A. THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE ON PAUL’S SUFFERING
- Paul wants the Ephesians to understand that the reason he suffers so much, is because he is a singular threat to the kingdom of darkness, being selected to be God’s special messenger, carrying a special message, which he received by special supernatural revelation, making him to have a special insight into the mystery of the salvation of the gentiles.
- This understanding and enlightened perspective should make them realize how precious they are to God to be receivers of this special revelation and should remove their despondency and rather let them feel honoured. (3:13)
- Regarding the messenger (Paul): he was not selected because of his excellence, on the contrary, he was the least of all saints (having persecuted the Body of Christ before his salvation); it was God’s gift of grace to him to be thus honoured and empowered.
- Regarding the message:
- During the ages gone by, it had not been revealed to mankind as clearly as presently; indeed, it was kept secret.
- Now, the secret is out (especially through the revelation given to Paul) and is confirmed to all God’s holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit. (3:5)
- This is the Gospel (Good News) that proclaims that the gentiles are co-heirs of the infinite riches of Christ and co-members of his body because of the promises God made in him. (3:6)
- This truth of Jew and Gentile becoming equal and one in Christ, can be seen fleshed out in the congregations of believers and bears testimony, to the angelic hosts, of God’s infinite wisdom. (3:10)
- This then, gives both Jew and Gentile boldness to approach God’s throne by faith in Christ.
B. PAUL’s PRAYER FOR THE EPHESIANS TO FULLY GRASP THESE TRUTHS
- His prayer:
- He prays to God the Father with bent knees (in great reverence and sincerity.) (3:14)
- He prays under the deep realization that his petition is because of Christ alone by whose Name every generation shall be called. (3:14,15)
- He prays that the Holy Spirit may empower their spirit to the fullness of the Father’s riches so that (3:16):
- Their faith may be so strong that it will enable them to open their lives completely in order that Christ may be at home within them. (3:17)
- That they, having received love as the basis of their new lives, may now proceed continually in understanding what love really is, until they fully comprehend the love of Christ which stretches never ending (infinitely) in all directions. (3:18)
- This heart knowledge of love totally overshadows mere mind knowledge of it and results in a person being spiritually filled to all the fullness of God.
- His doxology:
Having laid his petition for the Ephesians before God, Paul now extols Him by:
1. Expressing his trust in him, proclaiming that He has the power to do way above what we pray or think, because of the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. (3:20).
2. By expressing his conviction that God will, In Christ Jesus, be glorified in his earthly congregation through all generations and into all eternity. (3:21)
C. UNITY IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
- Cultivation of unity:
- As God demonstrated his desire for unity of his people by uniting Jew and Gentile, it is his wish that unity should prevail amongst members in the body everywhere.
- A unified congregation will be a dignified congregation but a congregation torn by factions will be held in contempt by the community. (4:1)
- Ingredients of the recipe for cultivating unity: humility, gentleness, patience, inner peace and making allowances for one another’s faults because we love them. (4:2)
- Unity does not just blow in by the window, but has to be cultivated by positive effort. (4:3)
- Unity as seen in Body structure:
- One Body (4:4).
- One Lord (Jesus Christ) (4:5).
- One (Holy) Spirit (4:4).
- One God and Father of all, over all, through all and in all (4:6).
- One hope (of seeing all of God’s promises being fulfilled in every believer) (4:4).
- One faith (in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) (4:4-6).
- One baptism (into the Body of Christ) (4:5).
- Unity grows as members mature
- Members mature when they are instructed in God’s truths (4:12).
- Mankind received such instruction when Jesus descended to earth, and revealed to them, God and the precepts of his Kingdom.
- His sacrificial death and subsequent victorious resurrection, unlocked unlimited treasures for his Body’s growth. (4:8).
- He ascended to heaven so that He, as Head of the Body, may, from there, direct the whole salvation process and bring it to its final fullness. (4:9,16)
- One of the measures He subsequently instigated to achieve growth, was to provide his Body with office bearers endowed with different capabilities in order that they may instruct and build up his Body. (4:11)
- These are the ministries He provided as gifts to his Church for this purpose (4:11):
- Pastors (Shepherds) and
- His intention was that his saints may grow to (4:13):
- Unity of faith (one understanding of God’s truths).
- Unity in their factual and experiential knowledge of Christ.
- Become men (and women) spiritually grown into the full stature of Christ.
- This would be the opposite of dwarf, immature, disunited, disjointed Body of which members are uncertain as to what to believe and are easily manipulated by cunning, false people rather like (4:14):
- Waves of the sea that have no direction of their own, or,
- Little children that have no deep convictions of right and wrong and are easily talked into doing the will of the person under whose influence they land up.
- The matured Body, on the other hand, derives strength from the support of the individual members, each playing his unique role in bringing about the purposed unity. (4:16)
- (Verses 8-10 may be interpreted as follows:
- That Christ descended into Hades, preached the Gospel of salvation to some of those held captive, released those that came to faith and they then ascended with him to heaven – there is not much evidence in the rest of Scripture to support this view.)
- That He descended to earth and that the believers that rose from their graves when He was resurrected, ascended to heaven with him.)
- That He descended to earth, which is very low in glory, compared to heaven.)
D. CHRISTIAN LIVING CONTRASTED WITH HEATHEN LIVING (Part 1)
Here then is some teaching that, when accepted and put into practice, will bring about growth and lead to maturity.
- Take a good look at the depraved heathen way of living (so that you may abhor it) noting that:
- They are totally confused as to what is proper and what improper. (4:17)
- Their spiritual perception is darkened; they are living in a twilight world steeped in moral darkness. (4:18)
- They are strangers to real life that is to be found only in God. (4:18)
- This ignorance came upon them because they hardened their hearts when the light of truth was brought to them. (4:18)
- Their spiritual perception was gradually blunted and they surrendered themselves to all sorts of depravity, greed and dirty living. (4:19)
- Now perceive Christ, on the other hand, (if you received the real truth about him), and what He teaches namely that:
- A member of the Body is to lay down the old man (previous lifestyle) which will lead to his ruin (by persuading him to submit to its craving after forbidden things). (4:22)
- He is to accept a renewed mindset and clothe himself with the new man that is created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness. (4:24) In practice this means that this new man (which is you):
- Will no longer tell lies but speak the truth, especially to other members of the body. (4:25)
- When anger rises up within, keep it bridled so that it will not boil over resulting in sin (such as revenge) and calm down before going to bed so that anger will not develop into bitterness. (4:26)
- Give no room (not a single room) to the devil (even when your heart has 100 rooms) for he will very soon slip into one room after the other until he owns every room of your heart – do not think that a certain sin is very, very small, though it is small, it occupies a room (a place) inside of you. (4:27)
- Though he has been living by stealing all of his life, not steal from his neighbour anymore, but rather earn something honestly by using the hands God gave him so that he will now be able to bless, with a gift, the very neighbour he stole from. (4:28)
- Watch his tongue: let no dirty word that will defile others escape from his mouth but only words that will bless and build up his audience. (4:29)
- Keep in mind that whatever wrong he thinks, says or does, brings grief (sorrow, pain) to the Holy Spirit and He is the very One that guarantees that the believer will be acceptable on the day of final redemption. (4:30)
- Cleanse his inner home of all bitterness, anger, bellowing with rage and every other kind of evil furniture he accumulated in course of time, then refurnish it with brand new items such as friendliness, tenderheartedness that will make him care for others and lastly the wholehearted, undeserving forgiveness with which God forgave us in Christ. (4:3, 32).
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