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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: 2016-12-03T10:09:32.903-05:00


And this I pray - Philippians 1:9-11


"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; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Philippians 1:9-11)The Greek idea of "abound" means to be more than enough, having love in excess, and even "super-abounding." Paul's prayer and God's desire for us is that our love would grow to the point where it is not only enough but where it resides in us in excess. Our progress in this Christian life is to be judged by the degree to which our love for God and our love for others continues to grow and abound. Paul reminds us that, "faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)Love is not blind and love does not exist apart from judgment. Love must be a discerning love. Paul prays that as our love grows, so ought it to grow in knowledge and discernment. Not everything is to be loved and not everything is to be praised. The Greek word translated here as "real knowledge" can also be translated "full knowledge." It represents more than a cursory knowledge, it speaks of a knowledge that had been developed and honed to a depth by which we fully understand a subject or idea. Full knowledge takes intentionality in developing. It takes time and effort to search out and understand. Often we live by what we feel or what we imagine rather than by what we have sought out and come to acknowledge as true and right. Furthermore, many times we simply accept as true what we have been taught or what other people think and espouse as being true but we never search for the truth ourselves. We must take the effort to learn and understand truth for ourselves; the truth that is found in Christ, His word, and His kingdom.The Greek word translated as "discernment" comes from a root word that means to  perceive. It is not enough to have full knowledge, we must also have accurate perception and judgment. Paul writes, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Knowledge is not enough, we must also be able to judge between good and evil, clean and unclean, and useful and destructive. Speaking of his own life, knowledge, and perception, Paul writes, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Corinthians 6:12) It is one thing to have the knowledge that all things are lawful for us, but we must also have the judgment and clear perception of things to understand that somethings are not profitable for us.The purpose of full knowledge and perception is not so that we might judge the intents and actions of others but that we might judge the intents and actions of ourselves. Knowledge and perception is meant to be a protection for us by allowing us to see and understand those things which are profitable for our lives and those things that are not. Knowledge and perception teach us to love what is good in our life and hate what is in use that is evil. The goal of such love is that we might be pure and blameless at His coming. Love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a love that motivates us to change; to repent from those things that offend God and to adopt those behaviors that are pleasing to Him. It is a love that does not seek to please ourselves but to please God.Finally, we must remember that all knowledge, perception, and understanding comes from God. Even our willingness, ability, and endurance in the process is a gift from the Holy Spirit who lives in us. This process of growing in love that is built upon knowledge and perception is a process that is owned and initiated by God. Our participation in this process is fueled and sustained by the Holy Spirit within us. And the fruit that is born in our lives comes to us through Jesus Christ [...]

How I long for you - Philippians 1:7-8


"For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:7-8)
It is only right that Paul feels in what way towards them? Is it in feeling that God will perfect them until the day of Christ Jesus as mentioned in the previous verse, or is it in feeling such intense love for them as mentioned in the next verse? I believe it to be the latter. Also, in what way is it right for him to feel this way? Is it out of faith or out of some other motive? What is interesting is Paul's next thought, "because I have you in my heart." Darby translates this thought in a unique way among all the other translators. He translates it as, "because ye have me in your hearts." (Philippians 1:7, Darby) Personally, I believe that this translation makes more since, at least as to how the sentence is constructed, and it helps the sentence to flow better and to yield a simpler meaning. It is right and just for Paul to have such love for then since, after all, they have expressed such love and concern for Paul and for his work. More than that, in all that Paul has been through, they too have endured, and as his love for them has endured through his hardships, so has their love for him endured throughout all of their own hardships.

They, Paul and the Philippians, have a special bond one with another, not just a bond of love, but a bond of community; a bond that is formed through shared experiences. His hardships and theirs has taught them a level of grace and has brought them close though their mutual participation in that grace. It is easily to feel bonded with someone who has gone through things similar to you and who has found their strength, endurance, and joy in the same place and person(s) as you have. You both knew what it meant to suffer and you both understood, through experience, what it means to be sustained by the grace of God,

This word for partakers is a contraction of a word that means "union" and one that means an "associate" or "companion." It implies that they are more than friends, companions, associates, and fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. It implies that they have joined together for a common cause, a common experience, or a common suffering in Christ. It is one thing thing to have friends in Christ, it is another to join with them in a common pursuit, vision, and purpose in Christ. This was who the Philippians were to Paul. While they were all believers in Christ, they were united in their common mission and suffering for the Gospel. We often talk about unity in the Body of Christ. Perhaps the unity is best achieved when we use the grace of God to participate together in the development and growth of the body among us and in the advancement of the Kingdom of God around us. Perhaps, if we feel isolated and at disunity with one another, it is because we are not invested with each in the common work of Christ. Paul said that it is through our union in purpose that the Body grows and bears fruit to God. "From whom [the head] 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 4:16) Unity can only be found in action, not in being.

David Robison

will perfect it - Philippians 1:3-6


"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6)In Paul's greeting to the Philippian church, Paul is emphatic about his love and care for each and every one of them. Paul uses the same Greek word (or their derivatives) four times in repetition to emphasize his point. He says that his love and care for them is in "every remembrance," at "every time," with "every prayer", and for "every one." Paul was fully invested in the Philippians, not only as an apostolic worker on their behalf, but as a fellow participant in the Gospel and kingdom of Christ. Paul's letter is more than a momentary show of concern, it is the result of a daily remembrance of them, unceasing prayer for them, and an enduring love for them individually and corporately.Paul and the Philippians had very little in common. Paul was a Jew, raised in the strictest observance of their laws and traditions. Paul was raised to believe that he, and his people, were the only chosen ones and that the gentiles were to be forever excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. The Philippians were gentiles, raised without any benefit of the understanding of God's previous revelations in the scriptures and prophesies made before Christ. They were godless in their morals, ethics, and philosophy. Their God's were many and bore little resemblance to the one true God. However, even given all these differences, Paul found commonality and unity in the Spirit with these gentiles because they had something in common that was of greater significance than their differences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our participation in the Gospel breaks down the walls that divide us. In the Gospel, though we are different and our heritage is varied and unrelated, we are made to be one people in Christ. We, who were many, have now become one. We have been joined together in a Gospel where,  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)When we first come to the Gospel, God begins a "good work" within us. What is important to understand is that, our salvation experience, is not the end of that good work, but only the beginning. Salvation is not an event that happens and then we go our merry way, but it is the beginning of a journey and a process of being transformed into the image of Christ. While being born again is essential to our new spiritual life, it alone is not sufficient to bring us to where God desires to take us. Salvation alone is not enough to bring us to "the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ; in order that we may be no longer babes," (Ephesians 4:13-14 Darby) Salvation is just the beginning and, once having started His good work, God wishes to bring it to a conclusion.This conclusion of the good work God has started will take a life time of walking with God. We will spend the rest of our lives learning of God, learning from God, and learning obedience to the things He asks of us. This process is begun by God, sustained by God, and completed by God. However, it's beneficial aspects in our lives also requires our participation with God in the process. Paul reminds us to, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13) While God initiates the process, our participation in it is required if we are to reap the benefits of the process. Our spiritual growth does not happen without our participation in that growth. It is essential that we work[...]

bond-servants of Christ Jesus - Philippians 1:1-2


"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1-2)Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome. His apostolic partner, Timothy, is with him, although not in prison himself. Some have described Timothy as being a young pastor of one of the early churches. However, there is no evidence that Timothy was ever a "pastor" or a local leader of any of the early churches we know of. Eusebius, in his book on ecclesiastical history, never includes Timothy in any of his lists of bishops of the early churches. As far as we can tell, Timothy was an apostolic worker with Paul in Paul's ministry to the churches in Asia Minor. Later, when we read Paul's letters to Timothy, where He says to Timothy, "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith." (1 Timothy 1:3-4) we understand that Paul did not leave him behind to "pastor" the church but to complete the apostolic teaching in the church that Paul himself did not have time to complete.Paul describes himself and Timothy as "bond-servants" of Christ. This is interesting in light of Jesus' words to His disciples. "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15) While Jesus says He does not call us slaves (the same Greek word Paul uses that is translated, "bond-servant"), Paul calls himself and timothy bond-servants. How can, or should, Paul call himself a bond-servant when Jesus does not but rather calls him a friend? The key to understanding this is to understand an Old Testament tradition. "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for  six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment... But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently." (Exodus 21:2, 5-6) Paul and Timothy's subjugation to Christ as a bond-salves was not by coercion, force, or duty but rather voluntary our of their love for their master. While the love of God had set them free, their love for God bound them to Him in eternal servitude. They had committed their lives to serving their master out of the their boundless love for Him and His boundless love for them.Paul writes to those who are in Philippi and, almost as an after thought, to the overseers and deacons as well. It is important to note that Paul does not write to the leaders of the church, although he includes them in his letter, but he writes to the church in general. I have know churches where any prophesy or spoken words, other than simple encouraging words, had to be first submitted to the leadership for judging before being presented to the church as a whole. However, this does not seem to be Paul's approach to addressing the church. It is interesting that in addressing those who ruled over the church that he does not call them leaders or pastors but overseers. The role of the rulers of the church were not so much to lead as it was to oversee. The church functioned according to the "proper working of each individual part" (Ephesians 4:16) while the elders in the church simply oversaw what went on. Their job was not to control but to watch and to step in when some correction of protection was needed. It seems to me, in many of the churches I have been involved with, that we have become so enamored by leadership that we end up losing[...]

Peace be to the brethren - Ephesians 6:21-24


"But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love." (Ephesians 6:21-24)
We live in a highly connected world. Sometimes it is hard to remember that back then they did not. It could be months in between communications and years between visits. Many people to whom Paul wrote had never met him or had met him only once. Having heard that Paul was imprisoned, many people prayed and hoped for his safety with out ever knowing if their prayers were having an effect or if their prayers had found the object for which they prayed. For them, it was a great joy to receive Tychicus and hear the report of how Paul was fairing.

Paul closes his letter by praying that they would find peace along with love and faith. It is interesting that Paul often holds these two virtues together: love and faith. Love without faith is weak and often misdirected. Faith without love can actually be destructive to those to whom it is directed. Both are required and necessary. They are as two sides of the same coin. More precisely, one is the action and the other its conduit, as Paul says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Love is to be the conduit through which faith works.

Finally, Paul speaks of those who love our Lord with a love that is incorruptible. An incorruptible love is one that does not fade, grow cold, or diminish by degrees. Some people start out read-hot but end up lukewarm, or worse, stone cold dead. Our love for God should ever be increasing and is something we should guard as precious treasure. Anything of value must be tested, and so with our love for God. Our love will be tested but it need not fail. Our incorruptible love for God is at the center of our life with God and our life with each other. It is what sustain us and gives us the power to love others, even the unlovely and unlovable. Let us not grow cold in love but ever be those who stoke its flames to a full burning fire.

David Robison(image)

With all prayer and petition - Ephesians 6:18-20


"With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." (Ephesians 6:18-20) We are to be constant in prayers and petitions. Many of us know this, but few of us do this. Moreover, how does one pray at all times and with all prayers in our busy and jammed pack lives? The key is in understanding what Paul means by "all times". The Greek word used here for "time" does not mean the sequential passing of seconds, minutes, hours, and days but refers to discrete moments or opportunities in time. Darby translates this verse as, "praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in [the] Spirit." (Ephesians 6:18 Darby) God is not asking us to fill every waking moment of the day with prayer, rather, when opportunities arise or when the situation requires it, to be ready and prompt to pray. Each opportunity we face, each decision we must make, and each movement of testing that comes our way are to be filled with our prayers and supplication,Paul speaks of "all" as in "all prayer and petition" he means to indicate that there are various forms of our relationship with God of which prayer and petition are but two. Paul is encouraging us to use all forms of voicing our needs and concerns to God, be they asking, begging, or something else. Prayer is not to be rote or simply a static discipline we have with the Father. Payer should be dynamic and applicable to the need at hand. All forms of communing with the Father are to be pursued as needed. In fact, the Greek word for "prayer" can also imply "worship". Worship is a powerful force with God for it says, "Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chainsAnd their nobles with fetters of iron, to execute on them the judgment written; this is an honor for all His godly ones." (Psalms 149:6-9) Worship can be a powerful weapon in our time of need. Furthermore, we must elicit the help of the Holy Spirit, praying in the Spirit, for it is the Spirit who "intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In our time of need we have not been left alone but have the agency and help of the Holy Spirit within us who not only enables us to pray but also prays for us as well.When Paul says, "with this in view," he is speaking of our need to prayerful in all seasons and in every occasion. Another translation would be, "With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) Knowing our need for prayer, we must always be on the alert, ready to pray, and praying with all perseverance. The Greek word for "alert" means both to watch and to keep awake. The opposite of sleeping is not being awake but watching. Remember what Jesus asked his disciples when He found them sleeping while He was praying, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:37-38) Those who are asleep have no idea of what is going on around them nor the battle that is raging against them. We must be people who are awake and who are watching in prayer that we might see the reality around us and perceive the things that require our "all prayers and petitions." This take a decisive action to watch and a perseverance in prayer. Those who slumber will not do this but those who are awake will not be caught off guard. Some of us need to hear the works of Jesus when He said, "Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were abou[...]

that you will be able - Ephesians 6:13-17


"Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:13-17)Once again, Paul encourages us to take up the panoply of God; taking unto ourselves the full armor, utility, and instrumentality of God. What is important to understand is that the time to do this is not when you find yourselves in the mist of the evil day. When everything is assaulting you, it's not the time to be looking for your armor. Armor must be put on prior to the battle, not in the midst of it. Also, the armor is not something you put on and take off. We are to be continuously robed in the armor of God. Only then we will be properly prepared to meet whatever may come our way. It is also interesting to note that our call is to stand. I have known some people who always seem to be looking for a spiritual fight. They are always assaulting something or trying to cast something out. Paul is not telling us to be running head-long into the battle we think we should be fighting, but rather to be prepared to stand should the battle come our way. Paul's words to us are like the Boy Scouts' motto, "Be prepared." You needn't go looking for a fight. Trust me, it will find you. Therefore, be prepared.To gird oneself is to be ready for action and for service. Jesus tells us to always be prepared for whatever may come our way. He also tells us to be ready at a moment's notice to obey our master's wishes. "Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately." (Luke 12:35-36 NKJV) Truth is essential to our preparation to act. Without truth we are easily lead astray. Without truth we fail to understand the true nature of life and the world we live in. We fail to understand the importance of being ready and what is at stake by our obedience to Christ. To properly see the world and to be ready to answer God's call we must shed the lies of the world and surround ourselves with the truth of the Gospel.While, here, Paul references the breastplate of righteousness, in other places he refers to it as the, "the breastplate of faith and love." (1 Thessalonians 5:8) I believe that this is because faith and love equal righteousness. Remember the words of Paul when he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Righteousness is nothing more than faith working through love. It is also interesting to note that righteousness can be a defensive weapon.Remember when Jesus said, "the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30) Righteousness removes all the hooks in our heart by which the enemy can grab and yank us around. The enemy comes around looking for those in who he has place, but righteousness closes the door and keeps him out. How powerful is righteousness to our ability to stand!The phrase, "the preparation of the Gospel of peace" has always been a bit enigmatic for me. Is the Gospel of peace the preparation or are we to shod our feet as the preparation for the Gospel of peace? Here are two alternative translations that may help us to understand this verse. "Be ready with the good news of peace as shoes on your feet." (Ephesians 6:15 BBE) "as well as the shoes of the Good News of peace-- a firm foundation for your feet." (Ephesians 6:15 Weymouth) Along with these [...]

Our struggle is not - Ephesians 6:12


"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)There are many things that seek to rattle our cages. As we go through each day, we often find things that seek to oppose us and derail us from our faith and consistency with Christ. However, far too often, when we try and war against these forces, our contention is misdirected and aimed at the wrong actors. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Your enemy is not our spouse, your coworkers, your neighbors, or those of your family. Far too often these people become the recipients of our war against those things that seem to upset us, but they are not the problem, They are the unfortunate ones who are the closest to us so they are the ones who receive our frustration, our rebuffs, and our aimless flailing against our ever present opponent. Our unfortunate misdirection of force only serves to hurt those near us and perpetuate the influence of the enemy in our lives. We need to learn that people are not our enemies but rather our enemies are more powerful, unseen, and ready to exploit any weakness that may be in us for their own ends.Paul mentions four things, or classes of influence in our lives, which we do and ought to struggle against. The first is rulers. Darby translates this as "principalities". These are chief rulers; those given authority over specific domains. They were created as rulers, given both permission and empowering to rule by their authority. They hold sway over large areas and large groups of people. They may even be seen to govern over specific sins, such as drunkenness, and certain maladies such as leprosy and mental illness.The second is powers. These are those who have been given power and authority to act by the principalities they server. Darby translates this word as simply "authorities." There exists a host of minions doing the work and bidding of various principalities. We can think of these as the many demons who serve and work under the authority of higher ranking and ruling principalities of demons. These can be compared to the little foxes that Solomon refers to. "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes." (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV)Third are the world forces of darkness. Darby translates this as "universal lords of darkness," The Greek word for "world forces" is a combination of two Greek words. The first is the word "kosmos" which indicates all of this created realm, and especially this world. The second word can be translated "to seize or retain". I believe that this phrase refers specifically to Satan as the ruler of this world. It is curious that this word is translated in the plural and perhaps includes the many antichrists of which John says, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18)Lastly, Paul names "spiritual forces of wickedness." There is a whole host of non-corporal beings that are at work in the unseen real whose mission is wickedness. It is not simply that their mission is to spread wickedness, but their mission is to menace, scheme, and agitate those who are seeking to live a godly life. They are bent on our destruction and our derailment from the abundant life God has for us. What is most important to learn is, these forces are not seen but invisible. Those we can see are not the enemy. If we live our lives fighting against people, we will one day find that we have been fighting the wrong forces and we will only fight to provide the enemy greater access and place in our lives. Our fight against people will only serve to increase the influence of wickedness in our lives. We must l[...]

Finally, be strong - Ephesians 6:10-11


"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:10-11)The Greek word used her in "be strong" means to be empowered or to acquire or increase in strength. It implies a process where by we go from weakness and inability to strength and ability. What is important to note is the means by which we are to grow in strength and to be empowered in our inner-man. We are to be empowered in the Lord. It is only in relationship with the Lord that we can be empowered to face and defeat the forces that are bent upon our destruction. We cannot find such strength in ourselves, our material possessions, or in anything this world has to offer. Our only hope of victory, our only source of strength in the battle, it found in and flows from the Lord.God's strength is to become our strength, The Greek word used for the "strength" of God's might implies action. It can be translated vigor. The word used for God's "might" can also mean forcefulness. The strength of God is shown in action, It is not enough to be strong, but we must use that strength to overcome the schemes of the Devil. We are strong in the Lord, but we must put that strength to work in our daily lives. At times we must be vigorous, forceful, deliberate, and active in our stance and opposition to the enemy. As we learn to be strong in the Lord we must also learn to use that strength to be forceful.The Greek word for "full armor" is an interesting one and one from which we get our word "panoply" which Webster defines as "a group or collection that is impressive because it is so big or because it includes so many different kinds of people or things." Here its application is made in reference to the full armor worn by the Roman solders, but its application is wider than that. It can refer to the full instrumentality of God. It is the full tool-box or complete set of skills we have in Christ. Here Paul gives a list of some of those things. However, I believe that this list was not meant to be exhaustive but simply an illustrative list. For example, for some they could add scripture memorization to the list. Others could add worship. Still others, fasting. The point is that we need to take the sum total of God's armor, the tools He has given us, and the skills we have developed along the way that we might apply them to the wiles of the enemy so that we might continue to stand in our faith. We need all God has to offer us. This may mean learning new skills, taking up new tools God has for us, and putting on more armor to protect our lives. All of it is needed and we need to daily dress ourselves in the panoply of God.We need the panoply of God to guard against the wiles, scheming, and trickery of the Devil. The idea is that we do not always know when and how the enemy will attach. He uses trickery, slight of hand, and surprises to try and catch us off guard. Therefore, we must always be ready; always dressed in our armor; always having the tools and instruments of God in hand and ready to use, It reminds me of the scene in Nehemiah where they were building the wall while under constant threat of the enemy. It is said that, "those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon." (Nehemiah 4:17) They did their work with one hand while carrying their weapon with the other, Even while working they were prepared to fend of the enemy if necessary, In the same way, we must live our life always ready, always having our weapons in our hands, to stand our ground against our enemy.Finally, we are called to stand. We are not called to chase after the enemy or to look for demons under every rock. Fear not, you need not search him out, he will find you. Our focus mus[...]

Masters, do the same - Ephesians 6:9


"And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him." (Ephesians 6:9)
When Paul instructs masters to "do the same" what is he talking about? Certainly not obeying their slaves. The "same things" are those things that are done "with good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men." (Ephesians 6:7) Masters should live their lives towards others, including their slaves, with good will. They should be kind and considerate of the needs and dignity of those they master over. Specifically he mentions giving up threatening them. This Greek words means to be a menace to someone else. Other places Paul instructs them to be fair and just in the treatment of their slaves, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." (Colossians 4:1)

At the heart of Paul's instruction are two important concepts. First is the Golden Rule. Masters are to treat their salves as they themselves would be treated, with kindness, consideration, fairness, and justice. We would not like having someone over us yelling and threatening all the time so why should we do it to those under us? When we do wrong, we would like mercy for ourselves so why are we so quick to want to punish those under us when they do wrong? The Father has told us that, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) In other words, love others in the same way you would like to be loved.

Secondly, while we may be masters over slaves, we ourselves are the slaves of our heavenly master and He will judge us as slaves the same way they judge and treat our slaves. How can we plead mercy from God when we don't extend it to others? How can we require obedience from our slaves when we don't offer it to our master in heaven? Just because we are masters does not mean that God will judge us differently from our slaves. In this since we are one with our slaves and even greater than them in judgment. If they fail to obey human masters they will receive temporal punishment, but if we fail to obey our heavenly master, our punishment is eternal. We can only rule over and mange other people correctly when we understand our master and allow ourselves to be properly managed and ruled by the supreme master of the universe. We too have a master and we too are slaves, so let us not think of ourselves as being superior but as being in common with all other humans in receiving grace and mercy from the one who rules the universe.

David Robison(image)

Slaves, be obedient - Ephesians 6:5-8


"Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free." (Ephesians 6:5-8)In Paul's day, slavery was a well established social institution. However, slavery in the Geek/Roman period differed from our own period of slavery in some very significant ways. First, slavery then had little or no relationship to racism. Those who were enslaved were not enslaved because their masters believed them to be inferior or created for slavery, they were most often enslaved as the result of being conquered in war. Part of the spoils of war was then the right to enslave those you concored. This is also the second major difference between slavery then and that of the past several centuries. The slave trade that supplied slaves to America and other nations was itself supplied by black tribes in Africa who would kidnap those of a rival tribe and sell them to the white Europeans for transport and sale to America. In Paul's day, slaves were made slaves through what was then a noble act of war and the right of the victor to enslave the conquered, where the slave trade of recent past was the result of the complicity of both Africans, Americans, and Europeans in the lustful pursuit of money. In saying this, I am in no way justifying slavery, but we must be cautions not to judge and understand slavery in Paul's time based upon our own recent experience with slavery.Similarly, Paul is not justifying slavery. He is acknowledging it as the normative state of the world he and many believers lived in. Slavery existed and it would be centuries before it would pass away. Many of the first converts to Christianity were slaves and Paul's main focus in these verses is not to address the issue of slavery but to address those who were slaves and those who were masters and to give them instruction as to how they should relate to each other; both in the context of their existing relationship as slave and master and in their existing relationship with God. To Paul, it was more important to address the spiritual condition of the individual first, before addressing the ills of the culture around them, for Paul knew that, if you changed the heart of the individual, then eventually you would change the culture in which they lived. Today, there are few of us who remain as slaves. However, there is much we can learn from Paul that can be applied to our work lives where we serve the will of our employers.In instructing slaves, there are several things that Paul teaches, all which address issues of the heart. First is that they should obedient. This Greek word means to listen to. Slaves should be attentive to the commands and direction of their masters. This involves an active listening that turns into corresponding action. A useful slave does not need to be instructed in every last detail of what he is expected to do. He hears and understands what his master is saying and then proceeds to carry out his commands. For example, there were times when I asked my kids to do the dishes. When I came back, the dishes were done but the kitchen was still a mess. Some people only do the letter of what was asked, but others understand the bigger picture and the fuller since of what was wanted. These are those who are most useful to the masters and to those who employ them.Secondly, Paul encouraged  slaves to have sincerity of heart. This Greek word means to have a singleness of purpose. Why do you do the kind of work that you do? For some, their[...]

Children, obey - Ephesians 6:1-4


"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:1-4)Paul has finished given instructions to the husband and wife, now he turns his attention to the children. It is interesting that Paul feels free to talk directly to the children rather than telling parents what they should communicate to their children. This is because, even as children, we have our own relationships with God. Our relationship with God is not filtered by, or intermediated by, our parents, rather we relate directly to God in both our prayers, worship, and obedience. As such, God asks us to choose, as free moral agents, to honor, respect, and obey the parents that God has given us. It was God who created us in the womb and it was God who determined who our parents would be and, as such, He asks us, in an act of obedience to Him, to honor and obey them.When Paul uses the phrase, "in the Lord", he is not saying that we should only obey our parents if they too are in the Lord, but that our obedience and honor for our parents should flow as a natural result of our relationship with God. It is only when we are in right relationship with God that we can properly understand and respond to His commandments to honor and obey our parents, even if they themselves are not in the Lord. I knew a woman whose parents were harsh and fought against her relationship with Christ, yet she found solace in testimony of apostles who rejoices because, "they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41) It was her relationship with Christ that gave her the grace and strength to love, honor, and obey her parents who were less than charitable to the things of the Kingdom.We are living in a time when there is an all-out assault on the traditional family of a husband, wife, and children. We are told that families comes in all stripes and flavors and that no one sort of family is to be preferred over another. We are also seeing the in-reach of government into the family in ways that diminish the role and authority of the parents over their families. Young girls, who cannot take an aspirin in school without a parent's notes, can get an abortion without their parents ever having to know. Laws have even made it illegal for public libraries to disclose to parents what kinds of books their children are checking out of a library. Public figures are telling us that it takes a village to raise a child when God designed it to be a family that raises a child. When government and other cultural forces work to erode the bond between parent and child, a structure that God created in His own wisdom and purpose, then our culture begins to unravel and our nation rushes forward in decline.  The key to a strong and lasting culture and society is the relationship between parents and children and the strength of the traditional families. So important is this intra-family dynamic that before the final coming of Christ God has promised to, "restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6)Honoring our father and mother not only ensures the longevity of our society, but it also promotes our own prosperity in our lives. The Greek term for "obey" means more than simple blind obedience. It has the idea of listening to and heading, not only their commands, but also their teaching and wisdom. This is more than just obeying their rules but also conforming our lives to the lessons and[...]

As their own bodies - Ephesians 5:28-33


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

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


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

Wives, be subject - Ephesians 5:22-24


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

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


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

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


"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17)Perhaps the most literal translation of this verse is, "See, then, how exactly ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 YLT) while others translate it as, "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise." (Ephesians 5:15 NKJV) The idea is that we should not go through life blindly, oblivious to how we are walking and the situations and circumstances that surround us. Life does not just happen. The fool simply goes along with everything that comes his way, but the wise examines everything, constantly looking and scrutinizing his life and ever aware of the situations and circumstances that surrounds him. To walk circumspectly means to look around, to see the full 360 degrees of your life, to look forward, sideways, and behind. It is a walk that it ever vigilant, always watching, and never slumbering. It is a life that is fully aware, fully awake, and fully engaged.As we walk circumspectly, Paul encourages to make the most of our time. The Greeks have two words for time, the first is "chronos" which refers to the sequential passing of time and the other is "kairos" which refers to specific occasions and opportunities. When we think of making the most of our time we often think of "time management" where we try and optimize our schedule by making efficient use of our "chronos". However, here Paul is speaking of making the most of our "kairos" moments. While life progress relentlessly through chronos, it is those kairos moments in which life takes meaning and where the real value of life is found. In trying to optimize our time management, we can become so efficient at being busy that we miss the real opportunities of life. It has been said that we should "stop and smell the roses" which is the same as taking time to putting chronos aside that we might find value in those kairos moments of life.The Greek word translated here as, "making the most" literally means to redeem, to buy back, or to buy up. Opportunities are always there for our taking, but often we pass right on by them and forfeit the blessings that could be ours and others in those moments. Paul told us that we have been, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) God has created us for the very moments that He has prepared for us but we must seize, or "buy up" those opportunity if we are to make the most of them, both in our lives and in the lives of others. In order to buy up the opportunities that come our way we must be vigilant in looking for them, selfless in giving up our will and plans to take hold of them, and courageous to act on them when they come our way. Paul says that we are to do this because the "days are evil." This term does not mean evil in the moral since but is a derivative of a Greek word that means "toil" and by extension, "anguish". If we let life just happen, it will bury us in a mountain of work and obligations that will consume our entire life, A life lived on auto-pilot is a life consumed with work and toil and a life that is void of the very moments that make life worth living. If we do not intentionally take time to find those moments in life that God has created us to take hold of, then we will miss the very purpose for which we have been created.Finally, Paul exhorts us not to be foolish but to understand the will of the Lord for our lives. The Greek term for "foolish" means to be "mindl[...]

Rather expose them - Ephesians 5:11-14


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

You were formerly darkness - Ephesians 5:6-10


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

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 t[...]

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 pe[...]

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[...]

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 [...]

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[...]

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 th[...]