326. Ephesians 4:17-24. Contrasting The Old Life With The New Life Christ Brings. [In the series “Praying Through Ephesians.”]

[In these days of increasing pressures in life I thought I would change the order in this article by having shorter sections at the beginning of the article. Such as, an introduction to the text we are looking at, the actual text and then a simple prayer based on that as we continue the series on praying through Ephesians. Following that are the results of a more detailed study of the passage. ]

A].       AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PASSAGE

In this section of the epistle Paul reminds his readers of the difference Christ makes when He is encountered and received into human lives. He does so by writing of the state of the Gentiles [non-Jews] who had not yet come to submit their lives to Christ. It is not a pretty picture. They may have been born in spiritual darkness but Paul emphases that they are culpable for their refusal to submit to Him.

By contrast, those who had come to trust in Jesus had become different. However to live as they should, required determined effort on their part. We will look later at this in more detail. First of all we look at the passage.

B].        THE PASSAGE. EPHESIANS 4:17-24

Eph 4:17 “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

C}.        A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON THE PASSAGE

“Heavenly Father, We thank You that when we heard the good news about You, You gave us grace to respond to Your love in Your Son, Jesus Christ. We thank You that You brought us out of the darkness of sin and ignorance and gave us victory over the things that previously dominated our lives. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit to give ourselves completely to You, so that we may become more like Christ-like in everything we say and do. We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus. AMEN.”

D].       A DETAILED STUDY OF THE PASSAGE. EPHESIANS 4:17-24

CHARACTERISTICS OF GENTILES. [Those who didn’t trust in Jesus]

  1. Gentile minds were futile4:17 “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.”

“Futility” in the original Greek language is the word [mataiotēs; ματαιότης]It derives from [mátaios μάταιος] meaning empty or vain. It is found only here and in Romans 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.” The following verse helps us understand some of its meaning, where Paul wrote, “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Rom 8:21. The creation is corrupt because of the Fall and so too are the humans by natural birth. Unregenerate humans’ minds are not what God created them to be.  They became empty of the true knowledge of God and thus their thinking was vain.

This is brought out particularly in Romans 1:21 where the verb form is used denoting the result of the Fall, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futilein their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [Note 1].

  1. Gentile minds were darkened in their understanding.18 “They are darkened in their understanding.”“Darkened” is [skotizō; σκοτίζω]. We saw in the previous paragraph how futility and darkness are associated with each other as they are in this verse. So we have a combination of futile thinking, foolish darkened hearts and darkened understanding.

John in John 1: 5 speaks of the darkness of the fallen world and that Christ [as the light of the world] had come to bring light to a world in darkness. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”Turning to Christ is the only way people can come from darkness into the light. When they do, they are no longer in darkness and they no longer have futile minds. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers, “But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 2 Cor 3:14.

  1. Gentiles were alienated from the life of God. 18 “alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them.” [“Alienated” is from the verb apallotrioō; ἀπαλλοτριόω.] However it is interesting that the verb is in the perfect tense, which stands for a past action with a present abiding result.

The meaning is that fallen humans [such as the Gentile and other unbelievers] are alienated from God and will remain so until they are enlightened and reconciled to God by receiving His Son as Saviour. Their “ignorance” of God also remains until they turn to Him.

  1. Gentile hearts were hardened.“due to their hardness of heart.” The Gentile ongoing ignorance was due to their hardness of heart. The word for “hardness” is known to many people in its English form. It is [pōrōsis; πώρωσις. The verb form “hardened” is pōroō, πωρόω] Thus osteoporosis is a hardening of the bones so that they become brittle.

In our English language we often refer to some people as being “hard- hearted.” In other words, they lack a sense of compassion and are unloving in their approach to others. It is a sad situation when the Person they are hard- hearted towards, is God Himself. Sad for them! Because of that they may not understand the purposes of God. We see that happening with Jesus’ own disciples. Mark records of them, “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Mk 6:52. Jesus censured them for failing to understand the significance of what was happening at that stage in His ministry, “And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?” Mk 8:17.

Paul twice wrote of the hardness of the Jews in responding to Jesus and to the Christian message, In Rom 11:7 he wrote, “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it but the rest were hardened.” And as we saw above, in 2Cor 3:14 he wrote,“But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.”

Hard hearts prevent compassion being shown by those who have them. They also inhibit understanding, especially of the purposes of God for His people.

  1. Gentile behaviour stemmed from callous hearts.19 “They have become callous”

The ‘plot thickens’ as they say. From hardness of heart we go to “callous.” This is a perfect participle of the Greek word [apalgeō; ἀπαλγέω] remembering that the Perfect tense of a verb demotes a past action with a present abiding result. It means that they had come to a stage where they lacked feeling, had become apathetic or beyond feeling. Not just hard but calloused! That is a pretty advanced form of hardness of heart. The problem is that it can lead to a declining sense of values as we see in the following phrases.

  1. Gentiles became sensuous. “and have given themselves up to sensuality”

It is amazing as you read these words to see the lengths people can go to in losing control of their lives. “Giving [themselves] up” is from the word, [paradidōmi; παραδίδωμι ]. It can mean to surrender to, to hand over, to deliver. For example, Paul used it three times of God “handing over’” those who rebelled against Him as their Creator, in Rom 1:24,26,28. He used it of Jesus as being handed over to fufil God’s purposes, “who was delivered upfor our trespasses and raised for our justification” Rom 4:25 and in Rom 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” [NOTE 2]

So the Gentiles callously chose to give themselves up to “sensuality.” What is that? The word is [aselgeia;  ἀσέλγεια]. It is often translated as licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, sexual excess or even perversion. It is one of the “works of the flesh” [or unregenerate nature] in Galatians 5:19. There are other apparent references to sexual excesses in the New Testament that use this word. [NOTE 3].

  1. Gentiles were greedy to practice every kind of impurity. “greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

“Impurity“ [akatharsía; ἀκαθαρσία] is another of the works of the flesh in Gal 5:19 along with sensuality. Gentiles were greedy [really wanting] to practice [or work out] every sort of impurity. It refers to moral uncleanness as well as uncleanness in general. They were not greedy for purity but for impurity.

It is interesting to note that in the next chapter, both impurity and greed [covetousness ] are named as not being fitting for the believer, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” 5:3.

Paul in Colossians 3:5, gave the reason, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Greed or covetousness is actually serving another god!

So how could the unbelieving Gentiles become free to live as the True God desired them to live? That is the question Paul now goes on to answer!

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NEW [CHRISTIAN] LIFE. [Those who do trust in Jesus]

  1. The New Way of Living Is Based On Knowing Christ. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” Coming to a true knowledge of Jesus is liberating.

The gospel is good news. It is the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for humankind. The Ephesians had heard and responded to the gospel message and committed their lives to the Christ of the message. Paul reminds the Ephesian believers of their commitment to Jesus.

  1. The New Way Involves putting Off The Old [Unregenerate] Self. 22 “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.”

These believers had been made alive spiritually through Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved 6  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”, Eph 2:5-6.  

They had become new creatures in Christ, [2 Cor 5:17.]

They had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable them to walk in the victory that Christ had accomplished on their behalf. That involved actively putting to death anything of the old self that surfaced and allowing the new self to be manifest in their lives.

  1. The New Way Involves Being Renewed In The Spirit Of Their Minds.23 “and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds.” The word “Renewed” is [ananeoō; ἀνανεόω] and surprisingly it is its only occurrence in the New Testament.

However a similar word rendered “renewal” is found in Rom 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… .”It appears that such renewal is a process to valued and be pursued by all believers.

  1. The New Way Involves Putting On The New Self.24 “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

To put on the new self, created in believers by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, also requires a committed approach. It means living like Jesus, allowing our lives to be are inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit as we open ourselves completely to Him. This is not some fake display of righteousness or holiness but the real thing.  It is true righteousness. It is true holiness. As Paul expressed his sincere aim to the Philippians, “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”Phil 3:9. God’s righteousness was imputed to Paul as he trusted in Christ.

There is victory over ignorance and sin for every unbeliever. Entirely free! But it came at the cost of the life of the Son of God. There is no such thing as cheap grace. The Creator’s blood was willingly shed for His creatures. The victory  the unbelievers can obtain is found only in Christ. The Christ who knocks at the door of very human heart and says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.” Millions of unbelieving Gentiles have found that to be true over many centuries, the present writer among them.

________________________________________________________________________________

NOTES:-

[NOTE 1].  References to “futile.”

Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

1 Cor. 3:20 – the lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile

1 Cor. 15:17  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

1 Pet. 1:18. you were ransomed from your futile ways

[NOTE 2]. References to “deliver” or “hand over.” [paradidōmi; παραδίδωμι].

1 Cor. 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

1 Cor. 11:23 – “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread.”

1 Cor. 13:3 –“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

1 Cor. 15:24 –“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power”

2 Cor. 4:11 – “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Gal. 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Eph. 5:2 – “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Eph. 5:25 –Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

[NOTE 3] References to “sensuality.”

Rom. 13:13. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

2Cor 12:21.  I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

2 Pet. 2:2. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.

2 Pet. 2:7. (Sodom and Gomorrah) and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked

2 Pet 2:18. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Justification, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation, Sanctification, Sexuality, Temptations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

325. What God Really Wants To Do Through His Church. His Ultimate Purpose In Building Up The Body Of Christ? [Part 2 of 2.] Ephesians 4:13-16. [Part of the series “Praying Our way Through Ephesians.”]

In a previous article we looked at how God gave gifts to His body of believers [the church] to help build up the body of Christ. Among those gifts, were people with gifts for various ministries. That was seen in Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” In this article we go on to consider what was the ultimate purpose of God in doing so.

Paul is saying that when every part of the body of Christ is playing their part as God intended them to do, then changes take place. His goal for the church is capable of being achieved. These are his words, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” Ephesians 4:13-16. What did he mean?

  1.  THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.Verse 13. “until we all attain to the unity of the faith”.

Paul had already instructed earlier in this chapter, that believers were to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Eph 4:3.He infers that unity of the faith is a present reality and proceeds from the unity that the Spirit inspires. So why does he now [in verse 13] seem to indicate that the unity of the faith is something that still has to be attained? The answer seems to lie in the difference between the desired and possible potential made available by the Holy Spirit and what is the present reality in the body of Christ.

We can see the difference as we look at the words of Jesus when He said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mat 5:48. The goal of every believer should be to aim at perfection in living for the Lord, whilst knowing that none except Jesus ever achieved or will ever achieve that goal. But the goal of perfection is never to be neglected nor ignored. We should always aim to be the best and do the best we can possibly can. Then we need to repent before the Lord for all failures to meet those goals. It means then that we should recognise and seek to deepen the unity we have in Christ, and to break down any apparent barriers to unity we discover in the attempt to achieve our goal. 

  1. THE GOAL OF KNOWING CHRIST MORE DEEPLY.Verse 13. “and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”

This is another goal we are to seek to attain. It means much more than knowing about Jesus, though that is an absolute necessity. It means seeking to attain a more personal and intimate knowledge of Him. Indeed, that is what Paul prayed for the Ephesians in chapter 1 of this letter, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Eph 1:17. There is only one thing better than knowing Christ. That is, knowing Him better! That cannot be experienced in isolation.As we join in the unity of fellowship with others in Christ we can learn from each other what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus and thus gain an even deeper understanding, or a more personal knowledge of Jesus. It is a goal that can never be perfectly achieved, but it is a goal that has to be relentlessly pursed. A deepening and more personal knowledge of Jesus will be a desired result.

  1. THE GOAL OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY.Verses 13-14. “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Adulthood and childhood. The contrast is made in these verses between believers who are characterised as being immature children and other believers who are characterised as being mature adults. The former are described here as “children” where the word is [nēpios; νήπιος]. This is close enough in sound for me to call them “nappy” believers. The word can refer to young children or infants, but it can also be used to describe an inability or an unwillingness of those older in years to grow in maturity, especially in the faith. [NOTE 1]

The mark of these immature believers is that they were easily influenced. Paul here writes of them being “tossed to and fro by the waves.” They were not spiritually stable. Nor did their faith rest on a stable foundation. They were“carried about by every wind of doctrine, These are very negative statements about them. They were influenced by every new “teaching“ similar in a way some women were influenced in 2Tim 3:7  “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” They were prone to deception by human cunning and by “craftiness in deceitful schemes.”Eph. 4:14. [NOTE 2]. 

It is sad to see the combination of these words, cunning, craftiness, deceitful and schemes as factors at work in the lives of immature or childish Christians. However, Paul goes on immediately to speak about how maturity, the desired goal, could be obtained. In verse 13 he describes that maturity as being “mature manhood” and to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

  1. THE GOAL OF BECOMING MORE CHRISTLIKE IN SPEECH AND IN CHARACTER.Verses 15-16

How? By speaking truthfully to one another. 4:15. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Paul explained that concept later in the same chapter.“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29. The speech proceeding from our lips should always be good for building up the other person or people. [NOTE 3].

It also has to be appropriate, “As fits the occasion.”  Its purpose should be to give grace to all who hear it. So Christian speech should simply be giving the right word to the right person at the right time from the right motivation [love].

By learning to live as the body of Christ, “growing up together in Him, 16. from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each partis working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” The church is a body made up of many members. Each member has a God-given purpose in contributing to the body. When all are encouraged to express their insights and to lovingly share their gifts in the body, the body grows in love.

A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON THIS PASSAGE

“Heavenly Father, We thank You that You have called us to belong to You and to one another in Your body the church. Help us to live out that unity as we grow closer to Jesus Your Son. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit so that we remain true to You and to Your word, as we seek to speak in love and to encourage other members of Your body to grow to maturity. Enable us all to play our part in Your kingdom purposes so that Jesus may be exalted among Your people. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”  

 ——————————————————————————————————————————NOTES:-

[NOTE 1].  Some examples indicating some degree of censure are the following.

1 Cor. 3:1. “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”

Gal. 4:3. “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.”

[From our passage in this article.]Eph. 4:14. “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

[NOTE 2]. “Schemes” [methodeia, μεθοδεία compare English word “method”] is found only here and in Eph 6:11. It too has the sense of deception.

[NOTE 3]. “Building up.” Here the word is [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. This has the meaning, to make strong by building up [for example, the other person]. It also has the meaning to “edify.” So true Christian speech spoken in love should aim to strengthen and to edify the other person or people to whom it is addressed.

Blog No.325. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog  on Friday 6thSeptember 2019

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Justification, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

324. “Who Is Jesus?” The Most Important Question We Can Ever Ask And Answer!

After hearing a challenging sermon today on the question, “Who is Jesus?” I was reminded of one of the most powerful sections in CS Lewis’ book, “Mere Christianity.” Lewis wrote, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” (Mere Christianity, 55-56)

Following Lewis’ train of thinking, was Jesus Bad? Was He Mad? Or was He what He claimed to be? John the Beloved disciple helps us here. John wrote about Jesus in his gospel. He began his gospel in verse 1 with the expression “In the beginning was the Word.” Later in verse 14 he explains who or what this Word actually is, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Word he is describing in chapter 1 is of course, Jesus.

Let us then look at this chapter 1 of John’s gospel and insert [Jesus] whenever this “Word” is mentioned.

John 1:1-14. “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus} was God. He [Jesus] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him [Jesus], and without him [Jesus] was not any thing made that was made. In him [Jesus] was life, and the life [Jesus] was the light of men. The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it [Jesus].

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light [Jesus], that all might believe through him. He [John] was not the light, but {John] came to bear witness about the light [Jesus].

The true light [Jesus], which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He {Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him [Jesus], yet the world did not know him. He [Jesus] came to his own, and his [Jesus] own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his [Jesus] name, he [Jesus] gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his [Jesus]  glory, glory as of the only Son [Jesus] from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

What a challenging passage of scripture! The Jesus who was crucified on that first Good Friday in apparent weakness was and is none other, than the creator of all things. Creatures crucified their Creator who had come to die for them to bring them back to God! As Paul was later to write, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Cor 5:14-15. 

We recognise the reality that Jesus has died for us. The reality should now be that we are living for Him!  But is that the reality in our own personal lives? It ought to be. It should be. It had better be when we consider just who this Jesus is! Love demands a response to His love for us! The response required is seen in verse 12 of that gospel passage, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Believing Him and receiving Him into one’s own life is the response He longs for, from us!

Blog No.324 posted on www.jimholbeck.blogon Sunday 01 Sept 2019

 

 

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323. God Wants All His People To Be Filled With His Presence. AND He Has Made It Possible. He Tells Us How In Ephesians 4:7-16.  [Part 1 of 2.] [Part Of The Series ‘Praying Our Way Through Ephesians.’]

In this passage Paul shows that God has given grace to all His people [verses 4-7]. He has also given them ‘graced’ people to help them work together to fulfil His purpose of filling them with His presence [or the fulness of Christ.] Eph 4:7. ‘But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9. (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  10. He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)’

What did Christ give? 4:7. He gave grace to all believers. We need to remember that grace is used in at least 2 ways in the New Testament. It can mean “God’s unmerited favour” which stresses His love towards all His people. As believers they are all equally accepted in His sight. But grace is also used to denote God’s enabling. That is seen in 2 Cor 12:9 where Paul records that he had asked the Lord for relief from a stressful situation. However, he writes that the Lord answered his request in this manner, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ God graces His people not only with His favour but also with His resources to cope in difficult and indeed all situations.

It is interesting to note that when Paul writes that grace was “given,” the word for “given” is from the Greek word [didōmi; δίδωμι]. It is the word used in the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …”. Any gift from God stems from His love for His people and is a mark of His amazing grace to them. But Paul adds to that in the same verse where he writes that this grace was given ‘according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ where “gift” is [dōrea; δωρεά]. This word emphasises the gratuitous character of the gift. His gifts cannot be earned or deserved. They are always a free gift stemming from His grace and love.

 When did Jesus give this grace? After His death, resurrection and ascension. He gave this grace at Pentecost when He poured out the Holy Spirit on all His followers at that time. As Peter explained in Acts 2:38, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” As Eph 4:8 describes “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” Again the word for ‘gave’ is the word we saw above, [didōmi;δίδωμι.] The gifts have been distributed by the Holy Spirit since the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

What was the content of His grace? He gave people to help fulfil His purposes.Verse 11.“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” [“Gave” here is the same word [didōmi; δίδωμι.] This was His sovereign act. The church couldn’t fashion such people. They could only recognise and affirm God’s gifting of each individual to be used by God for particular functions of ministry.]

  • Christ gave Apostles. From [apostolos; ἀπόστολος.] It can mean someone who is sent, such as a messenger, a delegate, an ambassador. Christ chose the original 12 apostles but there were others known as apostles in the New Testament, including St Paul. Opinions vary as to whether there are apostles in the church today. If they do exist, they certainly would not have the same authority as the 12 chosen by Jesus.
  • Christ gave Prophets. [prophētēs; προφήτης.] It seems that the main function of prophets was to declare the will and the word of God for the people of God [mainly] in various generations. It was like getting God’s perspective on situations or foretelling the predicted future if a present course of action was to be followed. Again it is debated whether prophets exist as an office in the church today to have this same function. However it has to be remembered that all believers are meant to be open to the Spirit of God to be used in prophecy.  Paul expressed his desire that all believers prophesy in 1 Cor 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul understood that prophecy needed to be tested. In 1 Thessalonians he urged his readers thus, 1Th 5:19  “Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21  but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22  reject every kind of evil.”

Jesus had warned against false prophets who could deceive believers, in Mat 7:15, 24:11, 24, Mark 13:22 whilst Peter and John also did so, Peter in 2Pet 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you” and John in 1Jn 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All prophecy has to be tested by the word of God.

 Sam Storms recently gave this wise counsel in his blogsite on Revelation 2:20, which reads “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”

He warned in his article, “Some of you may be unaware of how mesmerizing and enticing the prospect of supernatural activity can be. When one witnesses what one believes is a genuine supernatural or miraculous event, otherwise normal theological defense mechanisms often fail to operate. Discernment is cast aside, lest it be viewed as a critical spirit or the response of a cynic. No one wants to be perceived as stiff-necked and resistant to the voice of God or the manifestation of his power. So, it is hard for some to resist and challenge the “ministry” of a recognized (or “alleged”) prophet in the church. … The “spirit” of “Jezebel” was not unique to the church in Thyatira. It is alive and well in the body of Christ today.” [See Note 1]

Having had to minister to many folk over the years who had received damaging “prophecies” and having also been the recipient of a few doubtful “prophecies,” this is very wise counsel indeed! Prophecies are meant to build people up, not to shame people or to have condemnation and judgment poured out on them. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 14:3, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Prophecy as described by St Paul has a positive purpose for the lives of the people of God.

  • Christ gave Evangelists. “Evangelist” is [euaggelistēs; εὐαγγελιστής.] It is made up of two words [eu meaning good or well] and [aggelistēs which is derived from angelos, ἄγγελος meaning a messenger.] So an “evangelist” is one who shares good news [euangelion; εὐαγγέλιον the gospel.] It was a role in the early church, but all believers were meant to share the gospel. It has always been part of the Great Commission for the people of God, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”’ Mark 16:15.

Paul gave his reasons why he preached the gospel, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Rom 1:15-16. There was nothing to be ashamed about in the gospel message. In fact it could bring salvation to all those who heard it and responded to it.

Every believer should be willing to share the good news about Jesus, for as He Himself said,  “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. If one’s heart is filled with love for Jesus, then from that fulness, one’s heart will speak of Him to others.

  • Christ gave Shepherds and Teachers. Some have taken these two terms as indicating the one role in ministry calling them “pastor-teachers.” It is helpful to look at them separately. If a gifted teacher lacks love, compassion or empathy towards those he or she is teaching, then believers may be tempted to drift to a more caring environment where the pastoral aspect of the ministry appears to be more evident.

“Shepherds” [poimēn; ποιμήν] is derived from a similar word [poimnion; ποίμνιον meaning a flock [of sheep]. The shepherd [pastor] cares for his flock. The true pattern for such ministry is Jesus Himself. He said so, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jn 10:11. 

“Teachers.” [didaskalos; διδάσκαλος] can mean a teacher or an instructor. Their function is to make the word of God come alive to the people of God so that they in turn can instruct others in Christian truths [or share truths about Jesus with others.]

What is humbling for teachers is to recognise that the Holy Spirit Himself is the real teacher in teaching situations as Paul wrote, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Cor 2:13. True teachers are those who are open to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them. Then, and only then, will they be able to impart those truths with any authority to others.

 What was His purpose in giving all these different people to perform different forms of ministry?12.“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

  • Equipping His people for the work of ministry. We note that it is the ‘saints’ [all God’s people] who are to be equipped. People of every age in every age. The word for “equipping” [katartismós; καταρτισμός] is used only here in the whole of the New Testament. It means making fully ready. But ready for what? Paul gives us the answer, “for the work of ministry.” So it is the whole body of Christ that is to be equipped for ministry; not just the middle aged people, nor just the older mature saints, but the young of all ages as well. No matter what age believers may be, they are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and can be used by Him to minister to others.

[I well remember a little girl aged about six who had a big impression on me as a 20 year old unbeliever. She was visiting our home after paying a visit with her parents to an institution for severely handicapped young children. Her older brother was a resident there and would never leave that institution or similar ones, such was the severity of his condition.  Her words were something like this as she spoke of her brother, “Timmy is different but Jesus loves him.” She obviously loved him [and Jesus] but it made me wonder what sort of person was this Jesus, who had any sort of concern for a young child who was virtually a vegetable [as people once used to say]. Her words made me begin to think very seriously about this Jesus. Perhaps she never knew how deeply her words that day affected me. I still remember them vividly 60 plus years later. Children can be used by the Lord to witness to others of His love! But they can be encouraged to do so naturally.

  • What is this “work of ministry?” for which that believers need to be equipped? Derivatives of the words are used in English today. “Work” is [ergon; ἔργον from which we get our English word “erg”.] It is a word used to describe the unit of energy or work in Physics. Likewise the word “ministry” is derived from [diakonia; διακονία] meaning service to others.  Those who do so are called “deacons” belonging to a “diaconate.”

We get some idea of the immensity of this work or ministry when we consider what Paul wrote in Philippians  2:12-13, “…..work out [katergazomai] your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [energeō] in you, both to will and to work [energeō] for his good pleasure.” (Notice the underlined ‘erg’in each of these verbs in the text!) Believers of all ages have to work out in practical living what God is inwardly working in them. What a privilege! What a responsibility! But what powerful resources are ours in Him, to enable us to fulfil those responsibilities!

  • What is the function of this ministry? To build up the body of Christ. [4:12, “for building up the body of Christ.”]

The work of ministry is a building work. It is the building up of the body of Christ. But what does that involve? Again the NT words help us. “Building” is the translation from the Greek noun [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. The word can mean a building or it can also mean “edification” [the building up of knowledge and understanding.]  Paul wrote later in the chapter, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 4:29.

That leads us to finding out what is the ultimate purpose of God in using people in ministry or service to one another! That will be the exciting and challenging focus in our next article!

A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON CONCEPTS in Eph 4:7-16.

“Father, I thank You that You have placed me in the Body of Christ. I thank You too that You have given me gifts to use in helping build up the body of Christ. Please work within me by Your Holy Spirit so that I can be motivated and empowered to do the work You have prepared for me to do. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

Blog No.323. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 29thAugust 2019 

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NOTES:

Note 1.  See on https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the–jezebel-spirit-

 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Real Life Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

322. Solving Some Of Rugby Union’s Problems. A View From An Elderly Fan.

My blogsite is listed as being “Reflections on life in general and on healing in particular.” But this is a little different from usual in that I am writing about sport and about using  preventative measures to ensure more healing takes place in sport.

Does Rugby Union have a problem? Yes, it has one that comes from their attempt to make the game safer for its players. But perhaps inadvertently it has made the situation worse. As I was watching the second Bledisloe test between New Zealand and Australia being played in Perth recently I was saddened when one of the All Black {NZ} players received a red card and was sent off for an alleged high tackle. It meant that the remainder of the game boiled down to a contest between 15 and 14 players. That is never fair when the contest is between some of the toughest and the most highly skilled players on the planet.

I saw two problems that needed to be addressed.

The First Problem Was The One To Do With Crowd Support. [Duty Of Care For The Supporters.]

As an Australian rugby fan I don’t always feel sorry for New Zealand teams when they lose. [Mind you, they hardly ever do, such is the depth of their Rugby in New Zealand and the broad support their All Blacks team (and provincial teams) receive throughout the nation.] But on this occasion I felt disappointed for the hundreds of New Zealanders had travelled all the way to  Perth to support their beloved national team but just before half time, the game was virtually over, as one of their players was ordered from the field. Only a very determined All Blacks outfit kept the score to a “respectable” level.

I thought of similar games when players were sent off for ten minute periods for yellow card offences, and for the rest of the game for more serious red card offences. Games in which this happens lose their purpose and meaning. The purpose of a test match between two nations is to have a competition where the best players of each nation seek to have a victory over the same number of players of the other nation by using superior skill-sets, better kicking, attacking and defending skills and often a more clever use of power.

The fans are best served by having full number of players on the field throughout the match. Otherwise it becomes an uneven and ultimately disappointing contest for the fans. If these send-offs are to continue to happen, then the support base for the game could seriously diminish. It could ultimately result in a loss of interest for young people in playing the game, and crippling financial losses as well.

The Second Problem Has To Deal With The Safety Of The Players. [Duty Of Care For The Players.]

Teams are chosen to represent the best team to overcome and defeat the opposition. That means there must be an equal number of players on the field at all times. Not only that but the safety of the players must be paramount. That is why in world Rugby there has been a determined attempt to prevent or minimise head injuries of attacking players in tackles made by defending players. There are in place difficult criteria that seek to determine whether the tackle was lawful or unlawful and also whether the alleged illegal tackle was intentional or not. Those details are virtually impossible to ascertain in the moments following the tackle. And how can you determine the intention of any tackler anyway? There must be a better way.

Here are some of my suggestions to help save Rugby as a sporting and safer spectacle.

A]. Intention cannot be proven. So scrap that part of the equation in determining the penalty for a perceived illegal tackle during a game. Consider these alternatives!

When a tackler makes what appears to be a shoulder charge and/or contact with the head [or above the shoulders] of the ballcarrier, then the following procedures should be put in place.

  • Both the tackler and the person tackled be forced to leave the field of play and the latter be examined for any symptoms of head injury. Reserves are brought on immediately to replace these 2 players to maintain a 15 a side contest.
  • If the tackled player is deemed to be free of any head injury and is medically allowed to return to the field of play then that can happen. However the alleged illegal tackler has to remain on the reserve bench and can only be used as the final replacement later in the game if that is necessary.
  • If the person who was tackled is unable to return to the field of play because a head injury is deemed to have occurred, then the tackler can play no further part in the game.
  • Reviews of the incident can be assessed more seriously and more leisurely following the game and any further penalties can be brought to bear on the alleged illegal tackler.

B]. Advantages of the above process

  1. It maintains an even contest between two 15 a side teams for the entire match.
  2. It avoids the danger that come from having undermanned teams physically putting themselves at risk in seeking to overcome their deficit in player strength and numbers.
  3. It avoids the needless stoppages in play as endless replays of such incidents are played on the ground big screens. Fans come to see action football, not several replays of the same incident as the players cool down waiting for some decision to be made as to the legality or otherwise of a tackle.
  4. It avoids the increasing anger of supporters when they begin to realise the severity and danger of a disputed tackle after watching several replays.
  5. It obviates the need to form a fair judgment during the duration of a match, on the intentionality or otherwise of any tackler.
  6. Longer times to conduct reviews of disputed tackles should result in fairer outcomes for both the tackler and the player tackled.
  7. It avoids the difficulty for referees in having to make-on-the spot decisions regarding the intentionality of the tackler, the severity of the tackle and the appropriate penalty to be applied.

So there is my contribution to saving Rugby Union as a sport. The rules are simple and could be applied almost immediately. Almost before the World Cup in a few weeks time! It offers a real duty of care for the team supporters so they get value for the money they have spent in following their team to often distant lands.

It also offers duty of care for players in having evenly numbered teams contesting for success. It offers a fairer assessment of intentionality [if that is ever possible] and an easier way of ensuring players are immediately protected in disputed tackles. It should also help reduce the number of illegal tackles in games as selectors would be loth to pick players who infringe regularly when they play.

At a time when many former players of contact sports such as Rugby Union, Rugby League and American Football have been diagnosed as suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE] from repeated head injuries, these suggestions above could make a difference. There is nothing more excruciating than seeing a player who had received an obvious blow to the head in a tackle get up, shake his head, stagger a bit and then keep on playing. [My only personal experience with concussion whilst playing A Grade Rugby League made me realise that one can get up and continue playing without anyone realising some damage has occurred. My problem was that at half time I asked the coach what team we were playing. [We were actually playing the RAAF team at Amberley Airbase in the Ipswich Rugby League competition, so normally that would have been obvious with a number of Canberra bombers clearly in sight.] It was only after a night spent under observation in the Ipswich General Hospital that I realised that I had been concussed.]  Real duty of care demands that any blow to the head should be taken seriously and immediate assessment for damage take place. My humble suggestions above attempt to go some distance in making that provision.

Blog No.322. Solving Some Of Rugby Union’s Problems. A View From An Elderly Fan. Posted on Tuesday 13thAugust 2019

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321. God Wants All His People To Be Filled With His Presence. AND He Has Made It Possible. He Tells Us How In Ephesians 4:7-16.  [Part 1 of 2.]

(Please note that some Greek New Testament words are also used in these articles as a help to many readers of these blogs who live in Greece and in other Greek speaking areas.)

In this passage Paul shows that God has given all His people His grace [verses 4-7]. He has also given them ‘graced’ people to help them work together to fulfil His purpose of filling them with His presence [or the fulness of Christ.] Eph 4:7. ‘But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9. (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  10. He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)’

 What did Christ give?4:7. He gave grace to all believers. We need to remember that grace is used in at least 2 ways in the New Testament. It can mean “God’s unmerited favour” which stresses His love towards all His people. As believers they are all equally accepted in His sight. But grace is also used to denote God’s enabling. That is seen in 2 Cor 12:9 where Paul records that he had asked the Lord for relief from a stressful situation. However, he writes that the Lord answered his request in this manner, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ God graces His people not only with His favour but also with His resources to cope in difficult situations.

It is interesting to note that when Paul writes that grace was “given,” the word for “given” is from the Greek word [didōmi; δίδωμι]. It is the word used in the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gaveHis only Son …”. Any gift from God stems from His love for His people and is a mark of His amazing grace to them. But Paul adds to that in the same verse where he writes that this grace was given ’according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ where “gift” is [dōrea; δωρεά]. This word emphasises the gratuitous character of the gift. His gifts cannot be earned or dserved. They are always a free gift stemming from His grace and love.

 When did Jesus give this grace?After His death, resurrection and ascension. At Pentecost when He poured out the Holy Spirit on all His followers at that time. As Peter explained in Acts 2:38, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” As Eph 4:8 describes “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” Again the word for ‘gave’ is the word we saw above, [didōmi; δίδωμι.]

What was the content of His grace? He gave people to help fulfil His purposes. Verse 11.“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” [“Gave” here is the same word [didōmi; δίδωμι.]

This was His sovereign act. The church couldn’t fashion such people. They could only recognise and affirm God’s gifting of each individual to be used by God for particular functions of ministry.]

  • Christ gave Apostles. From [apostolos; ἀπόστολος.] It can mean someone who is sent, such as a messenger, a delegate, an ambassador. Christ chose the original 12 apostles but there were others known as apostles in the New Testament, including St Paul. Opinions vary as to whether there are apostles in the church today. If they do exist, they certainly would not have the same authority as the 12 chosen by Jesus.
  • Even in New Testament times there were false apostles. Paul wrote of such people in 2Cor 11:13, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”  John recorded the words of the risen Christ to the church in Ephesus, commending their ability to recognise false prophets, “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” Rev 2:2. 
  • Christ gave Prophets. [prophētēs; προφήτης.] It seems that the main function of prophets was to declare the will and the word of God for the people of God [mainly] in various generations. It was like getting God’s perspective on situations or foretelling the predicted future if a present course of action was to be followed. Again it is debated whether prophets exist as an office in the church today to exercise this same function. However it has to be remembered that all believers are meant to be open to the Spirit of God to be used in prophecy.  Paul expressed his desire that all believers prophesy in 1 Cor 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul understood that prophecy needed to be tested. In 1 Thessalonians he urged his readers thus, 1Th 5:19  “Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21  but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22  reject every kind of evil.”

Jesus had warned against false prophets who could deceive believers, in Mat 7:15, 24:11, 24, Mark 13:22 whilst Peter and John also did so, Peter in 2Pe 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you” and John in1Jn 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All prophecy has to be tested by the word of God. If it can’t proved to fit in with Biblical principles, then it is not true prophecy.

Sam Storms recently gave this wise counsel in his blogsite on Revelation 2:20, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” He warned, “Some of you may be unaware of how mesmerizing and enticing the prospect of supernatural activity can be. When one witnesses what one believes is a genuine supernatural or miraculous event, otherwise normal theological defense mechanisms often fail to operate. Discernment is cast aside, lest it be viewed as a critical spirit or the response of a cynic. No one wants to be perceived as stiff-necked and resistant to the voice of God or the manifestation of his power. So, it is hard for some to resist and challenge the “ministry” of a recognized (or “alleged”) prophet in the church. … The “spirit” of “Jezebel” was not unique to the church in Thyatira. It is alive and well in the body of Christ today.” [See Note 1]

Having had to minister to many folk over the years who had received damaging “prophecies” and having also been the recipient of a few doubtful “prophecies,” this is very wise counsel indeed! Prophecies are meant to build people up, not to shame people or to have condemnation and judgment poured out on them. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 14:3, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”.

  • Christ gave Evangelists. “Evangelist” is [euaggelistēs; εὐαγγελιστής.] It is made up of two words [eu meaning good or well] and [aggelistēs is derived from angelos, ἄγγελος meaning a messenger.] So an “evangelist” is one who shares good news [euangelion; εὐαγγέλιον the gospel.] It was a role in the early church, but all believers were meant to share the gospel. It has always been part of the Great Commission for the people of God, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”’ Mark 16:15.

Paul gave his reasons why he preached the gospel, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Rom 1:15-16. There was nothing to be ashamed about in the gospel message. In fact it could bring salvation to all those who heard it and responded to it.

Every believer should be willing to share the good news about Jesus, for as He Himself said,  “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. If one’s heart is filled with love for Jesus, then from that fulness, one’s heart will speak of Him to others.

  • Christ gave Shepherds and Teachers. Some have taken these two terms as indicating the one role in ministry calling them “pastor-teachers.” It is helpful to look at them separately. In practice it often happens that if a gifted teacher lacks love, compassion or empathy towards those he or she is teaching, then believers may be tempted to drift to a more caring environment where the pastoral aspect of the ministry appears to be more evident. People want to be cared for, as well as well taught.

“Shepherds” [poimēn; ποιμήν] is derived from a similar word [poimnion; ποίμνιον meaning a flock [of sheep]. The shepherd [pastor] cares for his flock. The true pattern for such ministry is Jesus Himself. He said so, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jn 10:11. 

“Teachers.” [didaskalos; διδάσκαλος] can mean a teacher or an instructor. Their function is to make the word of God come alive to the people of God so that they in turn can instruct others in Christian truths [or share truths about Jesus with others.]

What is humbling for teachers is to recognise that the Holy Spirit Himself is the real teacher in teaching situations as Paul wrote, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Cor 2:13. True teachers are those who are open to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them that they can then impart to others.

What was His purpose in giving all these different people to perform different forms of ministry?12.“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

  • Equipping His people for the work of ministry. We note that it is the ‘saints’ [all God’s people] who are to be equipped. People of every age in every age. The word for “equipping” [katartismós; καταρτισμός] is used only here in the whole of the New Testament. It means making fully ready. But ready for what? Paul gives us the answer, “for the work of ministry.” So it is the whole body of Christ that is to be equipped for ministry; not just the middle aged people, nor just the older mature saints, but the young of all ages as well. No matter what age believers may be, they are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and can be used by Him to minister to others. 

[I well remember a little girl aged about six who had a big impression on me as a 20 year old unbeliever. She was visiting our home after paying a visit with her parents to an institution for severely handicapped young children. Her older brother was a resident there and would never leave that institution or similar ones, such was the severity of his condition.  Her words were something like this as she spoke of her brother, “Timmy is different but Jesus loves him.” She obviously loved him but it made me wonder what sort of person was this Jesus, who had any sort of concern for a young child who was virtually a vegetable [as people once used to say]. Her words made me begin to think very seriously about this Jesus. Perhaps she never knew how deeply her words that day affected me. I still remember them vividly 60 plus years after I heard her speak on our open verandah at our home in Ipswich! Children can be used by the Lord to witness to others of His love! But they can be taught and encouraged to do so more widely.

  • What is this “work of ministry?” for which that believers need to be equipped? Derivatives of the words are used in English today. “Work” is [ergon; ἔργον from which we get our English word “erg”.] It is a word used to describe the unit of energy or work in Physics. Likewise the word “ministry” is derived from [diakonia; διακονία] meaning service to others.  Those who do so are called “deacons” belonging to a “diaconate.”

We get some idea of the immensity of this work or ministry when we consider what Paul wrote in Philippians  2:12-13, “…..work out [katergazomai] your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [energeō] in you, both to will and to work [energeō] for his good pleasure.” (Notice the underlined ‘erg’in each of these verbs in the text!) Believers of all ages have to work out in practical living what God is inwardly working in them.

  • What is the function of this ministry? To build up the body of Christ. [4:12, “for building up the body of Christ.”]

The work of ministry is a building work. It is the building up of the body of Christ. But what does that involve? Again the NT words help us. “Building” is the translation from the Greek noun [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. The word can mean a building or it can also mean “edification” [the building up of knowledge and understanding.]  Paul wrote later in the chapter using the same word, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 4:29. What all ministers deeply long for, is a building up numerically in the place where they minister so that more people are brought into the kingdom. They also long for them to be built up spiritually so that they have a greater  understanding of the faith and become more equipped to serve the Lord themselves.

That leads us to finding out what is the ultimate purpose of God in using people in ministry or service to one another! That will be the exciting and challenging focus in our next article!

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NOTE 1].  https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the–jezebel-spirit-

Blog No.321. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 11thAugust 2019 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Forgiveness, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Real Life Stories, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

320. CHRISTIAN UNITY IS POSSIBLE! AND ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL! You ARE One In Christ!  BECOME One In Practice! Ephesians 4:1-6. [Praying Our Way Through Ephesians.]

Now to work! No. This isn’t a line from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ as the dwarfs on their way to work sing, “Hi Ho Hi Ho, Its Off To Work We Go!” Rather it is what St Paul was about to stress as he moved from the theological section in Ephesians chapters 1 to 3, to the practical outworking of that teaching in the following chapters.

[This is a continuation of the series I have been doing on Praying Our Way Through Ephesians as we look at the teaching and try to formulate prayers to help us put the teaching into action in our own lives.]

A).          THE UNITY OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST IS BASED ON THE GODHEAD. 4:1-6

In this chapter 4 there is an emphasis on the fact that believers are one in Christ and they need to show that unity outwardly in expressing their faith.

i).           Believers Are Called To Belong To Christ. 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

  • Believers have been individually called by the Lord to belong to Him.
  • It is a privilege they share with other “called” individuals as part of God’s “called out” people [the ekklesia]. [NOTE 1]
  • With privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility to show one’s appreciation for His amazing grace to us in Christ, by living in a way that pleases Him.
  • It involves a Christian WALK, in a manner worthy of their calling. [NOTES 2 and 3].

ii).          Believers Are Called To Belong To One Another In Christ. Eph 4:2-3. “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Paul tells us here in 4:1 what this Christian ‘walk’ looks like. It is characterised by godly characteristics in the lives of all those who live for Christ. They include: –

  • HUMILITY. [The word in the original Greek is [tapeinophrosynē; ταπεινοφροσύνη which is made up of [tapeinos ] meaning “humble” and a derivative of [phrēn] meaning “mind.”
  • It is fascinating that this same word is used in Acts 20:19 of Paul reminding the elders of this same city Ephesus, that his ministry among them was characterised as, “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” Humility had marked his whole ministry among them, in the good times and in the bad.
  • Paul also used it in his letter to the Philippians to describe how true humility eschews self- promotion and self-aggrandisement in preferring to meet the needs of others above one’s own, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Php 2:3. It takes a truly humble person to do that! Fancy having to think that I should count THAT person as more significant than me! “After all I am ….  And I have done ….. .” Definitely not easy to do! But definitely absolutely necessary, if we are going to live a servant life like Jesus.
  • In a similar passage in Colossians 3:11-13 where Paul describes the unity of the Spirit in terms of all being one in Christ, he adds, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” We see many of the same qualities here, as in our Ephesians 4 passage with the addition of the need to forgive others. [Paul adds that later in this Ephesians 4 chapter,  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Eph 4:32.]
  • Peter also used the same expression of “putting on” or “clothing oneself” with humility. He wrote, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5.
  • It appears from what Paul and Peter wrote that humility does not come easily to believers and they have to actively seek to humble themselves before God and others. It means in their terms, deciding to put on humility as a garment every day instead of choosing the easily fitting garments of pride and arrogance which draw attention to the wearers, rather than to the Lord.
  • GENTLENESS. [praotēs, πρᾳότης]. One dictionary describes the word as meaning, “it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character.”[CWBS Dictionary.] A derivative of the word was used to describe a strong horse which has been broken in. The horse has lost none of its power, but it is now strength under control. A blessed attribute for every believer! Appropriate strength. But under control!
  • PATIENCE. [makrothymia; μακροθυμία]. As you read all these attributes Paul described, it could be possible to become impatient. But he’s got our measure. The very next necessary attribute he mentions is indeed “patience.” The Greek word gives us the meaning. It is made up of makro [makro] meaning “large” and [thumos] meaning anger or strong feelings. It can mean being slow to anger or taking a long time to get angry. Again a very blessed attribute that prevents us from getting into unnecessary conflicts. It allows us to apply reason to the situation and to become reasonable.
  • FORBEARANCE. [anechō; ἀνέχω]. From ana = up and echo = hold or stand. It is the ability to hold oneself in hand or to stand up in the face of difficult people or circumstances. All of us at times face difficulties. But by the grace of God they can be overcome. The context here is doing so in love. Love is the motivation for forbearance.
  • LOVE. [agapē; ἀγάπη]. This is the famous word for Christian love, being God’s love imparted to humans, as in Romans 5:5, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love [agapē] has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is an absolute necessity if unity among believers is going to be maintained. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

iii.)       Believers Are Called To Maintain The Unity Of The Spirit. 4:3

It also involves a determination on the part of the believer to actively seek “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”We notice that Paul doesn’t say here that this unity is to be created. Rather it is to be maintained as something that already exists. It is a present-day reality in God by His Spirit.

It means that when believers are not living in unity, they are living in a state of unreality in the eyes of the Lord. He made them one in the Spirit, but they are choosing, for whatever reason, to turn their backs on the Spirit’s uniting power and love, to live in a state of disharmony and disunity. It is a grieving of the Spirit as Paul suggests later in this chapter, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Verse 30.  He is grieved because He recognises the blessings that are being forfeited by those who refuse to remain in unity with Him and with one another.

iv).      Believers Are Called To Reflect The Unity Of The Godhead In Their Unity. 4:4-6

There is a pattern for Christian unity. It is the pattern of the Godhead itself, as Paul wrote in verses 4 to 6. Here we see the unity of believers associated with the unity of the Persons of the Godhead.

  • One Spirit. Eph 4:4. “There is one body and one Spirit–-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—.” The Holy Spirit is at work in our Christian conversion. He opens the spiritual eyes of those who turn to the Lord in repentance and faith. He also calls people to engage in Christian service as we see in Acts 13:2 ‘While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’
  • One Lord (Jesus). “5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Jesus is the Lord of the universe and also of the church. It is He who baptises believers with the Holy Spirit. He is the object of faith as Paul preached, “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21.
  • One Father. “6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Every believer is a child of God. He is the Heavenly Father of all believers throughout the world and throughout history.

B]. HOW CAN THIS UNITY BE WORKED OUT IN PRACTICE IN OUR WORLD AND CHURCH TODAY?

We have seen that unity should be worked out in practice. However, we also know how difficult is to do so.

Having served in leadership roles as a lay person on Parish Councils and on Diocesan Council and School and Missionary Councils as an ordained minister I know just how difficult it can be. But we can do a better job by following this teaching in Ephesians and other parts of the Bible.

  • We need to remember that the church is the body of Christ of which He is the head. All people are equal in status as children of God, but they may have different functions within the body. All those functions are necessary for the good health of the body.
  • There is a principle of mutual submission within the body as Paul writes later in Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5:15-21. None are spared in this mutual submission! To be filled with the Holy Spirit of God requires a willingness to submit oneself to other members in the family of God. We do it out of respect for Christ. A failure to respect fellow believers as we are commanded to do, shows an appalling lack of respect for who Christ is and for what He has done.
  • All Christian service and ministry is servant ministry. Jesus set the example. He said of His own ministry as the Son of God, and as the promised Messiah, when He saw that some disciples were wanting to become greater in importance than others, “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45. The Creator of the universe was willing to humble Himself in serving His creatures. It involved His death for them on the cross, even as He was mocked by so many of them. Now that is really what submission looks like!

Unity involves agreement for a way forward. Having witnessed as a layman some very difficult Parish Annual Meetings I felt there must be a better way. These are some of the things I learned subsequently.

  • Changes cannot successfully be imposed from above. There needs to be general agreement among those involved in the decisions, for any significant lasting change to take place. Leaders have to sell their vision and to encourage others to run with the vision as they learn to understand it, support it and promote it.
  • I soon understood that in chairing Parish Council [and other] meetings that to have a narrow majority decision was counter-productive. Where the voting was close, I reasoned that we had not reached a decision. Rather we had reached a DIVISION. Division is not unity. If parish councillors are divided, so too will be the whole parish.
  • A senior lay person once suggested to a Parish Council I chaired, that all decisions should be unanimous. With a Council numbering over 25 from 7 different centres [if they all turned up], that was not accepted as being feasible. Eventually we adopted the following strategy that worked very well. If someone disagreed with any motion, then if he or she could get another person to support them, then that motion lapsed until the next meeting. In the meantime, we would all pray for wisdom and guidance for the next meeting. It meant sometimes that it took a little longer to get something through but when it was passed [normally at the next meeting] everyone was behind the proposed action and became willing sharers of the vision to other parishioners. It helped keep all parishioners united and allowed for much valuable discussion between meetings.
  • The value of the above system became obvious in unusual circumstances. The parish had begun a Preschool in the parish hall decades earlier. However it had gotten out of parish control. Our parish hall was not available for our own functions. One parish councillor moved that we advise the Preschool to look for other accommodation. We were all shocked by the suggestion knowing what adverse publicity that would bring on the parish. I asked with some trepidation whether anyone was willing to support the motion. To the surprise of all of us, another councillor stated that he thought we should consider the motion before the next meeting. When we met next month the whole Council [including me] had changed their minds and voted unanimously in favour of the motion. The lone individual had been right. It was indeed the time to act in this way. We actually helped the Preschool find alternative accommodation and assisted them generously in making their move seamlessly to new premises. We were able to expand our ministry significantly from that time on. Sometimes the individual seen previously as an “irritant,” gets it right! None of us has all the truth all the time. We need the insights and wisdom of others to get the best overall perspective. The church is a body composed of many people. It is just not one brain!

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 4:1-6

“Dear Lord. Thank You for calling me to belong to You. Enable me by Your Spirit, to live for You in such a way that You are glorified in my life. As I offer every part of my life to You, please fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can show in my life, true humility. In my dealings with other people, enable me to be gentle, patient and forbearing as You fill me with Your love for them.

Please help me to maintain the unity which exists between us all as believers and where it doesn’t seem to exist, help me to play my part is bringing that unity to fruition in every relationship I have. I ask all these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

NOTES.

1.] The word ‘church’ in the Greek is [ekklēsia; ἐκκλησία]. It is derived from [ek] meaning out of and [kaleo] to call. So the church is composed of those whom God has called out of the world to belong to Himself. “Ecclesiastical” is a word in common English use.

2.] “Walk” is [peripateō, περιπατέω] meaning to walk around or to conduct one’s life. It is the basis of our English word ‘peripatetic.’

3.] “Worthy”. [axiōs; ἀξίως]. This adverb can mean “as becomes” or “as befits” or “suitably”. If God has called us in His grace [and He has] then it is befitting that we live in such a way that demonstrates that we are worthy of His grace. An English derivative “axiomatic” meaning ‘self-evident’ conveys much the same meaning.

Blog No.320. Posted on jimholbeck@gmail.com on Sunday 21stJuly 2019

 

 

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