Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Walk In Ephesians - Part Three

In this section of the book of Ephesians, we are challenged to live differently, in a worthy manner, and shown how we are equipped to do so.

3) Walking Worthy Of Our Calling

Chapter four of Ephesians starts off with "therefore", pointing back to the previous chapters, the three chapters where the Apostle Paul laid the doctrinal foundation that we are to build our spiritual walks upon. We are shown where we came from, how we are given an inheritance and victory through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then chapter three ends with this wonderful prayer of Paul's:

Ephesians 3:14-19 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

I love what Matthew Henry has to say about this passage, and how he makes a parallel between God's statements about the range of wisdom in the book of Job and applies it to love here:

"The dimensions of redeeming love are admirable: The breadth, and length, and depth, and height. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea, Job 11:8-9. Some describe the particulars thus: By the breadth of it we may understand the extent of it to all ages, nations, and ranks of men; by the length of it, its continuance from everlasting to everlasting; by the depth of it, its stooping to the lowest condition, with a design to relieve and save those who have sunk into the depths of sin and misery; by its height, its entitling and raising us up to the heavenly happiness and glory. We should desire to comprehend this love: it is the character of all the saints that they do so; for they all have a complacency and a confidence in the love of Christ."

Earlier in this same chapter, the Apostle Paul wrote:

Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

"...the unsearchable riches of Christ..." - "The latter phrase has the sense of being fathomless. There is no end to the discovery of the riches of Christ." [Quoted from David Sorenson's Understanding The Bible commentary on Ephesians, page 367 of the volume entitled Corinthians Through Philemon.] Strong's Concordance defines "unsearchable" as "not tracked out, i.e. (by implication) untraceable:- past finding out."

I was blessed when the Lord pointed out these similar phrases to me: "the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge," and "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (see Philippians 4:7). There is an element of God's love and peace (among other blessings) that we will never fully be able to grasp before we go home to Heaven - but what we can understand and know should change our lives.

If true believers would just get a greater glimpse of the measureless love of Christ, of the glorious riches and inheritance we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, of the tremendous spiritual power that is available to us every day through the indwelling Holy Spirit, I think our lives would be utterly transformed! Too often we forget or neglect these truths - but when we are living in light of them, and walking in the victory that is ours in Christ, there is a world of difference in us and in the work the Lord can do through us.

In fact, the way that these truths affected those Paul ministered to was something he praised the Lord for:

Colossians 1:3-6 We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

"Therefore..." - put feet to the truth, and walk accordingly.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

Walking worthy of our calling - what does that mean?

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible makes these comments about verse 1: "That you live as becomes those who have been called in this manner into the kingdom of God... To 'walk worthy of that calling,' is to live as becomes a Christian, an heir of glory; to live as Christ did."

Theodore Epp in his commentary on Ephesians [Living Abundantly, Volume 2, page 9], states: "We are to walk worthy as His Body. This means we represent Him by expressing His mind and by living His life. We are not to attempt to merely imitate His life; we are to let Him live His life in and through us."

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Colossians 1:9-11 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

1 Thessalonians 4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

Ephesians 4:2-3 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

"By lowliness we are to understand humility, entertaining mean thoughts of ourselves, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul which makes men unwilling to provoke others, and not easily to be provoked or offended with their infirmities; and it is opposed to angry resentments and peevishness. Long-suffering implies a patient bearing of injuries, without seeking revenge. Forbearing one another in love signifies bearing their infirmities out of a principle of love, and so as not to cease to love them on the account of these... Now without these things unity cannot be preserved. The first step towards unity is humility; without this there will be no meekness, no patience, or forbearance; and without these no unity. Pride and passion break the peace, and make all the mischief. Humility and meekness restore the peace, and keep it." [Matthew Henry]

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

The following explanation of Ephesians 4:4-6 is taken from a previous study of mine entitled, The Hope Of Your Calling:

"One of the seven things Paul mentions about the unity of the Spirit is the one hope of their calling. Paul wants the believers in each local church to be united together through the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word of God, and in the midst of the unity of the Trinity (one Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father), one body (whether referring to the unity of the local church, or the future unity we will have as one body in Heaven) and one baptism (water baptism, which is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and our public identification with Him), he emphasizes one faith (THE faith - there is only one true faith - as much as the liberals want to teach otherwise, there can be no compromise on the fundamentals of the faith) and one hope. This hope is the assurance we have in Christ, encompassing many things, but especially His return for His saints and the inheritance we have in Him."

Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

Webster's defines "measure" as, "Means to an end; an act, step or proceeding towards the accomplishment of an object;"

Strong's Concordance gives an interesting definition of "grace": "The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude."

Whatever spiritual resources each true believer needs to serve the Lord and to do His will, whatever each believer needs to exercise their gifts effectively in their local church and in the ministries that the Lord has called them to (especially the ministry of reconciliation), God has made available to them - to the end that other believers would be built up in the faith, mature spiritually, and likewise be equipped to serve the Lord day by day.

"Each believer is given a gift so that he may function in the body of believers in a particular way. When he does this, the body functions. That is where we find the unity of the Spirit. Along with the gift it says every one of us is given grace to exercise that gift in the power and fullness of the Spirit of God. When each believer functions in his peculiar gift, it produces a harmony, as does each member of the human body." [J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary, Volume 5, page 253.]

Ephesians 4:8-10 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Jesus first had to descend to the earth from Heaven and descend to the grave (ie. die for our sins and be buried), before He could be resurrected and ascend back into Heaven. (See Romans 10:6-7, where Paul uses similar language to speak of Jesus' incarnation and resurrection.) When He ascended, He took those Old Testament believers up to Heaven with Him (prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, their spirits dwelt in Abraham's Bosom, the abode of the righteous saints which had already died).

In Ephesians 4:8, Paul was quoting from the Psalms:

Psalms 68:18 Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.

It is worthwhile to note that what the Psalmist prophesied (ie. that Jesus had "received" gifts), Paul declared as fulfilled when Jesus ascended and "gave" those gifts to His body. It is because of all that Jesus has accomplished in our redemption that we have an inheritance in Him and our daily needs met as we walk with the Lord and seek first His kingdom in our lives. The very next verse in the Psalms praises the Lord for this very fact:

Psalms 68:19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

In this passage, we are given a list of five offices (or ministries) that our Saviour has gifted His church with:

The first two are the Apostles and prophets. That is those who have given the Word of God to us. Though the offices of the Apostles and the prophets finished in the first century (ie. "when that which is perfect" came, the completion of the New Testament Scriptures, and thus of the whole Bible with the penning of the last word in the book of Revelation - see Revelation 22:18-19), local churches are still gifted by these two offices through their writings to us. It is their writings that form the doctrinal foundation of the New Testament church (see Ephesians 2:20 and Acts 2:42).

Evangelists – those who preach the good news (of salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ), and who stir up God's people with/by the Word of God.

Pastors – those who lead by example and govern the people of God according to the Word of God. The word "pastor" literally means "shepherd." Pastors are those who watch over and care for each local church, each flock of true believers.

Teachers – those who teach the Word of God to us. While every believer is expected to be able to share their faith with others, and to be able to pass on what they have learned from God's Word (see Hebrews 5:11-14), there are those the Holy Spirit has specifically gifted in this regard.

What is the purpose of these five offices or ministries of gifted servants of the Lord?

Ephesians 4:12-16 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

"The unity of the Spirit" is to be maintained so true believers would mature and come in "the unity of the faith." The ultimate goal is so that every believer in each local New Testament church becomes more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ and is able to adequately and effectively serve Him in this world.

We are to be built up and mature in the faith so that we are not led astray by every wind of doctrine that blows through our lives (and perhaps even our churches). It is spiritual children - the carnal, immature babes - that are in danger of being caught up and deceived by those that would take them away from the Lord and His Word. Godly pastors, evangelists, and teachers are those whom the Lord has given to His church to equip His body for the work of the ministry.

One final point: God's Word states that believers are to be "speaking the truth in love." We are not to be wishy-washy and have a worldly type of love that is void of the truth and lets anything go on in our lives or the lives of our families and friends. Nor are we to be using the Word of God as a hammer that we use to smack down others. We are to speak the truth in love - so that even when we deal with the negative aspects of God's Word (such as sin, judgment, negative consequences, etc.), those around us (and in our churches) can tell we are dealing with these things because we love others and want them to build their lives and eternity upon the truth, and live in such a manner that they please the Lord.

It is the Word of God and the grace of God that equips us to live in a manner worthy of our calling. In light of this, I leave you with three final passages:

1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

September 21st/09
Jerry Bouey

There is so much in the Word of God, that sometimes it is hard to know where to start when it comes to tackling Scripture for the purpose of preaching or teaching it. Working on studies such as this (ie. preaching my way through all or most of a book, and developing those messages into more indepth Bible studies) has taught me even more to respect and value those sound commentators of the past, who have spent years putting together their efforts to mine the truths of God's Word. They were not just content to scratch along on the surface, but were dedicated to digging deeper and sharing those wonderful nuggets and treasures that the Holy Spirit brought to light through their diligent efforts. They studied to shew themselves approved unto God and manifested His Word through their preaching and teaching. I praise the Lord for those precious resources that are now available to His children.

Studies in this series of Our Walk In Ephesians:

Part One - Our Walk Without Christ
Part Two - Walking In Good Works
Part Three - Walking Worthy Of Our Calling
Part Four - Walking In Newness Of Life (Coming Soon)
Part Five - Walking In Love (Coming Soon)


Deborah said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that the link to Baptist Muse is now redirected to a site teaching people how to promote their blogs. I've emailed the owner of Baptist Muse and he doesn't respond. I didn't think you would want your blog used for misleading advertising.

Jerry Bouey said...

Thanks Deb. That's one thing I hate about the everchanging Internet - links are always being changed or websites that were excellent suddenly no longer exist. I will delete that. I think I have a couple more to change or edit there too.

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