"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Monday, December 28, 2020

EPHESIANS: The Body of Truth and Love! Parts I and II Chapter 4:12-32

As we began this study in chapter 4:1-11, Paul was admonishing that the saints there in Ephesus, and all of us who are "the faithful in Christ Jesus" to walk worthily of the vocation wherewith [we] are called". With meekness and patience, and a forgiveness towards one another, we saints are commanded to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". The scripture then went on to describe this unity in all its properties (vs. 4-6).

The remainder of the last study pondered the many gifts that God has granted to His body: spiritual men of God ordained as "apostles, prophets, evangelists and some pastors and teachers." This is where we concluded the last study, and thus, we pick it up in vs. 12.

PART ONE - (due to the rather lengthy nature of this study, I've divided it in half, please review part 2 as the LORD leads)

Any body will require nourishment in order to grow, and growth can be expected of any body. Bodies that can't assimilate nutrition or don't grow are ill, and in need of attention.

This is why any healthy fellowship will be one that is well fed spiritually. The dietary menu we have at our disposal is God's Word, from Genesis to Revelation, and nothing else! There are no other writings, books, texts or scriptures that are necessary, but in fact can bring tremendous harm and even ruin! For the healthy edification and growth of the body of Christ let us feed on God's Word, not on the artificial substances of mere man.

We should not be 'New Testament' Christians, for as it states in Romans concerning the Old Testament:

For whatsoever things were written
[Old Testament] aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
If God didn't intend for us to read and learn from the Old Testament, He would never have ensured its survival. The Bible is seen as one book, yet it's also a library of books, 66 of them in number (I often say that in any Bible study: when you study the scriptures, no matter where you are, you have at your fingertips, 65 commentaries for which ever book you happen to be examining). Yet for all of its authors (more than 40 of them), from all walks of life, and time periods, nations, etc. this book reads as a unified whole -

"The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, and the New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed" as is commonly said.

We ought not to be 'hop-scotch Christians' either, leaping and skipping from one topic or verse to another, but steadily, consistently, regularly and thoroughly going through God's Word, from cover to cover.

For these reasons, God gave us pastors and teachers; faithful shepherds of God's sheep to consistently 
provide provender in the way of teaching the scriptures, the veritable spiritual meat, bread, milk and water of the Word!

As we grow spiritually, we share our faith and work hand in hand with the evangelists which God also gave to the body of Christ, and by means of the Gospel, propagate in the production of 'lambs' or those newly born (again) in Christ.

The apostles and prophets and their ministries were granted to the body of Christ and has been completed as foundational elements (EPH 2:20); these were necessary for the early church (prior to the full revelation of canon as was inspired by God to those writers of the New Testament). Apostolic (those sent in Christ's name by the authority of Christ, such as missionaries or pastors called to plant a church) and prophetic (those who have a special gifting in the Word and whose address to the world is profound in its impact) are still with us today, but not to be equated with the 12 apostles or the prophets of the Old Testament.

Towards what end then are these gifts, which are the various ministers as mentioned above (and their giftings which are mentioned in 1 COR 12:14) and the work they are engaged in, to produce? This is answered in the next verses -

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

Can we expect to become perfect saints? Will any of us ever obtain a state of sinlessness while on this Earth? One must understand that the word used for "perfecting" here actually means "complete, or fully prepared" and not sinless (2 TIM 3:17); though we must recognize that as one matures in Christ the tendency towards sin and carnality should noticeably diminish in the life of the saint.

Thus through the ministry of these pastors, teachers, etc. we, the body of Christ become edified, more 'complete and prepared' for . . .?
Verse 12 makes it clear what this is for: "the work of the ministry". Did you know that YOU are a minister (servant)? Any one who is a member of the body of Christ is by virtue of that fact, a minister or servant of Jesus Christ.

As with any servant, we all have specific tasks and chores and missions from the Great KING of kings, and we are incredibly honored to participate in such! What does your service to the KING entail?

Are you a stay-at-home Mom, tending to the needs of your children? THIS is indeed a HIGH calling, and don't let any one try to tell you differently! Children are extremely precious in the eyes of the LORD, and He esteems them greatly who teaches and leads these little ones in His ways.

Fathers, don't forget, as head of the household, YOU are no less obligated in teaching your children, in fact, as a father, you are even more responsible not just in teaching and leading your children, but also to minister to your wife, in the washing of the water by the Word of God (more of these interpersonal relationships of the family according to God's will later on in the first half of ch. 6).

Whether you are a custodian, chemist, a clergy or a congressman, each of us is to do our work "as unto the LORD, bringing honor to Him, and not with eye service" (see EPH 6:6; COL 3:22).

Since we are all partakers of the Gospel, we are all therefore proper and able heralders of the Gospel. Our testimony is a valid means of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, and the basic tenets of the Gospel are not at all complicated - See 1 COR 15:1-4; ROM. 10: 9-10. Many a child, First and Second Grade level students, I have seen give their lives to the LORD as a result of understanding the Gospel; its just that simple. How else can we serve the LORD and His body?

PRAYER! Intercessory prayer is a phenomenally, vastly, integrally important ministry by which we serve one another in the body of Christ. Its one however, who I fear, has meager attendance. As I am oft wont to say: "Prayerlessness brings paralysis to the body of Christ"!

I wonder how grieved we may be when once we step through heaven's portals and we see the fruit of prayerful labors and lament that we hadn't spent MORE time in prayer (myself certainly included!)!

What else?
Its important that we know the calling with which the LORD has called us to; not all of us have the same calling in the body. Some are 'eyes' and others 'ears'; some are 'hands' and others are 'feet'. All are necessary and there are none that are not important.

For myself I believe the LORD has called me to be an encourager and a teacher of the scriptures, as HE has gifted me in the way of encouraging and exhorting the saints (as many have testified to me) and to teach the Word of God (which I have done in various capacities through out the years).

Perhaps you have the gift of government, or helps, or healings (see 1 COR 12) or one of the others as listed in Corinthians. How God has gifted you is an arrow pointing you towards the appropriate ministry that that gift is tailored to suit!

Whatever gifts God has granted to us, for the maturing of the saints and that we as saints be equipped to minister both to the body, and to the lost sheep of this world, its most important that we serve with the single motivation that will grant us reward on that day when we stand before our LORD and KING: love. Specifically, agape love. This is a love born from God's Spirit and cannot be created by any human being. All we can do is be yielded vessels through which this Divine Love can pour through.

If we serve God and one another with any other motivation than love, it will amount to nothing! Remember that in 1 COR 12, Paul brings us on a tour through the mansion of God's gifts, leading us from room to room, revealing each of these gifts on display.
Yet he then clasps a doorknob to another room, and says, "Yet I show you a more excellent way" and with that, flings the door wide and shows us the marvelous love of God which He has lavished us with, and with which we find proper motivation for all we say and do in His Name (1 COR 13).

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ

Note that here, faith and knowledge are coupled together: both work towards the 'completed' person who by steadily maturing spiritually will ultimately attain "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (when we see Him face to Face - 1 JOHN 3:2)". Both faith and knowledge revolve around the Word of God. We first obtain the knowledge of the Son of God via the presentation of the Gospel, Whom we then place faith upon, which results in spiritual rebirth.

As a result of our regeneration and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, we obtain the mind of Christ and thus begin to understand God's Word as never before, and so begins the blessed journey in our gaining knowledge of the Son of God, which in turn inspires in us greater faith and revelation, and so on.

Verse 13 stands in comparison and in opposition to vs. 14 -

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Verse 13 speaks of spiritual stability and maturity; verse 14 speaks of spiritual immaturity- "children" and instability- "tossed to and fro".

"Carried about" in the Greek is the same phrase used elsewhere in HEB 13:9 and also in JUDE 1:12. Literally it refers to transport in the sense of commerce, as in commercial routes where goods are transported "hither and thither" and all about the globe.

Where it refers to doctrine, its always used in the evil connotation; and those who are prone to such are never satisfied with any of them for very long, thus they are in search of something 'new and different'.

Sounds rather like today doesn't it? Professing Christians aren't content with yet ANOTHER teaching in Genesis or Isaiah or the Gospel of John or Romans; they have the 'been there, done that' mind set, and yearn for something extraordinary. This reminds me of the children of Israel in the wilderness wanderings, when they despised the manna that God faithfully provided for them and they yearned for the leeks and onions and flesh pots of Egypt! See - EXOD 16:3; NUM 11:5-6.

Yet the Word of God is profoundly deep and chock full of immense treasure for those with the patience to plumb its depths! I fondly recall a study in the book of Acts we were once engaged in at one of my former residences. We once spent an hour and a half study on HALF A VERSE - - and still didn't extract all that was there!

Read through PSALM 119 and hear what the Psalmist says about the Word of God! Make it your devotional reading tonight!

Take care to note those who carry such 'wind of doctrine' which are "cunning [men of] craftiness [and] lie in wait to deceive."

Such 'doctrinal winds' are as deceptive as those who bring them. While the wind is not seen, its devastating aftereffects certainly are, but by then its too late to prevent them. This is why we saints must be vigilant on such matters, watching the 'weather' as it were, for any signs of such devastation that could wreak havoc in the church. 

This is also why it is imperative that we remain steadfastly on the Word of God, both in understanding it, and in obeying it, for if we maintain these attitudes and actions, no matter how hard the winds of false doctrines may blow, and the storms of apostasy may rage, we are founded on this ROCK, and we shall not fall! See MATT 7:25 (its significant to note that those who understand, but do not obey God's Word are like those who build their house on the sand - while they have the spiritual ability to hear/understand, they don't have the conviction to obey it, and thus are assured of destroyed lives when the storms strike).


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

As previously stated in former studies in this book, there are some who prefer to always conduct themselves in the attitude of love, while dismissing the truth; others emphasize the truth to the negligence of love. The balance of course, is speaking the truth in love. We can afford to neglect neither of these. God is Love, and just as certainly, God is Truth! See 1 JOHN 4:16; JOHN 14:6.

Can a body operate independently of the head that its attached to? Actually yes it can; its a dreadful malady called cerebral palsy. Yet it seems today, that so much of the so-called church, presumably the 'body of Christ' is operating contrary to the instructions of the Head, the LORD Jesus Christ!
The church has no business outside of that which the Head of the Church directs us, and He has provided ample directions through the Scriptures, and if any claim that they are in fact, being directed by the 'Spirit', that direction better fall in complete alignment with the very Word of God, or that 'Spirit' is a lying spirit and such a person should be called to repentance
for their own sake as well as for the body's.

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.

Ever notice something about your own body - that not one single member serves itself? It always takes the one hand to wash the other. If your eye itches, your finger arrives to serve. If your body overheats, the sweat glands activate. If you get a headache, your entire body is motivated to seek out some aspirin and seek relief. There is not one member of your body that serves itself, but every member serves all the others.

There is an exception to this rule; a part of your body that can and will serve its own needs to the exclusion of all other considerations - it's called cancer. This is certainly something to ponder whenever we are feeling selfish, and seek to have our own needs met, even when others are disadvantaged.

May the LORD cleanse us of such cancerous attitudes and actions of the heart and mind!

Thus with body ministry, we are to seek service for others, and look for ways to bless rather than being intent on being blessed. This is not to say that seeking for a blessing for oneself is necessarily wrong; its just a matter of location. What do I mean?
Seek such blessings in your prayer closet, and in your quiet times before the LORD; let the grace, peace, wisdom and joy of the LORD overflow you with such blessings! Come out from there with a greater glory on your face than did Moses when he spent time in the presence of the LORD; thus when you arrive in fellowship, among the saints, you will most assuredly be equipped to bless and serve others!

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

Compare the above passage with an earlier one, found in EPH 1:17-19! Talk about a contrast! Its precisely like 'night and day'! This previous passage is a prayer and benediction from Paul to the saints of Ephesus; look especially at the prayer regarding the saints "understanding being enlightened". The passage above is, of course about the unredeemed Gentiles who have not the Spirit of God!

This is why religion can do nothing good for humanity; for all the ritual, ceremony, oaths, rites, morality espoused, philosophy extolled, and good works engaged in, the understanding is yet darkened. Such souls are still alienated from God and from the life that emanates from God through His Spirit. While religious, they are yet sinners whose sins are not atoned for, and God Who is Holy cannot dwell within the sinful heart.

Religion can do nothing to change a heart, much less transform it. No one can create a new heart but God, and this He will do for those who come to Him, through the Person of Jesus Christ (EZEK. 36:26; see also JOHN 7:38-39 (in this passage "belly" means the center most being, or 'heart'); 1 PETER 1:2-3).

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ;

This is why of all forms of hypocrisy, the one most greatly despised is religious hypocrisy; where one claims to believe one thing, but then conducts his life in accordance with another. Yet for all his religion, this person is still in nature a sinner. He may look like a saint, dress like a saint, talk like a saint (for a while), conduct himself like a saint (temporarily), but at heart he is still a sinner.

Take a pig and dress it up with dog fur, teach it to bark, chase cats, bury bones and fetch balls, but its not a dog! Its still a pig.

To expect sinners not to sin, is unnatural, that is, it goes against their nature. What is required is a new nature, the divine nature that is imparted to us through the agency of Jesus Christ, by Whom we are partakers! See 2 PETER 1:4

Yet in such circles of corruption as found in this world and in the deceitful lusts of sin, we have not so learned Christ. There are no means whatever in this world where one can find a fountain of eternal life and eternal peace. The only supplier is 'off-world' that is, not of this world. Buddha can't provide for this, neither can Allah. Confucius can't and neither can Joseph Smith!

If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

Truth resides no where else but in the Person of Jesus Christ, as the chief example of moral truth, the primary provider of cognitive truth, and the supreme revealer of ontological (what is real) truth. 
Wouldn't you have loved to have Jesus as your very own personal instructor of the Bible? We can and we do! We have all heard the voice of Jesus as His Word is being taught! And for those of us who partake of study ourselves in private, we can attest to the LORD Jesus revealing keen insights into His Word, directing us to various verses that illuminate the text of another.

This verse plainly declares that we are taught by JESUS! And while seminarians and theologians have their place (although in today's world, Bible Institutions are inundated with liberal teachers that deny the truth of the Bible), what ultimately essential need do we have of these? The very Author of this Holy Book brings Himself to our side, and educates us concerning these precious truths as contained in scripture! How EXCITING is THAT?!!!

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

The former conversation, that is, the former lifestyle and personal conduct of an individual is considered in biblical terms as belonging to the "old man" or the old nature in accordance with the fallen, sinful Adamic nature we all inherited from our father, Adam when he fell into sin.

As believers endowed with the Holy Spirit, we, unlike those whose minds and understanding are darkened (vs. 18) can choose to "put off" this mind-set, and to deny the fallen 'Adamic nature', to refuse to walk in the flesh, and rather to walk in the Spirit (GAL 5:16, 25).

Being renewed in the spirit of our minds is allowing the Holy Spirit who resides in the heart of every true follower of Jesus Christ to 'invade' our minds and re-order it so that its in alignment with the mind of Christ (1 COR 2:16). This happens incrementally as we proceed throughout our lives and daily, sometimes hourly have a choice to either walk in sin and the flesh, or deny self, and obey the LORD, thus transforming our thought life and our minds (ROM 12:1-2).

Thus it follows:

And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.

Only the new man possesses righteousness; only one born of God's Spirit has true holiness. All other forms of holiness are plastic, cheap artificial imitations.
Only those who are genuinely saved can unabashedly speak truth (as one born of the Truth: Jesus Christ) with his neighbor, especially with those who likewise are members of the Truth. "Sin not" is a command, and one by God's grace we are able to obey ever since we first were born again!

By denying the flesh, denying self and allowing it to be crucified to the cross with Christ (GAL 2:20), by walking in the Spirit and in obedience to God our Father, we are giving no place to the devil: no toe or claw hold that he can cling to us with, and work upon until he degrades us enough to obtain a choke hold on us! Walking in the Spirit will mean we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, and walking away from sin is denying the devil an opportunity to ensnare us!

THAT is LIBERTY! THAT is FREEDOM in CHRIST JESUS! Such liberty as has previously been mentioned (GAL 5: 13).

The remainder of this chapter are examples by which we deny our sinful nature, our flesh, and are opportunities to allow the Spirit of God to flourish and to reside peaceably within us, without conflicting with our baser nature.
In each instance there is something to deny, and something to confirm.

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Rather than stealing, provide for others that have need.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Rather than lying, slander, deceit or course language, employ words of wholesomeness, goodness, edification and love.

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Rather than grieve the Spirit of God, allow Him His redemptive work in our minds and bring ourselves into submission to His work of building holiness into our lives.

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Let us rid ourselves of all that's listed in vs. 31 and rather allow those things found in vs. 32 to reign freely and supremely in our hearts, all to the glory of God!
As I have said previously, let us as faithful representatives and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, rightly demonstrate the 'culture of Christ Jesus' before an unbelieving and desperately dying world, and not for a moment, even THINK about 'going native' and mimic the world with all of its corruption and vile influences that are contrary to the love and holy will of God Almighty, our FATHER and CREATOR! AMEN!

Next: chapter Five: PARTAKERS of LIGHT in the DARK DAYS of EVIL

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