Ephesians 4:17-19 NLT - "With the Lord's authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity."
I've chosen to deal with this as a paragraph rather than commenting on each verse. A lot more could be said but I've chosen to limit my thoughts to the following:
What God is having Paul teach is nothing less than a command from God. Believers in Jesus Christ are not to live the same kind of lifestyle they used to live before they were saved. This would include any kind of sinful behavior even if the believer didn't actually commit some of those sinful acts. Paul is stressing that unbelievers choose to live in ignorance of God and harden their hearts against the preaching and teaching of godly behavior. They willfully choose to live for their own sinful pleasure and engage in all kinds of perverse acts.
Obviously, for a Christian to live their lives "worthy of their calling" they can't possibly think that sinful behavior is honoring to Christ. A Christian simply has been given a new desire to live as a godly person showing the life of Christ in their actions and attitudes. When temptation comes, and it surely will, remember that you have the power of God in you to say "NO!" You also have the resources of the Word of God, of prayer, and of Christian fellowship to turn away from any temptation and choose to live as a godly believer should.
Ephesians 4:15 NLT - "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the Head of His Body, the Church."
Paul is speaking to the Church, all believers everywhere and at any time in Church history. He encourages that what we share about Christ always be said with love, for that is how Jesus ministered His message as He walked this earth. But Paul also wants us to see the whole Body of believers grow into the likeness of Christ which is ultimately the goal God has for them. However, we look around us and wonder how this is looking to God right now. Of course, nothing surprises Him and He is aware of the short comings of the Body today, but He will accomplish His goal, no doubt about that. But, in the meantime, how should individual Christians think about what Paul is saying here?
You may have heard the thought expressed, if there is going to be a change in the life of the Body, let that change begin with me! And that is what I want you to see. Maybe we're not seeing all that God wants for His Church being fulfilled, but we sure can take a good look at ourselves and ask, "Is God's work being fulfilled in me?" Am I "growing in every way more and more like Christ?" Rather than wondering how other Christians are doing I should be concerned as to how I am doing! God can work wonders with one person! I remember hearing that Dwight L. Moody, famous evangelist of the late 1800's and founder of the Moody Bible Institute once said, "There is no telling what God can do with one person wholly dedicated to Him and willing to give their full life for His service. By God's grace, I want to be that man!" How about you? How about me? If God can work through one man, like Moody whose ministry touched millions of people, can He not do that again today through one more person? Are you willing to say God, "by Your grace I want to be that person!"
Ephesians 4:14 NLT - "Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth."
You see, a good part of the work of the ministry is helping believers mature in Christ. This is at least for two important reasons: First, as this passage indicates there is a need to ground believers in the truth of the Bible, not the fanciful teaching of some, such as the "Prosperity Gospel" - the notion that God wants you rich and important in the eyes of the world. Or the teaching that God is really only interested in those who hide away in monasteries and have nothing to do with the world around them. Or the teaching that you can get saved and then go out and live any way your flesh wants to live! The work of the ministry is teaching the truth to warn against false teaching.
The second important reason for this work is to bring Christians into a mature walk. That is, their lifestyle will show the depth of their devotion to Christ. They won't be living self-centered, but instead, they will be living Christ-centered. They won't be pessimistic about their "lot in life," but rather, they will learn to rejoice in all things and live contented lives knowing that God has a plan for everything He allows to happen to them.
Can you see mature growth in believers around you? Can they see mature growth in you?
Ephesians 4:13 NLT - "This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."
The work of the church is to edify the believers with understanding of all God wants us to believe, our faith. That "Faith" deals with the content of Christian belief. It is the doctrines that make Christianity unique from all religions in the world. The highlight, of course, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done to bring us salvation. Believers need to be well versed in Scripture, and the reason for that comes shortly in this letter.
This edification also deals with the intimate and personal knowledge of God so that a believer can rest in their relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. This is a truth that needs to be taught and understood more and more in our daily lives. Enjoying a personal relationship with God is what makes Christianity stand out from all other religions. Our God is personal and enjoys seeing us grow in our intimacy with Him.
The end result of this work: that we would mature in our lives to measure up to Christ, Himself. This is what the Spirit of God seeks to do with every believer. Read Romans 8:29 where we are told that God's purpose is to "conform us to the likeness of His Son."
Ephesians 4:12 NLT - "Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the Church, the Body of Christ."
Much has been taught about this passage over the years. One of the main points is to understand that the pastors and teachers mentioned in verse 11 are NOT the ones being equipped to do God's work to build up the Church. The pastors and teachers have the important role of equipping the believers to do that work! These pastors must be like the early apostles mentioned in Acts 6 where they said it was their job to be in the word and spend much time in prayer on behalf of the flock. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 reminds us that the Word of God was meant ultimately to equip God's people to live righteous lives. Thus, studying the Word and teaching it is what the pastors/teachers must do to give the believers the necessary tools they need to live right and accomplish God's work.
Building up the Body of Christ means at least bringing more and more people in to the Body through evangelism. That is one ministry every believer can be involved in one way or another. Another important role is to nurture the new believers and disciple them to be prepared themselves to serve. Building also means helping new believers to learn their spiritual gifts and guide them in finding their place in the body.
Are you being equipped to serve? Are you listening to the preaching and teaching in your local church and spending time in God's Word so you can? Pray for your pastors and teachers and encourage them in their God-given role.
Ephesians 4:11 NLT - "Now, these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers."
As Paul shares this list please remember this is only a partial list of all the gifts God has made available to the Body of Christ. More are listed in other passages. This list focuses on the particular individuals who helped see the Church begin to grow and those who would be an integral part of its continued ministry. The apostles, the prophets, and the evangelists had the joy and privilege of opening up new regions and people groups to the spread of the Gospel. Paul often saw himself as a pioneer spearheading the movement of the church into areas where the Gospel had never been preached. And church history shows how the other apostles were used of God to open new fields for the Church's expansion.
Now, as the Church is established around the world the Spirit of God gifts many others with the role of pastor and teacher along with other ministers to build up and maintain an active ministry in local churches. Pastors and teachers are often one-in-the-same. A pastor teaches and a teacher may also serve in a pastoral role. But most local churches appreciate a number of gifted Christians to serve in these roles. Each pastor is responsible to God to serve as an under-shepherd and caregiver to the flock. Teachers make sure the believers get to know the truth of the Scriptures and learn how they can apply that truth to their Christian walk. Now, what's coming next in the verses to follow will show that the pastor/teacher is not the only one doing the work of the ministry. We'll see more in the days ahead.
Ephesians 4:10 NLT - "And the same One who descended is the One who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that He might fill the entire universe with Himself."
Jesus, who descended to this sinful world, who gave His life at Calvary and was buried in Joseph's tomb, IS the same One who has risen from the dead and ascended, as this verse says, "...higher than all the heavens..." He who came to die is the same who rose victorious from the dead! And He has literally filled the entire universe with Himself, thus magnifying Himself over all creation which He created Himself! Once again Paul is giving us good reason to live "worthy" of our calling. We have received our salvation from the Lord of the Universe! We owe it to Him to live as servants of Him and subjects of His kingdom.
We share in Christ's resurrection! Where He is now we will one day be! Note John 14:3, "...I will receive you unto Myself that where I am there you may be also." We won't be as magnificent as He is, but "we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. We will dwell with Him forever and what a joyful future we have. Do you have the assurance of eternal life? If not, please note 1 John 5:13. By believing in Jesus Christ you can KNOW that you will spend eternity with Him.
Ephesians 4:9 NLT - "Notice that it says, 'He ascended.' This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world."
Christ was willing to descend to live amongst broken, fallen humanity. The Bible tells us in Psalm 113:6, "He stoops to look down on heaven and on earth." Even before Christ came He first looked at our world and for Him to do so He had to stoop down, "humble Himself" as the NKJV puts it! And what Paul is saying here is that Christ went way beyond "just looking!" He decided to actually live on this world and become a Man. The Bible makes clear that God was in Christ when Jesus came. He was both God and Man at the same time. He came DOWN because that was the only way He could bring us UP to heaven! He would come to this world to die so we could come to Him and live. In this week of Thanksgiving, take time to thank the Lord for His willingness to come even though it would mean the Almighty, Magnificent God would have to "stoop down" to do so!
Ephesians 4:8 NLT - "That is why the Scriptures say, 'When He ascended to the heights, He led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to His people.'"
I know that there are various views as to what this passage is referring to, but I'm seeing something I hope will be well received. Without trying to go back to Psalm 68 where this passage originates, I would simply look at what we see here. Believers in Christ were caught in slavery to sin and thus, were captives. When Christ saves He delivers repentant sinners from this slavery and releases them to live in freedom. In this freedom Christ gives them gifts, abilities to serve Him in their new life. And this is a theme Paul introduced in verse 7.
Think about living in sin. I know, "Who wants to think about that?!" But, just ponder this thought: living in the world you possessed tendencies to do wrong which controlled your life. You really couldn't change because your nature was to follow your tendencies. You were a slave to sin and these tendencies were yours whether you like it or not! You had natural talents that you used to fulfill your lusts and basically serve the devil.
Now, being a Christian your life has changed! You have been given a new nature with new desires which cause you to want to serve the Lord. Now God has given you abilities which you can put to use in fulfilling His will. These gifts are similar to talents, but their not your "natural gifts." They are Spirit-given abilities. You will see more about what these gifts are and how they can be put to use further along in this chapter. A further more detailed study will be found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. Thank the Lord that you're not bound to sin any longer. And thank Him that you can now live your life meaningfully with new abilities for His glory!
Ephesians 4:7 NLT - "However, He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ."
How does one live a life to show the worth of their salvation? Live humbly and gentle. Be patient with each other, especially true in Paul's day because NO ONE had previous experience living the Christian life! The only pattern they had was JESUS! Wow, think about that! And then Paul spoke of our unity with the Body of Christ and how we need to work together to allow the Body to function as it should.
Now Paul brings up the subject of spiritual gifts. So much could and should be taught about this. And I hope to share some insight, but I encourage all who read this to pursue a further study on their own. Many good resources are available.
Here, Paul makes us aware that God gave "each one of us" a spiritual, or special gift. All believers are included here and that could be a good start to my study. If you're a Christian, you're gifted! God has given you a spiritual gift, that is, an ability to do God's work under the power and control of the Holy Spirit and operating that gift by living out the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22,23. Every Christian has been given an ability to serve God. And the Lord gives through His Spirit the Christian characteristics to live out those gifts. Those characteristics are the fruit of the Spirit just mentioned.
If there is one good pursuit for each believer to pursue: find our what gift the Spirit has given them! More about this.
But let's also note, these gifts come from the generosity of Christ. He gladly gives these gifts to us to help us accomplish the work He calls us to perform. In other words, God won't lead you to do something He hasn't gifted you to do. Thank the Lord for your spiritual gift and ask Him to help you clearly identify it.
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 856.981.7288