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The Robe

Thoughts from the scriptures. The following is a public journal of my personal Bible study. I hope and pray that these thoughts will be a blessing to you.

Updated: 2016-10-20T07:38:30.524-04:00


As their own bodies - Ephesians 5:28-33


"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:28-33)This is an interesting verse, especially in light of how some interpret the words of Jesus when He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) Some have misconstrued these words of Jesus to mean that we must love ourselves before we can love others. However, Paul's observation is that we already instinctively love ourselves. The problem is not in learning how to better love ourselves but in learning how to love others as we already love ourselves. Here Paul is simply restating the golden rule as taught by Jesus, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) Or. as my mother would say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The point is that we should treat our wives as we would wish to be treated. We should treat our wives with the same care, nurture, and attention we give to ourselves. In fact, our love for our wives should be even greater than our love for our neighbors, for she is a member of our own body. While we are called into harmony with our neighbor and into unity with our brethren, we are called to be one in body with our wives. Therefore they deserve first place in our love and they deserve to be loved even as we love ourselves. For, in truth, if we truly love our wives then we are truly loving ourselves as well.One of the keys to loving our wives is perception. The Greek word for "hated" can also be translated "detest". How we look at our wives will determine if, and how, we will love them. Some men come to the place, for whatever reason, where all they see is the bad in their wives. They become fixated on their faults and short comings and forget why they fell in love with them in the first place. All they see are the things that irritate them and have they forgotten that which once drew him to her. Even where there are real failings in her life, his perception of her is to detest her rather than to extend Christ's love to her in a way that will help her to grow and overcome the issues in her own life. He becomes a man who demands perfection instead of nurturing growth in her and in their relationship. If we can learn to see past each other's failures then we can see the image of Christ that dwells in each other and we can then learn to cherish and nurture what is good and right in each other rather than always focusing on the bad in each other.Paul says that, for this reason, a man should leave his father and mother... but for what reason? That the two of them, the man and the woman, might become one. To be "joined," in the Greek, means to be "glued" together. The reason a man is to leave behind his family is so that he might be adhered to his wife and that the two of them may form their own family, creating a new family out of two individuals. The process of becoming one requires that two be joined together. It requires a focused relationship where two lives intermingle to where all aspects of their lives become shared and held in common. A man cannot maintain his feet in two separate camps. One foot in his old life and one in his new. He must be "all in" and fully committed to his marriage and his wife, even to the forsaking of old relationships that would seek to distract or divert him from his primary mission of becoming one with his wife.Paul's reference to this great mystery always baffled me. What was they mystery he was speaking of? This verse immediately fol[...]

Husbands, love your wives - Ephesians 5:25-27


"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)On balance, Paul, in his letter to the Ephesian church, devotes far more space to instructing husbands to love their wives as he does instructing women to submit to their husbands. I believe this is for two main reasons. First, because, for most men, loving their wives does not come naturally. Men can be very task focused leading them to pursue their goals, hobbies, and carriers with singular focus. Men also tend to compartmentalize their lives. They have their work life, the leisure life, their church life, and their home life. Sometimes, if men are not careful, their pursuit of things, like their carriers, can occur at the expense of other things in their lives, such as their spiritual life and the family life. Men need to be reminded frequently not to disregard one for the other and to remind themselves of what really matters in life.The second reason Paul spends more time exhorting men to love their wives is because, as the head of the household, God holds them ultimately responsible for what happens in their families. In speaking of the fall of mankind, Paul writes this of the woman, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." (1 Timothy 2:14) However, he writes this of the man, "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam." (Romans 5:14) It was the woman who was deceived but it was Adam who sinned. God places the greater part of the culpability for the fall of mankind upon Adam then He does upon Eve. More instruction is given to men by Paul because of the greater responsibility they face for their family and the greater judgment they will receive for their failings in their families over those of their wife.So how are men to love their wives? Paul shows us by reminding us how Christ loves the church; Christ being a figure of the husband and the church that of the wife. Paul reminds us how Christ gave Himself up for the church and asks men to do the same for their wives and their families. This Greek word used here for "gave" means to surrender, yield over, or to give to another. Men are asked to surrender their life for the well being of their family. They are asked to choose to give themselves to their family above all other duties and obligations they might have, even above their work and their church. This word can also mean to betray, bring into prison, or to hazard. Men are to betray their other pursuits and desires for those of their family. The are to hazard all other goals for the goal of a godly, joyful, and secure family. They are to imprison their wants and needs that they may pursue the wants and needs of their family. All this Jesus did for us and, as men, we should be willing to do the same for our families.Jesus not only gave up His life for the church, but He loved her with action. Jesus said of Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) I have meet many men who are passive and disengaged at home. They live at home to be served and not to serve. You can see it as their wife busies herself with cooking, cleaning, and raising the children while her husband sits around watching TV or pursuing one of his other many entertainments and hobbies; never raising a finger to help his hard working wife. A man who does not serve is a man who has not yet come to understand Christ in truth. If the very Son of God came to serve us, are we too great to serve others ourselves? Especially those of our own family? Yes, a man may work hard at work, but that is no excuse to turn a blind eye to the needs of their wife or family when he[...]

Wives, be subject - Ephesians 5:22-24


"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." (Ephesians 5:22-24)This is a difficult scripture to understand, especially given our present culture and our modern world view. Typically, this scripture is either simply ignored by the modern church or is declared to be written for a bygone age where women were systematically repressed by the prevailing views of a primitive culture. Some have fought against this scripture and some men have fought against their wives using this scripture as proof of their lordship in the home. However, given all this we still must deal with what Paul wrote and seek to understand how to apply it to our lives today.Several thing stand out to me in this scripture. First, is that the word "subject" in verse twenty two does not exist in the original Greek but is implied by its use in verse twenty four. Verse twenty two literally reads, "Wives, unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord." Certainly, subjection is implied, but more than that is the idea of being subject to "your own" husband as opposed to other male figures, such as someone's else's husband, your father, or even a pastor or priest. The goal of a marriage is that two individuals become one. When one listens to voices from outside their marriage, voices that seek to lead them into a separate life from the one they have been joined to in marriage, their incitements destroys the oneness that marriage seeks to bring. This does not mean that a couple, or even an individual, should not seek counsel from time to time, nor that they should avoid relationships outside of their marriage, but their devotion and submission should first be to their marriage partner, not some third party. One example may help in understanding this point. I once knew a couple who ended up in divorce. Once of the key areas of contention was Sunday afternoon lunch. The wife's family held the tradition of always getting together as a family for Sunday afternoon lunch. Even after getting married the wife insisted that her new husband attend the family lunch every Sunday against her husband's wishes. Her submission to her family was greater than her submission to her husband and it was a contributing factor to the demise of their marriage.Secondly, wives as asked to submit to their own husbands as unto the Lord, but how does one submit to the Lord? Our submission to the Lord is voluntary. Christ came and set us free, then He asks us to submit to Him that we might walk in His ways and according to His will. Our submission to the Lord is of our own free will. We are not bound to submit nor are we forced to submit. Jesus calls to us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) We submit to His yoke and burden, not because we are forced to, but because we choose to. This scripture should never be used by husbands to force their wives into submission. Paul never told husbands to make sure their wives submit, but rather he asks wives to choose submission to their own husbands as a voluntary act of their free will. It is something for them to choose rather than something to be demanded and exacted from them. Furthermore, a wife's submission is not blind submission, submitting to every whim of her husband. A wife is under no obligation to submit to participating in sin or in anything that would degrade them or dishonor them for our submission to Christ would never bring us hurt or dishonor. We should never offer submission to anyone or anything that would lessen, destroy, or tarnish our submission to Christ.Third, Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the hea[...]

And do not get drunk - Ephesians 5:18-21


"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-21)Paul is not condemning the drinking of alcohol, but the drinking to excess. Many of our sins today come from pressing the blessings of God to excess. God has created all things good, but when we pursue them apart from moderation, we end up serving the flesh and venture into sin. There is an interesting allegorical prophetic statement in the book of Judges that reads, "Then the trees said to the vine, 'You come, reign over us!' But the vine said to them, 'Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?'" (Judges 9:12-13) Wine is good when it is used for good purposes and can even cheer the heart of man. Even Solomon said, "Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter." (Proverbs 31:6) However, when taken to excess, like all the good things of God, it causes ruin, hurt, and destruction. This applies not only to wine but to excess in all forms, for example, excess in food, sex, speech, and luxury. In all these things, we are called to moderation.Paul says that drunkenness leads to dissipation, This is a very interesting Greek word. It is a compound of a negative particle and a derivative of the Greek word "sozo". This word means to be delivered, saved, protected, and made whole. It is often used in speaking of the salvation that God has brought to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17) Here the word "saved" is the Greek word "sozo". What Paul is saying is that the kind of dissipation and excess that is produced by drunkenness and all other forms of excess in our lives leads us to the very opposite of what God intends for us. It leads us to anti-salvation, non-protection, and deteriorating wholeness. Being intoxicated with the things of this world leads us away from salvation and destroyed what little good that remains in our life. I once knew a man who was a believer yet started visiting bars with his friends. He began drinking and his drinking became more frequent. In six short months he went from a believer to being arrested for a crime he couldn't remember and being ordered not to see his wife and children. In six months, drink had cost him everything that was dear to him. He experienced the anti-salvation of excess and was a very broken man. Paul would have us to spare ourselves this tragedy by practicing temperance in every area of our lives.Overcoming excess in our lives is not easy and many fall again and again into the same pattern of sin. The secret to overcoming any negative pattern in our live if to replace it with a better pattern of living. Here, for example, Paul is exhorting us to replace a pattern of drunkenness with a pattern of being filled with the Spirit. So how does one get filled with the Holy Spirit? Jesus told us when He said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) Being filled with the Spirit requires a relationship with God. This is more than mere belief in God but a child like relationship where the child is free to ask of their father for the things they need. Only those in right relationship with the Father have the access and favor of God to ask for the Holy Spirit that they might receive Him and be filled with Him in every way.Once filled, remaining filled with the Holy Spirit requires us to adopt a new pattern of living. This new pattern of living effects both how we live internally to ourselves and how we live externally[...]

Be careful how you walk - Ephesians 5:15-17


"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17)Perhaps the most literal translation of this verse is, "See, then, how exactly ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 YLT) while others translate it as, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV) The idea is that we should not go through life blindly, oblivious to how we are walking and the situations and circumstances that surround us. Life does not just happen. The fool simply goes along with everything that comes his way, but the wise examines everything, constantly looking and scrutinizing his life and ever aware of the situations and circumstances that surrounds him. To walk circumspectly means to look around, to see the full 360 degrees of your life, to look forward, sideways, and behind. It is a walk that it ever vigilant, always watching, and never slumbering. It is a life that is fully aware, fully awake, and fully engaged.As we walk circumspectly, Paul encourages to make the most of our time. The Greeks have two words for time, the first is "chronos" which refers to the sequential passing of time and the other is "kairos" which refers to specific occasions and opportunities. When we think of making the most of our time we often think of "time management" where we try and optimize our schedule by making efficient use of our "chronos". However, here Paul is speaking of making the most of our "kairos" moments. While life progress relentlessly through chronos, it is those kairos moments in which life takes meaning and where the real value of life is found. In trying to optimize our time management, we can become so efficient at being busy that we miss the real opportunities of life. It has been said that we should "stop and smell the roses" which is the same as taking time to putting chronos aside that we might find value in those kairos moments of life.The Greek word translated here as, "making the most" literally means to redeem, to buy back, or to buy up. Opportunities are always there for our taking, but often we pass right on by them and forfeit the blessings that could be ours and others in those moments. Paul told us that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) God has created us for the very moments that He has prepared for us but we must seize, or "buy up" those opportunity if we are to make the most of them, both in our lives and in the lives of others. In order to buy up the opportunities that come our way we must be vigilant in looking for them, selfless in giving up our will and plans to take hold of them, and courageous to act on them when they come our way. Paul says that we are to do this because the "days are evil." This term does not mean evil in the moral since but is a derivative of a Greek word that means "toil" and by extension, "anguish". If we let life just happen, it will bury us in a mountain of work and obligations that will consume our entire life, A life lived on auto-pilot is a life consumed with work and toil and a life that is void of the very moments that make life worth living. If we do not intentionally take time to find those moments in life that God has created us to take hold of, then we will miss the very purpose for which we have been created.Finally, Paul exhorts us not to be foolish but to understand the will of the Lord for our lives. The Greek term for "foolish" means to be "mindless" and "stupid" regarding life and how it works. The fool takes no thought of life nor does he ever take time to contemplate life; what is its meaning, what is its purpose, and what makes life worth living. The fool is driven through life by the evil winds of the day while the wise man takes hold of life, making himself the[...]

Rather expose them - Ephesians 5:11-14


"Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, 'Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" (Ephesians 5:11-14)We have a choice to either continue walking just as we used to or to walk along a new path, a new path that has been opened up for us by Jesus. The idea of the Greek word used here for "participate" implies more than just doing the same works as those in darkness are doing, but implies a fellowship with them and with their deeds. Darby translates this verse as, "do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." (Ephesians 5:11 Darby) Paul is instructing us to do more than just leave behind the works of darkness. He is encouraging us to break fellowship with the whole system and community of darkness. It is more than just not doing these deeds ourselves, but we must be careful not to join in with others in the same deeds of darkness. We are no longer darkness, therefore our fellowship ought not to be in darkness but in light. To claim light but to remain in fellowship with darkness is a form of self deception and contrary to the truth.Instead of participating in the deeds of darkness, we are called rather to expose them. This particular Greek word is interesting and, in almost every other place in the New Testament, it is translated as "rebuke" or "reprove". However, here, it is translated as "expose" to be consistent with the following verse that says that what ever becomes visible is "exposed" (same word) by the light. What Paul is not saying is that we ought to go around judging people and calling out their sin. What he is saying is that our lives should be lived in such contrast that they expose the shamefulness of those things done in darkness as compared to those things done in the light. Our lives, not our words, should be a light shining in darkness, showing a better way of living, exposing the lie of what most call life, and revealing to them that the that which they claim to be light is nothing but deep darkness. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)Paul speaks of those things which are done in secret and for which it is shameful and disgraceful to even mention them in public. However, we live in a culture that, not only has no qualms about speaking of such things in public, but even celebrates them and looks upon those who perform such deeds as heroes. Those who do those things that, even a generation ago would be considered disgraceful, not only glory in them publicly, but we declare them to be courageous and publicly honor them because of their choose to sin and sin publicly. As a society, we have become like those whom Isaiah warned of saying, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20) In doing such, we have become a generation that has lost its way and is venturing closer and closer towards destruction.So what are we as believers to do, living is a world that is reveling in darkness? We must become light so that those who live in darkness can see the light of the Gospel and learn that they no longer need to live in darkness but can also be come children of the light just as we have become. We must awaken from our own stupor and arise from our own darkness that Christ may shine within us. We must lay aside our own works of darkne[...]

You were formerly darkness - Ephesians 5:6-10


"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:6-10)Paul warns us of those who would try to deceive us with their empty words. The word used here for "deceive" can also be translated "to cheat." God had given to us great and precious promises and has secured for us an inheritance in heaven, an inheritance, "which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:4) However, there are those who have given themselves to licentiousness and have purposed to preach that which is no gospel and seek to lead us astray from our consistency and faith in Christ. They preach a false gospel of license for sin, claiming grace while they themselves are slaves of the sin they preach. Their teaching take many forms. Some, teaching that what is done in the flesh has no influence on the spirit, not knowing the destruction and death that sin works within us. Other claim grace frees them from all judgment and consequence of sin, as if God willfully turns a blind eye to the sins we commit in the flesh. Furthermore, some claim that participation in sacraments are sufficient to appease God, allowing us to continue in the flesh as long as we regularly also participate in the sacraments. All who teach such teach empty words and seek to cheat us of the promises and inheritance of God. God has not called us to a life of sin, but a life of holiness, righteousness, and truth. The truth is that it is these very things which warrant and bring for the wrath and judgment of God upon the disobedient.When speaking of the disobedient, there is a clear link between disobedience and disbelief, as if they were two sides of the same coin. However, Paul does not speak of those who struggle to believe in their unbelief, but of those who refuse to believe in their disbelief. This particular Greek word speaks of those who persist in their unbelief even after the truth has come to them. This word come from the root word that means to be unpersuadable. It speaks not of one who has never known, nor of one who has never been properly trained in the faith, but of one who refuses to believe even when they are presented with the truth in the light of Christ. There are those who struggle to believe, like the man who cried out to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief," (Mark 9:24) but there are also those who refuse to believe even in the light of the truth, and it is upon these to whom the wrath of God comes. We must remember the words of Jesus, "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." (John 7:17) If we are willing in our faith to obey Christ, then the Kingdom of God will open up to us. However, if we persist in our obstinance and unbelief, then our life will, in the end, be consumed under the wrath and judgment of God.When we come to faith in Christ, it necessitates not only a new belief but also a new manner of living. While we were in darkness as to who God is, who we are, and who we are in relationship to God, we lived a life separated from God and given over to the impulses and lusts of our flesh. We lived, believed, and moved in darkness. However, now we have come into the light and we are called to put away all the deeds of darkness and to be renewed in our minds and our behavior by the light we now walk in. One cannot claim to be in the light and continue to walk in darkness. Either we are in the light and walk in the light or our continuance to walk in darkness gives proof that our hearts, minds, and soul are still in darkness regar[...]

as is proper among saints - Ephesians 5:3-5


"But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Ephesians 5:3-5)Paul speaks of what is, or rather is not, proper among the saints. This Greek word for "proper" can also be translated as "befitting" and means to be conspicuous or to stand out. Paul is asking us to consider how others see us and to identify those characteristics that define our lives before men; is it a life lived in righteousness and holiness or is it a life steeped in the same sin and depravity as we see in the world around us today? If we have a claim to be saints of God and if we profess that Christ has forgiven us and set us free from the bondage of sin, then ought not our lives be a conspicuous show of the truth and fruit of what we confess? If we claim to be born again then should we not show forth a newness of life that wasn't present within us before our rebirth? Paul is calling us to consider that there are those things that are befitting of a born again child of God and there are those things that are befitting of those who have yet to find freedom from sin in Christ. Therefore, if we have become saints of God then we ought to live as such in holiness, righteousness, and all purity.To this end, Paul focuses on three thing regarding our behavior and three things relating to our manner of speech. Paul says that we must lay aside all immorality, impurity, and greed. The Greek word for "immorality" is the same word from which we get our English word for "pornography." This word refers not only to fornication but to all forms of sexual impurity, license, and perversion. This includes not only the actual participation in illicit sex but also participation in pornography and other forms of sexual impurity. In Paul's day, sexual sin was just as rampant, if not more so, than it is in our world today. Paul warns believers not to bring their old sexual practices with them into the Kingdom of God but rather to learn a new way of living and to return to purity when it comes to the issue of sex. In speaking of impurity, Paul is making a reference to the old Jewish law that classified things as either clean or unclean. The Jewish law taught the Jews to live a life of purity, shunning those things that were unclean and cleaving to those things that were clean. As saints of God, we are called to live a life of purity; to put aside all mixture in our lives, to not grasp for what is clean while we still try and hold onto what is unclean. Our lives should not be a mixture of light and darkness, or good and evil, or clean and unclean but rather a life that is singularly consistent with our confession.Paul also references our manner of speaking when he says that we should lay aside all filthy talk, silly talk, and course jesting. It is interesting that the three Greek words used here are only use in this passage of scripture. Filthiness refers to all shameful and/or obscene talk, including filthy stories and obscene jokes. The phrase "silly talk" can also be translated "foolish" or "vain" and it means to talk like a fool. Solomon had a lot to say about the speaking of a fool: "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2 NIV) "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." (Proverbs 29:11 NKJV) As believers it is fitting for us to use discretion and understanding in our speech, not simply blurting out everything that come into our mind. The Greek word for "jesting" means "easily turned" and refers to a quick wit and an ever ready repartee. Wit and good humor are pleasant among friend[...]

Be imitators of God - Ephesians 5:1-2


"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." (Ephesians 5:1-2)The Greek word for "imitate" means to "mimic" or to be a "mime." In ancient Greek it was used to reference an actor who mimicked the movements and behaviors of someone, often to the point of extremes and for the purpose of humor through mocking. We are called to mimic God in our behavior, actions, and speech. We are to be, as it were, mimes imitating God so others can see what He is like, so they can understand His nature, and so they can comprehend His love and disposition towards them, but how can we mimic and imitate one who is invisible; one whom we cannot see, hear, or touch?Paul encourages us to imitate God as children imitate their parents. This implies more than simple duty. It implies an imitation that is motivated by a desire to copy the habits and ways as one we we view with esteem and wonder. However, in our case, this requires that we first come to know God as our Father, especially when our earthly fathers did not demonstrate to us much that was worthy of being imitated. To know God as our Father, we need to learn from Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. Jesus said, "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27) In fact, Jesus went so far as to say to His disciples, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9) We must learn what Jesus has to teach us of the Father, especially that which He taught by His actions and deeds. It is only in right relationship with Jesus that we can receive the revelation of our invisible Father in heaven.Paul also tells us we should imitate the Father just as Jesus also did. This means not only learning from Jesus but we must also learn of Jesus. Jesus said of Himself, "And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29) Jesus, as a Son and fellow brother to God with us, was always doing, in imitation of our Father, the things that were pleasing to Him. When we learn of Christ, of His charter, nature, and behavior, then we learn the things we ought to imitate to please the Father. In other words, if we imitate Jesus whom we can see (in the recorded account of His life) then we will also be imitating our Father in heaven whom we cannot see. Jesus not only left His teaching behind, He left a pattern of living that was righteous and well pleasing in God's site, We ought to search out these things in the scriptures and do in our lives the very things Jesus did in His.Finally, Paul says we ought to live lives of love and sacrifice towards others. This is what Jesus did for others and what our Father did for us. John tells us that, speaking of our Father, that He "is love." (1 John 4:8) More than being lovable and loving, God is love; His every thought, intent, and action towards us is characterized and motivated by love. When we express love to those around us we are imitating our Father who is love itself. More than that, not only did Jesus sacrifice for us, but so did the Father. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17) Our Father sacrificed His Son for our sake. He gave to us something very precious that we might know His love for us and be freed, in the sacrifice of Jesus, to love Him in[...]

Do not grieve - Ephesians 4:30-32


"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Ephesians 4:30-32)Paul refers to the Holy Spirit, not as some impersonal force such as the wind, nor as simply some sort of cosmic energy, but as a person who is able of being touched in their emotions; capable of being grieved and, correspondingly, capable of being moved to rejoicing and delight. The Holy Spirit is just as much a person as the Father and the Son are. He feels, He speaks, and He delights in relating to us on a daily basis. While Jesus has ascended into heaven, He has sent forth His Holy Spirit to dwell within us here on this heart. Jesus, speaking of His departure from this Earth, said, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17) Paul counsels us to be aware that we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and to recognize that He sees, hears, and feels all that we see, hear, and feel. The Holy Spirit feels deeply the results of our actions and words and is easily grieved by our sin and recklessness just as much as He is able to be delighted by our righteousness and kindness towards others.It is interesting that Paul did not say that we should not anger the Holy Spirit but that we should not grieve the Holy Spirit. Clement of Alexandria, speaks of the rich and their need to have someone in their life who can reprove them and help them to walk a godly walk. He says to the rich, "Fear this man when angry; be pained at his groaning; and reverence him when making his anger to cease; and anticipate him when he is deprecating punishment. Let him pass many sleepless nights for thee, interceding for thee with God, influencing the Father with the magic of familiar litanies. For He does not hold out against His children when they beg His pity. And for you he will pray purely, held in high honour as an angel of God, and grieved not by you, but for you. This is sincere repentance." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41) So is the ministry of the Holy Spirit within us. He grieves for us, not because of us. He is not grieved because we, once again, have sinned, but He is grieved because of the pain and hurt our sin causes us and those around us. He is grieved, not because He is indignant at our sin, but because He know we no longer have to sin and that Jesus has paved the way for us to live a new life; a life full of blessing and joy rather than a life filed with sin, hurt, and pain. He grieves for what our lives could be, not for what they are.So what are the things that grieve the Holy Spirit? They are the things that bring hurt to us and those around us. Specifically, Paul mentions those relational sins that drive wedges in our relationships and that build walls of separation around us. Things like anger, bitterness, loose talk, and every sort of malice towards others. These things bring sadness to the Holy Spirit because of the pain they bring others. Paul's remedy for the grieving of the Holy Spirit is to put off these things and to put on a new life; to begin to life characterized by love for those around us. Instead of malice, kindness; instead of anger, forgiveness; instead of bitterness, tender-heartedness. With these things the Holy Spirit is delighted and rejoices in the demonstration of the love of God we show towards one another.David Robison[...]

Therefore, laying aside - Ephesians 4:25-29


"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:25-29)To make his message of putting of and putting on more clear, Paul gives us several concrete examples of how this can work in our lives. Along with the what of putting off and putting on, Paul also, as a bonus, gives us the why of putting off and putting on. For many, Christianity can become a system of dos and don'ts; a series of rules the follow without ever really understanding the "why" of the rules they are following. Understanding the why is critical to our understanding of the life we have been called to live. I have found this especially true in raising children. When our children were young, our rules were absolute and we expected them to follow them because, "I said so," but as they grew up, it became important for us to explain to them why we had the rules we had. If we only know the rules then we will only ever be able to keep those rules in the context we learned them. However, if we understand the "why" of the rules then we can apply the "why" to other situations not directly covered by the rules. Understanding the "why" helps us to transition from a life lived by rules to a life lived by principles.Paul gives us four concrete examples of laying off, putting on, and the reasons for laying off and putting on. The first has to do, not only with lying, but with any and all forms of falsehood in our lives. Paul's command covers our words, our actions, and our intentions. God's remedy for falsehood in our lives is to speak the truth to one another. It is interesting that Paul explicitly mentions our neighbor. In the Greek this references someone near, or close, to us. We must first learn to practice truth with those closest to us; speaking what is true and speaking what is right. The reason we are to speak truth, one with another, is because we are all members of one another. This word for "members" can refer to a limb or body part. When we lie to one another, we are harming that which we are a part of. Lying destroys the bonds of relationship that binds us together as one body of mankind. Lying has the power to destroy friendships, marriages, and any since of community we have with our neighbor. In Christ we are one in Him, but also in this world we are one body of mankind before God. Lying destroys this body and separates us one from another. That is why we mist put off lying and put on the truth that we might preserve the unity of our relationships with one another.Secondly, Paul says that, though we are angered, we must not sin. Anger is a natural emotion common to all of us, but it is what we do with this anger that determines if we slide into sin or remain in righteousness. The key to overcoming anger is learning to properly resolve it and to release it before it consumes our life. Those who hold onto anger harbor a fire within them that consumes them, and most often, the relationships they have with other people. Paul's advice is to resolve our anger the very day we are angered; to not let the day end before we resolve and release the anger we are holding inside. One of the worse things you can do for your marriage is to go to bed angry. As you sleep, that anger burns and grows and, as the new day dawns, that anger continues to work against your ma[...]

Put on the new self - Ephesians 4:22-24


"that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." (Ephesians 4:22-24)After hearing and learning of Christ we are brought to the point of choosing. Any learning that is of any real importance in our lives is always a learning that leads us to a decision. It is leaning that convicts the mind and illuminates our soul of possibilities previously unimagined or for which we felt hopeless to obtain. Knowledge informs but learning inspires, prompts, and directs us to choose a new and higher way of living. Those who have learned and heard of Christ have passed beyond just knowing about Him to wanting to be like Him.This learning of Christ leads us to consider how we shall become like Him and how we shall fully attain to the life He has called us to live. For this, three things are required. The first step is to lay aside our former manner of life. Having done so, and now looking back, it seems strange that so often we seek to save our old way of life even after coming to Christ for, in reality, it was not much of a life worth retaining. Paul tells us that our old way of living is a life of corruption. Our submission to our flesh with its lusts and deceit works within our lives corruption. This Greek word means to spoil or wear away. It is the root of the Greek word that describes a body decaying in the ground. Our old life is nothing but a decaying corps for which little remains but for it to be buried. Paul says that we must "lay aside" our former life. In our sanctification before God, there is that which He does and there is that which we must do. God has made us able to break free from our former patterns of living, but it is still up to us to choose to do so. We must take the initiative and we must decide to be done with our former ways and to lay them aside that we might adopt a new way of living; that we may learn a new conversation of  life.Secondly, Paul says that we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind. This is the only place where Paul speaks of the "spirit of our mind." In doing so, I do not believe that He is speaking of some actual spirit but in the disposition or working of our mind. While this Greek word does mean "spirit" if can also mean "breath" or any "current of air." It refers to an active force of life; to a moving, breathing, and possessing nature. When we come to Christ we are accustom to our way of thinking. We see ourselves and the world around us as we have been conditioned to through our learning and exposure to life. However, often our way of thinking is different from God's way of thinking. We think as earth bound creatures who have spent a life time apart from God. Now that we have been brought into union with Him and given a life from above, it is time to shed our human way of thinking for God's way of thinking. Such a change in mind can be transformative in our lives. Paul calls us to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) In saying this it is important to note that Paul speaks of a transformation in our minds, not our emotions. It seems today that most people are concerned with feeling right instead of thinking right. However, the life that God is calling us to is a life of transforming the rational part of our minds; to learn to think, reason, and understand according to the true rational nature of God rather than according to the deceit perpetuated upon us by our flesh and lusts.Fin[...]

If you have heard Him - Ephesians 4:20-21


"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:20-21)In speaking of learning Christ "in this way," Paul is not speaking of "how" we learned something, but how our learning has effected and directed our lives. Those who learned from the "futile way of life inherited from your forefathers" (1 Peter 1:18) wrought withing themselves a life that was futile and empty. Those who learned life by submitting to their own lusts and greed, learned in a way to produce a life of corruption and death within themselves. Much of what we have learned in life has not lead us to a life of holiness, piety, and righteousness but rather to a life of sin and death. However, those who have truly learned of Christ have learned from Him in a way that leads to a life that is growing in ever closer conformity to His likeness and image. The proof of our learning is not found in the learning itself but in "the way" that it produces within us.For most of us, before we come to the learning of Christ, we must first pass though the learning of the Father. Jesus said, "It is written in the prophets, 'and they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." (John 6:45) Part of our hearing and learning from the Father is our hearing and learning from the Law. Paul says, "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:23-24) The law was given, among other purposes, to show us our inability to conform to the ways of God. It was to show us that, no matter how good and holy the law was, our sinful nature kept us from its obedience and robbed us of its promised benefits. While the law is good and holy and promises life to anyone who will keep it, we are sinners and stumble at each jot and tittle of its holy commands. The law testifies against us that we are sinners and that we need a savior. It shows us our need for Christ.Having passed through the hearing and learning of the law, we come to the hearing and learning of Christ. The learning of Christ is different from the learning of the law. The learning of Christ removes burdens and lightens our load. It illuminates us to find and live the life that we were created to live. It sets right our lives and gives us life abundantly. Jesus said of our relationship with Him, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) The learning of the law sought to bring conformity from without us, but the learning of Christ changes us on the inside. It changes and conforms us by first changing our hearts and renewing our minds. This is what was promised through the prophet Jeremiah, "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:33-34) This inward change is like leaven as it works in our lives until we are thoroughly and completely changed into His image.However, the learning of Christ is more than understanding and knowledge. The Hebrew understanding of learning includes the actuation of what was [...]

That you walk no longer - Ephesians 4:17-19


"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19)Most often, when we read the word "Gentile" in the scriptures, we think of non-Jews. However, here Paul is not writing to Jews but to a Gentile people warning then to not walk as the Gentiles do. In this verse, the word "Gentile" may more appropriately be understood as "nations", "heathens", or "other tribes". Here, Paul is not speaking of non-Jews but all peoples who live outside of the commonwealth of Christ. When we come to Christ, we are made part of a new nation; we are joined to a new people. We no longer maintain our old allegiances and the culture of who we once were but are now joined with other believers as a new nation and a new people having a new culture that is distinctively their own. Peter tells us that we are, "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for  God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)Paul exhorts us to make a break with our former lives, to lay aside our former manor of living, and to adopt a new lifestyle, one that is befitting of the kingdom into which we have been saved. We are no longer to walk as the rest of the nations do but rather to walk as people of God, as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. The life of the nations is characterized by futility and darkness. Futility, or vanity, represents the emptiness and worthlessness of our lives spent in worldly pursuits. Much of our lives are consumed with the pursuit of the temporary, those things that have no lasting value. We live our lives for the moment, living only for this life and ignoring the live yet to come. In the end, we are left with nothing and, when this world comes to an end, so will all we have worked so hard to obtain. Peter reminds us that, "If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Peter 1:17-19) Christ came to save us so that we might no longer walk as we used to, that we might lay aside the futile way of living that has been passed down from generation to generation. In living the Christian life, we cannot depend on the patterns and customs we received for our fathers but must learn a new way of living from Christ.Similarly, we must come out of darkness and into light if we are to live our new life in Christ. The term "darkness" can also be translated as "blindness". However, this is not physical blindness but blindness in our understanding. If we are to come out of darkness we must first admit we are blind and then seek the true light to fill our understanding. Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23) There is no darkness grea[...]

We are to grow up - Ephesians 4:15-16


"but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16)The idea of speaking the truth in love goes far beyond just our words and how we speak to each other, it includes our whole manor of life; how we conduct ourselves in the truth and in love. It is a speaking that is done, not only with words, but with deeds and actions. It is a speaking that encompasses the whole conversation of our lives. Others have translated this verse as, "holding the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15 Darby) "being true in love" (Ephesians 4:15 YLT) "But doing the truth in charity" (Ephesians 4:15 Douay-Rheims) Our words are of little consequence if our deeds do not reflect the truth we confess.Paul conflates the ideas of truth and love, showing them to be inseparably linked together. Truth without love degrades into legalism where we use the truth as a weapon to divide and condemn others. Love without truth is easily perverted into self serving emotions and the continual pursuit of self-love. Paul writes of the knowledge of the truth saying, "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies." (1 Corinthians 8:1) Knowledge is good but without love it lacks direction and purpose. Truth is only valuable when we are able to express it and speak it to one another in love. Similarly, Paul writes of the importance of loving according to knowledge, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ." (Philippians 1:9-10) By truth we learn to love what is truly lovely and to abstain from what is base and corrupt. By truth we learn what love really is and that truth becomes a judge of our own thoughts, emotions, and intents; showing if they are truly according to love or by the deception of what the world calls love. It is by holding both of these, in equal portions, in our hearts that we find grace form God. As John said, "Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love." (2 John 3)Paul also shows us that there are two fundamental aspects of our relationship with Christ; one being our individual relationship with Him and the other our corporate relationship with Him through the body. Our personal growth in Christ is our responsibility. It is not our parents, it's not our pastors, and it's not the church's responsibility to grow us up. Certainly God has given others within the Body of Christ to help us in this journey, but the final result is up to us. Speaking of the judgment at the end of the age, Jesus said, "I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'" (Matthew 25:43-45) Notice He did not say, "Your church did not visit me" but rather, "you did not visit me." In the end, we alone will be called into account for what we did and did not do with the truth and love we've received from Christ. Did we use it[...]

Tossed here and there - Ephesians 4:14


"As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming." (Ephesians 4:14)One of the hallmarks of maturity is stability. The full-grown man and woman of Christ is one who is not quickly shaken, not given to every impulse or new idea, one who maintains a straight path in their walk with the Lord. Children follow their whims are are easily lead astray from what they ought to do, but adults live by principal, reason, and accumulated wisdom; ignoring the fanciful thoughts and suggestions of others that they might live a life that is true, upright, and worthy of their calling in Christ.The picture Paul paints for us is of a ship drifting upon the ocean, tossed by the waves and blown about by the wind; not given to any real direction or steerage by the pilot, but being left to the capriciousness of the wind and waves. Such a person may feel safe in their boat, but their final destination is no longer up to them as they are driven by forces external to themselves, driven to destinations unknown and undesirable. This is no way to live a Christian life.In describing the forces that seek to drive us from our stated destination, Paul lists three prime actors. First is the "every wind of doctrine." Paul speaks of the Athenians saying, "Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new." (Acts 17:21) Some, not content with what they have or know, are always looking for something new; some new revelation, some new and exciting teaching, some new ministry that is promising new freedom in Christ. Such people are like those who chase the wind; always searching and never finding. The problem with chasing the wind is that we never arrive at a firm foundation upon which to build our lives. Furthermore, we never establish the sure faith of God in our hearts and minds that would allow us to judge and discern each new wind of doctrine as to whether it be from God or from men. Jesus told us that the best defense against the winds of this world is a sure foundation. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:24-25) We should give our priority to that which is true rather than that which is new.The second actor seeing to derail us from our consistency in Christ is the "trickery of men." This Greek word had at its root the word for dice and can imply gambling or trickery. It is like the common shell game where a ball is hidden under one of three cups. Then the cups are moved around and the passer by is asked to pick which cup the ball is under. However, the gamed is rigged and the guesser always looses. Peter writes of such men, "For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved." (2 Peter 2:18-19) The secret to any good trick is misdirection. Having the audience look in one direction while the truth of the trick is performed in another direction. Peter writes of those who promise people freedom, yet if you looked closely at their own life you would see that they themselves are also"salves of corruption." A mature man or woman looks not only to the doctrine someone brings [...]

Until we all - Ephesians 4:13


"until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13)God has placed certain men and women within the Body of Christ as gifts to the Body to equip and build us up in order that we might attain to all that God has called us to. These gifts exist in and for the Body and will continue to exist until we all arrive at the perfection of Christ. Specifically, these ministries exist to achieve four specific outcomes within the Body.First is that we might all attain, or arrive at, the unity of the faith. This does not mean that we all arrive at a unanimous agreement on specific formulas of faith, but that our faith leads us to unity with one another. The NIV translates this verse as, "until we all reach unity in the faith." (Ephesians 4:13 NIV) What unites us is not our common agreement on creeds, formulas, and dogmas, but our common faith and trust in Jesus and His Gospel. It is our faith in who Jesus is, our faith in what He did for us on the cross, and our faith in the promises of Christ yet to come that unites us all as one. Polycarp wrote to the Philippian church reminding them of faith "which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, 'is the mother of us all.'" (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 3) He calls faith the "mother of us all." We are all born again by a common faith and it is this common faith that makes us all part of the universal Body of Christ. When we come to the place where we recognize that we are all His through common faith, then we will also recognize that we are all one in Him.Second is that we might all come to the knowledge of Christ. It is not the knowledge of theology that transforms us but the knowledge of Christ. Theology is important, but it lacks the ability to show us how we ought to live. Later, Paul will speak of the difference between the Gentiles and the believers when he reminds the Ephesians, "But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus." (Ephesians 4:20-21 NKJV) To learn Christ is to learn to be like Him. God spoke to the Israelites saying, "'Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?' Declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 22:15-16) It is God who is just and righteous, it is God who pleads the case of the afflicted and needy, and when we do these things too, then we demonstrate that we know God. To know God is to be like God, to be conformed to His image and His likeness. When we all come to the knowledge of Christ then we will all begin to reflect His life, His character, and His image.Third is that we might all obtain to the mature man. Darby translates this as, "[the] full-grown man." (Ephesians 4:13 Darby) This particular Greek word means to arrive at a goal or to hit the mark. It is the bulls-eye in the middle of the target we are aiming at. It represents a journey from one place to another; the leaving of a lower place to arrive at a higher place. This journey and destination that Paul is talking about is a journey from childishness to maturity. Paul, speaking of himself, says, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) When we are born again, we are born as babes in Christ. Much of what w[...]

He gave some as - Ephesians 4:11-12


"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-12)Paul continues to interpret for us what David prophesied when he said, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men." (Psalms 68:18) To Christ has been give some among men whom He has called to a particular function within the Body of Christ. These men and women He has then, in turn, give back to the Body as special gifts for their equipping and maturing in Christ. It is because of this receiving and giving that Paul interprets David's prophesy as saying, "and He gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8) This does not mean that these men and women are somehow superior to other believers, or that they comprise a separate class of believers, but simply that they have been chosen for a particular task and function within the body of Christ. In their function, their ministry is particularly directed to other believers rather than to the world at large. While we are all called to the work of ministry, they are specially called to minister to the Body of Christ in a way to help us all to grow in our own individual walk and calling in Christ.In describing these particular gifts that God has given to His church, there are several thing that we should take note of. First, as we have said before, the gifts He has given are the gift of men and women. Notice He does not say that the gifts He gave were apostolic gifts, prophetic gifts, pastoral gifts, etc. but men who function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The gifts God has given are people not abilities. We should learn to respect, honor, and love the people more than the gifts they carry for it is them, not their anointing, that represent God's gift to the church. Some say we should honor the gift more than the man, but I believe that God intends it to be the other way around. We should honor and love all those God had placed among us for who they are and honor God for the gifts He has given to us in one another. If we learn to see people in the Body of Christ as God's gift to us, then many of the problems we face in the church today would disappear.Secondly, the gifts God has given to the church are not offices but functions. Those He gives as apostles, prophets, etc. are not those who fulfill some ecclesiastical office but those who fulfill a special function within the Body. Consider your own body. There is not the office of an eye or an office of the heart, rather there are members of your body who fulfill the function of an eye and the function of a heart. While there are particular entities, their significance is not because of their name or designation but because of the function they perform. I personally do not believe that God has established offices within the church of Christ. I do not believe that there is an office of an apostle, and office of a prophet, an office of a pastor, and so on. An office exists whether or not there is someone to fulfill it. When an office is vacant, it can be filled by any qualified candidate. However, with the gifts God gives He gives them at His own discretion and those gifts remain as long as those men and women who are the gift remain. The reason we have prophets and pastors and other ministries is not because we have such offices that are filled and executed, but because God, in His own economy and timing, has give such men to function as such within our midst. This may seem like[...]

He who descended - Ephesians 4:9-10


"(Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)" (Ephesians 4:9-10)In this parenthetical thought, Paul continues to help us understand what David meant when he wrote in psalm, "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives." (Psalms 68:18) Paul is telling us that, in speaking of He who ascended, David is also prophesying about He who descended; not only to Earth to live among us and to die a substitutionary death on our behalf, but of He who also descended into Hades to free all who had and will die in faith. Jesus speaks of Himself as the one who descended that He might also ascend back to the Father after redeeming all of mankind. "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man." (John 3:11-13) Isaiah prophesied of the one who would, not only descend to Earth but also descend to the lowest parts of the Earth, here referring to Sheol or Hades as it was know in the Greek language. "Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; for the Lord has redeemed Jacob and in Israel He shows forth His glory." (Isaiah 44:23) Finally, the writer of  Hebrews speaks of Jesus as being the one who, not only descended into Hades, but who also then ascended through the heavens to the Highest place to sit at the right hand of the Father. "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God." (Hebrews 4:14)Some may ask, why did Jesus need to descend in order that He might ascend to where He once existed with the Father? The answer is two fold. First, David said of Jesus, in ascending, "You have led captivity captive." (Psalms 68:18 NKJV) The captivity that He led captive were those who had died in faith and, in Sheol (or Hades), awaited the savior who would free them from their captivity and raise them up with Him to dwell in the glorious presence of God. We are told by Matthew that, after Jesus's resurrection, many of the saints who had died in hope were also raised with Him and were seen alive in Jerusalem by many. "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many." (Matthew 27:52-53) Jesus descended so that those who had died in hope of the resurrection might finally receive the reward of their hoped and faith.Secondly, Jesus descended to the lowest parts and then ascended to the highest might in order that He might show to us that He is the one who fills all in all. There is no place we can go, not place that we can be committed to, where God is not. In our lowest lows, in our highest highs, God is there. David sang of the Lord, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness wil[...]

To each one of us - Ephesians 4:7-8


"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, 'When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men" (Ephesians 4:7-8)Much of modern Christianity has become largely a spectator sport. We have those who perform their religious duties and those who sit idly by watching them and either approving or disproving their performance as it suits their mood. We have pastors who teach for us, worship teams that worship for us, prayer teams that pray for us, and professional ministers who do the work of the ministry that we ought to be doing ourselves. Church life has become largely passive: we come, we sit, we listen, we leave. In all of this we have bought into the lie that there are those who minister and those who are ministered to; there are those who are gifted and those who depend upon the gifted ones for the spiritual well being. How we came to this place is a story of almost two thousand years of history and too long to recite here, but we must acknowledge that we have deviated far from the ideal of everyone being gifted and every one being called to the work of ministry as tough by Paul.To each one of us, grace (or favor) has been given and, through that grace, we have been given gifts and callings through which we might serve God and enrich His body. This grace is given to us according to the measure of Christ's gift, but what is this gift? Jesus, in talking to the woman at the well, said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'" (John 4:10) This living water is none other than the Holy Spirit whom Jesus was to pour out upon all believers after His resurrection and ascension on high. Furthermore, when Simon offered money to the apostles that he might be able to impart the Holy Spirit as they did, Peter rebuked him saying, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!" (Acts 8:20) Here, Peter identifies the "Gift of God" as the Holy Spirit into which we, as believers, are baptized. It is through the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God, the favor of God, that we are empowered to work the works of God and to perform the work of ministry for the common good; not only for the church but for the world at large.In setting up what Paul will be discussing after a brief digression, Paul quotes an Old Testament psalm. "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there." (Psalms 68:18) However, Paul quotes this psalm as "He gave gifts to men" as opposed to our common translations of the psalm being, "You have received gifts among men." This can be troubling. How can we trust Paul's writings if and when he misquotes the scriptures he claims to be divinely inspired? We could say that Paul was quoting from memory and just got it wrong, but that doesn't help much when we expect the scriptures to be true and accurate. How can we understand this apparent disagreement between the Old Testament scripture and Paul's rendition of it in his letter to the Ephesians? The key is to understand what David meant when he said, "You received gifts among men." Darby translates the psalm as, "thou hast received gifts in Man." (Psalms 68:18 Darby) Here we understand that the gifts Christ received were men. We can think of this as saying that Christ was "paid in men." M[...]

There is one - Ephesians 4:4-6


"There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:4-6)Our faith was not meant to divide us but to unite us as one in Christ. It is a shame that, through the centuries, we have allowed our varying beliefs, practices, and loyalties to divide us into competing camps of Christianity. Oftentimes, the very things that Paul enumerates here as being the source of our oneness, are the mountains upon which we stake our claim as being different and which we use as weapons to separate ourselves from one another. Paul reminds us that love "is the perfect bond of unity." (Colossians 3:14) When we choose division over unity, we are choosing to walk in something other than love. We may feel ourselves justified in asserting our superiority over other believers, but our claims of superiority come not from love but from other more carnal motives. When we use the things of God to divide the Body of Christ then we do harm both to Christ and His body and, ultimately, to ourselves.Of the things that testify to our oneness, there are three that deserve special notice. First is our oneness of faith. Faith is not a creed or a statement of belief printed on the back of a church bulletin. Faith is our belief and trust in Jesus, His life and substitutionary death on the Cross, and the promise of everlasting life which He has declared towards us. Polycarp, a disciple of John's, wrote to the Philippian church, exhorting them in studying the letters of Paul, saying, "And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, 'is the mother of us all.'" (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, Chapter III) Polycarp describes faith as the mother of us all, and this before there were any creeds or formulas to test one's faith. Jesus told us that, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) Our faith in the Gospel is far different than our faith in theology. One unites and one tends to divide. While we may differ in theology, if we hold a common faith and hope in the Gospel, then we ought to find common ground to unite us as one around our common savior who is the "the author and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:2)The second thing that unites us as one is our one baptism in Christ. I grew up in a church whose roots went back to the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. While there is much to admire about the Anabaptists, their five hundred year history is one of division after division, often centering around the mode and means of baptism. In our church you were baptized by immersion three times forward, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Holy Spirit. Other offshoots of the Anabaptists require you to be baptized in flowing water. In our town they would even break the ice on the river in order to baptize people in flowing water. When considering what Paul wrote here, I'm not sure that Paul is speaking of the physical act of baptism. Consider what the writer of Hebrews wrote considering the foundations of Christian faith, "the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of r[...]

Walk worthy - Ephesians 4:1-3


"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)Let's start off by considering at what Paul is not saying. He is not saying that we must first show ourselves worthy before we can embrace God's calling on our lives, nor is he saying that our worthiness for God's calling is determined by our works done in our own effort. Paul's plea that we should walk worthy is not a call to return to the Law and to works as if we could earn God's calling by our own actions and efforts. Paul is calling us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling because God has already made us worthy. We have already been called, the blood of Christ has already made us worthy, we have already been adopted as sons and daughters of God, therefore let us walk in the reality of who we really are. Our worth is not found in our actions and works but in whose we are. If we have truly become sons and daughters of Christ, then let us no longer live as orphans and as sons and daughters of the world, let us assume and live out our new identity by walking in light of who we really are.The Greek word for "worthy" is translated in the since of  living "appropriately" or "as becomes". In other words, it is the object that follows that should determine our behavior. Our behavior is not to earn our calling, but because we are called, we ought to walk in a way that is appropriate to, or as becomes, our calling. To help us, Paul lists some of those things that are appropriate, or befitting, of our calling. What is interesting is that he lists none of the typical spiritual disciplines that we would normally think of when contemplating a religious life, such as prayer, fasting, study, meditation, and attendance at church. Those things which Paul adjures us to do are all relate to our behavior towards one another. The Christian life is a life of relationships; our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. We cannot focus on one to the detriment of the other. If we love God but treat each other with contempt and indifference, then we really have not fully come into the fullness of our life with Christ. John goes so far as to say, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." (1 John 4:20-21) Those things which Paul lists are all acts of love by which we show the love of Christ to one another.To walk worthy of our calling is to walk in love towards one another. Our bond of unity comes not through our agreement on theology nor our loyalty or affinity to a particular minister or ministry, but it comes through the bonds of love which we share with one another. Paul commands us, "Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." (Colossians 3:14) It is our love for one another than produces unity among us, but this love must not be internal only, it must be expressed through our actions and deeds towards one another. Solomon reminds us that, "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed." (Proverbs 27:5 NKJV) It is not enough to be loving towards one another, we must live out that love through[...]

Abundantly beyond - Ephesians 3:20-21


"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)Too often, we limit God by viewing Him through the lens of our own weaknesses, limitations, and powerlessness. Our estimation of God is limited by what we can perceive, imagine, and by what we count as reasonable and possible. Instead of viewing God as greater than ourselves, we view Him as one of us; subject to the same limited possibilities as we ourselves are. This limited view of God often effects our hope, faith, and prayers. For example, when faced with difficulties and trials, we often pray for relief and for a cessation of the trials we face. However, God is able to do so much more, not only to bring an end to our suffering but to even rise us above our circumstances and to cause us to rule and reign in life through Christ. We just want to feel better but Christ wants us to overcome and live a totally victorious life. Sometimes we need to dream bigger, believe greater, and hope further than our minds can conceive of imagine. We need to begin to practice believing in the "more abundantly" of God.This super abundant ability of God is exercised through the limitless power of God that dwells within us. This power within is more than mere human effort and strength of will, it is of divine origin and is representative of the very person and nature of Christ. Paul refers to this power when he speaks of, "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 1:19-20) This power that dwells within is nothing other than that same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Within us is the same resurrection power that was in Jesus when He concurred the grave and rose to everlasting life. When we consider the great quality of this power within, we must admit that there is no problem, no need, no want that this power cannot provide or overcome. Regardless of what our need is, the resurrection power of Christ is more than sufficient to meet it and surpass it. God desires not only to meet our needs, but to fill them with resurrection life!This power within us is more than the sum of our spiritual gifts and the power to effect change and work miracles in the live of those around us. It is the power to change us and, through our changed lives, to change the world around us. Paul speaks of this transformation when he says, "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) Here, the Greek word translated as "transformed" is the same word from which we get our word for metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is the process by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. It represents a whole and complete change from one thing into another. The power of Christ that dwells within dwells that we might be totally transformed from the inside outward until we fully and plainly reflect Christ with our lives. It is for this transformation that we have been saved. Paul reminds us that, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son." ([...]

All the fullness of God - Ephesians 3:19


"that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19)Our lives are determined by that which fill them. Our lives are like vessels which are filled to overflowing by the things we allow to be poured into them. Some of what fills us we pour in ourselves, others consist of that which we open ourselves up to receive from our circumstances and our relationships with those around us. Either way, what fills us defines us.Paul spoke of those who were filled up evil, "being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful." (Romans 1:29-31) However, here he prays that the lives of the Ephesian believers would be filled with something more preciousness; something of greater worth and purer power in our lives. Paul prays that we would be filled with all the fullness of God.So what is the fullness of God? Paul gives us a hint when He says, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10) Similarly, John reminds us that, "God is love." (1 John 4:16) To be filled with the fullness of God is to be filled with the love of God, not a love that is focused inwardly, but a love that flows out to others; that we might love others even as Christ has loved us. Furthermore, when Moses asked to see God's glory, God passed before Him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." (Exodus 34:6-7) To be filled with the fullness of God is to be compassionate, gracious, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and generous. In short, to be filled with all the fullness of God is to be conformed into His image. To the degree to which our lives reflect the nature of Christ, to that degree our lives have been filled with the fullness of God.A few things are essential to being filled with the fullness of God. First, is that we must empty ourselves of our old life and nature that we might be filled for a new life and nature. If our lives are filled with the carnal sins of the flesh, as Paul wrote to the Romans, then there remains little room for the fullness of God to take up residence within us. We must first empty ourselves that we must be filled. This often takes assuming a new posture towards God. Jesus said, "Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved." (Matthew 9:17) Often times, old ways, dead religion, corrupting relationships, and inherited patterns of life are insufficient to hold the new wine God desires to pour into us. To receive the fullness of God we must first shed our old winskins and present to God new wineskins which may hold His new wine. This starts with our regeneration that comes through repentance, faith, and baptism which washes away our old life of sin. After that, it is required that we grow up in our faith, ever growing that we might be ever filled [...]

Rooted and grounded in love - Ephesians 3:17-19


"that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:17-19)Paul uses two metaphors as he continues to pray for the spiritual lives of the Ephesians and, in both of these, it is the love of Christ that is shown as the transformative force in our lives. The first metaphor is that of being rooted. The idea is of a plant that, in order to grow upwards, sends its roots downward, into the soil, that it might receive the nutrients needed to sustain its upward growth. The second is that of being grounded. This particular Greek word can refer to a substructure that is built upon the foundation, upon which the more functional parts of a house are built. It is the same word which Jesus uses to describe those who build their lives upon a strong foundation. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock." (Matthew 7:25) Here the word "founded" is the same Greek word translated as "grounded" in Paul's letter to the Ephesians.Paul prays that we would be strengthened in our inner man. While that strength is something that God provides, it often comes to us through that, and upon which, our lives are rooted and grounded. Unless we find our lives rooted and grounded in Christ's love, we are, to a large degree, cut off from the source of that strength of which our inner man desperately needs and depends upon. The quality, nature, and stature of our lives is determined by that upon which we draw our sustenance from and upon the quality and nature of the substructure on which we choose to build our lives. What is interesting here is that Paul side steps those things which we usually consider as key to building a successful Christian life, such as, theology, doctrine, disciplines, study, prayer, law, sacraments, etc. While such things may be helpful, they are not the things upon which our lives should be rooted and grounded. What is of first importance is that our lives should be rooted in love, that love should be that from which we draw our daily nourishment and food to sustain our upward and outward growth, and that we ought to be founded upon love, love being the source and motivating factor is all we desire, will, and do. When Christ dwells in us by faith, and our lives are rooted and grounded in love, then the true righteousness of Christ will be seen in and through us. Paul puts it this way, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6)Paul prays that we might be able to comprehend the full depth of the love of God. We typically think of comprehending as a mental activity, but the Greek word means to seize or to possess. Comprehending is more than having a passive knowledge of a subject, it is an active acknowledgment and understanding that brings the reality of a concept into effect in our lives. It's not that we just understand the concept of the love of God, but that this understanding so permeates our lives that it transforms us and bears fruit in our lives. There are two things that are key to fully comprehending the love of God. "We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us." (1 John 4:16) As we build our lives upon the [...]