God’s Grace & Suffering, part 4

Peter moves from the individual to the Church collectively. God’s grace is sufficient for the entire body of Christ. In 1 Peter 5.1-11, Peter assumes his shepherding role and explains that threats exist on the physical level and the spiritual level.

Suffering as a Church (1-11)

The church the world over is suffering so put on humility & the God of all grace will strengthen you.

1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

So I…you: So or “then” or “therefore” connects this with the previous section. When times of persecution come, leaders & followers in the church must respond appropriately. Elders would be the leaders in the church. Since judgment was set to begin with God’s family, perhaps the leaders would be targeted first (cf. Eze 9.6). The word itself denotes an older man. For these elders Peter has an urgent request (exhort).

Two arguments we make from this text is 1) there should be a plurality of “elders” in each congregation (i.e. more than one) & 2) the elders who serve must be “among” or in the church they serve (i.e. an elder has jurisdiction only over the single congregation he is a member of). All evidence indicates that elders were widespread in the early church; in Jerusalem, Philippi, Asia Minor, & Crete.

As a fellow elder: Rather than pulling rank & appealing to his apostleship, Peter instead addresses the elders as an equal, a “co-elder” (Gk sumpresbuteros) who, like them, serves the “chief Shepherd” (v.4).

A witness of the sufferings of Christ: Peter was an eyewitness to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, to His arrest, to His scourging, to His crucifixion. He saw the soul crushing grief as well as the brutal gore of Christ’s sufferings (pl.).

It is no wonder Peter appeals to “the sufferings of Christ” here; much of the book has dealt with suffering, both Christ’s & the Christian’s (1.11; 2.19-24; 3.14, 16-18; 4.1-2, 12-19). Suffering is linked with leadership because if shepherds are to pattern their service after the model of the chief Shepherd, Christ, it will mean sharing in His suffering. Contextually, these Christians are experiencing or are preparing to experience suffering through persecution. The temptation would be to avoid persecution, send out the rank & file members while the leaders sit back away from the fray. Or to use contemporary leadership language, the leaders may be tempted to eat last at the table of suffering. While “leaders eat last,” they should be the first to taste persecution. Christ shows as much by His willingness to drink the cup of suffering on our behalf. A good shepherd today is not merely one who makes good decisions, but one willing to endure the first brush with suffering.

As well as…revealed: Two ways this could be understood: 1) Peter has seen the glory of Christ as he followed Him during His ministry (e.g. Luke 9.28ff); 2) Peter anticipates the glories of heaven. The latter seems more likely since Peter is exhorting these elders on the basis of common experience & hope.

2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;

Shepherd…among you: the flock of God (or “God’s flock”) is a clear reminder to these elders that the church belongs to God. “It is God’s church, and they are given the privilege and responsibility of shepherding it” (NAC). The call to shepherd is a call to lead & provide for the congregation. It includes guidance, care, & help. Among you indicates proximity, i.e. these men are in the churches.

Elders are to feed the flock, not fleece the flock. John Gill draws the sharp distinction:

[Feed] not with every wind of doctrine, which blows up the pride of human nature, and swells men with vain conceits of themselves; nor with the chaff of human doctrines; nor with trifling and speculative notions; but with knowledge and understanding of divine and evangelical truths, with the words of faith and sound doctrine, with the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ; with the Gospel of the grace of God, which contains milk for babes, and meat for strong men; and with a crucified Christ himself, who is the bread of life, and whose flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; by directing them to his person, blood, and righteousness, to live by faith on; by preaching the doctrines of peace and pardon by his blood, atonement and satisfaction by his sacrifice, and justification by his righteousness, and complete salvation by his obedience and death. (Gill on 1 Peter 5.2)

Exercising oversight: Gk episkopountes, from which we get our word “Bishop.” Once more highlighted is the care of the flock as the elder looks after the church. Help & service are also involved.

Not…have you: The 1st of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd out of some sense of obligation; shepherd willingly, cheerfully, out of a heart & soul desire. The latter is God’s will for elders.

Not…but eagerly: The 2nd of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd from a position of greed or obtaining money by extortion or embezzlement; rather, shepherd eagerly, which is another of way of saying the elder must serve of their own free will.

In the span of two verses, Peter links elder, shepherd, and overseer to the same office or role in the church. There were not pastors & elders & bishops, all separate classes from one another. They were, and should continue to be, one in the same role in the church. When Paul summoned the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20.17), he addressed them as “overseers” (v.28). This is the typical interchangeability of the words in the New Testament.

3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Not…to the flock: The 3rd of three (3) contrasts—do not shepherd in a harsh, authoritarian manner; rather, elders pattern their lives after the model of Christ & so serve as examples in the church. Do not boss others around; model the good character of Christ.

Ultimately, leadership deserves its follower-ship and vice versa. The high call of God is for elders to set the example which the flock is to follow. Gill explains elders are to:

set an example to believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; and be patterns of good works to them, and recommend the doctrines they preach, and the duties they urge, by their own lives and conversations; and particularly should be ensamples to the saints, in liberality and beneficence, in lenity and gentleness, in meekness and humility, in opposition to the vices before warned against (Gill on 1 Peter 5.3).

Too often elders are instead dictatorial and autocratic, tyrannical despots who run roughshod over the flock. The make power plays and appeal to “the authority of the elders” for justification of such moves. Peter, a fellow elder inspired of the Holy Spirit, says that what is needed by elders is not a spirit of domination, but a spirit willing to follow the hard after the model of Christ. The appeal to authority to be made is an appeal to Christ’s authority since He is the only one has any because He has all authority (Matthew 28.18). His is a model not of supremacy, but of suffering. It is not about being a manager; it is about following the Master.

4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

And when…appears: Jesus as Chief Shepherd is head who directs the activities of all other shepherds. Jesus is the one in charge of the shepherds (i.e. elders) of the local church. When He appears points to His final coming when He will judge everyone & reward the faithful.

Calling Jesus “Chief Shepherd” should remind all leaders that they are servants, not sovereigns. Shepherds serve under the authority of the Chief Shepherd. Christ owns His church, it belongs to Him & not the elders. They must faithfully love & serve God’s people, but they must never lose sight of their Master who is the true owner of the flock – the Lord Jesus Christ.

You will…of glory: Faithful shepherds will be given a victor’s crown (Gk stephanon). This was the crown given to athletes who were victorious in competition or generals who were victorious in battle. These crowns, composed of flowers or leaves, would wither & fade; however, the crown given by God is unfading, that is, immortal. Rather than being composed of leaves or flowers, the crown Christ confers is of glory, no doubt the same “glory …to be revealed”  spoken of in v.1.

Being an elder in the Lord’s Church offers no promise of an earthly reward. In fact, it is a temporary servant role. Now, will there be times when shepherds are rewarded for their service? Absolutely. However, there is no guarantee of this & generally speaking being in leadership is thankless work. Peter instead points leaders beyond this life to the promise of a heavenly reward for serving in a distinguished manner. While the work of elders may be largely forgotten with the passing of time, it is not forgotten by God or Christ. Shepherds across time & space will one day stand before Christ & their faithfulness will be rewarded.

5Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Likewise: or “In the same way” (NIV, NET). Peter shifts audiences though not general subjects.

You who…the elders: The younger here are young people in the church who, perhaps more so than the older people of the church, tend to be more independent in their thinking or are more rebellious in their youth. These are commanded to be subject or submit to the elders. If the more rebellious are commanded to submit then the less or non-rebellious members would likewise by extension be urged to be subject to the leaders (i.e. elders).

Clothes yourselves…one another: Peter addresses all of you or all the members of the congregation. From relations in the church leadership structure Peter moves interpersonal relationships in the church. Peter commands these Christians to clothe yourselves (Gk enkombosasthe) as one would put on an apron or tie a towel around the waist (see John 13.4). Everyone is to be clothed with humility. Humility is a lowly mind toward one another. This is where we count others’ needs as more important than our own (cf. Philippians 2.3-4).

“Humility is the oil that allows relationships in the church to run smoothly and lovingly” (NAC). Unfortunately, humility is a characteristic which American Christianity has lost sight of & sorely needs. The lack of humility & the presence of pride is the cause of many church problems. We think too highly of ourselves. The reality is that any good we do or any achievement we attain is because of God & therefore in humility we give God glory.

On the other side of the spectrum is humility’s ugly distortion: worthlessness or unworthiness. This is thinking too lowly of ourselves. Many psychological problems result from people thinking too little or themselves. This is to actually overlook the good that God is working in us. It means we ignore the constant work of sanctification which His Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. If pride accentuates the abilities of self & ignores giving glory to God, in a similar way self-abasement/shame devalues the work of God in self & likewise fails to give glory to God for that.

True humility is thinking rightly about ourselves. It neither loses sight of God’s working in us nor does it fail to give glory God for what He has done & is doing. Rather, true humility sees the work of God in us & gives God all the glory for that.

For “God…the humble”: Peter quotes Proverbs 3.34 (from LXX). For is explanatory—Christians must clothe themselves in humility because God is at war with the proud while the humble He gifts with His unearned favor. Why such a reaction from God? It boils down to trust; “God delights in being trusted” (Grudem 194). The proud do not trust Him because they need nothing. The humble can only but trust God for His favor & everything.

It must be noted that it does not say God is opposed to pride, though I am confident that the sin of pride, like any sin, is repugnant to holy God. It says, “God opposes the proud,” i.e. the proud person. In a similar way, it is to humble people that God gives grace. Both of these verbs are present tense, i.e. God is continually set against proud people and He continually gives grace to humble people. It is with difficulty that we separate the sin from the sinner and the virtue from the virtuous.

6Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

Humble yourselves…hand of God: To be humble is a landscaping term which meant to level off a certain piece of land (e.g. Isaiah 40.3 LXX). It came to mean to think rightly of self (level off yourself), esp. in relation to God. Here Peter is calling Christians to humble themselves (in a lowly spirit) to the power & will of God. Christians are to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. This is a common OT picture expressing God’s power and authority (the hand being that by which deeds are done). Peter uses it to put God rightly in the mind of these Christians. The invitation is to recognize God’s sovereignty & ability to deliver Christians from every foe, esp. Satan (v.8). Also, the hand of God was connected with God’s goodness toward His people when faced with difficult circumstances & enemies (e.g. Ezra 8.22, 31).

It is a principle firmly rooted in the Bible – “humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15.33b). It was a constant theme in Jesus’ teaching (see Luke 14.7-11, esp. v.11). The road to honor treads over the pathway of humility. We must decrease if He would increase us. To be filled with His grace we must empty our hearts of pride.

So that…exalt you: Christians were looked upon as undignified people who were spoken evil against (2.12). However, those who think rightly of self in relation to God, God gives a high status or dignity. Peter may have Proverbs 15.33b (“humility comes before honor”) or the teaching of Jesus that those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18.14b; cf. Matthew 23.12).

“At the proper time” or “in due time” (NIV) is God’s time. We often do not know when that is. Is it a day? A week? A month? A year? Years? However long it turns out to be is the right time because it is according to God’s time. Yet we are an instant message society. We want things now. Instant information. Instant access to content. We are living in Generation Now. Have a pain? Pop a pill. Want some food? There’s an app for that. The challenge is to engage the slow, long work of enduring for the sake of humility the things of this life. Things that have deep meaning and that last take time to achieve.

7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Casting…on Him: cf. Psalm 55.22. Part of the humbling process is the Christian casting all his/her anxiety on God. To hold on to worry, then, is an example of pride. By casting our cares, anxieties, worries on God Christians recognize Who really has the power to change or affect situations. When Christians cling to worries & cares they become trapped in the faulty thinking that they must solve all their problems on their own. To experience the sustaining grace of God Christians must learn to unburden themselves of the anxieties of this world & their lives.

“Worry is a form of pride. Worry constitutes pride since it denies the care of a sovereign God. The antidote to worry is believing in and resting in God’s care for believers.”[1] We tend to get trapped in the faulty thinking that it is up to us to fix our own problems in our own strength. What God wants from us is for us to take our burden of worry & turn it over to His care & sovereign power. We are powerless, weak, & in need of divine help. There is one who is big enough, powerful enough to help.


[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 238–239.

Because He cares for you: Perhaps these Christians had begun to doubt whether God really cared about them since they were enduring such terrible suffering &  persecution. Perhaps their perception of God was distorted & they viewed Him as indifferent or disinterested in their pain. Peter reminds them that God’s all-seeing eye is on these Christians, ever mindful of their plight.

It seems to be our default position to doubt whether or not God really cares about us. More often than we’d like to admit, we are more like the disciples in the boat on the sea of Galilee asking Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4.38) Peter reminds us that “He cares for you!” See how much the Father loves you! He is keenly aware of YOU. While you’re so busy being concerned about everything around you, God is concerned with you. We are always on His mind.

8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Be sober-minded: or “self-controlled” (NIV). Christians are to be in control of their thought processes & thus not be in danger of irrational thought. Pictured here is a self-restrained person. Peter is calling for His brethren to be calm, collected, & pensive.

Christians need to be serious thinkers about God, life, suffering, & our adversary. Indeed, just as the term suggests, we ought to be free from anything which would cloud our judgment & reasoning. Any intoxicant which threatens our sobriety should be avoided. It is our enemy who wants to behave in a thoughtless way. He wants to get us to stop thinking or, short of that, get us to disengage serious thought patterns. When we are under the influence of intoxicants, “Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things” (Proverbs 23.33). This is descriptive of what Satan wants to do with us: terrify us in mind. Instead, under the influence of the Spirit of God, we pursue wisdom, holiness, & goodness. Our thought patterns are focused on the comfort of the Father & the deliverance He brings.

Be watchful: Or “alert” (NIV). This was a favorite expression of Jesus in talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24.42; Mk 13.35, 37). Be wide awake and alert. Jesus used the same word for when He and the disciples went to Gethsemane to pray (Mk 14.38).

Christians need to be awake and alert lest we fall into temptation and sin and so forsake Christ. We need to be alert or awake because the devil is constantly on the prowl. Just as the devil was responsible for the suffering & persecution in the 1st century, so he continues to be responsible for the persecution the world over today. He continues his diabolical work even today. There remains open hostility between the devil & the children of God.

Your adversary…to devour: The devil is the great adversary (or enemy, NIV) of the church. The devil is continuously hostile toward Christians. He is ultimately responsible for the persecution & suffering the church endures. Open hostility is the devil standing policy against God’s people (see Revelation 12.17). Peter likens the devil to a roaring lion. This is an intimidation tactic whereby the devil seeks to induce fear & cause Christians to abandon the faith. A Christian who leaves the fold of God for the fold of Satan is one whom the devil is said to devour.

Note the stark contrast between God & the devil: God “cares” for us so much that we can unburden our souls, giving Him all that troubles us. The devil, on the other hand, seeks to cause the anxiety & fear in us. God promises to protect us; the devil is devoted to destroying us.

Lions roar to communicate their in charge of their territory. So Satan, who has become the false ruler of the fallen world, roars to signal his current dominance over the world. But one day, the Lion of the tribe of Judah will come & silence the meowing of this diabolical lion. He will establish His pride.

Brown (3:338-349) includes a lengthy discussion of the adversary, noting the devil is…

  1. A subtle adversary: His temptations are tailor made for us
  2. An active adversary: He is always looking for an opportunity to cause us to fall
  3. A cruel adversary: He is satisfied with causing pain & affliction
  4. A powerful adversary: He is “the strong man” which Christ binds

9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Resist him…your faith: Some see Peter’s potential knowledge of the epistle James since he uses the same term to describe the Christian’s war against the devil. While it could that Peter knew James epistle, it could just be the common way Christians spoke of engaging the enemy. Resist is a term of action. Christians actively engage against the foe. Passivity will lead to defeat. By our resistance to the devil Christians will remain firm in [their] faith. Firm is a foundational term & indicates that Christians are not to be moved.

How does a Christian resist the devil? Peter does not specify how we are to do this, only mentioning that we are to do it. Perhaps Paul’s discussion of the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6.10ff informs out practice on this; similar terms are used there in describing our conflict with the spiritual forces of darkness. The war we wage is done so with the vanguard of the Lord ever before us (Rev 19.11ff). Christ goes before us in righteousness and “makes war.” We follow after He who sits upon the white horse.

Knowing…the world: The brotherhood which we are to love (2.17) throughout the world are experiencing the same kind of affliction from the enemy. These Christians in Asia Minor are not the only Christians suffering for their faith. Christian siblings the world over face suffering. This shows that what these Christians are enduring is not unusual. The sufferings here could be the inward temptations from the evil one or the outward trials brought by unbelieving people.

Then knowledge that our brethren the world over are facing the same trials is intended to bring comfort. The temptations & trials we face are “common to man.” Thus, there is nothing new under the sun. However, the degree to which Christians suffer varies. In fact, for American Christians, the trials we face compared to the trials faced by our brethren elsewhere in the world are actually lighter by comparison. When affliction comes we need to be careful that we do not have a “woe-is-me” attitude, as though we are the only ones suffering or that ours is the worst imaginable suffering. We need to keep in mind that no one has suffered like the Lord’s Jesus Christ. His suffering pales all other suffering of the brotherhood. Yet, through suffering, we come to know Him. Per crucem ad lucem. “Through the cross, into the light.” Suffering before glory.

10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

And after…little while: Peter says the suffering is for “a little while.” Implies the suffering goes away, but does not say that the suffering ever ends.

The God of all grace: Peter calls Him the “God of all grace,” the same kind of grace which He equips the church with (4.10) & bestows upon the humble (5.5). Every kind of grace; every needed grace; every means of grace – God supplies it. Peter will list four (4) graces shortly.

Who has…in Christ: While the sufferings last only a little while, God’s call is to glory which endures forever. The contrast between the sufferings & the Sovereign is intentional (cf. 2 Cor 4.17).

Will Himself restore: The idea of fixing something. Same word used of the apostles while still fishermen “mending” their nets after fishing all night (Matt 4.21). So here Peter, one of those fishermen who was mending the nets, knows that Christians strain & fray under the constant pressure of suffering/persecution. And it is God Himself who will mend, repair, fix us when the night is over.

Confirm: To make firm, no longer weak. Same word Jesus used for Peter (Lk 22.32). Peter would be weak and deny Jesus. But he would be the one, once he turned back, who would “strengthen” his brethren. Peter remembers His Master’s words and is doing just that in this letter. It is a call to be strong, confirmed in the Lord.

Strengthen: Only here in the NT, it means to strengthen. God sends the Christian new (bodily) strength. Like going to the gym and working out hard, getting a good burn, muscles hurt and ache, but your stronger after. God reinvigorates the Christian.

Establish you: This is a builder’s term and was used to describe a firm foundation. God grounds the Christian, lays/constructs a foundation which is firm, solid. Following a tumultuous time that suffering can bring, Christians need the firm foundation only God can give.

Ours is a glorious calling in Christ. Ours is a calling which leads to eternal glory in Christ. Both the act of calling, that to which we are called, & He who calls us are in view. God work on our behalf (the latter half of the verse) are rooted in our gracious calling. By grace He begins a good work within us & by grace He will complete it. In addition, God is the God of all grace. There is no limit to His grace. No wonder Paul writes about “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (Eph 2.7). Further, the God of all grace has grace for all. Including each of us. Since His grace reaches me & you, the doubts & fear which rise up can be and are driven away by the knowledge that all God’s grace is for us & it is sufficient for us.

11To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

To Him…Amen: Peter concludes this section with a brief doxology emphasizing God’s sovereignty. God’s dominion (Gk kratos) is His power to rule or control. It is an eternal rule. Amen, the typical conclusion of a doxology, means “so be it,” indicating Peter’s desire for God’s rule to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Here is yet another comforting fact – God’s eternal power to rule & control all things is toward us. We are on the side of the Almighty and therefore we are on the victorious side.

Grow in the Word of God, part 3

Slavery was an established institution when Paul penned the words of Ephesians 6.5-9. It had been in existence for millennia. God’s people were slaves in Egypt for centuries. There were provisions in the Law (Exodus 21) designed to protect the slave and prevent abuse. Under the Law, a slave only served seven (7) years and then was released by his master with plenty of goods from his master’s house (Deuteronomy 15.12-15)…unless the slave loved his master, in which he could stay and be a slave forever (Deuteronomy 15.16-17). Undergirding these laws was the reminder that Israel had been a slave in Egypt (verse 15). Surely, there was abuse, but to do so a Jew would have to trample underfoot the Law.

In the rest of the unenlightened world, the cruelty and depravity of the sinful heart of man was normally displayed in the slave-master relationship. True, there were pockets of light where slaves were treated well and special bonds formed (Pliny lamented when slaves he loved died), but the norm seems to have harsh & horrible treatment of slaves: runaway slaves were branded with an “F” on the head for fugitivus; slaves were crucified or fed to beasts for minor offenses; slaves were killed when an owner lost his/her temper; old slaves were discarded to the rubbish heap to starve to death; female slaves had their hair torn out and skin ripped from their faces by their mistresses’ nails. A slave was not a person but property (versus under the Law, the Hebrew slave is called “your brother”). Under Roman law, “Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice, and law” (Barclay 213-214). The Roman world was full of slaves. Estimates ventured tell us that somewhere in the neighbor of one-third to one-half of the Roman population was enslaved to the other portion of the empire.

Into the chaos of injustice and abuse, God speaks a word of order. He does not call for rebellion; He calls for respect. God does not call for a revolution; He calls for reverence. Slaves are not to be subversive, but submissive. The instruction herein contained, while not a direct parallel, is useful for those on the job and in the workplace. In other words, verse 5-9 impact how Christians behave 9-5.

God’s Word to Workers (6.5-9)

Slaves and masters have mutual obligations to one another in order to grow in the Lord.

5Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

[Slaves]: These are household slaves; Paul is still dealing with relationships in the family. Further, Paul is addressing Christians slaves, hence, the heavy emphasis on Christ throughout this section.

Obey…trembling: Obey is the same word used for children to their parents (v.1). Earthly masters stands juxtaposed with the heavenly Master (i.e. Christ). Fear (Gk phobos) and trembling is not terror & dread but rather respect & reverence, eager to fulfill one’s duty. These are regularly connected with obedience in the New Testament (cf. 2 Corinthians 7.15; Philippians 2.12).

With a sincere heart: As opposed to duplicity & double-mindedness which would accompany one who was only seeking to please man (v.6). This is the same kind of devotion which accompanies obedience to Christ; His slaves serve from a single or united heart (cf. Psalm 86.11).

As you would Christ: Of course a Christian slave would obey Christ with a sincere heart and respect & reverence. Render this same kind of obedience to your earthly master as though he were the Lord.

The temptation for 21st century American Christians is to read Paul’s words through the lens of our own dark history of slavery. This would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. First, the slavery of the 19th century in America is a different animal from the slavery of antiquity. The largest difference was the slavery of antiquity did not discriminate based upon race, sex, or other qualifiers. Second, and more important, Paul’s concern is not the slavery institution (right, wrong, or otherwise), but how one behaves when in that relationship. Paul neither condemns not condones slavery; he explains how Christian slaves & Christian masters are to relate to one another in Christ. His emphasis is ethics among believers who were in the institution. There is no diatribe bemoaning the evils of slavery. Neither is there a treatise on the benefits of slavery.

6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

Not…as people-pleasers: In his typical style, Paul presents the negative first followed by the positive. Christian slaves must never be the kind of slave who render their service only for the eye.

But as [slaves] of Christ: Every Christian is a slave of Christ. This is a principle which runs throughout the New Testament (1 Corinthians 7.22; Philippians 1.1; James 1.1; Jude 1).

Doing the will of God from the heart: Christians are first & foremost God-pleasers. God is pleased when we do His will from the heart (Gk psuches, lit. soul).

A slave’s obedience was Christocentric – every verse, every exhortation to the slave was focused on Christ: “as you would Christ” (v.5), “as servants of Christ” (v.6), “as to the Lord” (v.7), “back from the Lord” (v.8). So for the Christian employee, our work must be consecrated unto the Lord. “For a Christian, there is no distinction between secular and sacred” (Patzia 281). “The Bible allows no distinction between sacred and secular” (Foulkes174). Everything we do matters to Christ. We are His slaves. He is the recipient of every act we perform. Everything we do on the job, regardless of what your job may be, is ultimately done for Him. Ephesians 6.5-9 tells us how to live 9-5. All our work take on new meaning; how we treat people on the job is affected. Whether we cut grass, clean pools, fix cars, educate children, administrate educators – whatever our job or career, Christ is the Boss and so everything and everyone is important. “What we do and how we do it matters because all life is live in, to, and for the Lord” (Snodgrass 333).

We are slaves 24/7, 365. If we are not, we are not in Him and therefore alienated from God.

7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,

Rendering…not to men: This is a complete transformation of the Christian’s standard for work & service. The Christian slaves works with a good will or zealous desire to be of benefit to their Master. Everything we do on the job should be done as though we would present it to the Lord.

Herein lies the great principle for all working Christians: You work for the Lord. “The conviction of the Christian workman is that every single piece of work he produces must be good enough to show God” (Barclay 215). Jesus is Boss over every boss you happen to be employed by throughout your life. By faith we we see beyond this transient life, beyond our fleshly master to our heavenly Master and realize that whatever service I render, I render it unto the Lord.

8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Knowing…anyone does: Lit. “having come to knowthrough Christian instruction. Whatever good (or bad) pertains to our ethics. Whatever good we render on the job…

This he…from the Lord: The Lord rewards His people for faithfulness, especially when the circumstances are difficult and “unjust” (1 Peter 2.18). So slaves could find encouragement from the apostle’s words that 1) they are the Lord’s & 2) He rewards their good works.

Whether he is a [slave] or is free: But this principle is not merely for a slave; the freeman must take note also that God is a Rewarder of those who pursue faithful service.

Think about this: what you do on the job has an impact upon your eternal destiny. I don’t know that a lot of Christians grasp this. Or if they grasp it, they only grasp it in part – like they know they shouldn’t have a job which would be in violation of God’s word (like a stripper or drug dealer). I am persuaded that this thing climbs into our lap and eats our lunch. How can we be salt & light on the job when our language is salty and our heart is so full of darkness? “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and if you have heart full of darkness it will come out in what you say 9-5. What do you with anger on the job? How do you handle it? Do you cuss out an employee or slander your boss behind his back (“Why that good for nothing so-and-so!”). Philippians 4.8, “think on these things.” Why? Because God repays for the good we do on the job.

9Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

[And] Masters: And joins masters and slaves. Masters are Christian slave owners.

Do the same to them: i.e. do “whatever good” you can do to your slaves.

Stop your threatening: One common practice to control slaves was through threats—punishment, sale, beatings, even death. But a master who came to know Christ their Master had to abandon that and change their attitudes and actions toward their slaves.

Knowing…in heaven: Lit “having come to know” again through Christian doctrine. These masters came to know the Master…in heaven.  Further, they knew that He is Master of all—both slave and free. In fact, these masters are the Master’s slaves (see 1 Corinthians 7.22).

There is no partiality with Him: The Master will be merciless to a merciless master. Conversely, to a merciful master the Master will be merciful. In other words, His judgment is just.

Husband, father, & master are all the same person. Since Paul is dealing with “house rules” and how each member conducts him/herself in the household, the head of the house – husband, father, master – is addressed in each of these discussions. If you get the head of the house, you get the house. God knows this which is why He addresses the man of the house three (3) times.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 7

Ephesians 5.15-21 contains a verse much disputed in the church. Verse 19 is a passage used to prohibit the use of musical instruments in worship services. Intensive word studies, exhaustive exegetical articles, and not a few early church essays have been written on that single verse. Frankly, it is a tragedy that the rest of the context surrounding this verse tends to be ignored. It is rich with how to wisely navigate life in the Spirit.

A Wise Walk (5.15-21)

Living with Christ means seeking His wisdom & will.

15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

Look carefully…walk: Then indicates that Paul is continuing his exhortation to these Christ to be what they are in Christ. They do that by walking carefully or “circumspectly” (NKJV). A careful walk is one which includes strict attention to detail & complete obedience to the standard.

To “walk…carefully” carries the idea of accuracy, precision, & diligence. It is a life lived in strict conformity to the Christian ethic. Half-hearted or lackadaisical discipleship is more in line with the unwise behavior of the world than it is with the heart & desire of God. A Christian’s walk is to careful not carefree.

Not as unwise but as wise: This is once more a contrast in cultures: the heathen culture is unwise whereas the Christian ethic is wise. Cf. Colossians 4.5

We teach our children to “Stop, look, and listen” when crossing the street. How much more is this true when living the Christian life? We must be intensely vigilant as we walk with Christ knowing that there are deadly consequences to evil actions. Armed with that knowledge, we can wisely navigate our lives.

One word of caution: There may be a threat toward legalistic rule keeping. This is not what Paul is advocating at all. He is saying, “Do not walk loosely, without fixed principles of actions; but make sure that you rules are of the true kind” (Pulpit Commentary 210). Many people are very strict & rigged but they are not wise in that rigidity. They have rules, very strict rules, but they are not good rules. So that is a key difference between what Paul is exhorting us to and legalism which Paul would never be in favor of.

16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Making…the time: Lit. “Redeeming the time.” Several scholars see here an allusion to the marketplace: a merchant would buy up the good articles & products. So the Christian must seek the precious pearls of time and purchase those, i.e. use every opportunity for good.

And so we sing, “Your empty, wasted years/ He will restore;/ and you iniquities/ remember no more.” As Longfellow has said, “Life is real; life is earnest/ and the grave is not its goal./ ‘Dust thou art, to dust returnest,’/ was not spoken of the soul.” Life is urgent! We must consider how we spend our time, what little we have left. Paul seems to be saying, “embrace every opportunity to glorify God, save your own souls, and do good to men.” (Clarke) “How wise, then, to seek to make out of every passing moment eternal gain!” (PC 236) Why?…

Because the days are evil: there was trouble & temptation all around. These Christians lived in a very pagan world with much immorality.

The more things change, the more they stay the same – the days are still evil! In fact, as Paul says elsewhere, “evil people go from bad to worse” (2 Tim 3.13). Or as one country preacher once put it – “evil people go from worse to worser!” So in 2,000 years since Paul penned these words, our world has gone from bad to worse, worse to worser. Society progresses further into secularism. Evil is good and good is evil. Religious formalism where the letter of Law stifles the Spirit of the Law permeates much of Christendom. Philosophical skepticism which for the most part is anti-God, anti-Christian, and anti-supernatural has a choke hold on many people. So if ever there was a time when Christians need to make the best use of their time, it is now.

17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Therefore, do not be foolish: Therefore here has a summation quality of the foregoing context. Since you are to be imitators of God (1-2), children of holiness (3-7) & light (8-14), do not be “senseless” or “unthinking.” Again, this is old self & “outsider” behavior.

But…Lord is: But (Gk alla) is a strong, sharp contrast. Those “in Christ” make it their career to understand (pres. Imp.) the Lord’s will. This is more than just hearing and knowing. Involved in understanding is careful consideration and private pondering so as to take it to heart.

Here is the purpose-driven life – understanding God’s will and walking accordingly. Any other life is “foolish” & “unwise,” purposeless & aimless. But a life devoted to the pathway of God which He has marked out by His stated will revealed by His word has purpose, direction, and progress. We will spend the rest of lives seeking to “understand what the will of the Lord is.” The present tense indicates this is a lifelong pursuit, the ongoing practice of every wise saint.

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Do not get drunk with wine: Some pagan religious cults would become intoxicated during their worship (ex. Dionysus) in order to express spiritual elation (usually in erratic behavior). That kind of pagan revelry should not mark the Christian. In fact, we have a better way (i.e. the Spirit).

“Intoxication with wine has a degrading effect; intoxication with the Spirit (cf. Acts 2.13) can have an uplifting effect upon Christian community” (Patzia 264). We are to be filled with the Spirit not drunk on spirits. Getting drunk is not wise (Proverbs 20.1).

For that is debauchery: “Both the wastefulness and the lack of self-control implied by [debauchery] are things which should not be seen in the lives of those who have found in Christ the source and the way of wisdom” (Foulkes 158).

A word about drinking: Drunkenness is categorically condemned in Scripture (Deut 21.20; 1 Cor 5.11; Gal 5.21). Especially if you were a leader in the church it is condemned (1 Tim 3.3, 8; Titus 1.7; cf. 2.3). Granted, total abstinence is not mentioned except in the case of special vows (for example the Nazarite vow, Num 6.3). Hmm… but aren’t we people who have taken a special vow? Drinking is a habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin.

But be filled with the Spirit: In typical fashion, Paul replaces the negative with the positive. Be filled (present passive imperative) indicates 1) this should be the ongoing lifestyle of the Christ, 2) it is God (with the Holy Spirit) who fills the Christian, 3) every Christian must be filled with/by the Holy Spirit.

19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Addressing one another: One another indicates that this “speaking” (NASB) is an expression of our being filled with the Spirit. Though some are quick to apply this to the worship service (almost exclusively), “the meetings would seem to have been for social Christian enjoyment rather than for public worship of God” (PC 211). Context bears this out since the overall lifestyle of the Christian is what Paul has been discussing (5.1-18).

Psalms…spiritual songs: Some have found subtle distinctions between these words, however, Jimmy Jividen says, “There is no evidence in the New Testament or the writings of the early church that distinction is to be made between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” (Worship in Song 11).

Singing…your heart: All worship (in the assembly or not) is always directed to the Lord. Jividen finds no distinction between singing and making melody, both referring to the melodic utterance of words. He does note that your heart is the only instrument for our singing (Worship in Song 11, 62).

While certainly applicable to the assembly of the saints every Lord’s Day, what is view here is any expression of worship in which saints engage in. Our whole lives are music of a specific kind to the Lord. Be it a small group study, and in-home Bible study, or just sitting around the campfire, we can address one another and worship our Lord in song from the heart. It is the heart not the harp which is the appropriate instrument for our worship.

20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Giving thanks…Jesus Christ: Contextually, we do this by and in our singing. However, that is not the only avenue by which we give thanks to God. It is always (at all times) and for everything (all things) that we give thanks to God the Father, Who is Himself the source of all blessings. Our Lord Jesus Christ is our mediator to the Father.

“Spirit-filled Christians live in a continual attitude of gratitude for everything” (Patzia 264). At its core, sin is basically ingratitude. We need to affirm that all that we have is from God. When we truly give thanks, from that will flow ethics and right behavior. Further, thanksgiving has a transformative effect. It is nearly impossible for a person to be both spiteful (harboring resentment) and grateful, giving thanks unto God. When we realize we have been set free from our old self and have been infused with the life-giving Spirit, how could we not be thankful?

21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Submitting…for Christ: The habitual practice of Christians is willing submission to each other. Mutual Christian submission is born out of  “fear” (Gk phobos, respect & awe) for Christ.

Here is still another key factor to living a Spirit-filled life. Pride in a Christian is an oxymoron. Pride is the heart leaves no room for the Spirit of God. Pride kills fellowship. Thinking of ourselves as better or too highly is destructive to true, authentic Christian fellowship. “In humility count others more significant than yourselves” and look “to the interests of other” (Phil 2.3-4). So humble mutual submission is the key to unlocking how to live as husband & wife (5.22-33), parenting effectively (6.1-4), and how to behave on the job (6.5-9).

Submission for all Christians is the divine calling upon our lives to honor & affirm Christ’s leadership and serve Him according to grace He has given to each one of us. The word “submit” was a military term used to describe the various soldiers under the command of their leader. It is interesting that Paul ends this epistle utilizing the military motif (6.10ff). Further, this word had a non-military usage for voluntarily giving in and cooperating to carry a burden. It is to voluntarily yield ourselves to Christ in love. This kind of mutual submission is illogical when disconnected from Christ. Only through the cross can we proper express submission. By uniting with Christ and dying to self we can submit as we ought to His lead.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 6

“Anyone whose life is not holy will never see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14, NCV). The apostle Paul was acutely aware of just how vital holiness is for Christians. Already in chapter 5 of Ephesians he has exhorted his readers to purity in their lifestyle (vs.1-7). Now, pulling on the rich heritage of light and darkness familiar to him through the Old Testament, Paul unpacks the need for a holy life, a separate walk from the world with Christ (v.8-14).

A Holy Walk (5.8-14)

As children of light, Christians walk separated from darkness.

8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

For at…darkness: Before Christ, they practiced these sins and were identified by darkness.

But now…the Lord: A sharp contrast is drawn from where they once were and where they are now. Now they are in the Lord which carries with it certain ethical charges and changes.

God is light (1 Jn 1.5). God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6.16). His truth is light (Psa 43.3). Light expresses His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. Darkness, on the other hand, is every in opposition to His perfection & glory & majesty & truth. It is in this darkness the world gropes and in which we once made our abode. But not anymore. In Christ, we are “children of light.”

Walk as children of light: Here is the obligation of those rescued out of darkness.  “The life lived as children of light is characterized by goodness, righteousness, truth, and whatever is pleasing to the Lord” (Patzia 258).

9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true),

For the fruit of [the] light: Fruit is “a figurative term for the moral results of the lights, its products as a whole” (Nicoll 356). The earliest manuscripts read the light making “the Spirit” (NKJV, KJV) a transcription error intended to harmonize this verse with Galatians 5.22.

Found…and true: This triad summarizes living in light. “All goodness” is a disposition inclined toward good works (cf. 2.10); “righteousness” is moral integrity by obedience to God’s word; “truth” is what corresponds to reality, esp. relating to God.

This could serve as a commentary of sorts for what Jesus says in Matthew 5.14-16. Letting our light shine so that others may see it means we pursue goodness (a disposition seeking to engage in good works), righteousness (moral integrity & rectitude), and truth (freedom from falsehood and embracing, loving, and speaking moral truth). Sometimes there is a yawning chasm between what we know how we live. My brethren, these things ought not be so!

10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

And try to discern…the Lord: To live (“walk,” v.8) as children of light means Christians will “find out” (NIV) what is acceptable to the Lord, He Himself being light. The present tense indicates that this is the lifelong, habitual practice of light-children. Keep discerning what pleases the Lord.

Like Yoda said, “No try. Do or do not.” To “discern” is “to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ, rejecting at once everything that is not so, and clinging to all that is…The supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ” (PC 209). The way to discern what pleases Him is accurate & diligent study of His word. Further, through careful practice we can please our Lord. “Discern” & “pleasing/acceptable” are both found in Rom 12.2. This has led some scholars to see here (Eph 5.10) sacrificial language, i.e. our entire, every action is a sacrifice unto God as we are ever laid upon the altar.

Implied in this is that there is a lifestyle which is displeasing to God, i.e. a life lived in darkness, a life stubbornly refusing the light. Wickedness, unrighteousness, and falsehood would characterize that kind of life.

Pause for a moment and notice the progression of these verses:

  1. Transformation (v.8): We have been changed from darkness to light. Hence, we abandon immorality and pursue holiness; we put off ignorance and put on knowledge; we are no longer but now have joy.
  2. Obligation (v.8, 10): We are called to walk as children of light and live so as to discern what pleases God. Don’t go back to the darkness and engage what is not pleasing to God; walk farther into the day where God-pleasing activities are.
  3. Demonstration (v.9): We will demonstrate 1) divine beneficence/benevolence – doing good to all men; 2) divine righteousness – rendering to men what is theirs and to God what is His; 3) divine reality – the way things ought to be with God in control.

11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Take no part…darkness: The works of darkness are barren, having no life in them. They only produce death (see Rom 6.21). The Christian is to “have no fellowship” (NKJV) with the evil so prevalent in the world. That is old self behavior; the new self accentuates light, especially…

Instead expose them: Expose here means to convict through words and actions. By living the life excellently Christians convict and even condemn the world (see Noah, Hebrews 11.7). By speaking the word engagingly we can convince them of the truth.

Christians must never be content with passivity toward darkness. We are light and must shine forth into darkness (Matt 5.14-16; Phil 2.15). Now when people’s darkness is exposed it is traumatic so expect a reaction (see John 3.19-21).

12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

For it is shameful…in secret: Clarke says this is a reference to the mystery cults of Ephesus which we engaged in extreme levels of debauchery as recorded by Livy. However, it need not be limited to those cultic practices performed at night. It certainly could be the secret vices of engaged in the home. Either way, it is shameful for those who practice them to talk about, but Christians must speak out and shed light into the dark corners of culture & society. Paul has done that throughout these two chapters as he contrasted the old self with the new self.

The degradation & depravity of man knows no bounds today. We’ve got an entire internet full of corruption and foulness. Parades are held in celebration of debauchery. Sin has crawled out of the shadows of hiding and is now all over the TV & silver screen. It is still darkness; it just seems the darkness is advancing. Fast falls the night. And it is still shameful, disgraceful. Deep down inside those who practice know this is the case. Yet, they have seared their conscience, walled it off in an attempt to silence that still small voice which tells them, “This is not right.”

13But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,

But when…the light: When Christians identify those evil, barren works of darkness to those who practice them, “people will come to see the true nature of evil and, it is hoped, turn to the light” (Patzia 261).

It becomes visible: Or they are seen for what they are, i.e. shameful, evil, darkness.

We, Christians, are enlightened (1.18; 5.8) and we are enlightening others. “Christians are to be God’s light in the midst of darkness” (Boice). We’re like Motel 6 – “We’ll leave the light on for the you.” Brethren, let us hold forth the light of the gospel in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.”

14for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

For anything…is light: Here is the transformative effect of the light of the gospel. Once enlightened, what was darkness is light (verse 8).

Therefore it says: or “He says” (KJV, NKJV). Either is an acceptable translation.

“Awake, O sleeper…on you”: Three metaphors for turning to God are linked in this statement: 1) Awakening from sleep; 2) Being raised from the dead; 3) Christ shining light into darkness. This may have been a song sung when a person was baptized (Patzia 262; see also Special Study).

Paul seems to present a three-fold progression from darkness to light:

  1. Exposure (v.11): Their sin(s) are revealed to them either through conversation with or conduct of Christians. They are found out.
  2. Disclosure (v.13): A crisis of judgment occurs – either they avoid the light (because they love evil) or they allow their deeds to be made manifest (John 3.19-21). But if they disclose their sins to God…
  3. Erasure (v.14): The light erases the darkness. They come to the serenity and tranquility of being So darkness is transformed into light by Christ (who is Himself the Light).

Special Study—What Is Paul Quoting in Ephesians 5.14?

Most scholars believe that Isaiah 60.1 is in view, though other Old Testament passages are cited as well (Isaiah 9.2; 26.19; 52.1). However, there is not an exact match with any OT text. So what is Paul quoting? Foulkes says, “The most likely explanation is that we have here another little fragment of an early Christian hymn” (155). Patzia goes further and says “it may have been used by the church at a baptismal service as part of a hymn that was recited or sung” (262). If it is a hymn, Isaiah 60.1 (et al) surely inspired it.

Growing in Your Walk with Christ, part 5

Paul continues to expound upon the new kingdom ethic which should be normative for Christians. There are certain behaviors, actions, & attitudes which should be avoided at all cost by Christians. At the beginning of chapter 5 Paul’s practical guidance reaches from those sins which some consider “light” offenses to those which are very “heavy.” Make no mistake – all of them are sins. Kingdom citizens seek to rid themselves of all impurity.

A Pure Walk (5.1-7)

Living with Christ requires abstaining from impure & immoral behavior.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Therefore: Seeing that “God in Christ forgave you”…

Be imitators of God: Be (present imperative) or “become” indicates a process with progress. Paul exhorts these Christians to “become” imitators (Gk mimêtai, from which we get “mimic”) of God. Imitate God in His forgiving love specifically, but also in holiness generally.

The call to follow Christ is a call to imitate God is a call to holiness. We have been made children of God by the grace of God. Since He has saved us by grace through faith (2.8) we have an obligation to live according to His holy calling with which He called us (2.10; 4.1). Of course it begs the question “How is it possible to imitate One who infinitely above us, the Sovereign God of the universe?”

As beloved children: Children should look like their Father who loves them.

And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Walk in love: “Let every act of life be dictated by love to God and man” (Clarke).

As Christ…for us: Christ is our example & model of love. His steadfast love was the impetus for Him giving Himself up to death on our behalf.

This is similar to Hebrews where Jesus is both our great High Priest (4.15) and the better sacrifice (9.23) offered outside the city (13.12).

A fragrant offering…to God: The Offerer and offering are one and the same. Fragrant or “sweet-smelling” is language harkening to the burnt (Lev 1.13), grain (Lev 2.2), & peace (Lev 3.5) offerings. Sacrifice points to Christ’s death as a sin offering acceptable to God to reconcile us.  “Christ is not merely one kind of offering, or sacrifice, but every kind” (Coffman).

Christ’s life was a whole burnt offering to God and His death was a sin offering. He fulfilled all the various offerings and sacrifices. In a similar way, when we “live a life of love” (NIV), we unite in Christ’s offering, which is to say our life becomes a sweet savor unto God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

But [fornication]: Gk porneia. This is illicit sexual intercourse of all kinds—heterosexual, homosexual, etc. Marriage is the proper place for sex.

All impurity or covetousness: Or indicates that these are the same but different, the difference being impurity is more general whereas covetousness is specific. The former seems to be “sexual perversions of all kinds” whereas the latter is engaging those activities for selfish reasons (Patzia 257).

Notice the sharp contrast between Christ’s self-denying sacrifice and sin’s self-satisfying indulgence. The Jewish idea of idolatry being the root of all sins is present here. There is always the struggle concerning who we will worship and pledge alligence to: God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) or something else (in particular here, sex outside of marriage – be it physical or fantasy).

Must not…among saints: Engaging this this type of behavior is a contradiction of those who claim to be called by God. Saints are to be holy & these sins must not exist among us.

Our culture is so sexually charged that we need this instruction badly. “Sex sells” and companies such as Carl’s Jr. and Victoria’s Secret know it. In this hyper-sexualized culture, the clarion call of God through this epistle is unmistakable: this kind of behavior is not proper for the saints of God. Like these Christians, we are surrounded by a culture of sex. Yet Christians are not to adopt the lax sexual standards of our surrounding society. Rather, we must uphold the standard of God: the beauty of sex expressed in marriage and the ugliness of sexual sin.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Let…crude joking: Filthiness or “vulgar speech” (NET) is the kind of behavior that a morally sensitive person should be ashamed of. Foolish talk is the kind of talk uttered by a drunkard which is senseless and unprofitable. Crude joking or “coarse jesting” (NASB) is the kind of joking which includes double entendres and obscene references.

Note that this is not forbidding all humor. One can be humorous without being crude, filthy, or vulgar. What is condemned here and should be rejected by saints of God is that which is morally and spiritual perverse, the use of humor as a way to play with sin.

Which are out of place: There is no place for these things in the life of the Christian.

Not only are we not to engage in these immoral practices; we shouldn’t even talk about them. What comes out of the mouth is a reflection of the heart. (Matt 12.34) The three categories covered by Paul deal with everything from vulgarity/obscenity to defiance toward God to innuendos (Snodgrass 276). A quick way to determine if a person is conformed to the world or transformed after Christ is by what they say and how they feel about it. Use of this kind of language which God prohibits and lack of remorse for it is an indication that the heart & mind have been darkened.

But instead…thanksgiving: Gk eucharistia at the heart of which is charis (grace). The three (3) modes of speech preceding are graceless speech. Hearts captured by God’s grace will issue forth with praise & thanksgiving to God with the mouth.

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

For you…is covetous: “For this you know with certainty” (NASB). These Christians knew without a doubt that continuation in certain practices led to forfeiting one’s eternal inheritance. These include 1) Fornication, 2) Impurity, & 3) Greed. These connect right back to verse 3, with the caveat that at the heart of covetousness is idolatry. Whatever one covets—be it money, power, pleasure— becomes their god with their affections & devotion going to that rather than God.

Has no…and God: There are not two rival Kings with rival kingdoms; “God’s kingdom is Christ’s kingdom.” (Foulkes 151). Those who practice the above mentioned sins have rejected the rule/reign of God & Christ in their life. Hence, they have renounced their inheritance.

At the heart of the gospel is a changed life. One cannot be saved by God’s grace and remain the same. The old self is put off; the new self is put on. The man who once exploited his fellow man no longer does so because he has become a new man. And a woman becomes a new woman. “The hope of the world is not new programs but new people” (Boice).

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Let no…empty words: Surely there were those in the 1st century who were saying that these various practices were not sinful and that these were not offensive to God. Such preaching is patently misleading & erroneous. Further, it is void of purpose & meaning.

Jesus’ words also ring in my head as I read Paul here: Matthew 5.19. “The greatest disservice that any man can do to a fellow man is to make him think lightly of sin. Any teaching which belittles the horror and the terror of sin is poisonous teaching” (Barclay 194).

For…sons of disobedience: Sons of disobedience (cf. 2.2) is not a phrase describing the saved. These are the faithless ones who engage in said practices and hasten God’s coming fury & rage.

“There were then, as there always are, those who made light of sin, and scoffed at the thought of its consequences” (Foulkes 150). This may have been a similar group to those Paul addressed in his Roman epistle (Rom 6.1-2). They had perverted the grace of God into license to keep on sinning and still enter the kingdom of heaven. Paul emphasizes that Christians are no longer “sons of disobedience” but are now “children of light.” Grace is not an occasion to sin; it brings with it responsibility and obligation. Since God has been so gracious, we ought to seek a holy life.

Therefore do not become partners with them;

Therefore…with them: Since these various actions are incompatible with the nature of those the Father has forgiven; and since the full force of the Father’s fury is to be unleashed on the faithless, Christians are not to share or partake with them in their practices.

John R.W. Stott [as quoted by Boice] says we are God’s new society:

Their theme [the theme of these chapters] is the integration of Christian experience (what we are), Christian theology (what we believe) and Christian ethics (how we behave). They emphasize that being, thought and action belong together and must never be separated. For what we are governs how we think, and how we think determines how we act. We are God’s new society, a people who have put off the old life and put on the new; that is what he has made us. So we need to recall this by the daily renewal of our minds, remembering how we ‘learned Christ … as the truth is in Jesus,’ and thinking Christianly about ourselves and our new status. Then we must actively cultivate a Christian life.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 4

Paul established (see 4.17-24) that the Christian life is putting off/putting on (baptism) and renewal (daily). In the following verses (4.25-32), he will get intensely practical concerning how this new life is to manifest in the believer. This is Christianity; this is a walk worthy of our calling!

A Different Walk

Living with Christ means Christians walk different than the world.

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Therefore…falsehood: Since Christians put away once-for-all the old self including falsehood…

Let each…his neighbor: See Zechariah 8.16. Our present habitual practice must be to speak truth to our brethren (v.15). Here neighbor is understood as brother due to the next clause.

For we…of another: The motivation for dealing truthfully with our brother is the body bond. Our fellowship is undergirded by love and truth; lying is detrimental to that bond of peace & unity.

For starters, a Christian should not lie. Lying is harmful to Christ’s church. “Without openness and truth, there can only be disunity, disorder and trouble in human community” (Foulkes 140). So the Christian is to reject what would destroy the body and promote what edifies the body.

26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Be angry and do not sin: See Psalm 4.4. “Paul’s concern is the prevention of sin, not the obligation of anger” (Snodgrass 250). In fact, believers do not handle anger well so get rid of it (v.31).

Do not…your anger: So if & when the Christian gets angry, deal with it quickly.

27and give no opportunity to the devil.

Give no opportunity to the devil: An imperative with the force “Stop giving the devil opportunity,” implying they were. Given the chance Satan will destroy the church with anger.

What begins as “righteous indignation” (anger against sin) can fester and simmer and grow to bitterness, resentment, pride, and whole host of other things directed toward the church (anger toward brethren). Carrying anger into the next day only allows further opportunity for the devil to tempt us to sin. So handle it while it is still day, for night is coming. Read Psalm 4.4 – how are we going to silently ponder in our beds when we are full of anger? Answer: you can’t. You’ll toss and turn, unable to sleep because of this thing in your brain. There is an old Latin proverb: “He who goes angry to bed has the devil for a bedfellow.”

Someone might say, “Well, Jesus got angry!” Sure He did; and He handled His business that day too! Solomon knew that “anger lodges in the bosom of fools” (Ecc 7.9). “We are not to harbor resentment or keep it rankling in our bosom, lest it should change into downright hatred or revenge” (PC 170).

28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

Let the thief no longer steal: Another imperative indicating that some of the recipients were 1) from this background formerly or 2) still engaged in this behavior though a Christian. That is old self behavior and must be abandoned. No longer links this with the preceding section (v.17).

But rather…his own hands: New self behavior is honest work with [one’s] own hands. Indeed, hard work is the duty of all Christians (2 Thessalonians 3.10-11).

So that…anyone in need: The motivation for abandoning a lifestyle of theft and adopting a lifestyle of honest work is not merely to provide one oneself or one’s own, but to share with the needy.

Notice the progression: It is good not to steal; it is better to engage in honest work. What is best to no longer steal and work so that we might have something to share with someone in need. Or unnatural behavior is to steal; natural behavior is to not steal and work. But supernatural behavior is to not steal, work, and share with those in need.

29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Let no…your mouths: Corrupting carries the idea of “rotten, putrid” like fruit or fish. This is the kind of talk that is moral garbage. “All empty, shallow, thoughtless talk” (Lenski).

But only…the occasion: The opposite of corrupting talk are good or “helpful” (NIV) words. Good words edify others which is the aim of the Christian. Cf. Prov 15.23 for a fit word.

That [He]…who hear:  Through our words, God is able to impart grace. Like our Lord, Christians should be people who have “gracious words” on their lips (Luke 4.22; Col 4.6).

The words which come out of our mouths are a clear indicator of what is in our hearts. This is what Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12.34). Corrupt speech out of the mouth indicates a corrupt heart. Rotten talk indicates a rotten heart. No, Christians have been revived, refreshed and so our speech should be “good” and pure. Our speech should be life-giving, enlivening others to higher, nobler goals.

Christians should major in communication. That is, we need to be lifelong learners of what to say and how to say it. This will enable us to impart grace in our speech to those who hear. “The Christian should never lose sight of the sad fact of a world lost in sin, without the Lord, needing some word, some ray of light, some word of grace that will point to the Lamb of God that takes away sin” (Coffman).

30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God: See Isa 63.10. Christians grieve the Holy Spirit when, like the people of Israel of old, they rebel & refuse to  obey the word of the Lord. Contextually, when we express anger wrongly or do not deal with it appropriately; return to behavior characteristic of the old self or avoid behavior of the new self; use corrupt language or fail to use gracious words; or are unkind and fail to forgive (v.32),  we offend God’s Holy Spirit.

All sin grieves God. Not just those listed here in Ephesians 4, but every sin is cause for God to sorrow. Specifically, when it comes to the Holy Spirit, we can resist Him (Acts 7.51), lie to Him (Acts 5.3), blaspheme against Him (Mark 3.29), and a host of other sins. All of it saddens God.

By Whom…redemption: cf. 1.13. The sealing takes place at baptism (aorist tense). When a person hears and obeys the gospel, God gives him/her some of Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. This anticipates the coming day of final redemption when we are fully delivered from sin.

31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Let all…from you: The impetus for obeying this command is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Bitterness is “sharpness of temper” fueled by resentment; wrath is outbursts of anger whereas anger is the lingering, simmering feelings; clamor (“brawling” NIV) is face-to-face heated confrontation whereas slander is harmful speech spoken behind someone’s back. Put away all these; that is, make a clean sweep of the house. Pick all these up and take them out to the trash!

Along with all malice: Several commentators see malice as the root of all the foregoing. This is a settled disposition “always looking out for opportunities to revenge itself by the destruction of the object of its indignation” (Clarke).

From Jamison, Fausset, Brown adapted from Chrysostom: “Bitterness” begets “wrath”; “wrath,” “anger”; “anger,” “clamor”; and “clamor,” the more chronic “evil-speaking,” slander, insinuations, and surmises of evil. “Malice” is the secret root of all: “fires fed within, and not appearing to by-standers from without, are the most formidable”

32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Be kind…tender-hearted:  We must never seek to bring needless pain to others & should have a heart of pity and compassion toward each other.

Forgiving…forgave you: How did God forgive us in Christ? To the uttermost! Totally!

“If we are to attain to the kingdom of Heaven, it is not enough to abandon wickedness, but there must be abundant practice of that which is good also. To be delivered indeed from hell we must abstain from wickedness; but to attain to the kingdom we must cleave fast to virtue” (Chrysostom).

“Forgiving” (present tense) is the habitual practice of the Christian toward his/her brethren. In kindness and from a heart full of compassion we keep on forgiving one another. The standard for our forgiving one another is none other than God Himself: “as God in Christ forgave [aorist] you [emphatic pl.].” And how has God forgiven us in Christ? As Albert Barnes puts it:

(1) “freely” – without merit on your part – when we were confessedly in the wrong.

(2) “fully;” he has forgiven “every” offence. [Even those we don’t even know about]

(3) “Liberally;” he has forgiven “many” offences, for our sins have been innumerable

To borrow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as God has done unto to you!

The church is the perfect bride of Christ composed of imperfect people. Sometimes old self behavior crops up in brethren. This may have been what was happening with these Christians. How we react when this happens is important. Let us be gracious people, patiently forbearing with one another, mindful that we too are imperfect with our flaws, forgiving as God in Christ forgave us.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 3

Paul continues to expound upon the Church’s responsibilities as together Christians strive to walk with Christ. Verses 17-24 of chapter 4 contrasts the old or former life with the new life that Christians have in Christ. We see immediately that Christianity is not a “When in Rome…” religion. We are not to be conformed to this world. Conforming to the world is a fatal error for the Christian. Rather, Christians are to stand out – “shine like stars” as Paul says in Philippians 2. We are to live holy lives as we are transformed into the image of Christ.

A New Walk (17-24)

Living with & for Christ means Christians have a new lifestyle vastly different than their former one.

17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Now this…in the Lord: Now shows Paul is now addressing the intensely practical aspects of Christian living. Focus (I say) & intensity (I testify) are implied. This is a solemn charge (in the Lord).

You must…Gentiles do: These Christians, a majority of which are surely Gentiles, are surrounded by “other” (KJV) Gentiles who live their lives “in the darkness of their godlessness” (Foulkes 133). Paul tells them that Christians do not live like they used to, like the rest of the world. How so?

The futility of their minds: Here is the 1st distinction—useless thinking & thoughts which produce “frivolous, empty aims in life” (PC 151).

We are still surrounded by a culture & society which has largely abandoned God and any semblance of godliness. America has loosed itself from the moorings of its founding upon Christian principles and is now drifting further & further onto the sea of secularism. So much of the thinking today is useless: TMZ, supermarket tabloids, celebrity gossip, fantasy football, etc. And so we have people whose minds are full of content void of meaning.

18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

They are…understanding: Here is the 2nd distinction—lack of spiritual discernment. Perfect tense participle indicates that darkness came in the past (when sin came) & they are still in darkness.

Alienated from the life of God: Here is the 3rd distinction—exclusion from God. Another perfect participle—they lost life (when sin came) & life still eludes them.

Because…hardness of heart: This is an explanation as to the Gentiles spiritual condition. Hardness of heart means they stubbornly refuse and are insensitive to spiritual influences. So they remain ignorant, neither knowing God nor known by Him.

So many today stubbornly refuse or are insensitive to God’s word. Why? It begins in the mind as they 1) pursue meaningless thoughts [futility of mind] and 2) refusal to consider God [darkened understanding]. Their mind is already full; there’s no room for God. This leads to exclusion from the divine presence, privileges, and promises [alienated from life of God].

As Ed Ames sang:

If the soul is darkened
By a fear it cannot name,
If the mind is baffled
When the rules don’t fit the game,
Who will answer? Who will answer? Who will answer?
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!, Hallelujah!

People act as they think. God knows this which is why He invites us to have our thinking transformed, our minds renewed. Thinking rightly should lead to acting rightly.

19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

They have become callous: or “being past feeling” (NKJV). Habitual sin has left them shameless

Given themselves up…impurity: Here is the 4th distinction—moral depravity. This is the climax: full blown hedonism (lack of moral restraint). Given themselves up (aorist) indicates they threw in the towel on being good. Greedy indicates they want more impurity. See Rom 6.19b.

Our society “parades their sin like Sodom” without regard to offending sensibilities, without shame, no fear of God, and no idea of the degradation of sin. We live in a callous culture! And they are greedy for more of “every kind of impurity.” The dirtier, the better. Is it any wonder marijuana is called a gateway drug; it leads to the harder stuff. Having a beer or two in the evening to unwind typically leads to alcoholism. Stealing glances at one’s porn stash will lead to viewing videos on the internet. When that does not satisfy, one must live out those fantasies in real life, typically through solicitation of a prostitute. Folks, the research is in and it indicates exactly what I’m telling you which is exactly what Paul says here: sin is greedy. “lawlessness leads to more lawlessness.”

20But that is not the way you learned Christ!—

But…Christ: You is emphatic. Learned is aorist tense, pointing back to their conversion. Since they came to know Christ, their lives are radically changed looking nothing like it was before.

When a person learns Christ, that is, they come to know Him in all His beauty and glory, they cannot continue to live like they used. Hence, the “no longer” in this section. Our thinking is no longer futile, we are no longer in spiritual darkness, we are no longer alienated from life with God, we are no longer greedy for immorality. Stated positively…

  1. Futility of mind: Christians are now to think God’s thoughts after Him
  2. Darkened understanding: Christians have been illuminated by the light of God’s truth
  3. Alienated from life with God: Christians have been brought into life with God
  4. Given over to depravity: Christians are in pursuit of holiness

21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Assuming…about Him: Paul calls on these Christians to affirm they had heard (aor.) about Christ, that is, heard Him preached whether by Paul or some other.

Were taught…in Jesus: Since they heard they likewise were taught (aor.). Both events (hearing & teaching) point back to their conversion. They heard about & were taught in Christ in the past. However, the present reality is that the truth is in Jesus. Truth is always in Jesus; indeed, He is truth.

The voice of Christ is still heard through the apostolic word contained in the NT. Those who “have ears to hear, let him hear” and when they do, they come to learn Him. By the way, Christ is in the emphatic position in both statements (i.e. “Him you heard, Him you learned”). That means that Christ is the sum total of the gospel message, He is at the heart of the Christian message. Hence, the final phrase that “the truth is in Jesus.” Only in Jesus is there truth. Indeed, He is “the truth” (John 14.6). And truth still is in Jesus (present reality).

22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

To put off the old self: the old self is the hedonistic pagan lifestyle these Christians came out of (v.17). When they heard and learned Christ, they put off (aor. Mid.) that former life. The tense of this verb indicates a snapshot event, esp. baptism. Patzia says the language is “baptismal instruction.”

Which belongs…of life: “As past sins are dealt with by the grace of forgiveness, and as repentance determines to abandonthem completely, all that belongs to the old way of life, the way of the heathen that has been described in verses 17-19, is to be set aside decisively” (Foulkes 137).

Is corrupt…desires: Our “lusts” (NKJV) are deceitful because they promise more than they can deliver. In fact, they only disappoint causing more & more corruption leading to destruction.

23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

And to be renewed…your minds: present passive indicates this is the ongoing, continual reality for the Christian. Further, this is the work of God on the Christian (pass.), made possible no doubt by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the word.

24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

And to put on the new self: to put off (aor. Mid.) is connected with “to put off” in v.22. Both occur at the same time: baptism. The old self is put off when the new self is put on.

Created…of God: Cf. Col 3.9-10. Surely reticent for Paul is Genesis 1.26. Just as the creation of men was God’s work, so the new self is the work of God since He creates it.

In true righteousness and holiness: lit. in righteousness & holiness of the truth. This stands juxtaposed with the “deceitful desire” of the former life (v.22). See also Luke 1.75; Acts 3.14.

“Baptism is the beginning of a new ethical way of life” (Patzia 250). There is a definite and permanent break from the former life and Paul’s use of the aorist tense makes this all the more clear. The continued struggle against the old self is capture in the constant, continual renewal which must take place (v.23). We must allow God to renew our minds if we would keep off the old self and live the new self in righteousness & holiness. Someone has posited that righteousness is our duty to man (neighbor, v.25) and holiness is our duty to God. Indeed, these two characteristics are linked several times in Scripture (Luke 1.75; Acts 3.14; 1 Thess 2.10). So constantly learning of Christ is essential. We came to learn Christ and continue to learn Christ.

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 2

Grace and maturity. There is a need for both in this fallen world. The need for a mature body has not gone away; the world needs to see authentic, mature Christianity in the lives of Christ’s follower. There is the ever-present need to mature the body; every member of the church must strive for and be moved toward maturity. Thus, we still need the grace of Christ, spiritual gifts, in order to attain unity, maturity, even the full measure of Christ. In verses 7-16 of Ephesians 4 Paul unpacks the grace Christ has given His body that it might be moved toward maturity.

A Mature Walk (7-16)

Christ gives gifts to His church so that she matures and grows up into Him.

7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

But grace…each one of us: The church is unified by the preceding seven (7) ones (4-6), but she is not uniform. Each one of us has a unique contribution to the body due to the grace…given us by Christ. In view is not saving grace but spiritual gifts Christ gives His church.

Saving grace is the same for all; this grace given according to Christ is measured and different for each Christian. Each member has received his measure from Christ. But no one member has all the various spiritual gifts. This is by design so that we are dependent upon one another.

According to…Christ’s gift: Measure (Gk metron) indicates that some get a larger measure, others a smaller measure. But everyone gets some amount. Cf. Matthew 25.14-30.  The gifts come from Christ and are for the same purpose—building up & maturing the body (v.12-16).

Each Christian has received grace (a spiritual gift) to build up the church of Christ. Therefore, every member of the body is vital to the healthy function of the body. There are no spare or unimportant parts. Christ doesn’t come to the end of building his church and have extra parts like we sometimes do when we put together a piece of furniture.

8Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

Therefore it says: or “He says” (KJV, NKJV). Either is an acceptable translation.

“When He ascended…to men”: Universally, scholars identify this as a quote or allusion to Psalm 68.18. However, it differs slightly from the Hebrew text (2nd person changed to 3rd person; different last phrase). Why? See “Special Study” below. Paul says that was written in Psalm 68 was ultimately speaking of Christ, the triumphant King, leading principalities & powers captive (1.21-22).

While there are those who would seek to destroy faith by pointing to texts such as this and saying there is a contradiction, there are good answers as to why there is a difference in readings here and in the Psalms…

Special Study—Did Paul Misquote Psalm 68?

Even a cursory comparison of Ephesians 4.8 and Psalm 68.18 show that they differ somewhat. In the Psalm, the nouns are in 2nd person; in Ephesians, the nouns are 3rd person. Also, does the subject “receive” gifts (Psalms) or “give” gifts (Ephesians)? Various suggestions have been offered to explain these differences. There are those who say Paul made a mistake and misquoted (intentionally or unintentionally) the verse. This simply will not do since the Holy Spirit is ultimately the author of both texts. John Stott says the two passages are essentially the same with no contradiction (since one would “receive “ in order to “give”). Others say this is a rabbinic exegesis. The explanation which several point to is a Targum (Aramaic paraphrase) which is virtually identical to how Ephesians reads. In the Targum, it is Moses who gives gifts, specifically the Law, from Mount Sinai. So Jesus, the second and greater Moses, gives gifts. Thus, Psalm 68.18 is Messianic and finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Also, this could be an early Christian hymn using the language of Psalm 68. Either way, neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit have made a mistake.

9(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?

In saying, “He…the earth: Paul begins to explain the quotation from Psalms. The key to understanding it is in the phrase the lower regions, the earth. Does it mean “the lower parts of the earth” (NKJV, NASB) or the earth itself (ESV, NIV)? If the former, it means Hades. If the latter, three possibilities: 1) the Incarnation, 2) Christ’s death on the cross, or 3) Christ giving the Spirit at Pentecost. Due to Paul’s usage of a similar phrase elsewhere (Rom 10.7), it seems he has Christ’s death in view (cf. Psalm 69.15, “the deep” & “the pit” being poetic for death/the grave).

10He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

He Who…also ascended: After His death, burial, & resurrection, Christ ascended back to the Father’s right hand (Acts 1.9; 2.33). This is “the highest honor and glory possible” (Foulkes 124). Having attained that lofty position, He gave (spiritual) gifts to men, specifically, the church (v.12).

Far above all the heavens: The Hebrew idea was that there were three (3) heavens (cf. 2 Cor 12.2). Ancient cosmology thought there were seven (7) heavens. However many there are, Christ has been exalted above “all the heavens” to the very throne of the Father.

That He might fill all things: “That he might be the fountain whence all blessings might flow” (Clarke). Christ fills “the whole universe” (NIV) with His glory.

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,

And He gave…: The triumphant King disperses gifts to His citizens.

[some] apostles: typically we think of the Twelve, however, generally, those “sent ones” of the church. Barnabas is an example of the latter (Acts 14.14).

[some] prophets: not so much foretellers of the future but forth-tellers of the Word of God to the people of God.

[some] evangelists: good news tellers. While some may be esp. gifted in this, every Christian is an evangelist (Acts 8.4).

[some teaching-shepherds]: those given to the church to feed, bind, nourish, heal through teaching ministry.

By no means exhaustive, we get a glimpse of the diversity/variety of the gifts Christ gives His church. Christ qualifies the Christian and gives him/her to His church. So all members of the church, in their respective ministries, are God’s gift to the church.

12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

To equip…work of ministry: The aim of Christ giving gifts to the church is that the saints would have the equipment they need for ministry (Gk diakonias). Since it is the work of ministry it will require zeal, labor, & effort.

For building…body of Christ: The figures of building and body are combined here. Here is the target at which we are aiming: body building—quantitatively, qualitatively, and structurally.

Can you imagine a football team showing up to the game without helmets and pads? Or what about a baseball team showing up without bats and gloves? To play the game you need the necessary equipment. Christ has graciously provided the equipment we need to get on the field and play ball. Further, every member must participate in the process or else the body will be deficient in spiritual and numeric growth.

13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

Until we…the Son of God: In v.3 we “maintain the unity of the Spirit;” here Christians attain (reach for with the goal of arriving at) unity in two areas: 1) faith & 2) knowledge. The goal of unity of the faith is that Christians believe the same thing about the Son of God (cf.v.5).  The goal of unity…of the knowledge is that Christians enjoy the deepest levels of fellowship with the Son of God (cf. Phil 3.10).

There are no spiritual Rambos or Chuck Norrises in the church. We are together to work toward unity in faith & knowledge. Together we work toward spiritual growth and maturity rather than just individually doing our own thing, striving for spiritual growth apart from the body.

Another important note is that these are goals we are to reach for (“attain”), striving together for them. It is ideal that we believe everything alike. But do we? Not on everything. But in the essentials, it is imperative that we agree. We can have liberty in non-essentials. And in everything, we need to love one another. Further, it is not just knowing about Christ, but (relationally) knowing Christ which is the emphasis of faith & knowledge.

To mature manhood: the body is to move from spiritual infancy to a full grown man.

To the measure…fullness of Christ: Even as we are to be flooded by God Himself (3.19), so we are to flooded by Christ and ultimately look like Him in measure & stature, i.e. in every way.

Even as children are not intended to be babies forever, so babes in Christ are to grow up into Christ. Members of the church who are equipped and continually edified have attained the measure of adulthood. Does that mean there is no room for improvement? No, it means your no longer an infant being tossed about by various & contrary winds. You fill up what is lacking and attain the measure of the stature that belongs to Christ

14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

So that…children: Children here is juxtaposed with the “mature man” of v.13. While we are to be “infants in evil,” but mature in our thinking (1 Cor 14.20).

Tossed…by every wind of doctrine: Maturity in our thinking will keep us from being like storm tossed ships, following after ear-tickling speakers and listening to dangerous doctrines.

By human…schemes: human cunning of “trickery of men” (Gk kubeia, from which we get our word “cube”) has to do with dice playing. The metaphor is that these men are deceptive since dice players sometimes cheat to win. Their craftiness was merely specious wisdom wrapped in lies (deceitful schemes). There must have been some scheming heretics Paul had in mind, though he decided to leave them unnamed. His original audience would have known them.

We still have scheming heretics today, don’t we? Men who are rolling the dice on their own spiritual well-being and causing others to roll the dice on their spiritual lives. Mature and stable churches, no longer children, allow the wind (Spirit) of God to fill their sails. Those who love truth and speak truth to one another (v.15) are able when error rears its ugly head to identify it for what it is.

15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Rather, speaking the truth in love: Lit. “truthing in love.” The word for speaking the truth implies both being honest, following truth, & telling the truth. “But truth must be inseparably married to love” (Pulpit Commentary 150). Good news spoken in a harsh manner is not good news. The winsomeness of truth can be adversely affected by a negative spirit. Furthermore, in love stands in juxtaposition with the craftiness in deceitful schemes of the preceding verse.

Notice two things – 1) Truth must be spoken. This is the way to avoid error, and this is the way to preserve others from error. In opposition to all trick, and art, and cunning, and fraud, and deception, Christians are to speak the simple truth, and nothing but the truth. & 2) Truth must be spoken in love. There are other ways of speaking truth. It is sometimes spoken in a harsh, crabby, sour manner, which does nothing but disgust and offend. When we state truth to others, it should he with love to their souls, and with a sincere desire to do them good. When we admonish a brother of his faults, it should not be in a harsh and unfeeling manner, but in love. Where a minister pronounces the awful truth of God about depravity, death, the judgment, and future woe, it should be in love. It should not be done in a harsh and repulsive manner; it should not he done as if he rejoiced that people were in danger of hell, or as if he would like to pass the final sentence; it should not be with indifference, or in a tone of superiority (Albert Barnes).

Some congregations have “all truth” but are lacking in love; others may have a loving spirit but are deficient in truth. Both are needed otherwise we end up with harsh legalism or soft liberalism.

We are to grow up…into Christ: Notice that the primary audience of truth is we, i.e. Christians. We are to speak truth to one another in love for edification. Truth will enable the body to grow up in every way into the Head. In fact, the aim of growth is that we draw closer to Christ.

16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

From whom the whole body: i.e from Christ the whole church grows. Growth is directly connected to our relation to Christ. Severed from the Head, the body will die.

Consider the human body since that is the figure Paul uses to address functional unity in Christ’s church. We have the various bones – arms, legs, head, ribs, etc. – which are held together by connective tissue – muscles, ligaments, nerves, etc. Every member of the church should contribute something to the prosperity of the whole. He should no more be idle and unemployed than a nerve or a blood-vessel should be in the human system. What would be the effect if the minutest nerves and arteries of the body should refuse to perform their office?. Langour, disease, and death. So it is in the church. The obscurest member may do “something” to destroy the healthful action of the church, and to make its piety languish and die. (Barnes)

Joined and held together: Joined and held together are present tense verbs indicating that this is a continual process. The individual members are fit exactly together in their respective places (joined) and are united together (held together or “knit together”) Harmony and solidarity are pictured. In addition, these words are passive voice which means that the various members are acted upon to bring about this cohesion in the body. Though unnamed, no doubt the agent of this is Christ.

By every joint…equipped: The means by which Christ accomplishes this functional unity is every joint with which it is equipped (or “what every joint supplies” [NKJV]). What seems in view are the various gifts Christ gives His church (v.11) which are the equipment of the saints (v.12). Through the several ministries of the gifts, especially teaching, Christ joins and holds together His body.

When each part is working properly: Every member is dependent upon the other members. No one member can write-off another member as useless. Every part has a role to perform in the body of Christ. Each member has their respective ministry and must labor in it for the Lord.

Makes the body…in love: Makes…itself is the verb and indicates that the growth is from within while dependent upon the energy of Christ. The atmosphere for growth is one of love wherein each member will seek the edification of all.

Spiritual increase is the primary focus of Paul in this section. If & when the church engages the process of fostering an atmosphere of love, depending upon the strength & power (energy) of God, relying upon Christ to unite and bind us to one another, and speaking the truth in love to one another, she will grow in faith, knowledge, and love. No doubt where there is a loving community of believers, numeric increase is sure to follow.

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…

Grow in the Will of God, part 3

Having explained what the mystery of God is (3.6) and his role as well as the church’s role with regards to that mystery (3.7-13), Paul offers prayer on behalf of these Christians, closing the first half of this epistle.

The Appreciation of the Mystery (3.14-21)

Paul prays for Christians to be filled with the fullness of God in their inner being.

Ephesians 3:14–21 (ESV)

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

For this reason: Paul resumes his previous train of thought to conclude what he began in 3.1. Since the Gentiles are partakers of grace with the Jews according to the manifold wisdom of God, Paul lifts his voice in prayer. There is a similarity here to 1.15; there he prayed for knowledge, now he prays for love. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine.

Paul prays to God that his brethren not only know (1.15ff), but that they live out what they know. Our knowledge is the basis for life. We need to live out what we know. Love is the supernatural expression of knowledge of the divine. When you know God, you will love God’s family, the church.

I bow my knees before the Father: Knelling is a typical posture for prayer (Luke 22.41). Father  is a term used often in the NT to describe God. No doubt it derives from Jesus who taught His disciples to pray “Our Father in heaven” (Matt 6.9) and Himself prayed “Abba, Father” (Mark 14.36).

Posture in prayer: Kneeling is typical (Luke 22.41; Acts 20.36; 21.5), but not the only posture for prayer; standing (Mark 11.25), sitting (1 Chronicles 17.16), and prostration (Matthew 26.39) are also found in Scripture. “One may pray in any position, even with only a groan or in silence; but the positions noted have come to mean much in the church and for the individual. Careless, thoughtless attitudes of body are not good. Formalism is no more to be feared than the thoughtlessness of meaningless attitudes.” (Lenski 490)

15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

From whom…is named: There are a couple of ways to understand this phrase. 1) God’s Fatherhood is over saints (on earth) and angels (in heaven); 2) God’s Fatherhood is over everything, everybody in heaven or on earth (cf. Eph 4.6). He is the Creator and Progenitor (Originator) of all things. Hence, He is Father of all, over all, through all, and in all. The former seems to be in view; God is Father of His Fatherhood or Family (esp. the church) which bears His name. Paul has presented the cosmic Christ (1.22-23) & the cosmic role of the church (3.10-11); now he presents God as the cosmic Father.

Deism is merely a theology of atheism. It is atheism with a god. The notion that a god set in motion the universe, got it off the ground, then stepped away to focus on…whatever it is a deity like that focuses on is simply another brand of atheism. Further, that kind of god is not worthy of reverence or respect (i.e. worship). Why would I want to know a god who does not seek to know me? In fact, the God of the Bible is closely involved in His creation. It is true that God is with us, Christians; Matthew’s gospel makes this clear (1.23; 28.20). It is equally true that all humans live, move, and have their being because of God’s involvement in the world (see Acts 17.26-28). So in a general sense, God is the Father of all; however, in a specific sense, only His family (i.e. church) derives its name from Him.

16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

That according to the riches of His glory: Paul is not asking that God give from or out of His glory, but according to His glory, which is His essence. Thus, there is no limit to His giving.

He may grant…in your inner being: The verb strengthened is passive voice, i.e. this is something God does. He makes us strong, healthy, vigorous. He does this “through His Spirit.” How this occurs is not addressed nor is it Paul’s point. This is spiritual strength/enrichment for it happens “in the inner being.” We must be willing/attentive souls. Where the Spirit is, there is power, life, vitality. Absent the Spirit, the Body is dead.

Paul prays for these Christians to be empowered, strengthened by the Spirit of God. But if the Spirit does this, why don’t we experience it more? Why does it seem the church is so ineffective today? Two possibilities present themselves:
1) The theology is wrong: Yes, that is what Paul said, but that is not what he meant. This reduces the Christian life to a purely humanistic striving with only our might and power to help. It is too anthropocentric, focused on me and my ability to keep the law of God perfectly. Further, this view means that God is neither able nor willing to work.

2. The theology is right, but we abort the process: Yes, the problem is with us, not with God. He said what He meant when He promised spiritual strength in the inner being, the “moral might” (as Avon Malone calls it) we need to engage in glorious battle with the spiritual forces of darkness, forces that if we attempt to face on our own will slaughter us. “The real problem is that we do not care enough. We do not have the necessary discontent within ourselves that will lead to change. We like the privileges without the bother” (Snodgrass 185). The Spirit seeks out willingness to hear and allow ourselves to be transformed. By the way, transformation is the work of God, not ours. Even as this strengthening is God’s work, so is transformation.

17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

So that Christ…through faith: Paul prays that Christ may dwell in the hearts of these Christians. To sum up the Christian experience, we are to be absolutely soaked, permeated with Christ in our lives – inside, outside, all-around. He takes up residence in and redefines us, shaping and strengthening at the core of our being. Faith is the key to keeping Christ in us.

In the NT, we find the constant struggle to describe the Christian life. In some instances, we are called to “put on’ Christ; in other instances, the Christian is described as being “in Christ” (throughout Ephesians). Then there are those rare occasions (5 total in NT), where Christ is said to live in us. If Christ lives in us, those cherished American ideas of independence, self-determination, and self-fulfillment must be abandoned. As to independence, we are independent of everything but Jesus Christ; indeed, we are wholly dependent upon Him. As to self-determination, self has died and we are totally determined by Him. As to self-fulfillment, we seek only to fulfill Christ’s will which brings true fulfillment to us. Self is dead; Christ lives in me. See Galatians 2.20.

That you…in love: The presence of Christ in the heart of the Christian means love. Rooted is an agricultural term; like a tree, love is the soil by which Christians are nourished. Grounded is an architectural term; like a building, love is to be the foundation upon which the Christian life is built.

18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

May have strength…all the saints: Knowing the love of God is not the exclusive privilege of a few enlightened ones; the whole church (all the saints) needs the strength which comes from God to understand what has previous been hidden, namely, Christ’s love (v.19).

Spiritual comprehension and the ability to spiritually discern especially the love of Christ is only realized in the context of the holy church. Outside the church, one will lack the strength and ability to apprehend Christ’s love. The reason is because it not merely intellectual but also experiential. Absent the church, the body of Christ, one will fail to experience the love of Christ expressed through His body. “God knows nothing of solitary religion” (John Wesley).

What is the…depth: Some have found different shades of meaning in these words. For example, Jerome says Christ’s love reaches up to the angels, down to even the demons and evil spirits, it’s length covers all men and the breadth covers even those who drift and wander. Some see the cross which points up, down, and toward the horizons. Some think it could stand in contrast to the temple of Diana which was one of the wonders of the world. It seems best to understand these as a unit communicating the infinite & intense love of Christ with us in the center of that love.

Picture Paul as he writes of Christ’s love in the center of an enormous sphere or cube which represents Christ’s love. He can see how high and deep and wide and long it is and yet it is unfathomable just how great the structure is. It is breathtakingly grand. And to know Christ is to know His love.

19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

To know…surpasses knowledge: Such a vast love surpasses knowledge and is therefore unknowable. Yet the apostle calls Christians to know Christ’s unknowable love. It exceeds our capacity for comprehension. Still Christians must be ever in pursuit of knowing Christ’s love.

On knowing the love of Christ: “To know this; to feel this; to have a lively sense of it, is one of the highest privileges of the Christian. Nothing will so excite gratitude in our hearts; nothing will promote us so much to a life of self-denial; nothing will make us so benevolent and so dead to the world” (Albert Barnes).

That you may be…of God: “Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest” (Clarke). To be filled with God is a great thing; to be filled with the fullness of God even better; but to be filled with all the fullness of God is incredible. Paul is praying that the church would be filled and flooded by all the fullness of God Himself. Again, this is a passive voice verb, i.e. God fills His people with His fullness. This is “the richest, best gift of God to man” (Barnes).

Though we can never fully know Christ’s exceeding love, how can we come to know Christ’s love? “It must find expression in experience, in sorrows and joys, trials and sufferings, in ways too deep for the human mind to fathom, or for human language to express” (Morris 114). I would add that it is also related to our connection to the community of believers, i.e. the church. As we sing, “Sometimes we laugh together, sometimes we cry,/ sometimes we share together heartaches and sighs” (“God’s Family” chorus). When we “rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” we are experiencing the surpass love of Christ.

20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

Now to Him…we ask or think: This is not something yet to happen nor is it something no longer happening. He is still able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” He is able to do “superabundantly above the greatest abundance” (Clarke). Or He is able to do “to the extent which we cannot express” (Barnes). God is able to do “beyond everything” (Lenski). Trying to describe His ability is like chasing the wind.

According to the power at work within us: These are present tense verbs, i.e. God is still able and is still working. His power is working in us. Connect this with v.16, “power through His Spirit in the inner being” (same word for “power”). To the degree we are willing/yielding to be transformed and allow that power to work is the degree to which we will mature/grow, & be the NT church as God/Christ envision.

The power to grow lies in God’s power, not ours. If the foregoing is so – the Father is over all, through all, and in all as the Father of the whole fatherhood; Christians are powerfully strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit, permeated with the perpetual presence of Christ, called to know the unknowable love of Christ, and are filled with fullness of God Himself; and we serve a God who can do more than we could ever ask of imagine – then how could we ever look at the plan and purpose of God for His church and call it anything but possible, achievable, wise, and right? This leads to another question…

Why don’t we experience this in the church today? Two answers can be given: 1) the theology is wrong; it sounds nice, but God is neither able to nor at work. 2) the theology is right, but we abort the process. Which leads to still another question…

Are we willing to allow God to work through and in us to accomplish His purposes?

21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

To Him be glory…forever and ever: This final exclamation is emphatic – to Him and Him alone the glory! It always was, is, and will be His. In the Body as well as the Head! “The song of praise, begun upon earth, and protracted through all the generations of men, shall be continued in heaven, by all that are redeemed from the earth” (Clarke). God is glorified in Christ and the church for all eternity. Amen means so be it

Paul shows us from both this prayer and the previous prayer (1.15-23) that prayer must be intensely theocentric (centered on God) and Trinitarian (include the whole Godhead). Father (14), Son (17, 19), and Holy Spirit (16) are all mentioned in this brief prayer. This prayer begins and ends with God (14, 19) and God is mentioned throughout. It might be worthwhile to determine what Paul does not pray for (sick, safe travel, freedom from persecution, etc.) contrasted with what he does pray for (spiritual strength by the Spirit, rooted in love, knowledge of Christ’s love for His saints, etc.)