Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 86
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|Dr. Barber says, “Let’s just wrap it all up and make sure we have remembered what we have learned in the book of Ephesians.” This article summarized the main points he has raised during this series. (We’ll take a short break, and be back soon with another series by Dr. Barber.)|
One Last Look
Let’s just wrap it all up and make sure we have remembered what we have learned in the book of Ephesians. Let’s read verses 23 and 24: “Peace [in all of its aspects] be to the brethren, and love with faith [which is the richest kind of love. Faith here means obedience, love with obedience. That is the kind of love God wants] from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.”
Now the ending of verse 24 doesn’t quite convey what these two verses are saying. When Paul says, “with a love incorruptible,” it is better than that. He is saying, “in incorruptibility.” Let me explain that to you. The Apostle Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians on the same high note that he started the letter. In 1:3 he says that we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Now he says in verses 23 and 24 that there is peace, there is love and there is grace. All three of these are incorruptible.
Try to understand what he is saying. Our bodies are corruptible. That is why I Corinthians 15 says we must put on immorality or incorruptibility. Paul is saying, “Everything that God has given us in Jesus Christ is incorruptible. Nothing can ever take away from it. Nothing can ever happen to it. It is ours forever, especially those who love the Lord Jesus Christ.” Nobody can take away anything I have in Jesus Christ. If I love Him and do as Ephesians has told me, I can appropriate every spiritual blessing that is mine in Him and they will be mine forever and ever and ever and ever. They are incorruptible. Nobody can lay their hands on that which God has given me in Jesus Christ.
Paul is writing this from prison, so he is probably sending another signal: “They may take my life, but they can’t touch my Jesus in whom I have been made complete and will live with forever and ever and ever.” That is the way he closes the letter. He starts off with every spiritual blessing in Jesus. He ends by saying every one of them can be summed up in three words: grace, peace and love. They are incorruptible for all of eternity, and those of us who love Him can draw from them daily and recognize them and realize them in our life.
Someone in our congregation has done a painting of their view of what Ephesians is all about. It is a picture of Jesus putting the garment on one who is kneeling before Him. He is standing in front of the cross. At the bottom of the painting they put, “And put on the new nature.” Think about the new life that we have in Christ. I have had families come up to me and say, “My kids caught on to Ephesians and they are asking us all the time, ‘What garment do you have on? Do you have the new one on or do you have the old one on? Just how are you living?’” I think the accountability that Ephesians calls us to is very important to keep in the forefront in the days ahead.
Turn to chapter 3 for one last look at Ephesians. When I go place to place I try to start in 3:14. Why? Because the prayer of Paul in 3:14-21 is the hinge of the whole book. It sums up everything in chapters 1, 2 and 3 and it sets up everything in chapters 4, 5 and 6. If you can grasp this prayer, everything flows into it and out of it in the book of Ephesians. Paul says in verse 14, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.” We already know how Paul starts his prayer back in 3:1. He is a man who is overwhelmed with his salvation. People are telling us in these days that the problem with the church is that we have a low view of self. No, we have a low view of salvation, and because we have a low view of salvation, we have a low view of Christ. We have a low view of God’s Word. “It won’t work in our lives.” “Jesus can’t help me in my problems.”
Paul has a high view of salvation. As a matter of fact, he has such a high view, he tries to pray. He says in 3:1: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles.” Then instead of starting his prayer, he takes another 12 verses to talk about the wonder of his salvation and how it was revealed to him. Then he comes back in verse 14 and finishes his prayer.
To find out why he bows his knees before the Father you have to go back to 2:19-22 where you discover what this converted Jew is trying to say to converted Gentiles over in Ephesus. He says in verses 19-22: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”
Let’s just milk this down. What is he saying? He is saying, “Listen, all of you Gentile believers, you must understand that you are a part of God’s household, a part of the Temple. You are the dwelling of God on this earth.” That is exciting, isn’t it? “Do you mean to tell me God lives in me?” He is telling the Ephesians, “Hey, you have everything you need right now as believers resident within you in the person of Jesus Christ whose Spirit lives in your heart. Every single thing you could ever want or need is there in Jesus Christ. You are the dwelling of God on this earth.”
If I wore my hat inside the church and you walked up to me and said, “Take that hat off, you are in God’s house,” what would I say back to you? I should say, “This hat is not in God’s house, it is on God’s house.” Is that right? Is that correct? I Corinthians 6 says, “Know ye not that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit of God.” “Do you mean to tell me God is in the church because we are?” Well, He is omnipresent but in the sense of His Spirit, yes. He lives in us. Wherever we go, God goes with us. He wants us to be conduits so that through us He can reach out and touch the people who are around us. Paul says, “You are the dwelling of God. You are the household of God. You have God living in you. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.”
Now the God who lives within us wants us to experience Him. He wants to draw us into who He is. He is always working in our life. He is sovereign. He never slumbers. He never sleeps. He is always up to something. We don’t have to get in a meeting to decide what we can do and ask God to bless. No. We get sensitive to Him and let Him draw us into what He is already doing. Look in 3:16. Paul starts making his requests. He says, “that He would grant you.” First of all he wants us to experience His power. He continues, “according to the riches of His glory.” I hope you have noted all the times it said “according to” when we went through this earlier. It is used over 15 different times in the book of Ephesians, and every time it is used it is significant. It is not out of, it is according to. That automatically determines a standard. If I were a rich man and wanted to give you some money out of my wealth, I would give you nothing but a token. A lot of people give that way. But if I wanted to give according to, then whatever gift I gave you must somehow reflect what I have to give out of. So “according to” determines a measure.
Paul says, “Listen, you need to be strengthened according to the riches of His glory.” Now what are the riches of His glory? Back in 1:3 we see, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” “You mean to tell me when I received Jesus in my life, He is the First National Bank of God and every spiritual blessing under heaven is resident in Him?” That is exactly right. God wants us to know that. He wants us to know we lack nothing on this planet for life and for godliness. Simon Peter used those identical words. He said God has given us everything for life and for godliness. It doesn’t matter whether it was outward life or inward life.
He says, “to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Therefore, we need to be strengthened, which means to be made mighty, with power. The word “power” means ability that you don’t have. Ability that only God has within you. “You mean the Spirit of Christ, who lives within me, possesses all the spiritual blessings I could ever want, hope for, ask for or even think about?” That is right. I need to be strengthened according to everything I have that is in Jesus Christ.
Can I ask you a question? Are you living your life according to what you have in Jesus or are you simply living out of some of what you have in Jesus Christ? Where is the standard of your Christian life? The Apostle Paul is concerned. You say, “Well, I think I understand now what I have in Jesus Christ, but how do I tap into what I have in Jesus Christ?” It is one thing to know what you have, but it is another thing to be able to draw it out. So in verse 17 Paul tells us how to do that. He says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” “Do you mean to tell me that faith has something to do with me drawing out what I have in Jesus Christ?” That is right. To understand this phrase, you have to understand faith. What is “faith”? Pistis. It means to be so persuaded by something that you are willing to commit everything to it, to surrender to it and to obey it. You can never separate faith and obedience. “You mean to tell me that when I am willing to obey God, that obedience begins to become that which draws out of Him everything that I have in Him?” That is exactly right. If I am not willing to obey Him in any room of my heart, then automatically I am going to shut down the power that is already there in Jesus Christ resident within my life.
The term “dwell” is the term that means to be at home. You know that. We have studied it. To be at home means exactly that. I need to learn to accommodate His presence. 5:10 says I am always seeking ways to please Him. We went through the areas of what the inner man is all about, which is the heart. We looked at our heart as if it was a huge house with different rooms. We saw in Luke 9:47 the room of our thoughts. We saw in Matthew 18:35 the room of our attitudes, which is forgiveness. We looked over at the room of our emotions in John 14:1, “Let not your heart be troubled.” We looked over in II Corinthians and we saw the secret areas of our heart. We also saw the hidden motives of the heart. God wants every part of us. In other words, He didn’t come into my heart to rent a room. He came in and purchased the whole thing. His blood was shed to purchase the whole house. I have no right to slam the door in His face.
But the Holy Spirit of God can be grieved as we saw in chapter 4. He is a gentleman. When He comes into my life, He says, “If you want Me here, then you accommodate Me. Make Me be at home. Give over to Me every area of your life. As You are willing to give it and trust Me and obey Me, then I am willing to strengthen you in the inner man with power you never dreamed about.” God wants us to experience His power. Ephesians, you can’t forgive. Paul is saying, “Ephesians, you can’t love. Ephesians, you can’t do the ministry. But Ephesians, you can receive and let God do it in you. God will strengthen you. God will enable you to love. God will enable you to forgive. God will enable you to do what you couldn’t do before the Holy Spirit took up residence in your life.” Do you want to experience the power of God? Accommodate the presence of God. That is the message of Ephesians. Accommodate Him in your life.
You may say, “I have been treated so badly by some people in my life, I will never be able to forgive.” Thank God, go on and make that confession because that confession helps you get one step closer to the fact that is right. You can’t. God never said you could. He can and He always said He would. Be willing to admit to it. Confession is not for His benefit, it is for our benefit. We need to say, “Lord, I am missing the mark. Lord, I am not measuring up. God, I can’t measure up.” God will say, “That is right. You can’t. Now bow before Me. Trust Me. Obey Me. I will measure up inside you, letting Jesus be Jesus in your life.” Once you begin to experience the power of God, you begin to experience the passion of God.
There are two little Greek words that are translated “in order that.” One of them is found in verse 17 and one of them is found in verse 19. Verse 17 says, “in order that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to the all the fulness of God.” In other words, A comes before B. “I want to understand the love of God. I want to know that God loves me. I want to know that love for other people.” First of all, you’ve got to learn to love Him. It is incredible. It is like a cycle. You realize He loves you and you respond and begin to love Him. Then you begin to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and the breadth and the depth and the height of His love. Then you begin to experience for yourself. The word “know” means to experience for yourself the love of Christ. All of a sudden you begin to realize that God does love you. God is loving you all the time. All of a sudden people start getting sweeter to you. You go out to eat and order beans, but they give you peas and they are cold. The Lord Jesus inside of you reaches out and loves the people who have to deal with you and minister to you. Everywhere you go you exhibit love and compassion. You begin to see the world that God sees. You talk about missions and evangelism.
So many people get on my case and say, “You are not evangelistic.” I think I am as evangelistic as anybody who ever walked. I am looking at Step One of evangelism, not just Step Two and Three. Most of the people who accuse me of not being evangelistic are people who think evangelism is nothing more than sowing and reaping. Friend, before you can ever sow and before you can ever reap, you have to learn to cultivate the soil. You’ve got to learn to plow up the ground. Until my heart is cultivated before God, how in the world can I cultivate somebody else’s? The quickest way to evangelism is not in the class which teaches you how to pass out a tract. The quickest way to evangelism is getting the right response to God, loving God and surrendering to God. Then God in you will show you the compassion of Jesus. Then you comprehend. Then you know for yourself what the love of God is. That is evangelism. That is lifestyle. That is across the street. That is next door. Evangelism is every moment of your life. It is every fiber of your being. It is someone who loves Jesus and Jesus now is loving others through them wherever they are. It never stops and it goes on until Jesus comes again.
Paul says you have to accommodate the presence of God. Once you begin to know the power of God you see the way it is manifested is in the passion of God, the love of Christ. Then the next thing you enter into is the potential of God. That little “in order that” comes up again in the middle of verse 19, “in order that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.” In other words, that all of God can fill all of you. The word “fill” there means to control. It doesn’t mean you are pouring something into something. It means to dominate, to take over, to control your life. As a matter of fact, in 5:18 he says, “be filled with the Spirit,” constantly be being filled with the Spirit. Paul tells you how in chapter 3. You can’t study chapter 5 without coming back to chapter 3. You do it by giving Him absolute accommodation in every room of your heart. When you do that you start tapping into that which only God can do in you, not what you can do for God.
If we start living that way, what will the church be like? In 4:1-2 we see it in the way we behave towards one another. It says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The word “worthy” means live up to the standard which God says you can live up to. In other words, give a proper estimate as to what salvation is by the way you live. It is a set of scales. If you have this in your life, then live that way and balance it out. Measure up. Make sure the intrinsic value of your salvation is determining how you walk as a believer.
Then he shows you how it will happen in a congregation. With humility you will have a proper attitude towards yourself, and with gentleness, you will have a proper attitude towards God. With patience you will have a proper attitude towards others. Then he says, “showing forbearance to one another in love.” What does “forbearance” mean? If you add humility, gentleness and patience together, the result is forbearance. It means that you and I will be able to stand up against each other. It is the idea of leaning up against each other and holding each other up. In other words when things go wrong, when you have a problem, when someone has provoked you or insulted you, thank God that you have humility and gentleness and patience and you don’t have to react. We can pray for each other and stand up with each other and hold each other up. We don’t divide just because there is a problem. We don’t divide just because there are things going on. We have Jesus living in us. Jesus will take us to and through whatever circumstances we ever have to encounter.
Ephesians 4:4-6 shows us doctrinally how we believe. There are seven doctrines. I have said over and over again there are some people who can fool you because they are so sincere and they cry and they talk about Jesus. You had better check out what they believe because their devotion to God has got to directly stem and flow from their doctrine. If a person is doctrinally wrong, his devotion is somewhere off center. It doesn’t matter how sincere he is. He can be sincerely wrong.
Verses 7-16 of chapter 4 talk about how we are being built together into the body of Christ. It talks about each one working out of their gift. It talks about the gifted men who God has sent. Why? So that the whole body can grow up into the stature and fullness of Christ.
Then almost as if Paul says, “You know, I am not sure you are getting this. Let me change gears here for a second.” In verse 22 he says, “in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” Then in verse 24 he says, “and put on the new self.” What he is talking about is a lifestyle. He is not talking about the old man that is dead. He is saying, “Listen, live differently because the old man is dead. Live differently because the Spirit of God now lives in your life.”
What is the difference in wearing the old garment and wearing the new garment? I don’t want you to forget this. What does it look like to wear the wrong garment? When you get up some morning and you don’t want to be filled with the Spirit of God, how does God look at you? How do you look when you come to church and argue all the way to church and don’t make it right with one another before you walk in? How do you look when somebody provokes you and you react to them with anger and bitterness and talk them down? We’ve got to understand how stupid it looks for us to wear the wrong garment. Paul says when you are strengthened in the inner man, you will have the right garment on.
Now, when you have the new garment on, you live differently than when you wear the old garment. Remember that. Live like you know how you can live. How is it when you wear the new garment? Verse 4:25 and following tells us to lay aside falsehood or the lie and tell the truth: “speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” When you put the new garment on, you can’t lie. If you put the old one on you will lie in a minute and you will always protect yourself. You will be constantly hiding behind whatever it is that is said to you. On one side you have nothing to hide. God already knows it. You are transparent. You can admit it and tell the truth when you are wearing the right garment.
Verse 26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” The second word for “anger” there is a provocation of anger.” “Anger” is not the same word as the word used for “angry.” The first word simply means be angry. It is a sense of anger when anger is right. In the new garment it will always be aimed at the right thing, the sin. In the old garment it will be aimed at the wrong thing, the person. So, when you see something in our society that is wrong and you want to take a stand against it, you had better make sure which garment you have on because the anger of man never accomplishes the righteousness of God. You don’t attack people. You attack the problem. You love the people. Always love the people.
Verse 27 reads, “and do not give the devil an opportunity.” He will try to divide the body by putting on the wrong garment. Verse 28 continues, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” In other words, the new garment gives and the old garment takes. Verse 29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” The word “unwholesome” means rotten. If you have a rotten apple in a barrel, it is going to rot the whole bunch. It goes on to say, “but only such a word as is good for edification.” The word “edification” means to build a house. Suppose somebody calls you on the phone and wants to be negative about a brother or a sister. The moment they open their mouth and start becoming that way say, “Phew, something is rotten on this phone. That smells like the old garment to me. I can’t talk to you any more.” Hang it up. You don’t need to be a part of that. Wear that new garment. Make sure you are wearing the right garment.
Paul goes on in verse 30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Verse 31 is the cesspool of the old garment. Verse 32 is the well-spring of the new garment. Then Paul comes into chapter 5 and says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Mime it. Don’t talk it, walk it. Then he says don’t become immoral. Don’t even talk about immorality. Don’t even let it be named among you.
He comes on down in verse 11 and says, “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” In verse 18 he says, “but be filled with the Spirit,” as you learn to walk wise in a perverse generation. Further on down in the chapter he says that is going to affect your family. Wives will submit to their husbands. Husbands will love their wives as Christ loved the church. He comes into chapter 6 and says children who are filled with the Spirit of God and are wearing the right garment will even obey their parents.
Then in verses 5-9 Paul talks about the work place. In verse 10 he begins to close the book. “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.” What did he mean by that? He simply means, “I have been spending five and a half chapters trying to tell you this. Be strong in the Lord. You are not strong in yourself. You are strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. He tells you very clearly that the garment of 4:24-6:9 is the armor in 6:10-18. The garment and the armor. The armor is nothing more than the underlying attitudes that cause you to wear that garment, that new lifestyle. That is all it is. Your loins are girded about with truth. You wear the breastplate of righteousness. Your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You take up the shield of faith which is an intention to obey God at all costs. He goes on and says in verse 17 that the helmet of salvation is the hope that we base everything on and the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
Standing firm is the first thing you have to do in wearing this garment. Secondly he says in verse 18, you have to pray at all times in the Spirit. You see, you can’t pray in the Spirit until you are filled by the Spirit. But you can’t just stand, you’ve got to pray something. The two have to go together. As you stand, you will pray and the Holy Spirit will lead you in prayer.
Then Paul finishes the book. He says, “Remember everything you have in Jesus Christ is incorruptible. Nobody can take it from you. You didn’t get less than somebody else got. You got the same thing they got. Now, live out of it and let your life be seen to be a life worthy of your calling.” Do you know what that says to me? There are a lot of people, including myself some days, that are not living worthy of their calling. We need to be held accountable to that. A wife needs to look at her husband sometime in love and ask, “Which garment do you have on?” A husband should ask that of his wife. We need to start holding each other accountable for the way we live because we have been given everything for life and for godliness. It is incorruptible and it is there. All we have to do is learn to appropriate that in our life.
That is Ephesians in a nutshell. No pop test. No final exam. I guess the final exam is to see how it has changed our lives. How we live is determined on whether or not we just read it or whether or not we have received the Word into our lives. I love the painting of the man kneeling and Christ putting the garment on him. You don’t really put the garment on. You purpose in your heart to obey Christ, and He puts the garment on you. It is Him and His righteousness lived out through your life. That is the book of Ephesians. Somebody asked me, “If you could only have one book of the Bible from now on until Jesus comes back, what would it be?” I said, “Give me Ephesians. That is all I need.” It is salvation from God’s view down to me so that I can understand it and appropriate it in my life.
Let me ask you a question. What garment have you been wearing? The way you live on the outside is a picture of what is going on on the inside. If I am being strengthened in the inner man, the outer garment will be a witness and a testimony to others that there is a power bigger than myself in the person who lives in my life.