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'The Blessings of God's Grace - An Exposition of Ephesians'
A Life Worthy of Christ.
1. I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
Paul appeals to the Ephesians on the grounds that he is in prison for the Lord Jesus Christ. This may seem a strange basis for such an appeal until we recall that it was for their sakes, because of his mission among the Gentiles, that he was imprisoned. In return for this expression of his love, Paul asks a reciprocate love and openness to his appeal. It is the mark of Paul's humility that, wherever possible, he does not issue the command of an apostle, but the loving appeal of a father or friend. His appeal is that the Christians would live a life worthy of those who are called to be Christ's people.
2. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
Those who are Christ's should reflect His nature by displaying the following characteristics:
Lowliness. Which is humility in thought and deed (Matt. 11:29). The greatness of Christ's humility is expressed in Philippians chapter two, where we read that although Jesus Christ was essentially God and one with God, He did not cling on to His Divine dignity, but humbled Himself in order to become a man and ultimately to obey God to the point of death - even death on a cross (Philip. 2:5 - 8).
Meekness. To be meek is to be gentle, unselfish, and undemanding. On no occasion in the Gospels do we read of Christ being demanding. Although following Him would cost all they had, it is noteworthy that He never personally demanded anything for Himself from His followers.
Long-suffering. This is the quality which is enables us to have patience with one another. Christ must have had ample patience in dealing with His disciples, who again and again failed to understand his teaching or to believe his word; and who argued persistently about which of them would be the greatest. Christ's only response to their pride and unbelief was to patiently repeat His teachings about humility and faith, until they eventually came to a place of understanding.
Forbearing. Which is to make allowances for one another. This virtue leads on from the previous one of patience. It is a quality supremely shown by Christ when He prayed for His persecutors, in words that demonstrate His forbearance as much as His forgiveness, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Christ realized that the people's minds were blinded to the truth, and He accepted this as sufficient ground for Him to personally excuse their actions toward him. As is the case with all of His attributes, in terms of His forbearance, God has no peer; yet the qualities He displays are to be emulated by His children.
All these virtues are the result of having a genuine love for one another (1 Cor. 13:4). Jesus said, "Love each other as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (NKJV™).
Since believers are united with the bonds of Christ's love, we should make every effort to maintain the unity which has been brought about by the Holy Spirit, who has made each of us part of the same body.
In practical terms, this involves cultivating all of the above graces. The word "endeavoring" implies that a lot of effort must be put in. It is only as we have peace among ourselves that we can be bound together as one. Clearly a lack of unity and peace in any church grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
The Church United in Christ.
4,5,6. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
Paul emphasizes that Christian unity has been brought about by the action of God. Whilst believers may differ in many ways from each other, there is:
One Body. That is, the body of Christ, His Church (Col. 1:18). There are not two churches. As Pastor of a local church I have often said from the pulpit "If you can't get on with God's people in this church, there is no other church". Since we are one body in Christ we have no option but to learn how to get along with each other: being humble, meek, long-suffering, forgiving, forbearing and kind. Too often Christians leave a church because of the lack of grace in some members who have annoyed or upset them; failing to realize that God has placed them in such a difficult situation deliberately, that they might grow in the virtues of love, patience and forgiveness. Those who run away from problems without learning to love will never reach their full potential. They will be stunted in their spiritual growth.
One Spirit. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, remember that it is the same Holy Spirit who fills your brother, just as He filled the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4). On that day, men and women, young and old, those from different races and social backgrounds, were all filled with the Holy Spirit in fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel:
"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28-29 NKJVTM).
One Hope. We share one hope of our calling, for as members of Christ's body we have eternal life, and when we see Him we shall be like Him forever (1 John 3:2). The anticipation of the coming of the Lord to receive His own is referred to in Titus 2:13 as "the blessed hope". We wait in hope for what we have not yet experienced, but which, like an inheritance, has been made ours by God our heavenly benefactor.
One Lord. The creed of the early Church was simple - Jesus Christ is Lord. If we call Him Lord then that means we must obey Him as Lord. Many who dispute the teachings of Christ do so, not because of intellectual difficulties, but because of an unwillingness to obey Him.
We may call Christ Lord, but do we obey Him as Lord? In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (NKJV™)
Clearly, Christ expects submission to His Lordship to be characteristic of our every day lives, and there should be no rival to His having first place in our hearts.
One Faith. By which is meant our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, through which we are saved. This faith is effected by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), and is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). It is incorrect for Christians to refer to "other faiths", for in the sight of God those without Jesus Christ are faithless, regardless of which religion they profess.
One Baptism. All who receive Jesus Christ as Saviour are required by God to undergo the same means of confessing their faith and conversion: baptism by full immersion in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
The word used is "baptizio", which literally means "to whelm, to immerse" and was used in the common Greek of the day to mean exactly that. It is strange that a word used in a passage which demonstrates the essential unity of all believers should so divide the Christian Church. The question, "should I baptize by immersion or sprinkling?" has divided Christian opinion for centuries. The simple answer to this question lies in the meaning of the word used in this verse, and elsewhere in the New Testament. Whilst baptism by sprinkling remains a popular alternative to full immersion in many churches, one should always beware of attaching meanings to New Testament words which are unknown elsewhere in the Greek of the period. Other words were commonly used for "sprinkling", "splashing" or even "wetting", and if Jesus meant His followers to use this mode, He would have used these familiar words. He deliberately chose to use the word "baptize" and we should choose to obey Him fully.
Of course, it is not the fault of present day churches or ministers that the tradition of sprinkling is widely used. It is a tradition they have inherited, not created. Nevertheless, it would be far better for all churches to return to the earlier mode, since baptism by full immersion was clearly Christ's original command, and was always the practice of the early Church.
When I have been asked by genuine believers in Christ, who have been baptized by sprinkling, if they should be further be baptized by full immersion in water, I always answer yes. This is necessary if we are to obey Christ's command fully; and if we love Him, then we will do all we can to obey Him.
One God and Father. "Have we not all one Father?" (Mal. 2:10). We all worship the same God, for there is only one God, and since through the new birth we have become children of God, we are now all brothers and sisters in Christ. Being born again of the same Spirit, into the same family, we are to love one another.
Our God is "above all and through all and in all". The tendency in our modern day is to adulate men rather than God; but in the fellowship of the Church, Christ must always be given His rightful place. This sentence serves as a good introduction to the following passage about ministry of Christ's body. For as men serve the Lord and labor for Him, it is God who works in and through His people in various ways to accomplish His will and purpose.
Building up the Body of Christ.
7. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Although believers are one in Christ, we are all different and are not all able to do the same things. By His grace, Christ has imparted to each of us different gifts. Rather than be jealous of what others do, we should get on with what God has called us to do, using the gifts He has given to serve Him and build up His Church.
God invites us to seek Him and "covet" or "earnestly desire" the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we might serve and minister to His body (1 Cor. 14:1). He exhorts us to "seek to excel" in the gifts that build up the Church (1 Cor. 14:12). It is not by sitting back and waiting that we receive. God's grace is always active, never passive; it always has an effect - stirring us up with zeal and desire to receive more from Him and do more for Him. We are not all given the same work to do, but those entrusted with greater tasks will be given more grace for the fulfilment of their more demanding ministry; for "each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that" (1 Cor. 7:7 NKJV™).
8,9,10. Therefore it is said, "When He ascended on high He made captivity itself a captive; He gave gifts to His people." (When it says, "He ascended," what does it mean but that He had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
Paul quotes Psa. 68:18 to show the "measure of the gift of Christ". When Christ died, He descended into the lower parts of the earth, which is Hades. Christ's descent into Hades is one of the most controversial and obscure parts of the Biblical narrative. Looking at other scriptures will help us understand exactly what is meant by this. Hades, or the place of the dead, was found in the heart of the earth and consisted of two sections divided by a great gulf. Jesus illustrated this by relating the true story of what happened to the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.
The one section was a temporal place of punishment for the unbeliever prior to the final judgment of the great White Throne and eternal punishment.
The other was a place of paradise, consolation, and blessing, where the faithful remained until Christ (in spirit, apart from His body) came down to them during the three days between His death and resurrection. He announced the good news that He had paid the price for their ransom, that their faith had found its fulfilment in Him, and that He had come to take them into the immediate presence of God.
At His ascension, Christ took these blessed spirits with Him to His Father's house in heaven, where they are now awaiting the day of resurrection of all believers at Christ's return.
Christ ascended back to the Father, having conquered Satan, death, and hell. Having secured this victory, He is able to free those who are bound by Satan and make them children of God. This is what is meant by the phrase "He made captivity itself a captive." It is on us, the ransomed captives, that He pours out His gifts. What measure of gift would you expect to receive from someone who has overcome all things and fills heaven and earth with His presence and power?
Verse ten clearly indicates the omnipresence of Christ. Not only through the Holy Spirit, but in His own person as God the Son and a glorified man, He is everywhere present at once.
11,12,13. The gifts He gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
By His grace God equipped some for the task of planting and establishing churches where Christ has never before been known - apostles. Others He equipped to make His previously hidden purposes known to men - prophets. He equipped others to make His invitation known by preaching the Gospel that men might be saved - evangelists. To others He gave the grace to be shepherds of His flock, responsible to feed them with His word - pastors and teachers.
It is to be noted that these "ministry gifts of Christ" differ from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. With the latter, men receive gifts, whereas with the former, men become gifts to the Church by the effectual working of God's power in their lives.
There are differing gifts, but all work together for the same purpose. Each person has been given grace to serve God's people so that the Church might be built up spiritually. All the different ministries are necessary for this work to be fulfilled.
14. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
God equips men and women for all these ministries so that the Church might become grounded and settled in the faith; with no one being moved away by the innumerable false teachings of those who deliberately try to mislead.
15,16. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the Head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.
"Speaking the truth in love" denotes being motivated by love to teach the doctrines of God's Word in order to build up the Church. As this is done, we all grow together into Christ's likeness.
Christ Himself, who brought the body into its unified existence, is the One who gives strength for every part to do its work. Just as in nature, the body is responsible for its own growth, so by lovingly using the ministries Christ has given us, we are responsible for building up the Church, and we all share a measure of accountability for one another. When Cain asked "am I my brother's keeper?" he was not answered, for his was no genuine inquiry. In the New Testament, however, it is made clear that we are all, to some extent, responsible for each other. Some, of course, are given a greater measure of responsibility than others. Pastors and elders will give an account to God for their congregations (Heb. 13:17).
Walking with Christ, seeking to maintain the unity of the Church and building up fellow believers is all part of living a life "worthy of the Lord."
Living Worthy of Christ.
17,18. Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.
Returning to his theme of living "worthy of the Lord", Paul, with the authority given to him as an apostle of Jesus Christ, insists on a high standard of morality within the Church. Since through Jesus Christ we have been "born again", we should no longer do those things which belong to our old nature, as unbelievers do, since they are separated from God by their sin and the hardness of their unrepentant hearts (Rom. 1:28).
Since they only have the old nature, which cannot bring forth fruit for God, and since they have no understanding of the things of God, they are unable to please Him (Rom. 8:8). The word "futility" means "emptiness" - their minds are completely devoid of spiritual understanding. Those who have no share in the life of the God who is light remain in the darkness of spiritual ignorance.
19. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Yet their ignorance does not consist of not knowing, but of not wanting to know. They have rejected the truth which through Creation and the Gospel they have received; and have succeeded in shutting the mouth of their own God-given conscience. They have ignored it so often that it is no longer sensitive, hence they are "past feeling" (1 Tim. 4:2). They did this so that they might continually indulge in every form of impurity, "that their deprived desires suggest and demand." ( Amplified New Testament, Zondervan, 1987).
20,21. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus.
This is not the case for those who belong to Jesus Christ. We have heard His voice (John 10:27), and have been instructed through His Word as to how to live the Christian life. We have Christ's own example, teaching, and indwelling life to reveal the truth and lead us in the right ways of God.
22,23,24. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Through the truth, Christ has taught us to put off the sinful things which once enslaved us, and to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our spirit that we might share His mind and nature (Rom. 12:2 ; Col. 3:10).
From Jesus we have learned to "abandon old sins and cultivate new graces", which is my paraphrase of a comment by F.F. Bruce. Believers are "renewed", having a "new nature" created by God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). The new nature is the nature of Christ and so is without sin or corrupting desires; and when we are prepared to yield to it, will lead us only into righteousness and holiness.
In the following verses Paul explains this teaching in practical terms, by contrasting our old sinful life with the new life we have in Christ.
25. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another.
Do not lie, for the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). Instead, be honest with each other, for God whose nature we now share, is the God of truth.
Since we are all part of Christ's body, to lie to another Christian is to lie to Christ Himself.
26. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.
When we are angered we are not to lose our temper, for this means that we have lost control of ourselves and this will cause us to sin. It is always important to deal with anger quickly. One should not bottle it up, not even for a day, for it will cause much trouble. We should settle the matter the same day.
27. And do not make room for the devil.
If we remain angry with someone, especially another Christian, the devil will be quick to take full advantage of the situation, blowing the argument out of all proportion to do the damage that he delights in. We must not give him an opportunity to do so. The words "make room" mean "to give opportunity" (1 Pet. 5:8).
28. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
The person who used to steal should instead earn an honest living. By doing this he or she will not only provide for his or herself, but will have enough to share with others in need.
So the thief who is saved by Christ becomes better known for giving than for taking!
29. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
The foul mouthed person should refrain from using bad language. The person who used to run people down and speak bad of them must learn to speak words that are profitable in order to build others up, words that will encourage them by God's grace (Col. 3:16).
In the author's experience, there have been times when a simple word of encouragement has turned the darkness of despair into the light of renewed hope and faith. Such is the power of a simple, caring word.
30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
Do not do anything that would grieve the Holy Spirit. Do not push Him away, ignore His conviction, or reject His counsel. For God has set Him as a seal upon us, the sign of His ownership of us (Eph. 1:13), and as the as a pledge of the inheritance that will one day be ours when we meet Christ face to face and will be changed into His likeness to share His eternal glory.
This truth is best illustrated at the sheep market. The buyer purchases sheep to increase his flock. But he does not take them with him immediately. They are marked with his own unique mark until he can return with transport to take them home. So Christ has purchased the believer with His own precious blood, and our receiving of the Holy Spirit is His mark of ownership of us; a guarantee that He will return at some future date to claim us as His own.
Now that we are His, and have the Spirit as the pledge that we are His, to grieve or reject the Holy Spirit is to reject His ownership of us, and consequently His Lordship.
If Paul has so far been concerned that believers should maintian certain standard in their behaviour, he is equally concerned that they should do so in their attitudes, the inner man of the heart.
31. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.
The life we lived outside of Christ was characterized by unfriendliness, bitterness, bad temper, resentment, arguing, slander, and malice (bad feeling which leads us to harm or wish harm to others). Now that we are in Christ, all this has to be finished with.
32. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
The new nature that we share with Christ must show itself by loving kindness, compassion, and understanding. God's children should be loving, forgiving each other just as God has forgiven us (Mark 11: 25 - 26).
This is an important and recurring theme in Christ's teaching, which Paul pursues in more detail in the next chapter; that the children of God are to be like their Father. Since God is loving we must love and since God is forgiving we must forgive.
The parable Jesus told of the unforgiving servant (Matt.18:21 - 35) illustrates the high priority God places on our forgiveness of others, as do the words of the Lord's prayer in Matt. 6:12 "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
A heart that is not open to give forgiveness is not open to receive forgiveness; which is why Jesus said "whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25).
The forgiveness we offer to others reveals the depth of our gratitude for the extent to which God has forgiven us.
Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk