College & Career Class Lesson Summary, February 3, 2019

As we’ve seen, through the resurrected Christ, God gave gifts unto men and these gifts were functions that would serve the body of Christ.  The body of Christ is the collective “church of God” that is comprised of believers, regardless of time and space, and at the head of this body is Jesus Christ.  The body of Christ has many different internal functions.  Some have concluded that there are two functions for the church – pastors and deacons – yet, we find a multitude of “offices” in the body of Christ.  These offices are not positions of authority or elected officials – these are functions that the various members of the body of Christ fulfills.  In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul highlights 5 functions of the body of Christ, however, if you examine Romans 12 and 1Corinthians 12, you’ll find that the list doesn’t stop at these 5.  Yet, Paul chooses to highlight these 5 in particular and point out the ultimate goal these gifts serve.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 4:13 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

These gifts serve to work to bring us to unity of the faith.  This isn’t to unify all faiths, note, but they serve to terminate at the ultimate focal point – Jesus Christ.  This is the knowledge of the Son of God.  The perfected man is the man that is wholly and sufficiently equipped to minister, and what determines the sufficiency of our equipping is measured by the stature of the fulness of Christ.  This isn’t to say that we strive, in our flesh, to attain unto the stature of Christ, for indeed, our flesh still falls short of His glory.  However, there is a fail-safe way to be more like Christ and that is to allow Christ to manifest Himself in and through you.  Being like Christ isn’t about church attendance or prayer quantity or bible reading quantity.  Being like Christ is yielding to the very same that Christ yielded to – the Father’s will, by faith.  That is the basic decision believers have.  If you choose to yield, then the Father will work in you and manifest His character in you.  If you choose not to, then a life of misery and defeat will be your friend as YOU futilely attempt to make Christ become evident in your life.  Paul was absolutely correct when writing to the Philippians in chapter 1 verse 6 that HE who began a good work in us will PERFORM it until the day of Jesus Christ.  If God is doing the work, then allowing Him to continue His work will naturally result in the believer being more like Christ.

Ephesians 4:14  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;

Paul here is drawing on a distinction – the distinction between a child and a (perfected/well-equipped) man.  The word child here is not being used in a familial sense, but is being used from a maturity standpoint.  A child is unlearned and ignorant.  A child is unsteady and weak and is therefore easily lured away by the slightest shiny object.  These Ephesians have learned of Christ and Paul wants them to be rooted and grounded in Christ so that the winds of doctrine that might blow will not only not entice them, but won’t sway them.  The word doctrine simply means “instruction” or “teaching” or “learning”.  Some, throughout time, have crafted all kinds of nonsensical teachings, yet, still were convincing enough for some to grab hold.  However, as a believer, we have a stronghold of faith that stands in the face of the winds of bad doctrine, yet, if we are equipped to stand yet choose not to, then we can’t be surprised if we get blown off target.  The author of Hebrews notes that when these folks should have been teachers, they had to become as children again to learn the basic principles of the oracles of God.  Note this,

Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. 

Those who are matured have exercised their senses to be able to discern good and evil.  They, as Paul says in 1Thess. 5:21, prove all things but hold fast only to that which is good.

We should also note (as this will be important when we look at the latter part of chapter 4) is that this isn’t limited to the believing world.  In other words, even though it is true that some believers seem to have ulterior motives, these Ephesians came out of a world steeped in paganism and it will be very important for these Ephesians to be rooted and grounded in Christ and not to engage in something known as syncretism.   Syncretism is a term given to describe the concept of taking something of God and attempting to sync it (intertwine it) with paganism.  We’ll revisit this idea later in the post.

Instead of exhausting ourselves chasing the skirt of false doctrine, Paul reminds us that we have better things to occupy our time with,

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 4:16 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.

Recognizing that our relationship as members one of another in Christ is one of collective experience gives us real perspective on our handling of one another.  The entire body is fitly joined together and each joint supplies, based on the capacity of each joint.  In other words, what each joint is designed to do, it does.  The exercise of each joint increases (grows) the body (of Christ) in love.  If love is the act of provision, then it would stand to reason that every joint supplying (providing) would find its growth results bathed in love.  With the paganism that was running rampant in Ephesus, these Ephesians would need to take very seriously how much they need one another, as they refuge in Christ.

College & Career Class Lesson Summary, February 10, 2019

Paul is now going to draw the Ephesian’s minds back to their former life, as pagans.  He wants them to realize that they have put on a new identity in Christ and that new identity begs behavior that is different.  It should be noted, however, that Paul is not about to teach them that in order to put on this identity nor to maintain this identity, one must behave in accordance with the manner he prescribes.  Paul is going to describe the characteristics of this new identity and these characteristics, by yielding to the reality of the new identity, should simply manifest themselves.

The city of Ephesus was a very important city as it was part of a major trade route of the day.  It also housed the temple to the goddess Diana.  Diana, her Roman name (Artemis, her Greek name) was the daughter of Jupiter (Zeus, in Greek).  In Acts 19, we find an account of the impact Paul’s ministry was having on these Ephesians.  There was a silversmith named Demetrius who profited greatly by making shines of/to the goddess Diana.  When Paul starts preaching Christ in this city and many begin turning from their paganism unto Christ, it was causing Demetrius’ business to take a hit.  As they say, you don’t mess with another man’s money and Demetrius was hacked off that this was happening.  He gathers other silversmiths and begins to create a riot in Ephesus because of what was happening.

Acts 19:24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 19:25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. 19:26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: 19:27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 19:28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. 

Paganism had an absolute strong hold on the city.  Note too that while the real reason they were made was because their money was being tampered with, they (in verse 27) attempt to make it about the greatness of their goddess.  And, lest we conclude ourselves more pious, I’d suggest that there are many believers in Christ who do the very same – they want to “defend God” at all costs, especially when that cost is felt in their own pocketbooks.  These Ephesians were no different.

Earlier in the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas visit Lystra and are confused with being Jupiter and Mercurius.

Acts 14:11 And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. 14:12 And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. 14:13 Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14:14 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 14:15 And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: 

This pantheon of gods and goddesses was quite influential in the minds and culture of the day.  Lystra was about 300 miles, give or take, from Ephesus, yet, was inundated with this pagan thought and culture.  This is the very culture that the Ephesians came out of, those who had turned to Christ.  Paul wants these Ephesians to realize that their new identity is not a mixture of the old, nor is it something they learned from their paganism.

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 4:18 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: 4:19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 4:20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 

Paul will not condone the mixture of Christ with paganism.  This is what we discussed above when looking at the word syncretism.  God was never one to share His glory with those whom did not deserve it – especially with those who were against Him.  Note these words to Israel,

Deuteronomy 12:29 When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 12:30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 12:31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 

However, Israel never learned this lesson and is the reason that after the kingdom divided, they were sent into captivity of Assyria.  Yet, in 2Kings 17, we find that even in captivity, Israel still struggled to not mix God with paganism.

2Kings 17:27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land. 17:28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD. 17:29 Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. 

2Kings 17:32 So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places. 17:33 They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. 17:34 Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel; 17:35 With whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them: 

As Paul says, they have not learned this practice from Christ.

Ephesians 4:21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 

The former conversation is another way of saying the former manner of living.  Because they have learned of Christ, that which is created in righteousness and true holiness, they have no need to main under the rubric of the old life.  The old man is their identity before Christ; the new man is their identity in Christ.  They, by faith, are completely and wholly in Christ, yet, by their very choice, they can put on that reality or not.  By putting on the reality of their new identity, it doesn’t make their new identity “more real” or “actual”, but it is the decision to allow what is true TO BE TRUE.

Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 4:27 Neither give place to the devil. 4:28 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. 

Paul doesn’t want them sinning by their anger or allowing their anger to fester.  Instead of lying, they are to speak truth to one another knowing they are members one of another.  They may, in their speaking of truth, be expressing anger, but they can do so righteously.  Proverbs 27:6 says that that faithful are the wounds of a friend.  Sometimes, as they say, the truth hurts.  Yet, when witnessing unrighteousness, a righteous anger is to deal with that immediately.  Unrighteous anger would center around the defimation of one’s pride and ego and responding to defend it.  This isn’t the anger Paul has in mind – that kind of anger and the reaction thereto is sin.

By dealing righteously with one another, we do not give any occassion for the accuser to refocus our efforts back on our pride and egos.  Instead, by dealing righteously with one another, we can spend our time working so we are able to provide for those who need.  This is certainly true of fellow members of the body of Christ, but likewise is true of those whom God impresses upon you to assist. Stealing is empty, self-serving gratification.  Working produces that which has purpose and from that purpose, you can graciously provide to those in need.  Remember the story of Ruth?

Ruth 2:14 And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar. And she sat beside the reapers: and he reached her parched corn, and she did eat, and was sufficed, and left. 2:15 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not: 2:16 And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not. 

If you haven’t noticed, there is a great principle throughout Paul’s letters about how believers are to be there for one another and to minister to one another.  How often do you plow the fields of your life, reaping the fruit of the Spirit of God and how often do you allow that fruit to drop so that others can glean from it?

Eph 4:29 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. 

In Matthew 4, Jesus reminds Satan that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.  If words are food – that which helps a body grow and be healthy – then likewise each member of the body of Christ should be speaking to one another as if it is food itself.  No one likes blue (moldy) bread.  Yet, corrupt communication are words that are filled with rot and do not edify and minister grace.

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. 

As a father experiences sorrow when he witnesses his children do things that harm themselves, so too the Holy Spirit of God grieves when we lie to one another – when we speak corruptly to one another – when we harbor bitterness to one another.  The Spirit of God grieves when despite being new in Christ, we yield ourselves to the harmful economy of the old man.  This doesn’t change our salvation or our standing in Christ (as Paul says, you are SEALED unto the day of redemption).  It doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit leaves us – it means exactly what it says – it grieves Him.  It grieves Him because He knows the harm we are welcoming to ourselves or inflicting upon others instead of yielding and growing in His grace.

Therefore, be kind one to another and tenderhearted.  Forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.  I’ve said this before, but without fail, every time Paul speaks of our forgiveness of sins, it is always PAST TENSE.  Our forgiveness of one another should be from the same manner – recognizing that our fellow believers have likewise been forgiven in this manner.  We should also recognize that we were not forgiven in exchange for our works or commitments.  We were forgiven by faith and faith alone through the effectual working of Christ on us.

Paul will continue with this theme of the differences between what they have learned from Christ vs their old paganism as we roll into Chapter 5.

Our story continues…