Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 1

Ephesians can be divided into two main parts: the first three chapters explicate Christian doctrine while the latter three chapters explain Christian duty. Chapters 1-3 put forth our riches in Christ; chapter 4-6 point to our responsibilities in Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to unpack the normal Christian life.

A United Walk (1-6)

Christians are to walk together with Christ in unity and peace.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

I…prisoner for the Lord: see 3.1. Literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Therefore points back to all that Paul has written concerning the rich salvation provided in Christ (chs. 1-3).

I…urge you…have been called: Paul earnestly requests his brethren to soberly consider their calling from God in Christ and walk accordingly. To walk in the NT typically has reference to the whole lifestyle of the person. So a worthy walk would be one in keeping with appropriate Christian behavior. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthians: “Consider your calling” (1 Cor 1.26). Think about the “holy calling” (2 Tim 1.9) you have received of God. Earlier in Ephesians (1.18) we get a glimpse of this calling: the confident expectation that we are the glorious inheritance of God. Since this is such a high/holy calling, live a life fitting or proper in regards to that calling. “True grace in the heart must show itself by true godliness in the life” (PC 146).

“Obedience is always a response to grace” (Snodgrass 194). God acts first; we respond. God calls us through the gospel; we align our walk accordingly. Since God has acted in history through Christ (chs.1-3), we have an obligation to live a holy lifestyle (chs.4-6). The orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) are inseparable and in fact are closely tied together throughout this epistle. The problem with some Christians is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response. They seem unimpressed with God’s salvation or bored of it or just really don’t care. If any of us has held a low view of God’s calling, repent.

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

With all humility and gentleness: Humility is thinking of self in a right or true way in relation to 1) God & 2) fellow man. Don’t think to highly or too lowly of yourself. Think rightly & live accordingly . Gentleness or “meekness” (KJV) is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) cultivated in Christians to maintain unity. It is a disposition of submissiveness & consideration toward others.

With patience…in love: Patience has to do with endurance of injury & perseverance. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Trench). Paul says we need this with one another,”i.e. with brothers/sisters in Christ. We are patient and bear with one another in love. We are seeking the highest purpose and greater good of one another. The highest purpose and greatest good for all of us is of course to see Christ in one another.

This verse is about our relationship to one another. Christianity is relational by nature. We are not spiritual Rambos/Chuck Norris’; we are part of the community of the redeemed which means we must interact with others. So we humility, gentleness, patience, love. We need to get rid of self-centeredness, hostility, our own agendas and hobby horses, even our own self interests if are going to properly demonstrates these Christian virtues. We should recognize that all of us at times have been a burden and a pain to others. It happens; we’re human. But we are bound to our brothers in Christ and we must determine not to let them go. “Oh, love that will not let me go…” While that is talking about God’s love, it is certainly appropriate for our love to one another.

eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Eager…the Spirit: These Christians have this unity; they got it from the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Author of this unity. Christians are continually pursuing or guarding this unity, ready and willing to exert energy and effort in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

In the bond of peace: Peace is wrought by Christ (2.14-17). Whatever hostility there may have been between men before Christ saved them is eliminated. Combativeness & carelessness have no place in the church. What remains is the cord of peace tied with the knot of Christ’s blood.

The proper practice of verse 2 feeds into verse 3. In their day, Jews & Gentiles together sought to maintain what God had procured in Christ: the unity of the Spirit. Today, we have an obligation to do the same. To fulfill this obligation requires the obliteration of self. “Self kills peace” (Barclay 165). When we deny self and crucify self, Christ can live in and through us. The church then can fully maintain the unity and oneness God has achieved.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—

There is one body: throughout the Ephesian epistle, Paul uses this image for the church and of which Christ is the Head (e.g. 5.23).

One Spirit: the Holy Spirit of God through whom we have access to the Father (2.18). He animates the body. Soma cannot live without pnuema.

Just as…to your call: The Christian’s hope is the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven. To this we have been called (1.18, 4.1). It’s personal – you were called to this.

one Lord, one faith,one baptism,

One Lord: Jesus Christ

One faith: in Christ. Debate exists about whether this is the body of truth or one’s belief in Christ.

One [immersion]: into the possession of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28.19).

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One God…in all: the supreme Being of all, the Father, who is the fountain of all being. the unity of the Spirit which we the church “maintains” is centered on seven (7) ones. Paul paints, stroke by stroke, the basis of unity upon which the admonition rests. Pictured here is a God who is actively involved in His world. He is supremely sovereign over all things and yet He is “through all” providentially at work in the world. No person is beyond His reach. He is “in all” as He sustains everything. Barclay puts it succinctly: “It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world” (168).

These seven (7) ones show us that Paul is not talking about unity at any cost. Unity is founded upon Christ – our faith in Him and knowledge of Him. So there are limits to unity. Should someone deny one of these seven “ones” then there is an interruption in unity. For example,

  1. Body: Should someone say “one church is as good another,” we should respond that there is but one body, the church, not a multiplicity of rival societies.
  2. Spirit: Should someone claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force, like electricity, we should respond that like the Father or Son the Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
  3. Hope: Should someone say all the righteous will just end up on a renovated earth, we should reply that we will be with the Lord where He is someday.
  4. Lord: should someone “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4), then of course we should take issue as Jude did in his day.
  5. Faith: Should someone claim that all faiths are just different roads up the same mountain, we should respond by pointing out that only faith in the one Lord will suffice.
  6. Immersion: should someone deny that baptism is essential for salvation, then we should likewise take issue.
  7. God: If someone claims that there is a plurality of gods or no God at all…

Fellowship with God is rooted in Jesus’ present ministry

Sometimes we wonder what the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are doing up in heaven right now. Sometimes that actually causes us to miss what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are doing right now in us. Nevertheless, the Son has a specific ministry He is accomplishing even as you read these words and He is working that on your behalf. In John 5.18-21, we get a glimpse of what the Son is doing in His present ministry at the right hand of God.

18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

We know that everyone who has been born of God—”we know” (Gk. Oida) is absolute (positive) knowledge. “Everyone who has been born of God” is perfect passive participle. Past completed action, present continuing results. We were born (baptistery) and stand begotten of God (children).

Does not keep on sinning—present tense verb. The ESV captures the import of the Greek. There is no habitual practice, career of sinning in the child’s of God life.

But he who was born of God—aorist tense participle. The perfect participle “expresses him who came to be, and still continues to be, a son of God. The aorist participle occurs nowhere else in St. John: it expresses him who, without relation to time past or present, is the Son of God” (PC).

Protects him—some mss. do have “keeps himself” with the reflexive pronoun (Gk. Heauton), however, “auton is preferable.” Calvin says, “were any one of us the keeper of our own salvation, it would be a miserable protection.” There is some debate about who the Protector is: God or Christ. One school of thinking is “The One born of God (Christ) keeps him (the Christian).” Another theory is “The one who is born of God, he protects him,” that is, God protects the begotten one. Certainly either would acceptable both theologically, grammatically and contextually

And the evil one does not touch him— “the evil one” is Satan, our adversary who would love nothing less than to rob us of life. But since we are kept or guarded (carefully watched) by Christ/God, he cannot lay a finger on us. We are in the grip of Christ/God and safe from the grasp of Satan.

19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

We know that we are from God—again, positive, absolute knowledge of whom we are out of/from: God. We who? Apostles may be a little awkward to make work. Christians in general seems best. In addition, John seems to be contrasting Christians who are “out of” God (born) and the “whole world” which is “in” the evil one.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one—while we are presently “from God,” the whole world “lies” (present, middle/passive) in the grip of Satan. What is pictured is a reclining, with no struggle to be free. Just nicely laying there passively.

20And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

And—one final assertive declaration: whatever philosophy and the world may claim…

We know that the Son of God has come—again, positive, absolute knowledge (Gk. Oida) that Jesus, the Son of God, has come. Present tense of a root that has a perfect sense; hence, KJV “is come” however this is better understood as a perfect tense verb. Therefore, in one sense Jesus has come in the Incarnation. In another, He is still present (“is come”) as He is present in His church.

And has given us understanding—perfect tense; he gave in the past and we continue to posses understanding. “Us” are the people of God, Christians. Some point to the anointing of ch.2. It is the power to know, the capacity for knowing.

So that we may know—Gk. Hina, introduces the purpose of Christ coming and giving us understand: “we may know.” This is gnosko kind of knowledge, that experiential knowledge.

Him who is true—or real, or genuine. As opposed to the false prophets and antichristian spirits (ch.4). John in this epistle has detailed exactly who the real Jesus is in contrast to the false Jesus of the Gnostics.

We are in him who is true—we (Christians) are in the real one presently. So long as Christ is God, the Son of God, came in the flesh, etc. then He is the real Jesus, the Jesus the apostles knew and preached and the only one to be in.

In His Son Jesus Christ—John makes it plain that “him who is true” is Jesus, the Son of God, the Christ. This is the only genuine one among all the imitations and imposters.

He is the true God and eternal life—This same Jesus is also genuine and real God. Every other god is an idol. Every other Christ that the false prophet and antichrists may bring are idols also. In Him (and only in Him) is eternal life (5.12), indeed, He Himself is the embodiment of eternal life (1.2; Jn 14.6).

21Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

People look at v.21 and think “This doesn’t fit” or we’ve only got a portion of the letter of 1 John, the last portion lost over time. However, if you have tracked with John through this entire epistle and understand his true v. false argument, it is exactly where we should end up. The Jesus of history is the “true God.” Any other Jesus preached by Gnostics (or whoever) is a “false god,” or an idol. John’s final admonition to his “little children” is to stay away from the false prophets and antichrists who teach another Jesus, a false god.

Little children—aged John’s favorite affectionate term to describe his audience.

Keep yourselves from idols—follow and cling to the true God, Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. Make every effort to stay away from these idols being presented by the Gnostic teachers. The word’s usage outside of the Bible is for watchmen who stood on guard to protect the city during the night. The picture for Christians is clear: be awake, alert, on duty and watchful for the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Christ. Hold fast to the true God and shun the idols the world and philosophy invent.

Good Gifts from a Good God

Having presented the reality of temptation, the root of temptation, and the results of temptation, James exhorts his brethren further: be not deceived or lead astray. About what, James? About the sin! And about the origin of sin and temptation. In other words, do not believe the lie. This is serious business and to attribute temptation to God is a gross error! God is far from the one who entices to sin. And so verse 16 acts as a type of transitional sentence to move into the next section, especially about the nature of the good God Christians serve. “Far from enticing to evil, God is the source of every good gift (v.17), one of the greatest of which is the new birth (v.18)” (Moo 74).

James 1.16-18 (ESV)

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

You will note that James addresses his readers as “my beloved brethren” (v.16). As mentioned in the introductory material, it is maintained that the James who wrote the epistle of James was the half-brother of Jesus. He was converted when he had a post-resurrection appearance from Jesus (see 1 Cor 15.7). Following his conversion, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church of Christ (Acts 15.13-21). In fact, because of the close similarities in language between the letter sent forth from the Jerusalem council and the epistle of James, in all likelihood the author of each of these is one and the same. Further, according to tradition, this same James went on to become one of the bishops (elders) of the Jerusalem church. This language used here in James 1.16 indicates that James had a shepherds heart with a deep concern and care for the flock of God. He loved them and desired for them to have a proper understanding about the true nature of God. So what is God like?

God is good

If God were not good, then there could be no good giving which is what the Greek indicates “good gift” means. Two different words are used for the same English word (“gift”) – dosis and dorema. The former is used with the adjective “good” to describe the act of giving which God engages in. Everything God gives is good or beautiful. Hence, there is no evil or bad in it. By the way, even in situations that we classify as “bad,” if they are given by God, they are good for man does not dictate and define what is good; God does.

God is perfect

Next, the gifts (Gk. dorema) from God are perfect. If God were not perfect there could be no perfect gifts. James has already used this same word (v.4) to describe a Christian who is steadfast in trials: they come out “perfect” when perseverance runs its course. As mentioned there, more than maturity is meant with this word and that is especially highlighted here with its connection with God’s gifts – they’re perfect, complete, lacking nothing.

It is interesting to note that in the original language the phrase “every good gift and every perfect gift” is in perfect hexameter. What this may indicate is that this is some kind of poetic line James is using to communicate what should be a well known principle to his readers, perhaps even using a line from a well known hymn sang regularly by the church to remind them about who God is. At best, it is possible.

Another point of interest: these Jewish Christians probably would have recognized and distinguished between these two words used for “gift” and also known from their Bible (the Septuagint, LXX) that these words appear together in Proverbs 21.14. That helps to identify that these are different words and therefore different concepts of giving which are being communicated, yet nevertheless, when they come from God they are good and perfect.

God is above

These gifts which are given by God come “from above.” This is a common phrase used to describe the location of God: He is in heaven. So these gifts come from the realm not only above but also beyond our finite, material universe. It points us to the spiritual nature of God. Indeed, “God is spirit” as Jesus taught (John 4.24). And since He is above, the giving and gifts flow from on high and are “coming down” from Him who sits on the throne. This present tense participle indicates that it is the regular habit and career of God to bestow good and perfect gifts and cause them to flow from the spiritual realm into the physical realm.

God is unchanging

James uses the “lights” of this physical universe of which God is the Father inasmuch as He created them to contrast the unchangeable nature of God. The sun seems to change when during the year its course is changed as the earth tilts on its axis; the shadows cast by the sun change as the day draws out; sometimes the sun is eclipsed for a time; the moon during the month seems to change as it rotates in its course, even apparently disappearing; the stars and constellations from night to night shift; stars and planets can sometimes not be seen. James uses the constant shifting and changing of creation to show God as unchanging. God is different since He is the Father (Creator) of these lights. There is no variation or change in God. He is constant, indeed the only constant in a universe of change. There is no shadow, “no darkness” whatsoever in God. As God has stated about Himself: “I, YHWH, do not change” (Mal 3.6). He is not a capricious being who one day is one way and the next He’s completely different.

God is Father

James calls Him the “Father of [the] lights.” Indeed, as Creator of sun, moon, and stars, He is Author or Father of the physical lights that we see in the sky. More than that, “God is light” (1 John 1.5) and if there would be any light whatsoever it must find its origin in God, the source of light.

But the definite article “the” can be inserted (Gk. ton photon). Hence, God is Father of the lights. Given the context in which we find this, this rendering is harmonious. God is pictured as the Father who brings forth or begets “us” (Christians) by the true word. Inasmuch as we are “the light of the world” (Matt 5.14) who reflect “the Light of the world” (John 8.12), God is our Father who brought us forth as His children. This is accord with the purpose and plan of God – He willed that this would be so. And it is!

As His children, we are “a kind of firstfruits.” For Christians today 2,000 years removed from this writing, the concept of firstfruits is primary lost on us. However, to a Jewish Christian to whom James is writing, firstfruits is loaded with significance. The Jews under the Law had a feast of firstfruits in which the first and best of the harvest were offered to God (see Lev 23.9-14). So a saved Christian who has been begotten by the true word has become a kind of firstfruit to God, set apart and holy, consecrated for offering to God. Paul would call us “living sacrifices” (Rom 12.1).

You sync all this up and James seems to be driving toward identifying Christian immersion as the good and perfect gift from the good and perfect God. These Jewish Christians to whom the gospel was first to go have, by obedience to the word of truth (the gospel), become a kind of firstfruits among the creatures of God. The harvest of God began on Pentecost and continues to today, but these Jewish converts who were the first to hope in Christ were the firstfruits of that harvest.

In one sense, this perhaps can reach even to today. When we hear the word of truth, the gospel, “which is able to save your souls” (1.21) and are obedient to that word, we are “born again,” “born of the water and spirit” in baptism. In this action, God begets us. Indeed, when Christians are pictured as being born of God (1 John 3.9) the verb is passive; here, with God pictured as the one doing the begetting, it is active. In other words, this is the work of God performed on those seeking Him out through obedience to the true word. These kinds of people (“we,” plural pronoun) become a kind of firstfruits of the creation, redeemed from the brokenness and lost-ness of creation (cf. Rom 8.18-25).

Whose Son is the Christ?

As I read what Luke records in 3.21-22, it reminds me of my baptism. Perhaps it does the same for you. Matthew tells us that this event took place and Jesus was baptized not for the remission of sins (beign himself sinless) but rather to fulfill all righteousness. And indeed when I (or any of us) went to the baptistry, there was the same purpose behind. In need of forgiveness, yes, and to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Lord. Further, the text says that God was pleased with His Son. And when we are obeedient to his commands, we too can be pleasing in His sight.

Luke emphasizes something that the other writers do not: “as he was praying.” Jesus is praying as he goes to be baptized. This is important because as we make our way through Luke, we will see Luke address this topic again and again concerning the ministry and life of Jesus. He was totally dependent upon the Father during his life and ministry on earth. When Jesus did all this he was “about thrity years old,” an approximation on the part of Luke based, no doubt, on his research.

A Genealogy

Now for what we have been waiting for: how do we reconcile what appears to be such a vast inconsistency in the genealogical record of Jesus. I like what one commetator wrote concerning this: “To all this (that is the genealogical problems and possible solutions) it must be added that we possess not a poverty but a plethora of possibilities. Therefore the lack of certainty due to incomplete information need not imply error to either genealogy.” There are three explanations that scholarship poses as the most possible explanation: (1) Matthew records Joseph’s genealogy and Luke Mary’s; (2) the legal line is traced in Matthew and the actual line in Luke; (3) there was a levirate (someone married their brother’s widow) marriage at one or more points in the line. Which opinion one takes as reality is not the point of the record; the point of the record is to show that Jesus came to earth. Perhaps Luke has also in mind to link Jesus to every man by going all the way back to Adam, the first man. That would certainly be in line with his emphasis on the universality of salvation (Jews and Gentiles). The main focus is to show Jesus came to earth, he was God incarnate and is the unique Son of God. Whether it is traced back through his genealogical record or spoken from heaven, Jesus is the unique Son of God.