Ephesians 4:25-29 Some Detail on How to Walk

Paul gets down to the nitty-gritty here to further detail what he means by “putting on Christ.”

4:25  

Therefore, having put off from you falsehood, you are each to speak truth with your neighbor, because we are members of one another.

We are a part of each other. We are a family, and family members deserve and need to hear the truth.

4:26  Allow yourself to become angry, and yet stop sinning. Do not let the sun go down on your irritation.

It is possible to get angry and not sin—although that is a tricky challenge. But to harbor anger, which naturally sinks into resentment and feelings of malice, is wrong. It means, of course, that there is a lack of forgiveness.

There is nothing another person, even a fellow believer, can do to your or me that will not pale in light of the glorious, ineffably-wonderful future we have (even our present is better than we realize) what each of us will have individually and corporately as a part of Christ. When the Bible says that He has freely given us all things, once again it means exactly that (Romans 8:32).

4:27  and stop giving place to the devil.

Whenever we yield to sin, small acts as well large ones, we give the devil and his helpers a way of influencing us further.  All such acts, no matter how small, cause us to work against God and hinder the full expression of His kingdom on this earth now.

When Jesus prayed “Thy kingdom come,” He meant right now. And He was then and is now that kingdom, and so are we. Wherever we are and whenever we do God’s will, we express that kingdom. God rules in that place. Course that doesn’t mean it is fully expressed, that it has reached its fullest potential. That remains to be experienced.

4:28  The one who steals, steal no longer, but much more working hard with his own hands what is good so that he might have something to give to one who has need.

There’s a principle implied here. When you have done wrong, even though you have been forgiven, it’s often good to do the opposite of the wrong you have done.

4:29  Stop letting every worthless (or, rotten) word proceed from your mouth, but instead speak some good words needed for edification in order that they might give grace to those who are hearing.

Every thought we indulge in, respond to by thinking more about it, every word we utter or write, every act we do contributes one way or the other. It either advances the cause of Jesus Christ or it gets in the way. There is no such thing as neutrality.

And realize, please, that Paul is not writing to leaders alone here but to the whole body of believers. His epistles were read to the gatherings of believers. In fact, those epistles were transported from area to area, so that all groups of believers, whichever city they were near had an opportunity to benefit from his teaching.

Hence, every one of us is expected to watch what we say to assure that what we say ministers to others, that it gives grace to others.

This means too that it is wise to watch it when you and I are tempted to slam a fellow believer. Disagree? Sure. Absolutely, when necessary.  But guard against denigrating an individual personally. If you feel a fellow believer is wrong, tell him or her in private—politely, warmly and with humility. But tell him. It’s part of “giving grace.” But don’t with mistaken enthusiasm put him or her down.

We can do these things in obedience to the Lord. But daily, moment by moment, we can  only do all this well by living in active faith-dependance on the Holy Spirit’s ongoing enablement.

May we walk daily by the Spirit of God and the leading of our Lord..

Ephesians 4:11-16 Ministry for every Believer

Ever wish you could be a prophet or an apostle or a pastor? God’s gifts and callings are up to Him. But there’s always something you can do.

4:11  And He Himself gave the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers,

 Paul lists here the major gift-ministries. But notice next what these gifts are for…

12  for the making fit (strengthening, preparing fully) of the saints into the work of service (literally: deacons, as in ministry) into building of the body of Christ;

Notice it does not say that Christ gave us these apostles, prophets, evangelists, so that they could exclusively do the ministering in the building up on the body of Christ—or keep such service as their personal possession. No, it is the laity that is to be equipped for doing the mutual ministry that builds up, edifies, nurtures the body of believers.

They are trainers.

The work of those gifted persons mentioned in verse 11 above is to train the saints, people like you and me, who then in turn build the body of Christ.  This is describing mutual ministry. Not top down ministry but “lay” ministry.

All Christians are ministers.

The current tradition of training a select few to do the work of ministry to the “laity,” while the latter sit around passively accepting spiritual food, is not really biblical. God has used seminaries, yes. God raises up leaders among believers, yes. Many have been considerable blessings to the body of Christ through the centuries, again yes. But God’s plan is for all to minister. It is not clergy-laity feeding, at least not exclusively, but mutual feeding.

You and I, my fellow believers, have a job to do, and that is ministering to each other. It is that ministry that builds the church, Christ’s body now on earth.  The gifts and so-called offices are for serving us—as radical as that may sound.

Someone once said that all great moves of God begin with prayer.

Sometimes the job that’s available to you and me may consist primarily of prayer. And prayer is the most vital of ministries. Don’t have a position, a recognized ministry? You can pray.  Years ago Watchman Nee made an interesting point. It went something like this: When we pray we take God’s side and voice His will and thereby activate it, promoting its realization. That voicing of God’s will is part of His plan.

Certainly God acts sovereignly. He is not limited by our lack of prayer. But He prefers to act in response to our prayers.

God is the ultimate solution. But we have the God-appointed privilege of being part of that solution too.  God could have had angels do the preaching for him, rather than fallible humans, and get it perfect every time. God rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the leadership of a humble man. He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He insists on doing so. And prayer is a big part of that.

You and I are important, vital to God’s plan.

Now my own take on God’s will and the leading of the Lord is not that we must manufacture opportunity to serve the Lord. I mean by that, that we should be aware of the danger of drumming up opportunity in our own strength–to use an old expression: in the flesh. It’s best to follow God’s leading, exercise faith that He will provide opportunity to serve Him as He sees fit, pray for opportunities, and then respond to his leading and opportunities when they occur.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and the follow Me.” (John 10:27, NASB)

It is Jesus Who leads us, not we ourselves. And He leads us in spite of ourselves. We can count on HIm to lead us. He is the one who opens doors of opportunity or closes them (1 Corinthians 16:9; James 4:13-17). Our job is to be willing to obey.

13  until we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the full-knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect-complete-mature man, to the measure of the stature (as in a maturity of the same degree) which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

That word “until” at the beginning of the verse above is an important one. So is the word “all,” meaning all believers. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith”—hasn’t happened yet as far as I can see. How about the rest of the verse? “The knowledge of the Son of God…a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” I don’t think so, not yet.

By the way, that word knowledge has an intensifier attached to its beginning, hence the translation “full knowledge,” and it refers to the type of knowledge that is experienced, or is known through experience. And it is not just a piece here and a piece there but full knowledge.

So they are still around.

Those gift-ministries Christ gave are still around. They have to be since we all haven’t reached full maturity, full knowledge, etc. Although admittedly they are called different names at times, and not all are recognized as such. And they will be around until we all reach maturity and Christians arrive at the place where we are all truly unified.

Food for thought.

15  but speaking the truth in love, we may  be growing into Him in every thing who is the head, Christ,

It’s important that we speak the truth and that we do so in love. Many times we are tempted to speak what we think is the truth and not because of the best motivation. Too often our speaking out can be driven by ego-need. By telling someone what we think they need to hear, we assume the place of a mentor and thereby feel temporarily better about ourselves.

But, on the other hand, when we are speaking out of love, humbly and truthfully as best we can, then we can be God’s mutual instruments of spiritual growth. We realize more of our vast potential in Christ and are thus more useful to God. We establish and express His kingdom here and now on earth.

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted (or framed) and knit together through the supply of every joint, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth (increase) of the body resulting into the building of itself in love.

Again, this is the mutual ministry that Frank Viola insists upon in his books and when describing home/organic churches that are currently growing throughout the world.  What Paul is advocating in these verses is not a priesthood of carefully cultured seminary graduates who exclusively have the right to minister and lead.  No, God’s purpose for us, all of us, is to be an  expression of the Kingdom of God on earth—the  purpose of the presence of Christ’s body here and now.

May we all trust and obey and grow into the character of Christ so that we may indeed Love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbors as we love ourselves.

 

Would you like to be reading your Bible more?

Here’s an excellent way to do just that. I have been blessed daily by reading the Chronological Life Application Study Bible.

Here’s the review I wrote at Amazon.com two days  ago…

Excellent helps for informed and enjoyable Bible reading.

Well-balanced, insightful, and helpful commentary through the entire Bible–like getting little mini-sermons or devotionals. It’s like an ongoing Bible devotional. Very well-written and a pleasure to read.

The book has been beautifully structured to put Bible aids (like maps, charts, character studies, timelines) right on the same page as the text where you can conveniently refer to them to enhance your grasp of the background information that can clarity the Scripture passages. Also, when referring to useful information in other parts of the book, you are not referred to this or that section but the exact page number.

Example: This morning I was reading the New Testament passage where Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Elijah who was to come, and the comments referred me to page 719 where I could read about Elijah, a more than half a page character study summarizing his life.

Here’s a quote from the Elijah character study I referred to in the above paragraph:

“All that happened in Elijah’s life began with the same miracle that is available to us–he responded to the miracle of being able to know God.”

When most of us read the Bible we are faced with trying to understand the culture and attitudes of ancient people (the Old Testaemnt) or first-century people (the New Testament). The aids this book provides are very useful in bridging those time-gaps and the differences between those people and us. So having the essays and charts and maps and character studies and other helps handy and reading them too can improve our understanding of the Bible text. Also, needless to say, having all the Bible stories in chronological order can be quite clarifying too.

The authors of this book did not shy away from controversy or debated sections of Scripture, and instead of a biased approach you will find explanations of various views. The reader can choose for herself which is best. But, nevertheless, the authors do often indicate their view, that is which of the alternative interpretations they conclude with are the most sound or sensible. In other words a balanced approach to commentary.

Excellent, practical, helpful sections that enhance Bible reading. And the New Living Translation is very readable. I prefer the NASB for Bible study for its more literal translation accuracy. But for an enjoyable read to get the gist of the content and action, this is a good read.

But for me–and I am not a commentary devotee for the most part–I enjoy very much the devotional commentary notes. There are techical matters covered when necessary, but also very frequently practical life-applications. These are not forced but are biblically sound and trustworthy Christian lessons from the Bible verses. They are like daily pep talks for good living.

To me, the authors are to be commended for putting together such a fine combination of a reading Bible with a virtual library of Bible reference materials.

I am reading daily through the New Testament portions, including all the notes (except charts at times) this year, and the Old Testament sections (1833 pages!) within the next two years–that’s my goal.

Highly recommended.

PS: For those of you who are not Christian, I still recommend this book. It’s perspective is never atheistic or even agnostic or in any way hostile to faith. It consistently presents a Christian view of what the Bible means. And for that reason it can be valuable to you in the sense of “What do Christians believe?” It answers that question quite well.

Do you have a favorite reading Bible?

Ephesians 2:19-22 We are God’s Temple Right Now

Ever feel insignificant, even as a Christian loved by God? After all, there are a lot of big-name Christians around, obviously successful. The numbers show that. But in spite of how some are view today, say by the world’s standards, you and I, all of us are precious to God and vitally important to Him–and that is what counts, really.

(2:19)  So then therefore, you are no longer aliens (or foreigners) and sojourners but you are fellow-citizens with the saints and of the family (household) of God,

All true believers are a part of God’s family. But what about membership in an institutional church? I personally don’t think that adds or detracts to the reality of being a child of God and being one with Jesus Christ, which is the one requirement for salvation.

Many churches claim to be “the true church.” Really, is there any such thing—that is when we are referring to an institution, an organization with a particular name? A denomination? A society, religious movement? Whether large or small?  Not to my thinking. The one requirement is belief in Jesus Christ, faith-reliance on Him for salvation.  With that belief you’re in; without it you’re not in. It’s a simple as that.

The word translated “church” in the New Testament literally means called out, as in called out from among unbelieves. It does not mean called into any organization or institution. As Frank Viola has pointed out, the word was used in the New Testament to refer to the believers who gathered together in a particular city or region, for instance “the church at Ephesus.” The Lord himself as recorded in Revelation referred to “the church in Ephesus…in Symrna…in Pergamum…” etc.

And in the New Testament era, those regional name tags served as destinations, addresses, for Paul’s circulated letters, for example.

(2:20)  which has been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone,

 And what is God’s family, His household, the Church (including all who believe), the Body and Bride of Christ built on? First, foremost, and most importantly upon the Corner-stone Christ Jesus Himself. And after that not on any one single human being—notice, please, those plural words above “apostles and prophets”– basically meaning upon their teaching and example, which we have in the Scriptures.

(2:21) within whom the whole building, currently being fit together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,

And it’s not this group or sector or that one which has somehow figured out the “real” truth while unfortunately others have not, but all believers are being jointed together into Christ’s body, an ongoing process today. And that Body is a temple, one temple, a living one, that God inhabits right now.

And, furthermore, not only does God’s temple consists of all believers, it is also not a physical thing primarily (although believers alive today do have living physical bodies), but a spiritual temple. The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to go to Ephesus or New York City or even Jerusalem to find the true church and in order to worship at such a location. No.

The woman from Samaria told the Lord Jesus that Samaritans worshipped on their mountain, Mount Gerazim (instead of Jerusalem). And what did Jesus answer?

Woman, believe Me, an hours is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father…But an hour is coming and now is, when the  true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship HIm must worship in spirit and truth.   (John 4:21-24)

We are God’s temple. We can seek him and pray and worship any time any place. That dwelling is none other than the Holy Temple of God, and in actuality all of it is contained within Jesus Christ Himself.  Again, that’s why the earthly temple of Jesus’ time had its veil torn from top to bottom.  The way into the Holy of Holies is now open to all–again, direct access to God for all believers.

(2:22)  within whom you are also being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

God dwells in us humans, as imperfect as we certainly are. Do you hear the incredible potential in that? The awesome power available to us who believe, who will believe it and exercise faith. Jesus told His disciples:

“…truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”  (Matthew 17:20, NASB)

May we walk today in the conscious reality that we are indeed in Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of God’s holy temple, and part of His Body.

Ephesians 1:3 Your Cup is Full of Blessings

Blessed be (or, is) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ,

God the Father has blessed us with every possible blessing in the heavenly realm.  Even though we may not yet see it all made real or notice it in our daily lives.  Those blessings are there and very real. They are activated by faith.  To me, a believer’s faith can reach in any direction, through time and place, past, present, future, here or into heaven.   The blessings are within us as well, in that spiritual part of us that connects with the heavenlies, the spiritual realm. It is our responsibility to translate them into our experience.

 The blessings are spiritual

They are not primarily soulish. They are not focused on the material or even our specifically emotional needs.  Spiritual joy goes deeper than mere emotion. They are meant for our personal, spiritual joy and for usefulness in edifying the body of Christ and for warfare. They are not there specifically to satisfy our desires, our lusts, our materialistic wants–so we can buy a new TV or even necessarily have a great romance, for example. (Though I believe God provides for our lives so that they can be filled with joy and that includes providing us with things that can contribute to or supplement that joy.)

The blessings are there for service

That is for us to be able to do God’s will, fulfill our own part in God’s grand plan for the redemption, maturation and perfection of the human race within Christ. For us to be of help in ministry to fellow believers and to unbelieving mankind as well.

The blessings are in the heavenlies.

They are in the heavenlies, the spiritual realm, because Christ is there, and it all begins with Him. The blessings, all of them, come through Him , with the ultimate origin being God the Father.  That is why, for one reason, God the Father is blessed and should be! But, again, those blessings are also within us, because Christ is not only in Heaven, He is within us too.

 Again, it’s faith that makes if real in our experience.

Our faith draws out these blessings and makes them real now.

The Master Plan.

This whole destiny for us that God has set in motion, like a train on its tracks, in which we play a vital part is vitally important to God.  Therefore, He has seen to it that we are super-adequately equipped, certainly in the potential within each of us. We have so much, yet we appropriate so little! But God is always respectful of our power of choice. That’s why we must choose.

He provides; we decide.

May we decide for God, each time we decide, today.