Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, April 29, 2013

Christ Might Indwell Our Hearts by Faith (2)

The second of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christ might dwell in Believer’s hearts by faith in verse 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. Paul gives three pictures in verse 17 that show us what spiritual depth is and how we can have it. We’ve look at the first two: Christ must dwell in our hearts and we must be rooted…in love.

Third, we must be grounded…in love. “Mixed metaphors” are different metaphors that are used to express the same concept. We’ve all heard or read them. I ran across these doozies, each of which various people actually uttered, no doubt to their eventual embarrassment: (1) Once you open a can of worms, they always come home to roost; (2) Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box of worms here; (3) He’s been burning the midnight oil at both ends; (4) He’s one brick short of the whole nine yards; (5) I’m sweating like a stuck pig; (6) It’s as American as killing two birds with one apple pie.

Those absurd examples are what are called “impermissible mixed metaphors,” metaphors that conflict because they serve different purposes. There are, however, “permissible mixed metaphors,” which do not conflict with each other because they serve the same purpose and exhibit a correlation with each other. Paul’s statement rooted and grounded in love is an example of a permissible mixed metaphor. Yes, “the first metaphor is botanical and the second is architectural,” as the same commentator points out, but they both serve the same purpose and exhibit a correlation with each other. Their common purpose is to picture spiritual depth and they correlate because they are both in the soil of love of Christ. In other words, not only are we to be rooted in our love for Christ, but we are also to be grounded in our love of Christ. Again, the metaphors have the same purpose and are corollaries. Here’s the corollary: a Tree ‑ stable and productive in the soil; a Building ‑ sturdy and permanent in the soil.

Now, the most important part of a building is, of course, the foundation. Any building will only be as sturdy as its foundation. An expression in the construction world is, “If you don’t go deep, you can’t go high.” I saw this first hand many years ago as I worked as an electrician on big construction sites. A vivid example of this, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, points out, is the difference in the height of buildings allowed in New York City and Los Angeles. Manhattan Island is more or less solid rock, which permits the buildings to go high. This is not permitted in Los Angeles, however, because of the more unstable soil.

So, the picture Paul gives here is that the Christian is to have a deep foundation. Why? Because if we don’t go deep, we can’t go high. As the Lord Jesus Himself taught, It’s the wise man who “built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock” (Lk. 6:48). If we are not firmly and deeply grounded in the things of God, then whatever we then build will soon crumble. And once again, the foundation is the love of Christ and His Word.

The story is told of a soldier in Napoleon’s army who was wounded one day by a bullet entering his chest just above his heart. As the surgeon was probing the wound with his knife, another on-looking soldier said, “An inch deeper, and you will find the emperor.” The metaphor is obvious: so committed was that soldier to his master that the master’s very name was virtually engraved on his heart. Likewise, engraved on the true Christian soldier’s heart, is the name of our Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, and when the enemy wounds us, it is that name he will see.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christ Might Indwell Our Hearts by Faith (1)

The second of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christ might dwell in Believer’s hearts by faith in verse 17: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.

A fact that is hard to accept, but one we must realize, is that the many Christians today grow very little in spiritual depth. Many do not get enough of the Word of God to produce any depth, staying instead on the surface. Sometimes this is caused by pastors who do not adequately feed God’s people, and sometimes it is caused by Christians who just do not concentrate on the Word that is given. How imperative spiritual depth is! Paul gives three pictures in verse 17 that show us what spiritual depth is and how we can have it.

First, Christ must dwell in our hearts. The Greek for dwell (katoikeō) a compound word: kata, “down,” and oikeō, “to inhabit a house.” Within the present context, however, the word is intensified. It doesn't just mean that Christ is in the house of our hearts, but that He is at home there. As one Greek scholar translates: “That Christ might finally settle down and feel completely at home in your hearts.”

May this prompt each of us to ask, “Is the Lord Jesus part of my household or just a visitor?” Several years ago there was a popular plaque that decorated many Christian homes and perhaps still does. It read: “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the Silent Listener to every conversation.” That is a nice sentiment, but He should be more than just a guest. Our Savior is a part of the family.

Now comes the question, How do we make our Savior feel at home? Our text gives the answer—by faith. Only when we trust Him and lean upon Him can He be at home. When we are living like the world, holding on to the same values and atti­tudes, the Lord cannot feel at home in our hearts. If we are trusting in “self” instead of Him, He feels like He is merely a visitor whose presence we only tolerate.

Second, we must be rooted . . . in love. Paul’s second picture is that of a tree. The third picture, which we will see later, is that of a build­ing. We mention it here because there are many similarities between a tree and a building: both have firmness, durability, and a certain degree of permanence. But there is also one major difference: while a building is strong and durable, and can withstand great stress, a tree is alive; it can grow. So, the picture Paul is giving here is that a Christian grows because he is rooted like a tree.

This brings us to the question, in what is the Christian to be rooted? Here is an amazing truth! A tree, of course, is rooted in the soil. It is from the soil that it receives water and nutrients. The roots go deep so the tree cannot easily be uprooted and therefore destroyed. The parallel is that love is the soil in which we are deeply rooted. Therefore, our spiritual nutrition, all that builds us up and makes us strong, comes from the soil of the love of Christ. Perhaps you are thinking, “But I thought the Word of God is where we get our spiritual food.” Yes, but while the Word of God is the seed, love is the soil. The Word of God is placed in the soil of the love of Christ; the two are inseparable. Ponder it this way: How can we grow in the Word if we do not love the Word?  Many today say they “love Jesus,” but they don’t love His Word. What a staggering contradiction! If we don’t love the Word of God and want to grow through It, we do not love the Lord Jesus, because it was He who was the Word who became flesh (Jn. 1:14).

Psalm 119 is David’s absolutely fascinating Psalm on the Word of God, born out of his love for It. Of its 176 verses, all but two mention the Word of God using one of eight synonyms. David mentions four out of the eight when writing of his love for Scripture: “O how love I thy law!” (v. 97); “I love thy testimonies” (v. 119); “I love thy commandments above gold” (v. 127); and “I love thy precepts” (v. 159). Why are Christians today shallow? Why is church ministry geared toward entertainment? Because people don’t love Scripture. Scripture alone is not enough to keep them coming back. Such people simply do not love the Lord. So, before we can grow in the Word, we must love the Word. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Strengthened By the Spirit

The first of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that the Christian Believer will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in verse 16: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. Let us meditate on four principles in this verse.

First, the substance of our strength is that we have been strengthened with might), that is, the power and ability to perform anything that He desires of us. In other words, God does not call upon us to do anything that He doesn't first empower us to so. This does not mean that we have power to do anything we want to do because Christ is in us. Many pervert verses such as Philippians 4:13 to teach this. Rather, all that God commands us to do we can do through Christ and His indwelling Spirit. In short, this power is the ability to do anything God wants us to do. For example, many Christians say, “Oh, I can’t be a witness; I’m just not qualified.” But God says that we are witnesses (Acts 1:8) and that we can be effective witnesses because He has given us the power and ability. To say anything different is to call God a liar. Oh, may we claim the power God has provided!

Second, the sphere of our strength is the inner man. The world today concentrates on the outer man; it is obsessed with physi­cal form, fashion, and fitness. But no matter what we do, the outer man grows weaker with age and is in a constant process of decay. The inner man, however, is designed to be continually growing stronger with power from the Holy Spirit. What makes up the inner man? Our intellect, emotions, and will, all that we are. And the tool that the Spirit uses is the Word of God.

Third, the source of our strength is His Spirit. What is “spirituality?” Many people use this term without a clue as to what it means. We hear such statements as, “I don’t consider myself to be religious, but I feel I am spiritual.” But what does “spirituality” mean? Paul told the Corinthian believers, who were anything but spiritual, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (I Cor. 2:15). The Greek behind “spiritual” (pneumatikos) means “non-carnal” or “dominated by the Spirit, in contrast to [the] natural.” To really be spiritual, then, means that we are characterized not by our natural instincts but by the Holy Spirit. Those who say such things as the above, therefore, are not spiritual at all because they are not dominated by the Holy Spirit but by their own opinions.

This is why Paul further says, “He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” Here is crucial principle. “Judgeth” is the same word translated “discerned” in the previous verse: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The Greek for “discerned” (anakrino) means “to investigate, examine, enquire into, scrutinize, sift, and question.” To discern something means that we don’t say, “Well, as long as that Bible teacher talks about God or Jesus, then he’s okay.” True spirituality means that we examine everything, that we investigate, question, and scrutinize what is being taught and practiced, not from the perspective of the flesh, natural inclination, or personal opinion, but by the domination of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. Most people are, just like the Corinthians, anything but spiritual; they are, in fact, the very opposite, looking at everything from their perspective not God’s. The truly spiritual person does not accept everything that comes along; rather he or she first examines it biblically to see if it’s right or wrong.

Fourth, the scale, the measuring rod, of our strength is according to the riches of His glory. The key words are according to. The Greek is not ek, which means “out of,” but kata, which means “down” and, therefore, shows “dominion.” So, God has not given “out of His riches” but “according to,” that is, “dominated by” or “in proportion to” His riches. The story is told of John D. Rockefeller that whenever he played golf in Florida, he gave his caddy a dime. He didn’t give according to his riches but “out of” his riches. But God gives us strength according to His riches, and that is a lot of strength!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Appeal of Prayer

We've been looking at Paul’s second prayer in Ephesians (3:12-21). Having looked at the Attitudes of prayer (vs. 12‑13) and the Approach to Prayer (vs. 14‑15), we come to Appeal of prayer (vs. 16-19).

It’s really hard to know how to start addressing such a sublime passage as this. In the opening words of his message on verse 16, that great 19th Century expositor Alexander MacClaren stated: “In no part of Paul’s letters does he rise to a higher level than in his prayers, and none of his prayers are fuller of fervor than this wonderful series of petitions. They open out one into the other like some majestic suite of apartments in a great palace-temple, each leading into a loftier and more spacious hall, each drawing nearer the presence-chamber, until at last we stand there.”

Indeed, no other prayer of Paul rises higher in content than this one. In fact, this prayer is one of the highest mountain peaks in all Scripture.

As we've observed before, may we note again that Paul is concerned with the spiritual, not the material. This is, in fact, an underlying principle of Paul’s life. Before we deal with what he did pray for, let us consider what he did not pray for. First, Paul didn't pray for himself. He didn't ask for a change in his circumstances, nor did he ask for any physical thing for himself. Second, Paul did not pray some “general prayer” for other believers. We see today many “generic prayers.” We hear a lot of prayers like, “Lord, bless all the missionaries,” or, “Lord, bless everyone in our church.” In contrast, Paul prayed for specific spiritual realities in the lives of God’s people. Third, as we've said before, Paul didn't even pray for material things for others, rather spiritual things. Oh, how often our prayers are filled to overflowing with material petitions when they are of secondary importance  Again, we can and should pray for material needs, but these are secondary. Moreover, even when we do pray for such things, the final result should be some spiritual reality, a spiritual end. A physical need should never be the end in itself. The end, the ultimate goal, should be a spiritual one.

Now let us now turn to what Paul did pray for. A truly amazing truth here is that Paul’s four petitions progressively build upon one another. We could present them this way: Paul prays that they would be strengthened by the Spirit (v. 16), so that Christ may indwell by faith (v. 17), so that they may comprehend Christ’s love (vs. 18-19a), so that they may be filled with the fullness of God (v. 19b).

What a truth this is! We shall come back to this fact over and over in our study. As Alexander Maclaren again puts it: “Each [petition] is the cause of the following and the result of the preceding.” Like Paul, these are the petitions every pastor should be praying for his people. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Approach to Prayer (2)

In our last installment, we looked at the first two principles on how we are to approach prayer: the reason and posture in Ephesians 3:14-15: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.

Third, there is the object of prayer, that is, to whom we pray. It is vital that we understand more than anything else, that God is a Father. This is best illustrated in “The Model Prayer” (Matt. 6:9‑13). The first guideline of prayer is that we pray to “Our Father, Who art in heaven.” We often think of God as “The Sovereign Being,” “The Omnipotent One,” “The Savior of the World,” and several other titles and names. But His “Fatherhood” is to be emphasized above all when speaking of personal relationship. In the Model Prayer, and its immediate context, God is referred to as “Father” five times (vs. 9, 14, 15, 18). This is extremely important for us to see. Above all other relationships, God is a Father.

Tragically, by Jesus’ day, the Jews lost sight of the intimacy of relationship between God and His people. God’s Fatherhood was thought of more in terms of His over‑all care for Israel; the intimacy of personal relationship was gone. It even became blasphemous to mention His name—Yahweh.

Jesus’ use of Father, however, brought back the intimacy of personal relationship. Romans 8:15 tells us: “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” “Adoption” means “son‑placing.” The use of this word here reminds us of the word “our” in the Model Prayer, as both picture the family relationship. “Abba” (used also in Mk. 14:36 and Gal. 4:6) is an Aramaic word used among Jews as the familiar term children used to their father. In fact, it is used even today in Hebrew speaking families. An unfortunate English equivalent that has been popularized today is “Daddy.” As we studied back in 2:19b (Chapter 18), this term has taken on a too sentimental tone and has given way to a somewhat “buddy‑buddy” relationship with God. More precisely it means, “My father,” “Father, my Father” or, “Dear Father,” which emphasize the necessity of reverence. There can be little doubt that Jesus used this word in His Model Prayer. The Greek patēr is used to translate the Aramaic abba. And we know for a fact that He used the term in Gethsemane—“Abba, Father” (Mk. 14:36).

So, when Jesus said “Our Father,” this was without doubt a stunning shock to the Jews who heard it. They were reintroduced to the fact that God is a caring, loving, and personal Father; they were reintroduced to the fact that man can have a personal relationship with God. This thought leads to another.

So, the significance of praying to the Father is that it: (1) indicates a personal relationship; (2) indicates the peace, hope, trust, and belonging that a father gives; (2) indicates the watch‑care, provision, and protection a father gives, and (4) indicates our submission and obedience.

In closing, we should point out that some say that the best description of God is not a Father because some people have had a terrible earthly father, which therefore, gives a terrible picture of God. But this isn't God’s fault! It’s not God’s fault that man has perverted the father‑child relationship  If we may put it this way: just because a man sires a child, that doesn't make him a father. Oh yes, in the world’s eyes he is a father, but not in God’s. The term father goes deeper than just the physical meaning. God has given us the picture of a true father by giving us the characteristics of how he deals with us. It is, therefore, up to every man to conform to the image of fatherhood God has given.

Dear Friend, do you have the right approach to prayer? Do you have the right reason, the right posture, and the right object?