Ephesians 5: Ideals for Husbands and Wives

EPHESIANS 5:21-33

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–  30 for we are members of his body.  31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church.  33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 

The Apostle Paul, when directing commands and expounding on the Christian life for couples, takes a look at the example of Jesus Christ as the ultimate ideal in how we should treat one another and how we should structure our most intimate relationships.  Jesus is our ideal. You see, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, security, and selfless love are a perfect pattern for us to model in our relationships.  Now, this is not an ideal that can be cast aside because it is an opinion, but rather it is the ideal of God and therefore is absolute.  Now I have to tell you that I am no expert on marriage.  I am not a relationship guru with all of the answers and six neat tricks to give you the best life now.  What we do have is the Word of God which shows us the way which is more than enough.  I find it interesting that in this passage, Paul says in verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” which is the umbrella statement for this passage which applies to all people, and then breaks down his comments to husbands and wives.

HUSBANDS

Paul tells us in this passage (and in others) that the husband is the head of the home.  What does that mean?  I think that means that the husband is the one who sets the overall direction for the family.  Husbands are charged with leadership.  Husbands are also charged with loving their wives.  Husbands are charged with spiritual leadership in the home.  What should the leadership, love, and spiritual leadership look like?  Again, it should look like the ideal that Christ has already given to us.

Sacrifice.  It is the job of the husband to put his wife and children and grandchildren before himself because he is the leader.  You do what you have to do to lead your family well.  That may mean sacrificing pride when making a decision if that is best for the family.  Sacrificing sleep may be needed for a child or grandchild.  Sacrifice selfish things that take away from family like guys’ night out or sports if it hampers the family.  Sacrifice golf on Sundays to make church and family a priority.  As the leader of the home, it is the husband’s job to sacrifice in important ways to show the rest of those in your home what is priority.  I also happen to think it is the husband’s role to decide what sacrifices the family needs to make so everyone is growing spiritually.  Sacrifice is a key element of being a good and loving husband that leads and serves the family.

Security.  It is the job of the husband to create a stable home where the wife, children, and grandchildren know they are loved and cared for.  Security means provision.  Security means they feel safe.  Security means you will always be there for them dependably and you will not skip out when it gets hard.  Security means you are consistent in saying yes and no and spending money and your expectations of them and of yourself.  Security means they know you will always listen.  Security means you tell her she is the only woman for you. 

Selfless love.  Of the three of these, I have to say that I think the “selfless love” is perhaps the most difficult part of submitting to Christ and leading well in the home as a husband.  Paul says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  In my mind, that means perfectly.  I am certainly not a perfect person.  I will never be perfect this side of Heaven.  So what does that mean?  I think it means that we make every effort to love our wives and children and all the people in our homes in as many ways as possible at all times.  That means we love without expecting something in return.  We strive to use loving words because that is what we are called to do.  Love should be out motivator in how we treat our wives and children and grandchildren.

WIVES

Paul tells us in this passage (and in others) that the wife is the submissive leader of the home.  What does that mean?  Submission means exactly what it sounds like.  Submission means that at the end of the day or the end of the argument or the end of the decision making process, that input is given but responsibility rests ultimately with the husband.  God says that.  God has made that the structure and function of a Christian home.  As a wife yields to her husband’s leadership in their marriage, she reflects the heart of faith that characterizes Jesus’s people.  The church follows Jesus as her head and uses her gifts to carry out His mission in this world.  Likewise, the wife respects and yields to her husband’s leadership as she uses her gifts to complement his good purposes for their marriage and family.  What should the submission, care, and support of a wife look like?  Again, it should look like the ideal that Christ has already given to us.

Sacrifice.  Sacrifice means giving something up for a greater cause.  The greater cause that women sacrifice for his the respect for the husband in the home.  The greater cause that women sacrifice for is the health of the marriage and the love of children.  Women sacrifice much.  Wives need to sacrifice the need to be right.  Wives often need to sacrifice getting credit for all that they do around the house and with children and sometimes even working outside the home.  Wives at times need to sacrifice their independent goals because marriage is all about interdependence.  Sacrifice, for both wives and husbands is needed.

Security.  Believe it or not, wives can provide security in the home as much as husbands can.  Wives can provide security by constantly praying for their family.  Wives can help my managing money well with their husbands.  Wives can make their husbands feel secure by always taking their side in public and presenting a united front with the children.  You see security in the home means more than being safe from robbers and bandits, but security can be felt on the inside within the relationships. 

Selfless love.  Of the three of these, I have to say that I think the “selfless love” is perhaps the most difficult part of submitting to Christ and submissive leading well in the home as a wife… not that I have ever been a wife.  Paul tells the women in this passage that selfless love leads them to submit to their husbands and to respect them.  I have to say that this is a tall order at times.  The husband may not be acting in a way that is worthy of respect.  The attitudes that he may be projecting may be hurtful at times.  Selfless love means you love him through it to make him a better man in Christ.

BOTH OF YOU

A godly marriage is one in which both the husband and the wife seek to die to self and live for Christ daily. Personal agendas are submitted to God’s agenda as both spouses seek to be controlled by the Spirit of God rather than by their flesh. Neither partner clings to his or her “rights”, but both realize that they are under the authority of God. Their unity is not based on likes and dislikes or other “compatibility” issues, but on the fact that God has joined them together. They seek harmony through “putting on the mind of Christ”.  When there is an issue to address, they first consider where they have been wrong. After they have confessed and repented of their area of responsibility, they prayerfully and lovingly seek to bring their partner to a right place before God. Both partners are willing to consider their own sin, repent, and are ready to forgive.

Sacrifice.

Security.

Selfless Love.

TMB

Ephesians 5: Maturing Repentance Toward an Order of Love

EPHESIANS 5: Maturing Repentance Toward an Order of Love

Ephesians 5:1-33 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children  2 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.  3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person– such a man is an idolater– has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  7 Therefore do not be partners with them.  8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  10 and find out what pleases the Lord.  11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  15 Be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise,  16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,  20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–  30 for we are members of his body.  31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church.  33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The Apostle Paul in this 5th chapter of Ephesians states clean behavior is a must for the saints.  This means that a Christian person who has Christian behavior is one who is seeking Christ’s character.  We want to be like Him.   Paul tells the Ephesians what this doesn’t look like in verses 3-5 and what it does look like in verses 6-14. 

“Clean living” would be the lifestyle Christ Jesus modeled.  Moreover, for us, this means personal sacrifice and maturing repentance (learning along the Way).  These two go hand in hand.  There seems to me to be a strong correlation with what I want to call “maturing repentance” (sanctification) with Christian love.  Until the fullness of God has come to believers as the body of Christ, the very goal of Christians is unity.  Remember, the Apostle Paul explains how these will be achieved in this passage.  First, Christ Himself is actively filling believers with the Spirit as 5:10 states.  Second, 5:18 informs believers to receive Him in an ongoing manner.

We are to “be filled” because we are maturing into the fullness of the Body Christ has provided.  We should be aware that Paul is speaking of more than being “born again and initially receiving the spirit of Christ.”  There is much more to it.  He is speaking to what should occur after a commitment of loyalty to Christ.

“Debauchery” (not a word we use a lot) is then forbidden for the Christian.  Paul tells the Ephesians to understand that such a lifestyle is nothing less than idolatry.  This reminds me of Lord Jesus who in John 8:34 said, “Anyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  Also, the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:16 makes the same claim.

Instead of being a slave to sin or enamored with an idol, we are to be filled with the Spirit and in straight forward language Apostle Paul states the action through which Christ fills us with the Spirit.  This is not just an individual filling, but more so a filling up corporately.  The maturing he is focusing on has the body of believers in Christ unified in a confession and commitment to Christ.  Each all together.  The believers’ action in the filling up into the fullness of God should  be as verses 19-21 encourage.  We are to unify with each other in living with music in our hearts to the Lord and thanking God and submitting to each other out of reverence to Christ.

In what areas of your life do you seek Christ’s character?  Where do you hide from him?

Are there habits and choices you continually make that pull you away from Christ?

Are there habits and choices you continually make that draw you close to Christ?

Is “clean living” easier or harder than it was in Paul’s day?

BMD

Ephesians 4: God-Honoring Forgiveness

God-honoring forgiveness is described in Ephesians 4.  In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul describes moving from unforgiveness and all the physical, emotional, and spiritual results of that in our lives to forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is at times a process for us.  What are the steps we need to take? If we are believers, you and I want to be like God and emulate His forgiveness that we have experienced. This is not easy.

#1 Recognize Our Issue: We first need to realize that unforgiveness has taken root in our heart before we can do anything about it.  In Ephesians 4:31, the Apostle Paul describes some characteristics of our lives that may indicate we are harboring unforgiveness. If you are dealing with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, or malice… unforgiveness may have a piece of your heart.

#2 Give Up Our Rights: I think this is the hardest part. We need to give up our right to be wronged.  We must give up our right to exact revenge and make them feel bad for the bad stuff they did.  We must give up these self-serving rights and adopt the right to forgive given to us by Jesus Christ.

#3 Pray for a Miracle: The only way we will forgive someone who has hurt us deeply is by praying for God to work a miracle.  I honestly believe that forgiveness is not our normal nature.  I personally struggle with forgiveness there for He (God… through Christ… in the power of the Holy Spirit) needs to give us the capacity to forgive.

#4 Continue Praying: I firmly believe forgiveness is a matter of prayer.  An important ingredient in forgiving someone is prayer in which we honestly pray for the other person and ourselves.  Now these are not prayers of “I pray they get hit by a truck,” but rather honest simple prayers for their well-being. 

#5 Decide: At some point, a decision needs to be made.  In Ephesians 4:31 when it says, “get rid” I read into that a personal decision is made.  You and I must move from recognizing our unforgiveness, giving up our sinful rights, and praying about forgiveness to actually forgiving.  Forgiveness is a decision. Decide to let it go.

#6 Work on Permanent Forgiveness: I believe that once you have made the decision to forgive someone, that this is an active decision.  What I mean by “active decision” is that this is a decision of the will that must be kept up.  If we get lax in our willingness to forgive, we may let resentment creep back into our lives.  Forgiveness is a decision that must be a constant state of who we are and we must be vigilant against falling back into unforgiveness.

TMB

EPHESIANS 4: Walk Worthy

EPHESIANS 4: Walk Worthy

Ephesians 4:1-32 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.  21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  27 and do not give the devil a foothold.  28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Here is a little reminder before we jump headlong into Ephesians 4.  In Ephesians 3:6, Gentiles are through Christ fellow inheritors to all God promises in Christ.  So, by the Spirit of Christ, there can be unity because of Him.  In addition, Ephesians 3:19 speaks to that aim by noting that the children of God are being filled up with the fullness of God. 

Now onto Ephesians 4. 

In Ephesians 4, we see that the gifts from Christ are the reality of His victory in descending from Heaven to crucify sin in His flesh (His death).  Jesus completed that feat and at Pentecost God the Father began to pour out His Spirit on all flesh who believed.

God provides the Body of Christ with apostles, prophets, evangelist, teachers, and pastors (and many others).  He provides His disciples the means to mature to become like Him.  For the believer, enduring in faith is required toward the sake of unity because the plan and the means are made clear in how God will have His humanity live… as He intended.

Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace comes by Christ Jesus having peace with God and then offering forgiveness to us by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension.  With that victory, He gifts humanity with the ability to be filled up to the fullness of God.

Love must be in view with one another towards unity because not everyone is gifted alike or in the same place with God.  Moreover, though we are to grow in every way, we must not demand folks grow in accordance with the grace we have personally received.  Rather, we give freely as we have received from the Lord so we share with them so they learn of God through us and vice versa. 

Verse 13 is very important.  As we advance in our call through Christ, we mature.  Maturity is the steadfast effort of all those who share in God’s Spirit with the good works of Faith in Christ.  We seek to follow Christ’s example and out of that seeking and unity will arise among His people.  Unity in the Spirit is stability in our maturing in Christ.

The goal is a body (group, fellowship) indwelled with Christ’s Spirit.  A healthy body has everyone living out their given functional role according to the Spirit’s wisdom.  We find balance with the Lord and also with His church.  This balance then extends to the whole of creation where everything will be brought under Christ.  Think about that!  Jesus Christ will return to a body of mature believers (the Church)… so our maturing in faith and unity is fully supported by God.

Yet… even though we have God’s full support… we must recognize that God is good and not us.  The best we can do is reflect Him.  Keep in mind the human heart is often wickedly deceitful and we can deceive ourselves out of being as responsible as we should.

I often find myself (and others) wanting to place the full burden of the relationship on Christ’s shoulders.  It is true that the means of having a relationship with God is all on Christ, but our response is not.  That is what Paul is addressing.

Verses 25-32 are very practical in nature.  Life under the authority of God’s grace means old sinful behavior is to stop.  Period.  To come under the lordship of Jesus, is to become free of all law and authorities that are in opposition to Him.  Moreover, we must then live under Christ’s authority if we are to have eternal life.  Anyone who repents can do so because the Spirit of Christ is given and with it the revelation in how to live.  Jesus did say we must deny ourselves and follow Him.  Otherwise… why call Him Lord? 

BMD

Ephesians 3: A Mystery and a Request

EPHESIANS 3: A MYSTERY AND A REQUEST 

Ephesians 3:1-12 

For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.  12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.   

A MYSTERY 

Four times in twelve verses the Apostle Paul mentions the word “mystery(musth,rion / musterion).  He must want to talk about a mystery.  The mystery was revealed a little at a time in the Old Testament through prophets and God’s dealings with the Nations, but was finally fully revealed when God called Saul of Tarsus to full-time service.   

The mystery answers the question: We know Israel was God’s chosen people, but what about the rest of us? 

God through Christ instituted the Church to reach any person with the Gospel.  Man.  Woman.  Jew.  Gentile.  Tall.  Short.  Well, maybe not short people.  Jesus is for all people and is not for Israel only.  The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 is for Israel, but more importantly is for all people as we fully take in all of God’s plan post-Resurrection. 

Questions to Think On: 

What would the world be like if Jesus Christ really did only come and die for Jewish people? 

How are the words ‘heirs,’ ‘members,’ and ‘sharers,’ similar and how do they explain each other? 

Why does Paul think he is ‘least of all God’s people’… dude was an apostle of Christ? 

What is the job of the Church in these verses? 

Can you list the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ?’ 

A REQUEST 

Ephesians 3:13-21 

13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.  14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

Paul does not want the Ephesians to be discouraged, but rather requests that they put emotional energy and theological thinking into being encouraged in Christ.  The reality of being a believer in Jesus Christ is that we have a well of encouragement from which to draw and drink. 

We can be encouraged that the Holy Spirit will strengthen us in our inner being. 

We can be encouraged that Christ Himself dwells in our hearts. 

We can be encouraged that we are rooted in a love that creates an established foundation for life. 

We can be encouraged that we are loved by God vastly. 

We can be encouraged that God does more than we ask or imagine. 

We can be encouraged that God the Father always is at work in us through His Spirit. 

Questions to Think On: 

Is there anything in these verses that are antidotes for discouragement during sufferings? 

Because I like Michael Heiser, who is God’s family in Heaven that Paul is referring to? 

What constitutes the ‘inner being’ of a person? 

What does it look like practically to be rooted in love? 

… at church? 

… with an abusive spouse? 

… when you hate someone? 

… at work? 

… when you are lonely? 

… when you discover you are selfish? 

… during the Christmas season? 

TMB 

Ephesians 2: What is God's will?

Ephesians 2:1-22   

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.  4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved.  6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)–  12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.  

I’d like to give a few pointers as you read through the passage above. I don’t want to get in the way of your own reading or what the Holy Spirit is already saying to you.

What is God’s will? What is meant by “God’s will” for us?

Paul here in the second chapter of Ephesians says that turning from old ways and thoughts is where it begins as it relates to how we live.

Most of the time we live our lives absent of God’s wise instruction. That makes our lives incompatible with God’s will for us. Our default is to be “without God” because of our sinful nature. We aren’t how He wants us to be because of our own desires.  What we follow in unbelief is nothing more than our belly’s desire. 

There is more to “I see God’s will and I follow it.” I say, “will to be” to state that there is a process going on right now (by way of Christ’s great commission) to bring all things to be one in God. He is at work in all this. He is working all things together… for us. We are the target. A church word that might apply is “sanctification,” but don’t just put all that on God. Paul is talking about our participation in this as well. We are involved in all of this. We are to work in love toward God’s promised goal for us. We are submitting to God’s way. 

What we are to follow is a source outside ourselves: Jesus.  So, we can conform to think and behave like Lord Jesus helped by the Holy Spirit which God richly gifts to believers. Christ thereby will bring about God’s desires in us rather than us living for our own belly. There is a thing called “participation with the Spirit” and “not grieving the Spirit” which is us living in the Spirit to become what God wills. This is not an automatic autopilot thing. Paul tells us this is how God is building His temple.

God purifies us as sacred space. Space, which like a priest, believers have the responsibility to keep clean from what is common in the world. His will is to be very close to us more than we can naturally attain. 

Are you going to participate in God’s will? Are you willing to do that? Will you participate with the Spirit in conforming to His likeness?

 It is so sobering to read that God’s will is to dwell in us and among us so intimately.  Yes, this is God’s “will to be,” gifting those that place their faith in Him with His Spirit bringing all things into reflecting His nature. 

God’s will for us “to be” is to be “One Spirit in one body” and to be “God’s temple.” We don’t function like this really. He is beginning here (finishes out the thought in the rest of Ephesians) to introduce the idea of being built into God’s likeness.

What do you need to pray about to participate with the Spirit?

Where can you join God willingly in what He is already doing in your life?

What is God building in you for His Kingdom?

BMD

Ephesians 1: Predestined Relationship with God

 PREDESTINED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD 

Ephesians 1:1-12   

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love  5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–  6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.  9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment– to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,  12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, tells us God in Christ sorts out all things by the wisdom of His will.  If I understand correctly, the Apostle Paul in this passage tells us that it is through the God-given image-bearing capacity to give of ourselves that enables us to have a relationship with God as well as the means to share His wisdom with humanity.  The pure of heart see Him as He is. 

If this were not so, the relationship God has with humanity would be as is ours with the animal kingdom.  God would be relating to us as we do domesticated animals and or those more unruly… wild animals.  Such a relationship is not what humans have with God because we are created in His image. 

Jesus and His Apostles teach us this in the Scriptures… 

…. do to others as you have them do to you  

… don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought 

… think of yourself with sober judgment with the faith God has given to each of you 

The life of Jesus is the primary example of such teaching.  Jesus treated people as equals when He lived on Earth.  However, this doesn’t mean He neglected His divine status.  He was willing to receive worship, as in Luke 7:38 when a woman was at His feet weeping.  She wet His feet with her tears, perfumed them, and wiped them off with her hair. 

Friends, God made a way in Christ despite sin for us to be in that reflective relationship with Him.  When we acknowledge God under the stipulation that He is the Source-Authority, we find that He treats us as equals.  Now I did not say we are equal… rather… He treats us as equal. 

This happens relationally when we acknowledge Jesus as Lord.  If we do not acknowledge Him, we cannot reflect God properly in a giving and receive relationship.  God must be acknowledged as the Source-Authority. 

Therefore, I hope you can see that God arranged the created order with ‘relationship’ at the core of His design.  He does this in such a way that He inserts Himself (the Incarnation) in humanity’s reality so that all those who acknowledge Him as Lord can be holy and blameless.  We can respond to His giving nature because we are created in His image. 

God cannot deny Himself and because the Son (God Himself) became human.  God reveals he predestined all (who through their image-bearing capacity will acknowledge Him as Lord) to find Him through His redemptive offer of life and to have a relationship with Him. Predestination is about God’s relational life-giving pattern of sharing His nature with humanity. All things are possible within the unchanging nature of God for those who acknowledge Jesus has God’s Messiah. The God who makes all things work together for those who love Him. 

BMD 

A Christmas Story: Sam the Sheep

Sam the sheep was minding his own business when all of a sudden the sky lit up with angels.  It was so bright.  He couldn’t see because of the shining glory and that was “Baaahd.”  There were lots of voices and lots of singing.  It was so loud he could hear nothing else but angelic singing.  Once his eyes adjusted to the light, the glory of the angels lit up the grass around him… oooh… there was a good patch of grass to eat.  Grass is good.  Sam the sheep was happy the angels were there because now in the middle of the night he could see where the good grass was.  Awesome!  Grass is good. 

After a little while, the night again grew dark because the angels left.  Everything still had a little glow to it though.  It had been dark for a few minutes and he heard the command that they were on the move.  On the move in the middle of the night?  Was the shepherd drunk again?  Did the bright light of the angels fry his brain?  Traveling at night is not good.  He could walk off a cliff like his Uncle Ovine.  Whatever the reason, they were on the move.  He felt sheepish about traveling at night, but then he always did.

Sam was in shear panic as he didn’t know where they were going, but he followed his shepherd anyway.  Somebody mentioned heading to Bethlehem which was okay with him.  The water in Bethlehem was good.  Water is good.  Maybe there would be more food.  Mmmmm… food is good.

Sam asked Suzie next to him if she knew why they were going to Bethlehem.  Admittedly he had been distracted by grass.  Grass is good.  “Ewe don’t know why?” she laughed, “We are going because The Good Shepherd was born and the shepherds are flocking to check Him out.”

“What?” Sam asked Suzie, “You mean I missed out on the announcement about The Good Shepherd because I was eating grass?”

“Yes,” Suzie said as she trotted along.

“That’s baaahd,” Sam said sheepishly. 

He and the shepherds and the rest of the sheep arrived on the outskirts of Bethlehem and went to a stable.  Oh yeah, they were going to stay in a great place tonight.  No sleeping out in the open, oh no, they were sleeping in a barn with a proper feeding trough.  No one was going to pull the wool over his eyes, being in Bethlehem was a great thing!

The shepherds went into the stable and the sheep just kind of stood around outside.  That’s what they did.  Stood around.  Sam the sheep got curious.  The last time he got curious he ended up getting his head stuck in a hole for half a day, but he figured if the shepherd was in there it couldn’t be too bad.  Sam rammed himself past some other sheep and looked inside the barn.

What he saw absolutely shocked him to the wool.

The proper feeding trough in this barn was being used!  They put a human baby in there.  That’s no place for a baby!  Babies belong in a knapsack or in a drawer or something, not in a trough where food goes!  A trough is a place for food!  Mmmmm… food is good.  Then, Sam the sheep heard his shepherd’s voice and he listened because he always listened to the voice of his shepherd.

“The angels told us He is our Savior.  The angels told us He is the Christ.  The angels told us He is God.  Is that true?”  Both the man and the very tired looking woman said yes.  Sam the sheep was looking at The Good Shepherd in the flesh. 

The Good Shepherd is the Savior.

The Good Shepherd is the Christ.

The Good Shepherd is God.

Well, Sam already knew that last one.  God was everyone and everything’s Good Shepherd.  The shepherds starting praying.  Then the shepherds were singing.  The parents just held their kid and took it all in.  Sam understood what he was looking at.  The Almighty God had entered creation and became flesh and made His dwelling among His creation.  That wasn’t just good, but the bestest.

Seeing The Good Shepherd in the flesh was a little underwhelming to tell the truth.  He was a baby.  In a barn.  Taking up space meant for food.  The shepherds seemed overjoyed and were sharing the news with everyone they passed on the way out of town.

Sam told a dog he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will bring people salvation.”

Sam told a cat he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will forgive people of sins.”

Sam told a rabbit he passed, “Hey The Good Shepherd is here and He will lead lost people to God.”

Sam the sheep was never the same after that night.  Would ewe be?

Philemon 1-25

CONNECTING THE NEED TO FORGIVE

I want you to put into your mind perhaps 4 people that you might be dealing with in your life. 

Person 1: The first person we may need to forgive is someone in our extended family.  You have decided to invite all your family over for Thanksgiving.  You have a stack of invitations to send in the mail for all your various family members.  You are going through your family and writing out invitations for them.  Imagine yourself doing that.  Who did you skip?  Who do you not want to invite?

Person 2: The second person we may need to forgive is what I would consider an influencer.  Think of your mother.  Think of your father.  Think of your spouse.  Perhaps that spouse is now an ex-spouse.  Has one of these primary influencers in your life done something or said something or hurt you in a way that is stuck in your heart?

Person 3: The third person we may need to forgive is someone at your job.  Many of us spend 30-50 hours a week with people at a job and there are bound to be conflicts.  Is there someone at your work that you absolutely have issues with and there is bitterness in your heart for them? 

Person 4: Person who has harmed you emotionally.  This is a person, it might be one of your children, a dear friend, a person at work, or maybe even someone who fired off a facebook or twitter post about you.  There are people who have hurt our feelings on accident.  There are people who have hurt our feelings on purpose.

PHILEMON 1-25

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker,  2 to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home:  3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,  5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.  6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.  7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.  8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do,  9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul– an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–  10 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.  11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  12 I am sending him– who is my very heart– back to you.  13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.  14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.  15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good–  16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.  17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.  18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.  19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back– not to mention that you owe me your very self.  20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.  21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.  22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.  23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings.  24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.  25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

The theme of this little book is forgiveness.  The point of this book is forgiveness.  Interestingly enough the word is never mentioned here in any of the verses.  It is almost as if the Holy Spirit made this a “fill in the blank” epistle of one of the Apostles.  Forgiveness is all over every verse, but yet never stated. 

The appeal for forgiveness is not based on law or principle or theology or biblical texts, but the appeal is on the basis of love.  The Apostle Paul takes the high ground.  Paul knows that Philemon is a godly man.  He knows he is a spiritual man.  He knows he is a man whose heart toward God is right.  Paul loved Philemon.  In fact, in verse 1 he calls him “agapetos,” which means “beloved” or “dear friend.”  In verse 7 he says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement.”  There was a bond of love and connection between these two men.  There was no need to command because of their connection and friendship.

FORGIVENESS

Forgiveness means to pardon someone because of what they have done or said.

Forgiveness means to release from bondage or imprisonment.

Forgiveness means letting go of an action or word as though it had never been committed.

Forgiveness means giving up the right and ability to exact payment for something.

THREE KEYS OF FORGIVENESS IN PHILEMON

RECEPTION

The first element in forgiveness is taking the person back.  Let them into your life.  Depending on the situation, that is most likely a tall order.  Verse 10, “I appeal to you for my child whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Onesimus, who formerly was useless to you but now is useful both to you and to me.” Just take him back.  Paul asks Philemon to take him back for three reasons.  He is repentant. He is transformed. And he is proven faithful.  These three unfold in the very simple verses as Paul talks about the runaway.  Close the gap.  Cross the rift.  Heal the wound.  Let Onesimus back into your life.

RESTORATION

Second, Paul is asking for restoration.  Paul suggests that not only should Philemon open arms and take Onesimus back, but he also needs to put him back into service.  Verse 15 is very fascinating, “For perhaps Onesimus was for this reason parted from you for a while that you should have him back forever no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother.

RESTITUTION

Third, Paul also speaks about restitution.  There has been wrong done and that wrong needs to be dealt with.  How will it be dealt with?  Obviously when Onesimus bolted he caused Philemon great distress.  If the price of a good servant was 500 denarii and the normal wage was 1 denarii a day, he would have to work for 500 days to make up for the loss.  Not only that, it seems apparent that when Onesimus left he took some of the possessions and money of Philemon in order to fund his fugitive life. How is the Apostle Paul going to deal with this?  Onesimus has nothing to pay with.  He probably has come back with empty pockets.  So how is he going to deal with restitution?  In verses 17, Paul says, “If then you regard me a partner, a fellow partaker of spiritual life, if you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.”  He says just treat him the way you’d treat me.  Welcome him as you would welcome me. Forgive him as you would forgive me.  Just take him back just the way you’d take me.  Then in verse 18 Paul adds. “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”  Restitution is always an essential component of forgiveness. It would have been right for Philemon to say you’ll pay me back what it cost me to replace you. 

GOSPEL MESSAGE

Perhaps you are reading this and you do not understand God, Jesus, or much about forgiveness.  I would like to share with you that the Apostle Paul is playing a very very familiar part in the life of Philemon and Onesimus.  It is the same part that Jesus Christ plays in the relationship between the sinner (us) and God. Philemon is like God in that he has been violated.  He has been cheated.  Onesimus is like the sinner who ran from God, who defrauded God, and in doing so has wasted his life. 

If the sinner is to be reconciled to God, somebody must pay the price, right? 

This is what Jesus Christ did for us! 

We who are believers are never more like God than when we forgive.  Never are we more like Christ than when we carry a debt so that forgiveness can take place in a relationship.  The Apostle Paul is acting like Christ in this situation and following His example.  He says I’ll take the consequence of his sin, you just take him back.

TMB