Thursday, June 4, 2009
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians focuses on the life of a believer. Paul compares and contrasts the life of a believer to that of a nonbeliever and urges all of us to abandon our former way of life in favor of our new life in the Spirit.
Chapter 1: Many Blessings Through Faith in Jesus: Wisdom is Revealed!
As believers we are favored by God and deeply blessed. We are blessed with salvation, grace, forgiveness, wisdom and understanding. And to us, God has made known the “mystery of His will”. What this means is this: in contrast to the unbelievers as described by Paul in his letter to the Romans (as well as other letters too), where as the unbelievers have difficulty understanding due to their hardened hearts and conscious, we have the aid of the Holy Spirit which aids in our understanding of God’s will and message of salvation. To those who do not have faith, who do not believe and who are not saved- those who do not have the Holy Spirit, God’s wisdom is simply foolishness or nonsense. In other words to those who are perishing, it is a mystery or a puzzle- something that they cannot possibly understand. Keep in mind, this is a choice. Those who do not believe have consciously rejected God’s message of salvation. Those who refuse to believe have willfully rejected God as explained in the letter to the Romans. But to us, as believers, God’s mystery is unraveled or solved! We are enlightened. We can understand it- it is not concealed from our understanding! “In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation- in Him when you believed- were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” Ephesians 1: 13-14 This is a short sum up of the purpose of the gospel message: the delivery of the message, which is God’s word, leads to belief and salvation. But not only this! We receive the Holy Spirit as well. The Holy Spirit acts as a guarantee or a deposit as proof of our future inheritance or salvation. In the future we will redeem what is coming to us- that is- we will redeem our salvation and the “glorious” spiritual riches and blessings that await. Once again, we must never forget Jesus is the reason for all of this! Jesus is our Savior- our Messiah! God has given complete power and authority to Jesus, through whom we are saved.
Chapters 2 and 3:
Life Through Jesus- Rejection of the Works of the Flesh; the Spirit of Disobedience
Before we placed our faith in Jesus, we were spiritually dead. In other words, we were essentially dead. We were dead in our sins, Prior to hearing and accepting the gospel message we were part of this world, living in our sins. The ruler of this sinful world, referred by Paul as the “atmospheric domain” is Satan. In contrast, as believers, we live according to the Heavenly domain where our hope and our sight is focused. Satan is the spirit which works and lives in those who do not believe. Those who are not believers live and walk in the spirit of disobedience in contrast to believers who walk in the Holy Spirit. Those who live and submit to the spirit of disobedience, live according to sinful fleshly desires and actions just like we used to before we accepted the gospel message. Those who walk in the spirit of this world, Satan’s world, with the spirit of disobedience are subject to God’s wrath. But for us, who believe in the gospel message, and have accepted the gift of redemption through Jesus, are saved from the wrath of God. We are no longer children under wrath, but children under God. “God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in our trespasses. By grace you are saved!” Ephesians 2:4-5 And furthermore, in the future, God has in store for us, immeasurable blessings and spiritual riches. We cannot even comprehend what is in store for us in heaven! “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians2: 8-9 The salvation we receive is not dependent on what we do. It is not earned based on our works or accomplishments but based on God’s grace alone. In other words it is a gift from God, not something we have earned. But even though we can not work for our salvation, nor can earn it or pay for it, we still are saved for a purpose. We are to use this gift from God for good works. As a result of being saved we should desire to walk in the Holy Spirit and reject the worldly spirit of disobedience. We should exchange our fleshly desires and fleshly works for good desires and good works.
In sum, through Jesus, we who used to be spiritually, dead, who used to walk in the spirit of disobedience (regardless of whether we claimed to be a Jew or Gentile), we are saved. It does not matter what we used to be- without Jesus we were dead in our sins and through Jesus we have life. In contrast to the Old Testament, in which the Jews were distinct from the rest of the world (known as the Gentile world), through faith in Jesus, all are made the same- it does not matter what your heritage was. God reconciles us to Him through Jesus Christ.
Paul explains that in the time of the Old Testament, in other words, before the time of Jesus, the previous generations could not have known the good news of the gospel- the salvation, which was revealed and freely given through Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, the apostles of the gospel message have revealed the mysteries of God. And furthermore, this saving message is intended for everyone, not just a select nation or a select group of people. Jesus is essentially God’s purpose for mankind. It is the means by which we can be saved.
Chapters 4,5 & 6: Our New Life
As believers in Jesus, Paul once again urges us to walk or live in a way that is worthy of our calling. In other words as he explained earlier, we must not walk or live as we used to when we were spiritually dead- when we used to live according to our fleshly desires under the yoke of the worldly spirit of disobedience. We are called for a better purpose and that is to walk in the Holy Spirit. The expression “walk” refers to a way of life. Our new way of life should be to seek the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as love, humility, gentleness, mercy and patience. And through the Holy Spirit, we may be called to serve through different gifts or different areas of service in accordance with God’s will. For example, some believers may be apostles, teachers or pastors. There are different tasks or ways that believers may be used to spread the message of the gospel and also in continuing the education of believers as well. But all belong to the body of Christ, which is the church of believers. We need these various specialties here in this world, which serves as a time of growth and maturity in the wisdom of the word of God, until the time comes when we all reach full wisdom and maturity. We still must be aware that false teaching and false teachers threaten to confuse us and distort the message, and to combat this, we must persist in the knowledge of the word of God. We must be continually educated in the word of God. And this is the reason we need believers to specialize in different services. As a whole, each specialty works toward a unified church.
Again, Paul repeats himself: we must abandon our previous fleshly way of life as we used to live. In other words, the life of the unbeliever is futile. The understanding of the unbeliever is limited and darkened. They are ignorant of God and their hearts are hardened. Remember the first chapters in the book of Romans! This is important and it is repeated again here: the unbelievers of this world willingly rejected God. Their hearts are hardened and calloused! They would not know what goodness was even if it hit them over their heads. And because of their hardened hearts and their willing rejection of God, they have willingly succumbed to the spirit of disobedience, the works of the flesh: impurity, promiscuity and all types of filth and sin. When we accepted the gospel message we were saved: we replaced our former corrupt lives for a new life in Christ. We became a new person, a new creation! We rejected the lie, and everything that is false in favor of Truth! And once again we are reminded to walk in the spirit. It means this: we must no longer live in the fleshly desires which is sin. We must no longer lie or become angry. And if we do become angry, we must not submit to the temptation to sin in our anger. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, do not give the Devil an opportunity” Ephesians 4:26. If we had bad habits or sinful ways we must try to overcome them. We shouldn’t steal, lie, use bad language, insult or slander each other. We should not get drunk which leads to recklessness. “Sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you… And coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: no sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.” Ephesians 5:3-5 These are bad things. We need to show love, kindness and compassion for one another in imitation of that which God has shown for us. We must give thanks to God and submit to each other. We must read the scriptures: psalms and hymns and discuss the bible with one another.
This is so important, that Paul cannot emphasis it enough “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk” Ephesians 5:15 - as believers we must walk in the Holy Spirit or in the Light. We must reject the spirit of darkness which is the spirit of disobedience. Remember the qualities of the Holy Spirit and compare them with the qualities of darkness! Commit it to memory and reject the works of the flesh. Paul has described the fruits of the spirit as well as the works of darkness enough times. We know what they are and we know the difference. “Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:10 To all nonbelievers, the message is this: “Get up sleeper and rise from the dead” Ephesians 5:14. To those who are spiritually dead, it is as they live in the darkness, it is as if they are asleep. They need to be woken up, and brought to life. Their dark and evil deeds will be brought to the light and exposed. Believers need to expose it here in this lifetime, and in the next lifetime, nothing whatsoever will remain secret or hidden as everything concealed will be revealed to the shame of those who rejected the message of the gospel.
Paul addresses different types of relationships that involve the potential for the abuses of power with suggestions of how to ensure these relationships are pleasing to God. He warns those who have the upper hand in a relationship to not abuse their authority or power. A man should love and respect his wife, parents and children must respect one another as well as slaves and masters. Essentially the message is this: in God’s eyes we are all equal and regardless of our position- whether we have authority over another or we submit to another in this world, neither have an advantage in God’s eyes and all have a responsibility to obey God’s will.
The Armor of God:
As believers we are in a constant battle with Satan a.k.a “the evil one” - the master of this world. Just as armor protects a soldier in battle, the armor of God will protect the believer against Satan (which is the Devil) “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” Ephesians 6:11 These qualities are analogous to armor which serve to protect us from false doctrines, false teachers and fleshly desires: truth, righteousness, readiness for evangelism, faith, the word of God (the bible), and the awareness of our salvation. These qualities protect us. The word of God is as effective and powerful as a sword, against the false teaching or “flaming arrows” of Satan. We should remain alert and pray at all times. We need to be always ready and always on guard.