EPHESIANS

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            Please turn in your Bibles this evening to Ephesians chapter 4 as we continue our study through the Word of God.  Paul has spent 3 chapters showing us how much God loves us, all the blessings He has for us.  Paul gave to us correct doctrine and now he is going to show us how we should walk because of all that God has given to us.

            We saw this in Romans as Paul gave to us 11 chapters of doctrine and then he tells us how to live in accordance to that doctrine.  In Romans 12:1-2, as we begin that walk, Paul tells us, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

            Folks, the Christian life is not just possessing all of God’s blessings but living lives that are pleasing to God, walking in Him, in His ways. Yes, Paul showed us our identity in Christ in Ephesians chapters 1-3 and now he shows our response, how we are to live in Ephesians chapters 4-6.  This section can be broken down as follows:

            - WALK IN UNITY – EPHESIANS 4:1-16

            - WALK IN PURITY – EPHESIANS 4:17-5:18

            - WALK IN HARMONY – EPHESIANS 5:19-6:9

            - WALK IN VICTORY – EPHESIANS 6:10-24

 

As we closed our study last time we said that Ephesians chapters 1-3 is as if Paul was calling us to start our engines because the race is about to start. Now that our engines are started we move into chapters 4-6 as we begin moving in our Christian walk since we know what we possess in Christ.  Remember at the Indy 500 how they prepare the racers by saying, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” The green flag is coming down and the race is starting!  And so, let’s begin reading in verse 1 of Ephesians chapter 4 and see how the Lord wants us to walk in our Christian life!

 

EPHESIANS 4

 

VERSE 1

 

            Once again Paul mentions that he is a prisoner of the Lord and he is reminding us that the Christian life can be costly.  Christianity today in America is watered down, it is self-seeking, it is all about self. We see that as people move from one church to another seeking to be satisfied and never giving of themselves. We see that in the Seeker-friendly churches where the idea is to make people feel comfortable, to feel good about themselves when that is not always what God wants to do, God’s Word can be very convicting at times.  Thus, when difficulty comes, when hardships arise, some kind of imprisonment you might say, they just don’t get it. Paul knew, he understood and thus, he wanted his fellow believers to also understand that there is a cost as we serve the Lord!

            Paul is calling for us to walk worthy or “after a godly sort” because that is what we are called to do!  Now we don’t walk worthy of this high calling by which we have been called so that God will love us more, so that we will earn favor with God because God can’t love us anymore than He already does nor can He love us any less – we are His children!  Then why do we walk this way?  Because He does love us, we do it, in a sense, out of gratitude and not out of merit!  John tells us in I John 4:19, We love Him because He first loved us.  You see, God is the initiator and we are the responder, we respond to His love and we thus, walk accordingly!

            As I have said, Ephesians 4:1-16 deal with unity among believers and that unity is based in Christ.  It is like David said in Psalm 133, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.  It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing — Life forevermore.   Also, in Proverbs 17:17 Solomon tells us, A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.  And in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Solomon again tells us, Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone?   Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Thus, unity is important as we shall see, it is something that God desires of us!

 

VERSES 2-3

            Folks, our unity is not based upon some sort of church membership but in Christ and we must be diligent, we must strive to keep this unity.  In other words, it takes work.  Paul starts out with lowliness or TAPEINOPHROSUNE (tap-i-nof-ros-oo’-nay), which speaks of humility, and, believe it or not, the Romans and the Greeks did not have a word for humility, they always thought of themselves as more important.  Thus, some feel that Paul coined this Greek word, and how important it is to us because even today we are looking out for number 1, SELF!  And yet, as Christians we are to put others first, that is how we are to walk.

            Paul then speaks of gentleness or meekness or PRAUTES (prah-oo’-tace) in the Greek and folks, meekness is not a sign of weakness. It is a word that speaks of power that is under control like a horse that has been broken. That horse has not lost any of its power but that power is now under control. For us as Christians, we have been broken by God and now that wild animal instinct is under the control of our master – the Lord!

            Paul then moves to longsuffering or MAKROTHUMIA (mak-roth-oo-mee’-ah) in the Greek and the idea here is being long-tempered, patient, not flying off the handle!  It doesn’t matter what comes your way, what people may throw at you, you can overlook their actions, you can just forgive them, as God would have you do.  Again, that is how we are to walk!

            And as we move on to bearing ANECHOMAI (an-ekh’-om-ahee) in the Greek and it speaks of making allowances for the faults and failures of others, maybe different personalities and-so-on.  Thus, it truly speaks of Agape love, because Agape love gives continually and unconditionally. God wants us to walk accordingly! We are to spare no effort in keeping the unity of Christ. But, this can only be done as we die to self and exhort others – it can only be done by the power of God working in us as we surrender to Him!

 

VERSES 4-6

            Paul calls for us to walk in unity and now he explains what the foundation of that unity is all about.  And in these three verses Paul gives to us 7 basic spiritual realities that will unite all true Christians?  Why did Paul only mention 7?  Maybe because 7 is the number of completeness and Paul, I believe, wants us to be spiritually complete and bound in a unity with cords that can not be broken!  We have seen and we have experienced what happens when man tries to unite himself with his fellow man outside of Christ. It is a disaster because selfishness, greed, pride, lusts show themselves and what you thought was unity ends in disaster.  And even we as Christians can allow things to cause disunity between each other and that is wrong, that is not of God.  So I believe as we look at these 7 areas they will help us in understanding and applying these foundational truths to our lives. These truths are: ONE BODY, ONE SPIRIT, ONE HOPE, ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, and ONE GOD! You see, we have unity because we share these things; we have these things in common with each other.

            Paul starts out by saying we are one body and how important that is for us to understand.  Too often Christians want to be the Lone Ranger or to do their own thing instead of working together as part of the body of Christ.  For example, look at the human body; each part is working together for the betterment of the entire body.  If they don’t work together that is abnormal.  That is how the body of Christ is to function, in unity, for the betterment of the body of Christ. And yes, we are many members, but one body!

            We are not only in unity together because we are of the same body, the body of Christ, but we all have the same Spirit that indwells us – the Spirit of God!

            We also have one hope and that hope is in Christ.  The Psalmist said in Psalm 39:7, And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.  You see, all of God’s promises we can be assured will come to pass, our hope is in Him and in Him we will never be disappointed for what He has promised He is able to bring to pass.  Thus, in Titus we see another hope in Christ we have, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.  Our hope is in the Lord and His return for us one day, His bride!

            We are united in one Lord, Jesus Christ.  Peter tells us in Acts 4:11-12, This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’   Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  Paul, in Romans 10:12 tells us, For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.  Folks, if Jesus Christ is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all in your life!

            We are united together in one faith that is revealed to us by the Word of God. This is not an area that can be compromised upon or ignored for the sake of unity. It is this faith that unites us together.  Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. We are complete in the Lord as we allow the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God to help us grow in the faith!

            We are united together in one baptism the moment we are saved by the Holy Spirit who places us into the body of Christ.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit takes place at the time we are saved and we see that in Acts 19:1-7 where we are told, And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’  So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’  And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’  So they said, ‘Into John's baptism.’  Then Paul said, ‘John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.’  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  Now the men were about twelve in all.  Not only did the Spirit baptize them into the faith but also the Holy Spirit came upon them empowering them for service at the same time, as Jesus does this!

            And lastly, we are united together in one God, the Father of all and Paul gives us a four-dimensional look at the Father.  He tells us that He is the Father of all in the sense that He created all things.  He is also above all things as Isaiah 66:1 tells us, Thus says the LORD: ‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.  Where is the house that you will build Me?  And where is the place of My rest?’  God is so vast that the heavens can’t contain Him. He is also through all things and the idea is that He is the one who guides us, sustains us, loves us, and without Him in our lives there can be no unity! And lastly, He is in all, that is all who believe in Him.  These seven foundations are what bring us into that unity that God desires us to walk in!

 

VERSES 7-10

            Before you think you are so special because God has given you a gift, understand that it is a grace gift. It is not something you deserve or obtained by some kind of merit you did, but God has freely given it to you, He has freely gifted you, thus, He gets the glory!  Some of you know my singing ability, and I do get lots of requests – NOT TO SING!  I wish I could sing and clap at the same time because I just love to worship the Lord in song. But God did not gift me in that area but has gifted me in other areas, not because I am so special or that I deserve it, but it is out of GRACE!   That is an important point for us to remember.

            All of creation was in captivity to sin and Satan but Jesus Christ, in His death and resurrection, took us who were captive and set us free. I want you also to notice that Paul quotes out of the Old Testament, Psalm 68:18 without a concordance or Bible help, which tells me Paul knew the Scriptures; he had a working knowledge of them.  What a great example for us to follow after.

            What is Paul speaking of when he says that Christ first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  John MacArthur tells us:

            Between Jesus’ death on Calvary and His resurrection in the garden tomb, He was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” He was physically dead but spiritually alive.  During the three days He was in that state He also descended “and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.”  This does not refer to preaching the gospel [from euangelizoe) but to making a triumphant announcement – in this case Christ’s announcement of His victory over the demons even while they tried to hold Him in death.

            I don’t think He needs to tell the demons that He was victorious, but more importantly to go and show those that died in the faith and were waiting in Abraham’s bosom before His death and resurrection.  They were looking to the coming Messiah and as Jesus spent 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the earth I believe He was showing them that He is the one they have been waiting for, the one they were looking to!  Once He rose on the third day He took all those who died in the faith from Abraham’s bosom and they ascended with Him, and the only part that is occupied now in Sheol is the part where those who died outside of the faith and are waiting for the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of the Millennial reign of Christ.

            It is after He descended that He then ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  And as Jesus fulfilled His mission and paid the price for this reconciliation between God and man, He was exalted above the heavens as He returned to His glory, seated at the right hand of the Father.  Paul expounded on this in Ephesians 1:20-21 when he said, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

 

VERSES 11-12

            Paul was talking about us all being part of one body, which is true, and yet within that one body are many different parts all working together for the betterment of the body.  Paul, in I Corinthians 12:12-20 tells us, For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.

            Here we see the office of spiritual leadership, but understand that there are many Spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives for the edification of the body of Christ.  Now as some read through this they see the “five-fold ministry” and others see a “four-fold ministry”, who is right?  When we get to the supposed discrepancy regarding pastors and teachers we will deal with this.

            A.  APOSLTES: The word apostle means “one who is sent forth with a commission or a divinely appointed representative.”  Thus, in the broadest sense of the word, we are all apostles; we are all sent forth by God with the good news of Jesus Christ.  In the strictest sense of the word, it speaks of the 12 apostles, including Matthias and their function was to lay down the foundation of the church.  Paul, in Ephesians 2:20 tells us this, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.  Once the foundation was laid you don’t continue to lay other foundations and thus, the office of the primary apostles has passed off the scene.

 

            B.  PROPHETS: It seems like the office of the prophet was for the working within a local congregation while the apostles tended to move from one area to another. Again, the prophets were laying the foundation for the church to be built upon and thus, the office of the primary prophets has passed off the scene.  Now, in a sense, we are all prophets because a prophet not only foretold the things of God, but he also spoke forth the things of God, the words of God, forth telling. So in a broad sense, the office exists like does the office of apostle.

 

            C.  EVALGELISTS: These are those who are specifically gifted to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.  Men like Billy Graham and Greg Laurie are examples of evangelists.

 

D.  PASTOR/TEACHER: Some see this as an office of pastor and then there is an office of the teacher, but folks, a pastor is a teacher. If the pastor is not a teacher of the Word of God then he should not be a pastor!  Yes, the pastor wears many hats as he shepherds the flock that God has entrusted to him by not only feeding the sheep the Word of God, caring for them, watching over them, warning them of danger, exhorting them, protecting them and-so-on.  Paul, in Acts 20:27-30 tells the Ephesian elders what their responsibility was, For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.  So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  Acts 20:27-32.

 

            E. TEACHER: Folks, there are some who are teachers of the Word of God but in no way are they pastors. And so I do see five ministries here.  You see, teachers don’t necessarily like all that goes with being a pastor, they would rather just teach the Word of God and be done, and that is fine, there is a need for teachers in the body of Christ.  I have seen some men who have gotten in the ministry as a pastor/teacher and they are great teachers but they are not pastors and it is a mess, it just doesn’t work!

 

            As you read through these offices in the church did you see what they are suppose to accomplish? They are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  It is not the pastor that does the work of the ministry but the saints that are being taught by those that are in these offices.  It doesn’t mean the pastor doesn’t do these things, but that is not his primary purpose.  The Greek word that Paul uses for equipping is KATARISMOS (kat-ar-tis-mos).  It is a word that is often used as a medical term for the setting of a bone. It also illustrates to us the idea of putting something back to its original condition, that it is made complete, perfect.  These offices are there to help return men and women back to God and to make them complete in their walk.  Today, tragically it is not about building people up in the faith but to grow a church in numbers and so the church in America may be 3,000 miles wide but only an inch deep!  And we therefore have Christians who are unstable in their walk because they don’t know what to believe; they are not built up in the faith!

            Let me say this, the reason the church of Jesus Christ exists today is:

VERSE 13

            As children mature they become less and less dependent on their parents, or at least we hope they do, until they are independent and on their own.  The exact opposite is true for us as Christians. We are not to become independent from Christ but as we mature we become more dependent upon Him.  Paul speaks of a UNITY OF FAITH, not an organization but a unity that is based in Christ.  Another goal for us is THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE SON OF GOD, or a greater intimacy with God that comes as we mature.  He speaks of A PERFECT MAN, to the MEASURE OF THE STATURE OF THE FULNESS OF CHRIST, and that is a goal for us, maturing in the Lord, become complete in Him as individuals and as a body of believers.

So a mature Christian is being transformed into the likeness of Christ by the renewing of his mind. He is able to discern between good and evil. And lastly, he has developed into the likeness of Christ as he manifests the fruit of the Spirit in his life – AGAPE LOVE and how that love is then manifested in many different ways.  Remember, as we get older in Christ we also should be getting nearer to Him, becoming more like Him!  What happens if we don’t? Let’s read on and see.

 

VERSE 14

            Instead of being stable those that don’t grow in the Lord are unstable.  Paul uses the Greek word, KLUDONIZOMAI (kloo-do-nid’-zom-ahee) for tossed to and fro and it is the same Greek word Luke uses in Luke 8:24 as he is describing the stormy Sea of Galilee. And men come in and they use trickery or KUBEIA (koobi-ah) in the Greek, which is a word that illustrates the idea of a person who has skill in manipulating the dice.  He is a master of deception.  Thus, immature Christians hoist up their sails and as these men blow their false doctrine through the church, they are taken away, they go which ever way the wind is blowing them, they have no real direction.  God’s desire is that we would grow and not be tossed around like this!

 

VERSES 15-16

            Have you ever seen Edwin Moses run the hurdles? It is a sight to see. I know, I am dating myself here.  His head is focused straight ahead as it controls every part of his body, the actions that he needs to do.  As the gun goes off there is an explosive driving force from his legs and arms as he is pushed out of the starting blocks. As he approaches the first hurdle every muscle, every part of his body responds appropriately as he just glides over the top of the hurdle. This is repeated over and over until he reaches the finish line and extends his chest forward to cross the tape and obtain the prize.

            We as Christians are very much in a race.  And as the body of Christ is healthy and ready for the challenge ahead it must work as a thoroughly coordinated machine, but keep in mind that the body of Christ is a living organism working together.

            The head is Jesus Christ, and He must be in control of the entire body. If not the body will move spastically just as if Edwin Moses was not thinking about what he was doing and he would plow into the hurdles instead of gliding over them. Or can you imagine as Edwin Moses approached the next hurdle that his lead leg decided not to extend upward and instead decided to plow right through the hurdle? It would spell disaster for the racer and the same is true in the body of Christ. As I have said before, it is a team effort and we should think of everyone else as being more important than us as we all work towards the goal.

            It is when we work in truth and love that we grow into the likeness of Christ, and as the body is knit together, working in an unselfish manner, that there will be growth and edification within the body of Christ. And this is all done in the love of God, Agape love, unconditional love.

            As I close tonight, let me share with you what the early church did as they gathered together and then what God did and see if it matches up with what we see happening in churches across America today. In Acts 2:42-43, 46-47 we are told, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles . . . So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  May we learn the lesson and mature in the faith!  Next week we will finish up this rich chapter.