Author Archives: apologistmike

Ephesians 5:21-33

21Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ: 22wives to their own husbands as to the Lord, 23because the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church, His body, Himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives submit to husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26in order to sanctify and cleanse her by the washing with water by the word, 27to present the church to Himself glorious, without stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish. 28In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own flesh. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29For there was never one who hated his own flesh, but he feeds and takes care of it, just Christ does the church. 30For we are members of His body. 31For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32This mystery is great: but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless, let each love his wife as himself, and let the wife reverence her husband. 

 

And now we come to one of the most consistently misunderstood passages of scripture. Many is the time that I’ve heard someone defend gender subjugation with this passage; the ignorance about not only the text itself but the process of hermeneutics is overwhelming in our movement. It is critically important that we not begin the pericope with the infamous “wives submit to your husbands” phrase, because Paul doesn’t. In the Greek text, 5.21 is the proper beginning of the pericope, not 5.22. And 5.21 has Paul telling the Ephesian church that all people are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In particular, in this section in which Paul goes over some “household codes,” or practical ethics for home life, he is speaking to both husband and wife and being in mutual submission to one another. The husband is the “head” of the wife, but the Greek for head (κεφαλη) doesn’t necessarily mean “authority” but rather “source.” In other words, the husband has been called to be the source of life and provision for his wife. Again, this does not mean that it is unbiblical for women to make more money than men; rather, it means that husbands are to be so faithful to their wives that they can be totally counted upon to provide WHATEVER is necessary—in particular, emotional validation, love, support, encouragement, laughter…..WHATEVER. As Christ is the source of life for the church, sot he husband should be for the wife. The wife should have “reverence” for her husband, which is another way of saying that she should consider his needs ahead of her own. She should have such respect for her husband that his needs and desires surpass her own. Conversely, the husband should love his wife as Christ loved the church. And how did He do that? He considered her needs to be of much greater import than His own. He died for her. He humiliated Himself from His exalted position for her. He has provided for her and is returning to snatch her away. Husbands should be every bit as protective and selfless in their love for their wives. Marriage is the great metaphor for the God-Man relationship, and is particularly helpful in understanding the Christ-Church relationship. It is particularly noteworthy that Christ submitted Himself to what was good for her rather than Himself. Talk about faithfulness! There is literally nothing that she can do to cause Him to leave her.

 

There are two ways we can apply this: first, in our literal marriages. How would life be different in America today if we all treated marriage in this way? When a wife sees her husbands needs and desires as more important than hers, and a husband sees his wife’s needs and desires as more important than his, they are no longer two people striving to live together under the same roof, but are ONE FLESH. When they are engaged in a constant endeavor of mutual self-submission, they are modeling God’s faithfulness. Once my wife knows that there is literally nothing she can ever do to cause me to abandon her, the end result is a confidence and happiness in marriage that God designed. When we strive for this level of faithfulness to our spouses, we model God’s love for mankind.

 

Another way that we apply this is to recognize the significance of the church in all of this. If the church is Christ’s bride and He considers her so important that He died for her, is still providing for her, protects her, and is coming back for her…..shouldn’t she be as important to us? Our American mindset of treating “church” as something that is optional is the very opposite of faithfulness. Until we start teaching faithfulness to the local church, we shouldn’t be surprised when the divorce rate continues to be as it is. We have completely forgotten faithfulness. Our faithfulness to our church is akin to our faithfulness to our spouses. If that faithfulness is tenuous and conditional, then it isn’t faithfulness.

 

How faithful are you today? How faithful to your spouse? How faithful to your church?

 

 

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Ephesians 5:6-20

6Let no one deceive you with empty words; because of this the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. 7Do not be participants with them, 8for you were formerly darkness, but are presently light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is in all that is good and right and true), 10discerning what is acceptable to the Lord. 11And do not take part in useless works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful to speak of what is done in secret. 13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible. 14For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Rise, O Sleeper, and rise from the dead! And Christ will shine on you!” 15Therefore look with care how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand the will of the Lord. 18And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your hearts to the Lord, 20giving thanks always to God—indeed, our Father—in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Paul continues his explication of the example of how Christians in Ephesus should live. He reminds them that they are to walk as children of light. They are not to take part in endeavors of darkness; after all, they’ve been illumined with the light of Christ. The process of “walking as children of light” should be their primary concern. This means looking with care at how they “walk.” Specifically, in Paul’s view, they are to be wise (15). They are to manage time appropriately (16), because it is a limited resource. If that time is short, why waste time being drunk with wine—when they can instead be filled with the Spirit (18)? Time isn’t to be wasted, but instead is better spent building one another up—here, Paul is returning again to the theme of love that should govern the Ephesian Christians. They should invest time in being worshipful and edifying….singing, encouraging, helping one another. And they should be engaged in a state of constant thanksgiving, because God is our Father and has rescued us in Christ Jesus His Son.

 

Have you ever stopped to think of the ramifications of your Christian confession? If the confession you made is true, is that truth manifest in your calendar? Take a quick stock of that calendar; how much time is spent in leisure? How much time is spent in evangelism? How much time is spent in volunteering to build up others in the local church? How much time is spent giving thanks and worshiping the One Who rescued you and is still rescuing you? The famous “do not be drunk with wine” passage here isn’t so much about alcoholic consumption as it is time-wasting; consider the context of the phrase. He’s just told the Ephesians that they are to make the most of the time they’re given. To what extent are you doing that? We shouldn’t consider ourselves more spiritual than others if we don’t imbibe…particularly if we’re wasting time in our lives in other ways. It is an act of spiritual devotion to be organized and disciplined in time management. It is an act of spiritual devotion to plan for the edification of others.

 

Are you walking as a child of light this day? A child of light values time, manages it appropriately, and plans for the edification of others around him. That’s a great challenge for you and me today.

 

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

25Therefore, putting away lies, let each of you speak truth to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun set on your anger. 27Neither give place to the devil. 28Let the thief steal no more, but labor at honest work with his own hands, in order that he might have something to give the one in need. 29Let no corrupt talk come from your mouth, but what is good for building up, as fits the occasion, in order to give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let every bitterness and rage and wrath and yelling and blasphemy be set aside from you, together with every evil. 32Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another just as God also in Christ forgave you. 5 1Be therefore imitators of God as beloved children, 2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sweet-smelling sacrifice. 3But sexual immorality and all impurity must not be mentioned among you, as is fitting for saints. 4Let there be no obscenity and foolish or vulgar talk, as is not proper, but rather thanksgiving. 5For you can be sure of this: that all who are sexually immoral or impure or greedy or idolatrous, have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

 

 

This section of Ephesians features Paul exhorting the Ephesian Christians to pattern their lives after specific examples of Christlikeness. These examples are communicated in a pattern of “put off/put on,” or a negative followed by a positive. For example, the Ephesians are to put off lying, but put on truth (25). The truth that they are to speak is not only the simple truth, but also the truth of God’s grace in Christ, which Paul has been careful to tell for the first three chapters of this book. The foundation or rationale for this truth-telling (which we sometimes call evangelism) is our oneness in Christ. The Ephesian Christians are also told to not be ruled by their passions. As Mark Roberts puts it, “unresolved anger opens up a place for the devil to dwell in us and in our relationships. Smoldering anger provides a foundation for Satan to do his work of dividing, distressing, and distracting us.” The Ephesian Christians are also to cease stealing, if they are doing so, and to start working. Notice that “work” is not about money or caring for the poor or earning or saving or taking care of oneself. Rather, the implication in this passage is that work is central to our reason for living, inasmuch as God gives purpose to work. He created them to work, and therefore when they are working, their hands are engaged in something useful. This is why the Puritans often said “idleness is the devil’s workshop.” The Ephesian Christians were to cease unwholesome talk, which is defined from the Greek as the kind of speech that harms and hurts others….as contrasted by the second clause, which tells them to build up one another. When Christians wound others with their speech, this grieves the Spirit. Since God so cared for others that He gave His Son for them, then so should the Ephesian Christians care about each other as well. The kingdom of Christ, after all, is for those who are governed by love. Those who walk in such love are inheritors of it.

 

Look simply at the exhortations here.

  • Don’t lie, but speak truth—especially the truth of God’s grace in Christ
  • Don’t be ruled by passions, which always seek to put your own good ahead of the good of others
  • Go to work; it’s good for you
  • Watch your speech; make sure you’re not harming others, but rather building them up
  • Be governed by love—this means putting others ahead of the self

When we govern our passions, we are being shaped by the Spirit’s fruit of self-control. When we work, we are engaged in healthy activity that brings purpose to our time on earth. When we consider others more important than ourselves, we are governed by love rather than passions. This is the still the way that mature Christians learn to walk. When we do so, we are being molded by the self-control that comes from God’s Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:17-24

17This, therefore, I say and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk after the way the Gentiles walk, in futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of their stubbornness of heart. 19They have become callous, having given themselves to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity—20but that is not how you learned Christ!—21Assuming you heard Him and have been taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus…22to put off the old man according to the former way of life, that is corrupted according to the deceitful lusts, 23to be renewed in the spirit of your minds 24and to put on the new man created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.

 

In this section, Paul is NOT trying to come up with a comprehensive list of ethical rules to be obeyed by Christians. Rather, he is contrasting the former life before Christ with the new life in Christ, and showing the Ephesian Christians how this might look. Despite the fact that he’s writing to a Gentile audience, it is interesting that he tells them that they should not “walk” (περιπατεω) like Gentiles walk. What do we make of this? They are not becoming ethnic Jews. But neither are they Gentiles any more; rather, they are now a new category created by Christ. This has major implications for racial reconciliation in the church today. To walk (or live in an ethical sense) like they did in their former lives would be a life of stubbornness, which is a life of self-indulgence. The self is more important than the other. This leads to the mentality of one that is “feeling no pain” (ἀπηλγεω), which leads to sensuality. He argues to the Ephesians that if they’ve heard Christ, there are certain things they will have been taught. Let’s stop and pause right there a minute: note the equivalence between “hearing Christ” and “being taught in Him?” For the thousandth time, we are learning that no one is hearing Christ on his own. There is a process of teaching and learning. And what, specifically, will the Ephesian Christians have learned if they have truly heard Christ? They will learn to put off the old man and put on the new one that God is creating. This is a process of mind renewal. It is a constant status, not a one-time punctiliar moment.

 

Sometimes, we Christians feel like “holding the line.” Standing still and catching our breath. But the Christian who has truly heard Christ is engaged in a constant motion: a putting off of the old man and a putting on of the new. The Christian who has truly heard Christ is engaged in a constant mind renewal process—begun by the Spirit, buried in the Word, ensconced in the community of faith. The Christian who has truly heard Christ is being taught in Him regularly.

 

You are no doubt quite familiar with how much of the “old man” in your life is still an influence. You are probably keenly aware of how consistently you’re putting on the “new man.” But are you engaged in being taught in Him? Are you engaged in the daily process of the walk? It is through this process that the Spirit does His most spectacular work.

Ephesians 4:1-16

1Therefore I, being a prisoner for the Lord, encourage you to walk worthily of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience putting up with one another in love, 3doing your best to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope in your calling: 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace has been given to each one of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Therefore it is written: “When he went up to the heights he captured a group of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9Who is He Who went up, if not He Who descended into the lower regions of the earth? 10He Who descended is also He Who ascended far above all in the heavens, in order to fulfill all things. 11And He appointed some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to the mature manhood, to the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ, 14in order that we may no longer be infants, tossed by the sea and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by trickery of deceitful schemes, 15but speaking the truth in love, we might grow in all things into Him Who is the head, Christ, 16from Whom the body is joined together and held fast by all the ligaments with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, making the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

 

 

When Paul reminds his Ephesian audience of his status as prisoner even as he oversees their spiritual development, he challenges them to “walk worthily of the call.” What is the “call” of which he speaks? The best way to understand this is to remember his use of “call” earlier in the book. Ephesians 1.18 references “the hope to which he called you,” which points back to God’s plan to unite all things in Christ. The “call” (singular) to which the Ephesians should respond, therefore, is God’s call to be part of this “uniting all things in Christ.” Notice that Paul isn’t speaking of an individual “call on my life” sort of thing—he’s emphasizing the one call that God has given to His people generally (the invisible church) and specifically (the local church). Therefore, the Ephesians are “walking worthily of the call” that God has given them to the extent that they are united in their purpose of proclaiming Christ to the world around them so that they may see all things united in Christ. He continues in this vein when he writes of the “grace” (“charis”) that Christ has given to the church. While Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-14 speak of the diversity of gifts within the one body, this passage actually emphasizes the overlap of gifts—and therefore emphasizes the singularity of THE GIFT. In other words, all of the gifts mentioned in this passage—prophet, pastor, etc.—have one common purpose. Through these offices, the church has been given one grace, and that is for the purpose of equipping the saints in the work of ministry for the purpose of spurring her toward maturity (12-14). Spiritual infancy can be describes as the lack of theological depth and consistency, as well as the lack of practical depth and consistency. Infancy is the natural state of all of us. But infancy is a bad place to stay, and God’s method of nurturing Christians into maturity is in the context of the local church. This is where they are to get their theology, their doctrinal teaching, their models of praxis. This is where they are to get their questions answered. This is where they are to learn to live for Christ—to see it modeled, stumbled over, and embraced. Therefore, according to this passage, none of the Ephesian Christians were given some specific gift for their use. Rather, the church at Ephesus had been given the gift of God’s grace and teaching (manifest in the various teaching and prophetic offices mentioned) so that the Ephesian church might then spur one another onward toward maturity.

 

Boy, is there real application here! Many, many American evangelical churches are really just clubs comprised of people who are swayed by many winds of bad doctrine. They don’t recognize bad doctrine as bad doctrine, of course; it feels right to them, and seems to fit their interpretation of scripture (which, it turn, is barely developed and badly stunted in maturity)….so they think they are embracing “good doctrine” and generally have negative feelings toward anyone who would correct it. This explains the fierce independent streak in American evangelicalism; lack of church discipline, lack of doctrinal correction, lack of maturity. But God’s plan for growing Christians into maturity was to set them in a corporeal (or physical) grouping of other Christians in time and space….and then to fan into flame the spiritual gifts that He had given to that church through those folks. The exercise of these gifts would then spur them onward past infancy toward sound doctrine, hermeneutics, exegesis, and theological adulthood. This could only happen in a culture of humility and love; as long as one’s own private “head voices” out-shouted the pastoral and teaching voices in the church, pride ruled supreme.

 

Just as Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians was that they would unite in one gift of “uniting all things in Christ,” so my exhortation to you is to slightly lower the value of your own voice, and exalt the value of God’s voice in this passage. God has given the gifts and their respective offices to the church, not simply individuals. He has done this because He has a singular purpose: to unite the church in its calling, and to bring the members of the church into maturity. Let’s take part in that, as God intended, today. And tomorrow.

 

Ephesians 3:14-21

14For this reason I bow my knees to the Father, 15from Whom every family in heaven and earth is named, 16that according to the riches of His glory He may give you power to become strong through His Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being firmly rooted and established in love, 18may be fully able to understand with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth…19to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, in order that you may be filled will all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him Who is able to do so much more than we ask or imagine according to the power that is at work in us, 21to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever, amen.

 

Paul now moves to wrap up this section by syllogizing all the premises he’s argued thus far. Based on the rationale of yesterday’s readings, for example, Paul now can explain why he bows his knees to the Father. Notice the trinitarian ethos contained in the pericope; Paul prays to the Father that He will continue to place His Spirit in the Ephesians, so that they may experience Christ—and more of Him. It is, strictly speaking, true that believers do not experience Christ physically the way they will in the eschaton. As expositor Andrew Lincoln puts it, “believers do not experience Christ except as Spirit and do not experience the Spirit except as Christ.” The more the Ephesians come to know God, the deeper and fuller that knowledge is—and the deeper and fuller the experience is. The power to grow stronger comes from His presence in their lives, and knowledge and understanding come from Him. Paul’s closing doxology demonstrates a worshipful attitude toward the God Whose power is more than the Ephesians can ask or imagine. I find it particularly noteworthy that Paul credits God with the power that is at work in the Ephesians—and describes that power as limitless (20).

 

God desires that we know Him deeper. This doesn’t just mean longer devotionals or crazier services. This means GROWING in Him, and that growth is described as both experiential (20) and intellectual (18). The believer who is growing in God will grow in knowledge and wisdom, and he will be overwhelmed in his life with the power that is at work in him, which is God. This is the way that God is able to do so much more than what we ask or imagine. And Paul is careful that we not lose focus of the cosmic significance of the church, once again: “to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever” (21).

 

What do we do with this? We commit ourselves to grow. We commit ourselves to learn more about Him, and to experience Him more. We commit ourselves to the Bride to whom He has committed Himself—to disdain her, after all, is to disdain Christ. We commit ourselves to grow in both our understanding and His power. In short, we are committed to a growth process that involves relationship with God and with the church. Most exciting to me is the understanding that from such a process—God-ordained as it is—we will come to be overwhelmed by God’s power that is at work in us. I need this, and so do we all.

 

Ephesians 3:1-13

1Because of this, I Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles, 2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of the grace of God that was given to me for you, 3how the mystery was made known to me according to revelation, as I have written a little. 4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to the sons of man in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6To be specific—the Gentiles are sharing together and members of the same body and participants in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 7I was made a servant according to the gift of the grace of God that was given to me according to the working of His power. 8To me, the least of all saints, was given this grace, to preach to the Gentiles the good news of the fathomless riches of Christ, 9and to enlighten everyone what is the plan of the mystery that was hidden from the ages in God Who created all things, 10in order that the variegated wisdom of God would presently be made known through the church to the powers and authorities in the heavenly places, 11according to the eternal purpose He realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 13Therefore I ask you not to become discouraged in my afflictions on your behalf, which are your glory.

 

Paul explains how God’s purpose is reconciliation—of man to Himself, and of man to man. He identifies himself as someone who was born to be a servant of this reconciliatory power, and argues that his entire purpose on the earth is as a servant of that power. Moreover, Paul identifies the church as the vehicle through which the cosmic powers of the world will hear of the powers and wisdom of God Almighty (10). It is not through prophets and apostles or charismatic leaders or superstar people, but through the church that God has ordained that the witness of His wisdom and power be supplied:

“God’s intent was that now, through the church, ‘the variegated wisdom of God would presently be made known through the church to the powers and authorities in the heavenly places.’ It is not Paul or the other apostles or prophets who announce the mystery of Christ to the heavenly powers. Rather, the crucial task of making known God’s wisdom to the powers now belongs to the church, to the people of God together. If you were to ask a hundred Christians, ‘Why does the church exist? You’d hear about worship and witness, community and caring, discipleship and doing justice. But I doubt you’d hear one person say, ‘the church exists to make God’s manifold wisdom known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.’ Yet according to Paul, this is central to the church’s calling and God’s eternal purpose’ (Roberts).

Isn’t that interesting? As a gathered group of people, we in the church have a singular mission: the proclamation of the power and wisdom of God to the cosmic forces. Just by existing—specifically, by being together—we achieve this mission. Those forces in the heavenly places hear us loud and clear when we are gathered. There is a God-ordained force and power in our “gathered-ness” that is beyond anything a single individual could do.

 

How does this fact change the way you see “church?” How does change the way you go about “doing church” or doing the things you do for church? Think carefully about this today.