Monday, January 23, 2017

Ephesians 5:1-21

In the first half of this chapter (vs.1-21) the apostle Paul exhorts the saints to walk in love (v.2), light (v.8), and circumspectly (v.15). The latter half (vs.22-33) deals with Christian marriage. 

The real Christian life is more than a profession, it is a practical walk. A walk implies some things:
Life – dead men can't walk (Eph. 2:1)  
Liberty – those that are bound can't walk (Rom. 6:17) 
Light – we don't walk in darkness because we wouldn't know where we are going (v.8) 

[1] Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 
[2] And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Modern versions change “followers” to “imitators.” The greatest imitator of God is Satan (2 Thess. 2:4), but he certainly doesn’t follow God. Satan has imitation bibles that his imitation preachers preach out of to imitation Christians. We need real Christianity, not an imitation! The children of Satan follow their father (Jn. 8:44). As followers of God we need to forgive (the “therefore” points us back to 4:32) and love as He does. We can only do this by His Spirit in us, not by trying to imitate Christ in our flesh. Asking, “What would Jesus do?” while trying to imitate Him in the flesh is ridiculous. The flesh cannot be like Christ (Rom. 7:18; 8:8)! 

We are not to selfishly absorb all of God’s blessings like a sponge. We are to be a channel that He can work through. It is a great blessing to be forgiven of all our sins. We are to forgive others even as God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. It is a great blessing to know the love of God. We are to love others even as Christ has loved us. 

Notice that love is something we are to WALK in. Many talk about love, but not many walk in it. There is a vast difference between human love and God’s love. We learn some things about real love in this context. It is: 
1) Sacrificial 
2) Not based on performance of the object (Rom. 5:8)
3) Speaks the truth (Eph. 4:15)
4) Righteous (vs.3-21) 

The sacrifice of Christ is the only payment God accepts for sin. The proof that He accepted the payment is the resurrection. He will not accept your works! The work of Christ was a sweet smelling savor to God. The works of the flesh have a foul odor of "filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). 

[3] But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 
[4] Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 
[5] For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 
[6] Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

God sets a high standard for His children (“let it not be once named among you”)! We know that Paul is talking about the lost world that are still in their sins in v.5 because he calls them “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). We are not living in the time of God’s wrath, but we must warn the lost of the wrath they will face if they die lost or if they are left behind after the rapture. 

The words “becometh” (v.3) and “convenient” (v.4) have similar meanings. Both refer to that which is fitting, proper, or suitable. In this passage Paul mentions six things that are not fitting, proper, or suitable for a Christian to partake in and then mentions something that is; giving thanks. Thanksgiving is an integral part of the Christian walk (Col. 2:6-7). Thankfulness is a mark of true spirituality (vs.18-21). In light of ALL that God has done for us (Eph. 1-3), it is convenient for us to constantly be giving Him thanks. So, an unthankful Christian is very inconvenient. 

In v.4 we are told what kind of talk is not convenient for saints, and the kind that is. The Christian walk is more about what we do than what we don’t do. Upon salvation God took us out of the old man (flesh) and put us in the new man (Body of Christ). We must practically put off the old man and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). This should show up in our words (Eph. 4:25, 29). Corrupt communication comes from a corrupt heart (Eph. 4:22; Matt. 12:33-35). Jesting is also corrupt communication. Jesting is not merely humor, it has to do with telling stories for the purpose of diversion and merriment. Much of what is called preaching today is jesting. Bad doctrine is also corrupt communication (opposite of edifying, 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 2:7-8). If you really believe the sound doctrine of the word of God, you will talk about it (2 Cor. 4:13). 

[7] Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

In salvation we are reconciled to God and therefore He no longer sees us as “children of disobedience.” As children of God we are followers of God (v.1), but because we still have the flesh it is possible to be partakers with this present evil world. We do this by having fellowship with the world instead of separating from it. If we don’t stand against sin and separate from it, we are partakers with the world even if we don't do everything they do. In other words, even though we are not of the world we can be an accomplice with the world. Does your walk condemn or condone the world (Heb. 11:7)? Sadly, lost sinners can point to many professing Christians and say, “They are not much different than me!” 

Of course, separation from the world doesn't mean we don't have compassion on the lost. The separated Christian is not to look down on the world with an “holier than thou” attitude. We are sinners saved by grace! True biblical separation is not isolation, but contact without contamination. We must work to reach the world, but we will not reach the world by being like the world! A ship in the water is good, but water in a ship is a major problem. A lack of true biblical separation hinders the cause of Christ. It greatly reduces the power and effectiveness of our testimony and witness. 

[8] For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 
[9] (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 
[10] Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Before salvation we were dead in sins and in spiritual darkness (Eph. 4:18). When we believe the light of the gospel we become children of light “in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:5). God is light (1 Jn. 1:5) and we are in Him. That is the standing of every believer. However, we must learn to walk in the light (i.e. the truth of God’s word, Ps. 119:105). We are to put on the armor of light (Rom. 13:12) and shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:15). Those that walk in the light bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). This ninefold fruit (character of Christ) is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. What is your standard for what is acceptable? The sincere Christian that walks in the light seeks to prove with his life what is acceptable to the Lord. 

[11] And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
[12] For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
[13] But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 
[14] Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

What fellowship does light have with darkness? None (2 Cor. 6:14-18)! The light of our righteous walk (by Christ in us) should reprove those around us that walk in darkness. Our presence should make them feel ashamed (so much for “seeker sensitive” church services). Worldly “churches” literally and spiritually dim the lights to make sinners feel comfortable. Usually people try to hide their sin (but no secret place with God, Jer. 23:24). We are living in an evil day in which sinners boldly proclaim and promote their sins. Lost sinners and carnal believers don’t like the light of God’s word because it manifests their dark heart and reproves them. They want to be comforted and not convicted. I think that v.14 is a verse that many believers today need to take heed to because they seem to be asleep to spiritual things (Rom. 13:11-14; 1 Cor. 15:33-34). We need to wake up and turn on the lights! 

Reference Bibles usually say v.14 is a general citing of Isa. 60:1, but the more I think about it the less I think Paul is quoting from the OT in this verse. God is saying through him that we need to wake up and shine HIS light. There is often a need for spiritual revival in our life. As to our standing, we are spiritually awake, alive, and in the light. But as to our state, we may walk like we are spiritually asleep, dead, and still in darkness (1 Tim. 5:3-6). Sleeping Christians are lethargic if not unconscious to spiritual realities and responsibilities. Dead Christians are those that walk after the flesh instead of in the Spirit.  We must personally choose to wake up. Nobody can do it for us. Under the kingdom program it is required to be wide awake watching for the coming of the Lord in order to enter the kingdom (Matt. 24:42-25:13). In this age of grace, every member of the Body of Christ is going up in the rapture to be glorified with Christ whether they are sleeping or watching (1 Thess. 5:5-11). Some teach that carnal believers will be left behind at the rapture to be chastened in the tribulation. That would be a rupture, not a rapture!

[15] See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 
[16] Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 
[17] Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Those that are wise know the will of God and walk according to it. We don’t have to find the will of God because God has revealed it in His word. But it requires spiritual understanding to know it (Col. 1:9). We are living in enemy territory and therefore we must walk circumspectly (carefully, cautiously, looking all around). Yet many seem to be careless and casual instead of cautious about their Christian walk. The world, Satan, and our own flesh is against us and we would be fools to not take that seriously (Prov. 22:3; 27:12). Standards of biblical separation do not make us spiritual, but spiritual saints will have standards so that they will not make provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:11-14). 

To redeem the time is to buy it up so not to waste it (Col. 4:5). We redeem the time by doing the will of God. It is one thing to know the will of God, but it is something else to actually DO IT (Ps. 143:10). There is plenty to distract and cause us to waste time in these evil days in which we are living. We must determine with a purposed heart to invest our time in spiritual things that will count for ETERNITY (like Bible study and evangelism). We know that it is the will of God for souls to be saved and learn the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). What kind of time are we investing in the work of the ministry? Sadly, most are wasting time instead of redeeming it! 

[18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 
[19] Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 
[20] Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 
[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

In this one sentence Paul describes true spirituality. We are not to be controlled by the flesh (Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:12), but by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in every believer (Rom. 8:9), but we are only as filled with Him as we are yielded to Him. We are only as filled with Him as we are filled with the word of God (Col. 3:15-17, note the similarity with Eph. 5:18-21). Paul also exhorts us to be filled with “all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19) and the “fruits of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11). Obviously, we will not apprehend such goals in this life, but we need to press toward the mark (Phil. 3:12-14). 

Notice that signs and wonders are not mentioned regarding the fulness of the Spirit. Under the kingdom program of Israel (as in Acts 2), the Holy Ghost CAME UPON people and supernatural manifestations (signs) were the evidence. Not so today! Spiritual saints don’t speak with tongues (signs have ceased, 1 Cor. 13:8-13), but with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. 

Verse 20 describes true thanksgiving: 
when (always)
what (all things)
whom (unto the Father)
how (in the name of or Lord Jesus Christ)  

The flesh wants to do anything but SUBMIT to others (v.21). Submission is an evidence of true spirituality (Phil. 2:1-5). The fear of God is a moral principle that still applies in this age of grace (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 2:12).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ephesians 4:17-35

[17] This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 
[18] Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 
[19] Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

The emphasis throughout the remainder of the epistle is on how we ought to walk in our daily life. On the basis of our position in Christ (“therefore,” v.17), we need to “work out” our own salvation by faith (Phil. 2:12-13). There is no excuse for the Body of Christ to walk as “other Gentiles walk.” When Paul tells us how to live, he is careful to say that he is doing so “in the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:1-2). In other words, he is not merely speaking as a man to other men, but the Lord is speaking through him to us. The word “henceforth” means from this time forward (Rom. 6:6; 2 Cor. 5:15). Paul challenges us to live differently on the basis of who we are in Christ. 

The lost Gentile world walks in the vanity of their mind (Rom. 1:21). The root reason that they walk with a seared conscience (without feeling) and have given themselves over to to unrestrained lust, uncleanness, and greediness is that they have a darkened understanding because they are separated from the life of God (dead in sins, Eph. 2:1-3). They are spiritually blind and do not have the knowledge of God. The Body of Christ is in the light and has the knowledge of God. Therefore we should certainly walk differently than the lost world. What we are in our heart will show up in our walk. 

[20] But ye have not so learned Christ; 
[21] If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Have you heard the voice of Christ speaking to your heart? I’m not talking about an audible voice. His voice is heard today by His Spirit making His word real to our heart. That is why the scripture is called “the word of Christ” (Col. 3:17). Paul referred to his own inspired writing as “wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3). The words of Christ are not only found in the Gospel records. There is a difference between His earthly ministry to Israel and His heavenly ministry to the Body of Christ. So much for red letter Bibles! Christ gave the church pastors and teachers, but every Christian is personally taught of God (1 Thess. 4:9). I am concerned about those who can’t seem to live right without someone else always prodding them.

[22] That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 
[23] And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
[24] And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The old man is the flesh and the new man is who we are in Christ. In the KJB the word conversation refers to the whole manner of life and is not limited to our words. Actions speak louder than words (1 Pet. 3:1-4, "BEHOLD your chaste converstaion"). We are not exhorted to improve the old man because it cannot be changed from carnal to spiritual (Rom 8:8). When we got saved our flesh didn't. It is corrupt and will be until death or the rapture. Christ defeated the flesh for us (Rom. 6:6). We were put in the new man (the Body of Christ, new creature) upon salvation (Col. 3:9-11). In this passage Paul is exhorting us to put off and put on in a practical sense. This is done by being renewed in the spirit of our MIND (Rom. 6:17; 12:1-2). We are to learn the doctrine, believe it with all of our heart, and live it out through our body (1 Thess. 5:23).  The walk of the new man is in righteousness and TRUE holiness. We are His “workmanship, CREATED unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). If there is true holiness, there must be false holiness. The unbelieving Pharisees appeared holy but were corrupt in heart (Matt. 23:27). 

[25] Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 
[26] Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 
[27] Neither give place to the devil. 
[28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 
[29] Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 
[30] And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 
[32] And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

This passages shows us what it looks like practically to put off the old man and put on the new man. 

OLD MAN                       NEW MAN
Lying                               Truth 
Sinful anger                       Righteous anger
Giving place to the devil       Giving place to God
Stealing                               Honest labor 
Corrupt communication       Words of grace that edify 
Bitterness, wrath, etc…        Kindness, forgiveness 

That the Spirit of God can be “grieved” proves that He is a person of the Godhead and not some kind of force. We grieve Him when we give place to the flesh and the devil. Thank God we cannot grieve Him away because He has sealed us until the rapture when we will get a glorified body! Verse 30 is a great verse on eternal security. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14), but He will not depart from a member of the Body of Christ. 

Christ conducted His earthly ministry under the law (Matt. 5:17). He taught His disciples that God would not forgive them if they did not first forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15). He taught the Body of Christ something different through Paul (v.32)! We are to forgive because we have been forgiven. That is the difference between law and grace (Rom. 6:14). The fact that all of ours sins were forgiven the moment we trusted Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Col. 2:13) also means that we don’t have to continually confess our sins TO BE forgiven. How should we deal with sin in our lives as Christians? We should repent of our sins because we love the Lord (2 Cor. 7:10) and thank God that we ARE forgiven. Many misuse 1 Jn. 1:9 to teach that believers must confess their sins to be forgiven, but John wrote that to lost Jews in the tribulation period. The apostle John was an apostle to the circumcision (Gal. 2:9) and did not write to the Body of Christ. If we had to confess sins in order to be forgiven, what would happen if we died with unconfessed sins? Think it through. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ephesians 4:7-16

[7] But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
[8] Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
[9] (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
[10] He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Unity (vs.1-6) does not negate diversity and individuality. In the one Body of Christ there are many different members. Paul was given the measure of grace needed to fulfill his ministry as the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 12:3; 15:15; 1 Cor. 3:10; 15:10; Eph. 3:7-8).

The Body of Christ had sign gifts during the transition period of Acts, before Israel was officially set aside as a nation (1 Cor. 1:22) and the Bible was complete. The sign gifts such as miracles, healing, and tongues have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-13).

The gifts mentioned in this passage are apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers. Notice that Christ gave these apostles and prophets from heaven. This tells us that Paul is not referring to the twelve apostles because Christ called them when He was on earth. The gifts of apostles and prophets are not for today (they were foundational, Eph. 2:20). The apostles were men that saw the Lord, were personally chosen and sent by Him, and that had the signs of an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12). When the apostles died they were not replaced. There is no longer a need for prophets because we have the complete revelation of scripture. 

There is still a need for evangelists and pastors and teachers. However, nobody today is given supernatural enablement like what occured before the Bible was completed. The scripture is sufficient for the work of the ministry (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Of course we must depend upon the Spirit, but He is not coming upon people for power like he did in the Acts period. The primary responsibility of an evangelist is to go to an area where the gospel is not being preached and start a church through an evangelistic ministry. The primary responsibility of the pastor and teacher (pastors are teachers) is to ground the saints in the faith by faithfully feeding them the word of God and leading by example. Not all believers are evangelists, but we should all do “the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5).

In v.8 Paul cited scripture from the Psalms and made a spiritual application. The verse he cited (Ps. 68:18) is not a prophecy about the Body of Christ (Eph. 3:5). It is from a Messianic Psalm about the victory the Lord will give Israel in the Kingdom. We may also make spiritual applications so long as we don’t contradict sound doctrine. However, Paul also changed the word of God, which we never have a right to do (“received gifts for men” vs. “gave gifts unto men”). He wrote by inspiration and God alone has the right to change His words.

He who humbled Himself to not only descend to the earth but to also die on the cross and go down into the lower parts of the earth has ascended up far above all heavens and exalted above all principalities and powers (Eph. 1:19-23). In contrast, Satan said, “I will ascend into heaven,” but he will brought down into the pit and then the lake of fire.

The Bible reveals some of the activities of Christ during the three days and nights that He was in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40):
He went into paradise the day He died (Lk. 23:43) – this refutes “soul sleep”
He preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2 Pet. 2:4-5)
Some say that He was tormented in the fires of hell. His soul went to hell (Acts 2:27), but in the OT all souls went into the heart of the earth upon death. He paid the full price of our sins on the cross.

[12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
[13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
[14] That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
[15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
[16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

This passage is all one sentence and concerns the ministry.

The purpose of the ministry gifts (v.12)
Christ gave these gifts that the saints might be perfected to do the work of the ministry so that the Body of Christ will be edified (built up). What is meant by perfecting? The strengthening and completing of the saints (2 Cor. 7:1; 13:9). We will not be sinlessly perfect until the rapture, but in the sense of spiritual growth we may be perfect in this life (Phil. 3:12-16; 1 Cor. 2:6). What do evangelists and pastors use to perfect the saints? The word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God is NOT giving any new revelation today. The word of God fully equips us to do the work of God. It is important to understand that God would have every member to have a part in the edification process (v.16).

The goal of the ministry (vs.13-14)
This is the mark we are pressing toward (v.13), but it will not be fully and finally reached until the rapture. That is when will all the saints be in agreement concerning the one faith and we will all become a perfect man with a full knowledge of the Son of God as the Head of the one Body. The goal is Christ- to know Him and be conformed to His image. We begin the Christian life as babes and we are to grow into spiritual manhood (1 Cor. 14:20). We begin with milk, but we must go on to the meat of the word (1 Cor. 3:1-2). The stronger we are in the faith the less likely we will be deceived by the false doctrines of men. There is a difference between changing because you are growing in your knowledge of the truth and being tossed to and fro with every new doctrine you hear. Satan, that great deceiver, has his ministers ready and waiting to deceive the saints (2 Tim. 3:13). Those that are tossed to and fro are not rooted and grounded (Col. 2:6-10). The faith refers to the sound doctrine of the word of God in general and the body of truth revealed through Paul for the Body of Christ in particular.

The motive in ministry (vs.15-16)
Those that walk after the flesh bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:14-15). Love (fruit of the Spirit) seeks to build up. Anybody can tear down, it takes a spiritual saint to build up. Love must be our motive in ministry (1 Cor. 13). The saints cannot grow without the truth (1 Tim. 4:6). Notice that the Body is to "increase." Growing Christians reproduce themselves. All true ministry in the Body comes through the Head and works through the members (Col. 2:19).

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