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, 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.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Demands of Walking According to Light (2)

The first demand of walking according to light in Ephesians 5:11-14 is be separate, (v. 11a).

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.

Lest we think that it’s enough just to withdraw from sin, as a monk would do in the monastery, Paul adds that we are rather to reprove “the unfruitful works of darkness.” The Greek word behind reprove (elegcho) developed the principal meaning of convince and refute. So strong is this word, in fact, that, as the great reformer John Calvin rightly observes, “It literally signifies to drag forth to the light what was formerly unknown.” What a vivid picture! We drag error—no doubt kicking and screaming the whole way—into the light to expose it.

Paul, for example, declared in no uncertain terms that this is a pastor’s responsibility. On your own read what he wrote to Pastor Timothy (I Tim. 5:20; II Tim. 4:2) and Pastor Titus (Titus 1:9, 13). To say the very least, all this flies in the face of the attitude of our day. While the growing tendency in many churches is to avoid even the mention of false doctrine or sin, Paul’s repeated emphasis is the refutation of such practices. The ruling attitude in society today is “tolerance.” “How dare we say that something is wrong,” it is argued.

We should appreciate commentator Kent Hughes quite blunt but truthful observation: “According to the world, Christianity ought to be as broad and accepting as possible. And the fact is that clergy who think in this way, who baptize every form of sin as OK, become the darlings of the media. A cultured accent, a fuchsia-colored bishop’s shirt, and the urging to place condoms in Gideon Bibles will get you a spot on Good Morning, America. Our culture loves the ‘open-minded,’ nonjudgmental, ‘live and let live’ personality.”

Commentator William Hendrickson also addresses another attitude of our day when he writes: “One is not being ‘nice’ to a wicked man by endeavoring to make him feel what a fine fellow he is. The cancerous tumor must be removed, not humored.” Still the attitude today is to address people’s “felt needs” and avoid even mentioning sin.

The fact is, however, that to be tolerant of sin is not only to approve of it—to overlook and sanction it—but is even to be complicit in it, to actually be an active participant. God does not want His children to be tolerant but to be discerning. Back in the 16th Century, John Calvin preached on Ephesians and spoke these words: “Most men and women nowadays wink at all manner of evil and disorder, and stop their ears at the things that they might ill heard, and every man seeks to conceal his fellow’s wickedness, men of men’s, and women of women’s. They might remedy a great number of enormities that are committed, but they would rather go and pollute their gowns and coats with other people’s dung and filthiness, than expose their vices. . . . The very way therefore for us to show in practice and in good earnest that we belong to God and are enlightened by His Holy Spirit and by His Word is to expose things which otherwise would, as it were, lie lurking a long time if we did not draw them into the light.”

Many today would read that and think, “But that was centuries ago and is just the old theology of a bunch of dead guys. We are much more enlightened today.” But that was precisely Calvin’s point. We are only “enlightened” if we love the light and expose error to be error. God demands that we take a stand for Truth, that we expose and rebuke sin. How, then, do we do that?

First, and foremost, we rebuke sin in the lives of those around us indirectly by just living Godly in front of them. The entire context surrounding our text, in fact, emphasizes a life of “goodness and righteousness and truth” (v. 9). The right attitudes, actions, words, values, motives, and priorities will be convicting to those whose lives are the opposite of those qualities.

Second, we rebuke sin directly. There will be times when sin must be openly rebuked. Now usually this is to be done by pastors through the pulpit ministry or through church discipline (I Cor. 5; Matt. 18:15-17), but there will be times when every Christian should humbly take a stand and speak against sin.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Demands of Walking According to Light (1)

We come now to the third and final division of Ephesians 5:8-14. In verse 11-14, we see three demands of walking according to light.

 First, the Christian must be separate, as verse 11a declares: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.

The clause unfruitful works of darkness paints a graphic picture. Unfruitful is akarpos. The root karpos appears some 66 times in the New Testament and carries the primary meaning of “the fruit of plants (Matt. 21:19) . . . or the “produce of the earth” (Jas. 5:7, 18).” The extended meaning of karpos, however, is more significant. As one authority explains, “The use of the term fruit expressly indicates that it is not a question of deliberate, self-determined action on man’s part. Rather it is that ‘fruit-bearing’ which follows from his turning to God and the power of the Spirit working in him.” In other words, just as fruit automatically comes from a plant or tree because it is its nature to do so, spiritual fruit is automatic in the Christian. We don’t produce fruit because of our effort, but because of the Spirit’s energy. Fruit comes because that is now our nature. That is why our Lord said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).

With the prefix a, however, akarpos means the exact opposite, “unfruitful, fruitless, barren, unproductive.” Among its eight appearances in the New Testament, we find it in reference to the “thorny ground hearing” in the Parable of the Sower: “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). Jude uses it to refer to apostates, who are “clouds . . . without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12).

So just as fruitfulness is automatic because of natural inclination, so is unfruitfulness. The unsaved man does not have to work at being unfruitful; it comes naturally. As our Lord declared, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:17-18).

The word work (ergon) is the result or object of employment, something to be done. Darkness is again skotos (as in v. 8), which speaks of uncertainty, ignorance, and depravity. Putting the clause together, then, as man gropes in ignorance and uncertainty, the result of all his employment is total fruitlessness and barrenness.

Paul, therefore, commands the believer, have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Does this not make perfect sense? In light of such ignorance, uncertainty, fruitlessness, and barrenness, why would we want to have anything to do with it? As one commentator asks, “Who wants to spend his life in working a field which produces no fruit at all?” But as logical as it might seem, Paul still feels the need to give the command to Believers. Why? To show us that we must not fellowship with people who do such evil things.

To prove that principle, we must examine the Greek word for fellowship (sunkoinoneo). The root koinoneo means “to share in something” and implies that this sharing is with someone else. The prefix sun intensifies the word. So the full meaning is, “to become a partner together with others.” Paul’s point, then, is that the believer is not to become involved in sin even by association. Yes, we live in this world, but we are not of this world. No, we are not to be separate from contact with the world, but we are to be separate from conformity to the world.

In the Rebellion of 1798 in England, the United Irishmen, with the aid of France, attempted to secure the complete separation of Ireland from England. The United Irishmen were defeated at Vinegar Hill on June 21, which led to the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland under the name United Kingdom on January 1, 1801. The story is told that during that rebellion, the rebels took prisoner a little drummer of the king’s troops, and told him to beat the drum for them. The little boy laid his drum on the ground and jumped onto it, shredding the parchment, and then cried, “God forbid that the king’s drum should ever be beat for rebels.” The rebels promptly killed the little hero, but they could not erase the memory of such courage and loyalty. What a challenge to Christians to have no fellowship with that which betrays their Lord.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Details of Walking According to Light (2)

Considering again Ephesians 5:9-10— For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord—we that the first primary characteristics of spiritual light is all goodness.

Second, there is all Righteousness, another principle Paul stressed often in his Epistles. In fact, these two are often stressed together, as they are here. The basic idea in righteousness is that of doing right. We can put the contrast this way: Goodness speaks of being right; Righteousness speaks of doing right.

In other words, while goodness speaks of our position before God, righteousness speaks of our practice toward men. We saw this principle back in Ephesians 4:24. In that context (4:19) the “Old Man” is “past feeling;” he does terrible things to his fellowman but feels absolutely nothing. In contrast, the “New Man” treats others rightly because he is light!

But may we also notice that the word all goes with righteousness as well as with goodness. We say this because since all appears at the beginning of the verse, this implies that it encompasses the whole verse. Not only is every aspect and the sum total of the Christian’s life to be moral, but every aspect and the sum total of it is to be righteous. In all areas of life we do right to those around us.

Second, there is all Truth. Here is the fifth of six occurrence of the word truth in Ephesians (1:13; 4:15, 21, 25; 5:9: 6:14). As we’ve noted, aletheia refers to that which is not concealed, the way things really are, that which is absolute, incontrovertible, irrefutable, incontestable, unarguable, and unchanging.

It is here in dramatic contrast to what Paul has said previously about the non-Christian. The non-Christian “deceives with vain words” (v. 6). The non-Christian (as well as the Christian who does not allow the Spirit to rule) “lies” (4:25). Furthermore, right in our present context Paul says, “It is a shame to even speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

But truth is the exact opposite of all that, for where there is light there is truth. There must be nothing secret, hidden, deceitful, misleading, dishonest, underhanded, shady, or hypocritical in the life of the Christian. The Christian lives by truth. As we saw in our last chapter, we are not in light; we are light. Once again all goes with truth as it does with goodness and righteousness. In short, truth must characterize every aspect and the total sum of the believer’s life.

Finally, we see that verse 10 brings together the thoughts of verse 9 by showing the result that is produced by these three primary characteristics: Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. The Greek behind proving is dokimazō, a word we examined back in our study of discernment in 4:14, and which means “test, pronounce good, establish by trial.” A related word, dokimos, was originally used as a technical term for coins that were genuine. Paul uses dokimazō, for example, in I Thessalonians 5:21-22: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” He is saying, “Examine everything, put everything to the test, verify each item to see if it is genuine or if it is a fake.” If it’s good, seize it and hold on to it. If it’s not, however, we are to withdraw from it.

In the present context, then, we “test every thought, word, and act” to ensure that it is acceptable unto the Lord. And it’s those three characteristics—goodness, righteousness, and truth—that are the tests.

Even today in the marketplaces of the middle-east, the shops are often just small, open enclosures that while covered with a tarp or other material still have no windows. A customer contemplating buying a piece of silk or an article of beaten brass often will take it into the street and hold it up to the sun, so that the light might reveal any flaws that might exist. Before the advancement of computers for publishing, printers used a similar device to illuminate pages of material that he pasted together. Today a doctor puts an x-ray on a light box that illuminates the film. A draftsman, jeweler, and other such craftsman focus light on their work.

Those, and other examples we could list, demonstrate the necessity of light to see clearly, work carefully, and expose flaw. Likewise, the light of the Word of God does that in the spiritual realm. These three primary characteristics of spiritual light prove what is acceptable to the Lord; they prove what pleases Him. Moreover, these prove that your life is acceptable unto the Lord. So, as there are three primary colors in physical light, there are three primary characteristics of spiritual light. Dear Christian, may we say again, we are not to walk in light, rather we walk as light; we walk according to the attributes of light.