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, November 25, 2013

The Doctrine of One Faith (2)

Last time we began our look at the fifth of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers—is one faith. First we looked at the meaning of one Faith.

Second, there is the applications of one Faith. One application is again obvious: unity can only exist with a proper view of salvation. The hallmark of all cults and false religions is works, that a person attains salvation either in whole in or at least in part by his own efforts.

To one cult, for example, as its founder wrote, “[people] must be recovered from blindness as well as from death, that they, each for himself, may have a full chance to prove, by obedience or disobedience, their worthiness of eternal life.” As onother cult teaches, “All mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Still another teaches, “Salvation, then is a process! But how the God of this world would blind your eyes to that!!! He tries to deceive you into thinking all there is to it is just ‘accepting Christ’ with ‘no works’—and presto-change, you are pronounced ‘saved.’ But the Bible reveals that none is yet ‘saved.’” And on it goes from religion to religion. Of course, the question arises, “But how many works are needed?” No one knows.

One world religion that is currently in vogue teaches the same philosophy—it’s just another religion of works. It is a legalistic system where a person must earn his salvation by holding to its five main doctrines, called the “Five Articles of Faith” (God, Angels, Scripture, Prophets, and Last Days), and especially following its “Five Pillars of Faith” (The Creed, Prayer, Almsgiving, Fasting, and the Pilgrimage to Mecca). This, of course, flatly denies Jesus’ own words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). You might call Him anything else you wish, but the issue is the Lord Jesus Christ—one Lord and one faith. It’s not your works, not what you might do, but in Jesus Christ alone.

Another application is equally obvious: unity can only exist with a proper view of Scripture. Another hallmark of cults is their rejection of the Scriptures as the sole, absolute, and sufficient authority. One cult founder, for example, claimed she got her teachings from the Bible but also claimed in no uncertain terms that her revelations were higher than the Bible.

The common thread through all false teaching is adherence to a second authority that supersedes the Bible when the Bible says something that men don’t like. Even evangelicals, though they say the Bible is their authority, actually replace Scripture with their own ideas and opinions. The modern “ministries” of Pragmatism, Relativism, seeker-sensitivity, user-friendliness, seeking the unchurched, and so on are man’s philosophy not God’s revelation. This issue is imbedded deep in my soul, because compromise of the Truth is common place, because the Bible is replaced with what men think not what God says.

The Bible in no uncertain terms speaks of It being the sole and sufficient authority of God. A key verse here is II Peter 1:19: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” The word “sure” is the Greek bebaios, which means “fit to tread on, having a firm foundation, durable, unshakeable, sure, reliable, and certain.” Further, used in a legal sense, it meant “valid and legal.” So, as long as we cling to the Word, we will be firm, unshakable, sure, certain, and valid.

So, the application of one faith is very clear: unity can only exist with a proper view of salvation and Scripture. The doctrine of salvation today has been reconsidered, redefined, and even rejected. Likewise, the Word of God has been mocked, maligned, and mutilated. But one of the very foundations stones of unity is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from any merit or works and the acceptance of the Bible as the only inspired, infallible, authoritative, and sufficient revelation to man. Opinions vary, experiences change, methods will adjust, but God’s Word lasts forever

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Doctrine of One Faith (1)

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

First, there is the meaning of one faith, which refers here not to the act of believing, rather to the doctrines that one believes, that is, a system of truth. Paul is saying that true unity is based on common doctrine, that is, the system of truth that we all have in common. This doesn’t mean an entire system of theology on which we all can agree; that would be impossible. Rather it refers again to the unique revelation of God through Christ. Paul has, of course, dealt with this often here in Ephesians. Specifically, this body of truth is the very essence of the Gospel, the redemption by blood and salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This one faith is clearly stated in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” This was the one faith that was virtually lost for centuries and restored to prominence in the Protestant Reformation. This is the one faith for which John Huss and countless others died for. This is the sola fide (faith alone) for which Martin Luther stood.

Also implicit in one faith is where this body of revealed truth is located, namely, the Scriptures. In other words, it is obviously the completed Scriptures that contain the record of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). In fact, a basic acknowledgment of Scripture as the Word of God is automatic in salvation. Why? Because the person is saying, “I believe what the Bible says about sin, salvation, and the Savior.” Here is an acknowledgment of the Scripture being true in its revelation of Christ. As Paul also declared to Timothy, “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” (II Tim. 2:2). Those early Christians had a body of basic doctrine (the Apostles’ doctrine; cf. Acts 2:42) that they believed and committed to others.

So important is right doctrine, that Paul spoke of those who “resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (II Tim. 3:8) and instructed Titus to “rebuke [false teachers] sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). We do not tolerate false doctrine or embrace false teachers; rather we rebuke them. Why? Because they have violated “the faith.” Among Paul’s last words, in fact, was that confidence that, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7). May that be our testimony as well.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Doctrine of One Lord (3)

We’ve been examining the fourth of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers—one Lord.

Concluding our look at the meaning of one Lord, when we examine Scripture, we can only come to one of three conclusions about Jesus. He was either a liar, the biggest fraud who ever lived, or He was a lunatic because He ultimately died for His false claim to be God, or He was exactly what He said He was—Lord. Time and again He spoke of His equality with the Father (Jn. 5:23; 8:19; 12:45; 15:23).

To this we should also add that according to Jewish law, only God could forgive sins, but this is precisely what Jesus did in Mark 2:5: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Once again the religious leaders were horrified and asked, “Doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” (v. 7), to which the Lord Jesus asked, “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” (v. 9).

So, to answer that pastor’s statement we mentioned last time (“It’s too bad the Bible just doesn’t say, ‘Jesus was God”), that’s precisely what It does say. To the Jews’ ears, Jesus’ statements were just as clear as the words “Jesus was God” are to ours. They knew exactly what He was claiming, and they went berserk; likewise many are still doing so today because they refuse to admit Jesus was God. Paul well summed it up when he wrote to another pastor: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Truly we have unity in one Lord.

Second, there is the application of one Lord, which is, unity can only exist with a proper view of Christ. Christianity is Christ, so how we view Him is absolutely essential. As noted earlier, when used of Jesus in a confessional way, Lord clearly refers to His divinity. To argue that point is total folly and blatant apostasy.
Countless cults and false religions, for example, deny the Deity of Christ. To one cult, Jesus was not equal to Jehovah and was not God in human flesh but was rather a created being and was actually Michael the Archangel in his preexistent state, having a brother named Lucifer who rebelled against God. To another cult, Jesus—like all men, in fact—was a preexistent spirit who took his body at birth in this world; He is “set apart from the rest of us only by the fact that He was the first-born of God’s spirit-children.” Other cults illustrate why they are all defined as “a cult,” namely, because they deny the deity of Christ or in some way pervert that doctrine.

But all that is nothing new in Church history, but is simply a revival of the ancient heresy called Arianism. Arius, a 4th Century parish priest in Alexandria, taught that Jesus was not coequal with God and was, in fact, a created being. A popular book called The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Doubleday, 2003) is another graphic example. While seemingly just another thriller novel set in the present-day, it has a hidden agenda that makes it far more. Starting with the murdered curator of a Paris museum, the hero and heroin of the story must decipher the clues left behind by the murdered man and thereby uncover an ancient and sinister plot. And what is this ancient secret? The supposed “true” story that Christianity has been trying to hide for 1,600 years, namely, that Jesus was just another man who actually ended up marrying Mary Magdalene.

This serves to illustrate a consistent practice of unbelievers, namely, they must distort history to deny truth. Why? Because history, as the old expression goes, is “His Story.” It is what God is doing in the world, what He is accomplishing. So to escape the plain truths of God’s Word, men must revise the facts, reinterpret events, and rewrite the history books. Another example in our day is the rewriting of American history. To escape the fact of America being founded on Biblical and moral principles, revisionist historians totally ignore the godliness of many of our Founding Fathers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Doctrine of One Lord (2)

Last time we began our look at the fourth of seven doctrinal truths in Ephesians 4:4-6 that form the very essence of Christianity and therefore unite all true believers—is one Lord.

Continuing our look at the meaning of one Lord, the Deity of Christ is an absolute cardinal doctrine of Christianity; without it, Christianity collapses of its own weight. But it’s also a doctrine that is clearly taught in Scripture without any ambiguity. I once heard a pastor say, “It’s too bad the Bible just doesn’t say, ‘Jesus was God’ and therefore clear up all the confusion.” I can’t express how that saddened me because it was based upon not only an ignorance of what we’ve just seen in the term one lord, but also of other statements in Scripture.

For example, one must always begin with John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Theologian Charles Ryrie well sums up the deep significance of this verse: “Before time began, Christ was already in existence with God. That is what is meant by the term ‘the pre-existent Christ.’ See Gen. 1:1 and 1 John 1:1. Logos [Word] means ‘word, thought, concept, and the expressions thereof.’ In the OT the concept conveyed activity and revelation, and the word or wisdom of God is often personified (Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8). In the Targums (Aramaic paraphrases of the OT) it was a designation of God. To the Greek mind it expressed the ideas of reason and creative control. Revelation is the keynote idea in the logos concept. Here it is applied to Jesus, who is all that God is and the expression of Him (1:1, 14). In this verse the Word (Christ) is said to be with God (i.e., in communion with and yet distinct from God) and to be God (i.e., identical in essence with God).”

In Revelation 19:14, the one on the white horse is “The Word of God,” the Lord Jesus Christ. John 1:14 declares, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Only the most dishonest or foolish “interpreter” would deny what these verses declare concerning Jesus Christ.

Besides the many confessions of Jesus as God by his followers—Peter (Matt.16:16-17), Martha (Jn. 11:27), Nathaniel (1:49), Stephen (Acts 7:59), and Paul (Acts 20:28; Heb. 1:8)—more importantly Jesus Himself claimed He was God. This silences those who argue, “Well, Jesus’ followers were deluded; they thought He was God, but He didn’t really claim deity.” One key passage is John 5:16-18, where Jesus had just healed a lame man on the Sabbath: “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” While our culture might understand these words to mean, “Big deal. My father is working and I’m working. So what?” the Jews heard something far different. Based on their culture and traditions, what those religious leaders heard was this: “By using the term my Father instead of our Father, this man is claiming equality with God. This man is, in fact, claiming to be God.” And that is what enraged them.

The same thing happened on another occasion: “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:30-33). The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was claiming to be. His statement, in fact, becomes all the more offensive to the Jewish ear because the Greek for “one” is neuter not masculine, which therefore means not one in person but one in essence or nature. Jesus was clearly saying that He was the same as God, and the Jews went berserk. We’ll take one more look at this next time.