Grow in the Word of God, part 1

Paul closed the previous section of this epistle by explaining that Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit will submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (5.18-21). Now Paul will explain what is entailed in this mutual submission with frequent appeals to the Old Testament.

Paul begins with the family (5.22-33). When Paul penned the words of this epistle, the pagan family unit was in deep degradation. Someone has noted, “One found in the pagan family neither purity nor love.” Even when Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish family was threatened by unholy conduct and standards. One rabbi advised, “Don’t talk much with women” and another was quick to add, “Not even with one’s wife” (Snodgrass 302). The ancients thought the two best days of woman’s life were the day someone married her and the day he carried her body to the graveyard! Into this context of devaluation comes the clarion call of a higher love (agape) in the family & mutual respect.

God’s Word to the Married (5.22-33)

Husbands & wives have mutual obligations to one another in order to grow as a couple.

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Wives…husbands: cf. Col 3.18. Submit is supplied from verse 21 since Paul is explaining the practical manifestation of Spirit-filled life through mutual submission. John Piper writes, “Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts” (This Momentary Marriage 80).

As Adam Clarke puts it, “The husband should not be a tyrant, and the wife should not be the governor.” When the wife elevates herself to assume what is not hers, we end up with either 1) a two-headed monstrosity or 2) the wrong head with everything upside down. Many Christian marriages end up looking like the “unwise” of the world who in their folly think themselves wise (v. 15; Rom 1.22). Tragically, these wreck their marriage or at best wreak havoc on the relationship.

As to the Lord: This could mean 1) in a similar fashion as their submission to the Lord, 2) as if their husband was the Lord, 3) as part of their submission to the Lord. Option three seems best. The submission she expresses to her husband is based upon her submission to the Lord.

23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

For the husband…wife: For (or because) is explanatory: the wife submits to her husband for he is her head. Some read head to mean “source,” however, leadership is how this term is best understood. According to John Piper, “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.” “The husband has a leadership role, though not in order to boss his wife or use his position as privilege. Just as Jesus redefined greatness as being a servant (Matt 20.26-27), Paul redefines being head as having responsibility to love, to give oneself, and to nurture. A priority is placed on the husband, but, contrary to ancient society, it is for the benefit of the wife” (Snodgrass 295, emphasis original).

Even as Christ…the church: Christ’s relationship to the church is the model for headship. So then what is in view is servant leadership (Mark 10.43-45). “All the instructions concerning human relationships are rooted in the foundational relationship of the Christian to Christ…The Christian’s relationship to Christ is the basic, foundational relationship that colors every other relationship” (Malone 83). One significant reason that the world is messed up – in the home & everywhere else – is because it does not know Christ. So long as a man or woman remains outside of Christ, they will always be one down in the home, on the job, wherever. When the foundational relationship with Christ is missing, every other human relationship suffers: husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee. “The church becomes a pattern for all social order” (Patzia 268). Without Christ, the pattern is deficient and chaos ensues.

His body…Savior: Since Chris tis the head the church is His body. He acts as Savior when He “gave Himself up for her” (v.25) by dying on the cross. How is the husband the wife’s Savior? Certainly not in the same sense in which Christ is Savior of mankind. However, through his self-denying as protector the husband it can be said the husband is “Savior.”

24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Now…to Christ: The church is composed of those who have submitted themselves to the Lordship of Christ. Christians honor & affirm His leadership as well as look to Him for provision of all things.

So also wives…husbands: Once again submit is supplied for it is understood in the context. Wives should submit themselves (voluntarily) to their husbands. In everything means all things lawful & acceptable to God. Anything criminal or against God’s will should be avoided. Of course, a husband who is demonstrating Christlike headship would never ask his wife to engage in those kinds of things.

The tragedy of tragedies is when God’s word is twisted in order to justify cruel & abusive behavior. The unfortunate reality is that some men have read “Wives, submit…” and “The husband is head” disconnected from its context and thereby have produced unhealthy and ungodly circumstances for their marriage and family. Then little Jimmy watches how daddy has treated mommy growing up and what do you think he does when he gets married? Yes, even the in church this pattern is all too true. “Men in more conservative denominations with traditional views of marriage are more likely to abuse their wives” (Snodgrass 313). Books like Battered into Submission have been written documenting this kind of abuse.

By the way, we are not merely talking physical abuse; emotional, psychological, sexual, and verbal abuse is just damaging. Demeaning your wife is symptomatic that you have misunderstood and misapplied this text.  Christ would never do this to His bride. This is why it is so critical that we never disconnect headship from Christ. If we do, we end up with harsh, authoritarian manhood which is the kind of manhood resulting from the curse rather than redeemed from the curse.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Husbands, love your wives: Love (Gk agapao) “means to subordinate one’s own interests, pleasures, and personality for the benefit of someone else” (Patzia 270). The husband looks to the needs, interests, and concerns of his wife, eager to understand and meet them. If wives are to submit to their husbands, then husbands must love their wives. When husbands love their wives as they ought, it is easy for a woman to affirm & honor his leadership in the home. Though he may not manifest this kind of Christlike love does not mean the wife is free from her obligation to submit; it just makes it more difficult.

It is not the deep sexual passion (erao) which Paul enjoins upon men. Nor is it familial (storgeo) or friendship (phileo) love. It is that selfless kind of love which puts the other person’s greatest good above your own (agapao). When it comes to Christians, even Christian couples, the greatest good of the wife which the husband should be in constant pursuit of is that she look like Christ. Husbands, this should be our overarching, singular desire when it comes to our wives.

As Christ…for her: The husband’s love for his wife ought to correspond to Christ’ love for the church. Christ’ loved the church to the uttermost when He gave Himself up for her on the cross. He supplies His bride with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” (1.3) in His sacrifice.

Some have argued that the greater responsibility is upon husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. If nothing else, “The husband’s commitment to his wife and to home responsibilities is certainly no less demanding than that asked of the wife – but the two are different, and complementary” (Foulkes 164).

26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

That He might sanctify her: or “to make her holy” (NIV). This is the glorious purpose of the atoning death of Christ: a bride set apart unto Himself.

Having cleansed…with the word: Sanctify and cleansed are both aorist (snapshot) tense indicating that a single event is in view when the washing of water with the word took place: baptism. With the word (Gk rêmati) could point to either instruction or confession before baptism.

Some see here an allusion to the pre-marriage bath a bride would take the day before her wedding. Then, cleansed and in splendid clothing, she was presented to the bridegroom and he would say, “Behold, you are sanctified to me.” Perhaps this imagery in behind this and other texts (2 Cor 11.2). In which case, when we are baptized, we are cleansed – “our hearts sprinkled clean” (Heb 10.22) – by the blood of Christ and He says to us, “Behold, you are set apart unto me.”

27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

So that…in splendor: Lit. “in order that He Himself might present to Himself the glorious church.” Some see a possible allusion to Psalm 45.13-15 here. Note that the key difference here is that the bride can do nothing to make herself clean or beautiful; Christ cleanses & beautifies her.  Our splendor or glory or honor or beauty is all the result of His work.

Without…any such thing: A spot would be a stain or defect; a wrinkle could be related to clothing or skin (i.e. age); any such thing would be any offending deformity. Freedom from all these things contributes to the splendor or glory of the bride.

That she…blemish: cf. 1.4. Here is the goal of the Lord’s work in cleansing us. This has been His aim & purpose since “before the foundation of the world.” Christ sees His church with all her weaknesses & failures and still loves her, seeking her sanctification. So husbands, love your wives.

Imagine a bride in her flowing white gown with a ketchup or mustard stain right on the front of the dress. Or picture a bride who looks like she just pulled her dress out of the hamper. Now think of a woman who, because of years as a chain smoker, has deep wrinkles and leathery skin on her face and hands. Or suppose there is a woman who, due to a birth defect or a tragic accident, is missing a limb or has some abnormality. When I was growing up my dad knew a guy who had moles all around his neck, I mean all around his neck! Because he abused drugs, he didn’t bathe regularly and so those moles were caked with dirt, sweat, and all kinds of grossness. These are all illustrations of the defilement of sin and transgression. That’s what sin is like and that’s what Christ has cleansed us from spiritually speaking. All the spots, all the wrinkles, all the various defects – gone! Washed away, cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. And now all He sees is His beautiful bride; nothing else.

28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

In the same way: Just as Christ loves His bride and seeks her sanctification…

Husbands…own bodies: Indeed, Adam said of Eve that she was “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2.23). Also behind this seems to be an application of “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19.18), though this is more profound in marriage.

Here is why spousal abuse is a sin not merely against the (civil) law, but also against nature. When a man & woman are married, they become “one flesh.” That is, she is “his own body” for they are one body.

He who…loves himself: Husband & wife are “complimentary parts” of a single personality. “His wife is part of himself” (PC 212).  It is a lower manifestation of Christ’s union with the church.

29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

For no one…own flesh: For a man to hate his wife is as irrational as to hate his own flesh. Paul uses flesh (Gk sarka) rather than “body” (Gk soma) no doubt in anticipation of the coming Genesis 2.24 quotation (v.31).

The notion of a husband hating or neglecting his wife is as strange as hating or neglecting oneself. While it is true that some people (male & female) engage in self-mutilation (e.g. cutting), we readily identify that kind of behavior as abnormal. In a similar fashion, a husband who hits his wife or abuses her verbally or emotionally is likewise abnormal.

But nourishes & cherishes: But (Gk alla) indicates a strong contrast. Nourishes (or “feeds,” NIV) means to provide food for over a period of time to sustain growth and maturation. Cherishes (or “cares for,” NIV) means to provide what is necessary. A man will naturally feed & clothe himself!

Just as Christ does the church: This is what Christ does for His bride! He nourishes us with His Word & provides everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3).

Another wrong turn men make is viewing their wives as someone they can control and order around. Once again, this is an abuse of headship. Authentic manhood/headship patterned after Christ is not about control. Paul does not say, “Husbands, control your wives.” He says, “Love your wives.” Husbands who love their wives with this kind of love will not have to worry about his wife submitting herself to him; she will want to affirm and honor his leadership in the home.

30because we are members of his body.

We are…His body: Here is the reason Christ loves, nourishes , & cherishes us: we are part of His body. As the branches are part of the Vine (John 15.1-6), so members are part of the body, the church (v.23). “Of His flesh and of His bone” (NKJV, KJV) is not supported by the earliest manuscripts. As Eve was taken from Adam & given to him, so the church was taken from Christ & given to Him.

The imagery of bride and body are admixed. As the church, we are both the bride of Christ & and the body of Christ. Every individual Christ – be it Paul the apostle or you or me – is a member of the glorious body of Christ. “Because” of this wonderful fact, He, as the Head, takes special care of us, nourishing & cherishing us, yes, even lavishing upon “every spiritual blessing” in Himself. You are special to Him; don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise!

31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

“Therefore…one flesh”: Genesis 2.24 is quoted (from LXX) as application of Paul’s argument concerning Christ & the church (v.32): how He left His Father’s bosom to woo unto Himself a Bride (the church) out of the lost world. Simultaneously, Paul has in view the husband/wife relationship, of which Christ and His church are the perfect model.

Hold fast to his wife: Literally the husband is glued to her. Like anything which is glued, tearing the two glued pieces apart, though possible, will render permanent damage to the glued pieces.

The two shall become one flesh: This speaks to the profundity of the union between Christ & His church and husband & wife.

When it comes to Genesis 2.24, “No one verse speaks more strongly for the sacredness and permanency of the marriage bond and for fidelity within marriage” (Patzia 273). This is the primary text against such things as polygamy, fornication, and divorce, rightly so!

32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Note: The Latin Vulgate reads “sacramentum hoc magnum est” for “This mystery is great.” This has become the sole basis for the Catholic Church making marriage a sacrament (“an external sign of something sacred” or an outward sign of inward grace – Catholic Encyclopedia).

This mystery is profound: As profound as the union between a husband & wife is, it is but a miniature, dim reflection of the original which is Christ & the church. Mystery here (as in 3.6 refers to something hidden before, but has now been revealed, namely…

And I…the church: Christ’s relationship to His church. The mystery is not about marriage, per se, as much it is about the union between the Redeemer & His redeemed, the Savior & the saved.

Marriage is an important, a holy, a noble, a pure institution, altogether worthy of God; but it does not thence follow that marriage was designed to be a type of the union between Christ and the church. Paul’s emphasis, which should be our emphasis, is Christ & the church. He is the Head and we, the church, submit to His Lordship. We have no agenda, no mission save that which He established and modeled while on earth. If we could grasp that truth and seek His higher purposes rather than our petty squabbles, we could move past so much useless junk and move forward & upward to what God in Christ has called us.

33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

However: Pauls’ final word will be a practical one for husbands and wives.

Let each…as himself: Love (Gk agapato) “pure and simple, but transcendent,” because it mirrors the love of Christ toward His bride, is the husband’s calling in marriage. As himself captures “as their own bodies” from verse 28.  After all, they are “one flesh.”

And let…her husband: Respects (Gk from phobeo) is literally “fears” but is not, of course, servile or slavish fear (cf. 1 John 4.18). “Reverence” (KJV) or “holy respect” (PC 213) toward her husband, as connected to “submission” from verse 22, is the wife’s divine calling in marriage.

However profound the mystery of Christ & His church, there is no mystery as to the duty of each party involved in marriage: husbands love their wives and wives respect their husbands. If the husband withholds love, he is wronging his wife and subverting the relationship. If the wife withholds respect/submission, she is wronging her husband and subverting the relationship. The marriage suffers unless both parties fulfill their God-given calling.

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…

Dealing with Truth Devotees – 3 John

This commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

Slightly different from 2 John which dealt with those who oppose the truth, in 3 John the apostle is going to give us the answer to what to do with those who love truth. This epistle is much more pointed as John names the person opposing the truth (Diotrephes) and much more personal as he names members of the church who support the truth (Gaius & Demetrius). 3 John provides us a glimpse of early church practice & faithful brethren. The take away is that Christian is to be an encourager of those devoted to truth not an inhibitor.

Outline of 3 John:

I.             The Perseverance of Gaius the Exhorter (v.1-8, 13-15)

A.     John’s Prayer for Gaius (v.1-2)

B.     John’s Praise of Gauis (v.3-8)

C.     John’s Plan Concerning Gaius (v.13-15)

II.             The Pride of Diotrephes the Egotist (9-11)

A.     The Wickedness of Diotrephes (v.9-10)

B.     The Warning about Diotrephes (v.11)

III.             The Profession concerning Demetrius the Example (v.12)

A.     His Associates’ Testimony (v.12a)

B.     The Apostle’s Testimony (v.12b)

Farewell (v.13-15)

3 John (ESV)

1The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

The Elder: John. Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

To the beloved Gaius: called “beloved” or “dear friend” (NET, NIV) in v.2, 5, 11. All that we know about this Gaius to whom John wrote is what is contained in this epistle.

Whom I love in truth: No definite article before “truth.” “[John’s] love is governed by this truth even as his love is that of true comprehension and corresponding purpose” (Lenski).  John loves this brother affirming it repeatedly since Diotrephes didn’t.

2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Beloved: Common title of address for those whom John loves (v. 5, 11; 1 John 2.7)

I pray…good health: John’s constant prayer (pres. Tense) for Gaius is that 1) lit. his journey would go well (meta. Success or prosper), even 2) his health would be good (or he would be safe and sound). This is similar language to contemporary letters of general well wishing in all things and/or health.

As it goes well with your soul: John knows that Gaius is spiritually healthy.

3For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.

For: Gk. gar, here is how John knows that Gaius is in spiritual vitality…

I rejoiced…brothers came: a recent visit from some traveling missionaries from Gaius was an occasion for celebration on John’s behalf.

Testified to your truth: lit. witnessed (Gk marturounton) of you in the truth or of your truth. The report about Gaius is an excellent one; he is a spiritual pillar. Coupled with his love (v.6) he is a balanced Christian with the proper mix of truth & love.

As indeed…[the] truth: He has been faithful to the apostolic doctrine of Christ, refusing Gnostic intrusion and heresy.

4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

I have no greater joy: nothing fills John with such cause for rejoicing

Than to hear that my children: “The elder” refers to all of those Christians younger than him as his “children.” This is the fatherly affection John has for his brethren.

Walking in [the] truth: the definite article is found in some mss (eg. Alexandrinus) but is absent is others (eg. Sinaiticus). Given the construction in v.3 as well as 2 John 4, it seems that John did not include a definite article when he wrote this. Members holding fast to the apostolic teaching of Christ in spite of heretical attacks fills John with much joy

5Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are,

Beloved: affectionate term of endearment John regularly uses for his recipient.

It is a faithful…these brothers: “All his conduct towards the brethren, even when they were not previously known to him, was such as became a faithful Christian” (Pulpit Commentary). In Gaius, philadephia and philoxenia are combined; he loves the brethren and strangers. 

Strangers as they are: “he treated brethren who were entire strangers to him, not as strangers, but as brethren” (Pulpit Commentary). He did not pick and choose whom to show hospitality and neglect the rest; every traveling missionary was sure to be received by Gaius.

6who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

Who testified…before the church: those who had experienced the hospitality of Gaius came back and reported to the assembly of saints about what this Christian man had done on their behalf. (cf. Matt 25.38, 40)

You will do well…worthy of God: It is a faithful & beautiful thing to send forth missionaries with all they would need for the journey. They should be fully supported. Since they are representatives of God, treat them as such (cf. John 13.20). Send them out as if you were sending out Jesus as a missionary.

7For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.

For they have…of the Name: Gk. gar, John explains that since these missionaries went out on their mission on behalf of the one & only Name in John’s mind—Jesus!

Accepting nothing from the Gentiles: these missionaries support was not solicited (as a policy) from non-Christians. If offered, they might accept, but not solicited.

8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

Therefore…like these: this is the proper deduction. We owe it to them (indebtedness is implied) to help & show hospitality to these missionaries.

That we…[for] the truth: by supporting these missionaries, we work together with them with the Truth (cf. 1 Cor 3.9).

9I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.

I have written something to the church: 2 John or a lost epistle?

But Diotrephes: name means “nourished by Zeus.” Probably a church leader.

Who likes to put himself first: present participle (Gk. philoproteuon); lit. the one loving first [place]. He is diametrically opposed to the teaching of Jesus (Mk 10.43-44). “Not doctrinal heresy but personal ambition was the cause of the trouble” (Morris 229). If Diotrephes is first, where does that put Christ (Col 1.18)?

Does not acknowledge our authority: Lit. does not welcome/obey us. Diotrephes does not welcome, accept, or obey apostolic authority. Is he trying to take their place? If nothing else, he is not in compliance with divine injunction.

10So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

So if I come: John desires to come (v.14) and visit these brethren and also…

I will bring up what he is doing: John will confront Diotrephes’ unholy desires and the challenges to John’s apostleship, perhaps reminding him but certainly remind the church of his apostolic authority. “The root of the problem is sin” (Morris 230).

Talking wicked nonsense against us: “malicious gossip” (NIV) & “wicked words” are the product of this perverted presbyter.  The se were senseless & wicked words.

And not content…the brothers: those brothers who are with John are unwelcome

And also…the church: Diotrephes says who’s in and out and those who disagree with him, wanting to welcome (support) their brothers are thrown out

11Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

Beloved: favorite affectionate address of John for those to whom he writes, here Gaius.

Do not imitate evil, but imitate good: Gk. mimou, comes mimic. Follow after that which is spiritually & morally beneficial, not what is deficient. Demetrius is an example of the good to imitate; Diotrephes is a bad example to follow. Don’t follow Diotrephes.

Whoever does good is from God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is to do good is from God (cf. 1 John 3.9-10). Not mere kind acts every so often.

Whoever does evil has not seen God: present participle. The one whose habitual practice is toward what is displeasing & disobedient to God hasn’t experienced God.

12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.

Demetrius…everyone: all we know of this man is what is found in this single verse. Nevertheless, he is a member who does what is spiritually & morally beneficial. Probably unknown to Gaius, therefore the three-fold testimony (everyone, truth, us) to let him know that this leader/letter bearer is on the level (not a Diotrephes). He has received in the past and continues to receive even now a good testimony (perf. Tense); remains valid

And from the truth itself: definite article before “truth.” The Word is an objective witness of Demetrius for his life conforms to the Truth, which is Christ.

We also add our testimony: the apostolic college commends Demetrius. That is, John speaking on behalf of those apostles who have already gone to be with the Lord.

And you know…is true: perfect tense, have come to know and continue to know this

13I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink.

I have much…pen and ink: this short volume on a single sheet will suffice for now

14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

I hope…face to face: John hopes to set the record straight in person (v.10).

15Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.

Peace be to you: a Hebrew greeting with new meaning in light of Christ’s resurrection. Peace is much needed with all the strife brought by Diotrephes.

The friends greet you: unique designation for Christians harkening to Jesus – Jn 15.13

Greet the friends, each by name: Sheep should know one another by name.

Let us imitate the example set by these men of truth like Gaius and Demetrius and walk in truth, willing to support those who walk in truth as well.

Dealing with Truth Decay – 2 John

While there are several sensational theories about the authorship of the epistles of John, this commentary is offered with the working presumption that the author of 1, 2, & 3 John is the apostle John who also penned the gospel according to John and the Revelation. Further, while some have sought to reconstruct the occasion for John writing this postcard of an epistle, the frank reality is that there is precious little to truly build a definitive case.

The church of Christ is the pillar & foundation of truth. What does it mean for the church to be pillar & foundation of truth? The apostle John in 2 John explains that as the pillar & foundation of truth, the church promotes, practices, and protects truth. In the opening verses, John Promotes Truth as having been received by and remaining with the church of Christ. The remainder of the epistle is devoted to the practice of Truth among the church and the protection of Truth from the corrupt.

Outline of 2 John:

Greetings, 1-3

I.       The Church is to Practice Truth (v.4-6)

A.     John sees those that walk in truth (v.4)

B.     John seeks these to walk in love (v.5-6)

II.    The Church is to Protect Truth (v.7-11)

A.     John tells Christians in danger to beware (v.7-8)

B.     John teaches Christians the danger of befriending (v.9-11)

Farewell, 12-13

2 John (ESV)

1The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,

The Elder: John. Either Tradition tells us that he was a bishop (i.e. overseer) of the church in Ephesus. Since he is “the elder” this could suggest that he is the last survivor of the Twelve. However, could simply mean older man.

The elect lady: person or personification; individual or institution? lady is Gk. kuria, which is the feminine form of Lord (kurios). Here is the Bride of Christ, reigning with Him in the heavenly realms. (note v.13, an elect sister’s children = sister congregation of the Lord’s church). Children = members

Whom I love in truth: John loves the church. “Christian love rests in Christian truth”

Not only I…all who know the truth: definite article before “truth” seems to indicate that this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Knowledge of the Truth sets one free (John 8.32). The possessors of knowledge (gnosis) v. those who know false knowledge.

2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Because of the truth: again definite article before “truth” indicates this is the Truth, i.e. Jesus Christ. Through the Truth John loves the brethren and knows truth.

That abides in us: present active part, truth is abiding in us (i.e. the church). Some scholars identify the indwelling Holy Spirit here.

And will be with us forever: Truth is never going away. It is permanent, eternal. That is, the Word is eternal

3Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

Grace, mercy, and peace…: Grace covers the sins of men; mercy relieves men of their miseries; peace follows both. Similar greeting to Paul (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; et al) with the insertion of mercy. These “will be with us” (fut. Mid). As truth remains and is never going away, so too grace, mercy, and peace. John is acting as prophet (v.2 also).

From God [the] Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son: the Father and the Son are the single source of these three gifts. John affirms what he has already established about the Son in his gospel, namely He is begotten of God (1.14; 3.16). The miraculous conception of Jesus is in view which the Gnostic would have denied.

In truth and love: to receive these virtues, one must remain in the God’s truth and love God’s people.

4I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

I rejoiced greatly: a recent occasion was cause for happiness and well-being for John

To find [some] of your children: certain members of the church possibly visited John. Or through missionary work he came to find and still finds (perf. Tense).

Walking in [the] truth:  “In the specific context of 2 John the phrase [“walking in truth’] refers to true Christians who are holding fast to an apostolic Christology in the face of the secessionist opponents’ challenge to orthodoxy.” (NET)

Just as we were commanded by the Father: i.e. through the Son (1 Jn 2.6).

5And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.

And now I ask you, dear lady: John has a request of the church to which he writes.

Not as though…from the beginning: this is not new revelation but reminder of what they know. Cf. Jn 13.34-35; 15.12—when Jesus gave it, it was new. Now, approx. 60 yrs later, it is that which is “from the beginning” of the Christian age.

That we love one another: Present active tense. Here is the request John has for the Lord’s church to whom he writes. Love is explained next.

6And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments: living in active obedience to God’s commandments is love (cf. John 14.15, 21, 23, 24; 15.10).

This is the commandment: i.e. love one another with the love of Christ. This is a love not merely in word or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3.18).

Just as you have heard from the beginning: they’ve heard once for all (aorist tense) since the first publication of the gospel.

So that you should walk in it: so that it is your present, habitual, continual direction. A walk is a career, lifestyle. Implies direction, progression, separation.

7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

For: hoti, John begins to explain why walking in love & truth is so vital.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world: deceivers are equated with antichrist at the end of the verse. This is repetition of 1 John 2.18, 19. They left wandered away from the church, roving about as imposters. Their message?

Those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in [the] flesh: Not some shadowy political figure rising up out of a reborn European Union; this is one who assaults the nature of Christ by denying He came in flesh. They do not speak the same word concerning Christ as the apostolic college. When Christ came from heaven to earth, He came (lit.) in flesh. John affirms that Jesus retains His humanity (“coming” present part.), which Docetics would deny. These deceivers deny the incarnation. If Christ did not come in the flesh, He could not have died for sin. If He did not die for sin, there could be no blood atonement. Without blood, there is no forgiveness.

Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist: John uses the strongest language possible to classify these false teachers. They are opposed to Christ.

8Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Watch yourselves: present imperative. Beware! Look out! “When error abounds in the world, our first duty is not to attack it and make war upon it; it is to look to the citadel of our own souls, and see that all is well guarded there.” (Barnes)

So that you may not lose what we have worked for: some debate concerning mss but it seems this is correct reading. Beware of allowing our work in you to be undone.

But may win a full reward: alla is strong contrast. Rather than a grievous loss, there is a full day’s wage (Gk misthon, cf. Mt 20.8). This reward is God Himself (see v.9). Hence, there can be no partial reward; either it is enjoyed in full or lost entirely.

9Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Everyone…teaching of Christ: to “go one ahead” is to go beyond established boundaries of teaching and doctrine. The implication is failure to obey. Specifically, the teaching concerning the humanity of Christ, which Docetics and Dualists would deny in their attempts to progress beyond simple facts and simple moral teaching of the gospel.

Does not have God: present active indicative with negative. “They had advanced so far that they had even left God behind” (Morris). One cannot reject Christ and retain God.

Whoever…and the Son: Remaining in the apostolic teaching keeps one in God & Christ. Cf. 1 John 2.22-23, to acknowledge the Son is to possess the Father (and Son).

10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

If anyone…this teaching: John is not presenting a hypothetical; indicative mood points to this being a fact—people are coming and bringing this doctrine. When they do…

Do not receive him into [your] house: present imperative (pl.). Understand: 1) John refers to teachers of false doctrine, not merely believers; 2) John refers to “official” visit, not merely private hospitality; 3) John seems to indicate that this is in regards to the church (lit. in house), not merely in-home policy; 4) John refers to teachers of false doctrine of the incarnation, not merely those who disagree with our pet traditions.

Or give him any greeting: seems to indicate an “official” welcome into services.

11for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

For whoever…works: Here is how serious John is about this. This is tantamount to fellowship with the works of darkness. No encouragement is to be given to the propagators and promoters of doctrine which will separate people from God and send them to eternal ruin!

12Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Though…face to face: John has written what was of urgent importance to prevent fatalities in the body. Seems John has written with his own hand (cf. 3 John 13).

So that our joy may be complete: “Complete joy is the result of fellowship.”

13The children of your elect sister greet you.

The children…greet you: members of another congregation wish these Christians well.

Truth decay can still happen in the Church today. As the body of Christ, the chosen lady, let us practice and protect the eternal truth spoken to us by God through his Word.

Good Gifts from a Good God

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

James 1.16-18 (ESV)

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

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

God is good

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

God is perfect

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

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

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

God is above

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

God is unchanging

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

God is Father

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

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

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

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

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

The Paradox of Poverty

James 1.9-11

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

The American Dream has become the accumulation of stuff – cars, houses, and accompanying accoutrements the goes with a lifestyle of luxury. To be rich is to be coveted. This same mentality has crept into the church. Christians horde up for themselves treasures on earth, justifying themselves by saying things like, “God wants me to be happy.” But as Jesus explained while on earth: “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10.23) While this problem may seem new, it is far from it. In fact, James echoes what Jesus taught by asking, “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom…?” (James 2.5) James writes quite a bit about the relationship between the rich and poor. In 1.9-11, we find yet a third paradox in the Christianity: the poor are exalted, the rich humiliated.

The Paradox of Poverty (1.9-11)

(Several) Someone(s) has said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better!” Contrary to this conventional wisdom, the New Testament presents several warnings concerning the dangers of riches in connection with the Christian faith. Riches can be a snare and destroy one’s faith (cf. 1 Tim 6.9-10, 17). In short, rich is not always better! Building on the context of trials and asking for wisdom concerning those trials, James presents a trial that was all to familiar for the poor saints of the early church: poverty. And the paradox of poverty is seen in James’ positive presentation of pride in poverty.

The Exaltation of the Poor (v.9). James presents the positive case of poverty. The “lowly brother” is the Christian who is low on the socio-economic ladder. He is a poor Christian, destitute perhaps. James presents the paradox: this poor brother is actually in a lofty position. Indeed, when we consider that God has seated us in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph 2.6) we are very exalted! This brother is to “boast” or “glory” in his exaltation. While boasting and bragging concerning oneself are condemned elsewhere in Scripture (even in James, 4.16), to boast in the Lord is an altogether different thing. This is what James is calling for – we are exalted in Christ because of Christ. While the poor Christian brother may not have money, he is “rich in faith.” “True wealth is measured not in money but in faith” (Holloway 37).

So there is actually a blessing which comes with being poor. One who is impoverished is predisposed to faith in Christ. Indeed, it was Jesus who said in the sermon on the plain, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6.20). And while we may want to spiritualize that or link it immediately to Matthew 5.3 (“poor in spirit”), it is undeniable that in the context of that sermon on the plain and the greater context of the gospel of Luke, Jesus says what He means and means what He says. Couple this with what He says in Luke 6.24 where He pronounces a woe on the rich and the picture is complete.

The Humiliation of the Plutocrat (v.10). Contrast this poor brother with the rich man in the world. While the poor Christian should boast in his lofty position in Christ, the rich of the world glory in their humiliation. Though rich in the world, they are not rich toward God (see Luke 12.21). And like the enemies of the cross who “glory in their shame” (Phil 3.19), so the rich glory in their humiliated station before God. They are destitute of the favor and fellowship of heaven which is a very low place. “He will pass away.” Not might or may, but will. It is inevitable that the rich man will perish even as the flower dies.

Another way of seeing this rich man in light of the context is as a Christian brother. Here is a rich Christian brother and his trial is that he is rich. And what a trial in light all that Scripture teaches about the dangers of riches. The temptation is to allow his wealth to be a cause for boasting. James says that he ought to glory his humiliation. Boast as one who is a spiritual pauper in need of the riches only Christ can supply. “Let him exult in the grace of Christ which has enabled him to pass through ‘the needle’s eye.’”

The Illustration of the Proposition (v.11). Here’s what it’s like: grass that is scorched by the heat of the sun. Think about a patch of grass under a desert sun. It will wither and die. Here’s what it’s like: a beautiful flower whose beauty fades away. Think about a rose in a vase for several days. These are illustrations taken from the Old Testament (Isa 40.8; cf. 1 Peter 2.24) to show what it’s like for a rich person who’s life is tied up in riches and/or the pursuit of riches and not in God and His word. No matter how vigorous his pursuit of riches more may be, it is ultimately frustrated because he is not in pursuit of God. What a miserable end! Truly the humiliation is evident: all that effort was in vain; his pursuits will be snuffed out as a flame.

If you are a child of God, you are wealthy beyond your wildest dreams with the riches that are unlike the flower that fades or the grass which withers. The riches in Christ are eternal riches. This is a lesson lost on American Christians who are self-sufficient in our abundance. We don’t need God to give us our daily bread; we have several days’ worth of bread laid up in store at the house. When compared to the rest of the world, we must realize that just by living in America puts in the upper echelon of the wealthy in the world. Therefore, the warning from James is for us.