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, December 13, 2015

The Manifestations of Spirit-Filling: Worship (1)

There are at least eight manifestations of Spirit-filling in the New Testament, four of which are in our text. The first is music (Eph. 5:19a). Second, there is worship—in your in your heart to the Lord; (5:19a).

In our day, many people go to church for what they can get. That is, in fact, what most so-called church ministry is built on. The whole point of church programs is built on the idea of “giving people what they want,” “giving them a blessing” or “meeting their felt needs.” Some people go to church like they’re going to a movie—they check out the church page in their newspaper to see what’s playing and go to the church whose program appeals to them. Many shop for a church to join based on what that church can offer them. But if you go to church for what you can get out of the music, or what you can get out of the sermon, or just to get blessed, you’ve missed the point. The music and the sermon are not ends in themselves. They are means of worshiping God.

In stark contrast, when we look at Scripture alone, we are to go to church to worship God, and that’s done by giving, not getting. We go to offer something to Him, not to receive from Him. Yes, if we offer the praise He deserves, we will receive blessing from Him; there is blessing in giving, for the Lord is quoted as saying, It is more blessed to give than to receive(Acts 20:35b). But getting is not our motive or purpose. True worship is giving to God, not getting.

It is sad beyond words that as much as 90% of the church today is based on entertainment. And anyone who dares criticize it is labeled “divisive.” This trend started as far back as the 1950s. In those days A. W. Tozer wrote much about worship and its demise: I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven. . . . You know, the church started out with a Bible, then it got a hymnbook, and for years that was it—a Bible and a hymnbook. The average church now certainly wouldn’t be able to operate on just a hymnbook and the Bible. Now we have to have all kinds of truck. A lot of people couldn’t serve God at all without at least a van load of equipment to keep them happy.”

Many today don’t think they can worship without a “praise band,” a PowerPoint presentation, or an entertainer leading the “worship service.” We have abandoned the true meaning of worship. Ponder a moment: what is heaven going to be like? Well, not one of the Biblical descriptions implies that we are going to be entertained. Heaven will be a place of worship—and many today are not preparing.

Oh, how we need an attitude of worship in our churches today! How much music there is that is sung without a worshipful attitude! How many church services there are that are flippant and frivolous, having no spirit of worship! How many people today talk of Spirit-filling but never realize that true worship is an evidence! In fact, worship is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of Scripture.

Each of us needs to ask ourselves, Why do I come to Church? Do I come to worship? Is that my sole concern? Am I eager to worship God? Do I prepare my heart for worship? Do I worship in spirit and in Truth? We each need to realize that their number one responsibility is to worship and praise God. We’ll consider this further next time.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Manifestations of Spirit-Filling: Music (2)

What a grand gift music is! It is indeed just one more of the many gifts God has given by His grace. But why did God give us music? What are the purposes of music? God’s Word reveals three purposes of music.

First, music is for the worship of God, as Paul declares with the words “making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

It needs to be strongly emphasized today that Christian music is not for the purpose of entertainment. This, of course, does not mean we are not to enjoy music. On the contrary, as we’ll see in a moment, music is something to be greatly enjoyed.

But Christian music today is often used to entertain, to draw attention to the artist, to solicit applause for the performer. Some Christian artists add so much to a piano or vocal arrangement that the melody is obscured. This often brings more praise to the talent of the artist than praise to God! Johann Sebastian Bach, the great music master himself, who truly loved the Lord, once said, “The aim of all music is the glory of God.” Whether we are singing a solo, in an ensemble, in a choir, or in a congregation, our thoughts are to be on the Lord.

As we’ll also see in a moment, music is being used today simply to appeal to specific audiences, which is really just another form of entertainment. Countless people today look for a church based upon “the music program” and the style of music that the church uses.

Second, music is to be used as a restatement of Truth. At the very core of all three types of singing—psalms and hymns and spiritual songs—is the Truth about God.

Now, we say this with great concern because what we see today is that music has become the very heart of worship to the exclusion of most everything else, especially preaching. It is commonly taught, “Where preaching cannot be effective, we will use music instead.” Such statements are nowhere substantiated in Scripture. Nothing, not even music, should be allowed to replace the preaching and teaching of the Word of God from the pulpit.  Not one single time is music allowed to do so in the Scripture record. Rather, music is to prepare for and complement the preaching of the Word. It is to be a restatement and reemphasis of the Truth.

Third, music is for the edification of believers. Notice the words speaking to yourselves. This translation could give us the idea that each of us should go off in a corner and sing to ourselves. Of course, in a sense we do that each time we sing because it’s first of all a personal act, and we also do that by singing or whistling to ourselves as we go about work or play.

Paul’s point, however, is deeper than that. Another translation would be “speaking among yourselves” or “speaking to each other.” Paul is writing to a church and is, therefore, speaking of corporate worship. “Corporate” is from the Latin corpus, which means “body,” so it is the Body of Christ that comes together for worship. One of the ways, then, that we edify, uplift, encourage, and challenge one another is through song. Music is indeed a naturally uplifting force. We all have heard the old saying, “Music can soothe the savage beast,” but it can also “uplift the downtrodden spirit.”

It is tragic indeed when our desire for a preferred style of music overshadows our desire for the edification of the Body. Tragically, however, that is exactly what is happening today. People are being divided over music, and even church splits have occurred. Sadly, many churches actually have two services: one with traditional music using hymns and another with contemporary music, mostly praise choruses. Where in the world did we get the appalling idea of splitting up the church based on styles of music? It doesn’t come from Scripture.

Historically, we have step-by-step drifted further and further away from quality music in the Church. What once was theologically strong, structurally sound, and musically stable, is now just shallow, popular, and sometimes just down right fleshly. Should we not strive for excellence? One preacher says it well: “Music in worship serves the singing of the redeemed to the Redeemer about the Redemption.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Manifestations of Spirit-Filling: Music (1)

How can we know that we are filled with the Spirit? There are at least eight manifestations of Spirit-filling in the New Testament. Four of the seven are right here in our text. The first is musicSpeaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody (Eph. 5:19a).

Here is a truly amazing principle! There is nothing more indicative of the Spirit-filled life than the expression of song. Whether a person has an angelic voice or can’t “carry a tune in a bucket,” the Spirit-filled Christian is a singing Christian. Whether a person has a college degree in music or doesn’t know the difference between a music stand and a sixteenth note, the Spirit-filled Christian loves music.

I spent a great deal of time on this point when I preached on it, but space allows only a brief mention. Paul speaks here of three different types of church music.

First, there are psalms. A Psalm is, “A sacred, inspired poem of praise.” Psalms were actually designed to be sung with the accompaniment of a stringed musical instrument, such as the harp, the lute, or the lyre (all of which are in the guitar family). In fact, the word psalms is merely a transliteration of the Greek title of the book of Psalms—psalmoi—which originally meant plucking the stings of a musical instrument. So the first type of Christian music is the Psalm, a sacred, inspired poem of praise. May we also point out that new Psalms are not being written today; no inspired writings are being produced. However, some hymn writers have adapted certain Psalms. Robert Grant (1785-1838), for example, adapted Psalm 104 into that great hymn “O Worship The King.” Likewise, Martin Luther adapted his glorious hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” from Psalm 46.

Second, there are hymns. While a gospel song is “a religious exhortation to fellow man,” and a carol is “a simple narrative in verse of some outstanding biblical event,” a hymn is “an ode of praise to Almighty God.” The word hymns is a transliteration of the Greek humnos. While its origin in uncertain, the word goes as far back as in secular Greek as Homer (8th Century B.C. Greek poet) and was a general word used to include the most varied poetical forms. Also in general, it referred to songs to the gods, particularly a song in praise of the divinity. It’s interesting that because of that origin, the word “hymn” nowhere occurs in the writings of the apostolic fathers because it was used as a praise of heathen deities and thus the early Christians instinctively shrank from it.”

All that, however, still does not change the fact that Paul used the word hymnos for a reason., namely, to show that instead of hymns being dedicated to pagan gods, Christians sing hymns to the one true God. According to Augustine, a hymn has three characteristics: It must be sung; it must be praise; it must be to God.

Third, there are spiritual songs. The word songs is the Greek ōdē (English “ode”), which in ancient times referred to “any kind of song, as of battle, harvest, [or] festal.” Paul, therefore, qualifies it here with the word spiritual. He didn’t have to say “spiritual psalm” or “spiritual hymn” because these are already spiritual in content, but he had to qualify songs as being spiritual songs.

What are the differences between a “hymn” and a “spiritual song?” There are actually several subtle differences. (1) A hymn is a direct praise of God while a spiritual song is an expression to other people, as is illustrated in the song, “In My Heart There Rings A Melody.” (2) A hymn is objective and presents objective facts, while a spiritual song is more subjective in expressing personal feelings. A good example of this is found in the song, “It Is Well With My Soul.” (3) A hymn focuses on the attributes and majesty of God while a spiritual song is often evangelistic as is the song, “Have You Any Room For Jesus?” (4) The tune (or melody) of a hymn is more staid, sober, and sedate while a spiritual song often has a catchy melody or lifted rhythm as in the songs, “He Lives” and “Are You Washed In The Blood?” (5) A hymn usually does not have a chorus while a spiritual song usually does.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Meaning of Being Filled With the Spirit (2)

To understand fully Spirit-filling, we must see the contrast between two things in Ephesians 5:18. First, Be not drunk with wine in wherein is excess.

Second, Be filled with the Spirit. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t use methuskō here to say, “Be drunk with the Spirit.” To be filled with the Spirit is not to lose control and be mindless, as is taught by some groups. Paul’s uses the marvelous word pleroo (filled), which speaks of filling a container. It means “to influence fully, to control.” As one Greek authority adds, “To fill up, to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to flood, to diffuse throughout.” It’s used, for example, in Matthew 13:48 to refer to a full fishing net. The chief idea then is that we are to be permeated with, and therefore controlled by, the Spirit.

Now, all this is fine in theory, but what does it mean in practice?  Preachers often say that “filling” means “control,” but what exactly does that mean? One Bible teacher puts it very well when he says that it’s not a matter of our getting more of the Spirit, but of the Spirit getting all of us. It means that we are influenced by Him and nothing else. The put it succinctly: To be filled with the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else set on spiritual things and spiritual growth. When that statement is true of a Christian’s life, all other things will fall neatly into place.

It’s interesting that since some people in the New Testament are referred to as being full of the Holy Spirit, such as the “deacons” of Acts 6:3, there must have been something about them that was recognizable as evidence of Spirit filling. In other words, if people could see that they were spirit-filled, then obviously there were signs that indicated it. What, then, did they see? Can there be any doubt that it was Christ-likeness of character? That is the very essence of Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” When these are present in our lives, people will be able to see the control of the Holy Spirit in our lives. They don’t have to see some emotional outburst or ecstatic experience, rather they will see Christ-like behavior.

Further, the tense of the Greek verb is all-important. One of the most prominent misconceptions about Spirit-filling is that it involves some “crisis experience,” some “dramatic event,” some so-called “second blessing,” and is something we only get because we “agonize over it in prayer” for a long period of time. But these ideas could not be further from the Truth; the language of Scripture says none of that. On the contrary, we need not struggle for it, rather simply claim it. The verb here is in the present tense, which clearly indicates a continuing action. In other words, Spirit-filling is designed to be a continuing reality. A literal translation of the Greek here is, “Be being filled.” We are to be in the state of constantly being filled with the Spirit. Again, we need not struggle for it, rather simply claim it.

The beloved pastor and commentator Harry Ironside made an observation about Spirit-filling that we do well to ponder. In the sister book to Ephesians, we read, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). We should notice here the effect of the Word of God dwelling richly in the soul. When we then turn back to Ephesians, we notice that we get the exact same results in Colossians when the Word of God dwells in us as we get in Ephesians when we are filled with the Spirit. What’s the correlation? Ironside writes: “It should be clear that Word-filled Christian is the Spirit-filled Christian. As the Word of Christ dwells in us richly, controls all our ways, as we walk in obedience to the Word, the Spirit of God fills, dominates, controls to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

That is Spirit-filling. When the Word of God permeates us, the Spirit of God controls us. Once again, we see that the Word of God is everything, the key to living the Christian life.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Meaning of Being Filled With the Spirit (1)

To understand fully Spirit-filling, we must see the contrast between two things in Ephesians 5:18.

First, Be not drunk with wine in wherein is excess.

Why mention something like this when speaking of such the grand subject of Spirit-filling? One reason is because nothing in Paul’s day (or ours) was more characteristic of the old man than drunkenness. As one commentator puts it bluntly, “It is perhaps the best example of stupidity. The drunk can’t think straight.” No one is more idiotic, more embarrassing to himself and others than a drunk. Further, in some respects there’s a similarity between drunkenness and Spirit-filling—both speak of control. While the drunk is controlled by alcohol and has lost control, the Spirit-filled person is controlled by the Spirit and retains control.

One commentator says it well: “The filling of the Spirit is contrasted with drunkenness (Ac 2:13). Both wine and the Spirit do their work deep in the human psyche. They affect people below the level of consciousness, down at the foundations of personality. The Spirit is not merely with God’s people but in them. The meaning of the present text is: let all the church, therefore, cooperate with the Spirit who lives down deep in their hearts so they will spontaneously overflow with orderly and joyous worship of God.” While the drunk is stupid and without control, the Spirit-filled Believer is sensible and in control.

Notice first the word drunk. A curious use of the of  Greek word here (methuskō) occurs in Homer, where he describes the stretching of a bull’s hide, which in order to make it more elastic, is soaked with fat. So the translation could be, “Do not be soaked with wine.”

Paul further adds, drunk in excess. The Greek here (asotia) is an interesting word and refers to more than just the amount consumed; it means having no safety or deliverance, having no preservation from danger, loss, and destruction. This word is used of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:13) who wasted “his substance in riotous living.” Peter used it to describe the old life, “when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” (I Pet. 4:4). What a picture! And drunkenness is right in the middle of it. So the idea of this phrase is, “Do not be soaked with wine which leads to riotous living, wastefulness, and destruction.”

Historically, the Ephesians immediately knew precisely what Paul meant when he used these words because they were familiar with a particular Greek myth. Greek mythology taught that Zeus was the supreme god of the universe. The myth says that he gave birth to a son in a rather unique fashion. His wife Semele, who was actually a mortal, made Zeus appear before her in his divine splendor, but she was consumed by his lightening when he did so. Zeus took the child-god she was carrying and thrust it into his thigh until it was time for it to be born. The infant was then cared for by a band of nymphs. One version of the legend says that the child was kidnapped and murdered by the Titans. Zeus salvaged the heart and the child was soon reborn (“resurrected”) as Dionysus. Dionysus became the god of vegetation and especially the god of wine. Supposedly, he actually invented wine. The worship of this god was characterized by frenzied orgies that were associated with intoxication. The use of phallic symbols, the tearing of wild animals into pieces, the eating of raw flesh, and savage dancing were also practiced, especially in Thrace and Asia Minor (the location of Ephesus). Dionysus later became known as Bacchus, the name by which he was known to the Romans.

Additionally, in the month of Poseidon, there was a festival in honor of Dionysus in Athens. During the three-day spring festival, everybody was more or less drunk and there was a competition in wine drinking. Alexander the Great held such a contest in which 30 competitors died. I was reminded here of today’s New Year’s Eve parties as well as the deaths of college students during drinking binges.

Drunkenness became the key to the worship of Dionysus, as well as most other pagan gods we might add. Why? For one reason it dulled the senses enough to subdue any guilt which might be felt as a result of sin. Likewise, people today use alcohol, drugs, sex, even a vocation to deaden and even bury their consciousness of God. Drunkenness also gave the worshippers a false exhilaration that counterfeited true joy, just as people today think that if they are drunk, they are happy. Many try to stay “high” all the time because when they come down, things look worse than they did before.

Paul therefore uses this term drunk to show the contrast between the orgies of evil and the sweetness of Spirit-filling. The Ephesians understood the imagery. Of course, they would not get drunk and identify themselves with such pagans. Neither should we ever “lose ourselves” in drink or drugs, rather we immerse ourselves in the Holy Spirit. This leads us to the next phrase, which we’ll examine next time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Introduction to the Christian Home (2)

Last time we began our study of the most important passage in God’s Word concerning the Christian home. We began by considering two introductory thoughts. First, there is a “revolution” going on in America today.

Second, we need to consider that if we want a home that is Biblical and one that God will bless, we must turn to Scripture alone as our guide. Much of what is taught today concerning the home, and each member of the home, comes from the world. Frankly, many “Christian” books on the home are quite inadequate because they are either completely topical in their approach instead of expositional, or they are clouded by the world’s philosophies, or both. That statement is not meant to be over-critical, but it is unfortunate that most books are clouded with worldly philosophy. Instead of simply dealing with what God says about the roles of husbands, wives, and children, such books repackage Freudianism or other psychological philosophy. A book we would recommend is The Family by John MacArthur (Moody Press). Another book we would recommend for its insight into the real meaning and depth of the marriage relationship is Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage by Jay Adams (Baker Books House, 1980).

Our goal here, then, is to be thoroughly biblical in our study.

It is vitally important that Christians become aware that the family is the first and the primary of the three institutions God has created on earth: the family, the church, and human government. This world, however, with its humanistic, man-centered philosophy is trying to destroy all three of those institutions. God has ordained and designed human government to be characterized by freedom and liberty, but liberalism, socialism, communism, despotism, and other philosophies strive to tear down Biblical ethics. The Church is being torn down by the de-emphasizing of the Word of God and by substituting apostasy, religious ritual, and worldly programs. But it is the family that is being attacked with the most violence. This is the most tragic of all because it is the foundational institution of God. It is being attacked by adultery, fornication, permissiveness, homosexuality, abortion, women’s liberation, juvenile delinquency, and humanistic state education. Some Christian leaders teach that the Church is the most important of God’s institutions, but that is not true! If we do not have strong families, we will not have strong churches. The same is also true of our nation. God created the home first; He created it to be the foundation of all else.

The institution of the family is in serious trouble today, and may we say, Christians are not immune. There are many Christian homes today that have serious problems. Why? Because the Word of God is not the authority in that home. It is with those thoughts in mind that we begin our study of what God has designed for the Christian home.
Before we deal with the responsibilities of each family member, we must first look at something that at first seems quite unrelated. But it is this one thought that forms the entire foundation of a Godly home. This thought is, Spirit-filling, that is, as we’ll see, Spirit-control.

“Spirit-filling” is a much misunderstood subject; there is much false and confusing teaching on this subject. In fact, an entire theology has been built on false teaching concerning this passage and others. It is also quite significant that one of the strongest passages (if not the strongest passage) on Spirit-filling is found within the context of the Christian home. Paul is telling us that without Holy Spirit control we will not have a home, only a house with people in it.

In the posts to follow, we will note three things about “Spirit-filling”: the meaning, the manifestations, and the method of being filled.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Introduction to the Christian Home (1)

As we’ve noted, Ephesians chapters 4-6 reveal seven ways in which we are to walk, each of which in-turn is based on related doctrine in chapters 1-3. The first reality of our Christian walk is to walk in unity (4:1-16), the second is to walk in purity (4:17-32), the third is to walk in love (5:1-7), the fourth is to walk in light (5:8-14), and the fifth is to walk in wisdom (5:15-17). This brings us to the sixth—walk in submission (5:18-6:9). As we’ll see, submission is not just for wives (v. 22) but for everyone (v. 21).

Ephesians 5:18 actually begins the context on the Christian home—And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Some Bible teachers begin a study of the Christian home in verse 22, that well-known verse about the submission of the wife to the husband. But to do so is serious error, an error not only in doctrinal exposition, but in practical application as well. Beginning in verse 22 will do little but create rebellious wives. Further, not beginning in verse 18 will bring about a warped family life in general. Verse 18 lays the foundation of each family member first being Spirit-filled and then seeing our roles as husbands and wives.

We can go still further to say that the entire book of Ephesians is essential to the proper family life. Is not unity an essential element in the home? Is not purity an essential element of marriage? Is not love essential? Is it not necessary that each family member be walking according to light? Is not the same fact true of walking in wisdom? May we say again, how foundational the Epistle to the Ephesians is!

As we begin our study of the most important passage in God’s Word concerning the Christian home, let us consider two introductory thoughts.

First, there is a “revolution” going on in America today. The word “revolt” means “an uprising against authority, a rebellion, protest, or insurrection.” The revolution going on today is against the authority of the Word of God, and there is truly no better example of this uprising than when it comes to the home. It is common knowledge that one out of two marriages ends in divorce. A little research on this is truly enlightening and saddening. Looking at it on a per capita or percentage basis, the U.S. divorce rate for 2000 was 41% per capita per year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This is made even more significant, however, by the fact that this rate is only for the states that keep track of the number of divorces—California, Colorado, Indiana and Louisiana do not. In contrast to this rate, the Census Bureau consistently reports that the rate is closer to 50%.

Looking at the raw numbers is even more dramatic. The total number of marriages in the year 2000, for example, was 2,355,005—including the states that don’t report divorce numbers. Out of that number, there were 957,200 divorces, which is 40.6%—but again, excluding the states that don’t report divorce numbers. Another interesting statistic I found was that as of the year 2000, 18.5 percent of the US population is divorced (11,317,572). By gender, it’s: 8,572,000 males (8.3%) and 11,309,000 females (10.2%).

One other statistic, which actually is not about divorce specifically, but is another indication of America’s moral decline is that as of the year 2000, there were 3.8 million couples cohabiting outside of marriage, which obviously translates to 7.6 million people living in open sin outside of marriage.

Still further, however, only God knows how many couples are divorced in mind even though they occupy the same house. Why is that true? Some give answers such as, “They just need to better communicate with one another,” or, “They just need to understand and tolerate each other’s unique qualities,” or other such statements.

Now while such statements certainly have an element of truth in them, they all still miss the point. The reason why marriages fail and homes are in turmoil is because people are not governed by the Word of God. Whether the marital problem comes in the form of money, communication, sexual dysfunction, or any number of other things, these are only symptoms of the real problem. The Word of God is NOT the final authority for home life in America, and sad to say, this is true of many Christians.

This leads us to the second statement we need to consider, which we’ll examine next time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Making Right Decisions

To walk according to wisdom, we must first walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15a), second, we must not be fools (v. 15b, 17a), and third, we must redeem our time (v. 16).
Fourth and finally, we must [understand] what the will of the Lord is (v. 17a). The fool tries to run his own life and tries to do things his own way, but the wise person desires to know God’s will in each and every given circumstance.

There are basically four Biblical principles for making decisions: Scripture is first, followed then by wisdom, desire, and counsel, all of which are also based on Scripture. Let’s test this Scripture-centered approach with an example of how to make a decision. Probably the biggest decision a Christian will make is who to marry.

First, what does Scripture dictate? The common idea is that there is “that one certain person” I should marry and that “I must wait for God to reveal that person to me.” But the Word of God says several things about who we should marry. One is that that person must be a true Christian. Some teachers stop there and feel that as long as someone is a Christian, then all is well. But the principle of the “unequal yoke” (II Cor. 6:14-17) goes further. There should also be agreement concerning Biblical doctrine. Radically differing doctrinal viewpoints are the ingredients for big conflicts. Another dictate is agreement concerning the Biblical roles of men and women. Do you agree about those roles as outlined in Ephesians 5:21-33 and elsewhere? Do you agree in how to raise children as outlined in Ephesians 6:1-4 and elsewhere? If there is not an “equal yoke” in such areas, you better take another look at the relationship and where it will end up.

Second, what does wisdom contribute to the decision?  As James declares, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (Jas. 1:5). This entails just examining the relationship and wisely discerning compatibility. Do you get along well with each other? I’ve seen dating couples who argue constantly but who think they want to get married. Do you both have some of the same interests? This probably won’t include everything, but are there some things you can do together? What are your goals and priorities? What are your views of money and how to handle it? Each one of the questions, and others that will arise, must be tied back in with Scripture.

Third, how does your desire fit into the equation? I was listening to one teacher on this very issue who asked, “Well, what if there are two choices of a prospective mate, two that meet the qualifications? Simple—pick one. Which one do you want?” Desire does have something to do with our decisions. Now, the most important aspect of desire is found in James 4:3: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” Be sure your desire is not just lust, but a Godly, biblical desire. With that established, what do you want to do? Psalm 37:4 declares, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” The Preacher of Ecclesiastes 11:9 agrees, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” There is nothing wrong with desire, as long as the desire is pure. Paul speaks of desire in this very area in I Corinthians 7:39, “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” “Will” is the Greek thelō, which means “to will, desire” and “by implication it means to be disposed or inclined toward [something], delight in, love, in which case it is a synonym of phileō, to love.”

Fourth, how does Godly counsel influence the decision? Here is the final “safety valve.” Proverbs says much about Godly counsel. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (12:15). “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (15:22). “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (19:20). “Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel” (27:9). A Godly friend, parent, or pastor might see something you don’t or might give an encouragement you didn’t consider.

This same procedure will apply to those other questions we asked earlier. What about where you should go to college? What about buying that new house or car? What about where you should go to church? What about starting a particular ministry or church program? And it will apply to any others that come our way.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Redeeming Your Time

To walk according to wisdom, we must first walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15a) and second we must not be fools (v. 15b, 17a).

Third, we must redeem our time (v. 16): Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. It is vital that we understand the word time as it is used in this text. There are two basic words in the Greek that are translated time. One is chronos (English, “chronometer”), which speaks of a time period which is not precisely known. Here in our text, however, we find the word kairos, the word which speaks of a more definite time, such as a date. The application is clear: God wants us to be concerned with decisive points of time and specific situations of life. In other words, God wants us to consider each and every moment to be an opportunity for growth, service, and witness. The fool wastes time, but the wise man invests it.

The Greek for redeeming (exagorazō) is a market term that literally means “to buy up.” The imagery here is vivid and vital. The root agora literally referred to the ancient market-place. The same word is used in verses that speak of Christ redeeming us, buying us out of the slave-market of sin (e.g., Gal. 3:13; 4:5). So, with the same imagery Paul is telling us that we are to “buy up” all our time and devote it God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers the translation, “Buying up the opportunity,” and one Greek authority says “to buy up intensively.” No one is wise who does not use his time for growth and service. Practical wisdom means we “buy up” and make the most of every opportunity for witness and service for our Lord. Just as a good shopper seizes on a bargain when he or she finds it, the faithful Christian recognizes an opportunity to glorify the Savior.

The well-known author and lecturer John Erskine said that he learned the most valuable lesson of his life when he was only fourteen years old. His piano teacher asked him how much he practiced each day. Probably thinking he would be praised for his efforts, Erskine replied that he usually sat down for an hour or more. But the teacher warned, “Oh, don’t do that. When you grow up, time won’t come to you in long stretches like that. Do your practicing in minutes wherever you can find them—five or ten before school, a few after lunch or in between chores. Spread it throughout the day, and music will become a part our your life.” Erskine said that he later applied that principle to his writing. He wrote nearly all his most famous work, The Private Life of Helen of Troy, on streetcars while commuting between his home and the university.

Others have done this in history. 19th Century English historian Thomas Macaulay learned German during a sea voyage. American inventor Robert Fulton was also a painter and invented the steamboat in his spare time, as did Samuel Morse the telegraph. The famous Scottish physician John Abercrombie wrote many valuable books with a lead-pencil while visiting his patients. Benjamin Franklin taught himself math, grammar, logic, and several languages while working in a printer’s shop. And the list goes on.

That is the meaning of redeeming the time. Each and every moment of the day is an opportunity. Missed opportunities can never be recaptured.

Why is this such an important issue? Because the days are evil. The Greek behind evil (poneros) which means “bad, causing disaster, dangerous . . . and ethically reprehensible.” In Greek literature, for example, this word was used to describe Hercules as ponērotatos kai apiston, “wicked and untrustworthy.” This word appears some 78 times in the New Testament and, therefore, speaks of “evil in a moral or spiritual sense, wicked, malicious, mischievous.” Our Lord uses it in Matthew 5:11 for malicious speech, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” He uses it to refer to false prophets, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” and that we will know them by their “evil fruit” (7:15-17). He uses it again in 12:34 in reference to the Pharisees, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” He also refers to Satan himself as the “wicked one” (13:19), as does Luke of King Herod (Lk. 3:19).

So, Paul’s readers clearly understood this Greek word. They lived in a horrifically wicked day, and so do we. It is because of the evil all around us that we must [redeem] the time.

There is one other principle involved in true wisdom, which we examine next time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Don’t Be a Fool

To walk according to wisdom, we must first walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15a).

Second, we must not be  fools: not as fools . . . Wherefore be ye not unwise (v. 15b, 17a). It seems obvious, but Paul mentions it anyway, that to be wise, we must not act like fools. In disastrous contrast to the Believer who walks carefully and examines everything, there is the “fool” who examines nothing and easily believes most anything. The full idea behind the Greek for fools (asophos) is “without any spiritual wisdom whatsoever, no discernment, no accuracy, no precision, no exactness.” This again challenges today’s lack of knowledge and discernment in the Church. How much unwise teaching there is!

But how interesting it is that Paul is not done dealing with the fool. In verse 17, he says again, Wherefore be ye not unwise. The full meaning of the Greek for unwise (aphron) is “one who can’t think straight or correctly and can’t control his thoughts and attitudes.” As 19th Century Greek scholar Joseph Thayer defines it, “Without reason . . . senseless, foolish, stupid, without reflection or intelligence, acting rashly.” In Luke 11:40, the Lord Jesus calls the Pharisees “fools” because they thought doing something external would satisfy God. Nothing is more foolish than thinking that a Holy God could be satisfied by any works a man could do.

When we stop and really ponder the growing trends of our day, we find that today’s “fool” can be described in three ways.

First, the fool is concerned about the abstract instead of the absolute. Facts are really not important today. In fact, they get in the way and disrupt unity. After all, it is argued, doctrine divides, love unites. Truth is relative to each person’s point of view. The more abstract, the more “open,” the more broad we are, the more people we will appeal to. This is the height of folly because nothing is absolute, nothing is sure.

Second, the fool is concerned about wants instead of the Word. Most churches being built today, both liberal and evangelical, are not being founded on a ministry of the Word of God, rather upon what people want. To build one of the most famous and largest churches in America, one “pastor” did a survey in the community to ask people what they wanted in a church and then he supplied it, from entertainment to every appealing program imaginable. Where is that method to church building revealed in Scripture? Rather, that approach comes from the popular notion that the Church is to appeal to the “unchurched” and to “seekers.” But where does the New Testament teach that? The answer is: It doesn’t. It’s as simple as that. Scripture alone simply is neither the foundation nor the emphasis.

Third, the fool is concerned about feelings instead of faith. True faith must have an object, and that object must be Christ and his Word. Today, however, feelings drive people’s belief system. Whether they are voting for a political candidate, looking for a church, or accepting a new teaching, it’s all based on feelings. Facts aren’t the issue, faith in what God says in His Word is not the issue, rather how it makes them feel is the issue. It’s not the intellect that rules, rather it’s an impulse that rules. There is great zeal, but nothing real. This has even kicked open the door to the growing frequency of mysticism, which teaches finding God through visions and revelations.

All this reveals a total lack of any spiritual wisdom whatsoever (asophos) and reveals that which is without reason, senseless, without reflection or intelligence (aphron). As we’ll see later, the only way to avoid being foolish is to “[understand] what the will of the Lord is.”

Monday, September 7, 2015

Walking With Precision

In Ephesians 5:15-17 we read, See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

We often hear people speak of “being wise.” We hear such things as, “Oh, that fellow is wise in the ways of the world,” or, “He is wise in business,” or, “He is wise beyond his years,” or “He is wise because of how many years he has lived,” and so forth. On the other hand, some Christians seem to think that just being a Christian makes them wise. Oddly, for example, one respected commentator writes, “Just as in Christ God miraculously makes us immediately righteous, sanctified, and redeemed, He also makes us immediately wise.” If that were true, however, why are there so many foolish Christians today? And why, then, does Paul command it here? Why is he so specific about how to be wise? Why does James ask, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (Jas. 1:5)? In fact, if we do not follow Paul’s command here, he tells us that we are actually fools.

No, wisdom is not automatic. It doesn’t come by osmosis; we don’t assimilate it from what is going on around us. Wisdom comes only by God’s Word. Specifically, Paul tells us here that we can only be called wise if four facts are true of us. These facts are the right kind of knowledge and the right use of knowledge.

First, to be wise we must walk with precision: See then that ye walk circumspectly (v. 15a). As we detailed back in 4:1, walk, of course, is again peripateo, “to walk about,” figuratively, “conduct of life,” that is, how we conduct ourselves as we walk through life. Paul’s point here is that walking the Christian life is not a matter of “winging it,” making it up as we go along. The word circumspectly is crucial. In their zeal for simplicity, modern translations miss the force of this word by replacing it with “be careful.” Circumspectly is from the Latin circumspectus. The verb form, circumspecto, means “to look all around, be on the lookout.” Circumspectly is clearly a better translation; it tells us to look everywhere as we walk.

That is idea also of the Greek, akribos (English, “accurate”), which speaks of precision, diligence, accuracy, and exactness. It is used in Matthew 2:8, for example, where Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem and told them to “search diligently for the young child.” It is also used in Acts 18:25 to describe Apollos, who was “mighty in the scriptures” (v. 24) and “taught diligently the things of the Lord.” (No better word could be said of a preacher, a word that describes fewer and fewer of today’s preachers.) So the idea is clear that we are to look, examine, and investigate our walk with the utmost care. To be wise is to walk watchfully, look at and carefully examining everything with which we come in contact.

In some European countries, to protect property, the owners often build a high wall, the top of which they cover with broken glass embedded in the mortar to discourage intruders who might try to climb over it. One can sometimes see a cat walking circumspectly along the top of such a wall. You’ll see it cautiously pick up one paw and then place it precisely where there’s no glass. Once that paw is in place, it then moves the next one and so on. That does, indeed, picture it!

Most of us have experienced a situation when a momentary distraction caused an accident. One of mine was several years ago while driving. After allowing a split second distraction to take my eyes off the road, when they returned a deer was standing in my lane. Startled, I did the worst possible thing—I swerved—and ended up off the road with a smashed front end. We must constantly be looking around for the quagmires, snares, and pitfalls that we can easily miss.

This should immediately remind us of the principle of discernment, which we examined carefully back in 4:14. In a day when discernment in the Church is fading into total oblivion, Paul challenges us to investigate and examine everything. Someone has wisely said, “When the pilot does not know what port he is heading for, no wind is the right wind.”

This leads to a second principle, which we’ll examine next time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Wisdom Is

As we’ve noted, Ephesians chapters 4-6 reveal seven ways in which we are to walk, each of which in-turn is based on related doctrine in chapters 1-3. The first reality of our Christian walk is to walk in unity (4:1-16), the second is to walk in purity (4:17-32), the third is to walk in love (5:1-7), and the fourth is to walk in Light (5:8-14). We come now to the fifth, walk in wisdom (5:15-17).

Wisdom truly is a fascinating subject. It is spoken of often by Christian and non-Christian, but it is often not fully understood by either. Wisdom is often defined as “good judgment,” but while that is true to a certain extent, true wisdom goes far beyond that.

As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15, we are not to walk as fools, but as wise. But what does wisdom fully mean? We first encountered the concept of wisdom back in Ephesians 1:8: “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” For the sake of our present study, let us review the two words found there. Wise is the Greek sophia, a word which was very important to the ancient Greeks; they wrote and thought much about it. The word speaks of a quality or an attitude rather than an action. The basic meaning, according to Aristotle, is, “Knowledge of the most precious things.” To be more specific, this is the intellectual knowledge of ultimate realities such as life and death. “Prudence” is the Greek phronesis, and like sophia, it was an important word to the ancient Greeks. The basic meaning is “a way of thinking, a frame, intelligence, good sense.”

But the word often has the fuller idea of “discernment and judicious insight.” Again, Aristotle tells us that this is the knowledge of human affairs and of things in which planning is necessary. Another ancient Greek, Plutarch, describes this as practical knowledge of the things which concern us. That is crucial. It’s one thing to know something, but quite another to put it into practice.

To correlate all that, there are times when these words are interchanged, but again phronesis is more practical than sophia. This is further substantiated by the words being used together. Surely Paul is not being repetitious here; rather he is referring not only to theoretical knowledge, but practical application as well. To the Greek mind, if a man had both of these, he was thoroughly equipped for life. So, may we say that every person needs both of these. Many people are “intellectuals” who have great theoretical knowledge, but they have little common sense and cannot accomplish the practical things of life. On the other hand, there are those who are quite practical and “down to earth” but are not concerned with deeper knowledge of ultimate realities. Every one of us needs both of these, and God has given us both. It is up to us to claim them.

We are now ready to view wise as it used here in our text. Since there is a certain amount of the practical use of knowledge in the Greek sophia, then we see that God wants us to use our knowledge correctly. In fact, this is what Bible teachers usually say about wisdom. However, the fact remains that sophia speaks primarily of knowledge. Therefore, God wants His people to have and use the right kind of knowledge. He want us not only to know things, but to know the right kind of things. And He not only wants us to use that knowledge, but to use it correctly. The question now is, what knowledge is Paul concerned with?

This leads us to our second thought—what wisdom involves—which we’ll explore next time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Meditating on the Wonders of Light (2)

Continuing our examination of the wonders of light, fifth, light is a constant, the only constant in the physical universe, in fact. It was for that very reason that Einstein said that he could construct the Theory of Relativity. Today the speed of light is known with near certainty to be 186,282,396 miles per second. That’s almost seven and one half times around the world at the tick of a clock!

More amazing, however, is that that speed is always the same. The term “relativity,” as Albert Einstein used it, derives from the fact that the appearance of the world is relative—that is, it depends upon—our state of motion. This is actually easy to illustrate. Picture yourself standing on a train that is moving 50 miles per hour and that you throw a ball in the direction the train is moving. Now, relative to you and the train, the ball leaves your hand traveling at twenty miles per hour, but relative to the point of view of a spectator standing alongside the tracks, how fast is the ball moving? Of course, 70 miles an hour—the velocity of the train plus the ball.

Now picture the train going really fast, say half the speed of light, approximately 93,000 miles per second. Instead of throwing a ball, however, you turn on a flashlight. How fast is the light traveling relative to the observer standing alongside the tracks? Would it be 279,000 miles per second, that is, 93,000 (your speed on the train) plus 186,000 (the speed of light)? No, because light always travels at the same speed. Likewise, how fast is the light traveling relative to you on the train? The same speed. The speed of light remains constant for all observers.

What a profound and wonderful truth this is spiritually! God’s light is always the same; It remains constant for all observers. As the Psalmist declares, “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles” (Ps. 43:3). God’s “Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17) and in “the Father of lights [there] is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:17).

Tragically, we have another form of “relativity” in our world today, but this one recognizes no constant. Everything truly is relative to each person’s position and nothing is absolute. Worse, this has spilled over into the Church where Scripture is not the sole and sufficient authority. How we need to recognize that whether we are moving or standing still, no matter what our environment, God’s light is the only constant. This leads to one other aspect of the nature of light.

Sixth, light travels in a straight line. This is nowhere better illustrated nowadays than in the fascinating world of lasers. Teachers use them for a pointer, builders use them for leveling, the military uses them for targeting weapons, and the uses go on. All this is possible because light travels in a straight line.

In the mysteries of the universe, however, there is an exception. As Einstein also theorized, and which was later confirmed through scientific experiments, strong gravitational fields produced by massive objects, such as the Sun, actually “curve” space so that light no longer travels in a straight line but is bent.

Likewise, if I may take the liberty of stretching the analogy, there are countless individuals today who bend and warp the light of Scripture the way they wish, who twist Scripture to say what will justify their actions, attitudes, and lifestyle.

But God’s Word is to be “cut straight,” which is the literal idea of the Greek behind “rightly dividing the word of truth” in II Timothy 2:15. The verb orthotomeō (orthos, “straight” and temnō, “cut or divide”) appears only there in the New Testament. It’s often observed that this refers to plowing a straight furrow or cutting a straight seam, but more accurate is the idea of “cutting a path in a straight direction.” The idea behind temnō (which does not appear by itself in the NT), “is that of cutting a path through a forest or difficult terrain so that the traveler may go directly to his destination.” This is the picture, in fact, in its use in two instances in the Septuagint where it’s translated “direct”: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:6), and “The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way” (11:5).

What, then, is Paul saying? Simply this: keep the Word of God straight; never misuse It, bend It to your thinking, or twist It to prop up your own opinions.

May we, indeed, rejoice in the wonders of Light.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Meditating on the Wonders of Light (1)

Before closing this section on “walking in light” (5:8‑14), let us take one more look at light itself. Light is truly a fascinating phenomenon that has baffled men for centuries. We know what light does, but we really do not know what it is. The 17th Century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens developed the theory that light travels in waves, but his contemporary, the famous English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, described light as being comprised of particles. While both views are actually defensible, and while it’s now believed that both theories are essentially complementary, it’s obvious that we still don’t know what light is.

But again, we do know what light does, and when we consider some of the aspects of its nature, we recognize some profound spiritual applications.

First, light is emitted from a source. Whether it comes from the Sun or from a small flashlight, light has a source. What’s more, all physical light, according to Scripture, originated at creation, when God said, “Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen. 1:3).

Spiritually, the source of light is God and Him alone. The Psalmist declares, “God is the LORD, which hath showed us light” (Ps. 118:27). Isaiah thundered to rebellious Israel, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” Later he added, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory” (60:11). Paul declared to the Corinthians, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Cor. 4:4). And as the Apostle John makes clear, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I Jn. 1:5).

Second, light spreads out the farther it travels. We’ve all seen this with a flashlight. No matter how focused the beam, the light spreads out. As John declared of the Lord Jesus, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn. 1:9). Not every person is redeemed, but God’s light, the Lord Jesus Christ, is available to all.

Third, when light strikes an object having a hard surface, it is either absorbed or scattered in all directions. An interesting phenomenon of light is that frequencies are absorbed differently, which gives objects their color. In contrast, white surfaces scatter light of all wavelengths equally, while a black surface absorbs all light. Spiritually, each of us is a unique “surface” and will reflect God’s light uniquely. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

Fourth, light produces change. Another phenomenon is how light effects certain chemicals. Sunlight, for example, triggers photosynthesis in plants. Also, in photography when light strikes chemicals that contain silver, they turn dark in the presence of other chemicals. Likewise, the light of Christ and His word effects transforming change. John writes, for example, of a “new commandment” to love sacrificially as our Lord did and that this new commandment comes “because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (I Jn. 2:8). This is why Paul writes, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Cor. 5:17). The light of Christ always produces change. Light drives away the darkness and all the things that hide in that darkness.

We’ll continue next time, but how we should rejoice in the wonders of light.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Demands of Walking According to Light (4)

The first demand of walking according to light in Ephesians 5:11-14 is be separate, (v. 11a) and the second is that we are to take a stand (11b-13).

Third, we must not sleep in verse 14: Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Just as no light enters our eyes when we are asleep physically, likewise no spiritual light enters when we are asleep spiritually. So Paul commands awake thou that sleepest. Awake is egeirō. Used literally, it means “to rise from sleep, implying also the idea of rising up from the posture of sleep.” In Matthew 8:25, for example, where the terrified disciples came to Jesus “and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish,” we can picture them shaking Him awake and yanking Him up to his feet to do something. Used metaphorically, of course, it speaks of waking up from lethargy or sluggishness.

I would submit, however, that both ideas are implicit. To illustrate, as most teenage boys, I remember my parents trying to wake me up from that deep teenage boy sleep, which enables them to peacefully sleep through a freight train thundering through their room. After finally waking me up and getting a response, one of them would five minutes later call again, “Are you awake?” at which time I would groggily answer, “Yes.” But was I? Of course not. I was conscious, but still in the position of sleep, far from awake, alert, and ready for the day.

The same is true spiritually. Many Christians are conscious—they profess Christ, go to Church, pray, and so forth. But many of them are not really awake, not really out of the posture of sleep, not alert and ready for the challenges and commands of Christian living. Oh, how we need to awake!

The words Wherefore he saith indicate that this verse is a quotation of something, and many commentators have wondered about the source. Some have speculated that is from the Apocrypha, which is ridiculous because neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer ever quotes the Apocrypha. After all, why would they?

Many others, however, think that these lines are from an early Christian hymn. While that might very well be true, there can be little doubt that they are based upon some Old Testament Scripture. This is obvious because Paul used the very same words, Wherefore he saith, back in 4:8, where he partially quotes Psalm 68:18. As John Eadie observes, “It would be quite contrary to Pauline usage to suppose that this formula introduced any citation but one from the Old Testament.”

What Old Testament Scripture, then, does Paul adapt here? Isaiah 60:1: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” While some commentators say that there is little or no similarity between these two verses, the more one compares them the more likeness he sees. Because of the darkness of sin around them, the people of Israel were admonished to put on the light of Jehovah’s glory since they had not been doing so. Paul brings this admonition into the Church Age, perhaps using his own “free rendering” of it. What a terrible thing it is that there are Christians today who are barely discernable from lost people; quite often values, goals, motives, priorities, and basic attitudes are the same. As theologian and commentator Charles Hodge correlates the two verses: “In both, there is the call to those who are asleep or dead to rise and to receive the light, and there is the promise that Jehovah, Lord, or Christ (equivalent terms in the mind of the apostle) would give them light.”

Paul goes on to say that such Christians are actually dead. No, this doesn’t mean they are dead spiritually, rather it means they are dead effectively; that is, such Christians are not growing and have no practical vitality or useful witness. This verse is a call to repentance and renewed devotion to the Lord. If we do, Paul adds, Christ shall give [us] light. The implication is that He will give us even more light than we have; that is, He will illumine His Word that much more to our hearts and minds.

Dear Christian, are you asleep? Let us all wake up!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Demands of Walking According to Light (3)

The first demand of walking according to light in Ephesians 5:11-14 is be separate, (v. 11a). Last time we began a look at the second—we are to take a stand in 11b-13: but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

It is extremely significant to notice that Paul issues a warning in verse 12: For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. Yes, Paul commands that we are to expose sin, but he also qualifies it. Why do men do things in secret? Why do “men [love] darkness rather than light?” Because their “deeds [are] evil” (Jn. 3:19). Their deeds are detestable, disgraceful, and dishonorable.

Therefore, Paul says, it is a shame even to speak of those things. In other words, “In your exposing of sin, do not be overly explicit or detailed.” In other words, you don’t have to go into the gory details. There are some preachers today who are just too explicit and detailed in discussing moral issues. But God says that some things are so vile and wicked that He doesn’t even want us to hear about them. The sordid details of sin is not only unnecessary, but such details often arouse curiosity and even tempt people to sin.

How ridiculous is the argument, “Oh, but we should not be sheltered from such things; we need to know these things so we can be more effective in witness.” I have even read of some Christian leaders who have sat and watched pornographic films so that they could be “better informed.” May we submit that that is sin! Do these men actually think that Paul or the Lord Jesus Himself would have done such a thing? We don’t need to know such details. All we need to know is just enough to stay away and be rid of such things.

There is also the tendency to speak so candidly about past sin, from which God saved us, that it can actually become a temptation. I still remember being at a youth meeting back when I was a young adult and hearing a man who had been a gangster—a “Wiseguy” as they are called—give his testimony and go into some sordid details. Why do that? Why not just say, “Yes, I was a Wiseguy, but God graciously saved me before I got whacked” and leave it at that?

That great preacher Charles Spurgeon was keenly aware of this even in his day, over 100 years ago: “I feel grieved when I hear or read of people who can stand up and talk about what they used to do before they were converted very much in the way in which an old seafaring man talks of his voyages and storms. No, no; be ashamed of your former lusts in your ignorance, and if you must speak of them to the praise and glory of Christ, speak with bated breath and tears and sighs. Death, rottenness, corruption, are all most fitly left in silence, or, if they demand a voice, let it be as solemn and mournful as a knell.”

Verse 13 sums-up this second demand: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. This tells us that all things become visible when they are exposed to the light. It also declares another profound truth, that anything that does expose error is light. The opposite is also true: if a teaching does not expose error, it is not light. Mark it down, preaching that does not expose error—and we have a lot of it today—is not light. Many prominent Christian leaders today pride themselves in not preaching against sin and repackaging the Gospel to be appealing to one’s sense of purpose. But such error is not light.

How the light is hated by many today! The story is told of a colonial governor of the Bahamas who was about to return to England. Before departing, he offered to use his influence to acquire from the home government any favor the colonists might desire. The unanimous reply was startling! They cried: “Tell them to tear down the lighthouses; they are ruining the prosperity of this colony.” The people were salvagers. While many hate the light for their own gain, the true child of God loves the light and adores the Truth.

This leads us to the third demand, which we’ll examine next time.