Ephesians 5:15-21

“Therefore consider carefully how you live—not as unwise but as wise, taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”.

Paul begins this paragraph with “Therefore consider carefully how you live” and ends with “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. This is an appeal from the Apostle Paul to the believers in Ephesus to walk and live in a manner that reflects their current status as a new creation in Christ. Then Paul begins to get down to the specifics of how we are to live; this also begins the hard lessons of the letter that we don’t like to follow. But note the ending, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”; woven though out the preceding chapters we are reminded over and over again how Jesus submitted to the Father’s plans in his life specifically for our good, now we are to do the same with each other.

Paul continues saying “be wise” “because the days are evil” and reveals the method to becoming wise is to understand God’s will. We as God’s new creation are to abandon a life of foolishness and seek to understand, discover and carry out God’s will. Only after we understand what pleases God can we carry out His will in our life. The un-wise live as if there is no God or as if it doesn’t matter what God says about how we are to live, they live out what seems right in their own mind instead of seeking the mind of Christ.

For a fool speaks disgraceful things; his mind plans out sinful deeds. He commits godless deeds and says misleading things about the LORD; he gives the hungry nothing to satisfy their appetite and gives the thirsty nothing to drink. Isaiah 32:6

“Some people would understand the term “the Lord’s will” (Ephesians 5:17) to mean specific guidance on what to do next, where to live, what job to have, whom to marry and so forth, but what Paul means is that we need to be aware of what God wants out of us in every situation—in general, how we live to please the Lord”. Even in the midst of trying times and the evil that permeates our world.

“Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”. Hebrews 11:6

“Faith is believing what God says about everything—life, people, ourselves, how to be saved—everything”. Faith believes what God reveals about Himself; He is Holy, He is Truth, He is Love, He is Just, He is Merciful. When we truly believe God is who He says He is, we are slowly but surely changed in our thoughts, attitudes and actions to be more like Him”.

Next, Paul gets specific, “And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery but be filled by the Spirit”. Let us consider the culture of Ephesus at this time, “one of most prevalent forms of worship centered around the god Dionysius, Dionysian worship employed dances and exciting music to produce ecstatic rapture, Dionysius was the god of wine. Intoxication with wine combined with dancing and music was the method of choice for getting to the desired state of enthusiasm (literally, “the god within”). Paul points to these riotous drunken orgies on display all around the people of Ephesus and contrasts them with what takes place in worship as Christians come to be “filled by the Spirit”. “The manic debauchery associated with Dionysian worship sets a sharp contrast to the beauty of singing, the melodic harmonies, that it is the work of the Spirit to bring expression in each worshiping congregation”. (Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson)

Paul is quite clear: do not act or behave like the pagans, working yourself into some sort of display of excitement or rapture. Instead be filled by God’s spirit, this is the ongoing and active presence of the Holy Spirit that is interceding for us and reconciling us to Christ, creating in us a new life with a new way to walk and live. Paul prescribes how we are to live and worship, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. The same pressures in life, the same troubles and demands, will drive some people to drink, but will drive others deeper into the embrace of the Spirit. Under the influence of wine, people lose their inhibitions and gain confidence—but lose control. Under the influence of the Spirit, people gain boldness under God’s control.

Notice that we are to speak to one another; we are to be in communication. Communication with others means amplifying God to one another, communication with the Lord to sing His praises in our heart, communication with our Creator to give thanks for all things, and finally submitting to one another – serving each other rather than dominating or exalting yourself which will show respect for Christ.

“Paul did not intend to suggest that believers only discuss religious matters, but that whatever we do or say should be permeated with an attitude of joy, thankfulness to God, and encouragement of others. Instead of whining and complaining—which our culture has raised to an art form—we are to focus on the goodness of God and his mercies toward us. How would others characterize your words and attitudes?” LIFE Application

Under our current circumstances it is hard to give thanks, when your life is interrupted and you feel unsure of the future for yourself and your family. Take heart—in all things God works for our good if we love him and are called by him (Romans 8:28). Thank God, not for your problems but for the strength he is building in you through the difficult experiences of your life. You can be sure that God’s perfect love will see you through.

Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. Ephesians 5:1

Paul begins chapter 5 saying that we should be imitators of Jesus who is the perfect example of submission to the Father and ends the same chapter saying that as we submit to each other it shows our worship for Christ, when we choose to submit to each other we are imitating Christ. “Have you ever considered that submitting to God means loving others? Have you considered that when you love, you aren’t self-seeking? Have you considered that willingly submitting to the will or opinion of other believers is submitting to God?” Putting submission into practice is the main topic of our next lesson.

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Ephesians 5:3-14

Paul begins this next section with instructions: “Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God”. Ephesians 5:1-2

“Be imitators” – this means we are to become copycats of Jesus, we are to walk in the conduct of our lives just like Jesus, we are to reproduce and reflect His character and behavior. Next Paul is emphatic about what we “must not be” – note the use of the word “be” again – therefore we must not be copycats of the world. Paul lists the worldly conduct that we “must not” participate in: “sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints”.

There is a very real and present temptation today to elevate the world’s standards of conduct and style as completely acceptable, excusing and substituting what our culture sees as suitable instead of submitting to God’s standards for the saints. Paul lets us know very clearly, “these are not fitting for the saints”! We should remember the pagan lifestyle of Ephesus and Rome that Paul is instructing Christians are to leave behind; Paul is calling the Ephesians and us to live differently, to live like Jesus!

We are to live our lives patterned after Christ Jesus, the previous verse clearly states the behavior that we are avoid, Paul extends the list to “Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting—all of which are out of character—but rather thanksgiving”.

“Just as children imitate their parents, we should follow God’s example. His great love for us led him to sacrifice himself so that we might live. Our love for others should be of the same kind—a love that goes beyond affection to self-sacrificing service. Obscene stories and coarse jokes are so common that we begin to take them for granted. Paul cautions, however, that improper language should have no place in the Christian’s conversation because it does not reflect God’s gracious presence in us. How can we praise God and remind others of his goodness when we are speaking coarsely?” LIFE Application

“Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be sharers with them, for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live like children of light—”. Ephesians 5:6-8

“Sons of disobedience” is a phrase that means people of disobedience or all those who are disobedient. Paul exhorts us to not be “sharers with them” and to not be deceived by their empty words. As people who have been taught since kindergarten that it is good to share, this seems harsh, but we are not to become so connected with those who are disobedient that we become accustomed to the evil and accept what God says is sin as completely normal and suitable activities.

“Paul does not forbid all contact with unbelievers. Jesus taught his followers to befriend sinners and lead them to him (Luke 5:30-32). Instead, Paul writes against the lifestyle of people who make excuses for bad behavior and recommend its practice to others—whether they are in the church or outside of it. Such people quickly pollute the church and endanger its unity and purpose. We must befriend unbelievers if we are to lead them to Christ, but we must be wary of those who are viciously evil, immoral, or opposed to all that Christianity stands for. Such people are more likely to influence us for evil than we are to influence them for good”. LIFE Application

The reason believers should not be partners (sharers) with the disobedient, is that Christians are no longer part of the darkness. We are to “Live like children of the light”; this term darkness refers to our former life before we knew God. The behaviors of saints should correspond with their position in Christ, we are now “children of the light” – we are to live accordingly. Our lives in the light should consist of goodness, righteousness and truth.

From Galatians we learn that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. From Colossians we learn that we are to “clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another”. Note the word “clothe”, this gives us the sense that we actively put on these characteristics, active practicing of these virtues that many times go against our “natural” tendencies. Paul concludes this phrase with the admonition “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord”. Isn’t this the crux of what we are to do, figure out what is pleasing to God and do it – reject what the world tells us is pleasing for “self” and embrace the life of good that God has created for us.

Remember that Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus and surrounding areas, he is writing to believers. We sometime misread this to only be about unbelievers; Paul is speaking about disobedience among the believers, those who are continuing to participate in “unfruitful deeds of darkness” where we are told to “not participate with them …but rather expose them”.

“It is important to avoid the “worthless deeds of evil and darkness” (any pleasure or activity that results in sin), but we must go even further. Paul instructs us to expose these deeds, because our silence may be interpreted as approval. God needs people who will take a stand for what is right. Christians must lovingly speak out for what is true and right”. LIFE Application

Philippians 4:8 gives us practical advice on how to “Live in the Light!” “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things”.
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Ephesians 4:30—5:2

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. Ephesians 4:30-32

Even as believers we have difficulties getting along with each other. Note that Paul begins with our relationship with God, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”; the key to getting along with each other is our connection with God. Only if we are in a rightly aligned relationship to our Creator can we begin to make our relationships with each other work in peace, this is only made possible through God’s Spirit living in us and conforming us to be like Jesus.

“There are those who irritate us, and whose personalities clash with ours. There are those who constantly sabotage our plans, either by their thoughtless actions or by their deliberate destructiveness. The place to begin solving our troubled human relationships is not with other people but with our relationship to God. Our relationship with our brother or sister will inevitably reflect our relationship to God. It always does”.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”. Ephesians 1:13-14

Each one of us received the Holy Spirit, God’s living presence in us when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. At that moment we were given a protective seal for our life, through struggles and difficulties, we are kept safe by the Holy Spirit until Christ’s return.

“The seal of the Holy Spirit is not something you feel. Rather, the Spirit takes up quiet residence within you at the moment you commit your faith and trust to Jesus Christ. When the Spirit takes up residence within you, He does so permanently. He has promised that, even if you grieve and offend Him, He will not leave you—even though you might think He has, because your guilt-stricken conscience will tell you that a wall of silence has gone up between you and the Spirit within you. The Spirit will never leave you, but if you grieve the Spirit, you will have to live with a grieved Spirit within you”.

Paul gives us a clear list of things that grieve God, “bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice”. “Bitterness is a hard, cynical outlook toward life and toward other people. Rage is a hotheaded, explosive passion we refuse to restrain. Anger is a boiling inner desire to punish others and take revenge in your own hands. Brawling is a loud, confrontational attitude toward others, an eagerness to get in someone’s face and intimidate them. Slander is speech that injures others—a crafty, subtle rumor-mongering that destroys reputations. Malice is malignity—a dark, brooding hunger for seeing others hurt. We may rationalize these feelings as justifiable because of what someone has done to us, but these sins are destructive to ourselves and others. They bring grief and sorrow to the Holy Spirit within us”.

So how are we to handle these evils around us and especially in our own lives? We are to deal with our own sins first, to the evil attitudes in our actions and our inner thoughts. Then we are to forgive others, even those who have wronged us horribly. We forgive because Christ has forgiven us, that is where we begin to counter the evils in our life and in our culture.

“We are not here, either as a collective church or as individual Christians, primarily to make the world a better place to live in. Instead, we are to be better people in a terrible world—and as a by-product of becoming the kind of people God wants us to be, we will make the world a better place. And we have been given the secret that makes us the kind of people God wants us to be. Paul states the great secret of Christian living in the next two verses: ‘Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’”. Ephesians 5:1-2

Lynda found this graphic that accurately described your discussion about how to forgive when it is so hard to do so.

Forgive, Love and Live!

forgiving in action

 

Ephesians 4: 25-29

Paul continues by addressing how we put into practice the putting off of the “old man” and putting on the “new man. Instead of listing all the vices to be discarded and another list to be cultivated, Paul counter balances each sin with a virtue. He first states the negative command – what we are not to do, then the positive command – what we should do and concludes with the reason for how we are to live.

“Therefore, having laid aside falsehood, each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, because we are members of one another”. This is truth in practice, we are to live the truth in Christ Jesus, the new creation in us – the “new man” rather than continue to practice the deceit of the “old man”. Leviticus 19:11 says, “‘you must not steal, you must not tell lies, and you must not deal falsely with your fellow citizen”. God’s law was designed to promote harmony and holiness between the Israelites, and then God expands this law to the “resident alien” any Gentile living among the Jews. In the New Testament Jesus expands God’s intention for us even further with the parable of the Good Samaritan – our neighbors are anyone we come into contact with.

The next area of putting off the “old self” is anger: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity”. This is not an encouragement to “be angry”; it is rather presented as a warning – if you become angry – beware! Anger, and the related sins, is the epitome of socially destructive and alienating actions, which are so characteristic of the old creation.

“The Bible doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t feel angry, but it points out that it is important to handle our anger properly. If vented thoughtlessly, anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If bottled up inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within. Paul tells us to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroys them. If we nurse our anger, we will give the devil an opportunity to divide us. Are you angry with someone right now? What can you do to resolve your differences? Don’t let the day end before you begin to work on mending your relationship”. LIFE Application

Paul writes in Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. Sometimes we think of “burning coals” on your neighbor’s head as receiving just consequences for their wrong behavior. However the point we are to get is this: it is kindness to one’s enemy to give him water or give him coals to restart his fire; these are acts that make friends not enemies. Additionally, we are not to start or continue in retaliation or vengeance, we as people of the “new man” we are to break the cycle of revenge and leave justice to God alone. Another thought about “heaping burning coals” is that it reflects a ritual of the Egyptians, in which a person would carry coals on their head as a sign of their repentance; therefore treating your enemy kindly may lead him to repentance.

Paul clearly warns the Ephesians that uncontrolled anger puts you in danger from Satan. “If we allow anger to take hold of us and control us, we are overcome by sin and give the devil opportunity to perpetuate all sorts of evil. By the cross, God has effectively dealt with our sin- the penalty of it and the power of it. We are no longer controlled by sin, and unrighteous anger is sin”.

Paul’s next area of instruction is theft, “The one who steals must steal no longer; instead he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he will have something to share with the one who has need”. There are many ways that we can steal from others, it is not merely the loss of property, we can steal another person’s honor or reputation and theft of any kind destroys the trust of the community causing people to defend their space or possessions rather than being inclusive. Paul tells the former pagans who usually got ahead by taking advantage of others (stealing), that they must begin to labor with their hands, doing good and sharing with those in need – this is a complete change in mindset – instead of taking they are now to give freely.

The final area that Paul addresses in this paragraph is the words that come out of our mouths. “You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it would give grace to those who hear, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it would give grace to those who hear.” We are to put off our old self, anger, rage and unwholesome language and only speak what is beneficial for building up the body. Use language and arguments that show grace – speak grace, speak mercy and speak the truth in love.

Proverbs 10:32 says, “The lips of the righteous know what is pleasing, but the speech of the wicked is perverse”. Perverse is defined as showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences. The concept we should understand from Paul’s writing is this: the “unwholesome word” is deliberate defiance of God’s commands – our words can kill or give life, our words can defame God or praise God, our words can build the church and our neighbors or destroy the church’s witness to the world. “The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart”. Luke 6:45

“In place of these socially destructive activities, Paul advocates corresponding ones that are cohesive, up–building, and pattern the new–creation existence epitomized and brought into being in Christ: the erstwhile thief should turn philanthropist instead; speech should not be used to befoul and tear down, but for good; in place of anger, the believer should show the forgiving character of God and the self–sacrificial love of Christ who died to atone for us”.

Ephesians 4: 17-24

After spending the first part of Ephesians dealing with the nature of the church, spiritual gifts and Christian maturity, Paul now addresses the issue of living as a Christian in an unbelieving world.

“So I say this, and insist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness”.

The recipients of this letter are Gentile converts to the Christian faith. The pagan gods of the Greek and Roman world provided the background and worldview of everyday life for these new believers. Sexual immorality and violence permeated the supernatural in that culture. These stories, while they were religious and very entertaining, they lacked any moral content or basis. Paul is instructing these new believers to completely abandon their “pagan thinking”. Paul describes the pagan worldview as futile, meaning that it is incapable of producing any useful result, it is pointless.

Paul further describes their thinking as “darkened in their understanding”, because they are alienated from God because of their ignorance due to the hardness of their hearts. The hardness of their hearts is the result of the idolatrous conditioning of their minds. They have lost all moral sensitivity; they have become insensitive to God and His ways.

Paul describes this process in Romans 1:21-23. “For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles”.

Paul reasons “Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness”. Greediness refers to an increasing desire for more and more, the practice of self-gratification (no matter the sin) without regard for others. The argument Paul makes is that sinful passions and desires are never satisfied.

From Romans Paul reveals what happens with this wrong thinking, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done”, they are filled with every kind of unrighteousness. This concept that “God gave them over to a depraved mind” is difficult to understand. This paraphrase from The Message helps to clarify. “Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!”

This spiral of sin is common in our culture today, we immediately think of addiction to drugs, alcohol or pornography, but be very aware of the spiral of sin connected to comparison of your life to others, which leads to sin, critiquing of others or to the need to assert your opinion on every subject that comes up. Whatever our sin Paul gives the antidote to this corrosive disease in Romans 12:2. “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

Once again The Message helps me to understand, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Paul reminds the Ephesians about what they learned about Christ, you must not live like the Gentiles, because in Christ you have a different way of thinking and living. “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We have the Truth; we can test and judge all ideas, concepts, philosophies and claims against what God has revealed about himself in Scripture and in his Son Jesus.

Paul calls on the Ephesians to put off their old self, to lay aside the old man. “Our old way of life before we believed in Christ is completely in the past. We should put it behind us like old clothes to be thrown away. When we decide to accept Christ’s gift of salvation (2:8-10), it is both a one-time decision, as well as a daily conscious commitment. We are not to be driven by desire and impulse. We must put on the new nature, head in the new direction, and have the new way of thinking that the Holy Spirit gives.” Life Application commentary

We must shed our old ways of thinking and start over with new principles and expectations, which come from God himself. We do this by, renewing our minds and putting on the new man created in God’s image. Paul reminds us that we have been taught to lay aside our old life without Christ, and be transformed into the new man who has been created in God’s image –“in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.”

We have a choice. Put off, put on – that is the choice we must make. Reject our old way of thinking which leads into sin, and accept the new way of thinking, filled with the spirit that transforms us to be like Christ. Knowing that God has given us everything we need to live a godly life.

Ephesians 4: 7-16

After discussing the basis of our unity in Christ, Paul now explores how we preserve our unity in the church by using the various gifts Christ gives the church. “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift”; note that “each one” means that every believer is given spiritual ability bestowed by Christ to be used to build up the church. No one is left out and this is not limited to clergy; every member of the body of Christ is to use their gifts to build up the body.

“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.’(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe”.) Ephesians 4:7-10 NIV

Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 where God is pictured as a conqueror marching to the gates and taking tribute from the fallen city. Paul uses this image to teach that Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection was victorious over Satan. When Christ ascended to heaven, he gave gifts to the church, some of which Paul discusses in the following verses.

Notice the parenthesis in the above verses. This indicates a word, clause, or sentence inserted as an explanation or afterthought into a passage. Paul explains that by “he ascended” it logically follows that Christ also descended. This phrase has been interpreted in three ways:
1. The traditional view, that this is a reference to Jesus descent into hell for the three days between his death and resurrection.
2. This descent is a reference to the incarnation, when Christ was born and became God with us on earth.
3. This refers to the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost after Christ ascended.

Sometimes we get distracted by the different analysis and fail to comprehend the big picture that these verses reveal. The Apostle John records Jesus speaking to his disciples stating, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father”. And in 1 John he writes, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world”. Jesus Christ is Lord of the whole universe, past, present and future. Nothing or no one is hidden from Him. The Lord of all came to earth and faced death to rescue people. No one is beyond His reach.

Paul returns to the topic of Spiritual gifts, gracefully given to the church. “And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ”. The apostle Peter explains “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are to be used to build up the body of Christ and we are to continue to use our gifts “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature”. Paul calls us to be mature Christians and compares the immature to “children, tossed back and forth by the waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes”. Paul is emphasizing “body” growth; each believer contributes to this unified growth as he allows his particular gifts to function. This unity builds the body, strengthens the body together.

Christian maturity does not depend on your physical age or on how long you have been a Christian. From Hebrews we learn, the immature (infant) Christian is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness and the mature Christian becomes mature by constant use and training themselves to be able to distinguish between good and evil. The image we see here is like an athlete or musician who practices daily, building muscle memory that results in a flawless performance because of her training.

Paul warns the Ephesians about “the trickery of men, by craftiness with the scheme of deceit” by which immature believers are being “tossed back and forth by waves” of false teachings. Paul writes in Colossians 2: 4-8 “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ”.

Paul repeats these warnings in other letters, in Galatians he warns about people who “preach a different gospel, which is no gospel at all”. To Timothy he warns “the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”. To the Corinthians he warns of “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness”.

Paul continues teaching about how we become the spiritually mature, “by practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head”. In contrast to the preceding description of the false apostles who practice deceit, we learn that the spiritually mature preach the truth in both word and deed. Believers’ conduct should be transparent, revealing the true state of their heart as opposed to those who preach one thing and act differently.

Paul returns to the depiction of the body of Christ, “from Him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body builds itself up in love”. It is interesting that Paul uses the descriptive phrase “supporting ligament”. Here is a definition of how ligaments work: “Ligaments surround joints and bind them together. They help strengthen and stabilize joints, permitting movement only in certain directions”. What a beautiful portrait of the body of Christ, the church, as we use the gifts God gave us we are held together strengthened and stabilized. We are enabled to move together in God’s will to proclaim Christ, disciple new believers and to uphold each other in love.

“Christ forms us into a body – into a group of individuals who are united in their purpose and in their love for one another and for the Lord. If an individual stumbles, the rest of the group is there to pick that person up and help him or her walk with God again. If a person sins, he or she can find restoration through the church even as the rest of the body continues to witness to God’s truth”.

Ephesians 4: 1-6

Paul again states that he is “the prisoner for the Lord”, then urges the Ephesians to live a life that is worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Paul is secure in his calling to be “the prisoner for the Lord”, his imprisonment is not something to be ashamed of; it is a high calling, he is living just as God planned.

Remember when Jesus was presented before Pilate and falsely accused of treason, Jesus kept silent refusing to engage in his own defense. An exasperated Pilate claimed, “Don’t you know I have the authority to release you and to crucify you?” This when Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin”. Jesus was put into the hands of the greatest power known at that time, who claimed the power and authority over the entire world. Pilate was the administrator of that great power and Jesus tells him that you have no authority except what God has allowed you to have. This must have irked Pilate greatly!

Paul writes in Romans clearly, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God”. He also urges the Ephesians in 1 Timothy to pray for kings and all who are in authority, offering requests, intercession and thanks on behalf of all people. Consider who these governing authorities that Paul is speaking of, it is Nero, the ruthless and deceptive Caesar who will eventually put Paul to death in Rome. Paul is praying for his oppressor.

Paul urges the church to “to live a life that is worthy”; the conduct of their lives should conform to their status as believers before God. The word “worthy” means “equal weight” giving us the sense that our lives (our conduct), how we live in our day to day life should be in balance, equal weight, with our spiritual lives.

“God has chosen us to be Christ’s representatives on earth. In light of this truth, Paul challenges us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received—the awesome privilege of being called Christ’s very own. This includes being humble, gentle, patient, understanding, and peaceful. People are watching your life. Can they see Christ in you? How well are you doing as his representative?” LIFE Application Bible

What are some things God has called us to do or be? From Romans we learn we are called according to His purpose, that He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ. From 1 Peter we learn that we are called to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation and to be His chosen people. From Matthew we learn that we are to be a light that shines for all people, “so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. Additionally, we are to “go and make disciples of all nations”, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey God’s commands.

We are to live this worthy life “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love”. Some translations use the world “meekness” instead of gentleness, this is a much misunderstood in our generation. Many misinterpret “meekness” to mean “weakness”; but the truth is that meekness is the opposite of weakness. The Greek word for meekness literally means “strength under control”. Reflect back to our previous discussion of Jesus before Pilate, Jesus had the power to strike back against His enemies, but He exhibited “strength under control” and He did not retaliate against injustice, instead “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

From Colossians, in the same mailbag as the letter to the Ephesus, “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have a great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”.

This is was a worthy life encompasses, we are growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating endurance and patience and giving joyful thanks and making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. Unity is oneness –not sameness, our unity in Christ is found in a few core essentials. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”.

As believers we are to “keep” Christian unity not “make” Christian unity. We are a diverse group of people, men and women of all ages, races and cultures. We may look different on the outside, but we are one in Christ in the Spirit. We worship in different styles, some with loud music, some with demonstrations of emotion and others with solemn classical hymns; we are different in style but united in Christ by the Holy Spirit. We maintain this unity that Christ gave us by practicing love, acceptance and forgiveness toward others in the body of Christ.

Paul writes in Galatians saying, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female – for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”.