather King Saul and allowing him a place at the king's table (II Samuel 9:6-13). It is only fitting, then, that the Great King, upon His accession to the heavenly throne, having secured his position by saving Jerusalem and despoiling Satan's realm, should dispense favors to His loyal and faithful subjects.

But when did our Lord accede to the spiritual throne of David? Certainly He was anointed by Spirit and power at His immersion at the hand of John in the muddled waters of the Jordan. But the rigors of Jesus' own personal suffering had to be undergone before victory brought Him crown and throne. First the persecutions, trials, and calumnities from preaching the good news of the coming kingdom had to be borne in joy and dignity. Then the looming cross and its bittersweet suffering had to be endured to the end, to the final shout, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). But as anxious as He was to return to the Father following His victorious bodily resurrection, He still had to appear to competent witnesses on earth to verify that the One crucified was indeed the One risen from the dead. Finally, after 40 days of guest appearances, He ascended to glory and received "the promise of the Spirit" in his exa1tation to the throne, and thus anointed King, was now ready to dispense favors from on high. "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men'" (Ephesians 4:7,8).

Praise to the Lamb! Worthy is He, slain, ascended, and glorious, for He purchased with His own blood men from every nation, granting them grace and giving gifts of His favor to His chosen people.

 

 

The Ascended King

Under the cover of night Nicodemus dared to approach the already controversial Jesus. Based on signs which he had seen Jesus perform during the 26 AD Passover, he came to his conclusion: "Rabbi, we know that You have come as a teacher from God" (John 3:2). Jesus then bowled this man over, whom He even called "the teacher of Israel," by speaking of a second birth as being necessary to see or to enter into the kingdom of God. This second birth was being "born from above."

The now-humbled Nicodemus responded, "How can these things be?" (John 3:9). The Lord incarnate proceeded to knock him down several more pegs, one pin at a time. "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things?" Wham! "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness." Wham! "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Wham! "And no one has ascended to heaven but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man." Wham!

And what a wham! that last one was. All the authority to speak and teach was embodied in the One who descended from heaven, for He was the only One who was going to be the One Ascended. "When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men" (Paul's Holy Spirit-inspired quote of Psalm 68:18 from the Greek Old Testament). The Gift-giver was the Ascended One.

No one ascended but He who descended. There are no "ascended masters" to give spiritual information. There is only one Ascended Master who can speak about how to be "born from above" through repentance and immersion in His name. In being thus born "of water and Spirit," the individual Christian might now be filled with the glory of the Christ who has ascended far above the heavens.

 

 

Gifts from Christ

Christ is exalted far above the heavens. And having taken His seat on the throne, He is now ready to give "gifts to men." So what sort of gifts is this highly exalted One interested in bestowing? Will it be special kick-backs on the railroad for His favorite uncle? Will it be the favorite jewel of His grandmother to be granted to His secret girl friend? Will it be the Prime Minister spot for His cousin who was of great assistance in overcoming the opposition so that He could be seated in His present office? May it never be! Those types of gifts, while typical of mere earthlings and their petty rivalries, are insignificant at best and despicable at worst in comparison to the high, holy, and eternal King. He did not descend so low, nor was He exalted so high as to engage in such sniveling trivialities.

No, this King is interested in bestowing gifts to responsible saints who will use those gifts to strengthen individual Christians and who will build His church.

Our Lord Jesus is interested in giving gifts to the church, and these gifts consist of specially gifted brethren who can perform special functions for the body of Christ. If you are one of those who is so gifted, perform! If you are one of the body as a whole, let those who are so gifted perform!

 

 

Equipping for Work

Work! Who wants to work! Don't brethren come into the church to be ministered to? Doesn't the church hire a minister to come around every so often and inquire about their needs? Isn't the minister to visit them in the hospital? Isn't the minister the one who solves their problems over the telephone, and who sits down and counsels them through their marriage difficulties? Doesn't the minister come rushing over when there has been a death in the family? Isn't the minister the one who does the preaching in the "worship assembly" and does all the Bible teaching in the homes? Doesn't the minister get paid to do all these things? Sick-ola!

Anyone making a claim to be a follower of Christ is to be an imitator of Him. When James and John budged ahead in the line of those who wanted to sit at Jesus' right hand and at His left, the other ten became indignant at the unfair advantage they thought those two had possibly gained in bucking for the positions. Jesus took the children aside and explained that the kingdom of God did not operate on such a mundane basis, where men crawled over other men's bodies to get to the top. "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28). People who want to become Christians need to know up front that disciples of Jesus, by comparison, hate even their own lives, and pick up their crosses to follow Jesus. Selfishness, and a "serve me or I’ll find a better restaurant" mentality has no place in Christianity.

"He gave," then, "some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ ..." (Ephesians 4:11,12).

The vision of the Lord Jesus is that each congregation is capable of doing its own training, and that the saints are willing to submit to the training and to do the work. Only in the Lord's way will the body be built up, from the ground up.

 

 

Spiritual Unity

Unity again! The Lord is extremely concerned about the development of unity within His body. It's almost as if He knows the church has a war to fight, and the church is only effective when there is an atmosphere of unity pervading the ranks. But let's get the whole sentence from the Holy Spirit through Paul: "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13). Implicit in this passage is a unity that is to be attained on an individual basis as one by one the saints begin to mature. Because it is a spiritual unity, fleshliness is a block or hindrance to that unity. "For since there is jealousy and strife among you," Paul pointed out to the brethren in Corinth, "are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" (I Corinthians 3:3). The only way to achieve visible union among the "churches of Restoration Heritage" is to sink to some fleshly lowest common denominator. Those who try, well-intentioned though they may be, are working from the wrong end, and are destined to fail.

The Lord's plan focuses on the local congregation. Period! That's what evangelists develop and set in order; that's where elders govern in spiritual wisdom and insight. Unity develops on a Christian-to-Christian basis as one-by-one the saints follow through on the Lord's plan for their lives. The demonstration of spiritual power exhibited in fruit generates a mutual respect and true fellowship among the spiritually like-minded.

When the leadership concentrates on what the Lord told them to do - to bring the saints one-by-one to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of the radiant Christ - then unity will result Anybody listening out there?

 

 

No Longer Children

Where is the evangelist? Where is the elder? Where is the teacher who will bring disciples to maturity in Christ? Where are those who believe that scriptural knowledge of the exalted Christ produces a measure of stature among brethren which belongs to the fulness of Christ? Small teaching produces small people; scriptural teaching produces a scriptural people who attain the perfection fore-ordained of the Lord.

When leaders in the modern church of Christ - built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Himself being the cornerstone - labor to bring each Christian to the maturity and completeness which is exhibited by Christ in glory, then Biblical unity is also achieved by these individuals who through suffering in the flesh have ceased to sin, and who focus entirely on their respective roles in the distribution of the gospel. Having noted this maturity, the apostle then writes, "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:14,15).

No, Christians are to be mature, no longer children, stretching for the full growth which belongs to the fulness of Christ. This required maturity includes a solid understanding of sound doctrine, and the spiritual capacity to see through doctrinal schemes proposed in the church by Satan's agents. Hence cometh the exhortation: "grow up!"

 

 

Truth In Love

The antidote to error is truth. The men who engage in trickery, those crafty scammers who devise false doctrine, have a deeply vested interest in their lies, and oppose truth with every fiber of their beings. A slick politician, a head of state perhaps, might even go to the extent of having some of those who supported him eliminated because they knew too much, and might, under oath, divulge such information as said head of state would rather have concealed. The point is clear: those whose bellows produce "every wind of doctrine," those who engage in "the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming," will confuse the issue, attack persona1 reputations, terrorize and otherwise intimidate, and kill to keep the lie going. But there is a powerful antidote to error, and a certain cure for confusion: TRUTH!

Love and truth are opposite sides of the same coin. Love without truth does not exist; truth without love is a colossal waste. The public relations image of the church of the Lord is not generated by new carpets or exciting youth programs; what is to be recognized in the community is not that church meets "heart-felt needs" or engages in other fleshly promotional nonsense. But if the twin beacons of truth and love shine brightly, every truth-seeker in the community will eventually be found.

 

 

Grow Up In All Aspects

The major challenge in raising kids is getting them to grow up. They can turn from one birthday to another, simply by letting the calendar flip twelve times, but helping them arrive at adult-level responsibilities is another story. And God the Father has somewhat the same problem with His spiritual children. His plainly stated desire is that each of the brethren come to "a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Indeed, the purpose of church leadership, as it works inside the body, is to bring each of God's favorite children to that level of maturity.

Brethren in Christ are not to be a bunch of pampered, spoiled brats. "Grow up!" is what they are told.

  1. The whole body, because it is Christ's, has priority over the desires of the individual member;
  2. Every person has something important to supply;
  3. Every Christian is to work;
  4. Every Christian is to work properly, with a good attitude, a willing spirit, and a desire to do the job right; and
  5. This causes the body to grow and be built up in love. Every child of God is indeed saved to serve.

Normal children want to grow up. The five year old wants to be ten. The ten year old wants to turn sixteen and get his driver's license and a job The sixteen year old wants to grow up and be out on his own. The challenge is getting the child to take the real preparatory steps and learn the real lessons so he is ready for adulthood.

Normal "children" in Christ want to grow up in all aspects into Christ. Who is holding you back?

 

 

Futility of the Mind

The Bible contains the answers to life's questions. The Bible reveals God to men through Jesus Christ. And the Bible exposes the members of the human race for what they really are. Not only, then, does the Bible teach Christians about God; it also teaches Christians about men. Learn both lessons well. "Beware of men," warned Him who knew what was in man. "Be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:17,16). "See to it no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception," His apostle sounded.

So what about the enlightenment quotient (EQ) of our great universities? How much great truth is there in psychology and psychotherapy, and their ability to deal with "psychos"? How fare the marriage counselors and their handle on the affairs of the heart! And how about the experts on child-rearing? Or the great accomplishments of the educational establishment? Man, for all his pomp and circumstance, is bluster and folly.

Hear, then, the wisdom of Paul: "This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness" (Ephesians 4:17-19). Note what the Holy Spirit calls "the Gentile walk":

The Christian, though he once was essentially a Gentile and operated from that futile framework, is to grow up and grow past the sensuality of the world. The command comes from the Lord Himself: "Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk."

 

 

Learning Christ

The three pound brain of man does not create a very big god when it charges off into its vain imaginings. The prophets of old chortled at the ancient pagans, and reeved on Israel, for the stupidity of the gods they worshiped and served. Isaiah, for example, tells how a man uses a part of a tree to warm his house and some of the wood to cook his food. "But the rest he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god.'" (Isaiah 44:17).

But there is the one and only, the truly big God. "It is I who made the earth," said He, "and I created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, and I ordained all their host" (Isaiah 45:12). This is the incomprehensible God, the God who is and who always was and who is to come. The three pound brain of man did not conjure Him up - the three pound brain of man generally thinks so small that it does not notice the handiwork of the Almighty; it focuses on the scuff mark on the bark of the tree, and never notes the grandeur of the massive forest.

So God has to reveal Himself to man; He has to teach man about Himself. Hence, enter Jesus, the Word. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:1-4). When the Word became flesh, then the three pound brain of man had something it could comprehend and thus could be upgraded spiritually (enlightened). Curious and interested man learns Christ, sitting humbly at the feet of teachers who can show him the way until he can maneuver accurately through the scriptures on his own.

Because the pagans worship gods of essentially their own creation, their gods encourage the Gentiles to follow sensuality. Whether man worships the Baals of the past or the Hindu gods of the present, the result is always personal corruption and the consequent degradation of society. Writing to the brethren in Ephesus, the apostle Paul thus notes, "But you did not learn Christ in this way" (Ephesians 4:20).

Learning Christ is more than learning about Christ. Learning Christ draws on all the good things taught about Jesus and being able to make the spiritual applications. Therefore "the truth is in Jesus," and that truth crucifies the old man of sin in Jesus' crucifixion. That truth buries the old man with Jesus in the waters of immersion. That truth resurrects the new creature to walk in newness of life, raised with Jesus and seated with Him in the heavenlies. That truth pervades the entire life of the true believer, giving him grace and glory.

 

 

Lay Aside The Old Man

The American way of life is not the Biblical way of life. There is still a surface acknowledgment of God, and an occasional public reference to Jesus in America's public life, but below that surface is a raging riptide of sensuality and incoming waters of a rampant paganism. The modern American, if he really learns Christ, if he really hears Him who speaks from heaven, will note the words of the apostle Paul to the brethren from Ephesus: "In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit" (Ephesians 4:22). The modern American, if he has heard the truth which is in Jesus, will do much more than merely add regular church attendance to his lifestyle.

The command from heaven is clear: lay aside the old man. Whether a man's background is from the fetid atmosphere of Western Europe's socialism or from the jungle juju of darkest Africa, whether it is from the aboriginal cultures of any of the six inhabited continents or from the steel and glass climate of modern civilization, the message is the same: lay aside the old man. He has nothing much in the way of treasure to bring to the kingdom of heaven.

 

 

Put On The New Self

The truth is in Jesus. And that truth needs to be learned from the objective word of God, for which there is "no prophecy of scripture [that] is a matter of one's own interpretation" (II Peter 1:20). You, then, said the apostle those who have been taught thusly, are to "lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the 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 4:22-24). There is a "new self" and that "new self" is to be put on every day.

The concept of the new creation in Christ Jesus is a major theme of the sacred oracles. The new creation is not a mere Adam, redeemed but with the same weaknesses. The new self has the triumph song of Jesus' resurrection resounding throughout his inner man, and he marches in victory over sin and death, strengthened indeed by the Spirit of Christ and through the words which are spirit and life.

 

 

Renewed in the Mind

The Wesleyan "holiness" doctrine of perfection was based on the Calvinistic foundation of "total depravity." This foundation, rooted in earlier Augustinian and even earlier Gnostic teachings, essentially stated that natural man cannot think one good thought or grasp one spiritual concept. Once that assumption is granted, then the conclusion is that the Holy Spirit must perform an extra-Biblical [outside the Bible] operation on the mind of the totally depraved, cause him against his will (he is totally depraved, remember) to be born again; then he can repent and believe the gospel. Having thus been "saved" against his will, he cannot therefore lose his salvation.

This supposed regenerated is now "saved," but he is still carnal. He still has a fleshly mind, according to this teaching, and must still continue to act like a sinner; he is a sinner, just forgiven. The problem John Wesley, Charles Finney, and others of similar ilk encountered was the strong injunction from the word of God to lay aside every encumbrance and sin, to stop sinning, to be holy, and to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. Having resorted once to a supposed extra-Biblical operation of the Holy Spirit, they could easily return to that dry well for another. Enter, then, the "second work of grace," a falling of the Holy Spirit a second time to produce sanctification and sinlessness from which the "born again" likewise cannot fall. Many songs, from contemporary music as well as those from the nineteenth century, reflect this underlying false theology. Examples: "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me." "Mercy drops 'round us are falling but for the showers [of blessing, a prophetic reference in Ezekiel 34:26 to the coming indwelling Spirit] we plead." The result is the current mega-church, Promise Keepers' atmosphere in which "religious experience" easily tosses aside the word of God and rushes far outside the banks of reason and revelation.

But because these spiritual lemmings scurry to their destruction, shall those who claim to follow the Bible revolt in a mad scramble in the opposite direction? Or shall those who are rooted and grounded refuse to be tossed here or there by winds of strange doctrine. Wesley and Finney were correct in noting the perfection, holiness, and blamelessness which the Father desires; they were far abeam as to how this is to be accomplished.

The scripture always appeals to the reason of man. God will never save or change man apart from his willing participation, and the Holy Spirit never strengthens the inner man apart from His written word. But God does indeed have mechanisms in place by which His sons and daughters can become partakers of the divine nature and sharers in His holiness.

Because of the huge amount of labor involved in renewing the mind (memorizing both Old and New Testaments, for example), do not deny the potential. And because of the greatness of God's power, do not deny the work of renewing the mind.

 

 

Speak Truth

The whole purpose of God is predicated on truth. Children of God are brought forth by the "word of truth." Those who number the ranks of unbelievers turn their ears away "from the truth." Even that great umbrella, love, "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (I Corinthians 13:6).

The devil, of course, runs the counter program. His whole scheme is predicated upon lies and deception, smoke and mirrors, illusion and broken promises. It is worthy of noting periodically the words of our Lord concerning Satan: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Hence it is that those who drift over to Satan's camp take his nature, become liars likewise, and he is therefore the father of lies.

"Put on the new self," exhorted Jesus' apostle to the Gentiles, "which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:24,25).

Truth is foundational to all of God's other workings. Satan the destroyer is the father of lies. Men and women who claim to be of the faith above all else need to be truthful to all men, and especially honest in their dealings with one another.

 

 

Handling Anger

Road rage isn't the only kind of rage. Anger of every kind, frustration, "losing your cool," and "flying off the handle" are as old as the human race, and deadly or destructive to the rest of the family. Whether anger comes as a flash-in-the-pan tempest, or a simmering, brooding, inner sulk plotting revenge, someone else is going to be hurt by the verbal outburst or pounded by the physical abuse. And the angered individual himself is going to be destroyed on the inside.

But there is time for a certain type of anger; there is an anger that is not destructive, that is indeed necessary for the maintenance of order and a sense of right. "Be angry," says the Holy Spirit to the new creature, created in righteousness and holiness of the truth, "and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity'' (Ephesians 4:25-27). James adds. "But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19,20). God and the devil are both involved in the general handling of anger; this should cause us to pause and reflect.

Disappointments in people, difficulty in circumstances, unrighteous behavior in others, and failure in self can and often do result in feelings of rage or anger. The new creature will heed very painstakingly the advice of the Spirit and handle with great care the explosive package called ANGER! "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

 

 

Labor With Your Hands

The curse has not been lifted. When the sentence was pronounced from heaven, all Adam could do was to hang his head and longingly remember the blessed days in Eden, the days before the words were hammered with the gavel of God's justice: "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the dust of the ground…" (Genesis 3:17-19). If man wants to eat, he is going to have to work, and to work hard.

At the core, then, all men know the principle that they are going to have to earn their living, and pay for what they get. They know that here is no such thing as a free lunch, and if something looks too good to be true, it usually isn't true. But that natural desire of something for nothing is there, and it makes men susceptible to various con-artists who compose sundry tunes centered about that something-for-nothing theme. The whole modern gambling industry, whether it involves a state-run lottery or a Vegas-style private casino, plays on man's desire to break the curse and not be burdened with sweating out a living; and in the process it extracts a percentage of the fruit of each participant's labor while holding in full view the very, very few who are actually winners.

Government gets into the scam in a big way through welfare and other entitlement programs. The largest section of the federal budget in the U.S.A. is called "transfer payments." While it is not legal for me to steal your wallet and use your money to pay my friend's rent for a month, it is legal for me to vote for a Congressman who does exactly the same thing, with the tax collecting and distribution sectors of the government serving as middleman.

But what says the word of God? "Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need" (Ephesians 4:28). The new self in Christ enjoys working.

Quit your complaining, and get to work!

 

 

Edifying Comments

So goes the old saying, "Slings and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me." That proverb from the past is actually a defense mechanism set in motion by someone trying to be creatively positive; the truth is that name-calling in some senses hurts worse and can be more destructive than slings and stones. Of the name-calling tongues, James says, "Behold how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire" (James 3:5). It isn't so much the hand that rocks the cradle that rules the world, but the tongue that shapes the image of the one in the tiny bedstead.

Hence it is that God's word expresses great concern about the tongue and what it says. Whether it is the next generation of human beings to inhabit earth or the next generation of spiritual disciples to take its proper place in the kingdom of God, each is powerfully affected by words - words which stab and destroy, or words which strengthen and encourage. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth," states the former blasphemer, the former Saul of Tarsus, now Paul the apostle, "but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). This is a powerful and important exhortation from the holy word of God.

Words are powerful. When a torrent of invective is unleashed, who knows what the unchecked and unbridled flow will damage. Gracious words, however, carefully arranged to stack up building blocks in another person's life, lead him to eternity. God saves and destroys by His word; to a lesser extent, so do His children. Make sure the words edify.

 

 

Grieving the Spirit

God is a jealous God. He is not insanely or unreasonably jealous, but He created all men carefully, individually in the first place, and redeemed each who obeyed the gospel in the second. Thus He rightfully has a vested interest in continuing the fellowship which he produced by greatly extending Himself, and He is rightfully grieved when some distraction begins to pull the Christian away from that intimate companionship. The plea comes from the very heart of heaven: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).

The indwelling Spirit is the pilgrim's guarantee of the resurrection to eternal life at Jesus' second coming. If He remains grieved over the condition of him who was once called out of darkness, then the guarantee is off. "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

 

 

Imitators of God?

"For we are His workmanship" avouched the apostle Paul to the Ephesian brethren, "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (Ephesians 2:10). The workmanship referred to here is not the initial forming of man at his conception; this workmanship is that which results from the washing of regeneration, the spiritual rebirth at immersion (Titus 3:5). This new creature, created in the image of Christ rather than Adam, has a powerful potential for carrying out the will of God. That which was born of woman has a limited potential, limited by that which was transmitted through the gene pool of the father and mother; that which was "born of God" has the potential of the Father. While that which was brought into existence in the image of Adam was weak through the flesh, that which is created in the image of Christ Jesus comes in the strength of the Spirit of the living God.

The scriptures call the disciples of Christ to be imitators of God. This is not out of reach, but it requires the same sacrificing desire to save the lost and preserve the saved as was resident in the Lord. But since the love of God has been poured out in the hearts of the brethren through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), then the cross-bearers can joyfully suffer in carrying the message of the gospel of the glory of Christ to a darkened world, knowing they are "beloved children," and coming to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ.

 

 

None of These "Diseases"

There is no such thing as sin these days. Alcoholism is a "disease." Uncontrolled anger is "chemical imbalance." Criminal behavior is the result of "social injustice." And sexual immorality stems from "a bad gene" which is no doubt currently being isolated by some politically correct chemist. While there are genetic factors involved (it has something to do with being descended from Adam), and while body chemistry and upbringing play a part in behavior, God solved the basis of these problems by having the "old man" buried. And the all-knowng Father doesn't "tush-tush" His children about bad body chemistry or a poor gene pool; He knows the problem is sin and He speaks in terms of "the body of sin" being done away with (Romans 6:6).

The new creature in Christ, then, is to "lay aside the old self" and "put on the new self" (Ephesians 4:22,24), and as such he is to be an imitator of God Himself. The responsibility for his action and attitude is laid squarely upon his shoulders; there is no "social injustice" or "drinking disease" to fall back on. "But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness or silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 5:3-6).

God has given Christians all the strength they need, when coupled with scripture and scriptural principles, to overcome sin in their lives. This passage from Ephesians in particular focuses on immorality, impurity, and greed, and is very emphatic that these are not "diseases" which someone caught from viruses floating in the atmosphere. These are fatal sins, which the brethren in Christ can lay aside so completely that they are not even named among them.

 

 

Children of Light

As hard as it may be to believe, the God of the New Testament is going to execute wrath on the sons of disobedience. God did not undergo a great personality change between the writings of Malachi and Matthew; He is the same consuming fire that He has always been. Immoral and impure people, the covetous and swindlers, even if they are immersed into Christ, are going to end up in a Christless hell for all eternity. "Therefore do not be partakers with them," was the pleading of Paul, "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" (Ephesians 5:7-10). Thus the apostle reintroduces the great and transforming theme of the Bible: God is light!

Christians are light in the Lord. Gone is the one who sank to the level of crude jokes, coarse jesting, silly talk, greed, and immorality. In its place is a personality radiating goodness, righteousness, and truth.

 

 

Awake, Sleeper!

Darkness and light are direct opposites. But, praise the Lord, light is stronger than dark, and drives darkness from its presence. God's children have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, and are therefore excited to proclaim His excellencies. But as mother Russia exerts a drawing power on some of her expatriates, so the darkness wields a mysterious pull on some of the children of light. Hence the warning comes: "And 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" (Ephesians 5:11,12). Christians are not only not to participate in the skullduggeries of sin and the intrigues of iniquity, they are in fact to take a stand against them and expose them. A word of caution: because many of the things done in darkness are so shameful, the exposť does not have to revel in every lurid detail; enough facts have to be presented to convince a truth-seeker, but brought forward in such a way as not to arouse prurient curiosity.

"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 rise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.'" (
Ephesians 5:13,14).

The works of the Law were called dead by the writer of Hebrews because they dealt with the external man, and those who promulgated them attempted to force holiness on others from the outside in. Jesus laid down the principle for modem blind Pharisees that the cup has to be cleansed first on the inside before the outside can truly follow. And the only mechanism for cleansing the inside is for Christ in glory to shine inside the radiant new creature. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Isaiah 60:1).

 

 

Making the Most of Time

The sleeper has risen from the dead! He has now joined the ranks of the spiritual revolution sweeping over all the earth and knows that time is limited. He is appreciative of the grace that has come to him through his obedience to the gospel, and moves forward joyfully in the knowledge that he walks with the light of the glorified Christ shining on him. But he is also aware that others are perishing while he lives, and desires to do his part that the gospel may be preached to all creation. The words of Paul the apostle ring daily in his ears: "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but 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" (Ephesians5:15-l7). Time is of major significance to this spiritual revolutionary; he senses that the "two-minute warning" for earth has just been whistled, and he knows that he and his fellow teammates must "manage the clock."

T - Time
E - Energy
M - Money
P - People
O - Organization

The truly wise recognizes that personal time, energy, and money are limited resources. Therefore the way to have a maximum impact for Christ is to be able to wisely and honestly organize and motivate volunteers, to make use of people through organization. This is part of the great legacy left by the Lord Himself; His own statement was that "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus during the years of His time on earth was limited in time, energy, and money, but left in place His organization to make use of people as dedicated volunteers, that His work might go on and His purpose be accomplished.

A Christian who manages his time perfectly will not sin. But, more importantly, he will do his part, as an upTEMPO child of God, to carry the torch of the spiritual revolution and overcome the Satanic forces of the new world order.

 

 

Filled With The Spirit

If a Christian were to manage his time perfectly, he would never sin. Certainly he would avoid pursuits that kill the day, and he would be especially careful to steer clear of activities which are not only time wasters, but actually counterproductive. "Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation," preaches Paul, "but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Ephesians 5:18-21). The foolish gets drunk; the wise is filled with the Spirit.

Christians should be the ones who have set aside the old self with malice, anger, and destruction. There should be no drunkenness or dissipation; brethren instead are to be joyful, enthusiastic, and overflowing with the good attributes from the character of God. They are commanded to be "filled with the Spirit."

 

 

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

This is about the controversy that never should have been. The controversy is about "instrumental music" being "acceptable to God in worship," and it comes under discussion here because of the scripture "...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:19). The Restoration men of the 19th century stated correctly that they needed book, chapter, and verse for every belief and practice of the church, that they were going to eliminate the human elements in religion which resulted in denominations because of additions to the scripture. It is too bad that they did not follow the principle when it came to the subject of worship; they blithely assumed that essentially the Roman Catholic concept of worship was the New Testament concept of worship. As a result they assumed that the church "came together to worship," looked for scriptures which would establish a "New Testament pattern for worship," and then argued whether or not "instrumental music was acceptable to God in worship." And Ephesians 5:19 was and is one of the key scriptures in the discussion.

Neither instruments nor un-instruments is anything. What counts is the new creature in Christ. "And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:15,16). Be filled with the Spirit continually, and continually offer up spiritual songs to God with all your heart.

 

 

A Thankful Heart

"Be filled with the Spirit," is the command. Because of the nature of the new covenant, it is more directly an exhortation to be implemented one stage at a time. Those who follow this bidding of the Lord are an enthusiastic bunch, who bubble over with joy, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing praises to God even while shackled in stocks in inner prisons. They whistle tunes while glorifying God in the midst of challenging or grueling work, they tap their feet to the beat of spiritual songs while riding to and from errands, and they hum the great melodies of God while putzing about the house or puttering in the shop. They "sing and make melody" with their hearts to the Lord.

But none of this just comes naturally. To be filled with the Spirit, the Christian is obliged to reprogram his mind, to get rid of destructive thoughts, negative images, and "downer" songs, and replace those with the true, pure, and praiseworthy. It takes disciplined effort to thus renew the mind, and those who follow the will of the Lord in filling their lives with spiritual songs do so with careful deliberation. That is why "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" comes under the exhortation to "be filled with the Spirit"; it is the result of a conscious decision and disciplined implementation. And the same holds true with the next heading under being filled with the Spirit: "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father" (Ephesians 5:20).

The wise and knowing Father knows that, in one sense, attitude is everything. Those who are depressed, angry, and bitter are a blot on God's name and fit only for the garbage heap of eternity. So through the exordium to "be filled with Spirit," the great Jehovah works to produce an upbeat family, children of light who exhibit the radiance of His goodness and glory. Brethren who learn to have a thankful heart, who always give thanks for all things through Jesus to the Father, are well on their way.

 

 

Subject to One Another

There is no such thing as serving God apart from serving people. Even under the old covenant, the great commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and the second greatest commandment was like the first in that the believer in God was to love his neighbor as himself. The teachings of Jesus actually upgraded the emphasis on serving people; the follower of Christ is not only to love his neighbor as he loves himself, but he is to love others even as Jesus loved, exhibited ultimately in His death on behalf of the brethren. It is not unexpected, then, that the word of God would note that, in order to be filled with the Spirit, the brethren are to "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" (Ephesians 5:21).

"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" works on one aspect of overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit of God; those tunes continually whir in the head of one so filled, and he is focused on praising God. When the individual learns to always give thanks for all things, he is also focused on thanking God. God is thus served through a mind that has been trained to praise and thank Him; man is served when the saint is subject to the brethren in the fear of Christ; and the package, now including serving both God and man, produces a disciple who is filled with the Spirit.

This concept of being subject to one another does not just deal with relationships in Christ. The Holy Spirit, through Paul, describes how a Christian is to serve man in husband-wife, parent-child, and slave-master relationships, and how to do that with a good attitude.

Brethren are to keep in mind that God's desire is for each to be filled with the Spirit, to be enthusiastic, upbeat, hopeful followers in the footsteps of Christ. While spiritual music and thankful prayers focus on serving God, being subject to one another wraps up the picture by focusing on serving men. The true adherent to the principles of Christianity implements all three phases in his life and really begins to bear the fruit of the Spirit in a productive and joyful life in Christ.

 

 

Submissive Wives

The general heading of this section of Paul's letter to the Ephesians is "be filled with the Spirit." Under that heading are given three specific ways to do that; the first two - praising God in song, and being thankful for all things - have more to do with man serving God. The third one has to do with man serving man, and is stated in these words: "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." There is no such thing as serving God without serving man; and there is no such thing as being filled with the Spirit apart from being subject to one another. Christianity is the ultimate in virtual reality and interactive religion. In Christ one cannot separate himself from people and in monkish fashion serve God; in Christ each disciple carries out his holy activity through relationships with other people.

One of the most rewarding and challenging of those relationships is that between husband and wife. The closest thing on earth to heaven is a good marriage; the closest thing on earth to hell is a bad one. The Lord Jesus was well aware of the challenge and while He was discussing the importance of commitment in marriage, the apostles exclaimed, "If the relationship of the man and his wife is like this, it is better not to marry" (Matthew 19:10). Marriage has its challenges, but it has great rewards if the Christian man and Christian woman will follow the instructions on how to be filled with the Spirit by being subject to one another as directed.

The wife's role in the marriage is the subordinate one. She can fight that if she wants, but in so doing she runs counter to the order which God set up and over time she becomes a bitter and hardened woman. But if she wants her days to be filled with maximum joy available under her circumstances, then she needs willingly to submit to her husband and thus be filled with God's Spirit.

 

 

Loving Husbands

Don't confuse love and romance. One of the dictionary definitions of romance brings out a subtle difference between the Biblical concept of love and the more earthly-centered concept of romance: "Romance: a strong, sometimes short-lived attachment, fascination, or enthusiasm for something." Romance is short-lived because it is based on feeling; Biblical love is deep, abiding, and strong because it is based on decision. So the imperative comes: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). Christian husbands ultimately must make the decision to love their wives.

God expects His children to learn love through the husband-wife relationship, and to thus be filled with the Holy Spirit. The husband, on his part, cannot be selfish; he must willingly sacrifice himself, laying down his life as a provider and protector of his glorious bride. Hunting, fishing, or the race track, if necessary, must be set aside in order for the Christian man to carry out his physical and spiritual responsibilities.

 

 

The Sanctified Church

God is very interested in holiness in His people. "Pursue peace with all men," the inspired author of Hebrews noted, "and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). That sanctification, or holiness, is to be pursued, to be chased with vigor. The righteousness of God is not only imputed to the believer at his immersion into Christ; he is, through processes directed by the scripture and by what the Holy Spirit supplies, to be holy, and to exhibit that holiness to the world.

In the discussion on husbands and wives, the apostle Paul also taught the relationship of Christ and the church. "Husbands," he said, "love your wives, just as Christ also 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, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27).

The orphan girl loves the Prince. She is grateful that the Prince saw the potential in her when she was lying ragged and ruined beside the desert road. She is appreciative of the opportunity she has to be cleansed and beautified. She knows the Prince sacrificed Himself for her, and her thoughts are continually fixed on Him. As a result she imitates His character, and, by an unseen power which the Prince possesses, she takes on His radiant glory. Finally, at the Prince's "right hand stands the queen in gold from Ophir" (Psalm 45:9).

 

 

Body Love

The body needs care. If it isn't fed, it dies. If it gets wounded, it needs patched up. The physical side of man requires shelter, clothing, daily rest, occasional cleaning, and some comfort. And the body lets its possessor know when it has needs or wants; gnawings of hunger, aches from bruises, eyes clamoring for sleep, and cravings for a place to sit down all make their way to the decision center of man. Sometimes - facing starvation or suffocation, for example - those exigencies override all other priorities. The body has needs and communicates its needs to the spirit and soul of man, and then the man acts to meet those needs, often moving with intensity and great speed to meet those bodily requirements. With those general principles in mind, the apostle Paul appeals to Christian husbands: "So husbands ought also to love their own 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 also does the church, because we are members of His body" (Ephesians 5:28-30).

Husbands are to learn from Christ what it means for his wife to be part of his own body. His body needs care; so does his wife. When his body is wounded, it needs patched up; when his wife is emotionally wounded, she must be mended also. As Christ tenderly cares for His bride, so the Christian man cares for his bride also. And that is a form of being subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

 

 

The Secret of Marriage

Before the foundation of the world God planned the union of Christ and the church. And, in God's scheme of things spiritual, Christ woos the church through demonstrating His love and tender affections, just as a man courts his prospective bride. In fact, a portion of Christ's reaching out to win His bride's understanding and affection is done through the male-female relationship God created at the beginning. "For this cause," stated Moses in Genesis, and quoted by Paul in Ephesians, "a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh." The apostle then appended, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his wife as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:31-33).

The secret of marriage is knowing that marriage is designed by God as a means of teaching a less tangible and less easily understood lesson. When the husband and wife both know that their mutual relationship is their daily homework assignment, and that through the relationship they are to learn to be subject to a higher purpose and thus be filled with the Spirit, then they can also learn how to help each other with their homework. And be joyful.

 

 

Children and Parents

God wants His people to "be filled with the Spirit." The Father desires that each Christian be enthusiastic, overflowing with praises and thanksgivings to His name. And He expects that His holy ones will be filled with the Spirit in their interactions with other people, being "subject to one another in the fear of Christ." This is to be carried out in relationships where occasionally there is likely to be tension; the Father did not take His children out of the world, but their Christianity is to be exhibited in husband-wife, parent-child, and master-slave relationships. Each saint is to trust God and faithfully discharge His instructions recorded in the written word.

Thus Christian husbands and wives have a set of directives from on High which govern their conduct and which they are to carry out joyfully if they are to be filled with the Spirit. If wives refuse to be subject to their husbands, or husbands spurn the injunction to love their wives as Christ loved the church, then destruction and major heartaches lie ahead.

In the same fashion, then, the Holy Spirit brings the parent-child interconnection to the forefront. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:1-4).

Parent-child relationships are designed by God for at least dual purposes: to give Christian parents hands-on experience in learning to be subject to a purpose larger than themselves and to learn to be filled with the Spirit through the challenges that come with parenting.

 

 

Christian Slaves and Masters

"Be filled with the Spirit," is the directive from heaven. "Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ" is a specific additional pointer instructing Christians how to be happy in interrelating to one another. Following inspired biddings on husband-wife and parent-child relationships come some real testings, some instructions for Christian masters and Christian slaves. "Slaves," writes Paul, "be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And, masters, do the same thing to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him" (Ephesians 6:5-9).

In the master-slave relationship, the concept of being filled with the Spirit - being joyful and enthusiastic - is put to the test. If the Christian master of the first century could face the pressure of his peers and govern his slaves in accordance with the dictum of being subject to one another in the fear of Christ, and if the first century slave could take abuse from his earthly master with rejoicing, then none of us today have any excuse for bad attitudes.

 

 

Welcome to War

The Christian is to make the most of his time, because the days are evil. He is to maintain a good attitude, being filled with the Spirit; he is to be enthusiastic and cheerful in husband-wife relationships, in parent-child relationships, and in slave-master relationships. But above and beyond the problems arising in those personal interactions, the saint of the Most High is to be aware of the big picture, to be conscious that he is a soldier in a total war, and to be excited and upbeat in the midst of that global spiritual conflict. "Finally," says the apostle, "be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:10-12). Christians are not monkish recluses, cloistered in remote hide-aways; followers of Christ are soldiers who have voluntarily enlisted in the army of Christ and are fervently fighting against the world forces of Satan's evil minions. Welcome, brother, to the war.

The church is to recognize that her warfare has not ended. She is not at peace during the years that earth exists, in which her members must carry out their responsibilities. Wartime measures are therefore in effect; there must be a sense of urgency connected with the use of time, and the fellow soldiers are to be team players, upbeat and filled with the Spirit. Welcome to the war.

 

 

Schemes of the Devil

Satan certainly is an evil schemer. Going to be flung headlong into the pits of hell himself, he has decided that his misery needs company, and is trying to drag every member of the human race into destruction with him. But if people clearly understood what they were getting when they bought the devil's package, there would be no takers. So the great adversary of God and enemy of man has devised a series of schemes - some complex and some simple, some directed at single individuals and some pointed toward the whole race to confuse men and ensure that their souls are sent to a Christ-less hell. While it is impossible to list all of Satan's schemes in this short space, there are several which should be pondered as worthy of special consideration.

These are all schemes of the Adversary, who uses individual and massive deceit to carry out his warfare against Christ and His church. It is obvious that God does not want His children to be ignorant of Satan's secret plans, but that He wants the sons of light to expose, oppose, and overcome them.

 

 

Armored Up

Spiritual warfare is fought and won on spiritual grounds. Any Christian who would try to carry on a skirmish against Satan's regulars by warring in the flesh is guaranteed to lose, and to lose quickly and decisively. "Be strong in the Lord," is the advice of Paul. "Put on the full armor of God," he says. "Take up the full armor of God," he again emphasizes, "that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13). There are huge warnings built into this statement, emphasizing to the brethren the seriousness of this warfare; the Holy Spirit is majorly concerned that the saints be able to resist in the evil day, the Spirit exhorts them to have done everything, and the Helper pleads with them twice to put on the full armor of God. The battle, she's a fierce one ... and only those who heed these injunctions will survive by standing firm.

When the Christian soldier also takes up the sword of the Spirit, then he is fully armed and ready to engage in the conflict. But if disciples of Christ fail to heed the serious and strenuous warning of Paul and the Holy Spirit to get themselves "armored up," they will be casualties in this spiritual war. A spiritual war is fought and won on spiritual grounds.

 

 

The Sword of the Spirit

For the soldier of old, the sword was both an offensive and defensive weapon. With it he could defend himself, and with it he could press forward, slicing into the enemy. As the spiritual soldier puts on the full armor of God, most of his armament is defensive or preparatory; it is only when he takes up "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17), that he is able to carry on the offensive thrust against the phalanxes of the devil. And since the Lord Jesus came to plunder the house of Satan, He is quite interested in seeing that His body be able to execute that forward charge.

The soldier in the Lord's army has been handed a truly marvelous piece of weaponry, the sword of the Spirit. It is a blade for use defensively and offensively in the spirit realm, and the best steel of Toledo could not even begin to compare. So take up the sword of the Spirit, soldier, and carry on!

 

 

Prayer and Petition

Does God really hear prayer? If everything is all decided by God beforehand, do the prayers of the saints really make any difference? These are questions often asked by the brethren as they mentally meander their way to a clearer understanding of the Father and His mighty deeds. While the child of God is not privy to the inner workings of the Almighty and the complex inter-arrangement of prayer and the predetermined purpose of God, the scripture is repeatedly emphatic that prayer changes things, that the Father hears and acts when the sons of God pray. "With all prayer and petition," implores the apostle Paul, "pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Ephesians 6:18).

The natural tendency of people is to pretend that evil does not exist so they don't have to think about it or do anything about it. God breaks into this mystical reverie with the message to the Christian soldier that he is on alert. He is to be fully armed - protected, and with the sword of the Spirit in the position to strike. And where does this warfare begin? In prayer! Our Lord spent forty days in prayer and fasting before kicking off His ministry to the lost of sheep of Israel. The infantrymen of God need to take note, praying and petitioning at all times in the Spirit, alertly aware of all the situations and dangers the saints are in, and praying diligently for them.

 

 

Prayer for Boldness

Fear shuts the mouths of Christians more often than it ought. Satan, the master user of fear, desires the paralysis which terror produces. If he can therefore generate the illusion in the mind of the Christian that the loss of something earthly is a catastrophe of major proportion, and can intimidate him with the possibility of that loss, then the terrified child of God clamps his jaw rather than jeopardize his fleshly stumbling block. Threats of a gruesome death, the ultimate in intimidation, could even make someone like the apostle Paul blanch at the thought. So he appealed to the brethren in Ephesus: "Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly as I ought" (Ephesians 6:19,20).

The nature of man has not changed since Paul was delivering the message from heaven. Those today who proclaim the mystery of the gospel - the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Gentiles who are obedient to the faith - really need the brethren to pray earnestly on their behalf, that they may speak boldly as they ought to speak.

 

 

A Faithful Minister

Mankind has always found ways to share with one another. Whether it is by telephone, telegraph, or the secret codes of men confined in the "Hanoi Hilton," people have devised means to communicate with others of similar interests. And thus it was among the churches in the first century, AD. "But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing," wrote Paul to the Ephesian brethren, "Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you also may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts"(Ephesians 6:21,22).

The apostle Paul was greatly blessed to have a man like Tychicus working alongside him. As a faithful minister, Tychicus could be trusted to tell the brethren about Paul's work, to carry out his teaching and ministry to the saints in truthfulness and sound doctrine, and to bring edification and encouragement to the brethren.

 

 

Grace, Faith, Love and Peace

The difference between solitude and loneliness is what has been going on the rest of the time. Fifteen minutes of silence on a shaded porch can be excruciating loneliness to an old man who feels 1ike he is over the hill and left out of the conversation; it can be fifteen minutes of restful solace to a man who has been harried all day with people, phone calls, and problems. So when Paul wrote his closing words to the brethren in Ephesus, to the modern "at ease in Zion" Christian, the thoughts expressed seem to be a ho-hum, this-is-how-we-finish-the-letter ending. But to the brethren who suffered such as they did in the Roman province of Asia in the first century, AD, the signing off of Paul was laden with meaning and encouragement.

"Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus with a love incorruptible" (Ephesians 6:23,24). Amen!

 

 

Final Summary of Ephesians

The words of Paul to the congregation at Ephesus will stand forever. When all the writings of man, be he a Plato or a Shakespeare, have moldered or burnt, what constitutes the six chapters of the apostle to the saints in the province of Asia will echo perpetually through the halls of heaven. And what a message it brings!

The apostle is conscious of the great spiritual war, which is taking place in the heavenlies, wherein the hosts of Satan collide with the forces of God. Christians are caught right in the middle of the warfare, and the brethren are informed that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). Because of the seriousness and severity of the battle. the brethren's attention is focused on some great -spiritual truths:

The gospel is the same today as it was when Paul wrote what is now called the book of Ephesians. The purpose of God is the same. The power of the Spirit in the inner man is the same. And the spiritual warfare is the same. The Christians were conquerors in the first century, AD; are "modern" Christians the same as they?