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, May 27, 2013

Filled With All the Fullness of God (3)

The fourth of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christians might be filled with all the fullness of God in verse 19b: that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. We’ve examined the two principles of this petition, the doctrinal foundation and the practical application.

Third, the realistic outworking. How can we realistically be totally dominated by God in the intellect, emotions, and will? By four principles.

1. Read His Word. This is the key that unlocks the door of Christian growth. But how should you go about this? Some advocate reading the Bible through in one year, which you can do by reading about three and a half chapters per day, such as two and a half in the Old Testament and one in the New. Alternately, you can move slower by reading just the New Testament in about nine months. This or a similar approach is fine, but the danger to avoid is reading mechanically just to get in the day’s reading.

An alternate approach is to select one of Paul’s Epistles per month, read one chapter a day, and thereby read it through several times. Another book that yields itself to this approach is Proverbs, which you can finish in one month by reading a chapter a day. The same is basically true of the Gospels.

Whatever approach you use, the important point is to read with understanding, not to “just get the job done.” Meditate upon what you read. Reading a single verse with understanding is infinitely better than three chapters with none. When thoughts arise, you might want to jot them down in a notebook to keep tract of lessons you learn and blessing God gives. When questions arise, jot those down as well and ask your pastor about them. While we never want to rely on commentaries (good preachers don’t), they are a valuable tool. By far the best one-volume commentary I have seen is The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald. It’s a good investment for your reading.

2. Submit to the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word as absolute Truth. We have dealt with this issue before, so this is just a reminder. If you are in a church where this is not the primary ministry, find one where it is. Scripture is very clear on this issue, for no other so-called “ministry” will bring real growth.

3. Obey what we read and hear. Knowledge without application is less than worthless—it’s actually destructive. As Paul told the Corinthians, “knowledge puffeth up, but [love] edifieth” (I Cor. 8:1). Facts only make us arrogant. It’s application that makes us humble.

For example, when you read, “Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9), then obey it by never saying anything with the intent to deceive, embellish, or mislead. When you read, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Prov. 26:22) and when you read, “The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas. 3:5), then obey it by never gossiping and being careful about every word you say. When you read, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3; see I Cor. 1:10 ), then obey it by striving never to be the cause of a disunity or disharmony among God’s people. Reading a command of God without obeying it is rebellion, and if you disobey God’s Word, chastisement will come in one form or another.

4. Spend time in prayer. Mark it down, you will not consistently do the first three—read, listen, and apply—unless you pray. Unless you commune with God, you won’t understand what you read, you won’t want to listen to preaching, and you won’t apply anything because you aren’t humbling yourself before God. It is through prayer that you will confess your sins (I Jn. 1:9), ask for wisdom (Jas. 1:5), and pray for others (Col. 1:9; I Thes. 5:25). Test your prayer life against Paul’s. Do your prayers have a spiritual end? Even when you pray for physical needs, does it point ultimately to a spiritual result?

May we each be challenged to be dominated by God’s dominance, to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Filled With All the Fullness of God (2)

The fourth of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christians might be filled with all the fullness of God in verse 19b: that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Last time we examine the first principle of this petition, the doctrinal foundation.

Second, the practical application. Let us consider practical, day‑to‑day living. Consider first, however, exactly what it means to be “practical.” We hear this word constantly today, but how many of those who use it know what it really means? Most people who use it simply equate it with activity. To most people, to be practical means we are going about doing things and being busy. But this is only partially true. Being practical is first an attitude long before it is an activity. So, in practice, there is one thing that will always be true of the believer who is filled with all the fulness of God: he will be totally dominated by God in the intellect, emotion, and will (the entire personality).

1. The intellect will be dominated. Oh, how vital it is that our minds be dominated by God! As Romans 12:2 declares, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Notice, it’s not renewing of our “emotions” or our “feelings” that is vital but the renewing of our minds. Our minds need constant renewing against the world’s attitudes and actions.

One of the clearest and saddest facts of our day is that most Christians are just not knowledgeable of God and His Word. As A. W. Tozer observed in the mid 20th Century, “The Church doesn’t teach much of anything now . . . nowadays you can go to Church a lifetime without getting much Theology.” And it just keeps getting worse. Evangelical churches today are filled to the brim with entertainment, social activism, and human philosophy, but the knowledge of God and His Word are conspicuously absent. It is vitally important that preachers preach and people love doctrine, for that is what our minds need.

2. The emotions will be dominated. How often we are dominated by feelings! A common catch‑phrase today is, “Well, that’s just the way I feel.” Yes, and that is precisely our problem! Our actions and attitudes are quite often based on how we feel. It’s all right to have feelings, but we must never be dominated by them. We must not act on what we feel but rather on what we think about what we feel; our feelings must be weighed and controlled by the in­tellect. Think a moment of Stephen’s words as he was being stoned (Acts 7:60). Humanly speaking, didn’t Stephen have cause to “feel bad?” He was falsely accused and unjustly condemned. But his words were, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge?” There was a man who was not living by feelings but by a spirit controlled intellect. This, of course, reminds us of our Savior’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

May we couple this with the intellect. To be dominated by His dominance not only means we THINK spiritually, but it also means we FEEL spiritually; that is, we act spiritually. How often we find ourselves “reacting” in a given circumstance. Something happens, we feel a certain way about it, and we then react accordingly. But may we submit that even if the result of our “reaction” is right, we are still wrong. Why? Because God does not want us to react; He wants us to act. God wants us to think, based upon the Word of God, then act.

3. The will will be dominated. Consider the words of our Lord, “I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (Jn. 6:38; cf. Phil. 2:7‑8). We see the same attitude many times in the life of the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:22‑24; Phil. 3:7‑10; etc.). The point in all this is that our will must be dominated. We no longer live as we desire but as He desires. So, to be dominated by His dominance means not only means we THINK spiritually and FEEL spiritually, but it also means we CHOOSE spiritually. When we are dominated by God, we will choose the right desires, the right priorities, the right values, and the right goals. This leads to one last principle for next time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Filled With All the Fullness of God (1)

The fourth of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christians might be filled with all the fullness of God in verse 19b: that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. This final petition has been described as, “The climax of all prayer.” But may we go still further to say that this is the climax of all Christian experience. Our entire Chris­tian experience, our entire growth process should be looking toward being filled with all the fullness of God. This should be our life goal, priority, and motivation. Paul has been progressing higher and higher with each petition, and he now comes to the ultimate reality. Let us look at this principle in three ways: the doctrinal foundation, the practical application, and the realistic outworking.

First, the doctrinal foundation. May we consider for a moment just how important doctrine is. Many in Christianity today think the most important thing is to be “practical” and “relevant.” Agreed, practicality and relevance are important. But doctrine is far more important. It is the foundation on which application and relevancy are built. In fact, the men who have accomplished the most throughout Christian history were Theologically minded. That is, the men who did the most practically were men who thought theologically. In short, we must KNOW before we can ever DO.

May we now consider for a moment what the fulness of God is NOT. This is an important distinction. The fullness of God is not some kind of “mysticism.” More and more “Christian” books today weave in Eastern mysticism. Some mystics speak of being “lost in God.” Others teach that salvation means “absorption into the eternal.” But the fullness of God is not some vague, mystical concept. Neither does this fulness mean that we are filled with God’s material or outward blessing. Among others, the “prosperity teachers” tell us this.

What then is the fulness of God? We must first understand is the word with. The Greek (eis) literally means “to” or “unto.” The idea is not that we are filled with all that God is, that is, all that He is by nature, for this would then make us identical to God, which is, of course, what some cults teach. Rather it means we are filled to or with respect to the fulness of God. In other words, while we cannot possess all or do all that God is and does—such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence—we can each be filled up to our capacity in respect to the things of God. At any given moment we can be filled up to our present capacity with the things of God.

Look now at the pivotal word fullness. The Greek (pleroo) pictures that which is filled and was used in ancient times of ships being filled with sailors, rowers, and soldiers. Another way of translating the word is “domination” or similar forms. In fact, this transla­tion fits in all the instances of the various Greek forms used in Ephesians (1:23; 4:10;  4:13; 5:18). So, we may translate our text this way: “That you may be filled up to all the dominance of God.” To be filled with God’s fullness means we are emptied of self and are totally dominated by Him. May we express it thusly: To be filled with the fullness of God is to be dominated by His dominance.

At this point, we might ask, “But how is it possible to be totally dominated by God? How can our every thought, every impulse, every value, and every goal be totally dominated by God?” To illustrate, if we blow air into a balloon, we can truthfully say, “This balloon is full of air.” But we can then blow a little more air into the balloon and say, “It’s still full, but bigger.” Likewise, we may be filled with His fullness today, but we shall be fuller tomorrow. This is indeed and ever-continuing process. How tragic it is when Christians, laymen and preachers alike, think they have grown enough or think they know enough. May we each ask ourselves, “Am I being filled with all the fulness of God? Am I being dominated by His dominance?”

This leads us to our second thought, which we’ll examine in our next post.

Monday, May 6, 2013

We Might Comprehend the Love of Christ

The third of four prayer petitions that the Apostle Paul makes in Ephesians 3:16-19 is that Christians might comprehend the love of Christ in verses 18-19a: May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. In other words, Paul prays for the Christian’s comprehension. While the English reader thinks of “understanding” when he reads the word comprehend, the Greek behind it (katalambano) is much stronger: “to lay hold of so as to make one’s own, to obtain, attain to, to take into one’s self, to seize upon, take possession of.” The concept of “the love of God” is so broad, so wide, so expansive, that it’s necessary to look at its separate dimensions if we are going to have any understanding of it at all.

First, there is the breadth of His love. Breadth is platos in the Greek, which is used figuratively here (and Rev. 20:9) to mean the great expanses of the earth, so the breadth of Christ’s love shows the extent of His love, just how all-encompassing it is. Just as His love extends to both Jew and Gentile (see Ephesians 2:11‑18), God’s love is upon all people without distinction.

Second, there is the length of His love. Length is mēkos, which simply speaks of length and pictures here the duration of Christ’s love; that is, it shows that His love is eternal. The love of Christ for us spans eternity past and eternity future. As we discovered in Ephesians 1:4, God loved us in eternity past: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Ephesians 2:4 and 7 then tell us of his love in eternity future: “for his great love wherewith he loved us . . . That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” What a beautiful thought God conveyed to Jeremiah the prophet: “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). As many scientists consider time to be the “fourth dimension,” so it is that God’s love for His people transcends the physical universe to include time itself. Time is a created thing, and so it is that God loved His people before time existed, and he will love them after time ceases.

Third, there is the depth of His love. Depth is bathos, which metaphorically means greatness, immensity, profoundness, inscrutability, and abstruseness. Paul uses this word in Romans 11:33-34 to show that God’s riches are unfathomable, as are His judgments. Paul also uses this word in I Corinthians 2:10, “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep [i.e., unfathomable] things of God.” So the depth of Christ’s love shows us the condescension of His love; that is, it shows that God has reached down from His level to our level. This dimension is indeed the most wonderful of the four. As Ephesians 2:1‑5 makes vividly clear, it is impossible for man to be any lower or more depraved than he already is. “But God” has reached down and redeemed man through His love and grace. We have often heard the excuse, “Oh, I am too great a sinner to come to God.” But that is utterly impossible! Every sinner is just as depraved as another.

Fourth, there is the height of His love. Height is hupsos, which figuratively means elevation and dignity. This word appears, for example, in James 1:9-10, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation,” to mean that “the poor, in contrast to the rich, are lifted up on high by God.” The height of Christ’s love, then, shows the position to which the believers has been elevated; that is, it shows God’s ultimate and final purpose for us. How blessed this is! Not only has Christ’s love come down to us, but it also elevates us to a new and exalted position.