"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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Friday, December 25, 2020

EPHESIANS: Walking Worthily of the King According to Grace - Chapter 4:1-11

~ By James Fire

As we continue in this study of the Epistle to the Ephesians, we enter into chapter 4. Chapters 1-3 entailed a doctrinal review of such things as the divine origins of the church, the plan of salvation, a rich spiritual inheritance as well as resurrection; spiritual enlightenment by the power of the Holy Spirit, as well as the sealing by Him which secures the believer in Christ Jesus and His work of salvation in all of its aspects. 

This epistle emphasizes that our life as Christians is based on grace, not on works, as is our very salvation. Good works in our lives demonstrate and follow salvation; salvation is not derivative or based on our good works.
These first three chapters speak on the unity between Gentiles and Jews as one body in Christ; it elaborates on the divine purpose of God, both for Paul and for the church. The last half of chapter three comprises of another marvelous prayer by Paul for the church. 

Now we are ready to embark on the 2nd half of this journey, that is, the practical (compared with the doctrinal) aspects of the epistle. It should be noted that a 'head knowledge' of scripture, while useful, is ultimately meaningless, in fact it is damning, if such knowledge does not lead to obedience to Christ Jesus in 'living out' that which He has instilled in us (PHIL 2:12).

'Practice what you preach', 'walk the talk', that sort of thing: this is vitally important, for its in the obedience to the Word of God, that further revelation comes, thus greater understanding of the scriptures, which prompts us to further obedience. Such are the trademarks of our love for God.

In chapter four we have the following -

What the divine plan and purpose of God calls for on the part of the church.

The Unity of Believers:

In the Spirit - vs. 1-3
Seven unities mentioned - vs. 4-6
Diversity of gifts but unity in one body of Christ - vs. 7-16

Consistent Christian Life:

The believers walk:
Not as other sinful people - vs. 17-21
In newness of life, abandoning the old sins - vs. 22-32
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love

In chapter 3 Paul referred to himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ", and here again, "the prisoner of the LORD". In chapter 3 this notion of being a prisoner was connected to the grace (unmerited favor) of God in granting revelation to the apostle. Here it's connected with the vocation with which we (Paul included of course) are called, and all that this entails (as detailed in vs.2 and 3).

Understanding that a prisoner or slave has no say in any given matter of their own, but that they are totally yielded and surrendered to the will of their Master. We as saints rightly conclude that (1) whatever He Who is our LORD may be commanded us, He shall enable us to perform (practical application) and (2): that the vocation with which we are called is not an optional one where our service in the church and, or the world is concerned.

For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me

The word used here for 'vocation' in the Greek is klesis, and it refers to an invitation, a calling, vocation, its always used in the New Testament of that "calling" the origin, nature, and destiny of which are heavenly (the idea of invitation being implied); it is used especially of God's invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation - ROM. 11:29; 1 COR 1:26; 7:20 (said there of the condition in which calling finds one); "His calling" in EPH 1:18; "high calling" in PHIL 3:14; "holy calling" in 2 TIM 1:9; "a heavenly calling" in HEB 3:1 and also "the vocation wherewith ye were called" in EPH 4:1 and finally "in one hope of your calling" in EPH 4:4.

One cannot divorce the calling of God from the power of God, for the former commissions the latter, and the latter provides for the former.

The LORD sent forth the apostles as His witnesses, but told them to tarry in Jerusalem until they were empowered from on high (LUKE 24:49; ACTS 1:8).

The word "witnesses" there is martus, and it simply means "a witness", but you may notice something about this Greek word; it resembles the English word, 'martyr' and this is no coincidence! To me, this speaks of the power and grace of God which is so ever-present, so ever-powerful that it will enable us to be faithful witnesses even unto death!

(So if you ever wondered, with no small amount of doubt, whether or not you'd be able to endure persecution, torture and, or martyrdom: aside from being confident in a sure foundation of Jesus Christ in your life, and a commitment to God and His Word, you may always feel doubtful until the time comes for such days, and then the enabling grace of God will be bestowed, as we need it, and not before. Our love relationship with JESUS will get us through anything this world can throw at us! AMEN?)

If we ever hope to live up to the calling of this vocation, Divinely appointed to each and every one of our lives as Christians, it must be obtained on the basis of God's grace alone. Indeed, His grace is sufficient!
If ever we experience God's hand upon us, in calling us to some work or ministry, and we feel utterly inadequate to the task, go with the feeling, because you are inadequate! As am I! May this truth sink deeply into our hearts and may it compel us to seek His empowering grace in all we say and do, constantly and perpetually!

And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me

In this vocation, may we walk worthily, that is, may we allow the grace of God to so empower us, as we yield to His Spirit and conduct ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ, supernaturally emulating His character, moral integrity and spirituality in lowliness as He is lowly, in meekness as He is meek (MATT 11:29), in longsuffering as He is longsuffering (1 TIM 1:16; 1 PET 3:20), forbearing one another as He forebears with all of us! This is the essence of walking in the Spirit (GAL 5:25), to live our lives in such a way as to be (ideally) indistinguishable from the LORD Himself... want to talk about a HIGH calling? There it is, in this very chapter we are studying (EPH 4:13)!

Will we ever achieve this? Ultimately, when we see Jesus Christ Face to face, yes. Until then, while still in this corrupt flesh, we are sanctified incrementally in our minds (PHIL 2:5-8; ROM 12:1-2 [note vs. 4-5 where unity in the body is also mentioned]; ROM 8:11-13; COL 3:5-10). 

And here in this chapter, unity is likewise mentioned in vs. 15, in every day, in every choice of every day, whether to walk in the Spirit or the flesh; whether to die to self and live unto God, or indulge the flesh and deny God.

"Forbearing one another in love" Paul spoke of the body of Christ as being the building of God (1 COR 3:9), that we are fitly framed together (EPH 2:21), and Peter elaborates that each of us as living stones in the construction of God's spiritual house, which we are (1 PET 2:5-6).

May I reiterate this point once again (as I initially stated in the study of chapter 2) that love, agape love, that love that is God (for God is love - 1 JOHN 4:8) is the necessary and essential mortar that's required in the establishment of the church, and all of her individual members. Loving one another brings cohesion and unity among us, such unity that it cannot be divided by any wile or scheme of the devil, no matter how arduously he may labor to create schisms, contentions, strife, etc.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good

"Dissimulation" being without hypocrisy, but in sincerity. No phoney, gushy, weakly empowered human love is suitable for this mortar in building the church. It must be a love born of God's Spirit in a heart that is likewise born of God's Spirit. The love one for another as believers finds in itself the unity of believers by the Spirit as we see in vs. 3-6:

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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

There are those that are committed to the Truth of God's Word, yet they are sometimes harsh, and unloving; others are all about love, and non-confrontational, avoiding the challenge of those who even bring in false teachings and heresies at the expense of the Truth.

There must be a balance between these; and true, godly love will declare the truth, not to harm but to help; those who are intent on the truth, the truth as in JESUS CHRIST, will do so in the Spirit of Him Who is Himself love.

Note: In verse five it states that there is " . . . one faith . . . " which speaks of the exclusive nature of God's truth and revelation recorded in scripture. Thus for unity, we realize that both love AND truth are required in the life of the believer and in the life of the church (see ZECH 8:19; 1 PET 1:22; 1 JOHN 3:18; 2 JOHN 1:1,3). True unity in the body is established because we are all born of God: One Spirit; and unity is strengthened as the individual members grow in Christ-likeness. This is in answer to the prayer of Jesus our LORD (JOHN 17:11,22):

There is the blessedness of unity for the individual believer as well as that for the church:

PSALM 86:11
Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name

Walking through life in the truth and love of God's Holy Word, and not having divided loyalties or competing loves (for God AND something else) will ensure a blessedness in fruit bearing and an abundance of life. And, as with the individual, so too the body which is ONE in Him!

Conversely, having a divided heart, or being "double minded" will only bring instability and this therefore will not produce the fruit of the Spirit (JAMES 1:6-8; 4:6-10).

One other point on the above passage (vs. 3-6): where it states "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" has been misinterpreted by those who are Universalists (which claim that all are either already saved or that all will eventually become saved). Yet the text of this passage deals not with the world at large, that is, all souls that God created (existing in this world for a time), but with the church of Jesus Christ. ". . . through all and in you all . . ." is expressly stated for the saints, the body of Christ, and cannot be a proof text to prove Universalism, a false doctrine.

Now from vs. 7 to vs. 17 we see that the various gifts and offices for the church are described for the express purpose of reinforcing the body by means of edification, that is, building up the body (or temple) of God, which we who are in Christ, are.

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 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)

The imparting of the gifts and functioning of the offices for the church commenced after the resurrection of Christ Jesus. While the LORD made the pronouncement of the church in MATT 16:18, it wasn't officially conceived until after the resurrection, for until that time the Spirit of God was not yet given, which is a requirement for the creation of the church and to maintain her exist (JOHN 7:37-39; 20:19-22; ROM 8:9; EPH 5:23-24).

This is plainly revealed by the text here in Ephesians 4; the LORD Jesus delivered those captives (those Old Testament saints such as Abraham and so forth, who could not enter the glories of heaven because the blood atonement was not yet made) from hades (the abode of the dead, also called sheol) and proceeded into heaven to present the blood at the heavenly altar:

HEBREWS 9:11-14
11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The LORD Jesus left, but promised a Comforter (JOHN 16:5-7; 14:16) and with Him, there would be bestowed the various gifts and offices that are elaborated on here in our text, and elsewhere (such as 1 COR 12; 14):

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ

Apostles, apostolos in the Greek can have a broad application as "one who is sent" or "a messenger" as in its usage referring to Jesus Christ Himself, Who was sent to us by the Father; also to a lesser degree, in ACTS 14: 4,14 where its used of Barnabas and Paul; ROMANS 16:7 of Junius and Andronicus; 2 COR 8:23 two unnamed brthren are called 'messengers'; in PHIL 2:25 its used of Epaphroditus; and in 1 THESS 2:6 of Paul, Silas and Timothy.

In a more explicit sense, an apostle and who can hold such an office is outlined in ACTS 1:22. However Paul himself was an apostle of equal bearing in that he also witnessed the risen Christ Who had appeared to him, instructed him, and appeared to him in various visions for the purpose of comfort and encouragement.

There are some today who disparage the apostleship of Paul, just as there were in his own time; however if indeed he was a false apostle (such is the false claim made), none of the others would have received him, or recognized his authority, but they had (GAL 2:9; ACTS 15:4; 2 PET 3:15-16). Surely there would have been evidences in writing among the scriptures to warn others of Paul, if he were false.

Apostolic authority in the working of miracles, pronouncement of God's will, and holy unction esteemed as authoritative as scripture existed only until the Word of God, inspired through various writers by the Spirit of God came into existence. Such apostolic authority does not exist today, even though some Christian factions regard such authority for their own apostles and prophets (Kansas City Prophets and Latter Rain Movement, among others).

(Note: More recently we have the same sort of false doctrines promoted in the New Apostolic Reformation Movement, and IHOP, Bethel ministries, and others). For myself, coming from the Calvary Chapel ministries for much of my Christian life, I am not a Cessationist, and believe in and exercise the gifts, except where their acceptance or denial has led to the division of the body of Christ. We ought to have the grace to receive brethren who deny these gifts that they state have ceased, just as they ought to receive those of us who don't, for the purpose of the Gospel and edification of the church.)

However God does commission saints who are sent by His direct will, and this is entwined with His calling and vocation for our lives in service to the KING of Kings, and thus these are 'apostolic' in nature.

The original apostles were foundational as were those early New Testament prophets who were ordained until the completed scriptures were realized (EPH 2:20).
Once a foundation is laid, there is no further need of another; so too, now that the apostles and prophets of the New Testament have completed their work, there is no more need of them. Yet just as a Christian today can have an 'apostolic' calling, they can also prophesy in the sense of declaring the Word of God, for what is prophecy in its essence?

. . . worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Thus every believer who preaches Christ Jesus, is in a very legitimate sense, prophesying.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers

Evangelists are also likewise messengers and preachers who focus their ministry on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul admonished Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 TIM. 4:5) and just as the LORD Jesus Christ commissioned His Twelve and all His disciples to "preach the gospel to every creature" (MARK 16:15) this commission known as the Great Commission has passed down to all of us, who belong in the church.

This Gospel has been of late, become twisted and malformed, even deformed by those who profess to be its heralders, when in fact they commit blasphemy in stating that its not about seeking some 'pie in the sky' life eternal, but about helping the poor, the disadvantaged, the uneducated; it's about building houses for those who have none, building hospitals, coordinating and dialoging with other faiths so that together we might help humanity as well as our habitat, the Earth.

That's right, I did use the word blasphemy because that's what it is! How could they so denigrate and diminish so holy and lofty and grand a purpose as saving immortal souls from eternal punishment, and for everlasting fellowship with God that shall endure long after sun, earth, moon and stars have faded away and gone out of existence for billions and trillions of millennia and reduce this Gospel to the cheap, plastic social gospel??
If they succeed in enriching the poor with resources, the uneducated with university degrees, the disadvantaged with every privilege conceivable, and homes and hospitals aplenty, what good would it do them, if they perish and are then relegated to the eternal fires of hell?

Strange that we to whom were commissioned this Great work, have somehow resigned to let the 'professionals' do it. The late Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Bill Bright and our own paid pastors and evangelists.

How did we absolve ourselves of that which our LORD, the Head of the Church commanded us?
What will be our answer on that Day when He beholds us with His fiery, flaming eyes and asks us what we've done about His Great Commission?
For an article that deals with the matter of eternity for both sinner and saint, check out this article from The RED PILL Consortium: LIVING in LINEAR ASSUMPTIONS.

Certainly not all of us are called to hit the streets and preach to passersby, but we ought to pray for our neighbors and friends, family and co-workers, seeking an available opportunity to share the Gospel which alone can save a soul. Understand that in writing this, I am preaching to myself as well as to all of you out there!

Then there are pastors and teachers, shepherds of the flock of God who are charged with feeding and protecting the sheep of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. They feed the flock with the milk and meat, water and bread of God's Word, or so they should be.

What's become of this sacred office in today's church, and why does it appear that pastors today are more intent on building their own kingdoms, rather than God's? Why are we, the saints of the Living God even tolerating such pastors who 'question' God's Word in a feigned honesty that 'struggles' with such stories as Adam and Eve, and Noah, and Jonah and admit that for all they know, they never existed, but are nonetheless useful stories for the purpose of moral and spiritual illustrations (??!!).

Such words belong on the wily tongue of the serpent, not on the consecrated lips of our pastors (and these euphemistically called progressive pastors are anything but consecrated in my estimation)!

These shepherds of the church are likewise ordained to protect God's sheep from wolves that seek to enter into the sheepfold; yet the wolves are just as canny as their master, the serpent! They realize that they don't have to enter into the sheepfold personally, no! They can write a book, or produce a series of CD's, or conduct national seminars, or create a web site with all sorts of enticing materials, all of which not only cater to the itchy ear of folk that populate our churches, but also confuse the weak-hearted and those young in the faith and undiscerning (1 THESS 5:14). And while these wolves dine on the flock of God, where are our pastors who are called to be watchmen (EZEK 33:7; ACTS 20:24-27
), but out to lunch!?

Yet I cannot continue on in this rebuke, without acknowledging the few faithful pastors who earnestly yearn with tears and cries before the throne of God, laboring in prayer on behalf of those saints and sinners who've been entrusted by God to their care. 
I must mention, and give glory and thanks to God for those who remain diligent in proclaiming relentlessly the pure and wholesome Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. These blessed shepherds after God's own heart who will "exhort, reprove, rebuke with all longsuffering and doctine" (2 TIM 4:2).

Pastors and teachers are not only saints, but they are also redeemed sinners, as flawed or even more so, than the saints that sit in the pews each Sunday and Wednesday night. They are also marked targets of the enemy!
Satan knows that if he can take out a pastor or two, that's worth as much as half a congregation that becomes disillusioned and downcast, embittered by yet another scandal in the pulpit! Thus, may we also receive a rebuke, in our failure to intercede intensely and interminably for our pastors and teachers, for their safety and protection from the onslaught of the enemy!

If we see a lack of anything in our pastors and teachers, make it a labor of prayer on their behalf! Remember that in vs. 8 it states that He "gave gifts unto men" and that in one reasonable sense, these gifts are in fact, these apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (vs. 11), to the flock of God. May we be thankful for these gifts of God, and by His heart of love, support them in the ministry as well as hold them accountable to God's Word, as we all must be.

Due to the depths of these and further passages, I can see that it will be most useful to divide this chapter into thirds, rather than halves, so we will end here and recap from vs. 11 and continue on to vs. 21.

The LORD JESUS CHRIST bless each and all of you, WAY TOO MUCH!

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