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, 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.