Ephesians 5:1-2 “Dear Children”

Paul gives us a very intimidating command.  It is impossible to even comprehend the command, much less actually obey it.  He tells us to "be imitators of God." (Ephesians 5:2)  Then, he addresses us as "dear children."  When you consider both of these phrases, it makes a little more sense.  As dear children of God, we bear a resemblance to our Father.  In the early church, the believers were called "Christians"  (Acts 11:26) because they were followers of Christ, and therefore were "little Christs."  That is a little more understandable.  Jesus Christ is God-Man.  He is perfect Deity revealed in perfect Humanity.  We aspire to be more like our Savior.  We embrace the term "Christian" because we desire to be like Christ.  But, do we really want to be "God Jr."?  It almost sounds blasphemous.  But, that is basically what Paul is saying.  He calls upon us, as dear children, to be imitators/followers/mimics of our Heavenly Father.  It is indeed a high and holy calling.  It is not something that we should take lightly.  We can never actually be like God, but we can be "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)  And, it starts with love.  "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us . . ."  (Ephesians 5:2)  We are most like our Heavenly Father when we walk in love.

Ephesians 4:25-32 “What Makes God Sad?”

Paul warns believers not to make God sad, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."  (Ephesians 4:30)  The good news is that we are sealed!  We can not lose the Holy Spirit.  But, we can grieve Him.  So how do believers grieve the Holy Spirit?  In the context of this verse, Paul is urging believers to put off their old sinful behaviors and put on godly habits.
1.  Put off lying, and instead speak the truth. (v. 25) 2.  Put off anger.  (v. 26)
3.  Put off stealing, and instead work and give to others.  (v. 27)
4.  Put off corrupt speech, and instead speak what is good for edification.  (v. 29)
5.  Put off bitterness and wrath, and instead be kind and forgiving. (vs. 31-32)
That is a pretty practical list.  When the gospel of Jesus Christ transforms a sinner by grace, that sinner should do away with his old sinful habits and instead pursue righteousness.  However, God is grieved when a redeemed sinner returns to the sin from which he was saved.  Peter (the fisherman turned disciple) described it in much more graphic detail than Paul (the Bible College professor).  Peter used two pictures:  a dog returning to his vomit, and a pig wallowing in the mud after taking a bath.  (2 Peter 2:22)  Peter was talking about unbelieving false teachers.  You would expect them to behave this way because they have not experienced God's saving grace.  Their nature remains unchanged.  However, Paul is addressing believers who should know better.  When we believers refuse to mature, and instead cling on to the old sinful habits from which we were saved, the Holy Spirit of God is grieved by our stubborn disobedience.  Don't make God sad by your lying, anger, stealing, corrupt speech, and bitterness.  Instead, be an imitator of God (Ephesians 5:1).  We are most like God when we love.  We are most like Jesus when we forgive.  And, we are most like the Holy Spirit when we serve.

Ephesians 4:25-32 “When is a Thief not a Thief?”

It is a thought-provoking question.  It is kind of like the chicken/egg question!  It is possible for a thief to quit stealing for a while.  Maybe by sheer will-power, the thief realizes that he needs to stop stealing or he will be caught and punished.  Perhaps, the thief is lying low while he plans his next caper.  Perhaps the thief is lazy, and just doesn't have the necessary energy to rob people any more!  He might not be stealing, but he is still a thief.  Ceasing sinful behavior does not change the character of the sinner.  The sinful behavior might be taking a break, but the sinful character is still there.  So, when is a thief not a thief?  Paul answers the question in Ephesians 4.  A thief ceases to be a thief when he works an honorable job so that he can generously give to others.  (Ephesians 4:28)  Now, that is the opposite of a thief!  It is not just a cessation of a sinful behavior.  It is the radical transformation of the soul.  Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that!  A thief can stop stealing (for any number of reasons).  But only God can change a thief into a generous giver.  A liar can stop lying, but only the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform a liar into one who speaks the truth in love.  (Ephesians 4:25)  Only the gospel can change a corrupt mouth into a mouth that speaks edification and grace (Ephesians 4:29).
And, only the gospel can turn an angry man into a forgiving man (Ephesians 4:31-32).  Behold the power of the gospel!  A thief is not a thief when he is gloriously saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-24 “What do you Think?”

There is probably some truth in the old saying, "you are what you eat."  The real Biblical truth is that "you are what you think."  The Apostle Paul emphasizes the thought process in his exhortations to Christians in Ephesians 4.  He wants believers to have a completely different world view.  The mind of a Christian should be diametrically opposed to the mind of the world.  Notice Paul's emphasis on the mind.  First, he reveals to us the problems with the world's thought process:
1.  They walk in the futility of their mind.  (verse 17) 2.  They have their understanding darkened.  (verse 18)
3.  They are ignorant because of the blindness of their heart.  (verse 18)
Then, Paul gives us the antidote to wrong thinking:
1.  You have learned Christ.  (verse 20)
2.  You have heard Him.  (verse 21)
3.  You have been taught by Him.  (verse 21)
4.  The truth is in Jesus.  (verse 21)
5.  You can be renewed in the spirit of your mind.  (verse 23)
There is a big difference between "them" and "us!"  The problem is wrong thinking.  And, the solution is to know Christ.  The very word "repentance" means a change of mind, which inevitably results in changed behavior.  Paul does not want us to walk like Gentiles.  Therefore, we should not think like Gentiles.  Gentiles walk that way because they think that way.  Believers walk with God because their minds have been renewed and filled with the knowledge of Christ.  You are what you think.  Let your mind be focused upon Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-24 “Walking Like the Gentiles”

Our doctrine shapes our practice.  Our theology changes our walk.  Our beliefs influence our behavior.  After three chapters of brilliant theology, Paul continues to give us the "therefore."  Because of what we know about God and His wonderful plan of salvation, we should not "walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk."  So, what does that mean?  Well, Paul describes it in great detail.  And, the description of the "walk of the Gentiles" sounds very familiar.  It is a very accurate description of the world in which we live today.  Consider Paul's list of "Gentile" attributes.
1.  They walk in the futility of their mind.
2.  They have their understanding darkened.
3.  They are alienated from the life of God.
4.  They are ignorant because of the blindness of their heart.
5.  They are past feeling.
6.  They have given themselves over to lewdness.
7.  They work all uncleanness with greediness.
It sounds like Paul was reading from today's newspaper!  The Gentiles rejected God, and it showed.  The first victim was their thought process.  Their thinking was futile and their understanding was darkened because of the willful blindness of their hearts.  They were smart.  Their brains worked just fine.  But, having rejected truth, their thinking was darkened by deceit.  The second casualty of rejecting God was their feeling.  They were past feeling.  Perhaps this suggests that their consciences were seared.  They no longer felt guilt for their sin.  This led directly to the third result of rejecting God.  With wrong thinking and no feeling, they aggressively acted out their sinful behavior.  Their lives were characterized by lewdness, uncleanness, and greediness.  The rejection of God causes untold damage to one's intellect, emotion, and will.  No wonder Paul pleads with us to walk worthy of our calling, but not like the Gentiles!

Ephesians 4:7-13 “Spiritual Gifts”

Spiritual gift
God is a very generous giver.  In Ephesians 4, Paul quotes from an obscure passage in the Old Testament (Psalm 68), “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”  It is somewhat difficult to understand, but the general idea is that of a returning conquering hero.  When a King successfully conquered another city, he would return to his people with a grand parade.  He would proudly display his newly captured slaves, and publicly showcase the riches of his spoil.  Then, he would generously distribute the spoil to his supporters and friends.  In Psalm 68, King David was praising God and celebrating the glorious conquest of Jerusalem.  God gave Israel a wonderful victory over the Jebusite city, and it became the capital city of God's people and the dwelling place of God's glory.  The spoils of Jerusalem became blessings to the entire world.  In Ephesians, Paul applies these words to Jesus.  Jesus descended from His heavenly throne to come to earth as our Savior.  After His humiliating suffering and death, he arose triumphantly from the grave as our Eternal Savior.  He ascended to heaven and He now generously distributes gifts to His church.  Salvation itself it a glorious gift.  But, on top of that, God bestows spiritual gifts upon those who are saved.  But, there is a catch.  The spiritual gifts that God gives you are not really for you.  They are for the church!  They are not given to you to make you happy and fulfilled.  They are given to you so that the church can be edified.  God wants you to be just like Him.  He sacrificed everything to build His church.  And, he desire that you use your spiritual gifts to continue to build His church. 

Ephesians 4:1-6 “Walking Worthy”

The beginning of chapter four marks the turning point of the epistle to the Ephesians.  The first three chapters deal with doctrine.   Paul spent three chapters building the theological foundation for his exhortations.  He explained the glorious doctrines of salvation, the church, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  Now, in chapter four, he begins the practical application of these glorious doctrines.  In light of God's wonderful salvation, how should we live?  Paul summarizes it in one rather terrifying sentence, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called."  (Ephesians 4:1)  God's calling is incomprehensibly glorious, and we are by nature unworthy.  So how in the world can we "walk worthy" of our calling?  The thought itself is somewhat intimidating.  There is no way that any Christian could be worthy of salvation.  But, that is not what Paul is saying here.  He "beseeches" us to simply live like a Christian.  Because of God's glorious calling and salvation, our behavior should be Christ-like.  Our character should line up with our high calling.  Our lives have been changed by the gospel, and so our thoughts, attitudes, and actions should reflect that change.  The very word "calling" implies that we had nothing to do with it.  God did the calling.  We simply received God's call.  We don't need to "earn" His calling.  That is impossible.  But, having received His call, our lives should reflect the wonderful transforming grace of the One who called us.

Ephesians 3:14-21 “Praying Too Low”

Paul concludes chapter three of Ephesians with an eloquent and powerful prayer.  His prayer is different from most prayers that you hear in prayer meeting.  And, his prayer is definitely more lofty than most of my prayers.  We tend to focus on the visible things.  In sickness, we pray for physical health and healing.  In need, we pray for financial provision.  In danger, we pray for protection.  All of these are good and necessary prayers.  But, from his imprisonment in Rome, Paul focuses on more spiritual needs.  He prays for strength, but not physical strength.  He prays that the inner man might be strengthened by the spirit.  He prays that Christ might dwell in the hearts of the believers by faith.  He prays that they may be rooted and grounded in love.  Especially, he prays that they might know all dimensions of Christ's love and be filled with all the fullness of God.  Indeed, these requests transcend the immediacy of the material need of the moment.  Paul makes these outrageously grandiose requests because he knows that God is able,  "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."  (Ephesians 3:20).  Maybe when we pray for the visible things, we are praying too low.  We ask.  But, God wants to give us more.  He is able to give us above what we ask or think.  God does not want to do just a little more.  He wants to do exceedingly abundantly above anything that we can imagine.  Maybe this explains some of our seemingly unanswered prayers.  We pray for a specific visible request.  But God gives us something far greater.  It may appear that our request went unanswered because the visible need remains unchanged.  But, God heart our prayer and gave us His unlimited strength, his multidimensional love, and his infinite fullness.  His answers are far better than our requests.  I think I need to start praying a little higher!

Ephesians 3:14-21 “Why Pray?”

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays one of the greatest prayers in all of the New Testament.  He introduces the prayer with the phrase, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."  This raises the question, "For what reason?"  Why did Paul pray?  It might seem like kind of a silly question, but there is theological and practical significance to the answer.  Paul already asserted the sovereignty of God.  He already reminds us that the manifold wisdom of God is demonstrated in the church, "according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."  If God has an eternal purpose.  Then, we can't change that with prayer can we?  We can't change God's mind or God's eternal plan.  So, why pray?   There are many different opinions about what Paul's "reason" was to pray.  He could have been speaking of the verse which immediately precedes this.  In that verse, he did not want the believers to lose heart because of his persecution and imprisonment.  Is that why he is praying?  Perhaps that is part of it, but there must be more.  Personally, I think that Paul's "reason" refers back to chapter 2 of Ephesians.  In fact, the first 13 verses of chapter 3 represents a parenthesis, or an interruption in his thought.  He begins in verse one with "for this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles--"  There is a dash after Gentiles.  Paul interrupted himself and launched into a lengthy description of the "mystery" by which God included the Gentiles in His church.  Then, he continued his train of thought (finally) in verse 13, "For this reason I bow my knees . . ."  I think that the "for this reason" in verse 13 is the same "for this reason" in verse one.  There is just a parenthesis in between them.  So, really, the reason Paul prays refers back to the end of chapter 2.  There, he was describing the beauty of the church.  In the church, we are citizens of God's people, part of His household, and God is building us into a Holy Temple in which the presence and glory of God dwell.  Now that is a reason to pray!  Since God is building his church, and the very power and glory of God dwell in us, we can speak to Him at any time.  He is the sovereign God of the universe.  But, He hears our prayers, and He is pleased to answer our prayers.  For this reason, I bow my knees.

Ephesians 3:1-13 “Manifold Wisdom of God”

Paul loves the Church.  He eloquently displays the glory of God's plan as revealed in His church.  The glorious plan of God was to be fulfilled . . . not through His nation Israel . . . not (yet) through the Messiah reigning as King . . . but through His church.  Christ's church would accomplish what no king or empire or government could ever achieve.  The Church of Jesus Christ would be an example to the entire world.  In fact, the church would be an example to heaven.  That's right, the angelic hosts of heaven would gaze in wonder at the church that Jesus built.  That is what Paul declares in Ephesians 3:10, "So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."  Let that one sink in a little.  The angels eternally dwell in the presence and glory of God.  They know God better than anyone else.  Yet, the angels will observe God's church and learn something new about the manifold wisdom of God!  It is reminiscent of Peter's words in 1 Peter 1:12, "To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into."  The angels desire to look into God's glorious plan of salvation, because they will admire God's wisdom even more.  In the Old Testament, the chosen nation of Israel was supposed be a shining city on a hill that all the world could look to as an example.  Unfortunately, Israel failed to keep God's covenant.  Now, the Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to reflect Christ's glory to a world that is darkened by sin.  The church should be a beacon of God's grace, calling the sinner out of darkness and into God's glorious light.  Not only is the church an example to all of mankind, but it is an example to the angels as well.  Like Israel, the church does not always live up to her full potential.  But, I am thankful that I can be part of the mystery of the church that proclaims the manifold wisdom of God on earth and in heaven.  I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.


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