The Foundation and The Believer’s Walk
Ephesians 4:1-32, April 25, 2021
I know I covered the first six verses of chapter 4 last Sunday but want to go over them again and add some depth as we will cover the entire chapter today. So buckle up, we are in for quite a ride!
1a As a prisoner for the Lord, this is how Paul described himself in the first verse of chapter 3. He is essentially asking if we will live our lives as prisoners for the Lord with Christ indwelling in us and tells us how we might do just that via the rest of verse 1 through verse 3.
He provides seven characteristics or marks that would make us good brothers or sisters in the faith. They are: be worthy, humble, self-controlled, patient, loving, diligent, peace-makers. What is the unity of the Spirit Paul writes of here? It can’t be ecumenical movements of today, as he wrote this almost 2,000 years ago. It can only be the spiritual unity that exists among all true believers in Jesus (does not include those who professed faith, but do not really believe). But all of those who have really trusted Jesus, entrusted their lives and souls to Him, they make up the one true invisible church throughout the world and time. Paul is telling us, what we say and believe must be lived out.
Paul in the next 3 verses lists what unites (or should unite) believers in the one body of Christ. Whenever we are tempted to break unity, we need to remember these unifying truths.
Just as I said last week, these are the truths unite us as a body of believers where instead of focusing on differences (“majoring on the minors” if you will), we concentrate on the truths which form the foundation of Christian unity.
A few additional notes: in verse 5 the one baptism speaks not of a water baptism but of a spiritual baptism as described in 1 Corinthians 12;13, For we were all baptized in one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Then verse 6 says, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. This short verse reminds us God is sovereign and creator of everything.
Knowing this Paul moves on to tell us in verses 7-10
Grace has obviously been given to us as a spiritual gift, a gift we did not earn nor deserve and proceeding from grace more gifts as Jesus sees fit. But what are we to make of verse 8, When He ascended on high, He took many captives and gave gifts to His people, paraphrased from Psalm 68:18? The captives Jesus took with Him when He ascended were those He had defeated, Satan, sin, and death, which were our spiritual enemies. This is an allusion to the ancient custom of conquerors leading those conquered in chains after them. Satan is still given freedom until the last battle, but he has been defeated. Part of the ancient custom was also to give gifts to the conqueror’s people which Christ does and which we will cover in verses 11-16.
Verses 9-10 tell us who the conqueror is, what He did and what position He holds. Paul reminds us Jesus humbled Himself to descend to the earth, to the womb of Mary as some will write, defenseless, yet He saved us through grace and ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. Above all those in heaven, above all the angelic hosts. And He fills all things, including the church with His Spirit, presence, and operations. Jesus is here in each of us who truly believes. Paul wants us to know without question, of the deity, sovereignty, and preeminence of Jesus as God the Son.
Knowing this about Jesus, who gave us grace, Paul now tells us what else Jesus gave us beyond grace in verses 11-13.
We know about the Apostles and the prophets, but what of the evangelists, the pastors and teachers? Evangelists were to preach the gospel in the Gentile nations, much as Paul and his companions did. And if one is called to be a pastor, then that person must also be called to the position of teaching – biblical education and training. Two sides of the same coin. Even more so, pastors are first and foremost as teachers who equip the church members, all of You, to have their own work of service by exercising the gift or gifts given them. In other words, my job, my calling, is to equip you, the saints, so that you may do the works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. This is a life long endeavor or until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. That point is reached when we have all the faithful and productive workers needed for the church. Spiritual service is the work of all of us. Simple attendance is a poor, very poor, substitute for participation in ministry.
Then in verses 14-16 we are told why we have pastors and teachers beyond what we have already been told.
From this we learn to no longer fall for the deceit of false teachers and others, who seek to draw us from the belief and practice of the truth as it is in Jesus, by their insinuations and ploys. They seek to draw you, me, us away from the truth of Jesus. Just to be clear, Paul is telling us the value and importance of each individual member of the Christian church, however humble, is strikingly portrayed. We are all part of the body with each part necessary to do its work.
Being so equipped, not longer infants tossed about what are we to do. How are we to act? How are we to behave? Let’s begin with verses 17-19 to discover the answer to these questions.
Paul does not just tell us how we are to no longer live, but he insists upon changing how we live. We might think this is tough now, but we cannot imagine how tough it was then in the first century of Christianity. They did not have almost 2,000 years of experience of living as Christians to look upon. They had only their own way of living which in almost all cases ungodly. For us, no matter what we see around us in people who have hardened their hearts we also see people who have been walking with Christ for most of their adult life. There, then, they saw people just like themselves entering a walk with Christ leaving behind the lives they used to have. Paul is reminding *them and us, as believers, the old way we used to live is in their past, in our past. The old lifestyle has to be abandoned and forsaken. This is almost identical to what Paul told the church in Rome when he wrote in Romans 1:21-24, 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
With this in mine Paul goes further telling us in verses 20-24 our lives are going to be different, very different with Jesus.
If that is not clear enough let me give you verse 22 from the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB), so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires
To put this into everyday language, those sinful habits and practices to which we were accustomed to in our fallen, ungoldly state; our former nature and character was one of sin, a corrupted nature, driven by deceitful desires. All kinds of pride or desires to satisfy me, me, me. Whatever the deceitful desires are, they lie, promising happiness which they cannot give for whatever they give is temporary. Eventually an unsaved person will see the light and turn to God and the grace of Jesus or he will grow to hate God and all He stands for. His hatred will grow until all he cares about is anything that pleases him. That is the fate of the lost we see around us today.
Now we come to verses 25-32 which begin with Therefore and they tell us of specific changes resulting from what has been taught, what the new self will do. Paul gives five exhortations, each with three parts, a negative command, a positive command, and a reason for the positive command. The reasons may seem obvious to us after 2,000 years, but not to the new believers in Ephesus.
Number 1) 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Stop lying, tell the truth, we are all brothers and sisters.
Number 2) 26 “In your anger do not sin” [from Psalm 4:4]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
Notice Paul does not say do not get angry, but do not let your anger lead you into sin via action or deed. In fact put the anger away before you go to bed. To hold onto your anger is to give the devil an opportunity to come in and foster even more destructive thoughts.
Number 3) 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Right out of the 8th commandment in Exodus 20:15, You shall not steal. Instead of stealing, work, do something useful. If you do this, instead of stealing you will end up sharing. What a change.
Number 4) 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I have had to really work on this one. Spent most of my adult life in or around the military where unwholesome talk was pretty common even when it was not intentionally so. Mike/Del – etc.
Number 5) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Here Paul switches from common sense changes in behavior, to speaking of how we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Yes, you can grieve the Holy Spirit and perhaps this is why Paul makes this point now. The Holy Spirit of God can be grieved and feel the pain from the disobedience of a child of God. The Holy Spirit indwells within each of us and wants to help us walk in ways the pleases and glorifies God.
If we do not wish to grieve the Holy Spirit Paul tells us what to get rid of and what to replace it with. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Then replace it with kindness and compassion for one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Literally, we are to keep on being kind and considerate.
While we have covered a great deal today we must find a way to put God’s word into practice and not just listen to it. We don’t want to be like those God described when He told Ezekiel in 33:30-32
“As for you, son of man, your people are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ 31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.