Are You Faithful in Christ Jesus
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Dr. Barber focuses on “faithfulness” as he continues his look at the book of Ephesians.|
We’re still in Ephesians 1:1. I love getting into the study of a book. I love digging in and finding the riches that are there. We may be in this book for a while. This is the third message in verse 1, but there’s so much here that we need to see.
In verse one we found out something about the author. “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. “ We see that Paul was a man just like you and just like me in the respect that he had feet of clay. As a believer he did not get anything different than what you or I received in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are all complete in Christ. However, when Christ put out the callings and the gifts, He cuts the pie the way He wants to cut it. Paul got a little bigger slice than what some of us might have gotten. He was “…an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. “
The word “God” does not have the definite article in front of it. It refers to the whole Godhead. When the definite article is used it refers to God the Father. But here it is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The whole Trinity was involved in Paul being an apostle of Christ Jesus.
The word “will”, thelema, means the result of God’s will. So, as the result of the counsel of the Trinity, Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus. He was a man sent forth with a message that was not his own.
But then secondly, we saw something about the audience of the book of Ephesians. “…to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” These were saintly saints. They were not just saints by position. Now what do I mean by that? When a person receives Christ he has been cleansed, set apart now, for the use of God. He is God’s own property. However, these were saints not just positionally. They lived saintly in this world. Experientially, daily, they lived faithfully, it says, “…in Christ Jesus.”
Now we want to look a little bit deeper at this audience. It was a Gentile audience. Remember God gave to Paul the ministry of the Gentiles. He was a Jew, and God gave him the burden to preach the gospel to the Gentile world. This was quite a problem with his Jewish brethren. You say, “Why was it important the Ephesians were Gentiles?” Well, the book of James was written to predominantly a Jewish audience. The book of Hebrews was the same way. Here it is written to a Gentile audience. Look in chapter 3:1. He says it very clearly: “…for this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” Actually, this is the word for “nations,” but it is the word we translate “gentile.” So Paul is writing to a Gentile audience.
Now, as you know, this Gentile nation was in Asia Minor. How do we know that? Ephesus was on the western coast of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Ephesus was a seaport on the western coast of Asia Minor. It was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire. It was a city with a population of about 300,000.
When Rick Shepard, my Associate Pastor of Family Ministries, and I had the privilege this past summer of going to Greece, we got to see this city. The city has a seaport which is about 8 miles inland now because of the change of the waters there. It is no longer right on the coast. There is a thoroughfare, which used to go from the seaport all the way up a long hill to a big auditorium, actually an outside theatre that would hold about
25,000 people. As you get up to that auditorium, on the right is the remnant of the temple of Artemis [also called Diana], which was their focus of worship, their goddess, there at that time. As we got to that thoroughfare on both sides were these large pillars. They were just gorgeous. And on the other side of the pillars were places where they used to sell things. Most of them probably sold little statues of their goddess Artemis which Paul had to deal with when he was there in Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. Even what’s left is majestic.
Paul had visited Ephesus on several occasions. In Acts 18 and verse 19, he stopped there for a brief visit on his second missionary journey. But on the third missionary journey, he goes straight to Ephesus and stays two years.
Let’s look at Acts 19 and sort of review some of this so you can get familiar with who Paul is writing to, the audience of Ephesians. In chapter 19:1, he fulfills his promise and goes to Ephesus. It says in verse 1: “And it came about, that, when Apollos was at Corinth, Paul, having passed to the upper country, came to Ephesus: and found some disciples.” Remember, he stayed two years there and ministered to the disciples. This is where many, many miracles took place. In fact one of the miracles is when he cast the demons out of the sons of Sceva.
Let’s look at verse 17. “As a result this became known to all, to both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus. And fear fell upon them all, and the Lord Jesus was being magnified.” Here at Ephesus God had done a powerful work. In the shadow of the Temple of Artemis, the false goddess of that area, God had moved in. And through Paul, as he preached the gospel, allowed him to do many miracles. People began to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you’ll go on in that particular chapter to verse 26, it says some of the men there, some of the merchants, were upset. They were upset because they sold little statues of the goddess Artemis, and now Paul was ruining their business. Verse 26-29 says “…and you see and hear that not only at Ephesus…”, this is those merchants speaking here, “…but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and she, that all of Asia and the world worship, should be dethroned from her magnificence. And when they heard this they were filled with rage. They began crying out saying, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’, and the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions, from Macedonia.” They went into this theater which holds about 25,000 people, and they were shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.”
And verse 30 says that, “…when Paul wanted to go in the assembly the disciples would not let him.” He had created chaos in Ephesus.
So you begin to get a feel about the Christians that had to live there. Paul left, but they are left there. This is who Paul is writing to in the book of Ephesians.
In Acts 20:16 Paul skirts Ephesus. He’s on his way to Jerusalem. Remember God said, “I want you in Jerusalem and I want you in Rome.” In order to get to Jerusalem on the feast of Pentecost he skirts Ephesus. He knows that if he stops it is going to take him too long to leave.
But he goes to Miletus, and in verse 17 of chapter 20, he calls the elders of thechurch of Ephesus to come to him. Paul is concerned. Paul says, “As soon as I am out of
sight, savage wolves are going to come in and prey upon this flock.” Who is he talking about? Probably the legalizers of that day. You see, Paul used to be a savage wolf himself. He knew how they worked. As soon as the gospel of grace was preached and the people had responded to it and he was gone, people would come in with false doctrine and try to put the people back under bondage. As a matter of fact, Ephesus had a lot of trouble with false doctrines. You see this over and over again. In 1 Timothy 1:3 it says that Paul left Timothy there in Ephesus to correct the false doctrine of that area. It was an area which was infiltrated with that which was not the truth of God’s word.
The saddest story about Ephesus, I think, is in Revelation 2 when it becomes the first of the seven churches that John is told to write. The church at Ephesus is the church that left its first love.
So you begin to get a feel about the church at Ephesus and the audience he is writing to. So, as we get into this study, we want to just dig it as deep as we can and see what it can mean to us. Some of the phrases are so powerful in Ephesians 1:1.
Let’s go back and read it again. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.”
The title of this message is, “Are you faithful in Christ Jesus?” What does it mean to be faithful in Christ Jesus?
Well, first of all the little phrase, “in Christ Jesus” points to our character as believers. Do you know the difference between reputation and character? Your reputation is what you want people to think you are. Your character is what everybody who lives with you and knows you knows that you are. The fact that they were faithful in Christ Jesus points to the character of these believers.
The Greek work for “faithful” is the word, “pistos”. It is the adjective used to describe the saintly saints. It comes from the word, “peitho” which means to win over, to persuade. Peitho is translated “to obey” in Hebrews. It has the understanding of someone who has been run over, who has been totally persuaded to the point of a willingness to obey. It means trustworthy. It means dependable to do what God said to do.
Now there are several references in the NT using the word “pistos”. I want us to look at it because as I researched the word it drew a picture of what it means to be faithful in Christ Jesus. When the term is used in relation to God it means something different than when it is used in relation to man. Why? Because God is perfect. When you say God is faithful, He never errs in His faithfulness to do what He says He will do.
As a matter of fact, in I Corinthians 1.9, Paul shows that God is faithful, and he mentions this about God’s character. He is absolutely faithful. You say, “Oh brother Wayne, I trusted God’s word, and God hasn’t done what He said He would do in my life.” Well, if you’ve trusted Him and you stood upon His word and He has not moved, then it is just not time for Him to move. You wait upon the Lord. God does what He says He will do. And in I Corinthians 1:9 it says that, “God is faithful through whom you are called unto fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is faithful to do what He said He will do. He is trustworthy. He is dependable. You can always run to Him.
In Hebrews 10:23 it says, “let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering for He is faithful that promised.” That is the beautiful attribute of God. He is absolutely, purely faithful to what He says.
Now when you take that word “faithful” and apply it to man, it doesn’t mean perfection! But it has a lot to say about the character of a believer. For instance, look in Luke 16:10. You want to know whether or not you are faithful? Then watch this. He said, “He who is faithful…”, pistos, “…in that which is least is also faithful in much. And he who is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” If God’s character is to be dependent upon whatever He says He will do and that character is within us, then we need to find out if we are dependable.
Are we faithful? You say, “How can I know if I am faithful?” Look at the little things in your life. Oh, listen, if something big happens to us, many of us will rally and become faithful. But it’s not just in the big things. It is in the little things where you find the dependability and trustworthiness of an individual. Let me ask you a question. Do you have a grudge against anybody? Are you critical in your heart toward a brother? If you do, you are not a faithful believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because God’s word says, “Let not the sun go down…” You are to deal with your anger. You are to deal with your problem with somebody else. And if you are not doing that, you are not dependable to do what the word of God says to do. That’s a little thing, yes. But, my friend, if you are not faithful in that little thing, then obviously you are not faithful in the big things that God has for you.
Do you want to know whether or not you are faithful in Christ Jesus? Are you a Saintly Saint? Are you faithful in the little things? You see, that’s your character. It’s what your family knows about you. It’s what happens when you are sitting there watching the television and something immoral comes on. Do you turn it off or do you leave it on? Are you faithful in the little things? Are you faithful in your thought life? Are you faithful when you are by yourself? One of the greatest measures of a man’s faithfulness before God is not what he is in the appearance of others but what he is when he is by himself. And God knows that, folks. He knows whether or not you are dependable to do what He tells you to do. It’s a measure of a man’s character. It’s a measure of his love for Christ.
This word “faithful in Christ Jesus” defines the character of a servant of God. If you are a servant of God then you are faithful before him. In Hebrews 3:5 it says that “…Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant,…” Who are the people who are faithful in Christ Jesus? They are servants. They are bondservants. They do what they do for Him because they want to, not because they have to.
You know it even defines the character of the wives of leaders within the church. I thought that was interesting. It speaks specifically of deacons. Look in I Timothy 3:11. You see when you appoint someone to an office within the church, whether elder or whether deacon, you are not just appointing the man. You are appointing his wife. She is just as accountable to God as the man. The word for “women” and the word for “wife” is the same word. “Wives…” it says, “…must likewise be dignified not malicious gossips but temperate, faithful…”, faithful, “…in all things.” You may have a man that is as godly as any man that has ever been around. But he may have a wife that cannot keep her mouth shut. She just continues to carry information to this person and this person and this person. That wife is not faithful before God. That disqualifies her and him from being in that office.
It defines the character of one to whom Christ can entrust ministry. It says in I Timothy 1:12, “…and I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me…”, now watch, “…that He counted me faithful…”, That was first, then, “…putting me into the ministry.” I don’t know how many people come to this church and want a ministry. They come to me and say, “Wayne, can you give me a ministry?” Man does not give to another man a ministry. God gives the ministry. It’s received, not achieved. So when we are faithful God will give us the ministry He wants for us. But the key is, are we faithful in Christ Jesus?
It defines the character of men who qualify to be disciplers of other men. Look at what it says in 2 Timothy 2:2. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” If you don’t have a man who is living it, then you don’t have a man who can teach it. That is why one of the OT prophets says, “I want to know thy law. I want to do thy law. Then I want to teach thy law.” You can’t teach what you are not living.
If you are not faithful in the little things you are not a saintly saint. Paul is not writing to the unfaithful. Paul is writing to the ones faithful in Christ Jesus. Not just positionally saints, beloved, but the delight of God in Ephesus. Can you imagine the horrible situation they are in in Ephesus? There was idolatry and wrong doctrine everywhere. And there were the faithful few to whom Paul writes the book of Ephesians. “Faithful” points to the character of the believers at Ephesus. One of the things I think is most important is that you can determine your measure of faithfulness: it’s not in the big things, but in the little things. That stuck with me when I was studying this.
I remember when my children came to know Christ, or said they did. But you wonder if they have really understood. You go through that wrestling match in your mind. You don’t want them to wake up like I did at 32 years old having been in the ministry 8 years and realized I didn’t even know Christ.
We have got to understand something here. I know what might be an encouragement to your heart about that. There was one thing my wife, Diana, and I watched for in Stephen and in Stephanie. Of course since Stephanie was first and older, we watched for it in her first. Stephen came along behind her. They came at an early age, and they asked to receive Christ in their life. In order for me to know they understood, I watched for something. I watched for a willingness to repent and confess sin when they became aware of it in their life. I can remember Stephanie when she was very, very little, around seven or eight. Sometimes she would have her head over on the counter or the table, and Diana would say, “Stephanie, what’s wrong? Are you sick?” “Oh no, momma. I have had some awful, awful thoughts this morning and I am just asking God to forgive me.” As a matter of fact I saw that develop as pattern in her life when she was very small. The same thing developed in Stephen.
I do not have perfect kids. When you speak of faithfulness you are not speaking of perfection. You are speaking of people who are dependable to do what God says to do when they become aware of it. For instance, David was a man after God’s own heart. Did that mean he was perfect? Are you kidding? He committed adultery then took the husband of the woman he had committed adultery with and had him murdered in battle. How can he be called a man after God’s own heart? I’ll tell you how. Because when Nathan came and put his finger between David’s eyes and said, “Thou art the man” he repented. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 were written by a man who was filled with remorse. He repented before God, confessed his sin, and turned back to the way that God had put before him.
What does it mean to be faithful in Christ Jesus? Well, watch those little things in your life. Sometimes faithfulness is not seen before the failure. Sometimes faithfulness is more clearly seen after the failure, when you have messed up. What do you do when you have messed up? Do you go around talking about other believers? Do you criticize them as if you were the standard? Do you repeat things when you don’t even have the information yourself? Do you second-guess other people? Are you busy with this kind of lifestyle? How can you call yourself faithful in Christ Jesus? You are not. You may be a saint. But you’re not a saintly saint. You are not living as God wants you to live.
In chapters 4-6 of Ephesians Paul has to instruct, exhort and encourage the Ephesian believers. Why did he have to encourage them if they were already perfect?
Faithfulness does not mean perfection. It is a measure of a person’s character. It is a love for the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. So it points to the character of one who is a believer who is faithful in Christ Jesus.
Secondly, it points to the source behind their character. Now don’t start praising believers. Let’s don’t all go to Ephesus and pat them all on the back and say, “Man, I love you guys! You’re doing it right!” NO! You don’t praise men. You praise God who lives in men that enables men to be what they are. Look at the phrase, “…faithful…”. Now look at the next three words “…in Christ Jesus…”.
There are three prepositions that are similar, but yet at the same time drastically different. The preposition “eis”, is translated “into something.” For instance the man walked into the house. That’s into, eis.
Then there’s a preposition “ek”, which means “out of” which means the opposite. The man walked out of the house. It’s motion out of something: Eis – into something, Ek – out of something.
But then there’s another preposition we’re looking at today–”ev”. It means the man remains “in” the house, “in” Christ Jesus. Now that means a whole lot more than what I am going to share, so for you scholars–relax. I am not going to touch every base. But there’s one aspect of it that I want to show you. Any ability we have in the Christian life to be faithful before God, or whatever else we are talking about, is not of us. It’s because we are in Christ Jesus. And as a result of us being in Him, He in turn is in us. That is the only way any man can be faithful or dependable. It’s only as he is willing to submit and cooperate with that which is in the person that is in him.
Look at John 14, just as a thought. As I was studying this really came to my mind. We see evidence of Christ doing what He said He would do in His faithfulness by how the Ephesian believers were able to live in the midst of all kinds of degradation. John 14:18-20 says, “I will not leave you as orphans…” Jesus said this to His disciples in His private discussion after Judas had left. “…I will come to you. After a while the world will behold me no more, but you will behold me. Because I live you too shall live. In that day…”, referring to what He just said, “…you shall know…”, “ginosko”, experience, “…that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” Faithful in Christ Jesus.
If you ever see anything good in me, you know good and well where it came from. It didn’t come from me. It came from He who is in me and whose I am. It came from the Lord Jesus Himself. It’s the same with you. If you see something about me that reminds you of yourself, don’t be critical of me. Just remember we all are potentially the same way. I am not preaching Wayne. I am preaching the Word. You know I am gong to be wrong at times. I don’t ever tell you I am the authority. The Bible is the authority. You know that. I am learning with you. When you see something in me that is good, remember it is not me, it must be Christ in me. I know what my flesh is all about. However, I am thankful that I am a saint having been set apart unto Him. I am not some old lousy sinner everyday. If I am, I haven’t met Christ yet. He set me aside. I am for a different purpose, and I cannot habitually live in sin anymore. First John tells me that.
The ability to be faithful as well as any other ability concerning our responsibilities to Christ is an ability that comes from our being in Him and Him being in us.
“Pistis” is another word in the same family. It is usually translated faith. The word we have been looking at is pistos. Most of the time it is translated “faith.” But I think, one time in the NAS, it is translated a better way. It is translated “faithfulness”.
If you’ll look with me in Galatians 5.22, let’s notice something here. There is something produced by the Spirit of Christ. Verse 22 says, “…but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness…” The word is pistis, not pistos. It is translated faithfulness.
I have to believe that the result of the Spirit of God working in your life and working in my life produces a consistency of dependability to do whatever God said. It’s not perfection, but when we err we run to do what God has told us to do. So “…the faithful in Christ Jesus…” refers to the character of believers. But it refers to the source behind the believers.
As a matter of fact, it is the resurrection power of Christ that provides the ability to live this way under God. Let me show you. In Ephesians 1:1 Paul says, “…faithful in…”. What are the last two words? “…Jesus Christ…” Is that what your translation says? No! “…Christ Jesus…” That’s important. Why is it important? Before His resurrection He was known as Jesus. That was His earthly name, but after He resurrected it changed to Christ. He is known to be the Christ. Now listen, when you see that you are talking about the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. And it is His resurrected power administered by the Holy Spirit of God that enables you and me to be dependable and faithful in Christ Jesus.
Let me ask you a question. Are you faithful in Christ Jesus? I don’t know, I don’t live with you. What are you like in your conversations? What are you like in your business life? How much do you cheat on your income taxes? Why do you try to make people think you are something when you know good and well you are not? That is not what it means to be faithful in Christ Jesus. It’s even in the little things. How you treat the waitress when she comes to the table, and you ordered beans, and she brings peas, and they’re cold has a lot to do with whether or not you’re faithful in Christ Jesus. You cannot tell me that a person can be rude to the people God died for and turn right around and claim to faithful in Christ Jesus. How do you know they are faithful? By the little things. And if they are faithful in little, they will be much.
Well, are you faithful this morning in Christ Jesus? I could never point a finger. There are too many times when I am unfaithful. But the believers at Ephesus were faithful. They were saintly saints. And Paul in Ephesians 1 wants them to be enlightened about a few things. In Chapter 2 he wants them to remember some things, things that will help them. In chapter 3 he wants them to understand and comprehend some things that will bless their socks off. And then in chapters 4-6 he has some things to encourage and instruct them with that will help these saintly saints keep on living as the saints God wants them to be. Can God count on you in the little things? Can you be called a true servant of Christ? Can God trust you with a ministry? Do you want a ministry? Can God trust you? Are you faithful? Are you the one that can disciple others? Can you share the Word? If you are not living it yourself, how can you teach it to anyone else.
Well, this is quite a group of people we are studying. They were saintly saints amidst all the idolatry and deception you could possibly imagine in the western area of Asia Minor of their day.