A Study of the Book of Ephesians
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You’re in the army now! - Ephesians 6:10-24

Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is – apart from the Lord. As Christians, we face three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3). “The world” refers to the system around us that is opposed to God, that caters to “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17). “Society apart from God” is a simple, but accurate, definition of “the world.” “The flesh” is the old nature that we inherited from Adam, a nature that is opposed to God and can do nothing spiritual to please God. By His death and resurrection, Christ overcame the world, and the flesh, and the devil. In other words, as believers, we do not fight for victory – we fight from victory! The Spirit of God enables us, by faith to appropriate Christ’s victory for ourselves. In these closing verses of the letter, Paul discussed four topics so that his readers, by understanding and applying these truths, might walk in victory.
The Enemy (Eph. 6:10-12): The intelligence corps plays a vital part in warfare because it enables the officers to know and understand the enemy. Unless we know who the enemy is, where he is, and what he can do, we have a difficult time defeating him. Not only in Ephesians 6, but throughout the entire Bible, God instructs us about the enemy, so there is no reason for us to be caught off guard.
The leader – the devil: The enemy has many different names. Devil means “accuser,” because he accuses God’s people day and night before the throne of God. Satan means “adversary,” because he is the enemy of God. He is also called the tempter, and the murderer and the liar. He is compared to a lion, a serpent, and an angel of light, as well as “the god of this age.”  Many mysteries are connected with the origin of Satan, but what he is doing and where he is going is certainly no mystery! Since he is a created being, and not eternal (as God is), he is limited in his knowledge and activity. Unlike God, Satan is not all-knowing, all-powerful, or everywhere-present. Then how does he accomplish so much in so many different parts of the world? The answer is in his organized helpers.
Satan’s helpers: Paul called them “principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12). The Apostle John hinted that one third of the angels fell with Satan when he rebelled against God (Rev. 12:4), and Daniel wrote that Satan’s angels struggle against God’s angels for control of the affairs of the nations (Dan. 10:13-20). A spiritual battle is going on in this world, and in the sphere of “the heavenlies,” and you and I are part of this battle. Knowing this makes “walking in victory” a vitally important thing to us – and to God. The important point is that our battle is not against human beings. It is against spiritual powers. We are wasting our time fighting people when we ought to be fighting the devil who seeks to control people and make them oppose the work of God.
Satan’s abilities: The warnings Paul gave indicate that Satan is a strong enemy (Eph. 6:10-12), and that we need the power of God to be able to stand against him. Never underestimate the power of the devil. He is not compared to a lion and a dragon just for fun! The Book of Job tells what his power can do to a man’s body, home, wealth, and friends. Jesus calls Satan a thief who comes “to steal, and kill, and to destroy: (John 10:10). Not only is Satan strong, but he is also wise and subtle, and we fight against “the wiles of the devil.” Wiles mean “cunning, crafty arts, stratagems.” The Christian cannot afford to be “ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). Some men are cunning and crafty and “lie in wait to receive” (Eph 4:14), but behind them is the arch-deceiver, Satan. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and seeks to blind men’s minds to the truth of God’s Word. The fact that Paul uses the word “wrestle” indicates that we are involved in a hand-to-hand battle and are not mere spectators at a game. Satan wants to use our external enemy, the world, and our eternal enemy, the flesh, to defeat us. His weapons and battle plans are formidable.
The Equipment (Eph. 6:13-17): Since we are fighting against enemies in the spirit world, we need special equipment both for offense and defense. God has provided the “whole armor” for us, and we dare not omit any part. Satan looks for that unguarded area where he can get a beachhead. Paul commanded his readers to put on the armor, take the weapons, and withstand Satan, all of which we do by faith. Knowing that Christ has already conquered Satan, and that the spiritual armor and weapons are available, by faith we accept what God gives us and go out to meet the foe. The day is evil, and the enemy is evil, but “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
The girdle of truth (v. 14a): Satan is a liar (John 8:44), but the believer whose life is controlled by truth will defeat him. The girdle holds the other parts of the armor together, and truth is the integrating force in the life of the victorious Christian. The breastplate of righteousness (v. 14b): This piece of armor made of metal plates or chains covered the body from the neck to the waist, both front and back. It symbolizes the believer’s righteousness in Christ as well as his righteous life in Christ. Satan is the accuser, but he cannot accuse the believer who is living a godly life in the power of the Spirit. The shoes of the Gospel (v. 15): The Roman soldier wore sandals with hobnails in the soles to give him better footing for the battle. If we are going to “stand” and “withstand,” then we need the shoes of the Gospel. Because we have the peace with God that comes from the Gospel, we need not fear the attack of Satan or men. The Shield of faith (v. 16): The shield was large, usually about four feet by two feet, made of wood, and covered with tough leather. As the soldier held it before him, it protected him from spears, arrows, and “fiery darts.” The edges of these shields were so constructed that an entire line of soldiers could interlock shields and march into the enemy like a solid wall. This suggests that we Christians are not in the battle alone. The “faith” mentioned here is not saving faith, but rather living faith, a trust in the promises and the power of God. The helmet of salvation (v.17): Satan wants to attack the mind, the way he defeated Eve. The helmet refers to the mind controlled by God. It’s too bad that many Christians have the idea that the intellect is not important, when in reality it plays a vital role in Christian growth, service, and victory. When God controls the mind, Satan cannot lead the believer astray. The Christian who studies his Bible and learns the meaning of Bible doctrines is not going to be led astray too easily. The sword of the Spirit (v. 17b): This sword is the offensive weapon God provides us. The material sword pierces the body, but the Word of God pierces the heart. The more you use a physical sword, the duller it becomes; but using God’s Word only makes it sharper in our lives. A physical sword requires the hand of a soldier, but the sword of the Spirit has its own power, for it is “living and powerful.” The Spirit wrote the Word, and the Spirit wields the Word as we take it by faith and use it. When we use the sword against Satan, we are out to deal him a blow that will cripple him and keep him from hindering God’s work.
In one sense, the “whole armor of God” is a picture of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Truth, and He is our righteousness and our peace. His faithfulness makes possible our faith; He is our salvation; and He is the Word of God. This means that when we trusted in Christ, we received the armor (Rom. 13:11-14). We are never out of reach of Satan’s devices, so we must never be without the whole armor of God.
The Energy (Eph. 6:18-20): Prayer is the energy that enables the Christian soldier to wear the armor and wield the sword. We cannot fight the battle in our own power, no matter how strong or talented we may think we are. Prayer is the power for victory, but not just any kind of prayer. Paul tells how to pray if we would defeat Satan.
Pray always. This obviously does not mean “always saying prayers.” We are not heard for our “much speaking” (Matt. 6:7). “Pray without ceasing” says to us, “always be in communion with the Lord. Keep the receiver off the hook!” Never have to say when you pray, “Lord, we come into your presence,” because you never left His presence! A Christian must “pray always” because he is always subject to temptations and attacks of the devil. Pray with all prayer. There is more than one kind of praying: prayer, supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving. The believer who prays only to ask for things is missing out on blessings that come with intercessions and giving thanks. In fact, thanksgiving is a great prayer weapon for defeating Satan. Pray in the Spirit. The Bible formula is that we pray to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 tells us that only in the Spirit’s power can we pray in the will of God. Otherwise, our praying could be selfish and out of the will of God. Pray with your eyes open. Watching means “keeping on the alert.” The phrase “watch and pray” occurs often in the Bible. God expects us to use our God-given senses, led by the Spirit, so that we detect Satan when he is beginning to work. Keep on praying. The word perseverance simply means “to stick to it and not quit.” Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. Keep on praying until the Spirit stops you or the Father answers you. Just about the time you feel like quitting, God will give the answer. Pray for all saints. We pray as part of a great family that is also talking to God, and we ought to pray for the other members of the family. If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them! If my prayers help another believer defeat Satan, then that victory will help me too.
The Encouragement (Eph 6:21-24): We are not fighting the battle alone. There are other believers who stand with us in the fight, and we ought to be careful to encourage one another. Paul encouraged the Ephesians; Tychicus was an encouragement to Paul (Acts 20:4); and Paul was going to send Tychicus to Ephesus to be an encouragement to them. Paul was not the kind of missionary who kept his affairs to himself. He wanted the people of God to know what God was doing, how their prayers were being answered, and what Satan was doing to oppose the work. His motive was not selfish. He was not trying to get something out of them.
What an encouragement it is to be a part of the family of God! Nowhere in the New Testament do we find an isolated believer. Christians are like sheep; they flock together. The church is an army and the soldiers need to stand together and fight together. Note the words Paul uses as he closes this letter: peace – love – faith – grace! He was a prisoner of Rome, yet he was richer than the emperor. No matter what circumstances may be, in Jesus Christ we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings”!
Reflection Questions:
In what ways are you encouraging fellow believers in your church?
What does “praying without ceasing” mean to you?
Are you equipping yourself by studying God’s Word daily?

Living the Lordship of Christ – Ephesians 6:1-9 (Part two)

Christian servants (Eph. 6:5-8): The word “servants” undoubtedly refers to Christian slaves, but we may certainly apply these words to the Christian employee today. The fact that an employee and his employer are both Christians is no excuse for either one to do less work. Rather, it is a good reason to be more faithful to each other. The employee should show proper respect for employer, and not try to take advantage of him. He should devote his full attention and energy to the job at hand (“singleness of heart”). The best way to be a witness on the job is to do a good day’s work.
The second reason is that a good job is the will of God. A Christian can perform any good work as a ministry to Christ, to the glory of God. For this reason, the worker must do his job “from the heart,” since he is serving Christ and doing the will of God. There were tasks assigned to these slaves that they detested, but they were to perform them just the same, so long as they were not disobeying the will of God. “Singleness of heart” and “doing the will of God from the heart” both indicates the importance of a right heart attitude on the job.
Paul’s third argument is that they will be rewarded by the Lord (Eph. 6:8). In that day, slaves were treated as pieces of property, no matter how well educated they might be. An educated, cultured slave who became a Christian might receive even harsher treatment from his master because of his faith, but harsh treatment was not to keep him from doing his best (1 Peter 2:18-25). We are to serve Christ, not men. We shall receive our rewards from Christ, not from men.
Christian Masters: (Eph. 6:9): The Christian faith does not bring about harmony by erasing social or cultural distinctions. Servants are still servants when they trust Christ, and masters are still masters. Rather the Christian faith brings harmony by working in the heart. Christ gives us a new motivation, not a new organization. Both servant and master are serving the Lord and seeking to please Him, and in this way they are able to work together to the glory of God. What are the responsibilities of a Christian master (or employer) to his workers?
He must seek their welfare. “Do the same things unto them.” If the employer expects the workers to do their best for him, he must do his best for them. The master must serve the Lord from his heart if he expects his servants to do the same. He must not exploit them.
He must not threaten. Roman masters had the power and lawful authority to kill a slave who was rebellious, though few of them did so. Slaves cost too much money to destroy them. Paul suggested that the Christian master has a better way to encourage obedience and service than threats of punishment. The negative power of fear could result in the worker doing less instead of doing more, and this kind of motivation could not be continued over a long period of time. Far better was the positive motivation of “that which is just and equal” (Col. 4:1). Let a man share the results of his labor and he will work better and harder. Even the Old Testament gives this same counsel in Lev. 25:43.
He must be submitted to the Lord. “Your master also is in heaven” (Eph. 6:9). This is practicing the lordship of Christ. Each person, in submission to the Lord, has no problems submitting to those over him. Jesus said the way to be a ruler is first to be a servant (Matt. 25:21). The person who is not under authority has no right to exercise authority. This explains why many of the great men of the Bible were first servants before God made them rulers: Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Nehemiah are just a few examples. Even after a man becomes a leader, he must still lead by serving.
He must not play favorites. God is no respecter of persons. He will judge a master or a servant is he sins, or he will reward a master or a servant is he obeys (Eph. 6:8). A Christian employer cannot take privileges with God simply because of his position; nor should a Christian employer play favorites with those under his authority. Paul warned Timothy to “observe these things without preferring one before another, and doing nothing by partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). One of the fastest ways for a leader to divide his followers and lose their confidence is for the leader to play favorites and show partiality.
If we are filled with the Holy Spirit and are joyful, thankful, and submissive, then we can enjoy harmony in the relationships of life as we live and work with other Christians. We will also find it easier to work with and witness to the unbelievers who may disagree with us. The fruit of the Spirit is love, and love is the greatest adhesive in the world!
Reflection Questions:
What is one personal example of being treated differently at work because of being an employee believer?
If were or are an employer what lesson have you learned from this study that you will start applying?

Living the Lordship of Christ – Ephesians 6:1-9 (Part one)

It seems no matter where we look in modern society, we see antagonism, division, and rebellion. We have tried education, legislation, and every other approach, but nothing seems to work. Paul’s solution to the antagonisms in the home and in society was regeneration – a new heart from God and a new submission to Christ and to one another, God’s great program is to “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10). Paul indicated that this spiritual harmony begins in the lives of Christians who are submitted to the lordship of Christ. In this study Paul admonished four groups of Christians about how they could have harmony in Christ.
Christian Children (Eph. 6:1-3): Children were present in the assembly when this letter was read. Did they understand all that Paul wrote? Do we understand it all? Christian families attended the public worship together, and no doubt the parents explained the Word to the children when they were at home. He gave them four reasons why they should obey their parents.
  1. They are Christians (“in the Lord, v. 1a). When a person becomes a Christian, he is not released from normal obligations of life. If anything, his faith in Christ ought to make him a better child in the home.
  2. Obedience is right (v. 1b). There is an order in nature, ordained by God that argues for the rightness of an action. Since the parents brought the child into the world, and since they have more knowledge and wisdom than the child, it is right that the child obey his parents. Even young animals are taught to obey.
  3. Obedience is commanded (v. 2a). Here Paul cites the fifth commandment and applies it to the New Testament believer. This does not mean that the Christian is “under the Law,” for Christ has set us free from both the curse and bondage of the Law. To “honor” our parents means much more than simply to obey them. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to seek to bring honor to them by the way we live.
  4. Obedience brings blessing (vv. 2b-3). The fifth commandment has a promise attached to it (Ex. 20:12) and Paul applied it to the believers today. He substituted “earth” for “land” and tells us that the Christian child who honors his parents can expect two blessings. It will be well with him, and he will live long on the earth. This does not mean that everyone who died young dishonored his parents. Paul was stating a principle: God enriches the life of the obedient child no matter how long he may live on the earth. Sin always robs us; obedience always enriches us.
Christian fathers (Eph. 6:4): If left to themselves, children will be rebels, so it is necessary for the parents to train their children. Paul tells us that the father has several responsibilities toward his children.
He must not provoke them. In Paul’s day, the father had supreme authority over the family. Paul told the parents “Don’t use your authority to abuse the child, but to encourage and build the child,” So, the opposite of “provoke” is “encourage.” Fathers provoke their children and discourage them by saying one thing and doing another – by always blaming and never praising, by being inconsistent and unfair in discipline, and by showing favoritism in the home, by making promises and not keeping them, and by making light of problems that, to the children, are very important. Christian parents need the fullness of the Spirit so they can be sensitive to the needs and problems of their children.

He must nurture them. The Christian husband is to nourish his wife and his children by sharing love and encouragement in the Lord. It’s not enough to nurture the children physically by providing food, shelter, and clothing. He must also nurture them emotionally and spiritually. Nowhere in the Bible is the training of children assigned to agencies outside the home, no matter how they might assist. God looks to the parents for the kind of training that the children need.

He must discipline them. The word “nurture” carries with it the idea of learning through discipline. It is translated “chastening” in Hebrews 12. Some modern psychologists oppose the old-fashioned idea of discipline, and many educators follow their philosophy. “Let the children express themselves!” they say. “If you discipline them, you may warp their characters.” Yet discipline is a basic principle of life and an evidence of love. “Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (Heb 12:6). “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Prov. 13:24). We must be sure, however, that we discipline our children in the right manner. To begin with, we must discipline in love and not in anger, lest we injure either the body or the spirit of the child, or possibly both. Also, our discipline must be fair and consistent. If we are not disciplined, we surely cannot discipline others, and “flying off the handle” never made either a better child or a better parent.

He must instruct and encourage them. This is the meaning of the word “admonition.” The parents not only use action to raise the child, but also words. In the Book of Proverbs, for example, we have an inspired record of a father sharing wise counsel with his son. Our children do not always appreciate our counsel, but that does not eliminate the obligation we have to instruct and encourage them. Of course, our instruction must always be tied to the Word of God. The home is the place where the children ought to learn about the Lord and the Christian life. It’s time the Christian parents stop “passing the buck” to Sunday school teachers and Christian day-school teachers, and start nurturing their children.
Reflection Questions:
How might you change your daily routine to start teaching your children or grandchildren about God?
How much are you studying the Word of God to help you with your children or grandchildren?
Do you pray with your children or grandchildren daily?

Heaven is Your Home – Ephesians 5:18-33

Heaven is Your Home – Ephesians 5:18-33
C. H. Spurgeon once said, “When home is ruled according to God’s Word angels might be asked to stay with us, and they would not find themselves out of their element.” The trouble is that many homes are not governed by God’s Word – even homes where the members are professing Christians – and the consequences are tragic. Instead of angels being guests in some homes, it seems that demons are the masters. Too many marriages end in the divorce court, and nobody knows how many husbands and wives are emotionally divorced even though they share the same address.
The answer is the Holy Spirit! It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can walk in harmony as husbands and wives, parents and children, and employers and employees. The unity of the people of God that Paul described (Eph. 4:1-16) must be translated into daily living if we are to enjoy the harmony that is a foretaste of heaven on earth.

“Be filled with the Holy Spirit” is God’s command, and He expects us to obey. To be “filled with the Spirit” means to be constantly controlled by the Spirit in our mind, emotions, and will. When a person trusts Christ as his or her Savior they are immediately baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to be baptized by the Spirit, because this is a once-for-all experience that takes place at conversion. When the Spirit came at Pentecost, the believers were baptized by the Spirit and thus the body of Christ was formed (Acts 1:4-5). But they were also “filled with the Spirit” (Acts 2:4), and it was this filling that gave them the power they needed to witness for Christ. In Acts 2, the Jewish believers were baptized by the Spirit, and in Acts 10 the Gentile believers had the same experience. Thus the body of Christ was made up of Jews and Gentiles. That historic baptism, in two stages, has never been repeated any more than Calvary has been repeated. But that baptism is made personal when the sinner trusts Christ and the Spirit enters in to make him or her member of the body of Christ. The baptism of the Spirit means that I belong to Christ’s body. The filling of the Spirit means that my body belongs to Christ.
We usually think of the power of the Spirit as necessary for preaching and witnessing, and this is true. But Paul wrote that the Spirit’s fullness is also needed in the home. If our homes are to be heaven on earth, then we must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. So how can a person tell whether or not he is filled with the Spirit? Paul stated there are three evidences of the fullness of the Spirit in the life of the believer: they are joyful (Eph. 5:9), thankful (Eph. 5:20), and submissive (Eph. 5:21-33). Note that Paul said nothing about miracles or tongues, or other special manifestations. He stated that the home can be a heaven on earth if each member is controlled by the Spirit, and is joyful, thankful, ad submissive.
Joy: Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Christian joy is not a shallow emotion that rises and falls with the changing atmosphere of the home. Rather, Christian joy is a deep experience of adequacy and confidence in spite of the circumstances around us. The Christian can be joyful even in the midst of pain and suffering. Paul put it beautifully when he wrote “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit enjoy being together and experience a sense of joyful oneness in the Lord. They do not need the false stimulants of the world. They have the Spirit of God – and He is all they need.
Thankful: Someone defined the home as “the place where we are treated the best – and complain the most!” How true this is! Marriage counselors tell us that “taking each other for granted” is one of the chief causes of marital problems. Being thankful to God for each other is a secret of a happy home, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the grace of thankfulness.
How does a grateful heart promote harmony in the home? For one thing, the sincerely grateful person realizes that he is enriched because of others, which is a mark of humility. The person who thinks the world owes him a living is never thankful for anything. He thinks he is doing others a favor by permitting them to serve him. The thankful heart is usually humble, a heart that gladly acknowledges God as the “Giver of every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). Like Mary’s gift to Jesus in John 12, gratitude fills the house with fragrance. We are all grateful for some things at some special occasions; but Paul commanded his readers to be thankful for all things at all times. This exhortation in itself proves our need of the Spirit of God, because in our own strength we could never obey this commandment. Can we really be thankful in times of suffering, disappointment, and even bereavement? When a Christian finds himself in a difficult situation, he should immediately give thanks to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to keep our heart from complaining and fretting.
Submissive: Paul applied the principle of harmony to husband and wives, parents and children, and employers and employees; and each submit to the other. Does this suggest that the children tell the parents what to do, or that the masters obey the servants? Of course not! Submission has nothing to do with the order of authority, but rather governs the operation of authority, how it is given and how it is received. Often Jesus tried to teach His disciples not to throw their weight around, or seek to become great at somebody’s expense. Unfortunately, they failed to learn the lesson. When Jesus washed their feet, He taught them that the greatest is the person who uses his authority to build up people and not, like the Pharisees, to build up his authority and make himself important. We are to esteem others “more important than ourselves.” By nature, we want to promote ourselves, but the Holy Spirit enables us to submit ourselves.
Reflection Questions:
What are you doing to be sure you have a Spirit filled home?
Are you in God’s Word daily?

Imitating Our Father – Ephesians 5:1-17

Verse one sets the theme for this section. Paul is simply arguing that children are like their parents, a fact that can be both encouraging and embarrassing to those who have children. If we are the children of God, then we ought to imitate our Father. This is the basis for the three admonitions in this section. God is love (1 John 4:8); therefore, “walk in love” (Eph 5:1-2). God is light (1 John 1:5); therefore, walk as children of light (Eph. 5:3-14). God is truth (1John 5:6); therefore, walk in wisdom (Eph. 5:15-17). Of course, each of these “walks” is a part of Paul’s exhortation to “Walk in Purity.”
Walk in Love (Eph. 5:1-2): This admonition ties in with the last two verses of chapter four where Paul has warned us against bitterness and anger. Paul gave several reasons why the Christian ought to walk in love. First, he is God’s child. Having been born again through faith in Christ, he is therefore one of the “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4); and since “God is love” it’s logical that God’s children will walk in love. Second, he is God’s beloved child. Imagine, God speaks of us the same way He spoke of Jesus Christ: “This is My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). In fact, the father loves us as He loves His Son (John 17:23). We are born into a loving relationship with the Father that ought to result in our showing love to Him by the way we live. Third, he was purchased with a great price. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Our love for Him is our response to His love for us. Paul begins with “walk in love” because love is the fundamental factor in the Christian life. If we walk in love, we will not disobey God. The Holy Spirit puts this love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
Walk as Children of Light (Eph. 3-14): Since “God is light” and we are imitating our Father, then we should walk in the light and have nothing to do with the darkness of sin. Paul gives three descriptions of believers that prove the point. First, we are saints (vv. 3-4). That is, we are “set-apart ones” and no longer belong to the world of darkness around us. We have been “called out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). It’s beneath the dignity of a saint to indulge in the sins that belong to the world of darkness, some of which Paul names here.
 Second, we are kings (vv. 5-6). When we trusted Christ, we entered into the kingdom of God (John 3:3); but we are also awaiting the full revelation of His kingdom when He returns (2 Tim. 4:1). Paul makes it clear that people who deliberately and persistently live in sin will not share in God’s kingdom. “They which practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21).
 Third, we are light (vv. 7-14). This figure is the main thrust of the passage, for Paul was admonishing his readers to “walk as children of light.” To “walk as children of light” means to live before the eyes of God, not hiding anything. It is relatively easy to hide things from other people because they cannot see our hearts and minds; but “all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Walking “as children of light” also means revealing God’s light in our daily lives. By our character and conduct, we bring God’s light into a dark world. As God’s lights, we help others find their way to Christ. Only as we witness and share Christ can the light enter in. Just as a healthy person can assist the sickly, so a child of God can lead the lost out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.
When you think of light, you think of waking up to a new day, and Paul presented this picture (v. 14), paraphrasing Isaiah 60:1. You have the same image in Romans 13:11-13 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10. That Easter morning, when Christ arose from the dead, was the dawning of a new day for the world. Christians are not sleeping in sin and death. We have been raised from the dead through faith in Him. The darkness of the graveyard is past, and we are now walking in the light of salvation. The believer has no business in the darkness. He is a saint, which means he is a partaker “of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col 1:12). He is a king, because he has been delivered “from the power of darkness” and has been translated “into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). He is “light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8).
Walk in Wisdom (Eph. 5:15-17): Ephesians 5:14-15 are related. Paul appeared to be saying, “Don’t walk in your sleep! Wake up! Open your eyes! Make the most of the day!” It’s sad to see many professed Christians “drift” through life, like sleepwalkers, who never really make the most of opportunities to live for Christ and serve Him. Paul presented several reasons why we should be accurate and careful in our walk. First, it’s a mark of wisdom (v.15). Only a fool drifts with the wind and tide. A wise man marks out his course, sets his sails, and guides the rudder until he reaches his destination. Yet, how many Christians plan their days so that they use their opportunities wisely? True, we cannot know what a day may bring forth. But it is also true that a planned life can better deal with unexpected events.
Second, life is short (v. 16a). “Making the most of every opportunity.” Our English word opportunity comes from the Latin and means “toward the port.” It suggests a ship taking advantage of the wind and tide to arrive safely in the harbor. The brevity of life is a strong argument for making the best use of the opportunities God gives us.
Third, the days are evil (v. 16b). In Paul’s time, this meant that Roman persecution was on the way (1 Pet. 4:12-19). How foolish to waste opportunities to win the lost when soon those opportunities might be taken away by the advances of sin in society! If the days were evil when Paul wrote this letter, what must be their condition today?
Fourth, God has given us a mind (v. 17a). “Understanding” suggests using our minds to discover and do the will of God. Too many Christians have the idea that discovering God’s will is a mystical experience that rules out clear thinking. But this idea is wrong and dangerous. We discover the will of God as He transforms the mind (Rom. 12:1-2); and this transformation is the result of the Word of God, prayer, meditation, and worship. If God gave you a mind, then He expects you to use it. This means that learning His will involves gathering facts, examining them, weighing them, and praying for His wisdom (James 1:5). God does not want us simply to know His will; He wants us to understand His will.
Fifth, God has a plan for our lives (v. 17b). If God saved me, He has a purpose for my life, and I should discover that purpose and then guide my life accordingly. He reveals His plan through His Word, His Spirit in our hearts, and the working of circumstances. The Christian can walk carefully and accurately because he knows what God wants him to do. Like the builder follows the blueprint, he accomplishes what the architect planned.
This completes the study we have called “Walk in Purity.” The emphasis is on the new life as contrasted with the old life, imitating God and not the evil world around us. In the next study, “Walk in Harmony,” Paul deals with relationships of life and shows how life in Christ can bring heaven to the home.
Reflection Questions:
What does “walking children of light” mean to you?
What did you learn about “walking in wisdom?”
Is there anything you need to work on?

Living Under the Smile – Ephesians 4:25-32

The average Christian has a theological “black hole” in his or her doctrine of God when it comes to the subject of the Holy Spirit. Many regard the Holy Spirit as a mysterious manifestation of God. It’s no exaggeration to say that many orthodox believers who affirm the doctrine of the Trinity when they recite the Apostles’ Creed really view the divine nature as duality of the Father and Son instead of a Trinity. Those who have such a defective understanding will have a dark area not only in their theology but in their life, for the Holy Spirit is a divine being who is fully personal. One of the clear proofs of this is verse 30 of our text. The fact that the Holy Spirit can experience pain and sorrow and personal distress argues for His personal nature.
Understanding that the Holy Spirit is a Person who experiences joy and grief through the lives of those he indwells makes possible great spiritual advance for two reasons. First, because we are able to better see how much we are loved. As we grieve over the failures of those we love, so does the Holy Spirit over us. His great love for us makes possible His grief. Second, we are motivated to holiness. Innumerable sons and daughters have drawn back from sin at the thought of the pain it would bring their parents, and there is a similar effect on those who fully understand that their sin will hurt the Holy Spirit.
None of us who are truly Christian wants to grieve the Holy Spirit. His loving ministry draws our hearts to Him, especially when we think of what he has done. He baptized us into the Body of Christ at the moment of our salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). It was then that He also sealed us, declaring us to be His possession (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). He has also indwelt us, just as God promised to Ezekiel (Ezek. 36:27. Next the Holy Spirit teaches us. Jesus said in John 16:12-13: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”  As part of this, the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27). Seeing all of this (that He baptized us, sealed us, teaches us, and prays for us), it’s inconceivable that any true believer would want to grieve the Holy Spirit with their lives.
How can we lead lives that bring a smile to the Person of the Holy Spirit instead of a frown of grief? We will see that Paul conveniently organizes this under four topics and so tells us what to discard and what to take up is we are to have the divine smile. The first topic is lying (v. 25). Paul’s words were pointedly relevant to his ancient culture for lying was endemic to the Greeks as well as to Israel’s Semitic neighbors, and some who had recently become Christians had brought the practice right into the Church. His message is no less needed today. We are immersed in a culture that oozes deception and falsehood. Whether on Main Street, Wall Street, or the Media, our culture is in an ethical crisis.
The next concern of the Holy Spirit is anger (vv. 26-27). The opening phrase, “Be angry and do not sin,” indicates there is a proper anger – a good anger. God himself is sometimes angered. Jesus was angry when He cleansed the Temple (Mark 11:15). If we are “imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), we will sometimes be angry. Proper anger is a sign of spiritual life and health. But in our anger we must be very, very careful because anger often leads to sin, which will give and “opportunity to the devil.” How does it work? It typically begins with a healthy anger at sin and its effects on others or perhaps on us. We properly hate the sin, and we mourn the wreckage it has brought. But if anger is held or nursed, it becomes highly personal. Our hatred for the perpetrator swells, and as Jesus warns in the Sermon on the Mount, we become guilty of some degree of murder (Matt. 5:21-22). What began so properly becomes a matter of pride and then we become worse than the offender, and as unwitting victim. We must deal worth our anger for the sake of our own souls and the life of the Church.
We come now to the next concern of the Holy Spirit in the Church (v. 28). There were believers in the first-century Church who continued their pilfering until they faced the challenge of God’s Word. Does this have any relevance today? Theft is a major problem in our land. There is eight billion dollars worth of inventory shortages that cost department and chain stores each year. A shocking 60 percent (sixteen million dollars a day!) is from theft by employees. The ethics of the land have penetrated the Church as well, just as the first century. But in most cases it’s far more subtle ; padded expense accounts, inadequate income tax reporting, custom dodges, borrowing and forgetting to return, and using the employer’s time for things other than work. The Holy Spirit cannot smile on such lives, or on the churches they lead or minister in. Scripture calls us to liberate ourselves from covetousness and grasping and too work hard so we can generously share with others. The church that has the Spirit’s smile is like the Macedonian church in 2 Cor. 8:1-5.
Finally, our text reveals the Holy Spirit’s concern that our speech be constructive (v. 29). The language Paul uses is very descriptive. “Corrupting talk” literally means “rotten, putrid or filthy.” This includes obscene language, but the emphasis is on decay-spreading conversation that runs others down and delights in their weaknesses. There are Christians who unwittingly become like this. Such talk must not be part of the believer’s life. Our text concludes that we are to speak “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We are to converse in such a way that our words become a vehicle and demonstration of the grace of God. The Holy Spirit is not a phantom – He is a Person. In infinite love He has condescended to indwell us and to suffer pain and joy through us. Paul summarizes what we should do in verses 30-32. If you fall short, confess your sins to God and to each other and pray for each other. Be assured that the Holy Spirit will attend your conversation with great joy.
Reflection Questions:
Do we have the frown or smile of the Holy Spirit upon us?
Is the Holy Spirit grieved with us, or is He singing over us?

The Divine Wardrobe – Ephesians 4:17-24

If you have ever been abroad, you know there is a worldwide fascination with fashion. The promise from the fashion world to men and women is – new birth through clothing – and it sells and sells and sells! The problem is, not only does clothing not make the man or woman – it covers up the real you. Clothing can polish the image but not the soul. Our text in Ephesians presents something far better – “a mantle for the soul divine” – a divine wardrobe that will really change one’s life. Here we have clothing – a heavenly, eternal style that will never go out of date – a wardrobe that wears increasingly better with time. Paul tells us what we need to shed and what we need to put on to be properly dresses. If we take his recommendation to heart, we’ll be dressed for any occasion life may bring.
Tragically, the old wardrobe is just as much in style today as it was in Paul’s day. Paul describes the pagan lifestyle in verses 17-19 with severe disapproval as he exhorts the Ephesians to forsake it. That kind of life, life apart from God, is a downward spiral that begins with, hardness of the heart and then moves to darkness of heart, and then deadness, and finally recklessness – unrestrained abandonment to sin. Today’s tabloids and newspapers confirm the same terrible truths about our world. Though many in our world-system never come close to approaching the debauchery so recklessly flaunted by some, still the culture provides a comfortable environment for their life’s direction. Hearts that are hard and dark and dead to spirituality would rather keep their old clothing, musty and decaying as it is, than change. They may not like all that goes on, but as long as they are allowed to pursue life in their own way, everything and everyone is simpatico – “live and let live.”
What is said here may seem harsh, but this is reality! Paul’s opening line on the subject in verse 17 means that these are not Paul’s ideas but Christ’s. This is how the risen Lord sees the world. It’s so important that we Christians embrace this assessment of the world without Christ because we then see that it is radically lost. We then comprehend why man cannot save himself and why Jesus came. 
Now we turn from the world’s wardrobe to the new apparel (vv. 20-21). The Ephesians were taught the exact opposite of the world’s style by learning of Jesus Christ! Here Paul uses three teaching terms that indicate respectively that Jesus was the subject, teacher, and atmosphere of their instruction. That Jesus was the subject of their instruction is indicated in the words “learned Christ” in verse 20. The Ephesians learned of the living Christ. Next we see that Jesus was their teacher (v. 21a). When true preaching takes place, Jesus is invisibly in the pulpit and walking the aisles personally teaching His own. Last, we understand that Jesus is the atmosphere in which the instruction takes place, for the Ephesians “were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus” (v. 21b). Everything was “in Jesus.”
What were the results of this dynamic instruction – in which Christ was the subject, teacher, and atmosphere – in their lives? The answer is in verses 21-24. First, though the Ephesians had put off the old self (in vv. 17-19) when they first came to Christ, in verse 22 Paul in effect challenges them to a repeated putting off of the garments, the old style of life. The problem is the old garments are so comfortable and natural. Not only that, many of us have worn them so long that they naturally drape over us and we scarcely know we are wearing them until the Holy Spirit reproves us. If we are fighting lust, it must daily be shed. This is equally true of pride and bitterness and covetousness and all their relatives. Many Christians stumble because they don’t realize this. But the truth is our sins will have to be put off daily as long as we live.
Second, sandwiched between putting off and putting on is the necessity that we “be renewed in the spirit of [our] minds” (v. 23). We cannot effectively put on our new clothing unless our thinking is altered and renewed. This is done by reading and studying God’s Word and by asking the Holy Spirit to continue his renewing work. The Word gives us God’s very thoughts, and prayerful meditation upon it will infuse His mind into ours in constant renewal. This is why every Christian should be regularly – daily – reading God’s Word. It is imperative that we read the Word expectantly praying for God to speak to us by His Holy Spirit.
Finally, there is putting on: “…and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 24). The fact is we have this new self if we are Christians. We received the old man at birth, and we were given the new man in our heavenly birth. The new man is not our work – it is God’s creation and gift. Our task is not to weave it but to wear it. Paul is commanding a daily appropriation of that which we already possess. Here we must keep in mind that we do not put on the new man merely by putting off the old. We need to put on love, to put on peace, to put on joy, to put on patience, etc. (see Gal. 5:22-23).
All of this is through God’s grace. Works have no place in obtaining salvation or in gaining merit in the Christian life. The Christian life is sola gratia, grace alone. Nevertheless, Paul said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13). God is at work in his people. But as children of grace we must work at our Christian lives. We have our part to do in dressing ourselves with the divine wardrobe, for here clothes do make the man - and the woman! We must formally reject sensuality and selfish pride and materialism and bitterness. We must read the Word and ask God to renew our minds through the Spirit. We must work out our salvation by doing those things that will develop a Biblical mind. We must put on our new, shining garments of light. We must put on what we are!
Reflection Questions:
What piece of old clothing are you holding on to?
Are you reading God’s Word daily? Are you developing a Biblical mind?
Are you daily putting on garments of light?

Let’s Walk in Unity – Ephesians 4:1-16

All of Paul’s letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty, and Ephesians is the perfect example. The first three chapters deal with doctrine, our riches in Christ while the last three chapters explain duty, our responsibilities in Christ. In these last three chapters, Paul admonishes us to walk in unity, purity, harmony, and victory. These four “walks” perfectly parallel the basic doctrines Paul had taught us in the first three chapters. The Christian life is not based on ignorance but knowledge, and the better we understand Bible doctrine, the easier it is to obey Bible duties. When people say, “Don’t talk to me about doctrine – just let me live my Christian life!” they are revealing their ignorance of the way the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer. “It makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you live right” is a similar confession of ignorance. It does make a difference what you believe, because what you believe determines how you behave!
Unity is not uniformity. Unity comes from within and is a spiritual grace, while uniformity is the result of pressure from without. Paul used the human body as a picture of Christian unity in 1 Corinthians 12, and he adapts the same illustration here in this chapter (Eph. 4:13-16). Each part of the body is different from the other parts, yet all make up one body and work together. If we are going to preserve the “unity of the Spirit,” we must possess the necessary Christian graces. The first is lowliness, or humility. Someone has said, “Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it.” Humility means putting Christ first, others second, and self last.

Meekness is not weakness. It is power under control. Jesus was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29), Yet He drove the money changers from the temple. Allied with meekness is long-suffering, which literally means “long-tempered,” the ability to endured discomfort without fighting back. This leads to the mentioning of forbearance, a grace that cannot be experienced apart from love. Actually, Paul is describing some of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23); for the “unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3) is the result of the believer “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).

The next grace that contributes to the unity of the Spirit is endeavor. Literally it reads “being eager to maintain, or guard, the unity of the Spirit.” We must constantly be endeavoring to maintain this unity. In fact, when we think the situation is the best, Satan will move in to wreck it. The spiritual unity of a home or a church is the responsibility of each person involved, and the job never ends.
The final grace is peace – “the bond of peace.” Read James 3:13-4:10 for the most vivid treatment of war and peace in the New Testament. Note that the reason for war on the outside is war on the inside. If a believer can’t get along with God, he can’t get along with other believers. When “the peace of God” rules in our hearts, then we build unity (Col. 3:15).
Unity built on anything other than Bible truth is standing on a very shaky foundation. Paul names here the seven basic spiritual realities that unite all true Christians. One Body: This is, of course, the body of Christ in which each believer is a member, placed there at conversion by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 12:12-31). One Spirit: The same Holy Spirit indwells each believer, so that we belong to each other in the Lord. One hope of your calling: This refers to the return of the Lord to take His church to heaven. One Lord: This is our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, lives for us, and one day will come for us. One Faith: There is one settled body of truth deposited by Christ in His church, and this is “the faith.” Jude calls it “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). One baptism: Since Paul is here discussing the one body, this “one baptism” is probably the baptism of the Spirit, the act of the Spirit when He places the believing sinner into the body of Christ at conversion (1 Cor. 12:13). One God and Father: Paul likes to emphasize God as Father. The marvelous oneness of believers in the family of God is evident here, for God is over all, and working through all, and in all. We are children in the same family, loving and serving the same Father, so we ought to be able to walk together in unity.
Paul moves now from what all Christians have in common to how Christians differ from each other (Eph. 4:7-11). He is discussing variety and individuality within the unity of Spirit. God has given each believer at least one spiritual gift and this gift is to be used for unifying and edifying (building up) of the body of Christ. We must make a distinction between “spiritual gifts” and natural abilities. When you were born into this world God gave you certain abilities, perhaps in mechanics, art, athletics, or music. In this regard, all men are not created equal, because some are smarter, or stronger, or more talented than others. But in the spiritual realm, each believer has at least one spiritual gift no matter what natural abilities he may or may not possess. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability to serve God and other Christians in such a way that Christ is glorified and believers are edified. There are three lists of spiritual gifts given in the New Testament: 1 Cor. 124-11, 27-31; Rom. 12:3-8; and Eph. 4:11. Since these lists are not identical, it may be that Paul has not named all the gifts that are available. Paul wrote that some gifts are more important than others, but that all believers are needed if the body is to function normally. Here Paul named not so much “gifts” as the gifted men God has placed in the church, and there are four of them: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, pastors and teachers.
Paul was looking at the church on two levels in this section. He saw the body of Christ, made up of all true believers, growing gradually until it reaches spiritual maturity, “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” But he also saw the body of believers ministering to each other, growing together, and thereby experiencing spiritual unity. So then, spiritual unity is not something we manufacture. It’s something we already have in Christ, and we must protect and maintain it. Truth unites, but lies divide. Love unites, but selfishness divides. Therefore, “speaking the truth in love,” let us equip one another and edify one another, that all of us may grow up to be more like Christ.
Reflection Questions:
Have you identified your spiritual gifts from your natural abilities?
Are you using your spiritual gift to equip and build up one another?

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth – Ephesians 3:14-21

This passage is the second of two prayers recorded in Ephesians, the first one being Eph. 1:15-23. In the first prayer, the emphasis is on enlightenment; but in this prayer, the emphasis is on enablement. It’s not so much a matter of knowing as being – laying our hands on what God has for us and by faith making it a vital part of our lives.
Perhaps you have the same problem I have – my mind sometimes wanders as I pray. I start out properly and spiritually and end up on something totally different. My prayer to the Lord turns out to be a journey to what I need to do that day. I need a prayer list! If you have ever done that, don’t be too hard on yourself – it sometimes happens to the very best, even the Apostle Paul. Admittedly his lapse was much more spiritual than mine, but nevertheless it was a lapse. He began to dictate a prayer in verse 1 of chapter 3, only to be sidetracked by his busy mind regarding the mystery of the Church in verses 2-13, and then returned to His prayer in verse 14. This is very apparent if you read verses 1 and 14 together. Perhaps there were times when Paul needed a prayer list too! Be that as it may, Paul is now fully engaged in a prayer for God’s masterwork, the Church. This is one of the most beautiful and often quoted prayers in Scripture, especially in reference to the breadth and height and depth of Christ’s love. The prayer is uniquely beautiful, but what has made it the subject of many expositions is that it’s a prayer for us, the Church.
The opening statement (vv. 14-15) may not get our attention, especially if kneeling is part of our normal prayer discipline. But in fact it is remarkable because it was not customary for Jews to kneel in prayer. The ordinary posture was standing, which you see today before the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Paul had fallen to his knees because of two realities: first, the sublime truths of God’s Word, and second, the soul-healing Fatherhood under which he rested. This realization now springs forth in three major petitions for the humanity: for strength, for love, for fullness.
First, Paul prays for strength (vv. 16-17a): The main idea is this: just as the ill or infirm need to be strengthened so they can take in all that life has to offer, so also God’s children need to be inwardly strengthened to receive all the blessings God desires for them. This prayer for inner strengthening was not a mere wish, but the petition of the Apostle Paul for the Church. It’s my prayer for myself and my church too.
Paul then goes on to pray for love (vv. 17b-19a): If we are properly rooted and properly constructed on a foundation of love, nothing will be able to shake us. His call is to go beyond superficialities. We must send our roots down, down, down and far out into love. There is nothing static here. Love must grow on until the grave when, of course, it will fully bloom. Having prayed for a lifestyle of love, Paul turns his focus upward to the vertical love of Christ, praying for the believers’ mental comprehension of its dimensions (“the breadth and length and height and depth.”). Christ’s love is incomprehensible, but Paul prays for our comprehension, that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints” its dimensions – literally, to take hold of them, to seize them. He knows this is impossible, but he calls us to this grand spiritual exercise for the health of our souls. It’s to be our occupation. Have you seriously devoted time to thinking about and trying to understand Christ’s love? Have you contemplated his love in, say, the Incarnation – the cross – great passages such as this one that extol his love? If not, we have failed in our duty.
But – here is the key – this is not to be our solitary, individualistic, isolated occupation, for we are to do it together – “with all the saints.” We can only come to a better, fuller understanding of his love in community! This happens when we sit under preaching of His Word. It happens when we study it together and discuss it. It happens when we share our knowledge of God’s love with each other. It happens when we observe it in our brothers and sisters. It happens as our hearts go upward in the worship of Him. We need each other in order to comprehend His Word.
Paul’s final petition is to “be filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19b). This is a staggering thought, for this fullness is the fullness with which God fills himself. How can we understand this? How does this work? The answer can be best understood by an illustration. If you were to stand on the shore of the vast Pacific Ocean and take a pint jar and allow the ocean to rush into it, in an instant that little jar would be filled with the fullness of the Pacific. But of course we could never put the fullness of the Pacific Ocean into the jar! Because Christ is infinite, He can hold all the fullness of Deity. But whenever one of us finite creatures dips the tiny vessel of our life into Him, we instantly become full of His fullness. We can always open to hold more and more of His fullness. And the more we receive of His fullness, the more we can yet receive! This will be our experience in eternity – the ultimate elevation of our souls. We will be loaded with the fullness of God, integrated more and more into His fullness.
What a prayer! Within this amazing torrent of devotion Paul has prayed for our strength, our love, and our fullness. This is high theology. And this is typical of Paul’s thoughts and prayers. But there is one more thing that is also characteristic – his high theology always becomes doxology, high praise. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly that all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 20-21). The God to whom Paul makes these requests has a capacity that exceeds the people’s capacity of asking – or even imagining!
If we pray this list, there is ample cause for optimism because of the Scriptural promise in 1 John 5:14-15. Our optimism comes because Paul’s Ephesian prayer is God’s revealed will. Therefore, if we pray for its three grand emphases, we will receive them!
Reflection Questions:
What’s your experience of Christ’s strength, love and fullness?
Have you recently meditated and thought through the “breadth and length and height and depth” of Christ’s love?

A Mystery Revealed – Ephesians 3:1-13

What is a mystery? In contemporary English it’s something unknown. But this is not the meaning “mystery” had in Paul’s day. In Greek the word mysterion (from which we get our word) refers to something known only to the initiated. It’s not that the thing itself is unknown. It is known – but only to those to whom it is revealed. Paul used the word to describe something that was unknown before the coming of Christ but is now revealed fully.
In Ephesians 3 the apostle uses the word “mystery” four times; so the chapter is critical for understanding the most important mystery Paul speaks of. The best way to grasp the importance of “the mystery” in Paul’s life is to focus on the two descriptions he gives of himself in this section. He begins by calling himself “a prisoner” (Eph. 3:1), and then he calls himself “a minister” (Eph. 3:7). Paul was a prisoner because he believed in God’s new program of uniting believing Jews and Gentiles into one body, the church.  Paul knew from the very beginning of his Christian life that God had called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, and he was not disobedient to that call.
Paul was not only a “prisoner” because of ‘the mystery,” but he was also a “minister.” God gave him a “dispensation” (stewardship) that he might go to the Gentiles, not only with the Good News of salvation through Christ, but also with the message that Jews and Gentiles are now one in Christ. God made Paul a steward of “the mystery” with the responsibility of sharing it with the Gentiles. It was not enough simply to win them to Christ and form them into local assemblies. He was also to teach them their wonderful position in Christ as members of the body; sharing God’s grace equally with the Jews.
In Ephesians 2:11-22, we discovered that Christ’s work on the cross accomplished much more than salvation of individual sinners. It reconciled Jews and Gentiles to each other and to God. It’s this truth that Paul presents here in Eph. 3:6-8, and you can imagine what exciting news it would be! The truth of “the mystery” reveals to believing Gentiles that they have a wonderful new relationship through Jesus Christ. “The mystery” not only gives believing Gentiles a new relationship, it also reveals that there is a new power available to them (Eph. 3:7). This power is illustrated in the life of Paul. God saved him by grace and gave him a stewardship, a special ministry to the Gentiles. But God also gave Paul the power and energy to accomplish this ministry. The mighty resurrection power of Christ is available to us for daily life and service. There is also available to the Gentiles new riches, (Eph. 3:8). Paul called them “exceeding riches” in Eph. 2:7, but here he describes them as “unfathomable.” The words can also be translated “untraceable,” which means that they are so vast you cannot discover their end. Are these riches available to every believer? Yes! In fact, Paul makes it clear that he himself had no special claim on God’s wealth, for he considered himself “less than the least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Understanding the deep truths of God’s Word does not give a man a big head; it gives him a broken and contrite heart.
Paul next tells us that the angelic beings (both good and evil) are also involved in this secret (Eph. 3:9-10). What then, do the angels learn from the church? “The manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10). Certainly the angels know about the power of God as seen in His creation. But the wisdom of God as seen in His new creation, the church, is something new to them. The angels watch the outworking of God’s salvation, and they praise His wisdom. God hid this great plan “from the beginning of the world,” but now He wants “the mystery” to be known by His church. And this is why He made Paul a “steward” of this great truth.
“The mystery” is God’s “Rosetta Stone.” It is the key to what He promised in the Old Testament, what Christ did in the Gospels, what the early church did in the Book of Acts, what Paul and the other writers teach in the Epistles, and what God will do as recorded in the Book of Revelation. God’s program today is not “the headship of Israel” (Deut. 28:1-13), but the headship of Christ over His church. We today are under a different “stewardship” from that of Moses and the prophets, and we must be careful not to confuse what God has clarified. Yes, God had a “secret” – but God does not want it to be a secret anymore! If you understand your wonderful position in Christ, then live up to it – and share the blessing with others. This “secret” was important to Paul, to the Gentiles, and to the angels – and it ought to be important to you and me today.
Reflection Questions:
How are you showing the importance of the “secret” in your life?
What can you do as the “steward” of the Gospel?
Are you listening to what God has called you to do?
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