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, September 30, 2013

The Doctrine of One Hope

The third of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers is one hope or our calling.

First, there is the meaning of one hope. As we studied back in 1:18, the Greek behind hope does not picture uncertainty, such as a wish or want, as it does in English. Rather it speaks of absolute assurance and rest in that assurance. There is, therefore, one hope, one certainty to which the true Believer looks: the return of Jesus Christ for His Church. Our calling refers to our calling to salvation, and the final hope, the final certainty of that salvation is the return of our Savior.

There are differing main views of the Second Coming of Christ: Amillennialism, Post-Millennialism, and Premillennialism. While there are very important differences in these views, they all do have one thing in common: all of them hold that Jesus Christ WILL return. That is really what matters most. Why? Because that is what Scripture says. As Revelation 19:11-16 record: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Then, in the last chapter of the Bible, we read twice our Lord’s promise: “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev. 22:7, 12), and then read it again intensified in verse 20, “Surely I come quickly.”

That is our one hope, our certainty. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Christ is, indeed, the only glory we should ever seek and the one hope to which we look.

Second, the application of one hope is that unity exists with a proper view of Christ’s return, that is, that He will return to the Earth as the Scripture says. One well-known cult, for example, teaches that Christ returned invisibly in 1914 and set up His kingdom in Heaven, but this is in direct contradiction to Scripture. At Christ’s ascension, two angels in the form of men announced, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The Lord’s coming, then, will be a visible kingdom on Earth, not an invisible Kingdom in Heaven.

This brings up the question, “What about those who don’t agree on their view of Christ’s return? Can a Premillennialist, for example, possibly fellowship with an Amillennialist?” There is today much unnecessary division here. Some who believe one view would not even consider fellowshipping with someone who holds another. But can this possibly honor the Lord? Is that “[keeping] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?” (v. 3). I, for example, am convinced that Premillenialism is correct. I believe without question that the reference in Revelation 20:4 and 6 to those who will “[live] and [reign] with Christ a thousand years” refers to a literal earthly Kingdom that will last 1,000 years. But at the same time, I can still fellowship with a brother in Christ who believes that the Kingdom is spiritual not literal. While I certainly think he is wrong and is missing a great blessing, what matters most is that we both know that our Lord is coming back to take us to glory. That is what matters.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Doctrine of One Spirit

The second of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers is one Spirit.

First, the meaning of one Spirit can only be the Holy Spirit of God, the third member of the Trinity, who regenerates the sinner and then indwells, enlightens, equips, and empowers the believer. So vital is the Holy Spirit in living the Christian life that Paul mentions Him a dozen times in Ephesians (1:13; 2:18,22; 3:5,16; 4:3,4; 4:30; 5:9,18; 6:17,18). While we could add several to the list, let’s briefly note seven major ministries of the Holy Spirit to the Believer (I encourage to read each verse in your Bible). What is the Holy Spirit doing in your life?

1. The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner (Jn. 3:3-6; Titus 3:5; II Pet. 1:4). 2. The Holy Spirit gives the Believer assurance of salvation (Rom. 8:15-16; see also Jn. 10:27-9 and Rom. 8:35-39). 3. The Holy Spirit indwells the Believer, no matter how immature that believer might be (I Cor. 6:15-19; 12:11-13). 4. The Holy Spirit strengthens the Believer (Eph. 3:16). 5. The Holy Spirit illumines and teaches the Believer (I Cor. 2:12, 14; Jn. 14:26; 16:13-14). 6. The Holy Spirit infills the Believer and empowers him for service (Eph. 5:18; Acts 1:8). 7. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit of Christ-like character in the Believer (Gal. 5:22-23).

Second, the application of one Spirit. The pointed application of this spiritual reality is that this one spirit is the energy of unity and fellowship. In thirty years of ministry I have seen some tragic examples of a lack of unity. I am convinced that the reason for this is a failure to allow the Spirit of God to rule. I am not doubting anyone’s salvation, but I am doubting that we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us. If we divide over some silly thing, we have just denied the “unity of the Spirit” (v. 3) and have fractured the body of Christ.

On the other hand, a rejection of this truth makes unity impossible. If one examines any cult or false religion, he finds the total absence of the idea of the personal indwelling and empowering presence of God through the Holy Spirit. One well-known cult, for example, teaches that the Holy Spirit is not a part of the Godhead. Both the personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit (which is defined as “the invisible active force of Almighty God which moves His servants to do His will”) are denied. So, as Romans 8:9 declares, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” A rejection of the one spirit of God who indwells every believer, and Who produces unity in the first place, destroys any possibility of unity. Again, as we examined back in verse 3, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It is the Holy Spirit Who produces unity. If we, therefore, do not possess the Holy Spirit, how can there be unity in the Body?

Tragically, there are Evangelicals today who advocate unity with political bodies as well as liberal denominations and even false religious groups for the sake of social ends. But this blatantly contracts the doctrine of one Spirit. There can be no unity, and therefore no glory to God, when we join with those who do not possess the Holy Spirit of God.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Doctrine of One Body

First, the meaning of one body can only be one thing—the Universal Church, the Body of Christ, the Church as an organism, to which Paul has referred several times in this letter.

There are many other references to this in Scripture. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said He would build His Church” (singular), not “churches” (plural). While before his conversion Paul no doubt persecuted individual churches, he recounts in I Corinthians 15:9 how he persecuted “the church,” that is, the entire Body of Christ. That is why the Lord Jesus asked, “Why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4), that is, My Body, all believers. Later in Ephesians 5:25, Paul also declares that Christ gave Himself for “the church,” that is, the entire Body. That Body was formed on the Day of Pentecost and includes every true believer. He emphasized the same truth to the Romans: “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:4-5).

So there is one body, not many. There is not one church that is for Jews, another for Gentiles, another for men, another for women, another for Caucasians, another for Negroes, and another for Asians. There is one, a single unified Body of Jesus Christ, of which all believers are part. As we studied carefully back in 2:14-18, God has made us all one. Shame on us if we build back any walls that He has broken down.

One word of caution is in order here. A common teaching in today’s pragmatic atmosphere is that only the Universal Church is important. This emphasis tears down and de-emphasizes the Local Church, which is, in fact, actually more important in some ways. The Local Church is the Church as an organization. More precisely, it is the local assembly of believers, organized according to Scriptural guidelines, that carries out all outward ministry. The Local Church is God’s instrument for working in the world today, and each is to carry out all ministry. That is why Paul founded Local Churches. Each is for God’s people to gather for worship, exercise their gifts, and equip them for service. As Paul makes clear later in Ephesians 4:11-16, God has given certain men “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” and this obviously takes place in the local church, as is also made plain in the book of Acts. Paul likewise wrote to Timothy, the pastor of a Local Church, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 2:15 with context). So as we will see, the Local Church is the training ground for ministry.

Second, the application of one body is that the Universal Church is a basis of unity and fellowship. One example of those who don’t accept this principle are certain denominations (or some groups who refuse to be even called a denomination) who maintain that their local assembly, along with other local assemblies who agree with them, are “The Church.” In this view, no one else is part of the Church, no matter what they believe. That is, of course, an arrogance that is hard to fathom. Biblically, no earthly denomination or group can be called “The Church.” Every true believer who is in agreement concerning the unique revelation of God through and in Jesus Christ is part of Christ’s Body. Any other attitude destroys unity and any possibility of fellowship.