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, 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.