Ephesians 6

ep6.jpgGreetings!  This is one of my favorite books of the Bible. 

Children and Parents

6     Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

My youngest daughter likes to remind me of verse 4.  It is our jobs to teach them about Jesus and his message.  Sunday School classes and youth groups have a role but not the primary one. 

We must discipline and guide our children but not crush their spirits.  And we must live consistently with our professed beliefs.  We’ll all slip at times, but consistently acting one way at church and another at home will lead our kids into cynicism and away from faith. 

Do your children see you acting one way at church and another outside it?

Slaves and Masters

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

That is very similar advice to what Paul gave in Colossians 3.

We often think that some people are the enemy, but ultimately the real enemy is Satan.  Some think he isn’t real but the Bible couldn’t be more clear.  He is not some cartoon character in red tights.  Neither is he behind every wrong thing we do.  But he exists and is doing everything he can to keep non-believers from Jesus and believers from being effective ambassadors for Christ.

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Notice how there is no covering for your back.  Never turn away from Satan and get complacent.  Neither do we attack him.  He is smarter and more powerful than we are and we are no match for him, unless we use the word of God as our sword.  Then we can stand up to him. We can resist him and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Paul prayed for boldness to preach the Gospel, and we should do the same.

Final Greetings

21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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Ephesians 5

ep5.jpgGreetings!

5     Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“Imitators of God” is a tall order!  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can we even consider such a thing.  May we keep an eternal perspective and seek to imitate him in all we do.

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

We rationalize all sorts of thoughts and behavior but verse 3 is timeless in setting a standard for us.  When in doubt we should ask, “is this even a hint?”  We live in such a sex-saturated culture that it is easy for Christians to be like the world.  May God keep us from temptation and failure in this area.

 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

The 3rd Commandment says not to use the Lord’s name in vain, but v. 4 is more broad. 

 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.

V. 6 is one of many, many warnings of false teachers.  All paths do not lead to God.  There is one way: Through Jesus.  As v. 7 notes, we should not be partners with those who teach deception.

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

 Do you make the most of every day to advance God’s kingdom?  It is so easy to get distracted with the “weeds” of the world.

I just listened to a thorough, extended sermon series by John MacArthur that covered verse 18.  He emphasized that the wine we drink is different than they generally used then (ours is served stronger) and that even if we have liberty to drink that it may not be the best choice. 

But under no circumstances should we become intoxicated.  Getting drunk leads to disorted views of the truth and bad decisions and behavior.  Pagan religions at the time thought that getting drunk brought you closer to God.  Paul teaches that the truth is the opposite.  We can’t be filled with alcohol and the Holy Spirit.

19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

That passage is often misinterpreted to make Paul out to be a chauvinist.  But the next passage should put things in persepective.  Paul was probably just as controversial back then but for the opposite reasons.  Women were considered property and not treated well at all.  They couldn’t even testify in court.  But Paul teaches husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  That was a radical notion!

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

If husbands loved their wives as much as their own bodies then that would make wives rejoice.  That wouldn’t be mistreatment of women at all.  Men are called to be leaders in the home.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But good leaders listen to people under their protection and authority.  A husband would be foolish to ignore his wife.  They are designed to complete each other.

That is another passage stating what should be obvious: God’s ideal for marriage is one man and one woman.  He created us that way.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Ephesians 4

ep4.jpgGreetings!

Unity in the Body of Christ

4     As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Unity is such an important theme and such a big challenge.  The key is to ensure we’re unified on the essentials of the faith – the deity of Christ, the  Trinity, the physical resurrection, the exclusivity of Jesus (i.e., He is the only way to salvation), etc.  We don’t have to agree on every minor point.  And we should be humble and gentle with each other when disagreeing.  I’m convicted by that as I write this!

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

This is an area in the U.S. churches where so many have derailed.  They didn’t do the hard work of study and so they believe all sorts of the enemies lies — including the false idea that we can’t know what is true.  False teachers who say that the Bible supports abortion and oxymoronic “same sex marriage,” among other things.  People who teach the fake prosperity gospel.  And so many others.

Living as Children of Light

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Anger can become sin and give Satan an entry into our lives.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Ephesians 3

ep3.jpgGreetings!

Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles

3     For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

This was radical news for the many Jews but it should not have been.  There are many references in Isaiah and other portions of the Old Testament describing how salvation would come through the Jews for all people with faith in the true God.

Paul makes a clear claim that his words and teachings were divinely inpsired. 

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

It is a radical concept that we can approach our creator, the Lord of the universe, with freedom and confidence.  We should do so in a grateful way, of course.  His power is so overwhelming that it is hard to believe that He tells us to approach him this way.

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What a unique prayer, that we would know the enormity of God’s love – a love that surpasses knowledge – and that we may be filled with the fulness of God.  These promises are so huge it is hard to comprehend them.

Ephesians 2

ep2.jpgGreetings!

Made Alive in Christ

2     As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians is so rich in meaning.  Verses 8-9 are worth committing to memory at a minimum.  In the seemingly endless debates about faith vs. works, this passage stands tall in clarity and importance, especially when you consider v. 10 as well.

We aren’t saved by our good works, we are saved in spite of our bad deeds (v. 1-3).  Even the “good” we did before salvation wasn’t that good, because it was for our glory, not God’s. 

God gives us the faith and the grace for our salvation.  We shouldn’t be proud about it, we should just rejoice. 

One in Christ

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Jesus brought us nes and destroyed the barrier between us and God.  We come to the Father through him.  It wasn’t by anything we did. 

It is amazing to think of how He took us from being enemies worthy of an eternity in Hell to being adopted as children with full rights in his household.  His grace didn’t just take away the punishment for our sins, it gives us so much that we didn’t deserve. 

God’s Spirit lives in us as believers, but too often we quench and grieve the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1

ep1.jpgGreetings!

Ephesians

1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is easy to skip over the opening and closing statements, but I find it interesting to read them carefully sometimes.  Paul claims to be an Apostle, someone who encountered Christ directly and was chosen by him as a leader.  He refers to all believers as saints.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

It is powerful to know that God chose Christians before the world was even created.  He has adopted us and is our Father.  He redeemed us — that is, he bought us back at a price — through the blood of Jesus.  He lavished his forgiveness on us.  He didn’t give it reluctantly. 

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

God is sovereign.  He has a plan and He is executing it.  We have been given the Holy Spirit and our inheritance as his children is guaranteed.  And all this brings him glory!

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

I pray, too, that we may know him better each day and that we will be filled with the hope he has called us to.  We often chase worldly riches but God has already given us eternal riches.  May we focus on the eternal and not the temporary.

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Introduction to Ephesians

ep.jpgGreetings!

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus follows a similar format to many of his letters: First theology, then application.

This includes many passages referencing the concept of predestination.  There is no question that the Bible teaches the concept of predestination, but Christians are divided on whether it is God choosing us ahead of time or God knowing we’ll choose him.  I enjoy hearing from experts on both sides of the debate and see merits of both views.  There seems to be a natural tension here.  God is definitely sovereign and many passages, especially those in Ephesians, seem to me to support the unconditional election view (that God chooses us).  But I can’t ignore passages which speak of us making choices and my own experience of at least feeling like I was choosing (or was it an irresistable force?).

Either way, you can get so much out of Ephesians.  There are so many promises and reminders of all the good things we have in Christ and how He brought us back from the dead spiritually. 

Paul gives great advice on marriage and parenting.  Read it carefully! 

He closes with the classic passage about putting on the armor of God as we live our Christian lives.

Read it, be encouraged and put it into practice.