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 .

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (2)

Continuing our examination of Ephesians 4:25 to take off lying to put on truth, is lying something that should surprise us? Not at all. Even the briefest examination of mankind reveals that nothing is more characteristic of his wrong behavior, nothing more typical of the “Old Man,” than lying. It’s as natural for a person to lie as it is for the sun to rise—it’s a given, an axiom of human behavior. Psalms 58:3 makes this clear: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Notice it doesn’t say “as soon as they can talk.” Coherent speech is not needed to lie. Every parent knows that even an infant can feign needs and deceive.

The very first sin of mankind, in fact, was the result of a lie, Satan’s lie. Remember that Satan “deceived” Eve and deception is part of the definition of a lie. He deliberately deceived her with the words, “Ye shall not surely die,” not to mention all the other things he said to delude her mind and mislead her. Furthermore, Satan not only lied, but he even called God a liar. May we always remember, Satan is a liar and is the “father of lies” (Jn:8:44).

Proverbs 6:12 says that “a wicked man, walketh with a froward [i.e., perverted, twisted, crafty] mouth.” Four verses later, the second of seven abominations to God—second only to pride—is “a lying tongue” and again the sixth is “a false witness that speaketh lies.” An “abomination” is something disgusting and abhorrent, which is probably why this truth is repeated in Proverbs 12:22: “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.” A lie is disgusting to God!

The sad fact is that our entire society is based on lying. One could almost call it an “art form,” because of those who are so talented at it. Have you ever wondered what would happen if everybody told the truth all the time? What if every advertiser and salesman told the truth about his product? What if every politician told the truth about his platform, supporters, and voting record? What if every lawyer told the truth about his clients? What if every doctor told the truth about whether a test or procedure was really necessary? What if every business told the truth about how it got its money? What if every non-profit organization told the truth about what donator’s money was used for? The result of such a scenario would collapse our society because lying is not only acceptable, it’s expected. Truth simply is no longer important or even prudent. It’s just not “good for business.”

After Paul writes the well-known words, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10), the characteristic sin he mentions in verse 13 is lying: “Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips.” As mentioned earlier, when our Lord said to the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil” (Jn. 8:44), He says it with the backdrop that Satan has “no Truth in Him . . . for he is a liar, and the father of it.” To lie, then, is to align oneself with Satan, never God, because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), for He is “the God of Truth” (Ps. 31:5).

Again, nothing is more characteristic of man’s fallen nature and behavior than lying. Eve lied (Gen. 3:3), Satan lied (v. 4), Adam lied (v. 12), Cain lied (4:9), Abram lied (12:13), Rebekah and Jacob lied (27:1-40), Laban lied (29:25), Joseph’s eleven brothers lied (37:32), and Potiphar’s wife lied (39:14). And that’s just the book of Genesis and only ones that are recorded! By nature, man hates the Truth because it makes him responsible, so the way to avoid both is to lie. We’ll continue next time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Taking Off Lying to Put On Truth (1)

It’s interesting, and extremely significant, that the sin of lying is listed first. Why? For two reasons. First, because, as we’ll see, lying is the most prominent sin of mankind. Lying permeates our being and our society. Lies are told to cover up other sins, making lying the “catch all,” so to speak. Second, because, as we’ll also examine, Truth is the most essential characteristic of Christianity, and therefore the Christian life. The reason we do not lie is because we cherish the Truth.

As I studied this principle in great depth, I was profoundly touched by it. Lying is, far more than people realize, so imbedded in our being, and therefore so entrenched in our practical living, that it takes the very power of God alone to break its hold. We will, therefore, take more time than usual to deal with it (six installments). I pray that what follows will truly shake us to the marrow of our bones, that we will see how essential Truth is and that it must never be shaded or tinted by a lie.

The Greek behind lying is pseudos, where we get our English “pseudo,” as in “pseudonym” (a false name). It occurs “in Greek from the time of Homer” (8th–7th Century B.C.) and means “the antithesis of truth, alethei,” which, as we’ve seen several times speaks of that which is not concealed, that which is absolute, incontrovertible, irrefutable, incontestable, unarguable, and unchanging. Writing from Ephesus the Apostle John wrote to churches in Asia Minor that they knew “the Truth” and “that no lie is of the truth” (I Jn. 2:21). There is not even the slightest bit of truth in a lie, no “gray areas” as is commonly believed. Even the smallest lie negates the truth.

A lie, therefore, is defined as, “A statement that is contrary to fact offered with the intent to deceive.” There are, of course, two parts to this definition. A statement that is contrary to fact is not necessarily a lie. For example, if I tell someone that I will meet them at a certain time but then am late due to car trouble, I didn’t lie because I wasn’t trying to deceive them. But if I said I’d be there at a certain time, knowing that I would be late, then that would be a lie.

Such things as kidding, fictional stories, figurative language, and not saying something out of politeness are not lying. There are many things, however, that are lying: blatant falsehoods, exaggerating or embellishing a story, cheating (because you’re saying you did something on your own when you didn’t), betraying a confidence, making excuses for wrong conduct, telling a half-truth, plagiarism, boasting, flattery, false humility, hypocrisy, false promises, and tragically much more. In short, when we say anything that is not true in its entirety, it’s a lie.

Even more significant is the fact that a lie doesn’t have to be spoken. We can lie without uttering a single word. We can lie by allowing something to be said that we know to be untrue and therefore be in complicity with it. We can even lie with a look, a gesture, or even the most subtleness facial expression.

Further, a lie travels fast and permeates everything it touches. As Spurgeon put it, “A lie travels around the world while Truth is putting on her boots.” Further still, The destructive power of lying is incalculable. Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.”

Think back to the years leading up to World War II. How on earth could a gutter rat who lived in a home for tramps in the slums of Vienna, a man who had failed at everything he’d ever tried, rise to lead Germany in the horrors that she would inflict upon the world? The answer is: through lies. Taking advantage of the bungled “Treaty of Versailles” that ended World War I, the economic misery of the people caused by paying war reparations and the devalued German mark, followed by the worldwide Depression of the 1930s, Adolph Hitler came to power through animal magnetism, fanatical speeches, political intrigue, and violence. And what were his two underlying arguments, the two basic lies that ultimately resulted in the deaths of an estimated fifty-five million people, both military and civilian of all countries, plus another six million in the Holocaust? First, that European Jews were to blame for all of Germany’s problems and had to be removed, and second, the preaching of Lebensraum (“living space”), the belief that Germany had to expand her territory if she were to survive. In Mein Kampf Hitler wrote, “The great mass of people . . . will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” We’ll continue this important subject next time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The New Life

Having looked at the “Old Man” and the “New Man,” we come now to the “New Life” that we have in Christ, as the Apostle Paul details in Ephesians 4:25-32. Here is the practical consideration of walking in purity. We find here, in fact, one of the most vitally important sections of living the Christian life to be found in the Scriptures.

The importance of this passage cannot be overemphasized. For decades well meaning men have come up with various lists of “dos and don’ts” for conduct. Pastor Ray Stedman recalls as a young Christian hearing a little jingle from what he calls the “thou shalt not variety” of Christianity: “Rooty-toot-toot! Rooty-toot-toot! / We are the boys from the Institute. / We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew. / And we don’t go out with girls that do.”

Legalistic Christian living has been around for countless years, and different teachers dub various things as being “worldly” and therefore forbidden for the Christian, including: smoking, drinking, dancing, gambling, going to the theater, television, playing cards, pants on women, makeup, and so forth. “Doing” and/or “not” doing are then the gauges of spirituality. I’ve seen some churches, in fact, that demand prospective members sign an agreement not to do such things before being allowed to join the church, but I’ve yet to find a verse in either Acts or the Epistles that teaches such a rule.

The problem with such lists, of course, is that they are man-made, and because of that, one man’s list is different from another man’s list. We are, therefore, left with no absolutes for conduct; we are left with relative guidelines that are generated by men’s opinions, personal preferences, and often just plain self-righteousness. More important, such lists miss the point of true spirituality, namely, it’s not the outside that matters as much as the inside. “But doesn’t being a Christian mean that there are certain things we won’t do?” it is asked. Of course, but it is not men’s job to define what these things are.

What we find before us, therefore, is one of “God’s lists for conduct.” There are other such lists in Scripture—the one in Proverbs 6:16-19, for example, perhaps being the most exhaustive and all-encompassing—but the list here is unique in its specific application to the Christian. Again, Paul is merely elaborating on and applying the general principles he has already laid down in his discussions concerning the “Old Man” and the “New Man.” As we study this vital passage, we should notice two principles.

First, Paul gives us the negative, that is, what each sin is and what it involves. There are actually four major sins listed here—lying, unrighteous vengeance, stealing, and corrupt speech—and then an additional summary statement. This list is unique because these sins are the most common sins to be found in human behavior and are, therefore, the ones most likely to creep subtlety back into the Believer’s life. These are the things we are continually putting away (Greek apotithēmi, “taking off and discarding like an old garment”).

Second, Paul then gives us the positive, the reason and motive for keeping each of these sins out of our lives. Yes, the main reason for this is because they are sin, and God says get rid of them Paul goes deeper, however, than just “thou shalt not,” which would be little more than legalism. Rather with each one he gives a greater motive. We see here, then, five contrasts: (1) Taking off lying to put on truth (v. 25); (2) Taking off unrighteous vengeance to put on righteous anger (vs. 26-27); (3) Taking off stealing to put on laboring (v. 28); (4) Taking off corrupt speech to put on good speech (v. 29); (5) Taking off natural reactions to put on spiritual actions (vs. 30-32). This will outline studies to come.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The New Man’s Moral Decency

Once again, the characteristics of the New Man are the exact opposite of those of the Old Man: intellectual ductility, spiritual durability, and moral decency.

Ephesians 5:24b declares that third characteristic: which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

What a contrast this is with the “moral depravity” of the “Old Man” (v. 19)! Consider three manifestations of the “New Man’s” moral decency.

First, there is righteousness. This refers to our dealing with our fellow men. Verse 19 says that the “Old Man” is “past feeling,” that men can do things to one another without feeling any remorse or guilt. But the “New Man” treats others rightfully. As we’ll see down in verse 32, in directly contrast to being “past feeling” the “New Man” is “tenderhearted.” In place of a heart of stone is a heart that is tender.

Second, there is holiness. This refers to our relationship with God. Instead of the lascivious and unclean life of the “Old Man,” our behavior is now pure and godly.

Third, there is “truth.” The word true is not an adjective in the Greek, rather a noun; it literally reads “in righteousness and holiness of the truth” and is in direct contrast to the word “deceit” in verse 22. What is it that characterizes the “Old Man?”—deceit. What characterizes the “New Man?”—TRUTH. It is Truth that produces righteousness and holiness. As our Lord declared in His High priestly prayer: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). How are people sanctified? Is it through making them feel good, appealing to their “felt needs,” or entertaining them? No, they will be sanctified only through truth.

To conclude our study, it is sweet to think of a man named Lazarus and how he illustrates the principle that is before us (Jn. 11-12). Lazarus was dead; he had been dead, in fact, for four days. He even had on the “evidences of death”—the grave clothes. But our Savior came to the tomb and, after raising Lazarus from the dead, said to those present, “Loose him and let him go.” What a picture! “Take off the evidences of death; take off the evidences of the grave!” This is what happens to the one who comes to Christ. Having removed the grave clothes of the “Old Man,” we put on the “grace clothes” of the “New Man.” In the verses to follow (25-32), we’ll see more of what living this new life involves.