Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED to one of the chief passions of my life and ministry, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I believe this epistle is at the very core of the Christian life. I spent years in the study of it and then three and one half years expositing it from my pulpit. I hope this blog will be a blessing to you as I share that exposition. I also hope you will tell others about this blog. Please check for new posts each Monday .

Monday, 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!