Ephesians 4

1:  Therefore – always see what it’s there for…  implore, appeal.  Walk, conduct yourselves.  Worthy manner, Gk., axios, deserving, suitable.  Calling, Gk., klesis, condition.  Same root as paraklete, used as a title for the Holy Spirit.  He does the calling, incidentally, and helps with the execution of that calling, as we have seen in chapters 1-3.  Called, same root, Gk., kaleo, implies the idea of invitation, or of  legal summons.

2:  Here Paul describes the worthy walk that he mentions in verse 1.  Humility, tapeinophrosunē, lowliness of mind – meaning that we should consider others ahead of ourselves always and at all times.  Gentleness, prautēs, the same word translated as “meekness” in the KJV, meaning perfect power under perfect control.  Tolerance, anechō, to put up with, to suffer, to bear with (not BE a bear with).  To whom do we show this tolerance?  Each other.  Does that mean just my brothers and sisters in Christ?  Sure, for a start – but if you cannot show tolerance as Jesus did to all of us, only “straightening out” the legalistic and wrongly spiritual, and only to try to shock them to the point where they could see their sin and turn from it.  And given that they were always trying to trap Him and kill Him, I think he showed great tolerance.

3:  Here’s another example where in my opinion the fellow who did the verse divisions missed it.  I am including the last two words of verse 2 as part of verse 3.  Love should drive diligence to keep unity in the bond of peace, according to Paul.  Several things of note – being diligent in keeping church unity needs to be driven by agape love, that is divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing love.  If that isn’t what’s driving your diligence, then it’s something else, and you may want to pay attention to that.  Second, unity is kept, or preserved, not made or negotiated.  If your unity is not preserved from Scripture, then it is not the unity of the Spirit.  Third, the unity is of the Spirit of God Himself.  Those that would break it will face God Himself to answer for it.  Finally, it is to be kept in the “bond of peace.”  Bond, sundesmos, that which binds together.  Peace, eirēnē, a state of being undisturbed, with a quality of being joined together.

4:  Paul then launches into that great text on oneness of things – one body (the church), one Spirit (of God), one hope of your calling (into the body by the Spirit of God),

5:  one Lord (Jesus Christ, head of the body), one faith (in Jesus Christ, the head of the body), one baptism (into the body),

6:  one God and Father of all (the power behind all the oneness), who is over all (in charge), through all (in the sense of filling up everything), and in all (there is nowhere He is not).

7:  This next section has a bit in it, and some of it is parenthetical to the point, but is loaded with good and important theology.  I’ll do my best to address it all, though it may be a little out of sequence.   The translators of the text have put them in parentheses to show that this information is “by the way,” as important as it is.

The verse here tells us that each of us has been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s free gift (sense of the Greek).  So how much grace is that?  Well, it has been measured according to something unmatchable in size – the gift that Christ gives to us a no cost to us.  He paid the ultimate price, but gives it freely.  All the gifts and graces of the Spirit of God were upon God the Son without measure, best seen in Luke 4:14-30, according to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible.

8:  Paul brings up a text from the Psalms that says almost the same thing from Psalm 68:18a:  “You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men…”  The word “received” may be translated as “taken” gifts.  As in taken as a prize.  That’s a bit of a humbling thought for me, who intends to go into ministry.  I am a prize of God because of His great deeds.  He took them as prizes – and gave them as gifts to men.  Go figure, right? /:-)

9:  Here starts the parentheses.  “Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?  Paul is saying that Jesus actually descended into the place of the dead, that is Hades in the New Testament.  Be careful here, because there are some who say that Jesus also suffered (suffers?) in Hell for you so that you no longer have to.  It doesn’t say that anywhere in Scripture, and it kind of ignores those three little words Jesus said just as He died on the cross – “It is finished.”  NOWHERE in scripture does it say that Jesus suffered or still suffers in Hell.  That was finished, according to Jesus Himself, and verse 8 actually suggests that He went there to rescue souls like He did here, and that He in fact led captivity (Hell) captive and then ascended (with the captives from Hell he had captured (that is, set free) to Heaven with them.  This is NOT a point that Paul was trying to make here, however.  Recall, this is in parentheses.  Okay, Jesus went to Hell.  But He didn’t go as the rest of us would, He went as the one who didn’t deserve to be there, and because He was God, could bust people out of jail, so to speak.  He went as a king and conqueror.

10:  Why would Jesus do that?  Well, to show that He has in fact been, and still is, everywhere, filling everything with Himself to redeem it all.  Thus ends the parenthetical thought, and we will see this idea of Jesus filling all things in other books of the New Testament.

11:  And he gave (referring to the gifts in v.8) some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (the Greek kind of puts pastors and teachers into one phrase that has a single meaning, meaning that pastors are to be teachers and teachers are to be pastors).  So what are all these gifts?  Well, some we already know – Apostles are literally messengers sent on a mission by God.  What about Prophets?  We’ve seen them before too, those are interpreters or forth-tellers of the divine will.  Evangelists – that’s new.  These people are meant to bring good news, and are a the name given to the New Testament heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.  (Phillip from Acts 8 comes to mind.)  Pastor/Teacher is kind of new, and kind of old at the same time.  Did you know that “pastore” is the Latin word for the Greek poimēn, or “shepherd” in English?  Pastors are quite literally meant to be shepherds and guides for the flock, which involves teaching them the divine will.  These are the prizes God took for Himself and then gave as gifts to men.  So why did He do that?  It turns out that He did indeed have a reason.

12:  “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”   It seems that God has something in mind, and his “saints” (if you will recall, that’s all those He has made holy by justifying them before Himself, aka “us”) need equipping!  For what?  The work of service!  What service?  The building up of the body of Christ!  What?  We are to build the church!  We need more bricks!  Send the evangelist!  How do we lay them?  Call the pastor!  There is no church in that location!  Call the apostles!  Wait – is it the will of God that we plant a church there?  I don’t know!   Call the prophets!  They can tell us!  Okay, okay, I know that many today no longer believe that apostles and prophets are in operation because “that which is perfect has come” (1 Cor 13:10, which many believe refers to the completed canon of Scripture).  I understand that logic, and I mostly agree.  My point is, God did not leave His church without guidance and tools for the work He called it to for the rest of however long He wants us here.

 

13:  Until we all attain the unity of the faith…  There is a purpose for this as well.  We must all come that same oneness of persuasion talked about in verse 4-6.  That’s the unity of the faith.

…and of the knowledge of the Son of God…  Knowledge, “acknowledgement”

…to a mature man…  Does this offend you?  It kind of implies that we all have some growing to do.  I don’t think it offensive, I find it informative, and more importantly, I find it correct.  I can honestly say I have not arrived.  But God wants me to arrive at that destination, and is making the way for me and giving me the tools.

…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  Okay, remember the bit about how big Christ’s measure is?  That’s a really large amount.  And yet, that is what God wants in us – that we would all be filled up with the fullness of Christ.  I think about that and I wonder where I’m going to get the room.  (answer – you can’t.  But God can – and will.)  What do we call that?  We call it MATURITY.  And it seems to be Paul’s and the Lord’s point.

14:  “As a result, we are no longer to be children…”

See?  But the way this is phrased, it almost implies choice in the matter.  And because this letter is written to Christians who have a new nature in Christ, the total depravity of man doesn’t enter this discussion.  This seems to me to be an act of our will, not to be a child any longer.  If I can say a word here, the opposite of this is what I call “Peter Pan syndrome,” and is characterized by the phrase (or rather attitude), “I won’t grow up.”  That is actually normal in the early teen years where they realize they have to start taking on more responsibility, but this goes away because they find that they are satisfied by being responsible.  Where it is sad to see is in a 60-something year-old who wants to act like he’s still 16.

“…tossed to and fro by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…

Interesting that being indecisive or wishy-washy is mentioned specifically about someone who is a child.  This means as a part of becoming more mature, we need to learn to make up our minds about things.  We don’t poll what others say about things (the every wind of doctrine part), we do the work, read the data, and make up our own mind after asking the Holy Spirit  to lead us.

“…by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…”

Why?  Because people can lie.  We should know.  We’ve told a few of our own, and we’ve had them told to us.  Sometimes these are hard to detect because these people are deliberately crafty and their scheme seems to make sense.  We need to be aware of this; it is the reason that we are commanded to test the spirits to see whether they are from God or from men (1 John 4:1).

15:  “But speaking the truth in love…”

How are we to deal with these people that are trying to mislead us?  We are to know (and speak) the truth in love, first to ourselves, and then perhaps to them.  If they are being dumb, say so.   Kid:  “Dad, can I get a tattoo of a dragon on my face?  All the other kids are doing it!”  Me:  “Um, no.  Remember how dumb you felt when you drew on yourself with permanent marker and it took a month to wear off and all the kids at school made fun of you?”  Kid:  [embarrassed] “Uh, yeah…” [voice trails off]  Me:  Why would you want to write on yourself with ink that will last for years, not just a month?  Do you want people to make fun of you for the rest of your life?”  You get the idea.

“…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…”

No, we are to learn to make decisions according to the will of God.  This is the definition of Christian growth of character.  We need to choose for Him in faith, and then we need to do what we chose for Him.  This will help us grow up into Him, that is, into Christ.  I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I believe Paul is involving the concept of being living sacrifices and not conforming to the expectation of others, but instead responding to the world with that renewed mind He gives us as we follow Him and grow in Him.

16:  “…from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies…”

Everything comes from the head.  All direction, all motion, everything.  And it is “fitted” together like a complex jigsaw puzzle, and “held” together [sumbibazō, to join, but together as corporately, and by extension to teach] by the teaching of the Scriptures that come from Christ the head, through [literal from margin] through every joint of the supply.  We ALL teach each other.  We all build each other.  We all need each other.  This is why Jesus calls it a body – you cannot function apart from it – you MUST assemble with others for any of this to happen.

“…according to the proper working of each individual part…”

[Literal from margin] “working in measure.”  How about:  with the operative power [energia] of the measure [metron] in each person in the collective [ἑνὸς ἑκάστου μέρος, the sense of meaning].  Remember, the measure is that of Christ, so limitless.

“…causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

What causes growth?  Christ causes the growth.  How?  By operation of his energia through each member of His body when we gather corporately, either officially as the church, or unofficially as brothers and sisters in Christ when we talk about Him and spiritual principles, or other spiritual activities.  That is to say, Christ involves US in the building of His corporate body, the church as we gather to and for Him.

17:  “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord…”

With all of the above in mind, Paul reaches a conclusion here, and it isn’t just coming from him, but from Christ Jesus the God-man who redeemed us!

“…that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind…”

Okay, we are all pretty much Gentiles here – are we saying that the use of our mind is futile?  If it is the only thing we use, yes, we are.  It is possible to be extremely intelligent and still not know or do the will of God, right?  We all just thought of someone when I said that, too, didn’t we.  That’s the futility I’m talking about.  I grew up like that.  Apart from Christ, I’m a pretty independent guy.  I’m smart enough to figure most of it out myself.  And yet, I have been a fool, brought low by my own pride, and have amounted to nothing apart from Him.  I’ve been reading through Ecclesiastes in my personal devotions, and let me tell you, being a smart guy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that’s a fair paraphrase of King Solomon, and he really WAS the sharpest tool in the shed according to God.  And he still left the service of the Most High.  No, living in your head is nothing but futility.

18:  “…being darkened in their understanding…”  Understanding [dianoia, mind, disposition, thoughts, particularly deep thoughts]

Why is it futility?  Because their reasoning capabilities are literally darkened.  They are wandering around in the dark, and like anyone in the dark does, they start to make stuff up.  And sometimes, it is really believable stuff like evolution because enough of them hear it and work really hard on it to make it convincing in detail.  (It still fails to pass first causes – you can’t get around the second law of thermodynamics, for example.)  Darkened deep thoughts.  Gee, sounds like university – or even seminary (sometimes “jokingly” referred to as cemetery).

“…excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them…”

Excluded [apallotrioō, alienated] from the life of God, the very thing we have been talking about in Ephesians, especially chapter 4 to this point.  That alienation happened in Genesis 3 just as a reminder.  We were ALL alienated at once, because of our first parents.  The word alienation implies directly that something happened to alienate us from what we knew before.  Read Genesis 3 for those details.  Why the alienation?  Because of the ignorance [agnoi, lack of knowledge] in us.  What knowledge?   The knowledge of God as everything.

“…because of the hardness of their heart…”

Why were we alienated?  What caused it?  The hardness [pōrōsis, to cover as with a callous, blindness] of our hearts.  We think we know things.  Sometimes we even make little comments or use big words unnecessarily to let other people know how smart we are, and that we’re certainly smarter than they are.  Oh brothers and sisters – how little we really know of God and His grace.

19:  “…and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”

And here is the result of that ignorance, or callousness – we gave ourselves over to sensuality [aselgeia, wantonness (not just sexual here)] for the practice [ergasia, work] of every kind of impurity [akatharsia, uncleanness] with greediness [pleonexia, covetousness].  It seems to be a natural result of the alienation exclusion from the life of God, which we knew at the beginning (see Genesis 2).  Well, that’s the bad news…

20:  Time for some good news (did I just say “Gospel?”  You bet I did.  “But you did not learn Christ in this way…”

21:  “…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus…”

Paul doesn’t make assumptions inside a congregation here.  He understands that there are people that can give simple mental assent to an idea but not be changed, and because we are great imitators as a whole, it is difficult to tell who is truly Christ’s and who is putting on a show.  He is assuming that you have heard of Jesus, and you have been taught what that means, about His atoning sacrifice, about His power for transforming your character, all that – so that you know the Truth in Jesus and that it has set you free (John 8:32).  Paul now describes what you should be doing if you have indeed been born again and that Christ has come to dwell in your heart by faith in the next few verses.

22:  “…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit…”

So this is what you used to be like – lay that aside, because it was being corrupted [spoiled, like poisoned] as you chased that lie with great lust in your heart for it…

23:  “…and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind…”

Doesn’t this sound like Paul in Romans 12?  It does to me.  Our mind is renewed, our spirit transformed, all of that working together as described above in verse 16…

24:  “…and put on the new self, which  in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

Now pick up what God has prepared for you – a new life, created in His own likeness, in righteousness, holiness, and truth.  That’s is what we are supposed to be putting on like a perfectly fitting coat, and displaying to the world.  This past week, the Lord gave me a thought that stood me right up spiritually.  I really do live my selfish life for myself and my own comfort, and this is one of the biggest reasons my life fell apart.  You know, he who seeks to save his own life will lose it and all that.  What if I tried to make everyone else’s lives easier?  Paul said he became all things to all people for the purposes of ministry.  Jesus is an even better example, having died on a cross for everyone.  What if I did the same?  That’s the new self, created in His image.  I’m going to try that on.  I may need your help with that, so don’t be surprised if I ask you.

25:  Pay attention…there is that word, “Therefore.”  We need to see what it’s “there for.”  [Ha ha ha, I kill me.]

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

Paul is reaching a conclusion based on what he has written before, which in this case is the paragraph about laying aside the old nature and putting on the new.  We are to do this for the express purposes of laying aside all the little lies we tell each other to speak the truth to our neighbour.  Why?  Because we belong to each other.  In fact, the sense of the Greek is that we are as intimately associated as our own body parts to each other.  Think about that for a minute, because it has all kinds of implications.  I bet no man in the room wants to be asked by his wife if the clothing she is wearing makes her look fat right now.  I bet no woman in the room wants to know the answer to “what are you thinking” at this exact moment.  Brothers and Sisters, this is going to be hard.  Arctic Tundra hard.  Be honest – and remember, be filled with grace.  Use the truth either to bless or to skillfully address shortcomings with grace.  And ALWAYS show your love for the other – and people somehow know when you aren’t being loving – or when you are.  Be prepared to face the other’s anger.

26:  Why else would Paul say this?  “BE angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…”  Anger is not sin.  God is angry with the wicked every day, the Scripture tells us.  It is an attribute of God.  The trick is not being ruled and controlled by anger.  The best way to do that is to be honest in communication, and to be humble and accept corrective statements with the intent GOD means them.  That way, the sun will not set on your anger and it will not begin to fester…

27:  “…and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  Festering anger at someone will always betray itself to you if you’re sensitive and looking for it, or to others if you are not.  It comes with those little snide comments about someone’s character.  Maybe they deserve it – I’m not saying otherwise – but should you really not be taking that up with your brother or sister privately and personally?  I know – arctic tundra hard.  But it’s still what you should be doing, unless someone else brings it up – and then you should only speak what you need to speak and without anger or its first cousin malice.  To do otherwise gives a place for the enemy to stand in our lives and in our gathering.

28:  “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”  Paul is giving another good example of where the devil can gain an opportunity against people.  A thief must no longer steal, but maybe have a job where he can instead give to people who have need.  Robin Hood need not apply.

29:  “Let no  unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  Another great example by Paul.  Watch your language, for starters.  Then what about the purpose of your words?  Are they corrupting [poisoning] someone’s character or reputation, or mood intentionally?  Or are they building that person up or leading them toward Jesus to be saved?  Are those words designed intentionally to hurt, or to heal?  Do they give grace to the hearer?  They should.

30:  “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Serious statement.  This tells me that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit, God Himself, with our behaviour.  What could be the implications of that?  Paul doesn’t address that here, so neither will I.  I will say that it is not possible to become unsaved again, Jesus taught that no one could take us out of the Father’s hand (John 10 among other places).  But it is possible to grieve Him, and I cannot imagine that is without serious consequence.

31:  “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger [thumos, angry temper] and clamor [kraugē, an outcry] and slander [blasphēmia] be put away from you, along with all malice [kakia, wickedness, evil intent].”

So – what do we do about that jerk who gets in our face every time we try to help?  Well, consider it an opportunity to practice patience and right behaviour, by putting these behaviours away.  Notice all of them involve or lead to some form of violence, either physical, verbal, or spiritual.

32:  “Be kind [chrestos, serviceable, good] to one another, tender-hearted [eusplagchnos, compassionate], forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

So with the jerk that gets in your face very time with stupidity, legalism, rules, etc – be good to him.  Have compassion for him.  I find it helps to remind myself that Jesus died for him too.  It reminds me that we all have issues.  Forgive him – because God has forgiven you far worse things.

 

 

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