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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: 2016-09-26T12:28:45.591-04:00


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 friends but it can be taken to an extreme where it descends into base, course, and obscene banter that can wound, hurt, and offend the hearers. Paul's remedy for these things is that, in laying asid[...]

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 return and to be reconciled back to Him in love. Every time we place our needs and wants before those of others, we are imitating our Father in His love and sacrifice towards us. Jesus told [...]

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(image)

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 marriage with ever growing heat. We must learn to work though our anger; to resolve it quickly, and to restore peace and harmony within our relationships with ever growing efficiency and speed. [...]

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.Finally, Paul tells us to put on our new self. God has created for us a new life that has been created in His image; according to His righteousness and holiness of the truth. It is interesting t[...]

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 learned. It is not enough to learn Christ, but we must then put that learning into practice for it to have any affect on our lives. Jesus said, "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and [...]

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 greater than the darkness one believes to be light. As long as we claim light, and yet that light be really darkness, we will continue to walk and stumble in our darkness. It is only when we conf[...]

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 to learn and grow in Christ or were we like the unfaithful servant who, "dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money." (Matthew 25:18) We are the ones who are responsible for our gro[...]

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 but to the fruit that doctrine has born in their lives, for it is by their fruit that we will know them.Third is the "deceitful scheming" of men. Darby translates this as, "in unprincipled cu[...]

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 we knew prior to our new birth we still retain. Many of our previous habits and ways of thinking remain and are not immediately obliterated by our conversion in Christ. However, as we grow in [...]

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 a small distinction but the fact is that such ministries are not made by men but rather given by God.Thirdly, these gifts are given for the specific purpose of equipping and building up the [...]

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 will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." (Psalms 139:7-12) St[...]

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." Men were the prize and gifts he sought to win through His death and resurrection. The Bible in Basic English translates this verse as, "you have taken offerings from men." (Psalms 68:18 BBE) H[...]

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 resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." (Hebrews 6:1-2 NKJV) Notice he enumerates here "baptisms" in the plural, not baptism in the singular. Speaking of baptism, Jesus said, "John [...]

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 our deeds and actions. It is not enough to feel love, we must express our love through humility, gentleness, forbearance, patience, and forgiveness. Only when we learn to do this will our li[...]

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." (Romans 8:29)This power and this transformation are for His glory; that He might be glorified for the work of power that He works in and through us. Not only is He to find glory in us, but als[...]

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 to new levels of the fullness of God. Part of this growth comes when we submit in fellowship with other believers and receive the ministry of Christ from others. Such ministry is  intende[...]

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 love of God, we build upon both experiencing and believing in His love. There must be a balance between faith and experience. One who lives by experience alone may stumble and fall during tim[...]

In the inner man - Ephesians 3:14-17


"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3:14-17)Paul finally returns to the thought he started thirteen verses ago. The, "for this reason," is two fold. It is because the mystery of God has finally been revealed, that being that salvation has to come to all mankind, not just a select few. Salvation was not just for the Jews, but for the gentles as well. The promise made to Abraham that, "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed," (Genesis 22:18) had finally come to pass. Additionally, not only was all mankind now invited to salvation in Christ, but God was setting about to build and knit together all believers into one body in Christ. We have not only been saved, but we have also all been called to unity and communion in one universal body of Christ. We are all together, one  body and one temple of God in the Spirit.Because of this, Paul chooses to pray. Paul was a man of incredible gifting and anointing. As an apostle, he was called to the equipping of the saints. His job was to teach and instruct in such a way that those who heard him were equipped and furnished with all they needed to live a christian life and to perform the work of ministry that Jesus had called His Body to perform. Paul was also anointed for the impartation of spiritual gifts to those among whom he ministered. Paul wrote of his desire to come to the Romans saying, "For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established." (Romans 1:11) However, in spite of all this, Paul realized that there were something that he simply could not provide or impart to those among whom he ministered. For all the anointing, giftings, and grace he possessed, there was that which was needed that he was wholly incapable of providing; there are some things that only God could provide.We must always remember that we are not always the solution to the needs and problems or others, There were something Paul could impart through teaching and gifting, but there were other things that people needed that only God could provide. We are not always the answer to what people need and we must not become puffed up in our estimation of ourselves as if we have all the answers and all the goods that others need. We must never neglect the importance of prayer and supplication to God that He might perform in others what only He can do. We must do what we can, but we must also trust and believe God for what only He can do in the live of others. This revelation can bring us great comfort and peace knowing that we do not have to be all things to all people. We are not responsible for all things in the lives of others. We must do our part, but we can also rest in the knowledge that God is working even where we cannot.Paul's prayer was that our inner man would be strengthened so that, through faith, Christ might richly dwell within us. The Christian walk is not always easy and it takes strength and endurance to live it out day by day. This strength is to be found in the inner man and is a strength that only God can provide. It is also a strength that is based on faith and not on law, works, or external ceremony. Paul understood that for our salvation to be genuine it had to touch us deep within, conforming our inner man to the image of Christ. It is not enough to outwardly appear t[...]

Do not lose heart - Ephesians 3:13


"Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory." (Ephesians 3:13)When things are going well, everyone wants to be a part of what is going on, but when trials and difficulties come, it is only natural for people to begin to wonder what they've gotten themselves into. I've seen this at work. When the company is growing and thriving, everyone is excited to be there, but when difficult times come and people start to leave, it is easy to question if you've hitched your wagon to the wrong horse. We all want to be part of a winning team, but even winning teams go through hard times every now and again. The same is true of the church. When revival is raging, people flock to the church to be a part of what is going on, but when persecution and trials arise, many leave discouraged and confused because of the change of fortunes.The believers in Ephesus came to the Lord in joy but they were rattled by the reports of persecutions that we breaking out among the believers. Paul was in prison and others were dying for their faith. Their joy was turned into concern and questioning. Was all this really worth it? Was Christianity real or was it just a passing fad that would be extinguished by the fires of persecution. Paul wrote to them to encourage them to remain strong and to not lose heart. Paul understood that trials and persecutions were part of living a righteous life in this world, but they were in no way a true reflection of the value and worth of the kingdom which we've chosen to align ourselves with.When difficult times come, there are two things that are important to remember. First, is that we must always see our lives in light of the bigger picture and not become consumed by the passing difficulties of life. Paul writes, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) Afflictions, in their time, never seem momentary and light, but in view of eternity and the reward that awaits us in heaven, they are just a passing blip in an eternal life filled with the blessings and joys of Christ. Sure Paul was in prison, but the Gospel was still progressing, still concurring, and still bearing fruit in the world. Paul wrote, "for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things." (2 Timothy 2:9-10) Things may be tough, but God is still at work. It is like Jonah in the belly of the great fish; though things were bad, the fish was still on course to deliver Jonah to the very center of God's will for his life. We must never let the monetary difficulties of this life distract us from our confidence, boldness, and hope in power of the eternal Kingdom of God.Secondly, we must remember, when we are going through difficult times, not to let our difficulties negatively impact others. Paul was in prison, but he was not whining and complaining about it. Rather, he was encouraging other to remain strong even as he was remaining strong in his imprisonment. There was a time when I realized that my standard response to the question, "How are you?" was "I'm really tired." I began to realize that my constant negative response was a burden to others and did nothing to encourage them in their daily life. Positivism is contagious, but so is complaining. People [...]

The eternal purpose - Ephesians 3:11-12


"This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him." (Ephesians 3:11-12)Paul's calling as an apostle, the revealing of the mystery of Christ, and the making known of the manifold wisdom of God were all part of God's eternal plan which He accomplished through Jesus Christ. Our view of history is very short. We tend to see only on immediate history which includes, at best, the sum total of the memories of our own life. To us, history is what is happening to us right now. However, God sees our lives from outside of time. God has a much larger view of history; a view that extends back to when time was not yet created. God sees and purposes on a grand and large scale that takes all of history into account in a single glance. To us, history is a series of wins and losses, ups and downs, joys and disappointments, but to God it is a continual process of the expression of His purpose upon creation and especially upon mankind.What is important to understand from all of this is that, no matter what happens or comes into our lives, God has a plan and a purpose to deal with it. Even when Adam and Eve witnessed the introduction of sin into God's creation, God already had a plan for its eradication. This can offer great comfort to out lives in that, when facing hard or difficult times, we can trust in the eternal purpose and wisdom of God and know that, no matter how bad it may be, God has a plan for our lives. How comforting to know that, even before the unfolding of our lives, God had a plan which tends to our good.This eternal purpose was carried out in Christ, but what was this purpose? Paul gives us a hint when he says that we now have "boldness and confidence" to appear before God by faith. The purpose of God is, and has always been, to bring His creation into close relationship with Himself. We saw this in the Garden of Eden where it was said, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." (Genesis 3:8) This was not a one time event but a regular occurrence and experience for Adam and Eve until the day they sinned. Prior to sin, God fellowshiped with His creation and mankind was in intimate relationship with His God. However, after sin, thing changed and a wall went up between God and mankind. This is the wall that Paul refers to when he speaks of "the dividing wall... which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Ephesians 2:14-15) and the reality that Isaiah describes when he says, "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear." (Isaiah 59:2) However, in Christ, this wall is removed and we are once again invited into relationship with God.God's eternal purpose is that we would be in right standing with God and in intimate relationship and fellowship with His spirit. This knowledge should give us boldness, not to run away from God, but to run to Him knowing that He will receive us and forgive us and welcome us back into His family. The writer of Hebrews exhorts us saying, "therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) Where ever you are, whatever your circumstances, run to God. Do not be shy or cowardly, but take boldness and confidence and come unto Him. If you do, you will find a welcoming God, one who from all eternity has been waiti[...]

Manifold wisdom - Ephesians 3:10


"so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 3:10)No one person can, by themselves, fully express the full depth, breadth, and completeness of the manifold wisdom of God. The Greek term "manifold" refers to the many faceted nature of the wisdom of God. Each of us, in tern, are appointed to reveal some aspect of God's wisdom, but it takes a many member body to fully express every aspect and nature of God's wisdom. The truth is that we can only ever be but a part of what God intends for His church upon this Earth. We ourselves are not the fullness. The fullness of the expression of the many faceted nature of God is only revealed by the fullness of the many faceted church of God. We are only a part and we need each other to complete the mission and purpose of God and to fully reveal God to the world around us. It is only when we learn to live in unison and harmony with other believers as the church of Christ that together we are able to express and reveal the fullness of God to the world, both seen and unseen, around us. One person cannot do it, it takes a church.While Paul was sent to preach and to bring to light the mystery of Christ, it is through the church that the wisdom of God is to be revealed. The revealing of the wisdom of God is not done through preaching, doctrine, or even dogma but is shown through our everyday lives we live as born again and regenerated believers in Christ. It is not our teaching and creeds that reveal God's wisdom to the world, but the lives we live as Christians. Many may wonder "where is God is such a world filled with sorrow and suffering," but when they see the wisdom of God as demonstrated through the salvation he has provided for all who would believe, and when they see the power of His Holy Spirit who lives within us and teaches and enables us to live a new life in Christ, then they see His wisdom in all that has transpired through out history to bring us to this place. When we see the salvation of God it all makes since. All that went on before was to prepare us for the salvation of God that was to come, and now that we have received this salvation, it continues to work in our lives to conform us into the image of Christ. Our doctrine will never convince the world of the wisdom of God, but our lives lived in Christ will.This manifold wisdom of God is not only revealed to this world but also to the rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm. This, to me, is an odd statement. Why would God need to reveal His many faceted wisdom to the spiritual powers in heavenly places? Can they not already see it through His creation and His constant watching and care over all He has made? Being created from the beginning, have they not already seen and learned of God from all He has done? I believe what Paul is driving at in this statement is that, through the Church, God is revealing to those who have sought to destroy us that, though they have tried, God has won. From the very beginning, the Devil has sought to destroy all that is God's, but God's wisdom was greater than his plans. In the end, God always wins. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) This is the manifold wisdom of God. The Devil sought to destroy but God had a plan to bring salvation to all mankind and to thwart the work of the enemy. All who receive His salvation and lea[...]

To the Gentiles - Ephesians 3:8-9


"To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things" (Ephesians 3:8-9)Paul was not only given a ministry, but a sphere of ministry. Upon his conversion, God spoke concerning Paul, "he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16) While Paul was more than willing to preach the Gospel to the Jews, he understood that his primary ministry was to the gentiles. Speaking of himself and Peter, Paul readily acknowledges the differing spheres of ministry given to each of them, "for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles." (Galatians 2:8) For Paul and Peter, it wasn't a competition between the two of them. They each had their own calling and they each had their own sphere of ministry where they each labored according to the grace of God given to them.It is important not only to be called, but to understand to where we are called. We must always remember that we are not "the whole enchilada," but we are only a part of the greater body and ministry of Christ. Our job is not to do it all, but simply to do our part. In doing so, we must be content with the part God has called us to play and not strive to be like someone else or to press into areas and spheres of ministry to where God has not called us. Our focus must always be on what God had called us to do and not to boast or try to infringe on what God has called others to do. Paul wrote, "But we will not boast beyond our measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men's labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord." (2 Corinthians 10:13-18) Contentment is a powerful virtue in Christ; to be content in what God has allotted to us, whether in blessings, possessions, or callings.The phrase, "the administration of the mystery" is a bit difficult to understand in its translation into English. The word "administration" is sometimes translated steward, stewardship, or dispensation. The idea is that the revelation, and distribution, of the mystery is entrusted to a steward to be delivered to those for whom it is intended in its proper time. For a long time, God kept this mystery a secret, but now God has announced the administration of this mystery when He commanded his disciples, "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:8) The mystery was that all mankind was to be reconciled and invited into right relationship with Christ. Salvation was to come to all, not just the Jews, but all mankind. The administration of this salvation was first to the Jews[...]

According to - Ephesians 3:7


"of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power" (Ephesians 3:7)This verse if a bit difficult to properly understand from the Greek, in that the Greek text has no capitalization or punctuation. The New King James version translates this verse as, "according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power" (Ephesians 3:7 NKJV) using "by" for the second "according to". Darby translates it this way, "according to the gift of the grace of God given to me, according to the working of his power" (Ephesians 3:7 Darby) inserting a comma between the two "according to" phrases. I think what is important to understand is that Paul realized that there were two things at work in his ministry.First was the grace of God who called him and appointed him a minister. Paul did not choose to be an apostle, God chose him, and his choosing was not because he was the most qualified or the most worthy for the calling. In fact, it was just the opposite. He saw himself as the last one who should be chosen for such a ministry; a realization that made the grace of God all the more precious to him. God chooses us not because of our ability or our worth but because of His ability and His worth. What ever ministry we have been given, had given to us by the free and unmerited favor of God. Therefore, we have no reason to boast in ourselves, as if we ourselves in anyway merited it. Our boasting is only in the Lord.Secondly, there is the working of God's power in our lives. The Greek word for "working" is the same word from which we get our word for "energy" and the Greek word for "power" is the same word from which we get our word for "dynamite." When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, there is an explosion of power in our lives that enables us to work the works of God. God's energy is deposited in our lives for effectual service through the power which He provides. God does not just call us through His grace, He also gives us the strength and ability to live out that calling. Paul wrote, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." (1 Corinthians 15:10) Paul labored with incredible energy and power to bring about the effect for which Christ had sent him to minister, but it was not in his own strength, energy, and power that he labored, but in the energy of the power of Christ that resided within him. God does not merely call us to ministry, he also gives us everything we need to accomplish that for which He has called us. If there is any fruit or success in our ministry, it is not ours to boast about, as if we had done it in our own strength. Our boasting is only in the Lord.Paul describes himself as a minister. This Greek word is the same word from which we get our word for "deacon" and means to be a servant or an errand boy. Sometimes we view ministry as an elevated position within the Body of Christ. Because of our predisposition to see church as a hierarchy of ecclesiastical positions, we tend to see ministers as being above the congregants, To be a minister is to be elevated above the flock. However, this is not how Paul saw it. Paul understood that he was called to a lower place, to the place of a servant, to a place of serving the needs of others. Paul understood what Jesus said about[...]

Has now been revealed - Ephesians 3:5-6


"the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel," (Ephesians 3:5-6)Paul refers to the mystery of Christ. This Greek word for "mystery" is a derivation of another Greek word which means to "shut the mouth." It means to remain silent and to hide a fact or knowledge through silence. While in previous millenniums, God prophesied of a coming savior, there was an aspect of His coming and His ministry that was hidden, kept silent, and not revealed until His actual appearance upon this Earth. The Jews understood and looked forward to the Christ's coming, but the mystery of what His coming would mean to the world was hidden from them. They only understood Him to be their savior from the oppression and tyranny of their overlords; to be a political and national deliver from their captors and enslavers. To them, He was a natural savior for they failed to understand the spiritual aspect the ministry He was to perform when He did arrive to deliver them.This mystery of Christ was that He was to come and free all men from oppression, slavery, and servitude; not from the oppression and slavery of men, but the oppression and slavery of sin and death. Jesus came to free us from what we ourselves could not, and this deliverance from sin and death was not only for the Jews, but for all of mankind. In times past, gods and religions were the possession of nations; each nation having its own gods and its own religion that regulated every part of their lives. Never before had there been a savior or a religion that crossed national boundaries and brought all of mankind together as one. Even the Romans, as they conquered nation after nation, left them to server their own national gods as long as they added the roman gods to their worship. Jesus came, not only for the Jews, but for all of mankind, to unite us all as one thought our common salvation in Christ.In describing the gentile's participation in the salvation of Christ, Paul uses three Greek words that all begin with the same prefix which implies a union and common participation in the described action; they are co-heir, co-member, and co-partakers. As gentiles, we have been brought into familial relationship with God and have been made co-heirs with the Jews to the promises and blessings long foretold by God. All the blessings and promises that were the Jews through their descendancy from Abraham are now offered to all who find their new lineage through Abraham by faith. We are also co-members of one body with all who believe and have faith in Jesus and His Gospel. No one is to be excluded. All who believe are now invited into the union of one body in Christ. We are no longer separated from one another by nationality, ethnicity, gender, or any other dividing classification, we are all sons and daughters of God and members of His singular body. Finally, we are co-partakers of God's promise in Christ. Here Paul refers to the promise in the singular form. I believe that what Paul is referring to are not the multitude of promises and blessings that are our in Christ, but the promise of everlasting life with Christ. In Christ, eternity comes to light and we begin to understand that th[...]