Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How To Make Victory A Christian Reality

How To Make Victory A Christian Reality
            This letter will endeavor to bring forth an accurate and helpful study of one of the prayer portions of the Ephesian letter written by the apostle Paul.  The objective of this study will be to help bring forth a correct interpretation of the scripture to the every day Christian while also applying it in a helpful way to the life of the saints.  The portion of the Ephesian letter I will specifically focus on in this writing will cover the range of verses found from 3:14-22.  This letter will be a forthright attempt clarify the passage to the layman who desires to know God’s Word deeply.  The intent underlying the writing of this letter will be to shoot two arrows from one bow.  The one arrow will aim for the heart of the reader, but the other to the head of the reader also.
            Ephesians 3:14-22, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”[1]
In the fourth chapter of the Ephesian letter by Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, waste little time before striking at the issue of application of Christianity in the believers life.  However, chapter three precedes chapter four, and before we can properly act in behavior and deed appropriate to the Christian life, we must be enabled to act in behavior and deed appropriate to the Christian life.  How does Paul believe that this powerful life can become a reality in the life of the Ephesian believers?  By praying for the them.  By praying that they would possess all the qualities of an enabling life in their Christian experience.  The prayer is given to us as such: a presentation of purpose clauses.  This establishes a pattern of clauses that will build on one another and take the believer through steps that will result in the fullness of God in their life. 
In the following progression we will see God’s instruction for starting the Christians “jet engines” as some would say.  Paul has started Ephesians by telling us about what the jet plane offers and he will finish the book telling us how to fly the jet plane.  It is here though, that Paul bridges the information and the flying lessons with instruction of how to start the powerful engines that will give the follower of Christ liftoff!  Others would say the book begins by describing the wealth available to a Christians, ends by telling us how to spend it, and theses verse tell us how to get our hands on it.[2]  No matter how we view these verses, we must understand that it is essential that we appropriate what we have available to us as Christians, before we can live a life victorious in all the way that God has planned for us.
            We begin then with the prayer itself (3:14).  Paul gives a reason he prays; it is due to the before described riches of Christianity he desired to be accessed by his readers.  We can link these words “for this cause”  back with the words found back in Ep 3:1.[3]   Prayer was a reverent thing to Paul, as well as a relevant thing.  To his knees Paul dropped, as the etiquette was in that day to show his humble reverence to authority.[4]  Prayer was the key to enlightening them (Ep 1:18), now it may hold the key to enabling them (Ep 3:14).  Once Paul’s knees became grounded in the dirt, his words became grounded in heaven.  These words became more than just a prayer, now they are scripture from which we can all benefit.  Paul addresses the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the saints that are in the family both alive and in Heaven (Ep 3:14-15).  What will follow is the first purpose clause and the first step in the enabling process.  We will divide the prayer into three parts, Gods contribution in us (3:16-17a), God’s charity in us (3:17b-19a) and God’s character in us (3:19b).  We will also introduce the prayer (4:14-15) and conclude it (3:20-21).  We will loosely following  the word ἵνα[5] which appears three times in the text[6], and will serve as a natural breaking point at times in the prayer.   

God’s Contribution In Us
            Our first heading is God’s contribution in us.  The first clause is found in the word ἵνα and it translates as that and carries a simple meaning of “in order that”.  So when Paul says he is praying for them, it is “in order that” the effects verse 16 would spring to reality in their life.  The granting of strength to the inner man of the Ephesian believers is the request of Paul.  The granting of this strengthening is of a necessity, for it must come out of God’s riches.  The word for grant is generally used in association with giving something.  God must give this strength.  We use the word grant today for bestowing a request on someone. The preposition κατά is used for the word according, and it simply means extended down.  God must extend downward to us His strength from the vault of Heaven, where His eternal inexhaustible riches proceed from His glory!  It would do us well to see our need for His riches.  We are reminded when we have strength of ourselves we are absent of His strength which is far greater (2 Cor 12:9).  The type of strength (or might) we are receiving is literally a dynamite strength.  The word δύναμις is the explosive power of God that allows us to perform spiritual deeds, and live a life that is becoming to God.  Without this might descending from the glories of Heaven to the portals of the carnal heart we would be stuck in our own strength making us very inept and poor indeed. The delivery of this dynamic strength is “by His Spirit.”  As believers, the Holy Spirit does not perch Himself far away and become impersonal to us in the place of Heaven, but rather He is close to us and in the portal of the heart!  It is the renewed inner man that fellowships with the Spirit of God directly.  Every believer has a quickened inner man in which the Holy Spirit dwells (Rom 8:9), and it is there from which Heaven delivers downward God’s strengthening power through His Spirit to our inner man.   What a marvelous thing we can see forming in a believers life when God answers our prayer for their strengthening!  It may well be true as we search for application to our life, that the greatest thing we can do for a fellow believer is pray for their spiritual strength.  For a personal application, if we are to pray that God would strengthen us, we must remember that we be yielded and submitted to God’s word, not grieving the Holy Spirit (4:30).  God does not give His victory power to rebels.
            Most English translations give us another clause in verse 17 using the word that as the opening word, but our divisions will follow ἵνα as previously mentioned, so we will keep this verse under the first heading with verse 16.  It is true that what happens in verse 17 is a result of verse 16, or a byproduct of it.  We are told numerous times in the Bible that we are in Christ.  Now we are told Christ is in us![7]  When we are strengthened in the inner man, Christ can dwell in our hearts by faith.  We must look at the dwell, and what it means, for we are aware that Christ has a resident in every believers heart.  The word dwell, is an aorist active infinitive of κατοικέω,[8] and is made of two words, oikeō which means a dwelling place and κατά which generally serves to mean down.  The word is an infinitive clause and therefore is responsible for the “that” in our English translations without the presence of ἵνα.  This infinitive clause should be seen in connection (epexegetically) with the word strengthen in verse 16.[9]  So we see a correlation with being “strengthened” to live empowered as a Christian, and Christ “dwelling” in us.  We know that Christ is resident in every believer (Rom 8:9), so the presence of Christ is not the issue.  When we take κατοικέω, and merge the meanings of the two words it is comprised of together, we get end up with an intensified meaning of dwell, one where Christ is president, not merely resident.  It would be a yielded heart where He is comfortable and at home there.[10]  He dwells in our hearts by faith.  Christ made His home there by faith, and the just live from faith to faith.  By faith we trust Him and make Him feel at home.[11]  A heart that is yielded to Christ and makes Him comfortable is a heart that is strengthened in the inner man by God’s Spirit.  When a man is walking in the Spirit, he is in the deepest intimate fellowship with Christ possible. 

God’s Charity In Us
            We will now continue into our second division, God’s charity in us.  To help us understand Paul takes us to the country and to the city.  We have an example of agriculture and architect.  Verse 17 says this, “that you (ἵνα) being rooted and grounded in love” and provides us with valuable material to dissect.  Technically ἵνα appears at the begging of verse 18 in the Greek manuscripts, but in an interlinear Bible, it will be placed here with the word “that” bringing out the purpose clause.  We are to be rooted in love.  Again a preposition will help us greatly in painting a full picture what Paul is saying.  The preposition ἐν, which proceeds the word for love, is rich with meaning.  If we were to take a pictorial approach, we would draw a circle, ἐν would be placed the middle of that circle, and we would call that circle love.  Our growing in life (rooted) and building in life (grounded) must be in God’s gracious love.  We are rooted and grounded in love at this stage of the prayer!  When Christ is at home in our hearts, our growing roots are digging deeper into the depths of His love.  As is the root, so is the fruit!  We are grounded in His love also.  Our lives not only are growing in His love; our lives are also building in His love.  A firm foundation makes for a terrific tower.  When all of our growing and building is accomplished in the love of Jesus Christ, we are then becoming His useable ambassadors indeed.  What we experience, we can then show forth.  When Christ is comfortable in our hearts, the Spirit sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts (Rom 5:5).  A plant cannot grow in improper soil, and a building will not stand without a right foundation.[12]  Therefore, the necessity of an empowered life saturated with the presence of Christ’s gifted love is very clear.    
            We are invited now by Paul in verse 18 to try to measure the love of Christ.  We will segregate a verse from the others for a moment to study it.  Ephesians 3:18 reads, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height”.[13]  First there is something Paul wants us to comprehend.  Some see the word καταλαμβάνω as to be translated as grasp. Paul wants us to grasp the reality of the love of God.  The KJV uses comprehend (the NASB also follow suit with comprehend) and therefore comprehend appears to be very accurate and carry the best meaning.  Grasp however, seems to be an excellent way to define comprehend, and to help us realize Paul wants us to get our minds around the vastness and depth of God’s love.  We are to understand this love (though it be beyond knowing with the mere mind).  Now, that we are rooted and built in this love, we have access to it so that we can measure it.  We can measure it because we are rooted in it.  If that be so, it is because Christ is at home in our hearts, and since He is at home in our hearts, we are of necessity strengthened in the inner man by the Spirts of God. We must start with the realization that it is only with supernatural enablement that God’s people can truly comprehend God’s love.[14]  Let us now take Paul’s measurements and see if we can frame the love of God.  First we look at two measurements, breadth and length.  Of these first two measurements, length can create a line, and when you add breadth you create have a surface.  When we add depth, the third measurement, we now have a three dimensional object.  To add a fourth measurement, height, that will bring you beyond the realm of possibility.[15]  In reality βάθος, the word translated depth, can mean either depth or height; for one gives the other.  If you measure the ocean from the bottom up you have height, if you measure it from the top down you have depth.  They are one and the same, yet Paul I think gives us the fourth measurement to imply that there is a realm we cannot get into with the mind alone, and that is the spiritual realm of God’s love.  It must be experienced through the production and reality of the Holy Spirit alone.  John the revelator only measured the new Jerusalem in three dimensional measurements (Rev 21:16).  So to comprehend the vastness of God’s love we must understand it cannot be realized within ourselves unless it comes from the experience of being rooted and grounded in the love of Christ.  His love is immeasurable, though we are to take these measurements to try and “know the love of Christ” (v19), yet while at the same time, the same verse concludes that this love passes knowledge.  I think we can find a clue in the text to help prove this point and see further what Paul is saying. The verse reads as such, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” The first time know is used it is the word γινώσκω.  Here the word refers to having understanding or grasping the subject.  This would be something a Christian empowered with the love of God could do somewhat, even if words failed to articulate the fullest depth of meaning.  The word knowledge in the latter end of the verse is γνῶσις.  While similar, they do carry different ideas.  The second word (γνῶσις) has with it an idea of a cognitive knowledge, where in comparison to the first word (γινώσκω), according to Joseph Thayer, carries an idea of “come to know, perceived, and feel”.  We could sum much of this up in saying this: when a person truly grasps the love of Christ, and his life is an outlet for God’s love, then he has grasped much of what it is to be a Christian. Christ is living through him, and that person is empowered by the Holy Spirit.  We understand a person can never fully arrive in this life, but a person can live in victory in this life.

God’s Character In Us
            We now find our way to our third category, God’s character in us.   The use of the word ἵνα is found in the word “that” which precedes “you may be” in verse 19.  The text now continues to tell us once we grasp this magnificent love, and are living in it as we ought in our life, we then are filled with the fullness of God.  What can this mean?  Positionally we are complete in Christ.  Practically, in this life, we can only fully enjoy the grace that we apprehend.[16] The Greek preposition εἰς, found in v19, is translated unto in the KJV.  Much light is shed on the necessity of God’s empowering us, as the way to obtain the fullness of God, by this word εἰς.  We might interject this, and it should go without saying, that the fullness of God  in every believer is perfectly accomplished in the consummation.  However, Paul appears to wish this fullness to be true in his readers now before the consummation, in this life.  What then could the fullness be if not the perfect state?   The preposition εἰς, is often put in a visual format by drawing an arrow coming into a circle from outside of the circle.  It would then be understood as something entering in from the outside of an object (or person in this case), that is not already inherently in the object (or person).  As we have preciously determined, when a person is able to grasp what is the love of Christ, through the Spirits help, then we have grasped what is perhaps the greatest attribute of God.  We then can reflect that needful quality.  (We do not to take away from holiness and other spiritual qualities by stating this point).  What Paul is referring to then as the fullness of God, is to be so compelled and full of Divine love that we are empty of all else and move only at the impulse of this great virtue.  This then, is a display of God’s greatest attribute to the world.  The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).  The world will know we are His disciples by how we love one another (Jn 13:35).  Furthermore, we are told we can know we have passed from death into (εἰς) life because we love the brethren (1 Jn 3:14).  In 1 John 3:14 we see the word εἰς used to show we are brought into the realm of the living, and it is equally true to say that the realm of eternal life was brought into us as well!  Likewise, we must see that the process that brings us to the this loving full condition must be brought into us, or started in us, by the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer.  There is a sense in which this is already in us, in that, the Spirit who produces this love already resides in the saint.  Yet we must see clearly the profound difference between having access to this love, and possessing the attributes of this love.  God’s will for us, and Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would access this great love, live in it, and be full of it. 
            Paul does not seem to think that his prayer is too much to ask[17].  Verse 20 reads, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.[18]  Paul knew that God was able.  This is a lesson we always consent to but sometimes we live as if it isn’t true.  The word for able is δύναμαι, which is a verb that shows God’s actions as eminently able, able, to have full strength.  When God moves in action, we can be certain it is able action!  The action is exceedingly abundantly above our ream of asking and thinking.  It appears immeasurable, just like His love.  To be exceedingly above alone, is to fill the cup up above what it can bear.  To add “above” and say exceedingly above, it like trying to catch the ocean in a thimble.  God is able to do above not only what we say, but also above what we think.  One commentator rightly said this about the passage,
After having exhausted all the powers of language, we may proceed to stretch our imaginations beyond the limits of distinct and accurate conception: and, provided the things be proper for him to give, and for us to receive, he can, and will, bestow them. He will do for us not only what we ask, but what we “think;” he will do it “all” and “above” all, and “abundantly” above all, yea, “exceeding” abundantly above all that we can ask or think.[19]
The power of God in verse 20 works in us.  Let us take heart not to forget that privilege.  It is not too much to attempt great things for God.  It is not too much to expect great things from God.  It would be too little to not pray that the lambs of God’s pasture grow into the measure of the fullness of Christ.  We serve the same God as Paul and the same promises ring true today. 
Paul breaks into a glorious praise.  This is because he has reflected upon glorious truth.  Verse 21 ends our study saying this, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.[20]  When we reflect on God’s word, if our face will not shine like Moses’s once did, our spirit and soul at least surely will.  From the depths of appreciation we praise Him.  He is to receive glory.  We are to honor Him fully for who He is, and for what He has done.  His person and His attributes are all together lovely.  We are to honor Him in the Church.  It is surely the job of the bride to honor and love the groom.  What we do in His power today gives Him honor throughout all ages.[21]  What He does for us does the same. 
            In conclusion, let us apprehend that which we have available to us.  Let us enter the spiritual dimension, the one where the indescribable, and immeasurable love of God reigns supreme in the hearts of His children.  Let us be strengthened in the inner man so we may have this.  Let us pray for others to be strengthened by His might.  Let us pray that we will be, and then yield fully to His word so that we may be.  May God’s Spirit now use God’s word to strengthen and change lives.      

[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 3:14–21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[2] Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Volume 2 pg 30
[3] Ephesians A Handbook ON The Greek Text
[4] Exploring Ephesians and Philippians John Phillips pg90
[5] Ephesians A Handbook ON The Greek Text pg59
[6] Witherington, Ben, III. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians : A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007. Pg273
[7] Ephesians A Handbook of the Greek Text pg62
[8] Ephesians A Handbook of the Greek Text pg62
[9] Ephesians A handbook of the Greek Text pg62
[10] Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Volume 2 pg32
[11] Exploring Ephesians and Philippians John Phillips pg93-94
[12] Exploring Ephesians and Philippians John Phillips pg94
[13] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 3:20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[14] The Epistle to the Ephesians F.F. Bruce pg68
[15] Exploring Ephesians and Philippians John Phillips pg95
[16] Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Volume 2 pg 33
[17] The Epistle to the Ephesians F.F. Bruce pg70
[18] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 3:20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[19] Simeon, C. (1833). Horae Homileticae: Galatians-Ephesians (Vol. 17, pp. 329–330). London: Holdsworth and Ball.
[20] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Eph 3:21). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[21] Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996. Volume 2 pg34

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A New Direction

A New Direction

Ephesians 2:2-3; 10     
      v2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 
     v3 Among whom also we all had our conversation (lifestyle) in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
     v10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them
     Verses 2-3 describe a person before they have converted to Christ.  We all had a god and that god was fulfilling the personal lusts of our flesh and the desires of our mind (v 3).  Prior to Christ, we were as such: If we can think it, why withhold it?  If we crave it, why not make it happen as we wish?  The only suitable thing to serve was the driving desires that swelled up within us at any given time.  If they were found to be good or bad in the sight of morals, we could justify our decisions by rationalizing them.  Who should check these cravings to keep them in place?  Why would we ever submit to any source that restricts us?  Those who serve themselves are natural.  It is the norm, as Scripture has declared it the course of this world.  There is a spirit in the air that proclaims men as gods who should serve themselves, and the prince of those desires is not the Lord but satan.  Those who walk according to this prince do so because they are his children. Those who find this way of life refreshing are the children of disobedience.  Our conversation (v 4) is to be understood as our lifestyle.  It is in stark contrast to the workings that are in the believer.
     The latter verse (v 10) describes the direction of all believers.  They have a new Master in whom they follow, and it is none other than Christ Himself!  We are made to serve good works and not be overtaken by the flow of disobedience which washes those in the world downstream. Those who are children of disobedience are creatures destined for wicked works, while those in Christ have been made new creatures to the purpose of fulfilling the Father's good pleasures.  It has been before ordained that we should walk in them.  How have we overcome and arrived at a new set of desires?  It is because we are His workmanship.  The hands of a carpenter are always building, so those hands of Jesus of Nazareth are also always conforming us into His image.  From where do we derive our ability to serve a new Master?  It is not from self effort or turning over a new leaf and committing to a new resolution.  Rather, they are created in us (v 10), and created by Christ Jesus.  The Scriptures declare "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature..." (2 Corinthians 5:17), and again Christ has said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5a) Here are some contrasts that Paul lists for us to aid our understanding and give us direction as believers.

Unbelieving (v2-3)
  • The course of this world - Live like the masses not retaining God's will in their minds - (v2)
  • Follow the prince (satan) of the air - by being dominated by sinful desires without any way of escape (v2)
  • Have a spirit of disobedience - they are contrary to God's direction (v2)
  • Enact on all their lusts - without the Spirit of God to govern them, the only governing instinct available is their own heart which is tainted by sin (v3)
  • Fulfill all the desires of their mind - their own opinions are their authority and not the Word of God (v3)     
Believers (v10)
  • Christ's workmanship -  We are crafted by Christ and made new to be like Him obtaining His desires which are opposite of those desires we had when we were ungodly
  • Made unto good works (not disobedience) - A hammer is made to drive nails, a wrench is made to turn bolts.  We are made new to live like Christ in obedience to God.  This now becomes the purpose in which we are made
  • Before ordained to walk in them - God's plan through eternity past and present is that all who are in Christ live as He lived with a desire to be in submission to God's Word
  • Walk in them - obeying God and loving Christ are two hallmarks of the believer - contrast this with living out our wrong desires that spring up within us.  Obedience is one way we demonstrate our love to Christ
     We do not obtain Christ by committing good works.  When our hearts are cleansed from sin by faith in His death and resurrection He moves into our hearts giving life and a new set of desires to go with that life.  The natural inclination then for a believer is to have a new yearning to follow Jesus.