Welcome to Expositing Ephesians

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

Sunday, September 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.